Big (ironically short name there) is a Dungeoncraft module written by Brian Collier. It’s a standalone title, although it references a character from one of Collier’s previous titles (DC-POA-KCB-01 The Lady of the Maer).
The module has the party hired to help Rocky, a gnome who just really wants to be a goliath (#relatable). This has them gathering reagents in strange locations.
The module assumes a high-magic society where casters use their spells to improve their day-to-day lives. This is paired with a rather whimsical tone. The party will encounter a Temple of The Gods (from the spell), and magical herb shoppes that’s gone full retail. It’s a far cry from the muted horror of the regular Icewind Dale adventures, with the pros and cons that entails.
My own run of Big wasn’t great, but the blame for that is not really the module’s fault, and I would still recommend it- perhaps with some things to keep in mind to avoid stumbling into the same pitfalls I did.
Combats in this module are whimsical in tone, but still interesting and challenging.
All the combats introduce alternate objectives for parties besides simple fighting, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first.
For the first combat, this is perhaps less obvious, but even fought head-on, it’s a fun combat that requires the party to react to the caster- a fun wrinkle for low tier parties. Due to dungeoncraft rules, writers aren’t allowed to explicitly make racial adjustments to NPC statblocks, but I recommend dungeonmasters consider making some of them kobolds or halflings as described in the story.
The second combat is optional. Too often writers don’t seem to put much thought or effort into optional combats, since they’re usually framed as “punishments” for failing at exploration or social interaction. This is not the case here as the combat is challenging, its premise cute, and has surprisingly interesting tactical options available if players make use of the terrain and environment.
The last combat I didn’t even get to run (more on that later). From my read though, it seems like pure chaos that should be a satisfying conclusion to a module so steeped in shenanigans.
One “issue” I have with the combats is that a lot of the combat balance comes from the peculiar behavior of the monsters. The enemies (justifiably) aren’t a well-slicked fighting force and would probably overwhelm a party if they started acting like one. Instead, try and think through the motivations of each enemy and fight accordingly.
Overall, the module is pretty good about exploration. Characters will be taken through a series of really unique challenges, from standard blizzards, to a giant’s house, to the crater and barrel, a druidic supplies store that I’m pretty sure I’ve seen in a local mall.
Although it has less exploration than some of the more focused-titles, what’s there is strong, and there’s definitely enough to satisfy players looking for that sort of game- although they may have to wait for the later parts to get to it.
An issue I have is that there’s plenty of small-scale exploration, but the overall plot structure is highly linear. A series of scenes that don’t really impact each other.
However, how much this actually poses an issue to gameplay is contingent on how well you can sell the illusion. It may be that the party is too distracted by the fun scenes in the adventure to notice.
Another minor issue is in the final part- the crater and barrel is closed for 20 days and the module expects players to sneak or otherwise force their way in. Well, there’s nothing stopping characters from actually waiting 20 days apart from having itchy fingers. I recommend you have an excuse prepared for why they have to get in now if you want to run the part.
Big has quite a few opportunities for social interaction.
Most of the NPCs feel like sitcom archetypes inserted into a fantasy setting. That makes them flamboyant and larger-than-life, and fun if you like that variety of roleplay. The adventure is distinctly comedic, so don’t expect many serious notes here.
In terms of the social encounters (as opposed to social interaction), my players had trouble grappling with the fact that some encounters simply just can’t be won with straight persuasion, other things like deception, intimidation, or compromise, are needed. I hope they learn this eventually, because it’s a lesson they’ll need for real life.
Still, if you don’t like that philosophy, be prepared to have to make adjustments to the NPC notes.
Another issue may arise in Rocky’s motivation to become a goliath. Although the exact situation is pretty unique to fantasy, being dissatisfied with your own body is very real.
When roleplaying Rocky, be prepared that your players may question his motivations, and it’s quite possible that some of them won’t be very sensitive about it. And you, the DM, will need to get into that headspace of someone needing to justify themselves, which is a decidedly uncomfortable place for some. There’s nothing inherently wrong with presenting this issue, it’s just something you should anticipate when preparing.
Alternatively, just shoot down all such questions with “none of your business, I’m paying you”.
Anyway, overall, fun roleplay experience.
Plot & Vibes (4/5)
The adventure’s plot is a decidedly silly one that doesn’t quite make sense during the Everlasting Rime that’s supposed to be happening during the adventure. But I suppose 2020 has proven that just because there’s a disaster going on in the background, doesn’t mean there can’t also be shenanigans happening at the same time.
If you have the sort of players that ask inconvenient questions like “how did the talking animal make it into town without being hunted down and shot”, and “why would you invite us into your place then try to kill us”, you’re going to have your work cut out for you.
If you have more accommodating ones, the comedy of the situation should easily keep them distracted from the mild plot-holes.
I’ve mentioned the above-average level of “background” magic in this adventure. In the hardcover, the existence of awakened animals is not common knowledge in the ten-towns. In this adventure, they staff a magical greenhouse. Characters coming out of the hardcover or other adventures where plot points are predicated on poor understanding of magic will be confused in an adventure where it’s common to the point of normalization.
If you can look past these flaws, this adventures vibes are silly and light-hearted, and if that’s you and your players’ jams, then this is a good module for you.
Props to the cover art, which was painted by Brian Collier’s daughter, Allison.
I’m less pleased at the formatting- oh it’s serviceable, to be sure, but text elements don’t maintain consistent properties between each other, and margins/padding on the box text isn’t aligned. It’s not aesthetically pleasing.
Looking past that, the adventure follows the official AL structure decently well, information is presented with enough clarity that I didn’t need to reread the thing just to understand it. It’s better than most, but if I had to complain (as if I need an excuse to complain) I’d say that it’s a bit arbitrary what’s used as a section heading.
The adventure comes with maps for VTT use. The maps are created in dungeondraft, so their general quality is pretty good even if they don’t suit my aesthetic tastes.
Rating and Breakdown
Plot & Vibes: 4/5
Overall, this module’s pretty fun. It’s well balanced between the pillars of play and its major encounters allow for different solutions, which should make it entertaining for a wide range of players.
Its story is silly and its tone is a far cry from the core storyline, which is great if you’re looking for a casual session. If all this sounds like something you like, I’d recommend DC-POA-KCB-02 Big for your table.