Campaign Elements: The Giggling Deep (DCC)
This installment of the Campaign Elements-series of set-pieces/modules/environments for DCC clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, ~1/2 page editorial, 1.5 pages SRD, leaving us with 28 pages of content, though it should be noted that the pages are A5-sized (6” by 9”), which means you can fit up to 4 pages on one sheet of paper if you print it out.
All right, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right, only judges around? Great! So, somewhere in a complex of your choosing, there is a stone cap, bedecked with runes. Via brains or brawn, read magic or thieving skills etc., the PCs can open this cap, unearthing the cap – and one it is sealed, it cannot be opened from within…so definite care should be taken. Oh, and fumbles opening it receive their own table! Beyond the cap, a natural cave system lies, illuminated by bioluminescene that is generated by strange, floating motes, by slime and glowing globules, driving home the weirdness of the place. The cavern is uncomfortably hot and humid, requiring Fort saves with progressive -1d penalties, with sloped tunnels adding a sense of verticality and depth to the complex – so yes, as far as the basic complex is concerned, I am pretty impressed here.
This flavor of a truly strange place is further enhanced in the random encounters, where crosses between dragonfly and enormous earwigs glitter with opalescent sheen (full color artwork provided!), ants made of metal with globs of orange jelly for heads, albino koala-like bears covered in glowing pus-sores with prehensile tongues and stranger beings loom. Furthermore, the goremera can be found here: Shapeshifting between a vaguely humanoid form and that of a chimera made of viscera, this dread entity can only be truly slain in these caverns, is highly resilient to most types of damage and reforms after death, making for an amazing and horrific recurring antagonist. In a lesser module, that creature could carry a whole adventure – here, it is just one of the wonders the PCs will encounter.
The level of detail and interesting ideas also extends to treasure, with wands coming with proper command words and treasures, from jade scorpions to endless quivers (that only remain endless as long as no arrow is sold or given away…) – the rewards are cool and breathe the spirit a good DCC module should have – one of wonder and fear in equal parts. The PCs, while exploring these caverns, may have run afoul of violet jellies – their destruction may well get them into deep trouble, as the creatures are the sensory organs of Mycarnos, a powerful sentient fungus. Oh, and the things on the cover? With the long, paralytic tongues? They’re smart…so if one of your fellow PCs is suddenly missing, he may be in the process of being chewed to bits by these ambush predators.
At a hidden shrine, the PCs may trade secrets for divine boons; they may encounter spiked tortoises…and of course, there is a MASSIVE, several table-spanning generator to randomly make mushrooms from the fungal forest that the PCs choose to consume – the generator spans 4 tables, which should result in a vast array of wildly different benefits…and risks. Kudos for going the extra mile here! Have I mentioned that intruders into a hidden sanctum may be forced to deal with terrorpins, basically upright-walking mecha-turtles with razor-sharp claws? These receive their own, neat full-color artwork…alongside the red-robed wizardess Vos, the Spell-thief, who makes these caverns her lair. Kudos for her artwork, btw.!
Well, and then there would be the eponymous Giggling Deep, whose depths and susuring murmurs contains secrets untold, particularly for magic-users and elves…but at a terrible, potential lure, for the vast chasm of the giggling dark awaits the PCs, calling to them…and those that listen to the dread giggling may well find their steps irrevocably drawn to the edge, to jump and join the mysterious cacophony…
The pdf also contains notes for the judge to get the utmost out of the pdf, which is a damn fine touch.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to the 1-column booklet-size-standard and the pdf generally is pretty printer-friendly. The full-color artworks provided are nice and the cartography in b/w is neat as well, though I wished the pdf had a player-friendly iteration to cut up and hand out.
Daniel J. Bishop is an amazing AUTHOR as well as an adventure-designer. While I like his designs, I am mostly drawn to the wealth of grotesque and wondrous weirdness, the precise and evocative prose, which he employs when painting the picture of locations inhabited by creatures wondrous and weird, with properties that bring home the mystery of the magical. In short: This is an amazing location to drop into your game. It features unique critters, a reason to return to the place, copious chances for RP and interaction, has the potential to provide several cool boss fights and recurring villains, can be inserted pretty much everywhere…what more can one ask of such a humble book? This is evocative and cool enough to warrant converting if you’re playing another system – just as an aside. So yeah. Amazing. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation!
You can get this amazing environment/module/set-piece here on OBS!