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Some published adventures are more fun for the DM than for the players. Now I don’t mean adventures where the DM actively tries to murder all the PCs and has fun running the game for everyone else. I mean the type of published adventures that turn planning the adventure into a game. Usually these type of adventures involve some sort of random generation so that the DM and players can reuse the same product and get a different experience each time. The first of these adventures that I can recall is the classic In Search of the Unknown by Mike Carr for Basic Dungeons & Dragons way back in 1979. There’s something special about that adventure if you’ve ever run it, although it’s fairly generic if you’ve ever just played it.
Which brings me to Scenic Dunnsmouth for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Like In Search of the Unknown, a good portion of the adventure is generated randomly although everything else about the two are completely different. In Search of the Unknown is your basic hack and slash dungeon crawl and all that randomizes are the monsters in different locations. Scenic Dunnsmouth is a mash-up of D&D and Call of Cthulhu in the same way the name is a mashup of two popular Lovecraftian locations: Innsmouth and Dunwich. The end result is a very weird and creepy location for the PCs to explore, which will harbor at least one, but possibly two or more other secrets to uncover. Dunnsmouth is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the one-two punch of mountains and seemingly endless swamp. The residents are similar to the stereotypical backwoods inbred rednecks, but obviously not all is what it seems here.
You’ll find no maps or the like in Scenic Dunnsmouth. After all, the DM has to randomly generate the town, meaning he or she will have to make their own maps and layouts based on the way the generation occurs. To make the town you’ll need a deck of playing cards and fourteen dice. To be specific you’ll need 10 d6s, a d4, a d8 and two d12s, each of which has to be a different colour (the text suggest red and black, but they don’t have to be. You just need to be able to tell them apart). You’ll need a sheet of paper, with the size of the paper determining the boundaries of the location and then you let your dice fly Make sure to roll them all on the center of the sheet and let them fall where they may. The text says nothing about what to do if a die rolls off the paper and/or surface area. I would assume re-rolling, but I suppose you could count that die as non-existent for determining your Scenic Dunnsmouth if you choose. Each die represents a different important location in the town and the number than lands right side up determines a specific factor about it. After you roll the dice, you take your deck of playing cards and draw a card for each d6 (and possible d12) location. What you draw determines yet another factor for the location. As you can see this whole process is extremely random, providing a DM with an adventure it can reuse numerous times, while wielding extremely different results and layouts – even for gamers that have already played through the adventure before! That’s very cool. As I said earlier, the whole process of seeing what kind of town you’ve created is a lot of fun for the DM as you look up the results and see the town come to life before your eyes.
The actual content of Scenic Dunnsmouth ends up being mostly background text and rules for how to generate your town. There are some sample towns to look at too if you can’t quite get the hang of what you are supposed to do here. After the town is generated, you look up the results for each die such as locations, buildings, layout and townsfolk and it is then up to the DM to tie everything together into a cohesive package. All this means that while Scenic Dunnsmouth is fun for any DM, it takes a somewhat experience and organized one to run this thing efficiently. Taking notes on what you have created is a VERY good idea.
So after you’ve created your town, what is left? Well, you need to create a solid hook to get your players to travel to Dunnsmouth. The text gives you some ideas, but you might have a few ideas of your own which would get the PCs in your troupe to travel to such a remote and inaccessible location. Once there they might discover a strange mystical artifact that warps time and space. They might also find a loathsome cult and/or a town full of mutants. There is even a strong chance a PC or two might join the cult willingly based on what happens in your playthrough. For players, it’s a pretty standard but creepy adventure for low level characters. There’s some hack and slash potential, but it’s mostly Call of Cthulhu style detective work where the PCs discover what is so ominous about this location and what they can do, if anything, to stop it. The town and potential plot points are enough to keep your characters in Dunnsmouth for several play sessions, if not longer. Heck, getting to and from Dunnsmouth could be an adventure in and of themselves.
I really had a blast with Scenic Dunnsmouth. It’s a great idea and while it’s still definitely an adventure that is probably more fun or memorable of an experience for the DM than the players, everyone involved will still have a great time with this adventure – as long as they’re not looking for a straight up dungeon crawl. This is a great adventure to bring fans of games like World of Darkness or Call of Cthulhu over to LoTFP or various D&D retroclones, showing that fantasy games can be just as much about role-playing as they are roll-playing. Scenic Dunnsmouth is one of the best thought out and designed adventures I’ve seen this year. I was thoroughly impressed by the level of background detail given to every little thing in the town. The adventure things of everything, from a wide array of townsfolk to encounter to even what happens if you don’t use the deck of playing cards correctly. Personally I love some of the occurrences that happen when you leave the instructions and/or Jokers in as it’s hilariously bizarre –even for this adventure. I can’t recommend this adventure highly enough. Even if you don’t normally pick up Lamentations of the Flame Princess products, Scenic Dunnsmouth is well worth the cover price just to see how well made the adventure is from cover to cover.
[5 of 5 Stars!]