Friday, 26 June 2020

The House of the Red Doors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EDITS: Adjusted to take comments into account.

Get It Here!




Thursday, 18 June 2020

Skull & Crossbones Classics #1

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

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

Let's dive in!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appendix S: Inspirational reading for swashbuckling and piracy.

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

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

You are no hero…

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

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

Get It Here!

Friday, 12 June 2020

Pax Lexque Campaign Guide

Pax Lexque Campaign Guide was written by Ed Stanek and Xuân Stanek with contributions by Susan Stanek. Art is by GAOZ Artworks (cover), Xuân Stanek, and Ed Stanek (cartography), as well as public domain images (with references on page 185). The publisher is Raorgen Games.

This is a campaign setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics, which posits an alternate Earth in which the Roman Empire has to contend with the strange sentient races common to fantasy role-playing games, as well as dark magic.

Centuries ago, a "magical arms race culminating in the Wars of Darkness tore the empire apart and lay waste to much of the Great Sea region." The Great Sea being, of course, the Mediterranean. In the PC's time, a special military force, the Manus Legis ("Hand of the Law") is charged with dealing with "unexplained problems left over from the magical war cursed or haunted battlefields, horrific monsters summoned during the war, necromancers and diabolists who still try to delve into forbidden knowledge." It is likely, but not necessary, that the PCs will be a unit in the Manus Legis.

The discerning judge who wishes to include an element of time travel in their DCC campaign may decide that the world of Pax Lexque either leads directly into the world of "modern" DCC XCrawl or runs parallel to it. Either way, I could easily see a group of DCC XCrawl promoters "poaching" teams from the past, so that your Pax Lexque PCs could find themselves facing DungeonBattle Brooklyn....conversely, a diabolical cult might kidnap DCC XCrawl athletes to accomplish some task in the past/their parallel world.

After the Introduction and a historical timeline, the volume describes an Atlas of 26 separate regions:Aegypt, Aquitania, Arabia, Belgica, Betica, Britania, Cypria, Dacia, Druzix, Felicia, Germania, Hellena, Hispania, Macedonia, Mauretania, Meria, Nurdarim, Pamfilia, Roman Empire, Rome, Scythia, Semosiss, Stonarx, Syria, Talin, and Thracia. For each of these areas, geography, history, politics, religion, and daily life are described.

Regional maps are provided for each area as well, although these would be more useful with a hex overlay or at least a scale for distances. Cartography is done with Campaign Cartographer and is very clean, but it is not what DCC maps usually look like. Artwork is, similarly, not what one usually expects with a DCC product, being largely vector graphics and/or photographs with filters to make them appear painted. This isn't a serious criticism, but it is something the potential buyer should be aware of. Font and layout choices are such that this 189-page pdf could have easily fit into a more slender 100 pages - perhaps not a problem with the pdf, but something that might affect your decision to purchase in print.

As an example of an area overview:
The land of Macedonia is beautifully scenic, but badly scarred. Though not without its share of virgin wilderness, large areas of Macedonia are still reeling from the Wars of Darkness. Macedonia struggles to heal from the mistakes of its past and that legacy won’t be shaken any time soon.
The Macedonian landscape is a study in contrasts. The rockiness of the terrain may be a constant, but it takes a variety of forms. Progressing from the central mountain range, through the rocky, uneven valleys of the inland hills to the crags of both coasts, the land of Macedonia is striking to behold.
In its earlier days, the central mountains were home to many small mining villages. Today, these places are ghost towns, in some cases literally. As the Macedonian economy fell apart as a consequence of the Wars of Darkness, internal commerce ground to a halt. With very little mechanism to bring ores to market, the mines fell silent.
The coastal cities are beginning to stabilize once again as trading ports, but their prosperous days of the centuries past are behind them. With little moving in the way of local resources coming to the ports, few traders have reason to stop there. Even the once thriving capital city, Thessaloniki, is only a shadow of its former self.
The inland hills are an untapped resource. For centuries a cash cow of olive, fig and date orchards, much of this land is now inaccessible because of magic blight or extraplanar creatures left over from the wars. Most of these once prosperous orchards have been wild and uncultivated for centuries.
The text then goes on to describe the history, politics, etc. of the region.

For obvious reasons, the setting book takes some extra time to describe the Roman Empire, the city of Rome, and Roman law. As the PCs might very well be applying that law to various necromancers, diabolists, and monstrous beings, this is important. As other PCs might run afoul of the law, it is also important - it is not legal to cast just any spell, and murder hobos cannot necessarily act with impunity.

Gods and Patrons

Pax Lexque has a unique (and interesting) take on gods and patrons. There is no difference between the two, and all clerics can cast patron bond. Patron bond is a little more powerful in this setting as well, and when a cleric casts it, the recipient might receive a modest boon in addition to the normal effects. Clerics also gain access to the patron spells of their gods.

One of the results of this is that the Pax Lexque Campaign Guide contains a number of new patrons for players and judges to play with. Spellburn functions differently. I.e., a "full patron write up" in this case includes notes on how Spellburn operates for the patron, but not an actual table indicating how Spellburn manifests.

The patrons are:

Celata -­ Whisperer of Secrets: Celata is the one who knows the unknowable, that which is hidden away from mortal eyes. She whispers in the dark places to her faithful, giving them visions and understanding. Caves, springs, and thermal vents are sacred to her as are the wombs of women, for what is more mysterious than the knitting together of life?

A full patron write-up is provided.

Doraga -­ Master of the Forge: Deep inside an unfathomably large mountain is the monstrous forge of Doraga, Lord of the Dwarves, Master of the Forge. Every volcano that erupts is the stoking of his bellows. Every earthquake echoes the beating of his hammer. Near the dawn of time, Doraga forged the first dwarves from iron and molten stone. As his craftsmanship, they reflect his very persona. When a dwarf works a forge and smiths a piece of metalwork, he is engaging in an act of piety, reflecting the spirit of Doraga.

Doraga does not normally have arcane patrons, so there is no Spellburn information. The patron write-up is otherwise complete.

Eliha -­ Father of the Wind: The father of all djinn, Eliha, has made his presence known in Arabia since before the recorded history of that land. Every dust devil that skirts along on the desert sand is said to be one of his messengers. Generally, Eliha’s influence is seen as helpful as his westwinds bring moisture off the Great Sea. However, his temper is known to flare as sandstorms that rage across the land. Just as the wind is unpredictable, so Eliha is enigmatic. This should not be confused with being chaotic however. By contrast to Labul, whose focus is seen solely in destructive, chaotic storms, Eliha is measured and balanced, sometimes wrathful, sometimes gentle. His unpredictability is seen more as a difficulty in mankind knowing the mind of the djinn than an indication of chaos.

Basic description only.

Elkev ­- Master of Flame: The brother of Eliha is Elkev, the father of all efreet (or ifrit). Elkev’s name inspires both reverence and fear. In Arabia and Syria, Elkev is seen as the source of the sun’s fire, which is recognized as necessary for life. As such, he is celebrated for providing light and warmth. On the other hand, those who invoked Elkev recklessly in Arabia’s war against Rome caused great damage to the land. On the balance, the people of Arabia fittingly approach Elkev the way one handles fire, with care and respect.

Basic description only.

Ellelliara -­ Light of Dawn: To the elves of Hellena, beauty is a way of life and a cornerstone of their culture. Nowhere is this more evident than in the person of their national patron, Ellelliara. According to Hellenic tradition, when the world was fresh and very young, Ellelliara gazed upon it and was pleased with its beauty. She rode a sunbeam down from the sky to walk among the forested shores of that land that would become Hellena. As she walked along the green fields, in each of her footsteps sprang up flowers orchids, hyacinth, crocus. Sweeping her hands through the grass as she walked, the taller grass stalks became seedlings, growing in the breeze behind her jacaranda, fig, pomegranate. Reaching an overlook of the rocky coast, she looked back on the new garden that had sprung up in her wake. Tears of joy dropped from her face as she was overcome by the beauty. As the teardrops hit the ground, they sprang forth into the first elves her children.

A full patron write-up is provided.

Fortruvius ­- Lord of Valor:  Integrity. Respect. Ritual. Discipline. Courage. Perseverance. Honor. Pursuits of these virtues lead to glory. Glory in battle. Glory over one’s enemies both internal and external. Glory everlasting. Those dedicated to Fortruvius commit themselves to a continual regimen of self-improvement and set themselves the task of becoming exemplary.

A full patron write-up is provided.

Gulyabani ­- The Hidden One:  Sometimes called the King of Guildmasters, Gulyabani is patron of goblins and thieves. Most of the humans who secretly follow Gulyabani do so seeking favor in their pursuit of larceny. To the goblin folk, following Gulyabani is far more than that. He is their master who drives them on in their war for survival against the big folk. It is he who inspires their ruthlessness and teaches them that anything they can take, they deserve to have. Every raid on a human caravan is an act of identity for them, and an unspoken act of worship to the one who taught them to strike from the shadows.

Basic description only.

Helet -­ Chief of the Hunt:  Helet the hunter is revered by the Celtic people. His teaching, “You must know your quarry before your quarry will know death” is learned well by rangers of the Great Gaulic Forest. Though his followers take great pride in a hunt well done, a hunt is never to be undertaken for sport. Legend has it that overzealous hunters will become the hunted, stalked by one of Helet’s wolves.

Basic description only.

Iber -­ Father of Peace:  The people of Hispania and Betica tell of a time in the unknown past when Iber pulled the Iberian peninsula out of the churning waters, with the specific purpose of creating a place of peace and harmony. He then sculpted the earliest Iberian people from the land and tasked them with maintaining the peace of this new land. Iber is generally thought to not be particularly involved in the events of the land now, leaving that task to his people. It is said though, that he does watch the realm from a distance, ready to nudge the scales should anything in the land tip too far towards chaos. His followers are ever watchful that the proper order of the world is maintained, including an eye towards a stewardship of the natural world. Things that are deemed unnatural, such as undead, are the greatest anathema to the Iberian outlook.

Basic description only.

Labul -­ Anger of the Storm:  Not simply a patron of the air or of rain, Labul is specifically the Master of Storms, violent raging destructive storms. While some who call on him do so in an attempt to appease the Anger of the Wind, many of those who seek his attention are seeking to cause destruction. Certainly during the Wars of Darkness, the Lord of Lightning was called upon by many to wreak havoc on enemy armies or even to lay waste to civilian populations. Labul is a wild and unpredictable patron, and those who wish to draw his gaze and channel his power do so at their own peril.

Basic description only.

Mordines -­ The Shadow of Death:  The Master of Darkness, the Dark Veil, the Stalker in
secret he is still worshiped in hidden places throughout the great sea. The reasons for his ongoing influence vary. For some, it is simply to seek a divine stamp of approval on the evil they wish to work, but others are true believers in his call. They believe he is the master of all, the highest of the immortal beings, because death eventually comes for every man. Even the long-lived elves eventually fall under his axe. It is said to be Mordines who gives power to the undead, that by his hatred of life the restless dead will not find peace. Those who follow Mordines consider it the ultimate blessing and sign that he has approvedtheir work if, upon their death, they continue to malevolently stalk the land of the living.

Basic description only.

Mothir -­ King of Battle:  The Germanic tribes of the northern wilds have various patrons, but the most commonly revered is Mothir, the Father of Courage and Judge of the Battlefield. There have been those who erroneously have thought that Mothir is simply a Germanic name for Fortruvius, but the two patrons are actually quite different. While Fortruvius also promotes courage in battle, his focus is on valor, honor, and self discipline. Mothir, as reflected by Germanic culture, is focused on the ferocity of battle. He is well represented by the legendary berserker warriors of the Germanic tribes. All of this does not mean he is outright evil. He does not necessarily champion cruelty and bloodlust. However, once the battle is joined, he does expect his people to fight with all their heart and soul.

Basic description only.

Procella -­ Mistress of the Waves:  Almost everyone who sails the seas or lives on the coasts around the Great Sea gives at least token respect towards Procella. She is the embodiment and personification of the Great Sea, and her character reflects the range of what the sea means for those who live on it life-giving through its supply of fish and transportation, but occasionally treacherous with an unpredictable storm. There is debate among scholars and even among her clerics whether Procella is simply the patron of the Great Sea, or actually is the Great Sea. To most of her followers, the distinction is fuzzy. They tend  to see the relationship between Procella and the Great Sea as being one of those things that is too lofty for mortal minds to comprehend.

A full patron write-up is provided.

Ramasar - The Untamed One:  The centaurs who rule over the vast open plains of Scythia and their horse riding neighbors in Dacia, revere the paragon of equines, Ramasar the Swift. Said to be faster than any other being on the earth or in the heavens, Ramasar is the soul behind the way of life on the northeastern plains. Their shared reverence for Ramasar has created an ongoing bond of brotherhood between the humans in Dacia and the centaurs in Scythia. It is very common for the two to meet at each other’s annual festivals to come to each other’s aid in times of need. The Stallion is said to have only one herd on the earth, and all who look to him are considered part of that family. Ramasar promotes dedication to family, tribe and tradition as well as being at peace with the natural world. Speed in running is considered a mark of Ramasar’s approval.

Basic description only.

Reku ­- The Light Giver:  The people of Aegypt have a recorded history longer than any land other than Hellena. Throughout the 7000 years of their civilization, their primary patron has been Reku. Reku is the personification of the sun. His light is his blessing on all people. He withdraws that blessing at night so that mortals will understand the gift they have been given by the contrast of its absence. The people of Aegypt believe that the earth has always existed but that there was no life on it until Reku first shone forth upon the land. Suntanned skin tone is considered to be a sign of closeness to Reku. Legends tell that further south of Aegypt there are people born with skin far darker than any Aegyptian. These are spoken of as Reku’s first children. Reku calls upon his followers to live orderly lives, as his course across the sky is predictable, and to give generously to each other, as he gives generously to them.

Basic description only.

Savra -­ The Scaled One:  The generally recognized correct name of Savra is not pronounceable by humans, nor readily represented in any humanoid writing system outside the lands where she is worshiped. As an adaptation, the name “Savra” is derived from the elven word for lizard. Savra is revered in the lands of Druzix and Semosiss by the lizardfolk and serpentines respectively. Each of them represents Savra as a female of their own type and insists that the other group has misrepresented her. Some human scholars claim that Savra is actually a dragon. Regardless, Savra herself does not seem to have clarified the matter, so the debate will likely not be resolved. Savra is an advocate of order and structure and this is evidenced in the highly regimented, caste-based societies of both Drizix and Semosiss. Savra’s followers believe it is a living service to their patron to seek to fulfill their allotted role in society and not to seek to change the status that Savra has assigned to them. 

Basic description only.

Senet -­ The Eye that Sees:  He is the eye that sees the old things, the forbidden things, the things that man was not meant to see. The second pharaoh to rule over a united Aegypt, Senet II delved into the secret ways of the foundation of the world. He and his cabal of sorcerers researched and studied, testing ways to tap into the energies of the world by trial and error. How this got started is uncertain. Some records seem to indicate that a spirit of some kind, perhaps demonic, perhaps a ghost, whispered to Senet about power that could be his. For a decade, the pharaoh and his inner circle discovered new and more powerful magics and summoned progressively more powerful beings from outer realms. And then it ended somehow, suddenly it all just ended. The historical record of Aegypt gives no details. The record of Senet simply stops as though mid sentence to be followed by his successor with no mention of magic again. There is no record of how Senet died. His tomb, underneath a pyramid in the desert, many miles from any city, was avoided by all for 6000 years. The people of Aegypt never even spoke of it, except to tell foreigners to stay clear.

Basic description only.

Tanalis ­- Lord of the Forest:  While many patrons are believed by their followers to have created them or their homeland, with Tanalis, the opposite is true. The elves of Aquitania believe that the forest formed as the world was birthed, that it is the natural state of being for their land. It wasn’t Tanalis who produced the forest; it was the forest that produced Tanalis. In the earliest of days, when the trees had grown and the animals sprang forth from the land, the forest had a will and a consciousness of its own, a consciousness that is now asleep. Before she slumbered, sensing that her thoughts were fading, the forest knew that she would need protectors. Thus it was that she birthed the first wood elf, Tanalis, making him immortal to watch over her forever. Pleased with what she had produced, she brought forth 120 more, 60 male and 60 female. Her energy already fading, these were lesser than Tanalis. She could not make them immortal, but she gave them lives as long as her greatest trees, so they would understand what they were protecting. Since then, Tanalis has guarded over both her and her children.

A full patron write-up is provided.

Ubaste ­- Feline Mother:  Patron of the felids, the cat people of Felicia, Ubaste is represented by her people as a golden-furred female of their kind. The people of Aegypt also revere her and consider the felids to be Ubaste’s chosen people, a contention naturally echoed by the felids. Ubaste is also often looked to for blessing by merchants. She is seen as a mother figure, though a rather distant and aloof one, who brings wealth and prosperity to those who please her.

Basic description only.

Judges may wish to round out their campaign by using materials from Divinities & Cults Volume I and Volume II.

Classes

Four new 10-level classes are included in this tome. They are:

Dwarven Cleric: The culture of the dwarves is heavily invested in ritual, heritage and tradition, so it is of no surprise that the dwarves hold tightly to the faith of their fathers. The dwarven cleric is a key part of passing down the heritage for each generation. Also, the dwarves often find themselves in conflict with the darker denizens of the underground. In these cases, the dwarven cleric is integral to the ongoing durability of the dwarven armies.

For other takes on dwarven clerics or priests, see Crawl! Fanzine #10 and Gygax Magazine #3.

Elven Ranger: More combat-oriented elves from Aquitania.

Felid: The natives of Felicia are a bipedal feline race called the Felids. They are typically known as a people who live for the moment, with little concern for long term matters. The stereotype of the hedonist felid, focused only on enjoying the finer things in life, is an exaggeration, but does have some roots in reality.

For other takes on animal people, see Bronx Beasts, Mutant Crawl Classics, and Primal Tales #1.

Gnome: The small folk who dwell in Cypria and Pamfilia, the gnomes, are about the same height as halflings, but tend to be a bit slighter of build. Their diminutive size, however, can be misleading. Gnomes have more than a few tricks up their sleeves (sometimes literally) to dissuade would be enemies. Gnomes are quite skilled at a range of innate magic, especially illusions, automatically having access to some spells.

For another take on gnomes, see Crawl! fanzine #6 (reprinted with some expansion in Gnome Jambalaya).

New illusion spells are included to support the gnome, although they are not limited to that class. They are hallucination (level 1), greater illusion (level 3), and ethereal illusion (level 4).

Pax Lexque is a campaign setting based on an alternate reality historical earth in which the Roman Empire was co-mingled with conventional elements of fantasy - elves, dwarves, wizards, clerics, giants, dragons and everything else you’d expect.

After a magical war tore the Roman Empire apart, the empire is now rebuilding, with its eyes on its eternal motto, “Pax Lexque” or “Peace and Law”. The campaign's starter modules (The Hand of the Law) place PCs in a special forces arm of the imperial army. Their squad is sent on missions to deal with unexplained problems left over from the magical war - cursed or haunted battlefields, horrific monsters summoned during the war, necromancers and diabolists who still try to delve into forbidden knowledge.

This guide is meant as a sandbox environment. The world of the Great Sea region is presented with its history and geography broken down to twenty nations, ready for characters to explore. Nineteen new patrons particular to this world are described, six of which are presented in full detail, complete with patron spells. Also included are four new character classes: Dwarven Cleric, Elven Ranger, Felid (or catfolk) and Gnome.

Get It Here!


Sunday, 7 June 2020

The Siege of Bonemoore Keep

The Siege of Bonemoore Keep is a 0-level funnel adventure by Mihailo Tešić. Art is by Kristen M. Collins, Gary Dupuis, Brett Neufeld (including cartography), Matt Hyzer, and Matt Morrow. The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclaimer: I am given a Special Thanks in this adventure.

What is the funnel supposed to accomplish? It sets the stage for ordinary people becoming extraordinary by throwing them into circumstances where they must rise to greatness or be trampled by the jeweled sandals of history. It provides them with a chance to determine class, at least in part, naturally through the events of play. And it sets the stage for what follows, both in terms of what the PCs themselves have become, and with inherent hooks for the campaign world.

The Siege of Bonemoore Keep succeeds on all of these counts. It also offers rewards beyond XP and loot - your actions may, for instance, result in a stat bonus. Characters are crafted by their actions.

(Some theory on funnel design can be found here.)

Mihailo Tešić's funnel has some definite High Fantasy elements. In Appendix N terms, L. Sprauge de Camp, Lin Carter, or Michael Moorcock might come to mind. The judge is given the outline of a villain that may plague the campaign milieu over the course of many sessions, or even years of play - assembling whatever is needed to defeat him might prove a useful hook for many an adventure to come. The villain himself seems like something one would expect to encounter in an Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novel, or one of Leigh Brackett's tales of Eric John Stark.

Although the funnel takes place in one location - the besieged Bonemoore Keep - there are enough areas within that location to make play interesting and to give players plenty of choices. What they choose, and whether or not they succeed, will have definite repercussions in the campaign world.

The Thrallmaster’s hordes come… are you ready for the Siege of Bonemoore?

The call to arms does not always come to warriors, and fate has found your humble party in Bonemoore Keep when the ghastly armies of the Thrallmaster attack. Faced with demonic fury without and mysterious sorcery within the Keep, will you survive to carry the day and start a career in intrepid Dungeon Crawling?

The Siege of Bonemoore Keep is a new 0-level funnel for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG game system written by Mihailo Tesic and published by Purple Duck Games. In this 3-part challenging adventure, the situation is desperate, and the players must do what they can to repulse an oncoming threat of fanatical enemies, without much in the way of resources or training. As the harrowing story continues, they must enter the inner Keep and seek the Lord Farwall, whose dire inheritance can save the castle- and the world! Battlefields, dungeons, puzzles and sinister laboratories await those who survive – The Siege of Bonemoore Keep!

Get It Here!


Sunday, 31 May 2020

Enchiridion of the Computarchs (Preview)

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

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

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

Let's look inside!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get It Here!

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Killian's Krawls: The Laboratory of Melifex the Mad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get It Here!


Sunday, 17 May 2020

QuaranZine Volume 1

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

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

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

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

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

I am paraphrasing, of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re no shut-in.

You’re an adventurer. . .


Get It Here!

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Hexanomicon Issue #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EDIT: Hexanomicon Area Name Generator.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get It Here!


Sunday, 15 March 2020

The Witch of Wydfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can get it as part of a bundle Here!

Saturday, 14 March 2020

The Treacherous Cobtraps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 13 March 2020

The Vile Worm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Operation: Bughunt

Operation: Bughunt was written by Eric Bloat, with additional writing by James M. Spahn. Art is by Aaron Lee, Grzegorz Pedrycz, Jeshields, Joyce Maureira, Mark Wester, Phil Stone, and Tan Ho Sim. The publisher is Bloat Games.

Disclosure: I backed the Stars Without Number revised edition Kickstarter, where the majority of the art in Operation Bughunt comes from. A thank you message to the backers appears in this product.

If you are a fan of Starship Troopers or Aliens, this publication will allow you to run your PCs through similar adventures using the Dungeon Crawl Classics rules.

The author says: "The action is these gaming sessions should be cranked to 11, the lethality high, and the ass kicking higher! Have fun and don’t take this one too serious. It’s meant to be crazy, over the top and awesome. Reward creative play (I recommend additional Luck but you do you) and encourage the players to go big, take risks and drive it like it were on rails. But above all else, just have fun!"

So let's look inside and see what we get!

Combat Medic: Similar to the cleric or the Healer (in Mutant Crawl Classics), the Combat Medic is a class designed to patch you up and get you back onto the battlefield.

Engineer: What it sounds like - the person who keeps your armor and weapons working, and might be able to figure out what that piece of alien tech does. There is an unfortunate minor error in this class's Hit Points entry - the hit points listed are for the Engineer, not the Combat Medic!

Grunt: Front-line fighters, the Operation: Bughunt analogue to the Warrior class.

Pilot: This character gets you from one place to another.

Robot: For other takes on a robot (or similar) class, see Phatasmagoria #1, Hubris, Meanderings #2, and The Umerican Survival Guide. There are many takes on robots in science fiction/fantasy literature and film, and there is no reason why you cannot mix and match various robot classes.

Starting Cash: From $1 to $300,000. Unless you're a robot.

Rank and Advancement: An important consideration for a military-based game, because this isn't a democracy. If you are a robot, not only do you have no cash, but you are sub-human. This is very much in keeping with the dystopian alien-hunting literature. Your rank also determines your monthly pay scale. Robots might be tough, but socially? They are chattel.

Equipment Section: Provides rules for armor, weapons, and other items.

Cybernetics: "The Referee can choose to limit the number of cybernetic implants or replacements a character can have. Normally a character can have a number of cybernetic enhancements equal to 3, plus their Endurance modifier." I assume this means Stamina modifier.

Pressure & Shell Shock: This is actually pretty innovative for DCC, providing a system for tracking the mental trauma that your PCs experience watching their friends die or from suffering horrible injuries. You can relieve Pressure with quiet downtime, but judges who want to simulate the world of the Alien movie franchise or similar dystopian futures could include drugs or other vices with a similar effect. You could even include things like addiction and other downsides, and the need to relieve Pressure might still get your PCs to experiment.

Random Bug Generation Tables: If you want to fight bugs, you need bugs to fight. Consider using the giant insect tables in the DCC Annual and the random aliens from Drongo: Ruins of the Witch Kingdom along with the tables herein.

Although the product assumes that you are running an Operation: Bughunt game, these tables are perfectly usable in any flavor of Dungeon Crawl Classics. As a side note, you can consider using Operation: Bughunt as an exotic location your PCs might arrive in when they traverse a mystical portal or botch a planar step.

Boss Monster Bugs: Three big bugs.

Other Alien Enemies: Three more aliens. Two are a base type and master. Both have acidic blood. The third is an intergalactic hunter with the ability to turn invisible to hunt. Draw your own conclusions!

Goddammit! I hate going in hot. My ejector pod is too small, my armor is too big, and this new Cybo-leg is zapping me every couple of minutes. Doc says I’ll get used to it but I dunno.

This makes jump number three in as many weeks. The frequency of hard action has really ratcheted up lately. I’m exhausted. The squad is so bruised and banged up they look more like rag tag mercs than trained veteran marines. We still haven’t had a moment to mourn the fallen including General Smoothers. She was the best! As a General, she had no business being on planet with us losers. She should’ve been up in the command deck with the pilots! But that was never her style. She wasn’t content to fight from space. She was one of us; Infantry. She liked to get her hands dirty. She had to see the bugs and Arachnoids up close and then blast them back to whatever Hell they crawled from.

Things are really starting to cook in here. Must be breaking through the atmosphere. Won’t be long now. Today’s mission, a simple seek and destroy. The local population on Nivay 5 has decided to cut ties with Command and severed all communications. Intelligence shows a new large bug-hole recently burrowed. Our job today, land and disable the capital city on Nivay, causing as much destruction and disruption as possible, then high-tail it back to space before the bugs have a chance to figure out what’s going on.

Do I feel bad for the local population of Nivay? Hell no! Any friend of a bug is an enemy of mine! The entire galaxy is at war, in the fight for its life. You pick your side and you do your part. They choose the wrong side. Period. The end.

Get It Here!

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Tales of the Smoking Wyrm #1

Tales of the Smoking Wyrm #1
 was written by Trevor StamperBrian GilkisonJohn Olszewski, and Steve Harmon. Art is by Joel PhillipsCarmin VanceAlex MayoBradley McDevittBrian MaikischCaitlin Stamper, and Trevor Stamper. The publisher is Blind Visionary Publications.

Disclosure: I backed the successful Kickstarter for this issue. I am also a backer of Issue #2.

The first thing you'll notice about this zine is that it is erudite. The creators discuss their sources as well as the history of the hobby. If that sort of thing excites you, then you will certainly enjoy this. I am in that target audience, so, while the writing is crisp, I can't be 100% sure how someone else will read this.

The Paladin: This is a good example of what I mean. The article starts:

"Paladins have a longstanding position in the Old School Revival (OSR). From their origins in Supplement I—Greyhawk (1975) as a subclass of Fighting Man to their firm position in every edition since Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition, the paladin is a mainstay of the genre. Historically, the term paladin originates from the French Chanson de geste (song of heroic deeds) cycle as names for the twelve foremost knights of Charlemagne’s court. Appendix N includes Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions, which is itself inspired by the Chanson de geste."

If you love this sort of stuff the way I do, then you will enjoy the zine. They even go so far as to remind you of the paladin in Crawl! fanzine #6 and the Paladin of Gambrinus in The Gong farmers Almanac 2017 volume 6. Because I like to include these sort of links in the Trove write-ups, it is wonderful to have that part already done for me!

This is a bit different, and is actually fully in line with the "Quest For It" ethos of Dungeon Crawl Classics. Instead of creating a new class, the author writes, "any class can devote themselves to the tenants of their faith, under the guidance of a cleric of that god. This begins with the new third level cleric spell investiture, wherein the would-be paladins carry out a quest for their god, overseen by the cleric." That is gold, to me - the idea of prestige classes from 3rd Edition carried to their logical conclusion and done right.

Cthulhu: A complete patron write-up for H.P. Lovecraft's most famous creation, including invoke patron results, Spellburn and Patron Taint tables, and three unique patron spells: Summons of the Deep, Breath of the Deep, and Form of the Deep. There are also suggestions for adding three books to your Appendix N reading list because they contain some details about Cthulhu which H.P. Lovecraft left out.


Culpepper's Herbal: A fantasy version of Nicholas Culpeper's famous work (which I have on one of my bookshelves!). This installment describes adder's false tongue and aconite (or yellow wolf's bane). Included is a general description, where to find it, when it flowers, how it relates to astrology, and the potential bodily virtues of the plant (with full rules to use the plant in your game).

The Silver Ball: "Many an adventurer has run afoul of the mysterious Silver Ball, often when they least expect it. Appearing out of darkened shadows, or even mid-air, the Silver Ball does not speak, or make any sound at all. Rather it glides in silently, absorbing the adventurer into its inner volume, and then just as rapidly disappearing."

Tables are included to determine what happens when (if) the Silver Ball ejects you.

Telepathic Rat: Lots of Mutant Crawl Classics characters end up with one, but what exactly can it do? As part of the Kickstarter, Blind Visionary Publications also sent me a Telepathic Rat bookmark, which can act as a character sheet for your pet. For another take on the telepathic rat, see Check This Artifact.

Rites & Rituals Part I: “The DCC rules present spells in resplendent detail. Just prior to the spell section, there is a small passage on Ritualized magic. Here, The Dark Master clearly states that while spells presented therein can be extended in various ways (see DCC, pp.124-126), that the august tome the spells reside in do not include the “great rites and rituals of the era.” This article sketches out how rites and rituals differ from normal spells, and outlines how to present them.”

Included are the Rites of Schlag-Ruthe, which creates the means to dowse for magical power sources, and Dark Phylactery, which allows the caster to set aside parts of their soul “to ward against the death of their body”.

Onward Retainer: A cartoon by Joel Phillips, with a party named (fittingly) Fingers, Dormuth, Whizzler, and Scum.

What is the Smoking Wyrm?: In short, it is a zine that tries to follow in the footsteps of Alarums and Excursions, The Dungeoneer, Troll Crusher, Underworld Oracle, and their ilk.

Greetings morsels! Welcome to the Smoking Wyrm! Inside you will find your greatest delights and most excellent treasures! We cater to the most rarified of tastes! Most compelling of all are the stories people share while they drink deeply of our fine ales and wines. Who is here now, you ask? To the left, a rather muculent entourage yearning to share with you all extant (and some extinct!) knowledge of their fine patron who dwells deep in the sea’s abyssal depths!





Warrior Horde of the Einherjar

Warrior Horde of the Einherjar was written by James M. Spahn. Art is by Joe J. Calkins. The publisher is Barrel Rider Games.

The Warrior Horde of the Einherjar is a full patron write-up based off Norse mythology. The author writes: "The Warrior Horde of the Einherjar is not one man, but a horde of savage warriors who have earned their immortality through glorious death in battle. Though the Einherjar are many, they function with a singular will and purpose - they are united as one in their lust for battle...The Einherjar demand that those in their service show no fear in battle and that they take particular joy in the slaying of giants and giant-kin, who are their sworn enemies."

Included are invoke patron results, Spellburn tables, Patron Taint, and three unique patron spells: Slaying Song, Weregild of Wodan, and Blessing of the Bear-sark. These are all flavorful, and fitting for both the patron and the mythology.

Finally, you get four monsters: The grizzly bear, warrior of Einhenjar, Avatar of Wodan, and Valkyrie of the Einhenjar. All of these, of course, mesh well with the overall product, but the grizzly bear might see use even if there is no Norse theme in your DCC game.

This may pair well with the Norse mythos presented in Divinities and Cults Volume I and Volume II.

Get It Here!