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Saturday 26 October 2019

Shear Horror

It is traditional for the roleplaying game publishers to release something special in time for Halloween and Goodman Games is no exception. As in years past, these take the form of scenarios for Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, the Old School Renaissance Retroclone which sits somewhere between Basic Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in terms of its complexity. Primarily, it includes Race as Class, allows for extra actions during combat, and a detailed, if often random spellcasting mechanics. It also introduced the concept of the ‘Character Creation Funnel’ in which players would each take a group of four Zero Level characters through an incredibly dangerous adventure in the hope that one or more of them might survive and gain sufficient Experience Points to attain First Level and thus a character Class. Not every scenario though for Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game is a ‘Character Creation Funnel’ for Zero Level characters, and Dungeon Crawl Classics Horror #2: The Sinister Sutures of The Sempstress is an example of that.

The Sinister Sutures of The Sempstress is ‘A Level 6 Adventure’ by Macabre Michael Curtis, the author of Mutant Crawl Classics #3: Incursion of the Ultradimension, A Single, Small Cut, The Dungeon Alphabet: An A-Z Reference for Classic Dungeon Design, and of course, Stonehell Dungeon. Designed for characters of Sixth Level, it is a horror scenario with gothic trappings which takes place when the adventurers are out of the dungeon, perhaps staying at the same inn on their travels, or even at home. Other than that, all the scenario needs is somewhere like a closet or a drawer in which the player characters can store their clothes. Unlike most scenarios for Dungeon Crawl Classics, it is specifically designed to be run in a single session, which ideally, should be on the evening of Halloween.

The Sinister Sutures of The Sempstress opens with the player characters abed, perhaps dreaming, perhaps not. In a nicely creepy moment, a stitched together hand, followed by arm, body, head, and more, eases itself out of a drawer or closet to revealed a doll of patchworked flesh and comes towards each of the adventurers, knife in hand… This happens in each of their bedrooms and presents a challenge in which each must face a foe relying solely upon their innate abilities and skills rather than their arms, armour, and equipment. Nevertheless, they should be able to defeat their horrifyingly strange foes and thus prepare themselves to trace them to their source—back through the closet (or drawer)...

Once the adventurers do follow their attackers back to their source, they find themselves in the ‘House of Tattered Remnants’, a sort of deconstructed Victorian Gothic mansion, constructed of offcuts, either stitched back together or discarded and forgotten. There are spiders and marionettes, toys straight out of the adventurers’ childhoods, raggedy bats, and more. The house is part-seamstress’ workshop, part-fixer-upper on the borders of the non-Euclidean, but mostly all Grand Guignol! There are just ten locations in the adventure, but all are described in some detail and so there is plenty for the adventurers to examine and explore in addition to the threats and foes they will face. 

As an adventure, The Sinister Sutures of The Sempstress is fairly linear in structure and so in the progress of getting to the threat and protagonist at its heart, the adventurers are highly likely to uncover what is going on and why they are attacked. Were this any other adventure, then that linear nature might be held against it as a criticism. In its defence, it should be pointed out that The Sinister Sutures of The Sempstress is a short adventure—physically at just sixteen pages and as a dungeon, just ten locations—and it is designed to be played in a single session, on Halloween, almost like the players and their characters are roleplaying their way through a horror movie.

To enforce the horror of the scenario and the things that the adventurers will encounter, The Sinister Sutures of The Sempstress employs a Sanity-like mechanic. As they progress through the house, there is a chance that they will lose ‘Stability’, perhaps taking on more and more of the patchwork aspects of the ‘House of Tattered Remnants’ as the strange realm they find themselves in forces them to unravel...

Physically, The Sinister Sutures of The Sempstress is slim, but decent looking book. The artwork is good throughout and can easily be shown at the appropriate points to the players as their adventurers proceed through the adventure. The adventure is also decently written, but the level of detail means that the Judge will need to give it a careful read through despite it being fairly short.

If you were looking for a horror scenario for the fantasy roleplaying game of your choice for characters of medium Level, then Dungeon Crawl Classics Horror #2: The Sinister Sutures of The Sempstress is a good choice. It is in turns creepy and bloody, with a near constant theme of sewing and tailoring, and works as a one-shot—for which the Judge will need to provide pre-generated adventurers—or as a scarey interlude in an ongoing campaign. Either way, Dungeon Crawl Classics Horror #2: The Sinister Sutures of The Sempstress presents an evening’s worth of horror, though perhaps not if you suffer from aichmophobia or vestiophobia.

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