Geoffrey McKinney Self-published B/X Levels 1-10
I took my DeLorean time machine back to 1983. I saw there four middle-school boys playing Dungeons & Dragons, and Mike was the name of the DM. I managed to steal Mike’s dungeons and bring them back to 2020. I stole them fair and square, and now you can buy them. Mike did all the work, so we can be lazy.
This 158 page adventure describes a 72 level dungeon. It lies somewhere between “minimally keyed” and “just a bit more than minimally keyed.” And I do mean Just A Bit More. Is minimal keying good enough these days?
So …. Good effort. 72 dungeon levels. Hand drawn maps of about a dozen rooms per level. The rooms are all described on one page, in clean easy to read font with margins. The dungeon map is on the other page, making it a “lay open” book affair. I, also, use 3-rings at home, but rings instead of a folder. It’s a good format for actualling running things. You can flip around easily, fold it back to back, lay it open on facing pages, and find the front and back easily for additional quick-access reference material.
Geoffrey doesn’t do any of that. It’s just a map and a one-page key, per level, with a singal page of DM background information on page one describing how undead turn as two levels harder and how all Chaotics in the temple levels of the dungeon get a 1 point armor class bonus when attacked by Lawfulls.
The writing style is one that Geoffrey has used before, such as in Isle of the Unknown. It’s minimally keyed, and, while he doesn’t say it, it looks like he’s using the charts from B/X to roll the encounters on, about one per room. Thus the first level has about fourteen rooms and twelve of them have a creature to slay in it. The thirteenth is the entrance cave mouth and the fourteenth a room with a trick. Stuffed full of creatures!
And minimally keyed. Which I seem to think is important since I seem to be beating that point to death in this review, name dropping it all over the place. The encounters on level one include:
2 chaotic warriors in plate mail with shields and swords.
Giant orange centipedes crawl in and out of a worthless red glass urn, and they will not attack unless disturbed.
1 giant yellow scorpion cannot move unless the 319 gp scattered on the floor near the scorpion is touched.
2 gray oozes are in this cold, damp, and humid chamber
An 11-headed hydra lairs here. Each of its 22 eyes is an amethyst worth 100 gp
I’m not summarizing; this is all the text there is for those various rooms. I don’t think I’m cherry picking either, this is fairly representative for the vast vast majority of rooms. It’s very similar to Isle of the Unknown. In both cases it looks like a random generator was used to crete a keying and then an adjective was added, usually a color adjective. Yellow scorpion. Orange centipede.
Which is not to say that the entries are all bad. Crawling in and out of a glass urn is not bad, as ia hydra with amethyst eyes. In both cases it engages the risk/reward mechanism of the party, tempting them to recover loot, present with the hydra and not with the urns.
And to be fair there are sometimes longer entries. But they are not common. Here’s one in which the creatures will talk to you:
The 9 wereboars here are preyed upon by the cyclops (room B). They will seek an alliance against their hated enemy: “Help us kill him, and you can keep all his gold.”
Your experiences here are going to be related to your tolerance of minimally keying. I don’t have any tolerance for it. There are mountains and mountains of random creature generators online these days to roll up your own dungeon. The level theming is pretty non-existent, except for a an Evil Temple theme which runs through some of the levels. (Portions of a dozen or sixteen levels?) It’s just a novelty, like the Habitation of the Stone Giant Lord art project from a few years back. I’m glad he wrote this, it’s fun to see, but that’s all.
This is $4 at DriveThru. The entire thing is available for preview, all 158 pages. Kudos for McKinney for doing this. Every product should be like this, or, close enough to it that you can get a real sense of what you are buying before you pay for it.