Within the Radiant Dome


by Gavin Norman
Psychedelic Fantasies
Level 4 Characters

Each adventure in the Psychedelic Fantasies line revels in unconstrained imagination. Every monster, every magic spell, and every magic spell is a unique and never-before-seen creation of the author. No orcs, fireballs, or +1 swords will be found within. Leave the familiar behind to explore hitherto undreamed of wonders …

This is a 38 room dungeon on three levels of an old wizards lab. I’m torn on this one. It’s full of unique creatures and unique idiosyncratic items, but it feels … cramped? and maybe somewhat forced? I’m not sure what the right description is. Maybe Linear describes it best. Not a railroad, but Linear.

So, big radiant dome. Shifting colors on the outside, a night sky interior, and a set of stairs going down. Mythic Underworld crossover was done better in the first Psychedelic Fantasies module. Inside on level 1 the problem starts to show. Hanging off of the first room is a cryo-freeze chamber and also a great cavern. The cavern is forested and has two smaller caves “mini-cave systems” of three or so rooms each hanging off of it. This is not exploration. The party will, essentially, interact with the natives of the great cavern, maybe slaughter them and maybe make friends with them, and maybe get a key. I’m sure a good DM could milk the locals for some great roleplaying fun, but there’s not nearly enough here. The first level seems more like one of those “Side Tracks” adventures from Dungeon or Dragon magazine. It’s not really much more than a one-trick pony.

Levels two and three are a bit more involved, but the maps really are not. Just a simple branching design. Corridors with halls with rooms hanging off of them. The adventure tries to force room exploration by placing the big treasures behind locked doors. You need to seek out the keys. Hopefully in the process of exploring the party will play with some of the wonders herein and have an adventure. I’m not convinced. There ARE things to play with dials on the walls and swirling clouds of color. Giant crusher machines with some bait in them. Goo balls that turn in to random things when thrown and vats to immerse ones self in. Something seems off though and I don’t know what it is. There’s some gonzo here. I should love gonzo. There’s some OD&D weirdness here. I should love that. I DO love parts of it. The monsters are, as promised, unique and weird. Blobs people/things with objects embedded in them. Uranium Zombies. A giant maggot thing. Weird wands and rings and swords that all bring the idiosyncratic. The items and monsters are EXACTLY what I’m looking for in an adventure. They are strange and unpredictable and new and do cool things and give the players a chance to explore with their characters instead of just sighing at the presence of another +1 sword.

I’ve struggled to write this, as the length shows. I don’t know what going on here to put me off. Individually many of the elements are strong. The maps not great, but that shouldn’t alone result in the buzz kill I feel. There are lessons to learn here. I spend a lot of time talking about unique this-and-this and non-standard that-and-that. The gist being that non-standard magic items, non-standard monsters and detailed mundane treasure are important. And they ARE important, but they are not the end all and be all of making a decent adventure. Neither is a map. Or buttons to play with. Or any of a whole list of things. A lot of elements have to come together to have a decent adventure module.

This thing absolutely has an OD&D feel. But it also feels cramped or maybe limited. I don’t know … the purpose of the review to tell you what this adventure is like and I’m unable to do that well for this one.

This is available on DriveThru.


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3 Responses to Within the Radiant Dome

  1. John says:

    Good to see you back, Bryce. I value your reviews.

  2. Glazer says:

    What John said…

  3. Gavin Norman says:

    Hey Bryce, thanks a lot for taking the time to write the review!

    I can understand what you say about the module, and I think the reason for it probably lies in the adventure’s origin — as a one-shot I wrote for a con. Obviously with only a few hours to play through it, the structure of an adventure has to stay pretty simple, and the encounters have to be kept pretty high-paced. (I did originally write an intro section kind of explaining this origin, but it had to be removed due to space constraints.)

    Perhaps I should have reworked the adventure more than I did when writing it up for publication.

    Thanks for the feedback, it’s really useful to hear!

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