Care and Use of… Dungeon Magazine, Issue 2!

Guest Writer: Patrick Bird

©Artwork by Jeff Kronen

With the initial success of Dungeon Magazine #1, work began on creating Dungeon Magazine #2. The second issue had some notable differences from issue number 1. First of all, instead of just an issue number on the cover with no other information, the second issue’s cover also carried the notation “November/December 1986”, indicating that the publishers had decided on having the magazine have an issue come out every two months. This gave those gamers hungry for new adventures to peruse and explore an idea of how long they would have to wait until the next issue hit the stands of their local game, comic, and/or book stores.

Where the first issue of Dungeon Magazine had seven different adventures or encounter areas in it, the second issue would contain only four adventures. But these four were full adventures with a variety of things to offer the discerning Dungeon Master. Keeping the concept that diversity was essential to appeal, the magazine offered three adventures designed for AD&D rules and one for the Basic D&D rules. Of course each adventure could be converted with some effort into the other rules and thus no matter the rules in play at the table, the DM had four adventures to choose from. The letters section of the magazine also published corrections to the adventures from the first issue and gave a place where those who wished to communicate with the publishers could have their voices heard and hopefully their questions answered.

The second issue also had a slight variant from the standard adventures that existed at the time: three of the four adventures had non-standard story lines, with differences in setting and adventure goals. For example one of the adventures took place completely in the dreams of the creature that the adventure centered around while another could, and perhaps should, be successfully completed with almost no combat at all. These were unexpected concepts in AD&D adventures and it would provide a hint of the unusual ideas that Dungeon Magazine would be willing to explore.

The Titan’s Dream: A bizarre journey into the realm of sleep.

©Artwork by Jeff Kronen

Background: The realm where the adventurers are has been suffering the effects of a war with a neighboring country that is ruled by a man who is viewed as a cruel despot. The despot has offered a treaty to the kingdom where the characters are: a treaty for peace and mutual cooperation and a joining of the two countries into one with the king’s daughter marrying the despot’s son to seal the deal. The king is rightfully very concerned over this deal, but still wishes to make peace and spare his country a costly war that they might easily lose. A titan with oracular powers lives near the kingdom, and the king hires the adventurers to journey to the titan and see if the oracle can provide any insights to the problem. The adventurers agree to do so, and they undertake the journey.
Adventure Overview: This adventure was designed for 2-8 characters of 5th to 9th level. The fewer the characters in the party, the higher their levels must be to find success. This adventure is the one mentioned above that takes place almost entirely in the realm of the titan’s dreams. As such, it has only five adventure areas that are used in each one of the titan’s dreams, each representing a theater’s set where the action of a play takes place. Since each set is used in multiple dreams, the DM might find it easier to just make print outs of the five maps to use since there is no way to leave the set until that act of the dream is resolved. Within each dream play the adventurers are, at best, minor characters instead of the heroes of the dream. Their options are somewhat limited, but they do have the freedom to act as they wish within the dream set. Whatever actions they may choose will have an effect on the play’s ending, which can cause problems for the party or could reward them well depending on the dream.
Adventure Issues: Some players may chafe at the feeling of having no way to exit the dream sets or to wake the titan before the dream sequences are complete. In some ways the adventure is very much like a roller coaster in that the adventure is almost required to proceed as expected along the rails set out for it. The more esoteric nature of this adventure may cause issues as well with players potentially not taking the dream sets seriously and/or doing foolish things since it is “just a dream.” However the chance for death or loss of items treated carelessly or cavalierly in the dreams is a real and serious one, meaning that the players should not take the adventure too lightly.
Continuing Adventures: With a successful conclusion to each of the dream plays and the oracle giving the adventurers a riddle to take back to the king, the adventure is neatly wrapped up and ended. But if the DM wishes to continue adventuring in the kingdoms, there may be other potential employers looking to hire the adventurers to return to the oracle and seek answers to other questions. While the exploration of the titan’s dreams is likely best left as a one time only kind of adventure, the titan may have other tasks and challenges for the adventurers to pursue before he will reward them with a riddle to take back to their employer. If nothing else, the concept of exploring a more powerful creature’s dreams and working with a non-human oracle might inspire the DM to create an adventure of their own using some of the devices central to this adventure, so there is still much that can be done with the information in this adventure.

In The Dwarven King’s Court: The game is afoot in the Royal Palace.

©Artwork by Jim Holloway

Background: The dwarven kingdom of Fairgold has long had a strained relationship with the neighboring dwarven kingdom of Jerad East with everything from simple economic strife to outright battles marring the interactions and occasionally leading to acts of war. But finally, after many years of tension and acrimony, there is the chance for a lasting peace between the two realms. Expensive ceremonial gifts have been exchanged, the details of the treaty have been finalized, and only the final formal meeting of the leaders of both realms remains. Everything is going so well that nothing short of catastrophe could spoil the outcome now…
Adventure Overview: This adventure was designed for a party of 3-6 adventures of 3rd to 5th level using the AD&D rules. As the adventure takes place within dwarven realms, it is strongly suggested that the party not have characters of races that are usually barely civil with dwarves. Stout halflings, dwarves, humans, and gnomes are suggested as appropriate races, though the DM can of course modify this as needed. Much like the previous adventure, The Titan’s Dream, this adventure is not a standard adventure, instead relying on investigation and political diplomacy and intrigue over swords and spells to successfully solve the adventure. In truth, the adventure’s most successful conclusion requires no weapons and only informational spells to be cast. To unravel the entirety of the truth behind the story of the adventure might be impossible, but it still is possible to have unanswered questions and still save the treaty and goodwill between the kingdoms.
Adventure Issues: This is a thinking adventure and will challenge the player who enjoys using their mind as much as their might to achieve victory. For those who play for body counts and treasure hauls, there is little to interest them here, and much to frustrate them. And since combat is almost nonexistent in this adventure by design, there is no way to easily adapt this to maintain the elements of the mystery and add in enough combat to please the hardcore hack and slash adventurer. In fact, those who rely on fighting to solve problems will likely cause the mission to fail spectacularly and may find their characters dead from either death in combat or from summary and fully legal justice from the dwarves they are supposed to be helping.
Continuing Adventures: This adventure establishes a small dwarven kingdom that could be the source of many future adventures in the area. If the adventurers settle the bare minimums for a successful adventure there may still be further adventures into other elements behind the original storyline. While any future adventures are more likely to be based on using the kingdom as a base of operations and a potential source of intrigue and political role-play, there is enough background and history of the kingdom of Fairgold and its ruling family, past and present, to provide a DM with ideas for future adventures.

Caermor: Why would a town refuse to be rescued?

©Artwork by Jeff Kronen

Background: The small village of Caermor has nothing to recommend it: it is merely one of dozens of small farming and herding villages dotted around the relatively barren and windswept peninsula called The Wizard’s Claw. But on their latest visit to the nearest large city, several traveling merchants who buy wool in Caermor have spoken of the village and the strange, well, stranger than usual, behaviors of those who live there. The normally taciturn villagers have become even more so, and none willingly venture out of doors after twilight. Even those who drink late in the tavern would rather sleep on the tavern floor rather than walk the hundred feet home. Something odd is happening in Caermor, but no one has asked for help. Perhaps adventurers could find out what has changed and why and save the town that doesn’t want to be saved.
Adventure Overview: This adventure is intended for 4 to 8 characters of 2nd to 4th level using the AD&D rules. As the previous adventures in this issue have done, Caermor also is less about swords and sorcery as it is about investigation and information. While combat will happen at some point it is not the focus of this adventure either. Instead the party must try to understand what is making life difficult for the citizens of a town who generally refuse to talk to strangers. The main story line resolution can be resolved without taking care of the underlying problems, and those underlying problems in town may attempt to take care of the interfering adventurers all by themselves. And even if that is taken care of, there is still the motive force behind the underlying problems which may require many, many adventures to resolve.
Adventure Issues: Unlike the previous adventure in this issue, this one by design contains a good amount of potential for combat, some of which may come looking for the adventurers when they least expect it and from a direction that they do not expect. The main issue with this adventure is that it may be very easy for the party to spend a lot of time chasing red herrings and making no progress whatsoever, which can be endlessly frustrating to the hack and slash style of play.
Continuing Adventures: This adventure leaves many doors for future adventures wide open and available for exploration far from the tiny town where this adventure took place. For those resourceful and vigilant adventurers who solve all the depths of mystery in this adventure, they will gain a potential nemesis that will last for longer than they will live, unless they can take care of it. The recurring nemesis that pops up when least expected is a standard trope, but this one isn’t feeling threatened by the party and views them as a form of entertainment. This alone can lead to a variety of fun and entertaining adventures for future game sessions.

The Keep at Koralgesh: Buried in fire, but hardly dead.

©Artwork by Mark Nelson

Background: Koralgesh was once the brightest port city on the Western Sea with a stronghold on the lower slopes of the mountain known as Helm’s Peak. Its fortress was almost inviolate. Almost. But one day the city was successfully attacked and overrun, and Kor, the Immortal connected with the city, heard the dying citizens plea for vengeance and Helm’s Peak spewed forth lava incinerating the city and those who would sack it. The lava still flows slowly and in smaller amounts leaving the Peak shrouded at all times, but some sailors claim that they have seen that the intact Keep still stands high on the mountain. But if the keep remains intact, who knows what treasures may lie within? A brave party might find out, if they only knew where to start…
Adventure Overview: This adventure was designed for 6 to 8 characters of 1st to 3rd level with some experienced characters (very well equipped 1st level characters or at least two characters of 2nd or 3rd level) being strongly suggested. This adventure, which is the only ‘typical’ adventure in this issue, contains a small village, which is only for gathering information and role-play, a shrine to Kor high on the mountainside, and then three subterranean levels, the bottom of which has two floors to it. Through the whopping eighty-three subterranean areas, the party can and likely will encounter many groups of enemies, which explains the need for experienced characters, and it will require the adventurers to rest and recover between sorties into the Keep.
Adventure Issues: While not exactly an issue, the Keep itself is a massive place with a lot to explore, encounter, and discover. Those groups who are unused to such long-term endeavors and who continually push on to reach the end of the dungeon will likely find themselves over matched and far from any safe place to retreat, which could get the entire party killed. Some of the monsters to be encountered have special attacks which could incapacitate party members, and the environmental hazards, in the aspect of fissures to the lava flows below, could easily kill the careless and unlucky. The DM must take care to tell the players beforehand that they should play wisely, even if they do not specifically say “You might want to go back to town to rest. A lot.”
Continuing Adventures: The Keep of Koralgesh is a continuing adventure all its own since it will very likely require multiple sessions to explore its many rooms. With a fairly typical casual adventuring pace of a dozen adventure areas/encounters for each four hour session, this adventure could take seven typical casual sessions to complete and that is assuming that monsters do not occupy the previously cleared areas in the meantime, providing new encounters in explored areas. The DM could also expand the ruins of the keep if they wished, expanding the mapped areas both horizontally, perhaps with levers on lower levels that open previously concealed passages on upper levels, and vertically with both higher and maybe one or more lower levels to explore. This adventure has the potential to keep explorers occupied for quite a while.

Issue 2 of Dungeon Magazine continued the promise of the first issue by including both the standard dungeon delving adventure as well as three adventures that were not what the players might expect. The willingness and desire to include the realm of dreams and simple and complex investigation adventures with a minimum of fighting but a maximum of thought was a great way to expand the horizons for what makes a good adventure. It also left readers curious and looking forward to what the third issue might bring!

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