Monday, August 17, 2015

Review: Black Sun Deathcrawl

This is the bleakest setting I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

Black Sun Deathcrawl is a Dungeon Crawl Classics setting by James MacGeorge.  Imagine the unforgiving world of Dark Sun, the bleak pulp atomic horror of Carcosa, the dark fantasy of Dark Souls, the existential dread of Wraith: the Oblivion.

Black Sun Deathcrawl is worse than all of them.

Many years ago, the apocalypse happened.  The evil Black Sun became ascendant, turning the world to waste.  Its merciless rays have worn the world smooth and featureless.  Its wicked thoughts have taken shape as monsters that harry the few survivors, and push forth with the rays of the Black Sun.  The few survivors became the immortal and mutated Cursed, forced to eternal mutation under the harsh rays of the Black Sun.  The apocalypse was so total, even the gods have fled this landscape.  The only respite from the Black Sun is to dig.  Dig far underground in the hopes of escaping.

Of course, to dig means allowing the rays to penetrate the ground and eventually corrupt the entire planet.  By saving themselves, they doom the world.

It's a short zine, so you get only the barest flavor of the setting.  Fortunately, this means it does not stay overlong nor become tiresome.  Characters start as first level Fighters, but have already gained mutations from the Black Sun's corruption, and will gain more as exposure continues.  Death is not permanent, as characters return from the grave (bearing additional mutations!) within a round.  (Characters can die permanently if they run out of Hope, which replaces the Luck stat — committing suicide might be the only way to "win" at the setting.)  The only hope spot of the setting is that the Black Sun's gravity will eventually pull in existence around it and end its evil.  That's certainly small comfort to your PCs, of course — it could be millennia before that happens.

The zine ends with a sample adventure — the PCs dig into a city of dwarfs, but they bring the corrupting influence of the Black Sun with them, and are forced to flee deeper into the earth.  It plays a lot like the horror-march of Heart of Darkness or Apocalypse Now — you'll see a lot of horrific tableaus, some of which you can rage against but cannot fully stop.  Maybe you can save a life or two, but eventually, everyone becomes Cursed under the rays of the Black Sun.

I absolutely recommend it.  If any of the above sounds like something that interests you, get the pdf or pre-order from the next print run.

5 comments:

  1. Just got the PDF. Pretty frikkin cool!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had the distinct honor of playing BSDC with James MacGeorge as Judge at Gen Con and it was the gaming experience of a lifetime. If you and your players are ready to grab their PCs by their throats and force them to look long and hard into the Existential Abyss, BSDC is the one-shot you've been morosely pining for as you sit in your room listening to the Smiths.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Um, yes, I'd very much like to give this a try.

    ReplyDelete

Print Friendly