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Dungeon Crawl Classics #76.5: Well of the Worm $6.99
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #76.5: Well of the Worm
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #76.5: Well of the Worm
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/17/2019 08:07:59

An review

This module clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

All right, so, this is designated as a level 1 adventure for 4-6 characters, but as a whole, you could conceivably run this as a funnel as well; while there are no specific patron-gaining encounters or the like included, the module’s difficulty is lower than some of the tough funnels out there. As always, a well-rounded group is recommended, but as far as DCC is concerned, this one is less difficult than comparable adventures and doesn’t per se require a specific set-up regarding classes. A pole weapon or means to cause solid ranged damage is surprisingly helpful in this one, in spite of the cramped dungeon.

The module is also pretty straightforward in many ways: We have a straight little dungeon-crawl here, and a very linear one at that – if you want lots of things to fiddle with, you’ll instead find a hack and slash adventure. Theme-wise, this is firmly-rooted in the dark fantasy-genre – the dungeon is very Giger-esque, and there are several thematic allusions to the Alien-franchise. In many ways, this could be played in e.g. Lamentations of the Flame Princess’ default setting without much modification, so the focus here is less on gonzo or sword & sorcery, making this a more “local” feeling module that doesn’t necessarily require much in the way of setting it up.

As always, we do receive some very flavorful read-aloud text, and the module does come with 2 b/w-handouts. The map of the complex is gorgeous, but no player-friendly version is provided.

All right, and this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only judges around? Great! So, the story is pretty simple: A madman called Solom Quor, driven insane by his contact with the Mother of Worms, has, over the years, degenerated into a barely human thing, all while breeding so-called war-worms – essentially worms with human faces, which gestate in humanoids, making acid-barfing war-worm zombies. Those slain by the draining of war-worms risk rising as war-worm zombies. Solom Quor’s plans near fruition, and thus the PCs have to brave the eponymous well and the claustrophobic dungeon it hides to stop the mad wizard.

The module wastes no time in establishing its atmosphere: Burrowed into the mortar of the walls, near mindless war-worms will attempt to drop on the PCs, dying if they miss – this suicidal attack establishes their mindless ferocity, and the first room of the dungeon proper helps this notion further: People glued to the walls with slime, incubating war-worms, are shown as the first handout, and some of the dead have already underwent the war-worm zombie transformation.

Navigating the claustrophobic tunnels, the party will need to brave combat in claustrophobic environments (including the chance to fall into pits full of war worms – hope the party brought sufficient means to pot-shot/pole-arm the trapped war-worms…) and find the horrid shrine of the worm mother (the second handout, btw.): Here, Solom Quor has a nasty ambush waiting, including a means to let rubble fall down via his escape route. The “rocks fall” does not mean that “all die” here, btw. – the cave-in only inflicts a moderate 2d6 damage to those trapped beneath the rocks. I am not happy with the implementation here – PCs “on the heels” of Solom are subjected potentially to the cave-in, but if it’s instantaneous, how does the one save make them get through a 10+-square tunnel? Personally, I think it would have been more prudent to realize the collapse via rubble falling for a round or 2…or1d3 rounds (with chances of being hit/pinned), and then have the entire tunnel collapse. This would have been more cinematic, and it would have been easier on the judge.

Anyhow, Solom, if he got away, will have his last stand with his war-worm queen, and in an adjacent part of the cavern, a blind, berserk war-worm zombie ogre awaits, which will be unleashed if the battle goes poorly for Solom and his queen. This one is easily my favorite monster herein, allowing for e.g. mighty deeds to target the stitching – and, being blind, the un-dead ogre also has another obvious shortcoming, beyond its blind berserker fury.

In case you were wondering, the module does offer random encounters, though these are easily my least favorite part of the module: Apart from the obvious war-worm angle, we also have snakes and vermin, and one type of spider can cause permanent Stamina damage, while a snake can cause death after 1d5 rounds on a failed save. Personally, I like such monsters to have some sort of context, foreshadowing or the like – having the random encounters be potentially more debilitating than the planned encounters is a choice I don’t particularly enjoy seeing.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, with no serious complaints on my part. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard with a few b/w-pieces. The handouts are nice, if not necessarily mind-blowing, and the cartography is nice, but lacks player-friendly versions. Still, I do applaud the fact that the module prioritized its art-budget properly and included handouts instead of useless encounter art. The pdf-version has basic bookmarks. I can’t comment on the print version’s merits or lack thereof, since I do not own it.

Harley Stroh’s “Well of the Worm” is a well-executed hack-and-slash adventure; I was particularly intrigued to realize that this wasn’t originally penned for DCC – Daniel J. Bishop converted the module from its original 3.5-version, and did so remarkably well. This very much feels like a DCC-adventure. It also does its claustrophobic theme well, and manages to evoke a rather fun atmosphere…but the 3.X-roots do show in the miscellanea. There is a bit less going on beyond combat than I’d have liked to see, and while Daniel J. Bishop did a fantastic job making the combat feel properly DCC-like, beyond that, the module doesn’t have as much going on as I’d have liked to see. This is, in short, a solidly-executed genre-piece. This is NOT, I repeat, NOT, a bad adventure. It is, however, also not necessarily one that will blow your mind. It is evident that the module could have used a few more pages to develop its themes. As a whole, I consider this to be a 3.5 stars-module, and while I wanted to round up, I ultimately felt that the module, ironically, considering its slithering, slimy theme, is a bit too sterile beyond non-combat interactions for rounding up.

Endzeitgeist out.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #76.5: Well of the Worm
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2018 08:34:30

This adventure is set on the Plains of Barrowdown, an unfortunate patch of land that local lordlings use when their petty squabbles reach the level of open warfare - something that does nothing for those whose living depends on growing crops on the plains, who have had to survive on looting the dead when their crops have been trampled beyond salvation. Now a plague of blood-sucking worms has added to their woes, and there's a selection of adventure hooks provided to get the party involved.

The adventure background explains where the worms came from, who or what is behind them, and where the adventure will start: an old abandoned well in the middle of farmland ruined by incessant warfare.

It all begins with the party standing in the fields around the well, a bleak location that is described atmospherically. Below the well is a cavern complex, a claustrophic tangle of tunnels in which the party should feel threatened by the very environment around them, something the Judge is advised to play up. Various unpleasant creatures, some alive and some undead, exist here and none are welcoming to visitors.

It's a cramped, claustrophobic delve fulled with slithering horrors, smelly and unpleasant in the extreme... and for little reward save the satisfaction of wiping them off the face of the earth. And then you read the suggestions for further adventures... By the end of the session, the players will want hot baths, never mind their characters!

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #76.5: Well of the Worm
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/22/2013 07:35:24

Originally posted at:

I’ve never understood the .5 style numeration of some Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures. There are several things that can trigger it – con exclusives, conversion from another system and so on. I just think it’s silly. Maybe a different track with its own numbering, ala old school D&D adventures? Con exclusives could be CE1, CE2 and so on. The point-five bit always sounds like it’s part of an adventure or to be tacked on as a follow-up to an earlier release. In this case, the adventure does state that it was converted to the Dungeon Crawl Classics system, but unfortunately it doesn’t say WHAT it was converted from. As a reviewer, that would have been nice to know for comparison and contrasting. I had to actually look up the original source, and it turns out it was originally DCC #29, back when these were printed for Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. It’s also worth noting the printed version of this adventure was originally only available to people who purchased two or more paper copies of adventures from Goodman Games. It’s nice to see that, for those who missed out on the original offer, they can still purchase a pdf version of the adventure. With all that out of the way, let’s get on with the review.

Well of the Worm is for four to six Level 1 characters, which is a rather small party for a DCC adventure. It’s a very short adventure which has characters going down a well to fight human headed worm monsters. I’ll admit that the enemies aren’t all that interesting a concept, but they can’t all be winners. Besides, just because I don’t think the well worms are interesting doesn’t mean that some other gamer WON’T. At least the adventure gives you three possible plot hooks to make your characters go down the well. One is especially weak (What are the chances all the characters are from the same village after all – how often does THAT happen?), but the other two are solid and diverse enough that they can spur your party into action.

Sure, it’s a bit odd that there is a massive cavern under a town’s dried up well, but it’s a fantasy game. Honestly, is that really the weirdest thing your players will have encountered in one of these? A good DM should really play up the tight quarters of the adventure. After all, this isn’t an expansive dungeon made by some evil big bad. It’s a naturally occurring cavern that just happens to have some hideous monsters living in it. I really like that the adventure calls attention to how cramped the location is and inflicts penalties on large weapons due to the lack of room to properly use them.

There isn’t a lot to see or do in Well of the Worm. It’s a fairly straightforward, linear dungeon crawl. Characters will hack and slash their way through zombies and well worms. For a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure, the lethality of the quest is surprisingly low. I was surprised at how “easy” the adventure was for characters to survive compared to previous releases. That said, there are two very easy ways to die in this one. The first is taking a very large fall at the beginning of the adventure. The second is falling into a pit of the human headed worm monsters. Neither are very fun ways for your character to go. For the most part, though, this is a fairly standard and somewhat generic dungeon crawl. Even the two main antagonists are a bit predictable and pat. In fact the warm worm mother is almost ripped exactly from the video game ArcaniA‘s first boss, which is probably just a coincidence. There’s only so much you can do with worm monsters after all. There is one neat monster in the Zombie Ogre, especially its unique physical state. That’s definitely the most memorable and enjoyable thing about Well of the Worm. Unfortunately, it’s an optional encounter that may not happen depending on what players do.

There isn’t a lot of art to Well of the Worm, but what’s here is very well done indeed. There are two full page handouts that really help to make the adventure come alive, and as always, the DCC maps are the best in the industry today. The two covers (front and back) are full colour and are really well done, but I did have some people laugh at the absurdity of the monsters, which puts a damper on playing the adventure. After all, if the players can’t take them seriously, it takes a bit of extra work to salvage the experience.

All in all, let’s give Well of the Worm a thumb’s in the middle. It’s not a bad adventure by any means – just a rather generic and uninteresting one. It’s very well written, and I loved some of the details to the location and mechanics, but the adventure just didn’t really wow me. There are plenty of better (and cheaper) Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures out there. Again, this is not a bad adventure by any means, but I’d only recommend picking this up if you’re a completionist trying to get your hands on all of the adventures for the system.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
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