Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: The Chained Coffin

Michael Curtis is one of my favorite game writers. From The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope to The Dungeon Alphabet to Stonehell to the various DCC adventures he’s written, it’s all quality stuff. Beyond that, every interaction I’ve had with him has been positive.

I’m sure he’s tired of me asking about Stonehell 2 though… :-)

Given that he just had to write a TON of extra material for his successful kickstarter The Chained Coffin, and that he's written three 5e adventures, and he’s involved in a number of other upcoming projects, it’s probably going to be a bit yet till I get my greedy hands on it.

But I’m not here to talk about Stonehell, but rather The Chained Coffin.

I brought it with me when I hiked the Appalachian Trail a few weeks ago (wish I was still out there) in part because the setting of the Chained Coffin is based on Appalachia. Granted, it’s more a more southern stretch than where I hiked, but you get the idea.

Not only did I bring it with me, but I spent the week showing it to anyone who followed me on the trail by sticking it in the clear pocket of my sleeping bag's sack.

This is a terrible and blurry photo of my pack in the back sear of the car, but you can see The Chained Coffin prominently displayed!

There are going to be spoilers below…




The basic premise is that the party gets hold of the titular Chained Coffin. Entombed within is a holy cleric trapped by a chaos champion… his former friend. The chaos champion is getting ready to ascend to true demonhood, and the PCs have to stop him.

On the way there are a number of flavorful encounters, including one with Ol’ Blackcloak, a devil who’s looking for some souls to steal. A fiddle may or may not play a role in that encounter…

Other possible encounters include an old hag, hill giants, bears, trolls, wild hogs, and of course the various Shudderfolk families. Every encounter helps add to the feel of the Shudder Mountains as an old, dangerous place, but different from the typical quasi-medieval setting most D&D-type games are set in. There is something just different enough by shifting the setting to a quasi-appalachian land that gives this adventure a unique feel, something you don’t see often. Unlike the Purple Planet, it is just familiar enough that the weirdness comes off as unsettling. It’s the difference between banjos playing in the woods when you’re camping, vs a theremin ringing out while strange lights flash in the sky.

Like the Purple Planet, the Chained Coffin is also a hex crawl adventure, and while it doesn’t have the same source, there is a strong motivation to keep the players moving toward their goal - stopping the chaos lord!

One of the gimmicks of The Chained Coffin adventure (and the original reason to do the kickstarter) is the spinner. While it plays an important part of the adventure, once it’s over… there are other uses for it! Michael included 5 alternate uses for the spinner, plus whatever you can come up with yourself. And as ever, Doug Kovacs did an amazing job with the art. I really love all the little details on the maps and the spinner.

Finally, the adventure also comes with a bonus adventure - The Rat King’s River of Death by Steve Bean. It’s a nice little (4.5 pages plus map) level 1 adventure. I’m a little bummed that it doesn’t seem to have been written specifically for the Shudder Mountains, but aside from that it’s a nice addition to The Chained Coffin. And really, it wouldn’t take much work to tweak it to fit.

Once again Goodman Games seems to have knocked it out of the park! I can't wait for the rest of the material to come out (or for SH2).

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