Friday, July 4, 2014

Free RPG Day Reviews: DCC, X-Crawl, LotFP & C&C

I managed to snag 3 modules for Free RPG Day at Titan Games: DCC’s Elzemon and the Blood-Drinking Box/X-Crawl’s Dungeon Detonation!(double module), LotFP’s Doom-Cave of the Crystal Headed Children, and the Castles and Crusades offering A Druid’s Lament.

C&C’s A Druid’s Lament is in some ways a very DCC style adventure. The background is that a druid, pissed off that her forest is being clearcut, petitions her god for some old testament style help smacking down the loggers after they laughed at her and beat her up when she tried to stop them. In answer, a great forest spirit full of rage shows up and kills everyone who enters the woods, including an innocent family out for a picnic. This was a bit more than the druid planned on, and she wants the adventurers to banish the spirit. She isn’t going to help directly, either.

Oh, and the spirit has taken up residence in a great oak tree that has grown over the ruins of an ancient evil tomb (of course), and the combination is turning the whole forest evil.

Unfortunately it’s back to generic fantasyville from here. I really got the impression that this adventure could go to 11, but they only ever crank it up to a 6 or 7. The actual encounters are pretty uninspired, the ruin/dungeon under the tree was built by the “first human empire” which no one has ever heard of, no one will read the language of, but you should totally include it in your campaign!!!! I can’t tell you how much this sort of advice turned me off of this adventure.

Rather than try to shoehorn it in, why not suggest that DMs reflavor the dungeon to match whatever the local ancient evil empire was? Also, making it one that no one, not even the elder elves remembers… how does that make the PCs care? If the elves don’t even remember, who cares?

I think there’s a good adventure here hindered by the authors trying too hard in all the wrong ways. You’ve got a rage filled forest spirit summoned but not controlled by a now regretful druid. The ancient empire thing adds nothing interesting, and detracts from a solid idea.

LotFP’s 32 page offering is not nearly as impressive as last year’s 96 page Better Than Any Man, but then that’s a nearly impossible bar to reach for a free product!

It is a goofy, creepy, and unique adventure that will challenge just about any party that doesn’t have access to wish level magics (and might challenge some that do). There’s a lot of humor in this adventure, and it doesn’t shy away from pulling in heaps of sci-fi and modern references. Yet Raggi makes it work… there is a logic to all of it, and the adventure pulls aside the curtain for the DM to understand what’s going on too.

The artwork, by +Gennifer Bone is perfect for the adventure, finding the right balance between the seriously creepy messed up mind of Raggi, and the humor and absurdity of it all. I think this piece captures it all.

On top of the great story and art, there’s also a monster mechanic that most closely relates to the Law of Conservation of Ninjitsu, which I’ve never seen implemented in such a simple way. It’s worth picking up for that alone.

The DCC offering was a little on the short side (6 pages including map), but still a fairly solid little adventure. I wouldn’t hesitate to drop it into a game as a side quest. I did read one review (I don’t remember where) that complained that it was linear. Given the length, and the fact that it takes place mostly in a big circular hole… I’d have to agree, but I don’t think given those factors that being linear takes away from the adventure. There are a number of other adventures, including Michael Curtis’ Emerikol was Framed that are also linear, and also fun. Not every dungeon needs to be a twisting labyrinth that branches and connects all over the place.

On the flip side of the DCC adventure is an X-Crawl adventure Dungeon Detonation! (which is why the DCC offering is only 6 pages).For those unfamiliar with the game, X-Crawl is a d20 dungeon crawl game set in the modern/near future world where adventuring parties are the sports superstars of the world, and they enter dungeons built by the mega-rich for gold and glory, and the entertainment of the masses.

I’ve never played X-Crawl, but I love the concept… and the temptation to drop PCs from a more normal game into an X-Crawl just makes my evil little DM’s heart skip a beat with joy. This one is definitely worth the read, and not just for the flavor. Some of the room combinations would work really well in a funhouse style dungeon.

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