Welcome to Death Frost Doom, Now Turn Around and Go Awayby Evan Jeshka Thursday 13 November 2014
Deathfrost Mountain is not a place you want to go.
This might seem like common sense until you remember that fantasy characters and the heroes of RPGs go waltzing into terrible places all the time. They ride their horses up to the mouth of the cave that “nobody ever comes back from,” fight some monsters, grab some treasure, and trot back into town to be regaled as heroes.
Death Frost Doom, 2nd ed. (Bouchard, Gordon, Raggi, & S.) is a module for the retro-clone game Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Available now from DriveThruRPG, it is a wake-up call to all heroes. There is never any reason to go up Deathfrost Mountain. (Well, there might be, but it’s not worth it.) And it’s not just that everything inside is poisoned or cursed or will drive you mad; it’s that even defeating the dungeon means… well, let’s just say that if you knew, you’d turn around, now.
In game terms, Death Frost Doom is a negadungeon, a dungeon that exists for the purpose of you not going there, and if you do, you’ve already lost. So why have a negadungeon, and why make it look like a tempting proposition? As Jack Mack wrote in 2013, “A Negadungeon is a great addition to a campaign setting even if the players never go there. Having a place that the players avoid at all costs is great.” It adds grit and verisimilitude, and reminds you that you’re in a world which exists for its own purposes, not to feed you experience and treasure.
Players might hear about Deathfrost Mountain (or whatever you choose to call it in your campaign) in a number of ways, as all sorts of treasures are rumored to be there, especially whatever MacGuffin the players are currently seeking. When they arrive in the village at the mountain’s base, they’ll hear a terrible tale of human slaughter, and learn how twelve clerics gave their lives to seal the evil within the mountain. It’s a nice village, certainly not the sort of place you’d want as the inadvertent target of releasing all that evil back into the world.
(This is where smart players turn around, by the way.)
If players ignore the warnings and climb the freezing mountain, their surroundings become more and more disturbing. Not outright dangerous, not yet — not until the players descend into the tomb of the many-thousand sacrifices to the ancient death cult. Still, it seems pretty empty, except for all the dead bodies. Maybe you can just fight whatever monster lurks at the end of this maze, grab the MacGuffin, and get out scot-free…
The Death Frost Doom module ends simply: with numbers. The number of minutes you’ll have left after defeating the enemy in Area 22. The number of new foes you will face when time’s up. The hours it will take the horde to descend the mountain and reach the innocent village below. But the likelihood that anyone will survive what you’ve done… you have the numbers, you can do the math yourself.
Who would ever enjoy playing this module? A lot of people, apparently. Lamentations of the Flame Princess rose to popularity on the back of the success of Death Frost Doom. If you’ve ever read or watched a tragedy and liked it, you’ll know that loss can just as poignant, interesting, or awesome as victory. For the best experience, you’ll need the right sort of adventuring party, the players you can imagine grinning from ear to ear as they crumple their old character sheets, saying “That was so cool!” and “We really deserved that one.”
This new edition of Death Frost Doom has been rewritten from the 2009 original for clarity and style, with some new gameplay options thrown in. Originally available in the Old School Revival +2 at the Bundle of Holding, you can get it now on DriveThruRPG.