Dungeon Lord – The First Issue (DCC)
The first installment of the Dungeon Lord-‘zine clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Okay, so the pdf contains a one page basic generator that allows you to randomly determine inclines in your dungeon, with a d3 to determine incline or lack thereof, and the gradient of the slope. Basic, but potentially useful, if you really needed such a super basic table. I couldn’t help but feel that a finer differentiation and nuance would have helped there. We also get a nice poem, “Some Ziggurat”, penned by Julian Bernick – and it actually is a nice one! I will use this at one point to set the mood.
The lion’s share of the ‘zine, though, is devoted to adventures, so in order to discuss these, I will have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only judges around? Great! So, on the inside of the front cover, there is a nice little one-page dungeon, the “Calcified Caves of the Slime Yeti”, penned by Ron Yonts, which comes with a nice map (no player-friendly, unlabeled version included) and a brief magic item loot table. The dungeon comes with wandering monsters, and, to my joy, does feature a brief note on terrain hazards. While we don’t get stats, this is a nice one-page dungeon that manages to squeeze a bit of atmosphere into the space allotted.
The second adventure, and the main article herein, would be “The Caves of the Sacred Seven”, a level 1 – 2 adventure that has a distinct thematic focus on prehistory. This complex is depicted with full stats and the map…exists. It’s not exactly aesthetically-pleasing, and it lacks a scale. No unlabeled version is provided. The complex has 36 keyed locales, and comes with a d30 fluff-only random corridor generator. I per se like the prehistoric flavor of this place, but the rules are…all wrong. There is, for example, a per se cool room wherein PCs exposed to primordial slime either evolve or devolve – d7 tables for both are provided. How do you determine which you roll on? “This causes them to either evolve or devolve depending on their luck, rolling a d7 on the appropriate table below:” That’s literally all we get. Yeah. Nonfunctional. Telepathic communication has no range, etc. –this, alas, does extend to the whole content here, and what’s here is not sufficiently interesting to warrant the effort to make this work as intended, which is a pity, as e.g. a wizard that can wipe body parts away and place them on walls is a great idea, though one that is, once more, lacking regarding the mechanical representation, and I’m not going to start with formatting and intricacies.
The pdf also contains a thoroughly linear fun-house dungeon, the “Tomb of Zarfulgar the Lost”, which lacks notes on suggested player maps and has a map that spells out “ABQ Zine E Fest 2014.” This is per se a solid funhouse, though it lacks proper stats or rules-relevant components: Playful beings of light and a bunch of fun weirdness can be found here, but there is a downside: The dungeon is provided in a ginormous wall of text in a font that’s super unpleasant to read. As in: Migraine-inducing. This rather ugly and jumbled presentation, combined with the lack of actual rules, means that, ultimately, I can’t come up with reasons to actually run this.
Editing and formatting are not good; on a formal level, at least editing is okay, if not perfect, but on a rules-language level, we have a supplement that barely qualifies as DCC as far as I’m concerned. A few decent b/w-artworks are included in the pdf. The cartography is functional, but not exactly amazing. There are no player-friendly, unlabeled maps provided, and the pdf, in a puzzling move, lacks bookmarks, which makes for a comfort detriment that would have been easy to avoid.
I wanted to like this ‘zine by Taylor Frank, Julian Bernick, Jason Pfiefer and Ron Yonts, but ultimately, I can’t claim I did. The one-page dungeon and the poem remained the only bits of content that I took out of this, with both big dungeons so problematic, they don’t really warrant scavenging. This is not a cynical cash-grab, but it is a pretty rough offering when compared with other DCC-‘zines. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, and honestly, since I really got nothing but the poem and the solid, but brief one-page-dungeon out of this, I’ll round down.
You can get this ‘zine here on OBS.