Wednesday 26 February 2020

The Wizardarium of Calabraxis

The Wizardarium of Calabraxis is an adventure with no specific level, written and illustrated (including cartography and cover) by Claytonian JP. The publisher is Kill It With Fire.

Disclosure: There is a mongrelock in the adventure named "Danyellbishp" with the power of "Atomizing Thought".

I have made no secret of my love for this adventure. Back in 2014, I listed it as the #1 must-have Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure. I wrote:

"You keep fish in an aquarium; you keep spell-slingers in a wizardarium. Here, in a handful of pages, is an adventure that you will want to run again and again. And, luckily, the material suggests that you should, merely by opening up new areas of Calabraxis' wizardarium, using many of the supplied monsters and supplementing them with new ones of your own creation. And the odds are very good that, even if another installment comes out, your work will not be invalidated.

Why did this get the #1 spot?

It's got creepy.  It's got funny.  It's got more than enough role-playing, problem-solving, and combat to make any group of players happy.  Depending upon player choices, the same encounter may be role-playing, problem-solving, or combat.  It has time travel, in a way that makes time travel fun, scary, and informative. It has psionics. It has ape-men. It has Vorbians. It has......well, enough spoilers, right?

Suffice it to say that The Wizardarium of Calabraxis is wrapped up in a neat package, giving you everything you need to run the adventure, and giving you lots of opportunities to make it your own.  The psionics system used is perfect for adding your own unique powers to a DCC game.

Look at it this way:  I come to DCC primarily as a writer and a game master.  All of these 15 Must-Have DCC adventures are ones that I would have been proud to have written.  This one, though, makes me wish I could go back in time, prevent myself from having read it, and find some way to a table where the author was running it.  It is that good."

Five years later on, I am not sure that I would still give the Wizardarium the #1 spot - the number of cool adventures has only grown exponentially - but I am sure that it would still make the Top Ten. I still stand by my reasons for giving it that exalted position in 2014, although I would now point out Mind Games as my preferred source for DCC psionics. The Wizardarium of Calabraxis continues to be a fantastic adventure!

At one point, Stephen Murish did a free expansion of the Wizararium, but the link on DriveThruRPG seems to be broken, and I couldn't locate it using Google. Thanks to Judge Joe Kilmartin, though, it has been located here (or non-embedded here).

Reviews of this adventure can be found here, here, here, and most especially here. The adventure is discussed on Spellburn in Episode 31, Episode 48, and Episode 55.

The Wizardarium of Calabraxis starts off with strangely behaving apemen, but players who start to explore the cave where they reside will soon discover there is a lot going on: ancient civilizations, the mad experiments of a forgotten wizard, and a couple unique magic items are guaranteed to provide a lot of bang for your buck to your players. This module has stats for the DCCRPG, but if one wants to work around the weird dice, this module is probably at home in just about any OSR rules system.

Characters of almost any DCC level will probably have fun in this adventure; just adjust some numbers until the exact right number of PCs are dying.

Get It Here!

Ghostlike Crime #1

Ghostlike Crime no.1 is a "RPG zine of magical realism, the paranormal, and cryptid terrors in a modern day dystopia" written by Kane Cathain. Art is by Carly Onofrio (including cover), Peet Sketches, and Michael Bukowski. The publisher is Abiology Games.

Disclosure: I backed the Kickstarter.

Let's look inside and see what's there.

What is Ghostlike Crime?: Ghostlike Crime is an alternate setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics, where "Terrible things creep in the shadows and cryptid terrors stalk humanity. The Cabals of the Corporatocracy have hoarded the magic of the world for themselves to inflate their power and control."

Rather than being "Scooby Doo meets DCC", this is a dystopian version of our current world with a splash of supernatural chaos thrown into it. The materials herein could (un)easily be combined with Bronx Beasts, True Vigilante, Nowhere City Nights, or Terror of the Stratosfiend to whatever degree you like to create an even stranger campaign setting.

It should also be noted that, if you are running a more classic DCC campaign, products like this are extremely useful should your PCs gain access to the planar step spell or similar magics.

Creating A Character: A summary of character creation.

Occupations: As an alternate modern setting, the base DCC occupation table isn't going to work here. This table uses 1d66 (1d10 + 1d6 used for the 10's and the 1's place, respectively), for 60 possibilities. There is a separate 1d20 table to determine your 0-level weapon, from a kitchen knife to a slingshot.

Lucky Trinkets: Instead of a birth augur, you have some kind of object that makes you lucky (or unlucky) when making some kind of roll. These are nearly impossible to get rid of, even if you want to.

Classes: The warrior, thief, and halfling port over to Ghostlike Crime. The halfling becomes the "Half-Pint" - basically a kid who goes along on adventures. Imagine Short Round, Newt, or the kids from Stranger Things. Rather than dying, half-pints just run away. The party can Quest For It to convince them to go on adventures again.

Ghostlike Crime also includes two interesting new classes, to wit:

The Scrapper: This guy goes dumpster-diving to find "Scrap Artifacts" that can allow them to cast spells. I am reminded of Philip José Farmer's The Alley Man (in a good way). Not only are scrap artifacts basically junk, but they are pieces of junk with personalities. A judge who didn't mind mixing their peanut butter with their chocolate could throw a scrap artifact into a Mutant Crawl Classics game! Is it magic? Is it technology? Is there a difference?

The Paratechnologist: Use weird science to create techno-magical items like Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters. Thirteen weird science devices are included. This character would be at home, I think, in a Crawljammer or an Umerica game as well as its native setting.

Team Concepts: What sort of game are you running? This is similar to games that suggest that you define a series premise.

Equipment: Adventuring in the modern era requires new weapons and armor. The aspiring judge may also wish to invest in Crawl #8 for additional firearms rules.

Adventure: A hellish Commute: The first of three adventures in the zine, this is a 0-level funnel where the PCs have to get out of a subway tunnel after an unfortunate incident with the train.

Adventure: Cathode Casualty: This is a level 1 adventure about recovering a scrap artifact.

Adventure: unstoppable killing Machine: "This adventure is in a non-traditional format to better serve the monster hunting side of Ghostlike Crime. It’s not bound by scripted events or maps that need following. Instead it’s based around a particular monster and a chain of events the characters will come in contact with."

Monsters, Anomalies, & Ill-Advised Creations: Finally, the author includes several creatures to use in your adventures. Most (if not all) of these can be easily used in other settings, some right out of the book and some with a little adjustment. They are the Alicanto, Atmospheric Jellyfish, Bunyip, Chupacabra, Jersey Devil, and the Lone Pine Mountain Devil.

Watch Out for the Bean-Nighe: No game stats, but this Gaelic washerwoman can now be found in laundromats. Could it inspire an in-game encounter? Yes it could!

Terrible things creep in the shadows and cryptid terrors stalk humanity. The Cabals of the Corporatocracy have hoarded the magic of the world for themselves. They inflate their power and secure control over the masses. Magic cannot be trusted and its manipulation has repercussions. Where the wealthy and powerful are kept protected from these consequences, the rest of the population is exposed to the dangerous things crossing over into our world. There are those that will fight these incursions, adventurers who will face the unknown, revolutionaries that will challenge the powers that be - join them now!

This parallel reality is a dystopia where magic exists, but open practitioners are unheard of. Wealth hoards power and these usurpers who cannot wield it enslave those who do. Ghostlike Crime is set up to be as grim or gonzo as you like.

Get It Here!

Tuesday 18 February 2020

Soul of the Serpent King

Soul Of the Serpent King is an adventure by Jürgen Mayer. Art is by Luka Rejec. This is a free, unofficial expansion for Edgar Johnson's Blood for the Serpent King, which can also be used as a 2nd level standalone scenario. The publisher is Dead Cyclops Blog.

The author says, "If you're using this with Blood for the Serpent King, note that I have exchanged the lake in area 3-2 with a desert, because my home group just played a certain Harley Stroh adventure that also has a pyramid in an underground lake in a cave, and I wanted some variety. You can just run that area like Edgar intended, or use my sandy adjustments as described in the chapter Striders on the Starless Sands." (Formatting mine and links are mine.)

Included in the adventure is a table for Invoke Serpent King's Favor, although there is not a full patron write up.

It's Free!

Get It Here!

Steading of the Nergalites

Steading of the Nergalites is a level 1-2 adventure by Paul Wolfe, with art by David Fisher (cover) and Paul Wolfe (cartography), as well as a map image borrowed from UK5: The Eye of the Serpent, which this is an unofficial fan-made sequel of. The publisher is Mystic Bull Games.

As the author explains, this adventure spun off from his own home campaign, utilizing a number of published adventures by himself and others. Like myself, the author found himself converting/adapting UK5: The Eye of the Serpent to Dungeon Crawl Classics. This adventure is the result. Aficionados of DCC adventures might recognize Qo, the Twin-Headed Snake and Destroyer of Worlds, from The Tomb of Curses.

Although the adventure was written to take place in the ancient past, judges could easily have the Children of Qo surviving in some out-of-the-way corner of the world. A tropical setting, with the ravens reskinned to become parrots, would be ideal.

The author says "There’s another piece that I haven’t finished whereby the characters pass either into the realm of Qo (Area 26) or to the Temple of Nergal (Area 22B). Maybe I’ll get to it someday." Until such time as Paul Wolfe gets around to writing the Temple of Nergal, the judge may consider substituting the Barrowmaze. Area 375 of Barrowmaze Complete was once the Great Temple of Nergal and is now the home of the great black lich-dragon Ossithrax Pejorative. The judge would have to do some conversion work - and I would include in this building the lich-dragon anew using the tables for dragons and un-dead in the core rulebook - but the effect would be worth it, and the Barrowmaze offers a wide region to explore!

The ancient shrine of Nergal, God of the White Sun, lies under Rurarik Mountain, a dead testament to the division within the dwarven outcasts’ devotion to the Nergalite prophet, Agol Umberstone. When the Dissenter gathered his own believers around the banners of Qo, the Twin-Headed Snake and Destroyer of Worlds, his Nergalite brethren converted or died at their hands. Now, ages later, the devotees to Qo are starting to stir in their cocoons, ready to emerge in their new forms and their new purpose to free the Destroyer from her eons-long prison!

It's free!

Get It Here!

For Different Versions, Get It Here!

Monday 17 February 2020

Spellburn Podcast

Spellburn is the original Dungeon Crawl Classics podcast, having first aired on June 11, 2013. The current hosts (of this writing) are the Judges Jen Brinkman, Julian Bernick, Jarrett Crader, and Jeff Goad. Former hosts include Judges Jobe Bittman, Jim Wampler, and Jeffrey Tadlock. The important requirements for hosting this podcast appear to be an abiding love for Dungeon Crawl Classics and a first name that starts with the letter "J".

Disclosure: I have been a guest on Spellburn (twice at the time of this writing). I have written into the Spellburn mailbag. My writing or other products have been discussed. I have contributed three creatures (at the time of this writing) to the Dungeon Denizens on the podcast blog: The Wampler, the Demon of the Sands, and the Giant Ambush Bug.

At the time of this writing, there are already 90 episodes of Spellburn, ranging from examinations of specific rules or classes to examinations of official and third party authors and publications. In short, if there is a DCC-related topic that you want more information on, there is very likely to be a Spellburn episode that covers it. And, thankfully, the good folks at Spellburn have provided a site search function!

In addition, there is the aforementioned Dungeon Denizens section, which contains a myriad of listener-and-guest created monsters for the game. By my count, there are 14 creatures as I write this, and a number of them could be the driving force behind an adventure! See also How to Run a DCC RPG Tournament Funnel if you are thinking of jumping into the Road Crew with both feet!

For rules clarifications, insider scoops, and discussions of how to use the material in both the official and third-party sources, there really is no better source.

Listen To It Here!

The Stars are Falling

AL 1-5 The Stars are Falling is a series of adventures taking PCs from level 1 to 3, written by Daniel J. Bishop, Paul Wolfe, and David Pryzbyla. Art is by Gary Dupuis (including cover), Tamas Baranya, Jacob Blackmon, Luigi Castellani, Christopher Heilmann, Marc Radle, and Kristian Richards (cartography). The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I have credits as a writer, editor, and playtester in this product.

Cast your mind back to 2013. People were in love with Dungeon Crawl Classics, but the question of how to make a campaign out of it kept cropping up on blogs and on the long-lamented G+ DCC group. Mark Gedak, the publisher at Purple Duck Games, had five adventures in the AL (Adventure Location) series at that time, and asked if I could write some text that bridged them into a cohesive whole.

In addition to that bridging text, The Stars are Falling collects AL 2: Sepulcher of the Mountain God by Paul Wolfe, AL 1: Bone Hoard of the Dancing Horror by Daniel J. Bishop, AL 3: Through the Cotillion of Hours by Daniel J. Bishop, AL 4: The Way Station by Dave Przbyla, and AL 5: Stars in the Darkness by Daniel J. Bishop.

The bridging text gives some thought to adding a funnel to the mix to start your adventurers on their way, and then offers specific changes to the adventures so that one leads into the next. In short, this compilation allows you to purchase five adventures at a good price, and gives the prospective judge an example of how minor changes in DCC adventures can help to weave them into a cohesive whole.

Destiny calls, Adventurers! 

Forgotten tombs, ancient laboratories, the decadent palace of the God of Dreams, plundered and dusty dwarven holdfasts, and the ferociously defended territories of the Herders and Hounds of the Stars themselves!

There are mysteries to be solved within these pages, crafty and horrific enemies to defeat, and treasures both monetary and magical to claim for your own.  Pray to your gods, strap on your shield, and sharpen your knives: The Stars are Falling, and it is up to you to stop them-and make a little coin on the way...

Purple Duck Games' Adventure Locales One through Five for Dungeon Crawl Classics are here packaged with an intriguing framework story to take you on a story arc of wonder and fun for characters levels 1 to 3.

Dare you stop the stars from falling?

Get It Here!

Sunday 16 February 2020

Stars in the Darkness

AL 5: Stars in the Darkness is a 3rd level adventure by Daniel J. Bishop. Art is by Christopher Heilmann (including cover), Kristian Richards (cartography), Pawel Dobosz, and The Forge Studios. The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I am the author.

Man, this adventure was a fun one to write. See that picture on the cover? A painting by the same artist, Christopher Heilmann, was the inspiration from which all else was woven. Add to that the cartography of Kristian Richards, which depicted (to my mind) great Abysses as cosmic gulfs, some Appendix N stories, some H. Rider Hagard, and H.G. Wells' morlocks, and you have this adventure. Along with The Revelation of Mulmo, this rewrites elves into something a bit darker than they are in many other games.

Stars in the Darkness makes serious use of birth augurs and Luck scores. In fact, it is the first DCC adventure (to my knowledge) to make use of temporary Luck that must be spent before it is gone.

The adventure takes place in a "conceptual space" which, while the PCs may need to journey to reach it, both doesn't exist in the real world and intersects with many parallel worlds. Naturally, a party from such a world is included - and they have a different memory of what the areas they passed through were like! This allows the judge to have either replacement characters or potential antagonists as needed.

I have written adventures that take you to other planets - The Dread God Al-Khazadar and The Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn. I have written adventures that touch upon other planes of existence. This is, though, the most cosmic thing that I have written. It touches upon a time span exceeding millennia, and it concerns the fate of the multiverse itself.

This adventure is included in the Purple Duck compilation, The Stars are Falling.

In millennia past, the ancestors of the elves protected the stars as they followed their courses, for there are wolves in the outer dark.  Yet what manner of creature would dare to consume stars as though they were sheep in the field?  And what has become of the ancient starherds who once stopped such monsters?  For such a monster is back - Urstah, the Star-Drinker.  Stars are disappearing from the night sky, and with the loss of those stars, luck is being drained from the world.  Your luck.  Dare you enter the caverns, face the star-drinker, and release the stars in darkness?

Get It Here!

Saturday 15 February 2020

Steel and Fury

Steel and Fury: Combat Maneuvres of the Mighty, is a sourcebook written by Marzio Muscedere. Art is by Gary Dupuis and Matt Morrow. The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I have a credit for Feedback in this product.

Frankly, my feedback was largely limited to "This is brilliant!" Steel and Fury is described, rightly, by Endzeitgeist as "perhaps one of THE absolutely required, must-own pdfs you can get for DCC". Of course, it comes in print too.

So, what makes Steel and Fury so awesome?

It is a collection of Mighty Deeds of Arms, which takes into account the weapon being used and sometimes the specific circumstances of the combat. If you wanted your warrior (or dwarf) to perform the kinds of combat actions that occur in Appendix N fiction, this is for you.

In addition, the author introduces the Mighty Critical and the Mighty Fumble. With these systems, there are additional effects when both the Deed Die is at its highest possible value and the Action Die falls within the character's critical range, or when both are natural "1"s. These results are specific to the Deed attempted, and both take the place of the normal Critical or Fumble roll.

All of these results require the judge to adjudicate how applicable they are in a given situation. As the author says, "If the judge doesn’t think a warrior’s punch can shatter a dragon’s jaw...then it can’t. Or if a warrior’s roll results in a severed arm on a creature with no arms then the judge can change it in a manner he sees fit. A judge may also slide the warrior’s deed result up or down on the table dependent upon the situation, strength of opponent or any other contributing factor."

One neat thing about this system is that, as a warrior rises in level, their Deed Die also increases, making a Mighty Critical less likely. But, as the warrior's critical effects are getting better, and the Mighty Critical replaces these when it occurs, over time the warrior still tends to get more awesome effects anyway. The low-level warrior is therefore given a small boost - at the risk of a Mighty Fumble! - but the higher-level warrior is not penalized. As the Deed Die grows, the chances of a Mighty Fumble also go down.

The warrior is the cornerstone of any adventuring party. Rushing to meet insurmountable odds head on, face to face with dangerous enemies and loathsome creatures. Armed with steel and fury, a warrior does the dirty work up close and personal, with grisly effect. Yet in the gaming world, outside of a lucky critical hit, this doesn’t always seem to translate well. With Steel and Fury combat becomes more than simply standing toe to toe and following the pattern of...I go.

Combat becomes dynamic and fluid, with combatants taking advantage of tactics and their surroundings. But most of all combat becomes dangerous and in the hands of a skilled warrior combat becomes downright deadly. Now with the use of Steel and Fury, warriors become even more deadly and rightfully so. Showcasing mastery over the weapons they wield by delivering devastating attacks and using the environment to execute precise and skillful maneuvers.

The following Mighty Deeds of Arms are torn straight from the bloody pages of Appendix N material for use by warriors as they quest for gold and glory. Although watching a cultist burn after kicking him into a raging bonfire is a fun and effective way of using a Mighty Deed, sometimes you just want to shatter your foe’s spine or split someone’s skull to the teeth in a spray of blood and brains. With Steel and Fury your game gains a more cinematic and visceral feel, making the warrior a fun and deadly class to play, not just a meat shield able to absorb damage.

Get It Here!

Friday 14 February 2020

Stronghold of the Wood Giant Shaman

Stronghold of the Wood Giant Shaman is a 5th-level adventure by Stephen Newton. Illustration is by Catherine Harkins DiNardo, Catherine MacDougall, Susanne MacDougall, William MacDougall, Reba Pyron, and Antonio Layos Tira (cover). The publisher is Thick Skull Adventures.

Disclosure: I am given a credit for Editing, Proofreading, and Suggestions. I am also listed in the Special Thanks to  supporters. Finally, this product uses additional patron material from Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between, published by Dragon’s Hoard Publishing, Daniel J. Bishop and Paul Wolfe authors, copyright 2012.

Back in the day, Gary Gygax penned the classic G1 Steading of the Giant Chief, G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, and G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King. For those of us who remember those adventures fondly, the Stronghold of the Wood Giant Shaman creates a certain nostalgic echo reverberating deep in our gamer hearts. The author, of course, is a little bit canny about this connection, but I feel that the assumption is warranted...and, also, as this is me making the claim rather than the author, I don't think anyone can get in trouble!

Stronghold of the Wood Giant Shaman has received an Endzeitgeist review and has been discussed in a Goodman Games community publisher profile. It has also been discussed on Spellburn. At least twice. Yet, either because of its relatively high level (for a DCC adventure), or for some other reason, I feel that Stronghold has never gotten the attention it deserves.

In addition to a fine adventure (which makes sense for the judge to place as a persistent location even before the PCs reach the exalted level 5), the adventure offers a couple of neat rules. The “Occupation Bonus” check is a bit of an extension of the skill system, or, perhaps, just a way of interpreting the skill system bonuses as it exists in the core rulebook. The use of a d22 is a bit of its own thing, meant to show that wood giants "are formidable foes, but still weaker than other giant races". Rules for rolling a d22 using a 1d20 and 1d6 (or 1d3) are provided.  Speaking of which, wood giants get their own special table for Critical Hits.

The adventure also contains several monsters that are apropos for a North American fantasy game, such as the squatch and the catfish troll, making it a potential fit companion for a Shudder Mountains campaign.

The adventure gives some information on a new patron, Veedarkaleesh, but lacks a patron write-up. This is a shame, specifically, because an invoke patron dedicated to Veedarkaleesh might be attempted in actual play. Perhaps a patron write-up might occur in a future Thick Skull compilation?  Or perhaps a future edition of the Gong Farmer's Almanac? Until then, I would recommend that the judge choose their favorite patron and then adjust the spell results to reflect Veedarkaleesh's themes of blood and shadows.

Wood giants—animalistic evolutionary ancestors of hill giants—have emerged from the forests of the Fulthon Mountains to harry and pillage human villages with impunity. Ferocious and feral, they kidnap the weak to sacrifice in their barbaric rituals. Decades ago, your ancestors—stout and brave adventurers of renown—eliminated a previous giant threat, and thus people expect such heroism from you.

But not is all at it seems, as a chaotic force lurks behind the scenes. And if survival against a stronghold of ferocious giants wasn’t challenging enough, the machinations of facing an insane, immortal demon certainly will be…

Get It Here!

Thursday 13 February 2020

Sunken City Omnibus

The Sunken City Adventure Omnibus and Guide was written by Jon Marr with additional writing by Jeffrey Tadlock. Art is by Jon Marr (including cover) and Benjamin Marr. The publisher is Purple Sorcerer Games.

This book collects Perils of the Sunken City, The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk, A Gathering of the Marked, and Lair of the Mist Men in one handy volume. These are sandwiched between a chapter introducing the material, and a chapter on Adventuring in the Sunken City.

The introductory chapter offers background information and thanks for the support that Purple Sorcerer has received over the years. Given the utility (ever increasing) of the Crawler's Companion and the Purple Sorcerer Free DCC Tools, it is really we who owe Jon Marr a great deal of thanks!

This chapter also offers Why The Sunken City?,
Handling The Funnel, and The Tao of TPK, which provide the rationale behind the Sunken City itself, and how it relates to funnel adventures in Dungeon Crawl Classics. These things are worth looking at for new judges and old hands alike.

It is the final chapter, however, where the Omnibus distinguishes itself from merely purchasing the adventures separately. Herein we find:

New Patron: Malloc: Written by Jeffrey Tadlock, this is a full write-up of the evil tree patron found in Perils of the Sunken City. Even better, the patron is included in the Purple Sorcerer Free DCC Tools, which means that your wizard or elf can generate a grimoire with all the necessary patron information!

Creatures of the Swamp: There are a number of new monsters which can be found in the Sunken City. These can help you develop your own adventures in the setting. A full class write-up for oppossumen characters is also provided!

Honest Orkoff: Adventure Seeds: Honest Orkoff first appeared in Crawl! Fanzine #2. This section reprints that material, and adds a section on Leads to Interesting Treasure.

Items of Eldritch Wonder: This section contains 22 magic items of dubious value to the PCs. For those playing at the table, though, they should provide some serious fun. Who doesn't want a lead chicken of occasional wisdom?

Demo and Con Tips: Jon Marr provides about half a page of tips. Some of these tips are universal; most relate to getting the biggest bang for your buck with the adventures included in The Sunken City Adventure Omnibus.

This product also comes with a massive 84-page master appendix in pdf format, containing extra content, pregenerated characters, player maps, 1-inch scale battle maps, and over 150 paper miniatures.

Get It Here!

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Surviving Kalmatta – A Player’s Guide to The Treasure Vaults of Zadabad

Surviving Kalmatta: A Player's Guide to the Treasure Vaults of Zadabad was written by Carl Bussler and Eric Hoffman, with cartography by Carl Bussler and Eric Hoffman. The publisher is Stormlord Publishing.

This product is a guide for players who are going to face the challenges of The Treasure Vaults of Zadabad. Kalmatta is the main island that the adventure takes place on.  The Guide serves to orient the PCs without giving away any of the adventure’s meat, and to provide a place for players to make notes, maps of their own, or fill in the unmarked map of the island itself.

The pdf is free.

The Swamp Daughters of Marshund

The Swamp Daughters of Marshsund is an adventure by Oliver Korpilla and Mattia Giardini. Arct is by Bernd Jans (cover), MonkeyBlood Design (some elements used in map design), and the public domain. Cartography is by Dyson Logos and Oliver Korpilla. The publisher is Mount Parnassus Games. No level is given in the text, but this interview at the Goodman Games site indicates that it is a level 3 adventure, as does the product page on DriveThru RPG (“level 3 or higher”).

I am going to suggest that the seeds for this adventure could be set even in the 0-level funnel, as it provides a mini-setting with a hex crawl, rules for foraging, and local communities as well as the titular problem driving the narrative. Is there a dungeon? Yes, but it is not terribly large, and the setting material can drive play for many sessions before and after the Swamp Daughters themselves are resolved. This adventure is a bit of an odd bird with published DCC work, because there is no doubt that it is pitched towards campaign play rather than use as a one-shot adventure. The generous OGL terms all but invite you to expand upon it.

Although The Swamp Daughters of Marshsund came out in October of 2014, as of this writing I haven’t seen a lot of discussion about it, so I am going to avoid spoilers.  As with The Headless Horseman, it is clear that the authors’ experience with other games informed their design here. In fact, the words “Stat Block (DCC)” appear before every statblock, suggesting that a version for a different system was at least considered.

If you are looking for a plausible basis to build a campaign setting, this provides a simply developed but narratively complex starting point. The actual adventure could be built up to, so that the players felt that they actually know the Marshsund villagers before events unfold. In this case, the judge would be well advised to create some additional marsh encounters, and place other potential adventures in the vicinity. The Croaking Fane would definitely fit in here. The Folk of Osmon is more of a stretch, but is a possibility.

The people of Marshsund have allied with strange powers, but for almost a hundred years nobody bothered investigating. Now the daughter of a powerful lord has gone missing in the Dystermarsh, and he is looking to you for help. Can your players unravel the mystery of the Swamp Daughters and find a solution in time?

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Sword in the Jungle Deep

Sword in the Jungle Deep is a 0-level funnel adventure by Francisco Duarte. Art is by Alena Lane (cover and cartography), Francisco Duarte (cartography), and Lonny Chant. The publisher is The Keep Studios LLC.

This adventure offers a jungle outing for 0-level PCs. Most DCC funnels are created to be useful in the widest possible range of settings. Sword in the Jungle Deep breaks with that, offering a world in which some things beyond a local village can be known by the PCs. For instance, the city of Caster's Crossing is known far and wide.

Appendix N has a wide range of voices, and there is nothing wrong with offering something a little less modular. If the judge wishes to assume a more "standard" Sword & Sorcery world, they can change parts of the background elements without too much effort.

Parts of the background gave me a strong 3rd Edition or 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons vibe, but these are, again, easily altered to meet the needs of the judge. Getting past the background, the adventure itself offers an interesting location and challenges that are definitely in keeping with DCC.

I found parts of the writing a bit stilted, but I have been criticized for being long-winded myself, so take that with a grain of salt. I was reminded of the pastiches of Lin Carter or Gardner Fox, although I didn't notice any direct links to those authors' works. The adventure does provide a "TLDR" section for all descriptive text, summarizing not only the highlights of the description, but also a capsule description of how the encounter itself works. That is gold.

Sword in the Jungle Deep makes a strong use of divine politics as its backdrop, although it is a divine politics that reaches far into the past. The Malikim, the remnants of that ancient conflict, are still found in the world of this adventure, dwelling among mortals. That no class is provided for these beings is a shame. Should The Keep Studios decide to explore this world more fully, this would be a welcome addition.

Judges looking to use this adventure may consider picking up The Lesser Key to the Celestial Legion (Psychoda Press) to flesh out their own unique takes on divine creatures and conflicts which are likely to come up if the themes from the funnel continue to play out in a longer campaign.

Long ago Angels waged war on the lands south of the famed city of Caster’s Crossing. In the wake of their awesome power grew a jungle of dreadful perils and treacherous hunters, known by the locals as Erset La Tari. The treasures and ancient relics hidden among the dark shadowy trees have been coveted by adventurers and profiteers for millennia, and now it will be your turn to attempt to uncover them.

Thrown into the wetlands by the devise of a mysterious Elven Warmage, you will need to best the horrors lurking at every corner. Will you be able to overcome the fierce jungle predators? Or the tainted artifacts blocking your way? And what will you do once you are finally face-to-face with the sword in the jungle deep and its fearsome guardian?

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