This first installment of Purple Duck's Purple Mountain dungeon is 30 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 25.5 pages of content for the first level of the dungeon.
Purple Mountain is an old-school, deadly dungeon crawl in the tradition of e.g. Rappan Athuk in mentality and atmosphere. The first level of the dungeon can easily be cut off from the rest, though, making for a valid and nest stand-alone dungeon for 1st level characters, who will have to test their mettle in a difficult, although not FGG-difficult module. That being said, the following review contains SPOILERS, potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.
The temple of the locust lord is actually the 14-room fortress of mites under the command of a fledgling aasimar lesser worm-that-walks and makes thus for a nice diversion from the bland "Orcs + ogre"-first level trope and comes with a neat overview map. Essentially, the PCs can waltz into the fortress (though stealth is another option - the mite guards are notoriously bad) and infiltrate the fortress. In fact, this approach (as well as exploration) is encouraged, as the mites otherwise will make the final confrontation a rather deadly experience. It should be noted that rather intelligently (or deviously) placed blade traps also feature in this dungeon as well as the elite of the mite fighters - cavaliers that ride of scorpion-mounts. Flash beetles also are a part of the menagerie of the squirming pets of the dread cult.
Who is by now reminded of the dread Kyuss-cult from the Age of Worms should know - yeah, the opposition is disturbing in the same (albeit level-induced, petty) manner - the dread cult of the vermin lord enjoys sacrificing foes by using them as incubators for flesh-eating vermin, which cruelly will erupt from those infected, potentially even granting morale bonuses to the vile foes. It should also be noted that magical water pools can be found (with unpredictable results, of course) as well as treasure fitting for a prolonged stay far away from the sun. Oh, by the way: A rather deadly, bladed mechanism makes entering level 2 rather tricky, as the PCs essentially have to brave a huge waste-disposal trap.
After the dungeon itself, we get the statistics of the foes (including the uncommon corpse-puppeteering demon Vermlek and the egg-implanting Throaches), a chart of the magic items that can be found as well as even more content: 3 new feats are presented, wto of which are teamwork feats and one providing rules for being an obedient servant to a demonic entity. The latter feat can easily expanded and I look forward to seeing more dread idols beyond the Locust Lord, who also gets a full write up. Three low-level spells are also provided along a new cavalier order employed by the mites. While the order's rather predictable abilities didn't impress me that much, I really liked the 6 different vermin-mounts stats provided, ranging from a giant black widow to cave scorpions.
Editing and formatting are good, I only noticed some very minor glitches and not much of them. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes in B/w/purple, as is the tradition with most PDG-pdfs. The artworks, especially for the low price, are nice and the same goes for the map. I really liked this challenging, short dungeon-crawl and look forward to what we'll see next in Purple Mountain. However, I do have some minor gripes as well: I would have really liked for a number-less version of the dungeon map to print out and show to my players, as some of the rooms are a bit complex and having a map to show off helps immensely when running the encounter. While the additional material is mostly awesome (especially the 3 feats), the spells fell a bit behind them in my opinion and I would have loved e.g. some magical larvae as items (think potions of the nastier kind) or more environmental complications with creepy crawlies. As written, we get an affordable, well-crafted old-schoolish dungeon with a neat, non-standard villain that is slightly held back from being truly awesome. Thus, my final verdict will be 4 stars - a neat foray, easily adaptable and thematically consistent.
[4 of 5 Stars!]