20 Things #39: Black Dragon’s Lair (System Neutral Edition) clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, we begin the first page of 20 Things #39: Black Dragon’s Lair (System Neutral Edition) with 12 sample features for a black dragon’s lair – these include fetid pools of swamp water, glutinous mud, tangled curtains of roots, partially melted walls, and sinkholes and rotting trunks – this very much encapsulates the proper, grimy feel of swampy environments. 10 names for male dragons and 10 for female dragons complement the first page. I very much enjoyed this start!

The second page contains 20 dressing features for the dragon’s lair: From acidic smell in the air to dripping, dirty water, there are some nice ones here. I am particularly fond of ethereal-looking mud that may stoke the paranoia of players and PCs alike. Once more, the swamp/black dragon-theme is strong in these. The table of what the dragon is doing represents well the sadism associated with black dragons, as well as their cunning. A few generic entries are here – dragon sorting through hoard, chuckling? Seen that before. Compared to the so far very strong dragon-specific leitmotif, this selection was a bit weaker.

A list of 12 sample sights and sounds may be added to enhance the atmosphere of the dragon’s lair – these include a few different kinds of startling roars, jets of harmless steam, clouds of soot twirling and fake dragon’s eyes shimmering in the dark. The malign nature of the violent red masterminds is well-served here. An entry of 8 things the dragon may be currently doing can be found here. These include sorting through treasure, roasting human corpses slowly on a spear (cool!) or scratching itself. I’d have liked to see more red-specific entries, as e.g., the one where the dragon scratches itself with a wall is one I’ve seen before – and one I don’t consider too suitable for reds.

The pdf features a pretty massive 20-entry treasure and trinket selection, and includes a mechanical wind-up bird with ruby eyes (emerald or onyx imho would have made more sense there, but I’m nitpicking), a set of jade statuettes, blood-spattered tomes, hunting horns sourced from unicorns and the like – generally, I enjoyed this treasure/trinket selection, with its themes in line with the dragon species. 8 worn trinkets include colored mud used to draw strange sigils, eyebrow rings of gold, silver eye-monocles and the like – some nice ones, even though a few more black dragon specific touches would have been neat.

The final page is devoted to a total of 20 entries of hoard dressing, which this time around contains decaying, splintered wood, rotting barrels partially sunk in the floor, strange pyramids containing skulls, channels littered with wanna-be-dragon-slayer bones funnels water from the hoard, jars of honey, and more – these entries close the pdf on a definite high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very top-notch. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, with solid b/w-artworks included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and, as always, the supplement features two versions – one intended to be printed out, and one for screen-use.

Creighton Broadhurst’s dressing for black dragons manages to eke out that special sense of being very close to the dragon sub-species, while at the same time providing the full arsenal of cool dressing we’ve come to expect. With a stronger, dragon-species specific theme than in previous installments, this delivers a bit more, manages to be more specific – and that’s a good thing. Very few entries herein lack some sort of direct connection to black dragons, rendering this pretty much a success in my book. As such, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

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