Descent into the Candy Crypts is a dungeon module for the Crimson Dragon Slayer (CDS) roleplaying game. It is written by the game’s creator, Venger As’Nas Satanis.
This is a review of the PDF version, which is 14-page book with a color cover and black & white interior. My group were only able to play this up to about halfway before we ran out of time. It was very entertaining, though.
The overall tone is quite funny and reminded me of an R-rated version of quirky cartoons full of non-sequitirs, such as Adventure Time.
Overall, the art and layout were quite good. I’ve reviewed nearly all of Venger’s works and I feel that the layout and typography improves each time. The cover painting is by Venger himself and the interior illustrations (mostly full-page) are by Joshua Barnett, whose works (which I’ve seen in the core rulebook for CDS) have a fitting cartoony style for this dungeon.
The first three pages introduce the adventure setting, giving a bit of history, a table to give motivation to the players (“Why you hate candies!”), three new player races (all of them fruit-based, with poorer stats than the ones in the core CDS rulebook, but each with a cool ability or attack that is usable once per day) and finally a table to create memorable encounters to emphasize a gonzo feel and encourage replayability (“Let’s make this interesting”). All of this was easy to take in and full of humor.
Playtest notes: all three of my players chose to be fruit for some reason. As the
Game Master Dragon Master, I was very pleased. I nudged each of them to choose a different kind of fruit-folk, so we ended up with a Strawberry, a Banana and a Grape. All of them vicious, sadistic warriors despite their cute, delicious appearances. Much chuckling around the table. I won’t spoil the motivation table for why these characters hated candies so much, but all that I can say is that the tone would have made Robert E. Howard or a Black Metal band very content. The juxtaposition was great.
The adventure itself all takes place in the Candy Crypts. There are 2 1/4 pages of numbered room encounters. Each is brief, simple and hilarious. Some are just window-dressing: comedic or eerie visuals. All-in-all I was pleased: not every encounter was just straight up combat. There were plenty of opportunities for role playing and exploring.
Playtest Notes: I can’t think of any past adventures that began with a visit to a dentist. “Well, adventurer, you have a cavity. Sit down.” There were no stats listed for encountered friendly NPCs (of which there were several) so I just hand-waved it that the PCs with the highest Charisma scores could ask them to do things. Each one would essentially take out or weaken a single monster but get destroyed in the process. I described their gory deaths with delicious-sounding terms. Again, lots of laughs. Things got crazy nuts with the discovery of a huge generator that was about to blow up. I had fun watching the party scrambling to flee in time to avoid the blast. The worst of the damage was absorbed by any hapless prisoners that they had rescued. That was, sadly our final encounter for the night, but it was a good enough place to end it.
The dungeon, as a whole, is two floors: the above-ground ruin and the maze of rooms below. One section is a crypt (obviously) and the other a sort of subterranean candy “red-light” district full of sleazy non-combat encounters and locations. Again, most of these encounters have brief descriptions and leave a lot up to the Dragon Master (and players) to make things interesting. With the right people, this dungeon could really sing.
The dungeon map is nicely drawn and laid out. Easily printed onto a single 8.5×11 sheet of paper for reference (which I did).
Most of these encounters are quite silly, some shamelessly juvenile, all full of pop-culture references which is kind of a trademark of CDS. This is the kind of game that encourages players to make geeky pop-culture references all of the time because it doesn’t detract from the session.
Playtest Notes: sadly, the party never made it into the “deeper” parts of the dungeon as we had to cut the session short. But I might transplant these locations into another CDS game some times (or just play this module again with fresh players). The lethality is high, in a typical old-school way, and one of the PCs got completely splattered by some kind of tentacled horror with winged monkey traits (I pantomimed the screeching, ape-shit pummeling from the creature, which was fun). Luckily, the party still had a surviving prisoner that we quickly statted-up as a replacement.
On the last page are a few new Magic Items, which were surprisingly less funny and witty than I expected (other than their titles, such as “Amethyst Ring of WTF”).
Summary: this is a fun, light-hearted, silly, brief and simple dungeon module. Not a lot of depth but lots of opportunity for comedy. My group got about halfway through it in one short session of about 3 hours, so a group with more time might get through the entire thing in one. I think that the most enjoyment can be had by using this as a one-shot with new characters, but it would be interesting to hear another group’s playtest report if they used this in their ongoing CDS campaign.
If you’re a fan of Crimson Dragon Slayer, and of Venger’s works in general, then get this, you’ll have a blast.
Check out my other reviews of products by Korthalis publishing: