Thursday, 16 November 2017

Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad #3

Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad #3 (spring 2015) was written by Rev. Dr. Edgar Johnson III, Adam Muszkiewicz, the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, and Wayne Snyder. Art is by Wayne Snyder. The publisher is the Kickassistan Ministry of Tourism.

The issue says, in the liner notes:

The Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad would like to thank Roy, Jim, at least three different Jameses, Katie, Harley, Hobbs, Doug, Diogo, Donn, Gabriel, two Phils, Ryan, Shane, several Tims, a Stephen, a Stefan, several Johns of various name-spellings and one Dark Master.

Let's look inside.

What's A d11?: A d12 mechanic invented by Adam Muszkiewicz, which was first described in Issue #2.

It is used again in this issue, so explanation is required.

Currency From Ur-Hadad: Author Adam Muszkiewicz describes the forms of coin you might find in Ur-Hadad, from the "vulgar currency", consisting of silver bits, copper chits, bronze bobs, and gold crowns, to the "high currency" of coinage carefully minted by five noble houses.

Atraz A'Zul, Mother of Spiders: The Rev. Dr. Edgar Johnson III offers a new patron. Patron spells for levels 2 and 3 are not provided; the patron is otherwise complete.

Atraz A’Zul is a spider demoness of ancient lineage whose intrigues are manifold, subtlety legendary, and cold calculation uncompromising. She is the demon spirit of dark and quiet places and the unseen things that creep there. To form a bond with Atraz A’Zul, one must go into the desert and ingest the hallucinogenic spider known as the Dream Stalker. Atraz A’Zul will appear to the dreamer who must pledge his troth to her and her alone. Those who serve the demoness are expected to protect spiders, scorpions, and other poisonous vermin.

The Heist! - An Adventure Toolkit: Written by Adam Muszkiewicz, this is similar to Street Kids of Ur-Hadad in Issue #1 and Secrets of the Serpent Moon in Issue #2, in that it offers not a single adventure, but the means to create a great number of adventures with a series of tables. I would imagine that these toolkits are relatively hard to write, given the level of creativity and re-usability involved. This one, in particular, is of great use to anyone running an urban-based campaign.

Half-Level PCs in DCC: An article by Adam Muszkiewicz, inspired by Doug Kovacs. This is for beefing up 0-level characters for funnel-type games. For another take on half-levels, aimed at providing a means for multiclassing, see Crawl! fanzine #10.

Street Foods of Ur-Hadad: Presented by "the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad", this is a single-page table using 3d30 to give you an idea as to what your PCs have just been offered by a street vendor. Is it poached tongue in a black bread sandwich? Perhaps chilled croctopossum suspended in jello? Ah, Ur-Hadad. So much on offer that I would never consider eating...

Dungeon Insert #3: The Marrow Web Bridge: Another great encounter, written by Wayne Snyder. I'm not going to spoil it, but it is excellent.

Get It Here!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad #2

Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad #2 (summer 2014) was written by Edgar Johnson, Adam Muszkiewicz, Donn Stroud, and Jason Hobbs. Art is by Wayne Snyder (except for an image of the Purple Sorcerer, by Jon Marr, which appears in an ad). The publisher is the Kickassistan Ministry of Tourism.

The issue says, in the liner notes:

The Metal Gods crew would like to thank: Joseph Goodman & Goodman Games for obvious, the Spellburn-outs (Jim Wampler, Jeffrey Tadlock, Jobe Bitman & Jen Brinkman) for kind words, Jon Marr & the Purple Sorcerer for all the delicious zeros, Harley Stroh for boundless enthusiasm, Doug Kovacs for the late night art criticism & tutorials, the Google+ DCCRPG community for badassery, Dak Ultimak for inspiration, Heide Trepanier for holding the torch while Wayne hustles art, Katie Muszkiewicz for editing, merch and sanity, James MacGeorge for the semi-official Metal Gods playlist, the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad online gaming group, Todd Bunn & Gateway Games & More (and his crew of miscreants) for saving the day.

Thank you indeed! Let's look inside.

What's A d11?: A d12 mechanic invented by Adam Muszkiewicz that just about anyone should be using.

Editorial: Adam Muszkiewicz muses on the idea of an Ur-Hadad canon. The short answer: There is none. Nothing is true. Everything is permitted. "You will do precisely what you want with Metal Gods material, so why should we pretend it would be any other way?"

Really nice to have that put in writing. It is part of the heart of Dungeon Crawl Classics, after all! It also plays into the first real article in the issue, by Edgar Johnson.

Thoughts On Dice Notation: A discussion of "exploding dice", and how they are indicated. As with the d11, exploding dice are a tool that every judge should have available. In short, if a die roll is written 2d7! (with the exclamation point indicated that the die roll is exploding), and a natural "7" came up, you would reroll and add that the the original score. Keep doing so as long as natural "7"s are rolled.

(The author uses 2d5! in his example, but as the d7 is the coolest die on the dice chain, I substituted.)

Torgo Speaks: The Elder Races: Author Edgar Johnson channels Old Torgo Pegleg to talk about the Elder Races.

Long, long ago, before there were Men, there were two great races. One of them, usually just called the “Old Ones,” came from beyond the stars, through a place in the bottom of the world. They are gods, it is said, or demons, depending on who you’re askin’. But one thing’s for sure: They weren’t from around here, on Ore. They don’t bleed good red blood (or even green blood like the damned elves), and their ways are inexplicable, save for one thing: They wanted to rule this place. They almost did, too. Now, to look at them, they weren’t too different than one of them squids what wash up on the shingle sometimes, but bigger, very much bigger. When came the Old Ones from the place beyond the stars, they took to the deeps of the seas, and built there many great cities and, in them, works of great power, though their purposes were unintelligible to the likes of men. Mayhap the serpent-men know more, but they ain’t telling, those what still slither amid the wild places of Ore.

Some of this may contradict the background Adam Muszkiewicz provided in Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad #1, and this is part of the reason that there is an Editorial at the start of this issue.

Metal Magic Items: Every setting needs appropriate artifacts, and in this case a few are supplied by Jason Hobbs and Adam Muszkiewicz. In this case, they are the Rod of Robhal ("offered to the Priests of Joodahs by the Metal God Robhal, lord of law breakers, himself"), Magor’s Manacles, and the Sanguine Resonator (for some reason, Stamina is called Toughness in this entry).

Secrets of the Serpent Moon: Like Street Kids of Ur-Hadad in Issue #1, this is a kit for creating unique adventures. And it is a real thing of beauty. Of course, it gives you a lot more than you will need to create a single adventure, so you will want to refer to it again and again until you have squeezed it dry. Adam Muszkiewicz wrote this piece of inspired goodness.

Here's another interesting tidbit: When I wrote The Mysterious Valley for D.A.M.N. #1, I included troglodytes that allude to the Sleestaks from The Land of the Lost, but I didn't cut anywhere as near to the bone as the author has here. If you are looking for usable Sleestatistics, this adventure kit has you covered!

Bounty Hunters of Ur-Hadad: Adam Muszkiewicz provides a kit for dealing with PC bounty hunters in Ur-Hadad. It is easily used in other settings, and is a worthwhile part of any judge's toolkit.

Axes of the Metal Gods: The Rickenbastard: Adam Muszkiewicz provides the "great axe of a red-brown unknown metal" that belonged to the unstoppable, insatiable Lemm the Killmaster.

Heirloom Weapons: Author Donn Stroud provides a means to describe heirloom weapons that your 0-level (or more potent) PC might be carrying. They will not all be magic, but some of them will be. Only the judge knows for sure. This is an article that is of value to any judge, using any campaign setting. Again, it belongs in any judge's toolkit.

Dungeon Insert #2: Starcophagus of the Crimson Prophet: The author for this Dungeon Insert is not listed, although Adam Muszkiewicz seems a likely candidate. This is solid stuff, but if you use it outside of its Ur-Hadad setting you'll have to create your own Prophesy of Zemuel Lek. Or just use #4.

Get It Here!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad #1

Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad #1 (winter 2014) was written by Adam Muszkiewicz, Edgar Johnson, and Wayne Snyder, with art by Wayne Snyder. The publisher is the Kickassistan Ministry of Tourism.

Ur-Hadad is a setting supported by Adam Muszkiewicz's blog, Dispatches From Kickassistan. Ur-Hadad is not all you will find on the blog, of course. Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad is a zine which puts material about the setting into print. See also Goblin Mini Mart and Edgar's Game Blog.

Let's look inside.

The Metal Gods: Author Adam Muszkiewicz provides a brief history of the setting, Ore, and man's quest to master it through Metal.

Ur-Hadad, The First City: There is something extraordinarily compelling about the idea of the first city, a dwelling place that predates human occupation. Author Adam Muszkiewicz herein gives a brief description of Ur-Hadad, the First City of Ore.

Men call her the “First City” not because it was the city that they built first, no. The hands of men took no part in raising her walls, burrowing warren and sewer beneath her streets. She was ancient before Man first learned to walk upright and older still when the Elder Races enslaved him and brought him here to serve them. Those who came before the Elder Races had faded into myth by the time those races had taken the city, as had those who came before them, and even those before them, and so on unto the dawn of time. Still, she is the First City.

Assassins Of Ur-Hadad: Again written by Adam Muszkiewicz.

It would be entirely inaccurate to suggest that flocks of assassins haunt the streets of Ur-Hadad, that guilds of shadowy killers flit across moonlit terraces and down darkened alleys stalking their prey. The Grand Vizier himself has decreed that all such institutions of organized murder are illegal within the city’s walls and, as such, they must not exist there. To suggest otherwise, to suggest that the Grand Vizier’s word was any less than inerrant perfection, would be treason as well as a base and treacherous lie.

The Mercenary’s Guide to Ur-Hadad: Adam Muszkiewicz channels Captain Chogrun Versk of the Brotherhood of the Blue Mark to give interested mercenaries some tips and information about how to survive and profit in Ur-Hadad. Of course, "interested mercenaries" means Player Characters!

Street Kids Of Ur-Hadad: A Zero-Level Funnel Adventure Tool Kit: Now, this is one of the Best Things Ever, and it is written by Edgar Johnson. I have written about it before, here and here, and it remains one of those things that I wish I had written. Essentially, it is a series of tables that creates a unique adventure, ostensibly a funnel, but which could be used easily enough as part of the generation of any city-based adventure.

Dungeon Insert #1: Cave of the Maggot Witch:  Finally, the issue is rounded out with a short encounter by Wayne Snyder, which is intended to be inserted into whatever dungeon or adventure that you wish.

Get It Here!

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Meat Grinder Too

The Meat Grinder Too is a 1st level adventure written and illustrated by Lord Eldrad Wolfsbane and published by Back to the Dungeon.

This is a sequel to The Meat Grinder. I would urge you to read that entry in order to understand this one, if you have not already.

You have survived the trials of death and chaos. Your families were killed by the GREAT PIG MAN BEAST and his demonic Baphamorian GOAT MEN! YOU SLEW THEM ALL!

A great transformation has came over you! You are FIRST level survivors of a terrible trial. Pick one character to play and the rest are reserves. Any new players can start out with four funnel characters. You don't get a first level character for free. YOU MUST HARD EARN WHAT YOU GET!

That is from the first page, and the energy is roughly the same throughout the adventure. The characters arrive at Porttown, "a horrid collection of 12 huge rotting buildings" built over the Arkham River. "Crossing the river is a huge cyclopean stone bridge with fould carving of hedonistic heather rites and practices from some ancient age." 

Just as with The Meat Grinder, The Meat Grinder Too channels the energy and tropes of the pulps, as well as of 70's-era role-playing games. This is like a metal version of some of the Judge's Guild material from gaming's Golden Age.

And, as in those days, the simple pleasures of the River Rat Tavern give way to adventure literally served on a platter! It's time to explore the Sea Cave of the Fish King if you don't want Chaos and Death to rule the world....

This is not a polished product. It is also a product that offers a Parental Advisory: "EXTREME VIOLENCE AND HEAVY METAL OCCULTIC CONTENT". It is also not politically correct in any sense of the term. But it is fun.

At this time, there is no link to get The Meat Grinder Too. It is my hope that both The Meat Grinder and The Meat Grinder Too become available again, either as products you pay for (I would be happy to do so!) or products you can download for free.

The townspeople point towards a foul and polluted coastal plain save for corral [sic] spires and hills covered in a dead forest littered with broken ships and trash. "That is the way you must go to get to the sea caves." says a towns person pointing east to the coast. Strange screeching black sea birds fly above. The sea behind crashes on a rock cliff face below. A storm is blowing in from the distance with thunder and lighting crashing blows a stinking sea in into the faces of the party. One large hill juts out of this area with huge double doors. Above the doors is pentagram with an eye in the center.

Fun stuff!

The Meat Grinder

The Meat Grinder is a 0-level funnel written and illustrated by Lord Eldrad Wolfsbane and published by Back to the Dungeon.

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in the winter of 1979,  with the Holmes Basic Blue Box set. Or, at least, I think it was 1979...I graduated High School in 1984, and started playing Dungeons & Dragons in 7th or 8th grade.

Old brain is old.

What is clear is just how exciting it was to discover this game, and the energy with which I crafted adventures. I filled a notebook with monster statistics, including a ton of dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts, as well as miscellaneous mythological and fictional horrors that Dr. John Eric Holmes had not included in the Basic game.

Dungeon Crawl Classics brought that sense of creative energy back, in a way that I had not experienced since the halcyon days of High School (when I was playing the 1st Edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons).

The Meat Grinder is like those old games...down to coding the map with letters instead of numbers! This is not a slick product by any means, but it is a fun one, and it perfectly captures the asthetic of weird fantasy. The illustrations are likewise energetic if not professional. Even the typed font screams the 1970s.

At this time, there is no link to get The Meat Grinder. It is my hope that both The Meat Grinder and The Meat Grinder Too become available again, either as products you pay for (I would be happy to do so!) or products you can download for free.

The Great Pig Beast and his Goat Men Soldiers born of demons and chaos, he is the enemy of everything! The Soldiers of the King's Army have all died in battle, at least that's what they dying soldier told us when he rode up bloody and babbling. We (A LARGE Group of "0" Level Characters) were sent as irregulars from our village to stop the goat men from circling around and coming through the west hills! There were no goat men coming through the west hills as they MUST have came through on the east river! OH NO! Right where our families were sent. BY THE GODS NO! Our families will be killed by ambush on the way to safety by the vile stinking goat men. We will have nothing left to live for except for blood and vengeance. It is as we feared ...

Blood, Chaos, and Death!

Damn, that's good stuff.

Friday, 10 November 2017

The Making of the Ghost Ring

DCC #85: The Making of the Ghost Ring is a 4th level adventure by Michael Curtis, illustrated by Doug Kovacs (cover and cartography), Jim Holloway, Stefan Poag, and Michael Wilson. The publisher is Goodman Games.

Disclosure: I was an uncredited playtester for this adventure.

Magic is mysterious in Dungeon Crawl Classics, and creating a magic item can be an adventure in itself. Well, more than one adventure if the judge so decides. In this case, it takes one more adventure, even after the maker has crossed over into death. And, because she cannot complete her work alone (but must complete it!) the PCs are given a chance to help.

And, should you agree, you get teleported around the world to gather the things still needed to complete the magic. As a complication, there is a demon who wishes to collect the ghostly sorceress's soul. This means that the ghost, Lifthrasir, has a time limit to meet if she is going to finish crafting the ring, and by so doing save herself.

Yes, the adventure is rather linear. It is a series of sub-quests, and is fairly (although not exclusively) combat-oriented. Nonetheless, each of the set pieces is interesting, and each of the set pieces is substantially different from the others. The PCs definitely have agency in how they deal with the subquests, and creativity can definitely affect the outcome! My players, for instance, had the easiest time with what was (I believe) intended to the most difficult set piece.

Notably, the PCs will have to leave some major treasures behind if they wish to continue their quest. In my opinion, this is a feature rather than a bug. First off, it means that the players have to make interesting choices. Second, planar step is a 3rd level spell, and the PCs may have access to it by 5th level.

Overall, this adventure is reminiscent of Gary Gygax's advice about creating magic items in the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide. For instance:
Harvest the pumpkin in the dark of the moon and dry the seeds over a slow fire of sandalwood and horse dung. Select three perfect ones and grind them into a coarse meal, husks and all. Boil the basilisk eye and cockatrice feathers for exactly 5 minutes in a saline solution, drain, and place in a jar. Add the medusa’s snake venom and gem powders.Allow to stand for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Pour off liquid into bottle, add sepia and holy ,water, mixing contents with a silver rod, stirring widdershins. Makes ink sufficient for one scroll.
There is a great deal more flavor to this sort of process than there is to, say, a list of spells, feats, and a cost in gold pieces!

(For another take on creating magic items, see Tales From the Fallen Empire.)

To save a soul and forge a ring! A ghostly enchantress calls for aid, her salvation hanging in the balance. Brave heroes are needed to complete the creation of a magical ring, a process that will take them from gritty city streets to sun-scorched deserts to the ruins of an ancient fortress atop a windswept peak. Are the adventurers up to the task or shall a sinister demon claim the souls of not only the enchantress but the heroes as well? Only luck, courage, and wits will triumph against adversity and allow the adventurers to claim the Ghost Ring for themselves!

Get It Here!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Goodman Games Gazette V1N8

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Goodman Games Gazette V1N1

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Maiden Voyage of the Colossus

Maiden Voyage of the Colossus was written by Perry Fehr. It is a "dual-game adventure for OGL adventures in Porphyra and Dungeon Crawl Classics" - 2nd level for Dungeon Crawl Classics. Artwork is by Gray Dupuis, Rick Hershey (cover), Malcolm McClinton, Matt Morrow, Brett Neufeld, Ryan Rhodes, and Michael Scotta. Cartography is by  Kristian Richards. The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I am listed as a DCC Playtester. I was involved with converting the original statistics to Dungeon Crawl Classics, more on which below.

The Colossus! Next wonder of this world, a grand ship of luxurious proportions, carrying goods and good people through the sky to exotic locales without the danger of stormy seas and pirates, or tedious land travel and bandits, and all in style and comfort! The Colossus, built by Gearswave, Inc., is completely safe, unreachable in the sky, moved by the power of controlled wind and gear power! Forget sea travel and grubby caravans, airship transport aboard the mighty Colossus is the only way to go!”

This adventure was written and playtested at the 2015 Iron GM competition at the Great Falls Gaming Rendezvous, where it took Third Place. Contestant GMs get one hour to draft an adventure using three theme phrases (in this case, Airship, Hidden Agenda, and The Clockmaker). After a four-hour play session, the GMs are evaluated by their players.

This adventure is set in the Purple Duck setting, Porphyra, and is actually best if set in that world. When I ran it, I had the PCs summoned to the Gearswave complex on Porphyra, where they were awakened much as described in the adventure start. The major difference was that they were in a summoning circle, were considered "demons" from "a lower world", and had to verbally accept the terms of a contract before being let out.

The adventure then ran much as written. Once the Colossus had been saved, the PCs discovered that their initial contact had been assassinated. "And which lower world do you belong to, exactly?" This gave me a chance to drop them into another adventure setting before sending them home.

Although I did a thorough Dungeon Crawl Classics reskinning of the adventure - it is my opinion that Dungeon Crawl Classics allows for the unexpected and just plain weird far better than 3rd edition D&D-based games - some of these changes were not adopted for the dual-stat format. I suspect that, if you achieve Third Place in a difficult contest, you would prefer not to have your material altered too much. Another part of me suspects that it is difficult to put two or more sets of statistics together in one product, with one product having more bells and whistles than the other.

When I was working on this, I was under the impression that it would be like the tête-bêche dual sci-fi novels or the old Traveller double adventures that were designed to mimic them. Not so!

By putting the material effectively side-by-side, you can see that, while Dungeon Crawl Classics information needs to be supplied for all fourteen creatures encountered in the adventure, and d20 statistics need to be supplied for only four, those d20 statistics take up more space. I can sort of understand not wanting to add insult to injury by giving the villain death throes only in one version.

The Endzeitgeist review of this product was particularly harsh:

Well, this may sound harsh, but the book is utterly delusional regarding its compatibility with DCC. I’m sorry to say it, but apart from DCC-rules being here, this pdf has NOTHING that even remotely pertains DCC’s aesthetics. DCC’s general assumption is that magic’s weird, uncontrollable and volatile; its whole premise is grittier, darker and the whole depiction is radically different, with the emphasis on patrons etc. On the other hand, Pathfinder features reliable magic and is geared significantly more towards high fantasy gameplay. 

I think that a lot of these problems go away if the judge adopts the framing that I used. Being called into a world with industry - whether magical industry or otherwise - is not unknown in Appendix N. The reliable magic in Maiden Voyage of the Colossus should not be construed as a problem if the players themselves are not able to rely on it. For this adventure, presentation is key.

I had a lot of fun running this adventure. Using the right framing narrative, you should be able to do the same. They key is to ensure that you are not implying that airships or magic-as-technology are going to be rife on your world. I could easily see the Colossus coming to a setting like Black Powder, Black Magic, Dark Trails, or Mutant Crawl Classics from another dimension. Sabotage does not need to occur on the actual maiden voyage. Likewise, a setting like Trench Crawl Classics, Drongo, Madkeen, or Pandemonium might be able to use the material with very few changes. In Trench Crawl Classics, for instance, the Colossus may be an American zeppelin that the PCs are trying to save from German spies.

While the adventure might seem like a strange fit for Dungeon Crawl Classics, the fact that it is a strange fit can be used as a strength.

The consortium that employs the PCs, Gearswave, Inc., is described as a patron with check results for invoke patron.

An urgent summons in the middle of the night, a hasty boarding in secret, a mysterious agenda… Brave adventurers find themselves on board the maiden voyage of a new flying wonder- the Colossus, a flying airship meant to revolutionize travel!  But not all are happy with this innovation, and it is up to the party to stop the sinister plans of The Clockmaster!

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Goodman Games Gazette V1N7

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Goodman Games Gazette V1N6

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Goodman Games Gazette V1N5

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Goodman Games Gazette V1N4

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Goodman Games Gazette V1N3

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Goodman Games Gazette V1N2

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Goodman Games Gazette V1N1

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Goodman Games Gazette V1N8

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Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book

The Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Guide is described on RPG Now as being written and illustrated by Goodman Games, and is published by Goodman Games as well. Doug Kovacs is the cover artist. Other attributions are listed on the Table of Contents, and will be reproduced below. As always with this type of product, I will be primarily focused on materials relevant to the Dungeon Crawl Classics family of games.

Disclosure: I appear in the Odyssey Con picture and one of the Gary Con pictures in the Con and Event Recap.

The Dungeon Alphabet: Author Michael Curtis adds two more entries for The Dungeon Alphabet: Q is for Quests and U is for Underwater.

2016-2017 Mailing Labels: The Goodman Games mailing label art, by Stefan Poag and Brad McDevitt, is reproduced for your enjoyment.

Dinosaur Crawl Classics: Author Marc Bruner converts Goodman Games' Broncosaurus Rex setting from 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons to Dungeon Crawl Classics. Art is by Tim Burgard, William McAusland, and Dan Morton.

The year is 2202, and dinosaurs have been discovered on the planet Cretasus. Humanity has continued to carry their conflicts to the stars in a timeline where the American civil war of 19th-century Earth ended in a stalemate instead of a Union victory. Now two factions – the Federal Union of Planets and the Confederate States of America – are rushing to claim this new world. Perhaps you are one of the thousands of human settlers flocking to Cretasus seeking wealth and glory. Perhaps you are one of the intelligent dinosaur species now caught in the conflict with these strange new beings. Or perhaps you are simply a misplaced adventuring party from another universe struggling to survive this new world long enough to return home!

Broncosaurus Rex was an innovative setting when it came out, and this conversion gives one more than enough information to exploit Cretasus for all it's worth. Five classes are included - four for velociraptors and one for humans who feel an "innate connection to the laws of nature". Velociraptors can be warriors, tacticians, shamans, or exiles. Four velociraptor-specific deeds are provided.

Through careful study and ritual, velociraptor shamans can attempt to bond with a specific species of dinosaur, enabling them to draw upon that dinosaur’s strengths. Known as Ways, three have been identified below, the Way of the Tyrannosaur, the Way of the Triceratops, and the Way of the Pteranodon.

These Ways are treated exactly as are other patrons in Dungeon Crawl Classics.

There is a discussion of Broncosaurus Rex Tech Levels, adjusted to be fully compatible with Mutant Crawl Classics, including sample weapons and equipment. Ten dinosaurs (or prehistoric reptilian creatures, in the case of pteranodons) are provided.

The Return of Scravis: This is a 2nd level adventure by Marc Bruner, with art by Tim Burgard, William McAusland, and Thomas Yeates, and cartographer by Steve Crompton. The adventure takes place on Cretasus, but suggestions are provided for taking your normal Dungeon Crawl Classics PCs into the adventure (and then either letting them return to their own world or not, depending).

For generations, the L’dena tribe of velociraptors have lived and hunted in the East Valley, one of the twenty great valleys that divide the surface of Cretasus into isolated continent-sized ecosystems. High-minded and social, the L’dena believe themselves to be the true inheritors of an ancient pact made between carnivores and their prey, acting as wardens of the natural balance that allows dinosaurs to flourish on the planet.

Now disturbing signs foretoken a disruption to this natural order. Tribal hunting parties report entire dinosaur herds fleeing their ancestral hunting grounds and having to travel farther to find what meager game remain. Tremors, once rare in the valley, now shake the earth with increasing frequency. And from the sacred lands where the god of the raptors is said to make his home, smoke once again rises from ancient mountains and whispers come of the return of a deadly predator long thought extinct.

Lovercraftian Monsters for Dungeon Crawl Classics: Jon Hook provides statistics for 22 creatures associated with the Cthulhu mythos.

Meet Jon Hook: A short interview with Jon Hook,by Rev. Dak J. Ultimak (Originally printed in Goodman Games Gazette, vol. 1, no. 6).

The Thing That Should Not Be: This is a 3rd level adventure by Jon Hook, with art by Doug Kovacs (who also did the cartography), Jesse Mohn, and Chad Sergesketter.

The Black Moss Woods are avoided at all costs by the local villagers, for the horrors within defy description and are certain doom for those foolish enough, (or unfortunate enough), to enter. The characters have entered the Black Moss Woods because they recently discovered evidence of a cult to Nyogtha, a putrid god of chaos and defilement. So vile is the worship of Nyogtha, that the characters suspect that the cult could introduce a new age of darkness, unless they are stopped.

Sisters of the Moon Furnace: This is a 0-level adventure by Marc Bishop (who also did the cartography). Art is by Tom Galambos and Cliff Kurowski. An Editor's Note indicates that this adventure was a runner-up in the 2016 Rodneys Design Award.

The PCs awaken one starry night atop the highest point of a tower plateau, unaware of how they arrived. The cliff walls are sheer on every side, surrounded beneath by a cloud-like haze that obscures the earth below. As their journey begins, the players will have little clue about the cosmic game they have been sequestered for, but along the way, the pieces of the puzzle come together regarding Aphelion, the Three Sisters, and the purpose of the Moon Furnace.

A Visual History of the Band: Images of the Band by Doug Kovacs, from their first appearance in the core book to Moon-Slaves of the Cannibal Kingdom.

Goodman Games Official Gen Con 2017 Event Grid: Useful to figure out where and when to game at the convention; useful only as a historical document now.

Real Life Adventures: The Goodman Games 2017 Creative Retreat: Joseph Goodman writes: In early 2017, I took the Goodman Games creative crew on a “creative retreat” in northern California. In one very long week, we visited a host of unusual sites, all of which had clear application to inspiring creative writing. The goal was to break out of our comfort zones and find real-world locations that can better infuse our creative works. We were simulating fantasy writing through real-world adventures, or at least as close as we could come to that.

Real Life Adventures: The Alamo: Author Marc Bruner describes his trip to the Alamo, and suggests five "Alamo Encounters".

Road Crew Flyer Design Contest 2016: I wasn't even aware that this was happening. Cool designs to inspire your own gaming flyers! Attributed to the Goodman Games Community.

Con and Event Recap: Also attributed to the Goodman Games Community, photos and other images (including a design for Fleeting Luck tokens!) from the Goodman Games World Tour, starting at Gen Con 2016, and ending at Gary Con 2017.

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Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Fearsome Critters of the Woodlands

Fearsome Critters of the Woodlands was written by Daniel J. Bishop, Perry Fehr, and Mark Gedak. Art is by Brett Neufeld. The publisher is Purple Duck Games.

Disclosure: I am one of the writers on this product.

Billed as "a monster sourcebook for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role-Playing Game", Fearsome Critters of the Woodlands is nominally linked to Porphyra, the shared world initially created by Purple Duck Games as a Pathfinder setting. This is not the only Purple Duck DCC product linked (at least in principle) to Porphyra: Purple Mountain and Maiden Voyage of the Colossus, as well the Races of Porphyra, series are also linked to this world.

North American mythology is underutilized in Dungeons & Dragons and its offshoots, with a few exceptions. This mythos is, perhaps, better represented in Dungeon Crawl Classics, with products like Dark Trails, The Chained Coffin, and Secret Antiquities, as well as settings like Umerica and the Weird West of Black Powder, Black Magic.

There is, as yet, no overarching treatment of Porphyra for Dungeon Crawl Classics, but there is no reason that this world cannot be DCCified. Links to Porphyra in Fearsome Critters of the Woodlands are easily ignored, though, and judges may make use of these creatures anywhere.

Herein you will find the agropelter, chousarou, fur-bearing trout, hidebehind, hodag, joint snake, rumtifusel, shagamaw, squonk, teakettler, and tripodero. I added some flavor and crunch to several of the creatures, but only the hodag is fully mine. Well, I say "fully mine", but what I actually attempted to do was create a playable creature which was as similar as possible to the folklore. The other creatures, likewise, cleave fairly close to the source material, but are designed to be playable in Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures. Mark and Perry have done good work here.

The squonk is a different creature from the one in The Tomb of the Squonk. Having one product will not lessen the value of the other.

Remote mountains and forest wildernesses are home to strange creatures that are almost never found in dungeons, or any kind of captivity. Traditionally, the only way to get information about these “fearsome critters” is to encounter one, or talk to a lumberjack, miner, or hermit that lives in the area. Discerning what is merely a tall tale, and what is stone cold truth, is a problem for the players to solve!

Whereas many role-playing game monster supplements draw heavily from European mythologies, these fearsome creatures are all drawn from the folklore of North America. As a result, there are several Dungeon Crawl Classics settings where they are already obviously appropriate – areas that deal with Western, Appalachian, or post-Apocalyptic America.

The authors urge you not to be limited to just these settings when introducing fearsome critters. Just as, in DCC, orcs might appear in a Western adventure, or robots in what is otherwise a fantasy setting, so too might hide-behinds lurk within a dank forest near your PC’s home village.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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