Part 1. Part 3.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.
Ben Chaplin – Scarlight………………………………………………………………11
A cavern complex hides an old magic that has been taken over by a new extraplanar owner. The players are tasked with clearing it out.
The Good: The clean map with multiple paths offers players many directions to go and things to do. I enjoy the action of having multiple factions with their own goals, even if those factions are as small as only a couple individuals like this dungeon.
The Bad: It would have been nice to use those cartoony graphics on the map for easier reference by the GM and maybe a description of what powers the corrupted earth elemental has.
The Useful: Great as a short quest in any game but would excel as a sort of red-herring in that the mysterious lights in the sky each night seem to have a nefarious origin but are actually a more mundane (but still adventurer needing) cause.
Benjamin Rowe – What Lies Beneath the Well…………………………………12
The town fountain has stopped working and the local wizard has hired the group to head below to both discover what happened to their surveyor and fix the issue.
The Good: An isometric map is well laid out with the room bubbles for easy understanding and quick reference. This dungeon uses some clever twists to add some depth for the players to discover as they get to the bottom of what is really going on, with plenty of clues to make sure it sinks in to the players’ minds that something fishy is happening.
The Bad: The font is a little small and faint, making it hard to read at points. Some of the text boxes perhaps could have been spread out more to allow for a larger font size.
The Useful: Any town or city big enough to have a fountain but isolated enough to need to call upon outside adventurers could use this as a quest. The apparent double-crossing wizard could easily be reskinned as an NPC that the players are already suspicious of, but this could serve as impetus to trust that they ultimately have good intentions.
Brian Mackenzie – Crypt of the Viper Queen…………………………………..13
Crypt of the Viper Queen is an old yuan-ti tomb or hideout now occupied by goblins and kobolds, with connections to other caves in the area.
The Good: Leaving open a few loose ends allows this dungeon to connect as needed by the GM. I enjoyed that a lot of the ‘why’ of the Viper Queen is left up to the imagination using little trinkets she has left behind here. Not everything needs to be some big mystery, if everything is a conspiracy, they lose their specialness.
The Bad: While I can likely come up with what some of the unique monster types listed here are, it would be helpful to have at least some keywords about what makes them function differently from more common monsters.
The Useful: It is nice to have a small dungeon with open-ended connections that can be used to fill out the borders of planned dungeons in case players go off the rails.
Brienne Reid – Rumble in the Trash-haus ……………………………………..14
Shrunken down, the players are expected to repay their excellent meal by helping clear the animated food-creatures living in the goblin-chef’s disposal.
The Good: Unique food amalgams turned into monsters make for cool visuals for the players to fight. Giving them each randomized tables can break up any random encounters or repeat fights with the same faction.
The Bad: While the creatures are unique, some of the keywords they have could use more elaboration on how they might work or what relative power level they are expected to have. Also, the map itself isn’t very useful without scale or any sense of how the spaces relate to each other in their occupants/encounters.
The Useful: A silly romp able to be reskinned for any chef, royal dinner, or silly witch’s meal, perhaps as a twist to ‘spice’ up an adventurer’s evening.
Bruno71 – Sunken Swamp Stronghold ………………………………………….15
A crumbling, sinking fortress needs to be cleared of its inhabitants and the black dragon that rules it.
The Good: A concise, simple layout will be easy to run at any table regardless of mapping skill or terrain owned. The stronghold has multiple points of entry for the players, allowing them to pursue different strategies.
The Bad: The monsters listed within are somewhat uncommon and could use more keywords and relative strengths to make them easier to run for a DM without preparation. Also, while the vague rewards and items can allow a DM to insert their own relevant treasures, this entry loses out on the opportunity to flesh out the black dragon, the town, or the stronghold with flavorful items.
The Useful: A small fort and a minor threat that can attack any town near a swamp, perhaps a random event that comes up to threaten a known town thought safe after this black dragon moves in.
Burk and Dipp Dungeonography – The Tyranny of Panhead Veetwin…..16
Outsider drones have taken over all the work at a local factory and the players have been called in or are stepping in to smash up the new automatons to return jobs to the people.
The Good: A creative premise with the players as the attackers in a relatively civilized setting and robotic workers that the players could mostly avoid if they can figure out the right paths. Only the big bossman is the real threat and defeating him wins, any other fights are counterproductive.
The Bad: It would be nice to spell out that premise up front, the tagline of smashing his automated horrors doesn’t fit in with the same horrors cheering the pc’s once they defeat the main boss, indicating that they are there against their will.
The Useful: Could be dropped in as a labor dispute the players can solve in a big city or alternatively a complication that takes place in a city or factory they might have taken over/purchased.
Cameron Black, Nolan Cameron, and Will Freer – The Tower
of the Bronze Lich……………………………………………………………………..17
Horrors have resurfaced in an old tower and the PC’s have been offered a great reward for clearing it out, stopping whatever is disappearing townsfolk.
The Good: It is always nice to see a random encounter table used well to set the tone of the place, utilizing non-combat random encounters in the mix. Also, this dungeon makes excellent use of nominally empty rooms to build atmosphere, keep the players on edge, and give out clues as to what is going on in this tower.
The Bad: Using powerful beings like lich’s without even hinting at a spell preference or attack style will make this dungeon require more work on the DM’s part, as will the unusual eldritch creatures within that are not given stat blocks, keywords, or any relative power level descriptors.
The Useful: While nominally a tower, the map could fit in just as well as a remote lich’s layer in a cave, on an island, or other remote place with the lich acting as a minor villain distracting the players as the main plot progresses.
Carl Niblaeus – The Death Ziggurat………………………………………………18
The Death Ziggurat is an ancient evil temple in a jungle-filled depression holding back a dark god from the world, but that prison has broken and the evil is scheming to take over the world. Naturally, the players should probably stop this.
The Good: The scope of the area offers a great deal for the players to explore and fight as they approach the ziggurat and learn of its dark secrets.
The Bad: There are many areas of the entry that expect the players to solve a puzzle or take a specific action but there isn’t given a way for the players to learn about that possibility or tactic without DM fiat via a boring skill check (as opposed to having hints scattered about or places the players can seek out to learn).
The Useful: This could serve as its own mini-campain or arc as a self-contained adventure with a full plot line.
Caroline Berg – Excavation at the Lesser Basilisk Peaks …………………..19
Randomized caves that the players must explore to rescue archaeologists from the combined threats of basilisks and bandits.
The Good: The randomized design fits with the idea of exploring an unknown place and the random tables of descriptors offer plenty of variability for the DM to use.
The Bad: The bandits and basilisks are fairly boring in their layout, such that each fight with them will be very similar to any other, with only different numbers of enemies. Also, the treasures mostly sound like junk or cursed items, without any real value to balance out the risk of the curses, which doesn’t seem to fit with the idea that the players are being rewarded for rescuing them.
The Useful: This could be a minor job posted on a frontier town’s bulletin board or a way to game things if the players are interested in purchasing mining rights by reskinning the archaeologists as miners.
Chance Dudinack – The Staff of Shifting Sands………………………………20
This isometric map showcases a tomb built to imprison a dangerous magic weapon, the namecase staff of this dungeon entry.
The Good: Well spaced traps and plenty of loot make for a great balance of risk-reward to draw the players in further even without knowing about the magic staff the dungeon guards.
The Bad: There isn’t listed a relative power level intended of the various threats in the dungeon, nor what specifically the curse might do. Keywords of the relative abilities of the various monsters in the dungeon would go a long way to making this easier to pick and run with minimal preparation.
The Useful: A great dungeon for the players to find inside a cave they stumbled into for cover from a sandstorm or as a rumored place that has been found recently, perhaps to stop some graverobbers making for a big -if dangerous- score.