The Curse of the Ganshoggr

By Gus L.
Kill Jester
Errant/OSR
Level 1

The Goose King squats in his great longhouse among verdant fields won by his ancestors. He feasts nightly on the most succulent turf, rich foreign wines, and the finest lettuces. In the swampy dark outside, his kingdom crumbles and suffers. The great gander of the Claymarshes—despoiler, land-devourer, sword-blessed terror bird, maimer of champions, curse of the wrathful stars—has come again. The Ganshoggr’s scream rips the night in contemptuous accusation, sounding the Goose King’s failure — the dawn of an age of ruin.

This fourteen page adventure details a small pointcrawl with a ten room dungeon at the end … which are all sidelines to the main event: a Dragon to kill at level one. The density is high, the language colorful, both to an extent that is almost too much.

There’s a lot to unpack here. First, this is for Errant. It’s some D&D-mine system. Rules light, the marketing blurbs are perfectly written to appeal, they hit every point of interest to make you want to take a look. Until I got to “244 pages.” Uh, no. Seriously, the marketing of this D&D-mine is perfectly designed to appeal to me. Except for the page count. I mean, even Gus wrote this adventure for it, and Gus is one of the few people to get the “Not a Complete Fucking Idiot” Byrce award. But, then, all of the pull quotes are from things that seem suspiciously new school/art punk … which is fine except for that they come with the baggage of never having seen anything ever that they didn’t fawn over. Some dude at work was raving about Applebees. Exceptional, wonderful, etc. I asked him to rate it on a scale of ten and he said a three. Uh huh. Righto, I now dismiss out of hand everything dude says. But, also, Gus wrote something for this and he’s NOT an idiot. 

First things first, this is for a campaign world, not yet published (and, evidently, a LONG way off from being published) in which the world is full of bird people. Not animal people, I dont think, so this isn’t isn’t some furry sex fantasy thing. But, also, that’s fairly idiosyncratic AND if the published game world is a long way off why would you publish this so far in advance? I say that with the full knowledge that I don’t understand business.

So, theres this goose kingdom. A kind of viking/norse setting with longhouses and all that jazz. And there’s this grendel running around now causing problems. The goose offers rewards to anyone who goes out and kills it. So, your level one’s are going out to fight what is essentially a dragon. In the form of a giant goose. 

Yes, thank you, I am fully cognizant of what I am writing. But you gotta hang in there. What we have here is something so very interesting. It’s a very well-realized rendition of that thing I love so much: a folk tale. You’ve got some level one fuckwits and a herculean task. Much in the way of Gone Fishin, but with a darker tone. The dragon in question, errr, giant goose (gander? whatever) is a mythic creature. Wearing nine crows of kings. Removing them weaken him. And, he’ll bargain for them also. The ringing of bells damages him … with the side encounters in the pointcrawl featuring a decent few of them and people who guard them. He leaves his lair to rampage … letting the party sneak in behind him. An honorable dragon, you can surrender and it accepts personal duels. This is Smaug, with a bird telling you where to shoot that black arrow. 

Other parts, here, follow in that same vein. A farmhouse to take respite in, the family inside feeding you and gossiping about the Ganshoggr. The next morning it is a ramshackle mess. The food either being a blessing or curse, depending on what you did. That, alone, is a classic. But, if you confront them that night then throw off their disguises and transform in to three mighty champions … missing the arms and legs that went in to the stew they served you. They boldly announce their names … former knightly champions now but thralls to the Ganshoggr … and loathing it, they work against him how they can. Come one now, that’s so dripping with classicism that not even the star wars fanboys can ignore it. And the adventure does this everywhere. It’s quite strong.

Complimenting this is an indoor/outdoor vibe of the map. There are several areas outside the main dungeon, essentially attached to it. That fit in well, and supplement the mythic nature. This place is DIFFERENT, the vibe tells you. Not ruins, but actual locales, it integrates well in a way that I don’t know I’ve ever seen before.

The interactivity is great, complimenting the folk lore themes by not having everything be combat. People to talk to, trick, and, yes, stab if need be. But brave Little Tailoring the thing will probably work out better for you. 

The writing is great. In the fest hall of the goose king, at the start, we get “While the Goskarls sneer and bluster as a matter of pride, most of the court is amused and delighted to chat with the brave and common fools risking their lives on a mythic Journey”. That sets a mood that any DM should be able to instantly run well. Or, more traditionally, how about “Wide stairs open to a pair of low, candle-lit, stone galleries that reek of curdled wounds and stale sweat. Shuffling figures, their shadows huge on the peeling white plastered walls, crouch at the mouths of various niches” Wide stairs. Low galleries. Candle-lit. Reeking. Figures that SHUFFLE. The use of adjectives and adverbs here is excellent. It really paints the picture that I wish most adventures would. And none of these are isolated examples, it hits over and over and over again, as we’ve all come to expect from Gus.

I think the only way this is really lacking is in the journey to the Ganshoggrs lair. The devastation is a little lacking. I don’t know what I expect to see here. Refugees Destroyed lands? Trees with bodies in them? There are a few encounters on the way, but they tend to not be of this variety; they are mre mythic/folk, like a troll under a bridge. I think perhaps some lead in, to transition from the feast hall to the “lower” mythic encounters may have been in order to set the mood.

Also, the text is getting close to the line of being difficult to use. The formatting is a brief intro with a few words bolded and then some text expanding on those bolded words, with appropriate cross-references in place. I think, though, that the font and size are somehow playing a part in things being a little less straight forward than they might otherwise be. It is dense with baroque vocabulary and phrasings … didn’t I just read something about a FInnegans Wake bookclub finally finishing the book after 22 years? This is some wonderful text:” : Anesthetized by death, the Thralls of the Ganshoggr are the pale remnants of warriors slain by the beast. Six of them are missing their heads, the rest an arm or leg; all have foul, infected wounds”  It’s not over the line, but its getting close. 

I don’t know, I think, for those purists, you can swap out the goose references on the fly and run this like you would anything else. It’s a dragon. And instead of a possibility of a black swan transformation of the villain we get the possibility of a black prince ruling the land. It would be rather trivial.

This is free at DriveThru. You’re a fool not to pick it up.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/455858/The-Curse-of-the-Ganshoggr?1892600

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20 Responses to The Curse of the Ganshoggr

  1. Gnarley Bones says:

    I enjoy all of Gus’s stuff. He can be wordy, though.

  2. SargonTheOK says:

    Errant’s marketing is just that: marketing. “Rules light, procedure heavy” is a circuitous way to say Heavy. Sure, it’s distributing the weight differently: the PCs don’t need to know as many rules (that is, until some ability interacts with a subsystem) but the GM has quite the burden.

    But if that’s your jam, fine. Some people jive with procedures. *Shrug*

    Anyway, giant goose dragons? Geese are mean as hell, but also really hard to take seriously. This combination has comedic lighthearted horror written all over it. Nice pick.

    • AB Andy says:

      What does procedure mean in the context of a rule system?

      • SargonTheOK says:

        The way I’ve seen it used is “rule” is the building block where “procedure” is a framework on which “rules” hang. So to take a B/X example: how to make an attack roll versus AC is a rule. The sequence of combat (declare actions, missile attacks, move, melee, spells, etc) is a procedure.

        In theory it’s a fair distinction, but in practice it doesn’t matter – cognitive load and complexity increases with both rules and procedures.

        The fallback defense I’ve seen for this is “well, procedures are more like guidelines.” Sure, but what then recommends the system if I’m going to disregard the procedures?

      • Anonymous says:

        Regard it as a lair of pseudo-scientific obfuscation meant to cultivate an air of mystery and faux intellectualism.

        • samurguybri says:

          I just use it like a toolkit. it’s very modular and the procedures and subsystems are very useful and easy to plug in other games.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Fairy tale DND. One offs where you win by wit alone because you will always be low level, and the game never progresses to picaresque or heroic play. I wonder if this is even going to work for a campaign setting, is this one of those systems that has a le innovative level system that locks you in low tier play?

    • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

      Well, Gus delights in making weird, non-standard fare. You won’t see book-standard dwarves, elves, etc. No vanilla fantasy for him. His stuff is inventive though. I think the only way I would use this would be if the PCs stepped into a portal to another world. I don’t mind weird D&D but this thing, I don’t know. Certainly, for the price, it’s worth grabbing just to peruse but as far as Bryce saying, you’d be a fool not to pick this up. Yeah, bullshit. Not really my jam when it comes to D&D and what’s the point of changing the goose to an actual dragon? Why even use something different like this if all you’re going to do is make the kind of changes that shift it back to more vanilla fare?

      • Gnarley Bones says:

        “what’s the point of changing the goose to an actual dragon?”

        I was thinking exactly that. If one ran this with B/X or 1E and ditched the bird people PCs thing, why would you change the coolest/weirdest thing about the adventure? Why not have a Gooseameggedon?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Food for thought: you kill a “dragon” at level 1. What next? Can we predict where this setting (when it’s published) will go?

  5. Stripe says:

    Who is Gus L? Sounds like a nobody.

    Now, GusB on the other hand—that guy, everyone knows! I mean, who hasn’t heard of of the articulate and handsome GusB of the wildly-popular and Classic Adventure Gaming podcast fame and adoration?

  6. Bucaramanga says:

    So, a “kill a demigod at level 1” adventure, but with more weird for the sake of weird?

  7. Prince says:

    General dragging, misc. issues and long-form campaign implementation problems aside, putting quality work out for free is a good thing and the lifeblood of this hobby. Mines, Claws, Princesses did something similar with a mythic vibe and using a mythic tier dragon at lower levels.

  8. Creep on the Borderlands says:

    This seems like a fun little adventure. Short, humorous, not obnoxiously gonzo, and offering a lot of possibility for being under 20 half pages. I found the descriptions pretty short but the language dense.

    A starter adventure for a new system to learn the ropes or a one shot to see if one like the system. Also it was a bonus for another errant KS as a special edition risograph print run which likely explains the font size (a bit small) and limited journey content. Not a typical Gus adventure, but it has lots of stuff to do with or without fighting a goose dragon. Btw the goose will kill your characters if you fight it without tricking it (shrinking it to normal goose size).

    What you do next? Other fairytale stuff?
    Rescue a prince by climbing up his tresses into a tower dungeon? Steal a giant’s favorite hat pin from a cloud castle? Rig a fiddle contest against the devil? Go into the city and find an important frog that’s been turned into a person? Not every setting has to start by fighting rats in a cellar, killing off goblins as a caravan guard and only involve dragons at 6th level and up. B4 had a red dragon in it. B2 a white one.

    • Tom H. says:

      This might be nit-picky, but I pulled my copies of B2 and B4 down off the shelf and don’t see either of the dragons you mention. What am I missing?

      (It looks like B4’s “suggested expansion” room 97 might have a blue dragon? No sign of one in B2, though.)

  9. Knutz Deep says:

    I’m not aware of a white dragon in B2. There is a red dragon in B5 Horror on the Hill.

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