Saturday, 12 June 2021

Jungle Tomb of the Mummy Bride

There are three days to go for this kickstarter, but it still requires a push to get it to that all-important stretch goal at $21,000!

Friday, 11 June 2021

"Well, maybe the Sleestaks aren't so bad after all."

Last post presented the Gorn for DCC and MCC. Another version of reptile people that has been influential on gamers are the Sleestaks from The Land of the Lost. These are the original Sleestaks, not those from the 1991-92 series or the film.

The Sleestaks were reptilian creatures which had an interdimensional technology based on crystals. At the height of their civilization, they created the Pylons, and presumably enfolded the titular Land of the Lost into its own pocket dimension, including a river that (as with Philip José Farmer's Riverworld series) continues in an endless loop.

Sleestaks use "crossbows", a sort of dart-firing slingshot with a range of 10/15/20 that does 1d3 damage. They are averse to bright light, retreating from torches and daylight, If forced to fight under these circumstances, they suffer a -1d penalty to all attack rolls.

A very few advanced Sleestaks may still exist. These creatures have speech and reason, and may have mastery of technology or psychic powers beyond the ken of their more primitive kindred. Advanced Sleestaks also do not share the usual Sleestak sensitivity to light.

Sleestaks also appear in Secrets of the Serpent Moon in Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad #2. If you look closely, you may discover Sleestaks in D.A.M.N. #1, and a single Sleestak in The Tribe of Ogg and the Gift of Suss. Where stats are provided in those sources, they differ from the ones produced below.

Without further ado, here are some Sleestaks for your DCC and MCC games!

Sleestak: Init -2; Atk claw +0 melee (1d3) or "crossbow" +2 ranged (1d3); AC 10; HD 1d8+4; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP infravision 60', +2 bonus to Strength checks, light sensitivity; SV Fort +3, Ref -2, Will -2; AL N.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Enter the Arena

Many fantasy worlds offer their characters the chance to meet lizard people. In most cases, these lizard people are primitives. literally dominated by their reptile brains. 

The Gorn, which appeared in the Star Trek original series episode Arena, were different. They were intelligent, ruthless, and every bit as capable as the average Starship captain in the Federation. Seeing past his own prejudices based on the Gorn's reptilian nature - seeing the Gorn as a person - is what allowed Captain James T. Kirk to not only survive his encounter with a Gorn captain, but impress the Metrons with humanity's potential.

(Compare with the short story, Arena, by Frederic Brown, and discussed on the Sanctum Secorum podcast here.)

Without further ado, here are Gorn for your DCC and MCC games!

Gorn: Init -4; Atk bite +0 melee (1d5), or blow +2 melee (1d4 plus hug), or by weapon +3 (by weapon+6) or thrown rock +3 ranged (2d10); AC 14; HD 3d8+12; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP hug, +6 bonus to Strength checks; SV Fort +8, Ref -4, Will +4; AL L.

Hug: If an unarmed Gorn strikes a successful blow, it gains a free and immediate attack with its other arm. If both blows succeed, the Gorn has grappled its opponent in a hug, and can do an automatic 2d4+6 damage each round until the opponent succeeds in an opposed Strength check or disorients the Gorn with a successful Mighty Deed of 4+. The classic version of this Deed is to slam one's hands on either side of the Gorn's skull, where the ears would be on a human.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Eating Our Young

Well, this is a tough post to write, and it is a post that is likely to earn me some approbation from the community. But if I didn't write it, I would be a poltroon. So, there you have it. This is getting written.

Some background first: I am a cis-gendered straight white man. I have people very close to me who are gay, bi, and trans. No, I am not going to exploit them by naming them, but I do want the reader to understand where I am coming from. A pride flag hangs from my house.

The first time I was kissed by another guy was in high school. It was at a science fiction and fantasy convention in Oconomowoc that I sadly no longer remember the name of. There were a group of us, out all night, having fun. Some time after midnight, he got me alone on the ski hill at the hotel (obviously unused in the summer months) and told me how he felt. And, here's the thing - if sexual orientation were something you could choose, I would have chosen at that moment to not be a straight man. Because I felt valued by this guy in a way that I don't think I have have been before or since. After we talked, when he asked if he could kiss me, I said yes. And then we went back to the group and had fun all together until some godawful early hour in the morning.

I have also been hit on by guys who made me feel extremely uncomfortable, so I am not romanticizing one sexual orientation over another. I am talking about a particular time, with a particular person. The fact that I was young may have had a lot to do with how I remember that, or just a little. I honestly don't know.

On the other hand, I have also been a real asshole. No two ways about it. I have done things and held attitudes of which I am ashamed. I have failed to do things that  haunt me. I grew up mostly in rural Wisconsin, with the attitudes of the people around me. I can remember when they desegregated the primary school I was going to when I lived in Milwaukee. I went from High School to the US Army, and the military culture did not make me a better person. If the community judged me solely by my worst day, I very much doubt that anyone would still be in my corner. To be clear, and maybe some readers will understand this, there are days (not many, but some) where self-loathing makes me consider just drawing the curtain on existence.

I have opinions. I often express them. I have been called a Nazi for arguing against censorship. I have literally been told that opposing censorship makes me a Nazi. I have been told that, when I pointed out that it was the Nazis who were pro-censorship, I was trying to "Godwin" the argument by bringing up the Nazis. There are people who, to this day, will not speak to me because of this.

I strongly believe in social justice, but I am not a social justice warrior. The idea that we are so ready to cast out anyone based on their worst day is frankly abhorrent to me. I tend to think that we should try to lead by example. I tend to think that the strength or our arguments should carry the day - and that we should call out bad arguments when they are made by "our side". If we do not, our arguments lose their force. I do think that there is a point where you have to cut people off, but I don't think that should be our first reaction. How can anyone learn that "Hey, these people are all right?" if you cut off all contact? How do you open up a dialogue once you have made dialogue verboten?

This post came about due to some recent events concerning Gabor Lux (aka Melan), a man whose game design work I really admire. Among his sins? He deadnamed Jennell Jaquays, he posted that he found an encounter with a weretiger hilarious, and he said that he found the use of certain pronouns "retarded".

The deadnaming was in reference to a post comparing two products, one of which had been written by Jennell Jaquays before they transitioned. The name used was presumably taken from the original credits of the product. This is something I do, frequently, in the DCC Trove of Treasures. Not because I am trying to cause anyone harm or offense, but because I don't know people have transitioned, and even if I did, I would not necessarily know what name that person is now using. Do I have an obligation to try to contact each writer I might post something about? I don't believe that I do.

Years back, Mark Gedak of Purple Duck Games changed a playtester name for me before a product went to print, and that was much appreciated. It was fantastic for the player. But I didn't demand a scouring through the back-catalogue, and there are older posts I have written discussion people by names and/or genders they no longer use.

I have struggled with the concept of using they/them as singular pronouns, not because of gender politics but because of language. I got over it, but that doesn't mean the struggle was any less real. 

While I don't use the word "retarded", I have, not unfrequently, told people on Facebook "Don't be a moron if you can help it"  because of the (lack of) thought put into their arguments. Is that really such a big thing? (And, lest we go down the rabbit hole of ableism, some of you may have noticed a slurring in my speech in recent years. There is a very good chance that this is due to a genetic ataxia. It scares the hell out of me.)

If I understand the weretiger encounter correctly, Gabor Lux found an encounter where a weretiger's gender identity being affected by its transformation to be very amusing.  I am playing (and promoting) a game where "Gender Bender" is a mercurial magic effect. I came to it by way of a game with a girdle of masculinity/femininity and where a famous module might leave your gender reversed as you appear naked in a room. Both games make use of an Appendix N which is replete with problematic content.

Obviously, things escalated when Gabor Lux was called out. And it seems to me that this is the inevitable result of being a social justice warrior - offense is easily taken, and the goal becomes to defeat the enemy. Instead of defeating the enemy, you solidify that enmity, and you create more enemies. This isn't to say that there are not things worth calling people out for, or that there are not people worth cutting out of your life.

But using the name on a product when writing about that product is not one of them. Being against censorship is not one of them. Because, even if you think both those things are entirely wrong, you will not convince anyone that they are wrong just by calling them out on social media. You make enemies, and you make those enemies stronger.

It is a common view that bigots, homophobes, and transphobes should be afraid to reveal themselves. I disagree. People hate because they are afraid or uneducated, and making them more afraid helps no one. To some degree, I was a bigot, and a homophobe, and a transphobe. I got better. I didn't get better because I was cancelled. I got better through contact, and because people helped me to get better.

Does that mean it is your job to help make people better? No. But if you want better people, that is the way to do it. Be a social justice cleric.

If this post made you want to unfriend, unfollow, or cancel me, that is your right.

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Miserable Hours Passed Like Years!

The disembodied eyeball of a titan, the Eye retains the life force and evil machinations of its former self. Where the titan has long crumbled to dust, and its very name is forgotten, the Eye endures!

The Eye dominates victims who meet its gaze, unless they succeed in a DC 25 Will save. Domination lasts for 1d5+2 hours, and the injunctions of the Eye always include returning to it, and gazing upon it, before three hours have passed. A creature dominated by the Eye must carry out the Eye's injunctions to the best of its ability; failure to do so causes a permanent loss of 1d3 points of Personality every 10 minutes. The judge determines whether or not a victim is following the Eye's injunctions, and the judge's determination is final! Trying to circumvent what the Eye wants once it has dominated you drains your very soul.

The Eye can do little by itself. It is tough and fibrous, but not very powerful physically. Unfortunately, it is usually protected by dominated minions.

The Eye can only dominate 30 individual creatures at a time. If the Eye dominates an additional creature, a random previously-dominated creature is released. It is not unusual for the Eye to have its dominated creatures destroy a released creature, or one that it was failed to dominate.

The Eye can feed through an aperture at its base, and moves using the short tentacles that surround it.

The Eye: Init +2; Atk dominating gaze; AC 14; HD 1d8; hp 7; MV 5’; Act n/a; SP dominating gaze, telepathic injunctions (infinite range for dominated beings); SV Fort +4, Ref -8, Will +20; AL C.

Injunctions of the Eye

1. "Carry me to another location on a small platter!"

2. "Feed me!"

3. "Water me!"

4. "Bring another being before me, and make them meet my gaze!"

5. "Destroy a specific being that has been released from my domination!"

6. "Find me a giant body to dwell in!" (Presumably, the Eye could worm its nerve-tentacles into the body's brain and control it.)

7. "Perform some specific mission against my enemies/to increase my security!"

Frankly, the goals of the Eye are fairly pedestrian. Of course, it is just an Eye. What use has it for gold or Earthly pleasures? Things might change, of course, if it actually obtains a body....

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Your Dizzy Burning Mind Only Tells You One Thing!

Morphic dissolution is a horrific condition caused by ingesting a difficult concoction of rare herbs and fungi, some of which are only found in the remotest of lands. In the (fantastic version of the) modern world, one would have to travel deep into Mammoth Caves, and then travel by canoe up hidden streams that feed the Orinoco River. Possibly, some of the compounds needed are only found in the steaming jungles of Venus or are contained in the fossilized remains of the polar lichens of Pluto.

In any event, once consumed, the unfortunate victim must make a DC 20 Fortitude save or take an immediate point of Strength, Stamina, or Agility damage as the victim's body becomes unstable. Thereafter, even if the initial saving throw is successful, every hour the victim must make an additional DC 10 Fortitude save or suffer 1d3 points of Strength, Agility, or Stamina damage. Determine randomly for each point. This damage is permanent unless restored by magic or super-science.

Once a victim has lost 6 total points from their physical ability scores, the warping of bone and tissue, and the plasticity of flesh, becomes obvious. Thereafter, the character loses 1 point of both Personality and Intelligence for each additional failed saving throw. This is in addition to continued loss of physical statistics, and is also permanent.

If a victim can make every required saving throw over a period of 24 hours, the process ceases, but is not reversed. Likewise, a Lay on Hands attempt sufficient to cure a poison can end the process, as can a neutralize poison or disease spell. Again, ending the effect does not reverse it.

If a victim reaches 0 Strength or 0 Stamina due to morphic dissolution, they immediately collapse into a primeval slime, as described on pages 423-424 of the core rulebook. 90% will be 1 HD slimes, but 10% (or larger victims, at the judge's discretion) may have 2 or more HD. Remember that morphic dissolution can effect much large creatures than mere humans!

In any event, you must find help...and a cure! But if you imagine that Dr. Harrell, the scientist, is going to help you, think again. He's probably the one who poisoned you in the first place...Revenge is one possible motive. Or Dr. Harrell might need a grateful, disfigured, servant around the place to hold his test tubes and tell him how brilliant he is.

For the judge: The threat of morphic dissolution is more powerful than the reality. If you are going to use this in an adventure, make sure that the magic or super-science needed to reverse it is also part of that adventure. Certainly, the PCs will be motivated, and they will understand soon enough that they are on a time limit!

And should it be the case that the evil Dr. Harrell poisoned them, and is using the threat of morphic dissolution to force the PCs to undertake some mission (by withholding the cure and the reversal agent), at least give the players the potential satisfaction of giving Dr. Harrell his comeuppance. For example, you might give them the chance to poison him and destroy the cure!


Some thoughts on potions

This was brought about by this Reddit thread, where my response was probably not very helpful to the original poster, but it did get me thinking about the make potion spell.

Looking at the Spell Text

The caster creates mystical brews that grant supernormal powers to those who consume them. The result of the spell check determines which kind of potion can be created, as indicated below; each casting allows the caster to choose one potion from the eligible results at his spell check or less. This portion of the spell requires 1d6+1 hours to cast.

This suggests to me that initial spell check determines what potions the caster might know at the moment how to create from the list. If the initial spell check is too low, the caster cannot even attempt to make a specific potion. Perhaps the stars are not right, or the herbs required are not in season. Whatever the reason, without pondering and study (and a better spell check!) the caster can only do so much.

The spell as written lists what the caster can attempt to create. By using the Quest For It mantra, it is possible to increase the potions a caster might know based on spell check. For instance, the caster might discover a particular potion, and the judge then determines which spell check ranking it falls into. Once the spell check ranking is determined, the potion becomes possible to make for that caster.

The judge may also wish the caster to be able to research/experiment to create new potions. The same sort of rule would apply: (1) the player determines the potion's likely effects, (2) the judge determines where that would fall on the spell check results, (3) the judge determines what special ingredients might be required, (4) the PC has to obtain those ingredients, and (5) the PC makes a spell check. If it is high enough, the PC has successfully learned the formula for a new potion, and can add it to his list. The PC still does not have a sample of it, however.

Once a potion is decided upon, the caster must spend money equal to half the potion’s spell check number (rounded down) × 25 gp to procure the necessary equipment and base ingredients for the potion. In addition, each brew requires a special substance that must be harvested by the caster himself and then brewed, which takes roughly one week after the spell is cast. See below for suggested special ingredients and more details on potion effects.  Unlike other spells, the judge, not the caster, makes the spell check roll to determine the caster’s success.

This suggests a second spell check, where the caster does not know whether or not the potion creation is successful until tested.

Options and Ideas

There really is no reason why a DCC alchemist could not create any potion that the judge approves and the player can think of. 

In addition to having recipes for potions being secrets that have to be learned/unlocked beyond what is in the make potion spell, you may also wish to read the section on ritual magic, short as it is, and then apply the ideas therein to certain potions. Yes, you can make potion X with ingredients A, B, and C, but it gives you a bonus to the spell check to use ingredient Z.

The Tales From the Smoking Wyrm zine has included some interesting rules for herbalism in issues #1 and #2. The Hubris book has an Alchemist class, which might have some ideas that you could use, even if you do not use the class itself. Several new potions are described in Danger in the Deep! as wares potentially sold by the snailtaur potion masters.

The arcane affinity spell could be used to unlock a new series of potions, if a caster gained an affinity as an alchemist.

Remember that you can also tie potions into seasons, astrology, or whatever you want. It is entirely possible to have a potion that can only be brewed during the first summer solstice of a new century.

The original poster in the Reddit thread was concerned about forgetting the new weird and powerful ingredients required for making a potion. The best way to avoid this is to take notes! You would lose a lot of the color of they system if you ignore potion ingredients. There is a big difference between having to harvest mummy dust and spending a few hours to make a generic spell check. The first is not only more flavorful than the second, but it is also more dangerous!

Spells as Potions

Obviously, the manifestation of a particular spell might have it play out a potion. I had one other thought, though: have you considered creating a Mercurial Magic table that allows spells to be learned and cast as potions? Some effects might just create potions. Others might give the caster a choice to use the spell normally or concoct it into a brew?

For instance, fireball could be "cast" in potion form, creating a liquid that explodes on contact with air. Depending upon the mercurial effect, the strength of the potion could be either known at the time of casting, or have to be determined when it is used. (Fireball potion +5 would indicate a roll on the fireball spell table with a +5 bonus, whereas fireball potion 25 would indicate the result on that table.)

Mercurial effect could also determine whether a potion imbiber or the caster suffered the effect of a natural "1"!

If you are even crueler, imagine the ability to create a potion that forces the imbiber to suffer spellburn to fuel the potion's spell check!

Just a thought.

If there is enough interest in this idea, I would certainly develop it further.

In the end, you are the judge. The rules bend to you, not the other way around.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Worthy of Conversion

Because I was asked recently about non-DCC adventures I thought were worthy of conversion to Dungeon Crawl Classics, I thought I would post about it. I have already posted about personal conversions of The Albuquerque Starport from Gamma World, Anomalous Subsurface Environment (including Moktars and Insect Men classes for DCC, Barrowmaze, Stonehell, and Skull Mountain. I have mentioned conversions of classic TSR modules like Eye of the Serpent and Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. I think that anything can be converted to Dungeon Crawl Classics, and the early TSR modules are prime candidates.

I also think that scenarios written for games like MERP or Stormbringer make excellent choices, because almost by definition they are going to drip Appendix N goodness. Bree with the serial numbers filed off makes a good setting for Nebin Pendlebrook's Perilous Pantry

But let's make this a sale's pitch. Here are 4 current products that I would love to convert to Dungeon Crawl Classics. Feel free to contact the publishers and point them to this blog post! Also, consider getting these adventures and doing your own conversions if they do not!

In no particular order:

The Temple of the Blood Moth

Authors Jacob Butcher and Skerples deliver a wonderful and nasty little adventure in zine format. The original adventure is system-neutral, but refers to creatures that are not included in DCC's core rules. Enough information is provided that an experienced judge can easily fill in the gaps/

The adventure revolves around the titular temple, and includes both elements of magic and super-science, which should be enough to warm the heart of any DCC judge. And blood moths. And an attempt to genetically engineer angels.

A full DCC conversion would be longer than the original, because there is plenty of material herein to base a new patron on. Since the adventure also deals with mutations - more akin to corruption that Mutant Crawl Classics mutations - the judge could certainly gain some new tools to play with!

The publisher is Abrasax Press.

You can get it here!

Castle Xyntillan

Written by Gabor Lux and published by the First Hungarian d20 Society, Castle Xyntillan is an extensive love letter to Tegel Manor and old-school gaming. Oh, and to Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne stories. This is a large manor, with dungeons beneath, and it is not going to be explored in a single evening. Like the "campaign dungeon" of yore, this is a location that many sessions of play will revolve around. PCs are likely to plan expeditions, go off to do other things, and then come back. Their actions will, of course, affect the setting and how the castle's inhabitants view/treat them.

In addition to fun encounters and some unique inhabitants, a full DCC conversion would include the Malévol family itself as a that could survive, perhaps, until the very last member of the family is both dead and laid to rest! It would be even better to start with a funnel that reveals one or more PCs to be distant relatives of the Malé them a reason to "reclaim" the castle from its current occupants, and resulting in some interesting role-playing opportunities both in the castle itself and in nearby Tours-en-Savoy.

The original was written for Swords & Wizardry. There is a lot of material, so until you are ready to run a game converting on the fly, you may wish to take copious notes before play begins. The PCs have a lot of leeway to explore the area, so you will want to make sure you have a fairly comprehensive idea of how you will do the conversion before introducing the setting.

You can get it here!

Misty Isles of the Eld

Written by Chris Kutalik and Robert Parker for Hydra Cooperative, this adventure uses the Labyrinth Lord rules, and is linked to the Slumbering Ursine Dunes, Fever-Dreaming Marlinko, etc. - all products which rock as they are and would rock even harder using Dungeon Crawl Classics as an engine!

This particular adventure has a warped and wonderful take on elves. Well, on the Eld. It delivers pure Appendix N-style goodness, and the adventure includes even trying to get to the titular islands. The action on the isles is a point-crawl where the actions taken by the PCs can affect later encounters.

Did I mention that there are extra-planar elements as well?

If you are doing a home conversion, consider the possibilities for new spells and patrons that the Misty Isles provides as you read through it. Consider how the existing DCC rules could be used to enhance any attempt to voyage to the isles. Decide whether or not you want the Eld to be represented by elves, or if you want an entirely new race-class to describe them. It is possible to do a low-effort conversion if you want, but this would really be cool with a full conversion. Especially if it included the material from the related titles.

You can get it here!

Winter's Daughter

Written by Gavin Norman, Frederick Münch, and Nicholas Montegriffo for Necrotic Gnome, this adventure already has a conversion to 5th Edition D&D by the talented Thilo Graf. It is written for BECMI, and hooks into the Dolmenwood setting.

Everything written for Dolmenwood should be converted to Dungeon Crawl Classics. Everything. And you should be able to get a big shiny hardcover printed on demand. New monsters, races, classes, patrons, the whole nine yards. There is not a single word written for this milieu that would not be awesome in a DCC game.

In this particular case, you have a dungeon to explore, another plane, strange fungi to consume, and a potential patron waiting to be written up. There is also an exploration of the fey that is really sort of awesome - Dolmenwood has, perhaps, the most flavorful version of that realm currently out there.

You can get it here!


If you are a DCC RPG judge looking for some cool stuff, I hope this points you in the right direction. If you publish one of these products, and are interested in talking about doing a conversion, drop me a line!

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Poorly-Drawn Sea-Horse

Yes, the creature's left arm came out pretty poorly, but this was only a doodle after all! 

The poorly-drawn sea-horse is a hippocephalic proto-humanoid creature inhabiting the epipelagic to mesopelagic zones of the world's seas. Although intelligent, and generally good-willed, they are not tool-users. Both their environment and a lack of fine manipulative appendages has limited them in this regard.

Poorly-drawn sea-horses are sometimes seen cavorting around ships in the same way that dolphins and porpoises do. This is a good omen, and all aboard the ship gain an effective +1 bonus to their Luck for the duration of the voyage.

These poorly-drawn creatures speak the language of horses. They understand the speech of whales, and sometimes (1 in 7 chance) the languages of sailors passing through their seas. They know many secrets of the currents and tides, and of the shallower parts of the ocean. They know where islands might be found, and they know where ships lay wrecked, if those wrecks are not too deep.

Fully 1 in 7 poorly-drawn sea-horse is an accomplished magician, and knows 1d5 of the following spells (determined randomly):

1. Animal summoning

2. Breathe life

3. Detect magic

4. Dispel magic

5. Forget

6. Invisibility

7. Lightning bolt

8. Water breathing

Poorly-drawn sea-horse magicians cast spells with a +1d8 bonus.

Poorly-drawn sea-horse: Init +1; Atk ram +2 melee (1d5) or bite +0 melee (1d6); AC 12; HD 2d8; MV 10' or swim 60’; Act 1d20; SP amphibious, lucky omen; SV Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +1; AL N.

Poorly-drawn sea-horse magician: Init +3; Atk ram +3 melee (1d5) or bite +1 melee (1d6) or spell; AC 14; HD 4d8; MV 10' or swim 60’; Act 2d20; SP amphibious, lucky omen, spellcasting; SV Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +5; AL N.