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Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
by Norbert P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/15/2019 08:23:15

Old skool with a twist of new skool! see my youtube review of this game....

new DCC review: https://youtu.be/7-UJQWmLLes

DCC review: https://youtu.be/so4UyNgD0Zg GM screen for DCC: https://youtu.be/9Yy53t--uOw



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
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Dungeon Crawl Classics 2016 Holiday Module: Twilight of the Solstice
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/11/2019 05:13:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content - +1 page bonus pregens. In contrast to earlier Holiday modules for DCC, this is btw. laid out in standard size, not in the 6’’ by 9’’ trade size of previous holiday adventures.

This review was requested by one of my patreon supporters to be undertaken at my convenience. I consciously decided to post this review before New Year’s, as its Christmas/Yule-themes are rather subdued, but I got injured pretty badly – hence the delay. This adventure is intended for 4th level characters, and works in every season equally well, at least in my book. The respective areas feature well-written read-aloud text. It also probably works best as a one-shot, as it has something we need to discuss. While it does come with notes on how to use it with existing characters, one of its gimmicks results, system-immanently, with a disjoint of sorts when used in conjunction with established PCs.

“Twilight of the Solstice” has a pretty central gimmick, namely the use of scratch-off character sheets. Before you groan, let me explain: You don’t need them. The pdf-version comes with a blank sheet, and a one-page bonus-pdf that contains the stats for 10 different PCs, allowing you to simulate the use of scratch-off character sheets. Kudos for going the extra mile here.

The way in which this gimmick is integrated into the plot is rather ingenious, but in order to discuss the connections betwixt in- and out-game woven here, I must delve into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only judges around? Great! So, in the frigid north, in times ancient and primeval, the jotnar were sealed away – a horrid race of rime giants that gets its own d30 table to customize personality traits and the like. These beings, once slain by fire, become a primeval yeast monstrosity, which is an interesting component and tweak on the classic trope. As giants, they are pretty brutal – with Act 1d24 and 8d10 HD for their standard huntsmen, they are pretty brutal. Minor complaint: The editing isn’t as tight here as usual for Goodman Games, with e.g. their three-eyed winter wolf pets on page 7 not having their name bolded, and with the sample giants not having precise hit point values. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

To seal the dread rime-giants away, the world-clock was fashioned – and it’s supposed to keep them at bay until the end of time – a place that PCs that fail the adventure may well get to see. The very subdued Christmas angle is represented by “The Grandmother” – a matronly, female version of Santa Claus, if you will – and a potent magic-user/guardian that prolonged her life by studying the clock. Yet, each annual sojourn from the clock brought her closer to her own demise, until she, in her desperation and desire to not leave her wards alone, made a pact with the giants. Yeah, dumb. Yeah, I didn’t get it either. She reopened the portal to the Jotnar’s prison, and now creation’s going belly up. Faster than you can say “Curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal” they turned upon the Grandmother, and so she uses the last of her magics to send for the PCs, reach out for them in cryptic visions.

Meanwhile, the jotnar have sped up the progress of the world-clock, and the ripples through creation have wiped the PC’s memories – this is the justification for the scratch-off sheets and doubles as a hard time-limit regarding the completion of the module. There are only 12 “steps” of the solstices, as the world-clock hurtles the world through aeons. Magnificent civilizations rise and falls, and the PCs will watch even mountains perish. On a rest, the Grandmother gets a chance to visit the PCs, but the clock advances; similarly, every hour real time advances the clock. There is no dawdling here, and considering the difficulty of the antagonists here, this is not an easy adventure to pass.

The Grandmother is btw. yet another angle of quasi-Norse themes, should the moniker of “Jotnar” have not been ample clue for you: There will be, later, a fire-giant named Surtr that may help the PCs, and indeed, the Grandmother’s reverse aging process over the course of the module makes her pretty much a one-woman iteration of the classic Norn-theme. You know, Skuld, Verðandi and Urðr. This also is mirrored in some subtle tweaks, like the boss’s pet wolf having 8 legs, mirroring Sleipnir, with the aloliance of giants and wolves carrying resonances with Fenrir etc. This emphasis also extends to the dwarves within, the dvergar, who hearken more to the depictions of entities like Alfrikr, more commonly known as Alberich – mighty craftsman with a vicious streak and no particular fondness for the gods, these fellows are pretty nasty as well…PCs should be careful, particularly since they have pretty much no access to their character abilities and stuff.

Every advancement of the world clock through the aeons unlocks a new aspect of their characters, which is also why I think that this works best as a one-shot. DCC’s rules are simple enough that plenty of players know their PC capabilities by heart and sans looking at the sheet – just taking this information away doesn’t mean that they can’t recall it, creating a disjunction between in- and out-game playing experience that I personally consider to be grating. This is a system-immanent issue here, but I still strongly suggest running this as a one-shot or as a breather from ongoing campaigns. (Perhaps the PCs witness the phenomenon, and you cut to this module and a whole new group…) The gimmick is really strong and well-implemented here, and it surprisingly retains its functionality in the pdf, courtesy of the pregens provided, but it loses its novelty and impact in conjunction with PCs that the players know.

Now, here is a pretty big plus: Beyond the gorgeous (as pretty much always for Goodman Games) maps, the pdf provides 2 specifically designated handouts that help with puzzles within, as well as a one-page artwork that pretty much represents an unofficial, third handout. Puzzle? Yep, but here’s the thing – knowledge of the fuþark doesn’t really help – while there are runic puzzles to solve here, they are based on novel runes, including meaning. Basically, the module presents two different primary paths that both lead to the finale, and both offer for pretty different playing experiences. This means that a) the judge has replay value here, and b), the play-style of your group will be accounted for. If you prefer straight dungeon-crawling, you can follow the Jotnar’s tunnels and enter the world-clock through the back door…or you can brave the rather creative and fun puzzles that prevented access for mortals for ages past. Personally, no surprise there, I preferred the puzzle-path, but if you’re in the mood for some good ole’ murder-hoboing, you can get the like herein – just note that your opposition is nothing to sneeze at in either of the paths. Even in the more action-focused path, PCs will need their wits to survive in that path as well. Personally, I do think that some of the traps could use clear telegraphing to avoid them via clever playing, but considering that we’re talking 4th level PCs, and the fact that the traps are not particularly deadly, I can live with that.

Either way, the PCs will have to save the Grandmother and stop the Rime-giant jarl and his carls to halt the aeons and prevent getting a front-line seat to an untimely heat-death of the universe. As an aside: If you’ve been looking for a way to transition your game from DCC to MCC, the time-jump angle, which, alas, is pretty underutilized apart from the scratch-off sheet gimmick, may be a pretty neat way to do so. Instead of dumping the PCs back in their own time, dump them someWHEN else… this also represents my main gripe with this module: While the cold terrain and the scratch-off sheet are well-integrated, the origin of the distortion, the time-angle, is not. The complex doesn’t change, the PCs can’t speed up – the fleeting passage of time, the whole angle, just screams for mechanically-relevant tricks for PCs and foes alike.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, but on a formal level, I noticed quite a few minor hiccups. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the b/w-artworks and handouts provided are absolutely gorgeous, as we’ve come to expect from Goodman Games. The same holds true for the fantastic cartography, but alas, we do not get player-friendly unlabeled versions of these fantastic maps. This represents a comfort detriment and is a bit of a bummer for VTT-fans. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks for each general area, but not for individual rooms, which makes navigation slightly less comfortable than it should be.

This is the first adventure by Marc Brunner that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, and indeed, it is an impressive one. I expected the module to fall apart when bereft of its gimmick – I do not own the scratch-off character sheets, so yeah. Instead, the module actually does an admirable job at integrating a distinctly metagame aspect and codify it in an in-game context, in a way that seems feasible. So yeah, big kudos for that!

I also found myself really loving the twist on Norse concepts, the different paths to victory, and enjoying the puzzles. And yet, in spite of me loving pretty much anything even vaguely Norse in theme, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling like this somewhat overstretched itself. The Grandmother is basically window-dressing, and represents the one jarring narrative aspect within. Similarly, the tempus fugit-angle could have been developed better, made more central. In a way, the module feels like it tries to do perhaps one or two things too many at once. With the complex slightly shortened in favor of pronouncing these aspects, this could have become my all-time favorite of the holiday/end of year DCC-modules. As written, I consider it to be the second-best of those I’ve covered so far, with only the masterful Trials of the Toymakers besting it. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics 2016 Holiday Module: Twilight of the Solstice
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Dungeon Crawl Classics 2014 Holiday Module: Trials of the Toy Makers
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/04/2019 12:12:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, ½ a page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38.5 pages of content, though it should be noted that the content is laid out in booklet format (6’’ by 9’’/A5), and this means that you can theoretically fit multiple pages on a given sheet of paper.

This review is part of a request of one of my patreon supporters, who requested it to be undertaken at my convenience.

Okay, first things first: In spite of the cover being as cutesy as DCC is probably going to get, this is not necessarily for kids – it is definitely intended for adults. Don’t get me wrong: I’d have loved this as a kid, but then again, I taught myself English to be able to read Conan, Poe, etc. >I always had a macabre streak and considered to be the cover of Bat out of Hell’s vinyl one of the coolest ever. While not grimdark, this module can be rather creepy. Discretion is advised. If your kids are how I was…well, then they may love this.

All right, as always, a well-rounded group of 6-8 characters (level 2, here) will have an easier time. I strongly recommend having multiple characters capable of spell dueling when playing this; if you want a happy end, Mighty Deeds do help. Read aloud text is provided, and the module is NOT easy. Characters may die. It also firmly emphasizes player-skill and can have rather high-impact consequences upon failure.

The module is set in Vajorma, the frigid north where the border between planes is thin…wait…sounds familiar? Well, yeah, this does have a couple of ties to Steve Bean Games’ “World-Quest of the Winter Calendar” (Review will hit sites before New Year’s Eve, as that module feels more like an end-of-year module to me.). You can ignore these easter eggs, and having played said module is not required to enjoy this.

All right, as always, the following contains SPOILERS for the module. Potential players will want to skip ahead to the conclusion. … .. . Okay, so, in the lands of Vajorma, there is a tradition that reminded me of the nisse from Scandinavian cultures: There are gnomes called Konhengen in the semi-arctic steppe, and said gnomes reward particularly virtuous kids with presents. Now, 3 kids have gone missing, and indeed, no presents have been delivered this year. What looked like innocent gifts and a simple rescue mission, though, quickly become immensely important.

There is actually a strict timeline in the module, and indeed, the PCs arriving at the lake that houses the mountain wherein the Konhengen dwell just heralds the shape of things to come. There are a couple of basic things to note: For one, the PCs will be attacked by scything topiaries – think of those as nasty plant-looking constructs. The exploration of the Aerie of the Konhengen is surprisingly vertical – 5 levels, and these make sense in many ways: For one, the halls may feel claustrophobic for Medium-sized characters, but for the gnomes, they sure as hell are grand – this gives the whole dungeon a Gulliver-ish vibe and established a sense of alienation. The fact that the gnomes use slugs and moles as animals also adds to that…and yes, chances are that the PCs will have to face a rather agitated slug at one point. As a whole, this place makes sense in its fantastic nature.

It should come as no surprise that something bad has befallen the kind gnomes: As the PCs explore this place, they will be haunted and hunted by so-called Desperate Phantoplasms – basically the spirits of the slain Konhengen, risen to guard this place against ALL intruders – including the PCs. Their semi-corporeal form means that a lapse in vigilance can justify surprise assaults, and in comparison for the level…these spirits are pretty pitiful. There is a reason for that. You see, they can’t be truly slain. Defeating one of these ultimately just initiates a cooldown respawn, which means that being able to swiftly dispatch them is crucial. They allow a judge to wage a war of attrition, to constantly keep the threat levels up – without overpowering the PCs. This generates a seriously impressive tension throughout the adventure, and it provides a great way to shake up proceedings if the PCs are stuck. Speaking of which: The pdf provides a commendable amount of guidance pertaining the handling the tougher sections of the adventure…and I have not yet touched upon the truth of what has befallen this place.

Sure, the PCs can find a unique and potent alchemical substance and use it to their own advantage (or blow themselves up – so it goes…), and they can save the aforementioned kids. Speaking of which: I’m a big fan of the choice to allow for e.g. Mighty Deed use to save them from attacks and the like. A kind judge may also use these kids to sprinkle in some hints and the like, but there is another primary hint-giver herein…one super-creepy fellow.

You see, as the PCs explore this place, they will notice that much of the carnage to be found stemmed from the disciplined Konhengen basically imploding their social structure. Co-workers tore each other apart, etc. This is due to the machinations of one of the dread Nine Afflictions, horrid demon-like demigods of evil and chaos, one Yedreksas – an incarnation of envy.

They have inadvertently stumbled upon a task of cosmic significance, as at the very latest, the unfortunately blind, but sentient and kind mill (!!!) (think of the handheld devices that you use to grind coffee!) can explain…at least partially. And beyond that, one particular former Konhengen is now a vile and dark being, trying to goad the PCs in engaging in as many deals as possible. We thus have plenty of options to provide hints. The PCs will need them.

You see, the presents crafted by the Konhengen? They are actually over-designed components, proto-types of sorts, granted to pure kids, as their virtue shields these from the forces of darkness. Literally, this time around. Kivas Kota, the fiery eagle that is the sun, annually is caught by the forces of death, and it’s only the work of the Konhengen that allows the sun-bird to rise again and stave off eternal darkness. The presents the Konhengen create are prototypes for basically what amounts to a celestial rube-goldberg machine of constellations that is annually recreated for this specific task! (!!!) If the PCs don’t make their own version, well then the sun will never rise again. Stakes high enough for you?

Here is the best thing about this module, though: How it presents this whole issue. You see, the PCs are not spoonfed any of this, but instead have a TON of different options to realize how this works and what’s at stake. This is basically a mystery investigation, and one that is supported in a phenomenal manner: There are no less than 7 (!!!!!) handouts for players: From blood-drenched parchments containing hints about the importance of the task to basically rune-based paint-by-numbers puzzles, this pdf pulls out all stops in the most amazing of ways. Even better yet, judges are not left hanging either – annotated explanations of texts to be interpreted, solution-sheets and more all conspire to make this a mega-impressive adventure in the aesthetics department. Better yet: The adventure, while focused on a puzzle, actually doesn’t put it front and center. Instead, the true challenge is to find out what is happening, and there are myriad ways to solve this. Moreover, the puzzle does not have just one solution – being a wide-open logic puzzle, it embraces PC creativity in a manner that I have not seen before.

Compared to that, the epic milling of a new set of temporary constellations while holding off a demigod in spell duel (the only truly viable means to do so) almost feel anticlimactic by comparison. Almost. Did I mention the wood-spider things?

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues on a rules-language or formal level. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports some really cool b/w-artworks. The cartography is b/w, plentiful, ad just as amazing as we’ve come to expect from Goodman Games.- Alas, no player-friendly versions are provided. The pdf version is fully bookmarked, and I unfortunately do not own the print version, so I can’t comment on its merits or lack thereof. The truly plentiful player-handouts and visual judge-reference sheets (which include a timetable) are utterly amazing.

Steve Bean’s “Trials of the Toy Makers” is a masterpiece, pure and simple. It is one of the best Christmas-themed adventures I have ever seen. It thoroughly rewards player skill over character skill, has an atmosphere that is absolutely fantastic, and presents one of the most intriguing conundrums and epic solutions for an adventure I have ever seen. Even in DCC’s context, where significant cosmic events can also be encountered at lower levels, this stands out. It brims with creativity and passion and feels like an honest labor of love. It is ambitious in more than one aspect, and manages to fully and properly realize all of these components. In short: This is one of the best Christmas modules out there. It engages more cerebral players and those that like combat; it’s environmental storytelling is excellent, and it is polished to an impressive degree. Even among Goodman games’ holiday-themed adventures, this stands out. 5 stars + seal of approval, and frankly, if I had known about this adventure in 2014 when it was first released, it’d have made my top ten list for that year. Yes. That good. This is the kind of gem that makes reviewing worthwhile.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics 2014 Holiday Module: Trials of the Toy Makers
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #97: The Queen of Elfland's Son
by Cullen M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/27/2018 20:43:56

I love this adventure. It's refreshing to read and play an adventure with elves and fey feeling like something out of folklore, rather than just the typical Tolkien-esque aloof creatures. It's got a few nice callback's to Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter, but is by no means necessary to appreciate this adventure. Something about this really captured my imagination and I think my next campaign will find the players in and out of Elfland with a very vengeful Unseelie court...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #97: The Queen of Elfland's Son
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #68: People of the Pit
by John S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/27/2018 02:24:22

I really enjoy this module. I ran a truncated version of People of the Pit at Gencon 2017 and had a ton of fun with it. I would like to try it out for more sessions so I could experience more of the content, I trimmed whole levels away for the con game. This module is a classic for DCC at this point, written by Joesph Goodman himself, it's a grinding death trap of a dungeon!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #68: People of the Pit
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Dungeon Crawl Classics 2015 Holiday Module: Advent of the Avalanche Lords
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/21/2018 05:21:07

An Endzeitgeist.com

This holiday adventure for DCC clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26, though these have been laid out in booklet-size (6’’ by 9’’/A5) in size, meaning that you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper, should you choose to do so.

This review was part of a request by one of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

Okay, while this IS a module with a strong Christmas-vibe, it also is an adventure that isn’t necessarily for kids – instead, picture this adventure as a scenario that embraces the wild and gonzo side of the Appendix N-aesthetics that inform DCC. Think “Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. meets Christmas” and you’ll have an idea of the theme to expect. The module is intended for level 3 characters, 6 of them, and they definitely should be well-rounded, particularly when it comes to combat capabilities. Having some wilderness-stuff going on should also help.

All righty, as always, I’m going to discuss the adventure in detail, so from here on out, the SPOILERS reign. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only judges around? Great! So, the mighty man that would one day become known as Father Frost, was a humble woodcutter and brilliant artisan, but alas, an evil wizard named Meerakolos (lol) sought to corrupt him – and botched the job. The evil wizard and his associate engaged in an epic spell duel, which Father Frost, ultimately won. When a green-skinned elf from the North freed the ancient evil-doers from stasis, Father Frost never saw their return coming: The arcane weapon mongers have taken Father Frost and use him to power a new engine of war, the Celsion Engine.

The adventurers don’t yet know of this alliance of the 3 evil masterminds, nor that the wondrous, snowglobe-like town named Krinnleton is mere days from annihilation. Said town is encased in a force field, courtesy of Father Frosts skills. Speaking of which: Krinnleton is a great place in that it represents a quick and action-packed introduction into the module: After arriving and taking in the strange force-field that holds back the elements, the PCs will be surprised by the initial strikeforce of the self-appointed avalanche lords: Terror tots, basically suicide-bomber wooden dolls, attack – and in this context, it is actually the case that the PCs are rewarded for splitting up. We get full consequences for the actions of the PCs, and the surprisingly neat NPCs are folks you really want to help.

In the aftermath of these detonations, the PCs have already reaped the benefits of their actions. The trail leads the PCs to the wilderness beyond the force-field walls, and indeed, the wilderness has some cool random encounters, including polar bearman, strange coyote spirits, and the like – these critters are epic. Snow Angels in particular are a monster that is pretty damn creepy. The overland trek does allow for multiple different routes – but the clock is ticking, as the armies of the avalanche lords proceed towards Krinnleton, and yeah, they can happen upon an army encampment. In Father Frost’s workshop, potent tools may be secured, and ultimately, chances are pretty good that the PCs can gain some advantages for the showdown on the gates of Krinnleton…provided the PCs don’t miss it, of course!

The showdown for the future of Krinnleton is epic indeed, as the massive Celsion-engine is led towards the settlement by a pair of wooly mammoths, and once more, PC performance before this part will influence the combat’s difficulty. Ultimately, the PCs will have to enter the mighty Celsion Engine and free Father Frost from the infernal device. The boss-battle here is rather cool, as the PCs are once more rewarded for tactical thinking. Should they succeed, they’ll bear witness to Father Frost ascending to patron-hood! The write-up for the fellow is included, and does come with invoke patron rules, but not the other aspects of what this status usually entails. That being said, I do like the emphasis of Father Frost’s cold being a cleansing, good one – more often than not, cold tends to be associated with purely negative aspects, so a “good” cold patron is appreciated indeed.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, I noticed only cosmetic snafus. Layout adheres to a 1-olcumn b/w-standard, and the artwork presented is really cool. While we do not get player-friendly maps for all parts of the module, we do get two handout-style maps that the PCs can actually get, which is a big plus. Why Krinnleton doesn’t get a key-less, player-friendly version, though…don’t ask me. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks for the subchapter-headers, but not for individual rooms or encounters.

I ended up enjoying Tim, Callahan’s “Advent of the Avalanche Lords” – it’s a scenario that basks in the slightly gonzo magitech-aspect, that revels in its blending of classic themes and the uncommon. I’D hesitate to call this “weird”, as the term has come to signify horror-ish aesthetics in many contexts, and while the module does have scenes that could be taken as being dark, as a whole, it is a module that feels like a light-hearted, fun action-romp. Like, as noted before “Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. meets Christmas” – it is gleeful and honest in its deliberate and fun overthetopness. If the module has one weakness, then that the background story is somewhat needlessly complicated, but that doesn’t really impact y enjoyment of the module. If anything…this feels, at least a bit, like its scope may be a bit off. This may be me, but I couldn’t help but feel that the army-angle could have amounted to a bit more. The module does it well, granted, but in the end, I couldn’t help but feel that a couple of pages more could have really elevated this to masterpiece levels. Still, if you’re looking for a fun, fast-paced Christmas-romp with deliciously outrageous concepts, this will deliver by the buckets. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics 2015 Holiday Module: Advent of the Avalanche Lords
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Dungeon Crawl Classics 2013 Holiday Module: The Old God's Return
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/19/2018 11:09:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first holiday adventure for DCC clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages. These are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), making this a booklet, rather than a regularly-sized DCC-module.

This review was requested by a supporter of my patreon, to be undertaken at my convenience.

This module is intended for level 1 characters, and can be completed in a single session, making it suitable for e.g. oneshots or convention-style gaming. As far as DCC is concerned, it is a challenging module, but does not rank among the most difficult ones. Character death is a possibility, but it is very much possible to beat this module sans PC deaths.

This module takes place in the frigid north, and theme-wise can be considered to be one of the DCC modules that has its Appendix N-weirdness grounded in folklore and mythology – while certainly fitting DCC’s unique aesthetics, it’s an adventure that feels grounded in its odder aspects, making implementation in more down to earth contexts and settings with a sword & sorcery vibe easy.

As always, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only judges around? Great! So, for the last couple of weeks, a strange sickness seems to have spread across the north, one wherein children fall into a comatose state, with blackened, frostburn-like patches of skin. In the introductory scene, the culprits become readily apparent: Gnarled, icy-gnomes called Tontuu attack the settlement as winter solstice approach – and herald the deadly threat responsible.

The godling Tjaptar, a malign force that has justifiably and well-deservedly fallen into relative obscurity, has taken residence in a ziggurat of hyperborean make, encapsulated partially in basically an upside down iceberg-like structure that is levitating ever more south, spreading the dread influence of the godling. The PCs are blessed by the village priest of Loptir in the aftermath, gaining the mechanically most distinct aspect of the adventure – the ability to call upon the powers of sovereign fire.

Each PC receives either 8 (if they demand payment) or 10 points of sovereign fire as a resource to handle the threat of Tjaptar. These points may be used as luck to enhance save-bonuses vs. cold effects, enhance spellcasting to improve fire-based spells as though using spellburn, ignite weaponry for a +1 bonus to atk and damage (+3 v.s cold-based enemies – all foes herein qualify), gain the ability to use a searing touch (which can also met through ice) or use 5 points to turn into a form of living fire for 2 rounds, including the ability to fly – which can be very helpful in the finale, but more on that later. How the PCs use their sovereign fire and how well they conserve this resource is a crucial aspect that can make the difference between success or death. I do enjoy this unique form of resource-management.

Now, the flying inverse iceberg has vast steps leading up to the top, and from there onwards, the PCs will make their way through aforementioned ziggurat as a mini-dungeon, battling more of the ice-gnomes and witnessing disturbing sights – like strange groves of trees that have souls of children bound within them. A mantis of ice makes for a lethal foe, and heat-draining sap can make for a rather cool terrain hazard – but ultimately, the PCs should be capable of making their way quickly to Tjaptar, who looks like a pretty massive reindeer-headed humanoid, with sickly, quasi un-dead looking skin (due to neglect/not being worshipped); between his antlers, an aurora borealis looms, and inside these lights, the souls of children not yet consumed await freedom.

Defeating the dread godling will initiate a collapse, which will see a rapid deterioration of the dungeon – which means the PCs will have to get out, fast, unless they want to plummet to a rather inglorious death! This section is also where the module’s brevity turns out to be somewhat detrimental. While the concept could have carried a longer adventure, apart from e.g. once instance, where only falling distance, but not damage incurred, is noted, this doesn’t come into play for the most part. In the end, though, the module basically resorts to telling the judge to add some checks to make things tight – which is certainly viable, but ultimately, I think the module would have been better off by simply listing some challenges for the collapse.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the same can be said for the most part, apart from aforementioned minor snafus. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard, and the original artworks in b/w are really nice. As pretty much always for Goodman Games’ DCC-modules, the maps are glorious. Unfortunately, we don’t get any player-friendly iterations sans labels etc. The pdf has basic bookmarks for sub-headers, but not for individual scenes or rooms – that could be a bit smoother for the judge.

Michael Curtis “The Old God’s Return” oozes a great dark fantasy vibe, with a neat folklore-style backdrop and theme. The sovereign fire mechanic is rewarding, and the whole idea of the adventure is great. However, the module does suffer somewhat from its brevity. I couldn’t help but feel that, with a few more pages, this could have been a masterpiece. As provided, it is an impressive module that feels like it is held in check by the limited scope in which it can develop its themes. Thus, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics 2013 Holiday Module: The Old God's Return
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Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Guide
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/17/2018 06:42:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This program book clocks in at a massive 100 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page autograph page, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 96 pages, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at your convenience.

On the inside of the front cover, we’ll get the Gen Con luck chart, which has been modified for this year – overlaps are there, but yeah. Since Gen Con 2014’s over, this probably won’t be a factor to decide whether you get this.

Now, the first major section of the booklet is an “Age of Cthulhu” scenario, “Transatlantic Terror”, penned by Jon Hook. It should be noted that the “Age of Cthulhu”-series is primarily set apart from more mainstream Call of Cthulhu scenarios by the emphasis on pulp over horror. While there is usually something creepy going on in these scenarios, the modules are not per se horrific and feature themes à la dinosaurs, serpent-people and the like. This may not be fair per se, but honestly, I could never get behind the series and the pulp-theme it tries to convey. While I adore pulp themes, I never felt that CoC’s rules are particularly conductive to the themes of the genre. If you’re looking for something horrific, you won’t necessarily get it in this adventure. Otherwise, you may well enjoy the scenario and how it puts you in the guises of young dilettantes. Pregens and stats are provided. As a whole, I couldn’t really get behind this adventure. We do get a properly mapped luxus liner and per se, the angle is interesting, but a moderately capable keeper and logically-played adversaries would mitigate the chances for success altogether. That being said, if you’re looking for a solid CoC-oneshot with a pulp angle, this may well work for you. It did nothing for me.

After this adventure, we get 3 pages of the humorous “Dear Archmage Abby” help column before getting the DCC worlds tour section, highlighting the tour with brief notes and photos galore. 9.5 pages are devoted to this. Some modules when ordered on Goodman games’ store did come with a collection of different bonus encounters o postcards. Obscure by design, we do get three of these collected here: One for “intrigue at the Court of Chaos”, one for “The One Who Watches From Below” as well as one for “Bride of the Black Manse.” I own all three adventures, and the reviews of them are forthcoming. These bonus encounters span a total of 1.5 pages and represent a nice way for completionists to get these obscure components. The latter one, which does have an artwork for hand of glory creation, is particularly neat.

After this, we have “The Emerald Enchanter Strikes Back” – the bonus scenario/epilogue/sequel to “The Emerald Enchanter,” which has since then been included as the bonus scenario in the second printing of the module. I have covered this cool adventure in my discussion of the Emerald Enchanter-review.

A page of mailing label designs are next, and 7 pages explain the process of DCC cover design – which may or may not be interesting for you. Really cool: The classic “The Dungeon Alphabet” gets a unique entry here: “O is also for Omen,” penned by Michael Curtis. This is followed by a 4-entry selection of previews from the “Monster Alphabet.”

After a one-page ad for Maximum Xcrawl (seriously underrated!), we get “Too Tough to Die” – this short story spans 9 pages and is a pretty nice reading experience.

After this, we get a 1-page ad for Metamorphosis Alpha (if you don’t know what MA is and consider yourself to be an expert RPG-aficionado, look it up, seriously!), before none other than James M. Ward provides “Coming of Age”, an introductory scenario for the game. Full disclosure: I lack both the playing, playtesting and GMing experience in the system to properly judge the intricacies of the mechanics of the adventure. My experiences with this one are solely theoretical. This being said, the scenario is…actually really, really cool. It depicts the PCs going on the Destiny Walk, a coming of age rite, wherein the PCs venture into the maze of Thorn Valley. The mutant plant creatures and hazards, as well as the humanoids make this look a true blast to play, and frankly, the delightfully wacko creature ideas may make it worth checking out this book on their own. This is easily the strongest component of this supplement.

After this cool adventure, we take a look at some “upcoming for DCC” sneak-peaks and further previews. Following this, we get d40 questions for the Goodman crew, which can provide some interesting notes for fans, before the final piece of mechanically-relevant content within would be the Vandroid, designed by Joseph Goodman as a homage for the comic book series by Dark Horse.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good to good throughout the supplement. There are a few minor things to complain about, but nothing serious. Layout adheres either to a one-column, two-column or three-column standard, depending on the section covered, mirroring the preferred presentation of the respective game. Artworks are b/w and amazing, as is the cartography. Speaking of which: No player-friendly, unlabeled maps are provided for the respective scenarios. The supplement included bookmarks for each of the specific sections. I can’t comment on the merits or lack thereof of the physical copy – I only own the pdf.

Whether you enjoy this program guide or not anno 2018, is highly contingent of what you hope to get from it. If you’re a diehard DCC-completionist, you may appreciate the inclusion of the obscure postcard encounters (1.5 pages); the previously rather important Emerald Enchanter-sequel has since then been included in the 2nd printing of the module, depriving this book of its main selling point for DCC-fans. While personally, I REALLY disliked the whole Age of Cthulhu product line, if you’re enjoying it, you certainly also will enjoy the tone of the Age of Cthulhu scenario featured herein.

Personally, I consider the main draws here to be the Dungeon Alphabet entry – and, much to my surprise, an adventure for a system I have played a grand total of twice in my life. James M. Ward’s “Coming of Age” is a great adventure in every sense of the word, and with the advent of MCC, fans of should check this out. The adventure is so cool that it almost warrants the asking price for the pdf. As a whole, this program guide is aimed primarily at folks enjoying Gen Con, obviously, and in specific, Goodman Games fans. While I count myself among the latter, I couldn’t help but feel like this would be of limited use for most judges/GMs. If either the Age of Cthulhu scenario or a good old-school scifi/post apocalypse-style adventure sound like fun to you, then this is worth checking out. Folks solely interested in DCC need not get this one. How to rate this? Well, here things become tough for me. As a whole, I can see this work…or bomb horribly. All in all, this is, almost by design, a mixed bag, wherein not everything will appeal to everyone. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Guide
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/14/2018 08:43:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

All righty, first things first: This review is based on the 2nd printing that features a bonus scenario. I will analyze that as well. The adventure is intended for 2nd level characters, and the presence of spellcasters is recommended, as there are some scenes where items may be activated via spell checks. If you happen to have no spellcasters, DCC’s rules still allow for spell checks for non-casters, but yeah – I’d recommend, as pretty much always, a well-rounded group. This adventure can be rather deadly, and certainly counts as one of the modules that not everybody will survive – particularly since the focus here is pretty classic: There are several rather tough encounters that can’t be skipped, so your group should definitely have some combat skills – more so than in “Doom of the Savage Kings” and “People of the Pit”, we have a more pronounced emphasis on combat. If you happen to love the modules, but not the rules, you should know that the module doesn’t utilize many of the more intricate and unique components of DCC, which makes conversion pretty simple.

Speaking of which: The inside of the front cover features a STUNNING full-page b/w-artwork of the location of the final showdown of the main module, which is AWESOME. Seriously, this one picture sets the stage perfectly.

As always, the module does provide well-written read-aloud text to help you navigate and run the adventure. The main module does not require more prep work than usual for a dungeon; however, the bonus adventure is pretty free-form and either requires some experience in that regard or improvisation skills. The adventure does come with the encounter table listing the adversaries encountered.

Now, and this may just be me, but since it’s what I experienced, here goes: Look at this cover. It may just be me; it may just be an odd peculiarity of my brain and the myriad connotations accumulated over my life. But…I honestly expected some serious Oz-references here. You know, due to the whole green/emerald-aspect. This is not really the case. This is not a happy-go-lucky adventure, nor a dark twist on Oz-themes. Instead, it is a crawl into the fortress of a seriously demented wizard. I’m obviously not penalizing the module for that, but I figured that it would be useful to some to state this clearly.

All right, as always, this’ll be the place where I pronounce a big SPOILER WARNING. I’m going to thoroughly spoil the adventure below, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only judges around? Great! Villagers have been disappearing, and the brooding citadel of the emerald enchanter seems like a good place to investigate – the mad mage seems to have once more emerged from his studies…and indeed, upon arriving at the citadel, there will be no doubt as to the grisly fate of those taken: The emerald guard constructs (emerald eidolons) seem to come in two variations: One that represents genuine constructs, while the other such guards are the result of living beings dumped into the sorcerous vats of the enchanter. The latter revert to their erstwhile shape upon being slain, and indeed, the first such man encountered will provide a clue for a latter part of the adventure with his dying breath. He stated that Thesdipedes knows the word, and this clue will allow the PCs to later save the transmogrified humans…provided they know how to ask the mummy that is a part of the Emerald Enchanter’s consultorium. Alongside a brain in a jar and a talking skull. The PCs can’t cast speak with dead? Luckily, there is a scroll that would allow any spellcaster to cast it, though that requires lip service to a patron, which could have interesting long-term ramifications and further adventure options. The reversal of the process btw. is based on a low DC spell check and a blood sacrifice of 1 point of spellburn. Nice to see that smart PCs can be heroic and do something “better” than murder-hoboing everything.

But I digress. The first room of the actual citadel holds massive mosaics that form into a tile golem, which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, if potentially very lethal combat: The entity can replenish its powers by drawing upon the environment, create beasts from tiles, etc. The mechanics here are amazing, and the options available to the golem are cool and consistent in their application. The golem’s tile absorption may actually reveal a hidden door, for example. Many modules would handwave this; this one provides mechanics. If I had one complaint here, it’d be that there is no real reward for being smart: The golem has Act 1d20 and gets a free tile draw (to blast, heal, create tile critters) in addition to 50 hit points. It basically represents a potent bottleneck right at the start of the module, and could be overwhelming to less experienced groups. If you have AoE-damage, this is the time to whip it out and destroy as many tiled sections as you can. Without AoE, though, you should get ready for a war of attrition that the PCs may well lose.

If you haven’t noticed it by now – this module is pretty damn dark, and while it does feature things that may seem goofy or gonzo, they’re not goofy, and even the gonzo components don’t feel funny. There is, for example, a hallway of blackened rock, with spirits of the slain trapped in the wall. These are hard to kill, attempting to hit them may result in broken weaponry, and they represent an important notice: Bypassing these is much easier than besting them, and indeed, this module is not necessarily intended to be cleared. Or, well, if you try, get ready to have the difficulty increase…

The eponymous Emerald Enchanter is a good example of a BBEG that has a presence before the final encounter: With emeralds acting as teleport foci and flying skulls tracking the PC’s every move, the evil wizard feels like a constant, threatening presence, and e.g. the lack of means to simply bypass many obstacles like the golem make sense from the perspective of this evil mastermind. These flying skulls btw. also represent a nasty trick: For a lot of the dungeon, these respawning surveillance mechanisms are pretty much a creepy paranoia-inducing dressing in creature form…until they’re not. There are instances where these skulls become capable of blasting the PCs with rays!

PCs doing their homework can also find the source of power of the emerald enchanter’s transmogrification vats, a captured moon-devil that clever PCs can free to gain a boon. An enterprising judge certainly should take this as a long-term angle to connect this section to adventures of the moon etc. in the future. Said entity is contained in a sublevel of the dungeon that is pretty much skippable – level 2 and 3 are both pretty brief and, together, constitute roughly the equivalent of a dungeon level that is slightly shorter than level 1 of the citadel. Minor complaint: The story notes that this thing is responsible for the transmogrification vats, but while releasing it does come with a potent reward, this has no direct impact of the finale, when it, logic-wise, probably should.

It should come as no surprise that, ultimately, the dungeon contains plenty of odd and weird guardians and magic tools – trapped protoplasmic demons, odd laboratories, ruby cats and topaz serpents – there is a clear leitmotif at work here, and a clear method to the enchanter’s madness.

It should also be noted that we do get a buff suite for said enchanter – and aforementioned demon? Well, freeing him does reward the PCs by making progress smoother. The showdown, which, as mentioned before, is lavishly-illustrated in a one-page, massive handout, features the emerald enchanter and his creatures – and a massive, factory-style mechanism that acts as a timer of sorts. Dawdling PCs will witness transformations of innocents. …but on the other hand, smart players will have a means to reverse the process by now, which can make the emerald enchanter trying to goad the PCs into rash actions less effective. Interesting choice!

This was where the main module used to stop. In this iteration of the adventure, though, the sequel “The Emerald Enchanter Strikes Back” (yes, with title printed in Star Wars font…) delivers the full-blown, unrepentant gonzo I expected from the module. This module was, to my knowledge, originally released as part of Goodman Games’ Gencon program booklet in 2014. Where the main adventure was an exploration through a mad scientist-style gonzo wizard, with some seriously dark tones, this bonus adventure penned by Jobe Bittman delivers the gonzo. It also radically deviates from the main module in structure, as it’s basically a hexcrawl. The overland map provided is separated in multiple zones, and from random encounters to a couple of keyed locations, this aspect is pretty free-form: Basically, the map is separated into two distinct zones. You see, the emerald enchanter the PCs have just slain? That was a simulacrum. Now, a gigantic robot…ähem…golem, with classic glass-bubble head and radiant emerald power-core in the middle is wrecking the landscape, and the module is about the PCs exploring the region and attempting to pin down the emerald enchanter’s engine of destruction. This is pretty amazing and a premise that could have covered much more than a brief epilogue.

I can’t say enough good things about this bonus adventure, but at the same time, it has one weakness that is somewhat grating. While the PCs theoretically can destroy the titan, it’s not the intended course of action. Instead, the PCs are expected to get inside the titan and make their way up. Wait…sounds familiar? Yeah, this premise was already used in the second of Goodman Games’ classic 3.X Wicked Fantasy adventures. That being said, the exploration of the emerald titan’s interior is much briefer and less complex, and emphasizes some goofy things. The colossus is not water tight, for example, so PCs in the feet may see the titan attempt to drown them by holding a foot under water. The colossus also will squeeze beehives inside, try to poke at players with treestumps, poking inside it – you get the idea. This very much embraces the ridiculous nature of the set-up. Sounds amazing, and frankly, it is. On the down-side, we get no descriptive text for the interior regions of the emerald titan, and indeed, scale and movement within the titan are not really covered, requiring pretty much that the judge wings these aspects. This feels doubly odd, since the aforementioned actions of the titan all get proper mechanical representations. The glass dome at the top houses the emerald enchanter, who proceeds to initiate evacuation protocols – 10 seconds, then the glass dome will detach and fly…wherever the judge desires. Nice way to segue into a new adventure!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect. I noticed a couple of typo-level glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column b/w-standard of these adventures, meaning that we get quite a lot of content per page. The artworks in b/w are amazing, and the handout of the final showdown is particularly glorious. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I can’t comment on the merits of the print version, since I do not own it. The cartography is, as always, awesome and beautiful – but there are no unlabeled versions of the maps, which means that VTT-appeal is slightly decreased…and that the players won’t get to see them. This is particularly grating regarding the bonus scenario’s hexmap. There is no justification for not at least getting a proper player-friendly version for the overland section. The bookmarks are pretty basic –no individual rooms are marked.

Joseph Goodman’s “The Emerald Enchanter” is an adventure that truly feels distinct in tone. The notion of a dark fantasy module that makes things that should by all accounts feel gonzo, actually managing to make them…disquieting? Horrific? Is quite a feat. There is no question as to the Emerald Enchanter’s vileness and insanity once the PCs get into this. Jobe Bittman’s bonus adventure adds a seriously fun over-the-top climax to the proceedings and represents a great change of pace. This adventure has a lot to offer, and I love its total commitment to its dark fantasy vibe and how it makes things that should be goofy disquieting. At the same time, it did not connect as well with me as the previous adventures in the main DCC-line. Perhaps it’s small inconsistencies like the one in the bonus adventure, or the fact that I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that the Emerald Enchanter’s presence throughout the module, his active counter-measures and the like, could have been more pronounced. The constant PC surveillance ultimately doesn’t amount to much, and feels like a bit of a lost chance. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #68: People of the Pit
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/04/2018 10:11:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This DCC-adventure clocks in at 36 (!!) pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages, which are, as always for Goodman games, chock-full with content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by a supporter of my patreon.

This is an adventure for DCC – a classic, in fact. Most DCC-groups will have played this already. So why bother reviewing it? Well, for one, I’ve been gifted a couple of DCC adventures by one of my readers, to be reviewed at my convenience. Well, and I’m somewhat OCD. So there you go – consider this an indirectly sponsored review of this adventure. Secondly, and as important as far as I’m concerned: This module is imho interesting beyond the confines of its rules-system. It should be noted that this adventure contains a TON of truly evocative read-aloud text that really helps create a tight and intriguing

This adventure is intended for level 1 characters; it is pretty dangerous, but how dangerous it is ultimately depends on how capable your PLAYERS are. Sure, bad rolls of the dice can kill you, but as a whole, the module focuses much more on the skill of PLAYERS as opposed to characters. Your wits are more important than how potent your build is. I strongly suggest that you play this with one or more PCs that can cast spells to make use of the two new spells within. I will mention these below.

You see, there is a town. Some degenerate chaos cultists crawl out of a pit, tentacles, yadda-yadda, evil dudes abduct women. Go save them.

At this point, you probably ask yourself why I even bothered, right? Well, to explain that, we have to go into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only judges around? We join the PCs as they are greeted by scratch-marks speaking of horrid sacrifices in a blasted landscape, and indeed, venturing down the mist-shrouded steps into the vast, eponymous pit, will establish the theme perfectly. You see, the cultists, handily, denote their hierarchies by the color of their robes…and seeing them for the first time will be the time when the PCs may well turn tail and run. Their faces are blank, rubbery masses, reminiscent of tentacles, and vestigial tentacles grow from their abdomens, twitching. There is nothing human about these things, and indeed, the inhuman nature of these beings is emphasized in perfect environmental storytelling that makes sense – they can, for example, navigate crawlspace-sized environments with ease. And yes, such claustrophobic places are included. Worse, these vestigial tentacles are so-called octo-masses that burst forth from cultists slain.

Once the horror of these beings has been experienced, clever PCs may make use of a couple of observations: Controlling when to kill targets can help, and indeed, there is another aspect that makes this stand out: The Chaos-Beast quasi-deity of the monstrous cultists. You see, they have beast-men, so-called Toans. Sure.

But the true horror and one of the coolest aspects of this module? The Chaos-Beast is basically a buried, kaiju-plus-sized mass of maws and tentacles, an idiot-god of sorts – and the cultists can, in groups, call forth and attempt to control Chaos-Beast tentacles! And yes, you can learn the spells! Shadowy tentacles and control of present tentacles! This means that a spellcaster can potentially turn the monstrous thing against its own creatures – and once the module is done, there is a good reason why those spells don’t work! The sooner the PCs realize this and the propensity for minimum-numbers of cultists required to call these tentacles, the higher their survival chances will be!

The partially living dungeon, the caverns and complexes suffused with these tentacles, is not simply window dressing – there are “tentacle elevators”, wherein the PCs climb down/ride tentacles to levels below! The strangeness of the cultists implies a unique life-cycle that the PCs will get to find out as they go. Much like the robe-colors, these experiences are not subtle, but incredibly remarkable – and indeed, they are enhanced by the bonus level that has been added in the current printing of the adventure. The three-page bonus dungeon adds another lifecycle and arm to the cult – the assassins of the cult, octo-masses that have outgrown their hosts, and that can duplicate the faces of adversaries as really creepy faceless men. Moreover, the bonus level is better integrated into the module than e.g. the one featured in the excellent “Doom of Savage King” – the entry is actually hidden on the first level, and considering how the assassins work, it makes sense to use them to potentially lure PCs that would miss the place there. An easy means would be to introduce them as a kind of counter-measure.

Beyond that, the module is actually not just a brainless hack and slash with some mechanic specialties and unique hazards/monsters. Far from it! There, for example, are meditative labyrinth paths – you know, the ones on the floor? These act as delightfully MAGIC teleporters – and yes, the PLAYERS have to solve these. There are handouts for the paths (and a convenient solution for the judge) – and indeed, this is a fantastic example of how sword & sorcery, dark fantasy and lovecraftian aesthetics can form a cohesive whole. You see, the cult is not simply alien in its physiology and life cycle. Oh no! From strange pods to powders and liquids with odd effects, curious PCs can find out quite a lot about how these…things…operate. Whether this is technology, magic, a blend of both…it all depends on how you interpret it. It shows, and does not necessarily explain. It is an example of how you can efficiently convey lore, piece by piece, and it is so successful at this, it may well make your players want to explore the entirety of the module, just due to how incredibly well indirect storytelling is handled within.

There is not a single room or encounter within this 4-level (5 with the bonus level!) dungeon that I considered to be boring; there is not a single trap or hazard that is not deserved; this makes sense in its twisted way – and this commitment to a kind of plausibility only serves to enhance the atmosphere of this place. Oh, and the finale? It is classic Conan, as the PCs arrive just as folks are being sacrificed to the massive Chaos Beast – and indeed, the main honcho may be eaten by their deity! To one-up this, the module actually also presents a super-impressive one-page handout that depicts the scene. If your player’s jaws don’t hit the table, if you hear no audible gulp when showing them this…then you have the most jaded players ever. Anyways, there was one point of criticism I had with the original module – one that has been rectified by the inclusion of the bonus level. You see, the PCs, originally, never got to actually walk directly on the chaos beast. Well, now they do, and the rules presented allow the judge to extrapolate hazard-like dangers for PCs unlucky enough to land on this titanic entity.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with plenty of fantastic, b/w-artworks. Particularly the handouts add a second, super-impressive level to this pdf. The cartography is absolutely gorgeous, but we get no player-friendly version, which is a bit unfortunate for VTT play etc. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Joseph Goodman’s “The People of the Pit” is a frickin’ masterpiece. (And yes, I got the obvious Appendix N reference of the title.) At this point, I am utterly bored by most modules that feature an evil cult, particularly if it’s yet another mythos-deity of the week related thing they worship. This module, though? Damn, it is absolutely glorious and a perfect rebuttal to the internal conviction that the whole cult + tentacles angle needs to be boring. In fact, this module pretty shows everyone how it’s done. The dungeon is hard, brutal even, but fair. The adversaries are brilliant, creepy and unique. The dungeon has a ton of unique features that PCs can partake in. The focus on player-skill over character-skill is amazing. The prose is crisp and concise. The production values are great. Oh, and all my nitpicks about the potential of this set-up? Daniel J. Bishop’s bonus level stripped me of them. The consistence of the quality here is impressive.

In short: This is my benchmark of what any module with an evil cult should be able to offer, theme-wise. Fair warning: This can and will spoil hackneyed, lovelessly cobbled-together run-of-the-mill creepy cult modules forever for you. It’s that good. Ever since I first read this, I found myself comparing adventures with only remotely related themes to this one. If you’re playing DCC, you probably already have this. If not, then get this now!

Even if you have no idea of what DCC is, though, even if you have no plans to play using the system, even in such a case, this is worth the fair asking price twice over. Whether for idea mining of straight conversion, this module is so damn good it frankly should be canonized as an adventure that people should have played; as a rite of passage, if you will. This module will live on to become a true classic, mark my words. I mean, even jaded ole’ me gets this hyped about it. That ought to say everything.

My final verdict will be an unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval. If you even remotely are interested in the themes, get this asap!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #68: People of the Pit
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Dungeon Crawl Classics 2018 Halloween Module: The Corpse That Love Built
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/28/2018 08:55:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, ½ a page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue because a patreon requested the other Halloween modules, and I’m somewhat OCD and needed to get this one done as well.

This module is intended for a 2nd level party, and a well-rounded party is preferable. PCs should be able to carry their weight in combat, but other than that, this has no requirements per se. The pdf presents well-written read-aloud text that oozes atmosphere, and the pdf does come with 24 introductory rumors that contextualize the module. These include, just fyi, some unobtrusive nods towards other DCC adventures – nice easter eggs there!

All right, you know the deal. The following is an adventure-review, and as such, the following contains massive SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only judges around? Great!

We begin this adventure with a storm raging outside of the church that the PCs attend – then the priest, father Giralt, who called the PCs there, pronounces that his patron has granted him a vision regarding the latest disappearances. This is received with collective groans and quips by everyone, only to have something interrupt the meeting: Faceless clay golems, sent forth by the villain, need to be stopped and, ironically, disperse doubts: Dr. Lotrin von Weißgras-Geisterblut (thanks for not butchering my native German in the name – the name translates to whitegrass-specterblood, fyi.), an eccentric elf, has finally gone off the deep end. (Btw.: The name and story implies strong connections to “They Served Brandolyn Red.”)

The elf lairs in a tower that is fashioned in the image of his lost love, and said tower (which you can see on the cover as well) lies basically behind a moat and wall – alternatively, PCs can brave the seas and cliffs, but most PCs will have to bypass the walls and guard-house. Preferably without being eaten by the creature in the moat…or killed by the Baron’s contraptions. The good doctor seems to have blended mechanics and organics, creating grotesque archer-things of sinew and metal, and similarly, the devices within his domain present an eerie blend here. Similarly, the “watchdogs” between the walls and tower are guarded by weredoggins, a blend of were-hounds and scorpions, emphasizing the mad-science vibe. Minor complaint: The pdf does feature a new spell that Geisterblut used to create these, and which, in the finale, may be a nasty surprise if a PC gets infected here, but there is no spell provided for the creation of the weird contraption monsters, though one is referenced in passing. Cut content?

The tower itself is a pretty small dungeon – the ground floor confronts the PCs with grotesque, luck-sucking lizard-things, and there is a vast staircase that extends up to the hand of the tower, where a maiden awaits rescue, currently trapped in a cage. From the cage, a massive and hard to damage coil of mithril transmits lightning from the tower’s hand into the cellar, where a meat cellar and an un-dead lab, including staked vampire-wights that PCs may inadvertently free, await. Really cool: The details of von Weißgras-Geisterblut’s research can be found throughout the lab, and the placement of traps and the puzzle door reward smart PCs: By understanding the doctor, they can ultimately enter his lab, wherein he tries to revive his love in the body of a giant version, cobbled together from giant body parts. He was successful. The middle of the module contains a massive two-page spread of the scene, with the mighty Bride Giant being an obvious homage to Bride of Frankenstein, thus culminating the module in a brutal and rewarding combat.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has quite a lot of neat b/w-artworks. The cartography, isometric and amazing, is as good as we’ve come to expect from Goodman Games. Alas, we do not get player-friendly versions of the maps. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Stephen Newton’s “The Corpse That Love Built” is a homage to classic horror movies: From hammer to the other b/w-classics, this takes a bow and presents a means to play such a plotline with grace and panache. The module walks the fine line between lampooning the genre, expressing admiration and taking itself seriously: This is atmospheric and creepy, genuinely dark, but it’s also hilarious and can be played for laughs, particularly if you and your players are familiar with old-school horror movies. While I frankly wished the module was slightly longer, it represents a great return to form for the DCC Halloween-modules after the atrocious “Shadows under Devil’s Reef.” This is not horror in the traditional sense – it is dark, but it also is a module you could run the monster mash to. In short, this is perhaps one of the most Halloween-y modules I’ve read, not because it regurgitates all the Halloween tropes, but because it gets the spirit. This is an excellent adventure, and well worth 5 stars, missing my seal of approval only by an inch due to its brevity, paired with the lack of player-friendly, key-less maps.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics 2018 Halloween Module: The Corpse That Love Built
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #40: Devil in the Mists
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/01/2018 10:13:21

The pollution in Fair Haven is getting really bad... there's this blue mist that is killing some of the inhabitants and sending many of the rest insane. It seems to be coming from the sewers, so of course any adventurer worth the name will be straight down there to find out what's going on.

The DM notes begin with an overview of the adventure, there's an encounter list, scaling information, and some notes on how best to get the party involved. This adventure can be run as a sequel to DCC7: The Secret of Smuggler's Cove, but if you don't want to do that there are a couple of other ideas to propel them in the right direction. There's also plenty background material to make sure that you're clear about what's actually going on and how it came about... underpinning it all is a devilish plot to turn the world into another plane of Hell!

The adventure proper begins with an investigation into the noisome sewers of Fair Haven. They're cramped, smelly, and there are always traces if not pockets of the deadly blue mist. Also, there are wandering monsters to contend with. There is also a magnificent puzzle/trap that appears to be the key to dealing with the mist. This includes a riddle that appears almost out of thin air, for which a handout is supplied. It's noted that a particularly harsh DM might show it only to the player of the character who sees it, and snatch it away after the 30 seconds for which it appears (I had a DM play a similar trick on me once... the poor dear didn't know I have a near-photographic memory and just wrote out the message that had faded before my character's eyes!). There's a lot more to find, to fight, and to puzzle out down here. And the smell never gets any better!

As the riddles of the sewers are solved and the inhabitants put to the sword, eventually the party should open a portal to... well, somewhere else. They get sucked in, it's unavoidable. It's a dimensional prison, caging something that really, really ought not to be allowed out; and it's full of cryptic traps and puzzles. They are partly to keep the inmates in and partly to stop anyone breaking in to rescue them, and there's a third, darker, purpose (which could lead to further adventures...). A mix of aggression and cunning is needed here. Nothing is what it seems, but all is extremely dangerous. Indeed, it's likely that not all the party will survive. There is layer upon layer, you think you've reached the end and yet another level opens before you...

The end is suitably dramatic, with the party returned to a sunny Fair Haven with an enigmatic voice ringing in their ears. There are some ideas for follow-up adventures too. If you want a wild ride of deadly danger with the well-being of the very world at stake, look no further!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #40: Devil in the Mists
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Dungeon Crawl Classics 2017 Halloween Module: Shadow Under Devil's Reef
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/01/2018 07:09:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third DCC-Halloween module clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, ½ a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19.5 pages. Unlike previous Halloween modules, this one is laid out in standard size, so it’s actually a tad bit longer than the two shorter ones I’ve covered so far. But does quantity mean quality here? Let’s take a look!

This review was requested and sponsored by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

It should be noted that the final ½ page of the module contains a couple of pregens, in case you have casualties. The module is intended for 4 – 6 first level characters, but it may also be run for quadruple that number 0-level funnel characters. Indeed, I think this may work better as a deadly funnel or one-shot. I strongly suggest the party to include a character with the Animal Trainer occupation, and I REALLY recommend the group to be able to cast Comprehend Languages. You’ll see why later.

The module does provide read-aloud text and a handwave-style abstractions for quick mass-combat resolution for 0-level NPCs. This sidebar is pretty much superfluous as far as the module is concerned

However, before I go into the details, I will pronounce the obligatory SPOILER-warning. The following thoroughly discusses the module. As such, only judges should continue reading.

..

.

All right, only judges around? Great! So, this is, as the module acknowledges, a kind of homage/riff on “Shadow over Innsmouth.” It begins in the backwater place named Black Sand Port, where wreckage has a couple of strange survivors of Fu-Lamian descent wash ashore. The greed of the burgomaster’s spurred – and hopefully that of the PCs, as the survivors tell them about Princess Kaeko, who had been aboard their crashed ship. A list of 18 rumors is provided for the region.

It is assumed that the PCs basically steal a boat and get it towards the infamous coral reef known as the eponymous “Devil’s Reef” – and there is a chance to save some survivors. Making their way past the saltwater graveyard created by razor-sharp corals and the sharks that haunt these waters, the PCs enter the jagged landscape, where the boat may take damage if the PCs don’t get the pattern of reefs. A failure damages the boat. How much damage can it take? Well, the boat doesn’t get stats when it’s acquired – these are hidden in a somewhat counter-intuitive manner in the first encounter potentially featuring it.

The coral island does come with random encounters that center mostly on deep ones. There is a deep one caster here with a name, and the island otherwise is pretty brief; there is an onyx pillar topped with a ruby. Touching the pillar shocks you; shooting at the ruby will the pillar fire a lightning bolt at the offender. Hitting the ruby with a ranged attack has a small chance to knock it loose, and touching it after that may provide a flash of insight that is one of the obtuse ways to solve a bottleneck of the adventure – but more on that later.

It would make sense for the PCs to explore the wrecked ship, the Royal Dawn, and the brief exploration of the ship wreck is indeed interesting: Provided the PCs haven’t yet experienced it themselves, they will have heard about it/deduced it: oddly, proximity to the island and exploration seems to make the respective persons undergo a kind of transformation – in 8 steps towards a Deep One Hybrid, with step #8 equaling game-over. This is per se a solid angle. Anyhow, the Royal Dawn shows serious signs of struggle, and exploring it may put the PCs into a dialogue with a statue of Farrin-Shae, the guardian demoness of sorts of the vessel, who might well proceed to animate the slain on board into devil-like looking things that actually are undead. The true treasure of the vessel, though, is actually something the PCs may well slay – the abducted princess had a pet, a so-called psi-spider, and its touch/attempt to communicate causes damage. Animal Trainer AND resisting the impulse to slay it, is one thing that will make the finale/aftermath much easier – provided the critter lives through the module, that is.

Anyhow, back to the isle, as ultimately, exploration of the wreck could conceivably be skipped: On the island, there is a set of lavishly onyx double doors: A piece of b/w-artwork shows a character being fried by them, and the choice to make this artwork is utterly puzzling to me. Why? Well, the door has two dials that may be moved in one of 5 positions. Can’t read Aklo/don’t have aforementioned spell? Well, have fun trying to frickin’ brute-force the doors and being shocked all the time. Two of the runes, provided the PCs can read them, correspond to Celaeno and Polaris. Okay, so what? This looks like a puzzle that was supposed to feature a visual representation…you know, like quite a few Goodman Games DCC-modules offer? Instead, we get a solid, but ultimately useless artwork. Oh, and there are TWO such doors in the module. The second one has a different combination!

The least frustrating approach here is indeed when the players have not learned from being zapped by aforementioned ruby and knocked it down – then, at least they know the combination. This should have been a puzzle, and instead is an exercise in frustration and trial and error. That happens twice. Blergh.

Beyond the doors lies the truth, the reason for the mutation-impulse that has taken a hold of NPCs and PCs alike: The PCs stumble into an Elder Thing lab, where a star-spawn of Cthulhu is kept trapped. Its presence sends a telepathic impulse to the DNA of creatures nearby. But I’m getting ahead of myself: The PCs first have to slog through 3 rooms that are thoroughly linear: A slide must be passed, then a couple of deep one hybrids and a shoggoth await the PCs. And this is where I uttered an exasperated “Really?” – the shoggoth is strong, but still utterly pitiful regarding its power, considering that it’s a frickin’ shoggoth. And, in a grating deviation from DCC-design aesthetics, it can’t be bypassed, has no means to make it easier, nothing to reward smart players. Oh, and running past it is no option. The PCs first have to brute-force the second frickin’ dial-door to proceed. Instead of rewarding capable players, the module suggests wounding the shoggoth. sigh Why does it have to be a frickin’ shoggoth?

In the halls beyond that, the PCs can interrupt the hibernation of elder thing scientists and pick them off one by one. Yes, this is about as fun and as redundant as it sounds. The hibernation cells, btw., have a mechanism that locks and floods them. And the module gets drowning rules as established in DCC wrong. How do you prevent drowning? Well, obviously with Reflex saves, right? Because agility totally translates to how long you can hold your breath? WTF. How this one could slip past editors is puzzling to me; it contradicts how drowning works.

The finale has the PCs fight more elder things, fiddle with a console whose functionality they can’t deduce, and thus release one of three tanks – either mad Deep Ones (including the princess),a dead star-spawn, or an alive one. It’s totally luck based what happens. The module has a couple of promising notes for elder thing tech and living glowbug critters…but guess what elder thing tech does? They’re spells in a can. I kid you not. Oh, and good luck if the psi-spider’s not with the PCs – it can snap the deep one corruption out of the princess. Te star spawn of Cthulhu has btw. 14 hit points, and mundane weapons do minimal damage. It’s wounded by experimentation, but still. That’s just sad.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not on the level I’ve come to expect from Goodman Games. On a formal level, the module is tight, but rules-sequence and integrity is pretty compromised in a couple of cases, and there are instances of spells not properly formatted. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports nice b/w-artworks. Puzzling: The module’s pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment! The cartography per se is gorgeous, but the wreck’s map has no grid, and we do not get player-friendly versions of the maps.

Are you really, really tired of the Cthulhu-mythos? Do you want to complete the process by which it’ll lose any form of coolness and horror? Do you want to complete the transformation of the creatures into just another type of critter to be slaughtered by your local MurderHobo Inc.? Then this is the module for you! After this, neither shoggoths, nor star-spawn, will ever elicit more than a yawn from your group. It’s also simply badly-designed, blending bad Cthulhu-scenario design with obvious issues with the DCC-rules and design aesthetics that I love so much. There is no rewarding the players for smart playing here – it’s all up to chance and trial and error, ostensibly justified by mythos being weird in the time-honored tradition of bad Cthulhu-scenarios. John Hook’s “Shadow under Devil’s Reef” is not even remotely creepy and feels like a paint-by-the-numbers standard pulp-Cthulhu scenario of the weakest sort, lacking the Appendix N-flavor and heavy metal aesthetics that I expected to see.

You see, I didn’t even expect this to be creepy in any shape, way or form. It’s not, by the way. Not at all. However, it fails miserably at making the mythos-creatures feel cool, it fails at blending DCC’s heavy metal-influenced aesthetic of fighting against…THINGS with the mythos. It also fails as a spoof. It’s not funny, nor badass. Know who does the whole angle better? Pretty much everyone. For horror, Call of Cthulhu and Trail of Cthulhu are better. For (dark) fantasy adventuring, Paizo and Kobold Press have vastly superior modules, and Fat Goblin Games’ "Shadows over Vathak" setting actually manages to craft a fantasy world that is heavily-influenced by mythos aesthetics without being cliché and redundant. Oh, and if you really want heavy metal aesthetics and weirdness, I’d strongly suggest taking a look at LotFP’s Carcosa or Venger Satanis’ “The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence”. Heck, Venger’s early work, while a bit rough, successfully manages to blend the “OMG, how cool is that”-metal aesthetics, horror and even funny bits and create a cohesive whole. I’d take his flawed, but inspiring “Liberation of the Demon Slayer” over this bore-fest any day of the week.

This sounds harsh, but I was really, really pissed off by this module, by how utterly uninspired and flawed it is. I honestly feet like I wasted my money with it. In stark contrast to the previous Halloween adventures, this is not a dip, but a free-fall regarding quality. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, mainly due to Goodman Games’ high production values, and while I briefly contemplated going 1 star due to the lack of bookmarks and player-friendly maps, I will round up due to in dubio pro reo.

Only buy this if you’re a completionist. If you’re willing to convert modules, there are vastly superior offerings pretty much everywhere.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics 2017 Halloween Module: Shadow Under Devil's Reef
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Dungeon Crawl Classics 2016 Halloween Module: The Sinister Sutures of the Sempstress
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/31/2018 05:03:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second Halloween adventure for DCC clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2/3 of a page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look! It should be noted that this adventure is laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper when printing this.

This review was requested and sponsored by one of my patreons.

Unlike the previous Halloween-module “They Served Brandolyn Red”, this one begins at the lofty level of 6. It is strongly suggested to have a well-rounded group of characters in order to survive this one. The module comes with plenty of read-aloud text and provides some guidance for conversations.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only judges around? Great! So, the theme of Erblast, i.e. a form of inherited sin that is passed down through the generation, is a potent theme, and one that can have serious repercussions ina fantasy context. Turns out that, unbeknown to the PCs, some ancestors of theirs during the millennia have vanquished the eponymous Sempstress, an entity of pure horror. Said entity has trailed their bloodlines throughout the aeons…and now it’s time for the PCs to pay for the “sins” of their ancestors. And there is nowhere to hide.

Seriously. The module begins with the scene on the cover, where horrible amalgamations of flesh, stitched together in a grotesque para-life, shamble impossibly, from wardrobes, from drawers…any enclosed space, to attack. Hopefully surviving the assault by the horrific things, the PCs can investigate the respective furniture…and they will be able to enter drawers, for example – even if they’re too large to fit them. Closing the drawers sees the PCs transported to a nightmare realm of pulsing, stitched together planar fragments, bloated flesh…

Okay, we have to talk about an obvious inspiration here: the dungeon the PCs explore, the prison/fortress of the mighty Sempstress, is nothing short of a genius riff on Silent Hill’s Otherworld. Instead of aesthetics based on metal, rust and flesh, mirroring the dystopian industrial complex and related visions, this module instead takes a step back and basically transports the Otherworld concept one step back through time, tapping into cultural anxieties of stitched together corpses and the like. A strong Frankenstein angle, a realization of church-propaganda horror-scenarios, comes alive within this place, all while retaining the central leitmotif of fear of the flesh, of disfigurement, of bodily integrity.

Breaching the skin of the pulsing, organic and disgusting foyer, the first room of the “House of Tattered Remains”, drives that home from the get-go, with bodily fluids congealing into a twisted, disgusting thing. Quoting Tuzun Thune, windows to elsewhere may be found…and the monsters are so disturbing, they might as well have been taken from Silent Hill, Rule of Rose, or similar games: We have spiders puppeteering corpse-marionettes on an endless-seeming staircase. We have timekeepers that ask for a moment – and if the PCs answer in the affirmative, that’s just what they steal from their minds! Heck, these nasty buggers may strip an unlucky PC of all experience, reverting them to their humble beginnings! This is, difficulty-wise, one of the most brutal DCC-modules I’ve GMed, but it, like all good, hard modules, earns it: The monsters all have a trick (or two) that rewards clever players over high rolls: Observation, smarts and the like are just as important as PC-brawn here: The timekeepers, for example, have a pretty hefty Achilles’ heel; the spider-like spuppeteer-spiders can be noticed, etc. Traversing a bloody ballroom, finding a room where the PCs are threatened by regression to an infantile state, avoiding the sempstress’s scrying devices…the exploration of this nightmarish realm is just fantastic and evocative.

It should also be noted that a gigantic, horrid blob may well be the impetus for a TPK – the “Custodian of Parts”, erstwhile servant of the Sempstress, may actually be the best chance the PCs have to find something that will give them a much-needed angle against the deadly creature – provided the PCs play their cards right and don’t antagonize the…thing. They will need to find “The Bright” – which is somewhere in vats of eyeballs, slimy mucus, marrow…and here, the module becomes meta in an amazing way: It suggests peeled grapes, etc., the creation of an old-school “Halloween Feelbox”…and to have the players grasp for “The Bright”, hidden somewhere in the icky things. So turn of the lights, and have fun!

Did I mention that the metaphysical house’s attic contains animated flesh-dresses, gruesome perversions of the bridal gowns many of us have seen up there, collecting dust? And did I mention that the Sempstress is really tough, that players that don’t play their cards right, will die horribly in the finale? If they get to life that far.

You see, there is one more aspect about this module that I love: Do you know the kid-horror-movie Caroline? How it can be twisted and disturbing for parents and adults? That’s the final blending of ideas here: The transformative aspect. Instead of a mundane sanity engine, or using the corruption-engine, exploration of the house and fighting its denizens will put the PCs eye to eye with the Sempstress’s horrible power of “Unraveling” – they find tiny stitch-marks on their skin; clothing and body fuse, skin becomes translucent, one eye become a doll’s eye or a button-eye…their very presence herein not only subverts their sanity, it actually corrupts their bodily integrity, even when it comes to being…well, organic. And yes, many of these effects do have mechanical effects. When their bodily stability has been reduced to zero, they unravel, like a piece of abruptly unwoven cloth…for a fate that an enterprising judge will make most fearsome indeed!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, bordering on top-notch. The rules-language is super-tight, and I noticed no undue accumulation of glitches of a formal nature. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard with amazing and creepy artworks. The 2 pages of maps are beautiful, b/w,…and lack player-friendly versions, which is a big downside as far as I’m concerned. Pity that players won’t get to see it. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks – they could be more detailed.

Michael Curtis delivers in frickin’ spades in this adventure. The breakdown of physical borders and rules, courtesy of the nature of the dungeon, also provides a genius justification and carte blanche for an eclectic series of encounters that still makes sense; the different leitmotifs and themes blend together in an ingenious way that is greater than the sum of its parts: While the comparison to Silent Hill remains most apt in my book, it should be noted that the module has its own identity: Its blending of early/pre-industrial revolution anxieties, childhood fears and Otherworld (-ly) horror runs a the thin tightrope with panache aplomb, generating a vision that is slick, twisted and frankly glorious. I honestly wished that this had been a massive boxed set depicting a much larger realm, but one may dream of horrific realms for DCC, right? This adventure, in spite of its copious Appendix N/Sword & Sorcery quotes, which clearly designate it as having the DCC-style, actually achieves the goal of being a HORROR-module. It is so good, so resounding a success in its atmosphere and flavor, that I’d recommend it sans hesitation as a module that is amazing not only for DCC, but also for other rule-sets. The adventure deserves being experienced and played – in spite of its brevity and the lack of player-friendly maps, this gets 5 stars + seal of approval. It’s one of the best horror modules I’ve analyzed in the last couple of years. If you enjoy horror, don’t miss this short, but oh-so-sweet gold nugget of grimey, sewn-together, gory madness!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics 2016 Halloween Module: The Sinister Sutures of the Sempstress
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #39: DM Screen and Adventure
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/29/2018 09:42:56

This is a first-level adventure, but as usual the challenges facing the party are not trivial. A bunch of bandits calling themselves the Broken Knives has been purloining treasures from local temples and have made their base in a ruined castle. A party cleric may serve one of the burgled temples, or the party may just see notices advertising for adventurers to raid the bandits in the local town (Grozny if you're using the default world of Aereth).

The information for the DM includes an encounter list, scaling information, location notes and extensive background mainly centred on Castle Churo, explaining why it is in such a battered state and what effects result from that... it used to belong to a magician called Churo, whose experiments with high-powered magic were ultimately his downfall. This was some thirty years ago. Meanwhile, in town there are five religions competing for power and worshippers, and these recently started suffering losses of valuable relics from their temples...

Rather unusually for this series, the adventure itself begins with the party being brought before the town's religious council, which has representatives of all five religions - three of which have been robbed. The thefts were carried out by subterranean tunnels into their storerooms and although the tunnels collapsed behind the thieves, they appear to lead back to Castle Churo. After they are briefed on the missing items, they might want to gather rumours before heading on up there. And that's where the real fun starts...

Room descriptions paint the picture well, and there's a lot going on wherever the party should venture. This is all backed up with details of monsters/NPCs, their stats and likely reactions to party intrusions, and notes of what's available to loot if the party is victorious. A few handouts are included to help players understand what their characters can see. There are some innovative traps and effects for the party to navigate... and this is before they venture into the catacombs beneath the castle ruins. The adventure is wound up neatly with several alternative outcomes, with the possibility of further action if the fellow behind the thefts evades them, or goes undetected.

It's a coherent adventure, with every encounter having a good reason to be where it is. A neat way for a new adventuring party to start building their reputations.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #39: DM Screen and Adventure
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