Friday, October 10, 2014

Review of the Well of Souls for Dungeon Crawl Classics

I was running Dungeon Crawl Classics for the first half of this year pretty regularly, about once a month. Sometimes twice, if I was lucky with scheduling.  DCC is more adult-oriented, at least the way I play it, and the guys in my group really ran with it--embracing the weird magic (and it's side-effects) and using their decades of game experience to keep their players alive.  I created a sandbox for them, full of places and things designed by fans of the game as well as some of the published Goodman Games scenarios.

When the chance to run Well of Souls came up, I was excited. It was a chance to create new characters from scratch (the existing characters had been auto-generated) and place the characters far to the south of the cold misty forest-lands they were familiar with.

I let the players go nuts as far as race was concerned, and they indulged their love of humanoids with dwarves, elves, and halflings. There were some humans, sure, but with one player going with an entire party of dwarves the humans were in the minority for a change.

Spoilers beyond this point...

The Well of Souls is funnel, designed for 12-16 zero-level characters. It takes place deep in a rocky desert, and the players are led there by their guide, Farid. He has a lot of theories and stories about the Well, some of which are true, and some of which are false. The rumors are well done and it was fun reading them to the players as they peppered Farid with questions.

The other thing the party has to help them are the Tablets of Fate; big clay tablets with pictures drawn on them that hint at dangers and solutions within the Well. I drew them out using the pictures in the scenario book, and it was great listening to the players try to figure out what the hell they meant.

Maps in the booklet are great; I only wish they were darker, or printed on lighter paper. My reason for that is that I generally trace over the maps as players progress, because my freehand drawing skill is worse than a child's. In this case, it was tough to see the maps through the paper, but that's certainly not a big deal.

Having said that, the paper that the adventure is printed on is beautiful and easy on the eyes. There was some unfortunate transfer of ink on some of the pages, but that may have just been my copy.*

The adventure is pretty deadly.  I really enjoyed that it was so different from what the players had come to expect from me that they were surprised on several occasions--despite their always-on SuperCaution(tm).  Characters fell in pits, were attacked by clouds of bats, and were fried in a group at one point. I will say that their caution saved them on several occasions from nasty traps or surprise by creatures.

The players enjoyed themselves, and I enjoyed running the Well of Souls. The one thing I would change is the the door at Area 7. Page 14 explains how it connects to Area 6, but it took me several readings to understand that they connect, creating a loop.

The Well of Souls was the last game of DCC we played for the summer. I hope to get the game running again, and maybe find out what the funnel survivors decide to do in the hot, dry south of my game world. Ideally, I would like to continue with Stormlord's "Treasure Vaults of Zadabad," which is coming out in November. Excellent timing, really...

*I was provided a copy of the Well of Souls for purposes of review by Stormlord Publishing.