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Friday, 26 May 2023

Friday Fantasy: Gang Lords of Lankhmar

Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #1: Gang Lords of Lankhmar is a scenario for Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game and the first scenario for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set. 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. Scenarios for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set are set in and around the City of the Black Toga, Lankhmar, the home to the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, the creation of author Fritz Leiber. The city is described as an urban jungle, rife with cutpurses and corruption, guilds and graft, temples and trouble, whores and wonders, and more. Under the cover the frequent fogs and smogs, the streets of the city are home to thieves, pickpockets, burglars, cutpurses, muggers, and anyone else who would skulk in the night! Which includes the Player Characters. And it is these roles which the Player Characters get to be in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #1: Gang Lords of Lankhmar, in which they they get recruited by a gang and that gang goes to war with the rival gangs on its block. As the situation escalates and the tit-for-tat situation turns bloody, can the Player Characters keep their gang safe and avoid the attention of either the Thieves’ Guild or the Overlord’s constabulary before either starts handing out bloody lessons?

Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #1: Gang Lords of Lankhmar is designed for First Level Player Characters and it is as different from other Dungeon Crawl Classics scenarios as could be. In a typical Dungeon Crawl Classics scenario, there is an issue which threatens a tribe, a village, or some other organisation, and the Player Characters are instructed to go out and either deal with it or investigate it. In Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #1: Gang Lords of Lankhmar, the Player Characters help initiate a situation and then manipulate it, before trying to weather the consequences and come out on top. Consequently, there is a sophistication to the scenario and more moving parts than us usually found in the average scenario for Dungeon Crawl Classics. The scenario takes place in the slums between the Old Slave Barracks on Chapel Street, Rookery Way, the Shrine of the Rat God on Squalor Row, and Pimp Street. Here, three gangs run the roofs and work the streets with smalltime protection rackets, gambling dens, pickpocketing, and more. They are the Knife Twisters, the Pimp Street Scuttlers, and the Forty Owlets. All three are consist of petty criminals and crooks and strictly small fry, not worth the notice of the Thieves’ Guild or the Overlord’s constabulary, but that is about to change.

The scenario begins with the Player Characters coming to the notice of, and being hired by, King Korvul—perhaps after their Meet in the scenario, ‘Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #0: No Small Crimes in Lankhmar’, to be found in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set. King Korvul wants the Player Characters as part of his gang because he wants to be boss of the block, which means taking out the Pimp Street Scuttlers, and the Forty Owlets and taking over their operations. The Player Characters are disrupt the operations of the Scuttlers, play one gang off against each other, and protect the gang against reprisals. If the Player Characters can put up with King Korvul’s ego, then this is a pretty good deal. However, once the other gangs get wind of his aims, things do not go to plan and the Player Characters are going to firmly in the crosshairs.

The play of Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #1: Gang Lords of Lankhmar is built around three moving parts. The first of these is a timeline of detailed encounters which take place over the course of eight days. The second is a  ‘Neighbourhood Tension Tracker’ which presents a series of consequences which can occur as the shadow war between the gangs escalates and the bloody feuds break out into violence on the streets and action in the alleys. These consequences can come multiple sources, including the other gangs, and the Thieves’ Guild and the Overlord’s constabulary. Neighbourhood Tension begins at three and can rise to above forty or more, driven by assaults on other gangs, deaths of other gang members, acts of arson, and more. Bribes will alleviate it though, at least as far as the constabulary is concerned. So at a Neighbourhood Tension of eight or more, members of the rival gangs prowl the neighbourhood spoiling for a brawl with the Player Characters, whilst the Player Characters begin hearing that there are strangers about, asking questions about them. At thirty-five or more, the Thieves’ Guild dispatches assassins to kill the Player Characters, who are also declared enemies of Overlord and Wanted posters are put up with their names and faces on them!

 Third is the encounter areas, which in turn detail the major locations for the area where the scenario is set. This includes the bases of operation for all three gangs and the Dogfish, a dive bar roughly equidistant between them, all complete with maps, as well as other locations. There is also a table to randomly detail and populate (or not) the other tenement blocks in between, this being the city of Lankhmar, details of the roofs above and sewers below. pride of place though goes the centerfold map of the neighbourhood, which the Judge really needs to copy and put out on the table in front of her players so that they can plan their campaign against the other rival gangs.

There is a problem with the set-up in Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #1: Gang Lords of Lankhmar and that is that the Player Characters have to join the Knife Twisters for the scenario to really get going. What if the Player Characters wanted to join the Pimp Street Scuttlers or the Forty Owlets instead? The Forty Owlets is less of an option because it is an all-female gang, but not so the Pimp Street Scuttlers. The players and their characters may be put off by King Korvul being such an oligeaniously odious man and might want to side with another gang. This is not an option that the scenario explores, but had it done so, the scenario could have been a more rounded toolkit. However, there are enough details given that the Judge could make this change if necessary, but it would take some effort upon her part.

In play 
Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #1: Gang Lords of Lankhmar is a busy scenario with a lot going on in comparison to other scenarios for Dungeon Crawl Classics. This is both in terms of the Player Character actions—the scenario is very player-led—and NPC reactions, and there is a lot of interplay back and forth between the two. So the Judge is going to need to track both and the result of the ‘Neighbourhood Tension Tracker’.

Physically, 
Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #1: Gang Lords of Lankhmar is decently presented. The scenario in general, well written, the maps clear, and artwork constantly captures the grimy and grimy nature of life on the streets of Lankhmar.

Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #1: Gang Lords of Lankhmar is a busy scenario and a different scenario. It is primarily player-led, it focuses upon one small location which the Judge can bring to life, and potentially, it sets the Player Characters up with a base of operations in Lankhmar, gives them a small source of income, and provides them with something to care about with both the gang and the neighbourhood—if only as petty crooks. Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #1: Gang Lords of Lankhmar is great first scenario for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set, which rightly focuses on crime in the City of Sevenscore Thousand Smokes. In the process, it provides opportunity aplenty for action, roleplaying, and skullduggery for Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar.

—oOo—


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


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