Thursday, 11 March 2021

The Palace of Unquiet Repose

The Palace of Unquiet Repose is a 3rd level adventure by Prince of Nothing. Art is by Malrex (including mapping), Chris Cold (including cover), Eray Erkoc, Gilgangarmi, James Vail, and "Anonymous Donor" (also mapping). The publisher is The Merciless Merchants.

Where to begin?

This product is the product of a successful Kickstarter that I somehow did not discover or back. It was originally written for Labyrinth Lord, with the DCC version seemingly having come about because they blew past their funding goals and took a poll for which additional system to convert it to.

The DCC conversion is clunky in places. I recommend that the experienced judge go through this with care, adjusting statistics and effects to better reflect the system. If you are less familiar with DCC, but conversant with other OSR games, you can probably make adjustments on the fly where needed. Just port in the rules you need when you need them.

Whether you are fully conversant with DCC or not, you will want to read this adventure through before you try to run it. There are a lot of moving parts, and there are several instances where you will want to be certain that you know how you are going to present areas to the PCs. There is no descriptive text, which is probably a good thing with this adventure, but there are places where more description would help. 

There is also a lot of treasure in here, so I would strongly caution the judge to dial back the gold piece values of things to about 10% of listed value. Even so, PCs could be fabulously wealthy when they leave the Palace. If they leave it at all. This is not just a TPK waiting to happen, it is several sequential TPKs.

If the foregoing makes it sound as though this adventure should be skipped, please accept my most sincere apologies. Running this well is going to be a challenge, but it is also going to be awesome for everyone involved. Although it nominally takes place in the Age of Dusk campaign setting, this can easily by altered by the judge. The Age of Dusk sounds like it falls somewhere between Zothique and the Dying Earth, albeit darker, though, so I would certainly be interested in learning more about the setting. The adventure doesn't just evoke a Sword & Sorcery feeling; it screams it from the rooftops until its voice is hoarse. To say that it is worth the effort to run it is a tremendous understatement.

The adventure is a relatively recent one, and I really don't want to spoil it for potential players or judges. I will say that I was intrigued reading the Adventure Hooks, loved the journey across the Glass Wastes, and then jumped into the Appendixes to better understand the adventure location proper. By this time I was well and truly hooked. Discretion is sometimes the better part of valor, and, if your players understand that they can do quite well. Or not. I would personally place this adventure as a persistent location that "activates" when the PCs are in the vicinity of the Glass Wastes and have reached the appropriate level. 4th and 5th level PCs will also find this a challenge, in my opinion, so I would be glad to let the area develop over time.

Let me add that when I was reading this I kept imagining Conan and other Pulp-Age heroes from Appendix N dealing with the encounters and scenarios in the module. There are factions to negotiate with, make alliances with, or oppose. Their are some great monsters who are truly monstrous. There are things that the PCs probably can't kill. There are also plenty of things to kill, and the best "owlbears" I have ever encountered. And the Wolves of Final Night? Every player deserved to encounter one at least once, and thereafter the mere mention will induce panic. As much as I wish the DCC conversion was more professionally completed, there is material herein that I very much wish I had written. 

The adventure also contains two complete patrons (including invoke patron results, patron taint, spellburn, and patron spells) which are actually relevant to the adventure: The Tesseract Tree and Uyu-Yadmogh. 

Uyu-Yadmogh. Prince of Princes. Archmage. Devourer of Children. Under the earth he built himself a palace in which he could abide eternity. Now he is only half-remembered legend.

The ground trembles, the earth is split asunder. In the sunken depths of the earth, the Palace awaits.

An adventure for those who dare.

Get It Here!

Sunday, 7 February 2021

The Jester

The Jester was written by Gustavo Tertoleone. Art is by Gustavo Tertoleone. The publisher is Black Dog.

This product is a single class (the Jester) with three progressions, suitable for Old School Essentials/Caves & Hexes, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and Dungeon Crawl Classics. The format is a pdf that can be printed double-sided and folded into a pamphlet (with a C-Fold or Z-Fold, if you have the equipment available to do this for you; the layout suggests a C-Fold).

The heart of the class is a "Chaos Roll" - a d66 roll that allows the Jester to alter reality around them in several ways. The d66 is rolled with two different d6; one to indicate the "10s" place and the other to indicate the "1s" place, for a total of 36 different potential effects. The number of times that a Jester can roll on the table each day is also randomized, with higher-level Jesters getting more rolls.

This is a class that I would definitely allow into games that I run. The judge will have to adjudicate some of the "Chaos Roll" effects, but that should not be difficult.

A note on the art/typeface: If you look at the illustration, there is a "3D without 3D glasses" kind of effect that some might find headache inducing. It is appropriate for the class, but it might be hard to look at. The majority of the text is easier to read, but the numbers on the "Chaos Roll" use the same effect.

For those willing to play your favorite OSR game with a chaotic individual, the jester is here!

In this pamphlet you will find 4 different progression charts for Jesters: Old School Essentials, Caves & Hexes, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

You will also find a D66 table with the chaotic actions, the big thing behind the jester class! It is a table full of chaotic elements inspired by the most classic cartoons from the previous century.

Get It Here!

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Content Conversion Mapping Inventory (Pathfinder/5E/P2E/OSR/DCC/d20 3.5)

Content Conversion Mapping Inventory (Pathfinder/5E/P2E/OSR/DCC/d20 3.5) was written by J. Evans Payne. Art is by Jack Kaiser. The publisher is Infinium Game Studios.

This product is an Excel sheet with tabs for Intro, Creature, Poisons, Weapons, Feats, Skills, Spells. It is intended to support the Content Conversion Guide by the same author and publisher. Presumably, the art credit is for the cover.

I have argued about the usefulness of this series of products here and here. Of the series, this is the least useful of the products for a Dungeon Crawl Classics judge. Only Creature, Poisons, and Weapons map to DCC

The Creature tab contains listings for creature special abilities which are, in this author's opinion, are very poorly done. These do not make good use of the unique mechanics of DCC, and they do not reduce the verbosity of Pathfinder in any meaningful way.

In a Facebook thread, I took a closer look at a special ability of the Chaos Beast, as described in this series of products:

Claw - contact (curse); save Fortitude; effect amorphous body and 1 Intelligence damage per round; cure 3 consecutive saves. A creature cursed with an amorphous body becomes a spongy, shapeless mass. Unless the victim manages to control the effect (see below), its shape constantly melts, flows, writhes, and boils. An affected creature is unable to hold or use any item. Clothing, armor, helmets, and rings become useless. Large items worn or carried - armor, backpacks, even shirts - hamper more than help, reducing the victim's Agility score by 4. Speed is reduced to 10 feet or one-quarter normal, whichever is less. The victim gains the amorphous quality, but cannot cast spells or use magic items, and it attacks blindly, unable to distinguish friend from foe (dis+4 bonus on attack rolls and a 50% miss chance, regardless of the attack roll). A victim can temporarily regain its own shape by taking a standard action to attempt a Intelligence save (same DC as the initial save). A success reestablishes the creature's normal form for 1 minute. Spells that change the victim's shape (such as alter self, beast shape, elemental body, and polymorph) do not remove the curse, but hold the creature in a stable form (which might not be its own form, depending on the spell) and prevent additional Intelligence damage for the duration of the spell; shapechange and stoneskin have a similar effect. The victim takes 1 point of Intelligence damage from mental shock every round that it ends its turn in an amorphous shape - upon being drained to 1 Intelligence, further Intelligence drain ceases and the amorphous body effect is permanent until removed via magic (no further number of saving throws can cure the condition at this time). Ability score damage from this effect is restored after a long rest, or via restoration or more powerful healing magic.

What game is this person playing? My first draft rewrite, which took no more than 5 minutes to consider, write, and post, was 

A creature touched by a Chaos Beast begins to lose form, expressed as 1d3 points of damage to a random ability score each round a DC 15 Fort save is failed. This damage heals at a rate of 1 point per turn (10 minutes) without contact, but the victim may still suffer corruption as a result.

Per 3 full points of ability damage taken, a DC 5 Will save must be made to avoid 1 minor corruption.

Per 5 full points of ability damage taken, a DC 10 Will save must be made to avoid 1 major corruption.

Per 10 full points of ability damage taken, a DC 15 Will save must be made to avoid 1 greater corruption.

These effects are cumulative, so that a character who has taken 6 points of ability score damage may suffer 2 minor and 1 major corruptions, depending upon the results of their saves.

Way more DCC. Altering an ability to something that works within the DCC rules is preferable (in my opinion, at least) to keeping an ability exactly the same and then layering condition rules into the game in order to make it work.

The Poisons and Weapons tabs have problems as well. "Con" is not an ability score in DCC. Clubs do 1d4, not 1d6 damage. This is, in effect, the Content Conversion Guide without the useful advice about Hit Dice, attack modifiers, or saves. This might be fantastically useful for people running Pathfinder or 5th Edition, but it is unlikely to help you convert Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures to those systems either. As such, for DCC judges, I cannot recommend it.

This Excel document is the optional companion to the Content Conversion Guide. 

This Content Conversion Mapping Inventory contains complete lists of mappings from Pathfinder First Edition content into 5E/Fifth Edition, Pathfinder Second Edition (P2E), OSR, DCC, and/or d20/v3.5, as appropriate for each content type as discussed in the Guide.

If you've ever wanted to take adventure content from one system and use it in another, this book has been designed to be of invaluable help. 

For D/GM/judge/referees, for game designers, for indie RPG authors, or for someone looking to investigate the mechanics of other TIRPG rules systems, this book is designed to be a massive accelerant to the conversion process and a window into the "secret sauce" that has made lnfinium Game Studios products unique in their ability to be used across a wide variety of PC levels and difficulties.

Get It Here!

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Aquilae: Bestiary of the Realm Abridged (DCC/Dungeon Crawl Classics)

Aquilae: Bestiary of the Realm Abridged (DCC/Dungeon Crawl Classics)
was written by J. Evans Payne. Art is by Jack Kaiser (including cover), Karen Martin, and J. Payne (iconography and cartography). The publisher is Infinium Game Studios.

What we have here is a massive - and I do mean massive - number of creatures converted from Pathfinder to the Dungeon Crawl Classics system. This thing has over 400 pages, with over 400 entries, each of which has four separate stat blocks depending upon the power level the judge needs. To say that this is a monumental undertaking is to utterly understate the case.

This is the Abridged version for DCC, so it only contains DCC stats and has fewer monsters than the full version. Apart from a few minor quibbles - DCC has Stamina, not Constitution! - the book is mechanically sound. My issues with the Content Conversion Guide apply here as well. Crom on His Mountain, I don't want Pathfinder Conditions and its Action economy in my DCC game, although I do see the value in understanding how it might apply.

In the end, this book is going to give you a good starting place for your own conversion work. If you take the entry for, say, Bear (Grizzly), you could rule that the average bear used the Moderate Quad, that a black bear used the Low Quad, a polar bear was Advanced, and something truly horrendous (and, effectively a named monster) was based off of the Elite Quad. In this way, you could use the Quad System while maintaining the type of milieu persistence that changing stats to reflect PC abilities destroys.

As with the Content Conversion Guide, I am breaking tradition by including an interior shot, so that the reader may compare the author's statistics for Sahuagin with my own.

One of the stated goals of the Auilae project was to create an authoritative source for conversion. While the tools supplied are valuable, I would strongly urge the prospective judge to reject this goal. For one thing, if there were an authoritative source for DCC statblocks, it would be the core rulebook, and in several cases monsters appear differently herein. More importantly, when he penned the immortal words "Make Monsters Mysterious", Joseph Goodman pushed away forever the idea that one judge's idea of a lamia must (or even should) match that of another. And that is a very good thing.

In effect, this is a very useful start for converting material, but it should not be the end. When you do use monsters from here, strongly consider altering them to reflect the tone of DCC. How would this being appear if presented in an Appendix N story? What about an adventure by Michael Curtis, Harley Stroh, Joseph Goodman, or Brendan LaSalle? I would also suggest that, rather than converting dragons or demons directly, you consider building them anew from the tables in the Dungeon Crawl Classics core rulebook

Judges out there might be wondering exactly what is converted herein. You will find a listing for (deep breath) Aboleth, Achaierai, Angel (Astral Deva), Angel (Planetar), Angel (Solar), Ankheg, Ant (Drone), Ant (Giant), Ant (Queen), Ant (Worker), Ape (Dire), Ape (Gorilla), Archon (Hound), Archon (Lantern), Archon (Trumpet), Assassin Vine, Athach, Azata (Bralani), Azata (Ghaele), Azata (Lillend), Azer, Badger, Barghest, Barghest (Greater), Basidrond, Basileus, Bat, Bat (Dire), Bat Swarm, Bear (Dire), Bear (Grizzly), Bebilith, Beetle (Fire), Beetle (Giant Stag), Behir, Black Pudding, Blink Dog, Boar, Boar (Dire), Boggard, Bugbear, Bulette, Cat, Cat (Cheetah), Cat (Leopard), Cave Fisher, Centaur, Centipede (Giant Whiptail), Centipede (Giant), Centipede (Great Forest), Centipede (Hisser), Centipede (House), Centipede (Sewer), Centipede (Titan), Centipede Swarm, Chaos Beast, Chimera (Black-Headed), Chimera (Blue-Headed), Chimera (Green-Headed), Chimera (Red-Headed), Chimera (White-Headed), Choker, Chuul, Cloaker, Cockatrice, Couatl, Crab (Giant Coconut), Crab (Giant King), Crab (Giant Reef), Crab (Giant Rock), Crab (Giant Shark-Eating), Crab (Giant Shipwrecker), Crab (Giant), Crab Swarm, Crawling Hand, Crocodile, Crocodile (Dire), Cyclops, Dark Creeper, Dark Stalker, Darkmantle, Demon (Babau), Demon (Balor), Demon (Dretch), Demon (Glabrezu), Demon (Hezrou), Demon (Marilith), Demon (Nabasu), Demon (Nalfeshnee), Demon (Quasit), Demon (Schir), Demon (Succubus), Demon (Vrock), Derro, Destrachan, Devil (Barbed/Hamatula), Devil (Bearded/Barbazu), Devil (Bone/Osyluth), Devil (Erinyes/The Furies), Devil (Horned/Cornugon), Devil (Ice/Gelugon), Devil (Imp), Devil (Lemure), Devil (Pit Fiend), Devourer, Dinosaur (Ankylosaurus), Dinosaur (Brachiosaurus), Dinosaur (Deinonychus), Dinosaur (Pteranodon), Dinosaur (Stegosaurus), Dinosaur (Triceratops), Dinosaur (Tyrannosaurus), Dog, Dog (Riding), Dolphin, Dolphin (Orca), Doppelganger, Dragon (Black, Adult), Dragon (Black, Young), Dragon (Blue, Adult), Dragon (Black, Ancient), Dragon (Brass, Ancient), Dragon (Brass, Adult), Dragon (Brass, Young), Dragon (Brine, Adult), Dragon (Bronze, Ancient), Dragon (Bronze, Adult), Dragon (Bronze, Young), Dragon (Copper, Ancient), Dragon (Copper, Adult), Dragon (Copper, Young), Dragon (Faerie), Dragon (Gold, Ancient), Dragon (Gold, Adult), Dragon (Gold, Young), Dragon (Green, Ancient), Dragon (Green, Adult), Dragon (Green, Young), Dragon (Red, Ancient), Dragon (Red, Adult), Dragon (Red, Young), Dragon (Silver, Ancient), Dragon (Silver, Adult), Dragon (Silver, Young), Dragon (White, Ancient), Dragon (White, Adult), Dragon (White, Young), Dragon Turtle, Drider, Drow, Drow Noble, Dryad, Duergar, Dullahan....

Well, that gets you through as far as the "D"s anyway. The discerning judge will notice that there is plenty of overlap with monsters already published for DCC. In other cases, DCC-specific resources (such as The Lesser Key to the Celestial Legion for angels and other divine servants) might bring more satisfying results. The judge is also warned that these are only statistic; if you do not know what a Dullahan is, you will need to look it up elsewhere.

The sales test on DriveThru says "Add to this a thoroughly innovative and massively expandable AI system to guide monster behavior, and you have what just might be the most impressive and valuable creature resource ever to hit Pathfinder, 5E, Pathfinder Second Edition, OSR, and DCC." but I do not see any system like that in this product.

Again, the judge may find this product quite useful when starting on the journey of converting materials to Dungeon Crawl Classics. I would caution that judge to consider it guidance at the start of that journey, however, rather than an end in and of itself. If you have enough time to consult this volume, you probably also have enough time to use it as a springboard rather than stopping with what you find.

Get It Here!

Content Conversion Guide

The Content Conversion Guide (Pathfinder/5E/P2E/OSR/DCC/d20 3.5) was written by J. Evans Payne. Art is by Jack Kaiser (including cover), Karen Martin, and J. Payne (iconography). The publisher is Infinium Game Studios.

If you own a lot of material for role-playing games, and the game you are using has changed over the years, who would not want to convert material from one system to another? Why would you not want to use The Keep on the BorderlandsCastle Whiterock, or Hungry Are The Dead using Dungeon Crawl ClassicsI have discussed this in the past myself. This product offers a streamlined way to do that.

The author has clearly put a lot of work into this, and it does provide a good starting place for people who want a mechanical way to convert various games into Dungeon Crawl Classics. But, I have some reservations here. I tend to think that, if you take these reservations into account, you will be able to make better use of the tools provided herein.

(For those who want qualifications, I did the official conversions of DCC #76.5: Well of the WormDCC #79.5: Tower of the Black PearlDCC #82.5: Dragora's DungeonDCC #85.5: The Curse of the Kingspire, the GM Gems Hardcover Second PrintingXcrawl: Anaheim CrawlXcrawl: BostonCrawl, and Xcrawl: Dungeonbattle Brooklyn for Goodman Games. I also did the conversions of PM 1: Temple of the Locust LordPM 2: Desolate Dwarven DelveRaces of Porphyra: Erkunae, and Races of Porphyra: Ith'n Ya'roo for Purple Duck Games.)

Apart from some quibbles, the mechanical conversion is sound. This assumes, however, that what you want is roughly the same experience of an encounter, translated from one system to another. I do not think that this is ideal. For instance, in converting more powerful monsters from 3.X-based OGL versions of the critter, I typically reduce their Hit Dice. Frankly, one of the reasons that I left 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons for Dungeon Crawl Classics is that I don't want a single battle to drag on past the point where it is interesting. For a similar reason, I don't bother listing all of the abilities of a creature, and try to focus on its core abilities that will be useful in a given adventure. For the most part, this conversion system does the same.

Here are my reservations:

(1) I am fundamentally opposed to the idea of altering creatures to meet the abilities of characters. I am not opposed to altering a creature to meet the needs of an adventure, and I would contend that there is a subtle but distinct difference. In a game like Dungeon Crawl Classics, there is a baseline set by the 0-level funnel and by constants in the world. Things like Armor Class, or the DCs for thieve's skills, do not change - the PCs just become better as they level. The "average person" standard set in the funnel can be used to reflect the entire world. A 3rd-level warrior is fantastic judged by that standard.

When creatures meet the needs of the adventure, that standard can be maintained. When creatures alter to allow, say, an orc to be challenging at any level, then orcs are no longer tied to an objective standard.

(2) One of the truly wonderful things about Dungeon Crawl Classics is the advice to Make Monsters Mysterious, and to decouple monsters from the treasure that they carry. This volume will not help you with that. 

For a great example of what I mean, think about the listing for Skeleton in the core rulebook. It doesn't just describe a single creature; it gives you a table of variants for that creature. Similar things occur with many other creatures. 

On top of this, many DCC creatures cleave closer to their Appendix N sources. DCC trolls and Pathfinder trolls are not the same creatures. Related to that, the idea that "That was a tough encounter! There must be a big treasure!" cheapens (for me, at least) the feeling of discovery in the game as well as harming immersion.

In any event, you are not going to Make Monsters Mysterious by picking them from a menu.

(3) Related to this, I have argued in the past that DCC needs both mysterious creatures and persistent creatures.

Consider again the way the goblins, wolves, and eagles are used in The Hobbit.  They are not simply “throw away” creatures that appear in one chapter so that the creatures in the next chapter may be unique.  And all appear again in The Lord of the Rings.  Each of these volumes also has unique creatures which are encountered only in specific locations.

A persistent world needs persistent creatures; and Appendix N worlds also needs unique creatures.  The best of all possible worlds has both.  Horses, dogs, wolves, chickens, and pigs are certainly ubiquitous.  That Conan encounters lions in The Tower of the Elephant should not imply that there are no lions elsewhere in the world – quite the opposite, actually – but encountering Yag within the Tower should remain a unique occurrence.

New creatures allow for surprise, fear, and wonder.  Known creatures give a world depth, and allow choices to be made within a familiar context.  The discerning Judge will have to learn where to draw the line between the two.

This is further explicated in this post.

One of the advantages of long-term play in a persistent milieu is that you get to learn about that milieu through play. You may not know if fighting jackalmen is a good idea when you first encounter them, but you should have a fairly good idea about how powerful the average jackalman is by the time you have reached 3rd level and encountered them regularly.

The Quad System makes this impossible, because the abilities of the jackalmen now change with your abilities. In short, they lose the value of being persistent creatures because, mechanically, they are no longer persistent.

(4)  One of the key draws of Dungeon Crawl Classics is how cleanly and quickly it plays. Another is that you can find yourself in over your head at any moment. Adding Conditions and Challenge Ratings to the game harms these key strengths.

Nonetheless, taken as a starting point, this volume does have merit. And, as I said, it represents a considerable amount of work on the part of the author. This is the first time that I have ever included a second image, or an interior image, in a Treasure Trove entry. I have done this to give the reader a good idea of the kind of conversion this product provides. This is especially useful, in this case, because it can be compared to my own conversion of the Aboleth to DCC.

This product does have a very generous OGL, which, if my reading is correct, would allow one to use it to create publishable conversions. The product rightly notes that there is both an art and a science to conversion. This will undoubtedly help you with the science. I tend to fall on the side of the art.

If you've ever wanted to take adventure content from one system and use it in another, this book has been designed to be of invaluable help. 

For D/GM/judge/referees, for game designers, for indie RPG authors, or for someone looking to investigate the mechanics of other TTRPG rules systems, this book is designed to be a massive accelerant to the conversion process and a window into the "secret sauce" that has made Infinium Game Studios products unique in their ability to be used across a wide variety of PC levels and difficulties.

Get It Here!

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Sky Masters of the Purple Planet

DCC #84.3: Sky Masters of the Purple Planet is a 6th level adventure on the Purple Planet by Jim Wampler. Art is by Doug Kovacs (cover), Steve Crompton (cartography), William McAusland, and Stefan Poag. The publisher is Goodman Games.

If you are familiar with the Barsoom books of Edgar Rice Burroughs, you will know that pirates on flying ships appear in Chapter VI of The Gods of Mars. Unlike the pirates of Mars, though, the Sky Pirates are also winged, living in a citadel that reminds on of the Weiroo of Caspak. In fact, this short digest-sized adventure drips with the flavor of Edgar Rice Burroughs' planetary romances.It is also the first adventure to explore a wider part of the Purple Planet - leaving the Plateau offers a much wider world of adventure!

Flying ships are pretty common in the Barsoomian stories, and smaller versions can be found in Peril on the Purple Planet and The Dread God Al-Khazadar, both if which have clear Burroughs influences. Sky boats are quite a bit more central to this adventure, and the author provides all the rules you need to make aerial chases and engagements memorable.

Another strength of this adventure is that the PCs get to engage the Sky Pirates in the same way that John Carter or Carson of Venus engages his foes - through subtlety and wits rather than outright assault - the author makes certain that you understand how confident the Sky Pirates are. And, if the PCs are equally confident, they are very likely to die.

With a little jiggery-pokery, it would be easy to set this adventure in almost any campaign milieu. 

When a legendary race of demonic beings pours out of the double-mooned sky and raids the party’s camp, events are set into motion that will lead them far southward to the equatorial region of the Purple Planet. Between the party and their destination lie air-ships and aerial combat, pirates and plunder, and the silver-spined Sky-Spire of the Sky Masters of the Purple Planet!

Get It Here!

Sky ov Crimson Flame DCC-RPG Character Sheet

This is a character sheet for Sky ov Crimson Flame. Author is listed as Thorin Thompson. The artist is Stefan Poag. The publisher is Owl Knight Publishing

This is the same character sheet as is included in Sky ov Crimson Flame. At the time of this writing, the sheet is not form-fillable.