In my A Game Per Year project, my goal has been to read one roleplaying game corebook for every year they’ve been published. However, I soon started to feel that it was hard to decipher how the games were really meant to be played. For this reason, I decided to start a parallel project, An Adventure Per Year, to read one roleplaying adventure for each year they’ve been published.
There was a period in the Nineties when I subscribed to Dragon and Dungeon magazines, back when they were all about Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition. Or to be more accurate, my grandmother subscribed them for me since I was too young to figure out international magazine subscriptions.
Dungeon’s focus was on adventures. Each issue contained a selection of short D&D scenarios of different levels. By the time issue 95, the subject of this post, rolled around, the magazine was published by Paizo and it served D&D’s 3rd edition. The issue also contains the 154th issue of the magazine Polyhedron, as a sort of two magazines for the price of one -type deal.
As is typical of Dungeon, the issue contains a few different adventures, the most notable among them Porphyry House Horror. It was released in support of the D&D supplement Book of Vile Darkness and its pages left uncut so that more sensitive readers wouldn’t be accidentally exposed to the adult content within.
In the adventure, the characters come to a pirate island port called Scuttlecove. They get hired to deal with a brothel called Porphyry House because a drug-dealing wizard is afraid the House is aiming to cut into his business.
As a horror scenario of sorts, Porphyry House Horror is interesting because while it contains all sorts of rape and torture, it presents everything in the neutral D&D house style. It’s a reminder that if you want nasty things to have an impact it’s not enough for them to be there. You have to sell them. Otherwise they come across as a dry collection of stale terror. “Inside the room you find an orc guarding a chest and also a man being tortured. The orc has an axe.”
Perhaps the most striking section in the adventure deals with the staffing issues faced by the Porphyry House. At first, they employed sex workers but they proved too keen on labor rights. Next up were kidnapped victims but then too trouble followed: Their relatives came to rescue them.
Finally the proprietors of the House hit upon a solution so ingenious, it drove all the competition out of business: They would polymorph gulguthydras into humanoid women. Gulguhydras are hybrids of gulguthras (a dung-eating monster type, the most famous subtype being the otyugh) and hydras. These polymorphed, animal-intelligence women so enticed the customers that the House became highly profitable.
As an aside, the adventure mentions that polymorphed gulguhydras were supplemented with polymorphed wolverines and harpies.
The issue of Polyhedron contained only one significant feature: A complete D20 minigame called Mecha Crusade. It featured rules for using mechas in a game based on D20 Modern, with character creation, classes, feats and the basics of a campaign where Earth and colonies on other planets, moons and asteroids go to war with each other.
I was impressed with Mecha Crusade, which packed a pretty solid system and setting into limited space.