By Directsun Self Published BX/Lab Lord, etc Levels 1-4
Tis 22 page digest adventure details a ten room dungeon with an eyeball theme. Interactivity is very high, rivaling the best of adventure in that area. This is combined with good ease of use, leading to evocative environment. A few minor points mar it (as always), but, overall, a dungeon that is pretty decent.
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I know, I usually harp on ease of use. I’m going to mostly hand wave it here. It does a good job. The summary of the room appears at the top of the page, with a gree-chartreuse background to offset it. Certain words, the major room features, are bolded in that summary, with a little more detail in “normal font” after the keyword. The Room description then contains large section heading, bolded, for various things in the room, and, again uses bolding to help call out things like monsters and other important features. A little pic of the room is also present. Monsters then get their own little offset, with a yellow-chartreuse background. I know this because I was trying to buy green and yellow chartreuse liquor two days ago. While the giant liquor store is the best stocked one I’ve ever seen, their aperitif section is quite sad.) Rooms start on new pagesIt’s a good format, I think the less is more approach leads to a minimum level of evocative descriptions. If you were looking for a format to copy then you could do A LOT worse than this one. It may fall down in longer dungeons, but it’s fine for a little digest thing.
Interactivity here is great, as one might expect from a dungeon with the preamble title of “Puzzle Dungeon.” Or, maybe not. Maybe you expected it to be shitty. I did. Far too often “Puzzle Dungeons” and interactivity is simple something like a riddle or some other forced concept that is divorced, mostly, from the theming of the adventure. “This dungeon built by the cult as a test to challenge …” Yeah. No. Fuck You. This dungeon doesn’t do that. It’s less puzzle, in that definition and more “the dude who built this house was really in to eyeballs.” The dude, in case, being the eyeball religious cult that used to live here.
So, you end up with a lot of vision related stuff, but not exclusively that. One room has a secret door that you can’t use while you look at it. It leads to a dead end room with the return door having the same issue. Also the room has some floating eyeballs in it, so, someone is always going to be looking at the secret door, unless you do something about those eyeballs.The ones that don’t attack unless you attack them. Or try to remove room treasure. But, they can be fooled if they think you are cult members. Hilarity is likely to ensue. No, not a traditional puzzle, but a puzzle-like thing. Another room has a demon that only comes to life when you look at it and returns to stone when you are not. Another has a deep pool of water in a pit dividing the room. A lever can drain the water. Pulling the level back refills the fit. And lets a Gel Cube in. Also, the water level is about a foot higher now, with it spilling over the top of the pit. Wonder if anyone will notice, or they’ll just get cubed? It’s these sorts of things that lead to the dungeons interactivity. Great, great interactivity, that, while a little odd, isn’t TOO forced and out of place.
But all is not perfect in the land of the one-eyed man.
Treasure is abstracted. One room has “Treasure Pile: Coins, gems, golden monkeys” Yeah. Abstracted. And, that’s about the only room with treasure. This is quite light for an OSR game. Yeah, you can put some in. Put I like to feel like I’d getting the whole package when I buy something. I might have run with that golden monkey thing and also put in an ebony falcon, and whatever other tropes I could come up with. There is one GREAT magic item, a stick with an eyeball on top that you can use as a periscope. Score! (This may have come from Goblin Punch; there’s a footnote to find more minor magic items there. idk.) Not droning on about mechanics, etc. Just that simple line. Perfect!
The format is also a bit wonky at times. Some rooms note “slippery floor” or “operating table” or “surgical tools” in their overview descriptions. No! Wrong! It’s more like “Floor with sheen” that the unbolded text tells us is slick with slime, instead of the other way around the way the text is actually formatted here. The same with the surgical tools and operating table. The table should have glinting objects on it, or the table with blood has glinting objects on it. The follow up text then can tell us they are surgical tools/an OR table. Otherwise, you’re giving too much information away up front, destroy the back and forth of DM/player interactivity that is the key to a good game.
There’s other things. There’s no actual entrance to the dungeon. The pretext/outside is essentially non-existent. There’s a couple of details missing here or there, like a fountain that makes you sick if you drink from it. Like … what kind of sick? The Planer ravel puzzle in this is also a bit confusing. You get the gist easily enough but not the specifics.
But, the interactivity, again, is where I rest my hat for faults. It’s a little tight. Gann was this large dungeon complex that contained the same sorts of interactive rooms. Ans also just rooms with monsters. And empty rooms. The whole deal, leading to a whole experience. This, though, being so small, feels like it is lacking just that sort of random baddie thing that a complete dungeon environment needs. I get it “I wanted to make a puzzle dungeon.” Sure. But that’s a gimmick as much as a one page dungeon is a gimmick.
Still, it’s great to see a dungeon with real interactivity in it,e ven if it is a little cramped in there. It’s a good place to go if you want to send the party on a planer hop or long teleport. It’s also a little rough for level 1’s; they would have to rely on their wits. There’s a lot of 3HD monsters in there. I might say it’s level 3 or so.
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $6. It’s worth that. The preview is all 22 pages. A look at room 1, on preview page 8, will give yo ua great idea of what to expect. Let’s hope we see more, more complete offerings from this designer in the future.