Levi Kornelsen – The Acid Baths of Sambria…………………………………..61
This acid-producing factory is powered by a rare and expensive, but unwieldy cube of magic. Naturally, the players have heard about it and are here to steal it.
The Good: Map symbology makes it easy for a DM to remember the key details of a room at a glance. Plenty of tools and possibilities are scattered about the dungeon for the players to solve the puzzles of transversing the acid-filled place and its dangers to retrieve a cube too large for the purpose-built doors to fit through.
The Bad: I think the entry missed out by skipping over one of the most interesting parts of a heist, dealing with the guards. By skipping past these with a blurb about their patron having dealt with the guards, this one page dungeon misses the tension that guards can bring, as the players worry about if backup might be coming and how soon.
The Useful: A solid, short heist that can be reskinned for sci-fi settings just as easily as magic ones.
Lina (10), Hendrik (8), Joaquín (6), and Herr Zinnling (48) –
A short dungeon of riddle rooms and silly fights.
The Good: Fun, quick riddles suitable for all ages. The monsters here are crazy and unique.
The Bad: If you’re going to give riddles, it is only common courtesy to give at least one answer, that way the DM can know what you are thinking in creating it. Without the intended answer, the DM may give hints or misunderstand the riddle when explaining it to the players.
The Useful: Great for ideas in making kid-friendly riddles and encounters. Wacky creatures can really engage with children’s attention spans and imagination.
Luke E. Dodd – A Grave Night on the Borderlands…………………………..63
Someone has been robbing the corpses of the old graveyard. That can’t be allowed to go on, get in there and stop it.
The Good: It has the feel of a short point and click adventure, setting the scene with a drawn panorama rather than focusing on a map. The doodles of the creatures help give a good idea of what the creature’s are like.
The Bad: Lots of details are left open ended, which can be useful for a DM who wants to insert their own plot, but a DM could do that anyway with a prewritten plot. Having answers in the dungeon description saves them time and adds flavor if they don’t want to do that.
The Useful: This could be dropped in as a random encounter in an abandoned graveyard the group finds or as an occurence in a small town they have already passed through.
Luke Le Moignan – Shub-Rhadaman…………………………………………….64
Players have either died or accidentally gotten themselves stuck on a spiritual train heading for the land of the dead, from which there will be no return.
The Good: Wacky and zany monster mashups and unique creations will make for interesting combats as the players will have to stay on their toes trying to figure out how those monsters work. Knowing all the creatures in the monster manual will only get them so far here. Also, there are lots of small details that hint at a much larger world outside this train, which makes this solid fodder for a DM reading it.
The Bad: The unique monsters also lack much description and details for the DM that is running them, meaning that they have to either make their abilities up ahead of time or make it up on the fly. Also, the intended way for the players to escape isn’t given any hints or indications that it is the correct way, which could leave the players frustrated or the DM frustrated as they have to try and improvise hints to get the characters on the right path.
The Useful: Many of these npc’s can easily be imported as stand-alone characters of interest, as can the train itself, or even just the idea of a train to the underworld. For a lower fantasy game, this could perhaps be a ship of some kind with the carriages being the various rooms along the way.
Marco Conti – Where’s That Tower? ………………………………………………65
Players must search the area for clues to the locations of leylines that if tracked, will reveal the location of a hidden tower.
The Good: The lore of the fae combine the best elements of fairy creatures: dangerous, following arbitrary rules, yet sympathetic. Ley lines are a fun way for players to be given a map they can use to track a secret location of something. Having a third ley line is a great way to have a backup track for the players even if only two are strictly necessary to find the intersection.
The Bad: The randomization elements of the NPC’s make this entry more confusing than it needs to be. The dungeon should commit to one version of things and maybe give a short schedule if the creator wants the NPC’s to wander.
The Useful: Both the core idea of the fey and their leylines and the one page dungeon entry itself are easily usable in most any campaign as a way to reveal a hidden location.
Marcus Mortati – Escape From the Chaos Ravine……………………………66
When the end of the dungeon becomes the beginning, this is what it looks like. After defeating the final boss of a dungeon, the heroes have grabbed the macguffin, but it turns out to be cursed and will do anything in its power to keep them from leaving.
The Good: Games that play around with narrative structure and character memories always pique my interst, as they allow for the characters to discover different aspects of a game than the standard paranoid, combat-oriented searching as is typical. As a game, this entry scratches some of the same niches as lost-memory movies or books.
The Bad: There should be more clues about the skull having caused the retrograde amnesia the players are suffering, but also there should be more reasons for the players to escort this skull from the cavern. As written, a player might get the idea that the skull isn’t the one causing the enemies to rise up again, and that they are being tricked into getting the skull out.
The Useful: Thanks to the memory wipe, this could technically be inserted anywhere in a campaign, but to fit, it could be dropped in right after the players have located a dungeon that they intend to loot.
Mark A. Wilson – Death Rave of the Techno-Lich …………………………….67
Immortal dictator and dance enthusiast, the Techno-Lich has decreed that the adventurers join a dance competition for their dear leader’s entertainment. Can they survive and win?
The Good: The competing teams really help sell the 80’s gonzo theme of the whole entry. I also like that one of the preliminary dungeon puzzle’s actually has the solution of just ignoring it, which is the last thing that players ever try.
The Bad: Despite having a portion of the entry dedicated to having the players come up with a team name and theme, their choreography and costumes do not get used as a factor in the rest of the entry. Also, you can’t have a techno lich as a possible opponent and not at least hint about what sort of abilities he has that let him conquer. It isn’t like player characters aren’t known for taking any sort of threat as a call for initiative.
The Useful: A high fantasy game can utilize Stuart the TechnoLich for any nation or city under the sway of an eccentric necromancy construct. Alternatively, it also fits, with a little reskinning, in a sci fi game for an isolated rimworld dictatorship the players might find themselves landing on.
Mark Rickerby – Tourist Trap……………………………………………………….68
What is this floating rock with hints of crystal along the side of the road and what are all these merchant stalls? There’s an entry fee and food stands and everything…
The Good: This miniaturized dungeon floating in the sky has multiple routes to both exploring it and conquering it, or not, as the players choose. They could easily make a long term enemy here if they mess up the good thing the geode merchant has going here.
The Bad: The dungeon would have been better if it had just chosen one element and played it up instead of leaving the element options open with a random choice. Picking one option lets the creator make a more focused and immersive dungeon, and if the DM really need a different element in its place, they can always reskin it.
The Useful: Just like those giant statues along the highway, this is a fun diversion for players traveling along a major roadway.
Mathew and Michael Iantorno – Captain Huxley Palloolieth
and the Great Underwater Elevator………………………………………………69
Owner and former captain of an underwater facility has reached out for help retrieving some valuable items from the damaged facility and its valuable power core. They’ll have to contend with malfunctioning equipment, underwater predators, and tricky navigation with the faulty elevator.
The Good: The facility is a series of tightly crafted rooms with interesting tactical and roleplaying opportunities on each floor. The elevator system nicely allows a central point of exploration for all these floors.
The Bad: The elevator system is only useful as a plot device to keep the players from heading straight down. The DM may as well decide by fiat what floors they land on, as they have no information or control over where the elevator goes. Bathyspheres and monsters should have more keywords about their abilities.
The Useful: A self-contained facility for players to come upon while exploring the seas or get hired to visit from a coastal city.
Matt Carlson – The Hidden Bazaar ……………………………………………….70
This entry sets the scene of a secret alleyway bazaar complete with merchants, visitors, and passerbys.
The Good: Character quirks and secrets are given to the DM clearly along with the actions they might take during an encounter with the players that would hint at their underlying motivations.
The Bad: There is little playability here in that there isn’t a story that connects the merchants in this alleyway bazaar together or results in any change to the bazaar. The random encounters seem to be mostly unrelated to the characterizations and motivations of the stall owners.
The Useful: Great to drop in to a larger bazaar to personalize a number of merchants there or to steal and reuse as NPC’s as the DM wants.