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