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Friday, 5 November 2021

[Free RPG Day 2021] How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber

Now in its fourteenth year, Free RPG Day in 2021, after a little delay due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, took place on Saturday, 16th October. As per usual, it came with an array of new and interesting little releases, which traditionally would have been tasters for forthcoming games to be released at GenCon the following August, but others are support for existing RPGs or pieces of gaming ephemera or a quick-start. Of course, in 2021, Free RPG Day took place after GenCon despite it also taking place later than its traditional start of August dates, but Reviews from R’lyeh was able to gain access to the titles released on the day due to a friendly local gaming shop and both Keith Mageau and David Salisbury of Fan Boy 3 in together sourcing and providing copies of the Free RPG Day 2020 titles. Reviews from R’lyeh would like to thank all three for their help.


How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber
is perhaps the most different—or at least most singular—of the releases for Free RPG Day in 2021. It is not a quick-start or a scenario for a roleplaying game, but a set of instructions booklet on how to build and paint a piece of terrain which can be added to a dungeon and provide space in which the brave heroes can confront its big boss. This is the final chamber in a dungeon, the site for a showdown between the adventurers the villain and his acolytes, filled with treasure, loots, and possibly secrets. Designed and written by Dave Taylor Miniatures, it shows a Game Master—or of course, a Dungeon Master—how to use a combination of using the Gamemaster Dungeons and Caverns Set from The Army Painter and Mantic Games’ Dungeon Treasure Terrain Crate.

Although it is clear that you get a lot in the Gamemaster Dungeons and Caverns Set—lots of XPS Foam with which to build the terrain and the tools to prepare it, including knife, glue, hot wire cutter, and so on—How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber does not show this. There are lots of photographs though, which illustrates the various steps that the author takes in building the scene. This includes preparing it, such as scoring the floor with a one-inch grid to mark out stone flagstones and even adding a little variation to floor by using a metal ruler to press down in the corners of some of the squares. The walls of the chamber look to be more complex to build, but the instructions are clear enough and there is plenty of detail in the photographs. Then how to paint the terrain and the treasure piles and the other treasure pieces are all given a similar treatment.

However, all of this advice and guidance is not quite written from a beginner’s point of view. As much as it says that it introduces the prospective builder to “[S]ome basic building painting approaches – including techniques like washing and drybrushing…” it really does not quite do that. Rather, it explains that the author used them, but does not explain what they are. So it is not quite introductory enough, which means that the reader will need to do a little research beyond the pages of How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber. Fortunately, finding this information out should not be difficult, whether on a website or on YouTube. The prospective builder should be aware that she needs to do so though.

The penultimate two pages are devoted to ideas as to how to use the end result of following the instructions in How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber and bring it into a campaign. There are three hooks suggested. In the first, ‘Lair of the Minotaur’, the brave adventurers must confront Gharus Vilehoof, a canny Minotaur who has been luring adventurers into his lair in the service of his master, Baphomet and keeping their treasure, whilst in the second, ‘The Summoning’, the chamber is home to a great portal that the sorcerer Illikar is attempting to open and so bring his long-banished people back from their exile. This would result in a new era of darkness and so the adventurers must rush to thwart the ritual. The third, ‘Eternal Slumber’, is the longest of the three and sees the adventurers rush into the depths of a former Dwarven stronghold which has been long been occupied by hordes of Goblins and their Fomorian masters. The stronghold has a secret though, the Rune Chamber of Vaul contains the former Dwarven Runelords and their artefacts held in stasis—and the magic behind is weakening. Can the adventurers hold off the Goblin hordes long enough to save the Dwarves from the past?

These hooks get better as you read along. ‘Lair of the Minotaur’ amounts to no more than a room description and encounter rather than a hook, and whilst there is a hook in ‘The Summoning’, it is adequate at best. Fortunately, ‘Eternal Slumber’ makes up for the underwhelming nature of the first and there is plenty here for the prospective Game Master to get her teeth into. In fact, there is a whole dungeon, or rather a former Dwarven stronghold, for her to design to fit this final boss chamber. Perhaps if the illustration at the top of the page containing ‘Lair of the Minotaur’ and ‘The Summoning’ the author would have had more room to give them the development they so need.

The hooks are followed by descriptions the treasures to be found in the various versions of the final boss-fight chamber. These include the Axe of Gharus, wielded by the Minotaur Gharus Vilehoof, possessed by a demon servant of Baphomet that whispers to its wielder to fulfils its master’s goals and drips blood that infects wounds and the Seven Stones of Cinderac, ioun stones created by an ancient wyrm that contain the secrets of the universe… So a little like Stormbringer in the case of the first and Marvel Universe’s Infinity Stones in the case of the latter, but of course, the Game Master to free to design the items however she wants to fit her game.

Physically, How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber is decently presented with lots of photographs as illustrations. It is perhaps a little underwritten in places, both the instructions and the hooks.

Of all the releases on Free RPG Day 2021, How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber is the least useful—at least in the short term. It will take time for the Game Master to bring any of the contents to the table. Most obviously because she will need to have access to the Gamemaster Dungeons and Caverns Set and the Dungeon Treasure Terrain Crate, and then build the terrain, and then prepare the scenario in which to set the final boss-fight. In comparison, most of the other titles released are quick-starts and scenarios and so can be brought to the much more immediately. And of course, because How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber is designed to make use of the Gamemaster Dungeons and Caverns Set and the Dungeon Treasure Terrain Crate, it is also very much obviously designed to sell both them and other terrain sets. The other releases are similarly designed to do that too, so that is no criticism, but with How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber, it is more obvious.


An Unboxing in the Nook of How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber appears here.

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