||Dungeon Crawl Classics #33: Belly of the Great Beast is a 68 page d20 pdf adventure, and the 33rd product in Goodman Games' very successful line of adventure products, Dungeon Crawl Classics. Each adventure aims to be a good, solid dungeon crawl, and Belly of the Great Beast does not disappoint. This adventure is for epic level characters, and one of the very few epic adventures out there, and in particular playable epic adventures. Belly of the Great Beast is suitable for 4-6 characters of levels 21-24. Pregenerated characters (at level 23) have been provided should DMs wish to run this with minimal effort in creating higher level characters.
Belly of the Great Beast comes as a single, full-bookmarked pdf file. The level of presentation in Goodman Games' products is high, and the product looks polished and professional. Artwork is good, not spectacular, but it's plentiful enough to enhance the feel and look of the product. The writing and editing is good as well, with clean maps, clear encounter descriptions, and enough detail to get most things working. Naturally as an epic adventure the statistics blocks will come under fire, though a casual look shows that Goodman Games opted to keep the statistics blocks simple, with easy class combinations and standard and few magic items, so the stats looks good. There are a few errors, as can be expected, but then again at this level of play errors are bound to creep in at some stage. Still, overall, I think they did an acceptable enough job of the statistics.
Given that this is an epic adventure, the characters are naturally expected to do something that can be considered epic or at least of global proportions. Belly of the Great Beast takes the adventure into space, journeying to the legendary Great Beast to disrupt the nefarious plans of a cult aiming to destroy not only their world, but the entire cosmos. This adventure combines heavy combat with interesting locations and space-faring to make a truly daring adventure that characters will not likely forget or have encountered before. While the focus isn't entirely on the space travel, but more on the various complexes occupied by the antagonists, there is a definitive space theme to some of the encounters and the creatures encountered.
The adventure starts by providing all the standard requirements for an adventure - background, synopsis, scaling information, adventure hooks, tables of encounters with brief descriptions and CRs, and other useful background information. From there it's straight into the adventure, and a meeting with the sinister other-worldly space-faring antagonists. The adventure is essentially divided into two parts - the first where they encounter the antagonists and learn what they're up to, and the second where they travel to the Great Beast in an attempt to disrupt their plans. Both parts of the adventure are location-based dungeon crawls, with some tough encounters and interesting combat challenges.
This is a long adventure with close to 70 encounter areas which will tax even the most hardy epic level characters. There is no immediate time-frame, so the characters should have ample time to recover if they can, and launch fresh attacks when they're rested. There are a lot of tough encounters, some ELs in the low 30s range, while most encounters are probably at an encounter level above the average level of the party. This should provide for challenging combats, though hopefully not too lengthy affairs since there's a lot of combat to be had, and one can easily get bogged down in the battle.
As an adventure this provides an interesting premise and location (the living body of the Great Beast), and some challenging encounters and scenarios. There's not much in the way of mystery or puzzle solving, and in that sense it's relatively straightforward. As an epic adventure it does well too - there's no limitation on the abilities of the characters, so they should be free to do as they please and act in whatever manner they require. There are, of course, some well-known problem areas of epic play, such as the blasphemy spell and high HD creatures, but most high level players should be aware of the dangers of high level play and powerful spells such as that.
The adventure provides a good mix of encounters - demons, dragons, devils, high level NPCs, constructs, undead and the like. The range is good and challenging, and the adventure even provides a number of new monsters - the sacrificial and avatar guardians. It is a combat heavy adventure, but epic characters should be able to find ways of avoiding or nullifying most threats. Overall, this is a good dungeon crawl even for an epic adventure. It doesn't necessarily highlight the full scope of epic play in general, but it provides a compelling plot nonetheless that should be something different and certainly something entertaining.
LIKED: A good solid dungeon crawl adventure, and one of the few enjoyable epic adventures in the market. Interesting premise, challenging encounters, and an unique location for the adventure.
DISLIKED: The adventure won't give epic characters the ability to showcase all their abilities, being mainly combat focused. A little diversity in the nature of the encounters could've been added to spice things up a bit from the combat heavy encounters.
QUALITY: Very Good
[4 of 5 Stars!]