Dungeon Crawl Classics & XCrawl (Free RPG Day)

Free RPG Day: Dungeon Crawl Classics & XCrawl
From: Goodman Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Free RPG Day: Dungeon Crawl Classics & XCrawl is a new Free RPG Day Adventure Booklet from Goodman Games.

One of the more surprising things about this year’s Free RPG Day was the amount of free full size books it contained.  One of those books was the complete Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG core rulebook, which is no small book.  That book is reviewed separately on this web site.  I only mention that because this booklet – Free RPG Day: Dungeon Crawl Classics & XCrawl – contains no rules and in fact contains adventures for two separate settings.

From the back cover:
“You’re no hero.  You’re an adventurer: a reaver, a cutpurse, a heathen slayer, a tight-lipped warlock guarding long-dead secrets.”

Dungeon Crawl Classic: The Imperishable Sorceress

Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) is one of the many old schools games that have recently come out.  In the aftermath of d20 SRD age, many people wanted more (or less) out of their game and many branched off what the d20 system built and retrofitted many of the classic aspects of older versions of the most popular fantasy RPG into new systems.  Aside from the use of the wonkie “Zocchi Dice,” the game system is a fairly solid system reminiscent of classic D&D.

DCC has a very streamlined and simplified character generation system and many I know that have played it say it is a quick system.  This might explains why the DCC adventure The Imperishable Sorceress does not have characters.  The Imperishable Sorceress requires a little more work up front, with the lack of characters.  That is my first primary issue with it.  Obviously, the publisher’s goal is to illustrate how easy it is to create characters and I supposed this is one way to do it.  However, for a Free RPG Day product, I still would expect a few pre-generated characters.

Aside from the lack of characters, the adventure is a very interesting and in-depth dungeon crawl.  It involves an ancient race called the Builders, the ghost of an ambitious sorceress, Ivrian, and several other denizens hidden in mountain ruins of an ancient Builder stronghold.  This stronghold was once under the ocean where the Builders explored the secrets of eternal youth and immortality.  These secrets were lost with time until Ivrian sought them out.  Things did not go well for her in the end, and now her spirit haunts the halls of this mountain bastion, calling out to anyone who can help her.  In these halls, a party will face demons, resurrected Builders, the spirits of ancient predator fish, and a few other very interesting challenges along the way.

This adventure is fairly original and has a lot of potential for creating a whole campaign around it.  These Builders could have other locations holding secrets, some perhaps underwater.  Ivrian can become a longtime ally or more likely enemy for a larger story arch.  Why was she exploring the Builder secrets of immortality, other than for obvious reasons?  How did she learn of the secrets and who did she upset to get them?

As a Free RPG Day product, it has potential if the GM is willing to put the work into it.  The GM needs to be familiar with the game system.  It’s nice that they supplied a core rule book for anyone willing to run it.  But I think it still would take someone familiar with the game to run it.

From the back cover:
“Ancient Rome meets smash TV meets ganger rap? WTF?”

Maximum Xcrawl : 2013 Studio City Crawl

During the big d20 craze, an interesting game came out called XCrawl.  In my time of coordinating gaming for conventions, I think I have seen that game on the schedule once.  I don’t mean to downplay it, because it’s actually a pretty cool game but I am just making the point that the original version was never really popular within my circles.

Now we see a resurrection of all things d20 now under the umbrella of Pathfinder (PF) compatibility.  PF has really taken over the industry and for very good reasons.  It’s no wonder games like XCrawl want to try again at the market.  If you don’t know anything about XCrawl, it is set in an alternative fantasy version of modern day.  The Empire of North America is quelled with the mind-numbing entertainment displayed on the magically powered TV.  One of the more popular events on TV is Xcrawl.  If D&D dungeon crawling could be crossed with NASCAR and Reality TV, this would be the result.

Once again, the adventure does not have pre-generated characters.  In this case, I suppose they are relying on the fact that fans of Pathfinder will have characters to play.  Technically any character will work as long as it is compatible with Pathfinder, but the pending Xcrawl rulebook will add new classes and systems to enhance your experience.

Players’ characters participate in an “artificially” created dungeon complete with monsters, challenges, secret rooms and artifacts, all in a glorified competition.  This adventure has all the above for the characters to experience.  Reading through it is reminiscent of the classic Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man, except with magic.  The characters are brought into the Green Room where they are briefed on the Studio City Crawl.  They are told the general rules of the game and how they win.   There is even a twist involving sexy dungeon dance girls.   In the Crawl, they face traps, puzzles, locks, as well as creatures and other challenges.  There are creatures like the Doom Tuskers, Whammy Gorillas, Dungeon Wights, Terror Birds and Twilight Squids, ranging from CR 4 to CR 9.  Throughout the challenge, the group needs to be collecting statues to get the final prize.

This adventure will also take some preparation and work to run at a Free RPG Day event.  In fact, unless the GM knows about it ahead of time, I doubt anyone would be prepared to run it.  It is definitely something people would take home and try out later.  I would much prefer something more along the spirit of what I feel Free RPG Day is, however – ready to run and play right there and then.

In conclusion, I think instead of cutting corners and putting two adventures into one, perhaps the publishers should have done two separate booklets and included characters in each.  At least that is what I would have done.  Overall, these are great adventures and I would not mind playing them.  However, if these are not ready to play at Free RPG Day, I think people would move on to something else.

For more details on Goodman Games and their new Free RPG Day Adventure BookletFree RPG Day: Dungeon Crawl Classics & XCrawl” check them out at their website http://www.goodman-games.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 12

Product Summary

Free RPG Day: Dungeon Crawl Classics & XCrawl
From: Goodman Games
Type of Game: Free RPG Day Adventure Booklet

Written by: Daniel J. Bishop
Contributing Authors: Rev. Dak J. Ultimak
Cover Art by: Doug Kovacs
Additional Art by: Doug Kovacs
Number of Pages: 5
Game Components Included: One Free RPG Day adventure
Game Components Not Included: Core DCC rule book

Written by: Brendan LaSalle
Contributing Authors: Byron and Marie LaSalle, Jeff Erwin
Cover Art by: Jeremy Mohler
Additional Art by: Brad McDevitt
Number of Pages: 7
Game Components Included: One Free RPG Day adventure
Game Components Not Included: Core XCrawl rule book

Retail Price: Free on Free RPG Day.  $4.99 (US) as PDF
Website: www.goodman-games.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung