Sunday 15 March 2020

The Witch of Wydfield

Appendix N Toolkit #4: The Witch of Wydfield is a 0-level adventure by John Adams and Colin Chapman. Art is by Steve Zieser (cover) and Mark Allen (including cartography. The NPCs, "Reed" and"Peter" and the location, "Potbelly's Pub”, are courtesy of Brandon Homes. The publisher is Brave Halfling Publishing.

As discussed elsewhere, this product began with a successful Kickstarter campaign with troubled fulfillment.

The Witch of Wydfield is a short funnel adventure, which can easily be played within a 4-hour time slot. If you've ever thought of the funnel as being a peasant mob with torches and pitchforks from a Hammer Horror film, this adventure will provide exactly that.

For reviews, see Vorpal Mace, Diehard Gamefan, and Tenkar's Tavern.

You are abruptly awakened by the frantic sounding of the chapel bell. As you gather with the other villagers in the village square, you are told that the light of morning has revealed that Sister Thara has been murdered and the young maiden Dela, is missing. The only clud to this terrible mystery are three letters written in blood beside Thara's body; "Y U L."

Thara was the town's protector and healer. Now she is gone. Who will protect Wydfield now? Who will right this wrong? No man, woman or child will sleep again in Wydfield until this evil is dealt with and defeated. If there was ever a time when Wydfield needed new heroes, now is the time! Who will go?

You can get it as part of a bundle Here!

Saturday 14 March 2020

The Treacherous Cobtraps

Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #3: The Treacherous Cobtraps is a level 2 adventure by Jimm Johnson with Jeff Linx. Art is by Steve Zieser (cover), Andy Taylor, and Mark Allen (including cartography). The publisher is Brave Halfling Publishing.

This is the product of a successful
Kickstarter that resulted in a few less-than-satisfied customers. The publisher dealt with some serious misfortune, and certainly tried to make everyone happy, but sometimes things don't work out that way.

I know it is not the first time that I have said this, but The Treacherous Cobtraps is one of a series of small adventures that appears to be direct riffs of the wilderness encounters in The Keep on the Borderlands. See also The Vile Worm and The Ruins of Ramat can stand in for the lizard man mound.

Despite the issues with how these adventures came to exist, I think that Brave Halfling's Appendix N Toolkit series filled an important niche in the repertoire of DCC judges. Like In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer or my own Campaign Elements series, it provides resources that allow the players to leave the rails and discover a larger world. These are not gigantic adventures; they are things that you can throw in as you need them, like salt added to the stew which is the campaign milieu. Rather than sitting down and saying "We are going to play The Treacherous Cobtraps", this is an adventure that works best if it is introduced while the players are expecting something else.

Sanctum Secorum Episode 39b - Halloween 2018 discusses this product. It also come up in Episode 5 and Episode 12.

My pdf copy of this adventure doesn't include a back cover. As a result, I cannot include the back cover text as part of this listing. If someone can transcribe it for me, I will update the listing.

At the time of this writing, this product no longer appears for regular sale anywhere I can find.

Friday 13 March 2020

The Vile Worm

Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #2: The Vile Worm is a level 1 adventure by Jimm Johnson with Jeff Linx. Art is by Andy Taylor (including cover) and Mark Allen (including cartography). The publisher is Brave Halfling Publishing.

Dungeon Crawl Classics backers have had a fairly good run with crowdfunding, but this was a project that started with a successful Kickstarter and ended (?) in angry comments. I have a lot of sympathy for the publisher, who has always been more than fair to me. That said, this has still been a shit show for many people, and I have sympathy for them as well.

If you are familiar with module B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, you may recall the cool wilderness Gary Gygax described, which provided for a lizard man mound, giant spiders, a mad hermit, and a raider camp. Well, if you wanted to convert the adventure to DCC, The Vile Worm would be a good stand-in for the mad hermit.

In fact, I refuse to believe that this was unintentional, as The Treacherous Cobtraps maps well to the giant spiders in The Keep on the Borderlands, and The Ruins of Ramat can stand in for the lizard man mound.

Deep within the forest, an ancient oak has grown huge, twisted, and evil. Ages ago, a savage cult haunted these woods and this tree became the focus of their unspeakable rites. Below it they carved out a chamber of sacrificial horror where innocent victims were offered to a hideous worm-like god. As the centuries passed, the cult faded into the mists of time, but the twisted oak stood fast, awaiting the day when the creeping evil in the dark below would be summoned once more.

At the time of this writing, this product no longer appears for sale anywhere I can find.

Sunday 8 March 2020

Operation: Bughunt

Operation: Bughunt was written by Eric Bloat, with additional writing by James M. Spahn. Art is by Aaron Lee, Grzegorz Pedrycz, Jeshields, Joyce Maureira, Mark Wester, Phil Stone, and Tan Ho Sim. The publisher is Bloat Games.

Disclosure: I backed the Stars Without Number revised edition Kickstarter, where the majority of the art in Operation Bughunt comes from. A thank you message to the backers appears in this product.

If you are a fan of Starship Troopers or Aliens, this publication will allow you to run your PCs through similar adventures using the Dungeon Crawl Classics rules.

The author says: "The action is these gaming sessions should be cranked to 11, the lethality high, and the ass kicking higher! Have fun and don’t take this one too serious. It’s meant to be crazy, over the top and awesome. Reward creative play (I recommend additional Luck but you do you) and encourage the players to go big, take risks and drive it like it were on rails. But above all else, just have fun!"

So let's look inside and see what we get!

Combat Medic: Similar to the cleric or the Healer (in Mutant Crawl Classics), the Combat Medic is a class designed to patch you up and get you back onto the battlefield.

Engineer: What it sounds like - the person who keeps your armor and weapons working, and might be able to figure out what that piece of alien tech does. There is an unfortunate minor error in this class's Hit Points entry - the hit points listed are for the Engineer, not the Combat Medic!

Grunt: Front-line fighters, the Operation: Bughunt analogue to the Warrior class.

Pilot: This character gets you from one place to another.

Robot: For other takes on a robot (or similar) class, see Phatasmagoria #1, Hubris, Meanderings #2, and The Umerican Survival Guide. There are many takes on robots in science fiction/fantasy literature and film, and there is no reason why you cannot mix and match various robot classes.

Starting Cash: From $1 to $300,000. Unless you're a robot.

Rank and Advancement: An important consideration for a military-based game, because this isn't a democracy. If you are a robot, not only do you have no cash, but you are sub-human. This is very much in keeping with the dystopian alien-hunting literature. Your rank also determines your monthly pay scale. Robots might be tough, but socially? They are chattel.

Equipment Section: Provides rules for armor, weapons, and other items.

Cybernetics: "The Referee can choose to limit the number of cybernetic implants or replacements a character can have. Normally a character can have a number of cybernetic enhancements equal to 3, plus their Endurance modifier." I assume this means Stamina modifier.

Pressure & Shell Shock: This is actually pretty innovative for DCC, providing a system for tracking the mental trauma that your PCs experience watching their friends die or from suffering horrible injuries. You can relieve Pressure with quiet downtime, but judges who want to simulate the world of the Alien movie franchise or similar dystopian futures could include drugs or other vices with a similar effect. You could even include things like addiction and other downsides, and the need to relieve Pressure might still get your PCs to experiment.

Random Bug Generation Tables: If you want to fight bugs, you need bugs to fight. Consider using the giant insect tables in the DCC Annual and the random aliens from Drongo: Ruins of the Witch Kingdom along with the tables herein.

Although the product assumes that you are running an Operation: Bughunt game, these tables are perfectly usable in any flavor of Dungeon Crawl Classics. As a side note, you can consider using Operation: Bughunt as an exotic location your PCs might arrive in when they traverse a mystical portal or botch a planar step.

Boss Monster Bugs: Three big bugs.

Other Alien Enemies: Three more aliens. Two are a base type and master. Both have acidic blood. The third is an intergalactic hunter with the ability to turn invisible to hunt. Draw your own conclusions!

Goddammit! I hate going in hot. My ejector pod is too small, my armor is too big, and this new Cybo-leg is zapping me every couple of minutes. Doc says I’ll get used to it but I dunno.

This makes jump number three in as many weeks. The frequency of hard action has really ratcheted up lately. I’m exhausted. The squad is so bruised and banged up they look more like rag tag mercs than trained veteran marines. We still haven’t had a moment to mourn the fallen including General Smoothers. She was the best! As a General, she had no business being on planet with us losers. She should’ve been up in the command deck with the pilots! But that was never her style. She wasn’t content to fight from space. She was one of us; Infantry. She liked to get her hands dirty. She had to see the bugs and Arachnoids up close and then blast them back to whatever Hell they crawled from.

Things are really starting to cook in here. Must be breaking through the atmosphere. Won’t be long now. Today’s mission, a simple seek and destroy. The local population on Nivay 5 has decided to cut ties with Command and severed all communications. Intelligence shows a new large bug-hole recently burrowed. Our job today, land and disable the capital city on Nivay, causing as much destruction and disruption as possible, then high-tail it back to space before the bugs have a chance to figure out what’s going on.

Do I feel bad for the local population of Nivay? Hell no! Any friend of a bug is an enemy of mine! The entire galaxy is at war, in the fight for its life. You pick your side and you do your part. They choose the wrong side. Period. The end.

Get It Here!

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Tales of the Smoking Wyrm #1

Tales of the Smoking Wyrm #1
 was written by Trevor StamperBrian GilkisonJohn Olszewski, and Steve Harmon. Art is by Joel PhillipsCarmin VanceAlex MayoBradley McDevittBrian MaikischCaitlin Stamper, and Trevor Stamper. The publisher is Blind Visionary Publications.

Disclosure: I backed the successful Kickstarter for this issue. I am also a backer of Issue #2.

The first thing you'll notice about this zine is that it is erudite. The creators discuss their sources as well as the history of the hobby. If that sort of thing excites you, then you will certainly enjoy this. I am in that target audience, so, while the writing is crisp, I can't be 100% sure how someone else will read this.

The Paladin: This is a good example of what I mean. The article starts:

"Paladins have a longstanding position in the Old School Revival (OSR). From their origins in Supplement I—Greyhawk (1975) as a subclass of Fighting Man to their firm position in every edition since Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition, the paladin is a mainstay of the genre. Historically, the term paladin originates from the French Chanson de geste (song of heroic deeds) cycle as names for the twelve foremost knights of Charlemagne’s court. Appendix N includes Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions, which is itself inspired by the Chanson de geste."

If you love this sort of stuff the way I do, then you will enjoy the zine. They even go so far as to remind you of the paladin in Crawl! fanzine #6 and the Paladin of Gambrinus in The Gong farmers Almanac 2017 volume 6. Because I like to include these sort of links in the Trove write-ups, it is wonderful to have that part already done for me!

This is a bit different, and is actually fully in line with the "Quest For It" ethos of Dungeon Crawl Classics. Instead of creating a new class, the author writes, "any class can devote themselves to the tenants of their faith, under the guidance of a cleric of that god. This begins with the new third level cleric spell investiture, wherein the would-be paladins carry out a quest for their god, overseen by the cleric." That is gold, to me - the idea of prestige classes from 3rd Edition carried to their logical conclusion and done right.

Cthulhu: A complete patron write-up for H.P. Lovecraft's most famous creation, including invoke patron results, Spellburn and Patron Taint tables, and three unique patron spells: Summons of the Deep, Breath of the Deep, and Form of the Deep. There are also suggestions for adding three books to your Appendix N reading list because they contain some details about Cthulhu which H.P. Lovecraft left out.

Culpepper's Herbal: A fantasy version of Nicholas Culpeper's famous work (which I have on one of my bookshelves!). This installment describes adder's false tongue and aconite (or yellow wolf's bane). Included is a general description, where to find it, when it flowers, how it relates to astrology, and the potential bodily virtues of the plant (with full rules to use the plant in your game).

The Silver Ball: "Many an adventurer has run afoul of the mysterious Silver Ball, often when they least expect it. Appearing out of darkened shadows, or even mid-air, the Silver Ball does not speak, or make any sound at all. Rather it glides in silently, absorbing the adventurer into its inner volume, and then just as rapidly disappearing."

Tables are included to determine what happens when (if) the Silver Ball ejects you.

Telepathic Rat: Lots of Mutant Crawl Classics characters end up with one, but what exactly can it do? As part of the Kickstarter, Blind Visionary Publications also sent me a Telepathic Rat bookmark, which can act as a character sheet for your pet. For another take on the telepathic rat, see Check This Artifact.

Rites & Rituals Part I: “The DCC rules present spells in resplendent detail. Just prior to the spell section, there is a small passage on Ritualized magic. Here, The Dark Master clearly states that while spells presented therein can be extended in various ways (see DCC, pp.124-126), that the august tome the spells reside in do not include the “great rites and rituals of the era.” This article sketches out how rites and rituals differ from normal spells, and outlines how to present them.”

Included are the Rites of Schlag-Ruthe, which creates the means to dowse for magical power sources, and Dark Phylactery, which allows the caster to set aside parts of their soul “to ward against the death of their body”.

Onward Retainer: A cartoon by Joel Phillips, with a party named (fittingly) Fingers, Dormuth, Whizzler, and Scum.

What is the Smoking Wyrm?: In short, it is a zine that tries to follow in the footsteps of Alarums and Excursions, The Dungeoneer, Troll Crusher, Underworld Oracle, and their ilk.

Greetings morsels! Welcome to the Smoking Wyrm! Inside you will find your greatest delights and most excellent treasures! We cater to the most rarified of tastes! Most compelling of all are the stories people share while they drink deeply of our fine ales and wines. Who is here now, you ask? To the left, a rather muculent entourage yearning to share with you all extant (and some extinct!) knowledge of their fine patron who dwells deep in the sea’s abyssal depths!

Warrior Horde of the Einherjar

Warrior Horde of the Einherjar was written by James M. Spahn. Art is by Joe J. Calkins. The publisher is Barrel Rider Games.

The Warrior Horde of the Einherjar is a full patron write-up based off Norse mythology. The author writes: "The Warrior Horde of the Einherjar is not one man, but a horde of savage warriors who have earned their immortality through glorious death in battle. Though the Einherjar are many, they function with a singular will and purpose - they are united as one in their lust for battle...The Einherjar demand that those in their service show no fear in battle and that they take particular joy in the slaying of giants and giant-kin, who are their sworn enemies."

Included are invoke patron results, Spellburn tables, Patron Taint, and three unique patron spells: Slaying Song, Weregild of Wodan, and Blessing of the Bear-sark. These are all flavorful, and fitting for both the patron and the mythology.

Finally, you get four monsters: The grizzly bear, warrior of Einhenjar, Avatar of Wodan, and Valkyrie of the Einhenjar. All of these, of course, mesh well with the overall product, but the grizzly bear might see use even if there is no Norse theme in your DCC game.

This may pair well with the Norse mythos presented in Divinities and Cults Volume I and Volume II.

Get It Here!

Monday 2 March 2020

Phantasmagoria #2

Phantasmagoria #2 was written by Chance Phillips. Art is by Sam Mameli (cover), Shaky Kane, Bradley K. McDevitt, Penny Melgarejo, Diogo Noguiera, and Jim Magnusson. The publisher is Apollyon Press.

Disclosure: I backed the successful Kickstarter for Phantasmagoria #1.

Even more than the first issue, Phantasmagoria #2 offers material that is useful to any Dungeon Crawl Classics game grounded even tangentially in the science fiction genres. I would go so far as to say that this issue offers some useful tables for any OSR - and even many non-OSR - sci fi/science fantasy games.

So let's look inside and see what there is.

Spaceship Combat: Where the first issue helped you create a wide range of ship types in four pages, this issue gives you a combat system in five.

D30 Artifacts: 30 items that can drive an adventure, be encountered during an adventure, or perhaps be the treasure for success in the adventure. Or all three at once.

Alien Poisons: Six toxins for use in your science fantasy game, including one (data sludge) that can affect automatons.

Prosthetics: From the banal (peg leg, hook) to the extreme (hard light replacement, clockwork limb, full body transplant), this is going to give you options when you inevitably suffer some critical hit that leaves you a body part short.

Magical Prosthetics: Introducing the level 2 wizard spell, Eldritch Limb, that is no more reliable than any other DCC spell...and can produce fantastic results with a good roll, as with any other DCC spell. This spell might be useful in any Dungeon Crawl Classics setting.

Stellar System Generation: If you are going star-hopping, you need to generate systems to hop to. This does a pretty good job of differentiating worlds. If you want a bit more sci fi and detail in your worlds-building, I recommend using the World Tags system in Kevin Crawford's Stars Without Number in addition to the nine tables here. There is even a free version.

Monster Generator: Taking into account both using an existing monster and adding "a bit of science flair to it", and creating new monsters from whole cloth, this article is a good companion piece to the alien creation rules in Drongo: Ruins of the Witch Kingdom.

1d20 Ways to Get Around: Includes entries like "Ziplines between different levels of a city; the higher the level, the wealthier and it only costs money to ascend" and "Rocket shoes that propel you across slick metal tracks". Very fun, with both fantasy and science fiction ideas included.

Errata: Two corrections from Issue #1.

This issue of Phantasmagoria contains enough information to make any player or judge's life easier! Enjoy 30 new artifacts, new poisons, and a new ship combat system, plus extensive systems for generating new monsters and even entire new stellar systems!

Additionally, this issue contains rules for incorporating prosthetics into your game, a new spell to regrow limbs, and more useful tables!

It is recommended that this issue is used in conjunction with either Phantasmagoria #1 or your science fantasy setting of choice.

Get It Here!

Sunday 1 March 2020

Phantasmagoria #1

Phantasmagoria #1 was written by Chance Phillips. Art is by Luka Rejec (cover), Jim Magnusson, Stefan Poag, Jeremy Hart, and Penny Melgarejo. The publisher is Apollyon Press.

Disclosure: I backed the successful Kickstarter for this project. I also wrote a Zine Scene News Flash related to it for the Goodman Games website.

There is an embarrassment of riches now for those who want to throw a little star- or planet-hopping into their DCC campaigns. Crawljammer, Star Crawl, Operation Bug Hunt, Cyber Crawl Classics, The Hobonomicon, Sub-ether, Monster Extractor IV - Aliens & Manufactured Beings, Leopard Women of Venus, Drongo: Ruins of the Witch Kingdoms, Cyber Sprawl Classics, Terror of the Stratosfiend, RPGPundit Presents #19: Frantabulous Gonzo Robot Generator, Umerica, UX01: High Caliber Hijinks, Crawl! fanzine #8, Vehicle Mayhem!, Null Singularity, and Mutant Crawl Classics all provide material that the judge can use to craft an interplanetary romance with.

On top of that, adventures like Frozen in Time, Peril on the Purple Planet, Against the Atomic Overlord, The 998th Conclave of Wizards, The Dread God Al-Khazadar, Imprisoned in the God-Skull, The Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn, The Vault of Ash, Demon Drums, The Silent Army, The Tribe of Ogg and the Gift of Suss, Shade Hunter, Silent Nightfall, Secrets of the World-Harvesters, Lair of the Mist Men, Mother's Maze, and anything Mutant Crawl Classics or Umerica take you to space, or other planets, or have strong enough science fiction elements to help populate those brave new worlds where you seek out new life and new civilizations.

Appendix N fiction is like a stewpot left to simmer and filled to the brim with a number of distinct (but often inter-referential) voices. Dungeon Crawl Classics campaigns are similar. Each publisher, and each author...and, let's be honest, each artist!...adds their own unique flavor to the pot. The judge, like a chef, picks and chooses the ingredients which comprise a personal campaign milieu.

Let's take a look inside and see what flavors Phantasmagoria #1 adds!

Automatons: "Automatons are the universal debris of ambitious magitechnicians across the universe, thrown aside once they realize someone else has done it before and done it better."

That might seem ironic, as there are takes on similar themes in Hubris and Meanderings #2. The Umerican Survival Guide contains a Robot class. However, even if you are playing in a game that mashes things together, it is good to have options, and this is flavored a bit differently than the others. Also, if it malfunctions badly enough it might spontaneously burst into flame! Others have done it before. Better? That depends upon your tastes. They are different takes, but, being attempts to describe similar character types, there are certainly similarities in design.

Captains: "Captains are beacons of hope, capable of uniting people and willing to do anything to protect their crew. They are also adept duelists and swashbucklers."

This is definitely more Captain Blood than Captain Kirk. A bit like the Warrior, a bit like the Thief, and with a bit of the Bard's ability to inspire, without really being like any of those classes, the Captain really is a dashing swashbuckler whose ability to inspire their crew is real.

Gremlins: "Gremlins, sometimes called goblins, albeit never to their faces, are technological wizards who also possess minor spellcasting abilities."

Jovians: "Jovians were natives of a gas giant adapted to their home planet's crushing gravity. They lived in massive cities that floated above the clouds. Each city was ruled via committee with the head of each family being able to vote on communal affairs. For the most part the extended families operated independently, but recently the floating cities were conquered by various empires and the native Jovians were taken as slaves by their conquerors."

Together these classes give a vision of a setting where humans have largely conquered the aliens they have met in the cold depths of space. Gremlins work the engines, Jovians are slave troops sent into dangerous areas, Automatons serve at the pleasure of their Captain....perhaps their notorious engineering mishaps are a form of subtle resistance by the Gremlins....

But humans are not really the top dogs here. There are also Star Princes.

Star Prince: "Star princes are the humanoid forms of the stars who have undergone the final phase of their metamorphosis. There are no star princes of 5th level or below".

A really unique class which might be reminiscent of Stars in the Darkness, Star Princes are never generated through funnels, but only unlocked during actual play. They are forever recognizable as former stars, but burdened by being stars no longer, and are (short of accident, poison, or injury) effectively immortal.

Weapons & Kit: Includes armor and weapons for your explorers. There is a problem with the range of the nuclear pistol, which is listed as 20/10/1930. I am assuming that the range should read 20/100/1930. A few other bits of science fiction gear are also included.

Occupations: d100 table.

Spaceships: A workable system for spaceships is presented in four pages.

Explore the ruins of lost alien civilizations or sail through space in a massive freighter, weighed down with all manners of gold, jewels, and relics.

Play as a Jovian, a lithe yet strong alien native to a gas giant, a Captain, a brilliant tactician and duelist, or a Gremlin, an alien skilled with magic and technology. Build any type of ship from a tiny fighter to a massive dreadnaught, bristling with cannons.

Get It Here!