Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Arwich Grinder

The Arwich Grinder (Crawl, No. 9)The Arwich Grinder by Daniel J. Bishop
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In a world inundated with fantasy role-playing games, Dungeon Crawl Classics innovates. This is particularly true with their concept of "0-level funnels" in which players take a number of decidedly unheroic characters through an adventure before they are even considered warriors, wizards, clerics, or thieves. The idea is that a group of outlyers (our potential adventurers) go out to do something out of the ordinary that their more banal-minded counterparts simply will not. Of course, you can expect that most of the people in this undertaking die a horrible death of some sort. And it's not the strong who survive, necessarily. It's the ones who don't do stupid things, but take a chance once in a while, relying on their wits and luck to pull them through.

The Arwich Grinder is a third-party supplement for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game.But this is more akin to The Hills Have Eyes or Deliverance than your typical Tolkienesque fantasy. The word "grinder" should serve as a sort of warning. This is not a pretty module. Definitely not for children! As the copy indicates, the adventure centers around the village of Arwich and the Curwen family, who lives up in the pine-covered hills, away from civilization . . . in so many ways. And, like many a good adventure, Lovecraftean nasties may or may not make an appearance. You'd better hope not. But if they do, you can always try to defeat them with . . . uh, a stick? Or that butcher knife you stole out of the meat market drawer? Maybe?

This is a very coherent, very short adventure that sets a solidly dark mood and gives the characters opportunity to become heroes, if they don't run off in terror and if they aren't killed by . . . well, I can't give away the many opportunities to die here. You want super-heroic warriors bristling with muscle or wizards with total control over eldritch magic? You want a judge telling you exactly the next step in your story, to be railroaded through a plot that you don't create? Go play "Math"finder (Pathfinder). You want to do your own exploring, create your own adventure, to go "off the rails" in a dark, horror-saturated environment where you just hope to survive to the next day? You want to learn to love your character because he is, against all odds, a survivor?

Here you go . . . Enjoy???

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