Attack of the Frawgs (DCC)
This module clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!
Okay, formally, this is a funnel that is probably closest to what you’d consider to be a linear wilderness trek – you move from wilderness encounter to encounter towards the finale, so if that irks you, then, that’s something to be aware of. This is intended for 8 – 14 level 0 characters, and playtest of the module left between 3 to 4 survivors for parties that explored all locations. This mirrors my observations, though it should be noted that this being mostly an adventure that takes place in the wilderness, the PCs do have the choice to avoid some encounters. Judge’s discretion is advised there. While nominally tied to the “Princes of Kaimai”-series, that sequence of adventures and their rough metaplot seems to have been abandoned in the meantime. Thankfully, this does not negatively impact the module’s integrity or story in the slightest, with references being relegated to the judge’s side of things. The module sports well-written read-aloud text.
I do maintain that this represents an interesting way to kick off a new DCC campaign, particularly for players new to the system. Why? Well, in order to discuss that, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
The paltry 0-level characters grew up around Fulthon Mountains, and begin play in the tavern, when two veteran gicastor trappers burst in, saying that they have been attacked. Speculation quickly rises – have the mongrelmen returned? Was the Black Corruption to the South responsible? It’s time to grab your trusty peasant’s tools and check it out! The trail leads to a tree platform that PCs may scale to get some foreshadowing, and then brings the PCs to the local brewery, which is fully mapped (alas, no player-friendly version) and infested with beer rats (who cause disorientation and bad judgment with their bites); this place also includes a crazed man, obviously drugged with something worse than the beer rats’ bites, and if the PCs can subdue him, they will get some further, unpleasant foreshadowing. Most of the module from there on out has the PCs circle a massive lake; the module, unfortunately, remains silent regarding the approach of trying to cross the water and e.g. take a closer look at the shapes noted; this represents the most pronounced downside regarding the structure of this one.
The trail leads the PCs towards gicastor traps – and if you’re a smart judge, you haven’t spilled the beans on what a gicastor is when the PCs arrive at the lodge: Gicastors are pretty deadly and savage, massive beavers. Yep, death by beaver is very likely (and there is a pretty neat b/w-artwork!), and the PCs can free a gicastor from a trap, allowing the judge to save the skins of the players via that angle, should they choose to. Oh yeah, insert all Zombeaver-jokes you can remember. 🙂 Moving onwards, the PCs will find a dead tracker and a strange totem of Truloq, a chaotic deity of the sea that may have the PCs become selected by the entity, for a patron – and indeed, if the PC refused, they may well die…only to be revived and recruited by the deity’s brother.
Anyhow, the trail, ultimately, leads to the base of a waterfall – and in the cave behind that, the eponymous frawgs attack – first the regular croakers (depicted on the cover, coming with a deafening croak), and then the hoppers and spawner. The latter is a massive, bloated monster in the process of deposing eggs from its skin into the water! This thing is also responsible for the hallucinogenic rage of the aforementioned crazed fellow in the brewery. The disgusting creature must be stopped, and fast! Oh, and it comes with a full-page b/w-artwork that makes for a cool handout! (As an aside: Merciful judges could rule that a gicastor freed takes care of some of the eggs that may slip past the PCs…)
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, and the interior b/w-illustrations by Reba Pyron deserve special mention: They are frantic, detailed and kickass b/w-pieces. There may only be 2, but both rock. The cartography does its job and offers squares, but, as a nitpick both mapped encounters don’t have a scale noted. More important for me would be lamentable absence of player-friendly maps. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I can’t comment on the print version, since I do not own it.
Stephen Newton’s “Attack of the Frawgs” is a nice, if linear funnel. It is structurally nothing mind-blowing, but the finale does amp up the strangeness in a great manner. You see, I believe that there are two basic strategies to introduce DCC’s aesthetics to new players: The first would be exemplified for example by Purple Duck games’ excellent “Death Slaves of Eternity.” It is throwing in PCs at the deep end, have them meet gods, destroy artifacts, etc. – and then reach first level. I know, this is basically a catch-phrase for DCC I’ve seen on shirts. There is one downside to this, though, and that is that, if you throw all you’ve got, maximum weirdness, from the get-go, said strangeness can become stale fast. How do you one-up this?
You don’t. You do different stuff, but yeah.
It’s one of the reasons why the contributions of the some authors after Roy Thomas left the “Chronicles of Conan”-series back in the day sucked so badly; they threw high fantasy weirdness at the barbarian, without grounding the proceedings in some sort of reality.
DCC, in the hands of a careless judge, can go that route as well. This module, in contrast, allows the judge to start the campaign in a pretty down to earth way; one could say, it begins almost in a mundane manner.
The gicastors are a first hint at what’s to come, but the finale amps up the WTF-factor and should have most folks realize that DCC is not your standard D&D-based RPG. It allows you to slowly build towards the aesthetic that’s so crucial for DCC, and particularly for folks that are mostly familiar with 5e or d20-based adventures, this can be a pretty eye-opening finale that ought to make them palpably excited for more, while leaving a LOT of wiggle room for the judge to amp up the strange. Following this with, for example, “People of the Pit”? That’ll have jaws drop. Trust me.
So yeah, this isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but it does provide a nice start for a new campaign. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, upgraded to 4 due to the freshman bonus and in dubio pro reo.
You can get this neat little module here on OBS!