Friday, 16 June 2017

Lost Temple of Ibholtheg

TG1: Lost Temple of Ibholtheg is a 3rd level adventure written by "Weird Dave" Coulson. Art is by Matt Morrow and Johnathan L. Bingham. Cartography is by Glynn Seal. The publisher is Cut to the Chase Games.

This adventure is the second part of the Memories of the Toad God series, following Depths of the Croaking Grotto. As with other adventures in this series, Lost Temple of Ibholtheg is simultaneously available for Swords & Wizardry, Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, and 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

This adventure, like its predecessor, could be worked into the mythos of Bobugbubilz, Schaphiroadaz, and  Tsathoggua, allowing the judge to link it to The Croaking Fane, The 
Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn, and The Vault of Ash, if desired. The Toadlock, from Spellburn's Dungeon Denizens, is another good potential fit.

One interesting feature is the use of shadow orcs not as opponents, but as guides and sources of information. It is unfortunate that the text refers to "a series of Personality checks" to avoid gaining faux pas point, reducing interplay to a series of rolls, but the judge can easily ignore that. That the only exampled check is in the nature of a saving throw to avoid making a social blunder could also guide the judge into considering the checks to be second chances.

Weird Dave’s Notebook continues to be a good feature of these modules, as it is always interesting to read the thoughts of another game designer and/or judge.

The adventure does suffer slightly from being written and released for multiple formats, and specifically because most of the other formats are far more codified than Dungeon Crawl Classics. As a result, you'll find references to falling under the effects of a Confusion spell, for instance. The magical scimitar, Toad Caller, is not a generic magic sword, which is nice, but the judge will have to determine the base damage for a scimitar (I suggest 1d7). Overall, though, these lapses are pretty rare.

Most importantly, there are plenty of non-generic monsters here, as befits Appendix N gaming. Yes, you are in the jungle, so you are going to get snakes and big apes. I really liked the description of the Idol of the Squamous Toad, and the ending of the adventure is appropriately dramatic. Also, of course, giant toads and choruses of batrachian critters have a long standing not only in the game itself, but in the literature that inspired it as well.

There is plenty of room for expansion on the jungle trek to and from the Lost Temple. Several appropriate encounters are described for this journey, but there is no map provided, and the judge could sprinkle his own campaign milieu with mini-sites and lairs to increase the options and mysteries of the Great Jungle.

The next two adventures, Tongues of the Screaming Toad and Shadow out of Sapphire Lake, are both designed for 3rd level characters, so the author has taken into account the rate of progression in Dungeon Crawl Classics. You can easily go from one to the next without requiring additional material, but you may wish to explore and customize the setting anyway.The ruined civilization of the Xilonoc, at the very least, deserves more detail! Indeed, a mini-gazetteer of Kraden’s Hill and the area around it would be welcome.

If these adventures are ever compiled into a single volume, I would love to see monster statistics printed in the text. Having to flip back and forth may make sense for games where there are very large statblocks, but should not be a requirement for Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures. The idea of a compiled index is, nevertheless, a good one. A full patron write-up for Ibholtheg, the Squamous Toad, would be a definite bonus in a compiled version.

On the borders of the uncivilized Great Jungle lies the outpost of Kraden’s Hill. Brave adventurers are needed to lead expeditions into the perilous jungle, facing cannibal monsters, dangerous flora, and worse, all in search of wealth and power hidden deep inside the jungle. Find this and more in the LOST TEMPLE OF IBHOLTHEG!

Get It Here!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Lost City of Barako

DCC #91.1: The Lost City of Barako is a 6th level adventure written by Harley Stroh, Steven Bean, Daniel J. Bishop, Tim Callahan, and Terry Olson. Art is by Doug Kovacs, Peter Mullen, and Stefan Poag. The publisher is Goodman Games.

Disclosure: I did some supplemental writing for this product. Specifically, I wrote the Drippling, Head Hunter, and Underbelly Stalker, so if any of your PCs fall to these menaces, you have me to blame.

Although described as a 6th level adventure, this "city at the center of Áereth" is more of a stakes-raising supplement to DCC #91: Journey to the Center of Áereth than anything else. It describes the lost pleasure palace of Barako, complete with tables to describe areas where game play might occur, creatures that might be found there, and information on the extremely creepy and potentially dangerous Akashic Library of Barako.

The product is new enough, and cool enough, that I don't want to spoil any of the surprises the lost city has in store. Suffice it to say that my contributions are far from the best material you will find herein.

That said, I was already considering how the Builders and the Adamantine Mole from The Imperishable Sorceress might fit into Áereth's inner world. If you notice a potential link between the Head Hunters, the No-Men in Lairs of Lost Agharta, and the Builders, I would encourage you to expand upon it!

It strikes me that the lost city is named after a certain former President of the United States. This might be coincidence...after all, I am told that Punjar wasn't named after a collection of money at the center of the gaming table, filled with the ill-gotten loot of numerous groaners. Nonetheless, once you see it, you cannot un-see it.

The pleasure palace of Barako rises above the Bleak Shores atop enormous stone pylons. The palace arches towards the cavernous gloom, lit by a thousand lanterns fueled by the rendered flesh of a thousand lamenting souls. Within the city, hellish figures dart and whirl in the flickering light, prostrating themselves before their Aghartan masters, all to the cacophonic beat of a thousand alien instruments. What adventures will you find here?

Get It Here!


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Liber Arcanum

Liber Arcanum was written by Jeffrey A Rhodes-Gloor, with additional material (Daelin’s Journals) by Rhomi van Ekorn, Art is by Laura Bost, Chris Parillo, Jon Willson, and J. Rhodes-Gloor. The publisher is Cognition Pressworks.

This product uses the same monster entry format as Creatures, Critters, & Denizens, which is either a plus or a minus, depending upon your viewpoint. It also uses the term "Storyteller" instead of judge, which I find irksome, but which has no real effect on the content.

This is a large, dense volume with a lot of material to cover. Let's dive right in!

Optional rules

This section covers optional rules for spellcasting. These optional rules are:

Optional Counter-Spell rule: Because sometimes you want to counter a spell without jumping into a full-fledged spell duel.

Increased Spell Failure: The higher the level spell, the higher the chance of failure. The spells in this volume are formatted assuming that you will be using this rule, but there really is no difficulty in ignoring the formatting if not.

Spell-books: Hubris has some excellent rules for spellbooks. These rules are a bit more fiddly, mechanics-wise, but there is no reason that you cannot use them together.

Reversing Spells: Some more information on reversing spells, including canceling, destroying, or hiding spell effects.

5th Level Spells: An optional rule to make 5th level spells harder to cast, and one which is used in this book. This means that you will need to do a little work if you want to use the 5th level spells herein without using this rule, but (1) that isn't too horribly difficult to do, and (2) you could easily rule that the "5th Level Spells" rule only applies to spells from this tome!

Beyond 5th Level Spells: This is an expansion on the idea that greater (ritual) magic may exist than even 5th level spells would allow for. This includes Greater Rituals (essentially 6th level spells), Rites (7th level spells), Ceremonies (8th level spells), and Sacraments (9th level spells).

Thieves and Runes: An option that allows thieves to inscribe runes, including runes drawing runes in the air without the standard penalty.

Deeper Mysteries

In addition to optional rules, Liber Arcanum introduces "Deeper Mysteries" - things that wizards might learn to increase their occult lore and differentiate one from another. Arcane casters may learn a single Deeper Mystery, plus one per every three levels. Deeper Mysteries are not necessarily learned, either. There is a chance to learn one (if possible) at each level, and that chance never exceeds 50%, unless modified by Luck or Intelligence.

Obviously, the judge can also award a Deeper Mystery (either a roll on 1d24 or a specific choice) as a reward within a particular adventure. This is especially useful if the judge wants to see something in play, or if the player wants to Quest For It.

Not every Deeper Mystery requires special rules. You might gain the opportunity for a patron bond. You might gain a chance to learn one or more new spells. You might gain a point of Intelligence. Or you might gain one of these:


  • Mystery # 1: Lesser Spell Ritual
  • Mystery # 2: Harmonic and disharmonic casting
  • Mystery # 3: New Benefits for Rituals
  • Mystery # 4: Durable Scrolls (including a Scroll Mishaps Table)
  • Mystery # 5 Faerie Secrets
  • Mystery # 6 The Game of Antonyms


Magic and the Elements

This chapter describes elemental forces (using a five elemental system, with both positive and negative spiritual energy). This leads to a discussion of Animancers & Necromancers. The author writes:

In the paradigm of a sorcery & swords fantasy environment, the dualistic concept of Spirit can have other, more subtle, yet profound applications. Spells such as Breathe life, Eternal Champion, Stamina, and other such spell manifestations can then be a form of elemental magic, as would Animate Dead, and a host of the spells traditionally thought to be the purview of clerics like Restore Vitality, or any other type of curative/ restorative magic. Among the stranger manifestations found within this elemental model is the idea that both positive and negative energy can be used to animate items. In the case of negative energy this takes the form of the parade of undead creatures from skeletons all the way up to the mighty lich and other fell spirits. Any of these same types of creatures can be found in the benign realm of positive energy;mostly in non-physical forms like helpful Ghosts, Invisible Companions, Eternal Champions, or anything animated via the Breathe Life spell or involving magical force. In fact, under this model it is possible to do away with the entire concept of clerics and deities.

The cleric is then reskinned and transformed into the animancer and the necromancer, arcanists who deal with spiritual energies.

This chapter also offers diagrams of Celestial Geometry, a table of Random Planes, and "Random things & other useful charts" This last includes spotting distances, minor demons, a quick reference to spell success and mishaps using the optional rules in this book, and a table of random spells. There is also a one-page discussion of the "[m]eta-magical effects of arcane ingredients upon spell casting and item creation", which is limited to bone, ceramics, iron, mithril, and star-metal, but which might offer the judge some inspiration.

Patrons

The Liber Arcanum contains five fully developed patrons. These are:


  • The Queen of Battle
  • Gydrion the Wanderer
  • Avridar, King of Air
  • Brinae, Queen of Water
  • Hraalvid, King of Earth
  • Kandri-sek, Queen of Fire


Each of these patrons has one or more "extras". such as aquamancers for Brinae or "On the wizardly uses of gems and minerals" and geomancers for Hraalvid.

Spells

If you are looking for new spells for your Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign, this book has them. Judges may use these spells as-is, may offer them as special treasures, or may even use them as patron spells for patrons of her own devising. Some may be powers unique to a magic item, or a cabal of wizards. They may be objects of quests by players keen for more arcane knowledge, or the judge can simply include them in the known spells that wizards and elves may have a chance to learn.

There are too many spells in the Liber Arcanum to describe them beyond their names. These spells are:


  • 1st level: Cloud of Fresh Air, Incomprehensible Babbling, Obscuring Mist, Pilfer Voice, Reduce, Rending, and Runic Alphabet, Mortal (Lost Runes).
  • 2nd level: Acid Resistance, Agility, Determined Locomotion, Electricity Resistance, First Aid, Mind Shield, Protection from (*), Silence, Sonic Resistance, and Wizard Lock.
  • 3rd level: Destroy Potion, Encrypt Magical Writing, Fynderlang’s Forceful Flinger, Lesser Devastation, Make Armor, Panoramic Projectile Protection, Paroxysm, Planar Isolation, Runic Alphabet, Fey (Lost Runes), Stamina, and Wizard Hovel.
  • 4th level: Adhibitis Ossa, Arcane Veil, Magic Hat, Telekinesis, Transmute Air, Transmute Earth (additional entries), Transmute Fire, Transmute Water, Wand Magic, and Weakening.
  • 5th level: Devastation, Resilience, Transmute Spirit, and Wizard’s Tower.


Greater Rituals

This describes the Tattooing ritual: "By means of this ritual a wizard or other caster of arcane magic can have one or more spells that they know bonded directly to their flesh." Includes statistics for feral tattoos!

Rites

This describes the Pocket Reality rite: "This powerful Rite allows the participants to create a number of permanent refuges of varying sizes and internal principles. All results are permanent and will have at least one entrance on the Ethereal Plane, which is always the first gate created by the spell. All else is subject to the whims of the participants in the rite, their funds available, and willingness to spellburn."

Appendix I

The appendix covers:


  • Miscellaneous Magic Items
  • Expanded Magic Weapons (new powers, banes, and bane effects)
  • Generic Magic Weapon & Armor Sheet
  • Pre-generated Magic Weapons (with numerous examples)
  • Blank rune tile sets (for mortal and fey runes)


Please note the following from the Legal and Advertising end pages (page 290; 295 in the pdf):

Cognition Pressworks is proud to support the Dungeon Crawl Classics role-playing game. To this purpose, the publisher and author hereby grant limited permission to use any 2 patrons and their attendant information including tables, and spells, but not artwork: or, up to 4 spells, their attendant information including tables and critters, but not their art work. Prospective publishers must include names of items used with the following copy: “{names of spells or patrons} are used with permission. Additional material from Liber Arcanum published by Cognition Pressworks, Jeffrey Rhodes-Gloor, copyright 2014" in a reasonably prominent location (such as the credits section of the book, or in the licensing section) to obtain this permission.

This means that the Liber Arcanum, like Critters, Creatures, & Denizens before it, is of real use not only to the harried judge, but also to the harried judge who would like to one day see his frenzied creations in print.

Get It Here!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Into the Demon Idol

Into the Demon Idol was written by Jobe Bittman. Art is by Stefan Poag. The publisher is Bloody Hammer Games.

The original 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook had a cool cover illustration. A party of adventurers had just slain some lizard men and a couple of thieves were busy prying the gem eyes out of an enormous demon idol.

But what if the demon idol was far larger? What if it was large enough to get inside it, and drive it around like a magical steampunk mecha? What if those gems did more than look pretty? Well, thanks to Jobe Bittman, now you can learn the answers.

My understanding is that this adventure was originally a one-page dungeon in 2013, and then came out in an expanded format at GaryCon in 2015. Into the Demon Idol is not written for Dungeon Crawl Classics per se, but it does come with a sheet of statistics for use with DCC. Stats for Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry are also provided. In some cases, information on these stats is a bit sparse, and the prospective judge will have to make some calls, but this shouldn't offer any real difficulty.

The adventure offers a hex crawl area, the demon idol itself, and a situation where the demon idol may be used to resolve a crisis. There are even some brief mass-combat rules that can be used if the PCs do attempt to resolve that crisis. There is a mislabeling on the map that may cause the judge a bit of confusion, but the text should help resolve it easily enough.

Forgotten in a decrepit temple ruin, the demon idol holds a sinister secret. The giant statue was the superweapon of a depraved cult hellbent on ushering in a new age of chaos, but the cult fell to bitter infighting and their own lust for power decades ago. Their angry former patrons cursed them with hideous afflictions and sealed them within the idol for all eternity.

Today, bloodthirsty lizardfolk tribes united under a common banner are cutting a swathe of destruction across the countryside. The village elders have sent you to the ancient temple in hopes of finding magic artifacts to help defend the town.

Get It Here!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Level Drain #1: The Pillars of Pang

Level Drain 1: The Pillars of Pang is written and illustrated by Level Drain. It is published by Death Machine Press.

The Pillars of Pang is described as a short adventure "about pain and madness equally suitable for zero level funnel play, a band of first level adventurers, or any mix thereof".

From RPG Now:

"The Pillars of Pang is the first in a series of releases from Level Drain, a collective of artists, writers, and creators who live with mental illness. This issue is dedicated to one of our friends and founding members, Corey Brin. This is a Pay What You Want product, with all proceeds donated to Corey to help him heal and grow and raise his son and continue to make beautiful art."

Pang is a sort of psychic demi-plane of anguish and despair. (The authors refer to it as a plane; I gain the impression that it is more of a demi-plane; expand it as seems reasonable.) The product is only two pages long, so I cannot go into detail about what you may find there, but there is a "road to Pang", and people do make pilgrimages to the plane, so this is a re-usable conceptual adventure. There are only four encounter areas, plus the road itself, so the adventure can be run within a single session.

No "hook" is given to lure your PCs into Pang, but the "Quest For It" nature of Dungeon Crawl Classics should actually make it relatively simple for the judge to devise some pretext. A wizard spell's final component could be located in Pang. Permanent damage to Personality might be resolved by a pilgrimage to the plane of anguish and despair. Some insight might be gained by looking in the face of the Creature that dwells there.

All-in-all, this is good stuff, and I hope that we may one day see further Level Drain materials!

Get It Here!


Lairs of Lost Agharta

DCC #91.2: Lairs of Lost Agharta: Creatures and Lairs in the Center of Aereth is a supplement to DCC #91: Journey to the Center of Áereth. It was written by Steven Bean, Daniel J. Bishop, Tim Callahan, Stephen Newton, and Terry Olson, with Harley Stroh. Art is by Doug Kovacs (cover only), Steve Crompton, and Stefan Poag. Cartography is by Steve Crompton. The publisher is Goodman Games.

Disclosure: I am one of the authors on this project.Specifically, if your characters fall victim to the Maleves or the No-Men, you have me to blame.

This work is fairly new at the time of this writing, and is a compliation of creatures and beings you might encounter in the Center of the Áereth, along with random encounter tables and an appendix to generate "Marooned Mortals" on the dim shores of the inner world.

There are 13 creatures/lairs in this digest-sized book, but there are more than 50 pages of material, so nothing is given short shrift. Of course, anything can be reskinned to fit other campaign milieus, but everything you encounter herein has been designed with Lost Agharta in mind. While it should go without saying that combat may occur, not everything herein is necessarily a "combat encounter", either.

Sages will aver that the denizens of the underworld are, by necessity, alien to surface dwellers such as ourselves. Few will ever stand on the ink-black shores of the Lost Agharta, and even fewer will return to tell the tale. Those that do, report creatures transmuted by their deadly environs and the weird gloom. These creatures of legend owe no allegiance or kinship to the beasts of our lit-realms, and woe to the adventurer who mistakes them for a familiar foes.

Collected herein are thirteen of the stranger beings explorers may encounter upon their arrival at the very center of our hollow globe. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, if such a thing could even exist – for the underworld is vast, and our knowledge is slight.

Get It Here!


Friday, 2 June 2017

Lair of the Mist Men

SM-1: Lair of the Mist Men  is a level 1 adventure by Jon Marr. Art is by Jon Marr and Benjamin Marr. Cartography is by Jon Marr. The publisher is Purple Sorcerer Games.

This adventure explores the Mist Men, extra-dimensional aliens first encountered in The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk. Players and judges have a chance to learn a bit about the Greyfolk who dwell in the Sunken City's vast swamp. This is also a good example of seeding one adventure within another, and specifically of using an encounter in a 0-level funnel to generate movement into the wider-world of fully-fledged adventurers. This adventure is also intended to lead into Against the Vortex Temple, which has yet to be released at the time of this writing, eventually allowing for further connections between adventures.

The Mist Men are well described and interesting, but this is a strange place that the PCs have entered into, and not everyone is going to get out of it the way they walked in. Appendix A: The Path to Madness is likely to gain some use.

Like everything Purple Sorcerer does, there are extras. Appendix B reproduces the Mist Men encounter from The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk. A sheet of four 0-level characters is provided. Paper miniatures and battlemaps are available for download.

This adventure is also reproduced in The Sunken City Adventure Omnibus & Guide.

Most find death in the crumbling ruins that stretch beyond sight into the mists south of the Great City; once rich districts now claimed by swamp and dark denizens. But for the desperate folk of the city, the ruins offer treasures the Great City denies them: fortune, glory, and a fighting chance! 

The day has come when you can finally confront an enemy previously cloaked in mist, hidden and impervious to retaliation. For the past 3 months, strange creatures known as Mist Men have plagued your village and roads, striking without warning or apparent purpose, only to vanish into the mists from whence they came. After their latest raid, however, they left something behind: a talisman found by a farm boy that will guide you to their hidden lair. Finally, questions will be answered, and revenge will be yours to savor!

Get It Here!


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Kobolds Stole My Cat!

Kobolds Stole My Cat! is a 1st level adventure written by Mark Tasaka and published by Old School Adventures. Cartography is also by Mark Tasaka.

The premise of this adventure is fairly simple: An old woman offers her family jewels if the PCs will rescue her cat from kobolds.

The adventure is split into two parts.In the first part, the PCs must locate and interview the old woman, Mrs. Wynworth. Along the way they learn about Oscar, a creature living in the village's outhouses, who features as a hook in The Gong Farmer's Revenge. Exactly what Oscar is, how she got the villagers to accept her (charm spells, pheromones, parasites?), and what happens when her "people" come looking for her, could make the basis of a great higher-level adventure.

The adventure raises more questions than it answers. What exactly is Mr. Mu (the cat)? Why was he stolen? Was it just for food? Why do the Wynworths have an entrance to the kobold caverns in their basement? What does all this have to do with the lost civilization whose remnants are found in the caves?

The adventure considers three outcomes: (1) Returning with the cat, (2) Returning without the cat, and (3) Not returning at all. The outcome that the adventure does not consider is, what happens if the PCs decide taking the family jewels from the Wynworths is easier than going down those tunnels?

Get It Here!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Journey to the Center of Áereth

DCC #91: Journey to the Center of Áereth is a 4th level adventure written by Harley Stroh. Art is by Doug Kovacs, William McAusland, Brad McDevitt, Peter Mullen, Russ Nicholson, and Stefan Poag. Cartography is by Mark Allen and Doug Kovacs. The publisher is Goodman Games.

Disclosure: I have writing credits on two supplemental products to this adventure.

This adventure is, in part, explicitly inspired by Robert E. Howard’s Tower of the Elephant and Worms of the Earth, Edgar Rice BurroughsPellucidar, and H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness.

I would think that it was also inspired by Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, as well as modules D 1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth and D3 Vault of the Drow by Gary Gygax for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. As one approaches the depths of the planet, gravity is reduced, making your PCs stronger in a way that is reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter/Barsoom novels.

Lin Carter's Zanthodon novels, while not explicitly mentioned, could also be used as a source for expanding this adventure...and there is definitely room for expansion! In effect, the aspiring judge is given a whole new world to play with - one that is as strange and compelling as the Purple Planet.

The basic conceit of the adventure is pretty simple: your PCs discover a way into passages leading to the Center of Áereth. The adventure is roughly divided into getting access to the passages, traversing the passages, and what you find once you reach the end. What you may discover in the Center of Áereth is further expanded upon in DCC #91.1: The Lost City of Barako and DCC #91.2: Lairs of Lost Agharta. One could also use the Adamantine Mole from The Imperishable Sorceress to reach the Center of Áereth...which implies that the Builders may make some appearance in your home-brewed adventures there, or some later adventure(s) published by Goodman Games.

It should come as no surprise that the long journey has to be glossed over to some degree. There is no way that an adventure of any reasonable size could lay out all of the potential routes and sidetracks of such an exploration on a 10' x 10' square scale. As a result, the judge may make any number of expansions on this section, adding whatever degree of granularity is desired. Just be careful to finally get to the main event. The adventure does include a table of random encounters and events that can occur during the journey, as well as tables for various sections of the destination.

The destination itself is painted in broad strokes....which it must be, because it represents a whole new campaign "world" that could easily be as large as a surface continent...or larger. This could easily have been a boxed set.

The stories have reached you: A world beneath our own, lit by a brilliant sun and ruled by sages beyond reproach, where magic has replaced the spoken word, the weakest slave is like unto a superman, and the domes gleam with hammered gold.

You’ve spilled enough blood to know better.

Your trek to discover the truth will take you through endless caverns, ancient causeways and along unknown rivers. An expedition worthy of true explorers, Journey to the Center of Áereth offers characters the adventure of a lifetime – or the means to a quick doom.

The Journey awaits!

Get It Here!


Jewels of the Carnifex

DCC #70 Jewels of the Carnifex is a 3rd level adventure by Harley Stroh. Art is by Doug Kovacs (also cover and cartography), Jeff Easley, Jim Holloway, Russ Nicholson, and Stefan Poag. The publisher is Goodman Games.

At the end of a forgotten back alley, in the weird and otherworldly marketplace of faiths known as the Bazaar of the Gods, stand the ruins of a forgotten chapel. All that remains are a fallen staircase, a mound of toppled stones, and a sickly, leafless tree placed squarely in the center of the ruins.

If you were uncertain that Harley Stroh's Punjar, the City of a Thousand Gates, is at least partially modeled off of Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar, the above paragraph should answer all doubts. Although this adventure is nominally set in Punjar, it is easily transplanted to any Dungeon Crawl Classics milieu. When I ran the adventure, I set the action in Denethix, the main city of Patrick Wetmore's excellent Anomalous Subsurface Environment (written for Labyrinth Lord, but easily converted).

Within this adventure, the PCs explore the ruins of a chthonic cult's temple, which is not completely abandoned, seeking the fabled and titular Jewels of the Carnifex. The Carnifex herself may be encountered, and, while the upcoming expansion, Lost in the Briars by Brendan LaSalle, is something to look forward to, a full patron write-up for the Carnifex would be rather keen.

The adventure was fun and challenging, and the mutated spider-thing in the outer sewer region worked extremely well in conjunction with Denethix's somewhat polluted waterways. The frog demon also worked extremely well, and it is only by dint of Mighty Deed and burnt Luck that the party cleric was not lost forever in the sewers beneath the city. Luthold the Mad was great fun to play, and dealing with Azazel and the Pious was interesting all around. The entire set-up could not help but create a dynamic, ever-shifting play experience.

My players also ran afoul of the descendants of the Swords of the Pious, who still watch over the ruins of the Carnifex's temple. This was another nice touch to the module, and again brought to mind the City of a Thousand Smokes.

Set amid the sprawling decadence of Punjar, Jewels of the Carnifex offers low-level adventurers a chance to plumb the mysteries beneath the city’s soiled streets, explore forgotten crypts lavished with weird artifacts, and – for the quick and daring – claim the lost Jewels of the Carnifex!

Get It Here!


Friday, 26 May 2017

Intrigue at the Court of Chaos

DCC #80: Intrigue at the Court of Chaos is a level 1 adventure written by Michael Curtis. Art is by Doug Kovacs (also cover and maps), Jim Holloway, and Stefan Poag. The publisher is Goodman Games.

This is an adventure that I have written about before, and my opinion has not changed. So long as you are willing to accept that there may be a little bit of conflict within the party, this is an adventure that you should have in your bag of judge's tricks.

This adventure is almost impossible to discuss properly without giving too much away. The adventure itself is conceptually quite simple, but it is written in a way that will encourage truly memorable play one the players add their own complexities. And it is almost inevitable that they will.

The very concept of this adventure is something that, in another system, might have occurred near the end of a party's adventuring career. Not here. Michael Curtis drops newly-minted PCs, fresh out of the funnel, into the very center of the conflict between Law and Chaos.

If you are planning to run this adventure as part of a campaign, the Yokeless Egg may be linked to the Egg of Creation in The Falcate Idol. There are also a number of entities in this adventure which would make excellent patrons, and the adventure gives PCs reason to consider that possibility. It would be very cool to see these written up, possibly in an expanded version of Intrigue at the Court of Chaos, or possible elsewhere (The long-awaited Annual? A Gen Con program guide?).

At the mercy of Chaos! Abducted by the Court of Chaos, the adventurers face hard choices if they want to return home. The Host of Chaos desires a legendary artifact held by the Scions of Law and need pawns to retrieve it. Faced with an eternity of servitude, the party must sneak into the Plane of Law and steal the Yokeless Egg from under its guardians’ watch. But not all is what it appears when the Court of Chaos is concerned and serving the Host may destroy the party from within. Can they survive the Intrigue At the Court of Chaos?

Get It Here!


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

In the Wake of the Zorkul

In the Wake of the Zorkul: No Art Version was written by Oliver Korpilla. The publisher is Mount Parnassus Games.

This adventure is a 0-level funnel, which could be adapted for use with higher-level characters (an alternate hook and adventure start are given in this case).

If you have ever played The Inn at Five Points with Brendan LaSalle, the beginning should seem sort of familiar to you - you are in an inn that falls into a sinkhole, and must then deal with what you find in the caverns. There the similarity ends.

(I would be interested to know if Brendan was running his adventure before In the Wake of the Zorkul, which was uploaded on August 06, 2014. Is this a coincidence, or is there a connection?)

In the Wake of the Zorkul is all about resource management (food, water, and light) while attempting to find a way to escape the cave system you find yourself in. Oliver Korpilla created an interesting and evocative setting, including descriptions of harmless wildlife that can sometimes freak your players out if you are lucky.

I ran this adventure two weekends ago, at the time of this writing. Although there are several potential ways to escape the cave system, none of them are necessarily obvious, and all of them require the players to be willing to risk the unknown. Some highlights of the game included:


  • Without food, the PCs consider returning to the inn and eating whatever bodies they can find. 
  • The Hunter Spiders were very effective, and the PCs were unable to loot one corpse as it was hauled into the darkness overhead.
  • Even with a halfling or two in the party, it didn't occur to the players to try to speak with the Warren Halflings after the were initially attacked. Nor did it occur to them to try to speak before entering the halfling warren, triggering that attack.
  • The Wizard Duel worked extremely well, with one PC being possessed. When that PC died, the Possessing Spirit jumped to another PC. Both players involved did a great job of not telling the third player what was happening.
  • One PC climbed the waterfall at Area 4-2, but then turned back.
  • The PCs found the Zorkul, and wisely decided to go nowhere near it.
  • The famished PCs found the Abandoned Dwarf Mine, and then exited through the Ogre Lair. By this time, I had them rolling d14s instead of d20s, and the battle with the ogre was certainly tense. Only by a combination of rolling well, and burning Luck, could they even hit the thing!


All in all, this was a fun adventure. The "No Art Version" is a free pdf, but I would gladly pay for a print copy with illustrations. There are a lot of points where it could be expanded, allowing the judge to use the exit location chosen by the PCs as an entry to the Underdark proper.

An inn. Usually a place to find entertainment or rest. Instead the earth opened beneath,
swallowed the place whole and now you're fighting for your survival in an underground world.

Get It Here!




Tuesday, 23 May 2017

In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer

In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer: Twelve Pulp Weird Encounters for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game was written by Ken Jelinek, Daniel J. Bishop, Jon Wilson, John Humphrey, and Paul Wolfe. Art is by Jon Gibbons, Daniel J. Bishop, David Fisher, Jason Sholtis, Carl Folmer, César Sebastián Díaz, Nik Wolfe, Rick Hershey, and Soriah Esquivel. Cartography is by John Humphrey. Introduction is by Harley Stroh and Michael Curtis. The publisher is Mystic Bull Games.

Disclosure: I am a writer, illustrator, and editor on this project. If you are curious, my illustrations are on page 5 and the bottom corner of page 10.

In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer offers a dozen small adventures or encounters, suitable to intersperse among a much larger campaign. I became involved with this project through Paul Wolfe, who had worked with me on Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between.

This was around the time problems were occurring with the patron book, and backers were getting antsy. Paul Wolfe attempted an Indiegogo campaign to fund In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer that raised a paltry $850 of a $3,500 fixed goal. And who knows? Being stung with the previous Indiegogo campaign might have turned some people off. Not only were two people from Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between major parts of the design team, but the failed project was actually referenced.

(David Fisher, who also supplied art for In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer, was the principle artist for Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between, and is largely responsible for the eventual appearance of the Expanded, Otherworldly Edition. Still, I don't think he was mentioned in the Mystic Bull Indiegogo campaign.)

Despite  this, Paul Wolfe decided he wished to go ahead, and, after a rocky start - the incident with the previous Indiegogo nearly split up a good team! - I went with him. This was actually entirely driven by Paul Wolfe, because I had been shaken pretty badly by our previous experience together. So, if you find that you are a fan of this work, serious praise should go to Paul Wolfe. He navigated a difficult time with grace and perseverance!

Let's Look Inside!

In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer: "Driven ashore by a supernatural storm, the party competes with a pirate and his crew to find the brother of a local noble. They soon find that the brother was imprisoned by a god before he could fully bond himself in the service of Cthulhu!"

This is a low-level adventure written by Ken Jelinek. Unless memory fails me, this is the first published Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure that followed the core rulebook's lead and made use of Cthulhu himself!

Mermaids From Yuggoth: "Wintering in a small village, the characters encounter an ancient evil from beyond their world."

This adventure is a series of encounters designed for four to six 3rd level characters, and was intended to "extend over several sessions with other adventures interspersed; as a result, the PCs may be 2nd level at the beginning of the series if they gain a level by the climax." This is the first published Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure to use this format, although there is a second in this volume. I am the author.

The hedge mage, Eric Silverjohn, was named for Silver John, or John the Balladeer, created by Manly Wade Wellman. This is the first Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure to specifically reference those stories, marking it as a possible add-on to a Shudder Mountain campaign, if the judge so desires. The Face in the Frost, by John Bellairs, is also referenced. This is, in part, because Yuggoth, a planet invented by H.P. Lovecraft and sometimes identified with Pluto, is actually mentioned in The Face in the Frost.

The adventure was written based on an illustration by Soriah Esquivel, which appears on Page 14.

Shadows of Malagok: "At the behest of a god, patron, or other powerful entity, the party seeks a powerful artifact within a dismal swamp. They quickly discover that the swamp conceals a shrine to Malagok, the Creator Beast."

This is a mid-level adventure (average 5th level), written by Jon Wilson. It is primarily two encounters, and it ends with a host of questions. This is the sort of thing that a good judge could build a campaign around, if she so desired.

Swindled at the Laughing Harpy: "Seeking respite, perhaps at a tavern in a large town or
a roadside alehouse in the wilderness, the characters encounter two grifters, brothers, under the control of a strange entity. And it all starts with a simple request."

This is an adventure for any level, by Paul Wolfe. It deals with an entity, the Painted Woman (or the Countess of the Veil), who may appear only in a single evening's gaming, or who could potentially be fully developed as a patron. This entry is really a happenstance between adventures, and, depending upon their level, PCs should either flee or fight. Figuring out which applies is not the judge's job!

Slaves of the Visitants:  "The Slaves of the Visitants takes place in a cairn used as hideout for some unfortunate bandits. The place now contains a nexus to another dimension that is being exploited by evil forces from an unknown world."

This is a low-level encounter/adventure written by John Humphrey. I have run it at home, with the outcome that the players wanted to know more about the Visitants. I call that a win. As with the Mist Men's first appearance in The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk, I would welcome a further adventure with the Visitants, which further develops who they are and where they came from.

Sails Aflame!: "A massive skarajian , or giant flint beetle, attacks the character’s ship. Alternatively, the characters could discover the creature’s grotesque courtship displays on a lonely stretch of beach. Even with the help of NPC sailors, the skarajian is a difficult creature to slay outright, though its single-minded behavior may save a lower-level party."

This is a low-level encounter by Jon Wilson, which really serves to introduce a monster.

Cave of the Ice Mistress: "Rescuing a maiden imprisoned by bizarre, other-worldly arachnids leads to a deadly game of cat and mouse with the Ice Mistress. The characters must avoid her crystalline spider pets and her terrible gaze that will turn them into statues of ice!"

This is a mid-Level (4-8 5th-level characters) adventure/encounter by Ken Jelinek, designed to be used while the PCs are travelling through some cold region.

The Long Sleep: "Seeking either the village undertaker or perhaps a lost item among the dead, the characters investigate a mausoleum only to discover that a would-be necromancer has very recently taken up residence during his year-long arcane sabbatical to achieve necromantic affinity."

This is a low-level adventure by Ken Jelinek, designed for 8-12 0-level characters or 4-6 1st-level ones. I have run this at home, while the PCs were travelling, and it was satisfying. I am not 100% certain, but I believe that the PCs were level 2 at the time.

The Cult of the Flickering Sign: "Discovering a grisly murder in a back alley, the characters are drawn into investigating a strange symbol that shifts and changes depending on the viewer."

A 3rd level encounter by Paul Wolfe. "Though it can be adapted to any level party, parties below 3rd may be overmatched if they stand and fight." An excellent mini-scenario for an urban-based game!

Another Man's Treasure: "Discovering an abandoned treasure hoard, the characters get more than free riches when their luck subtly changes. Finding the cursed coin amid the easy money is the first challenge; identifying the exact nature of the curse may be harder!"

I have written about this encounter before, and my high opinion of it has not changed. This encounter, by Ken Jelinek, is for any level. It makes excellent use of Luck, which is one of the things that differentiates Dungeon Crawl Classics from the versions of Dungeons & Dragons that are its immediate antecedents.

The Nazhghad's Invocation: "While traveling through the wilderness, the party discovers a savage wizard and his men-at-arms attempting to capture a vile creature. As they attempt to intervene, an enchantress arrives bent on releasing the creature and killing the wizard."

This is a mid-level encounter by Paul Wolfe, which deals with the rivalry between A’Kas and the Nazhghad, highlighting patrons and spell duels in the process.

Icon of the Blood Goddess: "Within the back alleys of a metropolitan area, an icon of an emaciated goddess has broken through ancient brickwork. As the Blood Goddess gains worshippers, she becomes more difficult to defeat. Worse, some of the PCs may inadvertently become worshippers, and what may have seemed benevolent at first becomes a curse…."

This is a mid-level adventure, which I wrote, "designed to span several gaming sessions. Judges may wish to insert these strange and horrific happenings into any adventure or as interludes when characters return to town. With this in mind, the early encounters are suitable for parties of level 0 or 1, and the encounters quickly become more difficult. Characters should be at least level 3 for the final encounter."

This adventure makes use of the "Magic Here and Magic There" advice from the core rulebook, having specific tables for spellcasting side effects and spellburn side effects. I believe that this is the first time these types of table were used in a published Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure.

I actually ran this adventure using two 6th level PCs as protagonists, interspersed with a murder investigation and other events. It was a lot of fun....especially when the cleric realized that lighting candles to the Blood Goddess wasn't a good move, despite the immediate benefit!

At the end, the PCs were happy to note that 50 gp rubies that remove 1 point of Luck were a perfect thing to sacrifice to lower disapproval. Not only is the value exactly what is needed, but your Luck goes up when you do it! I hadn't intended that, but I was pleased that they had the wit to gain what advantages they could....

Get It Here!


The Ifrit's Chosen

The Ifrit's Chosen is a short adventure/encounter written by Paul Wolfe and published by Mystic Bull Games.

There are an amazing array of free materials available for use with Dungeon Crawl Classics. Mystic Bull Games, and author Paul Wolfe, have created several of these. The Ifrit's Chosen in one of them, a short adventure location which may be uncovered by PCs traveling via caravan across a sandy desert.

As the name implies, there is a fantasy Arabian theme to the adventure, being a location from the now-lost Caliphate of the East Winds.

The adventure seems devised largely as a means to have a PC make a pact with the Ifrit, Afara, who can be taken as a patron. Unfortunately, no patron write-up is present...but then, how much can you expect for free?!?

There is a new 1st level wizard spell, runelight, which allows for the creation of some magical light. This spell is complete, and can be downloaded as an image file.

Get It Here!

The Hypercube of Myt

RC #1: The Hypercube of Myt was written by Jim Wampler, Daniel J. Bishop, Dak Ultimak, Stephen Newton, Adam Muszkiewicz, and Jeffrey Tadlock. Art is by James V. West. Cartography is by Jim Wampler. The publisher is Goodman Games.

Disclosure: I was one of the authors on this project, having written "The Endless Hallway".

I was lucky enough to be asked to join the "DCC Cabal" of writers to create a tournament funnel for Free RPG Day 2015. Jim Wampler was the project head of all three RC tournament funnel modules, including this one, Death by Nexus, and The Shambling Un-Dead.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of tournament funnels, you can listen to this Spellburn podcast, or read this article on the Spellburn website.

The sections of this adventure are:

  • The Endless Hallway
  • The Altar of Chaos
  • The Vault of Fools
  • The Metamorphic Menagerie
  • The Biblioteca Dementia
  • The Arcane Arsenal 

My original idea for the Endless Hallway was that it was the digestive tract of an interplanar creature, and that the doors within it could literally go anywhere if the PCs mastered the Hypercube. This idea was nixed as being both too gross and leading toward split parties, which was deemed undesireable for a tournament funnel. Nonetheless, you can read some ideas that didn't make it into the final project here.

I ran The Hypercube of Myt at Dueling Grounds in Toronto on Free RPG Day 2015. The game was fairly successful, despite occasional blunders and butchering of other author's work. I had obtained gift certificates (at my expense) from the store, so that the winner received a $50 store credit, and the two runners-up received incrementally less. There were many, many dead PCs that day!

The keep of the legendary wizard Mytus the Mad was razed, looted, and ransacked generations before your oldest ancestor was born. The only reason the chaotic sorcerer’s name is still whispered millennia after his death is because of what lies half-buried amid the scattered flagstones of his long-vanished keep: The Hypercube of Myt. This ageless cube is made of adamantite, is covered in filigreed rune circles, and even at a mere 10’ square is preternaturally heavy and cannot be moved. Centuries of tampering with the Cube have proven it to be too resistant to time’s travails or man’s meager efforts to be damaged or otherwise harmed.

Each year on the vernal equinox, the southern entrance unlocks itself from sundown to sunrise. And this is precisely why you are here now, at the annual Festival of the Fatted Calf. The festival is famous for drawing the curious, the foolhardy, and the uncautious from far and wide to ponder the mysteries of the Cube.

As the more sensible denizens of your village have begun to stagger home, you and your friends continue drinking grog-laced ale and speculating on the nature and contents of the immutable Cube. Is it a treasure vault guarded by extra-planar forces, or perhaps a gateway to another time and place? And with that, the first of you slams down your wooden mug and declares lustily, “I’m going in!” Not to be shamed by one so obviously dimwitted and undeserving, you too stand and prepare to enter the Cube.

Soon, there is a unruly drunken mob of you ready to leave your dull and dreary lives as dirt farmers and hemp weavers in exchange for a chance at immortality and glory. The first eight of you rush to the vine-tangled entrance of the Hypercube of Myt and enter, with more sure to follow behind you.

The Cube has two one-way doors on opposite sides: an entrance that becomes unlocked once each year, and the other which is believed to be an exit, though no one in living memory has ever exited the cube. Above the entrance, for those who can read the spiraling script of the ancient Kingdom of Morr, is an inscription that reads, “Whosever may be worthy, can become me.” Riches and power beyond measure are said to lie inside for the taking, if one can but enter, traverse to the other side, and exit the Cube of Myt.

Get It Here!



Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure

Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure was written by Mike Evans. Art is by David Lewis Johnson, Alex Mayo, Jeremy Duncan, Angie Groves, Doug Kovacs, Jason Sholtis, and Wayne Snyder. The Foreword is by Harley Stroh. The publisher is DIY RPG Productions.

Disclosure: I supported the kickstarter and am listed in the Gallery of Strange Mutations.

Hubris is a world created from the festering corpse of a dead god. Hubris is an eminently usable toolkit for use in almost any Dungeon Crawl Classics milieu. Hubris is 348 pages of awesome....well, most of those pages are awesome. Some are OGL, index, etc. Either way, it can be a setting, or it can be a toolbox for use in creating/fleshing out your own setting.

Let's look inside!

The book starts with an Introduction, Setting Summary, and World Map.

Chapter 1: Character Creation: Here things get interesting. There is a new occupation table with entries for things like "alien abductee" and "pus diviner".

Hubris includes four new classes and five new race-classes. The classes are Alchemist, Blood Witch, Druid, and Shadowdancer. The race-classes are Avarian, Ekrask, Half Demon, Murder Machine, and Mutant. These are all well-designed classes. Although some are tied into the setting of Hubris (in particular, the Murder Machine, all of these classes are easily enough ported to other milieus.

The Alchemist and the Druid are fairly self-explanatory. You can listen to Jen Brinkman wax poetic about the Blood Witch on this episode of Spellburn. The Shadowdancer is similar to reminiscent of Shadowjack in Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny by way of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons' Shadowdancer class. Similarly, the Avarian, Ekrask, Half Demon, and Murder Machine appear to be re-imaginings of the Avian, Dragonborn, Tiefling, and Warforged from 4th Edition. In any event, they are fully enfolded in the Dungeon Crawl Classics ethos and the Hubris aesthetic.

The Mutant is the odd man out for race classes, and appears to be devised specifically for Hubris. Nonetheless, this is a well-crafted, flavorful class that could easily be used in campaign settings such as those of Mutant Crawl Classics, Crawling Under a Broken Moon, or Crawljammer.

I believe that the aarakocra (originally from the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Fiend Folio) was another inspiration for the Avarian.

Finally, this chapter includes some Optional Rules. These are Sacrifice Shield (effectively the "Shields Shall Be Splintered" rule from Crawl! fanzine #2), Weapon Proficiencies, Class Damage, and Quick Start Gear for characters beginning at 1st level.

Chapter 2: Equipment: This chapter describes new equipment for the Hubris setting, including many items that might be useful in other Dungeon Crawl Classics milieus. Again, the influence of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons appears with items such as the two-bladed sword, or an entire section on alchemical items.

Chapter 3: Territories of Hubris: The author writes:
The territories of Hubris are all set up in the same format: quick summary of the area, a d100 chart of the Lay of the Land, a d100 chart of encounters, and then it moves on into a brief description of a few interesting locations (and sometimes other pertinent  information, such as charts and tables unique to this territory). This format has been used to keep the fluff of the setting to a minimum, yet that is evocative, and can keep the book useable at the table.
This is a really great format, which focuses more on game play than setting minutia. The Lay of the Land section are features that can occur while traveling. The PCs may sometimes interact with these, but many are color. These, along with the encounters, could well be used (sometimes with cosmetic changes) in almost any Dungeon Crawl Classics game. For each of the areas, below, I am going to provide an example Lay of the Land and an example encounter, to give the reader a sense of what the book includes. Note that these are d% charts - while some features or encounters occur with a fairly frequently, each area has many options.

In order to avoid picking only the most interesting items, I am going to assume a roll of "50" in all cases.

Blighted Sands:
Lay of the Land: Jagged rocks jut out of the sand for several hundred feet There is a 35% chance the area will have patches of quicksand, 25’ radius (3d10+10 ft deep).
Encounters: A desert troll sitting atop a sand dune eating a giant scorpion.
Bogwood Swamp:
Lay of the Land: Sink pit (2d10+10' deep) full of orange leeches that will latch on and begin to drain a target’s life essence (1 Stamina loss per round until freed).
Encounters: 2d4 crocodiles.
Canyons of the Howling Red Rock:
Lay of the Land: Area is filled with softly glowing orbs that hum when living creatures approach. They are warm to the touch.
Encounters: 2d12 soldiers of Undra are being attacked by: Roll 1d5- 1) beastmen (outnumber troops 2-to-1); 2) 3d5 blood harpies; 3) 4 enraged centaurs; 4) a drake; 5) attacking each other, driven mad.
Frozen Wastes:
Lay of the Land: Small Ingvar village harvesting tubers and catching wild game.
Encounters: 3d4 Icy Flesh Clan goblins riding on the back of a wooly mammoth.
Great Plains of Unbidden Sorrow:
Lay of the Land: Small undefended farming community with 3d6+3 people.
Encounters: 3d4+3 guards from Fairweather. They are: Roll 1d6-1) fighting Eisenbar paladins; 2) camped out along the side of the road; 3) investigating rumors of a haunted keep that has appeared seemingly out of nowhere; 4) harassing a small avarian caravan; 5) dead and been torn apart by a vicious troll; 6) are looking for the characters.
Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire:
Lay of the Land: Large tar pit (30’ deep). Anything that falls in sinks 1d3’ per round. DC 20 Strength check to get out.
Encounters: 1d4 Rabid Ravens wish to bestow the characters with prophecy… if their minds can withstand the assault.
Mountains that Crawl:
Lay of the Land: Heavily defended Fairweather outpost resisting Malfactorum siege.
Encounters: Gnoll slavers traveling between the Great Plains of Unbidden Sorrow and the Bogwood Swamp.
Sea That Runs Red:
Lay of the Land: A small island of pure white sand. 2d4 marooned sailors are on the island after their merchant vessel was lost to the sea.
Encounters: A mutated orca bursts from the water and begins flying through the air.
Unsettled Expanse:
Lay of the Land: Bubbling pit of thick tar. There are several bodies of animals stuck in the pit.
Encounters: The animated heads of humanoid victims hover through the air and gleefully look for a victim to torture to death slowly.
Weeping Forest of Forgotten Memories:
Lay of the Land: A stream that flows gently through the woods; small amounts of gold are deposited in the waterbed. Successful Int checks will yield 2d14 GP worth of gold per hour.
Encounters: Small Wretched fairies cruelly pulling the wings of giant moths, giggling gleefully as they do it.
The reader should be well aware that, while these are glimpses offered into a variety of overarching locations, these locations may also have information that is specific to them (there are good reasons not to watch the auroras in the Frozen Waste), and all have specific locations (complete with Rumors/Adventure Hooks) within them.

Chapter 4: New Spells and Patrons: This chapter contains three new 1st level wizard spells, information on wizard's spellbooks, and four new complete patrons. The spells are Furnishings of the Mad Wizard (turn your enemies into chairs, pillows, candlesticks, or grandfather clocks!), Necrotic Mass (control your victims through the treat of magical tumors!), and Summon From the Void (summon a creature from the Void! It'll quite possibly kill you!).

The new, fully developed, patrons are the Charred Maiden, the Floating Island of Terror, the Spider Goddess, and the Twisted One. None of these are patrons for the timid. Or the sane. But there you have it. They are all well devised and flavorful.

The information on spellbooks actually comes first in the chapter, and is quite interesting. This material could easily be ported to other Dungeon Crawl Classics settings.

Chapter 5: The Strange and Terrible Gods of Hubris: This chapter begins with a clerical ability called Invoke the Name...essentially a form of invoke patron for clerics, which allows spellburn on a deity-specific table for each god.

The gods of Hubris are Bailey (God of Trickery, Deceit, and Profit), the Corpulent One (God of Excess, Want, and Obsession), Digradia (Goddess of Sacrifice, Shadow, and the Poor), Drallic the Flayer of Flesh (God of Pain, Intolerance, Strength, and Righteousness), the God of the Terrible Whisper (God of Knowledge, Secrets, and Madness), the Great Slumbering Monolith (God of Dreams, Prophecy, and Time), the Heathen Below (God of Death, Decay, and Betrayal), Set (Serpentine God of the Klind - God of Poison, Schemes, Forbidden Knowledge, and Deviance), the Stillborn Unwanted Child (God of Healing, Life, and Love, usually spoken of "with a contemptuous sneer"), Vralkar (God of Battle, Strength, Pride, and Survival), Yelsa (Goddess of Sex and Violence), and the Great Behemoth, Zxyldon (God of the Sea, Water, and Destruction).

There is a lot of meat here, and a lot of great ideas to steal for your game, even if you are not running it in Hubris!

Chapter 6: GM Tools and Tables: "This chapter contains a large collection of tables and
charts that can be used prior to or during the game to generate many things, like: creepy ruins, ancient and forgotten demigods, taverns and inns, villages, NPCs, city districts, and much more." You get:

  • Ancient and Forgotten Demigods
  • Bandits, Brigands, and Rapscallions
  • City District Generator
  • Diseases of Hubris
  • Grave Diggin'
  • NPC Generator
  • Planes of Hubris
  • So You Decided to Make Camp
  • Strange and Interesting Herbs of Hubris
  • Tavern and Inn Generator
  • A Vial of…?
  • Instatown/Village Generator
  • What are These Strange and Ominous Ruins?
  • Declaration of Years

Again, much of this is usable, either directly or as inspiration, in any Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign.

Chapter 7: Magic Items: This chapter includes a Strange, Mystical, and Fantastic Items Generator from which one might devise the Bottled Pitchfork of the Lecherous Fairy, the Squalid Mosaic of the Lamentable Prophet, and other items. It uses four columns of 100 descriptors each, allowing far more than a campaign's worth of strangely titled items to be created.

Ten specific "lesser" items are described, one of which is actually six items, and then a dozen Artifacts of the Deities. Finally, the chapter ends with Oddy Bodden’s Stupendously Amazing Magical Dice of Treasures Unimagined and Horrors Rather Left Undiscovered!

Chapter 8: Monsters: This chapter includes Contamination From Demonic Possession and a table to help determine What’s on Their Festering Dead Body before jumping into the bestiary proper. There are well over two score new monsters, including four types of dinosaur, a discussion of fae, and fallen angels (with two named examples).

For some reason, the really simple statblock format from the DCC core rulebook was not used. Given how easy this makes it to cut & paste statistics into your own home-brewed adventures, this is a real shame. This is not a unique flaw to Hubris, however, and it is the only one I have found, if you disregard terminology quirks like the dice chain being referred to as the dice ladder. And I do.

Adventures: Hubris includes two adventures:

  • It Came From Outer Space: This is a 0-level funnel that is designed "to highlight the strangeness of Hubris and that ANYTHING goes in this bizarre setting." 
  • In Her Realm: "An old hag who worshipped the Spider Goddess nearly all her life has grown thirsty for power and figured out a way to encroach into an area of the Spider Goddess's realm. The old hag must be killed for the pocket to be absorbed back into the realm of the Spider Goddess." This is a 1st level adventure.

Appendix N: Finally, the tome concludes with the "Yummy, Tasty Inspiration" that it was built off of. There is then an Index, and the OGL.

This listing took a long time to write because there is a lot to write about. The book is dense with usable tools, and playable material. Most of the sections justify the cost of the book by themselves. Taken in combination, this is an incredible value for the cost.
Hubris is a land of terrible creatures, grand inequality, strange and cruel gods, dangerous magic, opulent nobility, destitute commoners, people that have become corrupted and turned to savage beasts, constant wars, and worse.
The kingdoms are not kind or benevolent: In the Blighted Sands the Klind are slavers and openly practice sorcery, offering sacrifices to their depraved serpentine god, Set. Across the continent the Fairweather kingdom is governed by a corrupt and inbred royal family with the nobility following suit. Esenbar is ruled by a staunch xenophobic theocracy that tolerates little outside of their strict doctrine. The barbaric Ingvar of the Frozen Wastes wage vicious battles against the savage frost giants of The Crag, and care little about the goings on of the world; their life is cut from battle with an axe or sword. The Black Queen rules the citizens of the Floating Island of Terror from her throne of bones and dreams terrible machinations for Hubris. Shadowfall, built in the remains of the burrow of a gigantic worm, is ran by vampires and their thralls, and they welcome all who are devious, vicious and cunning.
There are no easily recognizable heroes in the world. You wander the wilderness or delve into ancient ruins: out of desperation, some crazed need for adventure, or for some bizarre belief that the world can actually be made a better place. Though civilization offers you security and comfort, you shirk those in the hopes of gaining riches and power. But when you die, no one will sing songs of your deeds. You will die a horribly bloody death at the hands of some twisted abomination or by the knife of an assassin sent by some fat, scheming noble.
Your epic tale will be forgotten in days as the dangerous world continues on without you and the apathetic masses stay complacent to dogmatic control of their government.
This is not a fairy tale or an epic ballad. This is a savage world. This is Hubris.
Get It Here

Friday, 12 May 2017

The Hounds of Halthrag Keep

HHSOLO1: The Hounds of Halthrag Keep was written by Noah M. Stevens. Art is by Noah Stevens, Russ Nicholson, and Sam Schultz. The Vendel Re’Yune text is used according to the agreement found in Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between. and was written by Paul Wolfe. The publisher is Hapless Henchman Press.

This product is, essentially, a "Choose Your Own Adventure"-type book, which allows a single player to earn a 1st level PC by slaughtering a whole group of 0-level PCs (played one at a time) and learning from their mistakes. No judge is required...and, if used by a trustworthy player, the resultant newly-minted survivors should be a welcome addition to any judge's campaign.

If you are a judge picking this up, you will find a bunch of new creatures which you may wish to use in your own adventures. There are also three "cantrips"; minor spells that can be accessed through luck and skill in the adventure. These are Fae Chill, Lesser Ray of Logic, and Ifrit's Pizzle. Mechanics are provided which would allow you to use these in your home campaign, or devise similar cantrips of your own.

Long ago, as children, we flipped furiously through curious little tomes in which fate was delineated for us, Choosing Our Own Adventures, Fighting Furiously, little Wolf Pups All Alone under the covers, scribbling and erasing and picking entries.

Die, start over, repeat.  Keep your finger on the page so you can get back to the fork, you cheating cheater? Of course you did it!  We all did it.

Now that we are Men and Women, and Whatevers, we have shiny new things and do them the way we like.  Dungeon Crawl Classics is a new thing, and this thing you see here is a way to blend that Old Peanut Butter with your Spiffy New Chocolate.

The Hounds of Halthrag Keep is a story - the second oldest story - in which an innocent schmuck is plunged feet-first into the Flames of Truth and Adversity, to Die Badly or Win Big. That's all it is. It's hard.  It's unforgiving. It's relentless.

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Hole in the Sky

DCC #86: (The) Hole in the Sky is a 0-level adventure written by Brendan J. LaSalle. Art is by Doug Kovacs, William McAusland, Brad McDevitt, Stefan Poag, and Michael Wilson. Cartography is by Mark Allen. The publisher is Goodman Games.

I have had the good fortune to experience this adventure from both sides of the screen. I played in it with the author as judge, and I have run it for players at my own table. When I was a player, the game ended in a TPK, but that did not occur when I was running the game, nor need it occur at your table! If it does, at least it will be entertaining.....

The Lady in Blue, a mysterious figure of cosmic power, enlists a band of simple peasants for a strange task. They are to follow an invisible bridge until they arrive at a hole in the sky – and then jump through. Death awaits all but the bravest, strongest, and luckiest, but the Lady offers a reward beyond all the riches of the world: the chance to change the very stars these peasants were born under, and thus change their destiny.

One of the most common things I have heard about this adventure is that the Lady in Blue should have her own full patron write-up. I heartily endorse this idea. When the inevitable expanded printing occurs, I hope that the expansions include at least one, and possibly two, full patron write ups. The way the Lady in Blue works in this adventure certainly made my players expect (and hope!) to meet her again.

One might complain that the first part of this adventure is a railroad...and it certainly is linear! This is not something I personally object to because (1) this is a funnel adventure, so the first part is really nothing more than "something extraordinary has happened to you", and (2) the linear part of the adventure serves to bring the PCs to the more complex second part of the adventure in a believable fashion.

(One should note that the layout of the second act is also relatively linear, but the pieces in motion...or asleep...or caged...in this section make for more dynamic play than the map might suggest. Nonetheless, there is only one real "solution" to the problem facing the PCs.)

The highlight of this adventure is not the ride, but the reward after the ride, which makes it unique among Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures. Once you've managed to survive the funnel, you get to gamble on the Wheel of Destiny with your PC...if you dare! This was a super-fun occasion at my home game, really reinforcing both the epic scale of even some lowly gongfarmer's adventuring, and the fluid nature of character generation and development in a game where you are encouraged to literally Quest For It no matter what "It" may be.

It also has to be said that Cur Maxima, one of the "villains" opposing the PCs in their quest, is also a delightful creation that was incredibly fun to run as a judge. "Villain" is in quotes because, of course, Cur Maxima isn't really a villain per se. More of an extremely effective, and creepy, jail guard. Players who imagine that encounters are "balanced" for their levels are going to be in for a shock, but even then Cur Maxima doesn't really want to harm them. It's just her job. And she's very, very good at it.

Speaking of Hole in the Sky....

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Thursday, 11 May 2017

High Caliber Hijinks

UX01: High Caliber Hijinks: New Fumble and Critical tables for a Weird Post Apocalyptic World was written By Reid San Filippo. Art is by Carlos Mal (DeviantArt / CC-BY-3), ominik “m4a1war” (DeviantArt / CC BY-NC-SA3), James Yoder, Maxime “ChaosFeeder” Beaulac, and Joe Abboreno. The publisher is Shield of Faith Studios.

This item is designed for use with Crawling Under a Broken Moon, but could be used with any setting that uses firearms, robots, and/or aliens. Let's look inside.

How to use these tables: A brief note reminding the prospective reader where to find the Critical Hit and Fumble tables in the core rulebook, and that there are firearm and grenade rules in Crawling Under a Broken Moon issues #1 and #2.

Summary of Common Damage Effects: Tells you what the following things mean: Battle Rage, Bleeding Out, Blinded, Burning, Dazed, Drowning, Entangled, and Stunned.

Character Crit Table/Die by Class (including CUaBM classes): Exactly what it says on the tin. Charts to tell you what die you are rolling, and what chart you are rolling it on.

Firearms fumble and crit tables: Fumbles range from accidentally flipping the safety on so that your weapon doesn't fumble to shooting yourself for 2 dice of damage and jamming the weapon. Five tables are provided for firearm critical hits, because the wizards in the party are simply not as competent as the warriors and mutants.

Grenade/Thrown bomb fumble and crit tables: I've actually thrown a live grenade in Basic Training. Do not fumble when throwing a live grenade. The best thing that can happen, in these rules, is that you forgot to pull the pin. Presumably, whoever you threw it at now has a usable grenade, and can potentially throw it back. You again get five critical hit tables.

Alien/Weird fumble and crit weapon tables: Because strange items of super-science may react in unpredictable ways. You again get five crit tables.

Crit Table AL: Aliens: From "Strange energy arcs around the wound. The PC suffers +1d8 damage." to "Infected with a virulent xeno-disease! One random stat is lowered by
2d4 points for 2d14 days. Requires a 5 HD healing result to cure." (Actually, to "Roll again three times.", but that only tells you that you need to roll; it doesn't tell you whether or not a "large probe is injected". Yes, aliens actually can, and perhaps will, probe your PCs to death using this supplement!)

Crit Table RO: Robots: Suitably terrifying critical results for robots. Also suitable for use on Drongo, the Purple Planet, or when Frozen in Time.

The point being this: Although the work is written for a specific, post-Apocalyptic genre, there are a lot of ways that any Dungeon Crawl Classics judge might find the work useful.

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