Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An Analysis of Death Frost Doom

In my last post, I gave a brief summary of how the session went. I now wish to discuss Death Frost Doom as a module. Don't construe this as a review; these are just my thoughts on the matter.

This may or may not contain spoilers. You may or may not have been warned.

Death Frost Doom is one of those wonderful modules that shows us that D&D does not have to be a game about endless combat and battle after battle until you reach the MacGuffin which is tucked in the last room and guarded by the biggest monster. It is a module where the characters have the chance to make major changes to the nearby campaign area. (Not necessarily good ones, either) This is a module where the characters have choices with actual consequence to them. They have the opportunity to be cowardly and self serving. They have the opportunity to be brave and possibly die for it. These things make the module itself compelling, and I find that I want to run it for several different groups to see the various outcomes.

Death Frost Doom is also a wonderful example of the dungeon/environment can be very much a character unto itself. This is not just a series of rooms but a functional structure with a consistent theme. Although largely abandoned,(well, until the characters mess with the plant monster) the dungeon is very much a living place. (In this instance, "dungeon" refers not only to the dungeon itself, but the cabin above it and the surrounding mountain graveyard.)

Finally, a few comments about the content of the module. There are a lot of horrible things that can happen to characters in Death Frost Doom. Most of the hazards are very nasty curses or magic items with a potentially fatal flaw to them. I love the magic items to be found in DFD. With only one exception I can think of (the protection scroll in the library) the items are unique. Magic items, in my mind, should be mysterious and just a little bit dangerous. A sword +1 is boring. Yet another potion of levitation is boring. I've never been a fan of Diablo-style D&D where after a couple of levels, every piece of clothing and equipment the character is wearing/carrying/using is a magical item. Ah, but I digress...

So, to encapsulate what I love about this module: it is an atmospheric, interesting dungeon and the module has the potential for great fortune or great woe. (Up to and including leprosy and death) The setup is both logical and fantastical. It is weird and off kilter and, most importantly, more than just a killing spree on the part of the characters.

The module clicks very well with what I'm running my characters through right now in my AD&D1 campaign. I also must say that it may have influenced future dungeons I design for my game.

(My players who read this are now free to despair.)

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