Wednesday 15 March 2017

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2016 Vol 1

The 2016 Gongfarmer’s Almanac: Volume 1: Men, Magic, & Drink is a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Zine written, illustrated, and produced by the DCC RPG G+ community under the creative vision and direction of Doug Kovacs, Harley Stroh, Jon Hershberger, Marc Bruner, Matt Hildebrand, and Michael Jones, under the rubric of the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

This volume was written by Bob Brinkman, bygrinstow, Jarrett Crader, Keith Garrett, Doug Keester, Mike Markey, Diogo Nogueira, James Pozenel, Ron Tilton, and James V. West. Art is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, David Coppoletti, Stefan Poag, Wayne Snyder, Mez Toons, Shield of Faith Studios/Matt Jordan, and William McAusland.

Disclosure: I am credited as an editor.

This volume is divided into PC Classes, Rituals & Spells, and other articles. Let's look inside!

PC Classes

  • Hot-Dog Suit Class: Taking "you're no hero" to a whole new level, this pathetic four-level class is nonetheless playable. It is literally a guy wearing one of those restaurant-mascot suits. It doesn't even have to be a hot dog if the judge likes a little variety. It is credited as "J. Kitchen posted the photo, Kevin Heuer said it, bygrinstow wrote it up." It is so hard to succeed in "awesomely pathetic", but here you go. If Jerry Lewis was playing Dungeon Crawl Classics, this would be his class.
  • Barbarian Class: This is Diogo Nogueira's take on the mighty wilderness warrior. There are now several DCC builds available for barbarians. You can select the one you prefer, mix & match, or just use them all. 
  • Halfling Hucker: Do you dream of having your halfling throw stones at giant spiders while singing "Attercop! Attercop!" at them? R.S. Tilton provides an alternative halfling class that has the throwing covered. You will have to provide the lyrics.

Rituals & Spells

  • Fantastic Familiars: Bob Brinkman offers a sampling of five fantastic familiars, including Brown Jenkin from H.P. Lovecraft's The Dreams in the Witch House
  • Enhanced Spellburn: Doug Keester offers some extended rules for spellburn, which includes some interesting options - and some which might be downright worrisome for the party wizard. The "Ultimate Sacrifice" option might mesh well with the "Magic Here and Magic There" section on page 358 of the core rulebook.
  • Skeletal Heap (Thief Spell): This is a spell, by Jarrett Crader, from "North Kovacistan", which is intended to defend a wizard's spellbook from thieves...but which thieves can ironically cast by permanently burning Luck. Of interest, this spell has no Corruption results as "The results of the spell are corruption enough". The author is not kidding. Nor is he wrong.

Other Stuff

  • Drunk’s Luck: It seems that a number of our favorite Appendix N protagonists spend a lot of time in the tavern. A fine pint or a shot of whisky might have its own rewards in real life, but why would our PCs engage in similar activity unless there was a reason? Diogo Nogueira offers a mechanical reason why we might discover our PCs starting or ending their adventures on a bender.
  • Random Tavern Generator: Keith A. Garrett provides some tables for producing a tavern on the fly, or to generate ideas during game prep. All you need are 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d12, and 1d20. If you roll, in order, 3, 3, 5, 4, 10, and 11, you have the Prancing Pony in Bree as it was first encountered by Frodo & Company. 
  • Fantasy Food Generator: There you are with your new tavern, but what is it serving? Keith A. Garrett has you covered there as well. Roll another handful of dice and you'll know. Braised leg of bugbear for a light snack, anyone?
  • House Rule: Adventuring Companion: Diogo Nogueira offers a house rule where there a benefits and hindrances for adventurers sharing a special bond. 
  • The Art of Infighting: R.S. Tilton provides some Mighty Deeds for fisticuffs, grappling, and close-ranged stabbing with the ubiquitous dagger.
  • Missing Player Tables: Have a player who can't make it to the game? Mike Markey ofers some random d24 tables to determine what her character does. Funny? Yes. Should you use them? Madness, I say. Madness.
  • Peasant Draft: James A. Pozenel, Jr., provides a draft mechanic for selecting your gongfarmers before the funnel begins. 

Finally, the volume is finished with a (0-level?) Character Record Sheet, without attribution to the creator. If anyone knows, please share in the comments! <---Confirmed that this was James West!

Get It Here!

Monday 13 March 2017

Fire in the Mountain

AL 8: Fire in the Mountain is a 0-level funnel written by Daniel J. Bishop. Art is by Jacob Blackmon and Brett Neufeld. Cartography is by Dyson Logos. The story of Billy-come-down-the mountain was written by Perry Fehr (uncredited, but who also acted as editor), whose write-up of urisks for Races of Porphyra forms the basis for this adventure. The publisher is Purple Duck Games, and this is the first release under Purple Duck Games' Patreon project for Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Disclosure: I am the author. I am also a subscriber to Purple Duck Games' DCC Patreon.

AL 8: Fire in the Mountain is divided into two sections: the titular 0-level funnel, and a "Races of Porphyra" section that presents the urisk for Dungeon Crawl Classics. The second section was actually written first, and the first section was written to increase the value of the product to the user. The "Races of Porphyra" section is only 6 pages long, including a full-page illustration and the story of Billy-come-down-the mountain by Perry Fehr.

The story of the "critter" Billy-down found on the mountain, "hairless, green blooded and white" is the base inspiration for the faerie sylphs. Whether you choose to use the description in the text, or the illustration, as your base description, is your choice. Although the faerie sylphs are described as female and hairless, the males (when encountered) have flowing hair.

This just came out, so I cannot go too far into details regarding the adventure, but I did attempt to include material that, as with the CE Series, might make a group decide to return to this location in the future. The inclusion of the urisk as a Dungeon Crawl Classics class should increase the value of the product as well.

The adventure was also designed to mesh with the background of Perry Fehr's AL 6: Playing the Game and AL 7: The Elemental Lords Awaken!. It also makes some use of a patron from the DCC core rulebook that hasn't been fully developed yet.

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Monday 6 March 2017

Bride of the Darkened Rider

Bride of the Darkened Rider is a 3rd level adventure by Kim C. Frandsen. Rick Hershey is listed as an artist on RPG Now, but the illustrations appear to be public domain images. Bride of the Darkened Rider is published by Fat Goblin Games.

Disclosure: I was given a chance  to write for this imprint, which I had to decline because the offer conflicted with other writing commitments.

Right upfront, this adventure piqued my interest with an appropriate quote by the estimable Robert E. Howard. On top of which, the public domain illustrations come from collections of fairy tales and legends, as far as I can tell, making this adventure easy to slot into the world of Faerie Tales from Unlit Shores. That was, in fact, one of the reasons that I declined the offer, as I feel rather honor-bound to send further fairy tale-inspired manuscripts to Purple Duck Games until the FT Series is complete.

The author does a good job making use of fairy tale elements, and does an excellent job of using the "death throes" advice in the Dungeon Crawl Classics core rulebook to make opponents have a final surprise. There are a number of pieces in the adventure that are quite flavorful. The author also includes a number of vignettes which demonstrate something of day-to-day life in the adventure setting. The monsters encountered are flavorful, and definitely hit the "make monsters mysterious" mark.

Writing to make the work fit pre-existing art is rather like writing sonnets when compared to writing free verse. I think that Kim Frandsen did a good job of linking art to words, so that the art actually compliments the adventure.

I should also mention that this adventure includes a complete new patron, Morketh, Lord of Darkness and Unspoken Pleasures. Morketh does not have patron spells, but rather grants an extra spell slot when client wizards can gain 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level spells.

For all that, there are some problems with this product, and you should be aware of them before purchasing. First off, this is a really medieval adventure that uses some jarring modern parlance. Par for the course with a lot of adventures, I know, but when a dryad suggests "We better go up and check it out" or a minstrel doesn't know where the dark knight "originally worked", it jars with the tone of the rest of the adventure.

Secondly, the adventure really, really needed another editing pass. Minor glitches abound, but there are places where a lack of editing drops parts of sentences or makes it more difficult than necessary to understand what the author intended. At one point, your PCs enter a combat encounter with three individuals, only one of whom has a statblock (p. 19). The editing also damages the utility of the unique patron, as his first spellburn entry is incomplete. There is a poison that does more damage to you if you succeed than if you fail; I imagine that the damage on a failure is intended to be permanent, while the other is temporary?

Third, I am not sure how much Dungeon Crawl Classics the author has played, but the spellburn table for Morketh, while flavorful, will need some work to match the framework of spellburn in the DCC rules. Similarly, while most examples of patron taint in the core rules (or other sources) have three levels of most taints, so that if rolled again, the effects become more severe, the client wizard of Morketh gets off somewhat easily. I would also imagine that more play experience would have increased the difficulty of the fights for 3rd level adventurers considerably. I would be happy to throw this adventure, as written, at 1st level adventurers. Against 3rd level PCs, you may wish to beef up the opposition.

Finally, although the first half of the adventure as written is very linear, I imagine that as played, the linear parts will go by quickly enough not to bother the majority of players. Some of the linear material could have used more detail - for instance, what if you refuse to help the dryad? What boons can the old wizard on page 17 give PCs who befriend him (i.e., who are looking to learn spells)? What if they decide to kill him and take his stuff? What is his name? Is there any benefit to becoming the dryad's lover? I ask these questions because I know that they are the kinds of questions that players ask, either directly or indirectly through their actions at the table.

Because this is currently pdf-only, a lot of these issues could be cleaned up before (hopefully) a print version appears. There is more than enough good stuff here that I am glad that I bought it, but if the aforementioned problems were addressed it could be stellar.

EDIT: Many problems were fixed prior to print, but the cut-off table in the patron listing is sadly still there.

Here's hoping for a long and prosperous product line!

Get It Here!

Wednesday 1 March 2017

D.A.M.N. Magazine #1 - Winter 2017

D.A.M.N. Magazine #1 - Winter 2017 was written by Daniel J. Bishop, Paul Wolfe, Stephen “Snake” Newton, Thorin Thompson, Garett Oliver, Julian Bernick, and Godric McKellan. Art is by David Fisher, Daniel J. Bishop, bygrinstow, Paul Wolfe, and Jordyn Boci. The publisher is Mystic Bull Games.

Disclosure: I have writing credits in this product. In addition, I have an art and Contributing Editor credit. The initial concept for D.A.M.N. was created by Garett Oliver, who was at the time a player in my home group. I was part of the team, along with Paul Wolfe, David Fisher, and Rev. Dak J. Ultimak, who resurrected D.A.M.N. Thankfully, it wasn't I who had to steal this soul from Death’s hoary grasp. I do make a small amount from sales.

So, here we are, at the end of one long journey, and at the beginning of another. D.A.M.N. is finally in print. It finally includes not only adventures, but actual news, as the "DCC Adventure Magazine and News" moniker intended. And it starts a new, and hopefully decades-spanning, journey into being more than a "one issue wonder".

Let's take a look inside.

From the Damned Pit: This is a forward from the publisher, Paul Wolfe, about the journey we have taken and where the magazine is going. Paul is in error when he says that I have "basically written something for every DCC publisher", although I would like that to be true at some point. I have yet to bag Aleph Null Publishing, Barrel Rider Games, Black Arrow Press, Black Blade Publishing, Chapter 13 Press, Cognition Pressworks, Cut to the Chase Games, Death Machine Press, DIY RPG Productions, Fatbelly Press, Fireinthedust Productions, Forrest Aguirre, Freak Flag Press, The Hapless Henchman, Hydra Collective, IDD Company, Inner Ham, Kickassistan Ministry of Tourism, Kill It With Fire, Land of Phantoms (completely my fault here), Leviathan Publishing, Mount Parnassus Games, Order of the Quill, Other Selves, Owl Knight Publishing, Pacesetter Games & Simulations, People Them With Monsters, Phlogiston Books, Purple Sorcerer Games (again, entirely my fault), Steve Bean Games, Thick Skull Adventures, TSR Inc., or Zorathan City-State. There are a lot more people publishing DCC materials than you may think!

News from Around the Fire: Things that are new in third party publishing.

d14 Rumors and Reports: With some pictures of cultists.

Crowdfunding News: Focuses on the upcoming Umerican Survival Guide by Reid San Filippo and others. Including some information on the stretch goals we can expect when the master of Crawling Under a Broken Moon starts his kick. There's some good stuff coming!

Third Party Spotlight: Sky ov Crimson Flame: A preview of the upcoming 0-level funnel, Sky ov Crimson Flame, by Thorin Thompson (Owl Knight Publishing) and Blights ov the Eastern Forest, a 1-level mini-campaign that expands the surrounding environs.

Third Party Spotlight: Dungeon Lord: An interview with Terra Frank.

Forsaken Reavers of Praeder Peak!: Paul Wolfe's level 2-4 adventure from the original version of D.A.M.N., now with superior layout. Maps are also updated and improved.

The Mysterious Valley: My hex crawl for any level. Layout is improved, but this is otherwise very much as in the original version of D.A.M.N.. There are lots of monster stats in this adventure, and many areas that the judge could expand. This was, to my knowledge, the first mini-campaign setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Effects of Extreme Spellburn: Stephen “Snake” Newton provides rules for making spellburn more costly...If you burn 3 or more points on a single spell, roll on the table provided. The more you burn, the bigger the die you roll.

The Snow Queen: This level 4 adventure by Garett Oliver appeared in the original version of D.A.M.N., but the new release provided an opportunity to clean up some of the editing. In particular, the dragon at the end is now far more complete, and challenging!

It’s All Greek to Me!: I provide some "Mythical Monsters From a Future Age". "Ages hence, the Daedalus Genetic Networking Group (DGNG) will merge computer technology, robotics, and designer genetics to recreate creatures from the Greek myths. When civilization collapses, these creatures will continue to dwell in the world, merging slowly with their demonic and supernatural counterparts." You get full write-ups for Cerberus, Charoninites, Ophiotaurus, Empousae, Erinyes, Eurayle, Ipotane, Lamia, and the Panes.

Morningstar — Lord of Light and Knowledge: Author Julian Bernick provides information for clerics of the star-serpent Morningstar, including unique disapproval tables. It includes an inverted telling of the Garden of Eden story from the Biblical Genesis.

The Barbarian: Once more, D.A.M.N. presents this warrior-inspired class by Godric McKellan.

Sustaining Permanent Injuries: Not content to make spellburn more hazardous, Stephen “Snake” Newton provides a d24 table so that non-wizards can also "bear the tell-tale wounds of adventuring".

Converting Material to DCC: My article from the original version of D.A.M.N., repackaged and with a better layout.

Subscriptions and Submissions: You should read this part. D.A.M.N. is now a paying market.

Get It Here!