This is a very high-level (and hence deadly) adventure that originally was run as a competition dungeon - the 'First Annual Dungeon Crawl Classics Open Tournament' - at GenCon Indy 2004, and comes complete with competition scoring notes and pre-generated characters, although you can of course use your own if they have reached the dizzying heights of 15th level. It is, of course, a dungeon crawl to end all dungeon crawls, designed to challenge players every inch of the way. The Publisher's Note at the beginning describes the glee with which it was created, with several developers contributing a few rooms to make the ultimate challenge.
The adventure is quite straightforward: the party has to penetrate the Devil-Lich's crypt to stop her regaining her power according to a prophecy. The action, as usual, starts at the entrance to the dungeon, but there are a few suggestions as to how the party got involved in the first place. The background provides details of how the Devil-Lich came to be as well as explaining what's really going on, which is somewhat different from what the party is led to believe...
On then to three levels of trap- and puzzle-filled dungeon designed to challenge and test the most mighty and cunning adventurers. There's a crazed vampire scrawling comments on the wall, heed them, they may help. And there are bits of a paladin's sword scattered throughout the place, apparently gathering them and putting it back together give a weapon capable of defeating the Demon-Lich.
The whole adventure is well-resourced: good clear descriptions, evocative 'read aloud' text (to the level I suggest using it verbatin rather than paraphrasing), and a spectacular array of handouts. Monster statblocks and the game mechanics relevant to traps are provided just where you need to refer to them. As a tournament, the three levels should be run separately, and the party starts each level at full strength; if you play straight through the characters will be at a disadvantage.
Groups which enjoy puzzle/trap dungeons and who look to slay everything they see and then loot them will have a blast with this. Some may even survive. Every trap can be evaded or defeated, the trick is figuring out how... sometimes a bit of help may be necessary to set the party on the right path. Progression through the complex is also rather reliant on making the right choices and again guidance might be advisable lest the game end prematurely with a baffled party unable to proceed. Should they reach the climax of the adventure, an epic and cinematic brawl with the Devil-Lich herself ensues. She can be defeated, but probably at the cost of a party life or two. Some examples of how she was defeated during the competition are given, but it's likely other parties will come up with their own resolution. Reward initiative and lateral thinking! It's a classic of its kind.
Return to Crypt of the Devil Lich page.
Reviewed: 19 June 2018