“There’s a surprising amount of material in this product. The main booklet ostensibly presents a basic adventure for a small group of 3rd to 6th level ADandD characters (or similar – the monster stats are from the ADandD Monster Manual, however), a raid on a giant ant colony causing problems for an isolated wilderness town. The material here could easily last several sessions, as there’s a small wilderness area to investigate, and the vested interests of the plot-hook NPCs to get embroiled in, aside from delving into the ant nest itself. A supplementary download with the booklet provides a sheet of portraits for all the NPCs listed. These are very well-drawn, to the point where I felt I could see possible familial links just from the faces. A second optional extra item adds a fresh level of problems for the players to solve over in the ant nest, which pushes a little towards Lovecraftian horror.
However, the meat of “Carapace” is the three variant random mechanics for generating the ant colony, two of which are mapless. One of these naturally employs the hex-flower method Goblin’s Henchman products are noted for. All three can be used on-the-fly, with player participation, and allow the creation of chambers of varying sizes, shapes and significant features within the nest, plus random encounters that increase in difficulty with distance into the colony. There’s also a ready-reference stat-block appendix page for all the monsters, including one new monster for this set-up.
Such random-generation mechanics clearly have uses beyond just this giant insect colony setting, as the booklet’s introduction notes. As the “Point Crawl” method uses schematic maps to give a 2D overview of key places and links within the colony, it can be used as a base to construct more detailed maps, should you wish. I did just that recently, by randomly creating a series of three vertical colony “slices”, and then linked them up with the normal “Carapace” semi-random number of passages, before drawing the series of what had become complete maps of the 3D colony layout. Think three linked ant-farm panels, basically.
Much to explore and think about here as a GM, exactly what I want from an RPG product. Don’t forget to drop the Henchman some cash if you too find it useful! “