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Reviews - DCC #11: The Dragonfiend Pact
by Matthew Pook

Dragonfiend Pact cover Dungeon Crawl Classics #11: The Dragonfiend Pact
Published by Goodman Games
Written by Chris Doyle
Cover by William McAusland
Illustrated by Jason Edwards & Brad McDevitt
Cartography by Jeremy Simmons
16-page saddlestitched booklet

Dungeon Crawl Classics #11: The Dragonfiend Pact is many things, but is primarily billed as the $2 dungeon. This is exactly what you pay at your friendly local gaming store, and in the big debate between that $2 burger and something that you can put on your shelf, the latter is always my first choice. But what the scenario really does is take you back to a time when men were men, swords were broadswords, the woman in the party never complained at the chaffing of her chainmail bikini, and when you went on an adventure, it was to find NPCs and kill them. So this is set back in the day of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, First Edition, but since nobody is producing titles for that game these days - and thankfully so, some might say - this adventure is written for the current incarnation of the game, D&D version 3.5.

A Trip Down Memory Dungeon
The nostalgia trip starts with the format of the book, which echoes that of the adventures published by TSR. The cover art matches the style of those books, as do the maps inside the cover, which are printed in the same blue and white. However, the cover is attached to the book, whereas in the old days, these books were done folio style, with the cover and maps being detachable. And while the internal artwork might not quite match that of the originals, it comes close enough to nudge the nostalgia button in those old enough to remember.

Dungeon Crawl Classics #11: The Dragonfiend Pact is also an introductory adventure to the rest of the Dungeon Crawl Classics line, which, as the title suggests, runs another ten books. Being an introductory product accounts for the great price, and what better time to make introductions. After all, this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, and Wizards of the Coast is making a big push to recruit new D&D players. Although an introductory adventure, The Dragonfiend Pact is not designed for first level characters, but for a party of four to six that have reached second level. That said, notes are included if the GM wants to run the scenario with fewer players or first level characters, or with seven or more players, or third level characters. The adventure suggests that a party should comprise of at least one fighter, one cleric, and one wizard, though a rogue would also be quite handy.

Much like those adventures of yore, The Dragonfiend Pact wastes very little time in getting down to the action. The wilderness town of Welwyn has been beset by an outbreak of thefts and robberies, which the guards have traced back to its well. The party is tasked to descend down the well, locate the perpetrator, and return what stolen goods they can find.

The adventure, or rather the dungeon, is divided into two parts that are separated by stature - the stature of the player characters, specifically. In order to progress from the first few rooms to the last the characters need to negotiate a long rat warren. To traverse these tunnels, they must shrink to diminutive size and make their way through to the other side. The book includes a new spell, Improved Reduce Person, as well as notes on how a player character and his equipment are effected when shrunk. Simply, weapon damages are reduced, so that once shrunk, the creatures a player character could have dispatched with a single blow or two are much more of a threat! If there is a downside to the adventure, it is that it does not make quite clear when the party can return to their original size.

The adventure could be expanded further with the addition of the second appendix, which details the town of Welwyn, and is only available for download from the publisher’s website. The dungeon contains a good mix of encounters, puzzles, and traps. The puzzles are of the kind that give further clues to the back story of the adventure, rather than the type that impedes a party’s progress until solved.

The Dragonfiend Pact does not want for lack of plot, being intelligently written and suited to the adventure. To fully play out the plot, a GM will find the details of Welwyn very useful. The plot is still simple, such as the dungeon, which is in keeping with the First Edition feel. It is still a d20 System adventure and thus the NPCs and villains involved are not only more detailed, they are also more developed and interesting than their First Edition counterparts would have been.

Dungeon Crawl Classics #11: The Dragonfiend Pact might well be a dungeon crawl or bash, and unashamedly so. Nor is there anything wrong in that, should nostalgia be your thing. But it shows an intelligence and thoughtfulness in its design while still keeping to the feel of yesteryear. In fact it feels all rather jolly despite the activity of going down a hole, meeting new people and creatures, and killing them. Which really, is what the Dungeon Crawl Classics line is all about.

Ultimately, there is always a question of price. But in the case of Dungeon Crawl Classics #11: The Dragonfiend Pact, the price is not in question or doubt. At $2 this is a bargain, and with a running length of perhaps a session or two, entertainment does not come any cheaper!

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