Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

Dungeon Contest 2018 In Review (2/4)

[Update 7/22/18: The designer for A Slime Eternal sent me a link to an updated pdf. I am including the link here and below. They also have a page with some of their design notes.]

Part two of my review of every single entry into the one page dungeon contest this year. You can see part 1 here. On G+ I’ve had some confusion as to what I mean when I call out entries for not having any statistics given that part of the rules include being systemless. What I mean by that (and I realize I was not consistent about this) is that I want to see monsters listed with some sort of description regarding their abilities, strategies, and level of difficulty relative to the other parts of the dungeon. This can be as simple as giving keywords like “acid spit”, “reckless charge”, “grappler”, “cowardly”, “deadly”, “minor annoyance”, or the like. It can go as far as listing relative numbers of hit dice and explicit “range of 30 ft” or “acid burns for five rounds”.

 

Cristian Urbini & Dawei Yao – The Trickster Hideout ……………………….41

The Trickster Hideout is an old school dungeon in the best way, with a simple and concise map holding multiple pathways with exploitable traps and encounters. Bring your rope to help with all these pit traps, but look out as one of them is counter-intuitively useful. All the tricks are listed with signs of how the players might notice their functions. Two minor nitpicks would be to take a risk and give some themed treasure (DM’s can easily substitute with something else, but it can really add to the hook or memorability of the reward) and that there area  number of typos. Note: I am the worst about this myself so who am I to judge.

Old school dungeon in the best way.

Dan D. – Gullet of the Rust Demon ………………………………………………42

Ten rooms of mechanical decay themed dungeon with dangerous hazards filling the place. This functions as a sort of escape room dungeon but it lacks much evidence that would tell players it opens the main gate, or to do so in tandem, but most players know the tropes of dungeons so this isn’t so bad. I very much liked the keyword focused room descriptions, they will make it easy to access information during play.

The Hazards of Mechanical Decay

Daniel Comerci – The Tower of the Silent God…………………………………43

This lovingly drawn and highly detailed submerged tower map is chock-full of details and encounters. If there weren’t bolded keywords that make the document easy to scan for information reminders, I would say there is too much information here. Some traps lack any real hints or clues as to how players are supposed to solve them like the identical staircases. I could see myself running this as a multi-session dungeon, given the prep time to fully digest everything crammed onto this page.

Inspiration Overflowing Submerged Tower

Daniel Walthall – Dorgotar Dungeon……………………………………………..44

The style of this map is very appealing to me, just cartoonish enough to symbolize a dungeon feel without feeling silly or childish. Art aside, the small number of rooms fits with the one page dungeon ethos perfectly in crafting a self-contained dungeon with plenty to do for lower level adventurers along with a handy chart showing what happens if they don’t intervene, something that can keep feeding rumors in the area. The icons also make it quick to scan the page to remember what each room holds. My only criticism would be from a design perspective to give more warning before dropping a rust monster on players, hinting at it with partially eaten goblin weapons or treasure. Players really hate being surprised by stuff that eats their gear, punch them or stab them no problem but touch their stuff…

Low level rumor generating dungeon

Daniel OHare – Abandoned Quarry ………………………………………………45

An excellent conceit to have the dwarves become the raiders for this dungeon and I can appreciate the focus on creating tactically intelligent foes who fully utilize their lair. This can make even low level NPC dwarves a serious threat to the players, perhaps prompting them to besiege the holed-up dwarves (do the dwarves have reinforcements or supplies coming?) or do they come up with innovative strategies? Also, I learned something new that noisy gravel is apparently a real thing of passive defense people really use. Would have been nice to see some specifics on the dwarves like x tower-shield wielders or y crossbow/spearmen or even a keyword specialty that the raider captain has for flavor. Same with the merchant goods, it’d be an easy source of flavor (maybe dwarven mushroom spices or specialty whiskey yeast) that the DM can replace without a lot of work to fit their own campaign.

Dan Smith and Tisha Parti – the awakening…………………………………..46

On this page is a post-apocalyptic gathering trek where the players find a small, almost-ruined awakening chamber with only a single survivor from long ago. I like the theming and evocative nature of the “loot” and encounters. It would have been cool to see some sort of puzzle transcribed so that it is as foreign to the players as our technology would be to far future survivors to allow them to solve the puzzle vicariously.

Post-apoc miniature hunter-gather mission.

Dan Wesely – Stuck in the MUD…………………………………………………..47

Getting sucked into a confined, simulated realm is the start of the player’s worries as they try to figure out the patterns of this small world. At first the map and ascii art confused me, but I’ve grown to like the simplistic and thematic random wandering that hte NPC’s do, especially the idea that they continue to wander even while talking to the players like in some computer RPG’s to emphasize the artificial nature of the place. The open ended ways to exit the fake world could use some seeded hints or clues throughout to indicate what the players are supposed to do.

Obviously fake alternate realm.

David Brennan – The Curious Case of Needleford Station …………………48

This mountain town is under a mysterious seige by an array of monsters. It is nice that the monsters and rooms are kept succinct, allowing the whole town to be represented in a small amount of text. The events build up an engaging story while the monstrous encounters have multiple entry points and solutions to any given point, along with a hint to save a specific person whose rescue can change the results. It would be nice to include more explicit mentions of what is going on, but there is enough information for the DM to put together the motivations of the NPC’s in this town and I wonder if Teetona was intentionally left out or I missed a reference to where she is.

Town besieged from within by darkness.

Derek Ruiz – The King’s Scepter …………………………………………………..49

Intrigue in the courts leads the players to dive into this sunken tomb. The skeletal guardian that stalls for time with riddles is absolute gold, subverting the trope of players assuming that a riddler has honest intentions, they likely won’t even check to see why the skeleton is gesticulating. The room behind that skeleton has no description but I don’t know if that is an oversight or intentional (are the sahuagin’s laired here?). The aesthetic of the map is on point although if the monsters had keywords indicating some of their general abilities, they would be even better.

Sunken temple.

Dirk Detweiler Leichty – Hell-Shrine Pilgrimage ………………………………50

I like non-euclidian maps as much as the next guy, but that’s all this entry is. Without any explanation text or even associating the pictograms on the border with specific points, there isn’t anything I can use in this for my own game without basically writing my own dungeon from scratch. I want to know what ideas the artist had with these because they look super cool like the bladed worm in the statue’s skull or the great eye watching the place.

Non-euclidian map image.

Donald Lamont – The Heart of Fire……………………………………………….51

I get the feeling that this map was fractally generated and then had a theme pulled from the fact that it looks vaguely draconic. That aside, the cave rooms have a mix of different enemies that strangely do not seem to interact, or at least no mention is made of their relationships, a missed opportunity. I like that their are time based consequences for taking too long, in addition to wandering monsters makes for a tradeoff of taking breaks to rest up versus having to fight a stronger boss. Also, the fact that the boss fight can turn into a three way fight with clever applications is fitting for defeating a demonic villain.

Fractal dragon dungeon

Duamn Figueroa Rassol – A Slime Eternal …………………………………….52

Fantastical art depicts a gothic tower of the stereotypical wizard tower with slime based encounters. I like the three key puzzle that requires the players to pay attention but isn’t so difficult that they can blame the dungeon for not giving enough hints. There is plenty of danger here for the unwary but the few rooms here mean that it won’t bog down any adventure it’s dropped in. It would be nice to see some sort of ability keywords or strength indications about how dangerous any given encounter is intended to be.

Mad wizardess slime tower.

Eldadres – Just Desserts!……………………………………………………………53

A stolen dinner entices the players into a marshy tunnel to fight a handful of fish people. The traps are simple but effective, especially in rewarding players that pay attention by granting them a shortcut. I would like to see some tactics or intentions given for the fish-people’s devil-god, without that it makes the final encounter fall a little flat as to what the devil wants.

Hungry fish-people heist

Eri – The Long Drop …………………………………………………………………..54

This dungeon is a vertical and dangerous rift opened up in the stone. It reveals a handful of rooms with traps, monsters, and some ghostly tenants. There is a strong theme of retaliation for players taking items or touching things, which means that the DM will really have to sell the players on the end goal of stopping the source of the quakes, or maybe that is just my players that flee at the first sign of adversity. Some map confusion, but I think the dashed lines are to indicate floors and stairs so that they don’t block the sideview?

Dangerous ravine ruins.

Eric Lyonford – The Faux-Asis……………………………………………………..55

A clever desert illusion makes for a small dungeon, but what I find most clever is that the neighbors have figured out its tricks and work around it without issue. As a DM I would definitely try to give hints so that clever players could just go talk to nearby villagers and get the low-down (at least as the villagers understand it) on the dungeon. The main trap’s description seems to end prematurely without listing the actual techniques the villagers use to limit or avoid its draining effects. I will have to save this for a desperate water source in a survival game, as D&D wrecks survival games thanks to its easy low level spells that provide water and food.

Clever villager bypassed trap oasis

Eshan Mitra – The Lair of the Pun Usher……………………………………….56

As big fan of dad jokes and puns, this dungeon was on point. The encounters were just clever enough that players will take a moment to figure them out, but groan when it clicks. A complaint would be that a couple puzzles like the frieze require some niche word knowledge, same with the fish cthulu puzzle, so I would have included a secondary hint or pun to keep players on the right track.

Literal Pundeon

Gabriel Perez Gallardi – Long Before the Sands Came………………………57

A small hex map accompanies a short story about the area surrounding a few settlements. This is really more of a background of an area than anything readily playable at the table, as it does not list any specific powers, catastrophes, or encounters that might be found in this area.

Campaign background idea

Gabriel Schrock & Kristine Yabut – Dark Pit of the Resplendent Cube ..58

The double entrance path of this backdoor entrance to get at a tribes sacrificial burial pit is unique and fun in that it encourages backtracking to best solve the puzzles within. It would be nice to give more clues that the players should attempt this, especially using the fact that the two paths sort-of mirror each other to both reward and trick the players.

Secret burial/sacrificial pit looting

Garrett Norman – Distill the Blackest Gold…………………………………….59

The dungeon itself is confusing to wrap my head around with so many moving pieces and hard to read map bits, but the entire concept is gold (pun intended). Players must keep guard over fickle candles to keep the literal money machine working against the intentions of nigh-invincible or atleast implacable foes, they can also choose to spend some of their gold to speed up their wealth generation. Some sort of chart laying out the threats would possibly help the DM keep better track of the threats, like a timing chart of how often the vampire moves or the dragon head roars, etc.

Scramble to keep the money flowing

George Cassie – The Rippling Tower………………………………………………60

An illusory tower, drawing in the players for an open-ended reasons, with an increasingly difficult feedback effect that can drop players back down floors. I think their is a missed opportunity in leaving the guard abilities, treasures, and monsters undescribed as they can help bring more flavor to the place. This seems to run just like a normal tower but with the addition of the ripple effect that can cause turn loss or drop a player down a floor (is this intended to cause fall damage?) It would make more sense if the ripple was interacted directly in tradeoffs or puzzles, that they could choose to make it easier on themselves in one room at the cost of more ripple or later make reductions at higher personal cost, for example.

Ripple ridden tower

GM Lily – Timmy (My Cat) Fell in the Well………………………………………61

An introductory style dungeon built for younger children, which explains its almost dream-logic in some of the encounters. The encounters with negative consequences are well hinted and forewarned but it would be nice to see more open-ended solutions available to the encounters to encourage out-of-the-box thinking in younger players, and by that I mean varying encounters away from primarily attacking monsters.

Youth-oriented rescue mission

Gregorius21778 – Lost in the Coldbless Caves………………………………..62

While the map and keying are a little confusingly laid out, their is lots of content filling this network of caves that avoids a linear setup. A keycode listing what different hash marks mean would reduce the clutter of different letters on the map describing terrain, making it easier to identify at a glance the room numbers and monsters. The monster abilities listed are exactly what I am looking for in a system-less dungeon, telling me their abilities and general combat strategies so that I can picture what sort of numbers and dice I will use to run the combat.

Cave crawl search and rescue

Harrison Swift – The Seaglass Isle………………………………………………..63

An alien craft ruined on the coast is now filled with unusual monsters and squatters guarding old relics and crazy items. The random encounter matrix is cool because it allows encounters to be reused so to speak but have the monster or group doing a different activity, assuming players are inside long enough to get the increased flavor. The items within here like the seagull mind-switch or the combo pet hydra plus sea creature commanding armor makes for some niche but powerful loot for players. Using unique monsters like this though requires more in the category of explicit combat abilities and tactics so that I can run them in my own games.

Crash-landed glass-craft spaceship

Herr Zinnling, Lina, Hendrik, and Joaquin – Lina (9),

Hendrik (7) and Joaquin (5) Wrote Another Dungeon……………………….64

The Zinnling gang is starting to get brutal this year with lots of deadly monsters just waiting for the tiniest mistake to kill the adventurers. Put together by three kids, I can see the kid/dream logic used in these and there are some fun ideas scattered within here that I will probably steal, although as a whole, it definitely feels like it was put together by three different people.

Creepy and dangerous idea fodder

HillbillyDM – The Dungeon of Hidden Stairs…………………………………..65

This dungeon entry gave me a lot of trouble trying to mentally build it. It relies on reusing the same map but with changing tiles based on the floor to vary it, but that means I have to build each floor to visualize everything. In my opinion, the worst part is that the enemies and treasures are all left as generic slots for the DM to fill in, which is something I can do with my own dungeons but when I am using someone else’s I want to see their creative monster or encounter ideas.

Recombination build a dungeon.

Ian Shears – The Fane of Fossilmancer………………………………………….66

Despite the map being a little difficult to read or see the intended connections between them, the map is so full of gonzo dinosaur flavor that I wish it was zoomed in more. Room puzzles are interconnected with runic hints as to where various eggs and keys need to go, which is part of the reason I would like to see a zoomed in map or even enhanced pictures of the runes so I can print or copy them for my players. Monsters are slime/undead/dino mashups with listed ability keywords and matching themed loot.

Dino-undead mashup dungeon.

Idiomdrottning – Duchess/Lichess ……………………………………………….67

A lot is going on in this manor dealing with the intrigue of a duchess that is also a lichess. There are different NPC’s with their own listed motivations, useful to run this as a longer encounter. Confusing to table use though is the text layout with all the text in one large group interrupted by the map itself where splitting it up vertically would make it easier to scan. I would guess that the duchess’ plan is to starve out her husband to inherit the property, but spelling that out would make her plan explicit along with what she might do if it appears to be derailed.

Manor of internal intrigue.

Irvin Morales Esqueda – Ancient Emerald Eyes ………………………………68

Ancient Emerald Eyes is a dungeon based around an ancient evil shrine along with the monsters that have taken up residence nearby. Each encounter has lots of possibility but the placement of the encounter descriptions does not line up with where they are on the map, somewhat confusing to me. Were the goblins changed to be a different kobold tribe at some point? It seems like the goblin encounter was intended to be between the two tribes, as goblins are not mentioned anywhere else. The medusa birth is solid gold, do the players go to help while averting their eyes, do they awkwardly leave, or attack?

Encounter-rich OSR dungeon

James Hirst – I Know I Came in Here for a Reason!………………………….69

Wrapping up a simple job, the players find themselves trapped behind a deceptively simple riddle, where every mistake summons monsters to fight them. The creativity it gives players to try possible letters using easier to defeat monsters. The note about choices increasing the chance of a correct answer is confusing as to how that is supposed to function, as I assumed the correct answer is ‘EXIT’, but now I am thinking that this is intended to be a catch-all if the players are reduced to guessing the DM chosen answer.

Egress Riddle

Jan Rippstein & Tobias Bottger – Ros-In-Ros ………………………………….70

A mansion is under siege and the players must step in to save it. The eccentric and well described NPC’s in the mansion’s rooms would be easy to run except for the mansion layout/room connections and mechanisms are hard to parse. There is a shrinking dollhouse that I believe must be used to gather keys to unlock rooms in the full size mansion while dodging the formerly tiny beings, but does this also mean that full size occupants are giants for the players to fight? It will take some work to sort out exactly how I want to resolve things when the players inevitably question how this all works or poke around in unusual places, but for excellent web of intrigue within Ros-InRos.

Palace within a palace

Jeff McKelley – Tome of Horrors……………………………………………………71

A simple dungeon of less than a dozen rooms is based on players retrieving an overdue library book. Monsters in this dungeon offer a wide variety of challenges as well as allowing multiple paths to success outside of purely combat driven success (although let’s be honest players are most likely just going to hit it with their swords). The monsters could use some statistics to know what sort of power level and abilities the hybrid creatures are supposed to have. Humorously, the player’s work is all for naught as the “main villain” is ready to return their book and pay the fee.

Book retrieval turnabout

Jennevieve Schlemmer – Golem Like You See ‘Em……………………………72

Nicely styled map is filled with golem and rabid racoon rooms as the players search for the missing golem maker (presumably to automate the process of racoon hunting so they don’t have to trudge around fighting dire racoons). The balance of themed/empty rooms to puzzles to encounters works nicely to give players flavor about this person and what happened to them. There is a missed opportunity to give descriptive abilities and strategies to the various golem types meaning I will have to do that work as prep for running this dungeon.

Golem-maker rescue

Jeremy DS Marshall – Lost Lair of Lorethain Shaar …………………………73

Beautiful and mad spirit occupying a ruined retreat is now posing a threat to the city, necessitating the player’s involvement. While the encounters in the rooms are evocative and interesting, they often leave a lot unsaid, like who the ghost adventurer is or what they do. What sort of tactics do the remaining servants of Lorethain have and how careful are they around his rotting furniture? I do look forward to insulting my PC’s appearances and am always a big fan of mouthy magic mouths.

Crazy handsome wraith’s lair.

Jess Cowrd – Hanging Conservatory……………………………………………..74

The Hanging Conservatory is nicely drawn out but a little blurry, making me think it didn’t survive the transition to pdf that well. With the rooms working from ground level up, it would have been less confusing to put the rooms in opposite order so that the entries line up roughly with the rooms they describe. Rooms within are described but only in general terms, meaning I will have to come up with what sorts of challenges or monsters or treasures are within.

Upside down dungeon in the sky.

JD Thornton – River Gorge Gauntlet……………………………………………..75

Bandits have taken over a bend in the river as it passes through steep rock walls. The map is nicely laid out with plenty of activity happening with both the bandits and their captives. It all feels very lived in, rather than some dungeons which can feel static or as if everything is coincidentally happening right as the players get there. I am unsure how the players would ever get as far as the gang leader without being seen as a threat (even getting to him without the alarm going off would be insanely suspicious if I were him), but it does provide ways to hook the players into further adventures.

Waterway bandit camp

Jesse Davidson – Here Kitty Kitty Kitty… ……………………………………….76

A cat up a tree type encounter that can be dropped into any urban setting for a quick quest. The traps and attacks on the branches can make for something more interesting than a simple skill challenge, especially if you give information about the branches should the players ask (mine always forget to even ask). I dislike the resolution that seemingly gives different results at random despite the fact that the players still rescued the cat, or at least I would think tossing the cat down would be worse than just taking the cat down yourself.

Cat rescue challenge.

Jmar- Town of Rydell …………………………………………………………………77

Set up as a something akin to an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this entry tasks the players with stopping a graduation ceremony massacre/cultist ritual/undead raising. The travel portion is confusing but it essentially means that which students or enemies are at which locations are randomized, should you ever want to run the scenario again. The locations only give the high level details of each spot but not what the players might have to do to get access to the secret items or hidden information at a location, meaning more prep time for me if I run this. I do like that all the other students are listed with some clue as to how they might be persuaded to help.

Mini-sunnydale campaign

Joakim Andersson – The Family…………………………………………………..78

The Family relies on the DM to revisit an old adventure, attempting to modify flashbacks or memories of what happened in the previous adventure to fill out this one, with some twists. I would have trouble running something like this because my players are terrible at remembering things so the significance of this would be lost on them, but also the key rooms presuppose that there are memories that would fit each of the fairly specific themes. The actual challenges and costs for each of these must necessarily be crafted by the DM in preparation for this and all of it for essentially no reward or relevant story advancement.

Flashback scene

Joel Russ – The Lost Mage’s Keep…………………………………………………79

The poem at the entrance to this keep is excellent work but I wonder if it might be too convoluted to be anything more than a retrospective confirmation rather than the intended hint. Traps and monster encounters within are clever with plenty of clues as to their workings, or atleast trial and error the right solution. There should be more indication of the imp’s plans and how to return the mage to the world if the intent is the player’s doing so, otherwise they will likely fail the important check that lets them notice the spell tampering.

Turnabout tower

Johan Nohr – Quest for the Murder Sword …………………………………….80

I would like to take partial credit on this one as I suggest to the creator on seeing the map on a G+ page that they should write up something to go with it and submit it. Undeserved back-patting aside, I like the map and accompanying mini-map that gives room names without obscuring the main art. The main threat of the place has a caveat I haven’t seen before, that the players could try to wrench control of the great evil, which could hilariously result in a race for players and cultists to bleed the most without dying. The incorporation of a possible immortal, but weakened ally as well as captives along with diseased vultures lurking above make for a memorable but just-about-ready to run encounter. Would be cool to see some keyworded abilities for the various cultists or the immortal.

Death cult hideout and doomsday summon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

mishaburnett

more than one way to skin a cat

Hiverlord's Hijinks

Traveller RPG content, for the most part.

Tryep's Possibly Mythical Stories

Where Myths Are Maybe Real

Sandpaper Sunflowers

Eclectic Modern Farmhouse DIY and More

AnarchyDice

Tabletop gaming, terrain crafting, and other sundry nerdy hobbies.

The Grinning Skull

As soon as your born, your dying. tick tock... Everybody afterwards.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close