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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: The God That Crawls

This is a review of the LotFP adventure, "The God That Crawls", written by James Raggi, published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  It's 46 pages long, softcover, with a full-colour cover (featuring an illustration of some peasants marching up to an ominous church), and black and white interiors.

It contains a foldout map at the back of the book that features a full-colour map of the dungeon on one side, and a spectacular piece of art on the other, depicting an adventuring party (that includes the iconic "Flame Princess" character) in an encounter with the crawling god of the title.

This adventure is listed as being for characters of 1st-2nd level. As always, with modules I'm more than a little reluctant to reveal any of the big secrets of the adventure so as to avoid spoilers.  What I can say is this: this adventure as a product has some very worthwhile parts. On the other hand, it also suffers from what has of late been described as the "nega-dungeon" complex, or what I would call "Raggi-cynicism".

It seems like a lifetime ago, what with it being before the release of the 5e book and the glorious shitstorm that unleashed, and all the OSR-people coming together in solidarity against the Outrage Brigade that followed, but it was really less than a month ago that I found myself in a serious argument with a significant chunk of the OSR, and some of its "hippest" superstars, for what I saw as a fundamental lack of faith in the actual values of old-school gaming.  This adventure is pretty emblematic of that: in the Introduction, Raggi as blatantly says that The God That Crawls is a railroad meant to screw over adventurers that act like D&D adventurers should.

The adventure itself consists of a very interesting backstory (but note: one that, as written, is based on being set on Earth, in England, and with a Christian religious background; it would require some significant modifications, and would no doubt lose a bit of its style, if it were set anywhere else), and a dungeon with essentially a single monster (there's technically more than one monster, but really only one that mainly matters).  The twist is that this is a monster which is almost certainly impossible for a 1st or 2nd level party to defeat. There are also a variety of perils and traps, some of which are standard, but a significant number of which are essentially based on penalizing player characters for acting the way adventurers would typically act in a dungeon.

There's a very high chance of a total party kill if the adventure is run as suggested by the author.

Now, that said, is it all bad?  No.

There are certainly redeeming qualities to The God That Crawls, even if you're not particularly interested in doing an adventurer-screwing session.  For starters, the adventure itself is certainly interesting; the backstory to it is fairly fascinating.  It's only unfortunate that most groups wouldn't live long enough to figure out any of what's going on. 

As a dungeon, it's very interesting, this in spite of the relative lack of monsters; it's the details of the dungeon itself that make it interesting.  The notion of a dungeon where the big difficulty is figuring out how to get out is also interesting. The main peril in the dungeon is absolutely overwhelming to a 1st or 2nd level group, but a group of a few more average levels than that would probably be in a fairly sweet spot, where the big bad would still be dangerous enough to represent an ongoing risk, but not a situation of certain death.

But in fact, probably the most impressive thing in the book is it's collection of objects, almost all of them what you could technically call "cursed", though not in the standard D&D form.  Many of them are, rather, objects that have some kind of utility (not immediately apparent), but also some kind of serious (sometimes eventually fatal) setback.  Almost all of them are really unique, unlike anything you'll be likely to have seen in a D&D game before.
Now, some of these are utterly impractical (the "Chariot", for example, an object that gets almost two full pages even though there's practically zero chance of ever getting it out of the dungeon to be able to use it), some could be devastating to your campaign, a couple are just stupid, but most of them are the truly fascinating sort of magical objects that are very dangerous and yet potentially very useful, and most importantly, objects that will be highly memorable in any campaign.

My conclusion? This adventure is good for three very specific things: first, if you really buy into Raggi's cynicism and want to run an adventure that punishes D&D players for playing D&D.
Second, if you want to modify it slightly and run it for a group of slightly higher than the recommended level.
Third, if you want to cannibalize it for ideas, particularly several of the interesting magical items in the book.


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