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Friday 20 January 2023

Friday Fantasy: Night of the Bog Beast

Dungeon Crawl Classics Horror #8: Night of the Bog Beast is a scenario for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game, the Dungeons & Dragons-style retroclone inspired by ‘Appendix N’ of the Dungeon Master’s Guide for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, First Edition. Published by Goodman Games, scenarios for Dungeon Crawl Classics tend be darker, gimmer, and even pulpier than traditional Dungeons & Dragons scenarios, even veering close to the Swords & Sorcery subgenre. One of the signature features of Dungeon Crawl Classics and its post-apocalyptic counterpart, Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic, is the ‘Character Funnel’. This is a scenario specifically designed for Zero Level Player Characters 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. Dungeon Crawl Classics Horror #8: Night of the Bog Beast is not such a scenario, but is instead designed for use with Second Level Player Characters.

Dungeon Crawl Classics Horror #8: Night of the Bog Beast not only draws from the ‘Appendix N’ of the Dungeon Master’s Guide for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, First Edition, for its inspiration, but also of the American Gothic, the fear of the swamp with its mud and mud, leeches and slugs, DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Man-Thing comic books, the ‘back woods’ nature of the bayou, zombies and possession, gods of the ‘Old Country’, and just a tinge of the Mythos. The result is a muddy, marsh, muck-strewn mish-mash of pulp horror that is likely going to the players off ever going near swamp ever again, let alone their characters. Designed for Second Level Player Characters, this is a tough adventure and if they are not careful, the Player Characters will get killed. There are some nasty monsters and encounters in this adventure, let alone the environment.

Dungeon Crawl Classics Horror #8: Night of the Bog Beast is a hexcrawl—actually within a hex. That hex depicts part of the Twilight Marsh through which the Player Characters are travelling when they stop at the riverside village of Goz-Blight. Here several families of subsistence farmers, fishermen, and hunters scratch out a living, and they will make the Player Characters welcome hoping that they will help them out with the village’s situation. Goz-Blight was attacked the night before by some strange plant-like figures which shambled out of the swamp and abducted one of the villagers, something that has never happened before. It is not the first time that one of the villagers disappeared—a little girl disappeared a few weeks before, but she was found fortunately, but they fear that it will happen again. Of course, it does, but this time the Player Characters are on hand to stop the abduction attempt and face down the marshland monsters! Hopefully, this combined with the folktales and legends of the swamp, will be enough to intrigue the players and their characters to want to investigate.

Forearmed with the knowledge gained from the villagers of Goz-Blight the Player Characters punt themselves out into Twilight Swamp where the bulk of the adventure takes place. Across the giant hex the author has scattered some classic swam-life encounters, all presented for use with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game. There are pools of leeches, floating logs which turn out to be alligators—or rather Devilgators here, a cabin hoisted aloft by the trees (or is that bird’s legs?) that is home to a witch, a mouldering mansion ready to slip into the marsh, an overgrown cemetery, and more. For the most part, the monsters are there to harass the Player Characters and the monsters and NPCs who can speak, to be interacted with in order to gain allies, or least some clues towards discovering who or what is behind the attacks by the plant-like swamp figures.

Physically, Dungeon Crawl Classics Horror #8: Night of the Bog Beast is short, but well presented. The artwork is decent and the cartography clear, though the handouts are perhaps a bit plain.

There one or two issues that the Judge will need to take account of when preparing Dungeon Crawl Classics Horror #8: Night of the Bog Beast. The hexcrawl has a number of repeated encounters, some of which could and should have been different. The Judge may want to adjust those as necessary. More problematic is the set-up, which could have more direct in presenting what the primary NPCs know to the Player Characters and so making the situation more obvious and thus provide them with a stronger reason to get involved. The information is all there, but the Judge will need to put more effort into preparing this for when she roleplays the NPCs who will provide it to the Player Characters. The other aspect of the scenario the Judge will want to look at is if it will be too tough an adventure for Second Level Player Characters.

Dungeon Crawl Classics Horror #8: Night of the Bog Beast is a leech-infested, muck-strewn, hammy horror scenario which not only wears its many influences on its very swamp sleeve, but serves them up in a gloopy gumbo of American Gothic.

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