Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Soul of the Serpent King

Soul Of the Serpent King is an adventure by J├╝rgen 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.

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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!

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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?

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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?

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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...you 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.

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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…

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