DCC #82: Bride of the Black Manse, written by Harley Stroh and published by Goodman Games, is a fantastic piece of work. In addition to the cover and cartography by the always stellar Doug Kovacs, there is interior art by Fritz Haas, Doug Kovacs, Peter Mullen, Russ Nicholson, and Stefan Poag. The Russ Nicholson art is so amazing that I photocopied it to use as visual handouts during the game.
Anyone familiar with the works of William Hope Hodgeson cannot help but feel his ghostly presence invoked by this adventure. The PCs investigate a haunted house in a gothic tour-de-force which manages to be genuinely creepy. Because the adventure is set up to play out in real time, and the haunted house changes as midnight approaches, the players soon gain a real sense of urgency. Fail to play that part as written, and you will do your players a real injustice.
When I ran this at home, I used the set-up wherein the party wizard, having been rejected initially by the archdevil Mammon, managed to survive after his luck ran out. Marked by the evil being, he was drawn eventually to the Black Manse, wherein the adventure unfolded. This adventure definitely got high marks at our table, although the party skirted a full understanding of the horrible choice illustrated on the adventure’s cover.
Centuries past, Lady Ilse ascended to scion of House Liis by trading the archdevil Mammon what he wanted most: her immortal soul – and a diabolical betrothal. The triumph proved hollow, for every year on the eve of her fell covenant, she was beset by visions of Mammon and her foul promise. Seeking to save herself, she was buried alive, swaddled in the holy symbols of a dozen divergent faiths. This desperate ploy held Mammon at bay for centuries…but a devil can afford to wait a very long time.
After hundreds of years, the last of the holy wards has fallen. The devil has come to collect his due. Tonight a storm crashes against the ancient manor house and forgotten spirits rise from the muck and mire. The fallen belfry tolls once more, announcing the hellish fete. As the adventurers arrive to explore the Black Manse, Mammon calls for his winsome bride. He will leave with a soul at the end of the night. The only question is: Whose?
To say that Bride of the Black Manse is worth the cover price is an understatement, but this module also includes Blood for the Serpent King, by Edgar D. Johnson. This adventure is a short dungeon crawl in a steamy jungle, and sees the return of the Emerald Cobra from 3e version Dungeon Crawl Classics modules.