The first holiday adventure for DCC clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages. These are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), making this a booklet, rather than a regularly-sized DCC-module.
This review was requested by a supporter of my patreon, to be undertaken at my convenience.
This module is intended for level 1 characters, and can be completed in a single session, making it suitable for e.g. oneshots or convention-style gaming. As far as DCC is concerned, it is a challenging module, but does not rank among the most difficult ones. Character death is a possibility, but it is very much possible to beat this module sans PC deaths.
This module takes place in the frigid north, and theme-wise can be considered to be one of the DCC modules that has its Appendix N-weirdness grounded in folklore and mythology – while certainly fitting DCC’s unique aesthetics, it’s an adventure that feels grounded in its odder aspects, making implementation in more down to earth contexts and settings with a sword & sorcery vibe easy.
As always, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only judges around? Great! So, for the last couple of weeks, a strange sickness seems to have spread across the north, one wherein children fall into a comatose state, with blackened, frostburn-like patches of skin. In the introductory scene, the culprits become readily apparent: Gnarled, icy-gnomes called Tontuu attack the settlement as winter solstice approach – and herald the deadly threat responsible.
The godling Tjaptar, a malign force that has justifiably and well-deservedly fallen into relative obscurity, has taken residence in a ziggurat of hyperborean make, encapsulated partially in basically an upside down iceberg-like structure that is levitating ever more south, spreading the dread influence of the godling. The PCs are blessed by the village priest of Loptir in the aftermath, gaining the mechanically most distinct aspect of the adventure – the ability to call upon the powers of sovereign fire.
Each PC receives either 8 (if they demand payment) or 10 points of sovereign fire as a resource to handle thethreat of Tjaptar. These points may be used as luck to enhance save-bonuses vs. cold effects, enhance spellcasting to improve fire-based spells as though using spellburn, ignite weaponry for a +1 bonus to atk and damage (+3 v.s cold-based enemies – all foes herein qualify), gain the ability to use a searing touch (which can also met through ice) or use 5 points to turn into a form of living fire for 2 rounds, including the ability to fly – which can be very helpful in the finale, but more on that later. How the PCs use their sovereign fire and how well they conserve this resource is a crucial aspect that can make the difference between success or death. I do enjoy this unique form of resource-management.
Now, the flying inverse iceberg has vast steps leading up to the top, and from there onwards, the PCs will make their way through aforementioned ziggurat as a mini-dungeon, battling more of the ice-gnomes and witnessing disturbing sights – like strange groves of trees that have souls of children bound within them. A mantis of ice makes for a lethal foe, and heat-draining sap can make for a rather cool terrain hazard – but ultimately, the PCs should be capable of making their way quickly to Tjaptar, who looks like a pretty massive reindeer-headed humanoid, with sickly, quasi un-dead looking skin (due to neglect/not being worshipped); between his antlers, an aurora borealis looms, and inside these lights, the souls of children not yet consumed await freedom.
Defeating the dread godling will initiate a collapse, which will see a rapid deterioration of the dungeon – which means the PCs will have to get out, fast, unless they want to plummet to a rather inglorious death! This section is also where the module’s brevity turns out to be somewhat detrimental. While the concept could have carried a longer adventure, apart from e.g. once instance, where only falling distance, but not damage incurred, is noted, this doesn’t come into play for the most part. In the end, though, the module basically resorts to telling the judge to add some checks to make things tight – which is certainly viable, but ultimately, I think the module would have been better off by simply listing some challenges for the collapse.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the same can be said for the most part, apart from aforementioned minor snafus. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard, and the original artworks in b/w are really nice. As pretty much always for Goodman Games’ DCC-modules, the maps are glorious. Unfortunately, we don’t get any player-friendly iterations sans labels etc. The pdf has basic bookmarks for sub-headers, but not for individual scenes or rooms – that could be a bit smoother for the judge.
Michael Curtis “The Old God’s Return” oozes a great dark fantasy vibe, with a neat folklore-style backdrop and theme. The sovereign fire mechanic is rewarding, and the whole idea of the adventure is great. However, the module does suffer somewhat from its brevity. I couldn’t help but feel that, with a few more pages, this could have been a masterpiece. As provided, it is an impressive module that feels like it is held in check by the limited scope in which it can develop its themes. Thus, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.
You can get this cool, albeit brief adventure here on OBS!