Thursday 28 July 2016

Review: Appendix N Adventures #3: The Treacherous Cobtraps

The Treacherous Cobtraps is the third part of Brave Halfling Publishing's Appendix N Adventure Toolkit series. While the Ruins of Ramat and The Vile Worm were conversions of earlier OD&D and Pathfinder modules, this doesn't seem to have a precursor. I didn't acquire this in print so far, thus I can only talk about the pdf, which comes with letter sized, tablet, and system neutral versions, and a map.

The digest size module is 12 pages long, but only 7 pages contain actual content, the rest is for license, covers, handout. The illustrations are decent as usual, the cover is a bit meh, the handout would be alright if it wasn't drawn for the most uninteresting dead end in the whole adventure. While the map is charming, it confirms at first glimpse that similar to The Vile Worm this is a short sidetrek too, with little to explore. But hey, who knows, maybe those locations are interesting this time!

The Treacherous Cobtraps is a 2nd level adventure for a party of 8-12 adventurers. According to the background a bunch of weird spiders moved in to the nearby woods, and since the small game is becoming scarce they carried off some sheep and a shepherd from the nearby village. The locals appear to be unusually rich: contrary to what's written in the DCC RPG rulebook about medieval economy their leaders can cough up 100 gold pieces for cleansing the forest. Can reward get any more uninspiring than 100gp? Even some cattle and a cart of cabbages would've been more exciting.

The aforementioned arachnids get a one and quarter pages long description. These stygian orb weavers are big ass black widows with green glowing marks and magical abilities. The queen has 4HD, some dirty spells, and a blinding poison. The males are your usual dull giant spiders with 2HD. At least they have a cool name.

The lair has three areas. The first is a web with a stygian orb weaver runt, who will call in a another within 1d3 rounds. The second is a harmless pit trap with a dead spider, a dead elf, and some loot at the bottom. The third is a bog with two spiders, a forest path with extremely flammable web, and the lair of the spider queen. At the end the players will find four capturive dwarves (although only three of them are named), the halfling shepherd, and some treausre. The areas are described in a lengthy technical style which bores the reader with dimensions and distances. Guess what: nobody cares! If we need that info we'll take a look at the map! Oh wait, the map lacks scale...

Let's talk a bit about the pros! The place is more atmospheric than the previous two adventures, and the treasure is quite nice. There is a Dwarven Shoemaker's Tools which can construct a set of quality footwear in 3d6 turns. It's a seemingly useless magic items my players would love! Morclaiv is a +1 goblin slayer longsword, which can shed golden light and urges its wielder to return to the dead prince's realm and restore balance. While its abilities are generic, they are useful, and its task can be a good hook later.

Now it's time to light the torches and burn down the webs... Let's check what I've written above about the the stygian orb weavers, and then count how many of them are encountered. Yep, that's four 2 HD spiders and one 4 HD spider queen. For 8-12 adventurers of 2nd level. Are you kidding me?! Even if the spiders attacked in a single group the PCs would murder them within a few rounds. And no, their special powers won't compensate for their low hit dice, because guess what, those murderhobos will throw devastating spells, kick ass with mighty deeds, burn luck to cause ridiculous damage, and heal themselves. Unless something goes unlikely wrong there is zero challenge in the adventure. Even the traps are just hindrances without meaningful threat.

The real problem again is the author not understanding what makes DCC RPG tick. The game's main goal was emulating the imaginative and often weird classic fantasy literature. This requires rules and modules that evoke the genre's feel. Let's take a look at a random level 2 DCC adventure from Goodman Games! In The Emerald Enchanter the party can face a mosaic golem, emerald eidolons, flying skulls, rescue a drained moon-fiend, get killed by a giant skull statue shooting lasers from its eyes, try to communicate with an amoeba, and battle a mad wizard who turns people into emerald for shits and giggles. Wicked! And that's far from beig their craziest product. Meanwhile, Brave Halfling Publishing wants you to go to the forest and kill some spiders, and they even ask money for it... This should be a one page adventure.

Tl;dr: The Treacherous Cobtraps is about killing five spiders for some mildly interesting loot. You can buy it on DriveThruRPG.

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