(5e) The Dungeon Terrier

Frank Voelker
Protodragon Games
"Early Levels"

Tactically delve into moist halls and sample locally-sourced flora in search of Sir Howard, a gentleman terrier marooned in the depths of a lost smuggler’s den, now colonized by a mysical diviner and other less savory creatures.

This ten page adventure details a 13 room small lair dungeon. It’s experimenting with a nested bullet style of formatting that has some potential, although could use more polishing. It’s a slow dungeon, with only a few encounters.

Well, it’s got the stink of Pugmire on it, the game of talking dogs/PC’s. PUgmire entrenches too much magic for me, but, whatever. This also has a charming aspect to it, at its core. The encounters, even those not to my liking, feel like someone put some effort in to them and that they form a cohesive core. Even down to the DM table called “Who’s a good Boy” that only has one entry” Sir Howard, the missing dog in question. There’s both a clarity and a charm to the writing, overall.

The creatures all have names and some kind of personality, even the giant spider that jumps out to eat you. And in “personality” I mean just a couple of words, usually, to describe a motivation or tactic or some such that lifts them up from just being another boring monster entry. This is combined with some attempts at creating an unusual environment. A boney arm sticks up from under a moss patch, or some glowing blue fungus, or a mushroom patch, for example, with table to describe them.

The format here is a kind of nested bullet point style. Each bullet has a couple of words to describe it, and then some nested bullets below it to describe it, each of which may a few words of their own and so on.

Campsite: Grimy, wet, ashes,
          Campfire: burnt out, small, still warm
          Rotted crates: deteriorated, half-gone, contains the following:       
                 Blackened dagger: oak handle and wide blade. Homemade
                 Hooded lantern +oil.

It’s an interesting format and it feels like I’ve seen similar formats before. It’s going for easy scanning, with bloding, and keywords to paint an evocative picture. Important things first, general vibes first, then expanding that.

I’m not sure if this adventure is a good one to judge that format by. It feels like the full potential of the format hasn’t been reached. The descriptions could use some work to make them really pop. The real problem, though, is the adventure feels unfulfilling, and I think that colours the formatting a bit.

There’s a lot of trivia. The thing is full of skill checks that don’t necessarily lead anywhere. Roll PER to smell like earth. Roll higher and smell dog urine. Ok. So? Roll Survive to figure out a giant boar laired here a year ago. Ok. So? Quote a bit of effort is spent on rooms and descriptions that don’t really offer much true interactivity. It feels like a “huh, ok, that’s weird. Let’s move on.” sort of encounters. Greenwood has done this a lot. You need something more than “here’s a something weird.” I get a slow burn and all that, and some weird shit is fine. But the emphasis must be on meaningful interactivity, or the potential thereof.

On the petty Bryce side of things: the rapids mentioned are not on the map. Can you modify the map when you license it from Dyson? Idk. Also, there’s no level mentioned in the product description on DriveThru, you gotta blow up the cover. There’s also a mention about giving the caves some lead-in to create an “entering the dungeon” vibe. Give the length, ten pages, it seems that a paragraph or a couple of sentences could have been devoted to that actual description, rather than going meta and saying “i put some caves in front of it to give it an entering the dungeon vibe.”

Finally, the room with the dog in, Sir Howard, and intelligent and kindly beast, seems to be full of his treasure? It’s weird to see a very friendly NPC with a half page description of his loot. Or maybe it’s not meant to be his loot and it’s the Bad Kids (yeah, a 13yo is the villein) stuff? Which is also weird that the dog hasn’t investigated it? I don’t get it?

Something else strikes me about this. It feels like the players may get too comfortable. There’s an implied “dark unknown lurks in front of you” from the map, but that doesn’t really come through very well with the descriptions. That could have been heightened either through the descriptions or through the mechanics (wanderers, etc can do this) to put some pressure, time, danger, etc, on the party.

This is better than most 5e adventures, but still misses.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru. The preview shows you all ten pages. Yeah Frank! We all know no one is going to make any money on this shit, so by giving people a good preview you ensure happy consumers BEFORE they buy.


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7 Responses to (5e) The Dungeon Terrier

  1. Bigby’s Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

    Small but not-so-vicious dog?

  2. Chill_ice says:

    I like the recent reviewing trend of dog-themed adventures. My favorite dog themed adventure is Doom of the Savage Kings.

  3. Gnarley Bones says:

    Our hobby seems to be in a weird place right now.

  4. dragonsdoom says:

    Wow, thank you for taking the time to give this precise review and wonderful criticisms! I still have a lot to learn, but I’m thrilled with the feedback.

    I actually had no idea Pugmire even existed, what a curious product! I personally associate talking animals with fairy tales and myth. I have several players in the home game that *must* talk to every animal.

  5. Reason says:

    Sounds like a decent angle for a campaign- this time all the animals talk. They can then slowly figure out that birds always tell one lie, that the rats in one place always seem to know what the rats in other places know & that the pigs are hiding something.

  6. Knutz Deep says:

    How about all the world’s animals are intelligent and can talk but the humanoids are the “animals” with animal intelligence. You can have dog fighters and cat thieves, and owl magic users, etc, etc

    • Dragonsdoom says:

      Pooh Bear, 1st level Barbarian
      Equipment includes Honeyed Mead, honeypot hammer, and a distinct lack of pants, ala Donald Duck.

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