Thursday, 9 December 2021

Tomb of the Savage Kings

Tomb of the Savage Kings is a 2nd level adventure by Stephen Newton. Art is by Will McAusland (including cover), Stefan Poag (including cartography), Chris Arneson, Jason Edwards, Brad McDevitt, and Jesse Mohn. The publisher is Goodman Games.

This product was the Goodman Games DCC offering for Free RPG Day 2021. It makes use of Portnelle, the town from the author's The Corpse That Love Built, and has ties to Harley Stroh's Doom of the Savage Kings. At its heart, though, the adventure is pure Hammer Horror mummy films, and acknowledges is!

Thanks to pandemic restrictions in Toronto, I was unable to attend Free RPG Day at my FLGS - or any FLGS. I was in the United States over American Thanksgiving weekend, and stopped by Noble Knight Games after emailing to ensure they still had the adventure in stock. Alas, they were mistaken, and I went away...well, not empty-handed, but without this adventure!

Goodman Games offered it free, but the customer still pays shipping, which is costly to Canada at this time. I've had it sent to family in Wisconsin, where I hope to pick it up after Gary Con. As a result, I have not yet had a chance to run this, although I do have the pdf, and have given it a brief read-through. All of which is to say that I am not really qualified to speak about it at this time. I did find this thread interesting on the Goodman Games Forums. Especially reading the author's comments, it feels as though I am doing a major injustice in not having sat down with the adventure to give it a thorough reading. Honestly, I prefer to read physical copies.

Pregenerated characters are available here.

Portnelle’s most popular and wealthy socialite, the widow Zita Aztur, has approached the PCs in a desperate plea for assistance. Zita’s sister Isobel has gone missing! Isobel had recently become smitten with a mysterious suitor who fancies himself an adventurer. Zita fears the stranger may have enticed Isobel to seek out the Moon Spear of Andoheb. Most who have searched for the spear have never been seen again, but those foolhardy souls never had your skill or confidence—and the widow is paying handsomely…

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Sunday, 24 October 2021

Tomb of the Ghast Queen

Tomb of the Ghast Queen is a 0-level funnel adventure by Mark Knights. Art is by Mark Knights (cartography). The publisher is RPG Knights.

This adventure was originally written as a free adventure for 1st level 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons characters, which was then turned into a Dungeon Crawl Classics funnel adventure. The author discusses this on his blog. Because both versions of the adventure are free, this is a good opportunity for prospective judges interested in converting materials to DCC to see how another judge approached it.

This is a fairly good adventure, but it is not polished, and the judge is advised to tweak it to their preferences. Some Wizards of the Coast era "D&Disms" remain that I recommend weeding out - the adventure does not need minotaurs to perform a menial task that strong humans might do, for instance. 

If I were running this, I would strongly consider creating some alternative exits to the dungeon, to account for the needs of the living creatures found therein. I would also add some material related to these additional exits that are caused by the outside world coming in. I think that would make the environment more dynamic for the players, and give them more to explore. There are also a number of places where I would replace references to the core rulebook with actual stats or spell effects. That would at least make it easier to run at the table!

Also, consider altering starting equipment based on the PCs being prisoners working in a quarry before the adventure starts. No one is likely to have a cow or a pony, or armor or a real weapon, no matter what their occupation is. Whether or not they should even have normal starting funds (5d12 cp) is questionable. On the other hand, it would not be unreasonably for every PC to have either a mining pick or a sledgehammer.

Even with these caveats, though, it is a free adventure, and worth taking a look at!

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Tomb of Curses

Tomb of Curses is a 6th to 8th level adventure written by Paul Wolfe (from a concept by/and Sean Conners, depending upon the credits. Art is by David Fisher (including cover and cartography) and Scott Ackerman (including cartography). The publisher is Dragons Hoard Publishing.

Disclosure: I have an editing credit on this product.

This adventure was written as a perk for the Indigogo campaign that brought about the original run of Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between, which I have written about that elsewhere.

This adventure is a sort of funhouse ride that combines the lethality of The Tomb of  Horrors with the gonzo ethos of Dungeon Crawl Classics. At the time it came out, I believe it was the highest level DCC module in existence. It is certainly deadly, and fun. Although the adventure start is more than just kind of railroad-y, a clever judge can easily alter this so that the PCs are the cause of their own pain. As a cold start for a one-shot adventure, though, the current start is more than adequate.

If you read the review at Die Hard Game Fan, you might think that the background is problematic. I tend to think of it as being more like the work of Michael Moorcock. No matter how much you think you know about how the multiverse works, it turns out you're wrong. I would also like to direct you to the review of Megan R, who is a Featured Reviewer at DriveThru RPG: "The actual Tomb itself is mapped out and described well. It is very much a 'puzzle dungeon' - if you or your players do not care for such things, find something else. Most of the puzzles are pretty deadly and clues to solve them are limited (I'm finding many hard to figure out even with the book in front of me...), you may wish to add clues or allow the players to roll for hints. Plentiful use is made of random tables and teleport spells, it can all get quite confusing... but played in the right spirit, this has the potential to be a blast, a fun adventure (provided you are not too attached to your character)."

Overall, I really like this adventure. Yes, it is gonzo. Yes, it is deadly. But it is also survivable by clever PCs who think before they act. It is worth playing, but you can always use it as a one-shot adventure if you imagine your players might be unhappy with the effects on their PCs (which may include sudden and irrevocable death). In the inevitable comparison to The Tomb of Horrors, I would say that The Tomb of Curses offers less of a slog, greater player agency, and more fun. I think that this is partly because the two adventures use different systems, and partly because adventure design has changed over time. Be warned that your mileage may vary!

The adventure includes patron write-ups for the Three Sisters and Agars, the Petty Demon. Both are effectively demi-patrons, in the Agars is not strong enough to grant patron spells, and the Three Sisters can only interact as though "When Cast on Other" column using the patron bond spell. On the plus side, the module includes a permission to use these patrons in other products, reproducing the text from the Angels, Daemons, and Being Between tome.

Hell hath no fury like an ex-wife scorned, and Uth'Pentar has eight of them.

For some, even death cannot trump the need for revenge. Prey to a vicious curse, the party must walk a careful path  through an other-dimensional tomb to win their freedom. Can they survive the centuries-long, multiverse-spanning vendetta of Uth'Pentar's wives long enough to escape?

Wednesday, 20 October 2021


Tinmen is a race-class written by Ville Rahkila. Art is not credited. The publisher is Knights of the North.

The tinmen are an idea familiar with anyone who has seen or read The Wizard of Oz....or even the much darker Return to Oz. It is a metal man, an automaton which doesn't suffer the pangs of flesh. In this case, it is an automaton that has the ability to repair items (including itself) and to spend money on parts to improve itself.

Tinmen is not the first (or only) product to contain variations on this theme. All are a little different, though, and using one version should not preclude using others. There is also an explicit nod to the original Tin Man (Nick Chopper) in Creeping Beauties of the Wood, so if PCs obtain his cursed axe, the judge could easily use this class to model the soon-to-be-metal PC's advancement.

It should also be noted that this race-class would easily fit into a post-Apocalyptic milieu, be it Umerica or Mutant Crawl Classics

In addition to the race-class, there is a bare-bones character sheet designed to go with it.

It was just a jumble of tubes and screws and metal plates. But the group decided to fuel it with the blood of their dead and take it with them. And thus, I had to write the following rules for the rickety race of tinmen. They are a weird bunch but should provide some tank-y power in combat and some useful utility skills for the group.

Have fun!

It's free!

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Through the Dragonwall

DCC #92: Through the Dragonwall is a 3rd level adventure by Daniel J. Bishop. Art is by Clyde Caldwell (cover), SS Crompton (cartography), Doug Kovacs, Peter Mullen, and Stefan Poag. The publisher is Goodman Games.

Disclosure: I am the author. Two of my children were playtesters.

So imagine this as background: I was asked to do conversions of two Harley Stroh modules from the 4e era. There were the "Master Dungeon" series of Dragora's Dungeon and The Curse of the Kingspire. Then imagine being told that there was a third TSR-era legend Clyde Caldwell cover licensed, and I was being asked to write an adventure to utilize it.

The first two conversions were published as ".5" modules between the regular numbers, so I expected (erroneously, as it turned out) that this adventure would be given the same treatment. I also wanted the "Caldwell Cover" series to be unified in some way. We already had levels 1 and 2 covered, so it made sense to make this a 3rd level adventure. The previous adventures had included ape-men, a dragon god, and ancient elven ancestors with a stronger connection to Elfland. This last was a byproduct of the adventure's 4e origin, but I had kept the idea as the "Elder Kith" in that adventure. It was changed to "Elder Kindred" here to avoid confusion with the Kith of Peril on the Purple Planet. There is definitely no "adventure path" between the three adventures, but there are links for the canny judge to exploit.

The adventure also hearkens back to the works of Abraham Merritt, perhaps one of the less-referenced Appendix N authors. For those who know the works of Abraham Merritt, there are specific references made to The Face in the Abyss, Through The Dragon Glass, and The Women of the Wood. The entire set-up of the adventure, with a thwarted love affair, a setting divided into two distinct regions, and the intervention of powerful forces, echoes The Ship of Ishtar. You will find other references if you look hard enough!

The adventure also had to match the cover. The images on the cover are an elven woman, a bone dragon, and part of a wall. You will find all of these elements in the adventure. Through the Dragonwall is not the first DCC adventure to feature a dragon. That honor belongs to The Tainted Forest Near Thorum by Yves Larochelle in Crawl! #4. It is not even the first Goodman Games adventure to use a dragon, as both previous "Caldwell Cover" modules had done so. Even so, the Bone Dragon holds a special place in my heart, both because of his potency as a foe and because of the poignancy of his backstory. You can run this in a four-hour convention slot; it benefits from being given more time to allow the players to truly understand how the Valley of Two Lands works, and the history of its occupants.

This adventure was featured on the Sanctum Secorum podcast Episode 27, where it was paired with The King of Elfland's Daughter. I feel that this was just good luck on my part, because if Michael Curtis had already written The Queen of Elfland's Son, that would have been the obvious pairing. You can also find a review of the adventure here.

If you find yourself drawn to discover more DCC goodness inspired by A. Merritt, I advise you to check out Moon-Slaves of the Cannibal Kingdom by Edgar Johnson, the Sanctum Secorum Episode #29 Companion: Creep, Shadow!, and the patron write-up for Logos, the Perfect Form, from Angels, Daemons, & Beings Between: Extended, Otherworldly Edition

Embroiled in a curse from the dawn of history, you have become pawns in a cosmic struggle between the King of Elfland and the ancient dragon-god, Baphotet Kor. Will you stand with the last Empress? Will you face the dreaded Bone Dragon? Or will your bones lie bleached beneath an unchanging sky? This adventure is a test of player skill that will push characters to the edge and beyond…Beyond the Dragonwall.

Through the Cotillion of Hours

AL3: Through the Cotillion of Hours is an adventure for all levels by Daniel J. Bishop. Art is by Scott Ackerman (including cover) and Kristian Richards (cartography). The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I am the author.

This adventure takes place in a dreamscape, and is my second piece of published writing for Dungeon Crawl Classics. Like Bone Hoard of the Dancing Horror and the later Stars in the Darkness, this adventure used pre-existing cartography to suggest a new adventure. In this case, the original adventure was also converted to DCC, and can be found here.

This adventure is unusual in that it doesn't need to be solved in a single sitting. In fact, it is better if it is not, and if the judge allows significant in-game (and real) time pass between sessions. It acts as an extended riddle, with some potentially dangerous combats. A large party will make time in the dreamscape pass more swiftly, as each player triggers separate chimes. A single player, or a two-player team, if clever, can solve the adventure in a single session. I have had one player go so far as to solve it within a single hour!

If Quest For It is the beating heart of Dungeon Crawl Classics (and I maintain that it is), the judge needs to provide adventures that can answer questions, prompt the PCs toward resolving their goals, or that can even grant them outright. This adventure is specifically designed to do just that, and the PCs do not need to solve the adventure to benefit. There is a built in method of using the adventure just to ask questions, and some players may intentionally choose not to reach the end just so they have another chance to dip into that well of knowledge!

The title of the adventure comes from the first line of a poem I wrote, Far Dance Thrilling, which is among the first pieces of poetry I had published (in the now-defunct Pandora's Box). Although I did include the classical reference to the Gates of Ivory and Horn, there are a number of Appendix N nods to be found within the adventure. Most prominent are allusions to the Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft, but astute readers will note nods to Michael Moorcock, Andre Norton, and even Fletcher Pratt. There is also a tie-in to my later adventure The Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn.

If you have any players who are as enthused about role-playing as they are about combat, this can be a fantastic adventure. Players have a chance to talk to dream analogues of themselves (which they may eventually figure out), as well as the 0-level PCs they lost in the funnel, now manifesting as dream ghouls picking at the remnants of a feast. 

You can read reviews of the adventure by Other Selves, the Iron Tavern, Tenkar's Tavern, Endzeitgeist, and Ten Foot Pole. Megan R. (a Featured Reviewer at DriveThru RPG) said "This is an adventure like no other, one that if done properly will live in your group's collective memory for years to come....This is an original idea well-presented." Her complete review can be found here.

Invoke patron results for Somnos, the Dreaming God, are also provided, although a full patron write-up is not.

Sooner or later, characters are going to want to quest to achieve some specific end – to raise a fallen comrade, to regain lost ability points, to discover a new spell, to find some new magic item…the possibilities are nearly endless. This scenario can occur at any time during the course of overland travel, and gives characters the opportunity to meet some of these goals.

In this adventure, sleeping characters are invited to the Cotillion of Somnos, the Dreaming God. If they can make their way past the entertainments at the Masked Ball, they can petition the Dreaming God to fulfill some request on their behalf.

Three Nights in Portsmouth

FT 2.5: Three Nights in Portsmouth is a series of three short 2nd level adventures written by Daniel J. Bishop. Art is by Matt Morrow (cover),  Kristian Richards (cartography), and Luigi Castellani. The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I am the author.

This product offers three short adventures that can be sprinkled into, or occur separately from, FT 2: The Portsmouth Mermaid. The adventure came about largely for two reasons. First, I had intended to include a dragon in each installment of the Faerie Tales from Unlit Shores series, and I had failed to include one in FT 2. Secondly, there was a lot more to explore in Portsmouth. If your players are anything like mine, at the very least they will want to rob some graves, and having something planned when they visit the Overlook is a good thing.

The adventure contains three scenarios:

The Open Tomb takes care of the most pressing question a judge might face in Portsmouth - what if the players want to go grave robbing? There are homages herein to Peter Pan, as well as the potential to run into worse things. The name "Grimperrault" is a combination from the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault.

The Trail of the Rat is my own take on The Pied Piper of Hamlin, with ghouls and a little added nastiness in terms of a choice the PCs must make. No one makes it out of this adventure without making some form of alliance, and some form of enemy.

Blood for Cthulhu! makes use of several fairy tales themes and creatures while crossing the salt marsh, but ends with a scene straight from The Call of Cthulhu. Depending upon how successful the PCs are at preventing the titular sacrifices, the final encounter may be easy...or close to impossible. For added tension, make that PC whose player couldn't make it tonight one of the potential victims....!

If you are not using Portsmouth, these scenarios can easily be adapted to any urban environment.

You can read an Endzeitgeist review here.

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