Nebin Pendlebrook's Perilous Pantry
John Marr (editor, artist, layout)
How it got my attention.
Purple Sorcerer makes an EXCELLENT application - online and mobile - for generating DCC content: funky dice rolls, critical hits and misses, custom dragons, 0-level adventurers for funnels, etc. I can't remember if I heard the name of this adventure and went to look for it or just discovered it while looking around their site.
Why I pulled the trigger.
I needed a funnel to run that was not Sailors on the Starless Sea (which awesome but a lot of people have played it by now, as well as some of the other popular funnels). I liked the premise of this one and wanted to try a Purple Sorcerer adventure.
This is a solid little adventure. It's linear, as are most funnels, but has enough shortcuts and sidebars to take away the sting.
It's a grinder; again, that's the point of a funnel. If you run it right, I feel like the attrition rate is ≤ 50%. You are supposed to begin with 16-24 0-level characters. (So it's good for a group as small as 4 with 4 each or as large as 8 with 3 each.)
The encounters are pretty interesting and there's a story that weaves through the dungeon that players will likely tap into if they explore far enough.
The art is just "okay." Sorry! I feel so bad for saying that, but it's not really to my taste; it's a little bit cartoony. It's at least clean and entirely suitable to the adventure. And it's copious! The adventure comes with visual handouts, printable maps and tokens, etc.
THIS SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS
The module has great advice, but having run it twice I have a bit to add, reiterate, or tweak.
- Understand the dungeon's "big picture." It was made by one wizard (whose dead body is in the dungeon). That wizard was fighting with another wizard from another dimension. He has that other-dimension wizard in stasis in final room of the dungeon. Abnormal creatures in the dungeon (e.g. weird salamanders and toadspiders) have probably come from that other dimension - so make a note! They are weird. The characters will never have seen them, or anything like them, before.
- Go over the box text. It's really good, but there are two minor problems. First, some sections are a bit long to read out loud. I just marked out a fluff phrase or sentence here and there and it helped a lot! But you have to know that what you are marking out isn't important. Second, the feasting hall box text is missing a few obvious bits, specifically the big chandelier. Make sure you find that bit in the description and append it to the box text when you read it out.
- Theater of the Mind works, mostly. This adventure comes with a lot of printable maps, with and without grids. You mostly don't need them, but for some of the bigger rooms it makes description easier and helps with relative positioning. I've run it online as a theater of the mind and on a table top with the maps. It's hard to say which is better. If you use the maps, just keep the distances and stuff loose. You don't want to get into counting squares, I don't feel like that's "good DCC." :)
- Print off 0-level 4-up sheets from Purple Sorcerer and hand them out. I usually print out two per player and let them pick one. That way if one sheet is full of really bad stats or if they had their heart set on playing a dwarf or something, they have a little choice.
- Get some Bananagram (or Scrabble) tiles! They help you run funnels efficiently.
- Separate out a set of A-Z (one example of each letter). That's all you need. (You can keep the rest for monster tokens. I actually bought a set of ivory tiles and their special black tile edition. The black tiles are for bad guys. Works great!)
- Turn the tiles upside down, shuffle, and then have players draw a number of tiles equal to their 0-level characters. Make the players name each character starting with one of their (unique) letter tiles. That way every character has a different starting letter for their name! It greatly aids bookkeeping.
- Write A-Z in a column on your notebook and then ask each player to give you the character's name, alignment, race - if not human, and Luck score. You may also want to note any pets they have (sows, chickens, etc.) for the first major encounter.
- Have the players arrange the tiles into a loose marching order so you can see who is in front/back. During the adventure you may have them rearrange the tiles to show relative positions.
|Playing the NPP funnel. On the table is the feasting hall map with tiles for character and villain counters. The little pile of tiles near the screen are dead characters. :)|
- Starting in the tavern and letting them shop/collect rumors will eat up time. The module tells you this; believe it. If you want to get straight to the action, put them in front of Nebin's door. Flash back to the inn a few hours earlier and have them each roll 10 for a rumor. Give them 2 minutes to tell you simple things they might have wanted to grab or buy and deny anything over a few coppers. Keep it short or skip it entirely. Also ask them to cross off anything on their sheet (item-wise) that they left behind. This is important. I asked this in the game above because one character, a butcher, had a side of beef. He elected to keep it with him and that made him a prime target for the hungry salamanders behind the door!
- Nebin's House. It makes no sense to me why there would be rope and a torch on a chair here; I omit it. Tell them the passage goes down into darkness. As they move down, ask them who has a lit light source. If they failed to bring one, have them send someone back with a few coppers to buy a light. If they didn't bring rope, tough shit.
- 1-2 Toad Spiders. In the second block of text there is mention of the footprints that gives away where Nebin went and that there was a scuffle in the middle of the room. I saved that info for a roll. Unless a player looks, they don't get it right off. After any encounter in this room you can give them the bit about the footprints leading into the wall (hidden tunnel). As for the toad spiders, I described them and then had them drop with a big sticky ball of webbing held out between their legs like a drop net. You could also describe them as using their tongues to shoot out and stick to victims. I give the info about the shelf to anyone who holds a light up. I tell them they also see some holes near the ceiling, a few of which have "eye shine" in them. (To let them know if they go after that ledge there will be other spiders (potentially) after them. Oh, and just to make the constable's corpse really clear, I added a beaten copper badge of office.
- 1-3 Chasm. I only make the front 6 roll for slipping down. You usually get AT LEAST one kill out of this. I really love playing the "Help Me" stick. That's a brilliant little piece.
- 1-4 Secret Tunnel. I've not had anyone take this route yet, but I have a note. There is a DC12 STR check to lift a grate. Failure here is not interesting and wastes time, so my note-to-self is "Fail forward! On a bad roll the ooze from 1-7a slips through the grate as they raise it and is on them in the cramped tunnel!" (It was sitting on the grate.)
- 1-5 The Wellspring. This is a cool, not particularly deadly room. Just lots of interesting things to explore. Remember that any dwarf will immediately know this place was built by dwarves. The fountains fill with condensation, but the doors have iron work on them. I made fun of that, telling the dwarf characters that the iron is rusty and clearly the dwarves were working to someone else's specifications. The work is well executed but not particularly tasteful to dwarves. (Kind of "good enough for government work.") The two dog skeletons are really easy to kill, but really vicious on the attack (partly because of having two heads each). If the party gets the jump on them, it usually works out well for the characters. Regarding the well, I always have the bucket make an appearance at some point. The last time I had a character with a pitchfork snag the bucket and pull. I told him there was resistance and he gave a real tug. His roll failed, so I said he succeeded but he dragged in an eight-year old boy, Toby, from the town. They grabbed him, but if they hadn't he would have "sunk into darkness." You could also have Toby "swim out" of the column. The point here is to either make them feel guilty about killing an innocent or to saddle them with a kid they have to protect. Toby is fun to play as the GM too.
- 1-6 Mirror Room. Just to clarify this, if they break the mirror, someone gets sucked in. Otherwise it takes "great concentration and knowledge to cross." Nobody gets in by just touching or leaning. That quoted bit is in the sidebar text.
- 1-7b Secret Chamber. There's a DC 10 Strength check to move the stone that gets them into the armory. This is twaddle. Just let them do it. Otherwise you have several people try or they try together until they get it. So the roll is pointless. OR, if you make them roll, on a fail have it drop in the other room and make a horrendous noise. This will mostly just scare the crap out of them.
- Area 1-10. I really love this room! As noted above, append this text to the box text description "Tapestries upon the walls bear the regal crests of long-dead dwarven lineages. Carpets adorn the stone floors. A gigantic chandelier made of numerous deer antlers hangse in the middle of the room above the tables and the dwarven skeletons." That text really helps the combat be more interesting as it gives the characters "props" to work with. Not sure why it is in the GM's notes instead of the "read this to players" text. There is a DC 12 Agility check for moving without waking up Nebin. That's a fluff roll without much point. If they are being sneaky/quiet, then yeah, make them roll. Otherwise have Nebin wake up when they are noisy or poke at the throne or poke/shout at Nebin himself. Nebin's lines are so great! Have him shout them out on occasion, even during the fight. Give him a really annoying nasally voice. Save the turtle's tail attack as a surprise for when several people get around the turtle. Oh, and here's a nice bit of description for the dwarves that I added. The text says they are miners. How do you know that? I say it's because they have those helmets on with the candles in front. When they wake up, not only do they have glowing runes on their bones, but the candles on their helmets light with a ghostly blue light! Just to clear up the thing about the runes on the far wall. A dwarf can read them without rolling. Anyone else can read them on a DC 14 INT check. The riddle is solved by in-character role-playing, not a roll. If they get it wrong, or if they can't read the text and have to guess ... ouch!
- 1-12 Inner Sanctum. Another cool room. I love that the ritual that needs to be performed is "obvious." I love the trapped wizard scratching things out with the rock. Very cool. The only thing I change about this room is the Mimic chest. Unless the party is skating by, I take that out. It seems contradictory; Moldark wants to keep people out of the room, so why is he luring them in with a trap-chest? Maybe put it somewhere else, like in the armory (7-a).