Dragon Issue #34 Doomkeep

The Heretic

Should be playing D&D instead
Dragon Issue #34 Doomkeep (February 1980)

Doomkeep? Doomkeep. I suppose it might have been fresh and new in 1980 but this comes across as hackneyed now. This one is a tournament adventure, "The Second Official AD&D Masters Tournament".

This one has a new feature. Read aloud! Yay! </sarcasm> The editing choices are off-putting. The read aloud sections are in red. And get this, the DM's section is bracketed with double parentheses. Weird.

The adventure begins with three paragraphs of background information. The three of you are looking for the ROCK OF AGES (formatting, theirs). You think it might be in DOOMKEEP but even if it isn't, you think you'll find valuable clues to its location. And you're given a map of the surrounding area. No, not because you get to adventure there, but because at the end you have to make a guess as to where the ROCK OF AGES actually is.

This page also has a drawing of the keep. Sorry, DOOMKEEP. It's a boring, symmetrical looking castle. The front is surrounded by...trees? Rocks? Vines? I'm not sure. Not very enticing.

Now the read aloud starts.

START. The only entrance you can find
is a door slanting down into the earth. You
open the door and find a short earthen ramp
leading to a dark spiral staircase.

Apparently the cardinal sin of taking actions for the PCs in the read aloud started at the very beginning of the practice. From there it continues to be boringly descriptive. Lots of "30' by 30'" chambers etc. Also, what's the deal with this being a dungeon. I thought it was DOOMKEEP not DOOMDUNGEON.

This thing is just too much. I'm gonna have to be brief to keep my sanity.

The good stuff: There's a lot of unique magical treasure and a few unique monsters. Some of them are almost gonzo (alien entity stuck in the dungeon, etc). Some of the rooms have interesting interactivity. Some of them...don't. Some of the highlights for the magic items include a staff and boots set (the staff lets you create a pit that's covered with an illusion, and the boots let you walk over that illusory floor as if it were real), a 'portable manhole' (anything placed within continues to fall until it reaches terminal velocity; when you open the hole again, look out!), and a mirror that does some random things if you point it at something and say 'i hope...'.

The bad stuff: This is an incoherent funhouse. When you read the story of this 'annual masters tournament' it becomes apparent why. Each room was designed by a different participant. Ugh. No wonder. The map is also a mess. Usually when you number a map you keep the numbers together so you can have subgroupings. Not here. Room nine is stuck between 11, 17, and 18. Room five's closest neighbor is room 13. Etc. Also, the map symbols are hard to get used to. Two hashmarks = door.
Three hashmarks = secret door. Okay...
There's a chess room. Oh boy. At least it includes an early prototype to the guardian familiar. That's kind of cool.
Some of the unique monsters are way too jokey. Co-dacc is a being from another universe who is stuck here because his device is missing a part. He points the black box of the inverted soul at you from a hidden spot (save -3). It grabs part of the soul, inverts it, and grabs it in the sticky far end of the device. Once he has someone's soul, he threatens to destroy it by revealing it to the light. Get it?
Then there's a lizard lounging in a chair, the Thesaurus. He says a word each round, and unless someone in the party says it's definition, everyone within 60 feet takes 3 hp damage.

Bonus historical content: They have rankings! Gary Gygax took 16th place. Len Lekofka took 34th! (Doh! Apparently his group had a TPK with the first encounter; in the first tournament his group had place 1st, what a precipitous fall!). Jim Ward of Prairie du Chien was called out as the highest finisher, going from 13th in the first annual tournament to 5th in the second. Another thing quite noteworthy about this---it was refereed by the Blume brothers (of let's-give-the-company-to-lorraine-williams fame).

So yeah. This thing's a mess. Unusable as is. It might be worth cutting out and using a few of the rooms (not the chess room though, that's too hackneyed). It's also somewhat fascinating as a historical artifact. But it is definitely not worth spending good money on.

Finally, what's up with this pointless wilderness map? Where the hell is the shoreline?

The Heretic

Should be playing D&D instead
Addendum: Oh hey, this issue has a Tekumel trivia test, for the four of you who even know what that is.


8, 8, I forget what is for
I know --- downloaded a revised Tekumel setting PDF recently...but I would totally fail that test.