One of the most fascinating things to come out of the OSR for me is the concept of “the funnel”. These adventures encourage players to make multiple low-level characters that are meant to be folded, stapled and generally maligned by the adventure. It’s a tribute to the lethality of older materials that keeps the player in the game without having to wait around for them to make a new character. It also often takes the form of a killer dungeon. Tournament of Pigs, from design house Weird Works made up of designers Thom Denick and Brenda Ho, offers a funnel adventure that has as much more in common with The Running Man as Tomb of Horrors. The adventure is available for both 5e and Dungeon Crawl Classics and they sent along a DCC boxed set for review. Does this twisted game show deliver big money and big prizes? Let’s play to find out.
Tournament of Pigs is a boxed set adventure where players compete in a deadly tournament for the amusement of a decadent king. The competitors are drawn from the audience of the events where they are thrown into survival challenges of various types. There’s arena combat with monsters, of course, but also puzzles and games designed to test the players’ cleverness. Perhaps the players will have to bake a cake for the king using ingredients guarded by mythical creatures. Perhaps they must simply choose to open one of several boxes that could contain treasure, creature or nothing. The challenges and the overall framing of the adventure show designers Denick and Ho have a grim sense of humor that relishes in the slaughter but also understands it is part of the fun.For example, they recommend purchasing winning State Fair pig trophies to hand out to the winners of the games. For those of us old enough to remember Grimtooth’s Traps, the wicked devices in those books could finally see use at the table here.
Participants aren’t thrown into this chaos empty handed. They may choose an item from one of two racks to help them in their struggles. The common rack, called the crap rack, features a mixture of beat up armor, well-loved weapons and other random items. The uncommon rack, called the silver rack, features items of a more useful or study nature. Everyone gets an item from the crap rack in between rounds, but only folks who take the right action get awarded an item from the silver rack. The boxed set features decks of each set of items which feature a public side and then the stats for the item one the other. There’s a delicious tension when players take the action needed to flip the card. Will it break? Will it secretly be a magic item? To be honest, I wanted more items that did unusual things on both racks. The vast majority of them do exactly what the player expected. I wanted more variety but the deadliness of the events already puts players at a disadvantage.
The main book contains a collection of 12 events, a small backstory about the people putting on the tournament, and a few pages that reprint the cards for the racks for players who purchase the PDF edition. There’s even an appendix that details what might happen should the players decide to go after the king that puts on such a sadistic contest which feels like a great short campaign for players who loved their survivors and want to continue on playing them. The book is full of a lot of excellent black and white art but also a lot of white space. I don’t know that there needs to be individual editions of this for the 5e or DCC rules sets as stats for both could easily take up these spaces. The PDF edition is built for both, so if you want flexibility at the table, the electronic edition might be the better choice. It's up to the GM how many events they want to run. Each player gets a small stamp sheet for six events but you could run less for a shorter slot at a convention or game night. The whole idea seems like a great convention adventure.
The rest of the box is filled with a grid-style gameboard, standees for various creatures and punch out pros for the various challenges in the book. I never really considered DCC to be a grid combat game but these items seem very useful for a 5e based game. The game even talks about using maps or boards from other games to spice things up. I didn’t use the maps for the DCC version but I probably would if I used 5e.
Tournament of Pigs is a novel funnel adventure with a wicked sense of humor. I recommend the electronic version for fans of Dungeon Crawl Classics and the physical boxed set for 5e Dungeon Masters.