Palace of 1001 Rooms: The Gatehouse

By Michael Grayson S
Mapmaster Battlemaps
2e
Level 1

And in the middle of this vast sky, there sits an impressive palace of scattered towers and keeps. They hang suspended amidst the clouds from which they rise, as though the pillowy vapors support them, sometimes separated from each other by a mile or more of distance. The architecture is varied, as if erected by different builders of different times, some of them perhaps even alien to the observer. To the east might sit some great ziggurat and to the west something more akin to a tudor castle. Pyramids, obelisks, towers and even mammoth copper domes all stand perplexingly arrayed at dizzying heights. In the darker depths an observer might catch a glimpse of some, strange non-euclidean structure for a moment before the mists swallowed it.

This 113 page dungeon  is the first 100 rooms of a 1001 room dungeon. It’s essentially Dragons Lair, the adventure,maybe mashed up with Myst,  with the party teleporting from one rando room to another and having a little isolated adventure piece. The encounters are interesting enough. Although the evocative nature of the rooms comes not from the text but from the rendered 3d pictures of each. 

Woah, boy, where to start with this one? This is the first booklet in a series, each of the booklets describing the next 100 rooms in the Palace of 1001 Rooms. That’s a kind of mythical place. As the intro says: one of the first doors in Sigil leads to it. A place beyond the edge of the world. I saw one of the later. Looks like the latest kickstarter was for chapter 7, so, rooms 700-800 … and thus dude has delivered 800 rooms so far of his 1001. That’s a feat in and of itself! Each section looks themed, and this one, the first one, is the Gatehouse. The “end” room of each section leads to the next section,  with the claim that the challenge level increases in each booklet. This, a kind of campaign.

Now, you got to hang in there with me … there is no map. Some of the room have descriptions that say that a certain tradoor or some such leads to room 6 or something like that. But that’s not why there isn’t a map. Instead, every time you use a door it leads somewhere new. You see, each room number corresponds to a page number. So, when the party goes through a door you roll and see which room they end up in. A significant number of pages is spent describing how this works and nerfing any magic spells, etc, that could let the party dig through a wall, Wizard Eye and so on, as is traditional in one of these teleport door adventures. I don’t really get why the fuck the designer did this? And I don’t buy the “magical nature of the mythic location!” nonsense. Just put in a fucking map man. This is what contributes, among other things, to the Dragon’s Lair vibe it’s got going on. 

But, that’s not the major deviation from the norm with this. There is, as mentioned, one room to a page. And each room has a rendered art piece for the room, , taking up about half the page, showing it and the major features. This is where the Myst reference comes in, among other place. You get this kind of view in to the room, as the DM. The little art piece has some numbers on it and the room text has notes related to those numbers. The chamber pot and cutlery, tapestry, an unseen servant washing dishes, and hand towel. This is the feature that attracted me to review this, for you all know how I am drawn to folk trying to experiment. I really like the little art pieces as a way to visualize the room. And the little numbers, referring back to the text are interesting. Oh, yeah, and I don’t think it works well.

The renders are all samey in their art style, as one would expect, but, I think the vibe of the rooms are different. There really is something to the Less Is More style of describing rooms. Little brief and evocative vignettes let your mind fill things in, but leaves the edges fuzzy. There’s something immensely appealing about the renders, and, yet, I don’t think they work as well as just an evocative room description would.it’s too concrete. And, because it’s visual, there’s no “room”, inside your brain, to fill things in, with the result being it looks a little dull … at least as compared to THE POWER OF THE IMAGINATION! [Insert rainbow emoji)

Read aloud is a little TOO terse. “You emerge from the portal into the bottom landing of a

 cool spiral staircase.” Uh, sure. “The room smells of machine oil. A series of vaulted arches run against one wall.” And that’s for a relatively complex room with pillars, arches, stairs, tradoor, weapon racks and the like. Which, I must say, I can describe from the render. But, idk. It feels disconnected from the read-aloud. 

And then there’s weird randomness in the descriptions which don’t seem to make sense. I can’t figure out if I’m not getting something or if it’s dungeon dressing or just filler background. “The Builders prepared this room with a special wax and a broken clay ziggurat, which was mixed with the mortar” and “Someone has chalked an arrow on the wall pointing to the farthest portal down the wall in a vain attempt to leave a trail for others to follow later. A few feet away, the same chalk has scratched out 7 straight lines. AFAIK, nothing is done with either of these. The first is maybe just background padding? Or maybe background padding and dungeon dressing? The second is either dungeon dressing or a clue to a puzzle? But the rooms are so disjointed, (Dragon’s Lair!) that I don’t see it making sense?

And then there’s this kind of abstracted description thing it does in places. “A tribe of goblins live here.” Sure. It’s stabbing time. How many? No clue. None at ALL. A few? A bajillion? IDK. And this sort of thing is all over the place

But, the variety of room, and things to do in them, is quite nice. One room is a pillared rotunda. Archways. Gargoyles looking down, a dozen or so. A mosaic on the floor, and in the middle of it a slate pedestal with glowing runes on it reading, in Sylvan Elf “Run of Mind Shielding”. Maybe a little on the nose, but, also, a nice little puzzle and atmospheric for an IDENTIFY pedestal. 

I know the renders are the gimmick here. But I can’t help thinking that a more traditional format would have suited this better. Nuke the render. Spend the render time instead on working those evocative & terse room descriptions HARD. Did things get better in the later volumes? Idk. The first one is usually either the best of the nearly the worst in a collected volume, in my experience.

This is $30 at DriveThru.No preview. Which Sucks ass. But, you can go to the website of te designer and see a preview at https://mapmasterbattlemaps.com/the-palace-of-1001-rooms-1/btxusf8mxow3qd4ekkinhzfg392282

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/412181/The-Palace-of-1001-Rooms-Chapter-1–The–Gatehouse?1892600

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18 Responses to Palace of 1001 Rooms: The Gatehouse

  1. Anonymous says:

    This does not sound terrible! I might give the preview a look.

    Not great but project has balls

  2. Without a map, it seems more like an idea book than a module

  3. Gnarley Bones says:

    Oh, wow. When you said “no map” I was thinking that there was an isometric display of each room but nothing, perhaps a point crawl diagram connecting them. Nope. There is truly no map, just a dark *illustration* of half of the room. Of!

    I realize I’m a grumpy complaining grognard, but how hard is it to have a map?

    • Gnarley Bones says:

      I see. You can also buy, for $5.00, *just the illustrations* for each level, presumably to show the players as every room is entered.

      So you can table-top roleplay using video game graphics. Welp. That’s one way to play.

  4. Stripe says:

    Hmm. An interesting review for an interesting product.

    Thanks!

  5. Artem of Spades says:

    Seems incredibly ambitious, incredibly gimmicky, and incredibly flawed.

  6. Ken McKinney says:

    I’m glad you were kind in your review, people shouldn’t be afraid to experiment.
    That said, this experiment failed.
    The gimmick in this adventure feels like an excuse to not make a map.
    There should be a rulebook somewhere for adventure writers. And the first page should say, ‘The Map is NEVER optional’.

  7. Edgewise says:

    Looks like it’s currently only $10 on the author’s website.

    What a strange idea to make this for 2e. I suppose that was due to the reference to Sigil i.e. this is technically a Planescape adventure.

    Yeah, sounds like an interesting idea that doesn’t cross the finish line. Maps are good, but at least have stable room connections. Random room connections don’t work for me.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The author has aired his frustrations on Reddit several times. Apparently he’s been/is working on this full time for over two years. Like 8+ hours a day, researching and so on. I could feel the hurt in his words, and at moments I wondered if he is on the spectrum. I think this project genuinely qualifies as a heartbreaker.

    • Artem Serebrennikov says:

      The autism is indeed strong with this one.

    • Kubo says:

      First, it seems like the author evolved his work over time with something that visually looks like a map at times, but overall, it looks hard to follow. Second, not on board with every door a random room teleporter. Seems like he tried a cross between Baba Yaga’s Hut and Maze of the Blue Medusa, or something. Anyway I like more potential interactivity between the rooms instead of basically jumping from one island to the next. As a player, I like to explore and fill in the maps as I go – feel like I conquered something. Third, I don’t know many fans of Planescape, so perhaps a limited audience for this product? Last, how do you not make player handouts for all the pictures? No GM is going to describe all this off the cuff as well as the pictures show. (Great pictures though).

  9. 3llense'g says:

    First I thought it was just a collection of rooms that you can use in your own dungeons and the backstory and random door gimmick was just a way to make it usable on it’s own, but apparently no? Confused…

  10. Lol. Hi. I’m the guy that made The Palace, and thank you for the review! I think it was a fair critique. Here’s the thing about the map, and the Palace in general – for all you grognards that like to map out a dungeon, you STILL CAN! There’s some specific rules for the portals. Every portal is not random – only the one you haven’t been in yet. If you can remember where you’ve been, the portals behind you remain static until after the sun sets. Afterwards, they scramble. The same thing happens if you forget where one went. Only the last portal you came from remains fixed. So you can always go back to the immediate room you came from until dark.

    Also, there is a kind of map. It’s called the overview and it shows the exterior of a chapter, labelled with the rooms that have windows. That’s because the one thing that is fixed is the windows. You can always maintain a sense of control if you can navigate the outer walls. Of course, there’s plenty of things to make that a bit of a challenge.

    Anyway, I’d love to give all the folks that took the time to read this review a chance to look at it themselves. Just leave me a comment and I’ll get you a copy of some other chapter. Chapter 1 will be a do-over if I can ever get the last one finished. It was more of a proof of concept and probably should be rewritten.

  11. squeen says:

    This seems clearly inspired from video games — why not just make it a video game? If you have everything rendered out, it would not be that hard to program the game engine. Seriously, it looks very do-able to convert it.

    However, at it’s best, I don’t think D&D is a video game—nor should it try to be. Everything has its own unique aesthetic.

    Sorry to be a downer. I admire your gumption.

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