Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review And Commentary On Dungeon of the Unknown By Geoffrey McKinney From Lamentations of the Flame Princess For The LoFP Rpg System and Your Old School Campaigns

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 Dungeon of the Unknown By Geoffrey McKinney From the Lamentations of The Flame Princess Rpg system is one of those dungeons that's been out for quite while but doesn't seem to ever get mentioned on the blogsphere.
 To bad because its a damned decent dungeon crawl that acts both as adventure and tool box for the Lamentation of the Flame Princess rpg system but has a completely different style then other efforts in that line. This dungeon links up with the Isle Of The Unknown campaign setting and in fact links with the Minoan past of the setting. I'm not going to go into the mysteries and back history clues that are scattered throughout this dungeon but let's say that there are reasons for the high weirdness of the setting. It really doesn't effect the placement, ideas, or deadliness of this dungeon.
Here's the low down on this adventure from the Drivethru website: 

Located near the coast of hex 2214 of the Isle of the Unknown, this dungeon enshrines the mysteries of the Isle’s lost Minoan past. The module includes scaling information that allows it to be immediately and effortlessly used to challenge characters from 1st through 10th level. It features:
  • 2 Dungeon Levels
  • 20 Legends
  • 2 Wandering Monster Tables
  • 6 Sample Goop Monsters and a Random Generator to Make Countless More
  • 12 Treasures
  • 12 Weird Locations
  • 19 New Monsters
  • 7 Human Encounters
Along with the dungeon maps printed are keys that give an evocative appellation for each of the maps’ 75 encounter areas. The Referee can place the above 50 treasures, weird locations, new monsters, and human encounters in the blank spaces provided as he sees fit. Or, if he would rather, he can use the optional placements already given in the keys.

In any and all cases, the pontifical Referee is encouraged to add to, subtract from, and otherwise alter all within to suit his sovereign whims.
This is a very deadly adventure and how its used is going to require a bit of effort by the DM every time its used. But its an adventure that has quite a bit of utility. It also allows the dungeon master to scale it to the game of their choice from LoFP to AD&D first Edition. Its not hard at all to see where the placement, use, and drawing of the dungeon elements will effect over all play and level of the module. This is done on purpose and allows for a much more customized experience. A very weird customized experience but LoFP specializes in the pulpy weird quite well. 
Geoff does a great job with this dungeon from start to finish, and basically from what I can see from the feel of this adventure this might be along with the  Isle Of The Unknown campaign setting  a love letter to the Mike Carr Basic Set Dungeons And Dragon's adventure 'In Search Of The Unknown'.  A very twisted and clever stalker style letter which puts the characters right into the thick of it.
 This adventure shares many characteristics of 'In Search of' according to wiki : 
'Mike Carr intended it for use as an instructional adventure for new players. The module is a beginner's scenario, which allows the DM to add their own choice of monsters and treasure.[1][3] The module is coded B1 because it was created as the first adventure for the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, though it is possible to convert it to Advanced Dungons & Dragons'  You can find out more about In Search Of The Unknown right over HERE
This dungeon is part of a greater location based adventure campaign but its a decent way to introduce the PC's into the Isle of the Unknown campaign setting. Using this dungeon the PC's are going to get a taste of the greater elements that await them on the Isle and they may have a better survival rate. This dungeon isn't as deadly as some of the hex crawling efforts found in Carcosa and that's fine.
In point of fact I think that the Dungeon of the Unknown makes a better stepping stone into this end of the LoFP system. Its not that its any less deadly or more so but this dungeon makes things a bit more manageable for mixing and matching parties together. Give a group of PC's a few common enemies and watch them blend together quickly. This module will allow you to do that as a dungeon master.

Using The  Dungeon of the Unknown By Geoffrey McKinneyFor Your Old School Campaigns 

Here's what struck me right out of the gate reading through this module, this adventure would make a great introduction for a party of castaway PC's sucked through a dimensional gate and find themselves at the mercy of this dungeon. In point of fact I'd mix in a whole group of very diverse individuals from across the time space continuums and planes and drop them right in to the Dungeon Of The Unknown. Those who survive then see the light of day past hex 2214. 

This isn't by accident at all. Given the tool kit style of this adventure, the DYI monsters, and the elements that a DM puts together I was reminded of Jules Verne's Mysterious Island. The book is very dark actually and those running this module as well as the campaign setting might want to look into that book as well for a bit more of the feel of this adventure.
 Cover page of The Mysterious Island

The idea of a group of diverse castaways put into a dungeon adventure location  of weird circumstance isn't a new take and one that goes back to Robinson,  of course there's bits of  Robinson Crusoe  and The Swiss Family Robinson as well here that can be used for resource material. If you need a bit of a refresher on  Verne's Mysterious Island go right HERE

Because the odds in Dungeon Of The Unknown are going to be heavily stacked against such a party I'd use another LoFP  element  here as well. Black Powder firearms are something that I've used time and again in my OD&D campaigns and pulp sword and sorcery adventures as well. They can easily crop up in such locations as they did in Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson. Fire arms can wash up as part of a ship wreck's cargo safe and sound with powder, horns, and twelve apostles in a nice trunk.
Make no mistake black powder weapons will not unbalance such a setting.
There's another aspect of the Dungeon Of the Unknown. Horror and believe it or not there are some nasty monsters and encounters in this one that if used correctly could very nicely unsettle the PC's without outright killing them. Remember this is an OSR product and a LoFP adventure as well. Cannibals, pirates, zombies, and worse would not be out of place here. 

But this also brings up a strength and problem with this adventure and indeed the Island Of  The Unknown campaign setting. Does a DM use this material with the pulp styling PC's of the LoFP rules or does one use the  ancient Mediterranean adventurers that seem to echo from the Minoan background of the Dungeon's history?   The answer is actually both.
Here's where the castaway option comes in quite handy. This setting will not break should a DM pull from the Howard Solomon Kane source material of the LoFP rules or the D&D tropes of other retroclone rules.
The beauty of Geoffrey McKinney's writing and design on The Dungeon Of The Unknown is that as a DM your not going to break it. The PC's are going to have a memorable time within the environs of the adventure and should they survive will get a nice foot print into the campaign setting of the Island Of The Unknown. But I'll looking to that one next time.
Dungeon of the Unknown is a bit on the expensive side right at the moment but there should be a few sales coming up soon with Halloween and the like so grab this one on the fly when it comes out. 

All in all I liked this adventure and as always your mileage may vary. LoFP isn't for everyone but so far I've enjoyed the ride into their product line and I've got more reviews coming down the pike. 
Grab Dungeon Of the Unknown and happy gaming! 

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