Tuesday 24 October 2017

Drink Spin Run Podcast (Honorary)

Drink Spin Run is a podcast hosted by Donn Stroud and Adam Muszkiewicz. The format of the podcast is to discuss what the hosts and guests are drinking, listening to musically, and running game-wise. although not specifically a podcast devoted to Dungeon Crawl Classics, you may recognize Adam Muszkiewicz from Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad. In addition, the podcast's guests have included several DCC luminaries.

Disclosure: I have been a guest on this podcast.

The podcast typically divides itself into two parts. They are recorded at the same time, but post-production means that the second half of an episode is generally a week after the first half.

Examples of shows that may be of interest to the DCC community include (but are not limited to):

Listen To It Here!

Friday 20 October 2017

Appendix N Book Club Podcast (Honorary)

The Appendix N Book Club hosts a podcast to "explore the stories that inspired the creation of the world's first fantasy roleplaying game." Episodes are hosted by Jeff Goad and Ngo Vinh-Hoi, and occasionally include guests.

Although not specifically focused on Dungeon Crawl Classics, I have included this podcast for an honorable mention because (1) Appendix N played a large enough part in the formation of Dungeon Crawl Classics that Joseph Goodman reproduced it in the core rulebook, and (2) Jeff Goad's activity in the DCC community, including running regular public Dungeon Crawl Classics and Mutant Crawl Classics games, ensures that, where appropriate, the podcast touches on these games.

Appendix N is a list of recommended reading first compiled by Gary Gygax in the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide. The list includes works cited as having specifically influenced the development of Dungeons & Dragons. Actually reading these books was part of the process Joseph Goodman embarked upon when he created Dungeon Crawl Classics, and Dungeon Crawl Classics has mechanics designed to specifically emulate at, the game table, the types of action, events, creatures, and characters that give these stories their unique feel.

Not everyone, of course, is going to have a huge collection of Appendix N literature to read through, so podcasts like the Appendix N Book Club and Sanctum Secorum, which discuss these works and their relationship to gaming, are very welcome indeed! Even if you have read through the Appendix N list, it is interesting to hear others' perspectives on these works.

Definitely worth a listen.

Listen to It Here!

Enter the Dagon

Dungeon Crawl Classics #95: Enter the Dagon is a 5th level adventure written by Harley Stroh. Art was provided by Doug Kovacs (including cover and cartography), Chris Arneson, Friedrich Haas, Jesse Mohn, Peter Mullen, and Stefan Poag. Spell duel cards were designed by Matthias Weeks. The publisher is Goodman Games.

The genesis of this adventure are spell duel tournaments held at Gen Con 2015 and Gen Con 2016. And, indeed, the module is rounded out with Notes From the Road, describing some highlights from those tournaments, and color pictures from Gen Con 2015 and 2016.

Hundreds of players spell duelled each other, and hundreds of PCs died. It's easy to see how that could be tremendous fun at a convention, but perhaps more difficult to see how it could make an entertaining adventure for your home game.

It would have been so easy for this adventure to suck. But, Harley Stroh wrote it, so you know it doesn't. On the contrary, it is excellent. Interesting choices with real consequences matter, and there is a lot more going on here than just a series of spell duels. There is more than enough to keep the non-casters in the party engaged.

The Isle of Dagon: to common folk, it presages death, pestilence, and woe. To warlocks, witches, and wizards, the isle offers a wealth of occult power, forbidden knowledge, and spells beyond the ken of mortal man. But before you can lay claim to the island’s secrets, first you have to survive its fabled spell duels — a series of death matches where only one caster may reign supreme.

Wizards and elves will be tested to the fullest of their abilities. To triumph, parties must also survive the machinations of the other contenders and their wicked retinues. For when vying for the title of Master of Dagon, and battling against some of the most powerful sorcerers to tread the Known Worlds, you will need every advantage you can glean. Will you and your companions sit passively by, awaiting whatever fate befalls you? Or will you take the fight to your foes?

And when your life — and those of your companions — hangs on the casting of a single spell, will you have the courage to accept Dagon’s challenge?

The time for questioning has passed. Black-sailed ships have come to ferry you and your companions to the fabled death matches. It is time to Enter the Dagon.

Get It Here!

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017

Credited to The Gongfarmer's Almanac Community on Lulu, the 2017 edition of The Gongfarmer’s Almanac was a massive undertaking written, illustrated, and produced by the DCC RPG G+ community under the creative vision and direction, layout, and graphic design of Doug Kovacs, Jon Hershberger, Harley Stroh,
Marc Bruner, Matt Hildebrand, and Michael Jones

Each issue of the 2017 publication year is collected here in a single volume and offered at production cost.

For discussions of each volume see below:

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

Volume 5

Volume 6

Volume 7

Volume 8

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The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 8

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 8: 2017 Master Zine Index, was written by Jon Hershberger. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, William McAusland, and Maciej Zagorski. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium. Volume 8 does not follow this theme, but rather contains a Master Index of the contents of existing DCC RPG-related zines, similar to what we've seen in previous years.

We are, as a community, extremely lucky to have Jon Hershberger, who is not only one of the driving forces behind the Gongfarmer's Almanac, but who has, for years now, helped us keep track of what is in the smaller publications. The author writes:

"The number of ‘zines currently available stands at thirteen, and includes the following: Black Powder Black Magic, The Cities of Zorathi, CRAWL!, Crawling Under a Broken Moon, Crawljammer, D.A.M.N.!, Dungeon Lord, The Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, Myassari, Prayers of the Forgotten, Sanctum Secorum, the 2016 Doug Kovacs Sketch Book, and The Gongfarmer’s Almanac itself!"

I do have some questions about that. Why, for instance, is a product like Myassari or Prayers of the Forgotten, both of which are intended as far as I can tell as a one-shot product, listed as a zine, but Vault of the Dragonslayer and The Phlogiston Books are not? Why is the 2016 Doug Kovacs Sketch Book included but not The Devil's Chapbook or Scrivener of Strange Wor(l)ds? I am guessing that this is an artifact of the Index being a one-man project. Really, there's only so much one can do. It also suggests that, if you are making a zine, you should perhaps let Jon Hershberger know...possibly even create a list of index entries for him.

A few minor errors have crept in. Paul Wolfe's "Reptile Ghuls" from D.A.M.N. #1 are listed as "Reptile Ghouls", for instance, and the Magic Wand spell I wrote for Crawl #3 is listed under Magic Items rather than Rituals & Spells.

Still, these are (at best) minor quibbles when you consider the massive, unpaid, undertaking that Jon Hershberger has provided the community. Consider this rather a call to other publishers: Lighten the load by providing entries that only need to be collated into the Master Index. Perhaps consider providing a complimentary copy to Mr. Hershberger as well, because when someone is looking for chainsaw stats, information on Zin’s Wizard Staff, or wants to learn more about Clara the Demon Chicken, they will be checking this index, and it may well drive sales your way!

Get It Here!

Thursday 19 October 2017

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 7

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 7: Adventures and Settings , was written by Steven Bean, Eric Betts, Daniel J. Bishop, Jarret Crader, Terra Frank, and Gabriel Pérez Gallardi. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, Shawn Brewer, Dan Domme, Gabriel Pérez Gallardi, Christian Kessler, SGT Dave, Matt Sutton, Shyloh Wideman, and Clayton Williams. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Disclosure: I wrote a submission in this volume.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium. Volume 7 does not follow this theme, but rather contains content similar to what we've seen in previous years.

Crypt of the Lost Hyms: This adventure, by Gabriel Pérez Gallardi (cartography and symbology by Christian Kessler), revisits Ur-Hadad, the titular city of Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad. The adventure isn't long, so I will try not to do anything to spoil it. Suffice to say, knowledge of the Metal Gods will go a long way.

“In the vast windswept plains North of Ur-Hadad, the First City of Men, a lonely barrow is the only landmark for many miles around.”

How to Win Friends and Influence People, DCC Style: In this article, Jarret Crader gives you tricks, tips, and support for running Dungeon Crawl Classics in public venues.

Bloody Hound: Steven Bean supplies a new class for Nowhere City Nights. The Bloody Hound is the film noir detective recast through a Nowhere City Nights lens.

Rules and Skills for Detective Work in Nowhere City Nights: And then Steven Bean supplies the rules you need to make use of that class. Taken together, you have the makings of a detective in any sort of urban DCC environment.

The Lost Patrol: A Zero-Level Funnel for Trench Crawl Classics: There are a lot of flavors of Dungeon Crawl Classics available now. You can crawljam, crawl under a broken moon, visit Drongo or the Purple Planet, crawl with mutants, or play noir-style characters with magic. This adventure, by Eric Betts, takes you into World War II with more than a dash of the occult.

Your infantry group, the 1023rd Rifle Regiment, has been attacking into Romania striking toward Hitler’s oil fields...or so the rumors say. You are not really sure where you are, just that you arrived by truck less than two weeks ago and have been marching and fighting since. Mostly, fighting consists of running for cover when German artillery starts to blow your fellow soldiers apart. Three days ago, the regiment stopped on this rise and you dug the trench you’ve been living in since. It is miserable, but at least you have a place to hide from the artillery.

Trench Crawl Classics: Eric Betts supplies the rules you need to leap into occult World War II action, using Dungeon Crawl Classics. Also recommended are the firearms rules from Crawl #8. In this case, the PCs are conscripts in the Red Army, but it would be easy enough to expand. Notably, there are no new classes described - the occult is real, and your PC might well end up a cleric or wizard!

The Vampire, Returned: Author Terra Frank provides a series of tables for creating unique vampires. These do not create statblocks, but they do provide the nature of the creature you would then stat up.

Thirteen Brides of Blood: Finally, the issue ends with a zero-level funnel by Daniel J. Bishop, with artwork by Shawn Brewer and cartography by Shyloh Wideman. I mention this because the adventure was largely written to use existing cartography, supplied by Shyloh Wideman over the G+ DCC community. Without his support and enthusiasm, it wouldn't have happened!

Vampires haunt the land! Erasmus Cordwainer Blood has existed for countless centuries, feeding off the villages closest to his hidden lair almost as a form of sport. Usually, his victims are those who remain out beyond the setting of the sun, lone travellers, or the inhabitants of isolated farmsteads. Once every seven years, though, villagers from number of nearby communities simply disappear. It is said, in hushed whispers, that Blood has taken them to feed his Brides.

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The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 6

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 6: Men and Magic, was written by Randy Andrews, Terra Frank, Keith Nelson, James Pozenel, Jr., SGT Dave, Andrew Sternick, R.S. Tilton. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, Matt Sutton, Clayton Williams, and William McAusland. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium. Volume 6 breaks from this theme, and is in many ways similar to what we've seen in previous years.

This volume is broken down into four sections: New Classes, New Magic Items, New Rules for Weapons, and New Tables. Let's take a look.

New Classes

Dwarf Sapper: Not everyone is satisfied with non-humans having only specific "race as class" archetypes, and a number of variants have appeared since the inception of Dungeon Crawl Classics. Here, Keith Nelson offers a dwarf whose specialty is "scouting out the enemy and clearing the way for the dwarven clansmen who care for naught but gold and glory." This class has a bit of fighting prowess, a fair bit of thievery, and the ability to create alchemical items that might help light the way...or blow it up.

The Invincible Chicken: Your last 0-level farmer has bitten the dust...but his chicken has survived. Everyone else is leveling their surviving PCs. What do you do? Fear not, for Randy Andrews has provided a surprisingly playable answer! You play the chicken!

Orc and Half-Orc Classes and Orc Berserker: There are mentions of orcs in The Hobbit, and, of course, they play a major role in The Lord of the Rings. Orcs also have a long history in gaming. In The Lord of the Rings, half-orcs are bred by Saruman (and, for this, as for so many other things, curl up with the books rather than the movies), and half-orcs appear in the 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook.

Author Andrew Sternick offers a combined orc and half-orc class (both options have things to differentiate them, though), and statblocks for orc berserkers: "orcs (or half-orcs) whose minds have been so eroded by battle-fury that they are no longer capable of even the minimum of self-control necessary to participate in orcish society."

For another take on orcs, see Crawl #5.

Paladin of Gambrinus, “Bungstarter of the Faithful”: Keith Nelson's probably (but not mandatorily) inebriated paladin, with a "deep, almost fanatical reverence and commitment to the power of the holy trinity of water, grain, and hops", is a playable class option for a holy warrior who has, possibly, had a bit too much to drink. The paladin has his own disapproval table, with entries like "Beset with a general feeling of love for their fellow man, the paladin is at -1 to actions until they spend 5 minutes extolling the virtues of how great people/things/activities are." and "Melancholic introspection. The paladin is overcome with intense sorrow and begins weeping inconsolably for 1 turn. -1 to all actions for an hour as they continue to burst into tears at the slightest pretext."

New Magic Items

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Author James A. Pozenel, Jr. offers four unique magic items: Pipes of the Nuclear Chaos, the Thunderous Book of Agrizaneus, the Ring of Gibdit the Great, and the Icon of St. Bhlad. These are all good, flavorful items, which have drawbacks commensurate to their power levels.

The Mad Merchant’s Treasures: Kevin White and Shyloh Wideman offer four magical treasures that have been touched by the chaos of Pandemonium, and which therefore have some significant drawbacks. These are an ornate helmet called Tenophar, the Compelling; a hooded cloak known as Nellia, the Lonesome Surface Dweller; that beer stein which sages name Bethyl, the Maltlord; and the elven walking stick hight Harrah, the Flowering Vine.

Mors Mercator: Clayton Williams describes "a wandering NPC that pulls a wagon of
wonders, wares, and weird things filled with objects she collects as she travels through rifts in time, space, and dimensional planes." She is a lover of riddles, and there are extensive tables not only of what you might win, but also of what price you might pay if you do not. Importantly, sample riddles are also provided.

New Rules for Weapons

Weapon Variants: If you want a broadsword, katana, or scimitar, R.S. Tilton has you covered. Not only are the base stats given for these weapons, but weapon-based Mighty Deed tables are included (with the critical failure/success system from Marzio Muscedere's excellent Steel and Fury). Finally, the article includes the unique magic sword, Hellblade.

New Tables

SGT Dave’s Table of Books: A d100 table for books that might be found in a library, including some with magical abilities (filed under Traps & Curses). Titles include Sweedle's Guide to Household Mutagens, Necrowrathaconicon ex Secundus (considered the best of the Necronomicon sequels), and Read Between the Lines: The Layman’s Guide to Demonic Pacts, Long-term Leases, and other Civil Contracts.

d60 Primitive Names: From Creb to Zara, Terra Frank provides a quick table of names appropriate for your primitive gaming. Include an extra syllable for "child of", "friend of", "enemy of" or "servant of". If you are playing Frozen in Time, The Tribe of Ogg and the Gift of Suss, or The Caves of the Sacred Seven from Dungeon Lord #1, you just might find this useful!

Finally, the volume is finished by two pages of 0-Level PC Record Sheets, created by Billy Longino.

Get It Here!

Tuesday 17 October 2017

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 5

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 5: Monsters and Patrons of Pandemonium, was written by Jim Kitchen, Colin Mills, Aaron Robinson, Richard Rush, SGT Dave, Penny and Dylan Spaniel, and Clayton Williams. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, Shawn Brewer, Larissa Caplan, Colin Mills, Aaron Robinson, SGT Dave, Dylan Spaniel, Matt Sutton, and Clayton Williams. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium.

"Awash in the roiling seas of phlogiston, home to alien horrors and unknown powers, the ever-changing lands of Pandemonium remain a mystery to even the most powerful of wizards and sorcerers. Few explorers choose to travel the chaos-way, and even fewer return. To most, Pandemonium is a myth, an impossible place where the land and sky are all mutable, where the land itself can be an ally or foe, and where a powerful will can transform reality." - Harley Stroh

Let's look inside.

Agents of Egris: Author Aaron Robinson describe the warped and disfigured creatures that had one been mortals in the Cult of Egris. These Agents often enhance "their own anatomy with the diabolical, bio-mechanical devices bestowed upon them by their overlord as favours. These augmentations often take the form of strange, bird-like appendages and limbs; tributes to the avian form of their tyrannical overlord."

Amplexator: Clayton Williams offers a strange creature which is attracted to light, which seem to be a very strange take on the traditional lurker above. This creature is described as being "found in the first level of Pandemonium, Pandesmos", which suggests a planar cosmology somewhat different than what is suggested in Volume 1, but, then, Pandemonium is Chaos itself, so who is to say?

Sofa Siren: And then you see your grandmother sitting on the sofa. She pats the seat. "Sit down and relax". But this isn't really your grandmother. It is a sofa siren, Penny and Dylan Spaniel's  "ancient shapeshifters having a common ancestry with similar creatures that surround themselves in treasure awaiting careless adventurers to greedily stumble into their traps." Delightfully, there is a d24 table for items if you search the body (something has always fallen under the cushions!).

Culmenthdor, the Sundered: Author Colin Mills supplies a complete patron write-up for Culmenthdor, the Sundered.

"Culmenthdor was once a being of curious power, any creature he mortally wounded became part of him, increasing his strength, mass, and abilities. Consumed by an interminable bloodlust, Culmenthdor burned through the planes, devouring all in his way, until his existence proved to be a threat to powers far greater than he.

The ancient gods found that Culmenthdor could only be permanently reduced in power by separating parts of his mass from his main body. In an act which sent ripples of planar distortions cascading through the cosmos, Culmenthdor was rent into atomic pieces and scattered to the stars. The threat he posed effectively removed for the time being, Culmenthdor passed from memory. Over time, Culmenthdor’s fragments have sought life, and the power to combine his pieces until he can return to consume once more."

New patrons are always nice to see, especially those which have been fully fleshed out. This patron might be more useful to the judge, but I can see greedy players, willing to gamble for power, bonding to this demon.

Blood Fang of Culmenthdor, the Sundered: A magical "dagger" linked to the level 3 patron
spell, Madness of Blood, and Culmenthdor's Invoke Patron results.

Manateecuhtli: Linked to The Swamp of the Oboline in Volume 3, "Manateecuhtli, It of the Hundred Heads of a Hundred Hands, furiously thrashes beneath the leaves of Harikag. It’s great bulk is the dark honey color of an unnatural bronze, and where a less fearsome being’s face and head would be is but a seething mass of luminous blue centipedes that periodically drop off and begin crafting engines of destruction. Manateecuhtli calls for any brave enough to submit to it to join its legion, which it spends carelessly upon whatever is currently the subject of its ire."

Author Richard Rush offers a full patron write-up. Manateecuhtli does not offer unique patron spells, however, but may teach specific spells from the core rulebook.

Quetzalcoautwalrus: Richard Rush then describes the Feathered Pinniped, which "gently floats beneath the boughs of the Harikag. Its skin fluctuates across each of the 89 colors of the 13 secret rainbows, and its feathered frill gently sways in the winds of time. Its massive tusks dangle, pointing to the root tree and the center of reality. It has always been, and will always be. It contemplates and ponders. It ruminates and incorporates. It knows nothing and understands all."

This being is also linked to The Swamp of the Oboline in Volume 3. A full patron write-up is included. Like Manateecuhtli, Quetzalcoautwalrus does not offer unique patron spells, but can teach specific spells from the core rulebook.

The Spawn of Skach: Author Jim Kitchen is not credited as an artist, so this may well be the only article in this volume which is not also illustrated by the (or, in the case of the Sofa Siren, one of the) writers (assuming SGT Dave is also the illustrator of his piece, below, which seems quite likely).

"As adventurers travel throughout Pandemonium their paths may take them to places unimaginable. In their journeys, they may encounter a random, dusty scroll lying untouched in a forgotten library, a simple beggar whispering to the wind, or the smoldering, burned out ruins of a razed village. It is only the most astute that will slowly grasp the implications of those scraps of ancient text, the raving babblings of a sensesshattered, shocked survivor, or the pitiful remains of formerly thriving civilizations. Once known there is no forgetting by any means imaginable one of the infinite planes’ oldest, deadliest, and most capricious of perils, the Spawn of Skach."

This would appear to be a long, good-natured, in-joke referring to Jim Skach, well known gamer, father of gamers, runner of Dungeon Crawl Classics and Mutant Crawl Classics, Old School Gamer, and editor of The Gongfarmer's Almanac. I would like to say whether the descriptions were accurate or not, but there are levels of cosmic horror I have yet to be subjected to....

EDIT: From Jim Skatch to the DCC G+ group:
It is less an in-joke and more an homage to the deadliness the characters of my children often display. They are smart. They are vicious. They can be relentless. And they do not like to lose.
I'm not sure how they got this way...
Two things: 1) +Jim Kitchen is simply an awesome person and I and my children are honored he would take the time and make the effort to do something like this, and 2) well-known...ha!

Flash and Twilight: The Princes Flash and Twilight, royal heirs to the King of the Light Elves, are presented as an alternate patron for elves ("the royal princes have little concern for the other, short-lived races of the world"). Author SGT Dave provides a complete patron write-up, including three patron spells.

In addition, artwork depicts 6 "Wandering Monster!"s scattered throughout the volume. Statistics are not provided, so if you create some of your own, please add them to the Comments section of this post, either directly or through a link to your blog or website!

There is also one piece of art "This is an Egress to Hell" that stands on its own.

Get It Here!

Monday 16 October 2017

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 4

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 4: Pandemonium Setting: Dark Seas, was written by Paul Wolfe. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, Mez Toons, Paul Wolfe and Old Book Illustrations. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium.

"Awash in the roiling seas of phlogiston, home to alien horrors and unknown powers, the ever-changing lands of Pandemonium remain a mystery to even the most powerful of wizards and sorcerers. Few explorers choose to travel the chaos-way, and even fewer return. To most, Pandemonium is a myth, an impossible place where the land and sky are all mutable, where the land itself can be an ally or foe, and where a powerful will can transform reality." - Harley Stroh

This volume describes a single campaign setting, only nominal linked to Pandemonium. Apart from the excellent Zine Indexes by Jon Hershberger, I believe that this is the first Gongfarmer's Almanac volume produced that is the work of a single author. The material is described as a "DCC rip of Sunless Sea".

For those of us, including myself, not familiar with Sunless Sea, the author describes the setting thus:

"Far beneath a shattered world lies an underground ocean of unfathomable depths in perpetual night and crawling with ancient beasts. You are not heroes – you are sailors on a wine-dark sea, chasing the secrets of the past scribbled on ancient pages or scattered across a thousand fragments and running from the constant threat of madness. Captains of iron steamships cut across the Undersea armed with powerful carbide lamps, deck guns, and other weapons to ward off the night, as well as the creatures and pirates that lurk there. Beings of Stone, Salt, and Storm aid or hinder you, or laugh as your vessel sinks below the black waves. Out there somewhere – in the ports, ruins and wilds that cling to small rocky islands – are the formulae that could save humanity. Or doom them to lives of gibbering insanity."

This volume covers:

Optional Character Generation: Characters start penniless, only gain XP by learning and disclosing secrets, and choose allegiances to Salt, Stone, or Storm for alignment. You will need to read Appendix C to understand exactly how character generation has changed, though, and frankly should read all of the appendixes before proceeding with the adventure.

Betrayal at the Admiralty: A 0-level funnel for Dark Seas. Characters begin play press-ganged into service, but quickly assume greater responsibility on the steamship Queen’s Sword. Secrets lurk in every cranny of the ship and on every darkened rock that clings to uncertainty. Will the characters find out who threatens the Admiralty and Londonia’s sovereignty?

Judges are warned to dive into the appendixes of this volume before tackling the adventure. The adventure is flavorful, though, and does an excellent job of evoking the feel of the setting.

Locations on the Undersea: Short, evocative descriptions of places PCs may visit, with both a judge's and a players' hexmap. Paul Wolfe has done a very good job providing the flavor of each area, as well as the details that will allow a good judge to bring it to life. XP in Dark Seas works via secrets, so the author gives you plenty of examples!

Appendix M: NPCs or...So, What's the Mystery?: This appendix is really part of the adventure, but the Crime and Motive portion may be useful for judges crafting future mysteries.

Appendx C: Creating Characters: The author writes "Character creation for the Dark Seas campaign is generally the same as any DCC RPG game", but there are enough differences that this should have been a section before the adventure. Certainly, the judge will need to understand and communicate the changes to his players.

All PCs start with a contact and an initial secret ("something that the character knows that drives them to seek out more dangerous knowledge"), which replace the typical Lucky roll (birth augur) from the Dungeon Crawl Classics core rulebook. Race is separated from class, and saving throws change. While the changes to saves are mostly cosmetic, the ability to choose the highest of two stats to modify saves and the inclusion of a Terror save are significant.

Appendix S: Steamships: "Though 0-level characters start out as simple crew — often attempting to survive their first mission to uncover secrets for someone more powerful than they — upon gaining 1st level, the party receives its own steamship." 

The rules for steamships are simple, intuitive, and evocative. Importantly, terror plays a part in these rules, as does resource management, and these two elements influence each other. Eventually, someone is going to put together a naval guide for Dungeon Crawl Classics, and hopefully elements from this issue, as well as Tales From the Fallen Empire and Crawl! #11 are considered.

Appendix W&E: Weapons & Equipment: "Dark Seas is set in a fantasy Victorian/Lovecraftian post-apocalyptic place where society has retreated underground to a vast, unfathomable sea. Equip accordingly." The inclusion of Heavy damage, and fairly extensive tables for goods and cargo, are definitely welcome.

"Some targets such as ships, giant creatures, and the like, can only be damaged by heavy damage. If a character or other relatively normal-sized creature is struck by a weapon that deals heavy damage, the damage dice are trebled. Normal firearms may harm creatures that can only be injured by heavy damage — each 10 points of normal damage deals 1 point of damage to a giant sea creature. Ships and other vehicles may not be harmed by normal firearms."

The issue is rounded off with a Sample Steamship sheet, and two pages of "two-up" Dark Seas character sheets, suitable for 0-level play. Having one of these pages be a regular Dark Seas character sheet would have been ideal, but the way the pages lay in the print spread allows you to photocopy any number of four-character sheets for an introductory funnel.

Get It Here!

Wednesday 11 October 2017

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 3

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 3: Pandemonium Locations, Part 2, was written by Steven Bean, Hector Cruz, Danny Prescott, Richard Rush, and Nick Serluco. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, Clayton Williams, and William McAusland. Cartography is by Steven Bean, Marc Bruner, Hector Cruz, Michael Jones, and Harley Stroh. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium.

"Awash in the roiling seas of phlogiston, home to alien horrors and unknown powers, the ever-changing lands of Pandemonium remain a mystery to even the most powerful of wizards and sorcerers. Few explorers choose to travel the chaos-way, and even fewer return. To most, Pandemonium is a myth, an impossible place where the land and sky are all mutable, where the land itself can be an ally or foe, and where a powerful will can transform reality." - Harley Stroh

This volume describes more of the hexes of Pandemonium. Let's look inside.

The Quagmire of Endless Malice: Written by Steven Bean as "A Pandemonium Hex for 5-6 PCs of Levels 3-5", this has the distinction of being the only hex explicitly designed for a specific character level. The Quagmire has links to both Ahriman and Azi Dahaka, affixing it to the corpus of core DCC. The author also supplies a relatively unique experience (as of this writing) in DCC adventures - the chance to command a military force. Simple rules are provided, which could surely be used for other large-scale battles as well.

The Swamp of the Oboline: This hex, by Richard Rush, offers the "humid jungle swamps of the oboline are the dank and miserable home to Harikag, alleged to be a fecund avatar of the World-tree, and the two godlings Manateecuhtli and Quetzalcoautwalrus and their interminable, pointless conflict about which limp saplings growing in this forlorn place is actually Harikag." Information on the two godlings is found in Volume 5.This hex is a combination of squick and whimsy.

The Burnished Court: "The Burnished Court is both an entity and a location, being the physical nexus of the inquisitive chaotic immortal known as the Meniscus." Author Danny Prescott creates a prismatic mirror world, and gives a partial patron write-up for the Meniscus, including both invoke patron and Patron Taint results. The location stands out by being very different from the other Pandemonium hexes in this year's Gongfarmer's Almanac.

The Ichor Pits: A crater of sunken ichor pits, fiends, and un-dead creatures, by Nick Serluco, this hex is ruled by Ostorax the Gravehand. There is a magic sword, Valorsbane, which requires divine intervention or taking Ostorax as a patron to obtain. Unfortunately, patron information is not included....perhaps in 2018?

The Lost Tower of Talos: Finally, Hector Cruz introduces a hex which was once the realm of the Bleak Cabal, a group of wizards and clerics who worship Talos. Now it is a realm of "chaotic magic, spirits, strange creatures, and echoing chants" that emanate from the Lost Tower. With giant mushrooms, eerie lighting effects, and wandering spirits, the Lost Tower is also the home of a specific treasure hoard - it is nice that there is not only a reason why the PCs may wish to escape this hex, but also a reason why they may want to seek it out.

The sample hexes provided in the first three volumes of the 2017 edition of the Gongfarmer's Almanac whet the appetite for more. Given the infinite potential of Pandemonium, I hope to see more hexes in future years, both in the Almanac and elsewhere. Great work by everyone!

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Tuesday 10 October 2017

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 2

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 2: Pandemonium Locations, Part I, was written by Marc Bruner, Jeff Goad, Keith Nelson, SGT Dave, Dan Steeby, and Harley Stroh. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, Patrick Regan, Clayton Williams, and William McAusland. Cartography is by Alden Bruner, Marc Bruner, Bobby Jackson, SGT Dave, and Shyloh Wideman. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium.

"Awash in the roiling seas of phlogiston, home to alien horrors and unknown powers, the ever-changing lands of Pandemonium remain a mystery to even the most powerful of wizards and sorcerers. Few explorers choose to travel the chaos-way, and even fewer return. To most, Pandemonium is a myth, an impossible place where the land and sky are all mutable, where the land itself can be an ally or foe, and where a powerful will can transform reality." - Harley Stroh

This volume describes some of the hexes of Pandemonium. Let's look inside.

The Big Rock Candy Mountains: If, like me, you enjoyed O Brother, Where Art Thou?, you might be expecting a different description of the Big Rock Candy Mountains! In Pandemonium, this is a form of Candyland where children become sugar thralls (or worse). Monsters resemble well-known children's games and confectionery treats, but author Jeff Goad displays a wickedly twisted sense of humor, and doesn't leave it at that. This hex could easily be used in conjunction with Faerie Tales From Unlit Shores, Perils of the Cinder Claws, or Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess.

The Big Festering Giant: Perhaps you think BFG stands for Big Friendly Giant? Perhaps not to be outdone by Jeff Goad in twisting childhood memories author Keith Nelson introduces the Big Festering Giant, a colossal near-corpse that you can squick about inside. This is actually a lovingly rendered text of a rather unlovely subject, and includes the rather interesting Among the Mite-Goblins on the Shores of Lake Urine: An Introductory Encounter to the BFG.

Monsters of the Big Festering Giant: Keith Nelson also includes "a brief selection of the mundane and bizarre inhabitants and active perils of the creature colloquially known as the Big Festering Giant, or BFG." A full dozen monsters are listed, some with varieties thereunto. Here are some encounters I worked on, which might also be usable in the BFG.

The Black Iron Citadel: Dan Steeby offers a scorched desert cavernscape, dominated by a "massive structure with the shape of a colossal humanoid form, seemingly crouching in a pitiful, cowering position, with massive arms thrown over its tusked face as in a final ward against its doom." This is the Black Iron Citadel, ruled by the demon prince Pazuzu. PCs may also meet his "supremely bored and petulant" daughter, Lilitu.

The Boreal Wastes: This hex, by Harley Stroh, with additional material by Marc Bruner, is exactly what it sounds like: a vast icy wasteland with enormous ice ridges and ruins half-buried in the snow and ice. Most of the hexes thus far have been based on twisted childhood themes or hellscapes, so the Boreal Wastes come as a nice change. I am left wondering whether some of this material was unused from the beginning of Journey to the Center of Áereth?

The Carousel of Doom:  This hex, "a mutated carnival of insanity, guilt, and agony" also deals with childhood themes. It also includes platypus cultists and marsupial face huggers, so a good time is sure to be had by all. If your players visit this hex of Pandemonium, be sure to thank SGT Dave, the writer, for delving into the Ruins of Make-believe.

The Forest of Nedra: Finally, Marc Bruner offers "A shadow land of grey twilight" existing "between states of reality, filled with objects both half-formed and those seemingly etched into the fabric of creation itself." A faerie-based hex, this has a Dark River that strongly reminds me of the enchanted stream through Mirkwood in The Hobbit. A portal could easily link this hex to Goblins of the Faerie Woods or the Goblin Market in Creeping Beauties of the Wood. Or both.

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The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 1

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 1: Welcome to Pandemonium was written by Julian Bernick, Marc Bruner, Keith Garrett, Gwendolyn Harper, Tony Hogard, and Harley Stroh. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, SGT Dave, Clayton Williams, William McAusland, David Lewis Johns and Jeff Brown, with thanks to Kevin Crawford, Sine Nomine Publishing, and Mantis image. Cartography is by Gwendolyn Harper, Jon Hershberger, Harley Stroh, and Shyloh Wideman. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium.

"Awash in the roiling seas of phlogiston, home to alien horrors and unknown powers, the ever-changing lands of Pandemonium remain a mystery to even the most powerful of wizards and sorcerers. Few explorers choose to travel the chaos-way, and even fewer return. To most, Pandemonium is a myth, an impossible place where the land and sky are all mutable, where the land itself can be an ally or foe, and where a powerful will can transform reality." - Harley Stroh

Let's look inside.

Welcome to Pandemonium: Author Harley Stroh provides the basics of Pandemonium, including why someone might want to travel there and what one might encounter. "Our world is not alone. Rather there are hundreds, no thousands, of other realities, each home to people and powers like our own. These planes and demi-planes are all connected by an ever-shifting sea of the mutable chaos-material known as phlogiston, and when – like a wave casting foam droplets from the sea – these take brief material form, it gives birth to the lands of Pandemonium."

There are things worth recovering from various areas in Pandemonium, but travel requires passing through one or more "hexes" to reach any given location, where a "hex" denotes a world in miniature, which can be of any size at all.

There is also a chance of encountering deadlands, where entropy is enervating all within the hex, or new lands, which are freshly born from the raw material of Pandemonium.

Locations and Encounters of Pandemonium: Marc Bruner provides a random encounter table for the hexes included in this year's Gongfarmer's Almanac, and a random encounter table for Pandemonium.

The remainder of the volume is given over to describing some of the hexes of Pandemonium.

Abyss of Automatons: Keith A. Garrett supplies a Hell for robots and their ilk, which would provide a good transition between Mutant Crawl Classics (or Crawling Under a Broken Moon) and more standard Dungeon Crawl Classics fare. This is also a great location to include any robot (or near robot) you fancy from the media of your choice: Daleks, Terminators, C-3PX, or an R2 unit with a bad motivator.....

Helljammers of the Crashed Plains: Julian Bernick brings the Crawljammer universe into Pandemonium with a visit to the Crucial Observatory of the Voidlings. These are beings who tried to bind the powers of Hell to their will, and failed miserably, creating a Pandemonium hex which is inhabited by demon-saur war-machines (which may, perhaps, end up in the Abyss of Automatons when destroyed) and the voidlings, who travel using soulburners - flying skiffs powered by souls of ritually sacrificed beings.

Hunting Preserve of the Cambion Queen: Another hellscape, brought to you by Gwendolyn Harper. Tamarah Pandoramicum, the Cambion Queen, hunts "those who have displeased her, as well as those they bring here from other worlds" across a wasteland of howling winds and monstrous hoodoos, where "all smells sweet but charred". If you were hoping for a plethora of well-developed demons, the author has provided!

Labyrinth of the Elder Minotaur: Finally, Tony Hogard provides a vast Primal Labyrinth that is not another version of Hell! Or, actually, perhaps it is. Here the Elder Minotaur dwells, and, although "the abandoned treasures of a thousand lost explorers" may be found in its darkened halls, so too can the bones of many an explorer.

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Monday 9 October 2017

The Cities Zorathi Issue 1

The Cities Zorathi Issue 1, Fall 2017, was written by Duncan McPhedran, with art by Alex Mayo, Claytonian, and Duncan McPhedran. It was published by Zorathan City State Press.

This zine focuses on a campaign setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics - the three Cities of Zorathi. There are three of these cities. In order of their age, they are Crone Zorathus, Dame Zorathus, and Lassie Zorathus. This issue gives an overview, and offers a focus on Crone Zorathus.

Let's look inside.

Introduction: Exactly what it says on the tin.

The Cities Zorathi: A brief overview of the cities, including some notes on history, organization, and culture.

Factions of the Cities Zorathi: Organizations and their interests are part of the urban landscape, and vital to making a city-based campaign come alive for its participants. Seven factions are briefly described, with more information given about the Council of Trade and Industry and The Inclusion League. Even if you don't intend on using the campaign materials herein, this article should spark ideas for your own game.

Zorathan Coinage: The common currency of the Cities Zorathi.

Common Wares in Zorathan Markets: This article gives prices using the Zorathi coinage. Most of the items reproduce those found in the DCC core rules, but there are a few items PCs may want that are not otherwise covered. Be aware that, if not using the Zorathan campaign setting, you will need to convert these prices back to standard coinage.

Crone Zorathus, the Old City: Enough information to have a useful overview of the oldest of the Cities Zorathi. This includes information on power groups, geography, architecture, holidays, and so on. This is a good example of how information of this type may be succinctly provided.

Locations: The Mental Haberdashery: Not your typical hat shop. There are 36 possibilities for the effects a hat might have, most of them are negative, and the hats are not cheap.

The Zorathites: The author provides a d30 chart containing name, occupation, condition/quirk, plot hook, and "stuff" that they might have on them. This is the sort of chart that is useful in almost any game, and is certainly useful in an urban sandbox setting.

The Ram of Light: This is the full patron write-up for the Ram of Light, once a mighty god named Ramat who has since fallen on hard times. There is only one patron spell, and spellburn is brutal. One wonders if this Ramat has any relationship to the old god that The Ruins of Ramat are named for.

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