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Dungeon Crawl Classics #78: Fate's Fell Hand $6.99
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #78: Fate\'s Fell Hand
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #78: Fate's Fell Hand
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2018 08:38:29

This adventure requires a party that can think creatively and shows ingenuity, and warns that those who hack and slash their way through everything may come a cropper here! It all begins with stange beguilements in the shape of cryptic messages and dreams, that lead the party to a shallow cave in an out-of-the-way valley. What follows is no ordinary delve.

The background to the adventure explains what is going on in detail, explaining for the Judge how it all works and how to run the mechanics... suffice to say, there are three powerful wizards in a pocket dimension locked in combat (not of their own volition) and they've reached out to the party to get some outside help! Their combat is not of the brawling kind, it involves ever-shifting alliegiances and warped events, which are confusing to read, never mind run... and runs the risk of baffling the party too. There's still plenty that can harm them, however. The whole thing revolves around a mysterious deck of cards (facsimilies are provided), oh, and the pocket dimension is slowly shrinking.

Addressing the inevitable confusion, there's a whole section devoted to 'Running the Adventure' that provides some hints about how to dispel that confusion and get the characters engaged in productive action... yet it's still not very clear just what they need to do to brings events to a satisfactory conclusion, or even merely escape with their lives.

Whilst there is potential for a truly warped adventure utilising this concept, it is so weird and bizarre that players - and even Judges with the text in front of them - are likely to find it confusing and unsatisfactory, left not knowing what they can do to affect the situation and find their way back home. For genuinely crazy NPCs and odd situations this is excellent, but it needs some direction - at least for the Judge in how to make it all work coherently at the table.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #78: Fate's Fell Hand
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2014 23:56:52

So what were your characters doing at second level? Killing orcs? Hacking at zombies? Running away from lizardmen? Well, if you're playing a Harley Stroh Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure, you're doing nothing of the above. You're probably playing another of his fantastic epic-swilling insanely brilliant how-do-we-top-this adventure.

And fantastic this one is. A magical demi-plane in another dimension is slowly succumbing to chaos-plasm, and it's up to the characters to save it. No, wait. The characters just want to get out, and it won't be easy with three not-so-friendly wizards in an age-old power balance, each expecting the player characters to swear fealty and assist them. Add to this some jaded petty and powerful NPCs, a demon manipulating the game hiding in plain sight, and several mindless hideous creatures lurking at the edges of the world.

The game? Every day, the demon, in the guise of The Fool, deals the cards from a deck and the NPC associated with each card returns back to life and swears fealty to the the wizard who received it. Every day, the wizards scheme and attempt to use their minions to capture the plaques of the other wizards to escape the plane. None have succeeded, and for as long as the other NPCs have remembered, they have died, resurrected, and are well-aware of this endless cycle of eternal stalemate.

Except it's not going to be eternal much longer. With the arrival of the PC's comes the corruption of chaos. The demi-plane is embedded in chaos, and has been able to resist it dissolution into the chaos-plasm. But the PCs arrival has caused the chaos to slowly reclaim and consume the plane, and everyone has only so much time left.

The adventure is well-crafted, with the Harley Stroh elements we've come to expect from his previous scenarios: dangerous mad NPCs with strong personalities, detailed devious dungeons, and epic dimension-spanning plotlines. And did I mention that the PCs can become part of the deck? Yes, that does mean players may find themselves swearing fealty to opposing wizards each day!

Not suprisingly, there's more of an emphasis on the wizards and their minions-of-the-day (perhaps including the PCs!) than your average dungeon crawler. While this is an exciting diversion from the usual generic FRPG adventure, it's probably best for experienced GMs and players willing to roleplay out their unusual situation. Unfortunately, other than some GM tips, there's almost no information in the adventure bridging the power struggle plot with the dungeon lairs of the wizards. For example, while we have a detailed layout of the dungeons and the personal agendas of NPCs that live there, we don't have examples of how the wizards even communicate with the characters. Do they appear as ghostly images? Do their minions speak for them? Do they invade the character's dreams? Of course, wizards being wizards, any of these ways of contacting the player characters would work. It's pretty much the GM's responsibility to negotiate and roleplay out the relationships the characters have with the wizards. I really would have liked to have read some examples of how the adventure played out in playtest groups to get an idea of how to run it.

So if you have the players up for this sort of adventure, and have the GM ability to run it, enjoy the adventure. Much more interesting than killing orcs.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #78: Fate's Fell Hand
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/02/2013 08:32:45

Originally posted at:

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.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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