DCC Review: Bride of the Black Manse
I recently got my hands on the very latest adventure in the Dungeon Crawl Classic series, and this one is a winner. I own just about all of them, with the exception of the holiday special, and most are pretty awesome, but this one is excellent. A self-described horror-mystery with such influences as The Shining, Fall of the House of Usher, and The Howling Tower, this would be an excellent choice to run around Halloween. Also there is a bonus adventure called Blood for the Serpent King which is a more traditional Indiana Jones style underground tomb crawl by Edgar Johnson, one of the moderators for the awesome DCC Google+ group.
First let’s dive in to Bride of the Black Manse. This is a perfect adventure to run at a convention, as it has events that are triggered by the actual hour striking in real life. The adventure will end after 4 hours, whether the heroes are prepared or not. I don’t think it is much of a spoiler to say, since it is on the cover, this adventure ends with a wedding and the groom is the arch-devil Mammon! Who he claims as his bride is up to the PCs. The descriptions of the various areas of the massive house are some of the best in any DCC adventure and really evoke the creepy atmosphere of an ancient house fallen in to ruin. Not only that, but the house changes as the bell tolls and marks actual play time at the table!
Each PC is associated with a specific heir of the house, and each heir has a mask associated with them for the coming hellish fete. The masks do have some mechanical benefits as well, but I’ll leave that to the PCs to discover what those are. When Doug Kovacs posted the art from the house to G+, it reminded me of the description of House Black from Harry Potter.
This adventure has an excellent mix of combat, exploration, and social encounters for a very balanced adventure. I think having the pressure of actual time passing causing events to happen in game is a compelling element, and any adventure in which an arch-devil is throwing a party in a haunted house is going to be a good time! The very nature of the house allows for a bit of a mini sandbox, and is likely larger than the PCs can explore in the time allotted, making the replay/re-run value of this adventure very high.
The bonus adventure, Blood for the Serpent King, would be an excellent choice to run at a convention or your FLGS as part of the DCC World Tour 2014. It involves battling snake-men while exploring an ancient crypt with some very cool secrets. The two maps for this adventure do well to illustrate what would have been hard to conceptualize otherwise. The first map is the temple from a side view, the second is the more traditional top-down dungeon map, if any of Doug Kovacs’ maps could be called traditional. This is a fairly straight forward adventure, some would say it is a bit of a railroad, in stark contrast to the Manse. There are several excellent encounters, and it does a whole lot with the space provided. I just ran Doom of the Savage Kings for a new group recently, and they immediately wondered what was causing this malevolent power in the swamp. Perhaps they will discover it to be the Emerald Cobra! The encounter with the Serpent King will definitely be memorable!
Overall, this is an excellent buy. At $9.99 MSRP, you get two excellent convention or game-day ready adventures with very different genres. Someone recently asked what the top ten best DCC adventures are, and I would certainly list this among them.