AL 9 – Danger in the Deep! (DCC)
This adventure-location/dungeon-module clock in at 47 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 44 pages of content, which are laid out in booklet-size (6’’ by 9’’/A5), which means you can fit up to 4 pages of content on a sheet of paper when printing this.
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue…because I really wanted to review it.
All righty, so the first thing you’ll notice upon opening the booklet would be the delightfully old-school-y map with its hand-drawn vibe – the PLAYER’S map! Yep, this booklet actually has a proper, player-friendly version of the map. And yes, obviously, there also is a judge’s version. One quick glance at the map also shows you a big plus: Unlike many modules, it actually is pretty non-linear – there are always choices, forks, etc. – I’m a big fan of this type of design.
This is an adventure location that depicts a cavern complex that can be used to link multiple modules together, or to act as a destination if the PCs “Quest for it!” right now – which, this being DCC, they most likely are!´
The challenges presented within are intended for a group of 4 – 8 level 2 DCC-characters. A significant plus, as far as I’m concerned, is that, while murder-hoboing through the adventure’s locations very much possible, clever PCs and players will have a MUCH easier time in the scenario if they, you know, actually roleplay and talk to some creatures. Don’t fret – there is plenty of action to go around, and this is very much a DCC-scenario in its aesthetics.
The two most likely candidates for the “Quest for it!”-angles here, which also prominently feature among the introductory hooks, would be the perpetually-wet grimoires Running Water, and the legendary club Cold Stone – both of these items come with tables of lore for PCs that do their legwork (or that consulted an oracle, etc.), that have the appropriate backgrounds…you get the idea. They both have really cool angles, and the pdf also comes with a new patron, including a full-blown write-up that includes Invoke Patron, spellburn and patron taint tables. It should also be noted that this patron write-up does include a new monster associated with the patron, which itself has a d7-table of visceral and really cool effects for its attacks.
Beyond aforementioned adventure-hooks, we do get a d5 random encounter table for the complex, with all critters properly statted for your convenience.
The descriptions of the respective adventure locations include read-aloud text for GMs less apt at improvising the like. It should also be noted that the adventure telegraphs its challenges properly – there is no save or suck, and when the PCs encounter hostile or detrimental terrain, they do so after incurring risks – in short, this is challenging, but FAIR. It should also be noted that mundane and roleplaying-based solutions to challenges are very much welcomed and accounted for – in short, this has the “right” kind of old-school spirit.
All right, and this is as far as I can go without diving into serious SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only judges around? Great! So, the module begins with a narrow entrance tunnel that is slick with guano and rather difficult to traverse: PCs failing low DC Agility checks risk falling/sliding, and while crawling is an option, it carries its own risk, namely infection with vermin, which can temporarily reduce Agility. This is a great example of the design paradigm mentioned above – the module allows for a means to offset dice-rolling here, but it carries risk that is obvious, namely that crawling through guano-laden muck crawling with odd bugs…well, isn’t a pleasant experience.
Beyond this introductory passage, we get even more coolness – the PCs can happen upon a land bat swarm, and trigger a variety of delightfully odd spores – a d7-table of spore effects is provided here…and guess what? The module accounts for clever PCs weaponizing the spores, providing rules to do so! This goes one step beyond what’s asked of it in its terrain features, and even mundane challenges are codified in a manner that is this precise, this detailed, showing an attention to detail and care that is a pleasure to see.
The cover, btw., depicts one of the intelligent denizens and potential “bosses” herein – it’s no mere spider, it’s the intelligent Spinwoman, and her webs are strong, as she drags targets in her chimney, wrapping them up in her shawls…being intelligent, smart PCs can potentially try to reason with her…though she is indeed intended as an adversary. Plaghorn the giant intelligent snail, is very much intended to be interacted with – the giant snail gets its own artwork, has hallucinogenic slime, and actually only attacks targets to defend itself. The slime, btw., has serious value for its interactions with the spellburn mechanics! Did I mention that snailtaurs that trade with Plaghorn? They really add a level to what they can deliver, content-wise: The snailtaur potion-masters come with a table of stuff they want, and a d14 generator of potions, names, effects, how they look, and their prices. These potent potions add some seriously cool tools to the arsenal of the PCs, and they make for an amazing reason for them to return to these caves time and again. Oh, and the full-page full-color artwork of the snailtaur potion-masters is just delightful.
Stone bushes and stalactite galleries paint a beautiful picture of subterranean wonders, with strange, blue flowers and similar wonders painting a picture of caverns most wondrous. Speaking of wonders – if you do happen to own a couple of the other rather excellent DCC-supplements released by Purple Duck Games, then you’ll get even more out of this. Where applicable, the module does acknowledge connections you could develop, though these d remain subdued enough: The module is not impeded by a lack of them among your files. Personally, I did very much enjoy these cross-references.
Anyhow, did I mention the conch-shell of psychedelic doom?
Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly one-column b/w-standard, with a couple of nice one-page hand-out-style full-color artworks thrown in. The cartography for the supplement is charming in its full-color hand-drawn aesthetics, is precise and features a grid…and it comes with a player-friendly version! The one downside I can field against the supplement would be the lack of bookmarks. I’d strongly suggest getting print here…or printing it yourself.
Daniel J. Bishop’s name on a module tends to be an indicator of quality. The trip into this cavern section oozes care and attention to detail from every pore. Many a DCC-module has high-concept “star”-encounters, sure – but it’s in the smaller details that one can see true artistry. Does the attention to detail afforded to the bosses, the “cool” scenes, also extend to the smaller encounters? In the case of Daniel’s writing, the answer tends to be a resounding “Yes!”, and this pdf shows well why that’s the case. Beyond having terrain et al. matter, the adventure succeeds in making even small decisions, small hazards matter, feel plausible, feel real. It has plenty of weirdness and Appendix N-style, sure – but to me, the impressive aspect here was how the module hits the more subdued notes, how care extends to all the small components that are so easy to overlook.
While the lack of bookmarks costs this half a star, the inclusion of player-friendly maps makes up for this as far as I’m concerned. For the print version, I’ll definitely rate this 5 stars + seal of approval. If you want to run this pdf-only, detract half a star.
You can get this damn cool location/adventure here on OBS!
You can directly support Purple Duck Games making more DCC/MCC-awesomeness here on patreon!