Dungeonscape



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Dungeonscape

Author: Jason Bulmahn & Rich Burlew
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Publish Date: 02/2007
ISBN: 978-0-7869-4118-6
Pages: 157
Rating: 9 out of 10
Retail Price: $29.95

 

My local game store has a promotion where they stamp your card after a purchase of so many dollars.Once the card is full of stamps, you get anything in the store 50% off.When my card got full, I had to choose between Dungeonscape and Cityscape.Both seemed fairly useful, but I decided that dungeons are probably something my players would pay attention to than cities, as I tend to run few city-based adventures.Additionally, I admit that the fact Rich Burlew, creator of Order of the Stick, was one of the authors helped influence my decision a little.I really love that comic.

 

The book kicks right off into things with very little in the way of introduction.The first chapter begins with alternate class options for PCs that delve into dungeons more often than facing other hazards.For example, by selecting one of the listed “kits,” you can substitute a ranger’s Track feat and swift tracker ability for the trapfinding ability and Disable Device as a class skill.In short, these alternate class options allow a group the better spread their skills and abilities to compensate for missing class archetypes, especially a rogue.A new core class, the factorium, is presented.The factorium is designed to literally fill in for every missing class type on the spot.It uses a point system to allow the PC to spontaneously perform class abilities or cast arcane spells, essentially allowing him to fill in for a missing or wounded PC of any class.Personally, I didn’t like this class, as I can’t justify its abilities with any degree of realism, but I imagine there are plenty of DMs out there that will like the factorium.Where this chapter really shines, though, is its description of non-standard building materials for dungeons.Floors made of magma, walls made of ooze, doors made from stitched together zombies... this was interesting and useful stuff for any DM.

 

Chapter two was a short bit about the type of gear to take when venturing into a dungeon.Some basic new equipment, such as the hacksaw, was listed.What I liked is that a good deal of new alchemical equipment was present.While a few new magic items were included, the chapter discussed the benefits of tried and true magic items from the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

 

The third chapter dealt with character options&feats, prestige classes and the like.Surprisingly, the feat selection was small, and what was listed was actually pretty good stuff.A few teamwork benefits and guild benefits (from Player’s Handbook II) for dungeon-going PCs were given.Additionally, two new prestige classes were given.The beast heart adept is basically a dungeon-dwelling druid that gains monstrous companions in lieu of animals.I was particularly impressed with the trapsmith prestige class, which allows a PC to craft simple traps on the fly and more complicated traps given time.It seems like the perfect class to have a few levels in when the party needs to rest in a dungeon.

 

The next chapter concerned the overall design of a dungeon setting.A great deal of time was spent hashing out the details of why a dungeon should exist as well as themes to keep in mind when creating and populating a dungeon.Various “themes” were given for the DM to mix and match to create his perfect dungeon and help him work out what kind of inhabitants should populate it and what sort of terrain features it should be made up of.Additionally, several basic areas of a dungeon were detailed, with examples given for each.Many of these areas might be forgotten by inexperienced dungeon designers, such as the waste room, kitchen and the like.

 

Chapter five dealt with the inhabitants of a dungeon much as chapter four dealt with the dungeon itself.Various roles for inhabitants were given for the DM to mix and match when creating dungeon encounters.Several examples of how to fit these roles together were presented.Also given is advice on how to alter the feat selection of basic monsters to achieve a creature that can better perform one of the roles during a combat encounter, some of which were particularly nasty and would likely put the fear of god into a group of players.A few new monsters and templates were given, all of which fit well into a dungeon setting.I was particularly fond of the rot grub swarm, which gives players a reason to be afraid for their PCs’ lives in even the most harmless-looking situation.Finally, a new prestige class designed for non-PCs was presented, the dungeon lord.This is a creature that rules a dungeon or a particular area of a large dungeon and has such an intimate knowledge of the area it rules that it can tell when even the most tiny change or disturbance has occurred.This prestige class seems like it would be a wonderful option for sticking it to a group of cocky PCs that think they can sneak in and kill, loot and rampage as they see fit without fear of reprisal.

 

Chapter six was, in my opinion, the meat and potatoes of the book.It dealt with traps, both old and new.The chapter begins with a look at why traps exist, why they’re located where they are and who uses them.Afterward, it moves on to present a new way of using traps, the “encounter trap,” which is a trap that once sprung, the PCs can’t simply walk away from and must deal with during an initiative count, as the trap repeatedly has the ability to harm those caught in its area.An example is the razor pendulums trap, a hallway where razor-sharp pendulums swing back and forth, effectively attacking anything in their path.A dozen or so such traps are listed for the reader to use as-is, with challenge ratings from CR1 to CR22.Ideas for combining encounter traps with monster encounters or basic traps are presented, as complex traps where different parts of the trap work in tandem with each other.An example of this is the feeding chute traps, where a PC falls down a pit trap, but instead of there bing a spiked bottom, there’s a chute that deposits the PC in a room with a hungry monster.Lastly, psionic traps are given, which work a lot like magical traps, but are able to use psionic powers as effects, giving the DM a whole new set of tools to play with when designing traps.

 

The final chapter is title Dungeon Features and deals with the last niggling details of dungeon design.The terrain features given in chapter one are expanded upon.Other features common to dungeons, such as chimneys, altars, elevators and like are touched on.Furnishing and decoration are briefly discussed, as are sensory outputs, such as the smell or a room or the sounds one might hear from across the dungeon.

 

Dungeonscape seems to be a fairly complete book.Some of the chapters (notably, one and seven) might not be as useful to old-hat DMs that have been designing dungeons successfully for a long time, but newer DMs would certainly benefit from such chapters.Many of the new monsters and templates should appeal to most DMs, and I can’t see too many groups of dungeon-delving PCs that would snub their noses at the trapsmith prestige class.The traps section was wonderfully detailed and might even allow a DM to create a dungeon completely devoid of monsters, but still deadly to PCs.At the end of the day, I think Dungeonscape is a book worth picking up if you’re planning on running any dungeon-based encounter, and who isn’t?