I think it goes without saying that, among gamers of a certain vintage, the words "Skull Mountain" immediately conjure images of the dungeon cross-section included toward the end of the Holmes "Blue Book" edition of Dungeons & Dragons. As a kid, I know I was enormously fascinated by this suggestive illustration, with its seven levels (not counting sub-levels), the Pit, and mysterious Domed City. For a long time, I planned on using Skull Mountain as a basis for a megadungeon of my own invention, since Holmes gives us no details beyond that cross-section. Unfortunately, I judged the project too big and never did pursue it. I briefly contemplated taking up the project again and, while I didn't do so, there's no question that my conception of Dwimmermount is at least partially influenced by Skull Mountain.
Recently, Jeff Sparks of Faster Monkey Games decided to venture where I did not, offering his own version of Skull Mountain as an adventure for Labyrinth Lord characters of levels 4-6. This 36-page PDF sells for $6.00, which is a more than fair price for what you get. Skull Mountain has close to 20 maps of the dungeon's various levels and areas, as well as new items and illustrated handouts (with artwork by the inimitable Steve Zieser). As with all Faster Monkey releases to date, Skull Mountain uses a very attractive and easy-on-the-eyes two-column layout, with small illustrations throughout to break up the text. The text itself is engagingly written with a minimum of editorial errors. The module's cover is a nice piece by Andy Taylor that sets the mood for the whole adventure.
Skull Mountain itself, as depicted in this product, is a lot smaller than I'd always imagined it to be. For whatever reason, I long assumed Skull Mountain was a proper megadungeon rather than what some refer to as a "lair" dungeon. I'll grant that that assumption on my part was based on nothing but my youthful imagination rather than anything directly stated in the Blue Book. Consequently, my disappointment at how self-contained Sparks's version of Skull Mountain is says nothing about the quality of the module he wrote, but I don't think I'll be the only gamer of long years who will feel this way. Consequently, the biggest "flaw" in Skull Mountain is the power of memory. When presenting one's own take on an iconic D&D setting, it's inevitable that it will compare unfavorably with the ideas others had about the place and "how it ought to be."
That's unfortunate in most case, but especially so here, since the version of Skull Mountain this module presents is very well done and interesting. Yes, it is much smaller than I was expecting and it takes a very different approach than I'd have done, but that may well be for the best. I'm still not yet convinced that a true megadungeon can be presented in a commercial product anyway, so any expectation that Skull Mountain would be such a thing was likely misplaced. Furthermore, my experience is that most gamers want a "complete" adventure when they buy a module. By that, I don't think they necessarily want a pre-scripted story, but they do prefer that the module does most of the "heavy lifting" for them in terms of stocking a location with opponents, traps, mysteries, and treasures to be won.
Skull Mountain certainly does all of that and does so with great aplomb. As presented here, there's an intriguing backstory behind Skull Mountain, an explanation for both its creation and its present circumstances. Sparks also takes good advantage of the dungeon's volcanic environment, presenting a place that feels "right" and that ought to challenge and pique the interest of players. The inhabitants of Skull Mountain make sense in a Gygaxian naturalistic sort of way, but they're not boring. In fact, I found Skull Mountain refreshingly plausible as a lair, which I think is important for self-contained dungeons such as this. Whereas a sprawling megadungeon can get away with a certain amount of whimsy and oddity, owing to its nature, a lair needs to make sense, at least within the context of a fantasy world. Skull Mountain certainly does make sense and it's a credit to Sparks that he understood this.
In the end, I think Skull Mountain is a solid product and ought to please a lot of Labyrinth Lord and other old school gamers, especially those that don't have any expectations about this legendary dungeon locale. I'll admit that I still find it difficult to look on a dungeon as small as this as the Skull Mountain, but, as I said, that's my problem and says nothing about this module, which is a very good example of a large but self-contained lair that referees can drop into an ongoing campaign for a few night's worth of exploration and adventure.
Presentation: 8 out of 10
Creativity: 7 out of 10
Utility: 7 out of 10
Get This If: You're looking for a clever and well presented single-use dungeon in an unusual location.
Don't Get This If: You prefer larger, more open-ended dungeons or have no interest in pre-made adventure modules.