by Harley Stroh
Eons past the fabled sorcerer-kings of Parhok perished in a rain of eldritch fire. But legends hold that one tribe survived the apocalypse, fleeing with their slaves to a hidden city, where the greatest enchanters of all time could sleep away the centuries, and awaken in a future age as rulers of a ruined land. Now once more the forbidden spells of the Parhok threaten the good folk of the Known Realms. A kingdom lies ensorcelled, a royal family ensnared by the forgotten dweomers of a long-dead race. When the best attempts of seers and diviners have failed, it falls to the heroes to save the kingdom. Have the sorcerer-kings risen to reclaim their bejeweled thrones? Or has a more sinister power bent their ancient magics to its sinister will? Only the most courageous and cunning of heroes will emerge victorious from Dragora’s Dungeon.
This is weird. This doesn’t seem like a DCC RPG adventure. It’s written more like one of the older DCC 3.5 adventures. The cover even looks nonstandard, showing some heavy metal cheesecake instead of the usual appendix N gonzo. The back-end is stronger than the front. It’s worth skipping.
Uh, the royal family is under a sleep spell and you chase an ape-man for four days, in to a portal. It takes ou to a steaming jungle with an ape-man city. You have a fie time, ala D3 – Vault of Drow, and kill the bad guys. Uh, the HEAD bad-guys.
This is one weird adventure. And I don’t mean weird in a good way. It’s completely unlike any of the newer DCC RPG adventures and resembles something closer to the suck-fest that was the old DCC 3.5 line. It makes me wonder if DCC is taking the line in a different direction? As if Goodman suddenly said “Hey, all those awesome adventures we’ve been doing? Let’s do some suck-ass ones instead!” I mean, the departure is really strange. The number of elements it shares with the recent batch is almost zero. There’s an interesting magic item or two, and the city portion has some decent random encounters, but it’s otherwise a fairly normal adventure with none of the joie de vivre in the adventure, the locales, the descriptions, or almost anything else.
A couple of things about the beginning stand out … as bad. After the initial ‘hook’ the party has to chase a single ape-man through the countryside for four days until you get to something interesting. That seems … excessive? given the weakness of the hook. The inn you are in falls under a slumber spell, the party stops an assassin ape-man who takes off on a run, escaping, and learns from the others at the inn that the royal family is under a similar sleep spell. Which is evidentially enough to get you to chase a guy for four days?
When you finally get somewhere you face … a roadblock. At the end of the small dungeon/temple complex is a room with an altar. The altar needs a key to open a portal to take you to next location. There’s no indication of this … just if you search you see a small indentation in the altar. The key is at the VERY beginning of the dungeon complex, under some ruble that you have to explicitly search and make a non-trivial check (DC:15) to find. See?!?! It’s bizarre. It’s like Stroh has forgotten everything that makes a sucky adventure a sucky adventure. Then there’s this weird ziggurat room that has a bunch of hokey rube goldberg set-piece stuff. A net, with a globe, full of ‘dragonstings’, triggered by an imp, who’s invisible. It doesn’t make sense! Why is he doing this? When did Harley start hating freedom/beating his wife?
The descriptions are generally shitty. Green serpents. Seriously? You have ape-men and snakes and a bazillion years of fiction with leering idols and damsels in distress and all you can come up with a green coiled serpent? Uh … derp? The city of the ape-men is eventually found, and it has some Vault of Drow stuff going on. A couple of factions, some interesting ‘what do you find when you are running around/hiding’ tables. The entries are a mixture of good stuff and not so good stuff. I like Mad Wraiths who whisper insane secrets to you, shrines weeping oil that enchants weapons, and the sacrificial square with the KINGMAKER spear in the stone in the middle (I’m a sucker for the classics.) The whole section is a little light on details, and in particular how the two big baddies interact. There’s a general vibe of two factions who are loyal and one which is not, but a few details about how the rulers interact, and a few more personalities. The magic items, good though they are, don’t make up for the logistical mess in the inside. Added to this are the questionable choices about … balance. I don’t usually mention this, but there are several parts in the adventure where the party appears to be forced in to certain actions to face overwhelming odds … at first level. And then, of course, there’s the dragon the cheesecake from the cover tucked in to the last pages of the adventure.
This entire thing is just bizarre. It doesn’t seem like DCC AT ALL. It’s completely different in flavor and tone and quality. there might be a decent adventure in this, but you’re gonna have to tear AT LEAST the city part completely apart and rebuild it, adding A LOT of additional work to get it to make sense and be in a position where you can run it.
Is it worth it? Well… there’s something there in the city part, and in the overall plot. But man, I gotta think there are easier ways to get there.
This is available at DriveThru.
It’s weird because this is the conversion of a 4e DCC module.
I think this is a pre-DCCRPG adventure by Stroh, re-released for it, so no wonder it’s not the usual quality. I have no idea why they did it though; it certainly doesn’t sound like a classic.
Great review. It’s interesting to read a write-up like this, where you traditionally have great respect and praise for the product line, yet have to dial it back because there’s a bad egg in the bunch. I wonder if this a case where the idea sounded good, but the execution is lacking… or maybe there just wasn’t enough play testing to have sent this back to the drawing board. I guess we’ll never know.
It’s not a mystery, see above posts: this module is a 4e conversions. The original had to follow totally different adventure design principles and mentality for it’s line than the current DCC adventures. See also: http://www.goodman-games.com/5301preview.html
It’s still a kind of mystery. DCC has released some really nice adventures lately. Why would they suddenly choose to convert a horrible 4E product instead of doing more good stuff? Who knows.
Now that’s a good question…
I drank this adventure
they from time to time do this little conversions as sort of ‘filler’ between regular modules. While Harley is not really pleased with his 4e modules (and he dislikes Kingspire even more than this one) i have ran Dragora’s Dungeon as DCC and it was a blast once we got to the city. one of players had animal summoning with mercurial effect that she moved one die up the dice chain (she was throwing d24). with some small spellburn she maxed the roll and summoned huge baboon army that PCs used to storm the city. AT FIRST LEVEL MY PCS STORMED GORILA GRODD CITY AT THE HEAD OF THE BABOON ARMY! only in DCC.
on the other hand inverted ziggurat sucks no matter what