Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Magazine Annual Vol. 1
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Page Count: 161 pages
Release Date: 01/29/2013 (Originally released in 2009)
Get it Here:Drive Thru RPG
Every Dungeon Master has their own individual strengths and weaknesses If you were to poll the people that I play with, I assume most of them would indicate that my main strength is that I’m a good idea man. I can come up with backstories for all sorts of random NPCs and I can make fully-defined worlds for them to explore on the fly. On the flip-side, none of them think I am a tactical genius. Quite the contrary, most of them probably think the monsters they come across are well below par when it comes to the intelligence scale. It’s simply a fact and my group is well aware that a lot of my monsters are just going to charge and hack away. What they probably don’t know, however, is that I am no good at designing dungeons. I can’t draw, even with the aid of graph paper, my original dungeons are generally uninspiring. They don’t know this, however, because what I generally do is swipe dungeon layouts from other sources.
This is why Dungeon Magazine is a godsend for me. Dungeon Magazine provides you with full adventures for your group to run with, from detailed maps of the overworld and that random castle you want them to explore, to full bios and stats for townsfolk and the monsters that plague them. If your strength lies in the fact that you are a tactical genius, you can run the adventures fully as written and not have to worry why that Lich wants the Eye of Whatever. Conversely, for me I can take a dungeon and leave everything else at the wayside. I’ve got my own plots and demons, thank you very much. Dungeon Magazine is an adaptable resource for a DM.
The Dungeon Magazine Annual provides you with five pre-made adventures. Now, a word of warning here: if you are not the sort of DM who can modify the material you’ve been given, this might not be worth your time. The adventures presented range from the heroic tier (entry-level) to the epic tier (god-level) so you get a nice mix, but if you’re not particularly good at modifying the difficulty level of pre-published adventures, your 2nd level party of adventures is going to get absolutely annihilated by that 7th level dragon. Even if you’ve got a 7th level party, if you can’t modify the rest of the adventures, 80% of this book will be useless for you. As I have no trouble switching monsters out or simply altering their stats, this wouldn’t be an issue for me.
Since these five adventures run 161 pages, I’m just going to hit you with the basics of each adventure and some quick opinions.
Menace of the Icy Spire, by Sean Molley. Set in the Forgotten Realms campaign and designed for a 2nd-level party, your goal here is to storm a warlock’s tower and destroy a magical artifact that is causing a plague of winter to expand out from the tower in a flood of ice. As this is an entry level adventure, it is relatively straight forward. Your players will face a skill challenge while navigating through a storm and then face a series of battles whilst working their way to the top of the tower.
Winter of the Witch, by Stephen Radney-MacFarland. This is a 22nd-level adventure, putting this in the epic tier. A Winter Witch has returned from exile and the only way to stop her is to acquire a sun talisman and destroy her once and for all. In order to find the talisman, your players will have to storm a monastery taken over by minions of Orcus, then it’s off to a glacier to fight a dragon, before ending up in the Feywild to fight the Winter Witch. As pointed out in the creator commentary, most supplementary materials for D&D focus on monsters for heroic and paragon tiers, so most of the monsters for this adventure are brand new.
Throne of the Stone-Skinned King, by Logan Bonner. This adventure takes place in the Scales of War campaign and is for 15th-level parties. As such, it is very tailored to people who have been playing Scales of War since they created their characters and who intend to follow through to 30th level. This adventure plops you down in the middle of the githyanki war and sends your group to the Feywild to convince a Formorian king from assisting the githyanki. This adventure focuses very much on skill challenges, utilizing three of them, one of which is a Level 5 difficulty. I hesitate to really go over much more for this particular adventure, but suffice it to say this is one of the turning points in the whole campaign.
Storm Tower, by Christopher Perkins, D&D’s most prolific author. This particular adventure was designed specifically for the guys from Penny Arcade, PvP, and Wil Wheaton. It is for parties of the 3rd-level and like most of the heroic tier adventures, it is straight forward. A tower housing a gold-plated skull has been taken over by brigands and they need to be eliminated. The commentary mentions that this adventure was very much designed on the fly and the fact that it is mostly just a series of encounters is pretty evident. This doesn’t necessarily make it bad, but it’s definitely simplistic. This particular adventure features art from Mike Krahulik (Penny Arcade’s artist) and while not everyone likes his art style, I do.
Heart of the Forbidden King, by Luke Johnson. Set in Eberron for a 7th-level party, this adventure is just as straight forward as Storm Tower. Your party learns of a creation forge and is sent to investigate. They then fight a ton of war-forged. On the plus side, the encounter works and the addition of a war-forged dragon is a great idea. On the other hand, the adventure literally begins with the party’s arrival at the dungeon and ends when they kill the dragon.
All of the adventures are well written, albeit simplistic in some cases, and accompanied by the as-usual great official D&D illustrations. How much use you’re going to get from the Dungeon Magazine Annual really depends, however, on how versatile you are. If you are one of those tactical geniuses who runs adventures as written and that is it, this book isn’t going to be of much use to you. Even if you start out with 3rd-level characters to take advantage of Menace of the Silver Spire, it’s not going to sync up with Storm Tower, which will not sync up with Heart of the Forbidden King, and definitely not with the Scales of War adventure. However, if you’re someone who can easily modify adventures to suit your own needs, or you are just looking for some pre-made dungeons to disguise your own deficiencies, this annual will be very helpful to you, and I’d recommend picking it up.