A Gathering of the Marked (Dungeon Crawl Classics)
Publisher: Purple Sorcerer Games
Page Count: 49
Release Date: 06/15/2013
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com
Purple Sorcerer Games puts out a series out adventurers for Dungeon Crawl Classics that take place in the region of the Sunken City. Their fourth and latest, A Gathering of the Marked is the longest so far, clocking in with a page count of nearly fifty! Now not all of those pages are for the adventure. You’re also getting detailed maps, paper cut out miniatures, and outs and more. I was impressed with all the extras that came with that adventure. If that wasn’t enough, you get three different versions of the adventure – one for the Kindle, one for a generic e-reader and one for mobile devices. I found the mobile one to be the best overall on all devices while the default PDF seems to have issues when viewed on a computer (a bit of lag with loading the overlaying images and content). Getting three versions of the same adventure in different formats is great as it ensures each DM can use the one that works best for him or her, and also makes the $5.99 price tag all the more enticing. Sure you may only use one of the three, but at least you don’t have to worry about formatting errors and the like.
One area where a Purple Sorcerer release for Dungeon Crawl Classics differs greatly from a Goodman Games one is with the art. Goodman Games adventurers tend to have dark, grim and gritty artwork straight out of the earliest days of tabletop roleplaying. Purple Sorcerer adventures tend to use a more cartoonish feel. I personally really like it as it’s not only a juxtaposition from the extreme body count and horrible violence that a DCC adventure contains, but the style really stands out regardless of systems. I look at the art the same way I do a Lego video game. It’s very cute but said cuteness isn’t for everyone. Whether it’s your cup of tea or not, the art in this (or any Purple Sorcerer) adventure will definitely help make the adventure memorable, especially with the sheer amount of handouts with crazy pictures on them.
A Gathering of the Marked is probably the longest and most detailed Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure I’ve ever seen. It’s designed for either 16 Level 0 or eight Level 1 characters, which sounds like a lot to those new to DCC, but it’s pretty on par with what the system is written for. There is a HIGH player death count in DCC and so each player is encouraged to have two or three characters each. That sounds like it might be hard to roleplay, but DCC is more about the combat and roll-playing that character development and figuring out what makes your guy or girl tick. Even with the sheer amount of characters, it’s going to be hard for players to make it to the end of this adventurer. Although no one encounter will lead to a TPK (Total Party Kill), I would be surprised if even a fourth made it to the end of the adventure…and those will probably die there. Yes, A Gathering of the Marked is one of the most lethal Level 0 adventures for DCC and if you know the system, that’s saying something. That said, if you read the adventure and feel it’s too deadly/not deadly enough (!?), you can always scale back the encounters. It’s your game, after all!
The crux of A Gathering of the Marked is in the same. Seems the poor PCs are the descendants of members of an eeeeeeevil (INDEED!) cult and as such, when they hit maturity, a strange glyph appears on their forehead, causing a burning sensation and prodding them towards their eventual fate – The Winnowing. The Winnowing is a series of trials to see which of those that bear the Mark of Athax are worthy of being members in the dark cult…and which are merely worthy of being eaten, disemboweled or what have you. There are a lot, and I mean A LOT, of encounters as the PCs go through the trials and tribulation of The Winnowing. Can they survive, and if so, do they join the cult their forbearers were once members of, or do they try and stop the cult from gaining any more power, saving their descendants from eventually going through the same they have had to? More importantly, can they do it themselves, or with the help of a unexpected and cryptic ally?
There really isn’t much in the way of story here. The plot is pretty thin and straightforward, but that’s very much in line with Dungeon Crawl Classics. The emphasis is more on the non-stop action and if you’re a gamer that prefers adventures with a lot of talking head moments or detective work, you won’t find it here. If you are looking to see cheesemakers and fishermen trying to hack their way through zombie thingies and a big ogre, then this is for you.
One of the things I really likes about this adventure were all the items a character could find which would enable them special bonuses upon reaching Level 1 – as long as they chose the class relating to that item. You might find magical gloves that gives your agility a massive boost and some extra thieving skill points if the owner of the item chooses Rogue/Exotic/whatever as his First Level class. There are other neat magic items too, like the MASTER SHOCKhelmet, which is hilarious and lethal at the same time. So even if characters do die horrible in this adventure, the survivors will get some pretty nice bonuses once they level up, thus ensuring their chances of continued survival will be even greater.
I do need to make one more mention of the length. Unlike most DCC adventures which can be played in a single session, it will take two or three to get through A Gathering of the Marked. Make sure you realize this and can devote the time to the adventure because it is that long. The good thing about breaking it up into two or three sessions is that players can replace their massacred characters between sessions –as long as the DM has a good place to shovel them in.
All in all, I think A Gathering of the Marked is the best adventure I’ve seen from Purple Sorcerer Games yet. While it’s not the best DCC adventure I’ve read, the fact you are getting so much stuff, combined with the length of the adventure, means I can strongly recommend it to fans of the system. You’re definitely going to get six dollars worth of entertainment out of it.