OPD 2019 Reviews (91-100)

Part 9. Part 11.

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.

Scott Marcley – The Haunted Chapel …………………………………………….91

Something horrible happened at the chapel. It was destroyed and the disgraced new abbot buried there so the town could put it all behind them. Unfortunately, townsfolk suspect it is haunted and the source of disappearances. Heroes will have to uncover the truth.

The Good: The grounds and chapel are well stocked with threats, hazards, and clues to uncover. The descriptions are concise and fit well with the map, which offers a handful of different paths for the group to take towards the big secret at the center of this mystery.

The Bad: Some elements of the entry don’t feel like they have much attachment to the rest, like the rat nest. These items could have been cut for space to let the rest get an increase in font size. 

The Useful: A darker, mystery focused dungeon for the curious players to explore. It almost feels a bit like a more serious Scooby-Doo in that the players are trying to uncover the secret of a haunted ruin, with plenty of places they could have split up or explored.

SM Hillman – The Crypts of Time …………………………………………………92

This dungeon cuts through the time dimension in that some of its spaces are scattered across the future, present, and past. It randomly picks between encounters from its rough time period for each of the cavern sections as the tunnels connecting them span through time.

The Good: The tables for each of the time periods has some evocative ideas for encounters on them.

The Bad: The encounters are left completely open-ended with no details and their isn’t any overarching story about why these caverns cut through time or how any events might tie together. I would have expected that maybe events in a crypt of the past might effect the present and the future.

The Useful: This could be used as as source of inspiration for any time-travel that might unexpectedly come into the game, especially time travel that is short lived and random.

Seth Piercey – Needs of the Few……………………………………………………93

Chaos and capricious laws are bringing this democracy to the brink and the players must investigate just what is going on in the parliamentary building, which faction is to blame, and hopefully put a stop to all this.

The Good: Including multiple factions each with their own possible reason to be the cause of these issues makes for an investigation that the players can’t just guess by cliche. Also, I appreciate the creator avoiding any cheap injections of modern political references that could make this age poorly. The inclusion of multiple sources of clues is always appreciated when a mystery is at the center of a dungeon, as the players will likely miss the first, sometimes the second, and occasionally the third.

The Bad: Is it expected that the players have access to this government building at night? That seems to be the main time that most of the clues are discoverable and the main culprits can be caught red handed. Since time is a factor in some of the clues, it would be helpful to give descriptions of the types and numbers of people hanging around in various spaces throughout the day.

The Useful: A good way to give a reason for government incompetence or even maliciousness in a democratically controlled area in a game. This even presents a way the players could solve the problem.

Shane Ward – Tales of Tenacity…………………………………………………….94

Underneath a local tavern is the grow and distribution center for a dangerous new drug that the heroes have been called in to stop, thanks to a combination of guard cowardice or possibly collusion.

The Good: The encounters of the place feel like an active drug-manufactory with actual defenses and alarms against invaders. 

The Bad: The map shows no distinction between rooms and could use some pictographs or symbols in the room so the DM can easily remember the room descriptions just by looking at the map.

The Useful: A sordid operation that can be placed in any city where guards can be bribed or an illicit drug might be desired by the citizens.

Simon Forster – The Wailing Well………………………………………………….95

An old well has recently been the host of haunting noises and the players have been called in to investigate. Unfortunately, whoever built this well put it right over some old crypts…

The Good: Having a dungeon setup that doesn’t have a strictly evil cause is great for helping a DM reset the players’ expectations of ‘kill everything, assume hostility’. Also, the listing of the abilities of the magic item contained within helps keep DM prep to a minimum. I like the touch of listing who the undead was in their past life, considering the main point of contention is convincing her she is now undead.

The Bad: I would have liked to see some more variation in the crypt contents with a random table to put in some more flavor about the creator of this crypt. 

The Useful: Add a creepy side story or identifying detail to a small town or village with this well adventure.

Simon Menanteau-Ledouble – Under Pressure………………………………..96

The group of adventurers has been teleported into this collapsing submersible that is far under the water. Some sahuagin aren’t willing to let their prize go to what they see as late-comers to the looting, however…

The Good: The flooding of the ship gives some time pressure to the encounters, allowing a DM to challenge the players without necessarily having to challenge them with each encounter as their resting is limited.

The Bad: The symbols by the descriptions to increase the flooding level are too tiny to read the hatching. What is this ship doing this deep, and what caused its crash? Details like that would help sell maybe why these sahuagin have shown up or give more flavor to the descriptions of the various rooms that the DM gives. 

The Useful: Great for a group of players that has taken a portal they don’t know where it leads or perhaps as an escape from another self-destructing place as a last-ditch hope. A sort of ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’ situation.

Skerples The Roving Wheel ……………………………………………………….97

A great wheel rolls towards an important city, necessitating the hiring of the adventurers to put a stop to it, or more likely turn it towards somewhere with fewer people.

The Good: A dungeon that moves and rotates makes for interesting challenges just navigating the space, a great place for them to roleplay and improvise.

The Bad: The rotation of the room descriptors makes this annoying to read in a digital format. A number of the descriptors sound more interesting written than they would likely play out at the table with how slowly the wheel turns. Once the players figure out a way to move through the slowly turning space, they mostly just have to wait an hour for it to turn enough to get to the next door. There should certainly be more hints throughout the dungeon that the players will need to convince the central wizards to change course or at least what their motivations are before the players reach the center.

The Useful: When a regular city threat won’t work and you need an absurd one to threaten a nearby urban center with.

Stan Smith – Burial Mound of the Ulteez……………………………………….98

A cursed tomb has recently been reopened by some greedy bandits. Now that evil is starting to wake back up.

The Good: It makes a DM’s job easier in a system neutral dungeon like this to have the keyed difficulties of each encounter, as they can tune the monster stats to the intentions of the designer rather than trying to weigh how difficult everything should be. 

The Bad: For all the setup about the evil cursed idol I expected it to have stats or a magical effect, even if cursed, but it doesn’t seem to do anything here. Perhaps it could have been that the copies destroyed in a room weakened the undead there and ruining the main idol stopped them all coming back repeatedly? Also, the treasure here is very bland for the supposed tomb of ruthless nomadic raiders, couldn’t they have had treasures that summoned demon horses, flaming arrow quivers, or let them know locations of hidden treasure?

The Useful: A quick tomb raid that players can fight their way through in one sitting, with some nicely interspersed ambushes and traps.

Stephan Lucu and Ryan MacKenzie – The Wizard’s Star …………………..99

The players awaken in a wizards challenge, magically themed around colors and elements in each of its five rooms. If they can complete the test, they’ll gain the ability to teleport to this wizard’s plane.

The Good: The initial, unprompted puzzle to figure out how to open the doors is the right level of difficulty, especially considering the players can keep trying until they get it right. The main penalty is the players’ own pride, which should be standard for a puzzle they are required to solve to proceed.

The Bad: The random effects given by entering each door first are arbitrary and given no forewarning or possibility of evasion. The rewards or penalties they could randomly inflict or grant aren’t tied to any player actions as well as being mandatory. Considering that this dungeon itself randomly pulls the players into it, it would be extremely frustrating to play through. 

The Useful: Might be a way for a dead wizard to grant their demi-plane to the adventurers if they agree to take their test or perhaps a long-lost ghost might pull them in if they want to gain its lost plane.

Steve Kilian – The Yondergate …………………………………………………….100

A pitch black doorway has appeared in mysterious circumstances, practically begging the group to plumb its depths and gain control of the Yondergate as a nexus point of portals.

The Good: Interactive map elements that change the pathways, especially the central control stone, make this an ideal place for the players to clear and possibly use as a central base. The traps, encounters, and even the other groups wandering the Yondergate really accentuate the flavor of the whole dungeon.

The Bad: It is possible for the players to soft-lock themselves if they have hit A2 and A4 then walk through A1 they’ll be trapped unless something unblocks the pinch points. While this is good for realism, it could leave a group stranded for DM intervention. There is also a missed opportunity to describe a mechanism that controls where the portals open and when, even if it is limited by cost or high level spells, so that players could work to claim this as a base of operations.

The Useful: This can be used to derail an existing campaign or perhaps build in a twist from the expected direction of it, giving the players access to other planes, or even just a one-time risky dungeon for them to take a chance on.

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