Dungeon Crawl Classics #20: Shadow in Freeport (semi-final)
Dungeon Crawl Classics #20
Shadows in Freeport
The city of Freeport was first introduced in one of the very first d20 products, a module called "Death in Freeport" from Green Ronin, later followed up by "Terror in Freeport" and "Madness in Freeport". These modules were sort of horror-fantasy, being inspired by the Cthulhu (or Hastur) Mythos.
The tone of Freeport changed with the release of "Freeport: City of Adventure" from dark fantasy with bits of Lovecraftian horror to light hearted campy pirate themed fantasy. Sort of like Pirates of the Carribean (the movie, not the cologne), minus the serious bits and with Nintendo video game characters, including Pokemon (in CoA) and one of their Kongs (in "Black Sails over Freeport").
This adventure, Shadows In Freeport is a step back towards the original Freeport trilogy, at least in tone, if not in gameplay style. It's actually from Goodman Games, part of their Dungeon Crawl Classics line. It's actually more of a haunted house crawl than a proper dungeon (hough there is a rather stocked basement) but is mostly a dungeon crawl, while the original Freeport modules were a mix of that and roleplaying.
That said, there really isn't much tying it to Freeport, just some bits from the back story. It can be easily ported to any other city. Still, it being Freeport was part of the reason I bought it. I liked the original modules and own most Freeport products. But I also like haunted house modules.
I ended up liking the module quite a bit, but it's definitely more of a "splatter" sort of horror than ghostly or creepy horror. While it's not disgustingly graphic, it is fairly graphic in terms of describing gore, so it's not for the faint of heart.
The set up is pretty simple: basically children have been disappearing from Freeport and the townsfolk think it must be something in this house, which was the home of a long dead serial killer of children. Presumably the PCs will get involved for the sake of the children. (or money from the parents of the children).
(As an aside, this is where it actually different from Freeport as detailed in "CoA", as there is a dedicated group of government people for this sort of thing painfully called the "God Squad". See p33 of that book)
Anyway, it's essentially a 2 story mansion with a dungeon level. Presumably PCs will explore the first two levels, then do the dungeon. There's also some ground, but this is largely covered with brush and such, and so not really explorable. (Unless the DM wants to expand on it).
The ground level is pretty big. About 30 detailed areas and 15 pages. They find some children, but not in the condition that they probably expected. They also come across a party of thieves who unwisely decided to make this house a hiding spot. (Parts of thieves might be more accurate)
The upper floor (or the 1st, as the module confusingly, if Britishly, calls it) is just a tad smaller, 27 areas and 10 or so pages. In video game terms, there is a "subboss" (or "midboss") on this level, the son of the evil owner of the mansion.
The basement is where the finale takes places, and is 15 areas and 12 pages. Whether or not the PCs solve a puzzle has a big role on the ending, as they need to figure it out in order to get to the back guy to stop his diabolical plot.
(Personally, I prefer the use of puzzles for "bonus" areas, ie, where the PCs can get some good loot or a side quest, rather than being integral to the plot/dungeon crawl. Much like my jokes often don't make sense to the listener/reader but are plain (and funny) to me, what seems obvious to the creator of the puzzle might not seem so obvious to the players.)
It's pretty combat heavy, mostly vs undead (ghosts mostly) and demons/evil outsiders. So a cleric is a must, and a paladin or ten would also be handy. As well as perhaps some stuff from Goodman's own "Demon Hunter's Handbook" (whatever the exact title is, I always forget).
The module itself is about 40 pages long, the last 20 pages or so of the module are appendices detailing new monsters, magic, pre-rolled characters for players, and about 7 pages of player handouts (illustrations of scenes/rooms).
The monsters are probably all from the Green Ronin fiend books (at least they are listed in Section 15 of the OGL in this), but I'm not sure. Anyway, if you have those books, and are wondering, they are: the Daeobelinus (sort of an evil gnome outsider), Devil Lizard (actually more like an evil dinosaur), Feasting (an evil worm or giant maggot), Pwalg (sort of a living tumor, supposedly a growth off of the "Unspeakable One"), Radiant Boy (an evil kid), Revenent (a vengeful undead), and Vespertiliac (a hard to spell daemon).
The new magic all revolves around the Madness domain which is introduced here. Just that domain and 3 new spells for it, which involve driving someone crazy.
Some might consider the pregenerated character section a waste of space, because most players probably already have characters. But I find them to be useful if someone gets killed or if I need to come up with a NPC on a short notice. There are 8 of them here. 7 single classed: Fighter, Wizard, Cleric, Rogue, Bard, Ranger, Sorcerer, plus one Fighter/Wizard/Rogue. All 6th level.
The art is really quite good. It features a fair amount of illustrations from Jim Holloway, one of my all time favorite RPG artists. As mentioned, there are 7 pages of player handouts, and most of these are illustrations.
I really liked this module. The only real negative is that it used a core class from an 3rd party product for the major villain, but didn't include all the specifics and rules for that class (though he does have a stat block, so you can run him as is in combat).
Lastly, you can tell it's not a Green Ronin Freeport product because section 15 of the OGL is right. (Okay, cheap shot, Green Ronin has gotten a lot better about using section 15 properly..)