review: Dwimmermount

I've been looking forward to Dwimmermount for a long time now, and it's released!  I wasn't actually part of the kickstarter (I almost never participate in those things), so haven't read the first draft, or been part of the drama, or any of that.  All I care about is having another big dungeon out there, because I love big dungeons.

So - conclusion first - I really like Dwimmermount.  It's really big, and it's full of pulp science-fantasy flavor.  It is NOT gonzo science-fantasy - nothing like my own ASE that way.  But you can see the shared roots, with floating space techno-gods, interstellar travel, metallized skeletons of unknown purpose, etc etc.  So, James and I apparently read all the same books and watched the same cartoons.

What Dwimmermount is, is classic D&D.  It uses tons of book monsters and book magic items.  There's custom creations in there, but the majority of it is straight out of the rulebooks.  It's also the product of play - my understanding is that James had a really brief set of notes and maps, and he made a lot of things up as he went along.  This book is the actualization of that experience.

The side effect of this, is that this book is the realization of James' and his players' play styles.  You can feel how his campaign worked and what his players were focused on as you read through it - it was an investigative, world-building campaign where the details emerged through play.  That is a strength and a weakness here - to really get the most out of the dungeon, the players have to invest themselves in figuring out the details of the world.  There are little margin notes that point out where history can be gleaned and sold off to sages - but it's a bit understated.  I think the DM will need to create & use some NPC's to showcase this in the early levels to make sure the players understand that this is worthwhile - the text as written doesn't really cover that, presumably since James' campaign went that direction all on its own.

After the first couple of levels, the factions get all up in the players' face and the historical bits should fall into place much easier.  This is very much a dungeon of factions rather than set-pieces and goofy traps - there's a lot of those, but the big deal here is interacting with the factions and playing them off each other.  The factions and their motivations are very well covered.

Other stuff:

Dungeon maps - very cool
Pulp background - very cool.  It's got astral travelers founding subterranean cities, giant robot-gods, lakes of magic gasoline, really it seems yanked from a 50's "B" sci-fi movie
Wilderness maps & overview - a bit bland, but it's not really the focus of the book, so not much of a knock on it either
New monsters - a lot of these are copies of Labyrinth Lord AEC, presumably stuck in because of concerns about being "Labyrinth Lord" compatible w/o needing the AEC.  Doesn't hurt anything, but could've been left out
New magic items - again, a lot of these are from AEC

I'm a terrible reviewer, others (Bryce Lynch, Gus L.) are much better at explaining why they like & dislike a product - but I've given it my best shot.  Overall, I like Dwimmermount quite a bit.


Review queue: Dwimmermount and more

Got a bunch of stuff on the review queue now:

Dwimmermount (like it so far for pulp flavor, have read thru level 1, monster ratio is a bit lower than the one-in-three I personally like [EDIT - nah on further review it's just about perfect] - clearly requires getting players involved with the factions to get maximum utility)

Bottle City (like parts, but it's clear that Rob Kuntz ran a lot of this extemporaneously, it needs fleshing out or lots of improvisation, but haven't read thru it 100% yet)

F1 The Fane of Poisoned Prophecies

F3 Many Gates of the Gann

AA#12 The Barrow Mound of Gravemoor

AA#23 Down the Shadowvein

AA#24 The Mouth of the Shadowvein


session recap, 7/27/2014

Gutboy the Cleric (6), his henchpeople Trezgar the Elf (3) and Bunny the Thief (3), and his blink dog Rufus II
Pai Mei the Wu-Jen (4), and his henchmen "The Doctor" the Time Lord (2) and Paula Abdul the Battle Dancer (2)
Rolf the Dwarf (3), and his henchman Piston Honda the Sumo (2)
Simon the Halfling (3), and his henchmen the Unnamed Mariner (2) and Roger the Halfling Guardian (2)

Back in Denethix, Pai Mei once again sought out some hired help that he could leave to die in a dungeon.  Interviewees:

- A snickering man in plate mail, promptly called out as an anti-paladin and told to take a hike
- Skeletor the Death Master, rejected on the grounds that he couldn't contribute any meaningful firepower
- Walter White the Alchemist, rejected on the same grounds
- Paula Abdul the Battle Dancer, hired!

Skeletor, Walter White, and the anti-paladin stormed off angrily, vowing to form their own adventuring party.

While Pai Mei did his hiring, Gutboy interrogated the hinge-headed mind crystals.  They identified themselves as a staff sergeant and two sub-corporals, and demands angrily that they be returned to the hinge-headed outpost.  Gutboy used his persuasive skills to try to drive a wedge between the sergeant and his underlings, but no opportunity came up to exploit this division.

The party headed off to the dungeon.  Only a short recap here:

a. The cod-men had left a sign outside the 3rd level entrance, demanding 50 gp per adventurer.  They were bemused that there was no one to actually collect at the gates to the dungeon, and tossed the sign into the woods.   The cod-men toll collectors were positioned a few rooms in, and let the "Mongos" pass for free, as they were well known to the cod men.  They did pass on the information that two other parties had come through already.

b. They came across Skeletor's newly-formed adventuring party - Skeletor, Walter White, the anti-paladin, and three thugs named Moe, Larry, and Curly.  They easily killed Skeletor, Walter, and anti-paladin, and "hired" the thugs at swordpoint.  Moe took the anti-paladin's plate mail (with sculpted muscles and nipples embossed on the armor)

c. They began exploring the large 30' wide flooded tunnels, and collecting the faces from the statues at the end of each hall.  One of the statues had a shark-tooth necklace - when Moe was coerced to put it on, it began whizzing around and contracting, quickly sawing Moe's head off

d. They found a room with a pair of pedestals, each sporting a pair of hand grips, and an array of tubes, wires, and mirrors between them.  A sign read "Test your Mental Strength".  Pai Mei went up against Curly - Curly's head began to smoke, and he quickly fell to the floor twitching.  Pai Mei felt a surge of mental energy from his victory, and was aware that he could unleash a deadly mental blast now.

e. They took the faces to a hall containing eight identical statues to the ones they had already found, and a ninth statue of a "great founder" holding his palm out, full of dice.  They screwed the faces into the statues, and one of the dice began glowing pink.  It was quickly shoved into someone's backpack.  Yoink!

f. Wandering monsters aplenty - vampire piranha, sharks, a toymaker wizard with a suitcase full of evil sock monkeys, and an adventuring crew called "The Green Hands" on account of their green gloves.  The wizard's bowler hat and suitcase were confiscated.  The Green Hands had a half dozen slaves with them that they used for setting off traps - these were provisionally "rescued".  An amulet with a three-lobed eye was looted from one of the Green Hands.   The last thug, Larry, and Roger the Halfling Guardian were lost in combat.

g. The back passage was taken to the outpost of the hinge-headed.  Stopping to investigate a room on the way, they fought and slew the Lucrephage, the terror of the hinge-headed - a hideous monster that sucked treasure from the party.  Gutboy's glittering armor was peeled of its emeralds and gold filigree, and one of the hinge-headed mind crystals was absorbed, before the beast could be killed.

h. They spoke with Section Chief Burtelix of the hinge-headed outpost and negotiated a round-trip pass through the domain of the Hinge-Headed to Bartertown, Under-Miami, and beyond, in exchange for returning the two surviving mind crystals and slaying the dread Lucrephage.

i. Upon their return to Denethix, the party identified the pink die as a "Stone of Retribution" - upon the death of an ally, they could throw the stone at the corpse and the death would be visited upon the killer instead, and their comrade returned to life.  They also sold the amulet of the three-lobed eye at the Bazaar Incomparable - a shady looking gentlemen observed the transaction and was visibly upset.

j. The former slaves were released to return to their families, or wherever else they came from

Gains:  28 gp, Stone of Retribution, Amulet w/ 3-lobed eye, Necklace of Decapitation, paisley suitcase, bowler hat, the gold dust from the filigree that once adorned Gutboy's armor, 2 suits of plate mail (one with ridiculous embossed nipples and muscles), impractical lacquered trident, two daggers
Kills: Skeletor, Anti-Paladin, Walter White, 3 vampire piranha, 3 dungeon sharks, 4 "Green Hands" adventurers, toymaker wizard, evil sock monkey, the Lucrephage
Losses: Three stooges, Roger the Halfling Guardian