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!