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OPD 2019 Reviews (1-10)

Part 2.

This year, to make my reviewing job easier and more standardized, I am going to write each in the following format: a summary, the good, the bad, and the useful. By including a summary, I hope to give a brief glimpse of the dungeon to you and also make it clear how I understood the entry. The good will note what I enjoyed about the submission, the bad discusses areas I didn’t enjoy, and the useful will mention how I could see using the entry in my own games.

You can follow along with the reviews by purchasing the OPD 2019 pdf over at drivethrurpg. The purchase price goes towards the prizes for the next year’s contest. Leave a comment here or contact me on mewe if you have a blog, patreon, or social media page you would like me to link to.

Abram Towle – Scratch Paper ………………………………………………………..1

An origami wizard is causing trouble and must be defeated by climbing his unfolding tower through various paper themed dangers.

The Good: Evocative encounters and straight-forward design means that players will easily grasp what is going on and be able to engage with the dungeon without extensive explanation from the DM.

The Bad: Magic items and monsters are given descriptive names but no further information is given about the intended relative power levels or abilities, requiring extra preparation by the DM.

The Useful: A nicely self-contained minor enemy easily dropped onto a rumor table, a side quest for players looking to build up some experience or loot between major plot points, or even a small recurring villain  

Alex and Chris Stoesz (Save vs. Stozilla) – There Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens!………………………………………………………………………..2

Using chicken-magic, a wizard is slowly corrupting the local area with his chicken hybrids in a bid for control, and the adventurers must uncover his plot while dealing with the aggressive monstrosities.

The Good: A whole hex is packed with the interlinked encounters and npc’s suffering from the wizard’s scheming.

The Bad: The wizard’s plans are not well fleshed out, nor are there any clues given that should lead players to try parlaying with the more important hybridized creatures or to discover that the wizard is the cause of the anomalies.

The Useful: Would serve as a solid starting point of a sillier campaign or as a small hex to put into a larger world map where mutations or magical problems are common.

Alex Welk – Rethel Abbey………………………………………………………………3

This entry is mine, and I built it to be a small investigation quest of a town having moved into an old abbey, but the secret is that just about everyone has something to hide.

Ambnz and Minitaz – The Marsh Tree of Gravitas ……………………………..4

An ancient, hollow tree is home to mysterious and powerful creatures, one of which can cure any sickness. 

The Good: The tree is stuffed with creatures to meet, fight, or sneak past. Each have their own unique flavor, even when using the rough stats of a known monster.

The Bad: The map is mostly useless as an actual layout of the various residents of the tree, so the DM will have to work out the distances and sizes of the areas within the tree.

The Useful: A place to drop into a rumor table or as a way to recover/heal a character important to the players, costing them some adventuring time in return for a cure-all. I also like some of the unique monster-mashups in the encounter table too.

Anaximander Arneson – Arkhetrix………………………………………………….5

A freeform, minigame style adventure for players that are hacking a secure mainframe or computer system.

The Good: The minigame is open to player interpretation using a point-buy system for them to create abilities on the fly to fight their way through. 

The Bad: Exiting to a new layer is completely random, and it would be preferable if players could use their skills to get hints on which is the correct exit. Additionally, the map is fairly boring and could have easily had changing damaged sectors on different layers for more variability.

The Useful: A thought out sub-game for use in tech hacking to keep the whole table involved rather than just the specialist character, or, reskinning this as maybe a dream heist in a fantasy setting.

André Bogaz and Camila Morais – Facing Fascism…………………………….6

This is a one-shot rpg about the players teaming up to infiltrate a fascist hideout and destroy its leader.

The Good: The random setup makes for a different experience each time it is played or alternatively could provide complications for when players fail.

The Bad: The preparation and final note shoehorn in a crude political jab that isn’t supported, defined, or elaborated on in any way. It also doesn’t even fit with the entry as presented, there is nothing shown about why these fascists are bad or tied in any way to working against fascism in real life. Also, there are no mechanics given for how the players plans should be resolved, it is easy enough to create but a suggestion of 2d6 or drawing cards, etc would go a long way towards playability. Lastly, the finishing instructions are unnecessarily combative between players, that they play again with a new GM if someone sabotages the agreement.

Andrey Plisko – Loose Ends…………………………………………………………..7

A town faces ongoing issues as the barrier between it and the other side thins. Players move between the two planes to solve issues and find out what is going on, hopefully stopping the villains plot. 

The Good: There are plenty of subplots and minor characters to meet and aid, fleshing out the small town in detail. 

The Bad: Players will have a tough time figuring out that there is a whole other plane to interact with, as the only way across is to time the portal in the church or die. Also, it is confusing whether or not Dixies is Rinar’s wife or pet, or if he is delusional about which she is. There is almost too much going on to keep track of for the DM, and I can’t imagine the players with limited information are going to fare much better.

The Useful: The town could serve as the focal point of some magical disaster that thinned its barrier to the afterlife, maybe reskinned with npc’s that the players are familiar with.

Anton L. C. – Tomb of the Broken King ……………………………………………8

This small tomb holds the decrepit forms of the broken king and queen and their cursed sword, if the players can solve its riddles and survive its tests.

The Good: A single, powerful magical weapon gives both purpose to the adventurers trying to loot it and by its own curse, makes for the reason of the tomb and its current state. 

The Bad: The puzzle for this tomb and its guardians are bland, missing an opportunity to either tie in with the Sword of Sins or even theme them to match the dungeon.

The Useful: The cursed sword itself could make for an interesting macguffin to retrieve to defeat the big bad but also the tomb could be a random spot to populate an overworld map.

Antonio Marcelo and Manoel Garcia – Ghosts of Mars ……………………….9

Ghosts of Mars strikes me as a vaguely Thing-like setup of a remote research base assaulted by an alien entity, that the players must discover and defeat.

The Good: The map is straightforward and the clues to the mystery are given clearly, with a good number of them because as we all know, players will miss the first clue, ignore the second, misinterpret the third, and then make a leap of logic to end up close to the right answer.

The Bad: Not the most original plot, and I dislike save or die effects. They can kick a player out of a game until there is a time for a new character, better to have progressively worsening injuries where the player knows they are risking death by continuing through their injuries. Would have been nice to see some treasure based on the science work being done in outpost zeta.

The Useful: An outpost map like this is useful in all sorts of tech or space games, and even a fantasy game could see many octagonal rooms like this explained away with common move earth/stone spells working best on straight lines (and thus rectangular, hexagonal, and octagonal rooms) being the most spell efficient to create. 

Bad Whiskey Games (Luca Coppola, Simone di Francesco, and Lorenzo Dionisi) – The Deathless Cyst …………………………………………..10

Players have respawned as clones in this lair of body horror and mutation, hoping to escape before dying again, risking heavier mutation or a loop of constantly dying until they are added to the cyst.

The Good: Gross body horror always has its place to set the mood in a campaign of a place to be avoided or destroyed, and mutation tables always has a place in my heart. The monsters and encounters here set the tone, as many of them are weak or helpless enough that the players might question whether they want to destroy the creatures.

The Bad: Text around the map is so small as to be hard to read. While I do like mutations, I prefer them as the penalties of risk-taking or as choices for players trying for power, rather than a random infliction. Ability score damage is also a very tough sell for players, so it won’t fit in many games without the DM doing the legwork to get buy-in for that sort of player character risk.

The Useful: For the right group, this could serve as a last-ditch way for them to save beloved characters after a poor plan or risky behavior got them all killed. The goal then would be for them to escape with as little ability score loss and mutations as possible.

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