Originally posted at: http://dieh-
I’ve always enjoyed the Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures. They tend to be quirky and have a little more substance to them than the average dungeon crawl hack and slash. I’m an even bigger fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics since the series stopped the Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition/Pathfinder/OGL bit and started using its own gaming system, also under the DCC name. The Emerald Enchanter is the third Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure by Goodman Games to actually use the DCC rules system, but it’s the first I’ve picked up since the switch was made. I was a huge fan of Goodman Games Age of Cthulhu: A Dream of Japan that was released earlier this year, so I was optimistic that The Emerald Enchanter would be just as impressive. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. While The Emerald Enchanter boasted some great artwork and wonderfully designed maps, the adventure itself was a little too dull and two-dimensional for my liking. I’m sure people who prefer roll-playing to role-playing will get a kick out of it, but this just felt like going from room to room and stabbing soft things with sharp things for my liking.
There isn’t much of a story here. Villagers have been disappearing and it appears that they have been taken into the fortress of the Emerald Enchanter. The Enchanter seems to be a strange mix of scientist and sorcerer as he is known to engage in strange experiments. As some of your friends are amongst the recent abductees, you and your party venture forth to free them, take down the Enchanter…and loot his palace. It’s not the most substantive of stories and while playing this, and there were a lot of unresolved points and unanswered questions in this adventure which disappointed those of us that went through this. Why is the Emerald Enchanter green? Why is he doing these experiments? If he can build emerald constructs out of non-living materials, why do it out of living as well. Even if the players don’t get a back story for the antagonist, the Keeper/DM/GM/Storyteller/Judge really should have something to go off of, otherwise you have a two-dimensional and uninspiring villain. After all the best bad guys are those that think they are in the right, no matter how deluded they are. Sure, a good GM can just flesh out the Emerald Enchanter to make the adventure more interesting story-wise, but then what’s the point of purchasing a pre-made adventure if you have to do a lot of the work?
Another odd thing about the adventure is that it is for eight to ten Level 2 characters. That is a lot of PCs running around a little magical citadel. I’m not sure why the decision was made to go with that many characters, especially as the maps show that this would make everything an exceptionally tight fit, especially when you have a horde of enemy cannon fodder in a room with you as well. With this many characters you’d have to march in one very long line to get through many passageways and some rooms wouldn’t be able to accommodate that many PCs, much less the monsters that are supposed to be in there. For example, the last battle would have roughly two dozen characters in a 120′ by 100′ foot room (The biggest room in the entire adventure BTW)…and that doesn’t include that at least a fourth of the room is taken up by machinery and various apparatuses. An adventure that has this many monsters and PCs needs to reflect that reality in the maps.
So what was good about the adventure? Well there were several interesting battles like the Tile Golem and the final battle which has a time limit of sorts attached to it. The artwork and the maps are quite stunning and are by far the highlight of the adventure. It’s times like this I wish I love showing the interior art of an adventure to players – not only to give them a visual idea of what is going on, but because it’s so awesome you can’t help but want to share it. The location is quite interesting on its own and I loved that the adventure actually put in things like a kitchen. Too many fortress/dungeon crawls forget that the big bad needs to eat, sleep and defecate (unless they are undead), and I was really happy to see this particular adventure remembered what so many forgot. The emphasis is definitely on the dungeon crawl rather than any story or antagonist motivation and in this respect the adventure does its job wonderfully.
So even though there isn’t a lot of substance to The Emerald Enchanter and it’s a literal room by room hack and slash without any real impetus for players, the location itself, the monsters within and the level of detail given to the room that most adventures skimp on makes this a decent experience, if not a great one. Again, some gamers are going to want nothing more than a dice rolling hack and slash instead of character building moments of an engrossing plot. There’s nothing wrong with that. Gamers who are looking for something more akin to Goodman Games’ Age of Cthulhu line will probably be disappointed by what’s here, but then Call of Cthulhu and OSR fantasy RPGs are so vastly different from each other, that gamers should know what they are getting into here. The Emerald Enchanter is almost pure combat and that alone should let you know if this is an adventure that you want to pick up or not. If you’re looking for a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure with a little more meat to the plot, you’ll have to look elsewhere, but worry not, as so many small publishers are starting to churn out adventures for this system, that you’re guaranteed to find an adventure that has exactly the right balance between talking heads and swordplay for you and your gaming troupe.
[3 of 5 Stars!]