The Chained Coffin (2018)

In his introduction to the reprint, Michael Curtis said he penned The Chained Coffin (2014, 2018) to refute the idea that the gonzo style of the core Dungeon Crawl Classics experience was inextricably “metal.” He wanted to show it was also capable of country and blues. I disagree with Curtis a bit — I do think the core DCC is inextricably metal of a specific, theatrical type. But there is all sorts of metal. I like folk metal! So while Chained Coffin is certainly more reserved and refined than the bombast you get out of regular DCC, I still think its pretty metal. And it does carve out room for that quiet  darkness at the heart of the best country and blues tunes.

Anyway, Chained Coffin is explicitly based on Manly Wade Wellman’s Silver John stories — they’re adventure tales set in a post-war Appalachia saturated with supernatural legacies. There’s banjos and deals with the devil and giants. Wellman’s stories are amazing and Gygax included him in Appendix N, but I never really saw how they informed the oh-so-medieval D&D. Chained Coffin really sells it (honestly, in a way that hits similar notes as Lowcountry Crawl). As soon as you stop thinking of it as Kentucky or West Virginia, because those are places you can drive to, the landscape of fantasy asserts itself.  There’s plenty of horror and pre-human civilizations and curses and corruption. Everything that works so well in vanilla DCC works just as well here, just at a lower volume. There is room here for dancing and good eating and friendly chats by the fire, too. 

The art conveys a lot of the mood. There’s still lots of fighting and horrible critters to be dealt with, but the art doesn’t feel so big and overwhelming. The roster of artists is less concerned with the old school greats, giving newer artists a chance to shine and establish a distinct vibe. Doug Kovacs, Bradley McDevitt and Stefan Poag outdo themselves here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *