I know that this post will come dangerously close to starting an “edition thing” and I really do not want it to have that effect. I’m not really in favor of edition things. But as I’ve been gearing up to the beginning of a new campaign I’ve been doing one of my favorite things… wandering through the pages of old Dungeon magazines and just looking for ideas, encounters, and whole adventures I can use to weave into my own stuff as I work out the opening chapters of the new PC’s story.
And this time around, I started — even though I’m running Pathfinder — with the digital issues I have from WotC since they took the magazine into 4E. And I found little to like. No offense to the writers, some of the adventures do have some interesting parts. But in the main, they are a cut below the older stuff when Dungeon was an actual magazine. Some of this may be perceptual. Some of this comes from the way 4E adventures have traditionally been structured. But I’ve been an outspoken critic of the lack of quality in WotC’s 4E adventures — and I know that they are working on changing their adventure writing going forward — but overall, I don’t know that Dungeon is what it once was.
Now, to show my bias, I’ll just admit it. I think that the best era of Dungeon magazine was the era between the beginning of the Shackled City path in Life’s Bazaar and the final issue at 150 of the print magazine. For me, this was a golden age for Dragon and I’ve mined the adventures in this time frame more than any other. And I have a collection (spotty at times) that reaches back to issue 9. So I’ve been with the magazine for a while and I’ve always loved it. I don’t actually use many published adventures entirely as is… but I’ve pulled more from this era of Dungeon than any other and been more inspired by it than any other.
I especially want to take note of one adventure in particular — the one I’m starting my campaign off with. It is “The Mad Gods Key” from issue 114. This adventure is probably my second favorite adventure of all time. It falls into that perfect space of being action-packed and interesting, having back-story but putting everything important out in front of the players instead of off-screen, focusing the action on the players, having exciting locations and encounters, AND… providing a variety of options for following up the adventure with further adventures stemming from the variety of encounters, NPCs, and organizations the players deal with throughout the adventure.
Whew. That sentence was Way Too Long. But I’d give this adventure my highest recommendation. And if you have access to this issue and you haven’t run this adventure, give it a try. Beyond that, I’ve also located some 1st and 2nd edition adventures I’m looking forward to adapting, converting, and stealing from.
Ultimately, I guess I just wanted to say that I really miss Dungeon. Sitting around reading old issues again, going back into the 80s really gives me a long view of my life as a gamer and as much as it is nice to have a PDF of an adventure on my laptop… it still doesn’t compare with the experience of sitting down for lunch and flipping through a genuine issue of Dungeon.