Looking Over Book of Challenges: Cubical Kennel
A cube of 216 10x’10’x10’ rooms is the lair of a blink dog pack.
In contrast to Displacer Beast Maze providing an example of hit-and-run favoring reach/ranged attacks, this is a set-up for melee hit-and-run. Granted, it’s less flexible since the guerrillas need a way to move through the walls faster than normal people can, but I can appreciate the tactical variety.
As written, it seems like raising a wall would also require raising every wall stacked above it. While this may be within the possibilities of the “elaborate counterweight system”, it’d be simpler to just split the walls horizontally at mid-height and offset them by the panel thickness. That still requires lifting a 5’-tall panel to cross under (about 1000 lbs. for solid iron, assuming 5’ width, so some assistance is still required to justify making it easy), but that makes more sense than lifting 10’-60’ of height.
No check is needed to raise a wall partway by putting the character’s fingers through holes in the panel, but raising it high enough to cross under once it’s gripped at the bottom requires a Strength check. That doesn’t seem to make sense. Check both or neither (given that the lift takes a full-round action, I’d favor neither, and only checking to hold up a wall if the character is struck).
The intro assumes the PCs are good (as opposed to evil). A good encounter (as opposed to a bad one) should be playable without such arbitrary limits and simplistic viewpoints.
The intro states that understanding the blink dogs’ motivations could be a challenge for the GM, but the sidebar that it references outright says that they are motivated to protect their territory. That exact stance is backed further by the “Creatures” text. Some challenge, huh?
Not to keep harping on text that isn’t describing the actual encounter, but the intro is at least three times longer than it needs to be because it goes on a tangent about combining this with Displacer Beast Maze, amazingly without saying anything useful about how to actually do that.
Excited dogs and yelps of pain do not sound similar, boxed text.
I don’t understand what access gates the text is talking about for moving vertically through the central chimney, so I’d need to come up with something makes sense to me. This entry really could’ve benefited from some useful artwork instead of a map of a grid of grids.
Aside from the tip to try isolating characters carrying light sources, the “Tactics” section of this entry is one of the most useless in the whole book. Thanks for taking the space to tell me that teleporting dogs would try attacking from all directions, I really needed that tip more than a drawing of a typical cell.
Just to compound the uselessly bloated intro and the useless “Tactics”, the “Treasure” section just says to make something up because the blink dogs have no treasure of their own.
The line “If your PCs are primarily good, they should realize at some point that the blink dogs are simply protecting their territory” in the sidebar about Good vs Good conflicts confuses me. Is it making assumptions about how the players will think, or is it suggesting that the GM should tell the players what their PCs are thinking? Neither option sounds appealing for how I like to play TTRPGs.
The set-up here is good and could be used with all sorts of intelligent melee-using enemies, provided they have means of getting between cells rapidly (teleporting, gaseous/boneless body, incorporeal form, etc.). Despite how bad most of the writing is, it’s still an encounter that can play out in a fun way just because of the solid foundation.
That said, pretty much everything else about it is awful. The map is pretty useless, the descriptions of the actual physical environment are hard to understand when they don’t just seem nonsensical, the “Tactics” section implies the reader is an idiot, the “Treasure” section doesn’t even try to be useful, and the authors opted out of providing any tips for scaling the difficulty. Writing so many words and saying so little is very difficult to do, even on purpose.
All in all, my premise summation and the physical description that’s given in the boxed text are the only worthwhile parts of this entry. It competes with Bugbear Pit Fight for the biggest waste of space so far.