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Friday 10 February 2023

Friday Fantasy: Love Mutants of Castle Heartache

Holiday Module #12: Love Mutants of Castle Heartache is a second St. Valentine’s Day scenario for Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game following on from 2022 Valentine’s Day Module: Love in the Age of Gongfarmers. It is again a short, love and romance-themed adventure designed to be played by between four and six Player Characters, this time of Third Level. So, it could be played as a sequel. Similarly, given the love and romance theme of the scenario, there is the issue of consent with the scenario—though to a far lesser degree. Consequently, although thematically appropriate, it is only a very minor part of the scenario, and the Judge is advised to consider her players’ comfort levels when portraying this in game. Another issue is that scenario has the potential to be bawdy in tone and when combined with the albeit minor issue of consent, Holiday Module #12: Love Mutants of Castle Heartache is probably best suited for mature players. Another element of the scenario is that it can be played with Player Characters from any background. So that can be the Judge’s own Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign, Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar, and even Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic!

Holiday Module #12: Love Mutants of Castle Heartache is all about lost love and broken hearts, in the case of the latter, literally. As opposed Valentine’s Day Module: Love in the Age of Gongfarmers, which was all about finding and celebrating love. The set-up to Holiday Module #12: Love Mutants of Castle Heartache is that Olathvee, Mad Un-God of mortal passion—who is detailed in The Book of Fallen Gods—has had his heart broken. His romantic overtures to a would-be patron god, a sorceress on the path to her own divinity, have been resoundingly rebuffed and he has fallen into despair and despondency. Being a god, these feelings and emotions have had repercussions. His wretchedness and woe has spread throughout the cosmos, from world to world, breaking up one relationship after another, until no partner can stand the sight of the other, and so threatening to end civilisation within a generation because of the birds and the bees.

The scenario begins with the Player Characters being invited to Castle Heartache. There his seneschal, Sanguecaldo, asks them to help restore the Mad Un-God’s broken heart. So almost like ‘The Key to Time’ storyline of Season Sixteen of Doctor Who, the Player Characters must search for its constituent parts and bring them all together and so repair not just Olathvee’s heart, but everyone’s heart across the entire cosmos. Holiday Module #12: Love Mutants of Castle Heartache takes place inside the lower levels of the castle, the upper levels being accessible, but not of any particular interest or relevance. These lower levels are a demi-plane, a reflection of the Mad Un-God which has been twisted and altered by his current melancholy—as to an extent, will the Player Characters. The resulting dungeon is short, consisting of just thirteen locations, and if not a physical reflection of Olathvee’s heart, then at least a weirdly thematic one. Rooms and locations are themed around tears, memories, misplaced desire, sorrows drowned, and poetry. The locations are each described in some detail, the majority of them involving interaction and roleplaying along with opportunities for combat and puzzle solving. The latter as well as several of the other locations will require some patience upon the part of the players and their characters, and certainly in the case of the puzzle, a knowledge of classic literature.

In addition, Holiday Module #12: Love Mutants of Castle Heartache includes what are either the worst Valentine’s Day cards or ones that the recipient really needs to have an understanding sense of humour upon being given. There is also an afterword from the author in which he explains how the adventure came about, drawing deeply, if (thankfully) humorously, from his own experiences with love and loneliness. A fair warning though, if the Judge has got that far and it is likely that she has, there is a shocking photograph of the author, one which really only his wife needed to see. Thankfully, he is not clutching a rose in his teeth by the stem. That might have been too much.

Physically, Holiday Module #12: Love Mutants of Castle Heartache is as decently done as you would expect for a title for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. It is lightly illustrated in a cheesy style and the map is fine. It needs a slight edit in places, but is otherwise easy to read.

Holiday Module #12: Love Mutants of Castle Heartache is a mini-dungeon or adventure that can be played in a single session or two. If the players can overcome their cynicism and engage with its themes drowning in the tears of the lovelorn and the lachrymose, Holiday Module #12: Love Mutants of Castle Heartache gives the players and their characters the opportunity to overcome its forlorn fantasy, set things right and return love to the world!

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