All right, we've all heard of the mad old wizard or sage that requires anyone who wants to talk to him to pass a test. Well, here is one such test! There are several reasons given why the characters might want to bother - maybe they do need to ask something, maybe they came across the dungeon entrance - a door set into a grassy mound - or maybe they were hired by some more timid folks to brave the dungeon and go ask the sage a question on their behalf.
The dungeon itself is a collection of various effects. Some are puzzles the characters have to solve, sometimes they will need to use specific skills or a bit of teamwork, and there are occasions when they'll have to fight. There are some nasty effects, but none of them should kill you off outright but as it's intended for 1st or 2nd level characters, accumulated damage could be a problem and, er, the door locks behind you so once in you have to go through to get out again!
The whole thing is very clearly laid out, and could provide a good introduction to running dungeons for a novice DM as well as an introduction to the 'classic' dungeon for the sake of dungeon style of adventure for players. However, there is sufficient rationale in 'dungeon as test' to satisfy most people who like there to be some reason and basis in (alternate) reality for the things theit characters encounter during a game.
If the characters negotiate the dungeon successfully and retrieve a crystal globe, they will be able to get out, and Olduvai will show up to congratulate them and answer the question that caused them to look for him in the first place. He can also be used as a suitable high-level contact or patron to send the characters on to whatever you have planned next. If characters are seriously hurt, he will turn up long enough to heal them but wants nothing more to do with them.
Overall it's a good way of showing players that the use of spells and swords is not the only way to get what you want, but those who don't like abstract puzzles may get rather bored. It ought to play out in an evening or two, depending on how smart the players prove to be. Most of the puzzles are fairly obvious and most ought to be able to solve them without the need for too many hints!
Return to Olduvai's Test page.
Reviewed: 9 January 2006