Wednesday, April 25, 2018

OPD 15 Review - The Locked Library of Somi Bodleian

A hidden library where a wizard of no small skill is busy at work trying to translate spell books from her master whom she betrayed and killed.  She is aided by sorcerous fairies who spring traps and generally irritate intruders.

Organization: Map top left, background/"hook" top right, map key bottom.

Clarity: The map.... sigh.  I'm sure at a better resolution than I have it (I got this off the OPD website so I don't know what's going on) it looks nice.  It's almost unreadable.  Like you're looking at things through a sheet of ice... That said, the writing is generally pretty clear, explaining some of the fuzzy blobs on the map in a way that I got the gist of the place.

Usefulness: Well... if I wanted to plant a Maguffin somewhere and send the party off to look for it, this might be at the end of the rainbow.  It's okay.  I don't like the heavy reliance on teleporters and the "magic won't open this" locks.  I did rather like the surprise in the treasure room, but it won't be to everyone's taste.  The "boss" encounter is okay. The fact that tactics are mentioned (briefly) is a good touch. 

Subjective: This shows me what makes the old school blue/black and white maps much simpler to use - even when the resolution is low, you don't lose so much you can't use it.  I imagine that this map is rendered nicely - tiles and gold piles and book shelves and portals.  I guess I might index this as a "lair" maybe for a random encounter or, as I said above, housing a Maguffin.  "The Spellbooks of Damaraiausouondon the Unpronounceable" or something...


Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium

Monday, April 23, 2018

OPD 14 Review - The Smugglers' Caverns - Level 5

The Smugglers' Caverns - Level 5

A Smuggler hideout that is connected via a semi-secret tunnel to an ancient, undead filled cult's temple.

Organization: Standard org: Map on top left, general info/background top right, map key bottom. There's a new monster introduced - Brain Slugs.  Not a bad monster concept.  My issue is that they (and rust monsters) only appear on the wandering monster list (which has these two and zombies).  Why are there potentially 1 or 2 Rust Monsters showing up every so often?  At least the brain slugs have a connection to the undead in the temple... But they seem more like a set-piece monster than wandering...

Clarity: I'm not a fan of the hand-drawn map, not because of the hand-drawing, but mostly because of the lack of contrast. Still, it's serviceable...  Not everything is clear in the writing, however.  Room 8, for example, says "Approximately half the room is filled to floor level with sea water..." I THINK I know what that means - that the east side of the cave is "scooped out" kind of... Probably an issue with my perception though.  Less clear is the west door at 10 that is "locked from the outside"... Does that mean it is locked in such a way that you can't get to it from the outside or that the lock is on the outside?  I would say the latter, but I'm not sure that's the author's intent (and it very much could matter). And there's a number 11 on the map (clearly a trap), but my copy of the OPD doesn't have a key for it - though there's plenty of space at the end of the adventure to add another location or two...

Usefulness: I'd use this.  I have a sneaky, semi-organized smuggling/slaving gang in my campaign and they need lots of little hideaways to store their wares between acquisition and sale...

Subjective: My griping aside, I could and probably would use this little OPD. 

One more kind of oddity here - it is clear that the author expects the smugglers to be a "surprise" to the PCs exploring.  The numbering suggests the party comes to this location from above (possibly level 4 of some un-named dungeon?). Even the writing in the smuggler's caves suggests that they are approached from within, not from above or from the sea or even breaking into the west door...

Friday, April 20, 2018

OPD 13 Review - Mutant Future! MineCo 3000 Uranium Extraction Complex

Mutant Future! MineCo 3000 Uranium Extraction Complex

So... I have the free copy of Mutant Future! from back in the day... but I've never given it more than a quick look - so I'm not the most qualified to review this as an adventure for MF!, but I'll still give it a once over...

A computer, the AI controlling a uranium mine, has reawakened and is sending out androids to kidnap villagers who, through some kind of advanced mind-control, become zombie-like workers who will work themselves to death in service of the computer.

Organization: This uses the standard organization: Map on the top left, background top right, key bottom. The little piece of art is a nice addition - though a little spurious (one of the original adventurers who doesn't appear in the adventure...)

Clarity: Well, on the map, it's not always clear which number the letters are assigned to - though reading the key makes it more clear... I'd make another appeal to bolding the important stuff.  Several areas have potential encounters (Spider-goats!!) There's some wasted words here too.  In the OPD format, every word is valuable.  Telling us how things used to be (for example, the fence used to be lethal but killed too many workers) might be okay for a longer format, but it doesn't really add to the adventure in any way that is likely to impact the players...

Usefulness: For all my minor complaints, I could see using this - even as is - in a D&D type campaign.  As much as I don't want to mix my fantasy and sci-fi, if I were to do so, I could see an ancient computer - OR even a crashed UFO - searching for uranium for any of a million reasons.  Simply "filing the serial numbers off" this could be a mithral or gold or tin mine run by an insane mind-flayer or some other mind-controlling creature. The "amplifier" becomes a magical bronze ornament near the top of the wall instead of radar...

Subjective: I don't know how it compares to other MF! or Gamma World adventures. I have the GW adventure that Gygax wrote, but I honestly don't remember much about it (bought it because I thought the cover art was cool and it was on closeout sale 20 years ago or more...). That said, it's a decent little mission - could be good for an evening's entertainment.

It occurred to me as I was reading this that this kind of adventure, and I've already reviewed a couple, might be useful for that night when someone is not able to show up to play.  Their PC was kidnapped by, here, the androids.  Some simple clues and off the party goes to rescue their friend...  YMMV


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

OPD 12 Review - The Wreck of the Lord Niklas

Ten "above water" areas of a wrecked ship (presumably, the PCs won't want to investigate the underwater portion of the ship... silly designer, that's probably where they'll want to go first...). Probably low mid levels.

Organization: Not much to say. Generally follows the standard format. The text boxes keep the background and GM info separate from the key.

Clarity: Highlight PLEASE. There's a lot of words here, considering the format, and drawing out what is important, especially in multi-line room descriptions, takes away from the utility. Still, it's one page... maybe I'm too needy...

Usefulness: So you were just at Mollie's Roadhouse? Half a day's ride up river you see the bow of a merchant cog tilted out of the water, resting against a huge rock. It's a "side trek" or a diversion or, maybe, an entry on a "random encounter" chart when traveling the trade road. The main opponent here could be used to great effect, especially if not killed here...

Subjective: Hate the map, but it communicates what it needs to communicate. I'd drop this in a sandbox or, as I noted above, maybe in a random river encounter chart. I can't imagine spending much more than an hour (real time) here, probably less (though those pesky players have a tendency to . I like the main opponent. I like the special rules (slippery deck).

Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium

Monday, April 16, 2018

OPD 11 Review - Mollie's Roadhouse

Okay, we're in the first year of the OPD contest, and less than a dozen reviews, and this is at least the second entry that pushes the bounds of the concept. This isn't really a dungeon, or an adventure.  It's a simple location. 8 keyed places on the map. There will be more words in this review than on the entire OPD. Appropriate for any level.

Organization: I can't believe I'm going to say this, but... I wish this was better organized. No, that's not right. I want a little more... substance I guess.  That being the case, the organization serves the purpose.

Clarity: Crystal clear. I know what is where.

Usefulness: You might think I don't like this. Actually, I think it's very useful. I'd keep a folder of these kind of "waystation" locations handy. You're traveling up the river, you stop for the night at (shuffle, shuffle) Mollie's Roadhouse. Not much here...

Subjective: Hate the map style and wish there was just a little more substance - like one sentence descriptions of...well...everything. The barn, the stone circle, the religious pilgrims, the lost child... Still, I'll print it and index it and keep it handy (with some one sentence additions, I'm sure...)

Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium

Friday, April 13, 2018

OPD 10 Review - The Well of Wounded Souls

A labyrinth.  Normally I hate labyrinths and mazes but there's a decent mechanic here ("Dungeon Fog") that might, along with its solid theme, make this tolerable. The set up is okay, but doesn't really give my players any reason to go there. Only 8 listed locations, but that's a little deceptive, as there are also 6 trap locations. Three more areas labeled E (presumably "Empty" though there's nothing in the key to indicate that) could be areas for expansion as well. Most of the adventure here is trying to get out of the maze, so probably any level PC could tackle this one.

Organization: While this OPD generally uses the "standard format," it does it to good effect.  Right column is general information, left column is individual areas.

Clarity: AWFUL map resolution. The original has layers you can turn off to print a players map. Hopefully the original also has a clearer map. I haven't yet encountered one in the wild with a better quality map, but I haven't exactly been beating the bushes to find it either.  As I said above, the format is put to good use, though some bolding or underlining could help pull things out. Also, boxes around Traps and Encounters would offset those better (as they are likely to be accessed numerous times during the adventure).

Usefulness: I dropped this in an extraplanar space that I created for an adventure. I just changed up the motivations a bit (the PCs needed to recover the key which not only opened the gate from this place back to the "real world" but was a maguffin for another part of the adventure - oh, by the way, what happens if they don't release the souls, but they leave the "back door" unlocked when they leave? Hmmmm...) I like this. It has some very specific possibilities.

Subjective: Well, I've used it already, so that tells you something. This was one where the map actually drew me in (no pun, sorry) even though it's not of stellar quality and it's a maze. I'd like to see this expanded a bit. This is the kind of place that could really benefit from the Two Page dungeon layout...

Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

OPD Review 9: The Omeous Portent of the Highlands Meteor

Spellcheck aside, this 14 area adventure has some possibilities, even if I'm not the biggest fan of mixing my fantasy and my aliens.  In some ways, this is sketchier than other OPDs, but communicates the theme pretty well. I'd call it low to mid level.

Organization: Pretty standard organization. Map on the left, background, GM's note, Encounter Key on the right and bottom.

Clarity: Another plea for bolding, underlining, highlighting, SOMETHING to make the important stand out from the mundane. The map, while not a piece of art, works for its intended purpose. You could almost simply put notes on the map for this adventure (the trap needing perhaps a little more explanation) - you know "10 Orcs Sleeping" or something...

Usefulness: It's a diversion. Again, depends on the players feeling heroic and wanting to investigate the missing farmers. A better hook (how about a random encounter with an alien - or with some of their mooks - that leads to a chase back here?).  I might drop this into a sandbox.  I'd probably edit it a bit - add some more notes for aliens at least.

Subjective.  Not a fan of the SF/Fantasy mix generally, but if I'm going to do it, I'm not going go all Barrier Peaks, so this might fit the bill. If I do this, the aliens will be Mars Attacks! aliens, played for somewhat comic effect.  The Law of Unintended Consequences applies to the Death Ray guns... the players will want them...

Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium

Monday, April 9, 2018

OPD Review 8 - The Last Defense (A Low Level Adventure)

So this 12 area "adventure" is a simple location with a few low level opponents, a couple cool features and a trap that... well, I don't like it. In the grand scheme of things, this could maybe be a mission to "set off the trap" to keep this "fortress" from falling into the wrong hands...

Organization: It's the standard organization again. I can see how this could be useful - I know what to expect and where to find things. Later, when the OPD contest gets more "artistic" entries, this is going to be a less static category...

Clarity: Well, it all (mostly) makes sense. The map is pretty helpful for communicating the features of the dungeon. I'm not exactly sure of what to make of Area 6 - it is such a potentially cool feature - a column of stone surrounded by a waterfall - but that's all there is to it. Nothing to see here. Move along. What is the "lake tower" anyway? Sigh... So much potential...

Usefulness: Well, this is probably just a side-jaunt at best. It's all about exploration, I get that, but reading through this I kind of kept going "so what?" Still, I might drop it into a sandbox or maybe as a side level in a megadungeon. Like I said, I want to like this so I might go to some effort to adapt it...

Subjective: There are ideas here to mine. A couple irritants are the completely inaccessible areas - you KNOW the players are going to focus in on that... Sometimes a sentence about finding bones or 1d4 cp per hour of digging or whatever might not bug me so much (but would probably frustrate someone else to no end!).

Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium

Friday, April 6, 2018

OPD Review 7 - Ruined Temple of the Wild Arcana - Outer Chambers

Eight areas of wild, chaos magic (well, six really). I can't even guess what kind of levels this is aimed at - uses terms that are more "new school" I think (like "necrotic damage" - I mean, I guess I know what that means...).

Organization: Standard organization. Little drabs of information, but probably enough to run it. Don't like the "ditto" on the last two rooms...

Clarity: Map took a little puzzling, though the symbols help. I hate teleporters as a rule... Sigh... Key is kind of a wall of text so nothing really stands out. Extra white space...

Usefulness: I have no use for this. That is not to say it is bad. I actually like the idea of "wild magic" or "chaos magic" that the players can encounter/interact with, but I'm not a big fan of the execution here. Feels like the author had some kind of idea, then ran out of steam (7&8 "the same"... ugh).

Subjective: Not my kind of thing.

Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium

Publishing

I've put out a few items at OneBookShelf over the past several months, and have a few more in the hopper.  I talk about it a bit over at the Rosethrone Publishing blog, Deep Chantry.

Publishing is exhilarating and exhausting.  Self-publishing adds frustrating to the list.  Mine are the only eyes that really see any of the products before they go live - I just don't have a community around me to tap into for editing, proofreading and the like.

Regardless, I've sold a handful of PDFs, given away a metric ton of PDFs and have yet to sell a print copy of anything to anyone but myself.  Still, I'll keep plugging away.



Affiliate link to Rosethrone Publishing

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

OPD Review 6 - The Ancient Academy

The Ancient Academy by Stuart Robertson

39 room dungeon level. Reminds me of the Lost City (B4) for some reason. Clearly a low level dungeon with pretty mundane low level encounters. This is another abandoned monastery (like the sample dungeon in the DMG).

Organization: A place for everything and everything in its place. Flow is good (standard).

Clarity: Needs bolding or highlighting or underlining or SOMETHING to make the important elements of the areas stand out. The map is crisp and interesting enough for what it is.

Usefulness: Here's the thing. I keep wanting to say that this is a solid enough dungeon but I keep feeling like I have to write "for what it is." What is it? Well... I guess this is kind of the epitome of what I think of "Old School" dungeons. It's solid, has reasonable "ecology" I guess. Just nothing about it that I would remember the next day after adventuring in it (well, maybe the kitchen... or the debris clearing...). That said, the map is interesting enough to me that I could drop it into that fictional OPD megadungeon I sometimes think about. I'd want to put some kind of anchor encounter here so the players could say, "Let's go back to that place where the... something memorable... room was."

Subjective: Usable if not interesting.  If I had a megadungeon or for some other reason needed a quick low-level dungeon, I could see pulling this out but without some kind of hook, I'd probably pass.

Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium

Monday, April 2, 2018

OPD Review 5 - The Sea Goddess's Tower

A tower dedicated to the Sea Goddess, long ago abandoned and now shunned. Once a repository of Sea Lore, apparently. 9 areas, this is really more of a location than an adventure, but it could be useful. I'd say low-mid level (like 3-5ish) maybe.

Organization: Nicely laid out - uses the standard format without any "random encounters." Serviceable.

Clarity: Clean map that makes sense. Opponents and items are UNDERLINED - good technique for highlighting without bolding everything on the page. A simple sentence (or fragment) at the top of the tower would have alleviated some (albeit very brief) confusion I had about the missing light.

Usefulness: As is... meh. No reason that some other hearty adventurous types wouldn't have tried to relocate and replace the light over the years. I'd change things up a bit and maybe have it be a random encounter, looming out of the mists in the sea, on a dark night. Maybe they crash into this uncharted mysterious island (and when they finally shove off, they discover they are somewhere else entirely in the great sea). I don't see much of a reason to "go to" this island, so... Like the drifting pirate ship a few entries ago, I might use this as a random encounter on the way to or from the Isle of Dread or when chasing Slavers...

Subjective: Perhaps building up something with the "missing light" would make this stand out to me. I really like the map, linear and boring though it might be. The writing is a little verbose for a One Pager, but gets the information across. If I do a long sea voyage, this is in, but otherwise, meh.

Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium

Friday, March 30, 2018

OPD Review 4 - Secrets of the Old City

Secrets of the Old City by Simon Bull

This was the 2009 overall winner of the OPD contest.

The sewers of the City of the Kingdom are the ruins of the Old City, on which the new city was built. 18 numbered locations with potential expansion to other levels, or other unexplored areas, this is a decent "level 1" of a megadungeon or a one or two session sewer romp. Opponents are what you'd expect in a low level (I'd say 1-3) adventure, in, you know, the sewers.

Organization: The flow of this works better for me than the "standard format." There's an intro and "hook" first thing (top left) with the map to the right. Random encounters are at the end. Symbols on the map for common items (sluice grate, secret door, etc.). Map has a nice flow to it (no pun intended).

Clarity: Decent use of bolding for opponents. Treasure and the like is still kind of buried. Not sure how much you highlight before everything is bolded... Areas are well explained, for all of their brevity.

Usefulness: If I wanted to build a megadungeon out of OPDs, this is a strong contender for a first level (or at least part of the a first level). There's plenty of expansion points, lots of "sewer stuff" to deal with and some decent opponents. There's several reasons within the OPD itself that might make someone want to visit (training, recovery of items, other "quest" stuff).

Subjective: I get why this won the first contest. It's a really solid entry. I really like the vibe, the presentation, the contents. I might just make a pseudo-megadungeon out of this after all.

An observation...  I guess I'm a sucker for a "good map." That's a hugely subjective thing, I realize, but there's something about this map that draws me right in and makes me WANT to read the key.

Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

OPD Review 3 -The Haunted Hulk

The Haunted Hulk by S J Harris.

A "haunted" shipwreck with 17 areas to explore, a brief (and probably unnecessary) background. Current state of the occupants' attitudes toward one another helpful, also decent theme-ing (considering the limitations of the format). A little bit of a cool "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" vibe. No levels - probably mid-level.

Organization: I'm seeing the "standard format" here. I guess it's been so many years of seeing what OPDs have evolved into that I had forgotten there was a starting point. Map is very clear and useful. Key entries have "monster" or "treasure" or "hazard" set a apart. Nice.

Clarity: Well... I'd like the "monster" "treasure" etc. notations somehow highlighted. Bold would be great... but it would be competing with the area numbers... I don't have a solution beyond printing it and using a highlighter.

Usefulness: This could be a really interesting encounter on the way to or from some place like the Isle of Dread or when chasing Slavers or even having captured the Sea Ghost and your party is out on the open sea.  Is it too deadly? This is D&D baby - you got to know when to fight and when to run.

Subjective: I like this location. It's not going to get slotted in as a feature in any campaign I run but I'll print it and index it and slot it in as a random "high seas" encounter. A solid, if somewhat forgettable, OPD.

Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium


Monday, March 26, 2018

OPD Review 2 - The Final Lesson

Centuries ago there was a school for the brightest and the best. Something happened and it was abandoned. There have been some strange deaths in the area. Maybe there's some relationship here?

This is a hidden "school" with 18 keyed areas. Opponents are primarily undead and there are some nice non-combat encounters. No levels listed but I'd say mid to high level.

Organization: This is really well laid out - the key is clear. I would have put the background before the Random Encounters but that's just a nit.

Clarity: Another entry where the map could be clearer. Maybe it's just the copies of the adventures that I downloaded, I don't know. Sometimes the writing is a little too casual ("there is a giant gold eagle statue that is worth quite a bit at the back" for example) but I guess that's the nature of the OPD.

Usefulness: If you need this kind of  "there was a mysterious school but now it's just weird stuff" place - well, this is serviceable. Don't get me wrong, it's a solid enough design, just not my thing. I wouldn't have a place for it, even as a one off.  I might steal the zombie church mice at some point.  Some nice ideas for possible hooks/treasure like a ritual book and some diaries.

Subjective: So I hate these kind of "this room has a test of skill/magic/intellect/whatever" kind of dungeons - except in some extremely narrow circumstances. Also, while I think some of the rooms are interesting, the map is pretty linear, if that matters to you. That said, I'm kind of the fence about this for me. I probably won't print or index it.

Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium

Friday, March 23, 2018

OPD Review 1 - The Mountain Lair of the Misanthropic Magus

"To gain a huge reward, the characters must rescue the Merchant's daughter Fayona from some Bandits who dwell deep within a mountain, home to a reclusive Magus."

By Sean Wells

Okay. Not a bad hook - and lays things out pretty well. There's a mountain lair with bandits, fair Fayona and a Magus.

There's 42 numbered areas on the map. Enemies include the bandits, spiders, goblins, a golem and the magus, possibly some skeletons, plus a number of traps and surprises, including possible ally and a neat, if very specific, item.. No level range given - I'd say low level, though, but "scalable."

Organization: Not bad. I'd give it a 3 out of 5 or somesuch rating. "Entering the Lair" and "Lair Description" are buried at the bottom of the page. Several rooms have the same basic description and might benefit from a map label instead of noting in the key: "these rooms are empty" "1d4 bandits in each" "mattress, pot, 1d3 goblins in each". Letters like E, B and G would simplify this (I know you'd have to change the nature of the catacombs... small price to pay, really). I'd organize it differently overall, but I can find what I need.  A highlighter would be probably make a world of difference.

Clarity: Well, the map could be less fuzzy - hard to make out some of the numbers. Everything is pretty easy to find (again, a highlighter will help).

Usefulness: I could see getting a session or two out of this - it drops in easily enough - could replace the hook with "friend was kidnapped" and change one of the encounters to reflect that - but you miss out a bit too. Like most OPDs, you have to either prep stats or be really good on the fly (not a big deal - except for the spell caster...)

Subjective: This is "meh" for me. I'd use it for a once-off or if I suddenly had a party track bandits to their lair, but I doubt I'd drop it into a sandbox as a feature. Just about every region has "bandits" so it's a serviceable enough lair with a couple nice twists. A few "funhouse" elements I don't love... Still, I'll print it and index it and have it ready "just in case."

Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium


Thursday, March 22, 2018

One Page Dungeon Reviews - Baseline

So I guess if I'm going to look at One Page Dungeons, I should establish some kind of "here's what I like" baseline.

I want the OPD to be easy to use. Be as creative as you want to be, but I have to be able to use this - probably on the fly when teenagers say, Hey, let's play D&D! That being said, some of the things I will harp on are:
Organization - please make things easy to find
Clarity - please make the map easy to read, highlight important stuff
Usefulness - this is a nebulous category, I admit, but I'll talk a little about whether or not I find it useful
Subjective - this is the final category and it's completely my bias.  For example, I don't really like gonzo stuff. Or cute stuff. Weird is okay, but I have a limit.  Clever is okay, but don't try too hard. Yeah, you may want to skip this part of any review since it'll just be me harping on the stuff I like/don't like...

I'll probably start with a summary of the OPD - maybe even quote the "hook" from the entry itself.

I'm planning on going in chronological order - starting with 2009 OPD contest entries - but the actual order I review will be a bit random...

Affiliate Link to the 2009 OPD Compendium

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

One Page Dungeon Reviews

I love the idea of the one page dungeon - squeezing in as much info as you can on a single page - including the map.  The IDEA, I love.  The execution... often not so much.

I think the two page dungeon is a better beast. You know - the key on the left side of a two-page spread, the map and notes and some more key on the right page of a two page spread.  That makes a lot of sense to me.

That being said, there's like 9 years of one page dungeons at the One Page Dungeon Contest Page (as of the writing of this post - 2018's contest is underway).

My plan is to go through every submission and write a brief review.  I suppose the reviews could theoretically be longer than the submissions!  I will attempt to control myself.

Is this necessary? Nah.  But I'm seriously looking at the format and evaluating it for my own purposes. So, why not?




Affiliate link to the 2009 OPD Compendium