by Orion Holcomb
Title: The Magic Dump
Publisher: Monkeygod Enterprises, 2002
Writer: Roland Janbergs
Illustrators: Alan Pollack, Theodor Black, Cynthia Reep
Price: $14.50; 64 softbound pages
The Magic Dump is a d20 adventure for four to six 6th - 8th level characters.
It takes place in the kingdom of Harwich, where the king has put a price on
his fiancé's head. It seems she thought better of marrying the man, and
decided to escape to her homeland. However, she was badly injured during her escape,
and taken home to be healed by the son of a prosperous trader of magic.
This trader made a living by buying unwanted, broken, or cursed magic items,
reselling some and disposing of the rest. The trader built a
swamp around his home with magic to keep out the thieves and other unwanted
guests, and populated it with strange magical creatures and defenses. The
PCs are offered 50,000 gold pieces to find and return the king's fiancé.
When the PCs do find her, she is unwilling to return to the king, since her brother is the ruler of a rival, smaller kingdom which the king takes tribute from. Part of this year's tribute was the fiancé. So the characters are faced with a moral dilemma: do they give in to temptation for the huge sum of money? Or do they assist the escaped bride-to-be in returning home?
The book's artwork is good, quite good sometimes, and the layout and internal maps are
also decent. (If one want to be picky though, the scene on the front cover, with undead
rising out of the muck, never happens as it is depicted). Rules for
walking thru deep water or muck, and the resulting penalties to combat and
movement are a good addition.
The original premise of The Magic Dump is good. An
unpredictable king who demands the reluctant bride, a man who makes a living off of cursed and unwanted
magic items, and a reason to venture into the swamp. Unfortunately, the adventure loses itself in the quagmire of a poorly executed concept.
The adventure title is not the best choice (I'll let you think about that on your own), but the content inside is even worse. The swamp makes no sense, despite being magically created. The main map on the inside cover is an exception to the book's good artwork, and is a blotchy thing of many colors. What do the colors mean? Hard to tell. Add in the lack of an overall swamp description, and you've got yourself a mess. The area
descriptions are not descriptive enough that players would have a good
picture of what is there. Real-life animals and plants are used to describe
the special areas, but are rare enough that many people have never seen
them, so will not have a good picture in their mind. Redwoods, oaks,
mangroves, cypress, Spanish moss, Hyacinths and pine barrens are all used to
describe places. All are familiar names, but how many people actually
have a good idea of what they all look like?
According to the book, there are only two ways listed to enter the swamp. What keeps them from entering somewhere else? Again, hard to say. The "puzzle" of how to navigate the "maze" of the swamp is uninspiring. The opponents are dangerous if the party is stupid, but halfway friendly if they play the good guys. All of the encounters are planned encounters, which is rather one-dimensional; I am left wondering why many of them are there. Do they enhance the adventure in any way? Generally not.
Odd inconsistancies abound. The NPCs are often hard to believe, like the bride-to-be (the one the party has to rescue) is 13th level, but a mere 20 years old. Also, the teaser on the back about the four headed alligators? There are none of those, but one NPC is a humanoid alligator with a magic collar that lets him switch between four different heads (the character is featured in the artwork on the back cover).
In all, the entire adventure seems to be an excuse to make up a number of strange creatures and odd, sometimes useless magic items. It seems to be a
random assortment of places, people, creatures, magic and magic items.
In short, I do not recommend this product. The only redeeming thing about it
is the art. The storyline, descriptions and other writings are vague and
unclear. The Magic Dump is not understandable enough to run as an adventure, which as it stands will only frustrate the GM and bore the players. Never mind the price/page ratio, the adventure isn't worth it. There are plenty of better modules out there. Don't bother with this one.