by Daniel J Bishop
Within you will find what remains of the Skullheap Goblins, a few vermin known and surprising, a mysterious rhizomatic growth, and the blue and red goop PCs will surely interact with.
This adventure describes the first 28 rooms of 170 rooms on the first level of a megadungeon. Column long, or longer room descriptions, One and two paragraph read-alouds … There’s something here, but you gotta fight for your right to party. Maybe just try the next house over where you have to struggle much less?
I was super excited when this popped up on Jeremy’s OSRNEWS blog. A megadungeon that I missed! I got over my excitement fast. Like, “room 1” fast. Jeremy pointed out that megadungeon plans frequently fizzle, and I would agree with him as to a reason when looking at this … the text is LONG. That’s gotta be burden.
There’s a great map here, hand drawn, with 186 or so encounters on that TINY squared graph paper. It looks like there might be another level under this one. This adventure describes the first 28 rooms on that map. The map alone is worth the $2 PWYW. (Hey, pay the suggested price you cheap asses! Who the fuck pays nothing? View the suggestion as the floor, not the ceiling! Why are you making these designers lives harder?)
There’s an adventure here. The first 28 rooms have an old goblin tribe, now massacred, so the rooms are full of bodies and blood and spooky things. It keeps up the tradition of the first-ish part of a megadungeon having this vibe of ruination and desolation. [Speaking of Desolation: Hobbit cartoon Smaug – the platonic dragon?] I like the encounters, at their core. The room ideas are good ones. Hints of what took place for the players to piece together … players LUV that shit. Strong vermin infestations with a skeleton thrown in. There’s even a hint in one place to other encounters and areas of the dungeon. Clues and foreshadowing are good, they build anticipation and mystery.
But, man, the thing is so completely overwritten that it’s no wonder the project fizzled out. The read-aloud is at least a long paragraph per room, and sometimes more than one(!) The DM notes fill out a column of text, or more. The usual suspects are at play. Room dimensions. Text telling you how you feel. History lessons in rooms things of no import to the NOW. Stuff that should be follow-up embedded in the read-aloud. In the throne room we’re told, in the read aloud, that the skeleton of the goblin chief “He was as big as a human.” That is absolutely a detail for the DM notes, not the read-aloud. This is a game of interactivity between the players and DM. When they go over and look at the skeleton on the throne THEN you tell them he was as big as a human. You reward curiosity and interactivity. This writing comes off as flowery.
There’s good and bad detail. Take, for example, this description of a treasure: “Within this hidden niche is a silver necklace upon which green beryl gems are strung, the whole worth 1,500 gp, and known as the Necklace of Gahwynna, for it was made by the dwarves of the Grey Hills for the bride of the Lost Lord of the Hopmarch some 250 years ago.” Take a moment and ask yourself why the above detail is good. Really consider the issue. No, really, do it. I’ll wait for you.
The treasure is 1500gp, a not insubstantial sum. Some PC is gonna wear that necklace, or sell it. Thus the treasure is, essentially, serving the same purpose as a treasure map. It’s a hook to more adventure. It can cause a complication in another game. Someone notices, knows the history, turns in the party, or it gets them in good with a noble, or the dwarves. The necklace detail serves to expand play and interactivity. That stands in contrast to useless detail about the past which serves no purpose other than paint a rich picture of history. Perfect. That goes in the writer’s guide to your campaign, but not in the adventure.
This is Pay What You Want, with a suggested price of $2, at DriveThru. The full size preview is 404’ing out, but the flash preview gives you a good idea of the map. Like I said, the $2 is worth it just for that.