Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/09/02/tabletop-review-dungeon-crawl-classics-78-fates-fell-hand/
It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to review a Goodman Games release for Dungeon Crawl Classics. The last first party release for the system I reviewed was #72, aka Beyond The Black Gate, back in September of 2012. That’s nearly a year ago! I have reviewed eight other releases for DCC since then, but they were all third party releases (two from Purple Sorcerer, one from land of Phantoms, one from Dragon’s Hoard, and four from Brave Halfling), so it’s nice to take a look back at a release from the people behind it all. I’m glad I chose this one to delve back into Goodman Games’ releases, as Fate’s Fell Hand is an amazing adventure, albeit a complicated one. The end result is an adventure that takes an expert GM to pull off, but the end result is well worth it.
Fate’s Fell Hand is an adventure for four to eight Level 2 characters, along with a stream of henchmen. In this adventure, players are sucked into a demiplane (no, not Ravenloft) where three powerful wizards (one of which bears more than a passing homage to Lovecraft’s scribe of the Necronomicon) do battle in an attempt to escape this prison of their own making. Only when one Wizard obtains all twelve cards from the deck of fate will they have enough power to escape. The catch is that each day, the armies of each magic-user are reset and reshuffled, meaning victory is all but impossible. That is, until the PCs are sucked into the demiplane as well, upsetting the ancient balance. Now the party has to decide which of the three wizards to aid, or if they want to capture the cards themselves and let their own magic wielding allies set the team free. Who knows? The party could even split between the armies! Once allied with one of the three spellcasters, the PCs must play by the rules of the location, meaning that each day, their alliances could reset.
At the same time, the same act of eldritch power that brings the PCs into the demiplane has also caused the magic powering it to take the form of giant hideous worms bent on eating this plane of reality until there is nothing left of it. This means not only do the PCs and mages have to deal with the daily resets, but they are now stuck with a finite amount of time. Can anyone escape the demiplane before the worms devour it into non-existence? That’s a heavy plot to be sure!
Although the adventure sounds like a guaranteed TPK (even for a DCC affair), there are actually a lot of ways to get some, if not all, of the adventuring party out alive. Unlike a lot of DCC adventures, where the entire piece is a dungeon hack favoring roll-playing over role-playing, this is definitely one adventure where you can’t just stab your way through things. A solid, well thought out game plan is needed to survive. It’s refreshing to see a DCC adventure where players have to rely on their wits rather than their stat blocks and magic items to make it through things. The adventure is just rock solid from beginning to end, and it’s easily one of the most memorable adventures for the system. It’s a very long adventure with a lot of potential encounters (that could be repeated many times over due to the nature of the demiplane).
I’d be remiss in not mentioning the art in this adventure. Sure, Dungeon Crawl Classics is well known for the quality of the art accompanying its adventures, but wow, are things turned up a notch here. I just absolutely fell in love with the cover to Fate’s Fell Hand. It’s so striking. I decided to pick this up just because of that cover, and that’s an extremely rare impulse decision for me to make. The rest of the art is equally impressive, and of course, like all DCC adventures, the accompanying maps for this adventure are amongst the best in the industry today. Most DCC adventures just have one or maybe two maps if it is an especially long adventure. Fate’s Fell Hand has FOUR. That should give you an idea of the size, length and scope of this piece. The adventure even contains twelve half page size cards to represent the playing pieces from the Deck of Fate. These things are gorgeous, and I’m glad I have the PDF version of this adventure so I can print and cut out as many are needed. I’d hate to ruin a physical copy of this thing.
Fate’s Fell Hand is one of the most impressive and comprehensive adventures I’ve encountered this year. It is definitely not for an inexperienced GM and/or newcomers to Dungeon Crawl Classics though. This adventure is best left in the hands of a very experienced GM willing to put in a lot of extra effort to make this run smoothly, take copious notes about the ever changing alliances and plaque locations and so much more. In the hands of an inexperienced GM, Fate’s Fell Hand will simply fall apart and be a disappointing disaster for all involved, so be very sure of your ability to run a DCC game before going through with this one. It’s still a blast to read through, as well as for viewing the art, but I can’t express enough just how detail oriented a GM has to be to make this work. It’s one of my favorite adventures of the year, but Fate’s Fell Hand certainly needs a specific person to make it reach its true memorable potential.