Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Reaction Rolls Made Simple

Thanks to the thread about Jim Wampler's Mutant Crawl Classics, I learned about this man who makes specialty dice.  That die pictured? That's one of his emoticon dice. The picture is from his website.

I just asked about ordering several of them. Here's why:

In Dungeon Crawl Classics, normal ability modifiers range from -3 to +3. If you have an encounter where you need a reaction roll, and no Personality modifier is involved, roll one of these dice. If there is a Personality modifier involved, roll one die per point of modifier. If the modifier is a penalty, select the worst result. If the modifier is a bonus, select the best result. Instant reaction rolls!

If you need a reaction for the party as a whole, determine the total modifier and then roll that many dice (or one die, if the total modifier is +/-0.

Plus, the emoticons are easy to read. The images here are also from the dice webpage.

It is pretty easy to see how you can make modifiers by adding or subtracting dice to determine reaction as well.

(Of course, this is really all about wanting cool new dice.)

Saturday, 18 April 2015

More on the CE Series

Cross-posted from Google+, where Mark Gedak from Purple Duck Games was asking for feedback on the CE Series. I was going to link to the request, but to my chagrin I don't seem able to figure out how to find the hyperlink for specific Google+ threads. Hopefully, one or more kind readers can help me out....?

Anyway, related to the CE Series:

Writing these things was driven by a need at my own gaming table. The core rules suggest "Quest for it" as the default answer to any special character abilities, and I wanted to have areas prewritten for my own game that work with that core concept.

CE 1 allows a thief to conduct a legendary burglary, but it also allows a wizard or elf to deal with corruption, and offers a cleric a cult to belong to, or oppose.

CE 2 is largely designed to offer wizards a unique patron that works within the confines of the world, but it also can be used to "harden" a border region by making a mountain pass more difficult, can potentially offer an unusual paramour for one or more PCs, and offers two humanoid groups that the PCs can play off one another.

CE 3 makes passage through a swamp region interesting, despite recurrence, and offers the judge a way to build a story through multiple excursions (even when travel is not the focus of those excursions). 

CE 4 potentially gives warriors a boost, but also includes an oracular device that could bring the PCs back to the vicinity repeatedly. Or could be used against the PCs.

CE 5 has a base adventure, but also offers a quick set of mutations for the DCC game, including some mutated critters. It introduces an organization that the PCs could join, or (more likely) come into conflict with.

CE 6 offers something for the cleric, something for the wizard, and a good piece of backdrop against which many conflicts could be staged. The goal was to create setting conflict that could be ramped up as the PCs continue to change things around them, eventually leading to a high-level epic endgame.

From where I am sitting, there is a reason that DCC Lankhmar is such a big deal. There is a reason why people enjoy the background materials for Purple Planet and Chained Coffin. Even if the background details are not the focus of the adventure at hand, having those details to weave into your adventures is important.

That's what I want the CE Series to do. Yes, each can be used for a discrete evening's game session. You can sack the temple, or fight/parley your way through the mountain pass. You can try to dig up treasure hidden in the swamp or you can fight to prove yourself worthy to Sir Amoral.

But....what if your treasure hoard includes a map to buried treasure? CE 3 has you covered. You can do that. What if your wizard needs to learn a new spell? CE 2 and CE 6 might come into play. What if your players want to learn something esoteric? CE 2 and CE 4 might be your babies. Corruption your elf just can't live with any more? Break out CE 1.

Running Purple Planet? The Pellas Troth and Mahmat Troth are now renegade kith tribes, and the Black Goat dwells in a pass in the Ancestor Peaks. Or, if you need them to be, they are groups of disfigured Shudfolk in the milieu of The Chained Coffin.

Anyway, that is how I intended them to be used - set pieces to work with PC quests, treasure maps, tying unrelated adventures together, and enriching the sense of a living Appendix N world.

(If you know your Appendix N well, you will recognize strong homages in all of the CE series.)

They're not exactly traditional adventures. Every one of them has the potential to be used as a traditional adventure, and you will get your money's worth. But if you use them as they are intended to be used, your PCs will return to the material again and again, seeking ways to take advantage of the persistent elements. You will have persistent elements that can be used again and again to strengthen other adventures, and make them more personal to the players. In this way, you will get many times your money's worth. Or, you will if your table is anything like mine.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Bending Time & Space: Kzaddich & Tsalakians

Footprints, the free electronic magazine put out by Dragonsfoot, introduces the Kzaddich and Tsalakian (creator John Turcotte) in Issue 13. The original work is copyright © 2008 John Turcotte, and I make no contest to this copyright. Moreover, I highly encourage you to check out Footprints and the other free resources available at Dragonsfoot, as well as dropping by their forums.

Mr. Turcotte says, in his Author’s Note, that these creatures came to him in a dream, wherein they were part of the Fiend Folio II, which he located in a game store in The Hague.


Kzaddich: Init +8; Atk by weapon +3 melee (by weapon) or by weapon +1 ranged (by weapon); AC 26; HD 1d8+1; MV 30’ or levitate 10’; Act 2d20; SP cannot be surprised, haste, psionic blast, time travel, telepathy, “death throes”, magic resistance, immune to charm and hold, self-healing, augury; SV Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +9; AL L.

A strange species from another time, or from outside time altogether, the Kzaddich may be from the distant past or future, or from some alternate temporal plane. They are the mortal enemies of the Tsalakians (see below), and are most often encountered working against Tsalakian interests.

The Kzaddich (singular and plural) appear as cloaked man-sized figures, their features completely hidden by their cowls. Their true form appears to be an amalgamation of shifting, softly glowing spheres in a rough approximation of a bipedal form, but this may be nothing more than what their multi-dimensional shapes appear like to our temporally limited eyes. Their voices sound like wind chimes, and they have a natural telepathic ability to a range of 120’. This same telepathy allows them to make a psionic blast attack at an enemy target within 90’, causing 2d6 damage (Will DC 15 for half).

The Kzaddich can slip in and out of the time-stream at will, resulting in their high initiative bonus, AC, and saving throw bonuses. As a result, they are exceedingly difficult to harm. Their magic resistance allows them to save against any spell, even if no save is normally allowed, saving at the spell check value if a lower DC is not listed in the spell description. If a spell normally allows a save, the Kzaddich take half damage if the save is failed, and are completely unaffected if they successfully save. They  cannot be affected by anything, magical or otherwise, that affects time or causes aging.

The Kzaddich perceive the past, present, and potential futures, making them impossible to surprise, and making them able to make predictions with a 90% chance of success. A Kzaddich can stop time twice per day, for 2 rounds, bringing up to two touched beings with it into the stopped time.

Although the Kzaddich are predominantly pacifists, when attacked they can speed themselves up, gaining an additional Action Die and increasing their move to 45’ for 1d5 rounds. A wounded Kzaddich can use an Action Die to rapidly heal 1d3 damage. If reduced to 0 hp, or otherwise faced with certain capture or death, a Kzaddich simply slips into the far future or past to avoid the situation.

According to the sage Turcotte the Dreamer, “Almost nothing is known of the Kzaddich culture. They vie against the machinations of the Tsalakians on a scale that mortal creatures cannot comprehend and hint at a vast war between the two races. Kzaddich do not appear to have individual names, but often adopt pseudonyms when dealing with others (who they refer to, not unkindly, as ‘linears’).


Tsalakian: Init +5; Atk bite +3 melee (1d4); AC 20; HD 2d8+2; MV 20’ or infinite; Act 4d20; SP bend and fold space, teleport, empathic projection, immune to mind-affecting and paralysis, special senses, magic resistance, free action, death throes; SV Fort +5, Ref +9, Will +0; AL C.

The Tsalakians appear as tall men, completely enshrouded in cloaks, their faces concealed by heavy cowls. They can speak any language, using voices that seem to come from random, ever-changing, locations all around them. The Tsalakians come from outside normal space-time, and their true forms are difficult to comprehend. The sage Turcotte the Dreamer describes them, uncloaked, as “a blurry whirl of teeth forming a rough approximation of a man-like form.”

These creatures, said to be the servitors of some great malign power, have no individual will of their own. Their origin is unknown, but they seek always to cause great harm. They oppose, and are opposed by, the Kzaddich. Preferring to work through others, they perpetually strive to bend all other sentient beings to the will of their dread master. The sage Turcotte the Dreamer does not identify this being, but it is suspected by some that Pesh Joomang (, the Patron of Patrons, might be the Dread Master of the Tsalalkians, as He is the Dark Master of the Judges of Spellburn.

Tsalakians can bend and fold through space, and are able to attack from multiple locations at once. They can thus attack any opponent within 20’, and never offer a free attack when withdrawing. Although they shuffle along when pretending to be humanoid, in truth they can travel an infinite distance during any round, ignoring physical or magic obstacles in their path, using an inborn form of teleportation. When slain, a Tsalakian disappears in a howling void of folded space, getting ever smaller until it can no longer be seen. Still, its anguished cries remain dimly audible for 1d5 rounds.

Tsalakians can detect hidden spaces, being able to “see” around corners and through walls, floors, and ceilings. They are never surprised, except when magic is used, for they cannot perceive invisible, out of phase, ethereal or astral objects or creatures, although they can see anything hidden in shadows or otherwise concealed without magic. Although Tsalakians are generally immune to mind-affecting spells and effects, they can be fooled by illusions. They automatically detect alignment and magic through their weird senses.

Like the Kzaddich, Tsalakians have magic resistance which allows them to save against any spell, even if no save is normally allowed, saving at the spell check value if a lower DC is not listed in the spell description. If a spell normally allows a save, a Tsalakian takes half damage if the save is failed, and is completely unaffected if successful. In addition, they cannot be restrained by any impediment, paralysis, or magical hold.

Tsalakians detect the emotions of others, and can project emotions empathically, allowing them to cast cause fear at will, by using all of their Action Dice for that round.  This works similarly to the ability to instill fear with a result of 20-23 when casting Ekim’s mystical mask, except that it affects all targets within 20’ or the Tsalakian and the save is only DC 15. They can project other emotions as well as fear, and the judge can use the spell result as a rough gauge of the effects of other emotions.

The sage also wrote, “Tsalakians, when encountered, are usually in the act of planning or carrying out some great ill, for they prefer to work through others, themselves remaining out of the fray if possible, revealing their fearsome abilities only if pressed. Their hatred of the Kzaddich knows no bounds and they can detect the presence of those creatures and will always attack them on sight.”


Both the Kzaddich and the Tsalakians are described by their author as having power psionic powers. Although it is beyond the scope of this blog post to create an entire system of psychic abilities, the judge is encouraged to consider the psionics systems presented in The Wizardarium of Calabraxis or Crawljammer#3, both of which are resources that any self-respecting judge should own in any event. Barring those resources, roll 1d7 and consult the table from the Githyanki/Githzerai posting on this blog.


The eternal war between the Kzaddich and the Tsalakians could easily appear in the background of many an adventure. Especially given the methodology of the Tsalakians, who prefer to act through others, they could easily be behind the events of even high-level adventures. The Kzaddich give aid, specifically in the form of information, but prefer to avoid direct confrontation as well.

Even so, the best use I can imagine for both creatures is in a 0-level funnel, where the PCs may not initially know that the Kzaddich are well-meaning. I think that would make a fun, and possibly very creepy, adventure.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Conan vs. Tarzan

I love both characters, and have read every word of both authors related to them. This post is, therefore, not an attempt to play favourites, but rather a “What if…?” exploration. What if both characters were real and, through magic or time travel, encountered each other? I am only considering what Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard wrote about their respective characters.

Now, we also all know that, in an actual story, they would fight, and the fight would probably be inconclusive, before joining forces to defeat the story’s actual antagonist. This is especially true because both respect their opponents, and Tarzan at least prefers to observe an opponent before acting.

(This might, in fact, be a liability for Tarzan in such a battle; while he hesitates, Conan acts.)

Let’s try to put both characters into stats using the Dungeon Crawl Classics system. Off the top of my head, if I was doing a "career-average" version of both, I would use the following:


Conan: Str 18, Agl 16, Sta 18, Int 17, Prs 17, Luck 10.

Conan is as strong as a human can be, but not necessarily faster than everyone he encounters. In DCC, warriors add their level to initiative, so part of Conan's speed is represented that way. This helps explain the difference in reaction time in stories like The Tower of the Elephant vs. stories later in his career…he levelled up. His intelligence is extremely high, and he has a great force of personality, but he doesn't generally rely on luck. I would argue that his starting Luck was 18, but that he burned some of that Luck in The Frost Giant’s Daughter to increase the results of critical hits against his enormous foes.

Conan has a birth auger of “Born on the Battlefield”, but due to training and background is a polyglot, speaking most of the languages of the Hyborian Era that he encounters. Class-wise, Conan is a Warrior, but he can climb using a d20 (all Cimmerians are trained in climbing), and has a +2 bonus to such checks (on top of his +3 for Strength). Again, if Conan had an 18 Luck at 0-level, his birth auger grants him a +3 bonus to damage.

At the mid-range of his career, I would put Conan at 6th level in DCC terms (roughly 12th level in 1e AD&D or 3e terms). Alignment-wise, Conan is Neutral, walking the line between civilization and savagery, neither shunning all magic nor embracing it. So long as a magician is no threat to him personally, Conan can work with the fellow. None of the REH Conan stories are so gonzo as to suggest a level higher than 7th or 8th in DCC terms.

A note on Conan’s Strength: Conan is said to have broken the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull at the age of 15, but it is important to remember that Howard doesn’t tell us what a wild Cimmerian bull is like. If Cimmeria is a hilly forested country, this is not a creature of the plains, and is probably not as large as an aurochs, or even a modern bull. Since Conan is otherwise shown as at the peak of human strength, rather than being superhuman, an 18 seems more likely than a higher score.


Tarzan: Str 20, Agl 18, Sta 18, Int 15, Prs 14, Luck 18.

Tarzan is stronger than a human being, and as agile as humanly possible. He is smart, but not always as smart as everyone around him. He can be imposing, but he can also blend into a crowd, and an actor can take his role successfully, fooling even Jane, so Tarzan’s Personality is definitely lower than Conan's sheer animal magnetism.

Tarzan is, on the other hand, extraordinarily lucky. In DCC, when reduced to 0 hp, you get a chance to "recover the body" by rolling under Luck; this is the best mechanic to describe Tarzan's repeated survival from things like getting shot in the head.

In terms of Tarzan’s strength, he has thrown a spear that passed through a charging Rhino, and can successfully (and easily) wrestle apes into submission or death even as a youth. By the time we are witnessing Tarzan at his prime, he can handle dinosaurs, giant cave bears, any form of ape he encounters, lions, leopards, etc. Where the animals of the forest feared Tarzan before for his cunning, they now also fear him for his strength. It is notable that Tarzan can brachiate (see below) while carrying an adult male human being with no noticeable loss of speed or effort.

(Conan also handles a “dragon” which appears to be a dinosaur, but he does it with poison.)

Birth auger for Tarzan is “Wild Child”, granting him a +15’ bonus to movement. He is also a polyglot, able to learn any language he encounters, and is even able to speak to beasts in a limited fashion. As a special ability, Tarzan can brachiate, travelling through forest as though on a road in terms of speed. He can climb at the same rate as he walks. When taking his time, he rolls 1d24 for Climb checks. Due to his incredible sense of smell, he can track at speed using 1d24 for checks, even when he is brachiating and tracking something that passed on the ground.

Several things that Tarzan does could be represented by either a high Deed Die (indicating a very high Warrior level), or a higher than normal chance to gain a critical hit. I am going to assume the second, and give Tarzan the Thief class. This follows from his known abilities for stealth, disguise, climbing, and attacking from ambush. Moreover, the Thief class has an unusual relationship to Luck that models Tarzan well.

If you want to understand just how lucky Tarzan is, consider this: He finds his father’s dagger just in time to kill a gorilla with it (and he is not yet 15!). Over the years, and in many stories, things happen where that knife should have been lost many, many times. Somehow, Tarzan always manages to recover it. Although non-magical, it is never broken, and never so worn or damaged that Tarzan must replace it.

Like Conan, Tarzan is 6th level at his career average. Tarzan, unlike Conan, is immortal, having gained perpetual youth through both science and magic. At some point beyond the time of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, Tarzan could obtain a far higher level, simply because he will not grow old. Within the ERB stories, Tarzan tops out at 7th level.

Alignment-wise, Tarzan is Lawful in DCC terms. He has a group of warriors he is chief of throughout most of his career. He clearly sides with civilized people over natives, imposing British rule in the parts of Africa nearest his home. He longs to be free in the jungle, but volunteers for military service, and often travels to the Americas or Europe, living for extended periods in Great Britain. He is loyal to a fault, and correct enough in his behaviour to allow a friend to kill him in a duel over a misunderstanding (the man, obviously, does not kill Tarzan).

Generally, From the Stories…

…I would have to say that it would depend upon the circumstances of the battle. Tarzan likes to fight from ambush, and seldom misses with a ranged attack. He can throw a spear through a charging rhino, which means that he is stronger than Conan. When REH was writing Conan, he put Conan at the top of human potential, while ERB made Tarzan superhuman.

A fight with no weapons in close proximity would be close, but I would give it to Tarzan. Conan is as fast as Tarzan, and undoubtedly smarter than Tarzan (at least in street smarts), but Tarzan's strength gives him the edge. Hell, when you read the stories, Conan isn't always unscathed at the end of his battles, but Tarzan at most gets reduced to savagery by a bullet creasing his skull.

Give them weapons in close proximity and Conan's skill more than makes up for Tarzan's strength. Under those circumstances, Conan wins every time. In fact, Conan beats Solomon Kane or John Carter with weapons. John Carter may be the best swordsmen on two worlds in the period of the ERB Mars stories, and he may be far more studied that Conan, but Conan would rip him apart. Indeed, John Carter meets close to his match more than once on Mars, where he has exceptional strength, agility, and stamina due to being from Earth.

Finally, Tarzan is repeatedly shown to be very naive, while Conan is repeatedly shown to be extremely shrewd. Given reasonable notice, Conan could gull Tarzan easily enough.

Both of them are likely to respect the other, though, and I have a hard time seeing a contest ending in either dead, unless one came upon the other suddenly and just reacted. In this circumstance, despite his fantastic senses, Tarzan would be easier to surprise than Conan...Tarzan is surprised more than once because someone happens to be downwind.

Dungeon Crawl Classics Stats

Conan the Cimmerian (6th level Warrior): Init +8; Atk by weapon +1d8+3 melee (by weapon +1d8+6) or by weapon +1d8+2 ranged (by weapon +1d8+3); AC 17 (chain + Agility); HD 6d12+18; hp 60; MV 25’; Act 1d20+1d16; SP Deed Die (d8), +3 to hit with longsword, 18-20 crit range, crit 1d30/V; SV Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +9; AL N. Str 18, Agl 16, Sta 18, Int 17, Prs 17, Luck 10. Chainmail, longsword (1d8 damage).

Tarzan the Ape-Man (6th level Thief): Init +3; Atk by weapon +8 melee (by weapon +4) or by weapon +7 ranged (by weapon); AC 13; HD 6d6+15; hp 40; MV 45’; Act 1d20+1d14; SP thief skills, brachiate, track by scent, Luck die (d8), crit 1d24/II; SV Fort +5, Ref +7, Will +3; AL L. Str 20, Agl 18, Sta 18, Int 15, Prs 14, Luck 18. Loincloth, dagger (1d4), spear (1d8), short bow and 12 arrows (1d6), rope.
Relevant Thief skills: Backstab +9, Sneak Silently +12, Hide in Shadows +14, Climb Sheer Surfaces +14 (d24), Disguise Self +6.

Using these stats, you can easily set up a battle between these two legendary Appendix N icons. It should go without saying that, if you disagree with these statistics, you can also change them to better match how you see the characters.

Certainly, these stats do not necessarily take into account how Tarzan avoids getting hit by clinging to foes, or his trick of picking foes up and throwing them. This might be described by (1) allowing Tarzan a Deed Die, (2) allowing Tarzan to spend Luck to attempt these deeds, or (3) allowing Tarzan to make backstab attempts at the start of even a close melee due to his speed and skill. In DCC, you can “Quest For” special modifiers like this, so none of these are entirely out of the question.

If you do adjust Tarzan in this manner, it may affect the scenarios below, but I would argue that none of these abilities should affect an intelligent Warrior of Tarzan’s level, and thus they wouldn’t affect Conan.

If you use a multi-classing system, like this one, giving Conan one level of Thief and Tarzan one level of Warrior. That would grant Tarzan Mighty Deeds, a little more damage, and an average of 18 more hit points. Conan would gain the ability to hide against a set DC in order to avoid Tarzan’s ambushes, and give him an average of 11 more hit points.

Fight Scenarios

Scenario One: Tarzan attacks from the trees, ambushing Conan. In this scenario, Tarzan gains his backstab bonus, firing an arrow with a +18 bonus to hit, automatically doing a critical if he hits. He hits on anything but a natural “1”. It is impossible for him to fail to achieve surprise, and if Conan somehow survives the attack (which his high Fort save bonus makes possible, even with the best crit at Tarzan’s disposal), he is able to use his second Action Die to hide again. This is actually a trick Tarzan performs more than once during his career. Conan discovers that facing a horde of Picts is easier than facing a single Ape-Man.

Scenario Two: An unarmed Tarzan and Conan meet each other, both in loincloths. Tarzan expects his speed to help him against this adversary, but Conan gets a large initiative bonus as a Warrior, and strikes before the Ape-Man suspects it. The odds are very good that Conan hits, and is able to perform a Mighty Deed (say, tripping or throwing Tarzan). His Deed Die also adds to his damage. This occurs twice before Tarzan can act, for a range of 16-20 damage. Tarzan, though, has a good Reflex save, and can burn Luck if he needs to, so he keeps his feet.

Tarzan is then very likely to hit Conan, with a +8 bonus against AC 13 (Conan with no armour). He burns Luck if need be. He does 1d3+4 damage (5-7), barely a blip on Conan’s radar. Realizing that he cannot survive another round fighting the Cimmerian in this way, Tarzan burns 10 points of Luck to do an additional 10d8 damage.

It’s a good effort, but it’s not good enough. Conan drops him in the next round. Because unarmed combat results in subdual damage, and because Conan respects an adversary capable of fighting as well as Tarzan, he leaves him alive. Tarzan now knows to respect Conan as well, both for his prowess and for his mercy.

Scenario Three: Conan and Tarzan meet at melee range, each armed with their normal gear. Again, Conan surprises Tarzan with his pantherish speed, striking twice with his longsword for 2d8+6 with each blow (average 15 per attack, or 30 points total), with a 15% chance of a fearsome crit on the first blow, and also allowing Conan to disarm the Ape-Man with his Mighty Deed (no save, so Tarzan’s Luck doesn’t come into play). Conan will skewer Tarzan if he attempts to recover his spear, or to run away, so Tarzan draws and slashes with his dagger. He has a little better than a 50/50 chance of hitting, and will burn Luck if he needs to, leaving far less to add to his damage. Never having met such an opponent, Tarzan instead attempts to save his Luck and run. After all, he can always attempt Scenario One later. Conan gets a free attack, reducing the Ape-Man to 0 hp.

Later, one of the Waziri discovers Tarzan’s body. Rolling it over, he discovers that the Big Bwana still lives…but Tarzan is never as cocky going into a physical confrontation again. The damage permanently reduces his Stamina by 1. Had he burned the Luck and stayed to fight, Tarzan would probably have been slain, not having enough Luck remaining to survive the check to recover the body.

Scenario Four: Conan and Tarzan meet, armed, but at range. Conan surprises Tarzan with his speed, but cannot close before Tarzan has the chance to launch his spear. Having no idea how potent Conan is, Tarzan spends 2 Luck to increase his damage to 3d8, dealing 13 points to Conan. Seeing that this is only a scratch to the Cimmerian, Tarzan spends his second Action Die to literally disappear into the foliage.

At this point, we have a partial repeat of Scenario One. Tarzan begins shooting lethal arrows at Conan, and then changing where he is. But this time, because Conan goes first and Tarzan is not in the trees, Conan has a chance to locate Tarzan despite his stealth. By this point, Conan has taken 28 points of damage, and has had to save vs. instant death more than once. Spending two of his Action Dice to close with the Ape-Man, Conan manages to hit for 2d8+6, a serious blow for Tarzan.

Close up, Tarzan can do 1d4+4 damage without burning Luck. He has burned 6 points of Luck, and is willing to reduce himself to 5 Luck, therefore having 7 more points he can use. Two points give him a +2d8 bonus to Initiative, leaving 5 points for a +5d8 bonus to damage. Depending upon the initiative rolls, Tarzan might not need to spend both, or any, points of Luck on Initiative, leaving a possible +7d8 damage bonus.

At this point, it all comes down to the die rolls.


Here is the thing, though….Where Conan wins, skill decides the day. Where Tarzan wins, Dame Fortune decides, both in terms of the initial scenario and in terms of the massive “lucky breaks” Tarzan would need to defeat the Cimmerian when Conan has a chance to fight back. And this is well in keeping with how their respective creators described the adventures of the characters.

In fact, Howard’s heroes tend to use their intelligence to mitigate against bad fortune, while Burroughs’ heroes tend to rely on luck to avoid the worst ramifications of bad decisions. There are a few exceptions in both cases, of course. Howard could write the naïve character who relies upon blind luck and a strong right fist to carry him through, and Burroughs could write the character who uses his brains to solve a mystery. Overall, though, Conan relies on smarts and skills, and Tarzan relies on strength, sense of smell, and luck.

If Burroughs and Howard were somehow to meet in the Afterlife and write the story together, you know that Burroughs would introduce a tribe of apes, an elephant, or the Golden Lion just to get Tarzan out of a direct confrontation with Conan. And, the whole thing would turn out to be a plot between a sorcerer in the Hyborian Age and a mad scientist in our time, each trying to get rid of the hero who had foiled him at least once already....

I would love to read that story.

And this post doesn't even examine those characters designed to be tougher than either. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser? They don't stand a chance against Conan and Tarzan.

I don’t imagine that this post is going to end the “Conan vs. Tarzan” debate. Or even slow it down.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Campaign Elements Bundle

Mark Gedak at Purple Duck Games just put Campaign Elements 1-6 into a bundle deal at RPG Now. This bundle includes the pdfs for:

CE 1 - The Falcate Idol

The Cult of the Harrower is ancient, and each of the eight eyes of its spider-idol is rumored to be a moonstone gem the size of a pigeon's egg.  Moreover, somewhere within the cult's sanctuary, a pool flows from the Egg of Creation.  Will your Thief seek to make a legendary score?  Will your Wizard pursue the shards of the Egg? Will your Cleric join the cult?  Or will your Warrior fight his way through the web-covered passages to rescue them if they fail?  Any or all of these scenarios are possible!

CE 2 - The Black Goat

Come meet the Mahmat Troth and the One they adore.  Only in the high pass will you discover what the Black Goat truly is.

CE 3 - The Folk of Osmon

A mighty civilization once thrived where now only lonely Osmon Mire stretches across the land.  The crumbled and vine-laden ruins of ages-old buildings arise here and there from the reedy mud and water.  The remains of statues and derelict temples adorn low hills rising from the muck.  Fell beasts roam the mire at night and man-like shapes haunt the swamp.  After dark none willingly passes the low hill, with its blood-encrusted altar stone, where the Folk of Osmon are said to sacrifice their victims.

CE 4 - The Seven Deadly Skills of Sir Amoral the Misbegotten

In years long past, Gryffon Keep was a border fortification guarding a somewhat well-used roadway. In that day, the keep was placed in the trust of Sir Harold Amoral, one of the greatest warriors available to the then Lord Duke. Time has changed the land, and brought the keep low, and Sir Amoral has become little more than a figure of fable and children’s story. That the ruins in the forest were those of fabled Gryffon Keep have been forgotten by most, and the area is now known to locals as the Forest Ruin.

CE 5 - Silent Nightfall

Millennia ago, there was a nuclear power station at this location. When magical influences began to spread once more, the nuclear core became unstable, and began to develop a form of malevolent sentience. The ancients placed the core in a shaft three miles deep, the last 500 feet of which were filled with heavy water. This shaft, and its attendant control center, were given the codename “Silent Nightfall”.

CE 6 - The Crimson Void

The Crimson Void describes a unique goddess (Kala Môr), Her cult, temple grounds, as well as the priests and other beings associated with the location. The easiest way to use this material is to allow PC clerics of Kala Môr attached to this temple. Kala Môr may also be used as a template for creating unique deities of the judge’s own devising. Other characters may oppose the temple, come to it for aid, attempt to prevent a sacrifice, or need to leap into the Crimson Void themselves. Robbing the temple of its riches would be a crowning achievement for any thief. A Neutral deity was chosen to allow the judge to easily use Kala Môr as both aid and adversary to any group as he chooses.

The Campaign Element Series

Any role-playing game session can take a left turn at Albuquerque, leaving the poor Game Master wondering what to do next. This is even more true for the dedicated Dungeon Crawl Classics judge, who discovers that patron quests, divine disapproval, and the requests of gods to pay back divine favor can make the game take incredible new turns with the roll of a few dice.

Add to this the advice urging players to “Quest For It” when they want something unusual for their characters, and you have a potent stew for gaming, but also a situation in which the judge may want strong DCC elements with a minimum of preparation required.

The Campaign Elements series is designed to help judges create persistent campaign worlds, as well as deal with patron quests, divine requests, and the sudden need to “Quest For It”.  Whether it is because you are short on players one evening, or the wizard needs to locate a new spell, the Campaign Elements series has you covered.

This series was driven by a personal need. When I started building my home DCC game, I quickly realized that I needed a number of small areas that could act as recurrent locations, side quests, and elements of the game world that the players could attempt to manipulate for their own ends. 

I contacted Tim Hartin of Paratime Design and commissioned a series of 15 small maps. I had already commissioned him to do the maps for The Revelation of Mulmo. My email to him was fairly short on instructions:
I am considering a DCC project with 15 mini-adventure sites, each different, and each with a single map of 5-10 numbered areas.  These could be new maps, or maps that you have already used elsewhere.  That they be diverse (and this could potentially include both above-ground, underground, and wilderness areas) is more important.
This would be intended for publication.  At the time of publication, you would be not only allowed but encouraged to use samples for your portfolio.
This is, at least in part, because I didn't want to pre-decide what would be there. I wanted to use the maps to suggest content. The only exception was the map for CE 5, because I had a strong image of the Grallistrix and wanted the central shaft.

I then got Mark Gedak on board, which wasn't difficult considering the success of the AL series to this point, and the Campaign Element series was born.

The thing is, though, that this was born out of a need at my own gaming table. That, and a faith that other judges would have similar needs. 

You can absolutely use these as traditional adventure locations, but it is my hope that you consider using them instead as elements of your campaign milieu that the PCs return to again and again over the course of play. 

At the very least, you get a bunch of new monsters!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Descendents of Gith

My githyanki hail from the 1st Edition AD&D Fiend Folio, created by Charles Stross. Just seeing the creatures on the cover made my heart race. Indeed, I found the Fiend Folio indispensable, and its wild exuberance informs my monster creation to this day. Not every creature was equally well realized, but the attempt to do something great often overshadowed an individual creature's failings.

Without further preamble, I present to you my version of the githyanki and their adversarial brethren, the githzerai.

Githyanki: Init +2; Atk two-handed sword +3 melee (1d10) or psychic blast +2 ranged (1d6); AC 14; HD 2d10; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP psychic blast, astral projection, possible special abilities, infravision 60’, +4 to saves vs. magic; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +10; AL C.

The githyanki were a race of evil humans, conquered millennia ago by squid-faced psionic flayers. Bound to service by their conquerors, they were used as slaves and occasional food, for the flayers ate the brains of humanoid creatures. After centuries of servitude, the humans arose against the psionic flayers under the leadership of Gith. Having developed their own psychic and physical powers, they succeeded in throwing off the horrid yoke of slavery to the brain-eating creatures. Taking their name from their leader, they became known as the githyanki.

The githyanki dwell in huge castles floating in the astral plane, but can project themselves to material worlds, where they seek to obtain slaves and riches of their own, or to defeat their former masters wherever they may find them. They are said to worship an immensely powerful lich-queen. In some cases, they have allied with powerful fire-breathing dragon for mutual benefit. Each castle is ruled by a Supreme Leader who automatically carries a silver sword (see below).

Let there be no doubt – the githyanki have a well-deserved reputation for violence. For each githyanki encountered, roll percentile dice and apply the following adjustments:

01-40     No change.
41-56     Tougher: Add +1d3 HD, and raise saves by 1 per 2 full HD increase.
57-60     Superior Psychic Blast: Does +1d6 damage.
61-64     Superior Psychic Shield: Gains a +4 bonus to Will saves.
65-70     Psychic Power: The githyanki possesses a special psionic power. See below.
71-77     Spellcasting: Can cast spells as a (1d3: 1-2 wizard or 3 cleric) of level 1d3. If rolled again, the githyanki may be able to cast spells as if it had two classes. Levels of the same class stack, up to a maximum of 6th level.
78-80     Illusion Generation: The githyanki can project mental illusions to a range of 60’. These cannot cause damage directly, but can mislead or otherwise cause targets to damage themselves. The githyanki must concentrate to maintain the illusion. Will DC 20 negates when the illusion is interacted with.
81-90     Arcane Blade: The two-handed sword used by the githyanki has a +1 bonus to attack rolls and damage, and can strike creatures as though it were magical.
91-94     Knight: The githyanki gains 2d3 HD, and gains a +1 bonus to all saves per 2 full HD gained. The githyanki knight can cause damage or heal with a touch. Each instance uses the Hit Die type of the target. Each day, the knight can heal or cause damage in dice equal to the knight’s own Hit Dice. Each touch can use a part, or the whole, of this effect. For instance, a 4 HD knight could heal 1 HD to himself, and later cause 3 HD to another. There is a 5% chance per Hit Die that a knight will have a silver sword (see below).
95-99     Silver Sword: The githayanki possesses a silver sword. See below.
00           Roll again twice.

Githzerai: Init +4; Atk open-handed blow +4 melee (1d6+1) or two-handed sword +2 melee (1d10) or psychic blast +3 ranged (1d6); AC 15; HD 1d10; MV 30’; Act 2d20; SP psychic blast, astral projection, possible special abilities, infravision 60’, +8 to saves vs. magic; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +10; AL N.

Another offshoot of the same evil humans who spawned the githyanki, the githzerai dwell on Limbo, but may be found upon material worlds as well. Their war with the githyanki is vicious and eternal, as neither side can gain supremacy for long. The githzerai have an uneasy truce with the psychic flayers which enslaved their ancestors, which is constantly broken in isolated raids and skirmishes. They are said to be ruled by an undying wizard-king.

10% of githzerai have an additional 1d5 Hit Dice (and gain a +1 bonus to all attack rolls per 2 full HD added). 25% of githzerai have 1d3 psychic powers.

Silver Swords

The silver swords of the githyanki act as +3 weapons, but they are not magical. They have a critical range of 19-20. On a “20”, instead of rolling for effect, a silver sword severs the astral cord of an astral traveller unless it succeeds in a DC 20 Will save, or decapitates a material foe unless it succeeds in a DC 20 Fort save. If either save succeeds, the attack instead does double normal damage. If a silver sword falls into non-githyanki hands, they will go to any length to recover it.

Psychic Powers

If psychic powers are indicated, the judge is encouraged to consider the psionics systems presented in The Wizardarium of Calabraxis or Crawljammer#3, both of which are resources that any self-respecting judge should own in any event. Barring those resources, roll 1d7 and consult the following table:

Psychic Power
Can use an Action Die to move instantly 1d6 x 10 feet away in a direction chosen by the creature.
Can move up to HD x 10 pounds up to 30’ away, as if the object where in hand. Attacks require an Action Die.
Start a normal fire with an Action Die, or inflict 1d6 to a target within 30’; Reflex DC 10 or catch fire (1d6 damage each round until a DC 10 Agility check puts the fire out). Uses an Action Die
Can speak silently to all, or selected, targets within line of sight.
Telekinetic Blast
Can attack all targets in a cone 60’ long with a 30’ base, by hurling a myriad of small objects. All within need to make a DC 10 Reflex save or suffer 1d6+1 damage. Uses an Action Die.
Psychic Defence
Spend 1 Action Die to gain a +1d12 bonus to AC for one round.
Target within 30’ must make a DC 10 Will save or take a –1d penalty on the dice chain to all die rolls for 1d5 rounds. Multiple instances stack. This uses an Action Die.

This is just a quick note to tell you that CE 6: The Crimson Void is now available.

Any role-playing game session can take a left turn at Albuquerque, leaving the poor Game Master wondering what to do next. This is even more true for the dedicated Dungeon Crawl Classics judge, who discovers that patron quests, divine disapproval, and the requests of gods to pay back divine favor can make the game take incredible new turns with the roll of a few dice.

Add to this the advice urging players to “Quest For It” when they want something unusual for their characters, and you have a potent stew for gaming, but also a situation in which the judge may want strong DCC elements with a minimum of preparation required.

The Campaign Element (CE) series attempts to address these specific areas. Now, when your wizard is looking for a spell, your cleric is sent on a mission from her deity, or your thief simply wants to find a location where stealth and a cunning mind are paramount, you will have an answer at your fingertips. Weave these campaign elements into your world, mesh them into other modules and areas of your own creation, and watch the “Appendix N” vibe of your games grow.

In addition, for various reasons sometimes only a few players were available for a night’s gaming. Each Campaign Element is short enough to be played through by most groups in only a single session. That doesn't mean that the value of the area is limited to a single session – each adventure includes notes on “squeezing it dry”…effectively getting the maximum re-use from your investment.

CE 6: The Crimson Void describes a unique goddess (Kala Môr), Her cult, temple grounds, as well as the priests and other beings associated with the location. The easiest way to use this material is to allow PC clerics of Kala Môr attached to this temple. Kala Môr may also be used as a template for creating unique deities of the judge’s own devising. Other characters may oppose the temple, come to it for aid, attempt to prevent a sacrifice, or need to leap into the Crimson Void themselves. Robbing the temple of its riches would be a crowning achievement for any thief. A Neutral deity was chosen to allow the judge to easily use Kala Môr as both aid and adversary to any group as he chooses.

A setting element to help create a rich campaign environment for DCC games of all levels.