Dungeon Crawl Classics
Stevens, Noah Matthew
Stevens, Noah Matthew
October 16, 2014 (pdf)
pdf: Hapless Henchman
133 sections (204 pages) (paperback)
133 sections (90 pages) (pdf)
This solo adventure is based on Dungeon Crawl Classics' Funnel system. You'll find yourself entering a dungeon as a Level 0 D&D character. He's no Warrior, Thief or Wizard yet, but some kind of civilian, like a Tailor, a Baker, Coffin Maker or Puppeteer.
In standard DCC, you'd generate four characters, go on an adventure, and hopefully one of them would survive, reaching Level 1 and entering a Class. Thus, the Funnel is a system of creating first-level characters through play.
In Halthrag Keep, though, you play just one L0 character at a time. Which means that, if you're unlucky fighting a wererat, you'll not lose one of your four adventurers - your only character will die and you'll have to restart. Expect to spend more time rolling up characters than actually playing for your first few attempts.
In keeping with the nature of DCC, most of the dungeon is randomised. Key locations just throw a wandering monster at you every time you pass through. What's worse: A number of those encounters are quite hard to win. You'll lose a lot of characters in random fights. Which maybe isn't what you call fun, but at least it is intentional.
If you keep playing, your chances of survival increase ever so slightly. This is because of a special rule I haven't seen in a gamebook yet: When you enter a place where a previous character died, you're allowed to pick up their belongings. That means, time and again, you'll lay your hands on the best weapon you rolled up so far. Also, some items you may randomly receive in character generation turn out to be useful in certain random encounters. Thus, Halthrag Keep becomes a game of item management as well as fighting. You're allowed ten items at a time.
I've never played Dungeon Crawl Classics but have read a few modules, so I was surprised to find a solo version available. Made as an instructive guide, it reads much like the old solo modules like Blizzard Pass and Maze of the Riddling Minotaur, but with an annoying irreverent humor (one of the magic items they give you are "space rocks").
Intended for 0 level characters, the long module is almost only relentless combat with very few choices. I have no idea how to survive (in fact the author admits it is too hard in the afterward) and gave up rather quickly as lots of dice rolling isn't my favourite part of gamebooks.
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