Review: Barrowmaze

Posted: 20 March 2013 in Reviews

You know, I think that with this post, I’ve run out of things to review. Other than the truly old stuff from the seventies and eighties. Anyway…

In a Nutshell:Old-school mega dungeon for Labyrinth Lord and other D&D retroclones. 87 page PDF.

CONTENT

The product describes a large megadungeon, or the first level of it anyway, hidden under a series of barrow mounds in a largely deserted moor. There are four main areas to explore, several competing factions dwelling inside, and a variety of new spells, monsters etc.

Although there is only one level physically, there are several dungeon levels, since things get more dangerous the further you go from the entrance. Getting in and out isn’t easy, either; you’re likely to need several ten foot poles and a fair amount of rope just to get in, which makes getting out in a hurry problematic.

Area descriptions hit a nice middle ground between “4 rats HP 1, 1, 3, 2” and lengthy descriptions that get in the way when you’re trying to run the game. I haven’t counted the areas, but the place looks big enough by comparison to other mega dungeons I’ve run to keep my lot going for about 6 months of real time. There’s quite a bit of empty space too, allowing the group to pitch camp overnight without leaving.

I can’t really go into the individual areas without dropping spoilers everywhere, but they’re a nice enough mix of traps, treasure, monsters and NPCs.

FORMAT

Full-colour cover, encasing black and white two-column text, with black and white illos. Three-page dungeon map towards the back.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

I couldn’t help thinking how much more GM-friendly the Savage Worlds dungeon deck paradigm, or the D&D 4th edition encounter spreads, were; I don’t want to go back to flipping between pages every time the PCs enter a new room. The OSR answer to that, of course, is the one-page dungeon. I could always whip some of those up based on the big map in the book, but that defeats my objective of buying stuff like this to reduce my effort. You may have a different objective.

CONCLUSIONS

I think I might plonk this in the Charred Bogs just outside Jalizar and see what the Labyrinth Lord adventurers I have running in the Dread Sea Dominions make of it. How’s that for tweaking?

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5. It’s a pretty good dungeon, but the more I look at these things, the more I realise this isn’t what I enjoy running most these days; truth be told, for me the dungeon was always somewhere the party went when I didn’t have a scenario of urban intrigue ready that night. That’s not really the product’s fault, so if that kind of thing appeals to you, you could do worse than this.

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Comments
  1. finbikkifin says:

    I’m out of touch with SW, really – are there any particularly good examples of the SW dungeon deck system? I remember something like that in the last SW book I failed to get a game going with, but not very clearly.

    • andyslack says:

      I’d start with The Carnival of Nal Sagath for Beasts & Barbarians. That’ll give you a good idea of how it works, and it’s free.

      The dungeon deck approach isn’t really part of SW core, but it’s prominent in B&B and discussed occasionally on the Pinnacle forum.

      Once you see it, it’s easy to make up your own.

  2. Jim says:

    Savage Worlds dungeon deck paradigm? What exactly are you talking about here? I know of no such thing.

    • andyslack says:

      Perhaps “paradigm” is too strong a word. I’ve seen it most often in Beasts & Barbarians products, but also on the Pinnacle forum.

      Essentially, instead of a map you assign various events or interesting locations or encounters to cards in a deck – usually the face cards represent something more unusual, and the ordinary cards more common things. Then, the group proceeds through the dungeon (or city, or whatever) and every so often you draw a card. Often, they make rolls or solve puzzles to acquire tokens, and once they have enough tokens they reach the boss fight or main treasure room.

      Take a look at The Carnival of Nal Sagath and you’ll see how it works in detail. It’s free to download.

      (I just realised this is pretty much what I said a few minutes ago – sorry, it’s been a long day…)

  3. You could always have a look at Blueholme … 😉

  4. Well, then, I hope you like it! By the way, you sort of know of me under my other intertubes moniker VileTraveller.

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