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Dungeon Crawl Classics #83: The Chained Coffin
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/21/2014 08:12:06
Originally written at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/07/30/tabletop-review-dungeon-
-crawl-classics-83-the-chained-coffin/

After seeing several third party publishers like Brave Halfling run successful crowdfunding campaigns for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG system, Goodman Games finally decided to run one of their own. This campaign originally starter out to fund a regular adventure with a workable prop and limited edition cover. It grew to be an entire boxed set including an almanac and an extra adventure. Now, the boxed set isn’t ready yet and hasn’t been released to backers, so we’ll have to wait a few weeks until mine arrives and I can do a feature on it. Instead, today we’ll be looking at the version of The Chained Coffin that you’ll be able to download in PDF format from sites like DriveThruRPG.com or purchase in dead tree format your local brick and mortar gaming store. Don’t think you’re getting the short end of the stick with this version though as it includes several upgrades made possible by the 729 Kickstarter backers who took part, including some random encounter tables, seven mid-boss variants and more. So you are getting a bigger adventure than you normally would have – all thanks to crowdfunding. Hopefully you took part!

The Chained Coffin actually contains two full adventures. We will take a look at each one separately as they are very different. First is the adventure which bears the same name as the collection, The Chained Coffin. This adventure is designed for six LEVEL FIVE characters. Yes, that’s right. That’s pretty high for a published DCC adventure, so expect The Chained Coffin to challenge even the mightiest one time cheesemaker! I should point out magic and especially magic weapons are a must in this adventure, as many opponents have damage reduction or outright immunity to non-magical attacks. Going in without magic will get a character killed- even moreso than normal in a DCC adventure!

You would think from the title that a chained coffin would be central to the plot and it is in fact so. What you may not be expecting is that the inhabitant of the coffin is on the side of law and order. Usually coffins are the purview of chaotic, often undead, creatures. In the case of The Chained Coffin, an ancient and mighty priest of a lawful god has been locked up tight inside thanks to the machinations of an agent of chaos who seeks to become a demigod of sorts. The priest is now trapped in a permanent state of undeath within the coffin. The priest and his god make the coffin known to the PCs in an attempt to stop the servant of chaos who has reared its head once more in another attempt to amass vast quantities of power. The adventure will take through several dungeon crawls, although each of them are rather short. This is fine as you get several different locations instead of one long labyrinth and I’ll take the different scenery over a literal dungeon crawl any day.

Much of the adventure takes place in the Shudder Mountains, which will be give more depth in the boxed set. Here though you still get a pretty nice snapshot of this Ozarkian/Appalachian like area and its inhabitants. Besides random encounters with giants and bears, the regular inhabitants of hollers/hollows like Bent Pines or Bad Lick can be either helpful or send you on wild goose chases that eats up your time. Because you have only X number of days before the servant of chaos reaches a location where they can reign destruction down upon the land, time is of the essence and not something you want to waste on feuding with giants or selling your soul to demons like Ol’ Blackcloak. There are magical fiddles to be dug up, fingernail based fetch quests to win, and ghosts haunted by other ghosts asking for your aid. There is an enormous amounts of ways the adventure can go, along with several potential mid-bosses to face, like the Sin-Eater or Bad Lick Beast.

All of this comes down to finding the Luhsaal Wheel, which is the MacGuffin for the adventure and where the adventure’s final confrontation takes place. To get to it, you must first pass the spinning dial puzzle which trigger the whole crowdfunding for this adventure in the first place. The spinning wheel is a puzzle where you try to align all three rings properly. Do so and you can enter. Get the puzzle wrong and take damage along with a possible fall into a chasm. Unfortunately, there is no way the PCs or their players can figure out the solution to the puzzle. It is literally blind luck. There aren’t any hints and there certainly isn’t any logic to solving the puzzle. This is guess and check at its worst. The piece states that die rolls are not allowed, which is fine, and that player knowledge bleeds into character knowledge with this one, which I’m never okay with. The only real way to solve the puzzle is if someone somehow knows what any of these runes mean and that is very unlikely to happen. This was a massive (and annoying) disappoint to me. I was hoping for an actual puzzle straight out of old school D&D or like you find in point and click adventure video games. To have all this build up around the puzzle and have it simply be little more than a anthropomorphic personification of trolling rather disgusted me. Honestly as good (but not great) as the adventure was up to this point, had I known that the puzzle wasn’t actually a puzzle, I wouldn’t have sprung for the eventual box set and it was this Vince Russo style swerve that has kept me from backing the current DCC Kickstarter, Peril on the Purple Planet because I do not want to be this disappointed again. This part was just terrible.

After you get pass the massive disappointment that is the spinning wheel puzzle, you get your boss fight and everything wraps up happily ever after – as long as your characters live through the adventure, that is. You might even see one of your characters being a temporary demigod, with some big stat boosts of course. That’s always fun.

So that’s The Chained Coffin. Aside from the terrible puzzle that isn’t a puzzle, the adventure is pretty decent. It’s not as good as some other recent first party DCC releases like Bride of the Black Manse, The One Who Watches From Below or Intrigue at the Court of Chaos (all of which would probably have been better choices for the extra content and boxed set bonuses), but it’s a decent adventure, you’re certainly as fun with, even if a lot of you with house rule changes to the spinning wheel puzzle so players can get some kind of hint or tips on the actual solution. At least the physical wheel Kickstarter backers will get won’t be a one trick pony as the back of the book includes five alternative uses for it. That’s something I guess.

The second (and much shorter) bonus adventure in this piece is “The Rat King’s River of Death,” and it is for a party of Level 1 characters, although the text does not designate what size the party should be. Whoops. The adventure is also a direct sequel to the very first Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure, Idylls of the Rat-King. That great to see a sequel to an old piece like that. Unfortunately, that adventure is for D&D 3.5 rather than the DCC system and it’s been out of print for some time, so the actual people who have played the adventure and/or will get the reference will be quite slim indeed.

In Idylls of the Rat-King the named antagonist is killed by the PCs, but this is not the end of his story. Reborn into a cloned body, the Rat King has now taken a position of power in a small farming fiefdom far from the site of his original defeat. He has begun to poison the local water supply, as well as the crops, with the intent to wipe out human life with some sort of demonic plague. Hey, he’s Skaven – their plans aren’t super well thought out you know…

Now it is up to a new breed of PCs to take down the Rat King and his nefarious scheme. The characters will have to deal with rancid, pestilence inducing water, magic plague rats, a hedge maze full of sentient angry mutant plant life and some rat demons. In the end, “The Rat King’s River of Death” is a fairly standard dungeon crawl where PCs get a small plot hook in order for them to traverse a generic location and do battle with the big bad of the week. Now while the plot if fairly paint by numbers, the creatures and locations really spice the standard formula up and make this piece a lot of fun. The adventure even has some dangling plot thread so you can keep the storyline going if you choose. All in all, a fun short pat little piece, which is all “The Rat King’s River of Death” needed to be.

So, for ten dollars, you get two good adventures, even if neither of them are as good as other DCC adventures released this year. The Chained Coffinis well worth the ten dollars you’ll have to spend to get it (Or seven if you get the PDF), but only time will tell if the Kickstarter boxed set will be worth thirty dollars. Keep checking back as once I have mine, I’ll do a full pictorial feature on what it all contains. Until then, DCC fans should certainly considering picking up The Chained Coffin. There have been better first party DCC releases in 2014, but both adventures contained within this piece are still fun in their own right.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #83: The Chained Coffin
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Age of Cthulhu: Transatlantic Terror
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/21/2014 08:10:45
Originally written at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/07/23/tabletop-review-age-of--
cthulhu-transatlantic-terror-call-of-cthulhu/

Although currently unavailable to everyone else, Goodman Games released one of the stretch goals from their recent Age of Cthulhu Kickstarter to backers. This very short scenario should only take a day or two to play. It is set in the 1920s and although it comes with pre-generated characters, it can easily be played by your regular Investigators from this era.

Transatlantic Terror has the characters on a nine day cruise from New York City to Belfast, Ireland. Along the journey characters will be living it up as first class passengers and even be allowed to attend an on-board wedding between two of the NPCs. Depending on how observant players are, this could be all that happens to them on this scenic cruise. If the characters are a bit too nosy for their own good however, they could uncover a plot by Serpent People that goes all the way to the White House! Of course, knowing CoC protagonists AND the fact they are trapped on a boat for nine days, the odds are pretty good the players are going to encounter more than just a happy couple celebrating their newfound marital bliss. Transatlantic Terror is a pretty hard adventure to finish in a positive manner though, I’ll warn you that now. Even if you have some pretty top notch players, the chances of them saving the intended victim of the Serpent People is going to be almost impossible. By the time players even get a hint of what is going on, he’s already dead. Still, I love the concept of being trapped on a boat with some Cthulhu Mythos characters as it’s always a fun time. Transatlantic Terror is nowhere as lethal to Investigators as say, The Owglass, but it is one that will test players’ wits and mental resolve as there aren’t a lot of dangling clues out there for them.

The black and white artwork in Transatlantic Terror is pretty terrific. I absolutely love the cover although I have to admit, it reminds me more of Killer Croc from Batman rather than a Serpent Person. That’s okay though, because the cover is as fantastic as it is spoiler-laden. I also love the picture of the R.M.S. Adriatic at night with a strange bulging bundle slowly sinking into the sea. There’s a surprising amount of art for this little twelve page PDF, and all of it is great.

Now, this isn’t to say everything about Transatlantic Terror is great. There are a few stumbles. The Table of Contents for example, is extremely erroneous. It doesn’t match up with the actual adventure itself and it goes up to page 14, while the PDF is only twelve pages long. Whoops. At least it’s not as terrible as the ToC in Horror Stories From the Red Room. Another notable error is that two of the Serpent People Antagonists are listed in the Pre-Generated Investigators section rather than in the Non-Player Character Appendix. Double Whoops. Although, this did get me thinking how much fun and adventure written FOR Serpent People or Ghouls could actually be.

Overall, Transatlantic Terror is a fun addition to the Age of Cthulhu line. I’m not sure how much I would have paid for this on its own, but as a free add-on from the Age of Cthulhu 9 Kickstarter, I’m quite happy with this little bonus. Transatlantic Terror isn’t going to shake up your game by any means, nor is it some monumental adventure you’ll be talking about years after the fact, but it is a fine, short little diversion, putting Investigators and Mythos creatures on a boat out in the middle of the ocean, which is a situation neither will really be comfortable with once the zaniness starts happening. Keep your eye out for Transatlantic Terror if/when it becomes available to the general public.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Age of Cthulhu: Transatlantic Terror
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Age of Cthulhu 8: Starfall Over the Plateau of Leng
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/21/2014 08:09:56
Originally written at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/08/01/tabletop-review-age-of--
cthulhu-8-starfall-over-the-plateau-of-leng-call-of-cthulhu/-


Age of Cthulhu 8 was another successful Kickstarter project by Goodman Games. In this case the goal was to fund a hardcover adventure for this Call of Cthulhu line of products. The goal was met and then surpassed, allowing for a few extra bells in whistles in the release, along with some bonus mini-adventures like Transatlantic Terror. It is worth nothing that out of Goodman Games’ six Kickstarters, Age of Cthulhu 9 raised the least amount of money and “only” 341 backers as compared to double that for their Dungeon Crawl Classics Kickstarters. I can only surmise why but I think $25 for a single adventure is a bit hard for some CoC players to take, especially when the $7 tier got you a PDF version AND a free previous Age of Cthulhu release. That tier was such a great deal it probably ended up cannibalizing the sales of the hardcover edition. Anyway, let’s take a look at Age of Cthulhu 8 and if it is worth picking up once it becomes available to the general public. Remember that Age of Cthulhu releases are for Call of Cthulhu Fifth and/or Sixth Edition, so you will have to do some tweaking if you plan to use the adventure with Chaosium’s upcoming 7e core rulebooks.

Starfall Over the Plateau of Leng is an adventure that takes place mostly in the Dreamlands. I’ve always found Dreamlands adventures tend to be less popular than “regular” CoC adventures, but I think it’s because this aspect of Lovecraftia gets so little coverage and attention that when a Dreamlands piece comes up it throws both Keepers and players off their game. The whole Dreaming and Dream Lore skills or how reality is someone but not entirely different. Personally I enjoy them but like Cthulhu Invictus, it’s very easy to write a terrible adventure for the setting. Thankfully Age of Cthulhu 8 is not terrible. It’s actually very fun, although this is because it’s a more or less straight forward set of dungeons crawls with branching paths. In fact, one such path lets you bypass the majority of the adventure – but only if players and their Investigators are clever enough to discover that option. In this regard the adventure is really well done.

Now that’s not to say it is perfect. Azathoth is not written as the blind idiot god, but as something actively malevolent, which may annoy some purists. As well, ghouls are portrayed as more or less mindless human eaters. While they aren’t the kindest race towards humanity in the real world, Lovecraft wrote ghouls in the Dreamlands as intelligent and even quite willing to talk or even befriend humans. Look at how Pickman and his pack aided Randolph Carter in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath for example. At the same time, Hastur’s machinations come up and this is actually well done. The author does a great job of portraying Hastur and his cultists as less evil than a lot of other Great Old Ones, and you get a very Chambers/Bierce-esque vibe in the writing. This is wonderful compared to a lot of other authors who make the King in Yellow or Hastur some outright black hat wearing evil doer when he was originally written as one of the more benevolent Great Old Ones. The High Priest Not to Be Described revels in the destruction of all reality that is Azathoth’s plan…but he also helps the PCs to prevent it. This is the kind of weirdness that Hastur needs to be portrayed at – machinations that seem contradictory and bizarre to mortal minds. So some portrayals are really off the mark, while others are extremely good. It’s all in an author’s interpretation of the Mythos after all, but just a head’s up that purists or more anal retentive Mythos fans may quibble with some of the core events in this piece.

The adventure itself takes players from Arkham, Ma to Eureka Springs, AR (it’s a real place with supposedly a very nice big cat refuge) and then on to the Dreamlands. The adventure assumes Investigators are either veterans or recent additions to the “International Historical & Archaeology Society,” which is essentially the Age of Cthulhu‘s rendition of SAVE from Chill. It’s an organization dedicated to understand and subduing Mythos related thingies. Again, some people might take issue with this concept or shoehorning characters into an organization for a single adventure, but don’t worry. The adventure gives ways to get around being members of IHAS, as well as pregenerated characters to use if you don’t want to muddy up your regular characters with the organization.

It seems that a young artist on the stipend of the IHAS has been having nightmares growing in frequency and intensity. It’s also showing up in her paintings. Because of this the IHAS has sent her down to a mental health clinic specializing in…let’s say dream analysis…to help her get better. Unfortunately the artist in question has not been heard of in some time. Nor can the IHAS raise the clinic’s owner/director. The Investigators are then hired/chosen to go down to Arkansas and check things out. Once in Eureka Springs, the Investigators discover that they are in way over their head. Not only will they discover a way to enter the Dreamlands, but they will also have to foil a nefarious scheme bent on destroying that plane of reality and our own as well! No pressure here, am I right? From there the adventure is more or less a straightforward trek (also with branching paths, as previously mentioned). It’s simple in form and format, but still highly enjoyable to play. The end scene is especially memorable and will be worth experiencing even if you normally aren’t a fan of dungeon (or in this case Dreamlands) crawling.

The adventure is a lot of fun, and aside from occasionally requiring use of the Dream Lore and Dreaming skills (which most characters won’t have and some players might not even know about!), this would be a great introduction to the Dreamlands as you’ll see a lot of different things without having to get too in-depth. From there, if players liked the Dreamlands, they could move on to something like The Sense of Sleight of Hand Man or something similar.

Anyway, Starfall Over the Plateau of Leng is a fine addition to the Age of Cthulhu line. There are several ways a character can meet instant death/insanity, but for the most part the adventure is one of atmosphere and exploration rather than combat. There are a lot of really interesting locations and encounters in this piece and I want to give special attention to the various maps in the adventure, as they were really well done – especially the Plateau of Leng and Eureka Springs maps. Starfall Over the Plateau of Leng is another excellent addition to the Age of Cthulhu series and if you’re a fan of Dreamlands based adventures, or have been mildly curious about experience one, Age of Cthulhu 8 is a fine choice indeed.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Age of Cthulhu 8: Starfall Over the Plateau of Leng
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Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and their Modern Simulacra
by Christopher T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/13/2014 20:32:52
I love this thing. I use this for LoTFP and 13th Age (combined with an Excel doc to balance encounters) and it rocks. Players just don't know what's going to hit them next. It's a very solid idea generator as well as just busting out the stats and powers for a crazy looking beast. I can just imagine a summer afternoon getting high and making a bunch of monsters with this except I'm a geezer with kids that works at a large national corporation so that's just a fantasy, but I can sneak a couple monsters in from time to time while MLP is on the TV to fill up a notebook.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and their Modern Simulacra
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #24: Legend of the Ripper
by Mike K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/14/2014 15:00:09
It was well designed and looks to be a lot of fun.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #24: Legend of the Ripper
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GM Gems
by Joel W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/03/2014 15:47:01
Lots of great ideas to get your juices flowing. I can't wait to drop these into my game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM Gems
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #67: Sailors on the Starless Sea
by Dan C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/30/2014 22:46:29
Possibly the coolest low-level modules I've read. The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG has each player create a few 0-level PCs a piece and the few characters that survive the first module become classed characters; 'Starless Sea' really captures that desperation, with a mob of villagers besieging a ruinous keep purely to prevent its inhabitants from further preying upon their families. There are no heroes in town--the villagers must make due themselves. And by the end of the module, after losing a few peasants in striking and memorable ways, each player may be lucky enough to emerge with true hero to call his own.

The opponents and the general feel of the module is VERY Appendix N / Michael Moorcock / Warhammer Chaos / Lovecraft. The enemy has its own motiviations and is working towards certain goals, so if the peasants fail, the world will be worse off for it. 'Starless' is a dungeon crawl, and for those who are quick to dismiss crawls as boring or too straightforward (which was me until recently!), it's great to see how such a relatively simple RPG style can have so much depth and flavor. 'Starless' is no railroad, either: the players can approach the problems at the keep in whichever way they can imagine. The module rewards clever decisions and otherwise chews through peasants without mercy.

The writing and layout are excellent, and the artwork really captures the mood and excitement of the story. Would, I'd imagine, convert with relative ease to other systems.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #67: Sailors on the Starless Sea
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Fifth Edition Fantasy #1: Glitterdoom
by Charles C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/17/2014 20:11:48
Pretty solid to me! Interesting monsters (e.g. dwarf skeletons with petrifying touches), an interesting nomadic dwarf sub-race, and an interesting new background (refugee). Worth the buy!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fifth Edition Fantasy #1: Glitterdoom
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DCC RPG/Xcrawl Free RPG Day 2014
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/05/2014 09:45:43
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/06/22/tabletop-review-dungeon-
-crawl-classicsmaximum-xcrawl-free-rpg-day-2014/

This year, Goodman Games’ Free RPG Day offering consists of not one, but TWO adventures for lucky gamers. Dungeon Crawl Classics fans get Elzemon and the Blood Drinking Box while Xcrawl fans get Dungeons Detonation 2014. This is my first exposure to Xcrawl, so I can’t speak to what the game was like before it moved over to Pathfinder mechanics, but it does mean that fans of 3.5 style gaming get two different adventures for their gaming group this year.

Our DCC adventure is only five pages long plus a full page piece of art and the usual (awesome) Doug Kovacs map. This means the adventure is a quick one that can be played in only a single session and also that Xcrawl is the main draw in this year’s twofer. Elzemon and the Blood Drinking Box is for seven to nine 1st Level characters and consists of a seven piece dungeon crawl. This particular adventure sees the PCs hired by the wizard, Rhalabhast of Many Eyes, to steal an artifact known as Yarafad’s Box. The box requires the regular feeding (5 HP per day) of Lawful aligned blood or it will lose a horrific monster upon the world. Of course the mission isn’t THAT straightforward, and there are some definite complications along the way, both physically and mentally. The adventure lasts roughly five days and besides the usual horrors that come from a hack and slash dungeon, there is a more cerebral element to the entire affair that the PCs may never become wise to. Players will also have to solve puzzles, fight off strange and sinister creatures that should not be and, of course, obtain Yarafad’s box. It’s a pretty straightforward adventure, save for the climatic plot twist, and as such it’s a great way to introduce gamers to the mechanics and atmosphere of Dungeon Crawl Classics. You also have two possible endings, one of which may spur the GM on to do several follow up adventures based off of revenge attempts upon the PCs. Not a bad little affair in all.

As Xcrawl takes up two thirds of the Free RPG Day offering, we will spend most of our time with that. Again, this is my first exposure to Xcrawl so I can’t comment on what it was like before the conversion over to Pathfinder, but I know Pathfinder pretty well, I feel comfortable commenting on the adventure even whilst admitting my ignorance of the overall setting.

From what I can tell, Xcrawl is a comedy-adventure, almost American Gladiators or The Running Man sort of affair, where player characters are celebrity entertainers of sorts. Smash T.V. is a nother good example for you old school video game fans. That doesn’t make the dangers or threat of death any less real though. The adventure, Dungeon Detonation 2014 is for characters between Levels 6-8, but there is no mention of a suggested party size. The idea of the adventure is that the PCs have agreed to take part in an Xcrawl for charity, giving them some nice public exposure and raise money for a good cause.

The dungeon in this adventure is a single level, but as Xcrawl is an entertainment/sport type of deal, the PCs won’t be the only party taking part. There will be five teams in all trying to make it through the dungeon, but it will be successively, not all at once. That’s too much chaos for all but the best GMs to deal with. For each piece of treasure the PCs collect, an equal piece will be donated to the “Jose Villalobos House for War Widows and Orphans. ” PCs will have to collect the most treasure and survive the most encounters to win.

What I found interesting is that Xcrawl takes place is a fantasy version of our real world, similar to how Shadowrun does, although Xcrawl has a fantasy bent instead of a Sci-Fi one. I think players will either really like or really hate this, depending on how serious they take their gaming. Me? I like to laugh personally, so I enjoyed the somewhat farcial nature of this piece.

Xcrawl isn’t the most well known gaming setting, so it was a wise idea to pare it with Pathfinder since that’s one of the most popular tabletop RPGs right now. You also get a half page of glossary and vernacular specific to Xcrawl to help new players and GMs alike become comfortable with the setting. The adventure also gives you a sidebar a few pages in (it probably should have been right up front) explaining a quick overview on how Xcrawl works, setting and mechanics wise. So even though this is a bit of an obscure game compared to a lot of Free RPG Day 2014 offerings, it should be an easy adventure to figure out and have fun with.

The dungeon itself is actually pretty long, with over a dozen rooms. Of course not every room has traps or monsters to best. Aside from the specific Xcrawl trappings, it’s a pretty standard hack and slash affair. Truly though, it’s the uniqueness of the Xcrawl experience that makes this adventure both fun and memorable. Of course, that could just be because I’m viewing this as a one-shot. I’m not sure that I’d enjoy a full length campaign of this nature. It’s like HoL – this type of adventure is best served as small treats rather than something you play regularly. Overall, I though Dungeon Detonation was very well done. I laughed at the absurd nature of the piece and I also enjoyed this variant on the usual Pathfinder style hack and slash experience. It’s definitely an adventure to try, but the overall campaign setting will definitely be for a niche audience.

All in all, another Free RPG Day gives us another quality offering from Goodman Games. If you missed out on this year’s release, it will probably make it out as a PDF to the general public at some point, so don’t feel too bad if you live far away from a brick and mortar store. Packaging both pieces as a “twofer” ensures gamers who pick this get two adventures for two different systems and thus gives Goodman Games a better chance of gaining a new fan. After all, someone might be a diehard Pathfinder fan and thus will be able to play (and hopefully enjoy) Xcrawl thus giving them impetus to pick up Maximum Xcrawl (The Pathfinder variant) core rulebook once it is released. Same with DCC. That still may appeal to a gamer like myself, who generally doesn’t care for Pathfinder or D&D 3.0/3.5. Both adventures are very different in tone and mechanics, so there should be something for everyone but the devout sci-fi gamer to enjoy with this release.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DCC RPG/Xcrawl Free RPG Day 2014
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #66.5: Doom of the Savage King
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/28/2014 11:43:28
Demonstrating the trademark player-character 'funnel' of Dungeon Crawl Classics, this adventure is for 6-12 first-level characters, not all of whom will make it out alive. Hopefully a few will survive to tell the tale...

Set in and around the village of Hirot, the party will first gather information and rumours concerning a dire beast, the legendary Hound of Hirot, and be persuaded to deal with this menace. There are clues to gather as to various artefacts that might help, then off to actually find them (the dungeon crawl bit) and finally to the Sunken Fens to face off against the Hound. Ought to be simple, right?

The village is well-described, it's easy to get the flavour of the place and the people who dwell there. The rumours flying around are many and varied, and it is made clear which ones are true and which false (well, to the GM anyway, the party will have to draw their own conclusions!). Interestingly, from the outset the party needs to make moral choices as to their actions, embedding them into the ongoing events rather than leaving them as spectators. NPCs and encounter locations are provided in abundance: it's hard to realise that all this is packed into a mere 16 pages (yet it doesn't seem cluttered, cramped or overcrowded either).

Maps are plentiful as well: the village, the surrounding area and of course the integral dungeon crawl segment (couldn't be without that, what?). Everything you need to run the adventure - detailed locations, believeable NPCs and a few hideous monsters to bash - is provided. All in all, a good introduction to Dungeon Crawl Classics.

And this being a revision? I'm afraid I never saw the original version, so cannot comment on how it's been improved. Suffice to say, this rendition is excellent fun!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #66.5: Doom of the Savage King
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #82: Bride of the Black Manse
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/24/2014 06:41:34
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/24/tabletop-review-dungeon-
-crawl-classics-82-bride-of-the-black-manse/

As a big fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics, I love it when Goodman Games gives us an adventure that is actually two in one. Similar to the Free RPG Day 2012, The 13th Skull, and a few other adventures, you’re actually getting two adventures in this release for the price of one. How can you not love that? The first is Bride of the Black Manse, as you could surmise from the title. The second is Blood For the Serpent King. Black Manse takes up the majority of the booklet, with Blood For the Serpent King taking up the last eight. Both adventures come with fantastic art, maps by Doug Kovacs (The best in the industry) and are fully fleshed out so that gamers will really get their money’s worth. Of course with two DCC adventures, it just means more opportunities for PCs to die horribly. Let’s take a look at each adventure in this piece.

Bride of the Black Manse is designed for four to eight 3rd Level Characters, and the party should include one priest and one thief. Unlike most Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures which are heavy on well, dungeon crawling and light on nuanced in-depth story-telling, Bride of the Black Manse is sort of the mirror opposite. It is primarily story-telling and mystery solving, while being very light on the combat. Don’t worry hack and slash fans, there is combat, and even though it is sparse, expect to see at least one PC eviscerated. Hey, this is Dungeon Crawl Classics after all. You play this game expecting characters to have a short life span, Call of Cthulhu style. Speaking of Call of Cthulhu, Bride of the Black Manse at times feels more like an adventure for that setting due to the amount of talking, discovery and otherworldly horror involved. Now if you’re a DCC fan that wants more roll-playing than role-playing, Bride of the Black Manse is probably not for you For everyone else though, you’ve got a great adventure that should appeal to longtime fans of the system., while also appealing to those who have eschewed DCC for being too combat heavy.

It’s also worth noting that Bride of the Black Manse is designed to be played in a single four hour session. This makes the adventure a fun one shot as well as a great choice to run at a convention. However the time constraint does mean that players have no chance of running through the entire Manse. Huge portions will be left undiscovered. This is okay. It’s part of the adventure. Some GMs may want to ignore that the adventure was designed for a single four hour session and let players go hog wild, exploring every nook and cranny. Whether that actually adds or detracts from the overall experience will depending on the GM and their troupe’s playing style, so mileage may vary. My suggestion is to play the adventure as is first. We’ll see why below.

So what is Bride of the Black Manse about? Well, it’s a tale about the fall of House Liis and how one person offered their soul to the devil Mammon in exchange for unholy power and the chance to rule. Well, they got their wish and like any good weasely antagonist, they found a way to protect their soul from Mammon’s clutches even if they couldn’t outright void the contract. Still, if there is one thing an immortal being has, it is time and so Mammon has waited many years to claim his prize and on the anniversary of the original deal being struck and the last of the wards losing their power, the PCs enter the picture. It’s up to the GM as to WHY the players have gone to the Manse, but that’s not too hard. The key thing is getting them there. Once inside the Manse, players discover they are all either reincarnations of members of House Liis or that the ghosts of Liis family members each chooses a PC as their champion. This is a key part of the adventure, so if you are the GM, make sure you know which path you are going to choose and which House Liis member corresponds to which character. Not keeping close track of this subtle but highly important detail can destroy the adventure.

Once the characters are inside the Manse, they must unravel its mysteries, deal with the plethora of evil spirits that dwell within and so much more. Of chief importance is keeping track of the time. The adventure begins at 9pm as the players enter the Manse and discover what they are in for. From the tolling of the first bell, the adventure then begins to unfold IN REAL TIME, which is why I mentioned you should play the adventure as written. An hour into the adventure it will be 10pm and the bell well toll once more. When this happens, the Manse will change in certain ways. This is also true when the bell tolls 11 and 12. Midnight is of course when the devil himself comes for his due. This gives players one last hour to solve the mystery of the Black Manse. Running the adventure in real time, really gives Bride of the Black Manse a unique feel as players will be scrambling rather than slowly inching their way through a dungeon. Having to rush through the Manse means things will be overlooked or missed as PCs have to make some tough choices. Some players won’t like being forced to play in real time as they are used to spending minutes agonizing over actions that would take seconds. Others will love the feel of the adventure and be quickly able to adapt. Again, it’s all in who you have at your table.

Bride of the Black Manse is simply an incredible adventure from beginning to end. I loved the creepy atmosphere, the mystery to be solved and the overall feel of the adventure. There’s nothing quite like Bride of the Black Manse and it’s worth picking up for any fantasy RPG, be it Dungeons & Dragons or one of its many retro clones. It’s the best horror adventure of 2014 so if you like pieces reminiscent of Ravenloft, you should stop reading this review right now and download/order this. Of course we still have another adventure to go in this twofer, so let’s start looking at it now.

Blood for the Serpent King is a more traditional adventure, designed for six to eight 2nd Level characters. It is a quasi-sequel to both DCC #16 Curse of the Emerald CobraThe Known Realms. You don’t see a lot of sequel adventures for DCC, so that makes this one special in its own right. It is worth noting that knowledge and/or experience with the two aforementioned adventures are not necessary. It’s more an Easter Egg or sly nod than anything else.

Blood for the Serpent King is a pretty straightforward affair. A group of serpent-men are looking to make a sacrifice on a very (un)holy night which will revive the Emerald Cobra himself, Xiuhcoatl. At the same time, the PCs wander in. There is no real setup for the adventure save for “Hey, ancient crypt! Let’s check it out.” Some GMs will want to put more of a story behind the reason why the PCs are tomb robbing while some know greed and looting are the only motivations their PCs need. Once at the crypt, players will have a straight up dungeon crawl. There are seven locations, each with their own encounter designed to whittle down PC hit point totals, if not outright murder them dead. You have your final climatic encounter with Xiuhcoatl, and that’s it folks. As I’ve said this is a pretty paint by numbers adventure, ESPECIALLY compared to Bride of the Black Manse, but that doesn’t mean Blood for the Serpent King isn’t a fun short little one shot for DCC fans. It’s a more traditional hack and slash affair and it makes a fine juxtaposition to the many mysteries of Bride of the Black Manse. Would I purchase Blood for the Serpent King on its own? No, I wouldn’t. Is it a great extra to have bundled in with the feature presentation? Definitely!

I absolutely loved this adventure set and it continues the trend Dungeon Crawl Classics has had this year of just putting out top notch outside the box pieces. With each adventure release in 2014 I wonder how Dungeon Crawl Classics is going to top itself…and then it does. Goodman Games is really on fire this year and like Intrigue at the Court of Chaos and The One Who Watches From Below, I can’t recommend Bride of the Black Manse enough. Even if you’ve never played DCC before, you should pick up all three adventures because they are so good you’ll want to pick up the core rulebook immediately afterwards and start converting your friends to the game. So far, 2014 has shaped up to be the year of Dungeon Crawl Classics and I’ve yet to see anything come close to touching it. Again, with three straight adventures that have blown me away, there has never been a better time to get into Dungeon Crawl Classics – so get started already!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #82: Bride of the Black Manse
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #82: Bride of the Black Manse
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/21/2014 09:03:03
A gripping ghostly adventure, with player-characters coerced into taking on the roles of long-dead members of a demented noble family, the maddest of whom destroyed the rest in a foul demonic pact... which falls due, of course, this very evening. Something to set hearts a-stirring and to create legends that will be told and re-told for many a year - should anyone survive long enough to write them!

Designed to be run in one intense session of four hours or so, this adventure sends the party into the depths below a ruined manor house, the former seat of the Mad Prince. Hauntings and mysterious bells goad them on their way as they seek to unravel what is going on.

Several good hooks are provided to get the party there in the first place, which will enable you to embed the proceedings into an ongoing campaign. As soon as they arrive, however, things turn peculiar... and it gets weirder from then on. Timekeeping is quite important, to enable the adventure to proceed at a fast, oppressive pace - don't let it lag even if you have a more leisurely GMing style, but push on as indicated. This improves the atmosphere as events happen at almost bewildering pace, with set events and area-based encounters all provided complete with all necessary details to run them. Things change according to the point reached in the adventure in a most disturbing way. Oh, and of course there's a storm mounting outside the manor, reflecting the turmoil within.

Catacombs lie below the manor house itself, providing a wealth of places to explore and investigate. There are various hints and clues as to what is going on, and various ways to deal with it... some the party, or at least most of them, might even survive.

As a bonus, there's a second adventure in here as well - "Blood for the Serpent King" by Edgar D. Johnson. It's for 2nd-level characters, and sends them off to explore a jungle crypt in an adventure in which full-blown pulp action meets dungeon crawl. Plenty of action and excitement, strange artefacts and vast treasures to be gained here.

So, two classic adventures, well-plotted and clearly presented, to keep your players entertained. Enjoy!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
by Joel W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/19/2014 21:19:07
This game is Dungeons and Dragons turned up to 11! This heavy-metal flavored fantasy game is what Gygax and Arneson would have written if they had 30 years of RPG game design under their belt in 1974.

The Third Edition of D&D (the same edition that Pathfinder is based on) is the underpinning to this thrill ride. Some of the awesome OSR flavor that this game oozes:

* 3d6 in order stat generation. No swaps, no rolling 4d6, no mulligans.
* High PC mortality. Everyone starts with 4 PCs, with the assumption a few will die during the 1st adventure.
* Each arcane magic spell is customized per wizard using the Mercurial Magic rules.
* Every spell has its own d20 based chart the spellcaster rolls on to determine effect, with higher spell rolls producing bigger, more powerful effects.
* Powerful demi-gods and demons that take a direct interest in the PCs. The PCs may choose to Bond with these Patrons.
* Charisma stat is replaced with Luck stat that PCs can (permanently!) burn to make important rolls.
* Amazing adventure support that keeps the PCs on their toes. No boring empty rooms, bland orc fights, or lame 2000 copper treasures.
* Righteous GM advice to run engaging and fantastic games.
* Classic style art all throughout the nearly 500 page tome. Each picture is a dozen adventures! :)
* Moar dice! Uses standard polyhedrals plus d3, d5, d7, d14. d16, d24, and d30 in a brilliant dice chain mechanic.

I chose this game over Pathfinder, DnD Next, and 13th Age. It gets to the core of what I love without giant skill lists or feat trees. Buy this game!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
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Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
by David F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/18/2014 14:17:00
DCC is one of those systems that'll primarily appeal to all the 40 something people who remember the early RPG games of old and crave for a concise system that takes what is embedded in their long term grey cells and stimulate them enough to start gaming again. Personally I've read many systems and played most of them over my 35 year gaming life and DCC has to rate as one of my all time favourite's.

If you're used to the D&D and AD&D systems c.30 years ago, there is much here that is familiar, but all done in a refreshingly retro style. Goodman Games have created an atmosphere as well which comes through as you delve through the pages and I for one couldn't wait to try out the ideas presented in the book. I especially like the strict '3D6 in the order you've rolled them' character creation system. Indeed, my regular troop of player were very 'on edge' for their first 0 level session, which despite the 70% loss of characters, they all thoroughly enjoyed enough to make the investment in the system.

I cannot recommend this fun system enough for oldies like myself as well as making an excellent introductory system for newbies too.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #81: The One Who Watches From Below
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/21/2014 06:27:30
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/03/21/tabletop-review-dungeon-
-crawl-classics-81-the-one-who-watches-from-below/

So, a little back story on this one before we begin. Back on Free RPG Day 2012, Goodman Games gave us an excellent set of two adventures if you were lucky enough to snatch one up. In the back was a partially done map and a contest. You could finish up the map, write an adventure and send your piece in to Goodman Games. The winner would get a cool thousand dollars and eventually see their adventure in print. Well, The One Who Watches From below was the winner. Generally contest adventures aren’t top tier releases because they are tied to a theme or something else that limits full-on creativity, but I’m happy to say that The One Who Watches From Below is an incredible adventure that is well worth investing in.

Frist up, let’s talk about that amazing cover art by Doug Kovacs. Man is it as gorgeous as sit is super creepy. That is one ominous piece and the art alone makes you want to purchase the adventure just to find out what it is about. Then the next page of the piece is a full piece of art. It’s a well drawn spooky dungeon, but your eyes will almost instantly go to the middle of the page where you will see a pair of eyes looking back at you. The eyes are surrounded by a set of dotted lines and instructions telling you to cut them out for use with the adventure. Curiouser and curiouser! This one two punch of a great art and cryptic instructions should be enough to convince any gamer to give this adventure a try. You look at the cover and this first page and any OSR gamer worth their salt just wants to know what ELSE waits them in this adventure. I will say that due to the cutting out aspect of these eyes, the PDF may be the better way to go. That way you can print out multiple copies of the eyes and not ruin your original purchase.

The One Who Watches From Below is designed for six to eight Level 1 characters. It’s a very Lovecraftian entry with names of otherworldly beings like Shigazilnizthrub (along with a cameo from old Wizard Whateleley) and other monsters that will drive a man insane as assuredly as it will rend their flesh. This is definitely a very challenging adventure for the neophyte characters and some PCs will definitely meet a gruesome end in this one. The adventure is also a very long one for a DCC affair. There are three full page maps in the back of the book, each one is a work of art. The text suggests that you can streamline this adventure to one four hour session, but more than likely it will play out over several meetings with your gaming troupe. That’s a great value for the price point when you think about it. The first map also contains Handout A, which is another reason to go PDF over dead tree for this adventure, as you can cut it out without ruining the gorgeous maps. I always say that DCC has the best maps in the industry and The One Who Watches From Below only adds to that sentiment. They’re almost worth the cover price of this adventure alone just so show how stylish a map can be while still retaining its function.

The PCs have made their way, for whatever reason (greed, curiosity, a need for fame, outright stupidity) to the Cave of Secrets. Beneath the cave lies the temple of a god long forgotten by the world, but still both active and malicious. Within the cave awaits a lot of treasure, some horrific monsters and a very strange curse that will stymie both players and their characters alike. The Judge is advised to be exceptionally strict with the rules of the curse, and I concur. It will be frustrating at first, but the curse (which without spoilers, involves those eyes I mentioned you needed to cut out earlier) can be a lot of fun to play out. It really tests a player’s role-playing ability and ensures that The One Who Watches From Below will be a highly memorable affair for all who play it. I can’t say too much more without some huge spoilers, but rest assured, as strange as the requests the DM will make of the PCs are, it is well worth it in the end. This also highlights how outside the box Dungeon Crawl Classics is compared to most other fantasy games, as you’d never see an adventure this weird in Pathfinder or for modern D&D.

You’ll have four levels of locations to traverse. The first is the Cave of Secrets itself. The second is simply known as The Temple. The third is called The Brood Pit and the final is simply the Under-Temple. Now you won’t find a lot of combat in the first two levels, but what battles there are can be quite intense. Death by angry books is a distinct possibility, for example. The further into the adventure you get, the more powerful (and frequently occuring) the monsters are, with the final battle being SNK End Boss bad, to put things in video game terms. It’s far more powerful than the players and expect a pretty high death toll, even for a DCC adventure. While fans of other games might be a bit put off by this climactic encounter, longtime DCC gamers are pretty used to characters dying in horrific ways and this will just be part of the fun for them. Still, because of how overpowered the end battle is, The One Who Watches From Below probably isn’t the best choice for someone’s first ever DCC adventure. A little too much culture shock, you know. For people like myself who play through a lot of published DCC adventures (both first and third party), I really loved the final fateful showdown and I think the same will go for other diehard fans of the system. The Primordial Titan with haunt your nightmares. That’s all I can really say because I want you to experience the sheer horror for yourself.

Overall, Goodman Games has released another fantastic must-buy adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics. Between this and Intrigue at the Court of Chaos, the first party DCC releases have been extremely impressive. It’s going to be hard to keep up this level of quality but by all means I’m excited to see Goodman Games try. Usually adventure contest winners can be pretty terrible like Chaosium’s recent Horror Stories From the Red Room. The One Who Watches From Below however is one of the better adventures I’ve reviewed this year and hopefully we’ll see more DCC pieces penned by Mr. Jobe Bittman in the future. Congratulations not just to Job for winning, but for DCC fans everywhere for getting the chance to add this adventure to their collection!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #81: The One Who Watches From Below
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