This is supplement is huge! The kind of thing most other game companies might charge $15 - $30 for in eBook format. Don’t let the cover art or low price fool you, there is lot more to the Moon Dragon Inn that meets the casual eye. In fact, there is so much content I have decided to give both a brief review for those who want only the quick dope, and a full review for those who want all the details.
The brief review is simply this: A fully realized, highly detailed, DM friendly Inn with a large cast of characters and 15 unique dungeon adventures, and lots of added perks that make it well worth the money. Compatible with almost any role-playing system a must have supplement for any serious DM. After buying my core books (DMG, Players Manual and Monster Manuals) I would personally buy this supplement.
Okay, now the full review. There are four major parts this book. I will discus the strengths and weaknesses of each part in turn. First, there are the maps. Included with this set is a nice full color regional map and detailed B&W replacement city section map for those who own the city of Volondor map set. (High lighting recently modifications made to the inn.) Neither are germane to this review since the inn is designed to be used as a standalone supplement or incorporated into any campaign world. The maps of Inn and dungeon area are full color, miniature scale, they provide great ambience, and clearly show important details to characters navigating the area. (Such as Hex or Square grids outlines, door bolts, window shutters, torches, etc.) These maps are not as good as some higher quality dungeon tile map sets I have seen. Yet, they still look nice to look at, and are designed to print quickly without wasting nearly as much ink. They print out clearly and look nice when taped to some poster board. Given that this is not a one or two room dungeon tiles set, but a compete 22 room Inn with a huge dungeon area, I need to give this set a grade of “A” for the 40 detailed maps that were included. (It should be noted, that the designers provided both square and hex gird maps for the dungeon area. (A nice plus for 4.0 players.)
The second major part of this supplement are the 15 Dungeons. The Moon Dragon Inn has a wine cellar known to the owner in the basement, but it also contains about dozen secret rooms. (Where anything goes.) Various creatures tunnel in through the basement walls, or sneak/break in through the root cellar doors. Monsters include things like dire rats, bears, zombies, ogres, giants, vampires, demons and ghosts. (Things typically found in most monster manuals.) Special dire/corrupted powers can be randomly given to creatures to spice things up for adventurers. (Such as breath weapons, summing abilities, and death gazes.) The 15 dungeons seem suitable for 1st to about 12th level characters depending on the size of the party, the equipment they have, and game system being used. Each dungeon features a different type of monster class with random variations. Each dungeon offers unique treasure, and traps. (A detailed schematic of 6 different random traps are included for use with each trapped door, another nice touch.) Each mission begins with plausible narration, that usually ends with owner named Bear Killer, exclaiming, “I am a bartender, not a bouncer, won’t somebody rid me of these unwelcome guests,” or words to the effect. Once adventurers enter the dungeon, everything is pretty straight forward, and basically hack and slash. I have run two parties through two dungeons so far. One through the ogre dungeon, and one through the giant dungeon, both needed to rest a few times before completing the entire dungeon. (I will admit the party sizes I guided through these dungeons only consisted of about 5 players each. (Dungeons seem designed for 8 characters.) Once they decided to hire a NPC or two from the Inn above things went more smoothly for them.) Each game group took on average five sessions, (Each session lasting about 4 hours) so figure each dungeon is roughly 20 hours of play. I would guess there is roughly between 200-300 hours worth of “dungeon play” in the supplement. (Not bad considering the price of this supplement.) The only drawback I can see to these dungeons, is that it would not be wise to run the same players through it multiple times in succession. Yes, the traps change, the treasure in chests change, and the monsters change. (Fighting ogres, is not the same as fighting ghosts or ninjas) However, the walls don’t change, and it wise to give players time to forget the terrain and do something else in between Moon Dragon Inn dungeon excursions. As far as terrain goes this dungeon/wine cellar is fairly interesting. Not only are the ceiling high, (20 or 25 feet.) but there are lots of interesting ways to run different monsters in them. My giants hurled beer barrels like boulders into characters. Some of my ogres hid in beer vats. (Other were found drunk off their butt near a case of empty bottles.) There are several sets of stairs and even a long hallway filled with water for character to navigate. I followed the instruction that came with the set to hide unseen areas using cardstock and slowly pulled them away as adventures explored new areas. (This worked really well for me and seemed fairly realistic.) As far as the quality of treasure, difficulty of monsters and/or traps that is pretty subjective manner from DM to DM, let alone game system to game system. Overall I think SSD more or less found a happy middle ground and I have to give them a B for dungeon design.
The third part of supplement of interest are the NPCs. Here this supplement does fall something short of the industry standard when it comes to character & cover art.
The character art is very cartoon like. Some do rise to level of a good Disney style cartoon, but some do not. (I give this module a C for art.) The second thing that might be a problem for some people are the character attributes. As with any generic stats for characters there is certain amount of ambiguity. SSD tackles this problems two ways. First, by providing descriptive adjectives to describe attributes. For example a character might have “feeble strength, “remarkable” intelligence, and “amazing” dexterity. This works in relative terms for all game systems, but does not provide a concrete number for DMs to crunch. To provide a number base that any DM can work with, SSD includes a small number notation after each adjective for systems that have starting attributes in the 1-20 range. (3-18 for most D&D systems) Since it is based on 1-20, the numbers tend to be a bit on the high side for D&D, especially for old school DMs who like to see average stats of characters around 12. (Such as myself.) However, I found the numbers easy enough to modify by simply subtracting 4 from each number as they are given. Since they made the effort to present numbers attributes in two ways, I think it is only fair I give them a B for attributes. (After all, this is a generic supplement for use with D&D or GURPS, or any other RPG system.) The third part of character sheet, and the most important part according to the author are the personalities of the characters. Here, they did a really good job as far as I am concerned. For each character they provide, likes, dislikes, typical sayings, social standing and wealth. For those who don’t like the character picture, SSD offers a short but comprehensive narrative description of each character. The personal history of characters varies from the stereo typical to the interesting and unusual. (Some serious strange, if not deranged backgrounds are also included.) These backgrounds give the DM a good sense of the character personality and his or her motivations without giving the reader to much fluff to remember. One of the nice things about these characters is that they have interpersonal relationships with each other, this allows for some interesting role-playing opportunities for both the DM and his/her players. Some NPCs will adventure with players, some will hire adventures, some might try to seduce a character, and others might try to rob them. (All the things you might expect at an inn of this size and scope.) For this portion of the character sheets I would have to give SSD an “A.” The patrons of the inn are primarily humans and fighters, but there is a good mix of all classes and races with the exception gnomes. (No gnomes?) Oddly, as a special NPC they do include is something they call a “Gnomish Music Making Machine.” (Perhaps haunted by a Gnome?) Overall, for the character sheets (despite the artwork) I would say SSD deserves a firm “B.”
The fourth aspect of this supplement is really all about the ambience. The Moon Dragon Inn is not just some empty map set, with a few NPC and hack and slash dungeon below. It is living, breathing, smoking hot place of excitement and adventurer. To insure this, the publisher includes 20 interesting random events. These include things like drinking, arm wrestling, and beauty contests. Occasionally an Amazonian fight may breakout, or as in one event, “a mouse, being chased by a cat, being chased being chased by a dog, being chased by bear may disrupt the bar and force some characters into action. There are also 100 random city/inn events that include things like a zombie army attack, a hurricane, a dragon attack, and a variety of other interesting situations that might impact the inn or its patrons. There is always something to do with 100 non-combat quests that include things like negotiating trade agreements, promoting a beauty contest, unionizing labor, retrieving rare animals or libations for the Inn. Add to this, a menu with strange and exotic foods and drinks. (Some magical.) Tabletop dancers. (Strippers) Bards with actual songs to sing, or to give characters clues to various dungeons. (Plus a variety of riddles NPCs might ask adventurers to test their wit.) Then include sing-a-longs for camaraderie, a dance floor with a magical piano, several private rooms, (Room inventory sheets included, another nice touch.) two hot tubs and a swimming pool and you have all the ingredients any DM should need for a rip-roaring good time. I can see myself using this supplement for years to come. It is the Shady Dragon Inn (Classic TSR module) on steroids! As far as ambience is concerned, this module deserves an unqualified “A+.”
There are a couple more things I should mention. The writer of this book states he has been a DM for 30 years. As an extra touch he offers advice on how to lure others away from their WoW like games, and into a true role-playing environment such as D&D. Whether you agree with his opinions regarding player recruitment, retention, and role-playing or not, it is probably worth the read. And also, as final unexpected note. (One that I have never seen in any role-playing modules before.) SSD includes a list of easy to prepare game night recipes. (Based on the fantasy menu of the Moon Dragon Inn.) I tried the 5 pound bacon cheese burger (sliced into six sections like a pie) one game night, and literally wowed my players. Obviously, not why a bought this supplement, but diffidently a positive perk.
In summation, I have given this supplement a couple of As, and a couple of Bs in various categories. Some might grade things lower, but I call them as “I” see them. Each one of the four sections mentioned above might easily be sold by another game company for $7.50 each. This ebook brings them all together in one nice neat package with perks for an amazing low price $7.50, thus for overall value I must give this eBook a “A+” I highly recommend this supplement to any DM seeking to improve his or her role-playing game, and to any DM who wants to have over a dozen quick and easy dungeons to run. This Inn and its dungeons are destined to become an all time classic with me and my gamers. Obviously we are enjoying it a lot, and think gamers like us might as well, hence I am writing and posting this review. Thanks for reading it.