Review of Attack of the Frawgs by Thick Skull Adventures

One of the OSR game systems that I’ve really come to admire and enjoy is the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role-Playing Game – or DCC RPG for short – by Goodman Games. Those gamers who are familiar with my Neuroglyph Games blog site may have noticed a few recent entries talking about my starting up a DCCC RPG campaign, and even taking a stab at building my own unique world setting. My players have really taken to the game system in just a few sessions, and although they dreaded DCC RPG’s brutal “character funnel”, they found some great emerging personalities among their heroic 0-Level peasants who survived their harrowing first adventure!

Shortly after I published my first blog about my new campaign, I was contacted by an indie publisher who queried something to the effect of, “Hey, I thought you only played 4E and Pathfinder? If you’re playing DCC RPG, can I send you one of my adventure modules?”

As EN World’s Staff Reviewer, how could I not accept a nifty new product to write about?


Thick Skull Adventures
has released a module designed to serve as not only a first adventure in a series, but to also serve as that dreaded “character funnel” to winnow a mob of 0-Level peasants down to a few hardy heroes. But can a pack of peasants, woodsmen, fishermen and trappers survive the onslaught of the Attack of the Frawgs?!

Attack of the Frawgs

  • Author: Stephen Newton
  • Illustrations: Andrew Harkins (cover); Catherine Harkins (interior); Stephen Newton (cartography)
  • Publisher: Thick Skull Adventures
  • Year: 2012
  • Media: PDF (14 pages)
  • Price: $4.99 (PDF available from the RPGNow)

Attack of the Frawgs
is a 3rd-party introductory adventure written by Stephen Newton for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG rules system. The adventure is designed to accommodate 12-14 0-Level “peasant” characters, with challenges commensurate to that level of play. The module can be used as a stand-alone gaming experience, or as part of the Prince of Kamai adventure series, also available from Thick Skull Adventures. The adventure features a complete storyline, encounters and traps, two new monster types, and a new unique magic item.

Production Quality


The production quality of Attack of the Frawgs is good to very good, with some great writing, and a solid layout which is easy to read and utilize in the course of running the adventure. The author’s writing style and storytelling are quite engaging, and the monster stats provided are easily recognizable to anyone familiar with the DCC RPG, or any OSR game system. The adventure module has a table of contents, but no PDF bookmarks, although it should be noted that the page count is small enough that bookmarks are not an essential feature.

While the cover artwork in Attack of the Frawgs is well-rendered and colorful, the interior art is a bit disappointing. Overall, the interior art is scant but decent, however it is not particularly meaningful to enhancing the reading or running of the module – certainly not something one would bother showing the players. Particularly, the lack of artwork for the two main monster types featured in the adventure was a disappointment. On the other hand, the cartography in the module is simple but quite good, featuring a very cool “old school” hand-drawn feel to the maps.

0-Level Adventurers tend to croak…


As mentioned prior, Attack of the Frawgs is designed as a DCC RPG introductory adventure for a dozen or more 0-Level characters. Over the course of the adventure, these peasants and woodsmen will suffer great losses from monsters and hazards, creating that “character funnel” to decide which among them will advance to 1st Level and gain a character class. As it so happens, Attack of the Frawgs is actually quite well suited to the task, and the author claims that extensive playtesting allowed for players to have a couple of peasants to choose to elevate at the end of the adventure. That’s not to say that the adventure is easy – it’s fairly nasty in parts – but from my reading, the author seems to have balanced the dozen or so encounters, traps, and hazards that make up the working parts of the module quite well.

[*** SPOILER ALERT: If you do not wish to read additional information about the adventure which might compromise play, please skip down to the final score and the conclusion.]

Attack of the Frawgs
has a good, if a bit linear, plot for a band of peasants to follow: investigate the murder of a local trapper who was killed by some strange amphibious creature down by the lake. It’s just the sort of story where one can easily imagine a mob with pitchforks and torches heading off to hunt down the terrible monster before it can strike again! Heroes defending their homes and town is a solid reason to go off and face danger, and the plot reflects that trope very well.

The author uses a good mixture of “dungeon crawl” elements to craft his adventure, even though a good portion of the quest to kill the monster actually occurs outdoors along the edge of the lake. In addition to the terrible monster (a mutant creature called a “frawg”), there are also dangers from other parts of the local wildlife – large carnivorous crabs and a nest of bear-sized ferocious beavers adopted from Pliocene Era beasts - are guaranteed to take their toll on the peasant heroes. And there are also physical hazards and traps scattered around the lake – logically, the local woodsmen trap the giganto-beavers (called “gicastors”) for their skin, and a well-hidden trap will certainly spell instant death for an unwary peasant who puts his foot it one. Finally, there is also the strange “scales” which are found around the lake, which appear to poison local wildlife, a mystery worth investigating as the party searches for the monster.

The author also made sure to add a couple of adventure hooks to Attack of the Frawgs, which offers a chance to advance to other modules in the publisher’s Prince of Kamai series, or can be used as a springboard for a GM to use in their own subsequent adventures. Surviving heroes, having defeated the “frawg” menace, will gain renown, and be able to advance to an actual DCC RPG character class. The ones who didn’t survive, well, they can feed the carnivorous lake crabs for a while.

Overall Score
: 3.5 out of 5.0

Conclusions

There’s a lot to like about Attack of the Frawgs adventure module, and it really fits well into the “Appendix N” theme propsed by DCC RPG. While designed to be used as a “character funnel” for 0-Level characters, the adventure can easily be adapted to a band of 1st level heroes using DCC RPG, or just about any other OSR game system. The storyline is well thought out, and interesting, and the encounters are a solid mix of combat and exploration, with a creepy mystery thrown in for good measure.

While the price point for the module is about what you’d expect to pay, the quality of the adventure is worth it, and I can safely recommend Attack of the Frawgs to almost any fan of OSR RPG or DCC RPG

So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!


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

Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

  • Presentation: 3.5
  • - Design: 4.0 (Excellent writing and story; good layout; easy to read and use)
  • - Illustrations: 3.0 (Cool creepy full color cover; interior illustrations uninspiring; very nice maps)
  • Content: 4.0
  • - Crunch: 4.0 (Solid encounter and risk vs. reward design; interesting new monsters)
  • - Fluff: 4.0 (Good background material; solid plot/adventure hooks to continue the storyline as desired)
  • Value: 3.0 (Fair and decent price for the product)

Afterthought:
Don’t forget! International TableTop Day Is coming this weekend on Saturday, March 30th! Sponsored by Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry channel, it’s encouraging everyone to spend the day playing Table Top games of all kinds with friends and family… not a bad way to spend the Easter Holiday!
 

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