Tuesday 28 June 2016

The Black Goat

I wrote The Black Goat for Purple Duck Games. It is the second of the "Campaign Element" series, intended to provide recurrent material that can be included in an ongoing campaign with a minimal amount of fuss. In addition, the CE Series was intended to make it easier for the prospective judge to deal with "Quest For It" moments in game.

When I became aware of the need for preset pieces like this in my home campaign, I contacted Tim Hartin of Paratime Design and asked what he would charge for 15 small maps, each from 5 to 10 encounter areas, designed as he chose. (There is an exception to "designed as he chose", which I will get to when this blog reaches Silent Nightfall.)

Because I intended on turning these maps into completed products, and I intended to sell them to Purple Duck, I asked the Duck's Mark Gedak about pricing for the maps. For obvious reasons, I wished to be able to recover my investment when the products were finished. It should be remembered that, at this time, I had only three published adventures under my belt, all of them through Purple Duck, and all of them using existing cartography. I was pleasantly surprised when Mark Gedak offered to pay for the maps upfront, and to publish the CE Series as it was completed. At the time of this writing, six of these products have seen the light of day.

The Black Goat does the following for the judge:

1. It provides interest when travelling from point A to point B.

2. It provides a potential patron for elves and wizards.

3. It provides the judge with the means to put information into the players' hands.

4. It provides the players with the means to seek information. This is not the same thing as item 3, above. Item 3 allows the judge to foreshadow and lay hooks for possible adventures. When the players get to ask, they tell the judge precisely what they wish to discover.

5. It provides an outlet to take precious treasures from PCs without the players feeling (or being) ripped off.

6. It provides a treasure for master thieves to plunder...if they can.

7. It provides a new spell, which creates magical silence.

Like other entries in the CE Series, The Black Goat is not intended to be a "fire and forget" dungeon crawl. It is best used as an ongoing location, a resource for player and judge alike.

Get It Here

Monday 27 June 2016

Beyond the Silver Scream

You and dozens of your closest friends put down the bong and fill your jeans and leather-pants pockets with quarters. But tonight, you’re not heading for the arcade. You’re headed for the old downtown theater (the one that shows naughty movies at midnight) to see the newest horror flick: “Screaming Sorority Girls from Planet Playtex”.

Beyond the Silver Scream, written and published by Forrest Aguirre, is a 0-level funnel that takes your typical 70's or 80's teen punks into the high-octane adventure that is Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Not only does this adventure offer occupation tables for modern teen PCs, but it offers the Dimensional Dogs as a complete patron.

The adventure is fairly linear, but is filled with the sort of schlocky goodness one would expect from the basic idea. In fact, the cover illustration tells you all you need to know...although the interior illustrations are fun, too. If you watched any teen horror flicks in the 70s or 80s, you know exactly how this should be run. Extra points if you can get Ferris Bueller's Day Off or The Breakfast Club into the action.

The author has mentioned how cool it would be to print this on acetate as a booklet. I have considered trying to do this, although double-sided printing would be hard to read, and I am not sure how well the acetate would fold. Still, the final product would be cool to have.

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Saturday 25 June 2016

Beyond the Black Gate

Summoned by a coven of foul witches, the adventurers are bid through the Black Gate and across the multiverse, in pursuit of the crown of the fallen Horned King. There, in the icebound gloom of Thrice-Tenth Kingdom, they must pit their wits and brawn against his dread servants. His sullen citadel looms above the darksome woods and elfin ice caves, ruling over the mystic kingdom. Do you dare to ascend the throne of bones and declare yourself master of the Wild Hunt? Whatever your answer, the land beyond the Black Gate is sure to present a grim challenge for the even the hardiest of adventurers!

Dungeon Crawl Classics #72 is a 5th level adventure by Goodman Games and DCC luminary Harley Stroh. This adventure takes PCs into another the Thrice-Tenth Kingdom - a sort of "Elfland of Giants" - where they become embroiled with a potential patron and are sorely tested.

My admiration of Harley Stroh's writing is already well-known, I assume, but once again he manages to write an adventure that increases my respect for the gentleman. I have not had a chance to run this adventure yet, but it reads like a fairy tale mixed liberally with (Norse and Celtic) mythology, William Shakespeare, and DCC flavor. Mysteries are mysterious, and adventures full of wonder.

Because of the Hyperborean connection, this adventure meshes well with Frozen in Time and the various Goodman Games yuletide adventures. An additional patron, The Horned King, is included (minus write-ups for second- and third-level patron spells).

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Friday 24 June 2016

Attack of the Frawgs

Attack of the Frawgs is a 0-level funnel by Stephen Newton and published by Thick Skull Adventures.

Full Disclosure: I received a "Special Thanks" for my support in this product, as did several others.

I have previously discussed this adventure here. Since that time, a slightly revised version has come out, which builds upon the strengths of the original. Attack of the Frawgs may be followed by The Haunting of Larvik Island. A third adventure in the series, The Lost Tower of Ivok The Mad, is mentioned, but has not been published at the time of this writing.

I have a great deal of affection for this adventure, and recommend it especially for Convention games with 3-4 hour slots. The action is mostly linear, but it is good nonetheless. The gicastor lodge provided an unforgettable experience when I first ran this funnel.

Panic is mounting in the isolated settlement of Sagewood! Frightened villagers speak in hushed tones of “walking frogs the size of men” peering at them from within the woods. And now, a severely wounded local trapper has barely managed to return from Dead Goblin Lake; the fate of his partner known only to the foul creatures that so savagely attacked them.

In a small village without heroes, the townsfolk look desperately towards each other for salvation from this terror. Those who face the creatures will almost certainly pay with their lives...

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Thursday 23 June 2016

Appendix N Adventures Add-On #7

This product contains Grimic the Slaughterer by John Adams with Daniel J. Bishop, and Laro Chelle the Ring Bearer by Daniel J. Bishop. It is published by Brave Halfling. Note, again, that my name is attached to this product, and that you should bear in mind how that may color my opinion of it.

Here is something that I am confused about, though: If the last product was Add-Ons #1-5, and this is Add-On #7, what happened to Add-On #6?

Grimic the Slaughterer

This section describes the faith, followers and most common rituals of a Chaotic god of humanoids, giants, and degenerate men. Stat blocks are included for goblin shamans and head shamans.

Two sections are includes as "Add-On Extras" - Rescue the Captives  and The Shrine of Grimic. These, essentially, are examples of how the material may be used.

I may be wrong, but I believe that this product was inspired by the demon idol on the front cover of the original printing of the Advanced Dungeon & Dragons Player's Handbook. Most of the Brave Halfling materials seem to draw inspiration, directly or indirectly, from the early days of the hobby.

This can easily be used in almost any campaign.

Laro Chelle the Ring Bearer

It is said that Death is a gift to the world, but it is a gift that comes with a price.

I have found John Adams of Brave Halfling to be a stand-up guy, despite some real problems with the Appendix N Kickstarter. In part, I think, he failed to appreciate just how much work was involved. I know, also, that he suffered some personal setbacks in the last few years. Be that as it may, he did commission a number of extras to help make up for the time required to obtain all materials, and he has continued to both ship things out and respond to contact requests. He has also always paid me, in full, and on time.

Anyway, I had noted that Yves "sheriffharry" Larochelle had taken the "Ring Bearer" slot as the top backer of the Appendix N Kickstarter, and I wanted to do something that paid homage to that position. Thus, Laro Chelle the Ring Bearer was born.

When the gods gave humanoid creatures the gift of Death, it was Laro Chelle who received it. And, therefore, it is Laro Chelle alone who cannot partake of the gift. Without going into great detail, if you run this Add-On, you may wish to purchase The Age of Undying to compliment it.

Get It Here

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Appendix N Adventures Add-Ons #1-5

This product is actually a series of short scenarios for Dungeoon Crawl Classics. The bundle contains:

  • The Green Orb by Salvatore Macri and John Adams.
  • Gifts of the Only, by Daniel J. Bishop.
  • The Perplexing Disappearances in Brambury, by John Adams with Daniel J. Bishop.
  • The Untimely End of Scaviolus Hitherhill, by Michael Curtis.
  • Vance’s Merry Men, by Daniel J. Bishop.
  • A Lesson From Turtles, by Daniel J. Bishop. And
  • The Shigish, by John Adams.

And, yes, my name came up four times, so keep that in mind as I discuss the product. These are also very short individual pieces, so avoiding excessive spoilers requires keeping discussion to a minimum. With no further ado:

The Green Orb by Salvatore Macri and John Adams.

Described as an "adventure", this is really an encounter that has ramifications, and is best used as a complication during another quest.

Gifts of the Only, by Daniel Bishop.

Again, although described as an "adventure", I used this as an encounter between two adventure sites. It is also a great "Quest For It" location. Finally, published in 2013, this is the first published material that takes direct inspiration from Manly Wade Welman's "John the Balladeer" stories, a year before The Chained Coffin. If you are running a campaign in the Shudder Mountains, you might want to take a look. (There is a reference to those stories earlier, in In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer.)

The Perplexing Disappearances in Brambury, by John Adams with Daniel J. Bishop.

A (very) small funnel that could become part of a larger campaign, I became involved when asked to do an editing pass, but was unable to resist adding a Cthulhu element. This could also work as a small side-adventure for low-level characters. I believe that it was inspired by the map of Deepwatch in the "Maps of Mystery" column in Dungeon Magazine, although I don't know that with certainty.

The Untimely End of Scaviolus Hitherhill, by Michael Curtis.

A ghostly encounter by Dungeon Crawl Classics luminary Michael Curtis. This could also be fit easily into a Shudder Mountains campaign, although there is no direct Manly Wade Wellman reference that I can see.

Vance’s Merry Men, by Daniel J. Bishop.

The title should tell you which Appendix N author was the inspiration for this encounter...I was specifically inspired by the Lyonesse trilogy here. No magic. No monsters. Just a typically Vancian event as people try to take advantage of other people. The characters are named for the "actors" in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

A Lesson From Turtles, by Daniel J. Bishop.

Having heard rumors of a source of arcane knowledge, what wizard can resist? Another short bit of "Quest For It" material usable in most campaign milieus. 

The Shigish, by John Adams.

A write-up for dangerous other-dimensional creatures.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between

Now we get to an interesting item with a bit of personal history. Having talked about that history elsewhere, I am not going to discuss it here. 

Paul Wolfe and I created a set of 13 patrons for Dungeon Crawl Classics, with illustrations by the illustrious David Fisher, Scott Ackerman, and myself. This was in early days for the Dungeon Crawl Classics system, and, if you were looking for patrons outside the core rulebook, there were few to choose from. Designing patrons was, and remains, probably the most labor-intensive part of prepping for a DCC campaign, so this seemed like an extremely useful product to get out there. Based on the reviews, I think we were right.

I wrote in the Introduction, “Potential new patrons repeatedly show up in both official and third-party Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures, but as of this writing, none of these adventures include a full write-up for a patron.” I am very happy to say that this is no longer the case.

The thirteen patrons in this product are:

Enzazza, Queen of the Hive: Where bees, wasps, and their kin gather, the golden voice of Enzazza be heard. She appears as a beautiful woman with golden skin and black hair. She wears fancy clothing in hues of black, gold, and yellow, with surprisingly ornate needle-work floral patterns.  Enzazza is a patron who is exclusively interested in female casters.

Four Maidens of Tylin: The peasants of the Tylin region pay tribute to the Maidens for good fishing, calm waters, and, strangely, for good sex. Many an impotent man and barren woman have unlashed their rowboats from the shores of one of the four lakes, rowed out to one of the shrines and burned incense to a Maiden. Many betrothed, newlyweds, and even couples married for decades, pay tribute to all four, some on a regular basis – either in hope or thanks.

King Halgaz Bekur: The icy reaches of Kran bred men of ice and iron. These men, reavers all, once paused their clannish wars, united under Halgaz Bekur, a witch-king, and descended into the Warm Lands in a froth of rapine and destruction that lasted for generations. Three heroes finally ended the reign of the witch-king, wielding artifacts both found and created. The Warm Lands and its people lay in devastation, but the sun rose on a new age. The soul of the King was released but not destroyed and sank into the earth.

Hecate, Goddess of Witches: Since ancient times, the Witch-Goddess Hecate has interfered in human affairs for unknown reasons. It is certain, though, that she intercedes on behalf of some witches as well as on behalf of those wizards and elves she patronizes.

Hhaaashh-Lusss, Lord Duke of Reptiles: With the mouth of a crocodile, venomous bite, turtle-shell scales, and serpentine body, Hhaaashh-Lusss, the Cold-Blooded One, Lord Duke of Reptiles, is a supernatural being whose very existence is centered upon promoting the interests of all scaly things that creep and crawl through desert, sea, and swamp. He has no interest in the cosmic battle between Law and Chaos, and prefers patient waiting for his own prey. He is slow to act, but resolute in his decisions.

Lavarial, Angel of the Temple: Beautiful and fierce, the Angel of the Temple seeks to protect travelers in night-haunted lands, and to overthrow the crawling legions of Chaos. In many lands, her symbol is a red cross on a white field, symbolizing the meeting of paths, purity of purpose, and blood – both spilled in the service of Law and saved by miraculous healing.

Logos, the Perfect Form: When Logos looked across the cosmos in the long ago, he was at first amused by the “mistakes of creation” he saw – the many imperfect forms, the pain and anguish, love and joy, and the roiling Chaos of living things. Even the stars and planets in their wheeling geometry did not seem so perfect as the world of Logos, moving serenely through existence. After a time, amusement turned to discomfort, and discomfort, in its turn, turned to a form of alien disgust and hatred of all that is not perfect in its behavior and geometry.

Ptah-Ungurath, Opener of the Way: Known by many names, Ptah-Ungurath has always heralded the approach of Chaos. Some know him as The Black Goat, and others call him Father and Mother of Monsters. He appears as a man standing only 4 feet tall, slender and swarthy, with eyes that reflect the swirling stars of the cosmos. Any who views him can sense his sinister majesty, and few can do aught but throw themselves on their knees and prostrate before him.

Ptah-Ungurath knows much about electricity, building glass and metal machines that create gates to the far places of the universe. He is the Opener of the Way beyond space and time, where the titanic temples of tenebrous gods hold sway with strange piping and slow dances like the plod of time itself. Beyond even these, Ptah-Ungurath knows the way to the end of all things, the stinking graveyard of the universe, where worlds lie like putrid corpses and cities are no more than malodorous pustules on their decaying masses.

Radu, King of Rabbits: From ancient times, every creature had a lord or lady as patron of their kind. The King of Rabbits is not powerful, but he is cunning and swift, and his ears can pick up the first hint of danger when its source is yet miles away. He appears as a large rabbit, which can walk as a man at will, occasionally smoking a mixture of lavender and tobacco in a briarwood pipe.

Set-Utekh the Destroyer: Long before men crawled forth upon the face of the world, Set-Utekh and his brothers came to this plane. They sought to tame the great reptiles of the nascent world and to order all things as they desired. They taught men to write hieroglyphics, build monuments to their glory, navigate rivers and shallow seas, and to war. They took wives from the children of men, and their children were worshiped as gods.

Alone among these alien brothers, Set-Utekh sought not to build but destroy. So terrible was the destruction he wrought that the green land of the Sons of Osiris were blasted into a desert. The very existence of living beings upon this world was threatened. Even the plane itself came close to becoming nothing more than whirling dust and motes of ash. The Sons of Osiris therefore rose up, and with the aid of their semi-divine parents bound the Destroyer in a moment of Space-Time deep beneath a pyramid in the once-green land. Lest Set-Utekh become free, the key to his binding was hidden away on another planet or plane beyond the ken of human beings.

Umwansh, Father of the Waves: The great water elemental Umwansh has servants who gird the oceans. He can bring storms against vessels far at sea or see them safely ashore. He is also the Lord of Many Treasures, who has the pick of those things which have sunken from a thousand ships and a hundred drowned lands into the sea. He appears to mortals as a great blue-green man of whatever size he desires and, often, with a long, wavy beard. Clad in shells and scale, water trickles down his skin, and he smells like brine. Umwansh is attended by lesser elementals of various sizes and abilities.

The Arm of Vendel Re’Yune: Deep in the Hellraker Mines is a small octagonal room containing a plain stone fountain. Projecting from one of the walls is a rotted, semi-petrified humanoid arm (from the shoulder to skeletal fingertips). Of the information gleaned by scholars from those that have braved Hellraker and returned, the arm is believed to belong to the sorcerer Vendel Re’Yune, a powerful force in the Wars of Chance. Re’Yune is said to have challenged the very gods, who responded by altering the path of his last dimensional sojourn -- unfortunately, being immortal did not save the upstart sorcerer. He is believed to have lived on in a constant state of painful death trapped within a stone wall. Though rumors persist that the arm has appeared in other places under other circumstances, what is known by a very few is that Re’Yune grants highly volatile but puissant powers to those that enter his service.

Yan Oshoth, Revered Ancestor: From among your ancestors, the spirit of Yan Oshoth reaches across time and space to bring glory to your family name! In turns poet, statesman, and warrior, Yan Oshoth is the greatest of the honored departed your family still lights candles to in prayer and remembers on the Day of the Dead. He will grant you guidance, wisdom, and knowledge. In your direst need, he may even grant you his warrior's arm.

For those who are curious about these things, Paul Wolfe created the Four Maidens of Tylin, King Halgaz Bekur, and what is probably the best patron in the book – The Arm of Vendel Re’Yune. I am responsible for the rest.

I also wrote the following text, which appears on the OGC page of the product. I hope that you take it to heart, and that these patrons see use in other DCC products. You can find references to one or more of these patrons in David Fisher’s The Trolls of Mistwood, Paul Wolfe’s The God-Seed Awakens!, and my own The Revelation of Mulmo.

Dragon's Hoard Publishing is proud to support the Dungeon Crawl Classics role-playing game. To this purpose, the publisher and authors hereby grant permission to use the name of any patron or patron spell in this product by name, and to include the full write-up of up to two patrons, in any product published for the Dungeon Crawl Classics role-playing game, either by Goodman Games or under the Goodman Games DCC RPG Third Party Publishing License Agreement. Prospective publishers must include the copy, "Additional patron material from Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between, published by Dragon's Hoard Publishing, Daniel J. Bishop and Paul Wolfe authors, copyright 2012" in a reasonably prominent location (such as the credits section of the book, or in the licensing section) to obtain this permission.

Monday 20 June 2016

Alternate Occupations

Alternate Occupations, by Steven Bode, is IDD Company's only foray into Dungeon Crawl Classics. This is a shame, because this is easily the single product, next to the core rules, that belongs in every DCC player's and judge's bag of tricks. This is not a particularly sexy product. But it is a very useful product.

At it's heart, this is just an expanded list of occupations. It also has tables that allow you to roll random occupations by race or class. It also tells you what some of those occupations (which have become less common in the modern world, or exist not at all) actually are. The utilitarian use of such a product should be obvious.

The only fault with the product is that, in Dungeon Crawl Classics, there are thieves and warriors, rather than fighters and rogues. And that is such a small quibble, affecting only the headings of their respective class occupation tables.

In addition to expanding the background options for PCs, the class and race tables help in the generation of NPCs. The expanded list of occupations can also be used by the harried judge when determining what goods and services might be available in some little, out-of-the-way village.

Get It Here

The Age of Undying

That is not dead which can eternal lie, 
And with strange aeons even death may die

- H.P. Lovecraft

Tim Callahan's The Age of Undying takes you into those strange aeons, where PCs simply do not die. Nor does anything else. And if you think that means the PCs are in less danger, think again.

This is not an adventure, but is rather a zine-sized sourcebook for running adventures where nothing dies. It can be used in conjunction with any other adventure, or series of adventures. It discusses how such an Age might come to be - either through the action of the PCs (as in the author's home campaign) or otherwise.

From nastier critical hits to the effects on classes, Tim Callahan covers everything you need.

The value of The Age of Undying is greater than simply running the strange aeon itself. Parts of this work may be useful if you are running an undying PC gained via The Imperishable Sorceress, or to make Laro Chelle the Ring Bearer a larger (or more dangerous) campaign arc. Running Faerie Tales From Unlit Shores, the judge could pen an encounter where Death itself is captured, as in The Soldier and Death.

Likewise, the Age of the Undying may be global, local, or whatever the judge deems best. In a Crawljammer campaign, the Age may affect a single world or the entire system. In any campaign, it may affect a single plane of existence, or all planes of existence.

Get It Here

Saturday 18 June 2016

Against the Atomic Overlord

For a thousand years Mezar-Kul has known only war, and now the Overlord reigns supreme. From his gargantuan metal fortress he rules the blasted remains of the planet’s last city. Hope seems lost – until visitors arrive from a distant world, bringing uncanny, magical powers. Your adventurers must pick a path through twisted ruins, ancient missile silos, strange monorail systems, and a conflict with four deadly factions to save a world – or destroy it!

Against the Atomic Overlord by Edgar Johnson adds Mezar-Kul to the list of Dungeon Crawl Classics planets publishes by Goodman Games.

This is a complex adventure, with many moving parts. While I have not yet run it, a read-through suggests photocopying (or printing out) several pages to make them easy to reference. Likewise, while there is enough material to run the adventure without further prep, there are many places where the judge could prep minor expansions if so desired.

Inevitably, this adventure will be compared to Peril on the Purple Planet. The reader is reminded that Peril has an entire boxed set of support materials, as well as additional supporting adventures. The PC's actions in Peril have very little lasting effect on the planetary milieu itself; the same is not true for the PC's actions on Mezar-Kul. One way or another, they will transform the world.

Although it is difficult to imagine a published sequel to Against the Atomic Overlord - it would have to take into account two very different possible outcomes - it is easy to imagine that the world of Mezar-Kul would feature within a judge's expanded campaign setting. In fact, it is easy to imagine a prospective judge reworking the material herein for use with the Mutant Crawl Classics role-playing game...although the finale would have to be strongly reconfigured.

Get It Here

Tuesday 7 June 2016

A Faceless Enemy

For a while, I thought that the Dungeon Crawl Classics community had seen the last of Chapter 13 Press with their publication of Tales from the Fallen Empire.  Happily, that has proven not to be the case. A Faceless Enemy, by Oscar Rios, just hit the virtual shelves of RPGNow.

It should be noted that there is no “Compatible With DCC RPG” logo on the cover, and there appears to be no OGL section in the pdf. I am not sure what to think about that….? This is a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure, and it clearly references the DCC core rulebook for monsters.

Anyway, the adventure is designed for 5th level PCs. As it is recent, I will give no spoilers. It is a good adventure, and although it adheres to the background from the Tales from the Fallen Empire book, it should be easy to adjust to another campaign milieu. There is a great deal of consideration as to how the decisions of the players involved can affect the set-up and outcome of different sections of the adventure. While I have not yet played through the adventure, it seems well thought out and likely to be a great deal of fun.

CAVEAT 1: There are two plot points in the adventure, where one offers an obvious (to me) solution to the other. This shouldn’t damage the adventure, although it may change part of the outcome. The second to last paragraph on page 6 may undo what is revealed on page 17. ‘Nuff said.

CAVEAT 2:  There is a LOT of interaction with NPCs in this adventure. For judges who are ready to jump into multiple roles, this is going to be a blast. Note that, while the decisions of the NPCs are important, the author is pretty damn careful to make sure that those decisions don’t derail the PCs being of central importance.