The Seventh Pit of Sezrekan & The Queen of Elfland’s Son

Don’t tell the Dark Master I said this, but the adventures published in the Gen Con program guides aren’t the best–It’s the Goodman Games B-list.  There might be an element or two in each one that I like, but that’s all.  The best of them is surely The Seventh Pit of Sezrekan.  The cover art by Peter Mullen and the cartography by Mark Allen are both superlative, and Harley Stroh has written an adventure with great potential.  Designed to be a tournament funnel, it is an unsurvivable death-pit, but it also has notes on running it as 3rd level, which is what I needed.  This being the 12th game of our campaign, our party is largely 3rd level and all starting to groan about how long it’s going to take to get to 190 XP.  Each character level requires more and more XP to reach, but the DCC experience system, based on relative danger, produces XP at a steady rate (Usually around 12 XP per game for us.)  You can go from 1st to 2nd in around four games, but going from 9th to 10th level is gonna take like 20 modules.  Get publishing!  I feel like there’s already a bottleneck of good adventures around 3rd level, so I was glad to have this one to work with, despite the sloppy editing and a few over-looked bits that needed detailing (Namely, the lift scene had insufficient realistic detail about the mechanics and operation of the lift, exactly what my players were going to be asking about).  The gaps in editing and detail got me thinking of other ways to improve the adventure, and I ended up personalizing this one much more than other Goodman Games modules, but the core didn’t budge under my creative license:  This adventure had a solid backbone of three creepy/cool environments to explore, some creepy/cool monster characters to deal with, and even magic treasure with lots of creepy/cool personality (I imagine it would be a blast with 0 level characters to suddenly be able to cast a fireball spell or turn into a dragon)!  My players were happy at the end of the game to finally get some treasure out of the stingy old Dark Master.  Don’t tell him I said that, either.

Our second game of the night, our spin-off campaign, was The Queen of Elfland’s Son.  As a high level cleric of the Church of Appendix N, I certainly recognize the Lord Dunsany inspiration here and have to say I hated the book The King of Elfland’s Daughter.  The plot wandered very slowly nowhere, and all the neat shit was in the first chapter only.  But there was some neat shit in there and Michael Curtis did a good job of translating it into a map-based dungeon.  It’s written so the PCs can don disguises and infiltrate, but my players only wanted to charge in and slay everyone.  Actually, first, my players turtled-up when the evil unicorn was killing their tribesmen in the opening scenes, and I had to convince them the faerie mound was not a death trap.  Then in the end, our wizard was slain by the prince of Elfland, so it was a death trap for them (Shit, now they are going to turtle-up again next time we play!)  The Seelie/Unseelie backstory was cool, but my players were too busy killing everyone in revenge instead of trying to understand *why* the unicorn was being evil.  Note the rare appearance of goblins in this module (a veritable endangered species in DCC RPG modules), and there is some treasure to be had here, though difficult to recover (my players bulldozed right over that too).  Ultimately, the first scene was the best part of this adventure–My players were unable to guess who or what was slaying their tribesmen with “a great spear.”  The rest of the adventure was written to accommodate a more complicated plot involving any elf characters you might have in your party (we had none).  The cover and cartography were nothing special, but it was still a memorable setting that has left me wondering what the sequel module will be able to add.  What did they say it was going to be called?  The Princess of Elfland’s Grandpa?  Something like that.

So… Our side campaign doesn’t have a wizard now.  Is that a problem?  Does a party even really need a wizard?  It seems to me that the two character classes a party requires are Warrior and Cleric, and everybody else is optional.  Warriors lead the combat, and clerics heal them.  Since wizards don’t have healing magic or much HP and AC for combat, they are not necessary.  And that also describes the Thief class.  In our main campaign, the party has been doing just fine without a thief.  Does a party even really need a thief?  They are only useful to pick locks and search for traps, but neither of these are essential to game play.  Locked doors are only a logistics issue, and logistics is the least fun part of D&D.  (No player has ever complained about DCC’s encumbrance system…)  And as long as I’m on a rant, I must say that I still hate traps.  Players hate traps, sure, because they’re not fun.  Defeating a trap doesn’t give you any sense of victory, only a sense of relief.  When a monster hits you and you take damage, at least you feel some agency, but a trap is always something that happens to you.  Like locked doors, traps are only a logistics issue that results in players saying “I check for traps” every ten seconds on a loop for the duration of every game.  Not the fun part of the game.  If the DM hates traps, and then traps mysteriously begin to disappear from maps…  Who would complain?  Nobody.  Except maybe the Thieves Guild, because without traps who needs Thieves?  A Wizard can climb a sheer surface with Spider Climb or Levitate spells.  A Wizard can pick a lock with Knock (or Ward Portal cast in reverse, as per p.106).  If I had to choose one, I’d rather have a Wizard in the party than a Thief.  Who’s with me?

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