Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Flammable Hospital (Honorary)

Flammable Hospital was written and/or inspired by Jason Kielbasa, Acep Hale, Debbie Deaver, Chris Thomas, Richie Cyngler, Dan Domme, Reece Carter, Brenda Wolfe, Paul Wolfe, Terra Frank, Wayne Snyder, Gabriel Perez Gallardi, Anthony Fournier, Michael Raston, Nik Wolfe, Christian Kessler, Ashley Mensinger, Harald Wagener, Kathryn Muszkiewicz, Michael, Noah Stevens, James McGeorge, Alex Roberts, Harley Stroh, Soriah Esquivel, Doug Kovaks, and Jarrett Crader. Art is by Terra Frank, Michael Raston, Doug Kovacs, Christian Kessler, and Chris Thomas (logo). Jarrett Crader also supplied pictures. There is no publisher listed.

Disclosure: James Pozenel Jr. sent me a copy of this zine so that I could create this listing. While he is not credited with this product, he has done other writing which appears, or will appear, in the DCC Trove of Treasures. I am told that the copy he sent me was an extra. Was it though? Or was he just trying to exorcise his games collection?

This listing is honorary because Flammable Hospital is more of a "DCC-adjacent" product than something directly tied into Dungeon Crawl Classics. For one thing, your level is random, and you might be "Star Jackson" level. Abilities are taken from a combination of D&D and DCC (although "Sexy/Charmisma" is a bit different), but they are percentiles, apparently generated by rolling 10d10 x 10. Or perhaps not. There are no clear rules. There is no clear indication of how to use the material provided. This is not an accident.

Flammable Hospital does not take itself seriously. At best, it is a way to roll dice and role-play without much of an actual "game" involved, which may be perfect if you want to get the silliness out of the way at the beginning of a convention or if you don't feel like anything more serious one night.

Usually, I try to figure out some way to use an unusual product within a regular Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign. Here, I could see some of the background as a setting for a Country Crawl Classics or even an Umerica adventure where the Flammable Hospital is inhabited by the kind of insane beings who created it. Just be aware that you will have to build it yourself; you will only be getting the skeleton of a skeleton here!

You can find another review on Flammable Hospital here.

I am not sure where you can find a copy of this. My best advice is to start cataloguing every DCC and MCC product in existence, and perhaps someone will take pity upon you. It worked for me!


 

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Terror of the Stratosfiend #1.5

Terror of the Stratosfiend #1.5 Preamble to the Melancholic Terminal Ascent was written by Sean Richer. Art is by James Everett Jackson (including cover), Krzysztof Bieniawski, and Shane O'Neil. The publisher is Orbital Intelligence.

As packed as it was with material, Terror of the Stratosfiend #1 apparently didn't cover everything that the author wanted it to, because a #1.5 issue came out before #2! Like the first issue, it is pretty impressive, so we might as well jump right in!

An Introduction to Elevators: An introduction And, of course, notice that there is a god of elevators. And, yes, that is her on the cover.

Classes: Human Comm-Artist: "The Comm-Artist is a rogue engineer that excels at setting up information relays, turrets, and long distance networks. Most communities would collapse without them, and even the most basic of trade would fall through. Radio waves course through their veins, and exposure to data in all forms amplifies their nervous systems. Through deals they have brokered with the Orbital Intelligences, they've been gifted the ability to channel this data and bring life to machinery; specifically traps."

Adding this class to the ones we had in Issue #1, I am again struck by both the creativity of the author and the logistics of devising adventures for these characters. The adventure would be awesome, mind you, but it would require some serious calculations to work for the main classes in this milieu.

Spells and Patrons: We gain the animate trap familiar spell, which is necessary for the Comm-Artist, but which could potentially be used by other classes. The judge may wish to impose size limits as to what traps can be animated enough to move around.

The issue then provides two full patron entries, complete with invoke patron results, spellburn, patron taint, and patron spells. There are:

Acceptance, The Root Organ-Fractal: This is "a patron that is best described as a headless body of bodies of bodies of bodies. Its patron magic will mutate the casters' bodies and gift them with all the auxiliary limbs they could hope or dream for." Acceptance started out as the body of the decapitated Razor-Worn (see below). 

"Acceptance was once the shed body of Razor-Worn, and served as her most devoted follower. Even though she had lost her body, Acceptance made sure it would still be there for her. Without a head, the body was dying, and an Organ-Fractal cluster was applied to save it. Organ-Fractals are biological machines that heal and then replicate themselves, mostly. As the body healed, it's limbs became bodies, and those bodies' limbs became bodies."

Razor-Worn, Henceforth the Shaft: The god of elevators, who "lashes at all that oppose her with the fury of 1000elevators."  So, yes, these patrons are a headless body made up of more bodies, and a bodiless head who controls elevators. And, yes, this head once went with that body. 

"Before she was a God, she was human. Abandoned at the Cosmic Dispatch as a child, she was raised by the Cosmic Gantry. Its girders span all of space itself and allow her to reach even the furthest corners of the stars beyond the stars. The Gantry is the framework of the universe, as well as a sentient elevator network. She drank of the Network's omniscience, and paid the price. Razor-Worn is the mind of the Gantry, and the Network is her body. All who move, do so by her will. All who rise, only do when the network allows. Under the watch of the Elevator God, no one will be abandoned. All who do not bow, will have their heads removed… in her image."

There are a great many patrons available for Dungeon Crawl Classics at this time. Some of them are utilitarian. Some of them are reproductions of things encountered in Appendix N literature or popular culture. Many of them are very creative. I cannot think of anything quite so unique as this. 

In the depths of space no one can hear you scream... unless you're trapped in an elevator hurtling through time and space. Propelled by the cabling of the Cosmic Gantry, and at the behest of the Elevator God herself... Razor-Worn, Henceforth The Shaft!

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Terror of the Stratosfiend #1

Terror of the Stratosfiend #1 : 1-555-Tentacle was written by Sean Richer. Art is by James Everett Jackson (including cover), 2 headed giant, Skullthug, and Graz. The publisher is Orbital Intelligence.

The very fabric of the world bent and broke, as portals from stars beyond the stars started to open at random in an event known as “The Drop”. Cruel psionic tentacled giants, and a menagerie of entities both cthonic and cosmic erupted forth. Mankind was doomed as they knew it, until humans began pouring out of the portals. Humans that spoke the same language, and breathed the same air, but were from distant stars beyond the stars.

Something was different though, both Stratosfiend and Humans from both sides began to defect. The Half-Stratosfiend were born (honestly, don’t ask) and offered their services to the highest bidder. It was no longer Chaos vs Law.

Confession time: I absolutely love this zine, but I could really use a primer on the setting. There is a lot of implied background, and regardless of what flavor of DCC you play, a lot of useful material. But there is a massive tome on the setting, full of wicked illustrations, just waiting to be written. The setting isn't just confined to a single world, either, as we shall see once we get to later issues. I feel as though I am being given the merest glimpse of something worth fully exploring.

The new species and classes are open to any level 0 character, once they gain enough experience to reach the first level. In some cases this means that character may change species when they hit level 1. Not only is this allowed, but it’s encouraged. The Drop is a strange event, and it only makes sense that rampant mutation and infiltration would occur.

This issue has four new classes. 

The Human Sat-Casters "call down hell from the skies above. They’ve learned to tame the wild intelligences that inhabit rogue space stations, and weapons satellites. They serve as the eyes and ears of what they call Orbital Intelligences (patrons), and will stop at nothing to spread their word." If this sounds like something that belongs in your Mutant Crawl Classics game, you are not alone! Because of their link to the Orbital Intelligences, sat-casters take a penalty to their spell checks when they don't have direct access to the sky. On the other hand, they can use satellites to track targets, and can attempt an uplink to boost their spells. Attempting an uplink is, of course, hazardous, and may result in patron taint. I rather like this, as patron taint is more interesting than corruption, arising as it does from a direct connection the PC has made.

I see no reason that Patron AIs from Mutant Crawl Classics could not act as Orbital Intelligences, and vice versa. Likewise, this class could fit very easily into an Umerica game.

The Half-Stratosfiend Street Whisperer is, as the name implies, half-human and half-Stratosfiend. They are constantly evolving, and may sacrifice hit points permanently to evolve immediately. Evolution gives them additional powers, in general, but rolling an activated power turns it off until it is rolled again. They also have tentacles that they can use to attack. They are also sneaky. They are also all dedicated to slaying one Orbital Intelligence or another, gaining bonuses when opposing their chosen target and its agents. 

When a 0-level PC reaches 1st level, remember, any class may be chosen. In other words, the cheesemaker just sprouted tentacles and is babbling about killing the Earth-Mother....

Don't worry. Things get stranger. Meet the Stratosfiend Delver. "The Stratosfiend are a terrifying race from beyond the stars. They are bipedal humanoids with tentacles that protrude from their spines. They tower over humans and bear many of their features, which begs the consideration that they share an ancestor. Delvers are relentlessly curious and will regularly halt their plans to inspect every detail that seems out of place. Their spells derive from inside of their massive brains, and they rarely if ever will bond with a patron."

That's right. While the cheesemaker is sprouting tentacles, the butcher just turned into a giant psychic tentacle monster. 

Don't worry. Things get stranger still. The Stratosfiend Magistrate Gladiatrix are still waiting in the wings. "All races have natural born leaders and in the case of the Stratosfiend, the magistrates are hatched from the will of the hive-mind. While Stratosfiends tower over humans, the magistrate sub-race towers over its brethren. Most have devoted themselves to infiltrating large population centers and crushing resistance leaders to their own will. The rest seem just fine battling anything to the death. The Gladiatrix in particular are brutal killing machines. They delight in ripping their prey to pieces with axes and their tentacles. They even charm their prey to draw them closer."

Again, the cheesemaker sprouted tentacles, the butcher is now a 10' tall psychic monster....and the orphan? She's just turned into a 20' tall killing machine.

Now imagine how an adventure could cater to the human sat-caster, the 10'-tall psionic tentacle wizard, and the 20' tall killing machine. The half-Stratosfiend street whisperer and the sat-caster can both fit into dungeons and normal-sized buildings, but the sat-caster is hampered by being cut off from the sky. And, let's face it, there is a good chance that the street whisperer lured the sat-caster there just to kill him as part of her quest to oppose the sat-caster's patron!

The whole thing is a glorious muddle. One can assume that normal classes are also allowed, so that if in your world the Drop took place after the Apocalypse, there are mutants and/or robots thrown into the mix (depending upon your choice of post-Apocalyptic game). Perhaps you would rather have warriors, thieves, and elves try to deal with this strange new world? A dwarf could easily keep his 0-level dwarf abilities and become a street whisperer or a gladiatrix, right? 

You would think that this alone would be enough for any zine, but we are only a little less than a third of the way through!

Weapons: Stats are given for 12 weapons, from a fighting stick to an assault carbine. Crawl #8 might be of particular use to judges wishing to expand on what is provided here. 

Upgrades: This section provides 20 upgrades to weapons, some of which may be of use in any campaign milieu, and all of which demand to be used. Your bow may fire homing arrows. Your bullets may burrow into their target. Your shotgun may be sentient, and your sword may be incubating a dreaming horror. 

Armor: Some strange types of armor are available after the Drop: Psionic War Focus, Blade Harness, Twitching Carapace, Explorer Exo-Suit, Siege Preparation Matrix, and even Beach Gear (which makes you easier to hit, but you are faster, and you look good!).

Equipment: "Here we have a strange collection of parasites, hormonal cocktails, and scanning equipment. I for one wouldn’t want to be caught dead without a Micro-Evolution Syringe… then again, maybe death would be better than tempting evolutionary fate.. There are no prices listed... but i’m sure we could work something out."

Spells and Patrons: In this section, we are treated to a single 1st-level spell that can be cast by Stratosfiends. Polyphemean rage causes a plasma beam to shoot from the user’s single giant eye and seer the target in plasma. We are also treated to two patrons, which are given full write-ups, including invoke patron results, spellburn, patron taint, and patron spells. 

Sky-Lasher the Everlasting, Trident of the Sun: "The manifestations of Sky-Lasher are many, ranging from a bat-winged flaming demon, to a sentient defense satellite. The only thing that’s for certain, is that solar panels are soldered into its skin. Its desire is to bring the cleansing fire that only the sun can offer, as well as render illumination and introspection that turns a soul to ash. Offer it something it has not yet judged, and it may do you a solid. Offer yourself as a burnt offering, and it very well will start listening to you. When you see beams of fire pouring from the heavens, Sky-Lasher is smiling. It should also be noted that it has its own personal fleet of bombers, fighter craft, drones, and zealots."

Terror-Eater, The Earth-Mother: "What’s more beautiful than a visceral, hungry, destructive, and all powerful monstrosity? Nothing. Nothing at all. She values her cosmic hunger above all else; if you can feed her, you keep her happy. She’s more than willing to make you more like her, if being a tentacled monstrosity is what you want. She lives beneath the Earth, but rumour has it that she IS the Earth."

Finally, this issue rounds out with a Bestiary. The creatures introduced are divided into two groups: Children of Space (Seeker of the Scourge, Skulker of the Harbinger, Goliath of the Horror, and Goliath Birth-Engine) and Children of Earth (Cloud-Thirst Null, Ogress of the Earthen Chimes, and Earth Howler). 

Beasts, horrors, and humans from stars beyond stars, pour through portals and reduce the land to ash. What more could you want? A talking shotgun? We've got that. A staff that hatches into a living breathing creature? We've got that too.

Ever wanted to take command of a 15 foot tentacled horror? Maybe you would rather find out what it's like to unleash unbridled psionic energy? Perhaps you'd rather sneak through the streets and sell your skills to the highest bidder? Or maybe you just wanted to call down the aid of a maniacal weapons satellite?

Tengu

The Tengu is an "Eastern Adventures" character class written by Mark Tasaka (who presumably did the art) and published by Old School Adventures.

You are a trickster, a mischief-maker, and at times a trouble-maker. You are the teller of tall tales; the singer of strange songs. You call the mountains, the forests and the open skies your home. You would rather gamble than do an honest day’s work. Most consider you lazy; but, you consider yourself resourceful, as you always find ways to reap the greatest benefits from the least amount of work.

If you are unaware of what a tengu is, here is a quick description. In this case, we are looking at a mischievous bird-man, rather than a celestial dog-man, a near god, or a master swordsman. Like elves, tengu went through numerous incarnations before the role-playing game industry appeared! 

Essentially, this character is a thief with a mimicry ability and limited flight. There is no disadvantage given to offset these extra abilities, but, unlike a human thief, it is pretty easy to determine just what an (undisguised) tengu is. That alone may be enough to "balance" the class for DCC purposes.

In any event, the class is clearly understandable, playable, and describes exactly what it intends to. Trickster crows/ravens are found in other mythologies, so that with a simple name change, the tengu could fit into a North American milieu in particular. This might be appropriate for a Black Powder. Black Magic or Weird Frontiers game. If the game is set after largescale Japanese immigration occurred, there might be both native and Japanese versions of this class operating in the campaign milieu. Tengu might also appear in settings like Nowhere City Nights or Bronx Beasts without any difficulty at all.

Of course, a fully developed Asian setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics would also be welcome! Paul Wolfe did some work along this line in D.A.M.N. Magazine #2 and elsewhere. (And, thanks to Ariel Churi, I have learned that Old School Adventures does have a 14-page DCC Eastern Adventures Campaign Guide).

There is a tengu character generator available here (scroll down).

Tengu are a demi-human race of ‘crow-men’. A fully grown tengu stands just over 5’ tall. Like birds, tengu have hollow bones, which allows them to fly; thus, it is rare for an adult tengu to weigh more than 80 lbs. Tengu usually live in isolated locations, with their dwellings hidden within ancient trees, on mountain sides or in abandoned temples. Tengu spend much of their time near roads frequented by travellers; there, they wait for unsuspecting travellers, where they use their talent of stealth and thievery to steal food and goods from their unsuspecting victims. Often their victims do not realize that the theft has occurred until after they have reached their destinations, many miles away. ....

It's free.

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The Temple of the Onyx Cat

The Temple of the Onyx Cat is a 0-level funnel, written by Mark Tasaka. Art is by Mark Tasaka. The publisher is Old School Adventures.

This adventure has two parts: travel and exploring the temple. The hook is that you get 250 gp if you succeed. This introduces a bit of the world, but it assumes that the PCs already want to be adventurers. I have a tendency to believe that funnels are, largely, the story of why these particular people had to become adventurers. I.e., it answers the question "Why couldn't these particular people just go back to farming and stonemasonry?"

Of course, this is (in effect) the same setup as The Portal Under the Stars, and it works. It just doesn't feel like the Hand of Fate selecting the few survivors for extraordinary things in the same way that the final encounter in Portal does - whether the PCs defeat it or just stand back as it issues forth!

The travel portion of the adventure supplies the judge with five encounters to use. These might occur on the way to the temple, or on the return journey, as the judge decides. There is no need to use them all. There is no map to indicate where each encounter would naturally occur, and, by extension, the players have no control over events here. I would strongly consider creating a hex map, placing the encounters, adding some more encounters, and then provide clues for the players about what the PCs might encounter if they choose one route over another. This has the added advantage of leaving the unused encounters intact as the PCs continue to explore the world surrounding their village.

The second section is the temple itself, which has enough things to interact with to be satisfying. The adventure again takes its lead from Portal, in that, if you run into something that might be able to speak to you, it attacks you as soon as it has delivered its pre-written lines. This is a great shame, and the discerning judge should feel free to ignore that aspect of both adventures. 

In order to run this adventure, I encourage the judge to read it thoroughly and make changes to your liking. There are problems with the language used in the read-aloud text. The first room on the temple is called the "foray" for instance (I assume that "forecourt" or something similar was intended), and "thy is used as "the". Some of the language in the descriptive text is just clunky, and will be better if you give it a good tune-up.

There is also a fairly generic vibe to the setting. I don't know where I am. On one hand, parts of the writing make it seem as though I might be in Feudal Japan. On the other hand, there are dire raccoons...and there is nothing explicitly Japanese in the set-up. This speaks to the larger issue of theme, and the judge would be well advised to decide where exactly this adventure is going to take place (within their own personal milieu) and adjust the encounters to take this into account.

The author also misses the prime opportunity to explain why the merchant (in the adventure hook) wanted the Onyx Cat in the first place. Is it magical? Is it worth considerably more than 250 gp? Is the merchant a demon, a god, or a magician in disguise? The Onyx Cat in particular was pretty well guarded, after all. It would be nice if it had echoes throughout the PCs' adventuring careers, beyond its guardian's promises of revenge.

To sum up, this is a usable adventure, fairly generic, but having potential to be crafted by the judge into something more. And it has demonic squirrels, which is a plus. It was also free, and one should not criticize things people make for love too deeply. Just be aware that this one will require a degree of effort to make it sing.

You are no Adventurer. But, the life of adventure has always appealed to you; a life on the road, seeking treasure and fortune. There has always been a deep yearning in your heart to break free from your mundane existence as a villager.

“How can I break free from this boring life that I am destined to live?” You have asked yourself a number of times.

Then, one day, the answer to your question arrives in the form of a travelling merchant to your village.

“There is a ruined temple three days travel from here,” the Merchant say, “within the temple is an artefact that I am very interested in obtaining. The object that I seek is a figurine of black onyx cat sitting on top of a turtle. Whoever shall bring me the figurine shall receive a reward of 250 gold pieces.”

The free pdf is no longer available.

Friday, 14 May 2021

The Temple of the Hamster

The Temple of the Hamster is a 3rd level adventure by Daniel Vance. Art is by Carmin Vance, Kevin Vecchi, and Daniel Vance (including cartography). The publisher is Vance Games.

Daniel Vance has a gift for mixing absurdity with serious content, creating adventures that are, on one hand, as silly as you could want, and on the other hand filled with blood and frankly disturbing images. While this is all sort of a laugh, and you are probably using the supplied pregenerated characters, there is something awful about the basic premise: oversized rodents have infiltrated the town, are pretending to be human, and their Hamster God is starting to flex his furry muscles again.

I wouldn't run this as part of a grindingly serious campaign modeled off of the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard or The Lord of the Rings, but in my home game, where Mutant Crawl Classics characters and Dungeon Crawl Classics characters rub elbows? Very much so. And I wouldn't even bother making the PCs go to Narcosa first. Obviously, The Temple of the Hamster would be a very fun (and memorable) convention game!

What I am trying to get across here (without spoilers) is that this adventure is absolutely absurd in its basic premise and some of its content. But, given that you accept that premise (and the content that goes with it), it is not written as a joke adventure. The cover actually does a good job of getting across the tone - very funny until you get to the severed head and the pool of blood. And, okay, yes, it is still funny then, but you might not want that to be your character!

The town of Kamis lies in a panic. Townsfolk are missing and city watchmen lie dead; their sides split open from being over stuffed with grain. A stalwart cadre of adventurers must explore the town of Kamis and uncover the terrible mysteries of the Temple of the Hamster. These adventurers must brave terrible traps and minions before facing the dread peril at the heart of the temple. The Temple of the Hamster is packed with hamster style adventure and has been redesigned to have 100% more hamster wheels and mayhem.

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Tales From the Smoking Wyrm #2

Tales From the Smoking Wyrm #2 was written by Trevor StamperBrian GilkisonJohn Olszewski, and Jacob Harmon. Art is by Joel PhillipsCarmin VanceAlex MayoBradley McDevittBrian Maikisch, and Trevor Stamper. The publisher is Blind Visionary Publications.

Disclaimer: I backed the successful kickstarter for this product.

This is the second issue of Tales From the Smoking Wyrm. Let's dive right in!

King of Beasts: This is a full patron write-up by Jake Harmon, including three patron spells: speak with animalsbloodsense, and awaken. This third spell allows the caster or another willing creature to bond with one or more spirit animals. 18 such animal spirits are provided; judges may easily come up with others, or allow their players to suggest them. 

The King of Beasts doesn't represent any one specific kind of animal, but is all beasts at once...although his domain does not include insects, mollusks, or similar creatures.

Dwarven J├Ąger: This is an alternative class for dwarves, written by Brian Gilkison. It focuses on two-weapon fighting, as opposed to the "Sword & Board" ability of standard dwarves. I am not sure that loss of being able to smell gold makes up for the combat advantages the class gets, but Dungeon Crawl Classics is not overly concerned with balance in any case. 

The class also includes details for throwing hammers and hand crossbows.

Rites & Rituals pt. II: Church Rituals picks up from Issue #1 with rituals designed for clerics and similar purveyors of idol magic in your campaigns. The sample rituals are blessings of the graveliturgy of blessing, and rite of consecration. Examples of each ritual is provided for followers of Cthulhu and Osiris. The results of church rituals might include miracles, and a table of 30 is provided. In addition, Pious Deeds make their first appearance, but hopefully not their last. The authors are John Olszewski and Trevor Stamper.

Culpepper's Herbal: Author Trevor Stamper describes agrimony and bastard agrimony, with all the information required to use them in a game. Of equal, or even superior, interest is the discussion of decoctions. What you need to do to process, keep, and use herbs is something that most people in the modern era have little or no experience with.

Shoggoth: This is not the first time shoggoths have appeared in Dungeon Crawl Classics, but it is probably the most complete treatment that they have received, Trevor Stamper and Brian Gilkison provide everything you need to build a shoggoth for your home game, using a method similar to that used to create dragons in the core rulebook. But that's not all! The authors also provide details for using the find familiar spell to bond oneself with something a bit more Lovecraftian. On top of that, a critical hit table just for shoggoths is supplied.

All in all, this article was worth the price of the zine all by itself. And it is not, as we have seen, by itself!

The issue ends with Onward Retainer (a cartoon created by Joel Philips), an Editor's Note by the same, and Wyrm Words (a word search by Trevor Stamper and the answers to the crossword puzzle from the last issue). 

Tales from the Smoking Wyrm is a fanzine inspired not just by the roleplaying game Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC), but also by the wondrous fanzines of the past 40 years! While we focus on DCC, the material produced can be easily translated into any Old School Renaissance (OSR) system.

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