Yes, I realize I accidentally called my previous review series 2021, but this is actually 2021’s contest. I’m too lazy to go back and change the other ones.
01 Hand over Hand By Jacob Cordeiro
This entry features 20 different monsters of various persuasions and abilities that need to be rescued from the collapsing cave system. It reminds me of some of the Forbidden Island type games, with the first random time a room collapses changing its layout, with the second time flooding it. It does seem a light on actual details of the rooms and challenges within, and would have been better trimming down the number of monsters by half, spending that space on room/challenge descriptions. When I’m running dungeons, generally the harder thing to come up with are engaging challenges rather than tools or means to solve them. The monster abilities and personalities do pop right off the page.
Fun, and pun, filled mini-adventure themed around a lot of everyone’s favorite yuletide friends, but with a twist. There are plenty of encounters to be had, with given D&D equivalents, but the map leaves something to be desired. The transitions between encounters could be given more detail to flesh out the area, rather than be disjointed encounters connected by a flow chart. Also, I am not a huge fan of the “it was all a dream” endings, but at least this one is hinted at early and often.
03 The Temple of Love By Alun Thomas
Exactly what it says it is in the title, except that the whole place has fallen to ruin and is full of the dead. Some interesting curses and encounters that avoid the boring, cheap tropes of the monster disguised as a beautiful woman, but I would have liked to see some hints as to what befell this place. Maybe a demon circle in a closet somewhere or increasingly desperate love letters addressed to the temple keeper from an evil sounding name?
04 Silver Mine of Psphesec By Jonathan Nolan
A horrific undercity catacomb with hauntingly little inside. It has ancient rooms of torture and slavery, with little activity in the place. I like the theme of emptiness, but the dungeon entry either needs to ramp up the tension with something horrible lurking down here just out of sight, constantly attacking in ambush, or bring the threat of people from the city above closing in on them. Otherwise, they have as much time as they want to explore the place with no consequences.
05 In the gooey clutches of Mcus By Daniel E. Sluschny
A gross snotty temple complex with some infectious priests keeping the town sick. They can’t seem to be bothered to try and end the sickness, accepting daily cures instead, inadvertently supplying funds and oozes to the very people infecting them. The treasures are evocative and the rooms present gross challenge for low level adventurers to fight these oozes.
06 Forgotten Mine of Roggweir By Barakielthearchangel
A mostly empty cave complex populated by the few remaining, insane, dwarves who have survived by cannibalizing each other. There are a few tricks and traps set up by the insane dwarves, but I would have liked to see more of these devious devices built into the rooms here, along with the random insanities that would be expected of trapped miners. I also have a question about why they, in their starving delirium, didn’t attempt to explore into the unknown chasm or dig their way back out, being miners.
What starts as a seemingly simple mission uncovers a darker secret in the bear’s cave. Deadly traps and temple guardians try to deter the adventurers but if they are tenacious, they will come face-to-face with a horrifying undead witch. Some of her spellcasting focus is given, helping the DM run the evil spellcaster, but I would have liked a bit more separation of the room descriptions into paragraphs. This will make it much easier to pick up or scan the page to find the room when players ask for descriptions during play. The icons for various items, traps, etc in the text are a bit distracting but if they had been accompanied by a paragraph layout of the room descriptions would work really well.
08 Temple of Unearthly Croakings By Adam C. Hawkins
Frog themed temple with lots going on. There is a conflict between lizards and frog-goblins, skeletons in the crypt, and a frog puzzle to decipher. This entry would have been better cutting out at least one of these directions, as they feel pasted together rather than woven, with few details showcasing the complication of this small temple. I also tried solving the cypher but gave up as it was too tedious to work through. I can understand trying to keep the written text as something a frog-cultist would speak, but the spelling errors make it frustrating to solve as you can’t be sure whether you are messing up the cypher (ambiguous colors don’t help) or it is intentionally “accented” in frog-speak.
09 The Tomb of Krell By Mason Waaler
Blood cultists trying to summon an ancient evil take refuge in said evil’s burial tomb. Tying the secret doors to blood sacrifice is perfectly on theme, those small tidbits really help sell the flavor of the place, but I would have liked to see the cultists and skeletons have some small on-theme ability. Maybe having their attacks cause stigmata (ongoing minor bleed damage on critical hits?) or even jagged weapons for bloodletting?
10 The Ancient Orrery By Ed Nicholson
I would definitely have to reread this multiple times before running it due to time shenanigans, but I quite like the idea of overlapping/looping copies of the players running about allowing for much more lethal encounters and traps with the known ability to drop a stand-in for the player back into play. There is even a given bonus for keeping all your “copies” alive at the end and a combat that lets the players run all their copies at once, which sounds like a fun one-off way to shake things up. How would your character combo with itself?