I made it. I fucking made it! I’m not proud of the lack of analysis some of these adventures got, but, fuck man, THEY SUCK.
By Jason Bulmahn
WoW! A non-shitty adventure in the final issue! A three level dungeon with seventy rooms, maps that are not terrible, terse read-aloud AND Dm notes AND introduction. The encounters are good: search a chimney and be in danger of rubble falling. A hat box with poisoned string tying it shut. Gold dinner plates covered with yellow mold. There’s an interactivity here that most adventures miss. Attacking a zombie in room C can draw zombies from room D. This thing is constructed, and constructed well. The read-aloud is not evocative, AT ALL. “The chamber contains a large amount of trash, but nothing else.” is not the height of prose. Or “The room is filled with boxes and crates of many shapes and sizes.” But, at least the read-aloud is only one sentence. I could quibble with some encounter choices, like the carrion crawler in encounter 1 that attacks if you come within 20 feet of its lair. This feels forced to me and I prefer a “curiosity killed the cat” thing where it attacks if you disturb its lair. But this is petty of me, and there’s certainly rooms for both types of encounters in the world of D&D. This adventure is worth having. I love the introduction to this adventure, short, to the point, and with advice like “the town is full of wild rumors about Bargle.” Maybe a line or two about personalities of the notables, but otherwise this intro does a great job hitting the notable facts, orienting the DM, and keeping things short.
Well fuck. I think I’ve been trolled. I did some research, based on the designer’s notes, and … I’m not sure Jason wrote this? I’m a B/X Moldvay fan, so the history of BECMI is beyond me, but after digging in some I understand this adventure may be based on one in the DM’s book for the basic set? I guess this is somehow the basis of the internet’s obsession with Bargle … which I know nothing about?
Quoth the Raven
By Nicolas Logue
Oh it’s fucking Eberron, for fucks sake. You know, I didn’t feel like this when Planescape or Dark Sun or Masque shit popped up; I wonder what it is about Eberron? Anyway, this is just a confusing mess AND linear … quite an accomplishment. Chick is marked for murder by a psycho, and several linear encounters follow as you protect her and track him down. There’s a house at the end with a bit of a creepy vibe going on, but it feels forced.
Prince of Demons
By Greg A. Vaughn
The final adventure in the Savage Tide adventure path. It’s just a bunch of overwrought set piece garbage trying to build exciting shit but burying it in TONS of text. There’s some decent roleplay opportunities at the start with the allied demon lord armies, but, again, its buried in confusing text. Jessu Christo, learn to use bullet points!
Kill Bargle is an expanded version of the sample dungeon in the BECMI red box, where Bargle is introduced. He’s a major bad guy NPC in Mystara.
The red box adventure had it’s moments, mostly the harpy room, but instilled a lot of bad ideas in the minds if young DMs/designers. Bryce has noted some of these, like the various boxes room. The zombie(s) in the original version were completely devoid of context and flavour. “You enter a room and see a zombie. It attacks” type stuff. Level 2 was just a map with no key for the DM to fill out and level 3 didn’t even have a map, it was left as an exercise for the DM with a few ideas about what it might contain.
Carrion crawler with 8 paralysing attacks per round vs undersized party of first level noobs was always good for a few laughs though. A lot of people I tried to get into the game rage quit after that and never came back.
I’d forgotten most of the details from the original adventure – the first RPG adventure I’d ever seen, let alone played – but nobody can forget that carrion crawler. What the hell were they thinking?
Well, you could run- or try to hold that bastard off with a 10′ pole while others attacked it in other ways…
TPK’d us the first time & we avoided it the next, 3rd time (we used to play the hell out of anything back then) we got smarter.
We tried to kill Bargle with numerous parties but never quite got there. The best defense he has is all the treasure you have to haul out before you get to him.
Congratulations on reaching the final print issue.
Reviews of all printed Dungeon Magazines! It is quite an accomplishment. Thank you for it. I think these reviews are really useful. So many adventures… it is difficult to find good ones.
Congratulations, Bryce! I hope your perseverance has been rewarded with some snippet of profound wisdom (even if it is “Don’t pay money for Dungeon Magazine”). At the very least, it is over.
So of someone held a gun to your head and asked for list of Dungeon mags worth having(ssay at 50 cents a piece as they sell for at Half Price Books) what would they be? I mean just the #s where at least on module is usable.
I’m going to do 7 more Dungeon posts; one summarizing each 25 issues and then one more summarizing the entire series. The first six are, in essence, my working notes for the seventh.
Bryce, thank you for this blog. It really is an impressive feat of dedication and discipline. You have my admiration, and my sympathy, for completing the Dungeon run.
Great work. An invaluable resource if I ever want to use stuff from an old Dungeon magazine. (I’m more inclined to use new OSR stuff, but you’ve got that covered, too.) Thank you.
Thank god that’s over. Reviewing the full run of Dungeon must have felt like eating the biggest shit sandwich of all time. My big takeaway is just how little decent stuff there was.
Hopefully you now have more time to focus on the new stuff that’s being produced.
Having digested Dungeon in full now, Bryce, have you distilled any thoughts on the optimal size of an adventure?
My sense is that very short adventures (one page dungeons, Side Treks in Dungeon, etc.) are generally not terribly worthwhile expect as inspiration (which is hit or miss), but in longer adventures—even when I don’t like them or plan to use them—I can salvage parts for use later.
I’d like to add my well done too, this is a useful resource. So, what next for Bryce? Adventures in White Dwarf? Imagine magazine? Or painting the Forth Bridge?
3E adventures seemed to suck the joy out of the most imaginative situations. How could an epic battle between iconic demons boil down to something so dull? (Red Hand of Doom was a happy counterexample.)
I just found my notes on the second level of the sample dungeon from the red box. I think I might put it out there to see how people think it stacks up to “Kill Bargle”
“47. a mosaic of people being tortured. Garbage.”
Good use of art criticism in your notes there Herman.
I am gonna take this as sincere praise, thanks.
I have read every one of your Dungeon reviews. Many of them several times. Thanks so much for doing it!
I actually started out with the Red Box, which made this final Dungeon review of yours an even more nostalgic trip for me. The weirdest thing, and maybe a testament to that adventure’s effectiveness, is that I recognized it immediately, without having seen it in 15 years, nor remembering Bargle’s name.
Anyway, thanks for the memories, Bryce. I’m looking forward to at least 150 more shitty adventures.