Dungeon Magazine #69

d69
Blame Fallout. I wrote ahead but missed by schedule by 48 hours.

Slave Vats of the Yuan-Ti
by Jason Kuhl
AD&D
Levels 3-5

“Keep a calculator at hand during this adventure, for the math.” Oh, joy … DERP! This three-parter, with the first being in this issue, is a precursor to the adventure paths to come. This one if a decrepit mansion full of jerlamainee triggering traps on the party, and then some yuan-ti labs in the basement, in a house that causes magic to misfire and giant insects/animals galore from a natural Enlarge effect. Parts of the house are nice (poison gas from an elephant trunk!) but the descriptions are mostly uninspired. The jerlamaine part feels like DM torture porn and the yuan-ti in the basement feels disconnected from the rest of the adventure.

Challenge of Champions II
by Jonathan M. Richards
AD&D
Any level suckfest

I like a bit more pretext. I shall quote the entirety of my review of the first installment, back in issue #58: This is a funhouse “proving ground” adventure. All spells are on scrolls and all weapons provided, no armor, blah blah blah, which is how it’s an All Levels adventure. This is more X-Crawl then it is old school funhouse. 10 challenges, all of which are really puzzles of one sort of another. It’s hard for me to recognize this as an adventure; it’s more of an evening activity in my mind.

Stumping the Party
by Christopher Pomeroy
AD&D
Levels 3-5

Side-Trek. An ambush by an Ettercap and some spiders, with a couple of webbed chambers in a cave below. What’s the fascination with Ettercaps? I don’t get the love for them.

Sleep of Ages
by Eric L. Boyd
AD&D
Levels 5-8

This is it kids, the poster child for bad Dungeon adventures. If you want to know what the evil bad guy had for lunch on one random day thirty years earlier and the impact it had on their digestive system, then this is the adventure for you. I’m sure that kind of detail is in this somewhere … because EVERYTHING else is also in here. Nine pages of text before the dungeon. Three pages of triple column text as background BEFORE the information for the dungeon master is presented. I’m also happy to report that there is a great abundance of overly-long and complicated names of places and people … Oh Boy! “[Long text describing something] … but all that remains of the massacre are a few small chunks of stone.” Jesus H Fucking Christ. Really? Seriously? Lots of gimps here: lots of bodies, but speak with dead doesn’t work and all of their valuables were hidden elsewhere, blah blah blah, experience the STORY and … [bleech]. Oops, sorry, threw up in my mouth and accidentally typed it out while doing so. But at least we have column long intricate room descriptions to look forward to … right? This goes in my Hall of Fame of bad adventures.

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10 Responses to Dungeon Magazine #69

  1. Gus L says:

    @Bryce

    Gad, I remember some of these Dungeon adventures with the too much detail (I always think of the one with the Death Night and the fake demi-god – which could have been kinda cool as a high-level adventure, but dragged on and on) and I have the hate for them. At the time I am working on my own stuff and I tend to be a bit verbose – it’s a challenge to weight the detail (evocative detail is great) vs. rambling digression and space wasting that make the adventure harder to use. I wish there was a simple rule but the closest I can get is “Amount of acceptable detail < or = amount of evocative detail that players will want to interact with, where evocative is defined as crap a twelve year old who's read some decent novels couldn't think up in 30 seconds". Thoughts?

    For example, if I'm writing up an owlbear lair (I'm always writing up owlbear lairs – only book monster I use) I think it's okay to include a paragraph about the disgusting acidic odor of owlbear droppings, the way the walls and floor are stained white with them like that cage in the corner of your hoarder aunt's living room, and also a bit on owlbear pellets of fur, hair, bones, and armor fragments.

    Why waste space with descriptions of monster waste? Well to me the sheer vileness and slop of owlbears (like city pigeons only huge and fierce), really gives a feel for the monster, and clearly all their treasure is either caked in muck on the floor or in those darn pellets – by describing the whole room and including them I can cue players where to search for filthy lucre while making them visualize the nasty filth cave. I'm not gonna talk about goblin sewage systems though unless they matter. Point is this excessive detail (e.g. something beyond "Cave: 3 owlbears [statlines], [description of treasure]") give the GM descriptive information that is also useful and a bit strange.

    Anyhow curious on your thoughts because I trust your reviews and like the cut of your jib when it comes to adventure design (unclear on actual jib).

  2. Dungeon Dork says:

    I find it funny that you’re ragging on badly designed dungeons yet playing Fallout 4.

  3. Krebizfan says:

    Sleep of Ages doesn’t feel like it was intended as an adventure but rather to salvage all the discarded bits of Eric Boyd’s FR supplements with the addition of a simple map. Thus, the history, NPCs, spells and items occupy the bulk of the page count allotted.

    Dungeon was always short of material. A number of former TSR writers have described dashing off entries for Dungeon in order to get extra money. Items that should have been short articles for Dragon got wrapped around rudimentary adventure skeletons for publication in Dungeon.

    • Todd Antill says:

      It definitely was, I actually used the information presented in this, which also dovetailed with several campaign supplements written by Eric Boyd at the time. I ran a three year long 2E campaign based on the rich material presented in that adventure.. I definitely took away something different away from this than the reviewer.

  4. badmike3 says:

    Slave Vats of the Yuan Ti I remember as being fun, but I just happen to really love the hell out of Snakemen. Especially spell throwing snakemen. It’s not a bad little dungeon to plot down in a campaign somewhere.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well—?

  6. Adam W. says:

    I am going to straight up BUY whatever the next thing Bryce reviews is.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m relatively new to Bryce’s blog. Are these long breaks a regular thing, or should I start being legitimately concerned for his well being?

  8. Yeah I am posting years later but I don’t care!

    The Sleep of Ages adventure and others like it really blow my mind…. They spend a lot of time and effort filling out details that are not going to be needed to run an adventure, but then limit the parts that could have detail that actually adds flavor to the adventure. It’s insane!

    I am thinking of converting some of the more interesting and unique old Dungeon adventures into usable versions in a blog format but the ones that are this bad are just too far gone for me to put effort into.

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