Lich Dungeon (his new release) an honest shake and review it, so I am. It is an 88 page PDF, so I'm going to do this in parts, which in my mind seems to work.
Part 1 will deal with the history of the dungeon, both it's fictional history and it's history as a dungeon that Frank began running in the 70s. It will also deal with the alternate stat block used by Eldritch Ent. as well as the encounters around the entrance to the Lich Dungeon. Oh, and the technical stuff and editing. Part 2 will deal with the dungeon itself.
Where to start? The font size is perfectly readable. I'm real tired of RPG products that feel like that have to cram 3 pages into 1 and somehow find an 8 font typeface is sufficiently readable. It isn't. Lich Dungeon uses a fine font size with clean pages. If you want to print this out your aren't going to kill your ink cartridge. Kudos for not driving me blind ;)
The PDF lacks hyperlinks or bookmarks. If this were a rulebook, I'd be fairly upset, but with an adventure that comes in at 88 pages I can like without the bookmarking or hyperlinks. They would be a nice addition, but they aren't needed and the lack of such does not detract from the product.
The introduction is priceless. It's a short piece of in game fiction that gives on a solid idea of how such a magical dungeon can and does exist, how it got to it's location, the hows and why of it's occupation by various monsters and even it's up keep. I have to admit that I smiled upon reading it. It is a few notches towards the silly side, but many an Old School adventure were a few notches towards silly. Besides, I'm a big fan of Tunnels & Trolls, and that system encourages silly in it's fantasy.
The Author's Preface is a two page retrospective of Frank Mentzer's process of creating the Lich Dungeon, it's starts and stop and starts again. I always like to read history of the hobby, and I really enjoyed this piece. If you aren't into such pieces, no worries, it's only two pages long ;)
Nomenclature is where all the little bits get explained, such as bold text is to be read to the players and elves are called "olves". It is also where the non-system specific stat block used in Eldritch Ent. products is explained. Suffice to say, I don't like the "generic" stat block that EE has invented. The additional math, although not horribly complicated is not intuitive and doesn't match up in all cases to OSR rulesets. My suggestion is to either ignore the stat blocks and use the ones from the rules you are using, or go to this link supplied by Frank Mentzer himself updated as per Frank Mentzer.
If you are expecting a bunch of hooks to get your players to the dungeon, you'll need to think of them yourself, as none are supplied, at least not directly. Remember the introduction? The hooks are there, you just need to extract them.
The area around the dungeon is a living, breathing environment with it's own ecology of sorts. There are intelligent creatures that pray on adventurers (at least, the wounded parties laden with treasure - no point in killing an unfattend calf).
This is also the first place you find these new stat blocks in action. Even if you plan to ignore them (as I do) the Demeanor and Appearance aspects of it are very useful in playing out the encounters. Most are not lethal UNLESS the party decided to make it so. Discretion is very much the better part of Valor in most of these. They are not balanced to the party, but for the most part that shouldn't be an issue so long as the party plays it smart and knows their own limits. TPKs are definitely possible for the foolish (and it's even mentioned in the text as such).
There is a trick to entering the dungeon which is best set up as a rumor or rumors for the players to pick up before arriving for the first time, or it may be a long time before they get to enter. As there is a decently sized population of adventuring parties using these dungeon, rumors shouldn't be a problem to plant ahead of time.
Thus ends the first part of my review of Lich Dungeon - Part 1.
(Part 2 of the Lich Dungeon review is here)
(Part 3 - Final Part of the Lich Dungeon review is here)