When I think about Dungeon Crawl Classics, this is exactly the kind of cracked madness I imagine. A lot of the books and stories I grew up on came from the early days of Weird Fiction, before the genre walls were thrown up and the clichés had settled in. The line between Science Fiction and Fantasy was far less defined. It was out of this Wild West of exploding ideas that much of what forms the venerated Appendix N originated. Appendix N, for the uninitiated, is a body of work that inspired Gary Gygax in his early days of working on Dungeons & Dragons. While Tolkien became the sort of de facto core of Fantasy thought in the latter half of the 20th Century, that is a very, very limiting view of the genre, and not at all in keeping with the early days of D&D or in the current era of Dungeon Crawl Classics.
Straight out of the primordial soup that formed much of my literary canon comes Michael Curtis’s Danger in the Air!, the Free RPG Day modules from 2022. It’s a zero-level “funnel,” which, if you know DCC, you know. If not, I’ll just put it this way. A lot of mostly faceless peasants go in, a few lucky characters come out the other side to become your new Player Characters. Where some games encourage you to come up with an interesting backstory for your character, a funnel is your character’s back story. The things they survive shape the person they become.
For this funnel, the PCs find out about a weird thing that’s been floating around the region, smashing into stuff and leaking bits of treasure. Upon investigating, they find a giant jellyfish-like monster, seemingly dead, floating across the landscape on the wind. Lodged inside it is what looks sort of like a tower. It is from that broken object the treasure is tumbling out. But what riches still remain inside? The PCs will have to climb the dangling tentacles and enter the strange object to find out.
I absolutely love the blending of weird tech, magic, space travel, and other strange ideas that are present in this very short scenario. Curtis packs a lot into eleven pages, and while I imagine you could fairly easily finish this scenario in one standard 3 or 4 hour session, it should leave a judge with a ton of possible directions to take the PCs afterward, if they are so inclined.
Personally, I think this will be a great first adventure for a group that will eventually face Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. I’ve been contemplating just such a DCC game for a while now, and the pieces are starting to come together. I think I may start the zero level characters here, possibly take them through Shadow of the Beakmen and then on to Frozen in Time. Each of these scenarios presents an opportunity not only to connect to each other, but to hint at the bigger things to come with the Barrier Peaks. I’m not quite sure yet what I would run between Frozen in Time and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, as it might be a good idea for them to get up to level four or five before throwing that at them. But I’m sure I can come up with something. If I remember right, the Goodman Games version of Barrier Peaks has ideas for some lead-in and supplementary scenarios, so I may look at them.
For such a short module, this was a very fun read and is packed with great stuff. I’m not itching to run it for some unsuspecting players.
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