Dungeon Dressing: Fountains is the latest addition to the Dungeon Dressing line from Raging Swan. For those few out there who may be unfamiliar with this series the entire point and purpose of this excellent line is to make sure that you, the GM, never have to again find yourself facing your players with such thrilling descriptions as “There's a..um....fountain thingy...yeah, in the room. Its got water and stuff.” Come on, let's admit it, we've all shared a table at least once with that person. Always found myself trying to decide if I should reach across and smack them of simply feel bad for them, lol.
If you can roll a dice and look at a chart you can use the books in this series. It really is laid out and designed that easily, and that simplicity is one of the strong points behind the design, as the entire point of this series is to allow you to design insanely quickly, freeing you up to tackle other tasks.
So, what are we looking at here, what exactly is covered in a book discussing fountains? Ben Armitage does a descent job of covering enough of the details in answering that question that this book is about far more than just whatever peeing kid statue defaults to the center of the pool (sorry, I had to, lol)...no, he gives us random tables to handle a small list of shapes and sizes (local heroes, animals, trees, large stone chunks, gods, etc...you know, the typical statues), and the water pouring forth (be they clean or diseased, the quality of said water, or possible magical effects). All of that before we even get into the cool little details of what the PCs will experience when they encounter the fountain initially (The look and feel of the fountain before the game mechanics and such).
Now, up to now the tables, while cool and extremely useful, have not really handled what I consider the gravy points. They have been the required bits of knowledge in regards to designing a basic fountain. To demonstrate what I mean by this I rolled up a fountain from these initial tables, and present my creation below...
A statue depicting (a legendary hero) stands in the center of the pool on a raised column, with water flowing from his hands. The underground water source carries heavy metals to the fountain’s basin. Ingesting the water causes arsenic poisoning
Now, that's all well and good, and yes I left off the mechanics regarding the poison....but let's see what happens when I roll on the features and characteristics tables also, shall we?
A statue depicting (a legendary hero) stands in the center of the pool on a raised column, with water flowing from his hands. The underground water source carries heavy metals to the fountain’s basin. Ingesting the water causes arsenic poisoning. Inlaid on the inside of the fountain's basin is a mural depicting great scenes of glory. A wooden plank, held in place by a heavy rock, extends over the three feet deep fountain. Wet footprints lead from the water back up onto the plank.
Following along here? That's a grand total of 5 dice rolls. 1 for my initial fountain shape, 1 for the quality of water, 1 for the disease (since I rolled for tainted water), 1 characteristic and 1 feature...grand total time spent, 45 seconds...no really, I timed it, and I went slow, lol. Why do I make a point of doing this in every one of these reviews? Because I can not stress enough how useful and easy these products are.
Now, as has become a standard in this series, not only do we get the random charts of multiple design points that when combined make up a massive variety of fountains, we get a few traps. Three traps total, with a few spots of true coolness. Bonehold presents as a trap that might leave your PCs preparing to face a threat without understanding what they are facing initially, and these are the types of traps I like. A group of skeletons held in a ring around the fountains base under the water level by chains of stone await the PCs when they explore the fountain. The beauty of this trap is that the skeletons are not the threat, they are the last victims. The chains release the skeletons and attempt to grapple those who enter the water, pulling them in and holding them until they drown. And that's all just the initial round that anyone enters the water...on round two it gets more interesting as the second threat of the trap presents itself. But I'll let you read about that yourself.
Pairing this PDF with Dungeon Dressing: Pools would give you a massive amount of material to work with for designing some truly memorable pieces of detail as well as fantastically memorable encounter points. Tallying up my thoughts on this product...editing was fantastic, format was the classic two column approach. Two pieces of B&W artwork embedded within text flow, fully bookmarked and a linked Table of Contents (something I love to see) all add to the value here. Design wise what is presented here do allow for an immense amount of cool fountains, and there are several options within the lists for tainted waters, diseases and the inevitable slimes...but what I would have loved to have seen was more options for fountains that have nothing to do with water at all. Beer, wine, lava, blood, acid, flaming liquids...there are so many liquids that would have been cool to see added to this product that would have taken a good product to a stellar product in my mind. Am going with a 4 star rating, as the product is an excellent product, but the lack of inclusion of other liquids felt like an inclusion to me, and one of the three traps just didn't live up the bar set by the other two.
[4 of 5 Stars!]