By Daedalus No Artpunk #2 1e Levels 2-4
A MAGIC POOL grants knowledge of arcane spells to anyone who bathes at the full moon but in exchange, the bather’s physical and mental abilities are slowly depleted.
This 25 page adventure uses about nine pages to describe a dungeon with about 25 rooms. Good interactivity, for its size, with smatterings of good descriptions are detracted by a large amount of whitespace. Packs a decent punch in a wrapping that only a mother could love.
So, what do I mean by all of that? What we have here is what could be called, in Bryce jargon, a real dungeon. It’s got creatures, tricks, traps, and secrets to unlock. Interactivity, factions, and varied terrain. All of the great elements that surround and contribute to a great dungeon crawl. It’s got one of the better Dyson maps. Caves, rooms, same level stairs, a bridge over a chasm to cross, secret doors and statues all show up on the map, contributing to a vibe that is more than a simple map. And it noted major features on the map, along with a wanderers table, to help support the DM in play. My only complaint here, with the map, is that it feels rather constrained. As if the dungeon should be a bit larger. It’s not like the rooms are on top of each other, generally, but that it feels like it needs one more breathe ot two to really give it the expanse that a good dungeon needs. 25 rooms is no slouch of a five roomer, but the size makes it feel more like a good dungeon at the end of an investigation, rather than something that stands on its own.
I’m a big fan of the interactivity in this one. The place is chock full of stuff without it seeming like its full of set pieces. You’ve got a statue, pointing, in one of the first rooms. There’s a double dose here. Not only does the pointing statue involve some interaction, but, it also provides a hint to puzzles deeper in the dungeon. Another room, full of broken up furniture has an intact weapons rack in remarkably good shape. A mimic. And that’s something this dungeon does very well indeed: providing clues for the player that is paying attention. Bodies and abandoned campsites provide clues and hints as to what is going on. It ramps up the tension to find a dead body, and what killed it. The players get a bit worried. And are prepared for whats coming … if they care to pay attention. And this dungeon does that over and over again. It’s never hitting you over the head with it, but it seems natural. Really well done.
And the other encounters, not falling in to this category of hints and puzzles/traps, tend to the more interesting side as well. Ye Olde Bridge Over The Chasm has spiders in webs, high above, providing a nice little encounter. And the creatures in the dungeon, the intelligent ones, have some goals an motivations. SOme things going on with them that the players could exploit. Never going too far, and not really forcing that interactivity on to the players, but it’s there for the DM, in their motivations, should the players try and do a good job of not just stabbing.
Descriptions are hit or miss. Out first room is the entrance, of course, an opening in a low escarpment outside. A simple worked limestone post and lintel frame without a door. Weathered carvings on it. A dark cool and silent interior. That’s not bad. It’s also, I think, one of the best descriptions. So, good job with your mythic underworld entrance, but, things do tend to fall down after that. Simple facts with few appeals to imagery. It really needs more in this area.
And it’s not helped by the god awful formatting. Two column, with a lot of the rooms taking a full column. This isn’t necessarily wordiness, but rather large margins and line spacing. There’s too much in the wat ot bolding, underlines, and bullets. It’s too much to take in at once. There’s an attempt to follow a rough outline for a room, noting general features up front and then going in to more detail in the bullets, but the spacing, and degree of formatting, is just too much to follow easily.
This is a real dungeon. Or, at least as much as one can say that in 25 rooms. I’m not find of the lack of interesting descriptions, and the format is a mess to comprehend text with. But, the interactivity here, the understanding of what a dungeon should and should not be, is all here. That is pretty rare, indeed. But these days you don’t get to the Bryce Best list unless you’re firing on all chambers. (Which is a lie, I’m a hypocrite, but, whatever.) Nice to see this one.