Supplement Review: Dungeon Dressing: Corpses by David Posener from Raging Swan Press

Ever since I started playing D&D back in 1982, it has seemed that dungeons are full of dead bodies. Some of the bodies have been there a long time. Others are fresh. Regardless, the laws of decomposition still hold true whether a group of players is playing as part of a CSI-based modern world or a medieval one similar to The Name of the Rose. Even in the fantasy worlds of D&D, players might discern just as many details from a new corpse as an old one. Those details may offer clues to traps or other potential hazards in the space around them.

Designer David Posener from Raging Swan Press has pulled together a fascinating and grotesque mix of details to use in your campaign. Dungeon Dressing: Corpses boils down to a collection of five tables. Table A really isn’t a traditional table at all, but goes through all the juicy details, from what to expect for a fresh corpse to those who have been around a while and even how an enterprising cannibal might prepare and cook a body. It may not go as far as offering Hannibal Lecter recipes, but it’s something I’ve never seen in a gaming supplement!

Though you may cringe at some of the ideas in the book, I think it adds some great realistic crunch. If you as a human in the real world came across a dead body, I think it’s safe to say you might have a bit of panic. So why not have our characters have a similar healthy fear or respect for the dead? Even if your characters are used to encountering dead bodies as experienced adventurers, you may find extreme cases that still affect them. Posener deftly brings this behavior into the game by introducing an Intimidate quality for the corpses that adjusts the DC based on the condition of the body.

Beyond that we often forget about the smell of decomposition. Imagine cracking open a sealed tomb and releasing the gases trapped sometimes for decades, centuries, even millennia… Woof. Every body has a small “Stinking Cloud” of sorts that may gag even the toughest warriors.

Now don’t let all that stuff gross you out. You can create your own corpse-filled encounters with the ideas in the first table and never get beyond it, but you’d miss some great stuff in the next few pages. Do you need a monstrous, humanoid, or adventurer-based corpse to build an encounter around? In the next few tables you get ‘em all and there are some doozies in there. Want a pet ooze? Or maybe you just want your players wondering what burrowed out of that corpses’ head?

And if that’s not enough, how about putting a “Cadavalanche” in an ice cave the PCs are exploring? I won’t spoil the details, but suffice it to say there’s a mix of horrific ideas.

The book is up to the usual great Raging Swan Press standards. Two columns of solid writing with some great art from artists like William McAusland. The picture on page 3 of the corpse stuck to a brick wall from McAusland sums up all the sticky parts of the book beautifully. All told, there are about 6 solid pages of content in the 13 pages of the PDF. I might have liked another page or two to even out the preface, covers, intro and OGL pages, but it’s great content so I’m not going to quibble.

Honestly this is one of the Raging Swan supplements of late that has really captured my attention. Apparently I’ve spent far too much time watching CSI, CSI:NY, NCIS, and any number of other crime procedurals on TV, but I can see many ways to integrate this sort of forensic detail into my next campaign. Dungeon Dressing: Corpses should be a great addition to any GM’s toolbox.

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