Dungeon Magazine #130

Within the Circle
By Sam Brown
Level 1

This short little adventure has a nice introduction and wilderness section combined with a rather disappointing little twelve room dungeon at the end. It’s meant to kick off a Yuan-ti themed campaign, I believe. The party, retainers of a Baron, have dinner with a man from a remote village. He tells of the village being poisoned, livestock killed, crops in disrepair, all from a goblin demanding tribute. Later, in private, the Baron tells the party the real mission: that he wants them to check out a depot nearby that he was tasked with burning down when young. He questions now, that he is wiser, how he has risen in power, and why. The villagers act like villagers, the goblin is dealt with, briefly, and information on his lair is the same as the depot, which can be learned from him or fro some ambushing lizardmen, who retreat in deference when they learn they made a mistake ambushing the party.

Up until this point the adventure is pretty good by Dungeon standards. Lots of words, and read-aloud, but the motivations make sense and nothing is really forced. Parts of what going on could have been emphasized more, with trivia deemphasized, but it’s there, somewhere in the text … and its not as bad as the usual Dungeon fair in terms of wordiness. It’s a nice little thing that doesn’t really force the players in to anything, after the initial hook .. and I can even forgive that seeing as this is meant to be a campaign kickoff.

The goblin lair has bad read-aloud and is more confusing than normal. It’s mostly linear, with a lot of background and history clogging up the text. In one room, the main entrance, there’s a trap with a bag of giant centipedes. I still have no idea which door, or side of the door, that trap is on. Most of the rooms FEEL boring, even though there are one or two goblins with some motivations other than “KILL!” A matron protects the young with a spear, warding the party away but not attacking until she is. Another goblin spies behind a table and then tries to run away. Again, very relatable motivations. The rooms, beyond the goblins, are just not very interesting. There IS a nicely integrated trap that is not meant to be a trap, and several clues as to what is going on.

Its’ decent, especially by Dungeon standards. It reminds me of something out of those more realistic settings, like Harn or the like, but with more monsters.

The Palace of Plenty
By Tito Leati
Level 10

This is an Oriental Adventures themed adventure, that seems to be derived from watching too many 1940’s and 50’s Japanese ghost story movies. Vague hooks and no wilderness journey has you in a legendary ruined paradise city. Which takes a DC 10 roll to know where it is. If you fail, there’s a map in a library. The icy ruined city is large and ruined and very sparsely keyed. After wandering about and finally figuring out where you go you get to a non-ruined place, through white fluttering butterflies, which has mostly empty rooms. This place has such exciting encounters as “Sentry Box: The entry box is unremarkable.” The whole thing is “icy ruined village theme and then ghost village theme” all with that sort haunting quietness that comes from older Japanese horror movies. It gives it a very “story game” feel. It’s also nigh incomprehensible as an adventure. Props for taking a chance. It was your editor’s job to tell you it didn’t work so well. A STRONG edit may give you a Mountain Witch-like adventure. It’s just trying too hard with too many words to be as effective as, say, Inn of Forgotten Heroes … hence the need for an edit.

The Spire of Long Shadows
By Jesse Decker
Level 13

Another in the Age of Worms adventure path. Get out your lozenges, this one is the exposition entry! Miles upon miles of read-aloud in order to relate reams of backstory to the party, either through a sage they meet or through visions they have. It starts with a meaningless combat right out of the bullshit “have a quick first encounter so the party can get some dice rolling” advice column. It then passes to a small city where the party cool their heels a bit, and then a visit to the sage who talks at them for hours (Real time.) teleport to a far away land has the party at the site of where Kyuss ascended to godhood, and a pyramid temple full of kyuss worms and room after room of guardians. These are spaced out with visions the party has about Kyuss and the prophecy of his return. There are about A MILLION of pages before you get to the temple. The rooms embed history … in a bad way. “This room represented Kyuss’ master over death …”, or “the stairs were destroyed in year blah blah blah by blah blah blah.” Meaningless trivia that does not contribute to the adventure. This “adventure” is just an excuse to talk at the party with monologues and put in some combats with worm-themed NPC’s. Boring.

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9 Responses to Dungeon Magazine #130

  1. I rather liked the giant ghost caterpillar god in the Palace of Plenty. That’s not something you see every day. It also featured the Secret Origin of the yeti.

  2. Commodore says:

    I used this as an intro adventure for a very successful campaign so I have a lot of fondness for Within the Circle. That being said I completely redesigned the actual layout of the little dungeon. And added a lot more traps and puzzles. But for a Dungeon Magazine adventure it was pretty good.

    • Graham says:

      I will agree with you, it is one of the best adventures in the ‘Late Period’ of Dungeon. I will add that the encounter with the Goblin Matron is one of the few times I’ve seen an author actually give the PCs the option of negotiating with Goblins rather than just killing them outright.

  3. Kevin says:

    Off topic, but I figure I ask anyways.

    How in the world do people tie all of these modules together? Do you explain it that they are an adventuring guild? Do you just throw the players in there? Do you throw them all on a map and hope they walk into them?

    I am just wondering how people do this haha.

    • Yora says:

      I think in practice you can’t really just grab an adventure that is good and throw it into an ongoing campaign. You need an adventure that is also fitting for the campaign, which my be one in a hundred you come across.

      Even then I don’t use adventures as they are written. I take some of the maps, NPCs, monsters, and background elements and then build a new adventure from them that fits the campaign I am already running. Adventures from later issues of Dungeon (and what Paizo makes now with Pathfinder) are usually that specific that even this adapatation doesn’t work. I think there are maybe three or four adventures by them that I think are useable in my campaigns.

    • Krebizfan says:

      Don’t try and tie all of them together. Find several that have potential links to the campaign being run. In the early days of modules, it was easy since most were located along a river or coast or major road. Place the module under consideration at the next convenient junction, redraw wilderness maps to match, and change the names of major NPCs to fit with the local part of the game world. A good module will also have multiple paths of departure making it easy to tie into another module or resume the local development of the campaign.

      I used to keep about 6 Dungeon adventures in hand to be emergency fillers. Half the players missing, run something from Dungeon. Campaign getting too serious and depressing, find a joke module to break the tension. Need to rework the next planned major stage of the campaign or bring the PCs up to the required levels, perfect chance to spend a session using Dungeon modules.

    • Jeff Johnson says:

      I start by making a list of adventures I want to use. (That is part of why I am reading these reviews even)

      I then look at things that can be introduced earlier.

      I need Baron Hammer to appear in the 6th level adventure? Him and his family just became guests at the celebration honoring the PCs for their victory at 3rd level.

      The players need to find a map that takes them to the lost treasure for the 8th lvl? The map is in the treasure pile.

      I also look for things that can be “put in front of them.” They are traveling through the country side? The next small town is the one that is being plagued by the bandits from that adventure I want to run.

  4. Groody the Hobgoblin says:

    I found it not that hard to tie them together if you have a bunch of dungeon magazines. You can pick an adventure that fits the environment and level. Chop out parts that you do not need, or replace the villain behind the scenes with your own. An overarching story, where the characters need to travel somewhere for information or to obtain something helps. Adding references for it is easy enough if plan ahead for 3-4 adventures. On the way there they stumble upon the adventure.

    For example they start with a low level adventure with a dungeon. Have them find a deed to property or a mine in a far-away city that the goblins could not read. Let’s say it’s in the far South. If they go for it, now they need to get to the next port. Overland adventure at an inn. port city adventure with pirates and a vampire that’s plaguing it. (Like Bryce advocates, I find mashing together 2-3 independent adventures in a city makes for a much richer and more believable experience). Then, adventure on sea, or on an Island, I had them for example land on the Tammermaut’s Fate island after a storm to repair their ship. Finally, the exotic, foreign port with another adventure – the mine is in the jungle and voila, jungle adventure, then adventure with the mine, freeing it from Yuan-Ti or Duergar or whatever, or making a deal with them to exploit it. Somewhere in all these adventures, they stir up something even larger and go for that. You get the idea.

    I actually find that if not every adventure is tied to the same big bad, nefarious cult, or has the same theme (giants, dragons, etc.), it make the world a lot more interesting and believable.

    I’ve also found that it is hard to find good adventures for high levels, say after level 13 or so. We typically have ended our campaigns around that level with the characters settling in whatever keep or domain they acquired on their adventures as NPCs for future generations of players. It’s more fun to start over on level one, than spend all your time managing the endless lists of abilities and spells. Maybe this is better with 5e, than in 2E, 3e or Pathfinder? It seems most of the “official” adventures still stop at about level 15.

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