OPD 2019 Reviews (101-116)

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.

With these reviews out, all of the One Page Dungeon contest entries have been reviewed. Which ones were your favorites? Did I get any wrong or misread them badly that I should take a second look at?

Steve Leske – The Dream-Vault of the Purple King …………………………101

The greatest treasures of the purple king are hidden in the mind of his mad slave wizard, so naturally the players must delve into its depth to recover those treasures.

The Good: I like the idea of tying a set of colors to a consistent theme or ability and extending that to the monsters, traps, and items in the dungeon. This gives players a chance to figure out the ability tied to each color and plan around it or try to utilize it.

The Bad: The color abilities are all just save or suck penalties, these could have been much cooler as abilities with trade-offs or ways to exploit them with a specific cost. Also, there is only one possible location listed for treasure and the rooms all feel very empty with one single item of interest in each one. There could be different rooms that play off the theme of their colors or ones made difficult by the presence of the color ability.

The Useful: When the DM needs a magical dream vault to keep specialty items locked away, this could be just the dungeon to use.

Steve Thompson – Cross My Heart, Hope to Die…………………………….102

In this fort under siege, a rash of disappearances of its defenders demands an investigation and the players are the only independent actors able to investigate without bias and find out where the attackers are getting in.

The Good: This does a great job building a believable red-herring in the environment of a siege with active enemy combatants showing up in random encounters, without building in confusing counter evidence that could lead players down the wrong path. There are lots of opportunities for the players to gather evidence pointing towards the right perpetrator.

The Bad: The descriptions are nice, but they are often wordy and could have been more concise to give the text more space to increase in size or make the map slightly larger for easier reading.

The Useful: A mystery that can be sprung on the players during any siege or situation where they are stuck together with a group while enemies attack them from the outside. Alternatively, this could even be reskinned to a ship on the seas or in space in the future.

Stuart Langridge – The Temple of Fools Hatred……………………………..103

A dungeon of puzzles and tricks will test this group of adventurers to see if they are worthy of its prize.

The Good: Each room has a solid puzzle at that good level of difficulty that players can intuitively understand what they have to do, spend some time trying to solve it, but not so long that it eats up a large part of any gaming session or leaves players bored at the tedium. Also, a benefit of having a dungeon themed around puzzles like this means that players get in the mood to solve puzzles and theoretically each room could be opened up so players could split up and multitask to try solutions for the puzzles that interest them more.

The Bad: It is confusing that the doors all having ‘glory’ written on them in different languages never comes up, and I predict this will accidentally become a fixation of players attempting this dungeon and they will keep trying to cram the word glory into every solution. I actually expected that ‘glory’ would be part of the phrase seeing that it takes knowledge to recognize that each of the words on the door is glory.

The Useful: This works great as a stand-alone puzzle dungeon or could be harvested for the puzzles individually or as a whole to be transplanted in a larger dungeon with regular monster/trap threats.

Tex Winkens – Hag Interception………………………………………………….104

Hags have set up a magical interrupt to drop would-be teleporters into their lair for eating.

The Good: The hags’ rooms do a nice job of giving each of the trio a touch of flavor, with each of them having a hobby or specialty of sorts.

The Bad: Giving them a bit of character falls flat when it isn’t reflected at all by giving them different abilities or tactics. I thought with the mention of the hags staying apart in separate rooms that there would be some mention of discord between them that could be used, but this is also left unexplored. The dungeon doesn’t need to be huge, but for hags with the power to redirect teleportation, I would think they would devote a little bit more space to this enterprise and not stick it right in the middle of everything with noone watching it.

The Useful: This could be a way to threaten a group too liberal with their usage of teleportation magic, although if a DM is going that route, they should heavily warn about teleporters failing or going missing en route. Alternatively, this could be a waypoint on a teleportation ritual gone wrong or a wild escape from another plane.

Theo Olsen – Dinner With the Sea Dragon……………………………………105

Brought to this cave complex with the hopes of earning treasure from the sea dragon that lives here, the players must use their exploration to scrounge up food to over the dragon. Knowledge might be the most useful reward that can be earned in the caves.

The Good: The encounters in each area fit well with the theme of building the players up to be polite to the final dragon encounter, as most of the monsters can be parleyed with and will yield better results for helpful, polite adventurers. Of course, their is still some need for combat to get the best result with the dragon, as the players can learn if they get all the right food hints from the sources around the cavern.

The Bad: This dungeon throws out unusual monsters that sound interesting to fight but gives no keywords or abilities that might help a DM preparing to use this dungeon. Also, there is a missed opportunity to really give personality to the sea dragon by detailing specific treasures it will award.

The Useful: Can be used as a place for the players to retrieve a rare ingredient or treasure from or as something on a rumor table that they might go searching for out of greed.

Tim Shorts – The Demon Baboon of Porters Crown………………………..106

No one has heard hide nor hair from a border fort village in a while, so the players have been asked to check it out. Something has raided it and seemingly killed everyone there.

The Good: This entry tells a neat and succinct story about a magical mishap. It gives opportunities for the players to invest in the villagers that they do end up saving from this and possibly opens up a home base that they could rebuild from.

The Bad: The demon baboons are fairly boring as enemies go, without much strategy save to rush the group with numbers. I hoped that the final boss would have more interesting abilities based on not having eyes that would make it a tough enemy to fight directly but with vulnerabilities clever players could build off of, but nothing of this sort was included. 

The Useful: It can be a good way to introduce demons into a campaign as an ongoing threat or as an unfortunate tragedy for the players to stumble upon.

Todd Leback and Aaron Schmidt – Dome of the Library………………….107

Ancient-futuristic ruins hold a rumored device of power, and possibly ancient technology, that are being dug out slowly by a naga, her orcish servants, and captured slaves.

The Good: The snippets of art build the flavor of this ruined, crashed ship nicely and the idea of a ship like this being mined by something that is likely evil but not completely is interesting.

The Bad: Rooms in this ship are fairly boring with just some tents and orcs/servants, with little to interact with or find. The “command room” is inaccessible except for a key found elsewhere and even if opened there is no indication of what might still be in there or what functions might still work. What does the device that the naga is searching for do, what will she do with it once she gets it, and how long will that take at her current rate? The entry just feels empty and frozen in time, waiting for players to explore it but without anything in it for the players to get their hands on.

The Useful: A mysterious crashed ship of possibly ancient, high-magic societies can be useful for setting the tone on a campaign, building up lore, or just encouraging the view of a campaign world as having some things without a clear answer.

Trenton Anderson – Ships, Sails, & Sandbox ………………………………..108

An age of piracy themed one-shot game, this entry presents a slice of a made-up island chain that the players can captain their ships through in search of plunder, fame, and power.

The Good: Even knowing little about ships, it is helpful to have the rough numbers of guns, men, and treasure on each ship, especially as a source for clever players to try to secretly uncover for easy targets. It is nice to get a short blurb about the various locations for their advantages, disadvantages, and the rough motivations of their leaders.

The Bad: There aren’t really any goals given or any dynamic opponents. For this entry to be more than a rumor and ship table, it would need to give some ultimate goal for the group as well as a rough plan for the major players so the GM can roleplay them appropriately.

The Useful: Even if you aren’t playing something set in a roughly historical pirate setting, this can easily be reskinned for fantasy settings or even science fiction spaceships. Assuming that the DM is willing to swap out the listed guns for relative offensive and defensive strengths of the various ships into their chosen system.

Ülo Leppik – Island Villa of the Merchant Prince……………………………109

A rich jerk has built has fancy black-market island for his parties and dealings. The players must plan their heist or infiltration of the island.

The Good: A great deal of thought has gone into the many entry and exit strategies the heroes might have, including how players could learn of these various routes from alternative sources. Information is probably the most important resource in a heist.

The Bad: The defenses of the merchant prince don’t seem to really require a fancy heist, as the guards are mediocre in number with no listed strengths and the customers here are not loyal to the prince. The only real challenge is getting onto the island doesn’t have much in the way of locks or vaults to steal from, and no listed treasures.

The Useful: A solid start for an isolated island heist that could serve as the retreat of a recurring villain or the home base of a minor one.

Vance Atkins – Now and When?………………………………………………….110

Time magic experiments in this tower have thrown it into chaos and will throw the adventurers into chaos if they confront it wrong.

The Good: I enjoyed the tie-ins of the two different times of the tower, as it builds nice flavor into the actions of the inhabitants in both times. 

The Bad: The random teleportation results seem tacked on with little impact on the dungeon and pointless if they fail to fire, as the players won’t know they avoided something they had no control over. Mages especially need to have some indication of their main spells or theme.

The Useful: This could serve as a random hedge-mage’s tower or as the place to find an eccentric researcher for a quest.

Violet J. Smith (7) and Jeremy “frothsof” Smith – The Hidden City……111

A dreamlike world-city is under threat by a moving mountain containing an evil sorcerer.

The Good: I like that the main bad guy has a bit of trickery and strategy by pretending to be dead, too many villains use up their surprise on monologuing.

The Bad: I would have liked to have heard what riddle this dungeon creator would come up with, even if they are young, as it only adds to the flavor of the entry.

The Useful: This could be great for a more free-form game that one might play with newer, younger players or could serve as the basis of a vision or villain in a more complex game.

William James Cuffe – Endless Blue: Ewer on the Confluence …………112

A building in the vein of body horror is fulfilling its mysterious purpose and exploring it might reveal the truth of it or at least result in treasure.

The Good: The mechanics of the pseudo-living dungeon are well thought through in how they will cascade into each other as the players interact with it. 

The Bad: The nearly unkillable minions without hints as to how they can be defeated could make for an accidental party wipe. Also, if the entry lists them as possibly having random stitched-on parts, that would be the perfect time to include a table with related abilities to make for some memorable and interesting foes.

The Useful: Great for a darker and more horror-aligned dungeon experience that will keep players paranoid about the body simulacra within and how it will inevitably go wrong. Alternatively, this could fit nicely as either a science fiction alien ship or alien ruins in a high fantasy game.

William Ross – The Forgotten Temple…………………………………………..113

Bandits and spiders are teaming up, causing havoc, and they are coming from whatever is below the well.

The Good: This feels like a themed lair of a spider villain, with different magical bonuses that the main bad guy uses well to his advantage.

The Bad: The treasures here are almost all left up to the DM running the dungeon, which not only misses out on a source of flavor in what the villain has been hoarding or stealing, but also makes for more work for the DM.

The Useful: This could do well as the lair of a villain that slowly ramps up their activities during a campaign until they are finally discovered, possibly adding more hypnotized humans to the lair or more spider creatures. 

Wordman – The Gold Canals of Irid’s Vault…………………………………..114

An otherworldly prison built by a retiring being of order as a source of income and something to do. 

The Good: The facility is memorable and iconic both in its aesthetics and layout, a very menacing prospect for anyone wanting to raid it, but strong for someone looking to keep valuables safe.

The Bad: It wouldn’t have been amiss for this entry to scale back the number of support buildings to give more detail to the places the players might be interested in, perhaps with a table about other things being kept here or descriptions of the actual guards. Using this entry for a roleplaying game would require a DM to do most of the work in picking the guards, vault contents, schedules, and other key details not mentioned.

The Useful: A very evocative concept for an end-game extraplanar prison or vault for the players to find that last key piece of something they need for a powerful quest.

Worldbuilding.io and PoshMop53 – Turtle Castle …………………………..115

A mysterious and highly defended fortress in the woods is concealing something, but whether it is keeping danger in or keeping nosy outsiders out has yet to be determined…

The Good: The entry gives ideas for hooks and ways to tie it in to an existing campaign.

The Bad: Almost every concrete detail about this entry is left vague and open ended, requiring a DM that wants to use this to do all the creative work themselves using this as inspiration and a map.

The Useful: The map and inspiration provided by this entry could be a good way to break out of a DM’s creative block or to help populate an unexpected direction of the adventurers’ travels.

Sample Dungeons……………………………………………………………………116

These are some simple dungeons in different styles created by the OPD contest organizer to showcase how quickly concepts in different themes can be thrown together. They definitely show as being done more quickly, with fewer details than a fully fleshed out entry might have, but they do cover a variety of genre’s and showcase how random results can help bring flavor to a dungeon.

3 thoughts on “OPD 2019 Reviews (101-116)

  1. Aaron T Leback May 27, 2020 — 5:18 pm

    Thanks for the series. I’ve found it very helpful. I wrote the Dome of the Library that you recently mentioned. That adventure was adapted from a dungeon that was part of a larger hexcrawl series, and I can see how it should have been altered to be more stand-alone. It’s good to hear stuff like this to figure out how to do things better!


    1. Glad you found it useful! I get worried sometimes that my reviews get stale or miss the mark, but it is hard to tell when reviewing dozens week after week.


      1. Aaron T Leback May 28, 2020 — 5:26 pm

        No, they’ve been a really interesting synopsis, especially for something like the OPD where there is just *so much* different content. One of the things that’s great about it is the ability to pull from it when a quick dungeon is needed, and it’s nice having a helpful breakdown like you do.


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