Naked Dragon’s Lair, D&D adventure review

By Mike Mylar
Legendary Games
Level 6

Rumors spread of a mysterious group at the top of Mukkiya Mountain paying high bounties for live halflings—not just gold coins but even items imbued with magic. Raiders far and wide have started abducting whole settlements of smallfolk yet the village of Stillwater is trying to stand up to these foul kidnappers, seeking out hardened protectors to defend them. Whatever side the adventurers take brings them to the mountain but ascending it is no simple matter and the party must bypass the baring horde, climb the Cliffs of Madness, cross the territory of a dreaded ayutam, or maneuver up the Spiked Slopes. When they reach their destination the PCs discover the truth behind the halfling bounty and face perhaps the mightiest creature they’ve ever seen!

This 26 page adventure uses about three pages to describe a five room dragon lair. It hints at some interesting design decisions, perhaps by accident, and at least doesn’t enforce morality on the party. Poor quality, but interesting to me for the points it brings up.

Halfling village leader spies on you and tests you to see if you are good people. If so, she has you brought to the village to protect it from raiders abducting them. If not then a raider contacts you offering you gold for bringing in halflings. Either way, you either track captured halflings ot bring your own captives up a deathtrap mountain (conveniently ignoring how OTHER raiders get up the mountain) to a cave where someone buys them. A poly’d dragon. Fight fight fight. 

Good things: The lack of enforced morality is nice. The adventure is clearly written for the party to be heroes, but it doesn’t ignore the alternative … and doesn’t just give a one sentence throw-away line about it either. Allowing for the party to be creative in their play, and supporting that, is a Good Thing(™.) The mountain has four paths up, each with a different challenge. A horde of beasts on one slope, a long mega monster on another, a treacherous climb on another, and a path full of super sharp rocks on another. This COULD have been iconic, and I like the concept of giving the party an actual choice in how to play things out instead of railroading them up only one path. There are, also, little bullet points at the end of each location section. These are one sentence things about the environment description for the DM to emphasize during that section. Easy to find, and easy to understand with strong themes. I sometimes note that these sort of “always on” things could be put on a map border, as an aid for the DM remembering them. In this case there is not map and so putting them at the bottom (or top, or whatever) and bulleting them serves the same purpose. 

The whole thing ALMOST (with some major major major fucking caveats) comes across as an adventure outline. An adventure outline at almost EXACTLY the right level for detail to let the DM fill in and expand upon things. It’s a little loose, the bullets add to that vibe. Kind of sandboxy in way. Well, not really, in practice here, but I can see how with some major effort it could get closer to that … and you’d have something terse and evocative to run.

Just to be clear: that’s not what this is. 

This is just, mostly, the usually 5e poor quality stuff. It’s listed in the OSR section but has nothing related to the OSR in it, so I’m unclear what the fuck is up with that. Just more marketing bullshit, I guess.

The descriptions of the “Scenes” are long and stuffed full of mechanics and “then this happens and then this happens and then this happens” with little to no thought given to organizing it for ease of play at the table. 

It includes one of my favorite things: the roll to continue. If you want to go on the adventure you better make a DC13 check to notice the X, or else you don’t get to continue on! Related to this is another thing this adventure does over and over again: hide interesting things behind DC checks. As an example, you have to make a trivial DC check to find a notice on a rock wall describing the payment for halflings. Why do this? Why hide something like that from the party? It amps up tension and realizes the threat, but, somehow, this isn’t worth noting to the party? Not every fucking thing in an adventure has to be behind a DC check. Use the checks to learn MORE about something. Don’t lose a good foreshadowing/tension builder because of a DC check. Those blog articles (Alexandrian?) on “how to actually use skills in 5e” should be in the next version of the PHB/DMG.

Oh, oh, did I mention that the halfling village raids happen every d4 raids … and three have to happen before the elder sends you to the mountain? Who the fuck is hanging around that long? And there’s NO content to help support a length of stay of even one day. 

Congrats. You killed the dragon. You get a piece of raw mana, 120gp, 400sp, and one uncommon magic item. Fuck. You. Talk about sucking the joy out of the game. 

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages long. It shows you the “test” as well as the halfling village and raiders attack. I’m not sure any amount of pages, other then the entire thing, could fully explain the format and how it works.

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7 Responses to Naked Dragon’s Lair, D&D adventure review

  1. The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

    Bryce said “This is just, mostly, the usually 5e poor quality stuff. It’s listed in the OSR section but has nothing related to the OSR in it, so I’m unclear what the fuck is up with that. Just more marketing bullshit, I guess.”

    If I’m a RPG writer who uploads my product to Drivethrurpg and I label is as “OSR” then it gets listed in the OSR section and dupes unsuspecting people into thinking it’s truly a OSR styled product. It’s bullshit. Some people seem to think that if it’s 5e it’s automatically compatible with OSR.

    • Drowsimp says:

      It lets you maybe be a baddy, there’s a “naked dragon” in it, some halflings are eaten.

      This is all “OSR” means these days, there’s not actual definition beyond a vague set of edge-lord aesthetics.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Can anybody link the referenced article about 5ed checks, please?

  3. Anonymous says:

    How do you make combat more than you hit and you miss? Even odnd takes a while and it get get bogged down

    Help me refs you are my only hope

    • Reason says:

      1) Provide some interesting terrain. Provide results if people use the terrain- advantage & disadvantage work well. e.g. the guards retreat partway up the stairs so you’ll have to fight your way up at them & your bowmen can’t flank… Open pits, pools of lava, bridges= push people off etc. Even just flipping over tables to provide cover & things. EVERY tavern or manor needs a chandelier (wagon wheel with candles).
      Try not to stymie the players if they try to use these. Say yes. If they don’t take the initiative, have intelligent foes use them & they’ll soon catch on.

      2) Allow scope for combats to have a goal BESIDES just killing everyone. Sometimes the goal should actually be “stop the ritual”, “get hold of the Eternity Gem”, “get off the ship” etc.

      3) Bad guys who talk during combat- make threats, comment on style, mock, negotiate, make demands, call a parley, shout out tactics. Pretty sure Dungeon Dozen has a list or two of these.

      4) Use morale as written or your own campaign appropriate version (I could see horror or low magic tweaks). There are 4 or 5 circumstances which provide for morale rolls to be made. If every fight is a hackfest you aren’t using a KEY rule for ODD types & older D&D games seem stupid hard. Remember retainers & hirelings also roll morale. Soon players will be worrying if they will hold or giving rousing speeches, moving tactically to support them (if you apply a bit of “player actions affect loyalty”).

      5) Have a stunt mechanic. This ties into #1 & #2. Encourage players to throw the table at the 3 guardsmen; aim for the rope holding up the curtains etc. I prefer;
      To pull off a stunt tell the Judge what you want your ideal outcome to be. You have 30 seconds to workshop it together. Then roll 2d20 to hit. If both hit, the thing happens! If only one hits, it succeeds partially or with a complication or save allowed. If both miss, typically some kind of ironic reversal will result.
      At times, the stunt may ignore armour, or be a skill roll of some sort instead. This gets figured out in the 30 second convo.

      Another version is to allow in increase in crit range chosen by the player (or up to Bonus to Hit increase) but this comes with a corresponding fumble range increase. Crit= stunt succeeds. Normal hit is a partial success. Fumbles are ironic reversal.

      6) DO NOT allow attacks of opportunity/back attacks at people who flee combat. It is a) unrealistic (Lindy Beige does a good youtube on it) & b) forces a situation in which it is suicidial to attempt to break off combat. This forces both sides to stand their & slog it to death when it might be smarter to cut your losses & run.
      I roll with if you win initiative & flee= you can break from melee scott free. If you lose & flee, they get a normal attack or the chance to be in hot pursuit.
      Foes might just stand & jeer, pursue if a reason or switch to missiles if able & ruthless. But you need to make fleeing viable. Otherwise the option is gone. ore options = player choice= good. More viable options= less boring slog, more variation.

      These should provide enough scope that there are enough different things happening in enough combats that the odd epic slugfest is a feature & not a bore.

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