5E Holiday Mini-Dungeon Bundle (5e)
All right, so I’m going to deviate slightly from my usual approach, since this is a collection of Mini-Dungeons, and I’ll be extracting the relevant sections for the individual adventure reviews.
At this point, I think you’re all familiar with how mini-dungeons work, but for completion’s sake:
They are basically cards of two pages (in rare cases more) that depict a scenario on a single sheet of paper, and the respective adventure features a full-color map. Rules-relevant aspects generally are hyperlinked to, and these, for the most part, have no room for read-aloud text. An important deviation from standard mini-dungeons would be that the holiday mini-dungeons are all super-sized, i.e. they cover 4 pages instead of the usual two pages.
Functionally, these modules basically represent small sidetreks or semi-spontaneous modules you can just whip out and run, be it as a quick convention game, as an interlude in your home-game, as a sidetrek – you get the idea. It wouldn’t be fair to expect epic storylines of the like from these mini-dungeons, so I’ll rate them for what they are.
The mini-dungeons contained within this bundle have NOT been included in the Mini-Dungeon Tome, just fyi. They have all been penned by Justin Andrew Mason.
I have previously reviewed “The Horror of Ochre Grove”, the designated Halloween adventure of the collection, which is btw. also one of the extra-long mini-dungeons, sporting a total of 4 pages. I considered that one to be a good little sidetrek, worthy of 4 stars. There are, however, 5 more adventures within this bundle, so let’s take a look!
It should be noted that I will THOROUGHLY SPOIL all of the adventures contained within this bundle, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only GMs around? Great!
The Thanksgiving-related mini-dungeon adventure would be “A Feast of Fury”, intended for levels 5 – 7. This one is pretty intriguing: It takes place in a small and rather lavish castle, and has the PCs overseeing peace-negotiations, as the goblins have united under one king – who, surprisingly, seeks peace with the humans. The PCs thus basically represent guardians for the diplomatic relationships – and, of course, a cadre of goblin dissidents and ogre allies crash the party, requiring some good ole’ enemy smashing – preferably without having the important folks die. The module also features a nice little random encounter sequence for the assault of goblin dissidents, and in a cool twist, the default stats used add custom features – I actually like the 5e-version a little bit more! All in all, a fun little sidetrek. 4 stars.
The Christmas mini-dungeon scenario would be “Disaster on Bluegale Glacier”, intended for PCs of level 9 -10. In this adventure, the beloved priest of Bluegale Glacier, a Santa Clause-like figure usually blesses the villages, brings gifts – you get the idea. The kind priest, however, doesn’t show this time – not in the usual way. His reindeer crash into the crowds, fiendish monsters, and the corpse of the priest, dragged by one of the reindeer, pronounces a dire warning – rather traumatic indeed! You see, the temple of bluegale glacier is a containment of sorts, keeping far darrig ice fey at bay – but the imprisonment of said fey has tainted them and transformed one into the Winter Terror, who is represented by the sand hag stats, substituting snow for sand, in 5e. Visiting the nearby villages will have the PCs ambushed by the freed ice fey, but ultimately, the PCs will have to brave the brave the complex of the temple and the no longer sealed complex beyond, ending the threat of the hag. Solid, if a bit grim – 4.5 stars, rounded down.
The Easter module would be “The Grand Basilisk Hunt”, intended for level 7 – 8. The mythological Grand Basilisk is said to lair among its lesser brethren, and ostensibly, every 200 years, this specimen creates an egg, which hatches to replace the Grand Basilisk. The PCs are hired by an eccentric collector to get exactly that egg from Upsilos mountain. Ascending the mountain is covered, and a random encounter chart is presented for the basilisk infested caverns. There are plenty of basilisks breeding in the caverns, and finding the rather potent grand basilisk, much less surviving to secure an egg, will be a challenge. The grand basilisk has pretty brutal custom bite stats in 5e – nice touch. Oh, and guess what? The module does offer quite a few mechanically-relevant components. All in all, a fun, unconventional module, and the rewards and mechanical components have been properly adjusted to reflect 5e’s aesthetics. 4.5 stars, rounded up.
The New Year’s Eve themed mini-dungeon would be “The Temporal Clock Tower”, for levels 8 – 9. A mysterious obsidian obelisk has manifested at the border of the kingdom, and its emergence is accompanied by pockets of accelerated time. An artifact inside (fully statted!), the Eye of Philochronorastaris would be the culprit here. The artifact stats in 5e are smoother than in the PFRPG iteration. That being said, this little dungeon does contain a couple of different and rather interesting components: The temporal flux effect within adds an uncommon tactical dimension here, and the inside both features delightfully weird foes and a simple puzzle of sorts to ascend, reminding me of one of the more current Red Sonja comics. All in all, a fun offering that can have serious repercussions, should you choose to have it. It’s the mechanically most interesting one, and the concept could (and probably should) have carried a full-length module. All in all, an interesting little adventure that works better in 5e. Hence, 5 stars for this version.
The mini-dungeon intended for use as a birthday-module would be “The Shard of Accountability” can be run for every level. The module does require a bit of prep-work, in that it is tied to some questions that the player must answer for the PC. The birthday PC does get an artifact, the eponymous shard of accountability, which will send the PCs into the Halls of Contemplation, a psychic dimension – and here, the questions are represented by a variety of different tests – and the better they fare, the more pronounced the rewards will be. The codification of the mechanics is slightly tighter in the 5e-version, and there is a template to apply to creatures contained in this version. All in all, I consider the 5e-version to be superior to the PFRPG iteration.
Editing and formatting as a whole, are good, bordering on very good – the 5e-iteration of this collection is tighter than the PFRPG-version. Layout adheres to the standard established by the Mini-Dungeon Tome, with color-coded text and borders, allowing for seamless integration. The respective mini-dungeons are not bookmarked, but don’t need bookmarks at their length. The cartography provided is rather cool, but we don’t get player-friendly versions of the maps.
Justin Andrew Mason’s holiday-mini-dungeons highlight the author’s talent and creativity. Not one of these mini-dungeons is boring, and all of them have an enjoyable angle to them. If you need a couple of neat sidetreks/brief modules themed around the holidays, this’ll be a neat one-stop shop. The 5e-version of this bundle is superior to the PFRPG-iteration as far as I’m concerned. Editing is a tad bit tighter, and so is rules-language. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.
You can get this nice array of modules here on OBS!
A couple of these can be purchased on their own:
The Halloween module can be found here!
The Yule/Christmas module can be found here!
The New Year’s Eve scenario can be found here!
The Thanksgiving adventure may be found here!