The One Page Dungeon Contest – The Complete 2013 Collection

Peanut butter one page time!
Peanut butter one page time!
Peanut butter one page!
Peanut butter one page!

The winning entries this year are all pretty strong, with many of them usable & interesting right off the page. The others are of various qualities, however this is, without a doubt, one of my must-keeps every year. I buy a lot but I keep almost none of it. I keep the one-page collections. They are an excellent collection of adventures and idea seeds to riff off of and steal from, if not use outright. This 2013 collection also include the winning entries from 2010 and 2011, which I’m not reviewing because OH MY GOD this is a lot of work.

Some recurring themes in my commentary this year: you need good descriptions in these things to bring them to life. Not long descriptions but EVOCATIVE descriptions. Also, no more “you fell unconscious and wake up in a cell” bullshit and no more “you seek shelter from a storm” bullshit. Put some fucking effort in it people!

Only Acrobats Need Apply
By Andrew & Heleen Durston

This is a cute little “flee across the rooftops” mini-game sort of thing. The map represents the rooftop/overhead view of several blocks of a town. You start on the rooftops of one corner and have to get to the other far corner to escape, while the streets are full of guards and a mob looking for you. It consist mostly of jumping and balancing DC checks, with some weird things like some clandestine meetings to spice things up. This is actually a pretty nice little idea for a game that could be used pretty much as is. The DC checks range from 5-25, and are probably 5 too high in most places unless everyone ranked all the time in jumping. The concept is a nice one though, it just needs a little more to handle the core issue: someone fails. That is the issue with most of these sorts of skill challenge things. Everyone has to make multiple rolls and has to be successful every time. Failure indicated 4d6 damage from a fall and then having to deal with the mob/guards. One fall, maybe two, could create some tense play with hiding and getting back on top, etc. I don’t have an answer. It’s great that you made them do 8 DC 30 checks to swing over the lava. Lots of tension. Now what happens when they fail? Fix this and it would be Highly Recommended.

Arena of Blood
By bygrinstow

This map details the holding pens, cells, etc under an arena. It’s inhabited by cultists who channel the spilt blood in to a special room to reawaken their reaver god. Nice concept, especially the ‘blood stream’ aspect. The execution of the concept is less than stellar. Generic cultists and generic traps combined with too much repetition deliver a boring vibe that is inconsistent with the flavor text of the corrupt city and the reaver god. The content must inspire, and the core of the keying here does not.

Iron Cloud
By Caelum Roberts

Gonzo to the bone and with more soul than 90% of the stuff I’ve ever reviewed. This may be the platonic ideal of terse & flavorful descriptions. It’s a floating could-like airship drifting over the land, with ropes and cables hanging from the underside. Inside is a huge assortment of fun. Robot dragons who think they are real and thirst for flesh. Heads who want to be placed back on bodies. Cavemen who worship robots. Here’s one of the rooms: “flying vampire squids: drain magic Bones jewels, armor, and a lazer mace.” or “Orgotron the robot overlord – grafts robot parts on to creatures to control them.” or “Rocket knights. Friendly, Evil. Turn in to rockets 1/day. Leader has a vibro-axe.” Holy shit! If you can’t do something with that stuff then you shouldn’t be running D&D! Each one gives you an immediate vibe of the thing, the room, and how to run it. Friendly/evil rocket knights? It’s obvious they are in some kind of man-cave rec room! Maybe with Bro Power! Orgotron?!!? Who wants a spleen! The text in this exemplifies the ability of good minimalist design to contain rich and flavorful content. It’s not just the gonzo, it’s the potential energy present. Highly Recommended.

Down Among the Dead
By Daniel O’Donnell

Another fine entry that details a sea temple to a god of death. It makes a great impression and is themed very strongly, with tides, stilts, chained dead, pickled nobles in barrels, a hermit, giant sea animal head to enter through, and the whole thing set in a wrecked ship. The magic items are themed well: shark-teeth armor and coins to place over the eyes of the living to make them appear dead…. that’s much better than a Feign Death scroll. This is another one that you could use out of the box with no prep. A bell, tarnished green. If rung underwater sea creatures will gather and sing the secrets of the deep to those underwater. This FEELS like a fantasy temple to a god of the sea dead and not one of those generic High Fantasy temples that are so common in supplements. Where Iron Cloud was an exercise in beauty and flavor minimally provided, this instead has the several sentences per entry that work seamlessly with the art and map to provide an awesome experience. Terse but not minimal. Highly Recommended.

The Brittlestone Parapets
By Gus L.

This is an ancient battleground of two arch-mages who conducted some extended warfare with each other. It reeks of the weird and magical, from weird looking owl bears rooting around for magical refuse to eat to an army of skeletons looking for a new (temporary?) master. It ends up in a swamp corrupted by the magical energies, and the corrupt villagers who live there as bandits. In one paragraph Gus brings to life the villagers and gives fire to enough imagination to run quite a few little mini-encounters in just that one section. Everything in this contributes to the vibe of a magic-littered WW1 trench warfare feel. Highly Recommended.

The Giant’s Dollhouse
By Jens Thuresson

Nice concept by poor execution. Giant uses a magic staff to turn people to stone to populate his huge dollhouse, which is carved in to the side of a mountain. That’s about the extent of the adventure. There are some NPC personalities … but you won’t interact with them until the end since they are stone. The interior doesn’t have any description at all to speak of. The core concept is a very fairy tale, which I love, and the giant, the mountain dollhouse, the magic staff with two crystals are all very good ideas. But they need to go somewhere and the dollhouse needs some more around to make it work. Maybe some notes about the giant interacting with it, or more room contents to mess with and get in to trouble with. Some way to bring the people back and hide with them in the house while escaping, etc.

Into the Demon Idol
By Jobe Bitteman

You know the idol on the cover of the 1E DMG, that the adventurers are prying the gens out of while dealing with the dead lizard men? Well, that’s the demon idol mentioned in this adventure. it’s a small mini-dungeon inside the idol, which is actually one of those construct things you can get inside of and control. The vertical nature of the map, both inside the idol and down in to the caves underneath, is a welcoming and refreshing change the normal. This nature is emphasized with broken ladders and a hand cranked winch lowering a rope in to the floor. As per usual, you have to repair the idol and feed it mined gems, found underneath. One of the nice differences between the 1-pagers and the old Dungeon adventures is that the 1-pagers aren’t afraid of giving the party a nice item to use, like a demon idol that shoots ruby death rays. Gelatinous humanoids, damned cultists, cinder beasts, tortured souls and the like are decent encounters. There’s soothing missing from this adventure and I can’t quite say what. The first three rooms, which are inside the idol, seem a bit … bland. The cave rooms underneath seem a bit better but still lack a bit? Maybe “cinder beast” and “Gelatinous Humanoids “ are more fantastic than a Tortured Soul? This one needs just a little more spark in it to bring it fully to life.

The Burial Mound of Gillard Wolfclan
By Josh Burnett

A basic little multi-level dunegoncrawl whose charm lies in its basic/simple/stick-figure aesthetic. Nine rooms in three levels. It’s got some evil dudes who are potential allies, some pretty decent named NPC’s. I have no idea why I get off so much on trap doors and ladders and holes with rope in them, but they are in this as well and I love it. This has decent variety but the … bland aesthetic of most of it leaves much to be desired. It needs some more descriptive words around the environment in order to give it as much life as the NPC’s. Gillard, Hogor, Skizle, Blehk have life. The environment … not so much.

Girly Girl Dungeon
By Kaylee Thumann

“An adventure for 1st level girls or 5th level boys” just about sums this one up. Women have a certain way about them when they are I groups and low-level success in this adventure depends on the behaviors they tend to exhibit. “No, you’re not fat! You’re beautiful!” When one of them is down, for example. That sort of “What would my wife do?” philosophy will get you a LONG way in this adventure, as you dance with people you don’t want to, console those with low esteem and so on. In essence, it’s a social puzzle adventure with combat as an option in all of the rooms. It marries the theme to the adventure in a way that I have rarely (If ever?) seen before. I’d recommend reading this even if you don’t want to run it, if only as an example of how to integrate puzzles and realistic behaviors/actions in to a fantasy game. Highly Recommended.

A Stolen Spring

This is a little six room dungeon under the town well. It’s a pretty straight-forward adventure. People in town are getting sick and there are six of so clues/rumors offered, all relevant to the adventure. The map is purty, though linear (it IS a stream, after all.) There are really only two interesting things: a huge stone poisoning the well, the removal of which is left as an exercise for the reader, and an enigmatic shrine with scales of justice unbalanced. You could steal this as a kind of kick off for a campaign or some such. The encounters here, what few there are, are interesting enough to work with I guess. The adventure seems ‘off’ and I think that might be the small size of it. I wanted to call it plain, in spite of a body plugging up the stream and fungus infested goblins. All I can think of is that the small size is contributing to my ‘off’ vibe. This one is interesting enough to read and think about, even if I can’t recommend it.

The Wizard in the Woods is up to Something (Maybe)
By Matthew W. Schmeer

A minimally keyed dungeon in flowchart form. Weird power levels here. There are caves full of cave gnomes, an 18th level MU, and a shit-ton of succubi. I’s all themed around the Petty Goddess of Sexual Fear, so lots of references to white stick fluid references on features pants. The minimal keying amounts to things like “18 caves gnomes” and the like, so we’re talking Palace of the Vampire Queen minimal keying, or worse. There are occasional bursts of flavor, like the entrance: “large empty chamber, lit by ambient light from thousands of small holes in the ceiling.” This needed fewer rooms (there are 43) and a four or five words more per room to impart some additional flavor. Your Milage May Vary on the (light) Petty Goddess of Sexual Fear theming. I don’t think care, except to say that it was generally uninteresting. Some more stuff like “2 harpies, 1 cup” or a goat see reference could have done wonders for this.

Court of the King of No Men
By Misha Favorov

Perhaps the platonic ideal of one-pagers. This follows the traditional format/template but adds a very interesting touch to what would otherwise be a normal dungeon crawl. The four NPC”s are PERFECT for the dungeon; if every dungeon had NPC’s this strong then I’d be out of a job. The addition of them, and their one sentence description, adds SO MUCH to the dungeon. You’ve got the new god, the old god, the rebel beast man, and the faithful gremlin servant of the old god. In 22 encounters the designer manages to paint a fairly complete and ‘believable picture of a fantastic situation with beast-men, mad revelers, bridges over wine rivers, and competing factions. Combined with the new creatures and the new magic items, this is another GReAT example of how a tersely described product can bring tons of flavor to the game, empowering the DM to fill in the rest. NOT verbose, but does a better job of communicating the flavor than any random 20 boxed-test/expansively described adventures. Highly Recommended.

Something Happened At The Temple Near Glourm
By Ramsey Hong

Another good terse adventure but this time with non-traditional keying. Each level is described by the names of the rooms, and only the room name and interesting facts are described, in a kind of free text/conversational format. It works … probably. It’s awful close to violating my “must not obfuscate/must help the DM run it” rules. The (terse) descriptive test is excellent. The basement is described as “Its noticeably hotter and drier on this floor. Theres a sulfurous odor in the air.” That’s a GREAT general description of the level. The various rooms all get the same sort of terse but descriptive text. “Meeting room” Ok, now I know it’s a meeting room; I can fill some shit in for that out of my own head. It goes on to ONLY mention how this meeting room differs, the mess and the body on the table. Perfect descriptions. Highly recommended, but you are going to have to take a highlighter to it and go over it several times because of the non-traditional keying.

Citadel of the Severed Hand
By Rob S

A little adventure in an orc fort and caverns. There are at least three factions here which allow for some pretty strong RPG play in addition to the usual exploration and combat encounters. The various encounters have some good descriptive text: “Kitchen & Larder. … Bodies strung up with bowls collecting blood. Large beetles pinned to table with knives, some still squirming & fluttering wings.” I know how to describe a kitchen, so telling me that it’s a kitchen takes care of all the mundane nonsense. Then the designer told me what was interesting in this kitchen … and did it in a couple of GREAT flavorful sentences. I can run that room with minimal brainpower; its perfect. Hands nailed to doors, amputee slaves, weird magic helms, mushroom men … Recommended.

Devil’s Acre
By Roger SG Sorolla

A high-concept thing where the party protects a praying dude while waves of devils attack all night long. Based around the 7 deadly sins, many of the waves have themes. One or two are interesting, like the I’mp cooks with a firehose of dinner they fire at the party. Lust is pathetic: the praying guys greatest desire shows up and it attempts to tempt him … really? We’re being attacked by devils all night long, how is this anything other than everyone in party putting the smack down on ANYTHING that walks up all night long? The last night has a lot of true devils attacking … true devils are powerful. I’m not sure how anyone lives through this. The theme is too straight-forwardly applied and encounters too much the same for my tastes.

The Baleful Spring
By S.J. Harris

This is in the traditional 1-page format and is of a small river fort with a ship nearby. Lizardmen are raiding villages and the party sent to stop it. The Lizardmen say the people in the fort are charming them (and are possible allies? I like the possibility of monster allies! Think of all the fun RP’s a LG character while your Lizardmen allies eat people in combat, zombielike!) The for itself is not too exciting, with a couple of exceptions. First, there’s an implication that The Party IS Supposed To Be There … lots’ of people hesitate or shout warnings or assume the party are new recruits. More nice RP opportunities. There’s also nice tapestry that you can stare in to and get a magic sword from. Would have been cooler if you reached in to grab it instead of it appearing in your hands, but, small diff. The rest of the adventure is a bit … mundane. If you were running a low-magic or low-monster campaign, or something gritty, then this would fit in well. I like the RP, I like the human opponents and the eleven asshats, I just like a little more weird and fantastic in my adventures … stuff like that tapestry. Still, a fine adventure. Recommended.

Church of Consumption – By Simon Forster
Cute adventure about a church of gluttony. Nice theme & atmosphere. Shotgun shack map, totally linear. Simon could learn a thing or two about descriptions from a couple of others. He does a description of a storeroom that’s … A typical storeroom. That’s wasted. The whole “morbidly obese priests” thing is nice, as is the gullivered god that the cult is snacking on, as are the ghouls (who might even be allies!) The map in interesting, visually, but I suspect lacks during gameplay, and the theme of eating the dead god, giant meat grinders, obese priests, etc, is great also, but the execution lacks a bit. I’m pretty sure it’s The Description Problem I mentioned above. A good example is the cultists cave. It looks interesting, but we don’t really get anything interesting to work with from the text. It somehow feels incomplete, or maybe rushed? IDK. I thin it’s the strength of the theme combined with the lackluster descriptive text that is making me say that.

A Living-Dead Nightmare — Cristian Aviles
I have NO FUCKING CLUE what is supposed to go on here. It’s like the ravings of a madman. Maybe a non-native speaker? Anyway, this is a confusing mess. A BRILLIANT confusing mess. This is why I love the one page contests. You could take all the shit in this one page and build a pretty bitching campaign around it. Black demon. White Demon. Werewolf fort. Mother turned succubus. Lich killer-of-mothers-children. Forest of the dead. Bell of doom. Cave of Despair. Weird ass rogue archers ‘protectors’ of the town. Crazy beggar. That would be a bunch of bad ass stuff to sprinkle in a starting region around the home base.

Assault on the Goblin Hold — Scott Slomiany
A gimmicky little choose your own adventure solo thing. You need to cut it out, fold it, and make some more cuts. You end up with something similar to the BASIC program I wrote in 7th grade computer lab at Forest Manor. You’re gonna have to put some work in to this to assemble, but if you’re in to solo things then I suggest you do so. It’s a cute little thing, especially if you don’t spoil the adventure by reading ahead. It does start off with the goblins stealing a baby and a drunk guard, both of which are nice, strong, and classic elements that resonate well. Might be a nice 1-on-1 with a SO or kid also. Recommended, in those circumstances.

Bloodbath at Camp Terrahorra — Steve Johnson
Summer camp counselors and a maniac killer. Not really thing to this at all, just a map and some generic rules for when the killer shows up. That’s disappointing. It does make me think though that you could get away with a little story game set around the same concept. Something like Shab al-Hiri with fixed scenes, or something else with a DM and a lot of good tropes/NPC’s to mix in. You could have a pretty fun Total Drama Island light RPG with the killer mixed in. Someone go write it and do a decent job with NPC’s, scenes, random killer motivations/generation, and lots and lots of ideas for what happens. Everyone is familiar with the camp counselor horror/maniac thing; it would be a blast!

Brewer’s Backwoods — Doc Brewer
Hey! A hex crawl! I love those! 240ish hexes and about 34 encounters is a coverage of 12%. The encounters range from good to sucky … or from NOD/Wilderland to Isle of Unknown. Good hexes are “island of cursed souls WHO RISE AFTER MIDNIGHT” or “Nesting grounds of fearsome Hodag, WHOS EGGS ARE PRICELESS.” Note the inclusion of the adventure, which I’ve hi lighted for you in CAPS. Poorer ones don’t have the adventure included: “What lies behind the misty waterfall” or “A baneful aura lurks in this comet blast zone.” Interesting places, but they need the extra phrase to encourage ACTION. The wandering table provided has a lot of made up shit on shit & words on it, which appeals to my FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING VICTORIAN CATALOGUERS! sensibilities. Haint. Glawackus, and squonks inhabit these woods, along with a shit ton of other stuff and more mundane things, like sneaky outlaws and laconic loggers. Again, note the adjective. More descriptions should do that. Would be better if ALL the wanderers were to something … Hex Crawls almost always end up on my Recommended list.

By Esophagus Brood — Dyson Logos
A return to the purple worm corpse. Not really a map in this one, but some great imagery. Worm-infested ents are great, and the man-eating apes work REALLY well (as opposed to the boring old Carnivorous Apes.) It’s got a decent little bit of an approach game, as the characters are assaulted from above while trying to gain the entrance of the worms mouth. Fetid worms erupting from walls, and a bad guy out of a bad Hentai tentacle video. This does a good job of setting the mood and brining the flavor through the use of the right adjectives and adverbs, which is the KEY element in being able to deliver good content in a terse format. Not much of an adventure, but one of the best (and shortest) D&D side-treks ever written.

Clown Robot Doctor Apocalypse — Dustin Brandt
Some kind of weird maze of catwalks, moving walkways and the like, straight out of every “city guts” section of every dystopian movie ever made. I was on the quiz team in high school. My specialty was Dystopian Societies. I FUCKING LOVE THIS ADVENTURE! The map conjures up the images of all those scenes and the hooks are all tied to the specific adventure locations within the “maze.” The creatures and wanderers are all nice, although the wanderers are, exclusively, in the “ROBOT THAT GONNA FUCK YOU UP” category. SOOOO worth it if you will ever play a sci-fi game in your life. Recommended. And a hearty “Fuck You!” to the judges for not recognizing your genius Dustin!

Combat Duality — Jon Picardi
A genero puzzle/combat room. It’s one of those sliding tiles games, where there are 9 tile positions and only 8 squares and you slide the tiles around to unmix them. But this time the tiles are whole rooms and there are two monsters in each room. One represents virtue and one represents vice, each having some special combat power. The virtue/vice monsters could have used a description. That, and a bit of a throw-away description for each room would have transported this from generic-land to something to fro in a game as a puzzle room. Maybe one room is full of bookcases and another full of fine china/glassware. You know, things that could cause the room to be INTERESTING when the party has an encounter in it. A combat with Pride in a room full of swinging meathooks full of sides of cattle? But Jon didn’t do that. Jon thinks its our job to do that. It’s not our job Jon, it’s your job.

Dinner at the In-Laws — Jim McGarva
Hey, Morningstar! THIS is the way you do shit! You get to wander around the in-laws house, having adventures. Those adventures will lower or raise your tolerance level, your perceived sociability, and impact your stomach capacity and spousal anger levels. You get to negotiate chatty aunts, asshole father-in-laws, the neighbors kids, your spouse, and sullen teens. Nice degree of humor, a situation most of us can relate to, and still manages to be a great game. I have no fucking clue who I could play this with … but I want to!

Dragon’s Den — Greg Haugh
I’m pretty sure Greg is trolling the contest, so bad is this adventure. 11-ish rooms, most with some bullshit name and bullshit ‘test’. “The Cavern of Strength Is filled with stones on the strongest can move past.” Ooohhhhh! Come up with that on your own did you Greg? “Reward is based on choices of players: Hammer of strength or Cloak of Acrobatics.” Room after room of this shit, in exactly the same format. Nice job Greg, you made Going to 11 monotonous. People who hate D&D should not write adventures for the game. Go pound a copy of Fiasco up your ass in your cave so the rest of us can have funs with our friends.

Echoes of Empire — Joe Pruitt
This is a mini-game hex crawl where you try to gather some troops to fight off the evil empire army showing up at your door in 12 days time. You start with a bag of gold, a couple of troops, and being told there are four villages nearby. They got 99 problems … uh … including the empire army. Go solve their problem and they donate troops. Or … make an alliance/pay off the people they have a problem with, piss off the villagers, but get some elven archers, or a dragon, or some zombie hordes! Decision & choices and role-playing opportunities and a little Armies Smash mini-mass combat thing at the end with the Empire … there’s more than enough goodies in this to fill a nice evening of gaming. I usually don’t go for 1-on-1 games, but this one is a good one. Recommended.

Escape from the City of Madness — Ed Nicholson
This adventure in the sewers sucks a fuck ton less than almost every other sewer adventure I’ve ever seen. I can’t recall a better one, but I’ve gotten black-out drunk a lot from doing Dungeon reviews, so I may be forgetting one. Anyway, this one rocks because SOMETHING IS GOING ON.It’s set in a totalitarian city so the city guards are called Stormtroopers. It’s right out of some WW2 film or maybe the Necromungers in the city in Riddick. You’ve been hidden by a baker in a secret room in his shop, and you hear the Stormtroopers drag him away for questioning! I have no idea why this resonates so much. The rest has you breaking open a crack to escape, the crack leading to the sewers, and stumbling across shit in them. A dead guy under a huge stone. Two dude who tunnel through a wall near you, just breaking out of the gulag. The bottom of the main Execution Pit in the main punishment courtyard as they are tossing down prisoners in to the a big spider web a few feet below you in the sewers … and oh shit! The baker is one of them! And then theres a bunch of traditional fantasy stuff also, almost all of it well done. There’s a setting implied here, told through the encounters. Perfect! The map in this sucks shit, but the vibe is great. Highly Recommended.

Faery Ring to Alpha Ari — Paul Gorman
Faeries AND a space station! Be still my lonely heart! A fairy ring sends to you a space station where you encounter the usual assortment of robots, weird gardens, lack of gravity, hentai monsters, and so on. There’s an extra element of antsy here, with healing pools, tiny villages, pixies in space suits (all dead) and so on. I think its a passable adventure with enough interesting going on to take a look. Some of it could use a little more detail (Hedge Maze, I’m looking at you) and I don’t feel the wanderers do the adventure justice (oh boy, rats. Joy.) but overall I think it’s a nice little environment. Could use a little more to play with, maybe, and the fungus needs some differentiation other than color, but not bad. I’d put this on the edge of being Recommended.

Games People Play — Eric Harshbarger
Fractal adventure. Explore an old 14-room house on a sea cliff, collecting gems, until you meet the Lich owner who takes you down to the living room to play some D&D, where your characters roll up characters who play in the adventure you just played, and so on. Mostly uninteresting, although the NPC’s are pretty nice. You meet a guy carrying a body, with blood on this hand and his dagger missing. The body is that of a ghost you find a different room and in still a different room you find a body with a dagger in its chest. That kind of In Media Res really gets me off and it’s done well here. There’s just not enough flavor for me to sustain this as a DM.

Golden Triangle — Dylan Hartwell
A kind of mini-game of low-class arena combat. It’s pretty mechanical, and those parts suck. The descriptive parts are worth stealing though. Half-hearted crowds, bored guards, haggard wizards … This is defiantly the ‘F’ list for the Kumite leagues. But 80% of the page is covered with a useless map and some boring tables about who you fight and what you get to fight with. This needed a shit-ton less of that and more adjectives & adverbs, and more interesting entires on the tables. “A codfish” would be a good thing to find in the weapon chest. “Orphan with rag doll” would be a great opponent. Do more of that and less boring.

Great Library Of Hypatia — ProBono
Rought roh raggy! The great temple is on fire! Looters from the marketplace are all over picking up goodies while priests from the temple scurry about protecting their stuff. And, of course, the place is on fire. It’s a great set up with a lot of potential but is presented as “random occupants + random loot” in each room. That doesn’t do this justice. I can deal with generic Scum but the Rabble Rousers that you encounter, who summon more scum, are just screaming for extra detail and the generic “gold plates” treasure is lame. I would TOTALLY throw in some price temple stuff instead of just generic “gold plate” treasure. I really think the random element should shave been abandoned and it keyed traditionally with a brief sentence for a rabble rouser and some decent treasure. The concept it good enough that its almost worth it to flesh it out on your own. Almost.

Hall of Five Elements — Justin Peeples
Oh boy, an elemental-themed puzzle adventure! And it’s symmetrical! Let me file it right here NEXT TO THE FIVE MILLION OTHER CRAPPY ADVENTURES THAT HAVE DONE THE SAME THING. Do you want five or six elemental themed puzzles generically presented with a generic hook/introduction? Then this is the adventure for you! Seriously kids, give your fucking adventure some soul! Make the rooms interesting! And no, massive text blocks describing the puzzle/trap do not count as soul. If you can’t make a memorable room in the first three sentences then try again. You can fill the rest with your mechanics, but the initial description has to be interesting & wonderful. It has to make me want to run the room and be excited about it.

Hobrock — Lee Mohnkern
This is a hobgoblin fort. I like monster lairs. Humans/humanoids hiding out in their bandit HQ, guard patrols, watchtowers … all cool. But not in this one. This sucks the life out of things. A good monster fort exists kind of out of time. It’s described as a place, with a routine, and who lives their and what they are doing. It should NOT center around the party. You should find dudes dozing, or shooting dice, or sleeping, or whatever. The boss, especially a smart one like a hob, should have some plan for invasion. This one further goes off the rails by describing what mundane contents of the rooms. Don’t do that. Name the room “Armoury” and then describe why the room is special. Everyone can fill in the mundane, your job as the designer is to go beyond that. This doesn’t do that. The leader hangs out in his own room “preferring to face the party on his own terms.” and the guards react stupid. LAME-O!

Island Grave of Alsiaurignis — Giuseppe Rotondo
A FANTASTIC LOCATION that falls down. Applesauce (which I’m going to use instead of the title, since I don’t care to remember to spell it every time I type it) was the mother of magic before she died. She was a dragon. When she died her bones were turned to gold. The island has wild pack dragons on it and flying around it. Snow apes live on the island in great numbers (which is now covered in snow) and there are great caves full of their bones. Her bones lie in an island in the center of a volcano, along with some generic loot. You can loot her, or bring her back to life. She doesn’t sound like too much of a dick, can identify items ad teach you spells! This adventure flirts with greatness. it’s got a good idea (the mother of magic) and a nice idea for a location (island, volcano) and even a nice twist (wanna bring her back?!) but fails on the execution. Too much space is spent on getting to the island and the guards and the dragon patrols and the … well … everything that is NOT interesting. The items, cult, totems, volcano and the ilk needed more, or the island needed more fantasy. Mother of Magic, remember?! Her island/tomb should be CrAzY! You need to channel your inner Zarathustra to fill the place with flavor & imagery (IE: adjective & adverbs) to bring the place ALIVE! Instead we learn that 1d6-2 dragons patrol the skies over the seas with a 36% chance for detection and this is modified by .02% if you keep to the … oh fuck it. When you have a choice of being mechanistic or romantic then choose to be the romantic dreamer in your writing. Quick Silver Boychild.

Key of Dissension — Adam Taylor
I have absolutely no fucking idea what this is. Some kind of mini-game/wargame? It’s got a map but the map doesn’t seem to relate to anything in the text except some of the symbols are the same? You Go through six encounters per plevel, for ten levels, according to the text. Then you fight the guardian and win? There’s some kind of movement mechanic/action mechanic/combat mechanic thingies but I have no idea how they work. But then again I have a degree in Logic. Hang on, let me drop some acid. Nope. Still no idea. This is cool:Puzzle room: DM may insert a puzzle or just have the players pick a number to see if they go on to the next lane. Uh …. ? It notes that the ghouls can be easily killed … but they have half the HP of the characters? Seriously man, this is your intervention: get off the drugs. I know good drug-feuled work. This ain’t it … it’s just unintelligible. And, gentle, readers, don’t go looking for this to take joy in weird stuff. It nonsensical, but not in a good way.

Kibhur’s Dungeon — C. Martins
Eight linear encounters in a puzzle dungeon, based around a Rubik’s Cube. I like riddle props. A couple of the rooms are incomprehensible to me. I have no idea how the chess puzzle works, and the illusion puzzle seems a bit arbitrary for a trap. There’s good use of illustrations … or, rather, I feel like there should be if I could understand the damn puzzles. As puzzle/riddle dungeons go this is one of the better ones. Or would be if it were more comprehensible. The treasures are a bit generic, if that: “reward them with a nice treasure.” Sorry buckaroo, I expect you to do that work for me when I’m turning to a work that is supposed to do that work for me. Sidenote: there’s an amusing typo. When you play a harp the minotaur does not turn Harmless, he instead turns armless. I like the armless thing better. :) If I wanted a riddle/puzzle thing I’d use this.

Kingfisher — Nick Wedig
Espionage mission that tries too hard with presentation. Are you doing an art project or creating an advent? Pick One. Small building map, barebones outline, and three/four NPC’s presented. it’s supposed to be a secret fetch quest type thing, maybe with some bribery. I used to play a lot of Danger International in high school. You know how we handled this shit? We assaulted from three sides and shot the fuckers in the head, took the laptop, and escaped. What’s the scene in ‘Bastards? “You’ll be court martialed!” *thinks* “Nah. I’ll be chewed out. I been chewed out before.” Bare bare bones adventure.

La Bassee — Jason Morningstar
You know how to tell this one sucks? It’s got Morningstars name on it. I like The Roach, but man, this is just some kind of art high school school senior project. Yes, I’m using that as an insult. It’s my universal stand in for Style over Substance, and the style sucks. You’re traumatized soldiers in France, returning to the scene of your WW1 battles. You travel back in time/memories blah blah blah “a company of men travel down this road for the first time to the sound of the guns in the distance. Only memories come back.” or something. Gag Puke. It’s a fucking rpg not psychotherapy. Pretentious high concept shit.

Lost Banner — Philipp Hajek
There’s some good imagination here but it’s disconnected in places. Nice backstory about knights, bandits, and a gargoyle, and the monsters in the adventure make sense from that standpoint. I particularly like the zombie hunting dog. The carpet trap is nice, and the rotting stairs/escape from the zombie dog thing is good also. But then some of the items are disconnected. A random table to find what’s in a chest? Couldn’t that space have been used better? Or the whole “rocking chair friends” things; I just don’t get it. Also, the wardrobe; the magical effect seems out of place, even though I do like the butterfly brooch. A little less mechanistic and a little more Fantastic would have helped this. Either go for rotted house or magic house, or even both, but be consistent in the rooms and theme each one a bit better. The ending with the gargoyle is very nice; the monster makes sense.

Memento Mori — Jeff McKelley
Uh … I don’t know? An old house/dungeon what housed a family who worshiped the Old Ones. Fish people stuff in the intro, and a bunch of shit that feels like it should fit together in to a puzzle (mostly because the text says so) but I have NO idea what the puzzle is. The various locations don’t really have anything interesting going on, the original sin of adventures. It’s just a bunch of throw off crap (13 portraits hang on the walls of the gallery” without anything to put it all together or tie the rooms to each other.

Midnight At Halcyons Coven — Marten Zabel
A modern super-villian lair, but this time it’s cultists in an old missile silo. You’re trapped and trying to escape, bout two hours before the cult completes the ceremony that destroys the world. The base is described as a PLACE, with routines and guards and a timeline, just exactly the way a setting/location should be described for an adventure like this. The base is a mix of the mundane and the supernatural, which, again, fits well. This needs one more STRONG edit to prune back the wording … but not for the usual reasons. The font size is too small to read. I don’t usually complain about such presentation-layer things, except when they get in the way and get in the way they do here. A final strong edit should have helped. The, uh, supernatural hungry thing (spoilers!) is described twice. Library, lab, kitchen, mess, barracks could have all lost at least one sentence and maybe more without impacting the adventure in a negative way. The resulting increase in space would allow a larger font, which is my only complaint. Recommended.

Miscegenation of the Ancients — Eero Tuovinen
Too high concept for it’s own good. Let’s go adventuring in Noah’s Ark! It’s got three levels, but no map is provided. The vast majority of this is devoted to a kind of “ark generator” which describes the features you find when you explore the ark, the and the hybrid creatures that inhabit it. These sections, the majority of the adventure, are soulless. Then it hit some Nietzsche level shit, with is super-fab! “ The remaind of the Gibborim Hoard that financed…” “the hoard is the patrimony of the tenth patriarch and consists solely of Nephilim-struck antediluvian gold” and “The bones of the First Man are on this floor, seeping myth and bestowing resistance to original sin.” That shit Is bad ass! It’s too bad it’s buried in mechanical soulless crap. :(

Old Guard Tower — Aaron Frost and Mundi King
This has a little 3d tower cross-section you can print on card stock and then use as terrain. That’s cool. The adventure, though, is boring as all fuck. “Third Floor: Two orcs rummage through tower supplies.” Good thing you told me that. There’s a whole “light the watchtower fire and defend the tower from the orcs until rescue comes” thing going on, along with a gargoyle ally, but three’s just not enough interesting content here to make this worthwhile. It needs some more gonzo/weird/or interesting stuff going on in the tower, or more opportunities during the assault or defense to add drama.

Prehistoric Kickboxing Killer Turkeys — Jacob Wood
You are hungry dinosaurs who enter a cave looking for food. You die of boredom. The end. I’m not sure how you can take such a find]e premise and ruin it, but Jacob does. Oh, look, rats you can eat! Oh, and a river that takes up too much text space because of the need to explain how everything works! And … a cavewoman and caveman! Who are instantly awake and attack! YAWN There’s no life or soul in this, just a Ha Ha, look at me, you’re dinosaurs and you go in to eat people Ha Ha thing going on. “You see, it’s a commentary on the social, with the juxtaposition between ‘ blah blah blah. It’s lame when art school kids do it, it’s lame when Ai Weiwei does it, and it’s lame when you do it Jacob. Put up or shut up. Unfortunately, neither is done here. You need to provide some content and something interesting going on for the players to interact with. A river ain’t it.

Surface — Leslie J. Furlong
Not really a dungeon, more of a poem in a non-traditional format. And because I’m a critic and artists LUV critics: Reading through it does deliver the tension that is relieved when you break out to the light of the surface. This is a nice piece of creative work. The whole “you sense, you feel you smell” thing is a little hokey, but the repetition of the elements does serve to reinforce the vibe created which is then busted when you reach the surface in a wonderful tension breaking scene. I wonder if the repetition could have been left out and the same effect obtained? Or if the bolding in the Surface breakout section was necessary? I think I’m saying that because I read this as an adventure, to begin with, and the sense thing was a turn off. Rereading it as a poem probably alleviates those comments/concearns. Recommended, but again, it’s a shot poem and not an adventure. :)

Techno Bandit HQ — Robert Render
Uh … Mega-generic adventure. Non-english speaker or troll? Just a list of rooms and how many bandits are in each room, with no context to the entire thing. “2-3 bandits, -2 because of their welding masks” … That kind of shit is good, but completely out of context. I’m really at a loss here. Uh … if there’s a vision then it wasn’t communicated. Maybe an intro/backstory would help?

Temple of the Demon Speakers — Andreas Folkesten
This has a spark in one or two places but is of lackluster quality overall. An old temple with bandits hiding in it. The party is sent to take care of the bandits … will they explore further?!? It has “sheep women”, a maze you can walk to summon a demon to do your bidding, and an amulet that lets you speak to demons in your dreams … but no health/spell recovery when you do it. All nice. But the rest is a little generic. “They did evil things” is not good. TELL me about the evil things they did. Show, don’t tell. It’s also too generic in places: “The liquid in the pool does dangerous things.” Again, show me, or provide some imagery/flavor. I still can’t figure out what a sheep-woman is. Rule 34? I don’t know. Anyway, nice hook to the adventure in hunting bandits leading to temple exploration, but “EVIL TEMPLE” should never be allowed to be typed again. “Temple of virgin impalement.” or “temple of dog/human caterpillars” does a much better job of not imposing labels … and still totally getting your point across.

Ten Minute Dungeon — Donny Sanchez
Donny used a weird font for this adventure, which made it very hard to read. I decided to not review it because the font was impossible to read. Donny & I are the logical end of the choices we’ve made in our pasts.

The Black School — Fco. Javier Barrera
An old school of magic that has a passage to The Evil Ones prison. The school of magic portion of this is not very interesting/mostly boring with few if any fantastic elements or interesting things going on. There is a nice “familiars soul trapped in a gem” thing, but you have to swallow the gem for the effects. Dungeon of the Bear did this also, if I recall. Who the fuck the swallows gems? Did I miss that meme/fairy tale? Anyway, nice little headmaster/ghost thing going on, and the antechamber of the evil one has some nice imagery you can work with. There’s also a nice NPC outside the tomb (you’re #2 on the scene!) which some decent motivations for exploring. If the school had been better this would have been a strong adventure.

The Blackacre Heist — Roland Volz
A modern heist/espionage adventure. Six possible Evil Bad Guys/motivations and six possible variations presented, along with a basic floor plan of the top level. So, not an adventure, just a collection of ideas. Maybe you want to use this to build a Shadowrun adventure off of, or something similar. The variations and motivations are quite nice, but there’s not really enough meat here to go forward. It’s all background no substance.

The Broken Ring — Michael Llaneza
In this pretentious piece of crap Llaneza condescends to tell us how to run a space station adventure. The sad part is that once their head comes out other ass the designer actually does provide some decent imagery. “The detritus of a child’s birthday party drifts lonely n the dark.” Solid Gold, as is the the of the half dozen or so ‘Impressions’ thrown in as an afterthought. The rest if just a list of questions like “why are the characters here” and “how wrong is their intel” combined with suggestions like “blind them with science” and “make them sweat to work it out” and some other environmental advice like “get them lost” and “cut off their escape.” Everyone, please, in unison tilt back your head slightly and look down your nose and repeat in a nasally academic manner “My intent was to teach how to design an adventure and give the storyteller the tools they need to develop their own stories.” Did you make it the entire way without throwing up a little in your mouth? I didn’t. :(

The Devil’s Cell — Matt Mueller
As a fantasy adventurer you should always carry a good supply of wet weather gear. That way you will never be driven to seek shelter in The Old Tower/Ruin/Hamlet/Hovel. No good ever comes form that. Likewise, as a Modern-era player you should always have a suicide tooth so the next time you wake up in a prison cell is no/little memory of what has happened, you end the suffering immediately. What follows is ALWAYS a fucked-up piece of shit. This time you’re in an empty prison and “the creature” roams about. You go on fetch quest after fetch quest to get a key to open a box that has a key to another box that has a key to BLECH. Lame. The only good moment in this is finding a body with a shiv in it that you can pull out to use. Otherwise the environments are devoid of anything interesting to interact with. There’s more than enough space left over to have provided some more cool scenes, etc. I would put this solidly in the ‘I had an idea’ stage of development. The designer should have spent a lot more time on it ad finished it.

The Diamond of Hishep-Ratep — Heikki Hallamaa
This might be another side-trek appropriate adventure. It describes a small tomb under a fountain wherein a legendary figure, and big ass honking diamond, are buried. It’s got a nice ‘tree root horror’ thing going on, with both a root abomination and some ‘root-infested prophets in caskets’ stuff going on. It tries to use a little Persian backstory, but nothing persian comes across. It also tries to add a central focus on some water, but not much comes through with that. “Most of the room is full of water” is not amazing adventure design. But overall this works. The imagery around the prophets and last room with the root thing is great, as is the kind of overall “try grove, fountain, statue, tomb” thing going on. IE: the elements seem to match and tie back in to each other, which develops a kind of continuity through the back references that I think allows a player imagination to play with. Nice job on this. Or, maybe, I just liked the concept of an alien prophet/alien world teleport. But a 6-month trip COULD punish instead of reward. Recommended.

The Eternal Maze of the Minotaur — Ken Gatzemeyer
Generic random crap. Wander the random dungeon having random encounters until the DM rolls a ‘1’ enough times for you get to the key to get out. It devotes half a page to a generic background “ohs no! you’re betrayed and captured and escape through the sewers to the maze!” Here’s an idea that, in retrospect, I’m sure you will agree with Ken: take that half page and do something interesting with it in your adventure. Make the tables more colorful. Add detail. Turn it in to something other than a generic dice-rolling random crap-fest.

The Halls of Power — Michael Getridge
Oh! Someone had an idea! Which is great! Except you then have to flesh OUT the idea, which hasn’t been done here! It’s a schematic! For a high voltage circuit! To get the EMMc stones! Get it?! The room are devoid of interesting shit/descriptions! Burnout! Look man, you should have played up with techno aspect more. Nice descriptions for the hallways, mercs, rooms, resistors, etc. Terse & evocative descriptions are the key to success. Flavor without verbosity. The Fantastic without a Wall of Text.

The Issue of Blipdoolpoolp — Erik-Karl Read
A pretty standard low tide/high tide sea cave dungeon. It’s got a decent vertical element to it, which I always enjoy. Only about 1/5th of the adventure is devoted to the keys, with th rest being some EHP descriptions, rumors, background, how the tide works, etc. Almost all of the non-eyed information is lackluster and adds little. The keyed encounters are mostly the same, with a couple of exceptions. There’s a nice collapsed cistern that acts as a blowhole, with fetid smells and the sea coming out of it. Otherwise it’s just your standard fish-men & brood stuff, with not much interesting content.

The Jester’s Tomb — Dan Roy aka Bogie
Yet another puzzle dungeon. Eleven rooms of arbitrary not-fun. If you’re going to put puzzles and traps in as a main feature then you need to give hints. This mostly fails at that. You get maybe 1, that the jester liked silver, which helps in one room. Otherwise its arbitrary. The third person to enter is teleported naked to a guard room. Gee, fun for them for the rest of the night. Turn thew handle right and die, turn it left and solve the puzzle. Ok, so, the party should rig something up if they don’t know the answer, but, its more fun for players if they think all the hard work they put in to thinking will pay off. Give them the rope to hang themselves or climb up to the treasure vault!

The Lost Temple of Tyrandraxu — Joshua J. Laboskie
Yet Another Generic Ruined Temple. Yet more room descriptions that waste time telling me what the map already says. The overall mythology is nice: loch king rules land, ram headed god comes down, rips off horn to feed the people, then kills loch king. (which is a perfect excuse for … a horn of plenty!) There’s also a nice fire trap that can bypassed by purifying oneself, but no clue that you SHOULD do that. Finally, there’s a nice little room complex section with a monster in it. I first saw this, or recognized it anyway, in a 4e product … Shadowfell? And it struck me as interesting there and it strikes me as interesting in this. Many products will toss in a monster and saw it wanders through Z, Y, X, but putting it in an environment in which it’s contained, interesting, and yet doesn’t seem forced is something else. Some extra effort in descriptive language would have made a large impact in this.

The Mad Riddlers Halls — Christian Hollnbuchner
Another linear riddle dungeon. Where Kibhur used the environment in the riddles to great effect, this one instead has the traditional “there’s a locked door that only opens when you solve the riddle” trope. Guess which one is better! That’s right, NOT the bullshit/arbitrary/door locked one. Otherwise it’s got five pretty common riddles/puzzles to overcome. Significantly bland and it uses a fuck-deup hard to read font to boot! Oh Boy! You can’t make me work to read your adventure; I’m not going to do it voluntarily. The goal is to HELP the DM, not make it a pain in the ass for them. Standard “step on the letters on the floor” puzzle. Standard “guess the riddle” puzzle, etc. :(

The Misty Pond — Mike Monaco
I usually want to see some flavor text in an adventure encounter. There are rare instances in which longer descriptions work other rare instances in which a militant minimalism works. This is an example of the later. In two small paragraphs Mike lays out the background. Eight sentences. That’s it. That provides the lens through which the rest of the adventure is then viewed and allows the minimalist descriptions to work. How minimalist? How about “ Flail Snail.” or “6 giant ants. They can walk on water.” That is the sum total of two of the encounters. And yet they work. Just those words, when combined with the intro and the small “environment” section gets your imagination worked up enough to run the rest of the adventure and fill in the details. The “who can walk on water” thing is GENIUS. Everyone knows water bugs and has chased them in creeks as a kid. [Trivia: in Indy the creeks serve as overflow runoff for the sewers during the rainy season. Yeah for picking up gold balls and hunting crawfish in the shit streams!] Anyway, the “rooms” make sense. The monsters make more sense than in the vast majority of shit I see. The troll and undead remind me of the ones in Fallen Jarl, which is certainly one of the best portrayals of the dead in fantasy adventures. My only complaint is the treasure and MAYBE the flowers. The treasure needs a description and the flowers could use a random table or something. But, still, Highly Recommended.

The Parched Throat — Intrepid Eddie
Someone’s been watching In Search Of. This is an Oak Island knock-off which works. There’s a deep pit, filled with dirt, wood log floors, a giant bronze floor, and so on. The various levels have quite a few different things going on, including a nice death trap at the end. The McGuffin is at the bottom. This would be a nice little location for players searching for artifact destroyers, or some other legendary thingy. It’s kind of a mini tomb of horrors, but without the nonsense found in all the clones of ToH. It’s got a nice puzzle aspect to it, and, played in a very open-ended way (ala the real history of Oak Island) would be a wonderful location to drop in to a game.

The Revelry at Pickett Castle — Alex Cirsova
Nice concept but very incomplete and needs more cowbell. You arrive at a castle to find it overtaken by monsters: a flesh golen, a wolf man, some vampires, zombies and ghouls. They are all dancing to a record player. The guy in the lab says his assistant has been captured and could you please remove the monsters? The only direct allusion to The Monster Mash is the name Pickett, in the title. It feels incomplete because there doesn’t seem to be any way to get the misters to leave, other than smash the music … which is suicide. I suspect Boris has something to do with it or I’m forgetting some lyric from the song. Anyway, two ghouls making out in a bedroom “Do you mind?” and some zombies passing a joint in the other bedroom were welcome additions. There needed to be a few more details like this and a little less “generic undead monster in the woods.”

The Sea Tower — Scott W Roberts
Uh … Vague description of an adventuring environment. Writing “its a giant dyson sphere with various decks and each section is different” is not an adventure. Writing a table to populate the various decks that says “1. Plants 2. Aliens 3. People 4. Machines” is not an adventure. I’m quite disappointed by the lack of detail and the generic description of an environment. “Its a planet. It has land masses and seas. You can have adventures on the planet with stuff.” Uh …. Ok. If you say so.

The Subterranean Maze of Aarthal — Nicolas Senac
Another maze with another minotaur. This one emphasizes the lack of light and food. There may be some language issues … walls carved with vultures all have very expensive gem eyes? Or maybe just the various statues are of vultures with gem eyes? Anyway, minor point/mistake. The rooms are scattered with gear and equipment and a monster or two. There’s some weird random teleported thing going on but the main problem is that rooms are … that’s right! Devoid of good descriptions. There’s just some generic contents listed, as if one took the random tables in the back of the 1E DMG and rolled on them. The spark and joy of the adventure is not presented.

The Tavern at the Edge of the World — Jim Pacek
Uh … maybe I’m missing something here. It’s a tavern. Small. Pretty boring descriptions. Nothing of note or of interesting in the place. Yes, that’s right, I’m calling the magic genie who lives in the oven and makes food “boring & uninteresting.” You know why? Because it’s written as being boring and uninteresting. Where’s the romance? Where’s the wonder? Where’s the fantastic. Fuck, where is The Edge of the World? It’s not even implied anywhere in here. You gotta breathe life in to this shit in order to inspire the DM running it. This is just static words on a page. Chrome Leather Lover.

The Witch’s Hut — Kevin Flynn
This thing tries too hard. It’s a witch hut with a single room, but a couple of portals to other places. It tries overly hard to force certain behaviors. For example, the hut reflects all spells 100%. You can’t see inside the hut. You have to go through the door one at a time. None of that is really necessary though. Inside are four things: a bed, a chair, a fireplace, and a cupboard. You could let the players burn the fucking place and just keep those four things intact … AS IF BY MAGIC. See? Simple. The exterior of the hut has some good flavor around it and springs to mind, in the middle of bog, in a low section, brambles grown up and mixed in as an upside-down birds nest. The descriptive text then falls down once you go inside and in two of the three extra-dimensional sub-areas. It also uses “discs” as magic tokens … that’s generic and lame. Internal organs, or torcs, or something else could have added a lot of flavor.

Thoorsten’s Treasure — Leicester
A wizard tomb/lair. Or, shall I say … A MOTHER FUCKING SORCERER! This brings the silly/gonzo shit I like, especially for sorcerers. Most of the map is kind of non-sensical and doesn’t really mean anything, except for the ‘gotcha!’ pattern in the last room. The encounters are silly and magical. A horde of magical boots attack. Bureaucratic homunculi abound, asking for id’s and pushing paperwork. Lots of wasted space in this one but what is present is GOLD.

Tower of the Toad Lord — John Hazen
Sigh. Ruined sunken tower in a swamp. It’s boring. How do you make shit like this boring? By describing the obvious, that’s how! “A door to the sat and stairs to the west are in this 30’ square room.” No fucking shit Sherlock, the fucking map told me that. YOU’VE managed to waste my time, make the text harder to read/find the important parts, and turn me off thanks to your shit description of the mundane details shown on the fucking map. “The kitchen has a fireplace.” ARGGGG!!!!!!!! Spend your fucking text points describing the great and fantastic parts of the room. You know that cursed guy downstairs, you know, the only good part of this adventure? Maybe DO SOME MORE SHIT LIKE THAT INSTEAD OF TELLING ME HOW BIG THE FUCKING ROOM IS!!! Why people think that BORING is acceptable is beyond me. Maybe they have no examples to work from. IDK. It sucks. Dream Devil Dancer.

Trouble’s Root — Fraser Nelund
Boring stupid dungeon of boringness. Themed around two rapscallion brothers … who turn to arming hobgoblins & ogres so they can massacre human villages. That’s literally how the thing is presented: wayward youth … who turn to massacring their own. Could have used JUST a bit more there. But that’s not why this sucks. No, this sucks because it’s mundane. The dungeon has little to nothing fantastic or interesting about it. Just a collection of mundane rooms who’s mundane contents are described. You don’t need to tell me what’s in a kitchen, or armory, or workshop. I know that. I can describe that. Just put in a room name. “Kitchen.” Now, tell me what’s different or new or exciting or fantastic about this place! What what’s it special? Why was it important enough for you waste a map location on? Why was it important enough to include? This doesn’t do that. It just describes what’s in the kitchen. Or armory. Or workshop. Lame.

Vault of Vintage — Barry Pace
Linear adventure in a 6 room wine cellar. 4 evil faeries, a sediment ooze, and a wine troll. The platinum cork screw and wine stoppers of healing are nice treasures, but the adventure just seems to wry commentary on wine culture. And not a clever one at that. The same & usual generic language. The troll gets a description (Great!) and the sediment ooze has some flavor (grape pulp and leftover yeast) but everything else is generic. Evil Faeries and Generic environments & language do not provide the flavor or help or inspiration a DM is looking for.

Vertigo — Rodney Sloan
Battle above the clouds, so to speak, on high towers in the city. If you think “Vornheim” before reading this then you’ll get a good vibe off of it. Needs more though. The Rogue Mage needs 0E type spells, and the minotaur needs to catching some rays and drinking beer and pissed at being interrupted, and so on. I like the “rooftops” chase thumbing and I like fantastic elements more than I like the ones in “Acrobats only need apply”, but the lack of … interesting things? Makes this overly bland. Crashing through a skylight? Great! “generic “blast” spell? Not so great. How about Shingle Blasts or something like that? And the archers really need to be in church steeples, etc. Lacking the extra bits of details needed to make it super fab.

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5 Responses to The One Page Dungeon Contest – The Complete 2013 Collection

  1. mikemonaco says:

    Thanks for the kind words, and in general for reviewing/commenting on all the opds. I don’t know what anyone else’s experience has been but I never get feedback on stuff like this. In hindsight I agree that specific treasures would have been better, and I probably should have come up with more, & more interesting effects for the flowers. One of the better elements of the dungeon when I actually ran it was a logic puzzle that I just couldn’t fit into the alotted space. I wonder if the environment I used for this (mist and water instead of walls) has been used in other adventures; I guess it would easily foiled by higher level spells/magic. For low levels it worked fine.
    The ants were the biggest “oh shit” moment for my players BTW since they did not know how many were coming after seeing the first couple and couldn’t hope to outrun them. :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    What a marathon of reviewing, well done.
    For the puzzle dungeons such as the Jester’s Tomb, I suppose the authors are expecting intelligent use of Find Traps, Augury etc to make some of the bad effects avoidable. You could
    argue that whenever you need to make a save in such a setting you have gone wrong, sometimes
    you get lucky, other times…..

  3. Gus L. says:

    Glad you liked Brittlestone, I have several other newish published (pdf) on Dungeon of Signs. A new ASE lair, an experimental two page thing and a longer introductory vanilla pirate adventure.

    The strange thing about writing a one page dungeon is how constrainedthe process is. It’s exceptionally hard not to lean on genre cliches, and since every word counts, even the necessary description comes at the cost of other things.

    I can’t say I love one page dungeons (well some of the art is astounding), but they are a useful writing and layout exercise. Thanks for the review.

  4. Grand DM says:

    I like the no filter reviews by Bryce. My entry last year (Vault of Vintage) was ill prepared at best. I rushed through it and I think it showed. To make a good entry for the 1PDC you really have to not just think outside the box but actually design from there and breath life into your theme.

    Thanks again for the reviews!

  5. Heikki Hallamaa says:

    I recommend running the alien abduction in The Diamond of Hishep-Ratep in the lines of “that’s your character gone from this world, better roll a new one.” and some months of game time later surprise them with the return of the lost character with totally bad-ass new stuff. :-)

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