Demon Driven to the Maw (2021) is an adventure for Cairn. It wastes very little time or energy on presentation — the design is sparse, the map minimal and unadorned. Interior art is sketchy or pulled from historical sources. All the stuff that usually attracts me to zines — unusual art, lush graphic design, physically pleasing materials — is secondary here. But while the zine is indifferent to luxury, the adventure itself is a bit of razor sharp perfection.

The players are in pursuit of a thief, who has stolen a magical artifact and holed himself up in a Scottish castle. Upon arriving, there is a party going on, and all is not as it seems. The first portion of the scenario is a party-crawl, which is my favorite kind of crawl. Therein, the players get a some sense that something is wrong (several things, actually) though likely not quickly enough to stop them events from progressing. The second half is pandemonium—the party is for Satan, arranged by skin-swapping demons, and the guests are the meal. Fires start. Almost everyone dies. The point of this section is probably less “stop the chaos” and more “find a way to escape,” though bonus if some innocent folks can be rescued along the way.

Both halves are extremely satisfying presentations that accomplish their aims. There’s not an ounce of fat in this adventure, it does what it does, and then its over. Essentially plotless (there are events, stuff happens, but most of the specifics are dependent on player action and none of it is harnessed to a larger narrative), it becomes whatever the players want to make of it. Not many adventures aim to do this, and not many do it nearly this well.

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