I recently had the pleasure of playing a game of Shadow of the Demon Lord with the creator of the game, Robert Schwalb. He is planning on kickstarting that system in March, and we were talking about RPG kickstarters and stretch goals and I mentioned how pleased I was with the box set from Goodman Games. He responded, “Yeah sure, but then it’s shrink-wrapped there on the shelf and everybody wants to know, what’s in the box?”
Well I can do you this service for those curious about the first box from Goodman Games. I still haven’t explored every piece of it to the very last detail, but it is too awesome not to write about. I recently received my DCCRPG Chained Coffin Mini-Campaign setting box set from one of the recent kickstarters. Really there isn’t much “mini” about it. The actual module itself, which would likely serve as the climax of the campaign is a whopping 40 pages! It is filled with awesome content from Michael Curtis, and art from Doug Kovacs, Stefan Poag, and Mike Wilson. Also included is a 2nd level bonus adventure by Steve Bean: The Rat King’s River of Death, which is just 6 pages out of the 40. I was one of the few that ponied up for the blindingly awesome gold-foil cover edition of the module, and I’m glad I did since the regular art for the module is used on the box itself.
The main impetus for launching the Chained Coffin as a kickstarter was to see if there was enough interest to justify the expense of producing a high quality code wheel for one of the final puzzles in the module. The kickstarter really picked up steam, and the stretch goals got more and more elaborate, until finally there was enough material to turn it into a box set campaign setting in which a party could spend months adventuring! The puzzle wheel itself is printed on cardstock, and all three wheels are printed on the same material. The back features the art used on the silver and gold covers. Towards the back of the module, past several awesome full page handout illustrations are 5 alternate uses for the wheel: Multiplanar Amulet, Talisman of Monstrous Summonings, Orrery of Fortuitous Evocation, Construct Activation Code, and Catastrophe Timer. Just the titles alone get my creative juices flowing! Each has a paragraph description with some details about how they can be implemented.
Unlike the Purple Planet stretch goals that were written by a small team of writers, every book in this set is by Michael Curtis. There is an 11 x 17 map of the Shudder Mountains, complete with hex grid and several notable locations. Many of which are detailed by the Almanac, others are left up to the GM’s designs.
The Almanac of the Shudder Mountains weighs in at 12 pages (if you include the cover) but those pages are put to great use. I would suggest reading this first to get the background and feel of the setting. As I make my home in the very region this setting is based upon, it feels very close and accessible, as I can stare out my window and see a ridge of very old mountains. Much like Gary Gygax using the midwest as inspiration for some areas of Greyhawk, this feels like adventuring in my own backyard. The almanac details a brief history of the mountains, as well as an overview of the shudders as they currently are. The next section goes in to places of interest in the mountains. It details various geographical sites and some descriptions and rumors about them, as well as towns and villages, each with their own description and adventure seeds. Finally there are a few secret places and mysterious ruin descriptions. Easily enough to adventure for many sessions. The second part of the almanac is about the people of the Shudders, as well as life in the mountains, customs and superstitions, and the option to either include or exclude the demi-human classes of elf, dwarf, and halfling for the purposes of having a human-only campaign consistent with the source material the setting is based upon.
Next is the Chained Coffin Companion, another 16 pages (including the awesome Kovacs cover), detailing the magic of the Shudders and the awesome magical chaos of Spoils. I won’t go in to too much detail to avoid… err… Spoil-ers, but they exist in locations that may have had some magical importance at one time, but due to cataclysmic events detailed in the almanac, have become twisted. They are also used as a source for brewing witch liqour, which has it’s own awesome table of possible effects. The Companion also gives more background into relgion, curses, and folk magic. It also details some magical songs, and mentions if you allow some flavor of optional bard class, they may be able to learn a song per level. There are few magic items particular to the region: hex signs, snake sticks (with a tie-in to Tower Out of Time), and witch liqour. The last section provides details for a new patron: Modeca, The second of the three (Ol’ Blackcloak), as well as some unique creatures and additional random encounters. Many of the encounters feature the new creatures, but some reference more traditional baddies in the core rule book.
The last two books in the box are adventures! A 0-level funnel Sour Spring Hollow, and a 3rd level adventure The Woeful Caves of Yander Mountain (which sounds like a bluegrass song). Both have Kovacs maps on the back, and cover to cover are only 8 pages long. Once again, these additional books are more quality than quantity, but once you add them all up, you could spend years adventuring in the Shudder Mountains. The funnel involves a wedding, and witch liqour, so you know that is going to be a heck of a way to start a campaign, and the 3rd level adventure would be a typical cave delve, if not for the twisted setting in which the cave exists.
This box set provides all the tools to build an awesome campaign, and creates a vibrant, breathing, almost pulsing setting unlike any other RPG setting I’ve read. Now you know what’s in the box. It starts at $39.99 MSRP. What are you waiting for? My name has been on the dotted line of old Blackcloak’s contract for months! See you in the mountains!