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OPD 2019 Reviews (51-60)

Part 5. Part 7.

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.

Julien Tremblay & Nora Mally – The Haunted Theatre ……………………..51

Players have been hired and sent into an old, haunted threater to clear it of ghosts so a popular traveling fair can use it. Think of the tax money such a show will bring the town. Unfortunately, the ghostly influence on the theater traps them inside and if they don’t leave quickly enough or solve the problem, they will be trapped inside too.

The Good: The setting makes excellent use of player knowledge of things like costume rooms, and theater accoutrements, to encourage adventurer creativity in solving the puzzles contained within. 

The Bad: Nothing is given as to why the witches are cursing this place or any solutions that would get them to lift the curse aside from killing them. Adding something like this could either humanize the witches with a legitimate grievance (adding character defining choices) or make them an interesting villain who might be cheaper to buy-off with concessions.

The Useful: If you table has theater people who might enjoy fighting their way through a haunted theater or if you want an adventure to unlock a new building in a known town. 

JW Holes and Shawn Schultz – Mausoleum Matrimony……………………52

A devilish outsider has, as part of his sinister plot to wed his daughter to a powerful mortal, taken over and desanctified a church and mausoleum. The adventurers should be careful in clearing the place, lest they find themselves the targets of the wedding instead.

The Good: Certainly a unique concept I haven’t seen before, in that the players have to break up a wedding where the bride is the evil one, rather than try to save a bride or keep a wedding safe. 

The Bad: I greatly dislike railroading features like grabbing one player as a crucial expectation of the dungeon. It either means the players get forced into one particular situation regardless of their skills or preparations or the dungeon goes off the rails when the attempted railroad fails. This is especially annoying because it is written here as an uncounted number and strength of zombies, it should instead commit to a definite amount of zombies with the expectation that players may overcome them. 

The Useful: A fun concept that could be tweaked, perhaps offering a reason why the players might want to fake an attempted matrimony rather than forcing their hand into it unawares.  

Karl Stjernberg – Salt and Stink! ………………………………………………….53

After being wrecked at sea, the players have awoken on a reeking island that turns out to be the home base of an array of demi-human pirates. They have built up this floating whale corpse as their own pirate ship. The adventurers can fight their way through, find a place in the crew, or something in-between.

The Good: A variety of inhabitants and crew on this vessel are of different types that all add well to the overall theme. The encounters viscerally feel like exploring a dead whale carcass.

The Bad: For a pirate ship, they really don’t have anything interesting in the way of treasure. I mean, sure there is the whale-ship for taking, but isn’t the saying that the best two days of a boat owner’s life are the day they buy one and the day they sell it?

The Useful: This would be useful as both a rumor table entry as something the players might either not believe is real (until they crash into it) or be morbidly curious about retrieving for themselves. I mean, it is technically a ship. 

Keith “indi” Salamunia – Later That Night… …………………………………..54

The adventurers awaken mysteriously after an attack on the town has already begun and they must scramble to figure out what is happening and how to stop it. 

The Good: The striking contrast of only using black and red makes for an evocative page. The inclusion of a scale is a welcome bit of information for a DM to make sure players understand the relative distances of things in the town.

The Bad: Starting things in the middle of the action is just a railroad, especially when enough details about the attack aren’t given that the DM could allow players to uncover the plot before it goes off. Also, it assumes that they all get knocked out from an explosion without doing enough damage to kill any of them. The main enemy, the witherlings, aren’t given a description or details about their abilities. Lastly, the writing is both difficult to read due to the cursive and portions of it are covered by art, these two things combined make it hard to reference during play.

The Useful: This could be a quest the players hear about, that witherlings and gnolls have been amassing or threatening a nearby town. If they investigate, they could be present for these events and if not, they might hear about or find this destroyed town later.

Kelly Ellerbrook and Aaron Thompson – The Lost Chasm …………………55

This is the only crossing for miles, but it is infested with creatures, hostile magics, and ancient secrets. 

The Good: There are plenty of ways across, even in this entry, meaning the players are free to try multiple methods and do whichever seems easiest. A number of them seem like fun encounters that curious players could come back to explore on the return trip back across.

The Bad: A strong element of those old point and click games are present here, where specific items are needed at non-intuitive locations or earned by unusual methods no one would try except by trial and error. There should be more clues indicating what items are needed where or that they are a possibility to be earned by defeating other areas of this entry.

The Useful: While I wouldn’t put something this complicated at a normal crossing, it would work for an area in a wasteland or hostile wilderness where the challenge is getting to a destination.

Kelsey Sosa – The Forgotten Few ………………………………………………….56

This station has been taken over by one of its test subjects, a psychic, illusion-using alien. 

The Good: The entry makes good use of repeated illusory tricks to build up a theme of distrust and paranoia, on theme for a laboratory in the grips of an illusionist mastermind. It does this well by ramping up from small illusions that they will certainly fall for before more dangerous ones come into play, so they should be on the lookout for them by then.

The Bad: While keeping an alien creature mysterious and undescribed is good for the player’s atmosphere, a DM needs to have a basic idea of the physical and mental properties of the creature so they can realistically be modeled in the background. 

The Useful: Sci Fi games are an obvious place to drop this dungeon into, but it could fairly easily be reskinned with an innately magical or psychic creature for fantasy oriented games without changing much.

Ken Moore – Statuary Garden of the Lithomancer …………………………..57

A cavern hides a fancy mansion occupied by a stone-shaping medusa filling her home with works of art made of her victims.

The Good: I like the small details like including what happens if the players mix things in the lab without knowing what they are doing, details about how valuable her furniture is, and concisely described but empty rooms to give atmosphere without cluttering the dungeon entry.

The Bad: The map gives no indication of where things are located in the rooms and the creatures that inhabit this dungeon are not given any details except their names. The medusa herself is partially described with a specialization of magic, but leaving her minions up to the DM just makes more work for the DM.

The Useful: A cavern with a possibly neutral creature that could be a patron or friend to the right player characters, should they make the effort to approach her mansion carefully.

Khelren – 23, Wolfdown Street – The Devouring House……………………..58

This haunted house is trying to claim more victims in the adventurers, and they must explore its constantly shifting interior to find a way out. Perhaps they will gather some treasure and rescue some innocents along the way.

The Good: The house is well suited to the Call of Cthulhu-esque games where sanity is a resource that players must conserve, including places to trigger sanity loss takes a burden off a DM trying to remember when to trigger them. 

The Bad: Too much content has been attempted to fit on this page, and the text is very small and tough to read thanks to its light grey color. Random rooms like this are also less than fun to run, and the players will quickly just start jumping back and forth between one doorway until they find a new room or the one they are looking for. Lastly, there are no hints as to where the players might find the trinket they seek or the way out, they just have to stumble upon them.

The Useful: Good as either a one-shot of exploring a creepy mansion or running it straight as the scenario implies, using it as a location for a cursed object or trinket the adventurers hope to find.

Lang Waters and Paul Sweeney – Kraken Attack’n! ………………………….59

A prison ship holding the players has been attacked and is now sinking. Can they get out in time, especially with all that loot that could be stolen and enemies to fight?

The Good: An inventive interactive element literally tilts to map to track the progress of the sinking ship, which is a very engaging way to build an element of tension into the game. The locks in the game are also quick, fun puzzles.

The Bad: The map is a little lackluster, as there isn’t much on the map that will really be impacted by the changing ship angles. Even without adding more details, shifting the rooms around so that players move up and down or fore and aft more would get them interacting with the angle of the tilting ship more. 

The Useful: A great way to get the players out from being captured in a sea-based campaign, or during their transport to a prison. Alternatively, this map and mechanic could be repurposed for a ship the players are attacking, with their attack being interrupted by a kraken just as they reach the hold of the ship.

Larry Z. Pennyworth – A Temple in Time ……………………………………….60

Players must make usage of this temple’s past and present in order to rescue a kidnapped child.  They will face the temple’s defenders, its puzzles, and even the forces of entropy to succeed.

The Good: The time mechanic of switching between temple states is kept tightly constrained without loopholes that a DM would have to plan around. The puzzles are also nicely visual, interactive, and at the right level of difficulty that the whole table can get in on the solving rather than one player doing all the work while everyone else sits there confused.

The Bad: Mazes may look nice on a map, but I’ve never found them interesting to run at the table where either the players have a map and instantly solve it or it is a slog of them guessing left and right until they draw out their own map, which they instantly solve. 

The Useful: I would probably cut the kidnapping and simply have this temple be a rumored location of a nice treasure or insert a different evil plot, but the temple has a solid puzzle theme usable in almost any type of game with only minor reskinning.

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