Sunday, 1 July 2018

Running Convention Games


I am relatively new to running convention games, although I have run games in public venues going back to the 80s. My conventions are, thus far, limited to OSRCon in Toronto, Gary Con (two years now), Odyssey Con in 2017, and Nexus Game Fair in 2016. There are many folks with more experience in convention games than I have, but if you are looking for a relative newbie’s insights, read on.

Choose Your Own Adventure

When planning convention slots, choose adventures that you know well. Obviously, you also want something that will fit into your time slot(s). If you run an adventure that normally takes six four-hour sessions to run, and plan to run it in a three-hour slot, you’ll have to prune ruthlessly. You might consider another adventure. Or a longer slot. Or both.

The adventure should be one with a sense of completeness as a short story. It might also be useful as a chapter of a larger tale, but if it doesn’t come to a satisfying conclusion you’ve missed the mark. That conclusion need not be fun. It can be horrifying. Entire worlds can be saved or lost. It just has to be a definite end, that shows some motion from where the session started.

There are a lot of great Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures to choose from. But I am going to suggest that you branch out – convert your favorite non-DCC adventure. Write your own! One of the best things about Appendix N fiction is the wide range of authorial voices – add your own authorial voice to the games you run!

(And if you don't want to do that, anything written by Daniel J. Bishop should be given preference......lol.)

The Play’s the Thing

It doesn’t matter if you flub a rule. It doesn’t matter if you forget that there was something the PCs should have encountered, or a condition that would have made it easier or tougher for them. If you forget a rule, you can ask the table. Maybe someone knows. If not, just make a ruling and keep the game moving. If it takes more than a minute of flipping through the book, don’t.

There are four things that can help you here:
  • The Dice Chain: Use it. If you need to give a bonus or a penalty, and you don’t have time to look the “by the book” modifier up, just use the Dice Chain.
  • Luck: If you aren’t certain, use a Luck check. You can modify it with the Dice Chain, where smaller dice are more likely to succeed and larger dice are less likely. Can’t decide which target the monster attacks? Ask who has a lower Luck.
  • Purple Sorcerer Free Tools: Make PCs easily. Print out their spells. Print out your NPC’s spells. It will save you time in the game, and keep the action flowing. At the start of the game, don’t make the players pay for what they want to carry. Just tell them: If you want specific equipment, write it on your sheet now. Unless they are zero-levels, they can probably afford it. If they are zero-levels, skip this step.

Setting up the Table

The first year I ran games at Gary Con, my son accompanied me but did not preregister for games. He noted that there were many games seeking players, but no way to guess what was being played without going up and talking to anyone. Because of this, I now print out cardstock signs that identify game and system. I have picked up a metal table stand, not unlike those used for the “Table Full”/”Players Needed” signs for this purpose.

For my second Gary Con, I had a scale version of the DCCTournament Gong arch 3D printed. I assembled it at each game, to help make it seem more like an event. Whatever you can do to stand out is a good thing.

I have also picked up a bag of plastic "gold" coins to use as Fleeting Luck tokens.

My dice bag includes black d20s of various sizes, including one which is fist-sized. I use it for dramatic effects.

During the Game

I like to walk around the table, in part to give people a chance to hear me, and in part for effect.

Reward player creativity, but don’t assume that every crazy idea will work. If every crazy idea works, all you end up with is a collection of crazy ideas. Select the crazy ideas that seem possible to you, rather than the crazy ideas that seem unlikely methods to bypass engagement with the game. When in doubt, call for Luck checks.

Reward engagement. Help the quieter players engage by addressing them directly.

Your style of running games? When in doubt, that’s what you should do.

Disagree with anything I wrote here? You should include your own ideas in the comments, for others to benefit from. And you should do whatever you think best. I'm just some guy with my own ideas.

A Few Other Important Considerations

Make sure that, when you schedule your games, you give yourself time to hang out with others and enjoy the convention.

If the opportunity arises to play in a game run by Doug Kovacs, do it.

The odds are good that, sooner or later, you will get a chance to play in a game run by Brendan LaSalle. Do it. If you can buy Brendan LaSalle an after-game beer and just shoot the breeze, do it!

I have yet to get into a Brinkman, Stroh, or Curtis game. Pity me…but, if you get the chance, make sure you take it. At the very least, you can rub my face in your good fortune!

Finally, when you are a player, jump into the weirdness. Play your character(s) with gusto. Have fun, and help to make if fun for everyone. Encourage others to do the same. You aren’t playing with gusto to dominate the table, but to draw everyone else out.

If you happen to be at a convention where I am running games (most likely Gary Con), please stop by and say Hello! 


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Free RPG Day

I ran two games for Free RPG Day on Saturday, 16 June 2018. The venue was 401 Games at 518 Yonge Street in Toronto.

The first game was Man-Bait for the Soul Stealer, by Terry Olson, which had been released as part of Goodman Games' Free RPG Day content for this year. This game ran from 11 am to 3 pm, with 8 players. At the end of the game, there were only 4 characters left, and that did not include the party cleric! A good time was had by all. The "DEAD" stamp saw use. The party never found Odag's secret stash, as they used the shanatium ingots to smash his soul receptacle without any hesitation. All in all, brutal but fun.

Some highlights included: A naturally-occurring slippery-slope passage (and hole!) divide the party, leading to the first "recover the body" check of the day, proof once again that ropework is a useful spell, Ekim's mystical mask with a maximum result, massive Mighty Deeds, and fantastic rolls for good or ill by all concerned. You're checking to recover the body, and now that natural 20 comes up?

The second game was the first playtest for Lettuce-Gardens of the Foreign Warren, an adventure in which Radu, King of Rabbits, has a task for the characters. Five PCs went in, with a slight change of player roster between games, and four came out.

This one was fun, but it still needs considerable work to be publishable. Nonetheless, the first playtest was a success.

Swag for the event included black plastic DCC logo cups, print copies of the Sanctum Secorum Free RPG Day 2018 Third Party Compendium (which was also available downstairs), and a zine-like sampler from Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between featuring Radu and Mulferret, Queen of Weasels. I also gave away two sets of my two-part Crawljammer adventure: The Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn and The Vault of Ash. Bookmarks and a DCC notebook completed the swag giveaway.

I am very much looking forward to the next one!

Friday, 15 June 2018

The Death Cart


The Death Cart
By Daniel J. Bishop

For his cart comes down the lane,
And his lanterns burn with greed,
Race you away, your soul is screaming.
Bone rolling wheels.
O! old people choke with ashes!
O! Children weep with fear!
Shelter us from his fast reaping!
One more day to exist here!

The Death Cart rolls down the night-dark streets of Ur-Hadad. Its wheels are made of bone, and it is pulled by two black horses whose breath and eyes are fire. Old Edward the Great lets the horses take him where they will, for his un-dead hands are concerned only with the scythe he bears, and the reaping that it does. Lanterns swing wildly behind the Death Cart, whose wheels rumble like thunder. The lanterns are lit with the burning souls of the reaped. The more he reaps, the brighter they blaze.

Old Edward: Init +0; Atk scythe +5 melee (1d8 plus soul drain); AC 15; HD 4d12; hp 30; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP un-dead traits, sense living 100’, soul drain, death throes; SV Fort +8, Ref +2, Will +10; AL C.

Any creature hit by Old Edward’s scythe must succeed in a DC 10 Will save or take 1d3 points of Stamina and 1d3 points of Personality damage as the scythe drains a portion of their souls. The lanterns swinging from the Death Cart flare dramatically when this occurs! (See the Death Cart, below.)

When Old Edward is reduced to 0 hp, his body is consumed in a gout of emerald flame. If horses remain, the cart careens off down the streets; if the horses are slain, the entire cart is apparently consumed in flames. The next time that the Death Cart is seen, Young Edward is seen driving the infernal vehicle. Over the next few months, Young Edward ages into Old Edward. There is always a younger Edward, so long as the cart itself endures.

Edward’s Horses (2): Init +5; Atk bite +2 melee (1d3) or hooves +5 melee (1d5); AC 17; HD 2d12; hp 15 each; MV 50’; Act 2d20; SP breathe fire, cannot move and attack with hooves, immune to mind-affecting, death throes; SV Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +3; AL C.

Each of these horses can breathe fire in a 10’ line, causing 2d10 damage (Ref save DC 10 for half), using an Action Die. A horse can only breathe fire once every 1d5 rounds. If the horse uses its hooves to attack, it cannot pull the cart that round. This means either that the cart must come to a halt (if both horses use their hooves), or that the cart is pulled in a tight circle for one round (giving Old Edward and the Death Cart a -1d shift for their next attacks). Each horse has a 1 in 3 chance of using its hooves on any given round.

When one of the horses is reduced to 0 hp, it explodes in a burst of emerald flame, doing 1d10 damage to all within 10’ (Ref DC 10 for half damage, plus Ref DC 15 to avoid catching fire if the first save is failed). If one horse is slain, the Death Cart’s move is reduced to 20’. If both horses are slain, the Death Cart’s move is reduced to 0’. If both horses and Old Edward are slain, all is consumed in emerald flames, as described for Old Edward, above.

When the Death Cart is next seen, it is pulled by two horses identical to those which were slain.

Death Cart: Init +3; Atk trample +3 melee (2d5); AC 20; HD 8d12; hp 60; MV 50’; Act 1d20; SP sense living 100’, DR 5, soul regeneration, spell resistance, death throes; SV Fort +15, Ref +4, Will +10; AL C.

The only way that Old Edward can be destroyed is for the Death Cart to be reduced to 0 hp, but this is not an easy task. First off, at least one horse or Old Edward must be allowed to continue attacking, or the cart disappears. Secondly, every attack against the Death Cart reduces the damage done by 5 points. Third, the Death Cart regains lost hit points equal to the attribute damage done by Old Edward’s soul drain. Finally, spells which target the cart are suppressed, having an effect as though they were cast with a -10 penalty to the spell check (this does not change the actual spell check result, just the effect).

If the Death Cart is reduced to 0 hp, there is a clap of thunder, the joyous singing of trapped souls set free, and a distant sound of electric guitars. The streets of Ur-Hadad open to drop the cart into a flaming pit (anyone on the cart must succeed in a DC 10 Reflex save or be lost forever), before crashing shut with a shudder that knocks everyone prone. There is a lingering smell of sulphur and an echo of the wailing of the damned. Everyone involved in destroying the Death Cart gains a permanent +1 to two randomly determined ability scores, a gift from grateful spirits and gods alike.

End Note

This was originally a submission to The Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad. Did I kill The Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad by submitting this? I am not sure. However, it is the first "album cover" write-up I did, similar to others in this blog, and it is time now to make this material available to the world at large.


Free RPG Day Reminder

This Saturday, for Free RPG Day, I will be running two Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures back-to-back (with a brief pause for food between them). 

They are Terry Olson's Man-Bait for the Soul Stealer from 11 am to 3 pm, followed by the first playtest of my own Lettuce-Gardens of the Foreign Warren from 3:30 to 7:30 pm. The venue is 401 Games at 518 Yonge Street in Toronto. Seating is "first-come, first-served", but I will try to accommodate as many as necessary. You don't need to play both to come out, but characters can be transferred from one game to the next with whatever treasure (etc.) they may have gained. Characters are provided, and I have funky dice to spare if you don't have enough.

Yes, I will be taking names for a playtest credit with Lettuce-Gardens

Yes, some lucky players will be going home with extra swag.

401 Games has print copies of the Sanctum Secorum Free RPG Day 2018 Third-Party Compendium on hand, so you should drop by for that, and for the Goodman Games release(s), at the very least. 

The game will be in the upstairs game lounge area.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, 28 May 2018

Appendix N Alert - Doug Miller Books

I just came back from Doug Miller Books at 650 Bloor Street West in Toronto. If you live in the city, and are looking to fill in some of your Appendix N collection, they are currently having a sale. 

I noted several authors...lots of Burroughs, deCamp, Moorcock, and Norton, but also a bit of Fox and others. Some of the specific titles were also on the shelves - The Fallible Fiend, The Compleat Enchanter, The Carnelian Cube, Lest Darkness Fall, and The Broken Land.

Possibly worth a look. 

Even with my extensive collection, I was able to pick up four volumes that (I believe) were heretofore missing from my shelves.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Free RPG Day Double Feature


If you are in Toronto on June 16th, come and join me!
401 Games @ 518 Yonge Street Toronto!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

If you failed to get CE 9: Both Foul and Deep through the Go Fund Me campaign, you can get it in both print and pdf at RPG Now.

Here is an Endzeitgeist review.


Appendix N literature is filled with cities, glorious or decaying. Beneath the streets of these urban centers lies a region dank, foul with the effluvia of countless generations, flowing through crumbling brickwork in the malodorous darkness. If your players are anything like mine, sooner or later they will wish to have their characters delve into these fetid morasses.

This product is intended to ensure that you are ready. To that end, a small area of sewers is described, with several hooks to entice PCs into investigating. Three appendixes supply added content to expand the original area or to create sewers of your own. The last appendix is an abbreviated patron write-up of Squallas, Mistress of the Night Soil Rivers, whose domain is the sewers.

Campaign Elements 9 - Both Foul and Deep is a campaign element to designed for 4-6 level 1-2 PCs, with the tools to help you create a rich campaign environment for PCs of any level.

Monday, 26 March 2018

No Safety in Dancing

Every man wears a hat in the village of West Kingston, and those approaching the village without hat or helm are liable to be set upon...and perhaps even killed...for West Kingston is haunted by the Doroschuk. Although these creatures look much like mortal men, their heads are so sensitive that they cannot bear to wear anything upon them.

The Doroschuk are alien creatures from another world, who seek to abduct those which exhibit even the least bit of frivolity. If they can induce their victims to dance (Will DC 10 avoids, but the natural inclinations of their victim determines the die rolled from 1d14 to 1d24), they are drawn into the world of the Doroschuk after 1d5 rounds of dancing, leaving the real world and their friends far behind.

A wizard or elf trying to learn planar step may have to intentionally join this dance in order to watch and learn the patterns made by their hands, which may be part of casting that spell.

Whether the world of the Doroschuk is a realm of never-ending dances and merriment, without any social requirements as to how one acts, or whether the Doroschuk consume their abducted victims, is open to speculation. At this point, the world of the Doroschuk is one that none has ever found. There are even some who claim that, in some ineffable fashion, the Doroschuk are capable of devouring the very rhythm of youth.

Doroschuk: Init +3; Atk fist +1 melee (1d3+1); AC 13; HD 2d8; MV 30’; Act 2d20; SP dance, abduction; SV Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +2; AL C.





Wednesday, 21 March 2018

In Which I Contradict Harley Stroh....

Hopefully, my readers are veteran listeners of the Spellburn podcast. If not, I recommend it. The most recent podcast, Episode 66: Life on Aereth, featured the awesome Harley Stroh as a guest. I like Harley, and I am a big fan of his work, but I think he's wrong on two counts. This blog post is my rebuttal.

The Warrior, The Wizard, The Elf

Player Characters are always agents of change, and I can completely support the idea that the arrival of the party is going to shake up the status quo. If you can't change the world through game play, what is the point of playing? Dungeon Crawl Classics, both in its core rules and in its adventures, exemplifies this concept. Adventuring changes the characters, and changes the world around the characters.

However, the importance of the characters to the narrative in play does not imply that they are the only agents of change, or that they are the only characters of their class in the world...or even in the immediate area.

The rules for character classes are designed to allow players to have a somewhat structured means to interact with the game milieu. They do not imply that every NPC is created the same way - indeed, it is explicit that they are not. NPCs do not need to follow the rules, in the same way that monsters do not need to follow the rules, but that is not the same thing as saying that they cannot follow the rules.

It is definitly true that, when Jake the Gongfarmer comes back to his home village filled with divine power after Sailors on the Starless Sea, his fellow villagers have never seen a real cleric before. Likewise, the ex-ostler is probably the only wizard the villagers have ever seen. The PCs are the focus of awe and terror in their little settlement.

Sooner or later, though, those same PCs meet the wider world. And that can include encounters with fighting-men, spellslingers, thieves, and divine servants more powerful than they. It is part of the nature of the game that the PCs should not assume they are the most dangerous people in the world. Conan might always win in the end, but he doesn't always come out on top in every battle. Conan has been captured, he has been forced to flee, and he has faced opponents who were nearly his equal. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are not necessarily the two best thieves in Lankhmar.

Most importantly, the roster of characters is likely to change. If The Warrior dies, and the player is allowed to bring in another warrior, I guess The Warrior wasn't as special as he seemed. What if two players run clerics? The clerics? And if two more players join, also running clerics? What if a player is The Wizard? Should he never get to join in a spellduel because there are no other wizards around?

How would you run Enter the Dagon?

Every Monster is Unique

Unique monsters are great, and there is every reason to run a game where every monster has the potential to have unexpected properties. But, in the Spellburn podcast, Harley suggests a world where there is, for instance, only one Dragon. The Dragon.

This is an idea that I have written about once or twice before. Note that I don't think that this is a good idea.

You can read the earlier blog posts (and I encourage you to do so), but the short version is this: Appendix N fiction, like the real world, has a large number of persistent creatures within the milieus presented. The lemutes of Hiero's Journey are not one-off creatures, nor are the orcs of Mordor, the banths of Barsoom, or the shoggoths of the Cthulhu Mythos.

This is not to say that unique creatures do not exist in those literary milieus. The Dweller and House in Hiero's Journey are unique, for instance, as is the Watcher before the gates of Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring. If these unique creatures had appeared in a setting where every creature is encountered was unique, they would certainly have had less of an impact.

I am going to put it another way: Imagine Peril on the Purple Planet with only one Kith, only one Death Orm, and only one Strekleon. Now imagine Journey to the Center of Áereth without a consistent ecology that you could learn, and profit from your understanding of, once you got there.

The persistence of certain creatures makes the uniqueness of other creatures stand out.

You can certainly play up how much better they are than the average gongfarmer, but PCs are agents of change because of player choices, not because they are The Cleric and The Warrior.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Gary Con X Recap


Gary Con ran from March 8th to 11th 2018. This post is a little bit later than that because I was visiting family in Wisconsin until Friday the 16th. My son and I drove down from Toronto, and then drove back, arriving in Toronto on the 17th.

I ran seven games at the convention, six on the books and one off. I was also afforded the opportunity to play in Allan Grohe’s Castle Greyhawk game on Thursday night. That was the first time, ever, that I sat on the same side of the screen as my son. Because I ordered my playing times a little better this year, I managed to spend more time socializing and less time running between games or playing at odd (or late) hours. I was able to make it to the Cultural Exchange, but failed to get in any Dog Storm or Flammable Hospital.

Swag-wise, this was a pretty good convention. In addition to the freebies available on registration (which included lite versions of Swords & Wizardry and Bunnies & Burrows), The Tower of Faces came out, as well as the newest printing of Intrigue at the Court of Chaos. I was able to acquire copies of Crawl-thulhu #1, Inferno Road, and Country Crawl Classics, as well as the second Doug Kovacs sketchbook (The Drain Chamber 2017). Marc Plourde handed out a “The Alphabet of Outer Beings presents…” containing C is for Corruption and D is for Disapproval, printed on white cardstock. I handed out a few “Raven Crowking Presents Gary Con X Special”s. I also picked up both issues of the Hobbs & Friends of the OSR zine. Almost all of this will appear, or be updated, on the DCC Trove of Treasures, because most of it is for DCC.

We pulled into the Timber Ridge Lodge at about 10 am on Thursday, and were very graciously allowed to check in early. This is one of the overflow  areas for the Grand Geneva, and is part of the same resort complex. A trolley takes guests from one area to another, so when parking is strained (as it was on Saturday) the trolley is a better way to go.

Apparently, the DCC crowd had a party on Wednesday night to open the Con, which I did not attend. Next year, however, we plan to arrive on Wednesday…both for socializing and for starting earlier on Thursday.

On to the games!


I ran this on Thursday, when the convention was still a little slower and my voice wasn’t yet wrecked!  The group did very well, although if the charmed victim carrying the Sword of Truth didn’t draw it to attack his friends (as PCs often try less drastic effects against other PCs first), the adventure probably would have ended in a TPK. Even so, the group was visibly shaken by facing the Rose Dragon, with its multiple Action Dice and effective attacks. Playing with the Mirror of Truth was a lot of fun, too. This is the only time I have run this adventure that Doctor Chapman did not make an appearance. It was also the first time that any group has ever freed the demon in the Mirror of Truth.

A warm Thank You to the players: Chris Zank, Brenda Wolfe, Dave, and Richard Mundy. Jim Skach was also scheduled to play, but managed to get into a game he was on the waiting list for instead.


This was the first of three games that I ran on Saturday. Despite some glitches (on my part), I think it went pretty well. The changes to magic in the adventure setting seldom came up, but at least they did so enough to be noticed.

For the games I was running, except funnels and The Thing in the Chimney (which is 1st level), I printed a group of magic items that characters might have. These were printed on card stock, and included items from last year’s Raven Crowking Presents Gary Con Special, as well as items from published adventures and this blog. They were printed on card stock, cut apart, and (depending upon the level of the game) each player got a number of sight-unseen picks. They could then trade amongst themselves if they so desired.

The halfling in the group obtained the Ring of the Sand Djinn, and once the gems from the Falcate Idol were recovered, destroyed it to teleport home. Of course, the players agreed that they would sell the gems, and I did a brief narrative epilogue about the Falcate Idol returning to plague them in the future.

We used the Fleeting Luck mechanic from DCC Lankhmar in this game, as it seemed appropriate to me.

Many thanks to the players for making it a fun game: John Jesse, Mike Glim, Paul Doran, Lucy Duff, and Stuart Goheen.

(I had been dutifully collecting tickets, and continued to do so, but it was during this game that I first noticed that no one was collecting them. Last year, volunteers collected them during games. This year, you had to turn them in to the registration booth yourself. Because no one had mentioned this when I checked in, all of my tickets were turned in at the same time, after my game on Sunday.)

(Speaking of tickets, the Black Blade/Goodman Games booth supplied me with tickets to give my players for a draw on Sunday. They have done this both years I’ve been at Gary Con, and it is a pretty classy move. The prizes they gave away were not insubstantial!)

Silent Nightfall

This was my second game on Saturday. As no one chose an elf PC, I didn’t run with the “Return the Whispering Stone to the King of Elfland” goal included in the game blurb. Instead, I sent the PCs to investigate the source of weird mutations and attacks on nearby villages. This group did not include a cleric, which they certainly felt.

This was another game for firsts – one of the PCs listened to the enticements of Silent Nightfall and triggered a TPK that was felt in a 20 mile radius. Good times.

This was also the first game where I realized that I should be taking pictures.

Many thanks to the players who made it worthwhile: Jeff Scifert, Marc Plourde, Shyloh Wideman, Jon Hammersley, and Clayton Williams.


My last game on Friday was a vampire funnel based off a map by Shyloh Wideman, who actually played in the game. The players ran their characters intelligently for the most part (although having multiple characters means that someone will eventually try something they know is unwise), so that the death toll was actually fairly low. Yes, my dice betrayed me time and time again. Yes, I rolled a disproportionate number of “1”s. But, even with those things taken into account, the survival of so many zeros to 1st level was a testament to player skill, not poor rolling on the part of the judge.

You might notice that I made signs to identify each game that I was running, with graphics unique to the scenario. I also had a model of the Goodman Games Arch that held the gong for their tournament in 2017 at Gen Con. The arch was constructed for me by the good people at Deep Dungeon Games.

Thank You to all of the players who did so well: Shyloh Wideman, Jeff Bernstein, Marc Plourde, Dwayne Boothe, and Clayton Williams.

Apotheosis in Green and Gold

My one off the books game was a playtest for an 8th level “epic endgame”, wherein the PCs have the potential to become gods. Because this is still in development, I am not going to say too much. Hobbs the porter was slain, and replaced with an Oltomec porter who the party renamed Hobbs (not even bothering to learn his actual name). Giants are pretty tough, even against high level PCs. The giant critical table, and crit range, made for some memorable play. A thief with a good Luck score is a living terror when he backstabs.

Thank you to Paul Wolfe, Brenda Wolfe, Mike Bishop, Mars, and Julian Bernick for playing. Only Julian failed to become a god. Perhaps his erstwhile companions will rename his character Hobbs?

(The room we are playing in is our room/suite at the Timber Ridge Lodge. It doesn't offer instant access when rolling in from the Cultural Exchange at 2 am, but it is comfortable and offers enough room to game in!)


My on-the-books Saturday game was a lot of fun, and had the unusual property of being a funnel adventure ending with each player having a single character. There are a lot of “fairy tale logic” pieces to the adventure, which went over well at the table. There are some good encounters for role-playing, which also went over well at the table. Players made choices I didn’t expect, which is always fun, and actually tied their survivors into the social fabric of the NPCs they encountered. This was probably the most successful game I ran this convention.

Thank you to the fantastic players! They are: Travis Primmer, Jeff Bernstein, Dale Ehinger, Sarah Ehinger, and Tim Loughrist.


On Sunday, I ran the original DCC holiday adventure. The players were engaged with the material, which made it a lot of fun. 

Highlights: The Naughty/Nice list had all the Lawful PCs as Naughty and the Chaotic PC as Nice. One player was running late, so his PC showed up inside a gift-wrapped box. A PC ate the fruitcake. The players instantly realized that knocking a top hat off a snowman would have an effect. A high roll on a sleep spell put a snowman into an enchanted slumber (it became a normal snowman during this time). The PCs moved it to the hot part of the main hall to melt.

The final battle with the Cinder Claws was a bit anticlimactic, but fun nonetheless. A successful sleep spell, with the wizard spellburning down to a bare nub, put both the Cinder Claws and the party to sleep. The wizard’s unfortunately worded awakening condition saw the party and the Cinder Claws all awakened at once. Before combat could ensue, another sleep spell put the Cinder Claws (and only the Cinder Claws) into an enchanted slumber. The PCs then cut off his head!

Because the Cinder Claws is a patron-level entity, this need not be the end for him, but it is certainly the end for this adventure. The PCs are in the Great Hall (which now loops back only to itself). It is getting colder, and the Cinder Claws has not whisked up the chimney, so no portal is opened for the PCs to escape.

The cleric petitions his god, who he has just blasphemed against to satisfy the fruitcake. He offers his own life as a sacrifice to transport the party anywhere. And he rolls high enough that I give it to him. Moreover, I offer a Luck check that the god spares his servant rather than leaving him behind to freeze to death. The cleric has burned his Luck down to 1. “Well, you can try to roll a natural 1” I say….and the cleric’s player does it!

Many thanks to the wonderful players: Haley Skach, Jeff Sparks, Scott Swift, Jeff Bernstein, Richard Mundy, and Clayton Williams.

Overall, the convention was a real success. In addition to the gaming, I got a chance to meet some people in person for the first time, renew old acquaintance with those I had a chance to meet last year, and receive a "free beer" that turned out to be a growler!

Barring some form of catastrophe, I'll be back in 2019!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Let's Make This Easy

I have produced a Birthday Mathom every year, starting in 2013.  I've been thinking about my birthday in 2018, which will mark the 6th year of Mathom-giving. Each year, I've put together a pdf of odds and ends that I thought people might use, including a full patron, adventures, monsters converted from other games or Appendix N sources, and so on.

The requirements for receiving the Mathom have never been that onerous, but response has been rather lackluster in the past few years. Perhaps I haven't given enough time to respond? Perhaps asking for even a short review, of any DCC product, is too much? Perhaps 10-15 pages it too small to make it worthwhile?

Okay, then. This year is the 53-page Mathom.

Did I say 53 pages? Yes, I did. Or, at least, that is my target, and I mean to reach it.

What do you need to do to get it? Follow these three steps:

(1) REVIEW a DCC product. Any product. The review must be at least 53 words long, and must be posted to a blog, on rpg now, on G+, or wherever you like that you can supply a link to, between now and August 4th, 2018. 

EDIT: Yes! MCC counts!

(2) COMMENT on this post, including a LINK to your review.

(3) EMAIL me at ravencrowking at hotmail dot com with the address you want the Mathom sent to.

Here's the kicker: If only ONE person responds, I will still do 53 pages. However, if fewer than 53 people respond, then I am retiring the Birthday Mathom to the dustbin of history. At least I will have gone out with a bang.

(And you can probably guess how old I will be this year by now.)

RELATED: If you are going to Gary Con, I will have a Raven Crowking Presents Gary Con 2018 Special which I will be giving out while supplies last. All you have to do is find me while I still have some left!




Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Interview with J. Laakso


Today we are talking to J. Laakso, owner of Vault 0.

So, for full disclosure, the readers should know that J. is my brother.

Without further ado.....

How did you get into gaming? And what are you doing now?

There was that time when kids were playing cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, and those sorts of games.  And there were those of us that wanted to be adventurers, so that what's what we did.  Inspired by Lord of the Rings and similar fantasy works, we made up our own stories and acted them out.  Then along comes TSR and publishes a system for fantasy adventure, and it would be an understatement to say that I was pretty drawn to it.  Queue years of playing, writing adventures, gaming groups, and late-night game sessions.  Yeah, I really got into it.  It started with Dungeons and Dragons and went from there.  So many game systems, but I wanted to play them all.

In more recent years I hadn't been gaming so much; life gets in the way, you move around, work long hours, lose track of gaming groups, whatever.  But I'm back to working on adventures.  I have a son that's an avid gamer, and they're waiting for me to run some Call of Cthulhu, DCC, and now MCC.

You supported the Mutant Crawl Classics Kickstarter. What do you think of the system?

Well, as much as I was into D&D, when TSR released Gamma World it really pulled me in.  I'm a huge fan of the post-apocalyptic setting, so when Goodman Games announced the Kickstart for Mutant Crawl Classics I was pretty excited.  It hearkens back to when I first got into gaming and cracked open that box.  Like DCC, MCC isn't rules-heavy.  The PDF is pretty big, but it doesn't spend pages on complicated combat systems or detailing characters to the nth degree.  It leaves room for the players and especially the gamemaster to flesh things out.  It keeps it simple and fun.  There are world details included, which I may or may not use.  Personally I tend to like to create my own world setting, but I can see where GMs would prefer to create the adventure within the world and not a whole world itself.  Goodman Games is pretty good about leaving the game more open to it's users.

Can you tell us a little about Vault 0?

Years ago when I went to my first science fiction convention, costuming was pretty normal though nothing like it is today.  My first costume, in keeping my love of post-apocalyptic worlds, was based off of Road Warrior in the Mad Max movie series.  Taking parts off an old car, I made myself a "road trash" costume.  Nothing that would win awards, but I enjoyed it and it got a few compliments.  And so my venture into costuming began.

Then one day I found myself suddenly laid off, and seemingly unable to get work in my field.  Sometime earlier I had made a Vault Dweller suit based on the video game Fallout.  My first recreation I found to be a disappointment since I tried using a premade boiler suit coverall for the base, which failed to look quite right.  A stickler for details, I looked to the in-game stitch pattern and made my own template and sewn a new suit from base fabric.  And I found some new ways to add the little details like stripes and numbers.  And it occurred to me there are probably other people out there that felt the same way - wanted something that matched the game better.  So I set up shop.

I've sold a fair number of those suits along with some other standard recreations from games and television, as well as a few custom things for people.  I do a lot of shows now, and I carry a lot of cosplay accessories - props, wigs, make-up, etc.  Online sales are great, but the shows are what keep me going.  Meeting the people and attending the conventions - that's the fun bit.

You also do some work with gaming and science fiction conventions. What's that like?

It's a labor of love.  I enjoy the convention scene a lot, and it's surprising what goes in to putting on a show.  Sometimes it seems like your show is only as good as the worse thing you do, and people can be pretty quick to jump on you if something goes wrong.  And there's a mob of social media always waiting to chime in.  But you do it for those who do enjoy the gatherings of similar-minded people, and for a fun time.  I mostly work with non-profits, and no one I know is bound to get rich working on these things.  

There is something to be said to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and working with conventions is certainly that.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

A new day, a new year.  I have plans to do a lot of conventions this year, and work behind the scenes on a few.  With Vault 0 there's a lot of work to do - expand the line, expand the website, and getting ready for the next show.  It never stops, and a small business isn't something you can get too complacent with.  But every sale brings a smile, and every time a customer says something nice about what I'm doing it reminds why I do it.

And, of course, I'm looking forward to a lot of gaming this year.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Child of Light

Episode 61 of Spellburn included the announcement of the Stephan Poag Dungeon Denizen contest winner from Episode 58. The winner was the excellent The Lumonculus, created by Tim White and Connor Stone.  You can find it here!

Congratulations Tim and Connor!

My own entry, the Child of Light, is reproduced below, because you can never have too many monsters. I had done a bit of research and discovered that Poag means "Child of Light", which was the basis of the creature.

I would also be very interested to see what other people came up with.

Child of Light


Child of Light: Init +3; Atk slam +4 melee (1d8+2) or light cone (special); AC 15; HD 3d8+6; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP photonic sonar 100’, detect magic 1,000’, consume magic 30’, light cone 60’, regeneration, undying, power spellburn; SV Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +3; AL C.


The Child of Light is a strange creature that dwells deep beneath the ruins of the ancient citadel of Poag. It is partially organic and partially silicon-based, gaining energy from telluric radiation through crystals in its head and from magical emanations through two branching antennae-feelers that grow from its shoulders. These feelers allow the Child of Light to detect magic (spells or items) within 1,000 feet. It is attracted to all forms of magic, and no magic functions within 30’ of it (including magic cast outside this radius which then would otherwise take effect within it). The Child of Light consumes this magic, which is immediately restored outside of this range.


The creature is blind, but can sense even very small amounts of light with its skin. It uses light generated by its cranial crystals (or other sources), giving it a form of “photonic sonar” that allows the Child to “see” within a range of 100’, beyond which it is completely blind. Its rocky hide grants it a relatively high AC. The Child of Light regenerates 3 hp/round when within range of a source of light or magic that it can detect, and 1 hp/turn when away from such an energy source. The creature itself cannot be killed by any means known to mortals.


The Child of Light’s most powerful attack is a cone of light 60’ long with a 30’ base. Any creature caught within this cone must succeed in a DC 10 Fort save or be partially blinded for 1d5 rounds (-2 penalty to attack rolls) and a DC 15 Will save or suffer one of the following magical effects (roll 1d7): (1) Strength reduced by 1d3 for 1d5 rounds, (2) affected by an enlarge spell with a spell check result of 1d16+6, (3) ultraviolet radiation causes 2d6 damage, (4) Agility reduced by 1d5 for 1d7 rounds, (5) affected by a sleep spell with a spell check result of 1d24+2, (6) obtain a perfect tan, or (7) compulsion to draw causes a -1d penalty on the dice chain to all rolls until the character has spent at least 10 minutes completing a sketch. Note that spell effects do not allow additional saves after the spell check result is rolled, and any misfire or corruption affects the target, not the Child of Light.


Finally, anyone within the ruins of Poag may call upon the Child of Light to fuel spellburn. When a character does so, roll 1d7 and consult the following table:


1d7      Spellburn Result
1                Incandescent light pours from the caster, illuminating everything within line of sight as though it was daylight. Creatures within 30’ of the caster must succeed in a DC 15 Reflex save or be blinded. Blinded creatures must make a DC 10 Fort save or be permanently blinded; those who succeed are blinded for only 1d5 rounds. The caster gains up to 4 points of spellburn at no additional cost.
2                The caster’s skin blisters and bubbles with extreme sunburn. This is expressed as Strength, Agility, or Stamina damage.
3                The Child of Light grants up to 10 points of spellburn without attribute loss, but consumes the magical energy needed to cast the spell. The spell cannot be cast again for a full 24 hours per point of spellburn. Even additional spellburn cannot restore the spell during this time.
4                The Child of Light grants up to 10 points of spellburn without attribute loss, but the caster is blinded for 10 minutes per point of spellburn taken, and has a -1d penalty on the dice chain to all attack rolls (due to double vision) for 24 hours thereafter.
5                The Child of Light consumes the spell energy. Nothing else bad happens, but the spell does not go off, and the caster’s attempt is wasted.
6                The Child of Light consumes magical energy from the caster, expressed as 1d3 points each of Strength, Agility, and Stamina damage. The spell check is not improved.
7                Not only does the Child of Light grant up to 10 points of spellburn for free, but for every point not used, the caster heals 1 Hit Die in damage, up to his maximum hit points, once the spell is cast.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Gary Con X Scheduling

My games for Gary Con X have been scheduled!

DCC—Prince Charming, Reanimator: Thursday at 2:00 PM, 4 hours, Space FORA-325 - 5 tickets max

DCC—The Falcate Idol: Friday at 11:00 AM, 3 hours, Space FORA-326 - 5 tickets max

DCC—Silent Nightfall: Friday at 3:00 PM, 3 hours, Space FORA-325 - 5 tickets max

DCC—Thirteen Brides of Blood: Friday at 7:00 PM, 3 hours, Space FORA-323 - 5 tickets max

DCC—Goblins of the Faerie Wood: Saturday at 3:00 PM, 4 hours, Space FORA-327 - 5 tickets max

DCC—The Thing in the Chimney: Sunday at 10:00 AM, 3 hours, Space FORA-325 - 6 tickets max

Free Monsters!

The original Monster Manual boasted "OVER 350 MONSTERS" for your game. While I am only halfway there in terms of free content, my last update just hit 175 distinct entries.

Among them are old favorites like the Aboleth, the Otyugh, the Rhadogessa, and the Sahuagin, but there are also a fair amount of creatures from classic programs and movies, like the Amatons, the Daleks, and the Troopers from Stargate. Robert E. Howard is recognized with statistics for Conan and Breckinridge Elkins, while Edgar Rice Burroughs also sees stats for Tarzan.

If you need stats for a Giant Mutated Turkey, a Cyclopean Deep One Pugilist, or a Potted Plant for your home adventure, I've got you covered.

If you want to use some of these stats commercially, contact me. If you need more free monsters, head over to Appendix M.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Tales From the Thousand Lakes

This album cover was suggested by Doomsayer. Interestingly enough, when I was deciding on album covers to inspire Dungeon Crawl Classics content, this is one that I had considered, but had put on the back burner as being difficult. I wasn't sure what inspiration I could glean from its ominous artwork. Whether or not I rose to the challenge is something the reader will have to determine.

Before we dive into the cover, a confession. If you listen to the Sanctum Secorum podcast (and if not, you should), you are aware that Bob Brinkman always has interesting musical picks for each work discussed thereon.

I am no Bob Brinkman.

If you listen to the Drink Spin Run podcast (and, again, you should), you will note that, when I was a guest, I had been listening most recently to the soundtrack to Moana. My musical tastes run from classical to Iggy Pop, but there is a lot of 80s pop and even country in there. Most of these albums aren't really on my radar.

I am devising material based on the covers plus a little very basic research. And, yes, I have made use of YouTube to give the albums a listen-through or find related videos.

If you run into me at Gary Con or elsewhere, though, I am not going to be able to discuss these things intelligently. Seriously. You are, gentle reader, are to a person all cooler than I am.

Without further ado....

Kala Vale and the Thousand Lakes

The village of Kala Vale is located in a region known as the Thousand Lakes, where waterfalls, rivers, ponds, and freshwater lakes both great and small are found among the high hills and mountains. Everywhere there is the sound of water, running and falling, from spring to autumn. Even in the depths of winter, water runs beneath the ice. A few warm days can lead to a sudden thaw, and those traversing the straight path across previously-frozen ice can find themselves immersed in frigid waters without warning.

Deep magic runs with the waters of this land. Runestones give hints of lost spells, or mark the focal points of arcane powers. Here music has power, and many of the region's legendary figures sang and chanted to shape their adventures as they would.

Many are the mysteries of this land. A few of them are described below.

Mårtenson's Ring of the Eagle's Shape

This curiously carved ring is made of finnstone, a blue-green material with a slick texture not unlike that of soapstone. It has been carved with many strange runes and sigils from Elfland. Whoever wears the finnstone ring and knows the hidden song of Mårtenson may take a sea-eagle's form, for as long as he wills, but each time he does so, some portion of his soul remains in that form.

In sea-eagle's form, the PC has exceptional eyesight for spotting creatures when flying. He can fly at a rate of 60', and has an AC of 14. The character's gear and accouterments within 5' of his body transform with him; larger items must be dropped or carried. Magic items retain their effects unless they must be manipulated in some way, but armor loses its normal bonuses. A sea-eagle can make a claw attack for 1d3 damage, and, if diving from at least 50', has a critical range increased by 2 (i.e., a level 1 wizard would crit on 18-20, and a level 1 warrior on 17-20). The character can only cast spells which do not require a human voice or somatic component.

Each transformation to sea-eagle's form requires a DC 10 Will save. On a failure, the character takes 1 point of permanent Personality damage and must roll 1d5 on the table below. Rolling the same result multiple times has no additional effect, but each time the character gains a new result he is reduced by -1d on the Dice Chain when making further Will saves due to transformation.

1d5 Effect
1 The character refuses to eat any food other than fish.
2 The character blinks far less often than normal.
3 The character has a tendency to stare at others.
4 The character's preening behavior reminds onlookers of a bird cleaning its feathers.
5 The character has a marked preference for being outdoors under an open sky.

If the character's Personality falls below 3, he never transforms back to human or demi-human form. After 2d6 rounds, the character is lost forever to his new form. The finnstone ring falls to the ground as the character flies away to live the remainder of his life in the wild.

At the judge's discretion, the character's allies may undertake one or more adventures to restore the lost character's humanity. Such an undertaking is fully in the nature of DCC's Quest For It ethos, and would require, at a bare minimum, locating the lost character in sea-eagle form and destroying Mårtenson's Ring of the Eagle's Shape to release his soul. Indeed, some say that the great bard-wizard Mårtenson of the Keys was lost to his ring, and still haunts the world in avian form.

The Drowned Maid

The ghost of a fair young maiden wanders the shores of Tomi Lake, north of Kala Vale. This unfortunate maid slipped into the cold gloomy depths through a crack in the ice one black winter day. She appears now fair but cold, with skin that is bluish-white. Seldom does she appear as a wraith, and often she is mistaken for a living maiden, solid to the eye if not to the touch.

The Drowned Maid seeks forever her lost lover, although she can no longer remember his face. It is said, in folklore, that she was drowned  on her way to a tryst with the youth. Some say he sought for her high and low through the Land of the Thousand Lakes. Others say that he was with another, and that the Drowned Maid was a suicide.

This spirit is drawn only to those young men with exceptional good looks, or who have a Personality of 13+. She seeks only to draw them to her, but her touch causes 1d12 cold damage each round. Only when her one-time lover, reborn into a new body, willingly comes into her clasp and speaks her name can the Drowned Maid be laid to rest.

The Drowned Maid: Init +2; Atk incorporeal touch +1 melee (1d12 cold); AC 10; HD 2d12; hp 15; MV 30' or fly 40’; Act 1d20; SP un-dead traits, immune to non- magical weapons; SV Fort +4, Ref +5, Will +3; AL C.

Holopainen's Lost Ship

Somewhere amid the Thousand Lakes, an ornate anchor of black iron rises up from the water and rests on land. Its chain leads below the surface to the lost ship of Holopainen Ironhand, a reaver of great renown, whose heavy metal axe of meteoric iron, Esa, remains the subject of many legends in the Land of the Thousand Lakes.

Holopainen's ship, the Darkland Queen, is said to be carrying many precious things ravaged from the gorefest of the Chaosbreed in lands to the east. Should the ship ever be recovered, who knows what treasures weigh it down?

According to legend, the winged witch Louhi brought Holopainen low. His ravagers, the Chaosbreed, drowned in the waters of a many-leveled lake, amid waterfalls and ringed with hills. At least one artifact was lost with the ship: The Sampo, which takes many forms, and which brings good fortune to whomever can keep it.

The Blessed

Perhaps the Sampo brought fortune to the Chaosbreed even as they flailed beneath the waters of that unknown lake. Perhaps the malice of Louhi transformed the warriors of Holopainen. Or perhaps some other story is true, but the waters where the Darkland Queen was lost are now  inhabited by creatures which call themselves the Blessed.

The Blessed are amorphous things with dark leather skin, capable of growing any number of limbs, either jointed or tentacular. Most of the Blessed are man-sized, hinting at a perhaps-human origin. Others have grown to a colossal size. All hate human life - perhaps because they were once human, or perhaps because the harpy-witch Louhi nursed dark emotions within them.

The following represents a typical member of the Blessed. Larger ones have far more impressive statistics.

The Blessed: Init +3; Atk claw +2 melee (1d3+1) or bite +0 melee (1d5); AC 14; HD 1d8+4; MV 20’ or swim 50'; Act 2d20; SP regenerate 1d3 hp/round while alive; SV Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +0; AL C.


The Finnish Connection: As a side note, The Land of a Thousand Lakes is Finland, and this album takes the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, as its inspiration. Amorphis is a Finnish heavy metal band. I have a family connection to the Finns who settled the Upper Peninsula region of Michigan. I hope, therefore, that I have done at least a halfway descent job at threading the album cover, the lyrics, and strands from the Kalevala into gameable material.