Thursday, October 4, 2018

Dungeons of the Dread Wyrm Review — Killer Dungeon That is More Smoke Than Sizzle

Dungeons of the Dread Wyrm is the 2nd module in the Dungeon Delve series, which I've until now overlooked (I don't follow social media much anymore, to be honest, so presumably missed any announcement). It's a high-ish level adventure, 10th to 14th levels, written by R. Nelson Bailey for First Edition. Apparently it was originally Kickstarted and so contains entirely new original art, which also explains the price tag of $9.99 and 32 pages for the PDF. Notably, it includes art by by the Fiend Folio guy, Russ Nicholson*.

It has no real plot, other than a dragon has been extorting a kingdom for a while now and is getting tired of it. So if the PCs would go and kill it, it would be greatly appreciated. The dragon has built a mid sized (by today's standards) 3 level, 40-ish keyed encounters dungeon to protect her wealth and herself, filled with traps, tricks, and her flunkies, wit the last level being her lair proper.

The dungeon design is almost linear. At most there are two branches, one of which is a deadend. There's no real exploration, though I suppose this is not uncommon in "killer" dungeons.  The first level of the dungeon is mostly focused on traps (though it starts off with a dragon version of the juggernaut), both ones the party might set off and puzzle traps where if they do something wrong, they'll probably get killed, though in the center is a guardroom full of the dragon's servants, which are a bunch of 7th level fighters led by an ogre mage.

The second level is a false lair meant to fool the PCs into thinking it's the real dragon's lair. Instead there is a dragon skeleton (animated of course). Hidden though is a secret lair of the dragon's henchmen, a drow wizard (16th level). It's only a few rooms and is perhaps the only real exploration aspect of the dungeon, including his laboratory.

The last level is the dragon's actual lair. It's basically one big cavern that she shares with two huge red dragon consorts. She herself is a new type of dragon, one that hails from the Abyss, an infernal dragon. She also casts spells a small number of spells. The haul from her horde is suprisingly little, considering she's been apparently shaking down kingdoms for 100+ years with about 100,000 gp in assorted coins plus a handful of gems & jewelry. Apparently she may have been using some of the coin to influence politics in neighboring kingdoms. The magic items are mostly generic but fairly high end, with a +5 sword, ring of regeneration (which you'd think she'd might wear on a claw), and a +4 set of elven chain.

There is a new magic item, the quiver of endless arrows, which is as it sounds. There's also a handful of new monsters which are given very nice write-ups at the end.

It's a nice looking PDF, but not particularly fancy, though it's indexed at least. The art is all original and fits the module, depicting scenes and rooms and there is a decent amount of it. There seem to be two pieces by the Fiend Folio guy, the middle piece on the inside cover, and a full page piece near the end depicting some mephits and a hand of a demon prince (who really just has a cameo in a trap). The rest of the art is decent, but nothing that makes you say "wow".

As killer dungeons go, it likely depends on how experienced your players are at avoiding obvious killer traps and how many resources their characters have - can they prepare themselves for a fire breathing dragon with rings of fire resistance, scrolls, etc? I ran it with a set of 4 10th level characters (Paladin, Hunter (Ranger), Dervish (Cleric), Fighter) and a higher level semi-retired character (magic-user) plus a handful of henchmen and it was kinda easy.

While it's not a bad module, it probably doesn't live up to its price tag. Unless you really need a higher level module or shortish length, I would probably pass, unless there is a sale.

*Okay, probably a bit unfair to him, since he had a long career as illustrator in White Dwarf and elsewhere, but that's kinda what he's known as in the US.

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