Now I’ll admit, at first I was a bit put off by the lack of evocative description written in the “Story So Far” section located at the front of the PDF. Anyone who reads my blog Journey Through the Darklands can tell my personal tastes lay firmly in purple prose and run on sentences (they can work damnit!). Given that, it’s important to set proper expectations. Mork Borg this is not. Meaning, while some books put more emphasis on presentation and the setting of mood, others value more brief texts that are readily usable at a glance. A great example of this design is found in the Tomb of the Serpent Kings, an excellent beginner dungeon with which shares many similarities to GOB. Anyway, the story is simple, taking only 3 sentences to tell; In a time lost to myth, a powerful Necromancer had a gift rejected by the object of his desire (left unspecified as to who). In his lonely frustration the Necromancer created a vile garden of terror. Simple no? Well, that’s the point.
Most of what lay within this brief section goes to possible hooks for the players to get involved in the GOB, and forewarnings that the Magic Items and certain hazards – when dropped into an ongoing campaign – can be turning points of lasting consequence. Leaving the love interest a blank slate allows DM’s to insert their own relevant NPC’s or historic characters to the module for easy integration.
The Rumors section is brief, being heavy on colourful description in some places, and less so in others, as much of the module is throughout. All of it reads easily at a glance and gets the gears in my head to whir their motors towards setup and payoff later on when these tables are tested in play. It’s fun stuff.
General Appearance reads mostly like flavor text found in general D&D content, with the few exceptions where gameplay mechanics are detailed. In G&G, dungeons are described as either cavernous or indoors with little alteration. In GOB however, there are typically no walls, instead having an eerie green fog block the sight of those unwilling to go through the mist’s themselves. This design choice gives a flavor felt in the actual playing of the dungeon and is ever present, which I think really sells the unique atmosphere. Another deviation from standard G&G dungeons, is that this module focuses solely on randomizing it’s dungeon in a constant rotation.
Whereas in G&G there is an option of using the generation method to prepare a dungeon’s layout and contents before a session, GOB limits and expands the randomization option during the session alone. Once the entrance to a room is no longer visible, the dungeon rearranges itself, so that wherever players may go, a new room awaits. For the most part at least, as players may by accident stumble into old rooms as decided by the draw of the dungeon deck. Leaving the garden itself is impossible by navigation alone, instead requiring extreme luck or the destruction of a certain object.
Room generation is done one by one, drawing three cards from your “dungeon deck”. The value of the first two cards tell you the length and width of the room or area respectively. Any of the three cards suite and value determine content. Hearts are read on the hazards table, and Diamonds on treasures.
We’ve got traps like suffocating fogs, bushes of spiked bone flinging bone bristle spears at a character’s single misstep, bone spiders and swarms of various vermin ready to take you life and eat your corpse. We’ve got a towering guardian beast made of shifting forms of scavenged bone, flowers capable of prolonging life or issuing death, diamonds embedded in black crystal skulls, thrones of dead carcasses, fountains of blood, and that’s not even half of it! The module is 20 pages front to back, which is double the length of the 7 dungeons found in the G&G core rulebook. That should give a good idea of just how much is packed into this thing.
Hell, as I write this the idea of using these tables to generate content in my own dungeons free of the module itself seems not only plausible, but likely. It’s a great module that practically runs itself if you are good with improving at the table, and I would recommend it at the very least to help generate ideas for whatever you’re currently working on.