Tuesday 24 January 2023

The Kakondo

The Kakondo
is a creature write-up by Ashraf Braden. The cover is by Greg Dees. Additional content and incidental art by Bob Brinkman. The publisher is Sanctum Media.

Disclosure: I received a free copy in exchange for this review.

Okay, so there are two parts to this review. The first part is simple - telling you what this product is. This is a single creature, but it includes a new weapon (the yakoma, or sickle sword) and a new Mighty Deed related to the weapon itself. The creature is from the modern folklore of Uganda, and would be appropriate as an urban encounter. As a person living in Canada, with all the recent things we've learned about Canada's residential schools, the idea of something creeping around a school at night and preying on the students is pretty raw. However, there are no politics in this product. This is designed to be printed double-sided on letter-sized paper, and then folded in half to make a sort of booklet. heavier stock will make the result last longer.

It is pretty clear that English is not the author's first language. There is nothing difficult to understand here, but the phrasing isn't always what native English speakers come to expect. I suspect that editor Jen Brinkman has the same problem I have faced when helping to edit work where the writer comes from another linguistic background - how much do you smooth over, and how much of the original author's voice do you just leave alone so the author can speak?

What you need to know is: Can you use this in your game? The answer is yes, although this isn't really a "dungeon" monster. As a series of encounters, a long-standing problem to tackle, or the object of a divine quest it could really shine.

The second part of this review has nothing to do with the product itself, per se. As of this writing, the pdf is on sale at DriveThruRPG for $1.00, so the investment to get the product, even if you never use it, is less than a cup of coffee. One of the great things about Appendix N fiction is the range of authorial voices, but that range is still limited by the culture and ethnicity of the authors. In this case, the author is living in Uganda. Adding range to the voices we listen to is (in most cases) a good thing.

In this case, the author, Ashraf Braden, lives in a region where wages are so low that your purchase can make a real difference. Here is an opportunity to share your love of this game, and your love of the hobby, and make a real difference for an aspiring game designer at a negligible cost to you.

Finally, all the Sanctum Media proceeds are going directly to the author. Sanctum Media has provided you with a mountain of free content over the years with the Sanctum Secorum Episode Companions. Jen Brinkman has been a host of Spellburn and the Sanctum Secorum podcast since its inception, Bob Brinkman has also been a host of the Sanctum Secorum podcast. Both Jen and Bob are standup folks. When these two ask the community to help them help a friend, I really hope that the community responds in spades.

In fact, after being given this for free, I went back and paid for it.

A creature of modern folklore and legend, the Kakondo is rumored to hunt sleeping children in the schools of Uganda. Brought to DCC with the aid of Ugandan game designer Ashraf Braden.

All Sanctum Media proceeds from this product go directly to the writer, Ashraf Braden. Ashraf is an aspiring game designer and author living near Kampala in Uganda.

In the areas around Kampala, it is not uncommon for workers to make as little as $2/day. By purchasing this product, you are contributing to Ashraf's ability to be able to continue to write and design games by allowing him the financial breathing room to do so.

Your support of this, and future products of this sort, are greatly appreciated.

Saturday 13 August 2022

The Tower of Faces

DCC #96: The Tower of Faces is a 6th level adventure written by Nick Judson. Art is by Sanjulian (cover), Stefan Poag (including cartography), Tom Galambos, Doug Kovacs, Cliff Kurowski, and Peter Mullen.

This adventure won the 2017 Rodneys Award (OSR Track) for adventure design at Gamehole Con IV.

Most adventures have you exploring a location where you are basically the invader. There are at least two other DCC adventures where you are trying to protect an area from outside forces, but this is the first. You know all those lengthy rituals that wizards become involved in? 

Well, in this adventure just such a wizard would like you to protect his home while he is sequestered!

This is a cool adventure, where role-playing is balanced well with combat and puzzle-solving. I haven't often heard this adventure discussed, and that is a pity, because it is a good one, with both whimsy and deadly seriousness. If Lord Dunsany was not an influence, I would be surprised. The city of Naos, the Necropolis of the Chaos Kings, is also worthy of revisiting!

I can easily see a party going through Enter the Dagon, which attracts the attention of the wizard, Yonaxis, who pulls them into this adventure. Their actions here, for good or ill, draw the attention of the 998th Conclave of Wizards

While we are here, we might also wish to examine the Vizier's Views

The Rodney Award-winning adventure from Gamehole Con IV, now an adventure for DCC RPG!

The adventurers have been summoned to a mysterious black tower made of glass. They are given a simple mission: protect the mage’s estate while he is distracted weaving a mighty spell. Surviving the five days of his spellcasting requires quick wits and sharp blades, for the estate has mischievous guests and strange visitors. In the end, the mage demands one final task: stand by his side as he binds a great horror from beyond!

This really is a great, and under-appreciated adventure.

Get It Here!

Sunday 15 May 2022

Tongues of the Screaming Toad

Tongues of the Screaming Toad is a 3rd level adventure by “Weird Dave” Coulson. Art is by Matt Morrow (cover), Johnathan L Bingham, and Glynn Seal (cartography). The publisher is Cut to the Chase Games.

This is the third of four modules in the Memories of the Toad God series. This adventure is converted to Dungeon Crawl Classics, and is simultaneously available for Swords & Wizardry, Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, and 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

If you have read my comments on the other parts of this series, you will not be surprised now. The adventure is certainly usable with DCC, but, while the conversion is more complete than with some other Cut to the Chase adventures, the judge will still have some work to do. In particular, the squamous Ibholtheg could use a full patron write-up. I am also not a big fan of sticking all the monster stats in the back of an adventure, away from where they appear, which is an artifact of systems that use much larger statblocks than DCC does.

That said, this conversion is definitely a marked improvement over the Wrath of the Kobolds series, and if you ignore minor glitches, you won't encounter any serious problems. I wrote once that the author didn't "get" DCC; he has definitely taken strides in the right direction. Few adventures written for multiple systems can capture the "feel" of each of those systems, and this is not the exception to that rule, but in actual play it should do fine.

This adventure starts with an investigation, with the PCs being deputized to deal with something beyond the abilities of the local constabulary. If you have read or played through Night of the Mad Kobold, you will recognize this setup. It's not a new one to gaming, and the author does a decent job of presenting an investigation where the links line up to form a chain of events that the players can unravel. 

One of the problems you may have, in running this series, is that DCC character leveling slows down as the PCs become more powerful. You may, therefore, wish to intersperse "chapters" of this series with other jungle-based adventures. Luckily, you have several to choose from.

Buried secrets have a way of finding a path back to the surface to reveal themselves to the world again. Sometimes it may take a long time, and during that time it’s likely that the world has forgotten about the secret. But if the secret is the loathsome Ibholtheg the Squamous Toad, an outer power of ancient evil, it certainly hasn’t forgotten about the world.

Get It Here!

Sunday 27 February 2022

The Tome of Debasement

The Tome of Debasement is a DCC supplement by Nick Baran. Art is by Jamie Jordan (including cover) and Mike Tommyrot. The publisher is Beaker Press Games.

Disclaimer: I was a backer for the successful Kickstarter for this product.

It is going a bit hard to look at the Beaker Press Games material individually, as the titles are inter-related. This link will take whatever entries I have completed for the publisher, so that you can decide what you might be interested in to support your campaigns.

In this case, we are looking at a full write-up for Herlezzect, the Debased God. When I say a full write-up, I mean that this thing is complete. There are rules for clerics, including unique disapproval, level titles, special traits, bloodletting, and canticles (as per the DCC Annual Volume I). In addition, there are eight unique spells for those who follow the Debased God, and a magic item with religious significance to the cult.

There are campaigns out there where a party are adherents of Herlezzect, but for most of us, this is an example of a cult which the PCs will vehemently oppose. In either case, I believe that this is the most completely detailed god designed for DCC to date.

Behold the Inglorious Bottom Feeder, the Lord of Twisted Faces, the Sovereign of the Forgotten, Herlezzect the Debased God!

This DCC RPG compatible zine details the followers of Herlezzect, the Debased God, in the same format as those in the DCC Annual Vol. 1 (from Goodman Games). The zine covers the unique traits, disapproval results, and canticles for evil cultists who pledge themselves to the debased one. The bulk of the zine is taken up by a collection of spells geared for use by the evil clerics in your games, with evocative titles like: Deceiving Visage, Putrescent Bog, Rotting Stench, Halo of Flies, Lash, Twisted Form, Radiant Corruption, and Uncontrollable Urge.  You're probably thinking those would make a great tracklisting for a metal album, and you'd probably be right.

This gaming zine is designed to make your evil priests on your tabletop more sinister and terrifying to face, channeling otherworldly horror and cinematic imagery.

Get It Here!

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…

Get It Here!

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!

Get It Here!

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?