Tuesday 19 October 2021

Through the Dragonwall

DCC #92: Through the Dragonwall is a 3rd level adventure by Daniel J. Bishop. Art is by Clyde Caldwell (cover), SS Crompton (cartography), Doug Kovacs, Peter Mullen, and Stefan Poag. The publisher is Goodman Games.

Disclosure: I am the author. Two of my children were playtesters.

So imagine this as background: I was asked to do conversions of two Harley Stroh modules from the 4e era. There were the "Master Dungeon" series of Dragora's Dungeon and The Curse of the Kingspire. Then imagine being told that there was a third TSR-era legend Clyde Caldwell cover licensed, and I was being asked to write an adventure to utilize it.

The first two conversions were published as ".5" modules between the regular numbers, so I expected (erroneously, as it turned out) that this adventure would be given the same treatment. I also wanted the "Caldwell Cover" series to be unified in some way. We already had levels 1 and 2 covered, so it made sense to make this a 3rd level adventure. The previous adventures had included ape-men, a dragon god, and ancient elven ancestors with a stronger connection to Elfland. This last was a byproduct of the adventure's 4e origin, but I had kept the idea as the "Elder Kith" in that adventure. It was changed to "Elder Kindred" here to avoid confusion with the Kith of Peril on the Purple Planet. There is definitely no "adventure path" between the three adventures, but there are links for the canny judge to exploit.

The adventure also hearkens back to the works of Abraham Merritt, perhaps one of the less-referenced Appendix N authors. For those who know the works of Abraham Merritt, there are specific references made to The Face in the Abyss, Through The Dragon Glass, and The Women of the Wood. The entire set-up of the adventure, with a thwarted love affair, a setting divided into two distinct regions, and the intervention of powerful forces, echoes The Ship of Ishtar. You will find other references if you look hard enough!

The adventure also had to match the cover. The images on the cover are an elven woman, a bone dragon, and part of a wall. You will find all of these elements in the adventure. Through the Dragonwall is not the first DCC adventure to feature a dragon. That honor belongs to The Tainted Forest Near Thorum by Yves Larochelle in Crawl! #4. It is not even the first Goodman Games adventure to use a dragon, as both previous "Caldwell Cover" modules had done so. Even so, the Bone Dragon holds a special place in my heart, both because of his potency as a foe and because of the poignancy of his backstory. You can run this in a four-hour convention slot; it benefits from being given more time to allow the players to truly understand how the Valley of Two Lands works, and the history of its occupants.

This adventure was featured on the Sanctum Secorum podcast Episode 27, where it was paired with The King of Elfland's Daughter. I feel that this was just good luck on my part, because if Michael Curtis had already written The Queen of Elfland's Son, that would have been the obvious pairing. You can also find a review of the adventure here.

If you find yourself drawn to discover more DCC goodness inspired by A. Merritt, I advise you to check out Moon-Slaves of the Cannibal Kingdom by Edgar Johnson, the Sanctum Secorum Episode #29 Companion: Creep, Shadow!, and the patron write-up for Logos, the Perfect Form, from Angels, Daemons, & Beings Between: Extended, Otherworldly Edition

Embroiled in a curse from the dawn of history, you have become pawns in a cosmic struggle between the King of Elfland and the ancient dragon-god, Baphotet Kor. Will you stand with the last Empress? Will you face the dreaded Bone Dragon? Or will your bones lie bleached beneath an unchanging sky? This adventure is a test of player skill that will push characters to the edge and beyond…Beyond the Dragonwall.

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