This is an issue that could be a lot of fun. Dungeon Fantasy is full of entertaining tropes, some used for amusement, some for simplification, and some for the one true purpose of absolute and total mayhem.
But Alternate Dungeons takes this and attempts to come at you sideways. I strongly suspect, given that every article in this issue was written by a headliner, that there’s plenty more where that came from, but let’s go with what we have.
I’ll be publishing this review one article at a time, but maybe more than one per day as I can find time. So check back!
Eidetic Memory: Good Dungeons ( +David Pulver )
Summary: David takes a look at dungeons that might actually be filled with sweetness and light. In order to liven up the usual dungeon trope, he looks at strongholds of good (or at least not-evil) beings and why a dungeon might exist with their names on it.
Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: This is presented in a matter-of-fact style. Each section is very nearly stand-alone, and invokes or investigates a different possibility for why a “good” dungeon might exist. 1 point.
Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: While it might not cover every aspect of good dungeons, there are more than enough here to make the prospective campaign or episode designer salivate with possibilities. From person-based (good wizards or mighty benevolent dragons) to culture and race-based (Dwarfish strongholds and Elven citadels) to religious temples and crypts, David walks the reader through many ways that a dungeon can not simply be a festering pit of evil. I really enjoyed the bits about elves and dwarves, and a GM that wanted to play up the fey nature of Elves rather than just a group of pointy-eared gorgeous folk that are Just Damned Better Than You could really make hay with the concepts here. This really worked for me. 4 points.
Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: While not strictly “drop-in,” any of these concepts can be easily worked in as inspiration to an ongoing campaign. Using this article is as simple (and as complex) as making one of these points the focus of the next mini-arc in an ongoing campaign. 3 points.
Overall: 8/10. A thorough exploration of a concept that really didn’t occur to me until David wrote about it. It covers the material very well and provides locations, hints of personalities, and even some motivations for why good PCs might raid a “good” dungeon. A fine effort.
Would I use it? Yes. This is a treasure trove of ideas to be liberally sprinkled into any fantasy campaign, much less Dungeon Fantasy.