Dungeon – October 2005

September 26, 2005

Back to pen and paper gaming. October’s dungeon is an interesting contrast of old and new. Dungeoncrafting has changed a lot since the early days of D&D, but every now and again a dungeon shows up in print that harkens back to the simpler days of hacking and slashing. This issue has not one, but two dungeons that have a retro feel.

The first, “The Hive” is a creature feature. Formians, the ant-like people of D&D, don’t get a lot of headlining nowadays … really it’s because they’re kinda crappy. Despite that, The Hive is a neat little dungeoncrawl. It’s has a very retro feel, because it focuses on Formians and giant ants exclusively. The creature-specific module also has a needlessly complicated archvillain, one of those internally inconsistent villain-of-the-weeks you found so often in older modules. Despite the cobwebby feel, it works. The dungeon is well aid out, and the encounters entertaining. For a 5th level adventure, it’s a fun little romp that would be a nice one or two week diversion.

“Hall of Harsh Reflections” is this week’s chapter in the “Age of Worms” adventure path. Adventure path modules are usually very high quality works, and this one is no different. This module moves the adventurers to the big city, The Free City. The change of venue is a good move (getting them out of that backwater), and introduces the players to some of the bigger themes of the campaign. The dungeon is well crafted, but the really excellent piece of the module is a twist that I’m not going to mention because it’s just too good and I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice it to say that it’s a move that the GM would need player collaboration on. You’ve got to love evil modules.

The final adventure in the magazine is entitled “Dungeon of the Crypt”, and if possible is even more old school than “The Hive”. This adventure is the second in the Hunt of Malar trilogy of modules. The first, if you recall was a very odd vampire werewolf combat set piece involving an undead beholder. Yes, vampiric werewolves. I still haven’t gotten over it. Anyway, the second module is considerably more reasonable. A straightforward dungeoncrawl in one of the many side-dungeons that abut the sprawling Undermountain complex beneath Waterdeep awaits players. Undermountain related dungeons all have a very specific feel, and the Dungeon of the Crypt captures it well. The Dungeon in question is very much alive, with denizens coming and going and an alliance forming and reforming as the result of the party’s actions. It’s well laid out, and while not very large has the same sort of venerable grandeur that many of the older modules tend to evoke. The second chapter in the trilogy is much more reasonable than the first, and I look forward to seeing how they wrap this up.

DM how-to’s this week were interesting as always. One discussed visual and auditory set dressing, a second pondered conspiracies in a D&D setting, and a third was (as has been their wont of late) a random generation table to outfit an object. Staves, actually, and well done too. Nicely done again.

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