Secret of the Black Crag

By Chance Dudinack, Joel Hines, Glynn Seal, Sam Sorensen, Logan Stahl
Self Published
Levels 1-5

The adventure begins in the pirate haven of Port Fortune, a rowdy town  in the tropical archipelago of the Salamander Islands. Here a mysterious undersea mountain has risen fourth from the abyss, beckoning treasure hunters to explore the forgotten depths of the Black Crag.

This 98 page digest adventure features a bunch of islands in an archipelago and a central four level cave/dungeon with, I don’t know … eightish rooms? It’s got mirth mixed in with the danger, of the absurdist type that I enjoy in an adventure. Lots of variety and things to explore.

An archipelago, slightly circular. An island in the middle, The Black Crag, that has surfaced, once again, from the depths of the sea. And a fuck ton of pirates that have set up shop on a nearby island, creating a little pirate town. You’ve got a home base, a bunch of side shit to explore, and the main deal: the legendary treasure rumoured to reside on the Black Crag.

It’s pirates. Rrrrrrr! I’m not in to pirates or sailing; maybe that’s a midwest thing?

There’s a little pirate town full of hookers and blow and other things that pirates want and need. It’s oriented, to a great degree, to the things that party will be interested in during their travels. There’s a dude with a boat. There’s a bar and inn. A cleric in a temple. An exotic good dealer. All of the things in the town are related, somewhat, to what an adventuring party might to looking for. And, then, each has a little quirk to them to bring them alive. And, sometimes, a relationship to another person in town that will also be described. We’re not just listing businesses because they should be there. This isn’t some appeal to simulationism that many fall in to, or to realism. The town is focused on the things the party needs. Not completely, but, to such a degree that it makes sense. It (and, in general, EVERYTHING in an adventure) only exists to be interacted with by the party. Thus we need to only include things that the party will interact with, generally. Let’s say the party comes back from the dungeon with some loot. They will want to sell some of it. So, something like a fence is appropriate to include. But, he cant be oriented TOWARD the party, he has to exist outside of this. The fact that he DOES exist, in the adventure, is because the party will need him, but hes not written in any way oriented toward the party., Give him a couple of quirks. Maybe include a subplot with the local dairyman farm … now you can include the dairy farm also. I wouldn’t go too much deeper than this. But, I think you get it. This is how you do a town. SOme things exist, in keyed format, because of the party but not oriented toward them. And that’s what this adventure does with its pirate town. The local MU runs a lighthouse. The cleric is a n00b with a blackeye. The innkeep drugs people. The governor is a pirate. All existing because those are places the party will want, but they are written outside of the party.

This is supported by a nice little NPC generator table, as well as several pirate bands briefly described, for meeting in bars and on the water. Rumour table, mostly in voice, and wanderer table with some subtables to get them engaged in activities in various local conditions. More than enough to riff on. Maps are clean and easy to read and have a little visual interest. Thus, all of the foundational things are present. Mundane and magical treasure with some interesting three and four word descriptions complete the picture. Not just jewelry, but a mermaid broach of alabaster shell.

There are 22 island locations scattered around the archipelago, including the pirate town and main cave/dungeon. The tropes are all present. A cyclops. Mermaids. Sirens. Skeleton pirates. Volcano island and great white shark. They are not done in a perfunctory manner, each having a little bit of detail. Enough to run them in a full manner without droning on and on or forgoing the specificity that can bring an encounter to life. It’s a tight line to walk, with enough words to bing something to life and make it interactive without droning on, and a good job is done here. 

The individual encounters are evocative enough. “Light pours in from a hole in the ceiling. A layer of dust settles over the remains of the domed roof, now a jumbled mess in the corner of the room.” or “Reeks of dead fish. A hairy giant lounges on a mound of seaweed, stuffing fistfuls of fish into his mouth before tossing bare fishbones over his shoulder.” These are things you can recognize from our shared cultural heritage. It allows you to riff on the description and expand on it, the scene coming ahead in your head. Which is what good writing in an adventure description should do. 

Our main dungeon has several levels, about four, with about twenty or so rooms per level. You got eel people running around doing bad things, their enemies popping up, the ghost/skeleton pirates thrown in, and of course the Under Da Sea vermin and animals. Complimenting this are some “Ancients”, which are usually robots and a few other sciu-fi-ish adjacent things … but not too much of it for those of you who hate gonzo. There’s a surprisingly large and decent variety of interaction for some sea caves. Passages to crawl through or scale, spiny sea urchins in the way. Door puzzles to fuck with … hiding large amounts of treasure. And little mini-missions inside the place for those looking to make friends … like dead pirate skulls … It’s a nice job.

For the pirate and sea loving amongst you this should be a purchase. It’s well written, has great interactivity, is well supported with resources for the DM to use during play. It’s a decent adventure, with secrets slowly being revealed over time, peeling off onion layers.

This is $15 at DriveThru. The preview is 35 pages. More than enough to make a good decision about the product.

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9 Responses to Secret of the Black Crag

  1. The way the review started (perhaps it was the “eight-ish rooms”) made me think you were going to totally trash this. It was a pleasant surprise to hear a down the middle review and feel good about your fairness.

    I think you do an amazing job judging the modules and the reviews are hilarious. Thank you.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love pirates


  3. The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

    Now I’m even happier that I backed this on Kickstarter. looking forward to getting my hardcopy.

    I wonder who the disgruntled asshat is that rated this 1 star on drivethru.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are the disgruntled asshat to get so irritated at a contarian opinion ruining your excitement for a product

      Reminds me of the crazies who send death threats to critics who ruin a perfect 100% rotten tomatoes score

  4. rekalgelos says:

    I’ve backed just about everything that has Glynn Seal’s name on it. Dude seems to work on nothing but quality projects.

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