Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

Dungeon Contest 2018 In Review (3/4)

Here is part 3 of my review of every single entry of this year’s one page dungeon contest.

Part 2 is here.

Part 1 is here.

Johnathan Castle & Matt Henderson – The Circadian Tower……………..81

The creepy tower map is noted with rooms in reverse order as the players ascend from some dark underworld. The rooms don’t line up very well with the descriptions and staircases, and while the rooms themselves are evocative they do not have much in the way of mechanics of how the players might interact with them. I would like to see mentions of how the players might interact with the players or why they might want to ascend this tower in the first place.

Evocative tower of darkness

John Capps – Caldera: Land of Heroes and Legends………………………..82

More of a short story functioning as an encounter outline than a playable dungeon. The level of detail present in the descriptions of the bandits is unnecessary and would have been better spent creating a more unique battle with perhaps abilities for the bandits or motivations that could be discovered or taken advantage of.

Simple bandit encounter

J.D. McNichol – Dungeon of the Stars …………………………………………..83

Using the array of constellations as inspiration for room encounters is cool, but if there was some way for savvy players to realize the constellations were being used and turn it to their advantage. Some of the rooms have dangerous encounters with little warning or clues about how to solve them, but the last trap is perfectly telegraphed. For the magic items, I like the theming, but it would be so much better with custom item names too, DM’s can always change them.

Constellation dungeon

Joran Heimering (Wind Slam Games) – The Tomb of the Timekeeper…..84

Grief can do funny things to people and this loss resulted in a dungeon using void and time. The traps seem unusually harsh for how little warning or telegraphing they have, perhaps an indication that the void below is incredibly dangerous. This dungeon does a great job hitting the players right in the feels for robbing someone’s tomb, and it makes you think about all those other dungeons you’ve looted…

Dungeon of Feels

Karl Stjernberg – Rampaging Robot ………………………………………………85

A short post-apocalyptic story and miniature hexcrawl packed with details that could just as easily be swapped out with a ramshackle goblin killing machine. The npc descriptions are short but packed with useful info on how to manipulate or trick them, although less is there on how they might fight in battle. The wandering encounters make for a very reusable (and flavorful to the DM) dungeon, but only one or two of those encounters will get seen by the players. The map is also quite punk and cool to look at.

Ramshackle dangerous construct

Keith Echevarria – Assault on Mordak’s Palace……………………………….86

A summoner’s lair is appropriately well prepared and tactically sound. Players charging in here will meet a lot of difficulty thanks to combination traps like a long, defensive hallways of traps ending in a pushing horn, all above a monster-occupied death trap. I dislike that an answer to the riddle of the kidnapping is offered but then not supplied. Do the players need to only destroy the portal or do something more magically inclined based on using his own research against him? The ending “boss fight” is not described in much detail despite the fact that it is the capstone of this adventure.

Tactically minded demonologist lair

Keith “indi” Salamunia – Eris Plantation ……………………………………….87

The swamp-covered ruins of a failed-lich’s basement lair makes for a ruined place for the adventurers to explore, a perfectly succinct adventure to fill ruins found in a swamp or from a minor rumor. The poison gas filled bar is a neat trap but it lacks any sort of clues or way that the players should identify the solution. I also dislike vague references to treasure, it is much easier as a DM to add in my own treasure or modify the value than it is to come up with new treasure on the spot. There is a definite missed opportunity to show the results of indiscriminate use of the deck of many things or tie it in to the lich’s demise, but it is just shoehorned in here.

Ruined lich’s basement

Ken Demarest – Retaking Mt. Goff Brewery ……………………………………88

Adventurers will surely hop in to help solve a problem at a brewery, because they definitely do not have a problem with grog. This is an extensive and complex network of different factions that can be befriended or tricked, always a plus even though my players tend to take whichever path is the bloodiest regardless of added difficulty. Lots of unique treasure that would seem like it isn’t moral to keep but then a betrayal at the end puts that neatly to bed. There isn’t much way for the players to know how or why to save zuuzr or try the locket of melding.

Fire and ice brewery delve

Kenneth Moore -The Red Corn Horror …………………………………………..89

This dungeon is the backstory and description of a curse afflicting a town but it lacks much in the way of where the devils may show up or much in the way of layout for the underground cultist space. There isn’t much information on how the players are supposed to learn the hidden mechanics of the town’s sacrifices, but the idea of them masking the literal bad taste of the sacrifices is novel. The parasitic pregnancy is just enough body horror and lack of details to make this creepy without being gross and wierd.

Town curse fodder

Kevin D. Lintz – The Lost City of Krehar ………………………………………..90

A low stakes dungeon abandoned by even the kobolds that once lived there. The treasure is minor but well stocked for the clever player that actually searches their surroundings. While the puzzle is a little obscure and lacks hints, it is not essential to progress so that can be mostly overlooked. The simple nature of the dungeon means that it serves best as a precursor to another adventure or a starting point, rather than a destination in and of itself.

Starter exploration dungeon.

Kezle – Salt of the Earth……………………………………………………………..91

Unique theme in this dungeon revolves around the interplay between fantasy conquistadors and aztec forces in a salt mine. There is plenty of preserved warriors mixed in a two-faction dispute over control over the valuable salt and gold within. Giving some mechanical description of the lich’s senility would be cool, if he has x number of coins he remembers some secret or gains more power, perhaps a trade-off in how much the players decide to help bring lich coins to him. Cool names abound, and I am a huge fan of mesoamerican myths, but I am not familiar with them so my advice to give some sort of combat descriptions applies double to the enemies within this dungeon.

Mesoamerican Salt Mines

Khelren – Catch 22…………………………………………………………………….92

Presented as an outline, this dungeon is the representation of a net hacking mission. The challenges are fairly vague in that they leave many of the specifics up to the DM to tie into their own game, and while this gives more built-in flexibility to the DM, it also requires more work on their end. Also, the various colors of ICE as a terms are meaningless to me and need a short description of what they are or what they can do. An interesting way to represent the abstract flow of online spaces, but the encounters lack enough details to easily run.

Kosmic Dungeon – Bungeon of Fear ……………………………………………..93

Rabbits of the worst kind are escaping from this evil laboratory and the players seek to set things right. The map is cleverly laid out and nicely detailed. Unfortunately, the demonic rabbits are not given any abilities, which would be a great place to add flavor as to what sort of demonic influences this madman is inflicting on the unusually large rabbits.

Rabbit mutation dungeon

Larry Z Pennyworth – Raid on Complex 43…………………………………….94

Raid on complex 43 is a mini-game all in itself where the players are tasked as swat officers (with simple conversion listed within from your preferred system) to take down a small crime ring. Each of the areas are set up with a description of how the NPC’s will act, making it easy to know how to run things. As a separate game, that puts the crooked cop in a fun position rather than something being forced onto existing character relationships. At first I didn’t get how the players were supposed to figure out the code to the bomb, but even though I figured it out, it could still use some additional hints to discover considering how important turning the bomb off is.

Miniature swat game

Lauren Neuburger – Crispin’s Rave Cave ……………………………………….95

The rave cave has been taken over from its previous occupants that are now looking for the players to clear out their former home of these new parties. The monsters are given as both opportunities to avoid a fight, some more difficult than others, but also giving each a strategy on how they will fight (because let’s be honest, players often take this as a shortcut). This would be easy to run if gonzo weirdness is your thing.

Monster dance party crashers

Lowlama – Dance-off of the Century……………………………………………..96

This eighties themed dance club holds the documents the players want for a quick payout. The whole thing functions more as an extended skill challenge than a dungeon, especially with the dance contest that explicitly encourages creative thinking so the players can use their best skills. I like the abstraction it uses converting hp to endurance in the dance contest, something I will likely steal for similar skill challenges. Unfortunately, the possible other dance groups and neither their tactics nor abilities are listed, a missed opportunity for some flavor and also something that will require additional prep time to run this.

Extended dance club skill challenge.

Luiz Comassetto – Airship Down!………………………………………………….97

A very detailed and useful isometric map holds a half dozen rooms filled with monsters when the players investigate a shipwreck. Would have been nice to see some keywords on what sorts of abilities these lizardfolk have or some sort of effect they’ve instilled in their new zombies, or even what sort of spells/abilities the shaman and chieftain have. With how easy this small dungeon will be to run, I could see using this as a random encounter of a shipwreck the players stumble on, having to do barely any prep work.

Quick shipwreck scavenge

Luke E. Dodd – Into the Lair of the Slobbertooth Kobolds…………………98

The text on this small kobold lair is somewhat difficult to read, although it adds to the theme of the dungeon quite nicely. The treasure being held by the kobolds is neat but makes me wonder why the kobolds aren’t using them. As a lair, it serves as a short encounter or something that a local rumor or quest can lead to, helping fill out small towns that you didn’t expect the players to go to.

Small kobold defensive lair

Marco Conti – Flying Offerings …………………………………………………….99

Flying Offerings lives up to its name and has a fun, but dangerous, madness afflicting the main villain of this tower. The color/descriptor layout makes it easy to scan this dungeon and connect room descriptions with the map spot. There are many ways to enter and explore the dungeon, making for awesome open-ended exploration, although the lining up of the stairs from the wizard bedroom to the next floor of the tower is confusing as is the design to have the location of the wizard determined by the DM, rather than setting up a climactic encounter somewhere that the DM can modify as needed.

Mad hedgewizard with a trebuchet

Markus Linderum – Creation: Infected…………………………………………100

A gross dungeon of body horror and parasitic, cancerous growths. The disgusting nature of the encounters can make for an undesirable dungeon for the players to have to work their way through in order to stop the mad wizard at its center, but it is taken too far with the assaulting dire tapeworms (when real life tapeworms don’t even work that way, they get their eggs in water or food to be ingested). There is also a missed opportunity to write a small table of possible mutations, the DM can always revise or ignore them if they don’t like them.

Gross body horror dungeon

Matt & Anh Sanders – The First Rule ………………………………………….101

A ghostly fight club projects through time back from before it was a fire-pitted ruin. I dislike the forced nature of some of the encounters that assume things like the players not defeating the fighters or that they will step into the ghost pit fight. The layout works for the sort of time-reversing encounters, and this works as a solid random encounter to fill out what might happen as they set up camp somewhere.

Ghostly reverse burning fight club.

Matthew Ficken & Nathan Schmitz – Dungeon of Deceit…………………102

Players are forcibly roped into a quest with a wizard hoping to relive the glory days. I am not a fan of trying to insert a character that players have to pretend to trust into the party, but this could work as a stand-alone session. The monsters lack any sort of descriptors or keywords that hint at how they fight in battle. I like how well the false nature of the miniature dungeon is telegraphed with fun things like the fake town or dream-like nature of the room connections.

Matthew Harvey, Katie Logan, and Sylvia Gallagher

– Silks and Subterfuge ……………………………………………………………..103

A social event is the cover for a macguffin trade. Every one of the multiple factions are all named, given strategies, and intents which is exactly what I would need to run this. Plenty of options are spelled out that the players could pursue and plenty more are available just from the nature of the open-ended descriptions of rooms. My only criticism would be that the complications seem a little hollow or tacked on without much description of how or why they might occur, which is important in a social encounter like this.

Spy-terfuge Social Event

John Love and Matthew “Ogrebeef” Seagle – Ascent of the Robot God .104

A detailed drawing of a ruined giant robot sitting outside a poor village. The room descriptions are evocative but vague enough in both layout and mechanics that it would need a good amount of work to ready it for a game. Was I missing something or was the upper body mentioned but not described? The wandering drones really make this a ruined giant robot, especially all the details the players can find of their victims in random rooms.

Ruined robot

Mattias Lejbrink – The Cursed Ruins of Graxx Inxomnitrix……………..105

A text-map combination with a spooky background and an outline of the adventure within. The lack of a map is not a concern with how well the outline shows off the room connections well, numbering the one part that would make the “map” confusing. Something that would improve the layout of the map would be to add some symbol or letter denoting where each of the five artifacts are as well as some keywords describing some monstrous abilities. The artifacts sound cool but there isn’t any mention of what sort of powers they might have, another missed opportunity. If mapping isn’t your style, this kind of layout works well in that I can easily build my own map to suit.

Haunted mansion macguffin hunt.

Max White – Bartizan of the Blood Egg………………………………………..106

A topsy turvy tower turns a retrieval of a giant gem into a long setup for an anti-grav trap. I was a little confused how the anti gravity effect puts the tower on the underside of an overhang but the sewer still leads out normally, but overall the mechanics of the traps are well described and have plenty of clues for the players to ignore until they latch on to a random tangent to figure them out. Are the players intended to climb the walls up/down to reach the now inverted staircases to the now top of the rooms? Flipping the text to match the inversion was a nice touch, but difficult to read until I realized why the designer was doing it, so that you could read them in the orientation to match the tower.

Inverting tower trap.

McGravin – The Pit! The Pit! ………………………………………………………107

A meteor strike opens up The Pit! The Pit! Which is a vertical labyrinth of a mix of abandoned spaces and new inhabitants. Giving numbers and keywords of where monsters are and what types of abilities thye might use would be helpful to describe what type of dragon is here, what weapons the kobolds use, and especially what is digging towards the stoneheart. I like leaving mystery for the players but I need to know what is going on behind the scenes so I do not give inconsistent clues. There is plenty to explore and find, and I like the connection of secret passages between the mine and caves and fort, building some history into what has happened in this place.

Meteor exposed cave system.

Michael Perry – Claudia’s Taphouse…………………………………………….108

Claudia’s Taphouse is a time-looping puzzle fit inside an inn populated by thematic encounters. It is musically inclined, but there are plenty of clues that the players need to find the right sequence of notes, while trying to investigate what causes the time to loop. The puzzles providing the clues are easy enough to be interesting without becoming a slog to gather all the final puzzle notes. There is a missed chance for some cool flavor in describing what sort of attacks a piano-trained ogre might use, especially in such an odd duck of a dungeon like this.

Cluckery Puzzle Tavern

Michael Raston – What is in that Large, Abandoned

and Decrepit Building? …………………………………………………………….109

An abstract map design of a place halfway between this world and a plane representing all that is dirty, slummy, and decrepit. I am not a huge fan of how each room is randomly determined based on type, but it is easy enough to just label them myself. I dislike it mostly because it means that I have to improvise descriptions as players explore, taking away the opportunity to foreshadow.The rotting ascetic is carried through perfectly between the rooms, the monsters, the treasures, and monsters all fitting on theme. The monsters are described with a desire, allowing non-combat options, along with keyworded abilities that make them stand out.

Decaying building to the plane of ruin

Michael Wenman – The Chrono-Labyrinth of the Shattered Aeon……..110

This map takes advantage of a time-based gimmick that requires out of the box thinking on the part of the players to fully map it. It is clever to build in-game reasons and places for the players to access the out of game mechanics like time and the official map. While I appreciate the grading of threats relative to each other, I prefer specific monsters and abilities even if I have to replace them to reskin the dungeon, it helps inspire me as to how I want to skin the dungeon when I run it. Some rooms are nicely detailed in the map but there isn’t any description of what the furniture or hazards may be.

Time-meta dungeon exploration.

 

Mike O’Regan – The Pyramid Scheme ………………………………………….111

This pyramid holds unnamed riches within its simple layout and ready trap for the greedy. I assume it is intended as a moral test because there are riches beyond the great column of stone, but no way for everyone to get out as the only way to raise it again to exit is going to be locked behind it once it is raised. This seems like horror movie morality logic, where if the players had an overview of the risks, it would be a moral test, but without any information about what choice they are making, it really isn’t a moral test at all. I would probably add warning pictographs about the treasure locked within and trapped greedy individuals, or add a magic mouth to the anubis statue.

Greed Trap Pyramid

Mobralrox – A Secret Beyond the Sewers ……………………………………..112

A symbiotic sewer system run by kobolds has suddenly gone on strike it seems but really they have found what they were looking for and are now planning evil deeds. The symbiotic relationship presented within is fantastic, it doesn’t surprise me that NPC’s would ignore the kobolds once they were thought to be dealt with. The sewer system needs some description of how many kobolds are intended to be in this area, either in relative amounts to the player’s strength, or in absolute numbers with perhaps some abilities to empower them. All the monsters in this dungeon could use some description along these lines. The small map has excellent tactical possibilities for both the party and the kobolds and I could definitely see the players killing the kobolds to capture the new dragon as a pet.

Symbiotic kobold sewer strike

MonkeyBlood Design – Wastes of the Rhinofolk …………………………….113

Wastes of the Rhinofolk is a wasteland adventure focusing on meeting the Rhinofolk enlightenment trials in order to access a spiritual locus and steal their treasure. The desert wastes and rituals are detailed and evocative, but specific enough that they basically have to be given out with in game knowledge checks or obscure history book. I am also unsure what hints are supposed to clue players in to smashing the pillars on the third floor. The final albino rhinofolk warlock is beautifully described and even if I don’t use the whole adventure, I will definitely be stealing this warlock.

Desert Enlightenment Journey

Moritz Fornoff – The Angstloch…………………………………………………..114

Presented as a twist or add-on to another dungeon or ruin as the players are finishing, it drops them into a small dark space with an unknown creeping monster. This will work best in a low magic situtation, either contrived or intrinsic to the system. I like how well the dangers are forecast, meaning I won’t feel bad when I spring them on the players after they ignore them. This does function more as a punishment or last minute twist, so I would suggest it after a dungeon where better than average loot was just found.

Dark descent into the damp.

Nate Treme – Mount Zorgoth ……………………………………………………..115

With a style reminiscent of adventure time or steven universe, this climb into a gods domain is filled with gonzo monsters and trials. There are different mini-quests to pursue that reward back-tracking, giving the players more time to experience random encounters, making them more of a cost to consider. The descriptions are the reverse of their positions on the page, and would be better served inverted so that they are adjacent to the hilltops they describe. The huge variety of monsters need some sort of description as to what attacks or tactics they use, or at least more than just their name to make them easier to run without prep.

Gonzo godly mountain climb

Ned Hugar – The Colony……………………………………………………………116

A mobilized ant colony living in a giant clay construct. Navigating the tunnels, the players will find a variety of unique encounters that can be dealt with peacefully but quickly have things turn for the worst if players are aggressive or careless. The NPC’s within are given some descriptions but it would be nice if they and the ants were given keyworded abilities to describe what sort of combat abilities and tactics they have.

Wandering ant hill

Nical – Ei`yeu-dousum ……………………………………………………………..117

This small island stop of haunted and creepy happenings is confusing as to how it is intended to be run. The high number of multiple choice options for the DM and the lack of a direction as to when or why the various strange things begin to happen mean that in order to run this dungeon I will have to come up with my own narrative. The theming and paranoia that the strange things represent is amazing, so I will likely cut this dungeon apart for reuse as separate encounters or hauntings elsewhere.

Island-based horror fodder

Noah Lloyd and Matt Ryan – Vault of the Witch-Queen…………………..118

I have trouble wrapping my head around the 3-d geometry going on in this twisting, turning tomb. The conceit of the tomb is that is has a number of levels that are at perpendicular angles to one another and the whole place rotates when a spell is cast by either the players or the traps within. Perhaps some change in the way the map is drawn would make it easier to figure out what direction the floors rotate and how they interconnect with trapdoors. Being able to turn the captured constructs of the witch-queens former husbands is a fantastic twist and opportunity that almost makes it worth it to try and wrap my brain around the structure.

Rotating tomb of marital troubles.

Olobosk – The Isle of Splinters …………………………………………………..119

This dungeon is a sea encounter set within a collection of stone and ice spires that are protected by and protecting a collection of harpies. The creator missed a big opportunity to create their own monster to go within the cavern itself, something I hammer on for many entries, but I can always reskin or replace something I don’t like, but when the space is there in your dungeon you should fill it with your ideas. That goes double for mentioning the tempest but then backing off to leave it up to the DM what exactly is in the cavern. Also, what sort of spells does the witch-harpy have available to her? All that said though, the harpies in this dungeon entry are quite vicious and have plenty to offer both morally and in treasure for players that go through the trouble of fighting their way up the spires to end them as a threat.

Harpy hideout and sacrifices

Pasquale Camuso – The Green Colossus………………………………………120

A kobold tribe has taken up residence in an abandoned copper gnome construct. I can’t say I agree with the gnomish safety standards of putting the extinguishing wand behind a locked compartment, but the rooms are neatly laid out and sort of double up because many rooms change if the players get the power going. I dislike that many of the rooms focus on how the gnomes used to use the rooms with direct descriptions rather than describing how the kobolds use the space currently with hints as to its past purpose. Also, there is no description of what type of fighter the king is or what type of magic the acolyte will use, they could have had theme appropriate combat and magic that follows their belief in their copper god with things like copper weaponry or steam blasts.

Kobold occupied copper golem

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