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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

SlaughterGrid

SlaughterGrid is an adventure made for D&D-type game systems. I ran it using the Dungeon Crawl Classics rules as part of my Monday Night game store World Tour game. Now that I've run it, I'm going to tell you what I think about it!

This fantasy RPG adventure is written by Rafael Chandler, the guy who did the Teratic Tome monster book. He definitely has a unique style. He specializes in adventures with lots of gore and explicit stuff. A lot of the art is also explicit. I'll only be showing "safe portions" of select images.

The Giant Stone Woman

I bought this partly because I like that Chandler has a vision. So few D&D writers have a style that stands out. Most of the time, adventures all have the same sort of creative voice. To me, Raymond Chandler is inspired and he has an actual take on what D&D can be that isn't like everybody else's. I appreciate that.

But it's the concept of the dungeon that sold me. This dungeon is built inside a giant stone woman that was constructed by genocidal halflings. It once rampaged across the land. It is now inert and lying in the earth. All sorts of weird creatures have flocked to live inside it.

Your Character Will Have Mutations
 
This dungeon has a gimmick: When you die in the SlaughterGrid, you are immediately reborn in "The Ovum", a pink sphere. Your character is resurrected with a mutation, which is rolled on a chart. A lot of the mutations are awesome. The party fighter now has a lightning-hand. The rogue had worse luck - she permanently attracts flies.

This proved to work out extremely well. The dungeon wore the party down over the course of four sessions. By the end, they were killing each other or committing suicide just to get out of an inconvenient situation.

This also puts a whole new spin on monsters that force PCs to attack each other. In 4th edition D&D, dominate was best used sparingly (if at all) as it had massive ramifications - mainly what it meant was that the player had to sit at the table for up to half an hour doing absolutely nothing.

But in here, PCs having an excuse to kill each other was fun! They were reborn with weird new powers. A nice touch was that their old body remained. I had one PC reborn with the urge to eat meat every hour. He feasted on his own corpse. Very odd!

The Treasure is Awesome

The treasure is fantastic. There are lots of creative items (the party rogue loves her ring which gives her super-muscles). It's a very interesting idea to place so many items in the dungeon that only have 3 or 4 charges. And I love the idea of an item exploding when the last charge is used.

I should also note that this adventure has a lot of extras. The book includes thirty two new monsters, as well as a page of NPC names (which always comes in handy).

The Exterior HexCrawl
 
Getting to the dungeon involves a hexcrawl. I read it over and I didn't really like it. In general, I don't like long lead-ups to the dungeon. They're usually boring. There's enough material in the dungeon, no need to drag it out!

So I grabbed the one encounter from the hexcrawl that excited me and threw that at them on their way to the Slaughtergrid. It involved a genital-eating red-skinned unicorn who hated virgins. It went off extremely well!

Our heroes battled the red unicorn and found the SlaughterGrid. I'll give you three guesses as to where the dungeon entrance is located on the giant stone woman's body.

The Gold Whores

The dungeon has a gimmick that didn't come in to play much. There's these monsters called "Gold-whores". When gold is left out in the open, they come out of the walls and go into a frenzy. The denizens keep any gold sealed up tight to prevent attracting them. In fact, there's so little gold in here that this almost never came up at all.

At the very end of the dungeon is a statue that turns metal to gold 3 times. I think that should have been placed on the first level so the PCs could mess with it and learn about the gold whores early on.

Level One

In retrospect, the first level of the dungeon is probably the worst of the three. There are a few save-or-die traps, but not enough. My group rolled very well, and didn't die at all in that first session.

One thing I don't like about big dungeons is when there's an entrance to the second level early on. I sat there at home and spent hours preparing this first level of the dungeon. I hate the idea that the party might bypass the whole level and just skip down to level two. I don't blame the PCs for doing it, but I am not interested in wasting my time. I moved the entrance to two to ensure that my party got to go through most of the rooms in level one.

Level Two
  
Level 2 was much better. It's full of goblinoids who serve this pit troll and/or a crazy corrupted wizard lady. The gnolls, orcs and goblins are each a variant. The orcs breathe frost, for example. Very cool!

The Pit Troll is hilarious. She has her alpha male with her and some cool treasure.

One of my favorite rooms here is a lake of acid with an island full of treasure. Crossing it is deadly - there's fumes and acid geysers. It's very fun and memorable. One of the PCs got paralyzed by something in here, and the party decided the best way to deal with this was to kill him. He was reborn in the ovum with bat wings. He made his way back to the lake, naked, and rejoined the party.

Level Three

Level 3 is full of otyughs. They're classic d&d monsters with tentacles, and they love garbage. I never much cared for them, but I love the variants Chandler cooked up here. I especially like the shape-shifting pseudo-otyugh. It is quite amusing to me to imagine a weird lady walking up to the PCs who smells like trash dumbly trying to lure them into an obvious trap.

My favorite area of the whole dungeon is a hallway where two polyps lurk. As the PCs approach, the adventure says "...Polyps chirp and mutter to one another as party approaches, then fall silent". Check the image to the left for details. I find this vastly amusing. It is a fantastic encounter!

There's also a shrunken village of 23 farmers. The cannibal PC ate one little villager, to the horror of the rest of the group. The party wizard successfully enlarged a farmer, and the thief decided to keep a tiny dwarf (who was later squooshed to death).

The final encounter of the dungeon involves a hideous genital-monster called The Progenitor, which I probably shouldn't describe or even show you the full-page art of. It's got five "openings", right? And it has tentacles that end in "the dagger of the male physique", as Ed Greenwood might put it.

The party nearly died fighting the mighty Progenitor. One PC swore a "Bowel Oath" to it. But in the end, the heroes prevailed and escaped the dungeon.

Overall

This is a really good, creative dungeon. I think that you could make it two levels instead of three and not miss anything. On paper, as you read through this adventure, some of it looks dull, but it went fantastic in actual play. The group really enjoyed it and were actually a little bummed when it was over. They liked everything - the feces, the gore, and especially the mutation gimmick.

If you are thinking about running this, I'd suggest checking with your players as to their feelings about some of the more explicit stuff in here and make sure they won't be offended before you spring it on them. But I highly recommend that you buy this adventure, even if just to steal some of the concepts and items.

Pick up SlaughterGrid here. It's a very good deal at $6.66.

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