Vault of the Blood Mage

By Robert Waluchow
Crypt Thing Press
5e
Level 8

Waking up confused and disoriented in a dungeon cell surrounded by strangers, you are beleaguered by monstrous enemies and vicious traps. Who among you has the strength and guile to escape the Vault of the Blood Mage?

This 56 page dungeon has four levels with about 35 rooms. It’s a funhouse dungeon, in which you collect “petrified demon eyes” in order to escape. Meh. I think it’s random and not overly well organized. Also, this type of shit is totally NOT my thing, so, keep that in mind. 

Our first words in the adventure are: Although having long ago shed any trace of humanity, the Blood Mage was once a mortal wizard named Sanguis. Not a very promising start. Eventually we learn he turned evil and got a demon army and invaded the world. And he won! That’s a fun bit! I wish Shadow, or whatever the fuck that setting was called, made more sense in sense of the everyday world. Anyway. He now travels the multiverse invading people. And, now, in this adventure … Ready?! Ready?! “Seeking a worthy apprentice from the ranks of mortal-kind, the Blood Mage has constructed an insidious vault filled with heinous tricks, traps, and horrors to test the mettle and guile of a hand-picked group of mortal champions.” Jesus H Fucking Christ. One of those things. I guess if you label it a tournament module its a little better. But, still. UG!

“They find themselves locked in a dungeon room with no memory of how they got there. Inflicted with a magical disease that is slowly turning them into mindless zombies, the dungeoneers have to work quickly to find the antidote and escape the vault before succumbing to the deadly affliction.” Ok, so, the standard set up. Locked in. No memory. I guess you’ve got all your shit though. So, anyway, you make a con check every hour of real-time, or during a short rest, of 8 in a row if taking a long rest, or you progress on the zombie table. Miss four and you’re dead. So, pregens, one-shot I guess? 

The start is wonderful. You wake up in a chamber and a mist forms and tells you you hes the blood mage and you have to escape his deathtrap dungeon. *sigh* Ok, ok, ok, it comes with the territory. You review something like this then you have too live with the tropes, I guess. I just wish there was a little more effort and things were a tad less perfunctory. 

Each room starts with as little section in italics. Read-aloud, if you will. Except it’s not. “The dungeoneeers wake up in a modest stone chamber stained with blood” Hmmm, so, not read-aloud. “The chamber contains an impressive vault door guarding the dungeoneers’ only means of escape” So, absolutely not read-aloud. A room summary, I guess? It’s pretty meaningless. From there it has some bullets with major features and then a bunch of words (at least a page per room) describing whatever is going on. I guess it’s ok. I would prefer a summary of the room contents, for the players, especially ina one-shot tourney adventure, but, whatever.

Each room, or, most of them anyway, is a little puzzle thing. Some come right out of Grimtooth. One room has a bunch of colored statues in it and and you have to replace a missing gemstone. Did you use a gemstone the colour of the statue? WRONG! It looks random to me. A green stone goes in the red one. A blue in the orange one. It just seems like trial and error. Random. And a lot of this seems like that. There’s a certain open-ended nature of a lot of the rooms. One has a wall of force holding back a bunch of acid, with a petrified demon eye floating on top … and a tall well structure you can climb down to get in to the acid. Fuck around and find out how to get the eye; there is no solution presented. That’s chill with me, as along as the rooms are not prescriptive in disallowing things … and they are not. So, random challenges, but, also, open ended ones? It could be worse. They do, in places, hit funhouse in nature, with things like a demonic slot machine. 

So, do you want to play a deathtrap dungeon? Do you want rooms with random trial and error elements that remove player agency by their very nature? Do you want rather bland room descriptions? (Which, I guess, I shouldn’t complain about. It’s a tourney adventure, which is not something one enjoys but rather suffers through?) So, if you want that stuff then here you go. The formatting could be better, a lot better, but it’s not impossible.

I don’t know why people request things like this? You really wanted to see a review of it?

This is $12 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages. You get to see the first room, which shows you the format but not the puzzle/encounter style.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/399852/Vault-of-the-Blood-Mage?1892600

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17 Responses to Vault of the Blood Mage

  1. 3llense'g says:

    “It looks random to me. A green stone goes in the red one. A blue in the orange one.” These are opposing colors in the red-yellow-blue color theory.

    Also, 8th level characters in D&D 5 have a dizzying array of spells that I assume can solve most of this shit.

    • Artem of Spades says:

      Prestigidation, a cantrip, can change the colour of an object for 1 hour. So, in theory, you could use it for trial-and-error (changing the colour of the stone until it fits), and Bob’s your uncle.

      Heck, I would even applaud such thinking from players.

      Pity that the author didn’t even consider it, because video game logic.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What makes this vs Puzzle Dungeon you bested so diff?

    Curious for my own writing

  3. Gnarley Bones says:

    By naming him Sanguis, the Blood Mage’s parents pretty much removed all other career choices.

    • Sanguis’ Mom says:

      Vampire. I’m still concerned about him for it.

      “Oh Sangy, you know your father wanted to name you Rutherford, but I said … No! Our child will have a chance at sexy immortality. We supported you in the bloody mage business when you started out, but we figured you’d grow out of it like your brother ‘Lord’ Mark. Sure you’ve done something with it, but had you just put your talent towards vampirism I know you would have succeeded, and you’d still have your looks. How am I getting a grandchild now Sangy? You eyes weep blood over your ruined visage. So scary, so tough, but what girl wants to marry that?”

      That’s what I said last time we talked and then yelled at me and said he was building a dungeon and that would get me grand kids. Who wants dragons and manticores? Those are pets, not children.

  4. Alexander Moonbeam says:

    I haven’t read the book, but if I were to guess: the solution to the gems-and-statues puzzle may be to match each gem to a statue of its complementary color. Green is red’s complement, and orange is blue’s complement.

  5. Stripe says:

    5e? Don’t care.

  6. Anonymous says:

    >A green stone goes in the red one. A blue in the orange one.
    They’re opposing colors and also ones without anything in common

  7. Anonymous says:

    Bryce getting “well akshually”ed hard on that stupid color puzzle

  8. Anonymous says:

    Where do these even get suggested? I looked in the “bryce’s 700+ long comment section of hell” over in the “Todo list of reviews” and didn’t see anything from it, yet The Wondrous Hoard was posted there and that was a recent review.

  9. Otiluke’s Freezing Sarcasm says:

    In addition to being a lame ‘test your mettle’ dungeon, this is straight up plagiarism. The “you awaken in a room, no idea how you got there, with a timed poison in your system, solve the traps to escape” is a direct rip-off of the movie “Saw 2.”
    Several of the traps (acid bath one, for instance) are also directly lifted from the Saw franchise.
    The author apparently couldn’t even find decent material to steal.

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