Wednesday, 1 October 2014

They Came to Umerica

Three weeks ago I picked up a new player via the Dungeon Crawl Classics World Tour 2014 program and running games at Fan Expo Toronto. Combines with some of my existing players expressing a wish to get their hands on firearms, or playing mutant characters, and the appearance of a funnel adventure in Crawling Under a Broken Moon #3, I embarked a new set of adventurers upon the path to glory, gold, and an untimely death.

Two weeks ago, I ran the first part of The Mall Maul from CUaBM#3, a bit of awesome sauce that, frankly, I mangled in the translation. This was due to a lack of prep on my part; although I read the adventure thoroughly, I should have prepared some flavour text ahead of time. Perhaps I should also have photocopied the map onto graph paper, and used coloured pencils to indicate main thoroughfares (mall walkways), service walkways, etc. I don’t spend enough time in malls to have done the setting justice.

For those of you not getting Crawling Under a Broken Moon, the setting is post-Apocalyptic Umerica – think Thundarr the Barbarian meets Mad Max meets Gamma World meets Dungeon Crawl Classics and you won’t be that far off. In the funnel adventure, the PCs are filling a tribute truck to buy off some raiders – when they hit 200 “tribute truck” points, they get 10 XP and level up.

There was some bitching about this from some quarters. I have been running the game where, when the 0-level PCs hit 10 XP, they level. This led to overly cautious play, where every item to PCs started with had to be considered as to whether or not it could count as tribute, and the players simply refused to explore the stranger areas of the mall until they were absolutely sure that there was nothing left in the mall proper. Each step of the way was handled with the sort of mind-numbing thoroughness that only comes with not having made driven home a time limit before the raiders arrive.



By the second week, for part 2 of The Maul Maul, I was a little better prepared. One thing that helped was a list of random items, effectively dungeon dressing for the mall. We had ended with the defeat of the main Malllock nest, and the tribute truck still not close to full. The second half of the mall is cooler than the first, but it is also harder to describe. Again, better prep in this area would have served me well. In any event, they hit the food court, filled the truck, levelled, and we ended it there.

Some notes:

  • If I was doing this over, I would prep descriptions better, and perhaps scour the Internet for applicable visuals.
  • Instead of dealing with TT values, I would simply have granted 1 XP per 20 TT found, and give the players a rough idea of how full the truck seemed to be.
  • I would have copied and coloured the map to give me visual cues as an aid in describing places.
  • A list of random junk on the first session, to aid in descriptions, would have helped.
  • I had to make calls about leveling using Crawling Under a Broken Moon. Are mutants a race class? Can they take another class? I ruled that they could use half-levels, or they could use race-as-class. There was some pretty vocal bitching about this. Tough. When options are added, if you don’t like them, don’t use them, but don’t drag the game into a bitching match about the options you would use if you were running the game, unless you are actually prepared to do so.


Part 3 got off to a better start, as the players determined that they had cleared out the mall. There was a lot of talk about them keeping the stuff they had gotten for the tribute truck, or just keeping the tribute truck, but in the end the fact that they liked the local priest of Kizz got them to take his advice and leave their Podunk little town and head east towards Denethix….the raiders work for the wizard Dundee the Crocodile Lord, and in this part of Umerica, known as the Land of One Thousand Towers, the best you can hope for from any wizard is that they ignore you.

Along the way to Denethix, they meet two caravan guards, and go to rescue a merchant in the lair of several sick lion-like humanoids known as Moktars. This leads them to a cave atop a nearby mountain, which promises the possibility of loot. They decide to go to the closest (very poor) village and get some help – a new batch of 0-levels for everyone. All have a group of 4 PCs (mixed 1st and 0-level), and head back up the mountain.

When last we left off, Suicidal Steve the 0-level Elf was hit in the head with a trap made of a swinging pipe. So far, no inhabitants of the newly-opened dungeon have reared their head, but the signs (literal signs on doors) indicate that there may be some useful technology around somewhere.


And that is where we pick up tonight……


(In case it is unclear, I am adapting Patrick Wetmore's excellent Anomalous Subsurface Environment to Dungeon Crawl Classics. This is a good fit, especially for the post-Apocalyptic environment of Crawling Under a Broken Moon. ASE also contains the means, via Michael Curtis, to connect the world of CUaBM with one's regular game, so that this new chapter is just the long way 'round to going "home" to where the regular PCs are. I think that's cool.)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

W is for Walrus.....A Hung Jury

I am going to use both versions of the scrimshaw rod from the "W is for Walrus" contest, and I am going to give both contestants a print and pdf of the adventure they will appear in (FT 2: The Portsmouth Mermaid).

Contest closed.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Review: Prayers of the Forgotten

Prayers of the Forgotten
Stormlord Publishing
By Carl Bussler and Eric Hoffman

Brief review: Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, and yet again, wonderful.

Longer review: Take a simple premise: forgotten gods and alien philosophies exist in the Appendix N, sword & Sorcery style worlds that Dungeon Crawl Classics emulates. Sometimes, those gods are not dead, but merely forgotten. Sometimes, they want to be worshiped again. Sometimes, bold adventurers encounter the remains of these cults. Now devise mechanics to reflect this.

That’s what Prayers of the Forgotten does – provides a simple framework to create unique mechanics for your forgotten gods, philosophies, arch-demons, and so on. The rest of the booklet is devoted to three specific examples of the same. These specific examples come with what are essentially mini-adventures that can be dropped in your campaign as desired. An added bonus: The mini-adventures are not only good, but they are diverse.

In addition to the obvious “treasure” of becoming the favoured soul of some forgotten god, this booklet sparked some interesting ideas for “Quest For It” adventures in my mind. If the last component for a spell can be found from the lips of a forgotten god, what might that god demand in exchange? What is something the PCs want – even something as mundane as a lost sword technique – can only be gained as a boon from a forgotten god?

Anything that makes the judge consider the supernatural world in which the PCs operate is a good thing. Anything that gives the judge extra tools to model the interaction of that supernatural world with the PCs is a great thing.

This is a great value for the money. A must have for the serious (or even the not-so-serious) DCC judge.


“There is no such thing as a dead god. Only dead followers.”

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Agony Columns

Following the failure of the FTL Communications Network and generally upheld interstellar law, it became possible to hire out jobs that had formerly been illegal under the Terrestrial Alliance.  The “Agony Columns” are similar to Classifieds in a newspaper, or a dating service – an individual pays to post a request, with a contact number that is provided by the local System Agency. 

System Agencies pay a nominal fee to spike drive ships to carry information from one system to another, thus providing updated Agony Column information across nearby systems.  The downside to this is that out-system listings may already be filled or closed by the time they reach a local System Agency, and it may be some time before the listing is updated.  Those responding to out-system listings are cautioned to use their own best judgement!

In some systems, the local System Agency may use viral transportation to encode packets onto outgoing ships without the knowledge or payment of the owners.  This is frowned on by GalSysCom, but is not illegal in most systems.  A ship that discovers a System Agency packet hidden in its computers may delete or sequester the packet without fear of prosecution.

(Sequestering a packet prevents it from uploading to local System Agencies, thus limiting access to the information contained within...at least until such time as it is provided by another spike drive ship.  Parties possessing the packet may then decrypt it in order to “claim jump” any interesting tidbits they may find.)

The Agony Columns are used not only to offer clandestine employment, but also list potential job offers with various corporations and other places of employment, personal messages, birth notices, death notices, wedding notices, and anything else a user is willing to pay 1 credit per 10 characters to post.







Saturday, 6 September 2014

Dungeon of Crows 2: Avatar of Yog Sutekhis

Another Pay What You Want instalment of The Dungeon of Crows is available.

I've included a sample below, but the real treat is the Avatar of Yog Sutekhis.

43.  Crypt with Demon:  The passage goes 10 feet into another chamber, some 30 feet to a side, with an archway in the centre of the right wall.  The walls are composed of triangular burial niches, some filled with piles of bones separated by type – you can see niches that contain only jawbones, or shinbones, or ulnas, for example – but many seem empty.  The ceiling is about 10 feet high.

Two monkey demons hide within the niches, one behind several skulls in a niche on the east wall, and one in an otherwise empty niche on the north wall (which cannot be seen into from the doorway).  A 2 in 6 chance notices the first, but the second cannot be noticed until the room is entered (1 in 6 chance) and may well have a chance to act with surprise.  Monkey demons look like red-skinned black-furred monkeys with wizened, evil, almost-human faces. Anyone bit by a monkey demon must make a save vs. poison (Will DC 10) or permanently lose 1d4 points of Strength.

Monkey Demons (2): AL C, MV 90’ (30’), AC 3 (17), HD 1, hp 5, 8, #AT 1 (bite), DG 1d4 + Strength loss, SV T3 (Fort +2, Ref +5, Will +2), ML 8, XP 16.


There are 300 niches in this room, but only about a third contain bones.  Searching them takes a single character 30 minutes, and uncovers a leather bag containing 250 polished bone discs with crude faces scratched on one side of each disc.  These are “money” of the Boneknapper’s Guild on Level Three, and can be used to barter with any ghouls met in this dungeon.

Breckinridge Elkins

Robert E. Howard is well known for characters like Kull, Conan, Bran Mak Morn, El Borak, Cormac Mac Art and Solomon Kane. He also wrote stories about many characters that are perhaps less well known these days – Sailor Steve Costigan, Professor John Kirowan, Turlogh Dubh O’Brien, and Dark Agnes – although no less worthy. Among those characters who have achieved less notoriety is Breckinridge Elkins, Howard’s brawny-but-not-brainy, tough-as-nails character whose humorous Western exploits take place in and around Bear Creek, Nevada.

I had read very few of the Breckinridge Elkins stories prior to going camping in Algonquin Park this August, but one of the books I brought with me was A Gent From Bear Creek*. Although more than half a continent lies between the Sierra Nevada of Bear Creek and the Appalachians of Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer tales, it seems to me that a “Breckinridge Elkins”-type character would fit in quite well with the Wellman-inspired Shudder Mountains of Michael CurtisThe Chained Coffin.

Without further ado, then, here is Breckinridge Elkins, statted out for the Dungeon Crawl Classics rpg.

Breckinridge Elkins:  Init +0; Atk punch +5+1d10 melee (1d3+5+1d10) or hurl stone +5+1d10 ranged (1d8+5+1d10, range 100’) or firearm +1d10 ranged (1d6+1d10); AC 9; HD 8d10+32; hp 80; MV 30’; Act 2d20; SP DR 10, iron constitution, “get mad”, Mighty Deeds, incredible strength, impossible to kill; SV Fort +20, Ref +4, Will +4; AL N.

Breckinridge Elkins is a giant grizzly bear of a man, well over 6 feet tall. So iron is his constitution that he can drink jug after jug of moonshine without serious inebriation, and any damage he takes is reduced by 10 points. If any damage gets through this reduction, Elkins “gets mad”, gaining a +1d bonus on the dice chain to both Action Dice.

Breckinridge Elkins gains a Deed Die (1d10) as does a warrior or dwarf, and he criticals as though he were a giant. Although his attacks can be devastating, they are never lethal – an opponent reduced to 0 hp is knocked senseless, coming to after 1d6 rounds or minutes (judge’s choice) with a full Hit Die restored. The character does not lose a point of Strength, Agility, or Stamina as with the normal “Damage and Death” rules on page 93 of the core rulebook.

Likewise, Breckinridge typically uses his Mighty Deeds to comical effect – limiting opponent’s attacks, chawing on ears, dazing opponents, or placing them into unsavoury circumstances. The judge is encouraged to have Breckinridge use his Deeds to throw folks through windows, jam them into barrels, slide them down the bar counter, or whatever else seems over the top.

Breckinridge Elkins is incredibly strong; it is, in fact, impossible for a normal human being, unaided by magic, to beat him in a Strength check. Even against a superhuman character, such as Lin Carter’s Ganelon Silvermane, Elkins adds his Deed Die +5 to any Strength check. He has been known to break through solid timber walls, carry his mule, hurl a mountain lion into a cabin, and throw rocks with explosive force.

Although incredibly strong and tough, the gent from Bear Creek isn’t terribly smart, and is easily fooled. Discovering that he has been tricked is liable to make him mad, however, and an angry Breckinridge Elkins has been the end to many a villainous scheme.

Finally, if reduced to 0 hp, Breckinridge Elkins is merely stunned, and sits down, falls down, or wanders off as the judge deems appropriate. He recovers a full Hit Die in 1d6 minutes, or immediately upon being attacked. He regains another Hit Die each hour until his full Hit Dice are restored. Breckinridge Elkins may well be impossible to kill.

If the judge’s campaign includes firearms, Breckinridge usually has a primitive cap-and-ball pistol on his person.

Cap’n Kidd: Init +2; Atk hoof +8 melee (1d6+5) or bite +4 melee (1d4+5); AC 16; HD 8d8+32; hp 50; MV 90’; Act 1d20; SP DR 5, difficult to mount, buck and throw, impossible to kill; SV Fort +12, Ref +10, Will +15; AL N.

Cap’n Kidd is Breckinridge Elkin’s horse – the only horse strong enough to carry him. He allows only Breckinridge or Glory McGraw to ride him, and in Breckinridge’s case, Cap’n Kidd bucks or rolls a few times before he can be ridden. Anyone who attempts to ride Cap’n Kidd is targeted by a single hoof or bite attack as a free action, and must make a DC 20 Reflex save or Strength check to get on the horse’s back. Failure allows another try, but Cap’n Kidd gains another free attack. Once on the horse, the would-be rider must succeed in 3d7 Strength checks (DC 1d10+10) or be thrown from the horse for 2d6 damage (with any natural “6” indicating a broken bone).

Similarly to Breckinridge Elkins, Cap’n Kidd ignores the first 5 points of damage from any source, and if reduced to 0 hp is merely dazed, gaining a full Hit Die back in 1d6 minutes. If a PC reduces Cap’n Kidd to 0 hp through nonlethal combat, the horse should allow itself to be ridden by that PC, much to the amazement of all around (especially Elkins).

Glory McGraw: Init +3; Atk punch +1d5 melee (1d3+1d5) or firearm +3+1d5 ranged (1d6+1d5); AC 12; HD 4d8+8; hp 25; MV 30’; Act 1d20+1d14; SP Mighty Deeds, possibly impossible to kill; SV Fort +4, Ref +8, Will +8; AL L.

Glory McGraw is Breckinridge Elkin’s love interest. Although not as physically intimidating as the gent from Bear Creek, she also has a Deed Die (1d5), and probably cannot be killed. I leave this last to the judge’s discretion.

It is highly recommended that the judge read some of Howard’s original prose before running these characters. Further inspiration can be found here or especially here.


* It should be noted that the stories in A Gent From Bear Creek were not all originally Breckinridge Elkins stories. The collection reworks some stories from similar Howard characters into Elkins stories, in the same way that the Conan stories were padded out with edited stories originally attached to other Howard characters.


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Fan Expo 2014

Photos courtesy of Toronto Area Gamers
As previously mentioned, I was scheduled to run three games at Fan Expo 2014, having been asked to volunteer by the wonderful folks in the Toronto Area Gamers.

On Friday, I was scheduled to run The Imperishable Sorceress, which had been published as a Free RPG Day adventure by Goodman Games in 2013. On Saturday, I was scheduled to run The Arwich Grinder, which appeared in Crawl #9. On Sunday, I was scheduled to run The Thing in the Chimney, which was initially available as a free adventure for Christmas 2012, and then made a part of Perils of the Cinder Claws, along with a sequel adventure, by Purple Duck Games for the 2013 holidays.

Friday went well, with a TPK occurring in the cold halls of Ivrian the Unkind. The players failed to listen to Ivrian’s instructions, and the cleric attempted to invoke divine power to deal with the first demon. And failed. They also failed to obtain almost all of the treasures that could have helped them with the adventure – being initially afraid even to touch the magic sword. With very little oomph left to the group, the survivors perished when they met the waspmires on the face of the Cleft Mountain. Still, it was fun.

Saturday, I started with five players, but one was taking care of a baby. One should not take care of a baby and play in The Arwich Grinder. He bowed out when they reached the attic. Of the remaining 16 0-level PCs entering the funnel, 14 were still alive when we were warned that the room was going to close about 45 minutes before the game was scheduled to end. They had just begun to examine “Hell on Earth”, so they might not have done as well if we had continued. Still, it was amazingly impressive, as the dice showed the game’s Judge no love, and player caution prevented them from doing anything truly stupid. And it was a lot of fun. Letting the dice fall where they may, if nothing else, ensured that the players knew how exceptionally lucky their 0-level PCs really were.

Sunday, I didn’t have enough sign-ups to run through The Thing in the Chimney, but last-minute players allowed me to run for a foursome. They burned through the adventure, avoiding most of the potential combats, but all dropped when a pair of hands came from the chimney. “You are drawn up into the chimney, one by one. There are some crunching sounds. Then your boots fall into the ashes.” Lovely. Especially in contrast to the humorous tone of the rest of the scenario.

Because there was so much time left, I ruled that the fruitcake helped them (because the halfling ate it all), giving each 2d6 hit points back, and allowed them to face the Cinder Claws himself. Yes, this was a fudge – but it was also a fudge in a one-shot game, where everyone knew it was a fudge (no lying about it!) and agreed to turn the clock back. They also knew what the “real” events had been.

In the ensuing battle, two PCs dropped again before the Cinder Claws was defeated. When rolled over, after being dragged through the portal, they were discovered to be dead. A fruitcake can only do so much.

But the players had burned through the adventure so quickly that I still had half the time left. And they were asking if I had another scenario on me. Having the core rules, I had them generate three 0-level PCs each and ran them through Joseph Goodman’s The Portal Under the Stars. It was well received. In the end, two new “heroes” emerged from the adventure site, and they were the two who ran.

One of the players then asked if he could join my weekly game. This was a young gentleman who had never played DCC before, but who really liked the pace of the game. A lot of things can happen, and you don’t always know what they are going to be!

NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS

I was recognized from having run other DCC promo events in the past, which was nice.

You can, apparently, be voted MVP by the other players if you do a good job role-playing being cursed with a desire to eat human flesh.

The big draw this year seemed to be 5E, but Pathfinder retains a strong hold on the Toronto crowd. I didn’t see anyone playing older edition games, which was a bit sad.

The Goodman Games swag program continues to surprise players. I was repeatedly forced to tell people that, really, they could have that mechanical pencil, that button, those bookmarks, that graph paper, etc., because the publisher provided it to me to give away to players.

It was very kind of the Toronto Area Gamers group to invite me to run games this year, and I would certainly be willing to do so in the future. Next time, though, I will be running all-new never-before-seen material, and players willing to chance their PCs’ fates on the dice and my gentle adventure designs may be able to gain playtest credits as a result!






Wednesday, 27 August 2014

This Weekend!

This weekend at Fan Expo Toronto:

Friday 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm - DCC: The Imperishable Sorceress
Saturday 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm - DCC: The Arwich Grinder
Sunday 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm - DCC: The Thing in the Chimney

Come fill the table!

Monday, 11 August 2014

W is for Walrus

"Noaa-walrus10".
Licensed under Public domain via
Wikimedia Commons
Having foolishly messed up the obvious, and not used my post on the Wampler as my “W is for…” post, I give you the humble walrus.  These mammals, closely related to true seals, runs between 1,800 and 3,700 pounds for a male for a Pacific walrus, with occasionally larger one’s showing up.  

Wikipedia tells us that “In 1909, a walrus hide weighing 500 kg (1,100 lb) was collected from an enormous bull in Franz Josef Land, while in August 1910, Jack Woodson shot a 4.9 m (16 ft) long walrus, harvesting its 450 kg (1,000 lb) hide. Since a walrus's hide usually accounts for about 20% of its body weight, the total body mass of these two giants is estimated to have been at least 2,300 kg (5,000 lb).” 

Atlantic walruses are a bit smaller, the males clocking in at an average 2,000 pounds. That’s still plenty big.

One source claims walruses can reach 3,527 pounds!

Some walruses hunt seals, and there have been stories of walruses hunting humans as well, folklore from regions in which these mammals are common. A walrus can take down a fur seal far larger than the average human, and in the excellent BBC Planet Earth documentary series, you can see how a polar bear fares against a walrus colony.  

In the real world, people have hunted walruses for food, skins, oil, and ivory. In the fantasy world of Dungeon Crawl Classics, far more aggressive hunting walruses may exist, hunting the hunters in turn. The red walruses of the Blood Ice, for instance, are as much a menace as they are a resource. A spirit-driven walrus may hunt people because it is compelled by the evil that possesses it.

Walrus: Init +0; Atk Bite +3 melee (2d6+4) or flipper +0 melee (1d4+4) or crush +2 melee (1d8+4); AC 15; HD 5d8+5, HP 26; MV 15’ or swim 40’; Act 1d20; SP ignores first 10 points of cold damage from any source; SV Fort +8, Ref –3, Will +2; AL N.

Giant walrus: Init –2; Atk Bite +6 melee (2d12+4) or flipper +4 melee (2d8+4); AC 17; HD 15d8+15, HP 75; MV 30’ or swim 50’; Act 2d20; SP crush 5d12 damage to all in 10’ x 10’ area (Ref DC 8 avoids), immune to cold; SV Fort +16, Ref –4, Will +6; AL N.

 
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9e/15_Walross_2001.jpg
CONTEST:  The Scrimshaw Rod

This is a rod made of walrus tusk ivory, carved with scrimshaw figures. Post a description, including what it does, in the Comments, below. Use the rules system of your choice; just indicate what it is. It needs to be your own work. 

By posting, you grant permission to treat your entry as Open Gaming Content with the copyright notice “Whatever you named the item, by whatever name appears in your comment, copyright © 2014”.  Example, “Scrimshaw rod, by Raven Crowking, copyright © 2014”.

Contest ends on 1 September 2014. At that time, two winners will be announced. One will be the item I pick as the (subjectively) “best” of those offered; the other will be random-rolled from the remainder. Each winner will receive a complimentary pdf of any Purple Duck Games or Mystic Bull product I have worked on, which I will provide.

In addition, I will work the “best” entry into FT 2: The Portsmouth Mermaid (converted to DCC, if necessary), properly credited, and I will send the author of that entry a free pdf and print copy of the module when it is released.