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Friday 12 May 2023

Friday Fantasy: Bloom of the Blood Garden

Dungeon Crawl Classics
#103: Bloom of the Blood Garden is a scenario for Goodman Games’ 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’. 0Dungeon Crawl Classics #103: Bloom on the Blood Garden is such a Character Funnel, but is could be played with a party of six First Level Player Characters and still be a challenge. Either way, the scenario can be used as a one-shot or to start a campaign in a world of dark goddesses and demonic entities!

Dungeon Crawl Classics #103: Bloom of the Blood Garden is set on the grounds of Cob Hill Manor. The house and its grounds had been long abandoned and the inhabitants of the nearby village without a lord of the manor. More recently, Morto Blango, a wealthy merchant came into the property and moved in, deciding to become a rural landowner and restore the place to what it once was. He hired numerous villagers to work for him. Now several weeks have passed and nobody has heard anything from their friends and relatives employed at the manor, let alone seen any movement on the grounds. Worse there was a fire and everyone could see the manor house itself alight. Why did nobody cry out or run to the village for help. It is unsettling and a mystery that the villagers they want not so much solving as reassuring that their relatives are alive and well. Thus begins Dungeon Crawl Classics #103: Bloom of the Blood Garden.

The scenario opens with the Player Characters at the gates to the manor. Beyond lies an extensive and partially overgrown garden, strewn with strangeness and secrets. There is a pumpkin patch, a topiary garden, a well, and gardens devoted to fungi, lotus flowers, cacti, and even poison! Some of the flora is animated, even ambulatory, and much of its deadly. Working their way through the garden—necessary if they are to get to the ruins of the manor house—the Player Characters are likely to get at least scratched and more likely to have withstand the effects of various poisons. However, not all encounters are necessarily adversarial and the Player Characters are careful, they can sense a feeling of displacement which lingers over the garden and potentially pick up various items which will help them, as well as some clues and secrets which suggest that someone had strange plans for the manor and its grounds. Not necessarily Morto Blango, but someone...

Once the Player Characters reach the top of the garden they will discover the manor house partially burned to the ground. Here they will also discover some of the surviving villagers, possible friends and relatives, as well as strange monsters lurking in the house. The inclusion of the surviving villagers is a nice touch, given that they could all have been found dead, but alive they serve as a pool of ready replacement Zero Level Player Characters should one of the originals die. They also serve as a source of information as to what happened at the manor. They do not know much as they are very frightened, but helpful nevertheless. Investigating the remains of manor will lead to
 Morto Blango’s last refuge and a very nasty encounter with a thing from beyond time and space!

Dungeon Crawl Classics #103: Bloom of the Blood Garden has much to do with the doings of wizards, but the scenario being a Character Funnel means the Player Characters are totally incapable of dealing with him, instead merely dealing with the consequences of his insidious plans. The Player Characters never encounter him in the scenario, although they will possibly learn of his name and his plans. The scenario is nicely detailed and has a pleasing Lovecraftian feel to it rather than in terms of content, although there is a touch of the Edgar Allan Poe to the piece a la Roger Corman. Where there is an issue with the scenario is the number of ways through the garden to the house. There are three or four routes which the Player Characters could take through the garden, meaning that they might never get to the secrets hidden in the garden or the potential aid to be gained if they explore enough of the garden. So some playthroughs may miss some of the clues and some of the items that might mean the difference between life and death as the scenario comes to its climax. To be fair, this is understandable in terms of design, since the Player Characters are not always going to find everything and Character Funnels are meant to very dangerous. It is more a case of the players and their characters having to balance the need to search for more clues versus the deadliness of the encounters!

There can be no doubt that Dungeon Crawl Classics #103: Bloom of the Blood Garden is deadly. When compared to other scenarios it does feel as if there are more Fortitude and Will saving throws needed in order for the Player Characters to survive. This will make the scenario almost as deadly if played through with First Level Player Characters.

Physically, Dungeon Crawl Classics #103: Bloom of the Blood Garden is well presented. The artwork is excellent and the scenario is clearly written and easy to understand. The maps are as decent as you would expect, and there is the bonus of an interview with the author at the end of the book.

Dungeon Crawl Classics #103: Bloom of the Blood Garden combines two horror genres—the gothic and the Lovecraftian, in an unworldly garden and broken mansion. This is definitely a scenario where ultimately, being too timid will leave the Player Characters poorly equipped to deal with what they will face at the end, but pushing too far is potentially as deadly. Dungeon Crawl Classics #103: Bloom of the Blood Garden is a fine Character Funnel, which starts off quaint and deadly, before turning out downright dangerous.


Goodman Games will be at UK Games Expo
from Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th, 2023.

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