Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/29/tabletop-review-dungeons-crawl-classics-80-intrigue-at-the-court-of-chaos/
Generally when you pick up a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure, you are expecting a piece that is low on plot and high on combat with well designed dungeons and challenges for your characters. Well, Intrigue at the Court of Chaos is a very different adventure from what Goodman Games puts our for its core product. As the title suggests, this is a very intrigue heavy adventure with a lot of talking, politics and betrayal. It’s almost as if an old Vampire: The Masquerade adventure mated with a first edition AD&D adventure spawning the product that we are looking at today. The end result is a piece that will really test your characters and players, but in ways you normally don’t expect a DCC adventure to do so.
Intrigue at the Court of Chaos is an adventure for six first level characters. The adventure assumes the characters all know each other and have gone from 0-level to first level together – perhaps in a previous adventure. The fact the characters all know and accept each other is key to the adventure for as a party they shall be thrust in to the literal court of chaos, where the gods of this particular alignment all dwell. Here they shall be asked to undertake a task of great importance –recovering a stolen piece of Chaos that Law has sealed away. Now obviously Chaotically aligned PCs won’t have a problem with this. Even Neutral characters might be okay with it. Lawful ones however….might not enjoy being the chosen of Chaos. That’s part of what makes the adventure so fun. Characters will really be tested on what alignment means to them and it’s such a rarity these days. You see parties where Paladins hack and slash as if they were Chaotic Evil and DMs turn a blind eye. You see True Neutral characters championing the causes of good left and right. So it’s wonderful to see an adventure that really focuses on the idea of alignment and what it means to the character. What do you do when a god of a specific alignment chooses you to do a task for them?
Even better, since this is chaos we are talking about, each god of the court of chaos has a specific agenda on hand and will pick a specific PC or two to do it for them, promising them some pretty amazing rewards for working with them. This means, the PCs might be pitted against each other as they now have very different goals of their own. Can this lead to PvP battles? It definitely can. Even if all the players end up being aligned with the same goal, there will still be that festering bit of doubt squirming around in the back of their head wondering when someone will reveal they are working for a different member of the court and betray everyone. There are so many ways this can go, many of which involve player on player conflict (either through words or violence). While this can be exceptionally fun to run with a party of reasonable mature individuals who realize this is just a game and not SERIOUS BUSINESS, if you have a player or two (or more, Cthulhu forbid) that get whiny at the drop of a hat, this probably isn’t the best adventure to play with them. Of course, there is a chance that all the players are aligned in the member of the court they choose to work with (or perhaps they choose not to work with them at all or even betray the court to Law or Neutrality), things will run extremely smooth and without drama. However, this is very unlikely. Be prepared for some sort of player on player conflict, or even a full on pier six rumble.
Once the intrigue at the court is done, it’s time for the combat excursion side of the adventure. Still defying the usual Dungeon Crawl Classics tropes, this adventure does not have a dungeon. Rather it has a location with a series of trials. The trials can be done in any order. There are six of them plus a potential bit of violence preceding the trials. These puzzles range from brain teasing puzzles to facing extreme Lawful duplicates of themselves. The wide variety of these challenges just makes the adventure a lot of fun – so much more than if it had been a standard hack and slash affair. If the players succeed in vanquishing the trials, which again, are not necessarily combat in the usual sense, they can claim the stolen artifact of chaos and return it to the court where the inevitable chaos ensues. Depending on who the players side with and who gets the artifact, the adventure can have dramatically different results. Anything from the players uniting as a solid well oiled team to only one PC still breathing can happen at the end of this. The sheer openness of the adventure just adds to how fantastic it is.
I should also add a note about how fantastic the art is in this adventure. All the artists involved really outdid themselves here. Each of the Chaos gods gets a highly detailed full body portrait and they are all awesome to look at. They’re meant to be handouts and they really help the adventure to come alive. As well, instead of the usual dungeon maps that DCC are renowned for, we get a map of the Court of Chaos instead (oddly shaped like a Star of David). It is no less fantastic than the usual maps and I was happy to see a map of some kind included in this otherwise dungeon free adventure, because they are such a hallmark of DCC’s adventures.
While Intrigue at the Court of Chaos is far from the usual Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure, it is a fantastic one and one of my favorites produced for the system. This adventure offers more role-playing opportunities than anything else for the system so far and you could easily spend several sessions just on the wheeling and dealing in the court. The crazy cast of Chaotic Gods will give the GM a wonderful array of characters to interact with the PCs and the combined experience will be a highly memorable (and hopefully entertaining) affair for everyone, even if their character is stabbed in the back (literally or figuratively) by another player before the adventure is done. I really loved this adventure and I do think it might be the best Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure yet. Of course, your mileage might vary. If you want something that is just wandering around a dungeon with more dice rolling than acting out your character, this probably isn’t for you. Still, it’s a fabulous adventure I can’t recommend enough. If you’re a DCC fan at all, you’re going to want to add this to your collection.