As promised in my Zodiac Empires review post, I am working my way through this years entries to give my own take on them. In this post, I’ll be giving a short paragraph to each winning entry. In the next post on the OPD 2017 entries, I’ll give a shorter review of the honorable mentions and a quick review of the remaining entries. If you’ve got an entry review here, I’ll happily link to your site if you shoot me a message or leave a comment.
Side note: I am currently working on some revisions to my DM improvisation program, Improvisr, so if there is some new feature, clarification, bug fix, or tweak you’d like to see, let me know!
Will Doyle & Stacey Allan: The Temple of the Moon Priests, Best Overall One PageDungeon
An absolutely gorgeous dungeon drawn up in 2.5 dimensions in cool blues and purples that is short on useless fluff but high on flavor and intrigue. Its traps and puzzles are made more interesting by the presence of competing adventurers, well characterized in a few short lines of text. I do miss the presence of any stat blocks or described abilities to give a hint as to what a were-spider is capable of or some of the other interesting creatures presented.
Luka Rejec: Teleportation Administration Substation ‘Big Pineapple’, Best “Feature as a Bug”
Big Pineapple reminds me of something Studio Ghibli would create, and the similarities of weirdness doesn’t stop there. If you need a station for when planar travel goes wrong, this can be a side-game of fighting starvation against time, something perfect to break up the monotony or transition after a planar adventure ends. Without the starvation and rescue mechanic, this could make for an odd planar transportation station in the midst of planar travel. There is lots of summary material but the entry is low on directly playable material describing or hinting at specific effects or abilities, which will require some preparation work or improvisation.
Ben Green: Chambers of Chaos and Madness, Deadliest Use of Geometry
5th Dimensional geography in a random hypercube of rooms while the players try to figure out the layout of the space to find the crazy warlocks tome. If your players are looking for a randomized, dangerous, trap-filled geometric puzzle to explore, this is the dungeon for your game. It will be tough to explain the mechanics to the players, and the 5 dimensional basics could have used some example hints to give to the players during the delve besides the description of the tome being in the center, as the players have no ability to source their own location given that the whole hypercube loops back on itself. Also, a smaller hypercube would be more useful compared to the megadungeon that a 243 room layout represents.
Thom Wilson & Glynn Seal: The Color of Fungi, Best “Pre-existing Condition”
Solid as a good follow up to what happens after the players fail a carousing check, take part in a magical experiment gone wrong, or anger a powerful NPC. The gain a pre-existing fungal disease that necessitates a quick swamp jaunt to gather the cure. While there are multiple paths, there really isn’t any indication of what each path means or contains to make that choice meaningful, which means that maybe a third of the encounters will likely never get used.
Glad to hear that Michael Prescott was in the top ten, and the award associated with his win is darkly true, with the twisted themes of combination monsters, spliced beasts, and unique monster combinations. The interactions of various factions, their motivations, and tactics make this small village into a mini-campaign rather than a simple dungeon. As a bonus, the creepy factor of the whole place makes for the perfect rumor supply, just weird enough to not be instantly believable but awful enough that the adventurers cannot avoid checking it out.
Jan Rippstein & Tobias Bottger: Rapta In Pace, Best Grave Robbery
Six simple graveyard encounters of playable tricks, traps, and treasures, although the narrative tying them together is weak and no indication is given how to DM the could run the cemetery. It will take some work to tie these six graves and four wandering monster entries together. Each one is solidly playable as is though, and I intend to use this entry more to dole out piecemeal whenever I need a creepy or weird tomb, grave, or mausoleum (my players like to loot anything not nailed down and that cursed collar will teach ‘em!).
A fantastically original set of wandering monsters caps off the silly/serious fun of this small hex surrounding a deed to a ruined tower. Depending on your opinion, not focusing this OPD on the tower itself gives the DM freedom to insert their own into this wild area or requires them to prepare something new that isn’t even its focus. I lean towards the former camp, as plenty of other OPD entries can serve as the ruined tower itself. Vance did a great job with this one.
Steven Gordon: Dead Quiet, Best “Alternative Use” for a Magic Item
A quick dungeon run through a banshee infested tomb where the key is that the players must stay within the aura of a relic that projects magical silence, lest they fall to the necromantic wail. I love the idea of metagame elements to communicate character difficulties, especially when it comes to encountering another adventuring group, which will put the players out of their usual comfort zone of talking things out with simple bribes or threats. For me, the simpler, blockier map means it will be easier to recreate on the table, but the graphics are still detailed enough to print out a map and use that for a virtual tabletop, the perfect balance.
Derek Ruiz: Where are the Villagers?, Most Peculiar “Repeat Offender”
This straddles the line well between odd fun and macabre horror, with monsters and villains with silly-tragic weaknesses or backstories in a simple branching dungeon. Some items are missing out, with rooms not keyed and the center spiral design not described, but that does at least leave things open to be expanded upon to tie this dungeon into the rest of the game world.
Mathew and Michael Iantorno: Of No Small Power, Best “Alternative Perspective”
The perfect quest for players continuing to poke around a university or mage town long after any troubles have been solved, with a tiny reward, small dungeon, and minor problem. As with most size changing adventures, it is contrived, but the hilarity of seasoned adventurers tracking down a student for book fines makes it totally worth it for players that just are not getting the hint to move on to somewhere else.
Caroline Berg: How to Survive a Fire Swamp, Best Flammable Foliage
A hexcrawling, mapping adventure of surviving the threats of a burning swamp filled with various sources of natural hazards and fire. It tends towards being more a skill/endurance challenge than anything really involving player choice, but I think the idea is going somewhere if there was more interactivity or the hexcrawl changed as the players interacted with it, reflecting their roleplaying.