Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 7

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 7: Adventures and Settings , was written by Steven Bean, Eric Betts, Daniel J. Bishop, Jarret Crader, Terra Frank, and Gabriel Pérez Gallardi. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, Shawn Brewer, Dan Domme, Gabriel Pérez Gallardi, Christian Kessler, SGT Dave, Matt Sutton, Shyloh Wideman, and Clayton Williams. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Disclosure: I wrote a submission in this volume.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium. Volume 7 does not follow this theme, but rather contains content similar to what we've seen in previous years.

Crypt of the Lost Hyms: This adventure, by Gabriel Pérez Gallardi (cartography and symbology by Christian Kessler), revisits Ur-Hadad, the titular city of Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad. The adventure isn't long, so I will try not to do anything to spoil it. Suffice to say, knowledge of the Metal Gods will go a long way.

“In the vast windswept plains North of Ur-Hadad, the First City of Men, a lonely barrow is the only landmark for many miles around.”

How to Win Friends and Influence People, DCC Style: In this article, Jarret Crader gives you tricks, tips, and support for running Dungeon Crawl Classics in public venues.

Bloody Hound: Steven Bean supplies a new class for Nowhere City Nights. The Bloody Hound is the film noir detective recast through a Nowhere City Nights lens.

Rules and Skills for Detective Work in Nowhere City Nights: And then Steven Bean supplies the rules you need to make use of that class. Taken together, you have the makings of a detective in any sort of urban DCC environment.

The Lost Patrol: A Zero-Level Funnel for Trench Crawl Classics: There are a lot of flavors of Dungeon Crawl Classics available now. You can crawljam, crawl under a broken moon, visit Drongo or the Purple Planet, crawl with mutants, or play noir-style characters with magic. This adventure, by Eric Betts, takes you into World War II with more than a dash of the occult.

Your infantry group, the 1023rd Rifle Regiment, has been attacking into Romania striking toward Hitler’s oil fields...or so the rumors say. You are not really sure where you are, just that you arrived by truck less than two weeks ago and have been marching and fighting since. Mostly, fighting consists of running for cover when German artillery starts to blow your fellow soldiers apart. Three days ago, the regiment stopped on this rise and you dug the trench you’ve been living in since. It is miserable, but at least you have a place to hide from the artillery.

Trench Crawl Classics: Eric Betts supplies the rules you need to leap into occult World War II action, using Dungeon Crawl Classics. Also recommended are the firearms rules from Crawl #8. In this case, the PCs are conscripts in the Red Army, but it would be easy enough to expand. Notably, there are no new classes described - the occult is real, and your PC might well end up a cleric or wizard!

The Vampire, Returned: Author Terra Frank provides a series of tables for creating unique vampires. These do not create statblocks, but they do provide the nature of the creature you would then stat up.

Thirteen Brides of Blood: Finally, the issue ends with a zero-level funnel by Daniel J. Bishop, with artwork by Shawn Brewer and cartography by Shyloh Wideman. I mention this because the adventure was largely written to use existing cartography, supplied by Shyloh Wideman over the G+ DCC community. Without his support and enthusiasm, it wouldn't have happened!

Vampires haunt the land! Erasmus Cordwainer Blood has existed for countless centuries, feeding off the villages closest to his hidden lair almost as a form of sport. Usually, his victims are those who remain out beyond the setting of the sun, lone travellers, or the inhabitants of isolated farmsteads. Once every seven years, though, villagers from number of nearby communities simply disappear. It is said, in hushed whispers, that Blood has taken them to feed his Brides.

Get It Here!

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 6

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 6: Men and Magic, was written by Randy Andrews, Terra Frank, Keith Nelson, James Pozenel, Jr., SGT Dave, Andrew Sternick, R.S. Tilton. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, Matt Sutton, Clayton Williams, and William McAusland. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium. Volume 6 breaks from this theme, and is in many ways similar to what we've seen in previous years.

This volume is broken down into four sections: New Classes, New Magic Items, New Rules for Weapons, and New Tables. Let's take a look.

New Classes

Dwarf Sapper: Not everyone is satisfied with non-humans having only specific "race as class" archetypes, and a number of variants have appeared since the inception of Dungeon Crawl Classics. Here, Keith Nelson offers a dwarf whose specialty is "scouting out the enemy and clearing the way for the dwarven clansmen who care for naught but gold and glory." This class has a bit of fighting prowess, a fair bit of thievery, and the ability to create alchemical items that might help light the way...or blow it up.

The Invincible Chicken: Your last 0-level farmer has bitten the dust...but his chicken has survived. Everyone else is leveling their surviving PCs. What do you do? Fear not, for Randy Andrews has provided a surprisingly playable answer! You play the chicken!

Orc and Half-Orc Classes and Orc Berserker: There are mentions of orcs in The Hobbit, and, of course, they play a major role in The Lord of the Rings. Orcs also have a long history in gaming. In The Lord of the Rings, half-orcs are bred by Saruman (and, for this, as for so many other things, curl up with the books rather than the movies), and half-orcs appear in the 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook.

Author Andrew Sternick offers a combined orc and half-orc class (both options have things to differentiate them, though), and statblocks for orc berserkers: "orcs (or half-orcs) whose minds have been so eroded by battle-fury that they are no longer capable of even the minimum of self-control necessary to participate in orcish society."

For another take on orcs, see Crawl #5.

Paladin of Gambrinus, “Bungstarter of the Faithful”: Keith Nelson's probably (but not mandatorily) inebriated paladin, with a "deep, almost fanatical reverence and commitment to the power of the holy trinity of water, grain, and hops", is a playable class option for a holy warrior who has, possibly, had a bit too much to drink. The paladin has his own disapproval table, with entries like "Beset with a general feeling of love for their fellow man, the paladin is at -1 to actions until they spend 5 minutes extolling the virtues of how great people/things/activities are." and "Melancholic introspection. The paladin is overcome with intense sorrow and begins weeping inconsolably for 1 turn. -1 to all actions for an hour as they continue to burst into tears at the slightest pretext."

New Magic Items

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Author James A. Pozenel, Jr. offers four unique magic items: Pipes of the Nuclear Chaos, the Thunderous Book of Agrizaneus, the Ring of Gibdit the Great, and the Icon of St. Bhlad. These are all good, flavorful items, which have drawbacks commensurate to their power levels.

The Mad Merchant’s Treasures: Kevin White and Shyloh Wideman offer four magical treasures that have been touched by the chaos of Pandemonium, and which therefore have some significant drawbacks. These are an ornate helmet called Tenophar, the Compelling; a hooded cloak known as Nellia, the Lonesome Surface Dweller; that beer stein which sages name Bethyl, the Maltlord; and the elven walking stick hight Harrah, the Flowering Vine.

Mors Mercator: Clayton Williams describes "a wandering NPC that pulls a wagon of
wonders, wares, and weird things filled with objects she collects as she travels through rifts in time, space, and dimensional planes." She is a lover of riddles, and there are extensive tables not only of what you might win, but also of what price you might pay if you do not. Importantly, sample riddles are also provided.

New Rules for Weapons

Weapon Variants: If you want a broadsword, katana, or scimitar, R.S. Tilton has you covered. Not only are the base stats given for these weapons, but weapon-based Mighty Deed tables are included (with the critical failure/success system from Marzio Muscedere's excellent Steel and Fury). Finally, the article includes the unique magic sword, Hellblade.

New Tables

SGT Dave’s Table of Books: A d100 table for books that might be found in a library, including some with magical abilities (filed under Traps & Curses). Titles include Sweedle's Guide to Household Mutagens, Necrowrathaconicon ex Secundus (considered the best of the Necronomicon sequels), and Read Between the Lines: The Layman’s Guide to Demonic Pacts, Long-term Leases, and other Civil Contracts.

d60 Primitive Names: From Creb to Zara, Terra Frank provides a quick table of names appropriate for your primitive gaming. Include an extra syllable for "child of", "friend of", "enemy of" or "servant of". If you are playing Frozen in Time, The Tribe of Ogg and the Gift of Suss, or The Caves of the Sacred Seven from Dungeon Lord #1, you just might find this useful!

Finally, the volume is finished by two pages of 0-Level PC Record Sheets, created by Billy Longino.

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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 5

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 5: Monsters and Patrons of Pandemonium, was written by Jim Kitchen, Colin Mills, Aaron Robinson, Richard Rush, SGT Dave, Penny and Dylan Spaniel, and Clayton Williams. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, Shawn Brewer, Larissa Caplan, Colin Mills, Aaron Robinson, SGT Dave, Dylan Spaniel, Matt Sutton, and Clayton Williams. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium.

"Awash in the roiling seas of phlogiston, home to alien horrors and unknown powers, the ever-changing lands of Pandemonium remain a mystery to even the most powerful of wizards and sorcerers. Few explorers choose to travel the chaos-way, and even fewer return. To most, Pandemonium is a myth, an impossible place where the land and sky are all mutable, where the land itself can be an ally or foe, and where a powerful will can transform reality." - Harley Stroh

Let's look inside.

Agents of Egris: Author Aaron Robinson describe the warped and disfigured creatures that had one been mortals in the Cult of Egris. These Agents often enhance "their own anatomy with the diabolical, bio-mechanical devices bestowed upon them by their overlord as favours. These augmentations often take the form of strange, bird-like appendages and limbs; tributes to the avian form of their tyrannical overlord."

Amplexator: Clayton Williams offers a strange creature which is attracted to light, which seem to be a very strange take on the traditional lurker above. This creature is described as being "found in the first level of Pandemonium, Pandesmos", which suggests a planar cosmology somewhat different than what is suggested in Volume 1, but, then, Pandemonium is Chaos itself, so who is to say?

Sofa Siren: And then you see your grandmother sitting on the sofa. She pats the seat. "Sit down and relax". But this isn't really your grandmother. It is a sofa siren, Penny and Dylan Spaniel's  "ancient shapeshifters having a common ancestry with similar creatures that surround themselves in treasure awaiting careless adventurers to greedily stumble into their traps." Delightfully, there is a d24 table for items if you search the body (something has always fallen under the cushions!).

Culmenthdor, the Sundered: Author Colin Mills supplies a complete patron write-up for Culmenthdor, the Sundered.

"Culmenthdor was once a being of curious power, any creature he mortally wounded became part of him, increasing his strength, mass, and abilities. Consumed by an interminable bloodlust, Culmenthdor burned through the planes, devouring all in his way, until his existence proved to be a threat to powers far greater than he.

The ancient gods found that Culmenthdor could only be permanently reduced in power by separating parts of his mass from his main body. In an act which sent ripples of planar distortions cascading through the cosmos, Culmenthdor was rent into atomic pieces and scattered to the stars. The threat he posed effectively removed for the time being, Culmenthdor passed from memory. Over time, Culmenthdor’s fragments have sought life, and the power to combine his pieces until he can return to consume once more."

New patrons are always nice to see, especially those which have been fully fleshed out. This patron might be more useful to the judge, but I can see greedy players, willing to gamble for power, bonding to this demon.

Blood Fang of Culmenthdor, the Sundered: A magical "dagger" linked to the level 3 patron
spell, Madness of Blood, and Culmenthdor's Invoke Patron results.

Manateecuhtli: Linked to The Swamp of the Oboline in Volume 3, "Manateecuhtli, It of the Hundred Heads of a Hundred Hands, furiously thrashes beneath the leaves of Harikag. It’s great bulk is the dark honey color of an unnatural bronze, and where a less fearsome being’s face and head would be is but a seething mass of luminous blue centipedes that periodically drop off and begin crafting engines of destruction. Manateecuhtli calls for any brave enough to submit to it to join its legion, which it spends carelessly upon whatever is currently the subject of its ire."

Author Richard Rush offers a full patron write-up. Manateecuhtli does not offer unique patron spells, however, but may teach specific spells from the core rulebook.

Quetzalcoautwalrus: Richard Rush then describes the Feathered Pinniped, which "gently floats beneath the boughs of the Harikag. Its skin fluctuates across each of the 89 colors of the 13 secret rainbows, and its feathered frill gently sways in the winds of time. Its massive tusks dangle, pointing to the root tree and the center of reality. It has always been, and will always be. It contemplates and ponders. It ruminates and incorporates. It knows nothing and understands all."

This being is also linked to The Swamp of the Oboline in Volume 3. A full patron write-up is included. Like Manateecuhtli, Quetzalcoautwalrus does not offer unique patron spells, but can teach specific spells from the core rulebook.

The Spawn of Skach: Author Jim Kitchen is not credited as an artist, so this may well be the only article in this volume which is not also illustrated by the (or, in the case of the Sofa Siren, one of the) writers (assuming SGT Dave is also the illustrator of his piece, below, which seems quite likely).

"As adventurers travel throughout Pandemonium their paths may take them to places unimaginable. In their journeys, they may encounter a random, dusty scroll lying untouched in a forgotten library, a simple beggar whispering to the wind, or the smoldering, burned out ruins of a razed village. It is only the most astute that will slowly grasp the implications of those scraps of ancient text, the raving babblings of a sensesshattered, shocked survivor, or the pitiful remains of formerly thriving civilizations. Once known there is no forgetting by any means imaginable one of the infinite planes’ oldest, deadliest, and most capricious of perils, the Spawn of Skach."

This would appear to be a long, good-natured, in-joke referring to Jim Skach, well known gamer, father of gamers, runner of Dungeon Crawl Classics and Mutant Crawl Classics, Old School Gamer, and editor of The Gongfarmer's Almanac. I would like to say whether the descriptions were accurate or not, but there are levels of cosmic horror I have yet to be subjected to....

EDIT: From Jim Skatch to the DCC G+ group:
It is less an in-joke and more an homage to the deadliness the characters of my children often display. They are smart. They are vicious. They can be relentless. And they do not like to lose.
I'm not sure how they got this way...
Two things: 1) +Jim Kitchen is simply an awesome person and I and my children are honored he would take the time and make the effort to do something like this, and 2) well-known...ha!

Flash and Twilight: The Princes Flash and Twilight, royal heirs to the King of the Light Elves, are presented as an alternate patron for elves ("the royal princes have little concern for the other, short-lived races of the world"). Author SGT Dave provides a complete patron write-up, including three patron spells.

In addition, artwork depicts 6 "Wandering Monster!"s scattered throughout the volume. Statistics are not provided, so if you create some of your own, please add them to the Comments section of this post, either directly or through a link to your blog or website!

There is also one piece of art "This is an Egress to Hell" that stands on its own.

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Monday, 16 October 2017

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 4

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 4: Pandemonium Setting: Dark Seas, was written by Paul Wolfe. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, Mez Toons, Paul Wolfe and Old Book Illustrations. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium.

"Awash in the roiling seas of phlogiston, home to alien horrors and unknown powers, the ever-changing lands of Pandemonium remain a mystery to even the most powerful of wizards and sorcerers. Few explorers choose to travel the chaos-way, and even fewer return. To most, Pandemonium is a myth, an impossible place where the land and sky are all mutable, where the land itself can be an ally or foe, and where a powerful will can transform reality." - Harley Stroh

This volume describes a single campaign setting, only nominal linked to Pandemonium. Apart from the excellent Zine Indexes by Jon Hershberger, I believe that this is the first Gongfarmer's Almanac volume produced that is the work of a single author. The material is described as a "DCC rip of Sunless Sea".

For those of us, including myself, not familiar with Sunless Sea, the author describes the setting thus:

"Far beneath a shattered world lies an underground ocean of unfathomable depths in perpetual night and crawling with ancient beasts. You are not heroes – you are sailors on a wine-dark sea, chasing the secrets of the past scribbled on ancient pages or scattered across a thousand fragments and running from the constant threat of madness. Captains of iron steamships cut across the Undersea armed with powerful carbide lamps, deck guns, and other weapons to ward off the night, as well as the creatures and pirates that lurk there. Beings of Stone, Salt, and Storm aid or hinder you, or laugh as your vessel sinks below the black waves. Out there somewhere – in the ports, ruins and wilds that cling to small rocky islands – are the formulae that could save humanity. Or doom them to lives of gibbering insanity."

This volume covers:

Optional Character Generation: Characters start penniless, only gain XP by learning and disclosing secrets, and choose allegiances to Salt, Stone, or Storm for alignment. You will need to read Appendix C to understand exactly how character generation has changed, though, and frankly should read all of the appendixes before proceeding with the adventure.

Betrayal at the Admiralty: A 0-level funnel for Dark Seas. Characters begin play press-ganged into service, but quickly assume greater responsibility on the steamship Queen’s Sword. Secrets lurk in every cranny of the ship and on every darkened rock that clings to uncertainty. Will the characters find out who threatens the Admiralty and Londonia’s sovereignty?

Judges are warned to dive into the appendixes of this volume before tackling the adventure. The adventure is flavorful, though, and does an excellent job of evoking the feel of the setting.

Locations on the Undersea: Short, evocative descriptions of places PCs may visit, with both a judge's and a players' hexmap. Paul Wolfe has done a very good job providing the flavor of each area, as well as the details that will allow a good judge to bring it to life. XP in Dark Seas works via secrets, so the author gives you plenty of examples!

Appendix M: NPCs or...So, What's the Mystery?: This appendix is really part of the adventure, but the Crime and Motive portion may be useful for judges crafting future mysteries.

Appendx C: Creating Characters: The author writes "Character creation for the Dark Seas campaign is generally the same as any DCC RPG game", but there are enough differences that this should have been a section before the adventure. Certainly, the judge will need to understand and communicate the changes to his players.

All PCs start with a contact and an initial secret ("something that the character knows that drives them to seek out more dangerous knowledge"), which replace the typical Lucky roll (birth augur) from the Dungeon Crawl Classics core rulebook. Race is separated from class, and saving throws change. While the changes to saves are mostly cosmetic, the ability to choose the highest of two stats to modify saves and the inclusion of a Terror save are significant.

Appendix S: Steamships: "Though 0-level characters start out as simple crew — often attempting to survive their first mission to uncover secrets for someone more powerful than they — upon gaining 1st level, the party receives its own steamship." 

The rules for steamships are simple, intuitive, and evocative. Importantly, terror plays a part in these rules, as does resource management, and these two elements influence each other. Eventually, someone is going to put together a naval guide for Dungeon Crawl Classics, and hopefully elements from this issue, as well as Tales From the Fallen Empire and Crawl! #11 are considered.

Appendix W&E: Weapons & Equipment: "Dark Seas is set in a fantasy Victorian/Lovecraftian post-apocalyptic place where society has retreated underground to a vast, unfathomable sea. Equip accordingly." The inclusion of Heavy damage, and fairly extensive tables for goods and cargo, are definitely welcome.

"Some targets such as ships, giant creatures, and the like, can only be damaged by heavy damage. If a character or other relatively normal-sized creature is struck by a weapon that deals heavy damage, the damage dice are trebled. Normal firearms may harm creatures that can only be injured by heavy damage — each 10 points of normal damage deals 1 point of damage to a giant sea creature. Ships and other vehicles may not be harmed by normal firearms."

The issue is rounded off with a Sample Steamship sheet, and two pages of "two-up" Dark Seas character sheets, suitable for 0-level play. Having one of these pages be a regular Dark Seas character sheet would have been ideal, but the way the pages lay in the print spread allows you to photocopy any number of four-character sheets for an introductory funnel.

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 3

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 3: Pandemonium Locations, Part 2, was written by Steven Bean, Hector Cruz, Danny Prescott, Richard Rush, and Nick Serluco. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, Clayton Williams, and William McAusland. Cartography is by Steven Bean, Marc Bruner, Hector Cruz, Michael Jones, and Harley Stroh. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium.

"Awash in the roiling seas of phlogiston, home to alien horrors and unknown powers, the ever-changing lands of Pandemonium remain a mystery to even the most powerful of wizards and sorcerers. Few explorers choose to travel the chaos-way, and even fewer return. To most, Pandemonium is a myth, an impossible place where the land and sky are all mutable, where the land itself can be an ally or foe, and where a powerful will can transform reality." - Harley Stroh

This volume describes more of the hexes of Pandemonium. Let's look inside.

The Quagmire of Endless Malice: Written by Steven Bean as "A Pandemonium Hex for 5-6 PCs of Levels 3-5", this has the distinction of being the only hex explicitly designed for a specific character level. The Quagmire has links to both Ahriman and Azi Dahaka, affixing it to the corpus of core DCC. The author also supplies a relatively unique experience (as of this writing) in DCC adventures - the chance to command a military force. Simple rules are provided, which could surely be used for other large-scale battles as well.

The Swamp of the Oboline: This hex, by Richard Rush, offers the "humid jungle swamps of the oboline are the dank and miserable home to Harikag, alleged to be a fecund avatar of the World-tree, and the two godlings Manateecuhtli and Quetzalcoautwalrus and their interminable, pointless conflict about which limp saplings growing in this forlorn place is actually Harikag." Information on the two godlings is found in Volume 5.This hex is a combination of squick and whimsy.

The Burnished Court: "The Burnished Court is both an entity and a location, being the physical nexus of the inquisitive chaotic immortal known as the Meniscus." Author Danny Prescott creates a prismatic mirror world, and gives a partial patron write-up for the Meniscus, including both invoke patron and Patron Taint results. The location stands out by being very different from the other Pandemonium hexes in this year's Gongfarmer's Almanac.

The Ichor Pits: A crater of sunken ichor pits, fiends, and un-dead creatures, by Nick Serluco, this hex is ruled by Ostorax the Gravehand. There is a magic sword, Valorsbane, which requires divine intervention or taking Ostorax as a patron to obtain. Unfortunately, patron information is not included....perhaps in 2018?

The Lost Tower of Talos: Finally, Hector Cruz introduces a hex which was once the realm of the Bleak Cabal, a group of wizards and clerics who worship Talos. Now it is a realm of "chaotic magic, spirits, strange creatures, and echoing chants" that emanate from the Lost Tower. With giant mushrooms, eerie lighting effects, and wandering spirits, the Lost Tower is also the home of a specific treasure hoard - it is nice that there is not only a reason why the PCs may wish to escape this hex, but also a reason why they may want to seek it out.

The sample hexes provided in the first three volumes of the 2017 edition of the Gongfarmer's Almanac whet the appetite for more. Given the infinite potential of Pandemonium, I hope to see more hexes in future years, both in the Almanac and elsewhere. Great work by everyone!

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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 2

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 2: Pandemonium Locations, Part I, was written by Marc Bruner, Jeff Goad, Keith Nelson, SGT Dave, Dan Steeby, and Harley Stroh. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, Patrick Regan, Clayton Williams, and William McAusland. Cartography is by Alden Bruner, Marc Bruner, Bobby Jackson, SGT Dave, and Shyloh Wideman. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium.

"Awash in the roiling seas of phlogiston, home to alien horrors and unknown powers, the ever-changing lands of Pandemonium remain a mystery to even the most powerful of wizards and sorcerers. Few explorers choose to travel the chaos-way, and even fewer return. To most, Pandemonium is a myth, an impossible place where the land and sky are all mutable, where the land itself can be an ally or foe, and where a powerful will can transform reality." - Harley Stroh

This volume describes some of the hexes of Pandemonium. Let's look inside.

The Big Rock Candy Mountains: If, like me, you enjoyed O Brother, Where Art Thou?, you might be expecting a different description of the Big Rock Candy Mountains! In Pandemonium, this is a form of Candyland where children become sugar thralls (or worse). Monsters resemble well-known children's games and confectionery treats, but author Jeff Goad displays a wickedly twisted sense of humor, and doesn't leave it at that. This hex could easily be used in conjunction with Faerie Tales From Unlit Shores, Perils of the Cinder Claws, or Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess.

The Big Festering Giant: Perhaps you think BFG stands for Big Friendly Giant? Perhaps not to be outdone by Jeff Goad in twisting childhood memories author Keith Nelson introduces the Big Festering Giant, a colossal near-corpse that you can squick about inside. This is actually a lovingly rendered text of a rather unlovely subject, and includes the rather interesting Among the Mite-Goblins on the Shores of Lake Urine: An Introductory Encounter to the BFG.

Monsters of the Big Festering Giant: Keith Nelson also includes "a brief selection of the mundane and bizarre inhabitants and active perils of the creature colloquially known as the Big Festering Giant, or BFG." A full dozen monsters are listed, some with varieties thereunto. Here are some encounters I worked on, which might also be usable in the BFG.

The Black Iron Citadel: Dan Steeby offers a scorched desert cavernscape, dominated by a "massive structure with the shape of a colossal humanoid form, seemingly crouching in a pitiful, cowering position, with massive arms thrown over its tusked face as in a final ward against its doom." This is the Black Iron Citadel, ruled by the demon prince Pazuzu. PCs may also meet his "supremely bored and petulant" daughter, Lilitu.

The Boreal Wastes: This hex, by Harley Stroh, with additional material by Marc Bruner, is exactly what it sounds like: a vast icy wasteland with enormous ice ridges and ruins half-buried in the snow and ice. Most of the hexes thus far have been based on twisted childhood themes or hellscapes, so the Boreal Wastes come as a nice change. I am left wondering whether some of this material was unused from the beginning of Journey to the Center of Áereth?

The Carousel of Doom:  This hex, "a mutated carnival of insanity, guilt, and agony" also deals with childhood themes. It also includes platypus cultists and marsupial face huggers, so a good time is sure to be had by all. If your players visit this hex of Pandemonium, be sure to thank SGT Dave, the writer, for delving into the Ruins of Make-believe.

The Forest of Nedra: Finally, Marc Bruner offers "A shadow land of grey twilight" existing "between states of reality, filled with objects both half-formed and those seemingly etched into the fabric of creation itself." A faerie-based hex, this has a Dark River that strongly reminds me of the enchanted stream through Mirkwood in The Hobbit. A portal could easily link this hex to Goblins of the Faerie Woods or the Goblin Market in Creeping Beauties of the Wood. Or both.

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The Gong Farmer's Almanac 2017 Vol 1

The 2017 Gongfarmer’s Almanac Volume 1: Welcome to Pandemonium was written by Julian Bernick, Marc Bruner, Keith Garrett, Gwendolyn Harper, Tony Hogard, and Harley Stroh. Artwork is by Doug Kovacs, Marc Radle, SGT Dave, Clayton Williams, William McAusland, David Lewis Johns and Jeff Brown, with thanks to Kevin Crawford, Sine Nomine Publishing, and Mantis image. Cartography is by Gwendolyn Harper, Jon Hershberger, Harley Stroh, and Shyloh Wideman. The publisher is the Gongfarmer's Local #282.

Unlike previous years' Gongfarmer's Almanacs, five volumes of the 2017 edition have an overarching theme - the roiling, ever-changing plane of Pandemonium.

"Awash in the roiling seas of phlogiston, home to alien horrors and unknown powers, the ever-changing lands of Pandemonium remain a mystery to even the most powerful of wizards and sorcerers. Few explorers choose to travel the chaos-way, and even fewer return. To most, Pandemonium is a myth, an impossible place where the land and sky are all mutable, where the land itself can be an ally or foe, and where a powerful will can transform reality." - Harley Stroh

Let's look inside.

Welcome to Pandemonium: Author Harley Stroh provides the basics of Pandemonium, including why someone might want to travel there and what one might encounter. "Our world is not alone. Rather there are hundreds, no thousands, of other realities, each home to people and powers like our own. These planes and demi-planes are all connected by an ever-shifting sea of the mutable chaos-material known as phlogiston, and when – like a wave casting foam droplets from the sea – these take brief material form, it gives birth to the lands of Pandemonium."

There are things worth recovering from various areas in Pandemonium, but travel requires passing through one or more "hexes" to reach any given location, where a "hex" denotes a world in miniature, which can be of any size at all.

There is also a chance of encountering deadlands, where entropy is enervating all within the hex, or new lands, which are freshly born from the raw material of Pandemonium.

Locations and Encounters of Pandemonium: Marc Bruner provides a random encounter table for the hexes included in this year's Gongfarmer's Almanac, and a random encounter table for Pandemonium.

The remainder of the volume is given over to describing some of the hexes of Pandemonium.

Abyss of Automatons: Keith A. Garrett supplies a Hell for robots and their ilk, which would provide a good transition between Mutant Crawl Classics (or Crawling Under a Broken Moon) and more standard Dungeon Crawl Classics fare. This is also a great location to include any robot (or near robot) you fancy from the media of your choice: Daleks, Terminators, C-3PX, or an R2 unit with a bad motivator.....

Helljammers of the Crashed Plains: Julian Bernick brings the Crawljammer universe into Pandemonium with a visit to the Crucial Observatory of the Voidlings. These are beings who tried to bind the powers of Hell to their will, and failed miserably, creating a Pandemonium hex which is inhabited by demon-saur war-machines (which may, perhaps, end up in the Abyss of Automatons when destroyed) and the voidlings, who travel using soulburners - flying skiffs powered by souls of ritually sacrificed beings.

Hunting Preserve of the Cambion Queen: Another hellscape, brought to you by Gwendolyn Harper. Tamarah Pandoramicum, the Cambion Queen, hunts "those who have displeased her, as well as those they bring here from other worlds" across a wasteland of howling winds and monstrous hoodoos, where "all smells sweet but charred". If you were hoping for a plethora of well-developed demons, the author has provided!

Labyrinth of the Elder Minotaur: Finally, Tony Hogard provides a vast Primal Labyrinth that is not another version of Hell! Or, actually, perhaps it is. Here the Elder Minotaur dwells, and, although "the abandoned treasures of a thousand lost explorers" may be found in its darkened halls, so too can the bones of many an explorer.

Get It Here!

Monday, 9 October 2017

The Cities Zorathi Issue 1

The Cities Zorathi Issue 1, Fall 2017, was written by Duncan McPhedran, with art by Alex Mayo, Claytonian, and Duncan McPhedran. It was published by Zorathan City State Press.

This zine focuses on a campaign setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics - the three Cities of Zorathi. There are three of these cities. In order of their age, they are Crone Zorathus, Dame Zorathus, and Lassie Zorathus. This issue gives an overview, and offers a focus on Crone Zorathus.

Let's look inside.

Introduction: Exactly what it says on the tin.

The Cities Zorathi: A brief overview of the cities, including some notes on history, organization, and culture.

Factions of the Cities Zorathi: Organizations and their interests are part of the urban landscape, and vital to making a city-based campaign come alive for its participants. Seven factions are briefly described, with more information given about the Council of Trade and Industry and The Inclusion League. Even if you don't intend on using the campaign materials herein, this article should spark ideas for your own game.

Zorathan Coinage: The common currency of the Cities Zorathi.

Common Wares in Zorathan Markets: This article gives prices using the Zorathi coinage. Most of the items reproduce those found in the DCC core rules, but there are a few items PCs may want that are not otherwise covered. Be aware that, if not using the Zorathan campaign setting, you will need to convert these prices back to standard coinage.

Crone Zorathus, the Old City: Enough information to have a useful overview of the oldest of the Cities Zorathi. This includes information on power groups, geography, architecture, holidays, and so on. This is a good example of how information of this type may be succinctly provided.

Locations: The Mental Haberdashery: Not your typical hat shop. There are 36 possibilities for the effects a hat might have, most of them are negative, and the hats are not cheap.

The Zorathites: The author provides a d30 chart containing name, occupation, condition/quirk, plot hook, and "stuff" that they might have on them. This is the sort of chart that is useful in almost any game, and is certainly useful in an urban sandbox setting.

The Ram of Light: This is the full patron write-up for the Ram of Light, once a mighty god named Ramat who has since fallen on hard times. There is only one patron spell, and spellburn is brutal. One wonders if this Ramat has any relationship to the old god that The Ruins of Ramat are named for.

Get It Here!

Friday, 28 July 2017

Adventurer's Almanac (Honorary)

The Adventurer's Almanac was written by Michael Curtis. Art was provided by Tom Galambos, Fritz Haas, Jim Holloway, Cliff Kurowski, William McAusland (who also did the cover), Jesse Mohn, Stefan Poag, Chad Sergesketter, and Mike Wilson. The publisher is Goodman Games.

This is a hardcover, system-neutral book with a sewn-in ribbon bookmark (presumably to keep your place in the Grand Course of Days, a calendar of 13 lunar months. Although the product is system-neutral (and therefore an honorary Treasure in the Trove), the themes and flavor would work well for a Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign milieu. The product provides astrological information, moon phases, holidays, and events that can take place over the course of each month.

Whether used as backdrop, or used to spawn adventures, these things help to build up the verisimilitude of a campaign milieu. Besides, keeping track of the phases of the moon helps when the judge wants to introduce a werewolf or three to the PCs....

Readers as old as I am (or older) may fondly remember the appearance, in the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Oriental Adventures tome, of a system to plan events on a persistent calendar. Michael Curtis takes the idea a good step farther than did Gary Gygax, David Cook, and Francois Marcela-Froideval, but the spirit seems to be very much the same.

The back cover text says, in part:

An entire year's worth of adventure awaits you inside its pages, complete with magical items, interesting personalities, strange festivals, and dangerous sites to explore, all presented in a system-neutral format suitable for any fantasy campaign.

Be aware that these are seeds, for the most part. You will have to do some work to turn them into adventures. You will have to determine how to convert the system-neutral format to Dungeon Crawl Classics statistics - but you will be inspired, and the work will not be that difficult.

Also, unless your gaming months are crowded with events, you are likely to get a lot more than a single year's use out of this book. With over 20 possible events for each month, including recurrent events such as festivals and holidays, I would be surprised if you were unable to get a good (game time) decade out of this book before its events were exhausted. And, then, the annual events, the astrology, and the phases of the moon would continue to be useful. There are, after all, over 300 adventure seeds herein,

The utility of most of these pieces is undiminished if you carve the book up and use it as inspiration to plan your own fantasy calendar. Indeed, the author has foreseen this use and made it easier for you by providing you with a calendar blank. Copying the blank will also allow you to use Michael Curtis' calendar as written - either for taking notes or extending the years beyond that which is provided.

Goodman Games has provided a free, 17-page preview of the content.

Get It Here!

Monday, 17 July 2017

DCC & MCC Dice Sets

Goodman Games has come out with several dice tubes, which are named after iconic Dungeon Crawl Classics and Mutant Crawl Classics characters painted by the talented Doug Kovacs. Each of these dice sets comes with a little "extra" printed on the reverse of the label. Dice sets include: D3, D4, D5, D6, D7, D8, D10, D%10, D12, D14, D16, D20, D24, and D30.

The sets are:

Hugh's Weird Dice: This set contains the very dice that Hugh the Barbarian used to defeat a host of terrible adversaries and acquire his legendary magical bell-bottoms. Using these dice in your game is guaranteed to bring good fortune, especially if you rub them on a moustache prior to each session.

Dice are white with red numerals. DCC extra is the "blue gowl".

Shanna's Weird Dice: This set contains the very dice that Shanna Dahaka used to invoke Azi Dahaka and enchant her magical afro. 

Dice are black with gold numerals. DCC extra is the "violet gowl".

Chuck's Lucky Dice: These are the very dice used by Chuck Plimpton in his tavern games. He is reputed to be quite lucky, and if you doubt that, you should know that Chuck made it back from the land of the dead! He had a set of these dice on his person at the time, and while the dice probably had nothing to do with it, can you afford to take that chance?

Dice are green with gold numerals. DCC extra is "Chuck's Little Table of Big Trouble".

Alamanter's Extraspacial Angularities: These dice were created by Alamanter the Violet during his studies in the city of Ciz. Each die draws upon the power of extra-dimensional space to randomly determine numbers. It is said that under the right conditions they can roll numbers that don’t even exist!

Dice are violet with silver numerals. DCC extra is "The Brined Finger of Alamanter".

Sezrekan's Sanguivorous Solids: These are the most dangerous dice ever created. The evil Sezrekan trapped in each the soul of a creature from the depths of the infernal realms, and these creatures crave blood! Whether it be your blood or the blood of your enemies, they care not! Beware fumbling with these dice!

These dice are many-colored. DCC extra is "Sezrekan's Sanguivorous Sliver".

Dice of Lost Lemuria: The Dice of Lost Lemuria have an icy color to them, matching the elven legend of the frozen lost continent. 

Dice are blue with white numerals. DCC extra is the "Ice Stones of Mu".

Ming's Infernal Bones: Ming’s Infernal Bones bear a resemblance to the fiery baubles that follow his legend, thanks to his love of flames.

Dice are red with white numerals. DCC extra is "The Devil's Bauble".

Grakk's Rad Dice: Seasoned veteran of many a melee, Grakk knows how to bring the maximum pain to any hand-to-hand battle. This set of radioactive green dice has been blessed by the War AIs themselves to ensure maximum damage when rolled in any combat on Terra A.D.

Dice are green with black numerals. MCC extra is "Grakk's Artifacts".

Kilra's Glow Dice: This set of dice glow-in-the-dark! Savage raider of the wastelands, Kilra knows when to push her luck and when to burn it. This set of glow-in-the-dark dice has already been exposed to the radiation and luck- enhancing quantum fields of Terra A.D.

Dice are that off-white/green color of glow-in-the-dark plastic with black numerals. MCC extra is "Kilra's Artifacts"

Available Goodman Games dice sets can be obtained here. The Dice of Lost Lemuria and Ming's Infernal Bones were only available at the Goodman Games booth at North Texas RPG Con and Origins in 2017. MCC-based dice sets were announced in 2017.

This listing was put together with the help of the Dungeon Crawl Classics community, and especially Impact Miniatures. Thank you for all the help!

Dread on Demon Crown Hill

DCC #92.5 Dread on Demon Crown Hill is a level 2 adventure by Michael Curtis. It was illustrated by Doug Kovacs (who also did the cartography) and Stefan Poag. The publisher is Goodman Games.

This is a relatively new adventure, and one that could easily be fit into a convention or road crew game slot, so I am going to avoid spoilers as much as I can. Like many Appendix N stories, this adventure thrusts the PCs neatly into the story of other beings, but it is the PCs' actions that resolve the story in one way or another. This is such a constant theme of Appendix N literature - occurring in stories by Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, A. Merritt, and others - that it is difficult to pinpoint influences here.

The area that the adventure takes place in is reminiscent of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland (which the author calls out), or Fingal's Cave in Scotland. This offers a cool backdrop the the adventure's action.

The adventure itself is fairly linear, with only one possible side digression. That's great for convention play, but the prospective judge of a home campaign may wish to increase the options somewhat. Likewise, there are creatures in this adventure that should have a marked footprint on the land around Demon Crown Hill; the prospective judge will probably wish to consider this for campaign play.

Area 1-8 is singularly wonderful, and worth the price of admission by itself.

Long ago, Frygorix of the Thousand Lies, a foul demon, ruled with fear from atop a lonely tor, spreading death and plague across the land. Two brave siblings, one bearing an enchanted shield of great power, challenged the demon, vowing to slay it and free the land. In their climactic battle, black towers of six-sided stone arose from the hilltop, an eerie outcropping called the Demon Crown by some. Stories hold that the shield lied untouched within the Demon Crown, but who knows what else might dwell within those weird, dark pillages of unearthly rock?

Right now, Dread on Demon Crown Hill is only available through retailers. I picked mine up at 401 Games in Toronto.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Curse of Mistwood

Curse of Mistwood is a level 4-6 adventure, written by Daniel J. Bishop and David W. Fisher. Illustrations are by David W. Fisher. Cartography is by David W. Fisher, Brian Van Hunsel and Del Teigeler. The publisher is Shinobi27 Games.

Disclosure: I am one of the writers, and have an editing credit as well.

Curse of Mistwood is the sequel to The Trolls of Mistwood. It is a massive adventure, beginning in the swamp-side town of Mistwood, and crossing over to Barg'herzarag, the Hagworld. Mistwood has changed, and there are dark portents that the end of the world may itself be nigh.

This was an enormously fun adventure to work on. Hags have been a staple of gaming since the 1st Edition AD&D Monster Manual, at least. Over the years, "gaming" hags have made departures from, and callbacks to, "folklore" hags. This offered a chance to create a mythology of hags which enables them to be recognizable to longterm gamers, strikes the itch of folklore, and incorporates Appendix N.

As an example, we provided rules for being hag-ridden in the "real" world of Mistwood, which can have a rather nasty side effect when characters transit to the Hagworld. We also supply a sort of ecology of hags, which can be used to personalize randomly encountered hags in this (or other) adventures. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in Curse of Mistwood an attempt was made to simultaneously define hags for Dungeon Crawl Classics while following the "Make Monsters Mysterious" advice of the core rulebook. Others will have to determine how successful (or not) we were in that task.

Events in the adventure take place five years after those of The Trolls of Mistwood, and the town has changed...from the events of the earlier adventure, from the passage of time, and from what is now spurring the PCs toward a crisis. Mistwood is described well enough in this adventure, and in Trolls, that a judge could easily use it as part of the backdrop to a campaign, starting right from the 0-level funnel until the characters retire or die.

Barg'herzarag is detailed so that the aspiring judge could set his own adventures in the Hagworld as well as merely frighten his players with this adventure. Of course, the Hagworld is an unpleasant place, with complete details on how magic is different and some rather unpleasant encounters to be had. Dungeon Crawl Classics completists will note some crossover with The Arwich Grinder and Creeping Beauties of the Wood. Carproaches made an appearance in The Gong Farmer's Almanac. The demo-grues, of course, take their inspiration from Jack Vance...indeed, one hopes that a sense of Jack Vance colors the whole of Barg'herzarag, although his is not the only Appendix N inspiration.

Travel through the Hagworld is a means to an end, though, and that end is Wartaren, the Living Castle. As one of the authors, I hope you find the castle suitably horrific. There are a number of ways that the PCs can deal with Wartaren and its occupants. The adventure describes the factions and politics of the Hagworld, so that the PCs can gain allies or take sides. Wartaren is large enough, and detailed enough, for two or three sessions of play.

As the commercial goes: But wait! There's more!

Curse of Mistwood has five appendixes, detailing Foes and Allies, Demons of Barg'Herzarag, Patrons of Mistwood, the Scrying spell, and the magic sword, Clawreaver. How useful some of these appendixes are to you wil depend upon what other materials you own. The patrons described herein can all be found in the Extended, Otherworldly Edition of Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between, for instance, while the Scrying spell is from The Revelation of Mulmo.

A bunch of demons that visit Barg'herzarag, and might be found as guests in Wartaren? Those could be used anywhere. In fact, the cunning judge could take a page from The Fallible Fiend and have one of these demons encountered in a non-combative capacity early on in the PCs' careers. The PCs might even discover a strange allegiance forming!

Curse of Mistwood is the second adventure in the Mistwood Series. It can be played as a continuation of The Trolls of Mistwood or as a standalone adventure. With 70 pages of adventure and over 20 pages of patrons, spells and magic items, Curse of Mistwood has enough material to be its own campaign setting.

A dark power has stirred in Mistwood. An evil so great that not only is the quiet waterside village at risk but perhaps the world itself. Once more adventurers must heed the call to arms, risking everything to thwart the plans of a much greater foe. Will the adventurers have the courage to seek the source of Mistwood's woes, or will they be consumed trying?

Get It Here!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

DCC RPG Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure

The Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure was published by Goodman Games.

Starter rules edit and design was by Jim Wampler, based on original game design by Joseph Goodman. Art is by Jeff Dee, Jeff Easley, Jim Holloway, Diesel Laforce, Doug Kovacs, Brad McDevitt, Peter Mullen, Stefan Poag, Jim Roslof, and Chad Sergesketter. Cartography is by Doug Kovacs. Cartoons are by Chuck Whelon.

The Portal Under the Stars was written by Joseph Goodman. This section of the book is "Dedicated with great affection to J. Eric Holmes."

Flip the thing over and you have Gnole House, a level 1 adventure written by Michael Curtis, with art by Stefan Poag and cartography by Doug Kovacs.

Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure

These are nicely laid out, although perforce there are a limit to the number of spells or Mercurial Magic results that can be included. The Portal Under the Stars has appeared in all printings (thus far) of the core rulebook, as well as the DCC RPG Free RPG Day Adventure Starter in 2011.

Gnole House

I ran this adventure at 401 Games on Free RPG Day 2017. You can read my summary of the event here.

Gnole House is based on two short stories by Appendix N authors. These are Lord Dunsany's How Nuth Would Practise His Art Upon the Gnoles, and Margaret St. Clair's The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles. Both stories are fairly short, easily read, and have delightful nods to them within Michael Curtis' adventure. A third story, The Hoard of the Gibbelins, is also well used. It gives me hope that a sequel to this adventure, perhaps called Gibbelin Tower, may one day appear!


Demonland: Supplemental Rules for Sword & Sorcery Adventures was written by Jeremy Deram. Writing and art are not credited on the pdf. It was made available through the People Them With Monsters blog.

The Demonland supplement uses the basic Dungeon Crawl Classics rules, with an alternate XP and level progression, to allow Dungeon Crawl Classics to be easily used with (an alternative version ?) of Tékumel: The World of the Petal Throne. I've never been invested in Tékumel, so this is not a product that I can easily comment on.

The Demonland supplement was mentioned on Spellburn here.

This post in People Them With Monsters discusses the supplement.

Scattered over Tekumel are innumerable half-buried, half-forgotten ruins. There are fragments dating back to the prehuman ages, when the Ssu and the Hlyss vied with one another for control; there are tunnels of melted rock and steel constructed during the days of man's first glory; there are jumbled heaps destroyed by the cataclysms which rent Tekumel when the planet was cast into outer dimensional darkness; there are catacombs and subterranean labyrinths dating from more recent empires, cities, temples, pyramids, and fortresses dedicated to the lost and unremembered gods of half a hundred kingdoms.

Get It Here!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Blood for the Serpent King

Blood for the Serpent King is a 2nd level adventure written by Edgar Johnson. It is illustrated by Stefan Poag, Fritz Haas, and Cliff Kurowski. Cartography is by Doug Kovacs. The publisher is Goodman Games.

This product was the 2017 Convention Module only available at conventions. I am fairly certain that this product was not available at Gary Con, as I attended that convention and didn't see it for is possible that I missed it, though! In any event, I was able to get another convention-goer to pick up a copy on my behalf. The back cover indicates that it was available at Origins and Gamehole Con, at the very least.

The adventure is a sequel, of sorts, to DCC #16: Curse of the Emerald Cobra, which was written for 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. This adventure was a bonus adventure in the original printing of Bride of the Black Manse, by Harley Stroh. Curse of the Emerald Cobra is also referenced in The 998th Conclave of Wizards by Jobe Bittman.

There is a strong Mesosmerican Aztec/Toltec/Mayan feel to the adventure, which would make it fit very well into a campaign using the Memories of the Toad God series by Cut to the Chase Games. Since that series starts at 3rd level, Blood for the Serpent King may be part of a series of adventures leading into it.

Role-playing games have always been a hodgepodge of mixed cultures, mythologies, and creatures, but writing this entry, it struck me for the first time that cobras are native to Africa, India, and Asia, and don't really fit into Mesoamerica at all. This is unlikely to cause your players any consternation, though, as they try to loot the Crypt of the Emerald Cobra.

Deep in the jungles, amidst the ruins of an unimaginably ancient civilization, dangers lurk: feral tribes and predatory beasts, and darker things that civilized folk prefer to forget. You've heard rumors of the treasure horses of one of those great evils: the legendary serpent-man, Xiuhcoatl. They say that Xiucoatl is worshipped by feral tribes of degenerate serpent-men who call him The Emerald Cobra. Do you dare face their rites of blood and sacrifice?

Friday, 16 June 2017

Lost Temple of Ibholtheg

TG1: Lost Temple of Ibholtheg is a 3rd level adventure written by "Weird Dave" Coulson. Art is by Matt Morrow and Johnathan L. Bingham. Cartography is by Glynn Seal. The publisher is Cut to the Chase Games.

This adventure is the second part of the Memories of the Toad God series, following Depths of the Croaking Grotto. As with other adventures in this series, Lost Temple of Ibholtheg is simultaneously available for Swords & Wizardry, Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, and 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

This adventure, like its predecessor, could be worked into the mythos of Bobugbubilz, Schaphiroadaz, and  Tsathoggua, allowing the judge to link it to The Croaking Fane, The 
Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn, and The Vault of Ash, if desired. The Toadlock, from Spellburn's Dungeon Denizens, is another good potential fit.

One interesting feature is the use of shadow orcs not as opponents, but as guides and sources of information. It is unfortunate that the text refers to "a series of Personality checks" to avoid gaining faux pas point, reducing interplay to a series of rolls, but the judge can easily ignore that. That the only exampled check is in the nature of a saving throw to avoid making a social blunder could also guide the judge into considering the checks to be second chances.

Weird Dave’s Notebook continues to be a good feature of these modules, as it is always interesting to read the thoughts of another game designer and/or judge.

The adventure does suffer slightly from being written and released for multiple formats, and specifically because most of the other formats are far more codified than Dungeon Crawl Classics. As a result, you'll find references to falling under the effects of a Confusion spell, for instance. The magical scimitar, Toad Caller, is not a generic magic sword, which is nice, but the judge will have to determine the base damage for a scimitar (I suggest 1d7). Overall, though, these lapses are pretty rare.

Most importantly, there are plenty of non-generic monsters here, as befits Appendix N gaming. Yes, you are in the jungle, so you are going to get snakes and big apes. I really liked the description of the Idol of the Squamous Toad, and the ending of the adventure is appropriately dramatic. Also, of course, giant toads and choruses of batrachian critters have a long standing not only in the game itself, but in the literature that inspired it as well.

There is plenty of room for expansion on the jungle trek to and from the Lost Temple. Several appropriate encounters are described for this journey, but there is no map provided, and the judge could sprinkle his own campaign milieu with mini-sites and lairs to increase the options and mysteries of the Great Jungle.

The next two adventures, Tongues of the Screaming Toad and Shadow out of Sapphire Lake, are both designed for 3rd level characters, so the author has taken into account the rate of progression in Dungeon Crawl Classics. You can easily go from one to the next without requiring additional material, but you may wish to explore and customize the setting anyway.The ruined civilization of the Xilonoc, at the very least, deserves more detail! Indeed, a mini-gazetteer of Kraden’s Hill and the area around it would be welcome.

If these adventures are ever compiled into a single volume, I would love to see monster statistics printed in the text. Having to flip back and forth may make sense for games where there are very large statblocks, but should not be a requirement for Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures. The idea of a compiled index is, nevertheless, a good one. A full patron write-up for Ibholtheg, the Squamous Toad, would be a definite bonus in a compiled version.

On the borders of the uncivilized Great Jungle lies the outpost of Kraden’s Hill. Brave adventurers are needed to lead expeditions into the perilous jungle, facing cannibal monsters, dangerous flora, and worse, all in search of wealth and power hidden deep inside the jungle. Find this and more in the LOST TEMPLE OF IBHOLTHEG!

Get It Here!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Lost City of Barako

DCC #91.1: The Lost City of Barako is a 6th level adventure written by Harley Stroh, Steven Bean, Daniel J. Bishop, Tim Callahan, and Terry Olson. Art is by Doug Kovacs, Peter Mullen, and Stefan Poag. The publisher is Goodman Games.

Disclosure: I did some supplemental writing for this product. Specifically, I wrote the Drippling, Head Hunter, and Underbelly Stalker, so if any of your PCs fall to these menaces, you have me to blame.

Although described as a 6th level adventure, this "city at the center of Áereth" is more of a stakes-raising supplement to DCC #91: Journey to the Center of Áereth than anything else. It describes the lost pleasure palace of Barako, complete with tables to describe areas where game play might occur, creatures that might be found there, and information on the extremely creepy and potentially dangerous Akashic Library of Barako.

The product is new enough, and cool enough, that I don't want to spoil any of the surprises the lost city has in store. Suffice it to say that my contributions are far from the best material you will find herein.

That said, I was already considering how the Builders and the Adamantine Mole from The Imperishable Sorceress might fit into Áereth's inner world. If you notice a potential link between the Head Hunters, the No-Men in Lairs of Lost Agharta, and the Builders, I would encourage you to expand upon it!

It strikes me that the lost city is named after a certain former President of the United States. This might be coincidence...after all, I am told that Punjar wasn't named after a collection of money at the center of the gaming table, filled with the ill-gotten loot of numerous groaners. Nonetheless, once you see it, you cannot un-see it.

The pleasure palace of Barako rises above the Bleak Shores atop enormous stone pylons. The palace arches towards the cavernous gloom, lit by a thousand lanterns fueled by the rendered flesh of a thousand lamenting souls. Within the city, hellish figures dart and whirl in the flickering light, prostrating themselves before their Aghartan masters, all to the cacophonic beat of a thousand alien instruments. What adventures will you find here?

Get It Here!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Liber Arcanum

Liber Arcanum was written by Jeffrey A Rhodes-Gloor, with additional material (Daelin’s Journals) by Rhomi van Ekorn, Art is by Laura Bost, Chris Parillo, Jon Willson, and J. Rhodes-Gloor. The publisher is Cognition Pressworks.

This product uses the same monster entry format as Creatures, Critters, & Denizens, which is either a plus or a minus, depending upon your viewpoint. It also uses the term "Storyteller" instead of judge, which I find irksome, but which has no real effect on the content.

This is a large, dense volume with a lot of material to cover. Let's dive right in!

Optional rules

This section covers optional rules for spellcasting. These optional rules are:

Optional Counter-Spell rule: Because sometimes you want to counter a spell without jumping into a full-fledged spell duel.

Increased Spell Failure: The higher the level spell, the higher the chance of failure. The spells in this volume are formatted assuming that you will be using this rule, but there really is no difficulty in ignoring the formatting if not.

Spell-books: Hubris has some excellent rules for spellbooks. These rules are a bit more fiddly, mechanics-wise, but there is no reason that you cannot use them together.

Reversing Spells: Some more information on reversing spells, including canceling, destroying, or hiding spell effects.

5th Level Spells: An optional rule to make 5th level spells harder to cast, and one which is used in this book. This means that you will need to do a little work if you want to use the 5th level spells herein without using this rule, but (1) that isn't too horribly difficult to do, and (2) you could easily rule that the "5th Level Spells" rule only applies to spells from this tome!

Beyond 5th Level Spells: This is an expansion on the idea that greater (ritual) magic may exist than even 5th level spells would allow for. This includes Greater Rituals (essentially 6th level spells), Rites (7th level spells), Ceremonies (8th level spells), and Sacraments (9th level spells).

Thieves and Runes: An option that allows thieves to inscribe runes, including runes drawing runes in the air without the standard penalty.

Deeper Mysteries

In addition to optional rules, Liber Arcanum introduces "Deeper Mysteries" - things that wizards might learn to increase their occult lore and differentiate one from another. Arcane casters may learn a single Deeper Mystery, plus one per every three levels. Deeper Mysteries are not necessarily learned, either. There is a chance to learn one (if possible) at each level, and that chance never exceeds 50%, unless modified by Luck or Intelligence.

Obviously, the judge can also award a Deeper Mystery (either a roll on 1d24 or a specific choice) as a reward within a particular adventure. This is especially useful if the judge wants to see something in play, or if the player wants to Quest For It.

Not every Deeper Mystery requires special rules. You might gain the opportunity for a patron bond. You might gain a chance to learn one or more new spells. You might gain a point of Intelligence. Or you might gain one of these:

  • Mystery # 1: Lesser Spell Ritual
  • Mystery # 2: Harmonic and disharmonic casting
  • Mystery # 3: New Benefits for Rituals
  • Mystery # 4: Durable Scrolls (including a Scroll Mishaps Table)
  • Mystery # 5 Faerie Secrets
  • Mystery # 6 The Game of Antonyms

Magic and the Elements

This chapter describes elemental forces (using a five elemental system, with both positive and negative spiritual energy). This leads to a discussion of Animancers & Necromancers. The author writes:

In the paradigm of a sorcery & swords fantasy environment, the dualistic concept of Spirit can have other, more subtle, yet profound applications. Spells such as Breathe life, Eternal Champion, Stamina, and other such spell manifestations can then be a form of elemental magic, as would Animate Dead, and a host of the spells traditionally thought to be the purview of clerics like Restore Vitality, or any other type of curative/ restorative magic. Among the stranger manifestations found within this elemental model is the idea that both positive and negative energy can be used to animate items. In the case of negative energy this takes the form of the parade of undead creatures from skeletons all the way up to the mighty lich and other fell spirits. Any of these same types of creatures can be found in the benign realm of positive energy;mostly in non-physical forms like helpful Ghosts, Invisible Companions, Eternal Champions, or anything animated via the Breathe Life spell or involving magical force. In fact, under this model it is possible to do away with the entire concept of clerics and deities.

The cleric is then reskinned and transformed into the animancer and the necromancer, arcanists who deal with spiritual energies.

This chapter also offers diagrams of Celestial Geometry, a table of Random Planes, and "Random things & other useful charts" This last includes spotting distances, minor demons, a quick reference to spell success and mishaps using the optional rules in this book, and a table of random spells. There is also a one-page discussion of the "[m]eta-magical effects of arcane ingredients upon spell casting and item creation", which is limited to bone, ceramics, iron, mithril, and star-metal, but which might offer the judge some inspiration.


The Liber Arcanum contains five fully developed patrons. These are:

  • The Queen of Battle
  • Gydrion the Wanderer
  • Avridar, King of Air
  • Brinae, Queen of Water
  • Hraalvid, King of Earth
  • Kandri-sek, Queen of Fire

Each of these patrons has one or more "extras". such as aquamancers for Brinae or "On the wizardly uses of gems and minerals" and geomancers for Hraalvid.


If you are looking for new spells for your Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign, this book has them. Judges may use these spells as-is, may offer them as special treasures, or may even use them as patron spells for patrons of her own devising. Some may be powers unique to a magic item, or a cabal of wizards. They may be objects of quests by players keen for more arcane knowledge, or the judge can simply include them in the known spells that wizards and elves may have a chance to learn.

There are too many spells in the Liber Arcanum to describe them beyond their names. These spells are:

  • 1st level: Cloud of Fresh Air, Incomprehensible Babbling, Obscuring Mist, Pilfer Voice, Reduce, Rending, and Runic Alphabet, Mortal (Lost Runes).
  • 2nd level: Acid Resistance, Agility, Determined Locomotion, Electricity Resistance, First Aid, Mind Shield, Protection from (*), Silence, Sonic Resistance, and Wizard Lock.
  • 3rd level: Destroy Potion, Encrypt Magical Writing, Fynderlang’s Forceful Flinger, Lesser Devastation, Make Armor, Panoramic Projectile Protection, Paroxysm, Planar Isolation, Runic Alphabet, Fey (Lost Runes), Stamina, and Wizard Hovel.
  • 4th level: Adhibitis Ossa, Arcane Veil, Magic Hat, Telekinesis, Transmute Air, Transmute Earth (additional entries), Transmute Fire, Transmute Water, Wand Magic, and Weakening.
  • 5th level: Devastation, Resilience, Transmute Spirit, and Wizard’s Tower.

Greater Rituals

This describes the Tattooing ritual: "By means of this ritual a wizard or other caster of arcane magic can have one or more spells that they know bonded directly to their flesh." Includes statistics for feral tattoos!


This describes the Pocket Reality rite: "This powerful Rite allows the participants to create a number of permanent refuges of varying sizes and internal principles. All results are permanent and will have at least one entrance on the Ethereal Plane, which is always the first gate created by the spell. All else is subject to the whims of the participants in the rite, their funds available, and willingness to spellburn."

Appendix I

The appendix covers:

  • Miscellaneous Magic Items
  • Expanded Magic Weapons (new powers, banes, and bane effects)
  • Generic Magic Weapon & Armor Sheet
  • Pre-generated Magic Weapons (with numerous examples)
  • Blank rune tile sets (for mortal and fey runes)

Please note the following from the Legal and Advertising end pages (page 290; 295 in the pdf):

Cognition Pressworks is proud to support the Dungeon Crawl Classics role-playing game. To this purpose, the publisher and author hereby grant limited permission to use any 2 patrons and their attendant information including tables, and spells, but not artwork: or, up to 4 spells, their attendant information including tables and critters, but not their art work. Prospective publishers must include names of items used with the following copy: “{names of spells or patrons} are used with permission. Additional material from Liber Arcanum published by Cognition Pressworks, Jeffrey Rhodes-Gloor, copyright 2014" in a reasonably prominent location (such as the credits section of the book, or in the licensing section) to obtain this permission.

This means that the Liber Arcanum, like Critters, Creatures, & Denizens before it, is of real use not only to the harried judge, but also to the harried judge who would like to one day see his frenzied creations in print.

Get It Here!