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OPD 2019 Reviews (41-50)

Part 4. Part 6.

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.

J. Alan Henning – Catacombs of the Lich Queen …………………………….41

A dungeon delve to recover a lost child from its now undead mother, but in the process discover a more dangerous threat in the rooms below the earth.

The Good: Short, concise descriptions of each room give the key details of each space for playability without wordiness or rambling. Lots of variations on the theme of undeath to keep things fresh in the many rooms that make up this entry. 

The Bad: Layout of the text in is in a large block that makes it hard to parse and impossible to keep track of what room descriptions are where. The map is nice but I would have preferred small symbols of the room contents rather than a letter, as trying to match each room to its description is a tedious process of memorization. No need to get fancy, but the blank map seems like wasted descriptive space when the text is already so dense. This entry would have been greatly served by cutting perhaps 20-30% of its content and spacing the room descriptions out into a list rather than a single, long paragraph.

The Useful: This dungeon is packed with variations on undead themed encounters, empty rooms, traps, hazards, and puzzles. Many of these encounters and traps could easily be rehomed (read: stolen for reuse) in any tomb or undead gathering place too.

Jason Ermer – Fossilized in Fishport…………………………………………….42

A fishing village is struck and turned to stone after a mysterious new island shows up in their normal fishing waters. 

The Good: The adventure is nicely laid out in a three act structure that offers multiple paths for adventurers to proceed. Also, the medusa “boss” of this island is an interesting monster encounter with ways for the players to get the curing necklace off her lover with some clever diplomacy. There are a myriad of trinkets and solutions to freeing the town’s petrified villagers as well as save themselves from any petrification they suffer on the island.

The Bad: The moving block puzzle doesn’t make much sense to me as it doesn’t seem like there is any challenge to the movement of the blocks except for the stone-to-flesh pool making a surprise slime. The lack of any sort of map for the island itself makes this entry unhelpful as the DM would have to determine relative locations and distances as well as describe them to the players whenever they misunderstand or forget their options.

The Useful: A good one-shot adventure for when the players encounter a petrification threat that they need a cure for or perhaps to spice up a normally boring fishing town they have already been through.

JD Thornton – The Buried Pyramid of the Undergod………………………..43

A sandstorm has revealed the worn away top of an ancient pyramid, opening it to explorers and plunderers, provided they can survive its dangers.

The Good: The map has excellent symbology to make it clear what is in each room and how each room is connected to its neighbors, a must when it is a 3D dungeon of multiple floors like this. The magic items, monsters, and traps, are given plenty of detail for a DM to run as written. I really like that all sapient creatures in here are given a brief statement about their motivations, this is key to running any NPC the players aren’t supposed to kill outright.

The Bad: The writing is quite dense. It is kept from being overwhelming and hard to read by the color switching between red and black. Not sure what could be cut, but with how packed the rooms are, the random encounters could be trimmed to just 1d6, and room descriptions could be made more concise with keywords instead of sentences.

The Useful: Perfect for a revealed tomb in a place once thought safe or as a hidden dungeon to hide a key magical macguffin for the campaign.

Jeff McKelley – Shadow Prison Escape!………………………………………….44

This prison is a portal to a mini-shadow realm that the players are racing against the clock to raid before they are trapped here forever (or more likely until they are devoured by the endless shadows). 

The Good: A cutout puzzle is a fun, hands on game aid that I have always found players really enjoy. 

The Bad: While dungeons don’t need to explain everything fully, it would have been good to see some small clues about why this prison exists or why it is in the state that it is in.

The Useful: You could use this as a random shadow portal near a town as part of a rumor table, I think it fits better as either a filler for when a magical portal fails catastrophically or to give a destination to a portal the DM had not expected the players to investigate.

Jenna Shively and Nick Franco – The Wives of the Mad Duke……………45

Players have been called upon to enter a duke’s mansion to stop him murdering yet another wife that bears him a daughter rather than a son. The mansion is quite haunted by those past wives though, so they’ll have to deal with those ghosts too.

The Good: Encounters with each ghost do well to give a brief glimpse into what each one had been like in life, while staying concise and gameable. I enjoy dungeons with encounters not strictly stuck around slaughtering everything in sight, and the possible alternate success routes in this dungeon are great.

The Bad: The magic items of the ghosts are just boring stat bonuses and common items, missing the opportunity for keyed items around the ghosts’ personalities. 

The Useful: Perhaps a previously known noble has gone mad with grief or a campaign wants to set up a succession crisis.

John Rattlemayne – Perchel’s Geode……………………………………………..46

A goofy merchant sells unusual wares, one of which contains a miniaturizing dungeon. 

The Good: Color coded rooms hold gonzo threats and treasures, bought from the wacky merchant with fun-sounding goods. Also, are those bionicle masks?

The Bad: Items, rooms, and treasures could use just a bit more description, even a keyword or two would do. Also, the only way I could see for players to escape the geode dungeon would be the wizard instruments that might cause dangerous teleportation. Lastly, if you mention random mutations in a dungeon entry, you should give at least a few, otherwise you’re just a tease.

The Useful: If your campaign already uses the weird or you want to make your players immediately suspicious, this merchant can show up in any dungeon as a random encounter.

Johnathan Castle and Matt Henderson – A Whale of a Time ……………..47

Players have taken an airship to try and steal flying mecha-whale amergris, but have instead crashed into its mouth. They are plummeting along with it and must escape/loot before hitting the ground.

The Good: This works well as a heist premise with a built in timetable and seems to run a bit like one of the “Forbidden Island” games in that player turns cause the place to become more unstable and eventually kill them all. Monsters are nicely described and add well to the atmosphere of this unusual creature’s ecosystem.

The Bad: The speed at which it falls, tied to each change of rooms, seems too quick for the players to actually figure out how the whale works or escape. This is compounded by there being no method to add time back onto the “height tracker” say by doing one-time tasks like clearing the beast’s belly of their airship scrap. The way the rooms are connected could easily screw over players with no information who go down one path and have to double back.

The Useful: This could easily be reskinned to players looting any sort of giant abomination, replacing the height tracker with it sinking to the bottom of the ocean, self-destructing, or the arrival of some army that will take it.

Josh “Skull” Dixon – Feynman’s Mining Station………………………………48

What was a small time asteroid mine has lost contact with the outside world and the players have been called in to investigate. Alien nanites have seized the whole structure, requiring the players to fight their way to the heart of the asteroid to stop them.

The Good: This entry does a good job offering clues and hints that the players can investigate to learn about the source of the mine’s troubles, as well as the capabilities of the nanites themselves.

The Bad: So many areas are left unexplained, requiring the DM to fill in that gap: contents of rooms, the capabilities of the defensive system, numbers of previous miners, details about the androids, how strong the nanites are, or what their strategic changes will be in response to invaders.

The Useful: The map and scenario can be readily used for both this intended dungeon and as a basis for say a player purchased asteroid mine or even just an asteroid outpost in a spacefaring game.

Joshua Drake – Myconids Ale………………………………………………………49

Mutated and undead animals have been attacking a brewery as well as causing trouble for a nearby town. Players must wade through the true and false knowledge of the townsfolk to figure out what is really causing these issues, and hopefully put an end to it.

The Good: A fully fleshed out set of rumors, as well as what villagers know what, is very useful for a DM to take on those npc’s roles when speaking with the players. I also like the touch that some false rumors can be cleared up right away simply by asking the right people; false rumors should always have a noted way the players can find out about them. Accounting for players taking any of the different sides here is a smart move and keeps DM’s refrain from the impulse of having to railroad players into the options available in the scenario.

The Bad: There should be some information about the relative locations listed within, and a simple map would be helpful here. Big missed opportunity here to give the myconids and their fungally controlled animals unique mutations or abilities.

The Useful: A moral quandary or perhaps just an opportunity for character definition for players based on how they decide to approach and resolve this adventure. Do they side with the brewer, the druid, the myconids, or no-one? 

Julián Perez – Dungeon Surprises Twice………………………………………..50

An obsessive wizard has set up a dungeon of identical rooms connected by magical portals. How can the players figure out where they’ve been before and can they get the treasure before getting so annoyed they leave?

The Good: A dungeon of identical rooms is spiced up with the inclusion of a few items, traps, and devices that allow players to navigate to specific places. 

The Bad: I do not endorse retroactive changing of a dungeon in response to emergent player strategies, I would think it perfectly in line with an OCD wizard to have something that goes around cleaning random rooms like a magical roomba to keep players from using trash or chalk to make traveling easy. Why does an OCD wizard who is so compulsive he makes a whole dungeon with no furniture allow a rat infestation?

The Useful: A wizard’s dungeon that suits an obsessive or reclusive dungeon well, which could quickly be reskinned into a non-euclidian tower thanks to its small rectangular rooms.

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