Title: Dungeon Crawl Classics #27 – Revenge of the Rat King
Author: Harley Stroh
Artists: Leo Winstead, Chuck Whelon, Cliff Kurowski, Brad McDevitt, and Stefan Poag
Cartographer: Jeremy Simmons
Editor: Joseph Goodman
Publisher: Goodman Games

“Revenge of the Rat King”, number twenty-seven in the Dungeon Crawl Classic series is an adventure for characters levels 4 through 6. I purchased the .pdf version, which is 37 pages in length and includes both the original and alternate covers. I assume the print version is 36 pages, as you get either cover but not both! Except for the front and back cover, the interior pages are black and white print with text size that’s easy to read. The module includes a two-page map and two pages of player handouts, which consists of three images and one text document. Other illustrations appear throughout the module, but are used sparingly. The illustrations accurately depict key places and creatures the party will encounter and in some cases help illustrate areas that might be difficult to describe. Prior to the start of the adventure, the module provides a summary, an encounter table, information on scaling the adventure, potential plot hooks prior to the start, how to handle character death and an evocative narration to kick things off.

I originally picked up this module to run my group through, but never got the opportunity. Which is too bad, because it contains some of the best encounters I’ve read in a DCC adventure. I’ve run two other Goodman DCC modules, DCC #2, The Lost Vault of Tsazthar Rho, which ran a little long for my group’s taste, and DCC #35A, Halls of the Minotaur, which wasn’t as much of a challenge as I had hoped. I’m reviewing this DCC because I really like it and I haven’t seen any other posted on ENWorld.

While its not necessary for a party to run through DCC #1 Idylls of the Rat King, this adventure is intended as a sequel to it. The main villain of “Revenge of the Rat King” is Aaron Gannu, father of Lawrence Gannu, the villain in the very first DCC. So the emphasis of this module is revenge. If you haven’t played the first module you can still work this in to your game as the author provides additional hooks. Although the action takes place in the city of Soulgrave in the DCC universe, it can easily be adapted to any medium- to large-sized city. Stat blocks for all creature encounters appear in the appropriate areas of the adventure, so there’s no flipping back and forth between sections. For more complex creature encounters, tactics are provided, making it easier for the DM to remember to use appropriate spells so players won’t get a chance to quickly turn them into hack-fests. While a rat-theme runs through this module, there is enough variety among the encounters to keep players on their toes.

SYNOPSIS - Contains Spoilers
“Revenge of the Rat King” consists of three parts – the party is captured by the villain, escape his torture chamber, and ultimately face the Rat King in a final duel. While the plot is relatively simple, it’s the details that make this a devilishly-fun time for a DM and players. The adventure takes place in the catacombs under a city – part of it runs through man-made passages, sewers, an underground river, natural caves and a crypt. The first section has 15 encounters all aimed at weaken an adventuring party. I love the balance between encounters in this section, as there are eleven traps, eleven creature encounters and two puzzles. Most of the encounters in section one either whittle down a party’s ability scores or mess with their minds as action comes quicker than players may be able to react. The first section ends with the party’s capture at the hands of the Rat King.

The second section, which consists of eight encounters, begins with the players waking up after hours (or is it days?) of torture. The focus is for the players to escape the torturer, survive several encounters without gear and find a way out. Subterfuge and planning are mandatory to make it through this section. The GM Tips section in the module’s introduction gives several tips on how to handle players who take a more hard-handed approach in this area.

In the final section the players begin to find more gear and eventually make it back to the Rat King’s lair. Once again the balance between encounters – four traps, five creature encounters and one puzzle will be sure to keep players on their toes. The final encounter with the Rat King brings together many different things I look for in a BBEG fight - great tactics and a memorable setting.

Final Remarks
I really like “Revenge of the Rat King” because it puts into action the idea that each encounter should contain something memorable. There’s the balance between traps and creatures, as well as between different types of creatures, which is much better than any module I’ve seen yet. And despite this difference, there is a unifying theme throughout the adventure – how far one man will go to get revenge. When I read through the module I felt that every encounter served a purpose and was not just placed in the adventure to pad it out. The activities you're players will undertake – running along the top of zombie-infested slave cages while being shot at, a desperate jump to safety before plunging down a waterfall, and dashing across a bridge avoiding a menacing Redtooth Troll, will have them recalling this module for months to come. Finally, I think this is a great module because it gives a DM the opportunity to be a “rat-bastard” in the truest sense of the term! If you’re known as a cream-puff DM, run your players through this and they’ll see a side of you that they probably don’t want to ever see again!