Odd DD5

Reverse Dungeon (2000)

As much as I consider myself a 2E D&D person, I tend to turn my nose up at later 2E products, particularly those with the black “generic campaign setting” borders. There is good reason for this – as the 90s progressed, TSR increasingly published a lot of crap and that didn’t really abate when Wizards of the Coast took over (looking at you, Diablo sourcebooks). However, this snobbery has resulted in me missing a number of diamonds in the rough. Reverse Dungeon (2000) is one of them.

Videogames were increasingly on the minds of RPG makers who saw them as cutting into their market (theater of the mind is always going to be wobbly up against particle effects, I guess). I already mentioned the Diablo sourcebooks. Reverse Dungeon shares a whole lot of DNA with Dungeon Keeper. Unlike the Diablo books, though, this one doesn’t suck.

Instead of playing adventurers, the players take the role of monsters defending their dungeon from intruders. There are three phases of this. The first involves a goblin settlement dealing with a number of raids from a nearby village. If the PC goblins are successful, increasingly powerful adventurers come calling and will eventually penetrate to the vault level, where players will then take the roles of the menagerie of abominations collected by an evil mage. These include some classics, like a beholder and mind flayer, some unusual ones, like a mimic and some straight awesome new ones, like a badass anti-paladin. Beyond the vault level is the mage himself – now a lich – and his undead horde, and a few more surprises for players.

I love the role reversal, especially since it doesn’t ask much more of the monsters than is required of them when they’re the enemies in a traditional dungeon. That’s all this needed to be great, and that’s all it is.

A lot of the appeal is comic artist Dennis Cramer’s illustrations. Love the clean ink work, love that mirror mimic, love that anti-paladin. The cover features an early Wayne Reynolds, too, which is a novelty!

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