Thursday, 21 April 2016

Review: The Meat Grinder

When I started the hobby I was a broke kid. I was glad when I could spare some money to buy a rulebook, so I didn't understand who the hell buys modules which were usually short and expensive. During my first ten years as a Game Master I've only bought a single adventure collection, which was written for a hungarian rpg best forgotten. I've found it on the shelves of an antiquary. It was dirt cheap, and I've had an urge to buy something. Those adventures were so shitty I couldn't even finish reading any of them, and I had absolutely no idea how to run them. All these lead to me ignoring modules for many years.

Of course as I grew up this attitude changed. With more money and less free time I learned to appreciate modules. I prefer short, straightforward, imaginative adventures, but I'm usually happy if two of these conditions are met. My favorites are Judges Guilds classics and the current run of DCC modules. Still, I usually just steal ideas from them. It's very rare when I find a module I want to run as written.

The Meat Grinder is such an adventure.

I discovered this beauty while browsing the Goodman Games forums.

"A FREE Zine Module for DCC! 
In the 1970s ZINE Style! 
Completely unprofessional! 
A Level "0" Funnel that brings one to 1st level! 
Make many stacks of "0" Level characters! 
Various spots where prisoners are found to replace the dead!"

I love character funnels! Some of the most fun adventures I've ever run were funnels. Not only they are often crazier than your average dungeon crawl, but they also produce far more casualties, yet somehow the sessions are more light hearted than usual. I've yet to see a player who was mad because of character death during a funnel, or one that didn't have a satisfied grin on his face when at the end he could level up his survivors to first level. It feels like a great achievement, a proof of the player's cunning and luck - even if he lost three or more characters by the end.

The author wasn't lying about 1970s style. The art and the layout is so bad and childish that I fell in love with it at first sight. What this booklet lacks in skill, it makes up for in mood. It has illustrations of goatmen (cool!), goatmen murdering people (wicked!), the graet pig man beast (awesome!), and a demon I could hardly imagine without the illustration (crazy!). It also has a map in the middle which mimics the DCC style by filling the whitespace with art. It's amazing! You'll know at first glance which room is which even without turning the page to its description! Kewl stuff so far!

The writing is just as amateurish and unprofesionnal as the art, which makes it already miles better than what professional publishers produce. It's not bland and neutral, it has the excited voice and attitude of a teenager writing up his first adventure. It feels like listening to one of your nerd friends who can't shut the fuck up about how he has slain a demon lord with his level 100 infernal paladin/wizard/assassin last night or how he is going to kill all the PCs in his next adventure. But it's not annoying! It's goddamn evocative. It gets you in the mood of running this shit! After reading the hook you'll want to murder the goatmen for what they did. After reading the way to the dungeon you want to visit all those cool sounding places the text mentions. After reading a room's description you want to send your players there and see how they die. Heck, I would actually visit them myself to die!

Style isn't enough for glory of course. An adventure needs interesting places, encounters and treasures!

After the introductory massacre the rest of the adventure takes place in the disguisting demonic dungeon of the loathsome beastmen. It's a hostile environment with evil altars, piles of corpses, meat grinders, a rusty pit above pool of acid... Yeah, the pool is a quite obvious trap, and it's not the only one - the players can get killed by energy blasts and toxic gas too. The adventurers will be glad to leave this place behind once they finish their quest.

Mosts of the monsters are goatmen, who attack in large numbers and are wicked bastards that like cooking people alive or raising them as zombies. The players won't feel sorry for killing them. There are far more interesting inhabitants though! Their leader is the GREAT PIG MAN BEAST who will hack survivors to pieces with his cleaver. They have a summoner who sacrifices a small girl to summon a demon. There is a pig polymorphed into a dragon. I still smile when I think about the last one.

After all this awesomeness the treasures are surprisingly generic: mostly gold and gems, The only interesting item is the magic sword of the zombie knight, which is a +1 sentient longsword that wants to punish murderers and can detect sloping passages. I almost wrote intelligent instead of sentient, but he's actually quite stupid (Int 3).

I will have to fix my earlier statement. I don't want to run this adventure. I want to get drunk to forget what I've read, then play this adventure, then finally run it for my party! I'm also in the mood to draw my dungeon on paper with pen again, to do shitty little illustrations around them, and use courier font for my notes. I also want to see Porttown and all the places mentioned in the module. These twelve pages made me happier and more excited than anything done by professional publishers this year. I don't know who wrote is (I do have a guess), but I'll buy him a beer one day.

You can download The Meat Grinder from HERE. It's free. Download it. If you are a Judge, print it out and hand it to your fellow Judges. If you are a player, don't fucking dare to read it, just print it out, hand it to your Judge, and tell him he's a pussy if he's not going to run it. At least by printing it you made it sure some trees didn't die in vain.

Time to die Goat Men!

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