Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Frozen in Time

DCC #79: Frozen in Time is a level 1 adventure by Michael Curtis. Art is by Doug Kovacs, Jeff Easley, and Stefan Poag. Cartography is by Doug Kovacs and William McAusland. The publisher is Goodman Games.

In addition to being playable as a level 1 adventure, this module includes everything you need to run it as a 0-level funnel with primitives from the Forlorn North. I have run this adventure now several times, and have always run it using that option.

The extended version contains "The Forlorn North: A Mini-Campaign Setting". In his "Publisher’s Note" Joseph Goodman says:
This adventure module was the first “science fantasy” adventure for DCC RPG and has proven very popular.
I am not certain that he is completely right here, but this is certainly the first official Goodman Games "science fantasy" adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics, and it is certainly very popular! In fact, I once listed it as the #4 "Must Have" adventure for the game. I suspect that the first science fantasy DCC adventure was Lair of the Mist Men by Jon Marr, and I think Frozen in Time might have just squeezed in ahead of Pulp Weird Encounters #1: The Tomb of Squonk and the Silent Army by myself and Charlie Scott. Lair of the Mist Men hit RPGNow in April of 2013, Pulp Weird in June, and Frozen in Time in July. But there is typically a lag between a Goodman Games release and its appearance on RPGNow. The Mist Men themselves first appeared in The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk, by Jon Marr, back in July of 2012!

It may not really matter which came first. This has been, at times, my older daughter's favorite Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure. In part this was because of the sheer fun of trying to identify things that the player would recognize, but the character would not. The artwork in Area 3-5 brought her particular joy. And, when I first ran this adventure (at Wizard's Cache MiniCon in Toronto), she had the only character who survived when the party ran in absolutely the wrong direction at the end!

Interestingly enough, despite of how highly I regard Frozen in Time, author Michael Curtis apparently does not consider it among his best works. I can understand that, because he has done some adventures which require a lot more skill to bring about a desired effect, such as The Sinister Sutures of the Sempstress, The Old God's Return, and Intrigue at the Court of Chaos. Michael Curtis wouldn't tell me what his favorite children are, and that's okay. The Powers that rule over adventure design prefer that authors don't pick and choose between their children.

(You can consider the above paragraph an obvious attempt to lure the author into revealing his secrets!)

EDIT: Michael Curtis indicated on G+ that he doesn't remember telling me that he didn't consider Frozen in Time among his best works. Please don't take the above as an indication that he indicated either displeasure with how Frozen in Time came out, or that he doesn't consider it a worthy module. It is.

What I can say is that, with Frozen in Time, I think that Michael Curtis hit the mark exactly right. This is a metric that is individual for each adventure; what fits in The Making of the Ghost Ring would not necessarily fit the feel of Frozen in Time. And Frozen in Time is, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece. I know that I have certainly had a lot of fun with it.

Plus it has robots. And a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

And an anthro-antis spawned from the nuclear holocaust of the Great Atomic Wars of the distant future.

What's not to like?

Get it Here!

The Frost Fang Expedition

The Frost Fang Expedition is a 1st level adventure written by Mark Bishop. Art is by Mark Bishop and Jon Marr. Cartography is by Mark Bishop. The publisher is Purple Sorcerer Games.

Disclosure: I have a "Proofreader" credit on this product.

This product is an "Instant Action Adventure" which is intended to playable in a single session with minimum prep by the judge. Despite this, I recommend reading it through and doing your prep work, because it will make the adventure better if you do so.

Mark Bishop (no relation) is a talented guy, doing writing, artwork, and cartography. Like his previous adventure, Nebin Pendlebrook's Perilous Pantry, The Frost Fang Expedition feels fresh, with a sense of whimsy that sometimes edges almost into horror. The encounter with Seleeshara the Demi-Patron is sheer brilliance, and is a thing I wish I'd written.

Among the appendixes, the reader will find  patron information for Malotoch and notes for linking this adventure to the aforementioned Nebin Pendlebrook's Perilous Pantry. If you have Purple Sorcerer's Sunken City Omnibus, you already have information on Malotoch, but, if not, it is good that they included it here.

Like all Purple Sorcerer Games adventures, The Frost Fang Expedition comes with additional materals, such as judging tips, printable paper miniatures, spell sheets for Malotoch, and a whole plethora of printable images, maps, and handouts. Nobody does these sort of "value added extras" better than Purple Sorcerer.

Get It Here.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Folk of Osmon

The Folk of Osmon was written by Daniel J. Bishop, with cover art by Gary Dupuis, interior art by Luigi Castellani, and cartography by Tim Hartin. The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I am the author.

This is the third entry in the CE Series, which attempts to address the "Quest For It" ethos of Dungeon Crawl Classics while providing reusable play elements. It is billed as "An adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics characters across multiple levels."

From the Introduction:
The Campaign Element (CE) series attempts to address these specific areas. Now, when your wizard is looking for a spell, your cleric is sent on a mission from her deity, or your thief simply wants to find a location where stealth and a cunning mind are paramount, you will have an answer at your fingertips. Weave these campaign elements into your world, mesh them into other modules and areas of your own creation, and watch the “Appendix N” vibe of your games grow.
I wrote, in the "Using this Location" section, that "This area is intended to be used as a hazard and adventure location in an ongoing campaign milieu. Perhaps it is near the village that the characters came from at 0-level. Perhaps it is along an oft-travelled path between the village and a persistent adventure location,such as a dungeon that cannot be fully explored in a single outing. There is some advantage for the judge and players in allowing the characters to explore the area in the daylight first, building toward more dangerous encounters at night."

The Folk of Osmon themselves were inspired by beings from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Lost on Venus. Interestingly, Burroughs' Amtor (Venus) novels were later an inspiration for The Dread God Al-Khazadar, as requested by Joseph Goodman. I am not sure if he had noted the Venusian inspiration in this product or not. Osmon itself is a combination of something along the lines of House from Sterling Lanier's Hiero's Journey, and Juiblex from the 1st Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

The swamp creatures were designed using James Raggi's Random Esoteric Creature Generator, seen through a Dungeon Crawl Classics lens. The "swamp light faerie" is similar to a will-o-the-wisp, but with the added bonus of being able to mess with a dwarf's class ability of smelling gold. These fey also force the PCs to decide whether to dig by day or night if they acquire a map to Red Jack Kaven's treasure. And every judge needs some hidden treasures to provide maps to.

At the time this was written, Purple Sorcerer Games had published two of its "Sunken City" adventures, and when I was working on the text, it occurred to me that the Osmon Mire may well be a portion of the Great Swamp in many judge's campaigns. Another possible link is to A Lesson From Turtles, in Appendix N Adventures Add-Ons #1-5, with the ancient and ruined city of Osmon being part of the same submerged civilization as is mentioned in that encounter. This may also, if the judge desires, be the same civilization that build Silent Nightfall.

Get It Here.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Feast of the Preserver

Feast of the Preserver is a level 3-4 adventure written and illustrated by David W. Fisher, with cartography by Brian Van Hunsel. It is published by Shinobi27 Games.

Well, looking at the cover, I don't think it gives away too much to note that ghouls are involved with this adventure, and the Endfast Feast in Barrowtown might well end with the PCs being part of that feast. In fact, this is billed in the Introduction as "a horror-based adventure" with "a very real threat of the entire party being annihilated by the residents of Barrowton, if they don’t use their heads." This is not an exaggeration.

I had the good fortune to work with David Fisher on Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between, and also on The Revelation of Mulmo. He did the cover and some interior art for D.A.M.N. #1. I did some editing for him on The Trolls of Mistwood, and some writing for its upcoming sequel, Curse of Mistwood. This is the sort of thing that normally comes up as "Disclosure", but I have been using "Disclosure" to indicate links to specific products, as my interactions with other Dungeon Crawl Classics artists, writers, and publishers is pretty far ranging. All of that is to say that I have a fairly high regard for David Fisher which you, the reader, should probably take into account.

Dungeon adventures are fairly simple affairs, and can be run with a minimum of prep. Town adventures take more prep, in my experience, because a town fall flat if thing don't stay in motion. This adventure starts with events in Barrowtown, and then probably moves on to the exploration of an "abandoned" silver mine and a manor house. The cartography for the town and manor house are particularly nice, and would be useful even if you were not running the adventure.

Barrowtown would fit in to most Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign milieus, but may be especially apt for inclusion in a Shudder Mountains or a Black Powder, Black Magic campaign. In the latter case, the judge will have to make some adjustments to statistics to reflect the setting - such as including a few firearms. Because the adventure contrasts the normalcy of a typical village with the occurrences at Barrowtown, it would be much harder to reskin the adventure for, say, the Purple Planet or Madkeen. There might even be some potential linkage with the Umerica of Crawling Under a Broken Moon.

If you have run The Arwich Grinder, please try to work some reference in to Sliggeth, if only in the library of Bargus Manor.

Feast of the Preserver includes a partial write-up of a new patron, Scrimage the Preserver, including invoke patron spell check results and patron taint. It is noted that "Rather than patron spells, The Preserver unlocks psionic potential in his followers. Judges can create their own psionic rules to govern how these abilities work or, if psionics are not part of your campaign, judges are free to design their own spells to accompany this patron." My recommendation for psionics rules would be Mind Games, from Shield of Faith Studios.

Get It Here.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Fate's Fell Hand

Fate's Fell Hand is a 2nd level adventure by Harley Stroh. Doug Kovacs, Jeff Easley, Peter Mullen, Russ Nicholson, and Stefan Poag supply the art. This adventure is published by Goodman Games.

Where to start?

Dungeon Crawl Classics has many great adventures in its catalog. One of the things that makes these adventures great is that, in many cases, DCC adventures don't care what level you are. Peasant farmers encounter gods. Starting adventurers become embroiled in the intrigues of the Courts of Chaos. I once described DCC as "the game where you fight unknown monsters, speak with alien gods, and find ancient magicks.....and then you reach Level 1." There is no such things as "working to get to the level where the cool things happen."

Fate's Fell Hand is a 2nd level adventure where cool things happen, and where the judge literally doesn't know how events will end or unfold. You may not survive it, but you are guaranteed not to be bored!

According to the Introduction:
In Fate’s Fell Hand, the adventurers play the deciding role in a war of three wizards. Trapped within a demi-plane, the arch-magi and their vassals vie for their freedom, but with the coming of each new day all gains are lost and the game begins anew. The arrival of the PCs upsets this ancient balance, triggering a chain of events that will destroy the demi-plane and all trapped within.
To escape the shrinking realm, the PCs must do what the arch-magi cannot: achieve mastery over the Deck of Fates and its diabolic ward. 
The Deck of Fates is, itself, perhaps the coolest handout of any Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure, if only because of the sheet impact that it can have on game play. The PCs may start out as free agents, but if they are not careful they may be forced to serve the Seer-King Darjr, the enchantress Erodiade, or the "accursed scribe Al-Hazred", who any fan of H.P. Lovecraft ought to recognize. And their allegiance can shift without their control.

In a way, this adventure is a hex crawl. In another way, it is a terrifying race against time and Fate as the hexmap shrinks every day. Eventually, the demi-plane disappears, destroying the PCs if they remain upon it. Role-playing is as important as fighting. In essence, the entire adventure is a trap with a time limit. If the players figure out how to escape the trap in time, all is well for their characters. If not....Needless to say, tension will ramp up as the adventure nears its end.

I am a major fan of Harley Stroh's work, and this is among his finest.

Get It Here!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The Falcate Idol

CE 1: The Falcate Idol is by Daniel J. Bishop, with illustrations by Luigi Castellani and cartography by Tim Hartin. It was published by Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I am the author.

The Falcate Idol is described as "An adventure for 2-8 level 2 Dungeon Crawl Classics characters. This adventure is also suitable for 1-2 level 3 characters, or a solo level 4 thief who relies primarily upon stealth and caution." It is, in reality, the first of a series of products designed to aid aspiring judges in both (1) building their campaign milieus, and (2) providing the materials necessary for the judge when the players dive into the "Quest For It" ethos of the game.

The maps for the CE Series were all drawn by Tim Hartin, with the only limitation to his creativity being that each map has from 5 to 10 keyed locations. In many ways, The Falcate Idol is a love letter to Lord Dunsany's Distressing Tale of Thangobrind The Jeweller, with the concept of the Harrower being drawn from that story and the crescent shape of Area 7 on Tim Hartin's map.

The Egg of Creation found in Area 10 is specifically there to allow additional PC-inspired quests to use the location: removal of corruption, increasing a spell check result, trading with demons, a quest for a patron, and/or temporarily increasing Luck. As far as I know, the Yolkless Egg in DCC #80: Intrigue at the Court of Chaos is purely coincidental, although I would encourage a judge who ran Intrigue at the Court of Chaos to link the two.

The table of "Random Treasures Found on Fallen Thieve"s on page 4 might have been an inspiration to Marzio Muscedere's much longer table in Death Slaves of Eternity. I would like to think it was, anyway. For those who are curious, the small stone carving of an owl is inspired by something that I actually own. It is also partially inspired by James Raggi's "The Owl Service" encounter in The Monolith From Beyond Space and Time, which every Game Master should own. The bronze tube is inspired by Robert E. Howard's The Tower of the Elephant. The silver necklace with emeralds was based on the Emeralds of Girion given to the Elvenking by Bilbo in The Hobbit. The iron ring, though, has nothing to do with J.R.R. Tolkein.....the exact inspiration escapes me at the moment.

On page 5, you will discover a table that makes use of the suggestions from the "Magic Here and Magic There" section of the core rulebook. This was the second time I included such a table; the first appeared as part of Icon of the Blood Goddess in In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer.

Although a fair amount of information appears about the Harrower in this product, I may one day produce an entry similar to that done for Kala Môr in The Crimson Void. As it stands, you have as much (or more) information available about the Harrower as almost any of the core deities...at least, at the time of this writing.

Get It Here!

Escape From the Shrouded Fen

Escape from the Shrouded Fen is a combined 0-level funnel and 1st level adventure by Terry Olson. Art is by Benjamin Marra and Jon Marr, Cartography is by Dyson Logos. The publisher is Purple Sorcerer Games.

Disclosure: I have a playtest credit on this product. I am also mentioned in the Author's Notes in the PDF of additional materials. Finally, there is a hidden reference to one of my own adventures (which I did not notice, but which Terry Olson was good enough to point out to me).

Some time ago, I wrote a post about devising initial adventures on Raven Crowking's Nest. This article was later reprinted in the first volume of Dispatches from Raven Crowking. Although separate products - like Prince Charming, Reanimator followed by Creeping Beauties of the Wood - attempted to mirror the structure I advised, as far as I know Terry Olson is the first author to actually use this structure in a single product.

A funnel adventure must answer the question, "Why did these people stop being farmers?" Some opportunity, some misadventure, some event must take the PCs out of the sphere of the ordinary and place them apart from the common lot. Escape from the Shrouded Fen handles this in a manner similar to A Gathering of the Marked - you are selected by supernatural forces whether you like it or not. While, outside of a funnel, this might be considered the height of railroading, within the funnel structure it works extremely well.

There is a definite growth arc, where the newly-minted adventurers get to face off against an adversary they were nearly helpless against at 0-level. Players love the opportunity for revenge, in my experience, and that is delivered in spades.

Some of the encounters are quite tough, and some require brains over (or in addition to) brawn to survive. That's completely okay. Players who imagine that the adventure is scaled for their characters will soon learn otherwise. That is how it should be. The judge is also provided with some opportunity to role-play, in accordance with Terry Olson's design philosophy.

Along with the digest-sized adventure (107 of 112 pages are actually meat, the rest are credits, OGL, etc.), the product has a 61-page appendix containing statblocks, tables, maps, printable paper miniatures, illustrations, etc. The adventure contains the full write-up of the Fog Beast as a patron, and this write-up is included as printable pages in the appendix (including all spells). This should come as no surprise, as Purple Sorcerer Games' appendixes and printable extras have been proven time and again to almost double the value of the adventures they are designed for.

Should you choose to run this adventure, take close note of the stated and implied history of the setting. There is plenty of material that you can use to spur further adventures in the area around the Shrouded Fen. In fact, a mini-gazetteer of the surrounding region, with old burial sites and stoneworks noted, would be an excellent follow-up product.

Get It Here!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Emirikol Was Framed!

DCC #73: Emirikol was Framed! is a level 4 adventure by Michael Curtis. It features art by Doug Kovacs, Jason Edwards, Jim Holloway, Peter Mullen, Russ Nicholson, and Stefan Poag. This adventure is published by Goodman Games.

This adventure is loosely based off the (in)famous Davd Trampier illustration of "Emirikol the Chaotic" in the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide. It is the subject of a "Forgotten Treasure" entry on the Goodman Games website. The entry is worth reading; I had no idea that this was Michael Curtis' first professional adventure.

It is certainly interesting, especially in comparison to The Emerald Enchanter, how the basic concept of a wizard's fortress is framed...both for their similarities and differences. Obviously, both modules deal with the infiltration of a wizard's stronghold, and both include the guardians, traps, and puzzles that their respective wizards place in the path of that infiltration. Both are likely to have climaxes that may include spell duels.

Emirikol Was Framed! makes use of an idea that Michael Curtis will go on to use in several other adventures, and one that never gets old - events in the scenario may change your PC, and that will affect how you play through the adventure. Without going into details (and spoiling the adventure), in The Emerald Enchanter you will remember what you encountered. In Emirikol Was Framed! you will remember what you were when you encountered it.

Get It Here.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Crawling Under a Broken Moon #17

Crawling Under a Broken Moon #17 was written by Reid San Filippo, Talon Waite, Tim Bruns, and Benjamin Baugh ("plus a little help from Tainted Edge Games"). Art is by Nate Marcel, Claytonian, Matt Hildebrand, Anna Costa, and James Yoder. This issue is published by Shield of Faith Studios.

That this issue was originally slated for a February release (it was released in January) is clear in the Introduction. Given that this is a monumental, chock-full issue that is pretty amazing. There were a few minor issues that another editing pass would have resolved (ex. "slayed him" instead of "slew him"), but nothing that takes away from the work. A less pedantic reader may not even notice.

Let's take a look inside.

An Interesting Place to Die: The Necromancers of the Space Needle and the Land of the Reanimatronic Dead: Reid San Filippo, Talon Waite, and Tim Bruns give us what is, arguably, the most interesting place in Umerica that has been revealed so far...the ruins of Old Seattle. They are so interesting because, although they are overrun with necromancers and un-dead, they also are a thriving hub of trade. Indeed, everything else in this issue is support material for the Interesting Place to Die, which might also happen to be an Interesting Place to Live.

Provided is an overview History of the Region, information on jobs the PCs might gain from the resident necromancers, and Notable Locations. These locations include the Space Needle, which can communicate with the Grand Synod of the Astroliches, the Skullbucks coffee shop (operated by Gary the Skeletal Warrior and his ward, Krissie), the Undergrunge (with its Grunge Mummies and Neclectro DJs competing music scene that sometimes erupts into throbbing musical warfare), and Queequeg's Quoffee (if you are familiar with Moby Dick, this will make sense to you). Also included are the Cathedral of Style, the Fuel Farm, and the Dead Woods.

All of these are interesting places, with hooks that will make your players want their characters to visit them. In all likelihood, more than once.

Wikinomicon: Two spells. Blood blade weaving is a 2nd level spell that allows the caster to use his (or his foe's) spilled blood as a weapon. Fleshcraft (by Talon Waite) allows a necromancer to alter the flesh, bones, and organs of his targets.

NecroTech-R-Us: This article, by Reid San Filippo and Talon Waite, describes some items that PCs might be able to buy (or might encounter) in Old Seattle. Nexoskeletons (based on a dream by Benjamin Baugh) are powered armor suits made with un-dead parts. Undead grafts are new body parts to replace the old. Flesh engines are exactly what they sound like - slower than petrol, but longer-lasting. Necro-batteries store the negative energy of un-life. JawBolters are rifles that use the lower jaw (with teeth) as a "clip" of sorts, and then fire the teeth.

Each item has one or more appropriate drawbacks to using it, giving the players not only real options, but also real choices.

ManaJava: Whether you are getting it at Skullbucks or Queequeg's Quoffee, this brew is made from necromatically ensorcelled coffee beans, and served up hot. Don't forget to tip your Baristamancer. One day, it might save your life.

Twisted Menagerie: A few of the un-dead monsters you might encounter in Old Seattle:

  • Rave Zombies: The gift of Technos Discos keeps on giving.
  • Caffeinated Corpse: One of the things enchanted coffee can create...zombie-like servants who need another hit of Joe to survive.
  • Power Wight: Necromantic golems with arcs of energy playing over several exposed mechanical bits. Each one is a little different from the last.
  • Corpsenado: Because sharks in a tornado aren't enough.
  • Parts Pile: Exactly what it sounds like. A swarm of those bits and bobs that your Friendly Neighborhood Necromancer dumped in the Dead Woods.
  • R.A.T.S.: Rodents of Abnormal Talent and Size (by Talon Waite). They are un-dead. And they breathe fire.
This is a great issue, containing something for everyone, no matter what flavor of Dungeon Crawl Classics they may be running.

Get It Here!

The Emerald Enchanter

Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter is a level 2 adventure by Joseph Goodman, featuring the art of Doug Kovacs, Peter Mullen, Russ Nicholson, and Stefan Poag. It is published by Goodman Games.

I have discussed this adventure previously at Raven Crowking's Nest. Since that time, I have actually run it. It ran as well as I had expected, and I have to say that the players were glad to follow the Enchanter by the easiest way (those of you who have read the module know what that is), defeat him, and flee. They left the upper works largely unexplored.

I ran this adventure against the backdrop of Patrick Wetmore's excellent Anomalous Subsurface Environment, where the Emerald Enchanter was one of several wizard overlords surrounding the town of Denethix. The adventure fit brilliantly into my mash-up of ASE and Crawling Under a Broken Moon's Umerica. It was a good fit.

Get It Here.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Elemental Lords Awaken!

AL 7: The Elemental Lords Awaken! is a level 1 adventure written by Perry Fehr. The cover is by Jacob Blackmon with interior art by Brian Brinlee, Eric Quigley, and Ryan Sumo, and cartography by Dyson Logos. The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I have a playtest credit on this product.

This adventure was intended as a sequel to AL 6: Playing the Game (also by Perry Fehr, and which I also playtested), and if taken as such has more of a narrative arc than if not. Nonetheless, it is perfectly playable without, and when I playtested it I did not use the same PCs as from Playing the Game.

As written, it is very much an old-school romp through the long-lost fortress-temple of people who worshiped the four Elemental Lords: Grom, Lord of Stone; Ithha, Prince of Air: Krakaal, Lord of Fire: and Splaasha, Princess of Water. If all of that sounds a little like it was inspired by Michael Moorcock to you, it sounds the same to me. Long before I actually read the Elric series, I had access to the first print of the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Deities & Demigods Cyclopedia, and I was keen to read, in Dragon Magazine, how Ed Greenwood arranged the deities of his home campaign.

Perry Fehr's Elemental Lords are given fuller description in Playing the Game, so to make maximum usage of this adventure, you will need both products.

The product suffers a little from the use of stock art. In particular, the Earth Imp illustration was unfortunate, as it is unlikely that trees are growing from such a relatively small creature.

As previously mentioned, I playtested the adventure, and my playtest went well. I believe that my notes to the author were acted upon. On further reflection, if I were running this adventure again, I would end it with the Elemental Lords actually taking on physical form, to go striding off into the world. I think that this is because this product feels like the middle piece to a three-act play. In Playing the Game, the Elemental Lords are introduced, and the PCs can take service with them. In The Elemental Lords Awaken! we discover that the Elemental Lords have "slept" because enemies destroyed their cult. There really should be a third part where the PCs face those enemies with the Elemental Lords as their patrons and allies.

Get It Here.

Dungeon Lord: The Wayne Con Issue

Dungeon Lord: The Wayne Con Issue was created by Taylor Frank, with additional writing by Julian Bernick, Matthew Bannock, Bob Brinkman, and Wayne Snyder. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Taylor Frank, Bradley K. McDevitt, Gary Dupuis, Wayne Snyder, Jeff Freels, and Phil Morissey. The D30 Dungeon Currency Table is by James Spahn, Dave Valderhaug, Dyson Logos, Matt Hildebrand, Damian Jankowski, Mark West, Ron Yonts, Dak Ultimak, Adams Tower, Tim Stephens, DJ Chadwick, Joel Bethell, Will Tijerina, Alexey Monk, Boris Worm, John Edwards, John McCollum, Andrew Byers, Bryan Steward, Matthew Lowes, Bill Shearer, Paul Wolfe, Chris Scott, Christopher Paul, and Ian Coakley. This issue is published by Death Machine Press.

This zine was produced for Wayne Con 2015 in Richmond Virginia.

It contains:

The Dungeon, Explained: a poem by Julian Bernick.

Ratfolk: An Alternate Class for DCC RPG: "Ratfolk are about as well known for their ability to navigate the darkness of the world's crypts, caves, and cities as they are for their miserable luck. Most other races approach them with distaste and distrust at best and downright disgust at worst. This causes many ratfolk to stick to their own kind, although it is not uncommon for one who has lost their pack to seek the company of any who will have them. Ratfolk are often hired as guides through places like sewers and cisterns, leading the way and using their low-light vision to commit complicated curves and corridors to memory." This class, by Taylor Frank, is completely usable in almost any Dungeon Crawl Classics milieu.

DeScriptors, Wayne Con Edition: A micrograme created by Matthew Bannock where players work together to create a quick narrative.

Interview with Noah Stevens: A three-page interview with a well-known and beloved member of the DCC RPG community. You can find his blog, The Hapless Henchman, here.

d30 Dungeon Currency Table: Things dungeon denizens might accept as payment.

Con-Troll: An Alternate Class for DCC RPG: This class, by Bob Brinkman, is one that you will probably not use in your actual games, but who you might run into when at a gaming convention. Despite being clearly intended as a humorous piece, the class is complete and balanced enough that it is probably usable.

Wayne Con 2015 Program Guide: All the stuff you missed at Wayne Con.

Wayne Con Campaign Setting: A brief history of the Ravaged Lands, followed by a Dramatis Personae of six characters you may be able to modify for use in your own milieu.

Blood Shed of the Necro Butcher: This is an encounter with a "nomadic meat smith" by Wayne Snyder based off concepts by Taylor Frank. Statistics are not provided, but after reading this you may wish to create them yourself.

Get It Here.

Dungeon Lord #1

Dungeon Lord: The First Issue was created by Taylor Frank, with additional material from Julian Bernick, Jason Pfiefer, and Ron Yonts. It is illustrated by Vincent Casamento, Carly Frank, Taylor Frank, Sara Lehman, Kate Milcshake, Luis Preito-Wilmot, Lauren Rose Barreca, Bradley K McDevitt, Marc Radle, Jeff Freels, Gary Dupuis, and Frank Turfler Jr. The cover is by Jason Michael Manson. It is published by Death Machine Press.

This issue of Dungeon Lord was reprinted for Gary Con 2015, updated for Dungeon Crawl Classics after a release at Albuquerque Zine Fest in October 2014. My copy, at least, is printed on a bright lime green stock that really stands out. It is also notable that this issue is not statement-sized (a standard sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 paper folded in half), but is instead about 5 1/4 x 7.

This issue contains:

Calcified Caves of the Slime Yeti: A one-page dungeon by Ron Yonts. The map appears to be by Dyson Logos, but, if so it is uncredited. If not, kudos to the cartographer, because I am a fan of the style. This dungeon contains no statistics. EDIT: I have had confirmation from Ron Yonts that he drew the map. Great work!

Random Dungeon Elevation: A simple system for determining the slope of dungeon corridors.

Some Ziggurat: A poem by Julian Bernick.

The Caves of the Sacred Seven: A level 1-2 adventure that takes up 16 pages of the zine. The adventure is a testament to the fact that cavemen belong in Dungeon Crawl Classics, but doesn't necessarily remain in prehistoric times. Tunnels might lead through time and space, and the PCs may find themselves facing a dragon in the Mirror Realm. This final event will almost certainly result in a TPK.

The Tomb of Zarfulgar the Lost: A mini-dungeon that spells out "ABQ Zine Fest 2014". Stats are not included.

Back Cover: Contains a 12-room dungeon map. If you use this, you will want to renumber the rooms, as there is no logical progression I can see to the numbering scheme.

Overall, this may be considered an homage to the Do-It-Yourself spirit of Old School Gaming, and of Dungeon Crawl Classics in particular. Using this will require you to do some prep work. If you are willing to do that work, you will find some creative content that serves as a reminder that the spirit of the Old School Revival is not always about polish. Sometimes it is about heart.

Get It Here.

The Dungeon Alphabet

The Dungeon Alphabet: An A-to-Z Reference for Classic Dungeon Design was written by Michael Curtis, with a foreword by David "Zeb"Cook. Artwork is by Jeff Easley, Jim Holloway, Doug Kovacs, William McAusland, Brad McDevitt, Jesse Mohn, Peter Mullen, Russ Nicholson, Erol Otus, Stefan Poag, Jim Roslof, Chad Sergesketter, Chuck Whelon, and Mike Wilson. This product was published by Goodman Games.

Of course, The Dungeon Alphabet is not really a Dungeon Crawl Classics product, but I give it honorary status because (1) it is system-neutral, (2) it is published by Goodman Games, and (3) it appears to be the template for "lots of cool art around the writing" that infuses the core rulebook...and is obviously the template for The Monster Alphabet.

The Third Printing was expanded to include additional tables. If an entry contains the words "is also for" it is part of the expanded product.

Herein you get:

  • A is for Altars
  • A is also for Adventurers
  • B is for Books
  • B is also for Battles
  • C is for Caves
  • D is for Doors
  • D is also for Dragons
  • E is for Echoes
  • F is for Fungi
  • G is for Gold
  • H is for Hallways
  • I is for Inscriptions
  • J is for Jewels
  • K is for Kobolds (Kolbolds in the Table of Contents)
  • L is for Levers
  • M is for Magic
  • M is also for Maps
  • N is for No Stone Left Unturned
  • O is for Oozes
  • P is for Pools
  • P is also for Potions
  • Q is for Questions
  • R is for Room
  • R is also for Relics
  • S is for Statues
  • S is also for Stairs
  • T is for Traps
  • T is also for Treasure Chests
  • U is for Undead
  • V is for Vermin
  • W is for Wierd
  • X is for Xenophobia
  • Y is for Yellow
  • Z is for Zowie!

There is a lot of potential for kickstarting the imagination, both using the tables and by flipping through the illustrations. As a system-neutral product, it not only has value for DCC judges, but also for the GMs of any Old School Role-Playing Game.

Get It Here.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Drongo: Ruins of the Witch Kingdoms

Drongo: Ruins of the Witch Kingdoms was written by Mark A. Hunt. Illustrations are by Juan Ochoa. Drongo was published by Leviathan Publishing.

This book is a sourcebook to help you and your players explore the planet Drongo. If you are not running a game set on Drongo, the book still offers quite a few resources for science fantasy games (such as those of Crawljammer and Crawling Under a Broken Moon, the Purple Planet, or Madkeen). Even if you are running a more standard fantasy milieu, there is material here you may find useful.

Let's take a look.

Chapter 1: Setting

This offers a fairly basic description of the history, civilizations, geography, and points of interest on the planet. These description are basic enough that no two judges' Drongos will be the same. There is a global map on page 4, but the map contains nothing that will help you decide where things on Drongo are. I am not even sure if the darker areas are land or water....is Drongo an extremely dry world, or a moist one?

There are some really good hooks for adventures here, but a clearer vision of the planet would be appreciated. Perhaps in a future product?

Chapter 2: Characters

This chapter actually gives players and judges a lot of material to work with. New characters roll for physical build, home region, and year of origin as well as occupations. This is excellent stuff, and usable in any game where you are going to mix modern characters with your fantasy...as occurs in many of the Appendix N works.

Nine new character classes are provided:

  • Awakened are Drongo psionicists. Chapter 3 deals with psionics, so I will discuss them there.
  • Guardians are able to defeat opponents without fighting, winning them over with a winning smile and innate empathy. They are also medics, so if you don't have a cleric....
  • Hawken are hawk people.
  • Mad Scientists use mathematical "calculations" instead of spells and suffer madness instead of corruption...this seems to me to be a usable take on an archetypical concept, but I would rather that mad scientists were creating powered devices rather than casting what are essentially spells.
  • Roughnecks mix some of the abilities of warriors and thieves. 
  • Scavengers are a bit closer to thieves, but with a knack for finding useful stuff.
  • Savages are exactly what they sound like.
  • Simians are, perhaps, the best of the new classes (at least for those of us who loved the original Planet of the Apes movies).
  • Tacticians use their observations to exploit the weaknesses of their enemies.

All of these classes seem to be pretty well balanced against each other, and against the classes in the core rulebook. You could easily allow any of these classes in another Dungeon Crawl Classics milieu, and they would not be overshadowed if you allowed classes from other sources onto Drongo.

Chapter 3: Psionic Powers

Unfortunately, the psionics system offered by Drongo: Ruins of the Witch Kingdoms is the Dungeon Crawl Classics spell system with the serial numbers filed off. It works, but it doesn't stand out. However, there is no reason you could not use a different psionics system on Drongo, such as that in Mind Games.

Chapter 4: Equipment

This chapter does stand out, with an excellent discussion for understanding alien technology, a lot of useful (and well described) pieces of technological gear, and a discussion of tool use that is absolutely spot on.

The sections on firearms and super science are good, but the discussion of ray guns make them downright frightening. Which is, when you think about it, exactly as it should be.

Chapter 5: Judge Guidelines

An excellent chapter that describes creating science fantasy adventures in the planetary romance genre. In addition to more background information on Drongo, there are comprehensive rules for diseases, relationships (including romantic ones) and the sort of hirelings adventurers stuck on a planet like Drongo might need.

Chapter 6: Denizens of Drongo

The discussion on Boss Fights is useful for any judge looking for ideas to beef up an encounter.

There is a system for making what is probably an unlimited number of aliens to intrigue and bedevil your players. In a non-Drongo game, this could be used to create unique monsters instead.

Other creatures, warbots, and stranded humans are also useful.

Overall, this is a good reference work for planetary romance games, which has value for any flavor of Dungeon Crawl Classics. The biggest downside is that the setting isn't fleshed out...and, in particular, the map is of limited use. If you are happy to do that work yourself, that may even be considered a strength.

Get It Here.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

The Dread God Al-Khazadar

Dungeon Crawl Classics #90: Dread God Al-Khazadar is a level 3 adventure written by Daniel J. Bishop and illustrated by Doug Kovacs, Jim Holloway, Brad McDevitt, Russ Nicholson, and Stefan Poag. Cartography is by Mark Allen. Goodman Games is the publisher.

Disclosure: I am the author.

First off, I cannot tell you what an amazing feeling it is to get to see an adventure with your name on it published as a stand-alone product by Goodman Games. The artwork is amazing, and Mark Allen did a fantastic job turning my chicken-scratch maps (especially the outdoor one!) into something presentable!

If you like the name of the adventure, you have Joseph Goodman to thank. I was contracted to write an adventure, using "The Dread God Al-Khazadar" as the title. There were several things that had to be accomplished. It was to pay homage to the writing of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs (particularly his Venus novels), take the PCs to another planet, and be structurally similar to the 1981 film, Clash of the Titans. Originally, the Black Circle took PCs to a ziggurat in a distant jungle, which then transferred them to Madkeen. This is because I wanted to also play with the "ancient astronauts" of Erich von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods? (1968). The "No Ziggurats" ban, however, scuttled that plan. In retrospect, I think that is for the better.

One of the interesting things about emulating Edgar Rice Burroughs is that his science fiction stories often have reference to the political and/or social dilemmas of the time they are written. With Joseph Goodman's kind permission, I included two such elements in the adventure: A political body that would rather circle around a problem forever than solve it, even if it means environmental catastrophe, and fracking. Yes, the Dread God gained his power through fracking in the Smoking Mirror...when you go back and read it now, it will be crystal clear.

This adventure appeared later than intended, and that is entirely my fault. Deadline after deadline blew by, while I imagined that I would make the next one, only to let it blow by. I am amazed that Joseph Goodman still wants to work with me.

Every adventure, in my opinion, requires a confluence of elements that make it "pop". You would think that, with elements of Howard, Burroughs, and Clash of the Titans, there would be enough going on to make a good adventure. But there wasn't. Clash of the Titans introduces a monster that cannot be beaten without first recovering the head of Medusa, and that was the structure I was asked to emulate. Initially, the PCs were going to Madkeen and the Crucible of Al-Khazadar to recover a McGuffin that they could use to defeat the Dread God. There were two problems with this: (1) This could make the climax of the adventure distinctly anti-climactic if it occurred as in Clash of the Titans rather than, say, The Chained Coffin. (2) There was no significant decision-making by the players, which means that the whole adventure was a railroad, and railroads fall flat when the dice hit the table.

This last point was made especially vexing because, faced by something like the Dread God, intelligent players may well simply run. I had to make running impossible. And, if I roped the PCs into the adventure, then I owed it to the players to ensure that some real, meaningful decision-making was placed before them. It is their adventure, after all, not the judge's. If their decisions do not determine how the whole shebang plays out, why are they sitting at the table? I think that the theme of sacrifice covered this well, but it took a long time to click into place. If you have read the adventure, and can imagine it without that element, I think it is clear how dull it would be.

For those interested in such things, the name "Al-Khazadar" suggested Arabic, and the initial plan to include reference to von Däniken suggested Aztec, Toltec, or Incan culture. I tried to include elements of both in the Madkeen naming scheme...in fact, I played around with an online translator a bit. Madkeen initially had a much longer Arabic name, which was shortened to make it catchier, and more easily remembered.

Another artifact of how long the writing took is that  Drongo: Ruins of the Witch Kingdoms came out first, with alternative rules for the sorts of romantic attachments travelers to other worlds always seem to make. Drongo's rules can be used in the place of mine, if you wish, but mine were intended to create the sort of dynamic one sees in an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, where there may be only one true love for the space princess, but there are an awful lot of other folks obsessed with her.

It took a lot of work, and a lot more time than expected, to make this something that I am happy with. Not only do you get a good adventure (I hope!), but you may well have a reason to return to a world renewed. Who knows? Perhaps someday I, or someone more talented than I, will get to write that adventure!

Get It Here.