The Rotating Labyrinth (3.X/almost system neutral/5e)
EDIT: So, since I downloaded this pdf, there has been a 5e-version added. The review has been amended to include notes on the 5e-version as well.
So, what is this? This could be used as a stand-alone dungeon-level, or as a slot-in to be included in another dungeon. The dungeon’s peculiarities include three items (that lack price/cost to create/etc.) that can help navigate the dungeon. In 5e, these lack scarcity-ratings. Similarly, there are a couple of items that don’t allow for bypassing, which can be a bit frustrating: E.g. a door may not, not even with a superb check and magic, be picked.
As written, the pdf contains two statblocks, both of which contain serious errors in formatting, ability notation and statblock math; neither of them are truly required to make use of this environment, and I’d strongly suggest replacing them with other critters of your choosing. The 5e-version of the monsters are better than the 3.X-ones, but they also aren’t perfect.
Note that the central adversary within has an ability that has a shroud of darkness that grows, but fails to specify a maximum range; a similar ability would benefit inclusion among the replacement monsters chosen for the boss.
Why bother? Because, in spite of quite a few errors and misnamed components, “Reflex checks” etc., the general premise of the dungeon is cool: You see, 4 of the pages of this pdf are devoted to the hand-drawn map of the complex, and on this complex, circles are noted in different sizes, some of which may overlap. The movements can be randomized, and ultimately, this generates a puzzle that challenges the map-making skills of the PCs as much as their spatial and cognitive reasoning. The rotating labyrinth also includes stone slabs and is an honestly cool, old-school challenge that demands smarts from the players. The instructions to assemble the dungeon-prop for the GM are also tight and well-wrought…though, as a final nitpick, the map has no scale noted, which makes judging distances harder than it should be.
The pdf even includes a failed attempt at mapping the complex, as a possible adventure hook or prop for the PCs to find.
Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level, and less impressive on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with golden headers, and the hand-drawn b/w-artworks are better than the full-color pieces in the newer offerings by Mind Weave RPG. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length.
I should hate James Eck’s rotating labyrinth, I really should. It has the small guffaws and glitches in rules-syntax that tend to infuriate me at least a bit; particularly considering the abilities of the BBEG inside, which seriously should be replaced. Were I to rate this pdf only regarding those components, this’d be a 2-star file. That being said, the flaws and imprecision do not compromise what the essence of this pdf, namely the labyrinth itself. It works, and constitutes a cool and fun offering, particularly considering that the pdf costs a whopping $0.99. And honestly, I do think it’s worth this fair and low price. As a set-piece to add some cerebral activity and challenge into otherwise grindy dungeons, this certainly does its job rather well. The 5e-version is slightly stronger than the original version, but by enough to warrant a different rating.
Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up, with the caveat that this verdict only applies if you want to make this dungeon-concept your own, if you add your own critters, context, etc. Running this as is, is less awesome than it deserves to be.
You can get this cool set-piece/component for a single buck here on OBS!
You can check out a video on how to assemble the labyrinth here on youtube!