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Friday 22 September 2023

Friday Fantasy: DCC Day #1 DCC Day 2020 Adventure Pack

As well as contributing to Free RPG Day every year Goodman Games also has its own ‘Dungeon Crawl Classics Day’, which sadly, can be 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 2020’
—the very first, which took place on Saturday, May 16th, 2020, the publisher released two items. The first was DCC Day #1: Shadow of the Beakmen, a single scenario for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. The second was the DCC Day 2020 Adventure Pack, which not only provided support for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game and Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic, but also for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set, with a scenario for each. This format has been has been followed for each subsequent DCC Day, that is, a single scenario and an anthology containing two or three scenarios, all of them short, relatively easy to run and add to an ongoing campaign, or even use as a one-shot of convention game.

DCC Day 2020 Adventure Pack is actually longer than most scenario releases for either Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game, Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic, or the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set! The trilogy opens with ‘Expedition to Algol’, a scenario for First Level Player Characters for Dungeon Crawl Classics. The Player Characters are engaged by the wizard Bartakus-Thrum to participate in an experiment which will see them transported to another planet. Fortunately, the experiment is a complete success and the Player Characters find themselves under the intense heat and light and humidity of an alien world and its three suns—two yellow and one green—in a city of several thousand lizard-men being besieged by another several thousand cat-men. Unfortunately, the Player Characters have no way of getting back home, so as it turns out, the experiment is not actually a complete success. Their situation though, is not quite as dire as it sounds. Their arrival has been foretold and the Hall of Tests awaits them…

The Hall of Tests consists of a hollow tower which descends deeper into the ground and is dominated by a giant statute of a humanoid with three eyes. It has a number of rooms leading off the main tower that the Player Characters will work their way down, exploring and examining its techno-magical features. In the long-abandoned complex, the Player Characters will discover the source of the animal-men outside the tower and of course, in doing so, will transform themselves, some of the secrets of the thoroughly Lawful Evil Space Wasps which once ruled this world and their technology, a very helpful purple arm, and even a way home! The most fun part of this, at least for the Judge, is going to be portraying the arm. Ultimately, the Player Characters can find a way home, but if they are in any way transformed, will they want to? If they decide to stay, the Judge will find further information about the world of Algol in Dungeon Crawl Classics #84: Peril on the Purple Planet and of course, ‘Expedition to Algol’ can be used as an introduction to that campaign setting. ‘Expedition to Algol’ is an excellent scenario, whether used as a one-shot or introduction.

‘The Heist’ is the second adventure in the DCC Day 2020 Adventure Pack. This is for Third Level Player Characters and is written for use with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set. As small-time crooks—thieves, burglars, and cutpurses—the Player Characters all know that the treasure hoard of the merchant-lord Duke Oraso is only bettered by the Overlord of Lankhmar himself. The most famous of his fabulous treasures are the Stars of Lankhmar, three enormous jewels that the duke has pledged to the Gods of Lankhmar, though not yet delivered. Whilst many a thief has sworn an oath into his cups to steal such treasures, none have succeeded, but when news comes that Duke Oraso will throw open the gates of his city manse and host a grand fête for all the nobles of the city, the opportunity to burgle one of the richest men in the city and do it under his very nose, is not to be missed. With this set-up, ‘The Heist’ is one-part grand soirée, one-part mystery play, and one-part dungeon, and all together, a grand affair.

The Player Characters will need to procure disguises and decide how they want to get into the duke’s manse and then begin their search of it—above and below ground—for the duke’s treasure vault. There are lots of opportunities for sneaking around, roleplaying (especially with dissolute members of the nobility), and larceny, all under the watchful gaze of the duke’s guards and his assistant, the Vizier. For the most part, the Player Characters are free to move around as they want, though their disguises will work better in some areas of the Manse than other, and there are a number of timed events throughout the evening. The Player Characters only really have to be present for grand finale to the duke’s mystery play. The scenario includes a full map of the Manse, both above and below ground, a table of rumours and gossip, timeline, a big table of nobles in attendance whom the Player Characters can mingle and hobnob with, a smaller table of treasures to purloin, and a quick-sheet of rules from the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set for easy reference or if the Judge is running the scenario using just Dungeon Crawl Classics. The only thing missing perhaps is a table of possible relationships between the nobles attending the fête and more item descriptions of the things that the Player Characters can steal to add flavour and verisimilitude rather than just monetary value.

‘The Heist’ is a grand affair and at twenty-four pages in length, not just the longest scenario in the DCC Day 2020 Adventure Pack, but its highlight. This is a great scenario, very well supported, with plenty of options in terms of how the Player Characters approach what could be a very Oceans 11-style heist. However, it is far too big and far too detailed to be really run as a one-shot or convention scenario as suggested, and given how good the scenario is, what is it still doing hidden away in the pages of the DCC Day 2020 Adventure Pack and not being more readily available for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Judge? Hopefully, if there is an anthology of scenarios for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set, this one will be included. It deserves a reprint and to be better known to Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Judges.

The third and final scenario is ‘Ruins of Future Past’. Designed for Player Characters of First Level, this is for use with Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic. It begins with the Player Characters stumbling into a temporal rift and being sent swirling back in time to find themselves in a stone complex inhabited by an annoyed out of time ‘ghost’, and full of weirdness such as edible mushrooms seeking human comfort that sprout from the walls, a puppet show performed by skeletons, a library arranged as a perpetual spiral of book piles, and a thing of wax stretched so membranously thin it covers a whole room. This is the partially abandoned workshop of Ram’Gan, a wizard who specialises in the magic of time and considers himself to be a ‘chronoartist’ and much of the contents of the workshop consists of incomplete or failed experiments from his ‘art’. Located in a former temple to a minor pharaoh, ‘Ruins of Future Past’ concludes with a confrontation with one or more temporal echoes of Ram’Gan, such as ‘Primordial Ram’Gan the Vicious’ or ‘Black Powder Ram’Gan the Leadslinger’ and the discovery of a ‘time tunnel’. This can be used to get the Player Characters home or alternatively, thrown through time to their next adventure.

Although there are some technological treasures to be found at the end of the adventure, ‘Ruins of Future Past’ is only nominally a scenario for Mutant Crawl Classics. Of course, it pulls the Player Characters from Terra A.D. and out of time, but what they end up in feels like and is written as a dungeon more suitable for Dungeon Crawl Classics than Mutant Crawl Classics. The fact that the scenario is not written from the point of view of the Mutant Player Character and that the author suggests that it is “equally suitable for equivalent-level Dungeon Crawl Classics characters” lends itself to the suggestion that this was a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure quickly repurposed to Mutant Crawl Classics with mentions of Terra A.D. at the beginning and end of the scenario. That said, as a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure, ‘Ruins of Future Past’ delivers all of the Swords & Sorcery weirdness you would expect of a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure and as a Mutant Crawl Classics adventure it works as a ‘fish out of water’—or ‘mutants out of time’—scenario. In either, its ‘thrown out of time’ start makes it easy to drop into a campaign and if the Judge wanted to start a time travel campaign using either Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic or the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game, this would be a good jumping off point.

Physically, the DCC Day 2020 Adventure Pack is as decently presented as you would expect from Goodman Games. The adventures are well-written, the artwork decent, and the cartography excellent.

Of course, the DCC Day 2020 Adventure Pack was a bargain when it was released for DCC Day back in 2020. After all, it was free! Plus, all three scenarios are playable, with one scenario—‘Expedition to Algol’—being good and one scenario—‘The Heist’—being really good. In fact, ‘The Heist’ is a must have scenario for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Judge, making the DCC Day 2020 Adventure Pack a worthwhile purchase for that alone. In which case, the other two adventures are a bonus.

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