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OPD 2019 Reviews (81-90)

Part 8. Part 10.

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.

Paige Allan, Darcy Black, and Sebastian Sharma –

The Mad Man’s Mind………………………………………………………………….81

The players play this stand-alone game as portions of the split personalities inside mad man’s mind, trying to defeat his psychosis.

The Good: The different ‘rooms’ are nicely evocative descriptions that really get the players in the right mindset.

The Bad: There isn’t much in the way of intended gameplay or systems. It mentions that players should be spellcasting classes but not why nor are there any challenges here that particularly require magic. What is the end result supposed to be, why should the players care about this mad man or defeating his psychosis?

The Useful: The idea of going into a person’s mind is an interesting one, and could easily be tweaked to have the players going into the mind of someone cursed with madness to retrieve them or delving into a broken mind for crucial information.

Pasquale Camuso – Trial of the Lamp……………………………………………82

A weird tavern built by a trapped djinn is the host of a trial wherein the players can earn great wealth, if they can survive it.

The Good: The challenges presented within are concise but clear in their expectations, with a wide variety included within. They give relative strengths of various encounters so the DM has some idea of how tough to make things.

The Bad: I dislike challenges that railroad a specific solution, like the rooms that perfectly counter any magical means of solving them, it takes away a character’s build choices and a player’s agency that locks them out of the very role they signed up to play. Some options can be made more difficult or requires more resources, but outright blocking them is poor form.

The Useful: Nice as the sort of tavern the players might come across during their travels, with hints about a tough but rewarding challenge offered, one they can return to at a higher level or when strapped for coin. 

Paul Penna – Twisting Cavern………………………………………………………83

Goblins from this cave are causing problems and the adventurers have answered a call to deal with them. They might find that there are some complications in this cave though.

The Good: Giving the goblins a past and their own problems really helps flesh out how the DM can run them throughout these caves. That applies even if the players kill the goblins on sight, they will still have to wonder what this orc is doing here leading them.

The Bad: The treasure rewards are fairly lackluster and often vaguely described. Also, the endless cavern is mentioned once and not connected to anything or explained.

The Useful: This seems like a suitable short adventure for a group just starting out with lower level characters to get their foothold in the area and make a name for themselves.

Philipp Hajek – The Random Dragon Hoard……………………………………84

A method of creating a dragon hoard on the fly, including the traps, defenders, and tricks that would be part of any dragon’s lair.

The Good: This entry makes a solid effort against the main drawback of random generation, the loss of flavor with fun entries on how each of the different themes can be described and emphasized with its kobold inhabitants.

The Bad: Some of the pitfalls of random generation are things that can’t get much depth because they have to serve many purposes like some rooms have creatures that might be allies or enemies, but neither is given much depth about exactly what they can do or provide as either. It also doesn’t have the space to describe what the guards and sentinels stats are or even their relative abilities. The map generation also requires the DM to do prep work to create the dungeon before running it, defeating a main point of using a one page dungeon.

The Useful: Good for the kind of dragon or mastermind that has the abilities or wealth to regularly change their lair up to throw off any enemies that may have scouted them out or attempted to raid them before.

Pyry Qvick – Dungeon of the Mirror Wizard ……………………………………85

Reflections and mirrors are a key element of this small dungeon, where the players must use their cunning to defeat the mirror magic within.

The Good: This entry makes good use of the reflecting theme, with interesting twists on the usual fare associated with reflection puzzles. 

The Bad: Some of the intended solutions to the reflection puzzles are not that intuitive and could use more hints or clues, as what player, seeing their own evil reflection in a mirror, would attempt to walk through that mirror? 

The Useful: This would fit in nicely for a reclusive hedge-wizard’s lair or even the small connection off a larger set of caverns for a spot the players can explore.

Ralph Glatt – Count Vlad’s Castle…………………………………………………86

Count Vlad has assembled a motley crew of monstrous allies to defend his keep.

The Good: Specific treasures are listed that have possible applications in this dungeon but not strictly necessary so the players could save them for another day. Also, props for a vampire designing an intelligent fallback room for their mist-form.

The Bad: This dungeon would be better tied together if there was a built-in narrative reason for the players to assault this keep: maybe a doomsday device, a kidnapped prince, or even just revenge. Giving the motivation for the players and Count Vlad helps set the stage for how the count might reposition his forces after contact with the heroes and what he’ll abandon if needed.

The Useful: A keep full of monsters that could find itself in any dark forest, misty swamp, or overgrown manor. 

Richard Fraser – The Shadow Monastery……………………………………….87

This maze-filled monastery is a shadow of its former self, but its former disciples have been unable to move on and need the heroes help to escape their fate worse than death.

The Good: The random rolls are an interesting way to resolve the central maze of this entry, mimicking to an extent the mind-warping nature of trying to keep your turns and distances straight in a maze such that you can’t control exactly where you end up. This is kept from being annoying thanks to explicitly avoiding repeats and the choice to follow the tolling bell.

The Bad: The nameless monk mooks are fairly bland and could easily have a table of some sort to differentiate them perhaps by the type of monk they used to be in their lifetime, what powers they might have, or how they’ve been twisted in death.

The Useful: Can be dropped in as a bit of history over a monastery cursed and destroyed in the past or possibly as the result of a failure of the players to stop a creeping evil, they can find this in place of a temple or monastery they had stopped at previously.

Rodrigo Melchior and Roll 4 Tarrasque – Pan’s Passionate Play………….88

Adventurers must play-act their way through the very real danger to please this dramatic and theatrical lich, lest they attract his ire and dark powers. Can they convincingly fake an over-the-top performance of heroics in a contrived stage-play?

The Good: This offers the players the ability to metagame in game, trying to figure out what ways they can play along to the Lich’s tastes. The favor system is simple and easy to explain to players as the setup for the play, without too many penalties that they cannot recover from getting it wrong.

The Bad: The details for some of the parts of the three acts are a bit convoluted, but it also isn’t clear exactly how much detail the lich gives to the players about each scene and their roles in it, i.e. how much illusion work and props he is adding to each scene. Having that would help clarify to the DM how much information they are giving out the players and what other information they can discover by investigating the stage around them.

The Useful: Good for a traveling powerful mage or lich to cause havoc in the campaign, perhaps as a way to trick greedy adventurers taking an easy job or as a way to avert a party death by having the party instead wake-up in the clutches of the villain offering them this as their way out. 

Roger SG Sorolla – Yesterday’s Dungeon…Tomorrow………………………..89

Ruins below an old castle are host to a monstrous squatter that might have a greater impact on the future. How players make their way through the dungeon now will change it for tomorrow.

The Good: Giving concrete states for various aspects of the dungeon that trigger future changes is an excellent way to reflect this change over time. If it was tied to specific actions it might leave a DM standed when players inevitably go outside of the scripts that could possibly be contained on one sheet. The binding of the evil creature within the ruins is fun and giving set timelines for when each specific ritual is broken is great for both world-building and roleplaying.

The Bad: With so many unique creatures, especially the captured demon, should really get some keywords or stat-blocks that give the DM guidance on their intended strengths and tactics. 

The Useful: This kind of dungeon makes for a great low level starter quest that has built in hooks for the players to later deal with the consequences of their actions.

Roope Sorvo – The Case of the Suspicious Ship in a Bottle ……………….90

A recursive demi-plane of a ship-of-the-line traps players inside the created magic item until they can find a way out. The artificial crew have taken over the place since their creator’s death.

The Good: Color coding the magical doors is a necessity to keep the otherwise confusing layout simple. Also the map does an excellent job representing the contents and challenges of the rooms on the boat without cluttering up the space or giving away too much. This means the Dm could use the map directly with their players, maybe with some fog of war covering unexplored rooms.

The Bad: With a crew of malformed and mutating clones, I expected them to get some descriptions and maybe randomized strengths/weaknesses/abilities that could spice up their combat, alas they are just mooks. Also, with the spare materials of defeated clones, I thought later their might be a way for the players to create some homunculi themselves as the treasure of this place, but this opportunity was also missed.

The Useful: This could serve as a way to give the players an extradimensional space or demi-plane of their own by using this as the attached quest to ‘earn it’.

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