The Bloody Engines of the Dinosaur-Men, D&D adventure review

By Brian C. Rideout
Deathtrap Games
Labyrinth Lord
Levels 3-5

What makes the screams echoing down from Eira Peak? After the recent avalanche that forced the people of Eirata to file their homes, many went missing. If they were killed by the falling ice, where are the bodies? Who are the veiled merchants selling exotic meats and fruit on the northern roads? And what are the strange many-horned “dragons” devouring trees and melons at terrific rates in the Salka Marsh?

This 28 page single column adventure features a thirteen room dungeon with dinosaur men and some steampunk technology. It’s heart is in the right place, but it’s emphasis on mechanics and excessive read-aloud, along with some production issues, makes “not as bad as most” a compliment only on the tenfootpole.

Not much lead in here. There’s a short history lesson and then a rumor table, with each entry on the table being expanded upon by a paragraph or so. One rumor has a body washed up from the river, taken to a local sage. There’s about a paragraph for the sage explaining what he knows. Likewise for the other rumors; about a paragraph each to handle it, as the DM, which is a fine way to transition from “hook thing” to “and here’s the dungeon!”

The dungeon is a steampunk slaughterhouse run by the dino-men, for turning people and herd dinos in to meat. They are armed with muskets and tentacle grenades and a mortar, and the steampunk devices serve as the main puzzles in the adventure. Turning vales to increase or decrease the pressure from boilers, lava tubes, the front door, and so on. These things are generally handled with a “make an int check” roll. This is NOT my favorite way to handle puzzles. I think it emphasizes the character sheet instead of the players and their interactions with the DM. The adventure would be strong with far fewer of them and more or a “figure out the puzzle” thing. As is, it’s essentially just an abstracted roll. If you want to lower the pressure then make a roll, and so on. 

The map, though, is isometric, with some catwalks and garbage chutes. The varied elevation is always a good sign in an adventure, and there is even a note or two about high heat on the map. Nothing about light or noise, which would have also been helpful, but at least there’s high heat. There’s a back door in to the dungeon, but no notes about it at all, so … who knows.

There are other weird little things missing from the adventure. Room one should have a Location A and B noted, according to the text, but it’s not present on the map. There’s also Some read-aloud in places that doesn’t match the style of the other read-aloud. One NPC gets extensive notes about what they want/don’t want (which is great!) but all of the other prisoners are just “prisoner”, without names, races, wants, or anything else. (Ok, there’s one other one, an old woman, without the explicit wants/dont wants), but it’s weird to see the various ways this was implemented. One fleshed out. An old woman whos not. And then just “prisoners.” for the rest. There are also notes in the adventure about a “flood” in the complex, or creating one, anyway, but it’s never really clear how this happens. Multiple rooms makes reference to it, but I guess, maybe, it has to do with an exploding boiler in one room? As a central element of the adventure, the flooding is not really handled well, or comprehensibly, at all.

Read aloud is longish, in italics, and contains too much detail, telling the players things they should not know unless they examine the room in depth. The DM text is longish as well, with more of a focus on mechanics, clogging up the text and making it longer than it needs to be … and thus harder to run, not easier. Treasure is abstracted in places in to “4 rarified fossils” and the like. Better to be explicit in the treasure, noting what they are of, or how big they are, or they are azure, or something, to give them meaning other than an abstracted “2ooogp.”

But, the multi-level environment is interesting. There’s potential in the puzzle-like steampunk environment. The prisoners could have added additional depth, as could the timer of the flooding/exploding boiler. It’s going in the right direction and, I think, at least a better exploratory/assault environment than most adventures like this. 

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1.50. The preview is six pages. You get to see the iso map, and room one. A better preview would have shown another room, I think, although you do get to see the minimalist hook investigation text. Not exactly great, but, again, going in the right direction.

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One Response to The Bloody Engines of the Dinosaur-Men, D&D adventure review

  1. Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

    Dinosaur Men, eh? Strong Chuck Tingle vibe there!

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