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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Remarking on how Goodman Games has been an enthusiastic supporter of Free RPG Day since its inception in 2007, they're now proud to present two adventures. Moreover, they've gone overboard on covers with five different designs which were distributed randomly to retailers. Those who download the PDF get to see them all!

For Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG there is a Level 1 adventure called The Madhouse Meet, set in the forthcoming Lankhmar campaign setting (yes, the Fritz Leiber one). As a 'meet' adventure, it's designed to start off a campaign in Nehwon by throwing a disparate bunch of player characters together as they attempt to escape the clutches of a bizarre sorcerer from lands far beyond Lankhmar. It's designed for four characters but will work with fewer. After some background explanation for the GM, the adventure begins with our luckless heroes banged up in a cell. Hopefully they'll make a break for freedom... A lot of use is made of Luck, and there's a note to the effect that guile rather than brute strength is often more effective in Nehwon! While a short adventure, it is well written with atmospheric descriptions and plenty of ideas scattered around that could lead to further adventures. It's a good taster for both the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG and the Lankhmar setting.

The other adventure, for the Mutant Crawl Classics RPG, is a 'character funnel' adventure for some 15-20 level 0 characters, with each player running multiple characters. It's called The Museum at the End of Time, and involves a bunch of younglings sent out on a 'Rite of Passage' to survive in the wilderness, retrieve a functioning artefact of the Ancients and, if possible, trigger whatever mutations lurk within their genetic code. This bunch has chosen the high-risk high-stakes option of venturing into the trackless Glow Desert in their quest. After a couple of days and whatever random encounters you throw at them, they arrive a a structure which they can explore and loot. It is not, of course, devoid of defences! There are some wonderous and inventive artefacts to be found, many of which will lead incautious or curious characters into no end of trouble. There's some excellent advice for the GM about presenting artefacts to primitive people who haven't a clue what they are, which will benefit anyone trying to describe items to a party ill-equipped to comprehend them, never mind this adventure.

Both are cracking little adventures in their own right, as well as good introductions to their respective systems. There are no rules given here, provided you know the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG mechanics you will be able to cope. Pre-generated characters for both adventures are available on the Goodman Games website. Enjoy your foray into these settings!


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

This 1st-level adventure set in the city of Lankhmar is intended as a 'meet' adventure at the beginning of the campaign, an opportunity for the party to form up and forge some common bonds as well as to complete the adventure. It's designed for a small group but will require both a wizard and a thief.

There's a succinct background for the GM, and then an explanation of how the adventure begins - it's suggested that it begins in media res, and runs fast and fun to at least one of three possible climaxes, depending on what the characters get up to as the adventure progresses. Put succinctly, what will become the party encounter one another as each character independently decides that it would be a good idea to burgle the home of a renowned collector of valuable items and caravan master on the night he's throwing a big party to celebrate the acquisition of his latest piece. At this masked ball, all the player-characters find themselves in the cellar antichamber to the collector's treasure vault... but before they can puzzle out why anyone else is there when they snuck in alone, some security guards arrive and a fight breaks out.

The fight isn't designed to be too challenging, so once the guards are defeated, the player-characters can make introductions as they catch their breath and decide what to do next. Hopefully they'll realise that they might do better co-operating than working on their own. The challenge of actually getting into the vault ought to do the trick... but that is only still the beginning of the adventure. What they find will lead them on to further discoveries and riches - but they still need to exfiltrate and, well, shall we say that they may not be the only people who thought it was a good night for a heist.

Once they are outside with their loot, a spot of research will be necessary, as what they discover points to a greater treasure, a set of magical gold masks. Hopefully this research will again be collaborative, further cementing the group together. There's an optional encounter with a potential patron, and then it's time to mount a further raid on a former temple in town to get the goodies. With atmospheric descriptions and many encounters, there is ample opportunity for plenty of high jinks before the objective is attained - an inkling of this is revealed by some detailed rules for running foot-chases across the rooftops.

The final section covers ending the adventure. Given the clear and present danger the masks pose to the entire city, some or all of them might have been damaged by now, lowering their value... that is, if they didn't get loose to cause problems all over town. Oh, and the Thieves' Guild probably want a word. Winding up the adventure is no easy matter, there are lots of loose ends to sort out and most of them have the potential to lead to further adventures.

This adventure presents the fast, violent fun that ought to fill the pages of any adventure in Lankhmar, and should set up the new-fledged party as a force to be reckoned with as the campaign proceeds.


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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

This book serves two purposes. It introduces some of the major movers and shakers of Nehwon and, by presenting them as 'patrons' within the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, sets them up ready to play their part in your game whether or not your party's going to Lankhmar any time soon.

There's seven of them all told, and they all appear in the tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Frank Lieber - so if you don't know them, get reading for even more background about each one. For convenience, there's a list of stories in which each one features, so once you have picked one you know what to read. They are Death, Issek of the Jug, Mog the Spider God, Ningauble of the Seven Eyes, the Rat God, the Sea King, and Sheelba of the Eyeless Face. However, Ningauble has already been written up as a patron in Through Ningauble's Cave, and the material is not replicated here. So in effect there are six patrons in this book.

Each one's entry begins with a brief outline of who they are, and what pledging to them entails. Then there is a table showing what might happen as a result of an Invoke Patron check. Not all outcomes are pleasant... or is it that some are more unpleasant than others? Patron Taints are also imaginative - if Death is your patron, for example, you may find yourself suddenly somewhere else with a compulsion to kill a given person... they are due to die, and Death has sent you to collect the soul as he's otherwise engaged! Then there's a third table for Spellburn. These again have been crafted with loving care.

It's obvious that a lot of care and attention has gone into creating very appropriate entries on all three tables for each Patron. They suit the personality and style of the individual as presented in the story and have good game balance of benefit and curse, these are going to work well as Patrons for those party members who (are desperate enough to) approach them.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

This is a rather strange supplement. It's not an adventure, yet it can feature in your games. It's a location and an individual, drawn from the world of Lankhmar, and in a way serves as an introduction to this wonderful place. If you want, for example, to move an existing campaign to Lankhmar you can have the party discover the entrance to the cave somewhere in the current campaign world...

The first part provides a description of both the cave and its owner, a wizard by the name of Ningauble of the Seven Eyes. If you know Lankhmar already you are probably familiar with him, if not suffice to say that he is a... well, it's a bit difficult to describe really. Somewhere within the caves squats something, something that appears man-like, cloaked, with all that you can see of his features being seven glowing eyes. He's one of the two most powerful sorcerers in Nehwon, opinions are varied as to whether he's the most powerful one. (He thinks he is, and it's probably best not to argue, certainly not if you are with him at the time!) Nobody knows just what he is, although rumours about. His passion is the gathering of information, rumours and facts are all grist to his mill.

Unlike most Nehwon wizards, Ningauble is not solitary by nature. He loves gossip, lore, stories and even the occasional fact far too much, and is always in search of new people to bring him such choice snippets... the party will soon fall under his sights if they have not done so already. Once someone has become one of his 'Gentles', as he calls his spies, he never lets go, although years may pass between assignments. One day another of his missives will turn up. Some seek him out, asking for his patronage in return for services, others he picks out as useful. They'll get the patronage, but he'll demand the services he wants, and is not above blackmail or threats when necessary.

Next, we find out about the cave itself. It's all a bit allegorical, but when you are actually there it is real, frightenly so at times. Somewhere in the middle is the Audience Cave, where Ningauble himself is to be found. There are other folk here as well. Other Gentles. Creatures which dwell here. Creatures which have just wandered in and not found the way out. These and more may be encountered (and, yes, there are random tables for when the party visits). The cave has many entrances, likely into several worlds and other places. One's Nehwon, of course, and one may be your campaign world... or indeed any other place you'd like to take your adventures.

There are plenty of examples - places you might emerge into and things that might happen in them, encounters and their consequences - to get you going. Indeed there's material here that could spawn a whole bunch of adventures, pick the ones you like and develop them into something that will keep the party coming back to the Caves for more.

Finally, Ningauble is written up as a full-blown Patron according to the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG rules, should you decide to use him that way for one or more members of your party.

Overall, there's a lot here to delve into. Some won't make much sense out of the context of Lankhmar, but if you do know it everything hangs together to bring the rich strangeness of it all to life at your table.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Designed for a party of 15 0th-level characters (with the anticipation that each player has three characters), this adventure sees this motely horde of novice adventurers attempting to stem a plague of abductions that has recently blighted a village. For best effect, as this is supposed to be a starting adventure, this village is home to most or not all party members, thus they have a vested interest in its wellbeing. Some of those abducted may be friends or family...

There's a brief outline of how the adventure is intended to play out and a fair bit of background for the GM explaining how the situation came to be, and who is responsible. The adventure itself begins with a ruined keep that looms over the village from a nearby hilltop. There are plenty of rumours, and the first task facing our heroes is to decide which are fact and which are fiction. Each player can roll a D10 against a table of rumours, but there are no hints as to their veracity - they will have to make their own minds up. Naturally, the rumours offer valuable clues, but the fake ones can also lure foolish characters to their doom!

The first thing the party will have to decide is how they will approach the keep. Each route, and there are several, has its own dangers, and has a detailed description along with the particular challenges appropriate to it... and then there's the wandering monster table, on which each area features as well! Depending on the route chosen, there is the possibility of a spot of tomb-robbing, but beware: items taken from there are cursed! Although sample curses are provided, the GM is encouraged to make up his own based on whatever he's got planned for the campaign to come.

Once inside, each area comes with a graphic and atmospheric description along with notes about who (or what) is there to fight and what loot is available. Much is not obvious and will have to be searched out... and of course there's still those wandering monsters who may choose to happen by at an inopertune moment. The 'keep' portion ends with the discovery of stairs leading downwards...

As you can imagine, there is more to explore below. There the source of the evil awaits. Lucky, organised and courageous parties might be able to deal with it, maybe even keep their minds intact. Some of the abducted villagers are here in chains, and may be rescued - if any player has lost all their characters, they made a ready source of replacements, else all they want to do is flee for their homes.

The whole adventure is well-resourced with clear maps, a couple of player handouts and excellent descriptions coupled with notes on what's to find and what's to kill in each place the party goes, along with plenty of opportunities signposted for GMs to add clues to further adventures of their own making. An excellent introductory adventure to start a new campaign in the spirit of this game.


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