Wednesday, January 23, 2019

DCC: They Served Brandolyn Red

Kicked off a new DCC campaign on Roll20 this week with the Goodman Games' 2015 Halloween module - They Served Brandolyn Red.  This is the second time I've ran this module, the first being at a game store in Kansas City.  I've had a great time with it both times, so my spoilery review and some play notes after the break.
They Served Brandolyn Red is a level 0 funnel written by Stephen Newton.  From the back cover:
The village of Portnelle is once again bright and festive.  After years of feuding, the town's most prominent and influential families will finally be making peace as the youngest generations are joined in marriage.  However, when an evil born of dark secrets refuses to stay buried, blood will flow like wine at the reception.
This wedding is one your fellow villagers will talk about for generations!
Mr. Newton also wrote the 2018 Halloween module The Corpse That Love Built, which I intend to run later for this Roll20 (it has some tie-ins to his 2015 module) and also wrote the third party Mutant Crawl Classics module Children of the Fallen Sun.  I had the opportunity to play in that adventure back at the 2016 North Texas RPG Con and very much enjoyed watching our gang of misfit wasteland survivors blow nuke ourselves.

Another Red Wedding
The Brandolyn adventures starts with all of the player characters being guests at a wedding.  The feud between the human Leddy family and the elven Whitegrass family may finally be ended with the blessed union of their two most beloved heirs.  Of course, this is a DCC module, so disaster strikes when ant-men burrow up from beneath the church and the wedding soon turns into a massacre.  With the two families blaming each other for sabotaging the nuptials, it is up to the hapless PCs to recover the severed head of the groom and help put the matter to rest.

There are family backgrounds for four different families, including the Leddy and Whitegrass families, but also the Dragontear and Vintner families, which are handed out to different players.  This is a nice touch because it gives the player characters some ties to the adventure and also gives them different, and sometimes conflicting, rumors and background information.  A family tree featuring of the important characters is also provided.

The bulk of the adventure takes place at the abandoned vineyard of the Vintner family, where the ant-men are easily tracked.  The vineyard is a wonderfully gothic adventure locale, featuring the old Vintner home and winery, a family mausoleum, and of course the overgrown remains of the vineyard itself.  There are a handful of encounters to be had at these locations that collectively shed light on an old mystery that concerns all of the important families.  An unsolved crime still haunts this place.  As for the task at hand, dealing with the ant-men, that can be handled by locating the giant ant nest, exploring its burrows, and confronting the gruesome horror that awaits there.

This adventure really features two mysteries: what happened on the vineyard generations ago that led to its haunted state, and what caused the ant-men to come out and attack today.  They are connected, of course, but having run the adventure twice now it was interesting to see how differently the players perceived these.  The first time I ran it, they became quite enthralled in the old mystery and carefully explored the vineyards locations to solve that and provide some sort of resolution.  This week, the party was much more focused on their task of defeating the ant-men and recovering the groom's head, so they largely avoided the more ghostly matters, although they did still stumble on enough clues that they had a decent idea of what had come to pass.  Both approaches still had a satisfying conclusion.

I've played this adventure with 4 players and with 5.  The first time we had quite a few casualties before moving into the burrows and the players took advantage of an opportunity to replenish the ranks.  This week my players were much luckier or more cautious above ground and only had a few losses before the burrows.  Once there they missed out on the opportunity to replenish (as I said, cautious group), and lost almost half their numbers in the final battle.

Overall, this is probably my favorite DCC funnel behind the classic Sailors on the Starless Sea.  It's also shorter to run, with both games taking about 4 hours to complete, so it's perfect for an introductory or con game where you might not be able to run all of Sailors.  I definitely recommend this for any DCC fans that enjoy a gothic mystery theme.

Favorite moment of Monday's game: having found the entrance to the ant nest and not wanting to go in, the players retrieved the head of a corpse they'd found, fashioned a rope from the vines growing all around them, hooked the head on a grappling hook, spilled some wine as a scented lure, and lowered the head into the tunnel to try to hook a giant ant.

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