Beneath the Giant’s Head

By Mark Tasaka
Tasaka Games
Level 2

[Four paragraph leadin removed] Shortly after receiving the crown, King Edgarr fell ill; the smiths, who forged the crown, fell ill as well. The group of dwarves sent to explore the caverns never returned. An expedition of fighting-dwarves was sent to find the missing group. Only half of the expedition returned alive and gave accounts of metallic beings and strange monsters lurking in the caverns. The dwarves sealed the caverns off and buried the recovered metal deep within the earth. The King’s Advisors put a call out for adventurers and offered a reward of a thousand gold pieces to find and destroy the source of the evil that lurks in the caverns beneath the Giant’s Head.

This 52 page adventure details a small village with several sub-plots and a cavern with a spaceship in it, with around 43 rooms. It has the beginnings of some decent exploration elements but suffers from the density, and verbosity of information presented.

The adventure starts by presenting a home base village with several things going on. These are presented, initially, as mysteries. The farmers dog has been around forever, the baker woman makes unusually good honey buns, the innkeep wants to get married, a farmer has a reputation for interesting chickens, and so forth. These are sprinkled in to the location and NPC descriptions and correctly offers the party a loto f interesting gossip and mystery, or, perhaps, not quite mysteries, to sprinkle throughout their time in the village. Because of this, and the quirks of NPC’s, the place is more alive than most and offers a good home base for downtime things to happen. This is GREAT. A little mystery, some quirks to cement NPC’s, and nothing too outrageous, but enough to spice up both gear buying/sleeping and offering the party more if they go down that path. This is what a home base village should be. Not a generic “typical” village but something just below the surface to sprinkle in to the adventure as the party moves through the usual party of adventuring life in downtime. These mysteries are then followe dup on in little “events”, which are actually the mini-quests. Like the farmers chickens turn giant and attack, or rats in the bakers basement (ug!) or the innkeep marrying a party member and then moving away without a word. 

The separation between places/NPC’s (as a section) and then the subplot adventures is a good idea, allowing the DM to focus on the normal activities and making the subplots easy to find and run. But, as the page count to location ratio would indicate, it gets VERY long winded in its descriptions. Insertion casual conversational sentences and mundane trivia in with the more more specific, compounded by a lack of any real formatting to help call attention to the important bits. This is a variation of The Kitchen Problem. We all know what a kitchen looks like, you don’t need to describe it. You just need to tell us why this one is different, in an actual play sense.  I do want to emphasize that the constructed world here is both more interesting, with little specific details, and more well constructed than most. This we get a little village outside of the entrance to the dwarf kingdom, supporting it, in addition to the “home base” village. 

The actual dungeon is three areas/levels, two of caves and one of a spaceship. There are some better than the usual design elements going in to the exploration space. There are things to explore and mess with, and some terrain features and their ilk, like dropping through a hold in the ground in the next level, that just aren’t typically seen in adventures these days. These elements are KEY to bringing a full fledged exploration dungeon to life. They do tend to the more simplistic side of things, and there does seem to be more of an emphasis on combat, this being DCC, and its on the edge at times of being set pieces, but never really goes over the edge in to 4e territory. 

It is, however, long and mundane. The read-aloud for rooms is on the edge of being long and, more importantly, is not really interesting. It relies a lot of abstracted text and generic labels rather than the specificity seen in the village. The DM text is better in this regard, so we get little bits like splashes of water and bodies with insect and worm decay. 

It does suffer greatly from padding of the text with like like “the characters could open each stasis chamber with ease.” While alone this may not be a problem, this sort of writing, when added and added and added, sentence after sentence, if not direct to the DM. It’s not describing the situation, but rather the characters interactions with it. Writing is more effective for comprehension, and terseness, when these padded clauses are not included. The barracks, a room title tells us. And the description then goes on to tell us that this is where the kobolds sleep. Well, yes, that is the idea of the barracks. 

Rather than the great specificity of the village we get abstracted txt in the dungeon. The cleric, the tif, the warrior, describes the bodies found of the previous party, rather than names. The descriptions all come off as generic, the robots lacking anything interesting to bring them to life.

The adventure ends with some conclusions. I like it when an adventure does this. Little follow ups on what happens next to the area. The items presented, though, are mostly uninteresting and mundane. A married couple finally goes on vacation. What this needs is more things that he party will directly notice and potentially be impacted by, even in a trivial way, to show that their actions had impact.

So, some hints of good design in places but marred by not enough of it. And padding and generic text where there should be evocative text. Yes, that’s hard. 

This is free at DriveThru.

This is episode two of Bryce Reviews Everything in order on his DriveThru Wishlist. Maybe this won’t be as terrible as I thought it would be.

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