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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG - The Croaking Fane

My DCC RPG Monday Night game has been rolling along. I am part of the DCC World Tour program and have received the penultimate prize - the golden belt buckle!

I like to think that we are the leading World Tour group on the planet, with about 30 sessions under our belt so far in 2014. I detail these sessions each week on the DCC forum. There are major spoilers for this adventure in this post.

You can get this adventure pdf for $7 here.

The Croaking Fane

The author of this module, Michael Curtis, wrote one of my favorite adventures of all time - Intrigue at the Court of Chaos. The Croaking Fane is different from that one. The Fane is all about a temple in the shape of a toad full of 
Behold the glory!
denizens who worship a toad-god. There's not some big over arching story. It's just a location - a temple in the shape of a toad.

The Toad-God
This adventure details the followers of an entity known as Schaphigroadaz. Schaphigroadaz has three "aspects". My favorite is the hideous female toad covered in suckling tadpoles. We also get a new spell in this adventure (which is a feature I think every DCC adventure should have). The spell is awesome. Here's the description:

"The cleric calls upon the power of Schaphigroadaz to infest his enemies’ bodies with small carnivorous toads that eat their way out of the targets’ mortal forms."

The Toad Monsters

The best part of this adventure is all of the different, vastly amusing toad monsters. There are giant mummy toads. There are vampire toad-bats. And then there are my favorites: The Toadgoyles!

I feel like despite all of these fun creations, we were missing one true nasty toad. There is a huge, hideous toad-thing, a giant toad idol and toad-men, but I think I would have liked one mighty, awesome, over-the-top toad monster to cap off the adventure. The toad-thing was cool, but I think it could have been better - maybe when it swallows you, you go to another dimension or something.

The Church

There's two levels. There's the upper "church" and the lower dungeons. The church has a lot of cool encounter areas, including a pool of flesh-eating tadpoles (complete with a chart to roll on to determine what they devour on a PC's body!).

There's also a suit of toad plate with a cool toad helmet. My party thief took that helmet and she wears it to this day. Near this area is a dude who, when approached, screams as a swarm of tadpoles explodes out of his torso and attacks! Lots of really fun creative stuff.

That's what I like about Michael Curtis. His encounters are creative and described very succinctly. When I ran White Plume Mountain earlier this year, I was stunned at how short it was - 14 pages. And yet it filled four absolutely awesome D&D sessions.

This is similar. Including the maps, this adventure is about 15 pages long! And it filled 3 sessions.

The Dungeon
This area is split into two parts. To get into the "final" areas, the heroes must pass through a room full of 30 giant toads croaking "murder" over and over. Some groups will, I suppose, just run in and attack all 30 toads (which is an insane fight), but mine did not.

My heroes explored around and came upon my favorite room in the whole dungeon. It's a room full of pillows and a statue of a man and a female toad in an "unwholesome embrace". There is a secret compartment in the back of the statue that contains a vial - an aphrodisiac.

Up until we got to this room, the adventure was going OK. The upper level was not a challenge for my players, and I was feeling a little uneasy. This group has had it's ups and downs, and of all of my campaigns this is the one I've struggled the most with in getting into a rhythm. Despite all the cool material, it has been difficult to achieve the "D&D feeling" (which I define as the feeling you get when you can't put a good book down).

Then our cleric, who is part-cat (thanks to a weird potion in the Emerald Enchanter adventure) sampled the aphrodisiac. He was overwhelmed with feelings of being "amorous" and ran off to a small monk cell to be alone for awhile.

The group found this to be utterly hilarious. Worse - they needed some keys that he had on his person. So the party thief had to creep into the cell, snatch the keys off of our cat-man during his "alone time" and get out. She bravely dropped her toad visor, took a breath, and made her thief rolls.

It was awesome. This event lit up the whole session and was one of the highlights of the whole campaign. Best of all, the players were clever. They used the rest of the aphrodisiac on the 30 toads (which is kind of the intended use of the item in the context of the adventure). This distracted the toads and allowed the heroes to bypass them to get to the main rooms in the dungeon.

They made their way down to one of the 'final' rooms, where toad-followers were dreaming in a pool. A big fight broke out, and the party almost died! DCC RPG encounters are very tricky. One spell from a wizard can end a whole fight. But if you have a whole bunch of enemies with a decent bonus to hit, the party can drop very quickly. Our heroes barely survived.

Then they took out the Toad-Thing (with shocking ease). On the way out, there's a final encounter that is easy for DMs to forget about. The toad idol comes to life and attacks, and even collapses part of the ceiling on the PCs. This is actually a bit similar to White Plume Mountain as well, with the fire genies coming after the PCs.


This is a very good adventure with tons of cool, creative encounters. The art inside is really good, too. And of course the maps are exceptional as always. Doug Kovacs is so under-appreciated in general. The guy is like the backbone of the whole line. One other complaint I have is that there is very little treasure in this adventure (no magic items at all, I believe). The PCs should get something for all of this hardship!

I would definitely recommend that you check this adventure out. It is a fantastic deal for seven bucks.

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