Sunday, 31 May 2020

Enchiridion of the Computarchs (Preview)

Enchiridion of the Computarchs (Preview) was written by James A. Pozenel, Jr.. Art is by David Fisher, Matt Sutton, and K.J. O'Brien. The publisher is Horseshark Games.

This is a supplement for Dungeon Crawl Classics and Mutant Crawl Classics games using technological "magic". This includes, but is not limited to, Cyber Sprawl Classics, Crawljammer, Umerica, Terror of the Stratosfiend, and Star Crawl Classics. Even baseline DCC gets its sci fi peanut butter into the chocolate of fantasy gaming,so this product might have wide use.

According to the DriveThruRPG preview, Most this content in this preview has been released in Gongfarmers Almanac 2019 & 2020. This is a free preview of the soon to be released full version of "Enchiridion of the Computarchs". The full version will have 38 programs, 1st - 5th level, generation tables and as much art as possible. The full mechanics are presented here to allow the DIY judge to leverage what he likes without buying the full version. 

Let's look inside!

Technological Mishaps: Faults, Bugs, and Critical Errors are the "corruption" that occurs when you mess up program activation.

Burndown: The analog of spellburn for programs. Includes a d24 table.

Developed Programs: If you've been playing MCC, and wondering what your shaman can do (other than invoke her Patron AI), this section is for you. Not only does it contain the necessary information for running programs, but it supplies a table for Shamans indicating their Max Wetware Level and number of Wetware (programs) Known. There is a Program List indicating those programs which will be part of the full book.

The pdf also includes three 1st level programs (Decrypt/Decompile, Dynamo, and Glitch), two 2nd level programs (Exploit and Molecular Excitement) and one 3rd level program (Quarantine). These are fully developed, and ready to appear in your campaign.

The cabalistic and powerful Computarchs built the WorldNet, governed its growth, established its laws and conventions, and seemingly retired from their world altering creation. They left their tools and programs scattered throughout the vast network. Some have been found by seekers such as yourself and have been passed down from generation to generation. Collectively these pieces of software are known as Enchiridion of the Computarchs.

The Enchiridion of the Computarchs preview is available as a Pay What You Want product.

Get It Here!

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Killian's Krawls: The Laboratory of Melifex the Mad

Killian's Krawls: The Laboratory of Melifex the Mad is a level 2 adventure by Stuart C. Killian. Art is by Courtney Boling III. The publisher is FSH Professional Ltd.

This is a relatively short adventure, with a fairly uncomplicated storyline, which could easily fill a 4-hour convention slot or an evening of gaming. The city of Pinecliffe is described with a fairly broad brush, but using tools to flesh it out (such as those described in the DCC Lankhmar boxed set) could provide the judge with some added value. No map of Pinecliffe is provided.

Arriving at the gates of Pinecliffe reminds me of arriving at the Keep in The Keep on the Borderland, but the rest of the adventure suggests that the author might have played 3rd or 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons prior to picking up Dungeon Crawl Classics. There is, for example, a suggestion that potions can be bought and sold, and the PCs might be able to buy +1 daggers. which the judge may wish to modify before running this adventure.

The judge is also cautioned to consider imposing limitations on some of the magic in the adventure. For instance, there is an item which could presumably be used again and again, as written, to beef characters up far beyond what is normal in DCC. Unless the judge introduces risk, drawbacks, or limitations, this item will certain change the nature of a campaign!

This adventure does include interesting new monsters, as well as three new 3rd level spells: Intrude, Attract, and Deflect. The judge may wish to give these spells more colorful names, such as Melifex's Mental Intrusion. These spells seem under-powered to be 3rd level in DCC (to me, at least), and judges should feel free to reassign their level if they wish.

The pdf includes several pages of "GM's Tools": Encounter Sheets, a Treasure Tracking Sheet, and an Experience Tracking Sheet.  These might be of use to some. I know that I sometimes forget where a particular gem or piece of treasure came from, and have to either take a moment to look up its value, or make it up on the spot. This still seems like a lot of space for the potential benefit.

The judge who buys this should expect to do some work to have everything mesh with their campaign and the game as a whole. With the previous caveats, though, exploring a wizard's tower/laboratory is always fun. Expansion would be welcome, as would encounters (combat or not) which point towards the wizard's stated goal of removing corruption: i.e., creatures which clearly suffer from, or are made wholly from, corruption. Removing corruption is a "Quest For It" waiting to happen, and if the wizard had found the means, with potentially dire consequences, PCs might have been left with an interesting choice - is getting rid of that squid beak worth the risk?

The city of Pinecliffe has tolerated the presence of Melifex the Mage for years, but his corruption and increasingly unusual experiments eventually had him driven out of town and to a secluded tower on the ridge overlooking the city. Now, no one has heard from Melifex “the Mad” for two months, and the city is becoming worried. Did Melifex die from his corruption or has he unleased a sinister force that could destroy the land! Answers, adventure, and priceless magical treasure await the party brave enough to find out.

Get It Here!


Sunday, 17 May 2020

QuaranZine Volume 1

QuaranZine: Visions & Vistas Beyond Four Walls (Volume 1) was written by Judge Yossarian, Stefan Surratt, Sean Richer, David Koslow, Mat Biscan, and bygrinstow. Art is by Doug Kovacs (cover), Boson Au, bygrinstow, and Sean Richer. Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art used under Creative Commons licensing. The publisher is The Social Distance Collective.

Here we have a Pay What You Want title which supports GiveDirectly, to help families in need due to the Covid-19 pandemic we are currently (as of this writing) experiencing. Currently, this is only available as a pdf, but if a physical printing ever becomes available, I will be getting that as well.

So, what do you get in exchange for your donation (or lack thereof)? Let's look inside and see.

Handy Map: A handy map provided to help you ground your DCC campaign in a setting.

Introduction: The lockdown sucks, but DCC does not, so here are some materials to help make things easier. Stay safe, and stay at home!

I am paraphrasing, of course.

[Start Rant]Let me switch roles here for a moment, if I may. I know that there are people who do not believe that Covid-19 is as bad as it is, but the number of deaths is so low precisely because of the lockdown. If it seems like the response is overblown, when all is said and done, it will be because the lockdown worked. It is also strikingly clear that the people who make the economy turn - the real wealth creators - are average working-class people. The very wealthy are still managing to siphon wealth from the middle and the bottom, but the actual creation of wealth? That stopped when we did.

There is an obvious link between what I am saying here and the politics behind Trumphammer 2K, but I don't see the Democrats demanding more for the average person either. Really, both the main parties suck, and we really dropped the ball by letting them create another election where the main choices are so repulsive.

The end point is that both parties left you to fend for yourselves, and to help each other as best you can. This is an attempt to help. Be as generous as you can, but don't feel bad if you are strapped for spare cash. But remember that the people who want your votes are not your friends. Try to vote for someone who supports your values, even if you fail. Because both parties are leading you off a cliff, and the edge is getting very, very near.[/End Rant]

Vignette: Greed is Good: Author is not listed, but I assume this leads directly to....

The Invisible Hand: Lawful Deity of Wealth, Utility, and Rational Self Interest: This article, by Judge Yossarian, describes economics as an actual god, similar to $ in the Umerica setting. The article includes complete descriptions for clerics, including unique disapproval.

If you didn't like my mini-rant before, you will probably not like this entry either, although it is cleverly done. "The Hand hates inefficiency even more than it hates charity."  Indeed. In DCC, Lawful does not mean Good, and Chaos does not mean Evil.

The Champion: This is a DCC class, by Judge Yossarian, representing "an oathbound guardian of your house, an ardent defender or your faith, a tireless slayer empowered by dark rites, a long-suffering freedman sworn to vengeance, a madman who only finds peace in the din of battle."

I expected this to be a bit of a warrior clone, but it is not. Although the class has a "Trance Die", this die does not allow Mighty Deeds, and is not even rolled. Instead, it tracks how much damage the champion can ignore. Because of the Champion's narrow focus, both critical hits and fumbles are more likely. The more damage they can ignore, the more likely they are to fumble. It's a neat mechanic, and one I hope to see in actual play.

The Penitence Shroud: Author Stefan Surratt offers this magic item, a relic which seeks "to have agents of Chaos confess their sins and renounce their ways."

Parchment Poiesis: This is a level 1 wizard spell, created by Stefan Surratt. By writing arcane symbols on parchment, the caster can bring tools, servants, or even prophesies into existence.

The Dryad King: A Mad, Bark-Laden Patron God: Author Sean Richer describes the Laughing Tree. Included are Patron Taint, Spellburn, and Invoke Patron results. The patron taints can actually be useful, but you have to spellburn at least 10 points to have an effect, and the patron has no patron spells listed. Worse, invoking the Dryad King leads to permanent transformation!

And yet...and yet...I could easily see this patron used in actual play. First off, of course, NPCs may worship/bond to whatever crazy being they wish to. Secondly, in a one-shot adventure, having an elf or a wizard become a grove of trees could be very cool. Third, the Cultist in The Phlogiston Books Vol. 1 could certainly get value from this patron. Finally, it's just a cool idea for a patron in its own right.

d20 Potentialis Tables: This article, by David Koslow, offers inter-planar curiosities to "fascinate, intrigue, or otherwise confound your PCs next as they quest through the multiverse." Many results would work perfectly well in almost any campaign setting. There are 20 potentialities each for coastal, forest, and city settings.

3 Wizard Spells: Matt Biscan offers three wizard spells for use at your table:

  • Chromacast is a level 2 sell that allows the wizard to master light. The effects are interesting, and not at all what I was expecting. 
  • Devour is a level 3 spell that allows the caster to feed off of the life energies of others, and then use that energy in various ways.
  • Plant Growth is a level 2 spell that does what it says on the tin. Unfortunately, the "General" part of the spell description copies that of devour. You can cause plants to grow within targets, or even create  flesh-eating monsters.

Just Dropped In: Author (and illustrator) bygrinstow delivers six new monsters for the discerning judge to use. If you are not in the know, read this short description of the creator's blog, Appendix M, and then go visit it.

The creatures on offer are The Horrid Thing (a shack-sized corpse ball surrounding an evil brain), Fricsid (a minor demon accompanying The Horrid Thing), the Bitter King of the Ancients, the Sky Crawler, Root Scholars, and Opalescent Gel. Your players may never forgive you.

Remember the good old days, when roleplaying games were in person, dice rolls were physical, and the finale of every dungeon wasn't a teleconference bug? Those days aren't back, but Quaranzine is here to help. This volume is meant for those judges, scattered across the planes, whose noble spirits have been tested by their social distancing, and are ready to game for a great cause: COVID-19 victim relief.

Produced by community volunteers and charged with fulsome amounts of Dungeon Crawl Classics-compatible content, this zine brings you a bevy of unique entities, spells, monsters, and tables for use with your DCC games and all proceeds from Quaranzine 2020 will be donated directly to a non-profit COVID-19 relief fund.

That’s right — while you and your players quest for the arboreal patronage of the Dryad King, or deliver a fiery market-based sermon as demanded of you by the Invisible Hand, your money will be going to help families impacted by COVID-19 across the United States.

You’re no shut-in.

You’re an adventurer. . .


Get It Here!

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Hexanomicon Issue #1

The Hexanomicon #1: Maps, stickers, & death for DCC RPG was written and illustrated by Ariel Churi. Additional material by Anne Hunter (2018 Gongfarmer's Almanac, Volume 3) and inspired by Michael Curtis (The Adventurer's Almanac). The publisher is Zariel Kuri.

Disclosure: I backed the successful Kickstarter for this product, and I was sent a free copy of the print materials.

The Hexanomicon #1 is a toolkit for creating Appendix N-style hexcrawls during play. This product certainly has utility for those judges, such as myself, who prefer to plan areas ahead of play, but is designed to be used at the table. I haven't tried creating a hexcrawl using it, but it is full of useful features, and the Beastomatic has definitely come in handy.

In addition to the booklet itself, The Hexanomicon comes with an area map sheet intended for use by the players, and area map sheet for the judge, a world map sheet (which can be used to organize judge area map sheets), a month calendar sheet, a year calendar sheet, 2 sticker sheets containing images for fast mapping, and 1 sticker sheet containing images for Fleeting Luck tokens. Obviously, if you purchase these in pdf form, you will need to supply label paper for the sticker sheets. Equally obviously, you will want to create many copies of these additional materials anyway. The stock used for the delivered calendar and map sheets is better than the average copy paper stock - a very nice touch from my perspective.

Let's jump into the booklet itself, shall we?

The Hexanomicon starts with a quotation (The Void) from the Rig Veda (translated by John Muir) and an Introduction thereafter. You can consider these as sign posts indicating what the booklet is, and is not. A toolbox rather than a setting. One which will help create flavor and excitement, but which should be used only as needed.

Cartomancy: A method for filling out the judge's hex map (and, consequently, the players'). This section considers the alignment of the hex, its names, and effects that it might have once entered. It also considers that some hexes may be impassable (at least under normal circumstances). In addition to the standard Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic hexes, there may be Doom hexes, and woe betide the sojourners entering such blighted lands.

This section also considered the time (in days) that it takes to cross a hex, and what this might mean in terms of provisions and supplies.

Finally, you are given tools to randomly name hexes or areas you have created. Altogether, this is a pretty powerful system for quickly determining what is in a region you haven't already set up as a judge.

EDIT: Hexanomicon Area Name Generator.

Beastomatic: A good section of this booklet is given over to giving judges the means to quickly create DCC-compatible monsters that are both interesting and simple to create/run. Examples are included.

It should be noted that this is not the be-all and end-all of monster creation, but it is certainly a valuable tool in the judge's toolkit...more so if you are pressed for time and/or ideas. Along with The Random Esoteric Creature Generator, The Monster Alphabet, and the Make Monsters Mysterious section of the core rulebook, this is a resource that the judge will use again and again.

(For a deep dive into monster creation, see this blog article.)

Weaknesses, possible treasure, and encounter types are also considered here.

Death by Hex: A consideration for when the PCs need to run or be rescued.

Psychogeography: A discussion of ley lines (and similar telluric currents), which considers how various characters may locate and utilize them.

This is so jam-packed with good stuff that one has to wonder what is left for future issues?

The Hexanomicon is a setting toolbox rather than setting. It is devised as a way to connect the various adventures a party may undertake and be a neutral background to those adventures as well as a blank tablet for your story. A secondary function is to provide a downtime cost to burning luck and spellburning. The major difference between the map we will create here and other hex maps a party may journey across, is that these hexes do not indicate an amount of space but rather a story element. If there is an ancient tower the party will break into, that tower takes one hex.

The Hexanomicon is not a fantasy landscape simulator but rather a fantasy literature landscape simulator. In a landscape simulator you can look at the map and choose your best route. In a fantasy literature landscape, you may travel to your destination with no other event than marking the days on a calendar. But, if you are escaping the clutches of an evil prince, than you must pass through the dreaded Fire Swamp. The Fire Swamp is, of course, populated by rodents of unusual size. Will you encounter them on your journey? Absolutely.

The process is simple. As the party move to a new area, the contents of that hex are determined. You can either choose the contents based on the story, or you can roll on a table. Likely it will be mundane plains or forests but points of interest are usually separated by chaotic landscapes. Random tables determine the type and name of areas like; The Black Womb of Sorrow, or The Doom Wastes. These lands all have their own flora and fauna. Parties that are low on their luck are likely to discover such randomly created beasts as Electric Spider Women or Blood Rats.

Get It Here!


Sunday, 15 March 2020

The Witch of Wydfield

Appendix N Toolkit #4: The Witch of Wydfield is a 0-level adventure by John Adams and Colin Chapman. Art is by Steve Zieser (cover) and Mark Allen (including cartography. The NPCs, "Reed" and"Peter" and the location, "Potbelly's Pub”, are courtesy of Brandon Homes. The publisher is Brave Halfling Publishing.

As discussed elsewhere, this product began with a successful Kickstarter campaign with troubled fulfillment.

The Witch of Wydfield is a short funnel adventure, which can easily be played within a 4-hour time slot. If you've ever thought of the funnel as being a peasant mob with torches and pitchforks from a Hammer Horror film, this adventure will provide exactly that.

For reviews, see Vorpal Mace, Diehard Gamefan, and Tenkar's Tavern.

You are abruptly awakened by the frantic sounding of the chapel bell. As you gather with the other villagers in the village square, you are told that the light of morning has revealed that Sister Thara has been murdered and the young maiden Dela, is missing. The only clud to this terrible mystery are three letters written in blood beside Thara's body; "Y U L."

Thara was the town's protector and healer. Now she is gone. Who will protect Wydfield now? Who will right this wrong? No man, woman or child will sleep again in Wydfield until this evil is dealt with and defeated. If there was ever a time when Wydfield needed new heroes, now is the time! Who will go?

You can get it as part of a bundle Here!

Saturday, 14 March 2020

The Treacherous Cobtraps

Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #3: The Treacherous Cobtraps is a level 2 adventure by Jimm Johnson with Jeff Linx. Art is by Steve Zieser (cover), Andy Taylor, and Mark Allen (including cartography). The publisher is Brave Halfling Publishing.

This is the product of a successful
Kickstarter that resulted in a few less-than-satisfied customers. The publisher dealt with some serious misfortune, and certainly tried to make everyone happy, but sometimes things don't work out that way.

I know it is not the first time that I have said this, but The Treacherous Cobtraps is one of a series of small adventures that appears to be direct riffs of the wilderness encounters in The Keep on the Borderlands. See also The Vile Worm and The Ruins of Ramat can stand in for the lizard man mound.

Despite the issues with how these adventures came to exist, I think that Brave Halfling's Appendix N Toolkit series filled an important niche in the repertoire of DCC judges. Like In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer or my own Campaign Elements series, it provides resources that allow the players to leave the rails and discover a larger world. These are not gigantic adventures; they are things that you can throw in as you need them, like salt added to the stew which is the campaign milieu. Rather than sitting down and saying "We are going to play The Treacherous Cobtraps", this is an adventure that works best if it is introduced while the players are expecting something else.

Sanctum Secorum Episode 39b - Halloween 2018 discusses this product. It also come up in Episode 5 and Episode 12.

My pdf copy of this adventure doesn't include a back cover. As a result, I cannot include the back cover text as part of this listing. If someone can transcribe it for me, I will update the listing.

At the time of this writing, this product no longer appears for regular sale anywhere I can find.

Friday, 13 March 2020

The Vile Worm

Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #2: The Vile Worm is a level 1 adventure by Jimm Johnson with Jeff Linx. Art is by Andy Taylor (including cover) and Mark Allen (including cartography). The publisher is Brave Halfling Publishing.

Dungeon Crawl Classics backers have had a fairly good run with crowdfunding, but this was a project that started with a successful Kickstarter and ended (?) in angry comments. I have a lot of sympathy for the publisher, who has always been more than fair to me. That said, this has still been a shit show for many people, and I have sympathy for them as well.

If you are familiar with module B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, you may recall the cool wilderness Gary Gygax described, which provided for a lizard man mound, giant spiders, a mad hermit, and a raider camp. Well, if you wanted to convert the adventure to DCC, The Vile Worm would be a good stand-in for the mad hermit.

In fact, I refuse to believe that this was unintentional, as The Treacherous Cobtraps maps well to the giant spiders in The Keep on the Borderlands, and The Ruins of Ramat can stand in for the lizard man mound.

Deep within the forest, an ancient oak has grown huge, twisted, and evil. Ages ago, a savage cult haunted these woods and this tree became the focus of their unspeakable rites. Below it they carved out a chamber of sacrificial horror where innocent victims were offered to a hideous worm-like god. As the centuries passed, the cult faded into the mists of time, but the twisted oak stood fast, awaiting the day when the creeping evil in the dark below would be summoned once more.

At the time of this writing, this product no longer appears for sale anywhere I can find.