OPD 2019 Reviews (21-30)

Part 2. Part 4.

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.

Chris Paul – Senseless Pursuits …………………………………………………..21

A creepy dungeon revolving around loss of sight and the cult that dwells within utilizing their own sort of replacement for that lost sense.

The Good: Creepy body horror of just the right amount, playing on the idea of losing ones eyes and eyesight without going too far. 

The Bad: Most if not all of the dungeon assumes that the players will agree to let their eyes be removed for nebulous promises of this cult. I doubt they will, and thus they will still have to fight through every room, but if they do they bypass almost the whole dungeon and also get free blindsight out of the ordeal. It would be better if there was an interesting drawback or that losing their eyes was presented as more tantalizing before the choice was offered with a more limited benefit.

The Useful: Drop this in a place infected with eldritch beasts as one of the cults that has popped up or just to ramp up the tension with uncomfortable horror.

Clarabelle Chong – A Pinch of Salt………………………………………………..22

This bath house and recuperation retreat mines its own special salts. Nefarious elements in this establishment are trapping patrons’ souls to use in releasing their dark patron.

The Good: The old-timey advertisement makes for a great prop to copy and hand out during play, possibly as a “searching for rumors” result as it greatly adds to the flavor of how I imagine all the rooms and employees of the place. Setting the tone like that really helps strip away the verbiage that would otherwise be needed to set the tone and describe all the elements of the dungeon.

The Bad: The advertisement takes up quite a lot of usable space and perhaps could be smaller by removing some of the extraneous details from the leaflet (you only need to darkly hint at the secret evils of this place so many times). Additionally, there aren’t any counts or relative intended power levels of the miners, guards, spirits, or employees, and a great chance was missed in describing what the dark entity is and what it’s plans are.

The Useful: If your mountain town needs a hidden horror that will grow during the campaign, this could be just the dungeon to house it. It even has snippets of advertisement copy that can be dropped into other rumor gathering by cutting up the articles and doling them out to draw eventual interest in its goings-on.

Clark B. Timmins – Daydream Dungeon………………………………………..23

Spreadsheet turned dungeon, this entry showcases a simple layout inspired by work daydreaming and waxing lyrical about tabletop gaming.

The Good: Fun short poems about adventuring and heroics fill the page here. 

The Bad: I get what they were going for in using an excel sheet, which can work fine, but there is no room key or legend explaining what anything on the map means. Perhaps they are meant to tie to specific lines of the various poems? I couldn’t puzzle it out, and to use this at the table I would have to essentially write my own dungeon using this map, and I’ve never found room arranging to be the tough part of dungeon creation.

The Useful: The short poems could easily be stolen to use as riddles for a dungeon puzzle or as inspiration for an NPC bard singing of either generic heroes or pretending to sing about the players specifically when they are really just singing generic songs.

Daniel Comerci – The Frozen Citadel …………………………………………….24

Atop a distant mountain is a lost monastery shrouded and sealed in ice. Its dark secrets may be more than the adventurers can handle.

The Good: A well laid out isometric, cut-away map gives a good sense of scale of this dungeon and the whole place is described in extensive detail about the various rooms. It will be very easy to set the tone when running this dungeon.

The Bad: Many factors and mechanics of this place are left totally unexplained on purpose, with open ended questions that a DM wanting to run this place will have to answer. Also, there is no listed cure or way to resist the central curse of this place, so be forewarned if you want to run it that you either have to be running that kind of game or come up with your own way your players can do so.

The Useful: When you need a lost place hidden in the mountains that tempts players to come explore it over the course of a few tries, this dungeon is nicely segmented in ways that they could explore a portion, get scared off, return when stronger, repeat. 

David and Lauren Schirduan – Broken Factory……………………………….25

An abandoned robotics facility has just enough parts left to build one more bot, although it may need a little help getting to the finish line past some minor failures.

The Good: An excellent idea for a reward for players to earn, in the form of a custom party servant, and each room is well designed as to the various states it can be in, along with how to fix each of them. Which could be useful if the players badly fumble one room, a penalty could be to force them to have to fix two other rooms instead of failing outright.

The Bad: The wording on the process of robot creation is a bit lacking, but I eventually worked out that it is intended to be one random factory maintenance roll per robot. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was instead supposed to be a different mechanical failure every few minutes until the robot is finished though, which would be a good opportunity to allow parties to aim for a more powerful result by risking more challenges (and thus getting to actually see more of the rooms).

The Useful: Drop this in as a reward or offshoot of a mechanically minded dungeon as something the players can fight for as part of their reward. Alternatively, reskin it as a biological lab, arcane summoning manufactory, or beast hatchery for other flavors of followers.

David Northcutt – The Broken Sepulcher……………………………………….26

Revivalists of an old cult have taken up residence in the buried residence of its long dead leader, hoping to restore their ancient figurehead.

The Good: Unique exploration and map in that the players are exploring a manor from the top down through the chimney, which is evocative and fun, like reverse santas. Every room is given multiple descriptors, some of which tie into the perils they hold. This is an incredibly useful detail that makes it much easier to include hints about traps and monsters without raising suspicion of players by describing every room with keywords, while giving players a hook to latch onto to investigate if they desire.

The Bad: The cultists and their macguffin of a magical item are only described in passing terms, with no mention of what specific powers they wield, how they wield them, or what their goals will be once they do. A missed opportunity especially when the cult is explicitly listed as having a schism of sorts, one half of which is public and separated from the evils of its founder.

The Useful: Replace with any religious order or group with a dark past and this manor can populate a space below any city’s graveyard. This could also be a neat surprise for players that like digging up graves or get sidetracked when they find mysterious letters about meetings in graveyards on important people they waylay.

Dylan Barker – An Awakening at the Old Well…………………………………27

A child’s voice calls out from a well in the woods, and the players investigating this well will find a more extensive space under the earth than what they were expecting.

The Good: Endearing and short plot makes for a cohesive dungeon that will last for about as long as a big fight rather than a larger dungeon. Text sections are nicely broken up for easy readability and wordiness is kept minimal to allow for a larger font size. Red lines in the normally black monochrome are excellent for drawing the eye to key points.

The Bad: Pinch and the crab swarms in the dungeon aren’t given any statistics or have any listed relative strengths, which would go a long way towards fleshing out in the DM’s mind how many crabs there are here or how to play Pinch if the players are non-cooperative to his pleas.

The Useful: A fun, short dungeon romp to be tossed in as a curio during exploration of the wilderness or used as a way to introduce a reskinned npc that may be useful for one portion of an ongoing story.

Ed Nicholson – Plumbing the Depths…………………………………………….28

Wizard of ambiguous morality has recruited the players to shrink down and retrieve a ring from his plumbing system.

The Good: Plenty of open-ended encounters for the players to fight, trick, sneak past, or negotiate with. Magic items and rewards here are either straightforwardly named or given descriptions of their basic functions.

The Bad: I understand wanting to keep the pipes open, but they may as well have just had iron grates, that would be less annoying to players who might otherwise think they are obstacles to bypass rather than soft walls. Additionally, none of the monsters are given indications of their power levels, tactics, or wants. This would have been a handy way to present an alternative path to getting the ring rather than just slaughtering all the mushroom people. 

The Useful: Could be a random job posting, but this seems to fit better as a way to either reveal a former patron as evil or simply callous and dislikeable.  

Elven Tower – The Void Sword ……………………………………………………..29

This monastery holds the only remaining weapon that can stop [insert plot baddie here], so the players must retrieve it from the reclusive monks.

The Good: I like the idea that the monks who have this weapon aren’t actually evil but are doing everything they can to save their leader who is bound to it. 

The Bad: It would have been good to see a sentence or two about the possibility of luring the baddie to this temple to kill them without harming the head priest (maybe they even have to do so without removing the weapon from the altar too!). If you are going to have the antagonists of this dungeon be clerics and wield spells, you have to give some sort of note about their preferred spell types or magical tactics, it both saves the DM work and gives good flavor. For a dungeon based around inserting itself into a preexisting plot, there is a lot of wordiness about this weapon that could have been better spent on concrete details about treasure, the priests, and the golem guardians.

The Useful: As a straight use, this could be reskinned and slotted into a quest that needs a macguffin weapon to defeat a big bad. Playing it unusually though, what if the players come upon this fated temple and its weapon but aren’t looking to stop the evil thing because it hasn’t shown up as a problem yet (or never will be due to other heroes defeating it already)? Then it could be a moral quandary about taking a powerful weapon but killing a local paragon in the process. One last thought, is if you show this to players and they elect to leave it alone, they’ll be paranoid about what evil monster may show up later to require them to get it, even if that monster isn’t fated to appear for generations.

Eric Dollich – Cursed Are the Woods …………………………………………….30

A maze of paths in the woods presents a challenge for the players to retrieve what is needed to restore function to the protective windmill to functionality.

The Good: The layout of the page is both pleasant on the eyes and keeps everything neatly organized for later reference by the DM. Simple but nonlinear encounters present a more interesting challenges than just some monsters to fight.

The Bad: The map image is so small I cannot read what the graveyard hint is supposed to be. Clarifying the hint (I am guessing there is a Z, an E, and a D, on the gravestones to the right of the cross shaped gravestones?) in text somewhere would solve this. Additionally, while I appreciate the characterization of the witch using her broom for advantage, please list some of her preferred spells or elements or even style of casting. Lastly, the gender changing curse from the stairs could be safely left off, as it is either a weird joke that likely won’t land at a table or even offensive to some people without any real payoff to be worth it.  

The Useful: Something to populate a wooded area or perhaps a distraction that the players must solve in the area to meet a mysterious humanoid sasquatch or similar reskinned reclusive beast.

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