Free RPG Day in 2012 was a cool day altogether, with some impressive goodies like a cool poster-sized map of Hârn, but the coolest of the many bennies rpg companies had to pass onto their fans and potential fans was the Free RPG Day module from Goodman Games. Why? Because it contained two seriously kick-ass adventures, and because it contained a contest that will net someone out there $1,000 and the chance to see their adventure in print.
Now, the contest entry date is almost upon us as I write this, so that isn’t going to be the reason most folks pick up this module (in pdf format) going forward, so let’s look at the adventures! The two adventures in the module are The Jeweller Who Dealt in Stardust, by Harley Stroh, and The Undulating Corruption, by Michael Curtis.
Need I say that spoilers will follow? They will. Don’t read on if you don’t want to read them.
If you have read my previous reviews, you know by now that I don’t think Harley Stroh could write a bad adventure if he tried to. Certainly here has tried to write a great adventure. The Jeweler Who Dealt in Stardust is for 3rd level characters, and is a city-based adventure wherein the characters attempt a heist in the home of a jeweller known to be a fence for the thieves’ guild. Nothing could go wrong with this set-up, right?
I’ve been lucky enough to run this one twice, once for my home group in preparation for Free RPG Day, and once at Duelling Grounds in Toronto for Free RPG Day. The first time, I ran it using pregenerated characters culled off the Internet, the second time I used the pregenerated characters supplied by Goodman Games on their website. In the following, Group A is my home group, and Group B are the players at Duelling Grounds.
Both times the adventure was a lot of fun. The basic set-up is that Boss Ogo, a notorious fence for the Thieves’ Guild of Punjar, who fronts himself as a jeweler, has gone missing. His house is closed and locked, with no sign of life therein. For the bold, a fortune in jewels is surely there for the taking, but it is equally sure that others will be watching the house, thieves and vultures waiting for their own chance to swoop in and steal the prize.
There are three (relatively easy) ways into the house – through a large window on the upper floor, through the sewers and cellar (Group A), and through a side door protected by a walled garden (Group B). Within…..well, Fritz Lieber or Robert E. Howard would be proud of Harley Stroh for what is within. Needless to say, there is enough cool here to seriously creep-out your characters, and enough encounters that require combat or cleverness to test 3rd level PCs well.
There is a nice handout illustrating Boss Ogo’s house from the front, showing all three potential entrances. Group A includes more than a few outside-the-box thinkers, and they tried the windows on various floors, and checked the chimney as a potential entryway before settling on the sewers. Of course, these other possible entrances have been considered by Boss Ogo (through the agency of the author), and entry there is made practically impossible.
Group B went through the patio, facing Spiders of Ygiiz – a very well realized monster, with some cool effects that, sadly, I didn’t get to use either time I ran this adventure. What was notable for me, when I ran this for Group B, was that a player who had no previous experience of the Dungeon Crawl Classics system decided to cast spells not for their primary effect, but for the mercurial magic effect that went along with it, and in a successful way.
The sewer/cellar entrance, the one used by Group A, is my favourite, because the way in offers the supreme creepy moment in the module – three men hang, wrapped in webs, in a place containing thousands of mundane spiders. The spiders go in and out of the men’s open mouths, which are all that is uncovered. If you investigate, you discover that they are wrapped in bandage-like cloths marked with runes dedicated to Ygiiz, and they are still alive.
Do you kill them? Do you not? Encounters are logically linked together, and what you decide here may affect what you discover elsewhere. Some of the encounters are potentially quite brutal. Others have cool eerie components. All is not as it seems. Players who decide to use up their resources inside the house
At the very end, Ogo’s lieutenant and his men wait outside for the PCs, prompting a last fight that is likely to be deadly for PCs who have used up their resources inside the house. Group A shut themselves back into the house and took to the sewers. Group B was strongly considering surrender when I pointed out that, as a one-shot adventure, they might as well go for glory. The fight was memorable, and they almost won, but it ended in a TPK. Still, fun was had by all.
Michael Curtis’ The Undulating Corruption is a different kind of adventure. In search of the means to deal with magical corruption, the PCs uncover references to the Crucible of the Worm, and eventually uncover its location. Now, as 5th level adventurers, it is time to remove some of the debilitating corruption that has afflicted the party wizard. Or wizards. Or elf. Or elves. Or other characters foolish enough to make spell checks using 1d10.
Unfortunately, the Crucible is in ruins when the party arrives, and the very well-conceived Night Worm is on its way toward the nearest population centre. Will the PCs be able to stop it?
The Undulating Corruption is a pretty cool little adventure, despite being fairly linear in nature. There are some neat monsters to fight leading up to the Night Worm, and the fight with the Night Worm is one which the players are likely to remember! The Night Worm makes use of the strengths of the DCC system, so that fighting it is not as straight forward as one might expect, and the party may discover itself loathe to slay the creature too soon.
That some of the party may want to keep the monster alive long enough to benefit from it, while each round increases the damage that the party takes (and therefore diminishes their overall chance of success in defeating it before it reaches a major population centre) is the masterstroke in this adventure.
The encounters leading up to the “main event” are flavourful, and help build the proper mood for what is in turns a terrifying, icky, funny, potentially lethal, and potentially useful final encounter. Players who “figure out” the rules of the Night Worm may be well rewarded. Those who do not will probably pay for their failure with their characters’ lives. But there is enough tension between the potential benefits, the damage taken, and the overall threat to force players to make tough decisions for their characters on a round-by-round basis.
While I have not run this adventure yet (I had meant to for Free RPG Day, but the opportunity failed to arise), the themes, setting, and monsters would mesh very well with the Great City from Purple Sorcerer Games’ Perils of the Sunken City and The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk. There should be no difficulty in placing this adventure in any campaign setting.
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