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Review: Shadow of the Beakmen (Dungeon Crawl Classics)

Last weekend, my regular weekly gaming group managed to play our first in person session in 17 months. We’ve not gone short of gaming, having continued to play online throughout the pandemic, however it was great to see each other and roll some physical dice.

As a group, we alternate between D&D 5e and Call of Cthulhu at present, with each campaign taking place on alternate weeks. However, as a group, we’ve developed a considerable love for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG over the past couple of years.

With that in mind, I decided that I would run Harley Stroh’s “Shadow of the Beakmen” for them. Now, if you ever think you’ll play in this adventure then please note that everything from this point on is a spoiler.

Harley has a track record of writing phenomenal adventures. His “Sailors on the Starless Sea” module for Dungeon Crawl Classics is often talked about as a gold standard example of modern adventure design. “Shadow of the Beakmen” was released for DCC Day 2020 and is a one-shot adventure which takes about 3 hours or less to run. Given we were also playing a Call of Cthulhu adventure the same day, this size of adventure was perfect for our first session.

In my opinion, the best one shots explode into action straight away and this one is no exception. The party, after travelling towards the security of a village arrive to find the village in flames. They barely have time to think about it when a man-at-arms comes crashing out of a blazing hut, pursued by a monstrous Beakman riding a giant Crocodile. Cue the first encounter.

From there the party are drawn into the mayhem of the Beakmen’s attack on the village. Before long they realise that there is an eerie green glow emanating from the vicinity of the nearby lake. Upon arrival there they are met with what looks like a hologram of a strange little man. Before they can do anything, he summons a huge tower which rises from the depths of the lake before opening it’s doors and spewing even more Beakmen out into the fray. While the tower is depicted in the adventure module as more of an obelisk, I couldn’t help but picture it as a gigantic version of Edinburgh’s Scott Monument.

From there the adventure is a straightforward enough Dungeon Crawl up into the Tower. However, as with anything DCC, this is no vanilla adventure. The tower presents enough challenges and interesting twists, from submerged Beakmen cocoons, strange pools and puzzles.

As with other Harley Stroh adventures I’ve played, the variety of enemies is not huge, which actually makes this adventure seem more cohesive and consistent, although there are definitely variations on a theme.

The piece de resistance of this entire adventure is the final struggle with “The Master” which involves a cunning enemy and an incredibly well thought out magical lantern. My party got lucky with a spellburn cast of Magic Missile (including using up “Greenstone Shards” found in the adventure to boost the dice type one place up the dice chain) but that’s the beauty of DCC. Spellcasters can put their bodies on the line to win the day, which is always a great way to end a one-shot.

All in all, we finished it in about 3 hours, including catch-up banter and burger consumption. A cracking little adventure which we followed up in the evening with Pulp Cthulhu adventure “The Disintegrator”.

“Shadow of the Beakmen” cost me about £8 from Dungeonland if I recall correctly, which is great value for an adventure that I’ll definitely run over and over again, particularly at conventions. It also came with a code for a free copy of the PDF version from Drivethrurpg.

Return of the DM View All

I am a 40 something DM/GM located in Scotland. In 2016, I rediscovered the joys of tabletop role-playing games. This blog documents my journey back into the fold.

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