Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Book info: Soft cover, 48 pages
Publisher: Goodman Games
Author: Harley Stroh with Aeryn Rudel
Gameplay: D&D 4E, 5 PCs of 1st level
Crunch: new evil race, three new monsters, three new magic items
Dragora’s Dungeon is a four part, high fantasy adventure full of strange wonders, difficult foes, and high peril. This adventure reminds me of the dark fantasy of Conan or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, with weird beasts, hidden lands, and epic magics afflicting civilization.
- A short scaling section with advice on how to change the adventure for weak and strong parties.
- An encounter summary chart for quick reference.
- Treacherous terrain that poses stand-alone challenges and that monsters can take advantage of.
- Faction roleplay
- Random encounter charts let you run a strange city without much preparation.
- Magic portals transport the PCs away from home – and the players out of their comfort zones
- Exciting final villain battle
The first two parts of the adventure are action-oriented with traps and critters galore. The third part involves a great sequence of encounters where parley and roleplaying come to the fore. While aggressive PCs most surely will get all the foes they can handle – and more – part III gives cunning PCs the option to advance to the final battle by pitting three factions against each other. Part IV pits the PCs against the villain in an exciting, climatic battle.
Getting the Most Out of This Module
- Play up the villain. The adventure has a great nemesis who doesn’t make a direct appearance until part IV. Build up the player hate, drama, and intensity by looking for ways to add the villain’s fingerprint and personal touches to encounters earlier in the adventure. If possible, try to make things as personal as possible between the PCs and the villain.
- The hidden city, full of creatures known as the zain-kin, reminds me a lot of the Planet of the Apes movies. Ask your group to watch at least the first movie before diving into the adventure.
- Read some Fritz Leiber or Conan short stories before DMing this module. This will put you in the mood for dark, gritty, dangerous high fantasy.
- While in the hidden city, if the players opt for stealth, amp up the drama with close encounters, high stakes, and dogged pursuit. The short day/night cycles means PCs without low light vision will face frequent blackout conditions, adding to their nervousness.
Dragora’s Dungeon gets a thumbs up from me. It’s dangerous though. Careless PCs will suffer defeat, and while some parts of the adventure allow for the PCs to be taken prisoner, other parts leave the PCs far from home, trapped, and left to their wits. I like the module’s high fantasy feel. A whole new race of evil creatures is introduced, but in a self-contained way that won’t upset your world design. If I can swing it, I hope to squeeze this adventure into my current campaign. I’m looking forward to the faction play in the latter half of the module, as I think my players would enjoy it a lot.