Dungeon Magazine #35

Seeing the pro’s names ad Dungeon authors reminds me of the strippers who show up at spring break wet t-shirt contests.

Twilight’s Last Gleaming
James Jacobs
Levels 8-10

Adventures like this one are part of that great soul-sucking morass that drags down the hobby. The party is hired to go through a gate to a fortress on the shadow plane and bring back a staff, in order to close the gate because shadow monsters are coming through it. Turn out the guy that hired them is a rakshasa and that will free him from his prison. The hackneyed plot (lure adventurers to free me while I impersonate someone!) isn’t so much the issue as the MASSIVE amount of text that accomplishes NOTHING. This runs 12-14 pages and has maybe three or four encounters. The inn the guy lives in is described completely and realistically in the most boring fashion possible. So s the two levels of the shadow fortress and the two or three encounters in it. Page after page of backstory. Page after page of boring descriptions of featureless wilderness. Page after page of trivial detail and explanation that does NOTHING to enhance play. Three is so little content that I think you could easily do this as a one-page dungeon. The rakshassa part is lame also. Need a bad guy to launch a plot that can’t be foiled by Detect Evil or ESP? Rakshasa! puke

The Year of Priest’s Defiance
Rick Swan & Allen Varney
Dark Sun
Levels 3-5

Uh … this is an adventure? The party stumbles on a ruin in the desert with fresh grass. Inside the small 6 room ruin they find a magic cistern of water. A friendly NPC shows up and wants to break up the cistern. An evil NPC group shows up. The cistern gets broken, the water elemental it contained gets free and kills the evil NPC party. End of adventure. This is an encounter, not an adventure. A side-trek at BEST and more likely a one-pager. But I guess it fulfills the requirement to publish a Dark Sun adventure in Dungeon. This is just devoid of anything. It’s more like watching a movie than doing something. Kill the friendly NPC? He survives so the showdown can take place. LAME. Why not just roll a d6? On a 1-5 you win, and 6 you roll again.

The Whale
Wolfgang Baur
Levels 1-2

This is a nice little short viking-themed encounter. A whale has washed up on the beach and a group of fishermen and a grow from the local lord are arguing for ownership rights. As the party approaches one of the land-men shoots an arrow at a women in the fishermans boat. Everyone stops talking and stares coldly at each other. That’s the perfect little moment to introduce the party to the scene, at the point things could change dramatically one way or another. The two groups have several personalities and some generic men, with the personalities having some good motivations and character to drive the action forward. The fishermen WILL starve if they don’t get the whale. The land-men DO have a real claim, but it is from an unreliable person. Baur understands that these sorts of scenes are driving by the NPC personalities and describes each in a paragraph or so and provides enough little background bits THAT ARE RELEVANT to drive the action forward. This is a great tangled mess where there are lots of possible answers. Nicely done.

Green Lady’s Sorrow
Joseph O’Neil
Levels 5-8

Middle class morality. That’s the problem with this adventure. A green dragon contacts the party in order to get five of her eggs rescued. They fell in a hole in a volcano and she needs you to go in and get them back. Inside is an assortment of vermin (who attack), magmen (who attack), grue (who attack) and an efretti (who eventually attacks.) Then you get out and the dragon attacks. Wouldn’t it be so much more interesting if you could get an ally from green dragon, or from the eftreeti? You are doing a major boon to both, and both are highly intelligent. But they attack. Lame. There’s a nice little maze on the map, some of the eggs are fakes, some are hard boiled already, and ALMOST everything in the adventure is intelligent. And attack. There’s an interesting set up or two with the eggs, traps and the like. Giving the true, magmen, efretti, orcs (who are all dead, having been sent in before you) some personality would have really made this adventure something. You could do it yourself, but then … why did you buy this magazine? There was a great opportunity for faction play, since they all hate each other anyway, and lots of opportunities to make some fire & lava themed rooms. Instead you get a lava pool or two and nothing else. The end result is Just Another Stinking Dungeon, but with a couple of fire creatures in it this time. 🙁

The Ghost of Mistmoor
Leonard Wilson
Levels 3-6

This is a haunted house adventure. An heir hires you to go in and help him get his ancestral treasure. There are a couple of rogues inside who are pretending to haunt the house … and some real ghosts as well. Some of the ghosts are neutral-ish (and not really ‘ghosts’ by D&D standards) and one is evil. You tool around the house getting ‘haunted’ and looking in to things and then probably meet the good-natured rogues. They, in turn, probably help you find the treasure vault, along with the goodish ghosts. Inside the vault you fight the evil ghosts. (which are really just shadows.) This is a pretty long adventure and most of the haunting things are done fairly well. There’s good advice present on how to run a spooky adventure, including he one dream sequence. I normally hate dream sequences, but this one is done ok and emphasizes the need to not do another one after it since they get old real quick. (True That.) This has a slow, investigatory quality to it. There are some vermin to kill prior to the showdown, but it’s otherwise an adventure which builds to several spooky moments. It does this better than most spooky adventures. It’s helped by the two rogues, scaring people off, who build things to a climax … and then they are probably caught, dispelling the tension. Until you find out they didn’t do everything … and then tension builds more, this time with your new helpers. Tension builds again until its dispelled by the finally meeting the real ghosts. Then there is the ominous battle of the treasure vault, that the party probably knows is coming. That sort of cycle works well. I would note that there MAY be a single problem. There are a decent number of bodies in the adventure from the olden-days. There is one high-level speak with dead spell. Completing the adventure relies on the spell being cast one ONE body in particular. I may have missed the thing that singles this body out. Anyway, good hauntings based on both room and time/event. The personalities of the ghosts and NPC’s are spread out a bit. Most detail is in one place but important other details are spread though the text, which makes running them a pain. All in all though, not a bad haunted house. Better than U1 anyway.

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7 Responses to Dungeon Magazine #35

  1. Anonymous says:

    Part 1:
    Year of Priest’s Defiance. The first boxed set came out around this time; I thought this was a
    nice little encounter, stressing the importance and value of water. If you want to read a poor
    Dark Sun adventure, try the one in Dungeon around the time of the second boxed set. (Last
    troll adventure.)

    Green Lady’s Sorrow. If the green dragon attacks, your party has blundered: they need to bargain
    (holding back an egg or two, or having some other threat). This is covered in the adventure.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Part 2. Ghost of Mistmoor is a strong adventure, and you have done a good job of describing it. As you point out, it is difficult to complete.
    I know I’m going to regret this, but what is wrong with U1? One of the best starter adventures ever written, IMHO. Good chances for thinking players, a clever plan is essential when storming the Sea Ghost. The “vermin” in the House are sensibly depowered, as this is an introductory adventure.

  3. mikemonaco says:

    I only knew of Rick Swan from his book on RPGs (which has some useful reviews alongside some really asshat ones that infuriated me when I read it but I don’t really recall details now). I see he’s written a lot of stuff for 2e. Sounds like a really horrible adventure.

    I will venture to guess that the Green Lady’s Sorrow is partly hobbled by the TSR guidelines on not ever letting bad guys win or get away with bad stuff, so OF COURSE the evil monsters always attack you eventually…

    The Whale sounds kind of clever because a stranded whale really was worth fighting over, in the middle ages, and you could use that in any game with a primitive setting.

    As god-awful as some of these sound, I find I am rethinking my knee-jerk rejection of Dungeon magazine … BITD I thought it looked like a complete waste of paper and money; now I think there must have a been a few ideas worth using in each issue. So thanks for pressing on in this series!

    • Anonymous says:

      I think the key is not expecting to find gold in a coal mine. If your definition of value for money is that all the adventures need to be great, I would avoid back issues of Dungeon. On the other hand, if you are looking for say one adventure you could run (with some
      modifications), and one or two ideas you can steal from the others, Dungeon could be for you.

      Not all 2e material is rubbish; regarding Rick Swan, you might like to have a look
      at his Al-Qadim adventure Caravans.

      • Bryce Lynch says:

        Yeah, I think I’d agree with this. Or perhaps I’d agree with “You can get inspiration for an adventure from many sources. Novels, Tv, your daily life. Another source of inspiration is Dungeon Magazine. You can “Read” the adventures and be inspired by some of them for an adventure you’d want to run.”

        This gets past the god-awful text issues and lets’ your use the gems for inspiration and the cool things they do.

        • Badmike says:

          Mostly I just used the maps, I am terrible at drawing/creating maps. I always recall vividly the coolest maps in Dungeon Magazine often without recalling the adventure itself.

  4. John says:

    Having run through it…Mistmoor is absolutely spectacular. (Especially as a Halloween game!) It has a multi-layered plot, several nice twists…and even a stuffed dragon. If run well, this is a truly spooky adventure.

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