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My reactions to One Page Dungeon compendium 2016

This is me reading through the whole thing and then jotting down a few words for each entry. It’s not about good or bad, it’s about whether I can use them in the next campaign I have in mind.

Players and local friends, skip this blog post! I’m writing it for my friends overseas that are never going to make it here to join the campaign anyway.

Lost Dwarven City of Dhald’holth

As a map, maybe. It’ll still need to be detailed before I could start it, would need a lot of work. I have a lot of empty maps already (that’s pretty close to what this is given that the entries are so vague), but I’ll keep this one in mind.

Work needed
A lot.
Will I use it?
Probably not.

Thaw

Great theme but one thing is a little unclear. What’s the start and what’s the entrance? The little “start” ‘picture frame’, I don’t understand what it is. Do you have to smash the core to even get in? The ice setting is an obstacle too, for vanilla fantasy.

Work needed
Some.
Will I use it?
If I can figure it out.

Tower of the Time Wizard

Oh, wall of text. At first I was like “Nooo” and then I looked at it and it’s actually pretty nice. Linear, yes (four rooms in order) but interesting challenges and (I love this part) slots well into the sorta vanilla fantasy I like.

Work needed
Very little; I’d want to put in some fluff details on the fourth floor (arcane circles or candles maybe)
Will I use it?
I think so!

The Dimensional Dial of Dr. Diago

This is the sort of weird stuff that I (negatively) associate with OPD. Looking closely at it, it’s a little interesting as a small and weird thing to drop somewhere on the hex map. The big problem is that the shadow ticks forward every five minutes, meaning: 12 linear encounters.

Work needed
I’d like to change the names and I’d change it so that it’s a device the players can fiddle with rather than it ticking automatically. Except what if the players go outside? I’d need to make 12 version of my entire hex map!
Will I use it?
Maybe.

The Outsider’s Son

And this is more in line with what I want out of OPD. A vanilla fantasy dungeon with interesting topology and all the prepping work already done. Works well with 5e.

The problem is that it requires coastal, which I usually have but I’m working on a land locked map right now.

Work needed
None! Great job!
Will I use it?
If I can solve the coastal thing (a lake? change the ship/shore thing?)

The Umber Wood

This isn’t an OPD. But, it’s a list of encounters to cherry pick from when I’m making my own encounter tables.

Work needed
To run it as is? A lot, but:
Will I use it?
Not as is, but I want to take lots of encounters from it, I think there are some great ones here

The Professor’s Potion

As a one-shot “this is going to be the adventure”, it requires a lot of buy in or railroading. But as something to just drop in to a village or town and then the players can run into it or not, and take Zalin up on his offer or not, I like it. It’s one of those things that maybe the players never ever run into, they skip past the whole thing, and that’s OK.

Work needed
Need to stat up the creatures.
Will I use it?
Yes.

The Devil’s Due

Wall of text and dungeons that are hard to see and harder to print. And looong lines of small text, do not like. And the text is an image, I can’t copy from the PDF to reformat. :/

Also it’s gruesome and gory which I also find as a big negative.

The big plus is that it works well with the vanilla fantasy I’m after. I can just plop down the carriage on the hex map and the players can track the orcs or just ignore the whole thing as they please. If they come back later I’ll treat it as “didn’t make haste”.

Work needed
To redraw the dungeon is easy enough. And come up with a simple 5e-ish “make haste” mechanism, I want to keep that aspect. The monsters work with 5e as is.
Will I use it?
I think so

The Palto Seabottom Caverns

Ouch, heartbreaking because yes, this is good and it’s exactly the sort of thing I want OPD to be in terms of layout and presentation and playability. Big and easy to read descriptions, love that. But, not only is it gonzo, it’s gonzo enough to not just be a gonzo zone, it needs a gonzo world around it.

Work needed
A lot. Figure out a good location for it, port things over (jungle, barter chips), figure out 5e-ish monster stats
Will I use it?
If I can do the work, then yes. Then again squid sharks don’t really fit the flavor of forest fantasy I’m after.

Penelope’s Imagination Creation

To port this over to fantasy would make it more interesting I think. Some magical device and a set up similar to the Professor’s Potion above. But, I don’t think I’ll use it. It’s a little too pixel-nagging with intented “clues” etc. And uncomfortable theme with birthday parties etc. As a suggestion to the author, this could work great as an IF game implemented in Inform (in which case keep the modern-day setting).

Work needed
Exactly the sort of monster balancing I hate doing
Will I use it?
No.

Twisted Tower of Wishes

Just by turning to the page, I realize that the goggles do nothing as usual, and can’t imagine to print this? Almost instant “No”. But, taking a closer look anyway. OK, I like that it’s a big enough place, and can slot into the vanilla fantasy flavor well enough. The warp geomorphs seem pointless though. And again we have long lines with tiny letters. The monsters seem well suited for 5e as is, that’s a plus.

Work needed
Even reading it is is a challenge! I could turn it into an image and start selecting regions and inverting colors and desaturating and contrast balance and and…
Will I use it?
If I’m really desperate for dungeons I might turn to this.

Death & the Dandy

Has problems with setup, map legibility and theme. Easy skip.

Work needed
n/a
Will I use it?
no.

The Sundown Ablaze

Requires coastal (but can be ported to like a monestary or something), requires understanding the petal diagram but I figured it out. If you use in the original ship setting, go get a ship map. I don’t understand ships well enough to just improvise them, I’ve learned. But, bubbles-and-line maps work well enough on the other hand. No need to overdo it.

So, two problems remain. How to give the players information about the lotus, stuff like the burning etc? And, when inserted into a larger hex crawl, when does the timeline start? It’ll be another “Oh, how convenient, it starts just when we arrive, gee, thanks DM”. It’s weird, some of these OPD work better inside a larger sandbox and some worse.

I like the plague theme.

Work needed
Selecting NPC stats from appendix B for all, getting/finding/making a map, solving the timeline riddle.
Will I use it?
I want to use it. But I have no idea on how to find a satisfying solution to when in the campaign calendar the infection starts.

The Magnificent Shadow

OK, great use of the page; several columns, a very clear map over a big area. I’ve already made and ran similar adventures and I’m not sure I want to go there again.

Work needed
Running a fight vs 50 thugs is no easy thing. Need to figure out a good system for it.
Will I use it?
Too similar to ground already trodden in my old campaign, but mmmaybe.

Peat’s Bog

This is something that might work well as standalone, low-prep, and you should take a look at it. But I already want to make my hexcrawl. Similarly to Umber Wood, I can take entries from this one and put in there.

Work needed
For standalone? Figuring out the hex scale and travel rules for your campaign. But I’m not going to use it stand alone.
Will I use it?
No, but might take entries from it.

The Cult of Sleep

Interesting idea to have the allies and villains in the town before the dungeon. The journey and dungeon and monsters though: is this even compatible with D&D?

Work needed
This will need a lot of fleshing out and converting over to whatever system you’re using.
Will I use it?
No, too much work!

74,54 m2

Oh, come on!

Work needed
n/a
Will I use it?
No!

Crypt of Northern Prince

Hard to print and hard to read, both because of the background and because of the prose style. Looks like a good enough vanilla dungeon. This is heartbreaking… a simple black text on white background with a simple line art dungeon would’ve been much more usable, I could even live with the prose style (and having to figure out the rigth monster groups etc).

Work needed
redraw everything, rewrite everything. Might as well just stock up a new dungeon myself, will be faster
Will I use it?
No.

The Weathered Pirate

Requires work and requires everything to go the adventure writer’s way (they decide to go to exactly that island, exactly that treasure etc). And the map, if there is one, is… ?

Work needed
To parse everything.
Will I use it?
No, there’s nothing there if you strip away the raily journey rules, just a room and an encounter

Prisoners of the Gelatinous Dome

Oh, wow, yes! I just turned the page to this and this looks great! Now to read more carefully. OK, yes, I want to put this into the game. Will it come across as well in verbal only, that’s a big question? It’s a bit tricky to figure out everything – seems like you can go from room to room, the image makes them seem more broken apart than they really are.

Work needed
Some, to figure things out and to decide on monster stats. But “As jaguars” help me a lot more than the typical “HDu145 AC2” OSR stuff that takes a while to convert, so that’s good.
Will I use it?
Completely ruins the tone I had in mind for this setting. But, gloriously so.

A Wild Chase

Not to sold on the setup, which requires English, or the snow locale. But other than that, it’s a straight forward OPD. Wow, there’s a lot more of these solid, normal OPD than a couple of previous years, great! Not sure I want the ice theme. But, I need lots and lots of dungeon and this is a pretty normal and good one. Not sure what level it’s for though?

Work needed
Not much if you ditch the setup. Changing the names.
Will I use it?
If I can get over the ice theme

The Secret of Nightglass Mountain

Again, this is a good example of an OPD layout. A very clear map in the middle and straight forward descriptions around it. The font is awful though, and the dungeon is too linear and a little too gory for me.

Work needed
Again all sorts of monster groups are only vaguely described, similar to the Lost Dwarven City.
Will I use it?
No.

The Baron Rises

A little two-room gothic ghost story. But requires buy-in, and is thematically not a good fit for this next campaign (since we just came from Curse of Strahd). And HP 20?!? This is a level 1 adventure. Maybe I’ll toss it into one of my smaller convention pointcrawls.

Work needed
A little.
Will I use it?
Not really. It’s really nothing more than what you can come up with using the MM, unless you love the hook

The Midden of the Mewler

Oh, gross. Hope you won’t mind if I skip over even reading this one. The layout / functionality seems above average but it’s just thematically so “no!”

Work needed
n/a
Will I use it?
No.

Death of the Sinner

A clear enough dungeon, but linear.

Work needed
A little world building stuff, + figuring out how to represent the various encounters mechanically. 20 minutes or so of work maybe. Make it 30 if I’m changing the map.
Will I use it?
The map is too linear but maybe I’ll port over the rooms and Orb to another map.

Orient Express

Completely different genre. Can I make it boat? Can I use it for some other game? Maybe. This was one of the contests winners but it’s not what I can use right now.

Work needed
n/a
Will I use it?
No.

Karma Zootra

More of an interesting idea than a great OPD. The encounters that are there are OK, and open-ended. Also clashes a bit with ACKS’s idea of “magic users create dungeons for parts” thing, but that can be leveraged rather than left as a hindrance, maybe.

Work needed
A lot, it’s more of a spark
Will I use it?
Maybe but I’d have to put a lot of work into it, the map is not very clear.

The Stones, the Ship, and the Fortress

I don’t know about this one. Seems more like its own thing. High fantasy, requires a smaller map than I have, the dungeons aren’t really fleshed out.

Work needed
Depends on what you use it for
Will I use it?
Naw, not for this campaign. Maybe again for a shorter campaign with newer players

The Black Tower

And we’re back to typical way-too-special OPD fare of the last couple of years. This one seems to be hard to run with my verbal-only style and there’s not that much agency.

Work needed
Some to convert it to black & white printing, determine monster groups etc
Will I use it?
No.

Dungeon of Abkadev

I’m starved for these sort of normal vanilla dungeons but there’s a lot of work here. I want to change the fireball room to something else, could also be fireball related but something that works better with my style. The madness hall I don’t like either. The monsters need to be defined (just “vermin are here” isn’t that helpful) and I don’t really understand the topology. The “trick” hook seems a bit…

Work needed
A lot. Too much?
Will I use it?
Probably not.

The Lair of the Voidbeast

Similar to one of Dyson’s old maps. Map puzzles aren’t the most interesting for our non-mapping style, and the mechanics of the various traps and monsters aren’t there, and the theme isn’t a great fit either (though it could work).

Work needed
To put mechanics on all the traps and monsters
Will I use it?
No.

Playtime Planet

What? There’s something very icky about this style I think. I don’t know but it creeps me right out!

Work needed
n/a
Will I use it?
No!

Rude Awakening

Hard to print space opera. For another game maybe. For now I’m just skipping it.

Work needed
n/a
Will I use it?
No. Or… port it? Barrier Peaks it?

The Sky-Blind Spire

This is one of the ones I looked at before I got the whole compendium. I didn’t really understand the rooms in order thing or how the rooms fit together. Another heartbreaking one. It sucks that beautiful, hard worked dungeons, with great flavor, like this one and a couple of others are less likely to be used by me than some of the more phoned-in ones. I wish it weren’t so.

Work needed
I need to either really figure it out, or make decisions on how it works, or ask the author
Will I use it?
Not unless I can solve that problem.

The Bridge of Dread

This one is interesting and seem usable if a world is built around it. Which I haven’t.

Work needed
Some, like most OPD.
Will I use it?
Only if I find the right place or change the hook for getting to Doon.

Chambers of the Dread Titan

Here’s a straight forward one. This is what OPD needs to be.

Work needed
I want to refluff it a little, change the names etc.
Will I use it?
Yes.

Descendants!

Another very hard to print one. But it’s soo good! And perfect to just slot into a hex crawl.

Work needed
Fixing the colors for printing (or, run it off the phone?). Deciding for sure on the falling damage. Deciding where the last tunnel leads (connect to other dungeon system?)
Will I use it?
Yes!

Island of the Lizard God Faction Chart

Hello, someone just used graphviz and hit “submit”. Not usable on its own. I’ll try to remember that this one exists if I ever run the associated adventure. If it really makes things easier?

Work needed
n/a
Will I use it?
n/a

The Forlorn Archive

Usable, vanilla, low-level. Not much else to say.

Work needed
Contrast / levels so it can be printed, or redraw the dungeon.
Will I use it?
Probably.

The Signal

Not an OPD and not fantasy genre.

Work needed
n/a
Will I use it?
No.

The Sea Devil’s Stout

I think I’ll ditch the epiloge but this seems usable enough if I can desaturate it / threshold it. What font is this? I want it.

Work needed
+7 strength!?! Some numbers need tweaking
Will I use it?
Changed to “Lake Devil’s Stout”, then yes.

Gripped in the Hands of Time

I love some of the ideas in this and will probably snarf those to any bigger dungeon I make or run. The whole room 4, I don’t really understand it.

Work needed
To understand the time machine thing
Will I use it?
I want to take the dawn ceiling and the time-locked secret door (I’d make the door secret so that players don’t just break through) ideas to another dungeon.

Magic Shop Mayhem

This looks very hard to run but the items are great, this sort of stuff I can use in many different places!

Work needed
n/a
Will I use it?
I’ll just grab the item list!

March of the Machines

OK, here’s a simple enough vanilla dungeon that I’ll just use. Good.

Work needed
Not much
Will I use it?
I think so. Tonally the robot stuff isn’t a great fit

The Dungeon of the Lizard God

The format is actually pretty good with its corridors represented as dotted lines, easy to figure out the distances between rooms. It’s a little linear but it’s so small. It may sound unfair to compare this dungeon, drawn in the style of a young child, to the virtuoso ink work of something like the Sky-Blind Spire. But I’m looking at usability first and foremost.

Work needed
I don’t like the final room (8000 hp…), maybe grab a room from one of the dungeons I’m not using and stick it in there instead? Change the pit trap to a normal one, a little more agency.
Will I use it?
Might as well, it’s small and similar to my own dungeons anyway, save myself a little work.

Druid’s Rest at the Giant’s Rift

A different extra-planar little thing. A bit railroady but that can be fixed (for example, giving stats to the wood lich).

Work needed
Some
Will I use it?
I’m of two minds on this one, but probably not.

Catfished

Getting pretty tired of missing children but this one is has a readable map and has an interesting twist. Need to really figure out a mechanical or reliable way to convey the true nature of the goblins before it’s too late (arrows or eldritch blast ftl). I can use death saves of course.

Work needed
Figuring out the stats of the catfish
Will I use it?
I think so

Aethelberd’s Tomb

Much clearer usage of isometric than the Dungeon of Abkadev. And again something that slots very well into a wilderness trek. A little too much damsel factor, but sure, I’ll use this one.

Work needed
there are some monsters to stat up (I’ll just use a couple of crocodiles glued together for the one tentacle monster)
Will I use it?
Yes!

A Story of Stories

At first glance, I though “No way!”. I don’t like the “clear goal” thing. But… the premise is interesting and could be an interesting twist to hide in a magical library somewhere in the realm. The setups are great, evocative and succinct summaries of fairy tails. I’d throw out the “must achieve the goals” though and just have the PCs do whatever. And I don’t like just blasting ten setups at them in a row that they can’t change.

Work needed
Too much, but
Will I use it?
I want to use the sucked-into-a-book idea for something, maybe for something else, and these ten setups are good and could also be used for something else

The Blight

Straight forward, great vanilla flavor, very compatible with 5e as is, nice fungal theme, can just be dropped into the hex map. Great. This is the sort of stuff that has been so rare (maybe one or two a year) previous years and now there are lots of them. Really loved this one.

Work needed
Figure out where the fast-moving streams lead.
Will I use it?
Yes.

From Death

Requires a specific setup and buy-in.

Work needed
Less than I thought when I first looked at it. If you have the right world for it, or build around it.
Will I use it?
Probably not. The setup is just too much for it to just slot it in.

Once a Great Battle Was Fought in the Stars

Star Trek TOS font and the 5 Room Dungeon model. Honestly can this 5RD model just go away? Is it really that great? I want something sprawling, chaotic…

Work needed
This is unsaveable with its quantum ogre nature. The maps could be used for something else, if I could figure out what the squares meant. And, I have maps for days already.
Will I use it?
No.

The Starving Fishmen

I always keep changing my mind how I feel about these guilt trip tribe bashing affairs. The setup is open-ended enough, the map is simple. Coastal, but movable.

Work needed
Not much. Move away from coastal.
Will I use it?
Not sure.

Crimson Tide Tower

If you fail the saves you’ve got to have sex? No way I’m even touching this!

Work needed
n/a
Will I use it?
No way, but the map is very good though, something to remember and repurpose for an island map.

Griswald’s Shifting Dungeon

Another hard-to-print one. Stop it with the dark brown floors, folks! For my no-screen, no-map style, this one would need significant topological rework (some other mechanic to determine which corridors connect where, but that retains agency).

Work needed
Too much!
Will I use it?
Probably not.

A Small Flight of Stairs

Straight forward, but maybe a little trollish / shaggy-dog and linear. The ultimate anti-Jacquay? It’s not that many steps though.

Work needed
change the names, and stat up everything because in typical OSR fashion it’s just weird “attack as HD4”.
Will I use it?
Maybe, but… I dunno.

Trotipose the Tormented’s Tremendous Travelling Tortoise

It’s unfair towards these authors that some of the gimmicks immediately grab me (like the Prisoners of the Gelatinous Dome) and some don’t, like the Stairs and this Tortoise.

Work needed
None, except on a world-building scale
Will I use it?
Probably not, I’ll have it in mind if when I’m starting to near the end of my hex filling feeling that I need a little more zowie.

Secondhand Map

This is something for Dungeon World or a similar more impro-allowing game, or, if D&D, for the DM who is prepared to put in a lot of work.

Work needed
All of it?
Will I use it?
Probably not.

Bowls of Stars

Interesting enough and just good enough for a single hex on a huge map. Porting everything over to 5e might be heavy, though, and fitting it into the world requires some thought.

Work needed
Some.
Will I use it?
Maybe, leaning no

Yellow Light

I want this as poster kind of. But, I don’t know how to read it. Are they floor plans or cross cuts? OK, they’re floor plans, the white lines aren’t open space, just very thick walls. The biggest issues is how the various sections fit together.

Work needed
It’s a good looking map with some stocking ideas put in graphically but needs to be statted up (unless you’re playing PbtA). And printing in b/w is going to be hard.
Will I use it?
Probably not. It is a good ruin 3d-ish map though, so maybe.

The Quintessential Dungeon

I was really looking forward to seeing this acclaimed nostalgia dungeon with my own eyes. The layout is very clear. This is probably the number one most easily readable/usable dungeon in the book. Everything needs stats though, and there’s a lot of save or die (or just die), and there’s some sewer stuff that I’m not into, and I’d like to figure out what happens if anyone tries to follow the rushing river upstream or downstream.

Work needed
Some
Will I use it?
For a one-shot, maybe, but I don’t want it in the campaign.

Lava-Head Ant Mound

What’s the hook? To just kill the ants? In which case, see The Starving Fishmen above. To steal something? Then maybe. Usable enough with 5e (there’s probably several MM entries that can stand in for the ants) but…

Another one I’m on two minds of, I don’t really like it that much. I’m leaning yes just because it’s so different. It’s something the players can interact with or just ignore. Tonally, it’s wrong for the sorta Ronja/Mio fantasy I’m going for, but that can be said for a lot of these, they’re all more pulpy.

Work needed
Not much. Some questions, like what’s the mound made of (logs and trees and dirt), and is there any treasure?
Will I use it?
Not sure. But it’s a good idea to put some things similar to this in.

Overall thoughts

Way more usable entries than previous years. 15 out of 62, that’s about one fourth. Nice! Then again, previous years I’ve been more “Let’s look through this and see if it’s anything I want to use… naw, not really” This time I was more “OK, if I have to use this one, can I?” because I’m desperate to find a lot of good dungeons to fill a very big map. If I were to go through previous years with the same method, maybe I’ll find roughly the same proportion, or better.

Too little treasure overall, especially from an ACKS econ perspective. That’s something that I’ll need to added to most of these, ordinary gold and silver.

The myth that you can just grab any One Page Dungeon and go is absolutely a myth, I think. Unless you’re even sloppier about prep than I am. Most of the time it’s easier to make one (esp if you have some geomorphs) and stock it than to get one of these up to speed.

I just realized that maybe a better way I could’ve spent this day, rather than to try to review all of them (without playtesting them), could’ve been to go through all of them and extract rooms, wilderness encounters etc to long lists to then use when stocking dungeons and wilderness. And make exceptions for when the whole is especially good like The Descendants, The Blight or the Prisoners of the Gelatinous Dome, and to grab any maps where the map is the good part, like Yellow Light.