Hole in the Sky, written by Brendan J. LaSalle, is among the more fan-adored and heavily reviewed adventures for Dungeon Crawl Classics. This fact invites the question as to why one would bother writing another review while so much information is already available with a single internet search.
A fair question, to be sure.
I, like many, scoured the web in search of tidbits to help the aspiring Judge in running this module. A number of excellent and invaluable points did aid my execution, leading to a satisfactory experience by both my players and myself. There are a few points during the story for which I wish I had been better prepared. To aid any future Judges, then, is my aim in writing this.
What follows will include spoilers. If you have even a fleeting notion to participate in this adventure as a player, I implore you to read no further!
You have been warned.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
Numerous reviews exist outlining the basic plot of Hole in the Sky, so my own overview will be brief.
The PC’s have been living their mundane peasant lives plagued by the unshakable notion that they were destined for something greater. This notion begins to manifest itself as dreams confirming the same and directing them to join the mysterious Lady in Blue on a cliff overlooking the sea. Ultimately, this leads the characters to abandon their lives and do just that. The game begins with the characters arriving at the cliff and attending a banquet with the aforementioned blue woman.
As an aside, I cannot think of a more elegant way to unite a party of peasants toward a quest of adventure than this device. Gone is the contrived and tenuous social contract, which often strains credibility, required to keep an adventuring party together. The simple threads binding the PC’s are in place and will be hold the party against any question before the quest’s end. Brilliant!
The first place I encountered something outside of my expectation while Judging was with The Bridge. A simple affair, consisting of two meaningful events over a three day period, I was not prepared for the risk of how bland this can be without adequate consideration. It is vital, I think, to prepare to describe an interesting scene while gently building the tension that crossing an invisible bridge should invoke. If your players are anything like mine, failure to do so will leave them bored and ready to move on to the next thing.
The next is in the management of time and resources once players have finally crossed through to the Prison Vale. Inside the titular hole, the PC’s will spot the prison structure in the distance and can cross the great distance in a mere four hours. There is a 1 in 6 chance of having a random encounter to be checked every two hours. The odds are that there simply won’t be any random encounters in the vale, which is a shame considering that a substantial amount of space is devoted to them and they represent the PC’s first opportunity to move beyond improvised weaponry. Should a 1 in 6 be rolled for an encounter, there is a 1 in 5 chance that a cache of random supplies are discovered and only a subsequent 1 in 6 chance that it is not hidden. In retrospect, I wish that I had provided such a cache if any reasonable area searching was done. Perhaps coupled with one of the other random encounter possibilities (CHAOS PIGS!). This adventure offers few opportunities for outfitting of any kind and the odds are not favorable that the encounter table will even be utilized.
I will argue that Cur Maxima is the most interesting part of the module. Properly executed, her interactions with the PC’s will instill a healthy fear into them, moving the story along, and simultaneously making her a memorable, sympathetic villain. Contrasting the wonton violence of her actions with some polite and apologetic dialog is very effective at achieving both ends. When Drezzta is finally released from the cage, her first action is to destroy Cur Maxima. My greatest regret running Hole in the Sky was that I didn’t make this action more meaningful. Since the great pumpkin’s voice can be heard from anywhere within the prison, properly prepared I would have described Drezzta penetrating the walls of the structure in search of Cur Maxima and the dialog that followed. Polite, apologetic, and ultimately pleading before her screams are cut short.
Despite my failure to create a moment of drama, the entire party was visibly affected by Cur Maxima’s death. So interesting is the character that a quick end didn’t seem to do her justice. Don’t make the same mistakes I have!
My players and I had a fantastic time with this adventure, but I know a little preparation in those areas would have made a world of difference. I leave the rest to you!