6/12/2015

Frugal GM Review: The Hounds of Halthrag Keep

Frugal GM Review: The Hounds of Halthrag Keep
I picked up The Hounds of Halthrag Keep a couple weeks ago intending to play it on the plane ride to Origins in anticipation to what I thought would be my 1st ever Dungeon Crawl Classics game (I actually got two games in). Unfortunately while I was smart enough to bring my dice with me, I accidentally left the adventure at home.

It's probably just as well because I could totally see me tumbling my dice all over the cabin and losing some of them. Some of my dice are pretty much irreplaceable.

The Hounds of Halthrag Keep is a solo "choose-your-own-adventure" style product that tries to put a bit of a twist on the standard DCC 0-level funnel. The author, Noah M. Stevens, gives you everything you need to play and tweaks things a bit so you can have a solo 0-level funnel. There is a decent game mechanic in the game allowing you access to the information gained from previous (i.e. Dead) 0-level characters that had gone into the dungeon before.

I have to admit that I wasn't very pleased with this adventure when I first played it. A couple of the mechanics were just gnawing at me and there were little things here & there. After sleeping on it I decided to re-read the rules because figured that either I had to have something wrong as there was just way too much combat for a solo 0-level funnel.

If you aren't familiar with the typical 0-level funnel in DCC, your 0 level guys (you usually have a small roster) is part of a larger group and your best defense is simply to not be the poor bastard being targeted by the enemy. When a random encounter was indicated I was simply rolling on the encounter chart instead of rolling a d12 to see if I had to roll on that chart. Basically I was going into combat every chance I could, mostly against Goblins and Cliff Roosters, and some of those Roosters are DEADLY.

This guy and I exchanged a few mortal blows
Once I figured out why I was quickly killing off my 1st four PCs I decided to try again and rolled up four more 0 Levels using the Purple Sorcerer's 0-level Party Generator. My first guy...well actually my 5th, managed to get in and find the dropped loot from the 1st four guys, barley made it to the point where he could grab some of the objective items and got out just after dark...with 1 hit point to his name.

He's got no money, but a decent amount of gear and great stats (in my opinion), so I might level this guy to 1 and give the larger game a go.

Now I played with this on my PC using the PDF and most of my minor issues with the product stem from using it as an on-screen PDF. The PDF was mostly bookmarked, but some of the bookmarks didn't line up with the actual locations and this document really needed internal cross-links. Going from entry 116 (one of the 1st entries) to 62 shouldn't require you to scroll though the bookmarks, click on #62 and then have to scroll through another page to find the entry. While I'm at it I think the random encounter entries need to be re-done so they aren't straight numbers like the "main" entries. I don't know how many times I accidentally scrolled past my desired number and chose a random encounter entry instead. The author did this different number scheme with the rules and the tables/charts, so this isn't a foreign concept.

The PC sheets were decent enough but could have used some space for recording XP and maybe a spot for recording the sequence of rooms/numbered entries. Now this might just be me, but I think that if you want to backtrack you should be able to easily enough, but the choices given don't let you always backtrack. This is something that is common to these types of adventures and not something I'm factoring in to my overall rating.

Frugal GM 4 Star Review: The Hounds of Halthrag Keep
While I think there could be some tweaks to make The Hounds of Halthrag Keep better, I have to admit I did enjoy it once I got over my own inability to remember all the rules. While that is on me, it might be a good idea for authors of these types of products to add a little more"hand-holding" for the players who won't necessarily be able to remember all these new things.

Overall definitely worth your time!