Some of my favorite supplemental material for Dungeons & Dragons (and tabletop RPGs in general) are one-shot dungeons. I’ve used a dungeon from Kobold Press’ Book of Lairs for our Princes of the Apocalypse campaign, and plan on including one from Prepared 2 in Tomb of Annihilation.
“Drop-in Dungeons Tier 1” provides the same concept on a much cheaper level. Five fairly generic dungeons are included, using material from the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide. The dungeons aren’t particularly unique or memorable (save one), however, and I strongly dislike the black and white graph paper art style for the maps.
The compilation includes five dungeons, which I’ve summarized as follows:
- A warehouse full of kenku, designed for level 1
- A crumbling temple full of plant monsters (blights), designed for level 2.
- A brothel with some nobles and thugs, for level 3.
- A forest cave home to a druid, beasts, and a lake of healing, for level 4.
- An active temple full of cultist worshiping a dark god, for level 4.
None of those fall into the low-level tropes of rats in a cellar or goblins in a cave, yet they’re also mostly generic by design. It’s easy to throw them into commonly used areas, like cities and forests, which is entirely the point.
Out of the five, only the brothel really caught my eye as something unique and memorable, though it’s disappointingly mundane, with a few patrolling guards and a thug who runs it. Still, the pair of panthers lounging on silk pillows is a nice touch.
None of the dungeons have any kind of story or hooks to get the PCs interested – these are drop-in dungeons in the truest sense. It would’ve been a nice bonus to have some sort of story or quest, however. It’s something I’m glad to see in bigger one-shot dungeon compilations like Prepared.
The only dungeon to get any kind of background lore or expanded information is the last one, which gives a few notes on the dark god that the cultists worship, but it all boils down to “they kill people.”
But what it really comes down to are the map themselves. The blank ink on graph paper design gets a hard pass from me every time. My group and I enjoy tactical battle maps for our dungeon crawling, and this minimalist style is essentially unusable as is – negating the whole concept of a drop-in dungeon.
There’s a lot of nice detail and things going on in each room, but none of that is physically represented on the maps. I would have to build each one from scratch, and that’s a big turn-off to using them in the first place.
- Does what it says on the tin: 5 fairly generic dungeons designed to drop in to existing campaigns.
- A range of leveled dungeons are provided throughout Tier 1 (levels 1-4).
- A brothel is a neat and unique idea for a ‘dungeon.’
- The maps are black lines on graph paper – not a style I like nor can use on something like Roll20.
- A few typos and grammatical errors.