DMs Guild Review – The Great Trial

A trap-filled mega-dungeon that includes a labyrinth and a hex crawl, for 7th level.

dms guild review

A review copy of “The Great Trial” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Christian Zeuch

Trap-filled mega dungeons were all the rage in older editions of DnD, from the Tomb of Horrors to the Temple of Elemental Evil. Most recently we have the Tomb of the Nine Gods from Tomb of Annihilation, and all twenty levels of Undermountain from Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

The Great Trial attempts to create another classic mega-dungeon filled with pit traps, illusions, monsters, and an entire jungle for level seven parties.

The background, premise, and adventure hooks are the weakest components of the adventure. The player characters (who are annoyingly and incorrectly referred to as ‘it’ throughout the adventure) are kidnapped by an all-powerful wizard, waking up in the middle of the dungeon without any clues or ideas.

The wizard, Aenor, is given half a page of needless background information as an architect and engineer obsessed with creating the nastiest dungeon, and the PCs are simply unlucky enough to be his test subjects. There’s little in the way of story-telling, and almost no opportunities for interacting and role-playing with NPCs outside of a lizardfolk tribe near the end.

The adventure completely fails at the social pillar of DnD, but leans hard into the other two. When the PCs first awaken, they must each deal with their own separate trial rooms, not unlike the Sewn Sister trials near the end of the Tomb of Annihilation, involving skill checks, patience, and insight.

After obtaining the keys, they’ll survive trapped corridors, puzzles, and traps, including an aboleth, a mimic, and the classic Indiana Jones rolling boulder.

The dungeon provides several varieties of pit traps, including falling ceilings, pits with zombies, and hidden traps behind the obvious ones. It can be difficult to visualize some of the trap designs – thankfully we’re given fun black and white sketches of many of the traps.

dms guild review

The first floor is non-linear, but every single room must be completed in order to unlock the way forward, 28 areas in all! Resting is allowed, but the PCs should have a limited amount of food and water, given their kidnapped state. But otherwise they aren’t under any time limits; there are no wandering patrols of monsters, or imminent threat to worry about.

The second level of the dungeon features a giant maze, which is impressively depicted on the battle map. The adventure includes full color grid and non-gridded maps of all three levels – though the third level is actually an overland hex crawl.

Navigating the maze is accomplished through a skill challenge, with failures leading to additional traps or encounters. It’s a good solution (though kind of renders the map pointless). I used a similar tactic when running the hedge maze surrounding Dungrunglung in Tomb of Annihilation.

After defeating the minotaur construct in the middle of the maze, and the iron wyvern at the end (or better yet, finding the levers in the chests, opening the door, and escaping), the party emerges in the surprising third and final level of the dungeon – a nearly 30 sq. mile jungle filled with rampaging dinosaurs.

The ‘Halaster’ level was inspired by the Mad Mage’s diverse biomes of Undermountain, and includes several subregions with their own encounter tables, such as caves, rivers, and a mutated area called ‘alien.’ The goal is to reach three different sites and shut off their light beacons, opening the exit.

Including a mini-hex crawl as the third level is an interesting surprise. But it’s problematic for two reason. First, hex crawls tend to be a slog of random encounters. Every hex has a 10-30% chance of an encounter, and aside from a few scripted events, they’re just simple encounter tables.

Second, why are we doing yet another dinosaur-filled jungle? Even if you haven’t played Tomb of Annihilation, one of the more popular official 5e campaigns, it’s something we’ve seen before all too often. Why not do a desert, or canyons, or a chain of islands? I would’ve vastly preferred a much more creative, interesting setting, and far more NPCs and factions to interact with.

The Great Trial is an example that designing complex mega dungeons while still making them fun for the players is incredibly difficult. There are some clever ideas buried in here, but the dungeon feels too tedious, cruel, and lacking in purpose to compete with the big boys.

Pros:

  • Lengthy Tier 2 mega dungeon with puzzles, traps, a labyrinth, and a dinosaur-filled hex crawl.
  • Helpful and fun artwork for the many complex pit traps.
  • Color dungeon maps with grid and non-grid versions.

Cons:

  • No story-telling, and very little role-playing opportunities.
  • Jungle hex crawl is very been there, done that after Tomb of Annihilation.
  • Some editing and grammatical issues.

The Verdict: The Great Trial drops players into a complex mega-dungeon filled with traps and monsters, but lacks purpose and a strong narrative arc.

A review copy of “The Great Trial” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

One thought on “DMs Guild Review – The Great Trial”

  1. Hello! Author here! Thank you for taking the time to review it and also thanks for raising the points you mentioned.
    I will update the product with some improvements based on the feedback:

    – I will fix the “it” used to refer to characters or even get editing on the full product again. This was my first product and although I paid someone to review errors and grammar, it wasn’t enough. From my second release onward I started to use professional editors on my products;
    – I will add one or two social interactions in both first and second level of the dungeon. Along with the lizardfolk tribe and the Imp Zyx in the last level, who can provide some information, this will make it 4 to 6 social interactions in total;
    – I will also update the hooks, mainly the strategy used by Aenor to capture the party.

    Once again, thanks for providing this detailed review on the product!

    Liked by 1 person

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