In 2011, Goodman Games were busy working on their Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, and had already released a set of beta-test rules, so they took the opportunity of Free RPG Day to provide a couple of adventures to play with them. (Now, of course, you can run them with the final publication version of the ruleset!)
Starting with what is now becoming iconic art for this game and a page describing what the DCC RPG is and is not, the core game mechanic is then presented in sufficient detail that you could probably play a game without other information (especially if you are an experienced role-player) although having the beta-test rules - or now the full core book - is recommended. If nothing else, it is only there that you will be introduced to the concept of the 'character funnel' where each player starts off with several 0-level characters generated in a truly random manner, developing those that survive the first few adventures.
The first adventure, The Portal Under the Stars by Joseph Goodman, is a Level 0-1 adventure designed to exploit this character funnel, to winnow out the unlucky and the feeble and to set the survivors on the path to become heroes: a process core to this game's philosophy. While focussing on tricks and traps rather than combat there are opportunities for a good mass brawl as well, as the characters venture through a portal that only appears every half-century or so to raid a long-dead wizard's tomb.
With a brief introduction to get the characters to the threshold of this portal, and a little background for the GM, they step through to find out what perils and riches lay beyond. Descriptions are evocative, with encounters laid out clearly accompanied by a map that lays the tomb out well for the GM. However the adventure has no real conclusion, although if a certain act is performed the characters will be pointed towards further opportunities, indeed the potential for a whole campaign, if the GM so chooses (and is prepared to develop it for himself!).
So, on to the second adventure, a 5th-level one from Harley Stroh called The Infernal Crucible of Sezrekan the Mad. Remember that in DCC RPG 5th-level is regarded as quite high level, thus this adventure provides a nice contrast with the one proceeding it. Here we have yet another long-dead powerful figure who has left plenty of stuff behind that the daring may attempt to steal. Naturally, those venturing here will have to fight and figure things out... and there's a delightful sting in the tail here, potentially requiring an awful decision to be made.
It is left up to you to determine how the characters find out about Sezrekan and what he has left behind, the adventure beginning with them having cleared the entrace to what is, in effect, an inverted wizard's tower extending down into the ground rather than up into the sky. It's well mapped and described for the GM, with everything laid out for ease of running. Again it is a simple and short exploration with no clear ending - except, perhaps, the sheer challenge of getting back out again!
Overall, these two adventures give a fair flavour of what you will get with the full Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, and after reading or playing them you should be able to decide if this is a game for you. It might have been improved - particularly when after Free RPG Day, you have to pay for even the PDF version - with adventures that did not seem to end without much of a conclusion, but they do give a good impression of what the game is like and so achieve the purpose of this product.
Return to Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Free RPG Day 2011 Adventure Starter page.
Reviewed: 24 July 2012