The Ghoul Prince

By Zzarchov Kowolski
DIY RPG Productions
Level 3

Behold the gripping terror of the GHOUL PRINCE, bargain your very skeleton to the unsettling BONE LADY, and claim the powers of the mysterious DEMON IDOL.

This 22 page adventure is a stunt dungeon that uses four pages to describe the same dungeon in five different ways. Decent map for its size, nicely evocative interior, interesting monsters (as all DCC creatures should be) and good magic items combine with some pretty good interactivity. An interesting project that proves the point it trying to make.

Sometimes designers have interesting ideas and want to explore them, and this is one such case. Can you take a standard dungeon and write it in such a way that you can retheme it easily/ Can it be written so that it can be a desert tomb, or an alpine mausoleum, or an iron-age bog tomb? Can you seperate the theme from the specifics and/or do it in such a way that it can serve several purposes? That’s what Zz is trying to do here, and what he succeeds at … at least in a dungeon of this size.

So, twenty rooms and four pages in a 22 page adventure … something is up, right? Eight or so pages are concerned with the specific theming. For each of three environments, plus your own, two pages are spent on what the various elements are themed as. What do magic symbols look like in a desert tomb as opposed to a bog tomb as opposed to an alpine mausoleum. What is does the trap on the chest consist of? What type of sword is the magic sword, and so on. There are a few more pages explaining the stunt concept and then a few giving some background on the guy whos tomb you’re about to rob, and his relationship to a new patron. The end of the book as new magic items, new monsters, a patron, etc. 

The idea here is that you are going to take the two pages specific to the theme you’ve chosen and have then ready as a reference as you run the four pages of the actual dungeon. Here’s an example of how this works with the dungeon rooms. The entrance, body, wards are all described in the theming page, with the bodies being described as “Leathery bog mummies.” 

A: Entryway

A sloping set of stairs lead down from the [Entrance]. A [Body] is curled into a foetal position at the bottom, surrounded by crudely made [Wards].

Monsters and magic are good, exactly as one would expect from a game with no monster manual or magic item list. Everything is nicely unique, with their own non-standard abilities. The lack of standard monsters and magic items is one of the things that makes DCC great, and Zz does a good job creating some new monsters and items to fill in nicely. Terrifying, unique powers, and objects of desire.Keeping the players on their toes, never knowing what the monsters abilities are, no monster manual to memorize and therefore remove the fear from a terrifying new encounter. No mundanity and victorian-era lists to catalog and remove the wonder of discovery from new items. 

The map is a small dyson one, with twenty rooms, but one of the better ones. There are a couple of places where one section crosses over another, or same-level stairs, details are nicely placed on the ma and it looks suitably rough for an old tomb. I’ve been down on Dyson maps in the map. Too often a designer will take a small uninteresting one and try to build something around it. He does do good ones as well, even at this small size. I wish people would gravitate towards those instead.

So, put it together and you’ve got a pretty decently themed dungeon, with good interactivity. It’s got a nice villain to chase you around, Jason-style, things to use in the dungeon against him, mysteries to unlock and lots and lots of ways to die. All in a package that is four packages in one. You could take any one of themes and have a pretty good dungeon exploration with it. I DO think, though, that the format is going to wear a little thing in larger dungeons. There’s only so many ways you can say “magic wards” and have it come out inspiring and well. T some point the two page reference sheet will grow longer and at that point the utility will break down. For these smaller style dungeons, though, sure. Three dungeon themes to fit your specific campaign world, plus a couple of blank sheets to fit in to your.This is $7 at DriveThru. The preview is five pages. You get to see the intro, background, and part of a theming page spread. Ok, but a room encounter would have been nice as well.

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8 Responses to The Ghoul Prince

  1. Avi says:

    Interesting economics – PDF 6.99; soft-cover 6.50

  2. Reason says:

    This sounds really cool. A creator has done something a little bit original & pulled it off! Yay! Not only a dungeon you can get away with using probably twice in the same campaign but it really seems like it could get you thinking about improving your own dungeon theming & being economic with it. Like a template for where to plug in your couple of evocative words instead of straining to create atmosphere by telling what it used to be here…

    There’s always some idiot who thinks page count is important in a “complete” rpg or module. Personally I’m probably going to buy a single module ever with over 100 pages, at a certain point it’s a chore to read 300 pages just to get my head around what can happen to do justice to running it.

  3. Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

    Ghoul Prince, eh? As a declared Brian McNaughton fan, I find this intriguing.

  4. Chris Hall says:

    I really like Zzarchov’s stuff. I’d be interested in your opinion on his City of Tears and Punchline adventures.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “Monsters and magic are good, exactly as one would expect from a game with no monster manual or magic item list. Everything is nicely unique, with their own non-standard abilities. The lack of standard monsters and magic items is one of the things that makes DCC great.”

    No. It’s a major failing of DCC. Everyone knows that they can and should create unique monsters and magic items. Having something to work off, modify and create ideas from is far more helpful when creating new and unique items. Also not having much to just ‘grab’ and use in the moment doesn’t help facilitate sandbox-style play where the GM has to respond quickly and on the fly to player movements and decisions. I wouldn’t call it a strong point of a game if it said ‘There’s a magic user class. Go and make up spells for it coz we havent’, would you?

  6. MTB says:

    I’ve been thinking a bit about room interactivity (or playability) recently. One thing I’ve noticed is that this stuff chews up quite a bit of text space. If you have your basic room description, a monster, some treasure, then 1 or 2 interactive components, you are often looking at a column of text (a standard column size being about 250 words).

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