Dungeon Magazine #22

dun22

This is not a strong review. One adventure is a joke adventure, one is a 1-on-1 adventure, and one features tinker gnomes. I don’t need D&D to be serious, but I do need it to not suck.

Once upon a time when I was young I saved up my money and went to the game store. In front of me was WG7 – Castle Greyhawk. I was so excited. Perhaps this was my personal Loss of Innocence. I don’t know, but I do know that joke adventures are hard to pull off. A lot of what I do with these reviews is motivated by combatting the bullshit synopsis that publishers use to market their games. Yeah, I want quality, or at least my definition if it. Yeah, I get to feed the habit by buying RPG products and tell myself its ok since I review them. But I try hard to tell people what the adventure is ABOUT, so you can figure out if it fits your needs and your definition of quality.

I won’t hit that high mark in this review.
The Dark Forest
by Daniel Salas
AD&D
Levels 2-3

This is an adventure in a little seven room cave system. It is certainly the best adventure in this issue and tries a couple of things that are unusual for Dungeon. It starts with the group coming up behind a small trade caravan is four wagons and over a hundred guards. They are attacked by flinds, and in the process the caravan makes peaceful contact with the party. The wagons are each independent and at night approach the party to sell things (at least the ones who are merchants.) Finally the group is approached by one of them who wants to hire the party to go get some red fungus from a cave nearby. The caravan reacts realistically, the party are not guards, the merchants have some flavor to them and actually DO have things to sell the party. Not just generic “healing potion” or “+1 ring”, but paintings and books and the like. Even the hiring of the party for the mission is worked out in a fashion that is not just a throw-away. It all works together. The cave system has a dwarf maze that is handled in a a non-standard, abstracted way. Room 2 is at LEAST 6000′ feet long, and maze-like. The party eventually stumbles on a group of mycanoids. THAT ARE NOT HOSTILE! They actually talk to the party! The group can negotiate with them to get the fungus. This leads to a ceremony in a fungus garden, and then a spore-circle ceremony that MAY leave everyone a coma … or gifted with healing potions that infect the party with weird fungal infections … BAD ASS! There’s eventually a big combat with a flind group and the mycanoids. This is a small adventure and doesn’t have much in the way of treasure of unusual things, and it has, of course, the endless text of the time. The beginning is strong, as is the mycanoid sections and the abstracted maze is at least an interesting mechanic. The middle portion is weak, with the party just kind of hanging out in the (uninteresting) fungus garden for a few hours while (boring) wandering monsters happen. Generic wandering monsters. But, it tires.

 

The Leopard Men
by David Howery
AD&D
Levels 8-10

This is a small swamp journey the end in a raid on an evil temple. The hook is nicely morally ambiguous. A big shot in a jungle trading post wants the party to take care of The Leopard Men, an evil cult that is subjugating the various native tribes. It’s a win-win-win: the big shot gets to open up trade with the locals, the locals get to trade for things they want, and the big shot gets to loot the leopard men temple which is stuffed FULL of loot from decades of tribute from the locals. This sort of moral ambiguity makes the set up quite a bit more interesting to game through than a simple morality play would be. The journey through the swamp is lame, although I found the imagery of water fowl and crane nicely evocative. The swamp wanderers are just generic and the programmed encounters are all hostile. Instead of the bullywugs or lizard men or cannibals being social encounters that COULD end up in combat instead they are just boring old “they attack!” encounters. This in spite of the fact that all of the groups are natural enemies of the leopard men cult and hate them. Being allied with cannibals would be much more fun to role-play through the rest of the adventure. The leopard men are all monks and their temple is a boring and mundane affair. “This room has several meditation mats on the floor and bundles of sleeping blankets stacked by the east wall. A scarred dummy stands in a corner.” Not exactly a paragon if interesting. The read-aloud doesn’t mention it, but there are 19 leopard-men in the room. That’s 19 chances to add some individuality to what’s going on, none of which is realized. There’s a garbage chute with a black pudding at the bottom. My own personal sign of a crappy adventure is the presence of spheres of annihilation, black puddings, etc, located in the bottom of drains and waste chutes. As soon as I see that I have a pretty good idea that the adventure will suck. There’s not really much in the way of an organized defense and in spite of having named NPC leaders, nothing is done with them. It would have been nicer to see hunting parties or tactics or an organized defense or some kind of weird jungle temple effects … but alas it is not to be.

 
Tomb It May Concern
by Randy Maxwell
AD&D
Levels 4-6

This is a one-on-one adventure for a paladin. A paladin with amnesia. *groan* It’s a quest to find his warhorse, which turns out to be a little amulet that can turn in to a horse. In a little nine-room tomb. Full of undead. I can think of few things more boring. There’s a room, some pretext of a boring description and then endless paragraphs describing the skeletons or zombies. Everything immediately attacks. The rooms get boring little descriptions like “full of ruined sofas and tapestries.” A kind of generic decay description that infests the fantasy adventure market. “This was once the lair’s armor but holds little more than dust now.” Then why did you put it in the adventure? Because a room with dust is fun? Because you are constructing a realistic view of what an abandoned room would look like? Because that’s fun? The was the hobby strays from its task is amazing. We’re here to have fun. PUT SOMETHING IN THE FUCKING ROOM! Something that the group can interact with. Something that does something. The Evil Bad Guy knows the paladin is in his tomb “but waits here to see if the person entering his lair is a worthy opponent.” I am so sick of that lame excuse. It was tired and lame in 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010, and it’s tired and lame now. The evil undead bad guy attacks immediately and unceasingly. There’s a surprise. There’s nothing here.

 

Unchained!
by Bruce Norman
AD&D DL
Levels 6-10

LOATHE.
Dragonlance. Tinker gnomes. Gully dwarves. Are you still reading? Why? Why would you keep reading after I disclosed all of that? In this adventure you wander through a forest trying to kill a clockwork dragon possessed by an evil dragon spirit. The party gets techno items from the gnomes, which turns the adventure in to more of a trip to R&E in Paranoia than a D&D adventure. Dead knight bodies, a pissy wounded copper dragon, a gully dwarf village. This is just an utter piece of shit. Wander the forest in the company of a gully dwarf guide while doing nothing but encountering boring patrols and lame wandering encounters. An NPC mage shows up, crazy, who is mildly amusing. It’s not enough. This thing is 14 pages long and has six encounters. The designer tries to interject some flavor by giving some of the wanderers some personality but there’s no way its going to come through in the brief combats that happen. This adventure is an exercise in how much torture the players can take from the designer & DM. Gully Dwarves! Bullshit tinker gnome crap! Oh boy, what FUN! I can’t wit to try on the iron man armor that malfunctions! Returning the dead bodies of the knights gets you some recognition from their order, which is a nice touch. The NPC mage was previously driven mad by the tinker gnomes, so, maybe, a better way to run the adventure would be to ally with him and wipe out the tinker gnomes and gully dwarves. Murder Hobos …. HO! Sic semper evello mortem Kender!

Holy shit! That’s a great campaign idea! Mashup the necromongers from Riddick with the BEST D&D game world, Spelljammer! The party roams the D&D universe wiping out the most annoying people. Think of the pure unadulterated JOY of wiping out gully dwarves, tinker gnomes, and kender! Dragonlance would be like El Dorado, the culmination and reward for all he hard work cleansing the other planets! Too much, you think?

 

Rank Amateurs
by John Terra
D&D
Levels 1-3

Hey, John Terra, FUCK. YOU. ASSHOLE. The designer, John Terra, contributed to one of the worst RPG products of all time: WG7 Castle Greyhawk. In this pile of steaming crap he has the players taking on the role of the humanoids. They go to a humanoid inn, explore some ruins, and go to a town on a mission is diplomacy. And almost everyone talks in a new gersey/ganster accent; how fun! This is a joke adventure. I like humor in my adventures but I don’t like adventures written by people who don’t like D&D. Bar fights, drinking contests, more bar fights, follow the marked trail, explore some ruins with the bugbear ghosts that talk in the same lame jersey slang. There is a nice skeleton pit where they claw and grab at ankles and a hill giant NPC to make friends with. Once the group gets to town the townspeople attack and you get to cut your way back to the gates.

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One Response to Dungeon Magazine #22

  1. Anonymous says:

    If Castle Greyhawk had been called “Castle Funhouse” it would probably have been dismissed
    as an indifferent attempt at whimsy, rather than a huge disappointment to fans and an insult to
    Gary Gygax. However I don’t think the freelance writers should shoulder the blame; let us judge them by their other works. In the case of John Terra, I’m familar with Fighter’s Challenge I (decent,
    others like it more than that), Four from Cormyr (wordy, but with some nice ideas/scenes), and
    Forestmaker (not good).

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