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Intrigue at the Courts of Chaos – Goodman Games provides High Level Adventure for Low Level Characte

In most RPGs, there is a natural progression to the power level of the campaign, from low level to high level. The threats faced by the nascent heroes, while often challenging, are nothing compared to the terrible dangers faced by advanced characters with some “experience” in them.

For instance, a quest to save a town or a castle for beginning character often turns into a race to save the kingdom or even the multiverse once a role playing campaign reaches maturity. Simple mercenary runs around the local spacelanes might well turn into a race to save a colony or even the entire galaxy from a horrifying alien menace!

But there’s always an exception to the rule – and Goodman Games has an adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG that tasks neophyte heroes to save (or damn) the entire universe! Released just this year, Intrigue at the Court of Chaos involves player-characters in the eternal struggle between Law, Chaos, and the Balance, with the stakes higher than any 1st Level Hero would want to face!

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Intrigue at the Courts of Chaos

  • Author: Michael Curtis
  • Illustrators: Doug Kovacs (cover); Jim Holloway, Doug Kovacs, Stefan Poag (interior); Doug Kovacs (cartography)
  • Publisher: Goodman Games
  • Year: 2014
  • Media: Hardcover (28 pages)
  • Price: $6.99 (Available from RPGNow in PDF format)

Intrigue at the Courts of Chaos
is an adventure module designed for use with the OSR retro-clone RPG, Dungeon Crawl Classics. The adventure is designed for six 1st level characters, either as a one-shot adventure or as part of a campaign (recommended). The adventure comes complete with maps and monster stat blocks for the GM to effectively run the module for their players, as well as handouts and illustrations to enhance the gaming experience.


Production Quality

The production quality of Dungeon Crawl Classics: Intrigue at the Courts of Chaos is very good, presenting some excellent and imaginative writing from the author, and a nicely designed layout for the contents of the adventure. The writing is top-notch, and has a quality reminiscent of “old school” modules from TSR and early D&D. The layout is easy to use and logically presented, utilizing simple italics for important and read-aloud text.

While the e-book is short enough not to require a table of contents, there are PDF bookmarks available for navigation through the document. The two maps have specific bookmarks for quick access, as well as bookmarks to the player handouts, which full page and black-and-white for easy printing.

The artwork in the module is also quite good, utilizing “old school” style heavily-inked illustrations among the pages such as what one might find in RPG books of the 1980s. The cover art is bold and colorful, and a bit “trippy” to say the least – it certainly hints at the disturbing creepiness one might find in a realm of pure Chaos. The two maps in Intrigues in the Court of Chaos are almost works of art themselves – they appear hand-drawn, with odd side notes and mini-illustrations to enhance the overall effect of the cartography.


Welcome to Chaos

[Reviewer’s Note: If the Reader finds this review lacking in details, it was done intentionally in order to avoid spoilers. The reviewer has specifically avoided discussing the plot of the adventure, or what creatures or encounters player-characters might find in the module.]

In the introduction, the author explains that Intrigue at the Courts of Chaos is an adventure module designed for a party of 1st Level characters created using the rules found in Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. The author assumes that the heroes have been vetted by the “funnel” method, and that the PCs are acquainted with each other in character – a one-shot adventure night of Intrigue at the Courts of Chaos is not recommended, due to the ramifications of the character’s actions potential having a profound effect on future events in a DCC campaign. In fact, the characters have the chance to effect the whole of the multiverse by their decisions, and certainly their futures as heroes in whatever fantasy world they inhabit.

From a design standpoint, the adventure created by Intrigue at the Courts of Chaos is a relatively balanced mix of role-playing, combat encounters, and tricks/traps. The characters will be put into some very strange and outré locations - not to mention dimensions - and wits and role playing skills can be just as potent, if not more, as drawing one’s weapons. However, the combat encounters are reasonably well-suited for low level play, although hack-and-slash resolution to every problem is likely to raise the difficulty for the players.

As the title suggests, intrigue is a major component in the adventure, and the author has done an excellent job crafting a high fantasy plot around this component. The NPCs and unique monsters found in Intrigue at the Courts of Chaos range from mysterious to downright horrific, which again provide excellent fodder for players who enjoy getting into their characters and reacting to the strange and unusual.

The climax of the adventure can happen in several different ways, and all the “ending paths” are quite dramatic – some might even call them cinema graphic. Regardless of how the adventure ends, the events in Intrigues at the Courts of Chaos will likely be quite memorable for all the players involved.


Overall Score: 3.9 out of 5.0


Conclusions

DCC: Intrigue at the Courts of Chaos
is a real treat for Dungeon Crawl Classic fans, offering an a low-level adventure plot which takes the player-characters into situations far more spectacular than the average dungeon crawl. The author has created an adventure setting which is both thrilling and heroic, and the events in which the heroes find themselves can have far-reaching consequences throughout the rest of the campaign.

The encounters, NPCs, and monsters are interesting and diverse, and the production quality has a great “old school” feel to it. Overall, Dungeon Crawl Classics: Intrigue at the Courts of Chaos is a really unique adventure, and one that is far more memorable for 1st Level characters than fighting a pack of kobolds or orcs could ever be! And the price is pretty decent for one heck of a unique adventure experience!


Editorial Note: This Reviewer received a complimentary playtest copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.


Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

  • Presentation: 4.0
  • - Design: 4.0 (Great “old school” feel in both the writing and layout)
  • - Illustrations: 4.0 (Wild cover art; interior illustrations kept with the “old school” feel; cool maps!)
  • Content: 4.25
  • - Crunch: 4.0 (Good balance of both monsters, encounters, and tricks/traps)
  • - Fluff: 4.5 (Vivid descriptions and awesome roleplaying opportunities)
  • Value: 3.5 (Not a bad price for a very unique adventure!)
 

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