Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Alba Con Monsters for DCC

Alba Con Monsters for DCC was written by Daniel J. Bishop. The publisher is Crowking Press.

This was another virtual swag item, in this case created for Scotland's Alba Con 2020, which I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in. All the proceeds from Alba Con 2020 went to to It’s Good 2 Give, a Scottish charity which provides incredible support to young cancer patients and their families. If you find this virtual swag useful at all, please consider making a small donation!

This item contains statistics for the Am Fear Liath Mòr (the Big Gray Man of the Cairngorms), the Loch Ness Monster, the Blue Men of the Minch, the Aos Sí, the Cat Sìth, the Oilliphéist (a horrible giant water worm), and the Nuckelavee. Games not taking place in Scotland (or a reasonable simulacrum thereof) can file off the serial numbers and make these beasties their own!

Here is some free swag for your DCC game! Yes, this is a guy in Canada writing up beings familiar to denizens dwelling in Scotland and the surrounding waters....If you find any of these to be the worst rendition of these creatures ever, feel free to ignore them!

Permission is granted to include these monsters in anything published for DCC, provided that the original author is acknowledged. Knock yourselves out!

Oh, and these specific monsters were chosen for a reason.

It's free!

Get It Here

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Michuval, Angel of War

Michuval, Angel of War was written by Daniel J. Bishop. Art is by Gustave Doré. The publisher is Crowking Press.

Disclaimer: I am the writer and publisher.

This is a bit of "virtual swag" that I produced for Bride of Cyclops Con. This is a patron write-up for an angelic being, containing everything except full patron spells. 

Great Michuval, the Angel of War, appears as a tall, muscular man, with dark hair flowing in an inky mane. He wields a flaming sword in two of his four arms, and his four great wings are feathered with bronze. His skin, as supple as silk, nonetheless gleams as though made of metal. Michuval is a Champion on the Celestial Realms, and Knight Commander of a cohort of angels. He is a slayer of demons, dragons, and giants. He expects those who would seek him as a patron to exhibit valour in battle and cunning in the art of war.

This is absolutely free, and there is no reason you should not pick it up.

Get It Here.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

2 WORM 2 FURIOUS

2 WORM 2 FURIOUS is a 0-level funnel written by Sean Richer. Art is by Scrap Princess, Sean Richer (cover), Glynn Seal (cartography), Tharamust (cover), and Tomasz Grabowiecki (cover). The publisher is Orbital Intelligence LLC.

Disclaimer: I backed the successful Kickstarter for this product.

Yes, this is a 0-level funnel adventure. Or, in a way, a toolkit for creating such an adventure, because the judge will be rolling on many tables to determine just what happens. I am not surprised to learn that Doug Kovacs was a playtester, because this certainly reminds me of Country Crawl Classics and Inferno Road. An adventure that passes through the Kovacs test first is going to be interesting. That is not a criticism!

This is not just a 0-level adventure, though. It is described as being usable at any level, and is given a more specific description as being challenging to PCs of up to 5th level. Having read this adventure, I agree with the assessment...and sorrow that I didn't get a chance to be a player before reading it.

If you are a fan of Jack Vance, you know how he could draw a textured society through the creation of a few well-chosen details? Sean Richer has that same gift. And he is able to use it to infuse random tables with enough meat to give players and judges a good understanding of what is going on. At the same time, as with Vance, enough is left unspoken that the reader/judge/players are forced to color in the details themselves. The setting is intriguing enough that exploring it after (or before) the adventure is worthwhile. The participants will have to do some extrapolation and world-building, but the result is potentially spectacular.

Mechanically, the adventure used the dice chain in an interesting way, enabling the judge to openly track how large and how furious the Worm has become. One die tracks its growth, another tracks its rage, and a third tracks how successful attempts to calm it are. The size of these dice affect various rolls, including random events that can happen (in the same way that larger crit dice can result in more dire outcomes). This is a neat mechanic that should work to help ramp up tension at the table. Luckily there are plenty of new peasants to help bolster the legions of the dead....

This adventure also includes a complete patron, the Doombringer Moth, which is also given a full deity write-up (including Canticles).

Thematically, the product could also be tied into The Vile Worm, The Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn, The Vault of AshFate's Fell Hand, Peril on the Purple Planet, The Undulating Corruption, Prison of the Mad Gods, and Temple of the Locust Lord. With a little bit of work, you could have an entire campaign centered around worms of various types!

A deadly funnel (Level 0+) adventure and mini-setting, for 4-6 players, revolving around an ever mutating and evolving moth grub. THE grub has escaped and you have been charged by the God-Queen to bring it back to the hatchery, but this is a funnel after all… so stuff will inevitably go wrong and will likely be fatal.

It’s a tiny worm, that grows and grows and grows, and rampages, and bursts into a colossal Doombringer Moth that’s a Patron, a Deity, and a raging behemoth. It grows and grows, its growth unlocks new abilities and reactions. It rarely acts the same way, and eventually it will rule. WORSHIP IT OR RUN FROM IT, IT DOESN’T MATTER!

A God-Queen, her throne-maidens, the legions of Sky-Knights (on their Worm-Hawks), Stilt-Walkers, and Knights that strike with the fury of a thousand hammers. In addition there’s a couple important NPCs stirring things up and causing problems. Ranging from a veteran sky-knight to turned bartender, to a Jester that loiters in the streets spreading whispers to those that live below.

What Else?

New Locations, Encounters, Celebrations, Adventure Hooks, Complications, World Changing Effects, Level 0 Occupations, Bestiary Entries (including Worm-Hawks, Stilt-Walkers, and Knightly Orders), Some fancy villagers, A new Deity (or is it a Patron?), Portens, Rune Effects, A map of the Kingdom, Forms to track destruction of the Worm, and a Worm Tracker (for tracking it’s growth, and the Die Chain)

Get It Here!

Akashic Titan

Akashic Titan Volume 1: Starnheim & Related Locales was written and illustrated by Leighton Connor. The publisher is Spandangle Press.

Disclaimer: I supported the successful Kickstarter for this product.

Imagine magical steampunk mecha. Now imagine that they are used for travel, not across a single world, but from world to world through a rainbow of Bands that extends beyond the colors we know (and may not even include them), and which may in fact be inimical to life as we know it. Now imagine that this travel occurs far enough below the radar that the discerning judge can use it to transplant characters from Punjar to Lankhmar to Drongo to the Fallen Empire to Transylvania. Now imagine that, among all the other influences listed, the author includes Italo Calvino and Miguel de Cervantes.

Is it any wonder that I am in love?

Let's look inside!

Part 1: Journey to Starnheim: This section lays out some hooks that the judge may use to get the PCs interested in Starnheim, and some of the places they might encounter on the way there. Basically, this sets a scene that may be replayed, with countless variations on an infinity of worlds. You hear of a magnificent market - but what you find just leads you on farther. The PCs might be imagining that finding the "market town" is the adventure, but this is just the prelude.

Part 2: The Town of Starnheim: Describes the hidden market town of Starnheim in general terms. It is entirely possible that the PCs discover Starheim early in their careers, as a place to sell excess loot or buy rare goods. There are factions for the PCs to clash with or become involved with. Eventually, the PCs learn about the "Other Side" and the mysterious Gateway leading there.

Part 3: Mount Starnheim: Unless the players have peeked, this is a moment where their world is going to be turned upside down. Literally and metaphorically. The PCs have now found the port where the Akashic Titans dock, and it is not at all the same as the place they have left behind. Not only that, but there is an implication that such places exist in all worlds. 

Part 4: The Akashic Titans: If you are going to run a game with gigantic magical steampunk mecha, you will need rules for them. That is what this part supplies. Luckily, the writer realizes that this is not a one-player show, and when your akashic titan gets into combat everyone has things to do and ways to contribute.The rules are not at all convoluted, but there is serious chance of mishap (as there should be in Dungeon Crawl Classics. A sample titan is provided, but rules for statting up your own titans are fairly non-existent.

Part 5: The Bands: Imagine that the Bifrost was actually the phlogiston, and then imagine that the Bifrost extended beyond colors we know, to bands of dolm, ulfire, and jale...and perhaps farther. Now imagine that this is actually the akashic medium, and the color of the Band you are in affects what you might encounter and the rules of the universe around you. Not every Band is conducive to the living. Some Bands may be actively trying to kill you.

No one can tell you what is beyond the Jale Band. No information is given about passing from the Dolm Band away from the Ulfire Band back towards Blue. This is not really a problem. There are always things to worry about out there:

"Akashic titans are not alive, so it stands to reason that they could never be undead. Unfortunately, that is the best description of the akashic husk. Broken down akashic titans, usually with huge holes ripped in their hulls, their crews dead, yet their eyes still glowing, they are animated by some hideous force, and lurch their way through the Bands in search of functional akashic titans to destroy."

Part 6: The Elaborate Crystal Palace: This describes an interesting place in the Jale Band that the PCs are likely to come back to repeatedly. Chambers are randomly generated. There is more going on, and more for the PCs to get involved with, than this makes it sound like.

Appendix 1: Spells: Band Bubble is a 1st level wizard spell that "creates a mystical bubble that holds in oxygen and protects from the Bands’ toxic atmosphere and radiation." Don't leave home without it. Titan Bond is a 2nd level wizard spell that "enables the user to connect spiritually with an akashic titan, to feel what it is feeling, and to sense what is going on inside and out." Access Akashic Library is a 3rd level wizard spell that "enables the user to access the Akashic Library, a record of every sapient being’s every thought, word, and action." Compare with Walk the Akashic Record, a patron spell in The Revelation of Mulmo: Tentacled Edition and Angels, Daemons & Beings Between: Extended Otherworldly Edition.

Appendix 2: New Character Class: This describes the Akashic Pilot class. If travel through the Akashic Bands is the centerpiece of your campaign, this will make you a master of it. Of course, you will also be mutated.

Ellie O'Clock sits in her pilot's chair and gazes through the heavy glass, watching the aether of the Ulfire Band fizz and pop. Suddenly a nearby patch of void squirms, twists, and rips open, vomiting forth an obscene tentacled horror. A Stellar Squid! Ellie has no time to think--she grabs a lever, twists, and pulls. Instantaneously the metal behemoth she pilots reacts, swinging a giant metal fist . . .  

The akashic titans are giant, magically-powered metal constructs that soar across the endless Bands in their journey from world to world. Akashic Titan gives you the tools you need to incorporate these magical behemoths into Dungeon Crawl Classics games. In addition to giving an overview of the akashic titans and the Bands, this zine provides two settings: Starnheim, a port city for the titans that can be dropped into any fantasy world, and the Elaborate Crystal Palace of the Jale Band.

Also included are new monsters (such as the Stellar Squid, the Stowaway, and the Living Constellation), spells, NPCs, the Akashic Pilot character class, and random tables.

Get It Here!


Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Shadow of the Beakmen

DCC Day #1: Shadow of the Beakmen is a level 1 adventure by Harley Stroh. Art is by Stefan Poag (including cover and cartography), Chris Arneson, Doug Kovacs, William McAusland, Bradley McDevitt, and Chad Sergesketter. The publisher is Goodman Games.

Saturday, 16 May 2020 was the first ever DCC Day, marked with a generous outpouring of swag and stuff from Goodman Games. Like Free RPG Day, DCC Day was intended to generate interest in the hobby - and in this case, our little niche thereof. Then there was a pandemic, and things went a bit strange. 

The goal of this adventure was to provide something that could be played with minimum prep for the judge, and which could allow new players to experience the awesomeness that is Dungeon Crawl Classics. It does this very well, but, as written, it is extremely linear. It would easily be run in a 3- to 4-hour convention slot. 

As with all Harley Stroh adventures, the right details are present. The final encounter is very flavorful, but misses both enough context for the players to discover who the Master is, and misses the kind of truly cataclysmic ending that some DCC adventures do so well - what happens to the obelisk once the Master is destroyed?

If you intend on incorporating this module into an ongoing campaign, consider the following:

  • Instead of having the village be some nameless place on the road from A to B, make it a place that the PCs have a connection to. Perhaps it is their home village, or a place where they recovered from a previous adventure? In either case, this should be a place the players regard kindly...not the hive of scum and villainy that sold them fake healing potions!
  • The use of greenstones in the adventure suggests a connection to the Purple Planet. Strongly consider exploiting that connection as the campaign progresses.
  • When the Master is destroyed, what happens to the obelisk? Roll 1d6: (1) The obelisk sinks back into the lake; (2) The obelisk falls over, slowly at first, but it builds up speed as it topples; (3) The obelisk returns to its plane of origin; (4) The obelisk begins to vibrate, and then shatters; (5) The obelisk simply fades out of existence; or (6) The obelisk remains, a mute but permanent testimony to its Master. How long it takes for these effects to occur, and what they mean for the PCs, are up to the judge to determine.
  • If the obelisk remains, a rival Master may come looking for it one day. Likewise, as part of another adventure, the PCs may discover the shattered remains of a previous obelisk.

Towering obelisks stab the sky. Monstrous knights with blazing lances prowl the night. Huts burn, and entire villages are taken as slaves to be fed darksome pits. The cries of terror and panic give the horrors a name: the Beakmen have come.

But you are no mere peasant or serf, cowering the in the dark. You and your companions are reavers, with bloodied blades and spells wrenched from the dreams of demons. You stride through chaos while others flee, turning your steps towards the great stone obelisk, the source of the beakmen and their alien magics. 

Whether for the cause of justice or merely to acquire these strange blazing weapons for you own, tonight there shall be an accounting: a blazing brand thrust into The Shadow of the Beakmen.

Get It Here!

Get the VTT and Token Pack here!


Friday, 26 June 2020

The House of the Red Doors

The House of the Red Doors is a 0 level funnel adventure by James A. Pozenel, Jr.. Art is by Stefan Poag (including cover), Doug Kovacs,
Del Teigeler, and Robert Cameron. The publisher is Horse Shark Games.

Disclosure: I was both a backer of the successful Kickstarter, and a playtester at Ragnarok Gaming Experience in Waterloo, Ontario. The author ran the game.

Dungeon Crawl Classics, as readers here know, is my go-to role-playing game. In some cases, though, you just don't have enough players to make a full party. I've blogged about dealing with this once characters have reached the exalted heights of 1st level, but how do you deal with a character's journey from gong farmer to adventurer?

The House of the Red Doors allows for a brief adventure in which a single player with a single character With a single 0-level character and only one player making decisions, this funnel can be run in 20-30 minutes per player, allowing a PC to rise to 1st level with an actual backstory. Because it can be played through so quickly, the judge is advised to be ready to jump into a follow-up adventure, or to place the newly-minted adventurer into a situation where adventure will occur! Of course, death is a real possibility here, and it might take more time and 0-level characters to exit The House of the Red Doors with a survivor.

The adventure can also be run as a unique sort of tournament, where each player plays through the funnel individually. The judge scores points based on the choices made and in-game events, and then declares the player with the most points the winner!

If you are a Road Crew judge looking for something to fit into a short time frame, using The House of the Red Doors as a short tournament will absolutely fit the bill. If you have only 1-2 players to get a campaign going, this adventure will also serve admirably. Finally, if you and your gaming friend have a 30-minute window for a break at work or school...well, you might get some converts in the lunch room!

Generations ago the House of the Red Doors visited your village. Now, so many years hence, could it be passing this way again? As the story goes, its mistress, Jassafae, still untouched by time’s ravages, is a powerful being of unknown origin. Through her, fates are altered and wishes granted, but only to those brave enough to cross her threshold. You toil unceasingly, suffer much, and to what end? Unrequited dreams and the hope of an early grave? You resolve to enter and change your destiny.

The House of the Red Doors is a challenging 0 level adventure for one player and one judge. Three rounds of puzzles with seven different endings await the brave souls that enter the movable mansionʼs threshold. A dreamland-like setting allows for ease of use in nearly any genre. This adventure can quickly create a 1st level adventurer for an ongoing campaign, test a playerʼs wits, or be run as a tournament.

EDITS: Adjusted to take comments into account.

Get It Here!




Thursday, 18 June 2020

Skull & Crossbones Classics #1

Skull & Crossbones Classics #1 is a zine of high sea adventure written by Bob Brinkman. Art is by Bob Brinkman (front cover), Charles Ellms, George Cruikshank, Antonius Wierix II, William StrangOscar R. Gleason, Mansiliya Yury via Shutterstock, Gessner, a New York Times staff artist, IADA via Shutterstock, and that prolific individual known as Anonymous. The publisher is Sanctum Media.

Ever since it was first mentioned on Sanctum Secorum Podcast, I have been looking forward to this product. Those of you familiar with the author's nautical work in Crawl! Fanzine #11 will understand why.

Let's dive in!

Message in a Bottle: An opening note/introduction from the author/editor.

Character Basics: This section offers a brief discussion of cultural background, firearms, gender, sexuality, languages, and other aspects of a campaign centered around the Golden Age of Piracy.

Specific rules - short, sweet, and to the point - are also supplied for alignment, Armor Class (as sailors rarely wear armor), and skills (seamanship improves with level). This material is easy to understand, does its job, and then gets out of the way. In short, it is elegant.

Star Signs: Essentially birth augurs from DCC, but based on several real-world forms of astrology. The traditional Western, Chinese, and Polynesian zodiacs are presented. These star signs consider things important to sailors, and have both a Weal and a Woe column. Depending upon your Luck modifier, and what is rolled, you might get either or both.

The Jonah Class: Somewhat reworked from the Sanctum Secorum 2018 Free RPG Day Third Party Compendium, the Jonah is an ill-fated sailor, who brings bad luck to the ship and to their shipmates aboard her. Is this a playable class? That is hard to say, not yet having the chance to see it in action. I suspect that it would be fun to play in a one-shot adventure, at least, though a known Jonah would survive an extended campaign no better than suspected Jonahs survived the high seas in real life.

The Devil's Own Luck: The fortunes of a sailor ebb and flow like the tide, but pirates and cutthroats seem especially blessed. Indeed, it is said that they enjoy the "Devil' s Own Luck" - and fortune does seem to favor them in the hardest of times before abandoning them completely in the best of times.

This mechanic offers a modified form of Fleeting Luck, which is a bit more involved, but is also flavorful. You can get it (among other ways) by being unlucky or indulging in the seven deadly sins, but you can loose it by being too lucky or pious. Moreover, you can wager it, betting your own permanent Luck for a temporary boost against the cast of a die.

Sailing Superstitions: Material taken from real-world sailing superstitions, which can be used for inspiration by judge and players alike.

Ill-fortune Mechanic: Low luck, bad luck, curses, blaspheming aboard a ship - there are plenty of ways that a sailor can be down on her luck. Bob Brinkman provides a mechanic (in the form of a d100 table) to determine what happens as a result. This is good stuff, and I would encourage judges to consider similar effects/tables for other genres/environments.

Sea Beggar's Bestiary: DCC game statistics for the barracuda, sea devil (sadly not this one, but that wouldn't have really fit the tone, would it?), sea serpents, and tiger sharks.

Appendix S: Inspirational reading for swashbuckling and piracy.

Even if you are not setting your adventure in the Golden Age of Piracy, this material would offer flavor and options for games with a nautical element.

1650-1720: The Golden Age of Piracy,
a time where the seas were ruled by those with
the most powerful fleets – but those desperate (or greedy)
enough could live like kings.

You are no hero…

You’re a pirate: a corsair, a buccaneer, a sea-beggar,
a whipcord-tough cutthroat plying the
devil’s trade. You seek gold and glory,
taking it with sword and cannon fire,
awash in the blood of those who would oppose you,
and the tears of those too weak to stop you.

There are treasures to be won upon the seas, and you shall have them.

Get It Here!