Sunday 29 August 2021

The Trolls of Mistwood

The Trolls of Mistwood is a level 4 to 6 adventure written by David W. Fisher. Illustration is by David W. Fisher (including cover) and Brian Van Hunsel (including cartography). The publisher is Shinobi27 Games.

Disclosure: I have an editorial credit on this product, and a writing credit on the sequel, Curse of Mistwood. Two patrons I wrote, Hecate, Goddess of Witches, and Hhaaashh-Lusss, Lord Duke of Reptiles, are used in the adventure.

I have written about this product previously, and the comments in that post are probably also worth reading. My opinion hasn't changed much since my original post in 2014. 

It should be noted that DCC trolls are no joke. I think that this is the first published DCC adventure to use a Prime version of a monster, and the PCs will find a prime troll even less of a joke than a "normal" one.

This adventure pairs well not only with its sequel(s), but also Stronghold of the Wood Giant Shaman. As mentioned in the "Everyone Else" blog post (linked above), the inclusion of a developed DCC settlement is a definite plus for judges intent on creating a persistent world. 

The Trolls of Mistwood is discussed in Episode 35 of the Sanctum Secorum podcast. It is also touched upon in Episode 5.

The Trolls of Mistwood is the first adventure in the Mistwood Series. Adventurers must investigate the return of marauding trolls to the isolated fishing village of Mistwood. Will they be able to stop a terrifying curse, or will they fall victim to it?

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Saturday 28 August 2021

Twilight of the Solstice

Twilight of the Solstice is a level 4 adventure written by Marc Bruner. Art is by Doug Kovacs (including cover and cartography), Cliff Kurowski, and Stefan Poag. The publisher is Goodman Games.

This was the fourth yuletide and the sixth holiday module put out by Goodman Games. The adventure is about as epic as you can get, with the fate of the entire universe in the balance. The opponents are more than tough enough, and incautious players are going to get creamed.

This is the adventure that introduced the "scratch off" character sheet, and the idea is used well herein. One notes that the idea that players do not have access to their PCs' abilities immediately - but get them over time - makes this far more suitable for one shot and convention play than for use in an ongoing campaign. The pdf version does include the means to simulate scratch-off character sheets.

I like to consider how an adventure can be used as part of an ongoing campaign though, or woven into the larger tapestry of your play experience.

The first thing to note is that the time travel that the PCs experience doesn't necessarily affect the rest of the universe. The PCs (should they fail) might find themselves at the end of time, but the rest of the campaign milieu will not be affected immediately. Or, should I say, the immediate effect is not the end of the campaign milieu. Certainly, effects should leak back through time to confront whatever current PCs share the setting.

A judge could run this as a one-shot when the party reaches 4th level, using the PCs provided (either the actual scratch-offs or their simulacra). If the one-shot PCs survive, they become alternates in the case of PC death. If they fail, the adventure forms a kind of "cut scene" showing how this new problem came to arise...and the wily judge can create a new adventure to give the players a chance to repair the damage, perhaps at 8th level....

There is also a chance that the one-shot PCs end up in a different era, in which case the judge can use this opportunity to run the occasion adventure that teaches history and sets up what the regular PCs must deal with. It is possible that an elf could survive from an earlier era, as Elrond remembers being at the Last Alliance between men and elves which defeated Sauron at the end of the Third Age. In this case, a former-one-shot-PC elf might become a recurrent NPC. Being originally from the PCs' future, he may even hint at some knowledge of their potential destinies....

An Endzeitgeist review of this adventure can be found here.

A conflict at the end of time! On the eve of the winter solstice, long-banished giants from the frozen void strive to complete a ceremony that will cause an endless winter to envelope the world. The adventurers find themselves torn from existence, stripped of not only their equipment, but their very memories, and summoned to the far edge of the world to repair an ancient temple of time. Will you recover your abilities and solve the challenges of the world clock before the end of time itself?

An exploration-based adventure taking the characters deep into the icy depths of unknown, Twilight of the Solstice tests the player’s ability to confront the challenges of the harsh winter setting while also unraveling the singular puzzle of their own identity. Faced with limited knowledge and time, only the most crafty - and lucky - can hope to defeat the returned agents of primeval chaos and restore events to their proper course!

The original print edition of this module included scratch-off character sheets! This PDF edition includes a PDF of that sheet, plus a special separate file that allows the judge to randomly generate up to 10 pregenerated characters which can be used to simulate the scratch off aspect.

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Friday 27 August 2021

The Twisted Menagerie Manual

The Twisted Menagerie Manual is a collection of creatures for the Umerica campaign setting. It was written by Reid San Filippo and Bob Brinkman, with additional content by Daniel J. Bishop, Gilbert Isla, and Tanner Yea. Illustration is by Nate Marcel (including cover), Aaron Robinson, Andrew Walter, Brad Morris, Clip art, David Coppoletti, Diogo Nogueira, Frank Turfler Jr., James V West, Karl Stjernberg, KJ O'Brien, Lee Anthony “Deadpoolrus” DeviantArt (CC BY SA3), Matt Hildebrand, Matt Jordan, and Richard Tingley. The publisher is Shield of Faith Studios, LLC.

Disclaimer: I have an "Additional Content" credit on this for use of the Doomriders from this blog post. This was an unpaid contribution.

What we have here is a hefty collection of creatures, not all of which are "combat-only" types. All of them are at home in the post-Apocalyptical setting of Umerica. Many would be at home in other settings as well, including Mutant Crawl Classics, Hubris, and more vanilla Dungeon Crawl Classics games. Definitely, many of these beings would fit into a Star Crawl or Galaxy Black milieu.

The Umerica setting, from The Umerican Survival Guide onward, does use different rules for armor than the core DCC rules. This book provides everything you need to convert monsters from the Umerica rules to standard rules and vice versa. 

It also contains a section on Boss Monsters, that gives the reader/judge some idea of how to utilize these beings to create the "Big Bad" for an adventure or campaign arc. Overall, it is an extremely impressive piece of work. 

The Twisted Menagerie Manual is brought tangentially as part of a wider Umerica discussion on the Order of the Shanna podcast here. Umerica is discussed on the Glowburn podcast here.

The wild and weird world of Umerica is a dangerous place filled with murderous creatures. It’s a good thing too since XP does not grow on trees! Within these pages dwell a cornucopia of crafty creatures to cram your campaign with consternation and paralyze your party with panic. Each one listed with adventure hooks to help drop them into your game.

Take a look at this selection of monster names from this tome

Apocalypse Ooze • Autogiest • Autovore • Beetle Apes • Blast Shades • Bowel Tyrant 
Can Crabs • Cake Horror • Clown Servants of Buddy O’Burger • Constrictor, Mutant
Corpsenado • Cryo-lurker • Cyber Ghoul • Cyber Saucer Simian • Demolishroom
Dinosaurs • Dinosaurs, Augmented • Dinosaurs, Mutant • Shroomers • Ox Beetles • Pigtipede
The Discarded • Doomrider • Dragon, Biohazard • Dragon, Cryo • Dragon, Forest
Dragon, Gearhead • Holographic Dragon • Robot Dragon • Xeno Dragon • eGhost
Elementals-Data • Elementals-Debris • Elementals-Gun • Falcon Wolf • Flying Laser Ursine
Frab • Fruiti-Slush Ooze • Game Devil • Golem, Junk • Golem, Mannequin • Golem, Plush
Golem, Vehicle • Greenman Swarm • Hippotaur • Iguanadillo • Insect, Mutant
Jack-O-rang-utan • Komo-doans • Linoleumoeba • Lion-Snake • Luck Eater • Menfish
Monitor Lizards • Muckraker • Mutitan • Newt, Aberration • Octowolf • Orbus • Power Wight
Puppetcubi • Quantum Ape • Railipede • Rail Wraith • Reindire • Rerun Wraiths • RoboDevil
Robo-Lich • Robots • Rocker • Rockin’ Wraith • Scorpionoid • Septicraken • Serpent Shrubs
Sharkhana • Shriek • Splice Fiend • Sporefangs • Techno-Mimic • Think Tank • Toycubim
Trapdoor Toadspider • Trashlodyte • Tru-Pet • Un Men • V.E.T.T. • Varrok • Vendibeast
Whalephant • Wraith Rider • Whaaar Mutts • Wheeler Demon • Wrath • Xeno-Locusts
Xenotaur • Xeno Mummy • Yowling Atrocity • Zilla • Blink Zombies • Chrono Zombies
Melting Zombies • Petrol Zombies • Rave Zombies • Silver Zombies
Zombie Monks of the Cyberhive

Besides over 100 brutal beasts, this book also contains a bevy of barbarous Bosses based on a few of the creatures within. Each one listed with a backstory, common followers, motivations, and more.

The icing on the irradiated cake is the Scenario Sketches, a bunch of rough encounter ideas incorporating one or more of the monsters from this tome, all ready to be polished a bit and dropped into your campaign on short notice.

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Terror of the Stratosfiend #2

Terror of the Stratosfiend #2 Melancholic Terminal Ascent was written by Sean Richer. Art is by El Huervo (Niklas Ã…kerblad) (cover), GRAZ,, RabidBlackDog/Krzysztof Bieniawski, Shane O'Neil, James Everett Jackson, Michael Weeks, Sam Mameli and Andy Hopp. The publisher is Orbital Intelligence.

Disclosure: I backed the successful Kickstarter for this product.

Let's look inside. 

Introduction - or Welcome Back: This is not a standard foreword, but is a mini-description of the setting. Someday, I hope that there is a volume which is pure sourcebook, that expands upon the Drop. 

Equipment: This section has two major parts. The first is The Conduits : Living, Sentient, and Incubating, wherein we learn more about the strange effects the Drop had on ordinary objects...including (and, in this case, specifically) weapons. This is really, really good stuff that judges using any flavor of DCC may wish to use in their campaigns.

The second part is The Six Chambered Hell's Apothecary for Wandering Clerics, which offers four items that clerics, surgeons, or others might use to aid the wounded, and two that simulate parts of Turning the Unholy. This does be the question "What do clerics look like in this setting?" and makes one want to mash up Stratosfiend with the twisted deities from The Umerican Survival Guide

Characters: This issue of Terror of the Stratosfiend offers up three new character classes:  

Half-Stratosfiend Reality Binder: Living siege towers-watch as they twist and contort their limbs and tentacles into complex formations. Flesh surging forth, forming platforms and facades. As they harden, the Stratosfiend's will surges through, warping and mutating all spells they cast.

It is rumoured the Stratosfiend were here all along, and the Drop was caused by those trying to force the Hive to join them. All over the planet you find strange enormous statues of tentacle entwined beings-allegedly these Reality Binders called the Drop.

But who cares about history, when all we have is now? Benders serve as conduits and nodes for the Stratosfiend hivemind's will, their bodies are the tuning forks.

Stratosfiend Magistrate "IX-777" Fear-Engine: The most secretive members of the Stratosfiend invasion are known as Unit IX-777. They are, literally, the Terror of the Stratosfiend. They believe dread is the only way to drive the invasion forward and they are ordained as "living saints" with a divine right to spread fear.

The Fear-Engines rely on living sentient weapons that they refer to as "instruments"-voice of the Stratosfiend Hivemind and conduits for the nightmares they've incubated.

They prefer the company of the lesser Stratosfiend. As a result, they often infect worlds with Half-Stratosfiend agents, making way for the towering Gladiatrices.

Members of the IX-777 frequently take trophies from the defeated but do not believe in or practice torture as it means expulsion from the unit. (ALSO THE WRITER DOES NOT CONDONE IT.)

Half-Stratosfiend Roof Jumper: Glass, concrete and rebar form no cage that can hold these kin of the Stratosfiend. They excel leaping from rooftop to rooftop, unleashing bursts of speed confounding all that seek to trap them.

If you need a job done quick, consider it already done-delivery, theft or a quick assassination.

They, and their trademark RavenSpawn, are literal front runners of the hive mind. Their temporal wakes serve as guideposts for the arriving armada.

It should be obvious from the class descriptions that there is a certain amount of complexity involved in their write-ups. This is not, however, too much complexity to make the class mechanics at all difficult. The very real differences in these characters makes me, again, wonder what adventures in the author's home campaign must be like. There is a section on Terror Incarnate, which relates both to the Conduits in the Equipment section and the IX-777 Fear Engines.

Spells: This section starts with a wonderful bit of lore entitled Doors Were All the Rage. It is necessary to understand the spells that follow. More importantly, it provides statistics for using doors as they were intended - as two-handed weapons. Included, naturally, is a d10 table of door types. The spells are:

Hatch Door Offspring (level 1): One of the strangest spells; where do doors come from? Rumour has it that strange forms of door husbandry, egg laying and occult magics led to ‘The Modern Door.’ Door mages rely on this spell to replenish their door supplies—as they’re always running off, shattering or being ushered into dark realms. Each additional door used in the spell adds +1 to the spell result.

Door Surfing the Cosmos (level 2): A simple spell from back when the Door God still held lavish parties and everyone was expected to show up in style. Door practitioners often use flocks of doors to transport their associates. So, uh… pile on and let’s fly!

Oh, and the door is imbued with some extra damage potential.

And it might shatter…

Entangle Doors (level 3): Easily one of the most useful and dangerous spells of a doorceror, allowing 2 (or more) doors to be spectrally entangled over long distance. What does this mean? You can use 2 (or more) doors for long distance communicating and—with enough invested energy… maybe even as a portal.

Once a connection is established, 10% chance both doors shatter when used.

Good stuff for any post-Apocalyptic setting where magic and super-science mingle. 

Bestiary: This section has six parts, the first providing demon statistics for the various entities in Razor-Worn's Oasis of Wires and the second all the cultists of Razor-Worn and the Door God in A Tale of 2 Cults. For more information on Razor-Worn, see Terror of the Stratosfiend #1.5. The third part, Space Piracy, provides some tables for describing your space pirates. The fourth part, Goliath Fractal Engines, provides a doomsday scenario monster if you want one. The fifth part is A Brief History of Organ-Fractals, where a bit of body horror...or healing...or power-gaining comes into play!

Organ-Fractals were initially a medical process to repair damaged limbs and organs, a strange mixture between the maggot spas of Xentarsus and nano biomachines with minds of their own. They bend to strong wills and all of them flock to the Orbital Intelligence Acceptance (considered by many to be the root OrganFractal, from which they were all shaped).

Let's skip to the part you care about: how to inject them and what happens when you do.

The final part details two demons related to Acceptance, who is also described in Issue #1.5. The Table of Contents does not list the Goliath Fractal Engines or the demons related to Acceptance as separate headings, so this might all be considered part of the Brief History.

Appendix O - Post-Drop'Torate Occupations: Setting occupations. 

Appendix S - Lucky Signs: Alternate birth augurs "for those of pre-Drop earth origins (or those in hiding)" and "those born beyond the stars and those that were molded and warped by ways of the Cosmic  Gantry".

Appendix L - An Aside on Language: Information on the setting languages, which has a random table. 

Wait... There's More: Finally, the issue rounds off with Appendix B - The Lust of the Bat God...which consists of random tables for when you ask the Bat God for a lift to another planet. How you get there, what the Bat God does to the planet, the state of the planet when you land, and how you pay. 

“While Earth was ravaged by the Drop, space continued distorting. Strange new entities, unknown to modern and fantastical humanity, roiled in the depths of space.”

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