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OPD 2019 Reviews (71-80)

Part 7. Part 9.

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.

Matthew DePaso – Seven Lives Fitness ………………………………………….71

It is up to the players to figure out what is driving the members of a mysterious gym into muscle-bound rages. The owner has got to be hiding some dark secret.

The Good: The concisely described encounters do a great job characterizing the rooms and the gym’s occupants without relying on any of them necessarily being a combat encounter. Gym themes hold strong in the intended solutions for each challenge and in the feel of everything in the space.

The Bad: The intro mentions a steroid but never has any room storing it or anywhere that the owner is shown to actually be dealing in it. Also, for a boss-fight, the gym owner isn’t given any listed advantages or abilities, clearly missing the easy choice of giving him steroid-fueled abilities.

The Useful: Great for an urban focused game where this kind of gym could pop up in a seedy part of the city and the players are asked to take a look by authorities that can’t prove anything directly. Alternatively, perhaps the players need to cut the gym owner out of the steroid business as a favor to a gang boss or get their hands on the steroid for themselves.

Mauro Gotsch – Bound in Chains…………………………………………………72

To join this gang, there is a peculiar dungeon-delve that would-be initiates must complete. The dungeon binds them together with short lengths of chain to survive its trials with only one weapon of choice each.

The Good: As gimmicks go, this one has some interesting implications as the group literally cannot split up to deal with concurrent threats or puzzles. This comes to a head nicely in one of the puzzles that requires the group to work together to keep spread out torches lit in a maze while pursued.

The Bad: Very few of the puzzles here make for interesting challenges for a group chained together. Off the top of my head there could have been puzzles requiring swinging each other or anchoring each other using the chains and trust, monsters using area attacks (suddenly much more effective against a group that can’t scatter and must cleverly use cover), or other encounters necessitating formation-skills.

The Useful: A solid idea for an initial challenge and a great dungeon for a group that might be starting off in the grips of a gang. This would fit well in a post-apocalypse game or in a fantasy game with the players attempting an alternative punishment to a long imprisonment akin to a trial by combat, pardoned if they survive.

Max White – Feudal Attraction……………………………………………………..73

Heroes have been brought in to keep this wedding from boiling over. The two families the bride and groom hail from have a long-running feud and either side would be happy to ruin the ceremony, but lack only the opportunity to do so without being blamed.

The Good: The page border containing numerous names is both a handy resource for a scenario revolving around two large families in conflict but also a clever place to put that type of information. This ceremony is filled with different social encounters left open ended for the players to solve.

The Bad: Puzzles without a fixed, singular solution are nice but pairing them with one possible solution can help a DM plant some clues in the encounter for players struggling to come up with an idea. 

The Useful: Easily reskinned to represent any contentious wedding that both sides want to see fail but neither wants to be blamed for. No reason this couldn’t be anything from fantasy to modern to science fiction.

Michael Calleia – Caravan …………………………………………………………..74

A caravan is looking for some protection for their big delivery and some other wagons are coming along too. The social interactions going on between the wagons holds some deadly secrets.

The Good: A good social scenario like this does well with a limited number of interactions. This entry uses that well to give most combinations of interactions some flavor and changes that will happen over time absent any interventions.

The Bad: There is no given statement of how the NPC’s respond if the bridge destruction is prevented. It seems unlikely, but with some rolls going the right way, the players might very well interfere or use spells/cleverness to find a way over the destroyed bridge anyway.

The Useful: A good starting job for new adventurers that offers a chance to tie in other subplots or establish some friendly NPC’s that the players might want to interact with later on.

Mike O’Regan – Treasure Island Map …………………………………………….75

A mysterious treasure map holds clues that the players must solve to read.

The Good: It is an interesting idea to create a handout the players can interact with an solve directly.

The Bad: Without including a solved version for the DM running it, they would be required to solve it entirely themselves to use it. With this being handwritten they cannot even copy it and manipulate the text using an automatic tool. Also, the wheel cipher key is not intuitive and it took me a long time to realize what was going on thanks to the confusing and unnecessary inclusion of some letters being capitalized. I did not take the time to solve this, as it would be too tedious given the custom nature of the cipher.

The Useful: A cool idea for a secret map handout to use ciphered text as the lines on the map itself.

Morten Greis – Great Great Grandfather’s Grave …………………………….76

Necrocannibal cultists have raided an old tomb with the remains of one of the adventurer’s ancestors, and they are being charged by their ancestor spirits to go put a stop to the pilfering of the dead.

The Good: An isometric map lays out symbology and furniture to make a quick reference to the map easy for a DM. 

The Bad: The cultists aren’t given much in the way of descriptions that might explain what cult they follow or their goals in using this place. What does charming chefs mean? Do they use enchanting magic to enthrall or are they just very convincing cannibalism enthusiasts?

The Useful: A side quest that could easily be used to tie a character’s backstory in about their ancestors which can then reveal a magical heirloom for solving this issue.

Nate Treme – Bad Frog Bargain ……………………………………………………77

Magical blights are hurting this small town and the townsfolk are rightly paranoid about elves since their mayor’s decree. Can the players get to the bottom of these issues and what will their moral choices be in solving them?

The Good: Presenting the events and motivations of those involved goes a long way to accommodating any playstyle or wacky plan. With so many possibilites, trying to guess at the plan of the players would just end up forcing them on a single plotline or leave a DM without any prepared details when they leave it.

The Bad: There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of clues that the players could uncover to find what is really going on in this town with a brokered deal gone bad unless the players choose to ransack the mayor’s house and find a single secret note. 

The Useful: Good for a wierd town or out of the way place where players can uncover a little bit more about their character’s morality by the choices they make here.

Nathan and Karis Jones – The Titan’s Sieve……………………………………78

After a grand battle, this great titan sweeps up the group and puts them in its oddly specific digestive tract. There it will attempt to sort them from their equipment and useful items.

The Good: No matter the path the players end up taking, the DM is given advice on how the players might exit and what loot they might be able to glean on their way out.

The Bad: No dungeon should revolve around splitting the party as its first and main mechanic. The traps and monsters in this titan’s gut aren’t given anything in the way of listed strength or relative strength to the party.

The Useful: This almost seems like a way to turn a TPK into a difficult, last chance to survive given how they players are put here after being supposedly wounded in battle. 

Nikita Lehman – The Lanterns of Astridos ……………………………………..79

Ancient lanterns must be relit by someone or the land will fall to darkness and the monsters that are spawning out of it. Many have tried before them, but all have perished.

The Good: The map is nicely laid out and could easily be passed out for the players to reference in describing their travel attempts.

The Bad: Despite focusing on the flame locations, the adventure doesn’t show their actual locations, and they are known by the people of this place, not a mystery. Also, a number of encounters and pieces of this entry are left open ended without any direction, meaning any DM using this will have to put in their own work to complete it.

The Useful: A nice looking map and plenty of world-building material are able to be copied from this entry.

Olobosk – The Forgotten Abbey ……………………………………………………80

The Forgotten Abbey is a procedurally generated dungeon using cards in a three-section design.

The Good: Using cards in this way is a fairly clever and intuitive way of creating dungeons on the fly. The random rooms and encounters have the right mix of empty, flavorful rooms and challenges that players keep on their toes.

The Bad: When you can get random combinations of rooms and encounters, in random orders, a certain amount of flavor is lost. Some things go better together than others, and the order encountered can be used to convey information too. Randomized dungeons aren’t too useful as most players will never see the same dungeon a second time, so the loss of flavor isn’t made up by replayability.

The Useful: Could be great as a DM-less game or the system could be adapted to any number of game styles.

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