Dungeon Magazine #125

There’s nothing to see here.
Save yourselves! Flee now!

The Three Faces of Evil
By Mike Mearls
Level 3

Part 2 of the Age of Worms adventure path. Surprise! There’s a religious cult! They don’t believe in desecrating any of the elements with the dead. They can’t be buried or burned. They can’t be, cast out to sea. Oops. No. Sorry. That’s a song lyric. This is a boring hack-fest; a Temple of Elemental Evil, light. Go in to some mines. The main room has three exits. Each exit has an evil temple complex. Kill everyone (Because … D&D?) Then fight the big demon that arises because you’ve killed everyone. There’s an order of battle/reaction notes for the temple, but, the pretext here is SO light. The rooms are nothing but combat and the reasons for killing everything are essentially nonexistent. Someone who knows, please tell me: is this really representative of the best of Mearls?

Pit of the Fire Lord
By Andy Collins & James Wyatt
Level 8

Part three, the final, of the Shards of Eberron arc. Fucking seriously? Five rooms of combat? I see that Dungeon has just given up trying. “Go fight through these five rooms. Because.” I am both excited and depressed at this new Dungeon style. Depressed at the lack of trying and excited because the “reviews” I provide are now much easier. But the reading of them is not …

Seekers of the Silver Forge
By Tim Hitchcock
Level 15

Dear Lord, why? An underwater adventure. As I read it, you need to make a saving throw every minute or take 2d6 damage, from pressure, and a save every ten minutes or take 1d6 from the cold, even if you can breathe water. Gill-men gith, undead gith, and saughaun are the three “Factions” in this adventure. You can talk to the gill-men gith and to stop the undead menace in the seas you need to wipe out the saughuan. It’s just fighting underwater, and little more beyond that.

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20 Responses to Dungeon Magazine #125

  1. Melan says:

    Starting to like where this is going. By the time we reach the end, my boy, you will be reviewing in terse, anger-filled haikus.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ey Bryce, are any good “old school” style adventures designed for 5th edition, or are at least run-able in 5e? Because I only know how to run 5th edition but want the good stuff. Any suggestions?

    • Fucktard's Everfull Ass says:

      Ey Anonymous, just pick an OSR module and convert. Very very easy. Where it says “goblin” or whatever, just ignore the one line of stats and add your 5E info block. Wing everything else. You’re done! If this seems too complex, throw all your gaming material away and play video games instead.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ey FEA, your name is basically the essence of an orgasm compressed and concentrated into three words. I don’t know how you achieved this, but it’s a wonder of science and technology and you should be very proud.

        Regarding the matter at hand: The problem with this is that there are very often adversaries that aren’t in the 5e Monster Manual, and some called something like a “Level 1 Fighter” or “Reaver”, with an equipment list, and it’s all very confusing to someone like me who really only got into DnD with 5th edition. If some kind of equivalent in the M.M. does exist, usually the challenge level is really skewed, be this a result of the amount of monsters in the encounter or something else. Perhaps if you totally winged this kind of thing, the results would be pretty good, but who knows?

        Really, here’s the thing: I want GOOD pre-written modules for 5e (whether they’re made by WoTC or others), but, after reading some reviews from Dungeon of Signs (if you’re familiar with him) and some from Ten-Foot-Pole, it seems those don’t really exist, or at least not up to the standards of the OSR modules. I hear everyone talk about how great DnD was back in the “Golden Age”, and how unforgiving, player-decision based, and sandbox it was, with no “railroading” and a great sense of fantasy weirdness with no oversaturated vanilla-fantasy settings. But does anything like the lauded B10 module “Night’s Dark Terror” or B2 “Keep on the Borderlands” exist in 5e? Are there any hidden gems for the new edition, or is it all vanilla crap? THAT’S what I’m asking, really. I don’t think Bryce often reviews 5e items (perhaps because there’s not enough of them or they’re not really his type), but maybe there’re some that really hit the spot that I don’t know about. Preferably the G-Spot, but I’ll take a beating on any spot, really, I don’t discriminate.

        I’ve forgotten why I started typing this. I could go back up to the top of this endless block of text and retrace my steps, but who the hell could be bothered to read this much? Not me. I’m pretty sure while I was writing the bulk of this reply my mind had tricked itself into thinking it was doing homework or replying to an important email, but now that my hands have slowed down on the keys I’ve realized that I’m still on a Dungeons and Dragons blog, replying to a random person in the comments section of an angry review for some shitty adventure magazine. But hey, at least I’ll be remembered only as “Anonymous”.

        • Gus L. says:

          Gus from DoS here, thing is B2 isn’t actually an evocative module and B10, while more so is still goblins and some bland stuff.

          Everything needs a reskin, but yeah 5e has a more dramatic power curve and combat promoting rules that 1e lacks. You’ll likely need to adjust monsters as well as reskinng them (i.e. a goblin can be any lil humanoid), but also adjust player mentality away from fighting as the first and last resort.

          I say grab something small (I would suggest my Prison of the Hated Pretender – but I’m a self promoting type) with one or two monsters, figure out what they ‘do’ in the adventure and then find a replacement. See what happens.

          • Anonymous says:

            Hey Gus, big fan of your work, thanks for the reply.

            This really put me at ease, now knowing I’m not missing out on some huge, game-changing adventures that change the way you play D&D forever or some shit. Because, to be honest, a lot of D&D players who have been playing since those modules way back then often make them out to be that way, maybe due to nostalgia.

            And I was just wondering: For your small adventures, like Prison of the Hated Pretender or Kugelburg Flood, how do you really run them effectively? Like, there are just maps and descriptions for each room and many ways the party can go about exploring those places. There’s no real beginning, middle, or end to the dungeons, no particular order in which you should explore the rooms. Which is cool, but would that ever lead to player dissatisfaction when they finally leave the dungeons? There’s no big final boss encounter or climax, per se. Basically, how do you make the players feel like they’re getting a satisfying story structure without railroading the HELL out of them?

            Finally, are there any 5th edition adventures you think are worth playing through? I know you hated Phandelver (personally I didn’t think it was that bad, though I didn’t think it was very good either), but what about the newer ones? Hoard of the Dragon Queen was shit, but I’ve heard the new Storm King’s Thunder is very sandbox-y. Curse of Strahd has been VERY well-received, but, then again, so was Phandelver. Have you given any of those a look? Would you recommend any?

          • Gus L says:

            To try to answer a few of these specifically:

            A) I liked Curse of Strahd … but it still feels very WOTC. While it’s more evocative then Lost Mines and not a total railroad it’s big and clumsy and focused on having a campaign that pushes players from level 1 (or 3) to level 15 with the minimum of fuss so they can confront Strahd. It’s still very scene and story based, even with a bit of a sandbox feel. It also feels

            B) The distinction between site based (what I write up and play) and scene based adventures is one of play style. Much later edition D&D is conflict or story based and focuses on heroic fantasy – leading that characters through a GM planned narrative with minimal player choice, where challenge is derived by overcoming the specific obstacles for a pre-determined solution that leads to the next scene (there can be branches of course, but the broad stroke of the narrative is determined by the GM/scenario). In a site based adventure the Gm is presenting a location and the players are deciding how to interact with it, what the PC goals are. Usually sandbox/site based/exploration games start with the pretense that the characters are treasure hunters in financial trouble and they want to get rich by finding treasure rather then working in a salt mine or whatever. The goal of a site based adventure is to provide a place to explore and potentially to introduce complications that will drive organic PC development. The concepts of character arc and BBEG that seem to drive scene based play will evolve through play (i.e. the PCs will find a specific enemy, faction or NPC they really dislike and try to destroy it/thwart its plans; some hook delivered at a site based adventure will gather player interest and they will decide to follow it or that it is important to thier characters; Some NPC faction will make the PCs want to help it and some events will give a character meaning and a personality)

            C)It’s funny you mention Prison of the Hated Pretender and Kugelburg Flood – these are site based exploratory adventures but have more structure then something like Road of Tombs, which is just a site with factions and a conflict.

            Prision is an intro adventure – it could potentially introduce a reoccurring foe/npc in the form of the Pretender (assuming he reanimates and they PCs don’t just keep killing him because he’s squicky), but mostly the magical item on the roof is designed to create a campaign hook. The adventure is intended as a campaign starter – the characters are likely to be a band of local hoodlums who drunkenly dared to sleep in that scary old tower outside town.

            Kugelburg Flood is purely about treasure acquisition on a short timeline. The real danger to the players is drowning when the sea rushes back in. It’s very short so this wasn’t as mechanically spelled out as possible, but most of the threats in the adventure (the outdoor random encounters and keeping the specter mollified) are about losing time and making the party try to push their luck against the returning waves. This makes it a bit of a strange adventure, because it’s not really faction based like most of the site based stuff I write.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think you are selling B10 Night’s Dark Terror short here. Yes, goblins are amongst the foes. But it is goblin tribes with their own names, distinctive appearance and fighting styles; PC actions have a real effect as the tribe defeated in the Sukiskyn siege gets enslaved.

            Moreover there are moments of wonder – the magical needle and thread marking the lost valley on the map, the petrified forest lair, the eerie mine encounter where the PCs are stalked by the giant spider, the tentacled beast in the lost valley, and many more. There is also faction play in the lost valley, as you can double cross allies in
            “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” style to try and get away with all the gold.

            Phandelver I would rate as “B10 lite”. Still pretty good
            however. Curse of Strahd was fine, although I feel the original I6 module contains all the best bits whilst being much leaner.

        • Gus L says:

          Oh I don’t think B10 is bad, it has plenty of good elements even, but it’s got plenty of bad as well. There are some quantum ogre style encounters, a disregard for player options beyond combat in many places and a certain creeping blandness that often overshadows the weird. Of course it was written in the 80’s so a lot of that cliche wasn’t as well established back then. It’s a solid piece of work and better then most.

          Phandelver has a decent skeleton, when it’s not trying to work against itself and create a scene based heroic epic, but it’s so unbelievably dry and such cliched Forgotten realms fantasy that I really have no love for it. Especailly today when there’s so much better stuff out.

          Strahd – meh, yeah it’s the best of the $50 adventure books WOTC has published (haven’t read the giants one), but it still feels more like an MMORPG region then a real tabletop sandbox with it’s leveled subregions and pre-plotting

          • Anonymous says:

            I find myself wondering if any of the short 5e adventures on DM’s Guild are any good… perhaps you (Gus) or Bryce could check some out if they interest you?

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      Well … I don’t think I’ve reviewed any 5e stuff that makes the grade. Fucktard was a little rough about it, but I think they are right; conversions on the fly should be pretty simple. WOTC wrote a conversion guide that mostly covers characters, but handles adventures as well:
      https://media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/dnd/DnD_Conversions_1.0.pdf

      There’s also another doc floating around also:
      https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gwlJEh8hI63FzppPtbjpOeaxhbNuDENvWl4uowgq9RM/edit

      Once Dungeon Magazine defeats me, I will probably cover a 5e adventure on my Saturday review. I’m not sure yet, but I’m leaning that way.

      (Bad Fucktard! We’re fresh & vibrant and welcoming, not old K&K curmudgeons.)

      • Anonymous says:

        Hey, thanks for the reply Bryce.

        A few questions: Is the system used for OSR modules considered “1e” or “1st edition” as said in the conversion guide? Also, in the shorthand stats for monsters there’s nothing about how much XP to award the characters… Do 2HD monsters award the same amount of XP as Challenge Rating 2 monsters in 5e (are “Hit Dice” essentially a measure of how challenging a monster is)? And about encounter difficulty: What do you think about the characters in 5e power-wise? Do they get too powerful as they level up?

        Anyway, I’m thinking of trying Deep Carbon Observatory in 5th Edition. Something about that adventure in particular really piques my interest.

        Thanks for the help!

        • Anonymous says:

          To elaborate on my first question: Are the mechanics used from the OD&D Rulebooks? The AD&D rulebooks?

          For example: One Hit Dice in OD&D is a d6, whereas a HD in AD&D is a d8, I believe. So… which set of rules do I use?

  3. Fucktard's Everfull Ass says:

    If it’s not in your 5E MM, make up something, dude. Think outside the lines, free yourself from the tyranny of the corporate publication. Christ man, the WotC’s RPG police will NOT be coming by your house to inspect the conversion. This is your NEO moment, when you realize you have been living in a mind-control dream state, but can now do anything. Congrats!

    • Anonymous says:

      I have been running “5e” with all OSR content and not even the conversion fuckfard mentioned. Everything works just fine; you just have to spend maybe 5 mins on a monster stat (ultimately everything just boils down to 5 or so game mechanic considerations).

    • Anonymous says:

      “Christ man, the WotC’s RPG police will NOT be coming by your house to inspect the conversion”.

      Well how the hell do you know? Dude, you act as if the RPG police don’t exist or something. Like, Jesus, have you ever met the guys? They will not tolerate railroading, and their pat-downs are ROUGH. Like, how could you even fit a d20 up there in the first place?

      And I’M the one the has to “free myself from the tyranny of the corporate publication”??? Dude, YOU’RE the one who’s tied to corporate lies. News flash, Fucktard’s Everfull Ass: the “creator” of this site, “Bryce Lynch” DOESN’T EXIST. TenFootPole.org is REALLY ran by a bunch of old, emotionless WotC executives sitting around a table, writing notes on how they can more effectively pretend to be this man, this “Bryce”, this puppet persona of their creation.

      You know how the majority of the OSR modules that this “Bryce” character reviews are apparently shit? You know how the “good stuff” is few-and far-between? All of these “bad” OSR modules that “Bryce” goes on rants about. They’re not truly bad, they’re actually pure GOLD content-wise. They’re GEMS, each and every one of them. Like, the ones featured in this very review, for example. WotC has their council of executives give these disheartening reviews to discourage people from buying these great modules, directing them to THEIR shitty big-name bullshit!

      And there you go. I’m the whistleblower. And, by the way, I never really needed any help converting OSR modules to 5e, that was all a cover so I could integrate myself into this community and blow up this bomb in all your faces.

      Have a good one, sheeple. OPEN YOUR EYES.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I have converted a lot of older stuff for some friends (I am the only one in my local community who has been playing since the old TSR stuff was the current TSR stuff…) and there is literally no monster that won’t work as a straight conversion from the TSR/OSR stats to 5e (3x and 4e are another matter…). Nothing will be too hard, instead, some stuff will be easier since 5e lacks anything as ugly as level drain (unless its an oddball 2e model that really used the boosted giants and dragons of that edition but why are you converting a dragon and giant filled 2e model?). If you want to convert on the fly its pretty easy, double the hit points, cannon fodder monsters get +4/+2, mid level monsters get +6/+4, higher level ones get +9/+6. If it is really old school stat blocks, AC 10 is no armor in everything but OD&D (where its 9). If its the hit tables/THATCO, 0 is the same as 20 in 5e, and -10 is the same as 30 in 5e.

  5. Buzzclaw says:

    While The Three Faces of Evil is in practice not very good, I do like the fluff behind trying to force a metaphysical syncreticism of gods so that Evil can win.

  6. Andy says:

    I’m one of those dirty neutrals who sees something good in all editions of D&D. I regularly play 1e, BECMI, 2e, 4e and various OSR games. I bring that up to say yes, this kind of crap is the best Mike Mearls can do. He’s godawful, and I while I know and don’t really care either way that you hate 4e, he was absolutely the worst designer there, designing trash like the laughably bad vampire class.

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