Goodman Games brought out the big guns for their 50th issue. Monte Cooks, one of the fathers of 3rd edition, pens Dungeon Crawl Classics #50, The Vault of the Iron Overlord. And if you think he was going to settle for the typical adventure then you do not know Monte.
The Vault of the Iron Overlord is a dungeon crawl with an innovative twist, however not in the usual place. Cooke uses a very intricately designed map with four rotating sections as the center of his adventure. As the PCs move through the dungeon, they have to search for levers that turn the vault. The objective is to line up the various rings of the vault so that the PCs have a doorway to the next ring. The cartography on the map is very well done, as it has to be, in order to display how the PCs interact with the dungeon.
Whereas the Map’s innovation really leaves an impression, it also makes for a difficult adventure to run without a lot of prep work. All four rings have to be predrawn and it works better if they are separate so you can fit them over one another. This adventure sat in my que until November, because I just did not have the time to build the map. Luckily a talented artist on the dundjinni forums has created a blown up version of the map.
Though a distant second to the map, the adventure is not too shabby, involving a quest for a symbolic artifact that the PCs are hired to retrieve. The backstory behind the vault dips a little too into the set campaign setting that the Dungeon Crawl’s now all share, but the vault itself can easily be picked up and plopped down into any campaign setting or dungeon.
For the Dungeon Master
The roaming Iron Overlord is a pretty cool NPC. There is no real set place where you encounter him the first 2 times, which leaves a lot of decisions making to the DM as to where this stalking iron menace creeps up.
The Iron Word
Dungeon Crawl Classic #50: The Vault of the Iron Overlord, really sets a bar for innovative maps in an rpg supplement. The story goes very well with it. The biggest problem is trying to display the map to the PCs. I found it frustrating that none of the player handouts had a good enough map of the rings. The first handout was awful, supposedly a drawing of the rings but looking more like a small bunch of circles. That said, if you are willing to put the time into recreating the maps, your PCs will have fun making their way to the vault.