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!

Monday, 2 March 2020

Phantasmagoria #2

Phantasmagoria #2 was written by Chance Phillips. Art is by Sam Mameli (cover), Shaky Kane, Bradley K. McDevitt, Penny Melgarejo, Diogo Noguiera, and Jim Magnusson. The publisher is Apollyon Press.

Disclosure: I backed the successful Kickstarter for Phantasmagoria #1.

Even more than the first issue, Phantasmagoria #2 offers material that is useful to any Dungeon Crawl Classics game grounded even tangentially in the science fiction genres. I would go so far as to say that this issue offers some useful tables for any OSR - and even many non-OSR - sci fi/science fantasy games.

So let's look inside and see what there is.

Spaceship Combat: Where the first issue helped you create a wide range of ship types in four pages, this issue gives you a combat system in five.

D30 Artifacts: 30 items that can drive an adventure, be encountered during an adventure, or perhaps be the treasure for success in the adventure. Or all three at once.

Alien Poisons: Six toxins for use in your science fantasy game, including one (data sludge) that can affect automatons.

Prosthetics: From the banal (peg leg, hook) to the extreme (hard light replacement, clockwork limb, full body transplant), this is going to give you options when you inevitably suffer some critical hit that leaves you a body part short.

Magical Prosthetics: Introducing the level 2 wizard spell, Eldritch Limb, that is no more reliable than any other DCC spell...and can produce fantastic results with a good roll, as with any other DCC spell. This spell might be useful in any Dungeon Crawl Classics setting.

Stellar System Generation: If you are going star-hopping, you need to generate systems to hop to. This does a pretty good job of differentiating worlds. If you want a bit more sci fi and detail in your worlds-building, I recommend using the World Tags system in Kevin Crawford's Stars Without Number in addition to the nine tables here. There is even a free version.

Monster Generator: Taking into account both using an existing monster and adding "a bit of science flair to it", and creating new monsters from whole cloth, this article is a good companion piece to the alien creation rules in Drongo: Ruins of the Witch Kingdom.

1d20 Ways to Get Around: Includes entries like "Ziplines between different levels of a city; the higher the level, the wealthier and it only costs money to ascend" and "Rocket shoes that propel you across slick metal tracks". Very fun, with both fantasy and science fiction ideas included.

Errata: Two corrections from Issue #1.

This issue of Phantasmagoria contains enough information to make any player or judge's life easier! Enjoy 30 new artifacts, new poisons, and a new ship combat system, plus extensive systems for generating new monsters and even entire new stellar systems!

Additionally, this issue contains rules for incorporating prosthetics into your game, a new spell to regrow limbs, and more useful tables!

It is recommended that this issue is used in conjunction with either Phantasmagoria #1 or your science fantasy setting of choice.

Get It Here!

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Phantasmagoria #1

Phantasmagoria #1 was written by Chance Phillips. Art is by Luka Rejec (cover), Jim Magnusson, Stefan Poag, Jeremy Hart, and Penny Melgarejo. The publisher is Apollyon Press.

Disclosure: I backed the successful Kickstarter for this project. I also wrote a Zine Scene News Flash related to it for the Goodman Games website.

There is an embarrassment of riches now for those who want to throw a little star- or planet-hopping into their DCC campaigns. Crawljammer, Star Crawl, Operation Bug Hunt, Cyber Crawl Classics, The Hobonomicon, Sub-ether, Monster Extractor IV - Aliens & Manufactured Beings, Leopard Women of Venus, Drongo: Ruins of the Witch Kingdoms, Cyber Sprawl Classics, Terror of the Stratosfiend, RPGPundit Presents #19: Frantabulous Gonzo Robot Generator, Umerica, UX01: High Caliber Hijinks, Crawl! fanzine #8, Vehicle Mayhem!, Null Singularity, and Mutant Crawl Classics all provide material that the judge can use to craft an interplanetary romance with.

On top of that, adventures like Frozen in Time, Peril on the Purple Planet, Against the Atomic Overlord, The 998th Conclave of Wizards, The Dread God Al-Khazadar, Imprisoned in the God-Skull, The Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn, The Vault of Ash, Demon Drums, The Silent Army, The Tribe of Ogg and the Gift of Suss, Shade Hunter, Silent Nightfall, Secrets of the World-Harvesters, Lair of the Mist Men, Mother's Maze, and anything Mutant Crawl Classics or Umerica take you to space, or other planets, or have strong enough science fiction elements to help populate those brave new worlds where you seek out new life and new civilizations.

Appendix N fiction is like a stewpot left to simmer and filled to the brim with a number of distinct (but often inter-referential) voices. Dungeon Crawl Classics campaigns are similar. Each publisher, and each author...and, let's be honest, each artist!...adds their own unique flavor to the pot. The judge, like a chef, picks and chooses the ingredients which comprise a personal campaign milieu.

Let's take a look inside and see what flavors Phantasmagoria #1 adds!

Automatons: "Automatons are the universal debris of ambitious magitechnicians across the universe, thrown aside once they realize someone else has done it before and done it better."

That might seem ironic, as there are takes on similar themes in Hubris and Meanderings #2. The Umerican Survival Guide contains a Robot class. However, even if you are playing in a game that mashes things together, it is good to have options, and this is flavored a bit differently than the others. Also, if it malfunctions badly enough it might spontaneously burst into flame! Others have done it before. Better? That depends upon your tastes. They are different takes, but, being attempts to describe similar character types, there are certainly similarities in design.

Captains: "Captains are beacons of hope, capable of uniting people and willing to do anything to protect their crew. They are also adept duelists and swashbucklers."

This is definitely more Captain Blood than Captain Kirk. A bit like the Warrior, a bit like the Thief, and with a bit of the Bard's ability to inspire, without really being like any of those classes, the Captain really is a dashing swashbuckler whose ability to inspire their crew is real.

Gremlins: "Gremlins, sometimes called goblins, albeit never to their faces, are technological wizards who also possess minor spellcasting abilities."

Jovians: "Jovians were natives of a gas giant adapted to their home planet's crushing gravity. They lived in massive cities that floated above the clouds. Each city was ruled via committee with the head of each family being able to vote on communal affairs. For the most part the extended families operated independently, but recently the floating cities were conquered by various empires and the native Jovians were taken as slaves by their conquerors."

Together these classes give a vision of a setting where humans have largely conquered the aliens they have met in the cold depths of space. Gremlins work the engines, Jovians are slave troops sent into dangerous areas, Automatons serve at the pleasure of their Captain....perhaps their notorious engineering mishaps are a form of subtle resistance by the Gremlins....

But humans are not really the top dogs here. There are also Star Princes.

Star Prince: "Star princes are the humanoid forms of the stars who have undergone the final phase of their metamorphosis. There are no star princes of 5th level or below".

A really unique class which might be reminiscent of Stars in the Darkness, Star Princes are never generated through funnels, but only unlocked during actual play. They are forever recognizable as former stars, but burdened by being stars no longer, and are (short of accident, poison, or injury) effectively immortal.

Weapons & Kit: Includes armor and weapons for your explorers. There is a problem with the range of the nuclear pistol, which is listed as 20/10/1930. I am assuming that the range should read 20/100/1930. A few other bits of science fiction gear are also included.

Occupations: d100 table.

Spaceships: A workable system for spaceships is presented in four pages.

Explore the ruins of lost alien civilizations or sail through space in a massive freighter, weighed down with all manners of gold, jewels, and relics.

Play as a Jovian, a lithe yet strong alien native to a gas giant, a Captain, a brilliant tactician and duelist, or a Gremlin, an alien skilled with magic and technology. Build any type of ship from a tiny fighter to a massive dreadnaught, bristling with cannons.

Get It Here!

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

The Wizardarium of Calabraxis

The Wizardarium of Calabraxis is an adventure with no specific level, written and illustrated (including cartography and cover) by Claytonian JP. The publisher is Kill It With Fire.

Disclosure: There is a mongrelock in the adventure named "Danyellbishp" with the power of "Atomizing Thought".

I have made no secret of my love for this adventure. Back in 2014, I listed it as the #1 must-have Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure. I wrote:

"You keep fish in an aquarium; you keep spell-slingers in a wizardarium. Here, in a handful of pages, is an adventure that you will want to run again and again. And, luckily, the material suggests that you should, merely by opening up new areas of Calabraxis' wizardarium, using many of the supplied monsters and supplementing them with new ones of your own creation. And the odds are very good that, even if another installment comes out, your work will not be invalidated.

Why did this get the #1 spot?

It's got creepy.  It's got funny.  It's got more than enough role-playing, problem-solving, and combat to make any group of players happy.  Depending upon player choices, the same encounter may be role-playing, problem-solving, or combat.  It has time travel, in a way that makes time travel fun, scary, and informative. It has psionics. It has ape-men. It has Vorbians. It has......well, enough spoilers, right?

Suffice it to say that The Wizardarium of Calabraxis is wrapped up in a neat package, giving you everything you need to run the adventure, and giving you lots of opportunities to make it your own.  The psionics system used is perfect for adding your own unique powers to a DCC game.

Look at it this way:  I come to DCC primarily as a writer and a game master.  All of these 15 Must-Have DCC adventures are ones that I would have been proud to have written.  This one, though, makes me wish I could go back in time, prevent myself from having read it, and find some way to a table where the author was running it.  It is that good."

Five years later on, I am not sure that I would still give the Wizardarium the #1 spot - the number of cool adventures has only grown exponentially - but I am sure that it would still make the Top Ten. I still stand by my reasons for giving it that exalted position in 2014, although I would now point out Mind Games as my preferred source for DCC psionics. The Wizardarium of Calabraxis continues to be a fantastic adventure!

At one point, Stephen Murish did a free expansion of the Wizararium, but the link on DriveThruRPG seems to be broken, and I couldn't locate it using Google. Thanks to Judge Joe Kilmartin, though, it has been located here (or non-embedded here).

Reviews of this adventure can be found here, here, here, and most especially here. The adventure is discussed on Spellburn in Episode 31, Episode 48, and Episode 55.

The Wizardarium of Calabraxis starts off with strangely behaving apemen, but players who start to explore the cave where they reside will soon discover there is a lot going on: ancient civilizations, the mad experiments of a forgotten wizard, and a couple unique magic items are guaranteed to provide a lot of bang for your buck to your players. This module has stats for the DCCRPG, but if one wants to work around the weird dice, this module is probably at home in just about any OSR rules system.

Characters of almost any DCC level will probably have fun in this adventure; just adjust some numbers until the exact right number of PCs are dying.

Get It Here!

Ghostlike Crime #1

Ghostlike Crime no.1 is a "RPG zine of magical realism, the paranormal, and cryptid terrors in a modern day dystopia" written by Kane Cathain. Art is by Carly Onofrio (including cover), Peet Sketches, and Michael Bukowski. The publisher is Abiology Games.

Disclosure: I backed the Kickstarter.

Let's look inside and see what's there.

What is Ghostlike Crime?: Ghostlike Crime is an alternate setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics, where "Terrible things creep in the shadows and cryptid terrors stalk humanity. The Cabals of the Corporatocracy have hoarded the magic of the world for themselves to inflate their power and control."

Rather than being "Scooby Doo meets DCC", this is a dystopian version of our current world with a splash of supernatural chaos thrown into it. The materials herein could (un)easily be combined with Bronx Beasts, True Vigilante, Nowhere City Nights, or Terror of the Stratosfiend to whatever degree you like to create an even stranger campaign setting.

It should also be noted that, if you are running a more classic DCC campaign, products like this are extremely useful should your PCs gain access to the planar step spell or similar magics.

Creating A Character: A summary of character creation.

Occupations: As an alternate modern setting, the base DCC occupation table isn't going to work here. This table uses 1d66 (1d10 + 1d6 used for the 10's and the 1's place, respectively), for 60 possibilities. There is a separate 1d20 table to determine your 0-level weapon, from a kitchen knife to a slingshot.

Lucky Trinkets: Instead of a birth augur, you have some kind of object that makes you lucky (or unlucky) when making some kind of roll. These are nearly impossible to get rid of, even if you want to.

Classes: The warrior, thief, and halfling port over to Ghostlike Crime. The halfling becomes the "Half-Pint" - basically a kid who goes along on adventures. Imagine Short Round, Newt, or the kids from Stranger Things. Rather than dying, half-pints just run away. The party can Quest For It to convince them to go on adventures again.

Ghostlike Crime also includes two interesting new classes, to wit:

The Scrapper: This guy goes dumpster-diving to find "Scrap Artifacts" that can allow them to cast spells. I am reminded of Philip José Farmer's The Alley Man (in a good way). Not only are scrap artifacts basically junk, but they are pieces of junk with personalities. A judge who didn't mind mixing their peanut butter with their chocolate could throw a scrap artifact into a Mutant Crawl Classics game! Is it magic? Is it technology? Is there a difference?

The Paratechnologist: Use weird science to create techno-magical items like Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters. Thirteen weird science devices are included. This character would be at home, I think, in a Crawljammer or an Umerica game as well as its native setting.

Team Concepts: What sort of game are you running? This is similar to games that suggest that you define a series premise.

Equipment: Adventuring in the modern era requires new weapons and armor. The aspiring judge may also wish to invest in Crawl #8 for additional firearms rules.

Adventure: A hellish Commute: The first of three adventures in the zine, this is a 0-level funnel where the PCs have to get out of a subway tunnel after an unfortunate incident with the train.

Adventure: Cathode Casualty: This is a level 1 adventure about recovering a scrap artifact.

Adventure: unstoppable killing Machine: "This adventure is in a non-traditional format to better serve the monster hunting side of Ghostlike Crime. It’s not bound by scripted events or maps that need following. Instead it’s based around a particular monster and a chain of events the characters will come in contact with."

Monsters, Anomalies, & Ill-Advised Creations: Finally, the author includes several creatures to use in your adventures. Most (if not all) of these can be easily used in other settings, some right out of the book and some with a little adjustment. They are the Alicanto, Atmospheric Jellyfish, Bunyip, Chupacabra, Jersey Devil, and the Lone Pine Mountain Devil.

Watch Out for the Bean-Nighe: No game stats, but this Gaelic washerwoman can now be found in laundromats. Could it inspire an in-game encounter? Yes it could!

Terrible things creep in the shadows and cryptid terrors stalk humanity. The Cabals of the Corporatocracy have hoarded the magic of the world for themselves. They inflate their power and secure control over the masses. Magic cannot be trusted and its manipulation has repercussions. Where the wealthy and powerful are kept protected from these consequences, the rest of the population is exposed to the dangerous things crossing over into our world. There are those that will fight these incursions, adventurers who will face the unknown, revolutionaries that will challenge the powers that be - join them now!

This parallel reality is a dystopia where magic exists, but open practitioners are unheard of. Wealth hoards power and these usurpers who cannot wield it enslave those who do. Ghostlike Crime is set up to be as grim or gonzo as you like.

Get It Here!

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Soul of the Serpent King

Soul Of the Serpent King is an adventure by Jürgen Mayer. Art is by Luka Rejec. This is a free, unofficial expansion for Edgar Johnson's Blood for the Serpent King, which can also be used as a 2nd level standalone scenario. The publisher is Dead Cyclops Blog.

The author says, "If you're using this with Blood for the Serpent King, note that I have exchanged the lake in area 3-2 with a desert, because my home group just played a certain Harley Stroh adventure that also has a pyramid in an underground lake in a cave, and I wanted some variety. You can just run that area like Edgar intended, or use my sandy adjustments as described in the chapter Striders on the Starless Sands." (Formatting mine and links are mine.)

Included in the adventure is a table for Invoke Serpent King's Favor, although there is not a full patron write up.

It's Free!

Get It Here!

Steading of the Nergalites

Steading of the Nergalites is a level 1-2 adventure by Paul Wolfe, with art by David Fisher (cover) and Paul Wolfe (cartography), as well as a map image borrowed from UK5: The Eye of the Serpent, which this is an unofficial fan-made sequel of. The publisher is Mystic Bull Games.

As the author explains, this adventure spun off from his own home campaign, utilizing a number of published adventures by himself and others. Like myself, the author found himself converting/adapting UK5: The Eye of the Serpent to Dungeon Crawl Classics. This adventure is the result. Aficionados of DCC adventures might recognize Qo, the Twin-Headed Snake and Destroyer of Worlds, from The Tomb of Curses.

Although the adventure was written to take place in the ancient past, judges could easily have the Children of Qo surviving in some out-of-the-way corner of the world. A tropical setting, with the ravens reskinned to become parrots, would be ideal.

The author says "There’s another piece that I haven’t finished whereby the characters pass either into the realm of Qo (Area 26) or to the Temple of Nergal (Area 22B). Maybe I’ll get to it someday." Until such time as Paul Wolfe gets around to writing the Temple of Nergal, the judge may consider substituting the Barrowmaze. Area 375 of Barrowmaze Complete was once the Great Temple of Nergal and is now the home of the great black lich-dragon Ossithrax Pejorative. The judge would have to do some conversion work - and I would include in this building the lich-dragon anew using the tables for dragons and un-dead in the core rulebook - but the effect would be worth it, and the Barrowmaze offers a wide region to explore!

The ancient shrine of Nergal, God of the White Sun, lies under Rurarik Mountain, a dead testament to the division within the dwarven outcasts’ devotion to the Nergalite prophet, Agol Umberstone. When the Dissenter gathered his own believers around the banners of Qo, the Twin-Headed Snake and Destroyer of Worlds, his Nergalite brethren converted or died at their hands. Now, ages later, the devotees to Qo are starting to stir in their cocoons, ready to emerge in their new forms and their new purpose to free the Destroyer from her eons-long prison!

It's free!

Get It Here!

For Different Versions, Get It Here!

Monday, 17 February 2020

Spellburn Podcast

Spellburn is the original Dungeon Crawl Classics podcast, having first aired on June 11, 2013. The current hosts (of this writing) are the Judges Jen Brinkman, Julian Bernick, Jarrett Crader, and Jeff Goad. Former hosts include Judges Jobe Bittman, Jim Wampler, and Jeffrey Tadlock. The important requirements for hosting this podcast appear to be an abiding love for Dungeon Crawl Classics and a first name that starts with the letter "J".

Disclosure: I have been a guest on Spellburn (twice at the time of this writing). I have written into the Spellburn mailbag. My writing or other products have been discussed. I have contributed three creatures (at the time of this writing) to the Dungeon Denizens on the podcast blog: The Wampler, the Demon of the Sands, and the Giant Ambush Bug.

At the time of this writing, there are already 90 episodes of Spellburn, ranging from examinations of specific rules or classes to examinations of official and third party authors and publications. In short, if there is a DCC-related topic that you want more information on, there is very likely to be a Spellburn episode that covers it. And, thankfully, the good folks at Spellburn have provided a site search function!

In addition, there is the aforementioned Dungeon Denizens section, which contains a myriad of listener-and-guest created monsters for the game. By my count, there are 14 creatures as I write this, and a number of them could be the driving force behind an adventure! See also How to Run a DCC RPG Tournament Funnel if you are thinking of jumping into the Road Crew with both feet!

For rules clarifications, insider scoops, and discussions of how to use the material in both the official and third-party sources, there really is no better source.

Listen To It Here!

The Stars are Falling

AL 1-5 The Stars are Falling is a series of adventures taking PCs from level 1 to 3, written by Daniel J. Bishop, Paul Wolfe, and David Pryzbyla. Art is by Gary Dupuis (including cover), Tamas Baranya, Jacob Blackmon, Luigi Castellani, Christopher Heilmann, Marc Radle, and Kristian Richards (cartography). The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I have credits as a writer, editor, and playtester in this product.

Cast your mind back to 2013. People were in love with Dungeon Crawl Classics, but the question of how to make a campaign out of it kept cropping up on blogs and on the long-lamented G+ DCC group. Mark Gedak, the publisher at Purple Duck Games, had five adventures in the AL (Adventure Location) series at that time, and asked if I could write some text that bridged them into a cohesive whole.

In addition to that bridging text, The Stars are Falling collects AL 2: Sepulcher of the Mountain God by Paul Wolfe, AL 1: Bone Hoard of the Dancing Horror by Daniel J. Bishop, AL 3: Through the Cotillion of Hours by Daniel J. Bishop, AL 4: The Way Station by Dave Przbyla, and AL 5: Stars in the Darkness by Daniel J. Bishop.

The bridging text gives some thought to adding a funnel to the mix to start your adventurers on their way, and then offers specific changes to the adventures so that one leads into the next. In short, this compilation allows you to purchase five adventures at a good price, and gives the prospective judge an example of how minor changes in DCC adventures can help to weave them into a cohesive whole.

Destiny calls, Adventurers! 

Forgotten tombs, ancient laboratories, the decadent palace of the God of Dreams, plundered and dusty dwarven holdfasts, and the ferociously defended territories of the Herders and Hounds of the Stars themselves!

There are mysteries to be solved within these pages, crafty and horrific enemies to defeat, and treasures both monetary and magical to claim for your own.  Pray to your gods, strap on your shield, and sharpen your knives: The Stars are Falling, and it is up to you to stop them-and make a little coin on the way...

Purple Duck Games' Adventure Locales One through Five for Dungeon Crawl Classics are here packaged with an intriguing framework story to take you on a story arc of wonder and fun for characters levels 1 to 3.

Dare you stop the stars from falling?

Get It Here!

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Stars in the Darkness

AL 5: Stars in the Darkness is a 3rd level adventure by Daniel J. Bishop. Art is by Christopher Heilmann (including cover), Kristian Richards (cartography), Pawel Dobosz, and The Forge Studios. The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I am the author.

Man, this adventure was a fun one to write. See that picture on the cover? A painting by the same artist, Christopher Heilmann, was the inspiration from which all else was woven. Add to that the cartography of Kristian Richards, which depicted (to my mind) great Abysses as cosmic gulfs, some Appendix N stories, some H. Rider Hagard, and H.G. Wells' morlocks, and you have this adventure. Along with The Revelation of Mulmo, this rewrites elves into something a bit darker than they are in many other games.

Stars in the Darkness makes serious use of birth augurs and Luck scores. In fact, it is the first DCC adventure (to my knowledge) to make use of temporary Luck that must be spent before it is gone.

The adventure takes place in a "conceptual space" which, while the PCs may need to journey to reach it, both doesn't exist in the real world and intersects with many parallel worlds. Naturally, a party from such a world is included - and they have a different memory of what the areas they passed through were like! This allows the judge to have either replacement characters or potential antagonists as needed.

I have written adventures that take you to other planets - The Dread God Al-Khazadar and The Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn. I have written adventures that touch upon other planes of existence. This is, though, the most cosmic thing that I have written. It touches upon a time span exceeding millennia, and it concerns the fate of the multiverse itself.

This adventure is included in the Purple Duck compilation, The Stars are Falling.

In millennia past, the ancestors of the elves protected the stars as they followed their courses, for there are wolves in the outer dark.  Yet what manner of creature would dare to consume stars as though they were sheep in the field?  And what has become of the ancient starherds who once stopped such monsters?  For such a monster is back - Urstah, the Star-Drinker.  Stars are disappearing from the night sky, and with the loss of those stars, luck is being drained from the world.  Your luck.  Dare you enter the caverns, face the star-drinker, and release the stars in darkness?

Get It Here!

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Steel and Fury

Steel and Fury: Combat Maneuvres of the Mighty, is a sourcebook written by Marzio Muscedere. Art is by Gary Dupuis and Matt Morrow. The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I have a credit for Feedback in this product.

Frankly, my feedback was largely limited to "This is brilliant!" Steel and Fury is described, rightly, by Endzeitgeist as "perhaps one of THE absolutely required, must-own pdfs you can get for DCC". Of course, it comes in print too.

So, what makes Steel and Fury so awesome?

It is a collection of Mighty Deeds of Arms, which takes into account the weapon being used and sometimes the specific circumstances of the combat. If you wanted your warrior (or dwarf) to perform the kinds of combat actions that occur in Appendix N fiction, this is for you.

In addition, the author introduces the Mighty Critical and the Mighty Fumble. With these systems, there are additional effects when both the Deed Die is at its highest possible value and the Action Die falls within the character's critical range, or when both are natural "1"s. These results are specific to the Deed attempted, and both take the place of the normal Critical or Fumble roll.

All of these results require the judge to adjudicate how applicable they are in a given situation. As the author says, "If the judge doesn’t think a warrior’s punch can shatter a dragon’s jaw...then it can’t. Or if a warrior’s roll results in a severed arm on a creature with no arms then the judge can change it in a manner he sees fit. A judge may also slide the warrior’s deed result up or down on the table dependent upon the situation, strength of opponent or any other contributing factor."

One neat thing about this system is that, as a warrior rises in level, their Deed Die also increases, making a Mighty Critical less likely. But, as the warrior's critical effects are getting better, and the Mighty Critical replaces these when it occurs, over time the warrior still tends to get more awesome effects anyway. The low-level warrior is therefore given a small boost - at the risk of a Mighty Fumble! - but the higher-level warrior is not penalized. As the Deed Die grows, the chances of a Mighty Fumble also go down.

The warrior is the cornerstone of any adventuring party. Rushing to meet insurmountable odds head on, face to face with dangerous enemies and loathsome creatures. Armed with steel and fury, a warrior does the dirty work up close and personal, with grisly effect. Yet in the gaming world, outside of a lucky critical hit, this doesn’t always seem to translate well. With Steel and Fury combat becomes more than simply standing toe to toe and following the pattern of...I go.

Combat becomes dynamic and fluid, with combatants taking advantage of tactics and their surroundings. But most of all combat becomes dangerous and in the hands of a skilled warrior combat becomes downright deadly. Now with the use of Steel and Fury, warriors become even more deadly and rightfully so. Showcasing mastery over the weapons they wield by delivering devastating attacks and using the environment to execute precise and skillful maneuvers.

The following Mighty Deeds of Arms are torn straight from the bloody pages of Appendix N material for use by warriors as they quest for gold and glory. Although watching a cultist burn after kicking him into a raging bonfire is a fun and effective way of using a Mighty Deed, sometimes you just want to shatter your foe’s spine or split someone’s skull to the teeth in a spray of blood and brains. With Steel and Fury your game gains a more cinematic and visceral feel, making the warrior a fun and deadly class to play, not just a meat shield able to absorb damage.

Get It Here!

Friday, 14 February 2020

Stronghold of the Wood Giant Shaman

Stronghold of the Wood Giant Shaman is a 5th-level adventure by Stephen Newton. Illustration is by Catherine Harkins DiNardo, Catherine MacDougall, Susanne MacDougall, William MacDougall, Reba Pyron, and Antonio Layos Tira (cover). The publisher is Thick Skull Adventures.

Disclosure: I am given a credit for Editing, Proofreading, and Suggestions. I am also listed in the Special Thanks to  supporters. Finally, this product uses additional patron material from Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between, published by Dragon’s Hoard Publishing, Daniel J. Bishop and Paul Wolfe authors, copyright 2012.

Back in the day, Gary Gygax penned the classic G1 Steading of the Giant Chief, G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, and G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King. For those of us who remember those adventures fondly, the Stronghold of the Wood Giant Shaman creates a certain nostalgic echo reverberating deep in our gamer hearts. The author, of course, is a little bit canny about this connection, but I feel that the assumption is warranted...and, also, as this is me making the claim rather than the author, I don't think anyone can get in trouble!

Stronghold of the Wood Giant Shaman has received an Endzeitgeist review and has been discussed in a Goodman Games community publisher profile. It has also been discussed on Spellburn. At least twice. Yet, either because of its relatively high level (for a DCC adventure), or for some other reason, I feel that Stronghold has never gotten the attention it deserves.

In addition to a fine adventure (which makes sense for the judge to place as a persistent location even before the PCs reach the exalted level 5), the adventure offers a couple of neat rules. The “Occupation Bonus” check is a bit of an extension of the skill system, or, perhaps, just a way of interpreting the skill system bonuses as it exists in the core rulebook. The use of a d22 is a bit of its own thing, meant to show that wood giants "are formidable foes, but still weaker than other giant races". Rules for rolling a d22 using a 1d20 and 1d6 (or 1d3) are provided.  Speaking of which, wood giants get their own special table for Critical Hits.

The adventure also contains several monsters that are apropos for a North American fantasy game, such as the squatch and the catfish troll, making it a potential fit companion for a Shudder Mountains campaign.

The adventure gives some information on a new patron, Veedarkaleesh, but lacks a patron write-up. This is a shame, specifically, because an invoke patron dedicated to Veedarkaleesh might be attempted in actual play. Perhaps a patron write-up might occur in a future Thick Skull compilation?  Or perhaps a future edition of the Gong Farmer's Almanac? Until then, I would recommend that the judge choose their favorite patron and then adjust the spell results to reflect Veedarkaleesh's themes of blood and shadows.

Wood giants—animalistic evolutionary ancestors of hill giants—have emerged from the forests of the Fulthon Mountains to harry and pillage human villages with impunity. Ferocious and feral, they kidnap the weak to sacrifice in their barbaric rituals. Decades ago, your ancestors—stout and brave adventurers of renown—eliminated a previous giant threat, and thus people expect such heroism from you.

But not is all at it seems, as a chaotic force lurks behind the scenes. And if survival against a stronghold of ferocious giants wasn’t challenging enough, the machinations of facing an insane, immortal demon certainly will be…

Get It Here!

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Sunken City Omnibus

The Sunken City Adventure Omnibus and Guide was written by Jon Marr with additional writing by Jeffrey Tadlock. Art is by Jon Marr (including cover) and Benjamin Marr. The publisher is Purple Sorcerer Games.

This book collects Perils of the Sunken City, The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk, A Gathering of the Marked, and Lair of the Mist Men in one handy volume. These are sandwiched between a chapter introducing the material, and a chapter on Adventuring in the Sunken City.

The introductory chapter offers background information and thanks for the support that Purple Sorcerer has received over the years. Given the utility (ever increasing) of the Crawler's Companion and the Purple Sorcerer Free DCC Tools, it is really we who owe Jon Marr a great deal of thanks!

This chapter also offers Why The Sunken City?,
Handling The Funnel, and The Tao of TPK, which provide the rationale behind the Sunken City itself, and how it relates to funnel adventures in Dungeon Crawl Classics. These things are worth looking at for new judges and old hands alike.

It is the final chapter, however, where the Omnibus distinguishes itself from merely purchasing the adventures separately. Herein we find:

New Patron: Malloc: Written by Jeffrey Tadlock, this is a full write-up of the evil tree patron found in Perils of the Sunken City. Even better, the patron is included in the Purple Sorcerer Free DCC Tools, which means that your wizard or elf can generate a grimoire with all the necessary patron information!

Creatures of the Swamp: There are a number of new monsters which can be found in the Sunken City. These can help you develop your own adventures in the setting. A full class write-up for oppossumen characters is also provided!

Honest Orkoff: Adventure Seeds: Honest Orkoff first appeared in Crawl! Fanzine #2. This section reprints that material, and adds a section on Leads to Interesting Treasure.

Items of Eldritch Wonder: This section contains 22 magic items of dubious value to the PCs. For those playing at the table, though, they should provide some serious fun. Who doesn't want a lead chicken of occasional wisdom?

Demo and Con Tips: Jon Marr provides about half a page of tips. Some of these tips are universal; most relate to getting the biggest bang for your buck with the adventures included in The Sunken City Adventure Omnibus.

This product also comes with a massive 84-page master appendix in pdf format, containing extra content, pregenerated characters, player maps, 1-inch scale battle maps, and over 150 paper miniatures.

Get It Here!

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Surviving Kalmatta – A Player’s Guide to The Treasure Vaults of Zadabad

Surviving Kalmatta: A Player's Guide to the Treasure Vaults of Zadabad was written by Carl Bussler and Eric Hoffman, with cartography by Carl Bussler and Eric Hoffman. The publisher is Stormlord Publishing.

This product is a guide for players who are going to face the challenges of The Treasure Vaults of Zadabad. Kalmatta is the main island that the adventure takes place on.  The Guide serves to orient the PCs without giving away any of the adventure’s meat, and to provide a place for players to make notes, maps of their own, or fill in the unmarked map of the island itself.

The pdf is free.

The Swamp Daughters of Marshund

The Swamp Daughters of Marshsund is an adventure by Oliver Korpilla and Mattia Giardini. Arct is by Bernd Jans (cover), MonkeyBlood Design (some elements used in map design), and the public domain. Cartography is by Dyson Logos and Oliver Korpilla. The publisher is Mount Parnassus Games. No level is given in the text, but this interview at the Goodman Games site indicates that it is a level 3 adventure, as does the product page on DriveThru RPG (“level 3 or higher”).

I am going to suggest that the seeds for this adventure could be set even in the 0-level funnel, as it provides a mini-setting with a hex crawl, rules for foraging, and local communities as well as the titular problem driving the narrative. Is there a dungeon? Yes, but it is not terribly large, and the setting material can drive play for many sessions before and after the Swamp Daughters themselves are resolved. This adventure is a bit of an odd bird with published DCC work, because there is no doubt that it is pitched towards campaign play rather than use as a one-shot adventure. The generous OGL terms all but invite you to expand upon it.

Although The Swamp Daughters of Marshsund came out in October of 2014, as of this writing I haven’t seen a lot of discussion about it, so I am going to avoid spoilers.  As with The Headless Horseman, it is clear that the authors’ experience with other games informed their design here. In fact, the words “Stat Block (DCC)” appear before every statblock, suggesting that a version for a different system was at least considered.

If you are looking for a plausible basis to build a campaign setting, this provides a simply developed but narratively complex starting point. The actual adventure could be built up to, so that the players felt that they actually know the Marshsund villagers before events unfold. In this case, the judge would be well advised to create some additional marsh encounters, and place other potential adventures in the vicinity. The Croaking Fane would definitely fit in here. The Folk of Osmon is more of a stretch, but is a possibility.

The people of Marshsund have allied with strange powers, but for almost a hundred years nobody bothered investigating. Now the daughter of a powerful lord has gone missing in the Dystermarsh, and he is looking to you for help. Can your players unravel the mystery of the Swamp Daughters and find a solution in time?