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Friday 4 November 2022

Friday Fantasy: DCC Day 2021 Adventure Pack

As well as contributing to Free RPG Day every year Goodman Games also has its own ‘Dungeon Crawl Classics Day’, which sadly, is a very North American event. The day is notable not only for the events and the range of adventures being played for Goodman Games’ roleplaying games, but also for the scenarios it releases specifically to be played on the day. For ‘Dungeon Crawl Classics Day 2021’, which took place on Saturday, July 26th, 2021, the publisher released two books. One was Dungeon Crawl Classics Day #2: Beneath the Well of Brass
a classic Character Funnel, one of the features of both the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic and the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game—in which initially, a player is expected to roll up three or four Level Zero characters and have them play through a generally nasty, deadly adventure, which surviving will prove a challenge. Those that do survive receive enough Experience Points to advance to First Level and gain all of the advantages of their Class. The other was an anthology, the DCC Day 2021 Adventure Pack, which contains three adventures. One for Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game, one for Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic, and one a preview for the forthcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics: Dying Earth.

The DCC Day 2021 Adventure Pack opens with ‘Temple Siege!’. This is designed for five to six First Level Player Characters and draws directly from ‘Appendix N’ by being inspired by the Cossacks stories of Harold Lamb, an influence on Robert E. Howard. The Player Characters will definitely encounter horse nomads—and they prove to be a rough, evil lot, ready to kill the Player Characters and take whatever they have. ‘Temple Siege!’ is a very different scenario. Rather than being an atypical dungeon, it takes place entirely in the confines of a single location. Such a constraint is a challenge to the author. Can he create an interesting location and an interesting plot built around the one place? Often, these are ‘locked room’ style adventures, but ‘Temple Siege!’ is not quite that. Rather, the Player Characters are trapped within the confines of the site, but the door is open and the enemy really wants to get in!

‘Temple Siege!’ takes place on the nomad steppes where the Player Characters have come to plunder an ancient temple, but not long after they enter its confines, they are besieged by a band of nomads. The Player Characters have a limited number of actions they can take between wave upon wave of nomad incursions inside the temple, but they also have a lot to examine in the temple. There are puzzles to be solved and traps to be discovered, some of which will lead to means and ways that the Player Characters can use to their advantage. To that end, the Judge is provided with a wealth of detail which she will need to understand and be able to impart to her players as their characters, as well as handle the three different waves of vile nomads, each of which is slightly different. The progress of the Player Characters will be greatly hampered if they do not have a Thief amongst their number. ‘Temple Siege!’ is a scenario which will keep a Thief really busy just as it will keep a Fighter—and other Classes—busy facing off against the nomads outside. ‘Temple Siege!’ might be slightly too long a scenario to run in a single session and its isolated, nomad steppe location make it a little too difficult to add to a campaign, although the prominent role of the Thief Class in the scenario means that it could work with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set. Overall though, this is a detailed and fun scenario which combines traps, puzzles, and combat in an entertainingly fought situation.

The DCC Day 2021 Adventure Pack is really notable for its inclusion of the first scenario for Dungeon Crawl Classics: Dying Earth, the adaptation of the world of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth. ‘Fathoms Below Witch Isle’ is again a scenario for First Level Player Characters, but just three or four. However, it does not require the use of Dungeon Crawl Classics: Dying Earth and does not make use of the new Classes from Dungeon Crawl Classics: Dying Earth, but can instead be run using the standard rules from the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. (Doubtless, this will change once Dungeon Crawl Classics: Dying Earth is widely available.) The scenario opens with their travelling aboard the Calealen, a vessel pulled by giant sea worms that need careful handling throughout the journey. Due to circumstances beyond their control—and heedless of the Calealen’s somewhat scurvy crew—the Player Characters find themselves cast ashore on a decidedly strange island. One that has been turned upside down! To find out how this came about and perhaps make their escape back to sea, they must descend the upturned mountain and confront a mad hermit! 

‘Fathoms Below Witch Isle’ is intentionally odd and weird, just as you would expect from something set in the world of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth. For the Judge, the language itself is ostentatious and takes some getting used to, but the scenario works just as well under the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game as it will under Dungeon Crawl Classics: Dying Earth. However, it does not quite feel weird enough, primarily because the players cannot engage with it as Dungeon Crawl Classics: Dying Earth characters yet, and only as Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game characters. This is still a decent scenario and will be enjoyable which ever version of Dungeon Crawl Classics is used.

‘The Neverwhen Rock’ is a Character Funnel for Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic. It can be run on its own, or if the Judge has access, run together with ‘Ruins of Future Past’, the scenario from the DCC Day 2020 Adventure Pack. As part of their Rite of Passage, the Player Characters are instructed by the tribal shaman to examine a strange boulder not too far away and explore the cave inside of it, the likes of which no one has ever seen before. Although their characters will have no idea as to what is going on, the players will quickly realise that this is a time travel adventure. It is a very basic one though, with an obvious nod to Doctor Who, and the Player Characters never get the chance to explore the strange boulder, merely get thrust out of it in different locations. It definitely feels like it should be more and like some of the great ideas presented in other titles from Goodman Games, it leaves the Judge left wondering what to do next if she wants to do more with that idea.

Physically, DCC Day 2021 Adventure Pack is decently done. The artwork is fun and the maps clear. The maps for both ‘Temple Siege!’ and ‘Fathoms Below Witch Isle’ are both well done. All three scenarios are well written and easy to read.

The DCC Day 2021 Adventure Pack contains three scenarios which vary in their utility and their capacity to entertain. ‘Temple Siege!’ is the standout entry, a thrillingly constrained and nicely detailed encounter which will challenge the player and their characters and is suitable for almost any Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game setting. ‘Fathoms Below Witch Isle’ is a serviceable introduction to Dungeon Crawl Classics: Dying Earth, but will really come into its own when the Judge and her players can experience the whole of what the setting has to offer, including characters Classes. In comparison, ‘The Neverwhen Rock’ feels too slight, as if it wants to be something more, but the page count is constraining it. There are more than enough Character Funnels for Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic that the Judge not really need look at this unless she has access to ‘Ruins of Future Past’ from the DCC Day 2020 Adventure Pack.

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