I’m trying to write up my notes and finish up my Dungeon reviews, so you can expect a few more of these as I work on 25 issues a week. Then I’ll write up a grand summary and be done with the thing.
Into the Fire, the cover adventure, is surprisingly good, with LARGE wilderness encounters with huge numbers of humanoids. 12 trolls, 100 bandits, 20 soldiers, and so on. Falls in to the “gimp the players” trap in order to make an 88hp dragon challenging. That’s too bad.
Caermor has a great low magic/peasants vibe going on, with mobs and morons. Needs fleshed out more.
Keep at Koralgesh reminds me a lot of Silver Princess/Amber/Lost CIty … a little generic complimented by some very specific window dressing.Creatures & magic are both a little generic though.
Falcon’s Peak feels like a tactical assault on a real location. Good map, and the entire place presented as a sandbox locale.
Blood on the Snow is nice, but its going to take several months of game time to pull off this scandinavian themed adventure of long treks through the snow
Kappa at Pachee Bridge is another linear OA folklore adventure … that I LUV. OA gets fairies and monsters right.
Lady of the Lake has an almost dream-like air to it. The wonder of D&D is communicated fairly well, in spite of the adventures many problems.
Forbidden Mountain has a non-euclidian dungeon and it’s good to see something a little different and more wondrous. Most of it is worthless, but the non-euclidian part is neato.
House of the Brothers is much loved in Internet circles, but I don’t think it works. It’s too adversarial for my tastes.
Nightshade is pretty worthless except for a reprobate wizards home you could steal form.
Matchmakers is a good adventure hampered by its organization. Notes & a good amount of prep can turn this in to a zany adventure complications in a great town environment.
Wounded Worm has a nice evil villain and minions that you could integrate in to a region as a kind of evil bad guy … if you can dig through the mountains of tex.
Golden Bowl is an OA adventure. I like the way these tend to integrate folklore much more in to the adventure … similar to leaving out milk on the stopp for the little people. Roleplaying and combat get a good mix, with a strong folklore theme.
Secrets of the Towers is more like a group of adventure seeds than an adventure. It stands out as something worth stealing for your own ends.
Dark Conventicle is an evil temple with a good map and a massive final fight. Lame encounters will require work to turn this in to something decent.
Ward of the Witching Ways is a tournament adventure, but isn’t linear as most are. Too much text stands out, but it’s open in a way that few things are.
A social and event based adventure with strong NPC’s and a great whimsy and absurd factor to it. Strong themes and classical archetypes for the NPC’s make this a delight.
Huddle farm highlights the mundane drama of idyllic halfling life. That’s the background to the hook … the rest is ok but very badly organized for the type of events adventure it is.
Ruins of Nol-Daer is good adventure in a ruined keep in the countryside. Good hooks, countryside, descriptions, magic items. This thing is a cut above.
Nests & Nations is going to be more of an outline that you have to build from. Good concepts but you need to throw a lot away and do a six million dollar rebuild. Lots of events, lots of chaos, and a good monster enemy.
Masqueraider was a small wilderness area and cave system that really got close to the line of being acceptable. Most of the encounters had a nugget of something good with some decent descriptions.
Stranded on the Baron’s Island was a social adventure, full of NPC’s to interact with. Unfortunately it was formatted like an exploratory dungeon instead of a social adventure, and needs to be completely reorganized to be useful.
Dragon’s Gift is a linear adventure, but it’s got that Oriental Adventures charm. I think a lot of the early OA adventures in Dungeon had a strong folklore vibe, and I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. Talking animals, classic situations … and paperwork from the celestial bureaucracy. These have a social element to most of the encounters which boosts the adventure up above its weight class.
A great little dungeon crawl with lots of chaos, a good map, decent encounters, and a short timeline to mix things up further.
The Elephants Graveyard
I mention this one because the Internet and I disagree. I think it’s got a couple of decent ideas but falls down in the tedium of managing an expedition. The Internet has fond memories of it.
Necropolis was a short adventure in a village with a fraudster and a real undead guy that could be a future resource for the party. It could provide some nice background trivia for a starting locale.
Vesicant was a ok-ly done pirate town with some decent factions and a nearby dragon lair. With some subplots added, you could respin this through a lot of work in to a decent town campaign locale.
The Waiting Room of Yen-Wang-Yeh is Yet Another OA Adventure, meaning of course that I want to suck it off. The beginning is better than the end, feeling more like an OA/Brave Little Trailer adventure. The second half devolves in to boring old hacking.
Irongard is a Ed Greenwood adventure. He does a great job coming up with interesting encounters and decent imagery, along with great magic items. I think it’s close to unusable because of the bullshit word padding, but it is decent.
I have mixed feelings about Tallow’s Deep. It’s very tactical focused, and I’ve become very wary of that sort of adventure. There IS a place in my D&D for stabbing bad guy goblins, and this would probably meet that threshold had I not just slogged through a zillion crappy tactics-porn 3e adventures from later issues.
Crocodile Tears is another OA adventure with a strong folklore vibe, and thus I ignore, again, the linear nature.
Chadrather’s Bane has a small region with factions and an ok social element with lots of potential. It brings the factasic to D&D by presenting the characters as shrunk down and the region is the inside of a house.
This issue was plagued by good ideas used as doorstops. In almost every one, there is some good ideas, or content to be stolen, but its then WRECKED by the rest of the adventure, or goes nowhere. Nothing reaches salvageable-with-work levels for me, but there are a lot of individual elements to be stolen for other projects.
Ancient Blood is a nice winter wilderness and dungeon adventure that has a great quiet horror vibe going on in it, a kind of gothic atmosphere … if you skip the Papers & Paychecks logistics shit.
I’m disappointed in Pride of the Sky. It has man-scorpions in a cool temple, but fucks it up terribly by being boring as fuck (and that’s ignoring the shitty airship hook.) You could take inspiration from this one and do something great, if you were willing to start from scratch.
Jammin’ marks the appearance of Spelljammer and Ward does a decent job of bringing a magical and wondrous environment to life.
Incident at Strathern Point is sticky. Read it once, maybe twice, and it sticks with you enough to run it on the fly. Real, grim, gritty … it FEELS like a demon-haunted adventure.
Dark Forest had a couple of decent ideas with mass combats and weird myconids, but has a pretty weak middle section.
Vinyard Vales has a decent Viking-like theming, and a good “beast man” thing going on with some lizard men, supplemented by great wandering monster tables.
Old Sea-Dog is a great little city/harbor adventure tightly done. Good town environment and well designed.
Of Kings Unknown contains an almost platonic entry on how to write a bad room description: “4. Trophy Room. This room once contained trophies of war. Swords, spears, and armor of all kinds were dedicated here to the everlasting glory of the fallen orc leaders. Centuries ago, the walls were draped with elven banners, dwarves sigils, gnome heraldry, and the flags and standards of men, goblins, and various orc tribes. The moon orc leaders have stripped the room of anything useful in order to outfit the tribe. The weapons and armor were quickly divided among the warriors, while the flags and banners were torn down and used for blankets or ripped apart and resewn into bags, sacks, and clothing. The room now contains only refuse and rusty, unusable equipment.”
Hrothgar’s Resting Place has a good map of a “realistic” cave environment and encounters that feed off it. Nice treasure and fun stuff like a spider lowering itself on silk.
Rose for Talaka is another I disagree with the Internet on. They like it and I think its loads of emo crap with no real adventure to it.