|Cover for DNGN Issue#1|
Art by Chris Malec
© 2022 Vasili Kaliman and Singing Flame.
Publisher: Singing Flame
System: Old-School Esssentials
Marketplace: Drive-thru RPG
When I saw DNGN released a few months ago, with its amazing art credits and cool concept, I decided that I wanted to grab it right away and give it a review. Once I started reading it, however, I decided that what I really wanted was to play it through as a solo play project.
DNGN is a very old-school megadungeon project. It is 10 floors with between six and twelve rooms each. The encounters are often strange and a little incongruous with each other at first. It feels like the old "funhouse" dungeons of early Dungeons & Dragons. As you delve deeper DNGN starts showing some interconnectedness: the weird encounters begin to make their own strange sense.
DNGN is intended to be a multi-issue affair, with each room adding an additional ten floors to an ever-deepening dungeon.
The floors of DNGN are not set up to correspond exactly with level of difficulty: the first three floors are set up to correspond with level 1 of a more sprawling dungeon. The diffuclty of the lower floors increases slowly. By the 10th floor, the difficulty corresponds to roughly a 4th-5th level dungeon. The smaller size of the floors means that the PCs will be roughly ready for the challenges before them. That said DNGN s not afraid of throwing some curve-bals. I nearly lost my party on the 4th floor to a dormant purple worm that I accidentally woke up.
The Wnadering Monster table is in the middle of the dungeon's difficulty curve, making wandering monsters feel particularly deadly early on, and keeping the dungeon tense throughout.
DNGN is huge, deadly, and strange. It can also be time-consuming. After playing about half the module, I had to call it, as I didn't want to wait forever to get the review out.
DNGN also includes "Husk", a low level dungeon full of biomechanical monstrosities, slime, and Star God idols and tie back into the material in the rest of DNGN. This map end Adventure were designed by Skullfungus, one of my favorite map makers on ttrpg twitter. Husk is intended to be played as a side Adventure for possibly hook into DNGN in whichever order the GM chooses.
What I Loved
Old-School Funhouse Nonsense
DNGN makes little attempt to follow the modern conventions of thinking too hard but a Dungeons ecology. This place is a surreal fun house of monsters, traps, trickd, and general weirdness. Sometimes, that is exactly what I am looking for,
Slow Evolution of Sense from Nonsense
At first, the dungeon seems almost too random. As the adventure continues however, objects, environmental storytelling, and repeated themes eventually give a sense of unity. There is an story to piece together here without having it dropped on you. As you delve deeprer in and the nonsense of the first few levels begin to make a strange sense, giving you a sense of discovert and staisfaction.
|"Statue in Flames" by Huargo|
© 2022 Vasili Kaliman and Singing Flame
All dungeon floors in DNGN are on single facing-page spreads in that familiar compressed OSE format. With the added bonus of color coding that makes it even easier to read.
With all the amazing art talent, I find the extremely minimalistic maps a bit disappointing. i could have used a little more visual interest, o perhaps inline notes.
Killer Encounters not Telegraphed
I don't mind killer encounters in an adventure. if I didn, I would be playing 5e. But when you are coming up against things that can TPK a party with incredible ease, liks a hungry purple worm behind a stuck door on the 3rd floor of the dungeon, it is at least helpful to give some hint that the PCs are about to bite off more than they can chew. Only m craptatic dice rolling saved the party
Party-Killing Wandering Monsters
I had a couple of more near misses on the single d20 wandering monster table. The power of the crearures on that table is middling for the dungeon region... but as low-level PCs are going to be tissue-paper fragile. Several tables bound to a range of levels might better prevent you from losing PCs needlessly by bad dice rolls. Maybe going a little easier on floors 1-3.
This is a great example of the weirdest, wildest, most lethal style of plays for the good-old days concentrated into a tidy, well-ordered package. As an experimenal way to present a dungeon, I thought it was pretty clever, although I could use more information on the map if, possible. I expect it will eb an excellent exemplar for anyone looking for a way to present their Dungeon23 projects at the end of the year.