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Dungeon Crawl Classics #72: Beyond the Black Gate $6.99
Average Rating:4.5 / 5
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #72: Beyond the Black Gate
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #72: Beyond the Black Gate
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/03/2018 08:31:40

This is a tough adventure, suggested for about TEN level 5 characters, or half-a-dozen of level 6/7... and even then they are put on notice that a cautious approach of stealthy exploration will win out over those who think they can hack or spellcast their way through anything: however despite a thoughtful approach being best there are moments when nothing but brash courage will do.

The background lifts the lid on the problem. Basically, the Wild Hunt isn't riding out any more and a bunch of witches want the party to sort things out, replacing the Horned King if needs be, and setting the Hunt in motion once more. This will involve multidimensional travel to visit the current Horned King in his realm, the Thrice-Tenth Kingdom, and stealing the Horned Crown off of his very head! Various hooks are provided to get the party involved - enticing them with rumours of vast treasure or somehow manoeuvering them into the clutches of the Witches of Asur, from which the only escape is to undertake this quest.

As befits such a legendary quest, there is a huge number of rumours to be discovered - some even true - which you are encouraged to customise to your own campaign. The core element is that the Witches - and the portal through which the party will be sent - is in the far north of the world. Different classes and races have separate lists of rumours, so there's a good chance that a wide variety will be gathered.

The adventure falls into two parts. First the party has to locate the Witches of Asur, then they go through the portal - which, if you haven't guessed, is called the Black Gate - and the rest of the adventure covers their activities in the Thrice-Tenth Kingdom. It all begins with the party on a ship in a dreadfull storm - they may have taken passage to visit the Witches, or you may decide to spring it on them unawares when they are travelling by sea for a completely unrelated matter. Be that as it may, proceeding begin in a maelstrom of mountainous seas and a howling gale in which the ship founders leaving the party's only hope to scramble onto a rocky shore where they may either climb a 200 ft cliff or enter some very dodgy-looking caves (with the sea trying to drag them back in, of course). Either way, they'll end up in the same place: dark, dank, and plain nasty... and eventually they encounter the Witches who explain why they are here. Like it or not, they'll soon be on their way through the multiverse...

The Thrice-Tenth Kingdom is a bleak and wintry place, infested by giants who will outmatch the party in head-to-head encounters. Knee-deep in snow (if they are lucky) characters will have to contend with the local wildlife as they trudge to their destination. There's plenty to explore in the Horned King's castle, much to see before the throne room is reached and the King himself confronted.

Despite the magnificent build-up to the adventure, the end is somewhat weak. The options seem to be to murder the Horned King or take him as a Patron, for which all the necessary game mechanics are provided. Moreover, if he is slain it is assumed that the party will return the Horned Crown to the witches, who hand out a few rewards and that's that. (If your party has other ideas, the properties of the Horned Crown are listed in considerable detail, however...). You might want to build up the finale a bit to avoid an abrupt ending, but the main part of the adventure has a splendid epic feel. The party won't forget their visit to the Thrice-Tenth Kingdom for the rest of their days!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #72: Beyond the Black Gate
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/17/2012 00:54:03

Harley Stroh's been writing some epic adventures, and DCC #72: Beyond the Black Gate is no exception. The players aren't just rescuing a god, it's The Horned King, based on the Master of the Hunt. And who entreats them? No less than Baba Iaga, though her hut is not in the adventure.

Yet players familiar with these figures know that they're not exactly on the side of good. And, indeed, Baba Iaga "summons" the characters by sinking their ship and forcing them to find shelter in her caves. Depending on the gamemaster's players, the gamemaster will either have a straightforward rescue, or several testy characters who may prefer to plan a way to betray their less-than-hospitable patrons. (Unfortunately, the adventure provides no troubleshooting in case they do.)

Baba Iaga's captured some of the sunken sailors, so a bit of no-or-little choice railroading later, the player characters are sent to the frozen Thrice Tenth Kingdom. There, the ice giants have captured the Horned King, who now sits in the throne of his citadel, glazily enthralled by the dancing ice giantess.

The citadel has been taken over by ice giants, and the encounters there are reminiscent of the well-known TSR "Against the Giants" adventure. Indeed, you can add further to this adventure by melding the adventure of the Black Gate with the details of Against the Giants.

The adventure is designed for six to ten 5th-level characters, but can be played by a smaller party of higher levels. Many of the encounters, from drowning at sea, to a snow avalanche, to falling off an icy bridge, are almost-instant deaths. However, player characters will have opportunities during the adventure to rescue other characters so players can play new ones. Also, the gamemaster can allow the NPC madman to be instead played by a player, or even add one of Baba Iaga's witches or a rescued sailor to the party.

The adventure adds The Horned King as a patron, for "heathen witches, barbarian shamans, and warriors that exalt the wild savage within". That should definitely appeal to some players! The Patron Taints are also pretty lively, from being overtaken by the call of the hunt, to demanding to be bested in combat by anyone in the party who claims authority. And, of course, since The Horned King is based on the mythological Wild Huntsman, the game master has plenty of resources on the internet to further develop this patron. (The adventure has no less than twenty rumors, primarily for the adventure, but also useful to flesh out The Horned King.) Unfortunately, only one unique spell, Slaying Strike, of three is included in the adventure -- write to Goodman Games to post the two others!

Despite the linearity of this adventure, this epic-swilling tale measures up to the memorable previous adventures by Goodman Games. Unpredictable or scheming players may force their way off the path of the plot, but adept game masters should find this quite entertaining.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #72: Beyond the Black Gate
Publisher: Goodman Games
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/14/2012 21:36:11

If you've read my blog previously, you'll know how much I really enjoy Goodman Games' DCC line of adventures. The art is always awesome and the maps themselves are works of art. Have Harley Stroh write the adventure and it will probably be love at first sight.

Spoiler Alert! There will be spoilers in the review below! Fair Warning!

Case in point - Beyond the Black Gate. Harley pulls off the start of the adventure in a manner I usually avoid - with a shipwreck. This means, of course, you need to get your party on a boat going somewhere - somewhere they won't actually get to. Harley's writing skill pulls it off, or at least makes the whole situation exciting enough that I'll jump through hoops to get my party there.

There are some very nice roleplaying encounters (which is fairly rare in DCC RPG adventures) dispersed throughout the adventure. Each of these encounters have motivations and twists that will be a blast to run as a GM. The players may not appreciate all the twists as they happen, but they'll enjoy the ride none the less. Mendax - even if I never get a chance to run Beyond the Black Gate, this character will be making an appearance - somewhere, somehow.

The story behind the adventure and the ways it may play out are extremely well put together, and the climax isn't the end. PCs may win the day and die in the evening if they aren't careful, but such is the way of the DCC RPG.

As someone else mentioned - this is a potentially lethal adventure. That is a hallmark of the DCC RPG - I can't knock it for following it's nature.

Included is a new patron - The Horned King, along with accompanying Patron Taint and Patron spell. You get a lot for what you spend with this adventure.

End Spolier Alert!

As for the maps (one of my favorite things about the DCC RPG Adventures) you get three full page adventures. I'm going to throw out a suggestion ere, but with a lot of RPG playing / sessions being run online, a VTT / G+ Hangout Player's version of the maps without the room numbers would be nice. The shame of all the DCC Adventures is that only the GM gets to see them. Player's maps w/o the locations labeled would be an awesome addition to an adventure like this.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #72: Beyond the Black Gate
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/14/2012 08:35:52

Originally published at:

Man it sure seems like Goodman games puts out Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures at the same pace White Wolf released V:TM supplements in the mid to late 90s, eh? Here I am again with another DCC adventure, the fourth since late July (including the Free RPG release). That’s a pretty hectic schedule.

If you’re familiar with DCC adventures then you know they are low on plot and dialogue, but high on hack and slash dungeon crawling. It’s easy to say some of them have more roll-playing than role-playing, but there’s a definite audience for that. With Beyond the Black Gate, this is still true, but there’s a lot more of a story here than in most DCC adventures. In fact you’ll be going through two very different locations, dealing with three dungeons and a story that can unfold in many different ways – most of them horrific. The player characters start off in a bad situation and things quickly get even worse. Their sailing vessel is destroyed by a terrible storm and those that survive are enlisted by a cantankerous crone to enter another dimension known as the Thrice-Tenth Kingdom. There the PCs will have to battle their way through an apocalyptic Iceland, do battle with triclops-style ice giants and retrieve the horned crown of the Horned King for the hag. Unfortunately it’s even harder than it sounds, but players will be richly rewarded for completing this quest, whether they betray the witch and merely set the Horned King free from his otherworldly trap, or they slay him and take the crown as their own.

I really enjoyed Beyond the Black Gate, but there are three issues I have with it. The first is that like most DCC adventures, this is made for WAY too many characters. Beyond the Black Gate is designed for between six and ten 5th Level characters. How often do you get a game of that size going? That’s way too many characters. I know Dungeon Crawl Classics wants people to play multiple characters, but even if you have an group of four players (which seems to be the most common game size of any system), that’s still 2.5 character PER PLAYER. When this happens, the personality of characters as well as their individual quirks can be lost and the party becomes a collective of bland murdering machines. Again, some people like that and it’s a trope of the system, but I like memorable characters and situations. My advice is to run Beyond the Black Gate for less characters but at a higher level as it will be far more rewarding. There are some great roleplaying opportunities here – from deciding what to do with the Horned King to how to deal with a certain mad dwarven fool.

Another issue I had with this particular adventure is it’s almost too lethal. DCC adventures tend to be written from the perspective of “Let’s get a TPK (total party kill)!” However, Beyond the Black Gate has several instances where it you are making a saving throw versus instant death. Whether it’s being drowned by a storm or buried by an avalanche, there will be some players that die before the first combat of the adventure and that’s…a little harah in my book. There’s also the fact that the adventure tells the DM that players simply won’t be able to hack and slash their way through this adventure and they’ll have to think their way through or be murdered by an ice giant onslaught. However…MINDLESS DUNGEON CRAWL STYLE SLAUGHTER IS WHAT DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSICS IS PRIMARILY ABOUT AS A SYSTEM! Arrrrgh! You can’t sit there and say, “Each adventure is 100% good, solid dungeon crawl” in the opening of this very adventure when the statement doesn’t actually ring true. This is more a “sneak, run and strike from behind” adventure than the dungeon hack. I’m fine with that, but don’t promote the adventure as something it actually ISN’T. Finally, the adventure just ends at the climax; at least in terms of laying out what happens. You’re there with the Horned King, you make your choice as what to do with him and then a horde of giants hits the throne room. Then…nothing. The adventure gives no advice or information as to how to run this combat or any idea of how the PCs can get out of it…especially since the adventure was designed up to this point with enemies they can’t be through pure brute strength. This is really bad and I can’t believe this aspect of the adventure made it through the editing process, especially as Goodman himself is usually very particular about this sort of thing. A good DM can deal with this poorly written climax, but those with less experience are going to have a lot of trouble running this thing.

Now that’s not to say the whole adventure is bad. It’s not. Far from it, in fact. Beyond the Black Gate has a truly memorable setup, a very cool plot, some great antagonists for the party to deal with and some truly big decisions to make. The adventure also boasts some incredible artwork by the always awesome Doug Kovacs. Like all DCC adventures, Beyond the Black Gate boasts some of the best maps in the history of the business and definitely the best out of any currently published system. Hell, sometimes I just want to recommend the adventures just for the quality of the maps! It’s just the adventure not only falls apart at the climax but it highlights the two biggest problems with a lot of Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures…and then exacerbates them. With the help of a good editor, this could have been a lot better. As it stands, it’s merely an okay affair; something that only gets a thumb’s in the middle. As I’ve said though, an enterprising and experienced DM can rewrite this thing so that it works a lot better from the climax on through and someone like that could really make Beyond the Black Gate a highlight of a DCC campaign.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
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