This is a eighty nine page can of 'Choose Your Own Adventures' or 'Fighting Fantasy' style Dungeon Crawl Classics Madness in the form of a free PDF adventure from Hapless Henchmen games.
HHSOLO 1 - The Hounds of Halthrag Keep .This is actually three products in one, you get a choose your own adventure solo book, a monster book for the adventure, and a really nice map of the Keep. Basically this is one very large and well put together solo dungeon that acts as a complicated PC funnel generator for the Dungeon Crawl Classics game using a modified set of DCC rules and some really nasty encounters. This isn't made to be an easy dungeon at all but its DCC folks. I personally died twice trying this adventure at four am this morning. Its a neat and fun little crawl put together with lots of twists and turns with a twisted sense of humor this side of a Nineties cartoon from Nickelodeon with an over flow of Adventure Time style hi jinks thrown in for good measure.
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HHSOLO 1 - The Hounds of Halthrag Keep .
Believe it or not this is a big module designed for solo play and your really going to need a solid copy of this adventure in other words a physical copy. The adventure unfolds around your character and does three rather interesting slight of hand tricks at the same time. One the story of the adventure's frame work happens around you. Two you want to read more to see what happens to your adventurer and three the damn adventure has your attention span in its clutches. All of this happens while your playing and reading it. I suspect that Noah Stevens not only played a hell of a lot of solo adventure books in the Eighties but he also played a ton of the video game Dragon's Lair because this has that feel to it. That classic playability is another factor that these various influences also share with HHSOLO 1 - The Hounds of Halthrag Keep.
This was done with a solid intent and all of the classic elements of OSR design are in the Keep. Are the encounters balanced? Yes they are with a solid base and they are beatable but this is Dungeon Crawl Classics and your going to have to think your way past several of the best bits and pieces of the Keep.
Before even attempting to play through this adventure there are several things to keep in mind. One have more then a passing familiarity with the DCC rulebook and then familiarize yourself with this adventure's modified rules set. It does exactly what it says on the can, this creates a solo played PC whose ready out of the gate for further adventures with a regular party of DCC adventurers. This book emulates and twists around many of the conventions of solo play adventure books. This being the case your going to die several times and that's not something to worry about at all. The play is the thing here because its going to generate some solid PC elements in your brand new ready to take on the world character.
But is the adventure worth your time and effort to download? Yes I do think so because of its utility and here's what can be done with it. Adventure locations like Halthrag Keep tend to attract adventurers like flies to a corpse. These places are prime to generate a whole party on their own. Buy this adventure and pass it around to the players like a joint at a hippy party. The players will get killed have a kick ass time with the adventure and you dungeon master will have PC who have been forged in the fires of the Halthrag Keep. There are several reasons to grab this adventure as well if your a dungeon master. This adventure comes with a spiffy monster book and with a bit of easy slight of hand these mad bastards could easily be repurposed for your own Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign and perhaps with a bit of easy back fitting could be dropped into your campaign so that the Keep itself becomes a dangerous but minor campaign element in your own games. This way the solo play adventure might be used to create a new adventurer should one of your players have his own characters killed off during play. With DCC this happens frequently and its a trick I've used several times over the years, especially with games such as Gamma World second edition. The Endless Quest books were dismissed by 'serious players' but I came across more then a few at various tag sales and library sales. The setting of those books were pretty damn well done and with a bit of modification became a minor back part of a campaign and introduced a brand new green horn adventurer to the group. A trick that HHSOLO 1 - The Hounds of Halthrag Keep can do in spades. Do I think that The Hounds of Halthrag Keep is worth downloading? Yes and I'll go one better I think that its worth getting the physical book because my eyes are bleeding from reading the eighty nine page pdf, a physical book is so much nicer to have. Five out of five for content and inventiveness with lots of great old school and OSR fiddly bits thrown into the background. Is there a downside to this adventure? Yes in the form of it can't really be adapted to other OSR or retroclone style games. This is one of the downfalls of DCC's adventures in my opinion, while a myriad of D20 and retroclone adventures can easily be modified to DCC reverse engineering has been a problem for some folks. There is another side of HHSOLO 1 - The Hounds of Halthrag Keep in the form of a part II that expands the solo play into a full on full party of adventurers style game. Noah Stevens and co. need to get in on that right away.