Friday, 2 July 2021

Magic Items From Facebook

Here are three magic items for use in your campaigns, based on images from the Internet (two from Facebook) which I do not own. Enjoy!

Scroll of Bafflement: Whoever tries to read this scroll must roll under their intelligence on percentile dice or remain baffled as to its meaning for the next turn. Each turn, the would-be reader has a new chance to realize that it is meaningless and break free from the curse.

Otherwise, until personally attacked, the scroll is destroyed, or the reader collapses from sheer exhaustion, the curse carries on turn by turn, preventing the reader from taking any action whatsoever.

The Spinal Cat of Nine Torments:  This weapon is +3 to hit, causing d3+3 damage plus DC 15 Fort or Will save or lose next Action Die due to unbelievable torment. If save is successful, the target can act, but at -1d on the dice chain.

The Spinal Cat has animal intelligence and is Chaotic, communicating with empathic glee whenever it hurts something.

The wielder can choose to take temporary Stamina damage to increases the damage die, at a rate of 1 point per step (heals as normal) to a maximum damage of 1d16+3.

The Brick of Pleasure and Death: This enormous boxed set causes 1d30 damage to any creature it falls upon, plus 1d6 damage per full 10' fallen. 

Should an intelligent creature survive the bludgeoning damage caused by the heavy and prodigious materials therein, they must succeed in a DC 20 Will save or spend the next 1d3 hours enraptured by the contents. If another intelligent creature comes upon them during this time, it too must save or be enraptured for a like amount of time.

Every time no more creatures are enraptured by the contents, roll percentile dice. On a roll of 01 the red and bloated sun goes out.

Every time a new sentient creature discovers this item, the cycle begins anew. Even creatures unable to read are affected, because the art is stunning!

EDITS: The Brick of Pleasure and Death is even larger now, as its goals stretch forth. As a result, it does an additional 1d16 damage when it falls upon a target. As its goals stretch farther and farther, this damage may increase!

When the Brick of Pleasure and Death falls on a target, half the gold carried by the target disappears, absorbed into the Brick and never to be seen again. There are those fated to meet the Brick, who suffer this loss months before the Brick actually drops. These are known as Backers of the Brick. (With thanks to Jason Menard!)

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Once More Into the Breach

Maybe you have seen this meme floating around. Maybe you have come across it as a reaction to the dumpster fire that is the New New TSR's public relations. And I put that mildly. 

So here I go. Again.

There is a limit to tolerance, but the argument in the meme suggests that the only solution to intolerance is to be equally intolerant. Intolerance, like tolerance, occurs on a spectrum. It isn't necessary, or even desirable, to tolerate too much of it, but it is far more desirable to help the intolerant join the tolerant than it is to just thrust them outside the protection of the law.

It is also notable that, when we look at something like speech (or any other rights, for that matter), allowing people to have those rights when you disagree with them - ESPECIALLY when you disagree with them - is the only thing that safeguards those same rights when they disagree with you.

And let's be clear - if you lose a right when it is inconvenient, it was never a right to begin with. It was always just the illusion of a right. Rights are tested by the worst case scenarios, not the best.

And, Crom on His Mountain, when you start trying to silence other people, it always ends up with your being silenced. Always. Every. Bloody. Time.

Sorry. I think Karl Popper (at least as translated by this meme!) is way off-base here. There is a large difference between some sheltered idiot who is afraid of people different than themselves and Adolf Hitler. When you begin to equate the two, you join the list of people who have decided that they have the right to change people's beliefs by force.

That is not something that I can tolerate.

For instance, I have no desire to be associated with the New Coke TSR, but that doesn't mean that I think their attitudes should put them outside the law.

Their actions might cause them legal troubles. They are very likely to cause them financial troubles. But someone being a transphobe should not mean that they wind up in prison ("outside the law") for their beliefs.

Being tolerant of the intolerant doesn't mean giving their ideas a chance. It means giving them a chance to evolve better ideas.

Intolerant actions, of course, are a whole different thing. And that does include attempts to encourage others to intolerant action.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Context and Player Responsibility

I was involved in a recent reddit thread, which was related to a situation where a GM allowed a vampire (I presume PC) to be murdered as the other PCs stood around in shock and did nothing. I am of the opinion, unequivocally, that the GM did nothing wrong in the situation as described. 

The gist of it was this: The PCs decided to intimidate a group that they didn't realize were expert vampire hunters. Then they decided to threaten them with their vampire friend. Although the details are not given, I picture the result like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer while the other players stood by and did nothing. The GM then expressed regret that they didn't make the consequences/context clear enough to the players before they decided to act rashly.

I have written a long piece about Context, Choice, and Consequence, which you can find here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). There is no doubt that the GM's job is to provide context for choices, but the question is: Whose job is it to determine if there is enough context to make a choice?  In other words, if the players make assumptions about the situation, is it up to them to check their assumptions, or is it up to the GM to ensure that their assumptions are correct?

I argue that this is part of the players' game. A role-playing game contains both informed and uninformed decisions. It is not always easy to tell which is which (which is why rumor tables often contain false or misleading information). Part of play is trying to figure out how much you know. There is a reason why divination spells exist.

There is also a big difference between an informed decision that is a sort of "devil's choice" (hazards all ways) and one where there is clearly a "right choice". If there is a "right choice", and the players uncover it through their actions, then finding it and utilizing it is their victory. If there is a "right choice" and the GM warns them every time they choose something different, then the players might as well not play through those events. The GM can just narrate the choice they are "supposed to" make and move on. In short, providing this sort of context is just another form of railroading, which removes agency from the players involved.

So, yes, a lot of this post is just my Reddit comments with slight reworking or additions. Here we go.



If you want the players to learn that thuggish tactics work unless you tell them otherwise, by all means make sure that you telegraph when they should tread lightly. If you want the players to learn to think before acting, continue to allow the natural consequences of ill-considered action to occur.

It is not the GM's job to make sure that the players understand who any particular NPCs are. It is the players' job. The GM's job is to ensure that the means to figure it out exist.

This is no different than their being thuggish in their tactics and not helping their friend. It isn't the GM's job to adjust things to their tactics. It is their job to adjust their tactics to what they are facing.

Now, there were some disagreements, as happens. In particular, the claim was made that this position encouraged murderhoboism and harbors mismatched game expectations. 

Muderhoboism

Players being required to think before they act are not encouraged to be murderhobos. Quite the opposite. Allowing players to assume that they can simply murder anyone they meet  encourages murderhoboism.

The GM is under no obligation to tell the players which NPCs they can successfully murder and which they cannot before combat begins. In fact, doing so reinforces murderhoboing. I don't know if that can be overstated.

Mismatched Game Expectations

Likewise, mismatched expectations are a result of expecting the game milieu to adapt to you, rather than expecting play to adapt to the situations you encounter.

This doesn't assume that the players and the GM will come to the same conclusion about a specific situation. It assumes that it is the player's responsibility to draw conclusions and act accordingly. What the GM wants, does not want, or expects has nothing to do with it. If the players come up with a way to completely and utterly defeat what the GM had imagined was going to be a major challenge - good for them! We will discuss this again in reference to player agency later.

Likewise, it is the player's responsibility to seek out information. It is not the GM's responsibility to hand it to them on a platter. Not surprisingly, if a player doesn't realize that committing murder has consequences, the root cause is either

(1) the GM never enforces rational consequences, or

(2) the player really isn't thinking things through.

In case (1), yes, the GM is to blame. Because consequences are not "obfuscated"; they are pretty direct. Otherwise it is entirely on the players involved.

The GM might want to ensure that he communicated that a chasm was 100' across before the thief tries to jump across it, but the GM is not obligated to remind the thief that they can't make that jump. That decision is made by the player. Not pointing out that the thief cannot possibly make that jump (barring magic or some unusual circumstances) is not obfuscating information, and it is not failure to communicate.

The disagreement is not about whether or not the players know there will be consequence; it is about whether or not they should know what those consequences will be before they act.

If you are playing a traditional role-playing game, you can examine things like the combat rules to know how absurd it would be to expect fully informed decisions. If you decide to attack, you do not know whether or not you will hit until you roll. You do not know how much damage you do (if you hit) until you roll (in most games). The game itself is designed to prevent you from knowing the outcome.

(Including the GM. They may know AC, attack modifiers, damage range, hit points, etc., but they are not omniscient. They don't know how things will play out until the dice hit the table - in some games moreso than in others!)

The same thing goes for skill checks. Checking for traps does not necessarily mean finding traps. Trying to climb a wall does not mean that you will even be able to start, let alone offer a guarantee that you will not fall.

The GM's job is to provide the context for choices made by the players. The players' job is to make choices (including seeking out more context). The GM then determines the consequences of the choices (either through die rolls or some other method), creating the new context for the next set of choices.

It is, emphatically, not the GM's job to determine whether or not the players understand the situation outside of information their characters have. It is the job of the players to decide how much context they need. If they feel they do not have enough context, the game is full of ways to gain more. Asking questions and proceeding cautiously is just the most obvious.

None of this means that the GM cannot add context without player input; but it is emphatically NOT unfair if the GM does not.

The GM does not have to remind you that a dungeon might have traps, or that your roll to check for them might have failed, or tell you that opening the door will release a spear trap that might kill you.

I am not a child. I do not need you to hold my hand.

Player Agency

If the GM believes that players need their hands to be held, and does not enforce rational consequences for player choices, then that GM will need to warn about consequences, repeatedly and often.

On the other hand, if the GM believes that their players do not need to have their hands held, then enforcing consequences for decisions allows the players to take responsibility for their own actions, for good or ill.

Both are self-fulfilling propositions. The first GM will need to continue hand-holding; the second GM will not. In both cases, it is the actions (or lack thereof) of the GM that sets expectations for the players. Of course players are going to be shocked if the GM holds their hands again and again and suddenly does not. Of course the players are going to assume that their might be consequences before they act if they have encountered that in the past.

I am not saying that one group of players is better than the other. I am saying that the GM of the first group is artificially preventing their players from reaching their full potential. Literally, the GM is robbing the players of agency by ensuring that their choices align with the GM's expectations before they can be resolved.

If, as a player, I said I tried to open a chest, and the GM stopped me and told me that it might be a mimic, then when I failed to search the room stopped me and told me that I might be missing some treasure or a secret door, I would not want to keep playing in that game. The player gets to make decisions, and the player owns the consequences for those decisions, for good or for ill. So what if I missed the treasure? So what if the mimic killed me? At least the outcome was based on the choices that I had made.

And, maybe next time, I would prod a suspicious chest with a 10-foot pole before opening it. Or maybe I would defeat the mimic against all odds, or be able to open a dialogue with it. And, if so, or if I found that treasure or secret door, the victory would be mine. Because my choices mattered. Because my reading the situation and realizing that I needed more context mattered. I am actually playing the game.

Paradoxically, the GM who prevents you from failing also prevents you from succeeding. After all, success is only success because failure is possible. The GM who prevents you from making bad choices by layering on information until you make the choice they want you to is really just playing your character for you.

In the end, that isn't why we play these games, is it?

What the Players and the GM Know

Some people will argue that the players only know what the GM tells them. This is patently untrue in most game systems.

Unless the world/system is completely different, the players know that there will be trees, and horses, and rabbits, and a sky. They know that there will be people, and that those people will usually behave to one degree or another like people behave.

They will know that stabbing a creature with a sword does not generally improve its health. They will know, from the rules, what kind of creatures they might encounter (at least to some degree), how magic or technology works (at least to some degree), etc.

They will have a basic understanding of gravity and other laws of physics, from their own experience and from the rules. A PC might be able to survive a greater fall than would be likely in the real world, or defeat creatures in single combat that one would not expect a real person to succeed against, but the rules will make these things clear...or at least clearish.

If you can buy a sword, that not only implies that swords exist, but that creators of swords exist, and that sellers of swords exist. Indeed, the players know a great deal about the world before they sit at the table for the first game session.

They know the general picture. What they do not know are the details. Some details they will learn as they go on. Some will remain forever hidden. Some the GM will tell them upfront ("Beyond the door is a 30-foot square room with a chest near the center of the room") and others they must discover through their actions (the secret door in the far wall, the treasure buried beneath a loose flagstone, that the chest is a mimic).

Likewise, the GM is not omniscient. Until the PCs lay their plans, and the dice hit the table, the GM definitely knows more about the situation. But no one knows how the situation is going to unfold. Some GMs will fudge die rolls and change monster hit points in order to control the outcome. I have written a lot about this topic. I don't think I need to rehash it again.

One of the joys of a swingy system like Dungeon Crawl Classics is that I never know how an adventure - or even an encounter - is going to play out. Comparing this to a "finely balanced" game that relies on GM fudging to provide the balance, and I definitely prefer the Chaos of a finely unbalanced engine of adventure!

Player Intelligence

By and large, players are not stupid, and do not need to be treated like children.

It is the hand-holding GM who imagines their players foolish, not the GM who allows them to take responsibility for themselves. Players by and large adapt to the GM. If the GM hand-holds, they will adapt their strategies to take that into account. If the GM does not, they will likewise take that into account and behave accordingly.

Players are smart. They are going to play intelligently the vast majority of the time. The GM who thinks they need to handhold their players or those players will not be able to know there are consequences for rash actions is the one who imagines that they have stupid players. If your players are unable to play intelligently, it is because they are faced with a game that does not require intelligent play, or that rewards dumb play. 

That is not the fault of the players. That is firmly the fault of the GM.

Conclusion

In one video game analogy made in the reddit thread, the players are mashing buttons without trying to find out what they do beforehand, and ignoring the consequences of what mashing those buttons do. This is not the GM's fault. At all.

And the GM in the original post didn't simply decide what was "going to happen". There were plenty of opportunities for the dice or player choices to change the outcome. Again, this speaks to how the GM is not omniscient. 

Those who imagine that because the players try the "I intimidate" button and it doesn't work, they should just keep mashing it, and either the GM is supposed to tell them it isn't going to work or just make it work to match player expectations would certainly be surprised in any game I run.

The NPCs in the OP didn't just jump out of nowhere and kill the PCs. There was an interaction. There was communication. The players did not pick up on it. When it became a fight, what was happening was also communication. The players still did not pick up on it. None of that is the GM's fault.

Frankly, if the elite vampire hunters in the OP didn't do something about the PCs willfully consorting with - and threatening them with! - the undead, the GM let them off extremely lightly.

And that, maybe, is the GM's fault.



Sunday, 20 June 2021

The Greatest Lizard People of Them All!


Forget the Sleestaks. Forget the Gorn.

Statting out these lesser creatures is, of course, nothing more than preparation for statting out the greatest group of reptile folk that science fiction has ever known. In 1970, the Silurians appeared for the first time on Doctor Who. They would appear again in Warriors of the Deep in 1984, and in the new Doctor Who series over the course of a number of stories, beginning with the two part The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood. The Silurians encountered in these stories represent three distinct species, with different abilities.

In addition to that, 1972 gave us the first appearance of the aquatic Sea Devils, close relatives of the land-based Silurians. The Sea Devils would appear again in Warriors of the Deep, which was, at the time of this writing, their final appearance in televised Doctor Who.

Silurians have domesticated, or partially domesticated, many types of dinosaur and prehistoric reptile. Statistics for pterodactyls can be found in the core rulebook. Statistics for several types of dinosaur can be found in The Mysterious Valley in D.A.M.N. #1 and in the Hhaaashh-Lusss, Lord Duke of Reptiles entry in Angels, Daemons, & Beings Between. Stats for dinosaurs can be found in several other DCC products.

Type I Silurians


Type I Silurians appear in Doctor Who and the Silurians. They are bipedal reptiles with three eyes. They are intelligent, having been able to create hibernation pods which allowed them to survive millions of years as well as a deadly plague. Although slow and clumsy, they are strong, and have a third eye which allows them to communicate telepathically, dominate weaker minds, and make psionic attacks. The third eye could also be used to activate and deactivate  Silurian technologies, such as force fields.

Domination: Treat as a charm person spell cast using 1d16+3 for the spell check. There is no chance for corruption, misfire, or patron taint. Silurians can dominate reptiles with animal-level intelligence or less without a check.

Psionic Attack: The Silurian can target a single creature within 20'. The creature must make a Will save. The result of the Will save determines the effect of the attack: (1 or less) the target creature takes 2d6 damage and is knocked unconscious for 1d6 hours if it survives; (2-5) the creature is rendered unconscious for 1d6 turns; (6-10) the creature takes 1d6 points of temporary Personality damage, which recovers at a rate of 1 point per minute, and is stunned and unable to act for 1d3 rounds; (11-15) the creature takes 1d3 points of Personality damage, which recovers at a rate of 1 point per round, and is stunned for 1 round; (16-20) the target is stunned for 1 round; (21 or better) the target is unaffected.

(Extended media has suggested that Type I Silurians are merely a "scholar caste", but this seems unlikely to me.)

Silurian (Type I): Init -4; Atk claw +0 melee (1d3) or domination or psionic attack; AC 12; HD 1d8+2; MV 25’; Act 1d20; SP infravision 60', telepathy, domination, psionic attack; SV Fort +4, Ref -4, Will +5; AL L.

Type II Silurians

Seen only in Warriors of the Deep, where they had made an alliance with the Sea Devils, Type II Silurians lack the ability to make psionic attacks. Their ability to dominate only applies to reptiles of animal intelligence or lower. They are otherwise quite similar to Type I Silurians, except that they are quicker and better armored.

It should be noted that Type I and II Silurians, as well as Sea Devils, show no mammalian traits whatsoever, and we cannot assume that any character we see is male or female. This is not true for other reptilian species in the Doctor Who universe that have appeared on-screen. Type III Silurians, Ice Warriors, and Draconians have all showed semi-mammalian sexual dimorphism

Silurian (Type II): Init +0; Atk claw +1 melee (1d3) or domination; AC 15; HD 1d8+3; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP infravision 60', telepathy, domination; SV Fort +5, Ref +0, Will +3; AL L.

Type III Silurians

With new series Doctor Who two-part story, The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood, we were introduced to a third type of Silurian. This one was well armed and armored, fast, and was clearly semi-mammalian in its biology (at least in terms of sexual dimorphism). 

After their initial story, these Silurians appeared tangentially in stories like Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, The Pandorica Opens, A Good Man Goes to War, and others. Eventually, we would see multiple appearances by Madame Vastra, who was rescued by the Doctor when work on the London Underground disturbed her hibernation with tragic results.

These Silurians have a prehensile tongue which can strike targets up to 20' away. They have venom sacks which they can choose to use with their tongue attack (but do not have to).

The first venom requires a DC 15 Fort save to avoid falling unconscious for 1d6 minutes. Even success on this save leaves a human-sized target stunned and unable to act for 1 round. At the judge's discretion, large creatures may or may not be affected.

The second venom is mutagenic in humans. Anyone struck must succeed in a DC 20 Reflex save to avoid being poisoned. Failure causes 1d3 points of temporary Stamina damage. Every hour thereafter, the victim must succeed in a DC 10 Fort save or take additional temporary Stamina damage: 1d4 on the first failed save, 1d5 on the second, 1d6 on the third, and so on up the dice chain. Although this Stamina damage heals normally, without some form of treatment the victim will die.

Silurian (Type III): Init +2; Atk strike +2 melee (1d3) or tongue +3 ranged (venom) or energy weapon +4 ranged (2d6); AC 13; HD 1d8+2; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP infravision 120', prehensile tongue, venom; SV Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +2; AL L.

Madame Vastra, Silurian Detective: Init +3; Atk strike +2 melee (1d3) or tongue +3 ranged (venom) or by weapon +5 ranged (by weapon); AC 14; HD 3d8+6; hp 20; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP infravision 120', prehensile tongue, venom; SV Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +7; AL L.

(Madame Vastra's wife, Jenny Flint, is a 3rd level Thief. The third member of the Paternoster Gang, Strax, is a Sontaran. Providing statistics for them is beyond the scope of this blog post.)


Sea Devils

The classic serials The Sea Devils and Warriors of the Deep provided Doctor Who fans with their only glimpses of these aquatic cousins of the Silurians. Like the Silurians, they are masters of technology, including genetic engineering and sonic weaponry.  A
lthough Sea Devils are not fully amphibious - they are air-breathers, like sea turtles - they are able to function underwater without breathing for hours. Armored Sea Devils gain a +2 bonus to AC and a -5' penalty to their movement speed (-10' when swimming).
Sea Devil: Init +0; Atk claw +0 melee (1d3) or sonic weapon +4 ranged (2d6); AC 12 or 14; HD 1d6+2; MV 25’ (or 20') or swim 40' (or 30'); Act 1d20; SP semi-aquatic; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +3; AL L.

Myrka

Warriors of the Deep
also introduced the Myrka, a hexapodal sea creature that had been genetically engineered by the Silurians and/or Sea Devils. It had two semi-manipulative arms, four legs, and a long tail. Although clumsy, and frankly silly-looking, on land, it was very graceful in the water.

The Myrka's thick hide allows it to ignore the first 5 points of damage from any source. In addition, it can generate electrical attacks that can strike targets in either a cone 30' long with a 30' base, or in a 30' radius completely around the creature. This attack does 2d6 damage (or 3d6 damage if wearing metal armor); Fort DC 15 for half. It is only able to use this attack with a 1 in 5 chance each round.

The Myrka has only animal-level intelligence, making it easily dominated by Type I or II Silurians.

Myrka: Init +0; Atk bite +0 melee (1d6) or electrical attack; AC 14; HD 5d8+10; MV 20’ or swim 60'; Act 1d20; SP infravision 120', DR 5; electrical attacks; SV Fort +10, Ref -5, Will +0; AL N.



Fully appropriate for both your DCC and MCC games!

Grendel's Father

In the epic poem Beowulf, the monster Grendel and his unnamed mother are prominent. Details about these monsters are scanty. Although Grendel appears in The Nexus of Yule, the second adventure in Perils of the Cinder Claws, this is just one interpretation of the monster. Being Father's Day, I thought I might take a stab at creating a version of "Grendel's Father" that fits both with the epic poem, and which could be used in a Dungeon Crawl Classics game.

Angar, son of Ormgeld, is a descendent of the Biblical Cain, Nigh-immortal, save for injury, he is the father of not only Grendel, but many other quasi-humanoid, quasi-giant monsters. Grendel is the child of his dalliance with a fallen Valkyrie of the Warrior Horde of the Einherjar. Like Grendel, Angar is a "creature of darkness, exiled from happiness and accursed of God, the destroyer and devourer of our human kind". Unlike Grendel, Angar gains no joy from culling the unworthy from the ranks of living warriors; Grendel gets that aspect from his mother. Angar wanders the world, siring new monsters and seeking the grace of a death he has long been denied. Although death-seeking, the son of Ormgeld is not suicidal, and will use all of his might and cunning to bring his foes low. If he is eventually slain, though, it is with a smile. The Father of Grendel laughs with joy upon receiving the death-blow.

The Father of Grendel is a giant of a man, standing 12 feet tall and covered with thick horny scales as strong as steel. He has a Deed Die, like that of a warrior, which is used primarily to throw opponents. If wounded, he goes berserk, gaining an extra Action Die and increasing his attack rolls and damage by +2. He regenerates 3 hp per round so long as he has even 1 hp left. His Action Dice are d24s, and he gains a critical hit on a roll of 20-24, using Table G.

Angar, Son of Ormgeld, Father of Grendel: Init +3; Atk giant club +1d7+4 melee (1d8+1d7+4) or buffet +1d7+4 melee (1d4+1d7+4); AC 20; HD 5d16+10; hp 50; MV 40’; Act 1d24 (or 2d24); SP infravision 60', Deed Die, berserk when wounded, regenerate 3/round, crit as giant; SV Fort +8, Ref +3, Will +5; AL C.

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!

Thanks to generous supporters, the stretch goal I'm writing was unlocked! Thank you all!

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.


EDIT: This was post 666 on this blog.

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 patron...one 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 Malévols...giving 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.