Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Adventure Hook: Spiders of the Purple Mage by Phillip Jose Farmer

Very few people have the courage to go near the Isle of Shugthee.
Spiders of the Purple Mage is very good. It would make a good adventure, especially on a world like Lankhmar. Or heck, TW has its own out of print RPG, right? And I suspect Harley Stroh may have been influenced by this one when he wrote the module The Jeweler that Dealt in Stardust.

Hook: Have a solo scene with one of the PCs. They are walking through a bad part of town that is dark and pretty locked up. They are passing a house so reputed to be haunted that it hasn't even been scavenged. Ask the player who the poor youth is that just staggered around the corner and just about gave the PC a heart attack. Though the PC gets the sense that the youth is being pursued and it is best to stay out of things, they also hear the youth mutter something about a jewel before collapsing. 
‘All I know,’ she said, ‘is that they say that the mage came here about ten years ago. He came with some hired servants, and many boxes, some small, some large. No one knew what his native land was, and he didn’t stay long in town. One day he disappeared with the servants and the boxes. It was some time before people found out that he’d moved into the caves of the Isle of Shugthee. Nobody had ever gone there because it was said that it was haunted by the ghosts of the Shugthee. They were a little hairy people who inhabited this land long before the first city of the ancients was built here.’
If the PC ignores the boy, that will be that for the most part. Probably. Soon creepy sand-people looking dudes come in. If the youth is alive at this point, they look briefly at the PC and continue to him, grab him and interrogate him in their strange donkey language. He dies within minutes. The sand-people will then start searching the area and want the PC for interrogation. The PC could fight them, even kill them, that's fine. But they will soon be scared off by hearing the whistles of the town guard in the distance (a coincidence, but they don't know that).

The PC of course will probably help the youth, who will mutter things about dying and getting into the maze of the purple sorcerer and stealing a jewel. Spiders. Pain. Ow. Urg. Dies. If the PC has dragged the youth into the haunted house, the sandpeople will come in, but the PC will be saved by the bell.

At this point I would do something akin to in medias res narration and be like, "that was two months ago. Since then, the town somehow got word of what happened that night and got it into their heads that [youth name] dropped a jewel and a rat ate it, so everybody hunted rats for a couple weeks, then moved onto cats, and now finally dogs. You've been dragged before constibles, gang-leaders, the holy-mafia and the governer to tell your story, but everyone in power seems to be unwilling to mess with the Purple Mage. Nobody speaks sandpeople language, and they seem to have stop coming to town for supplies during the day anyway.

If the PC has a family, threaten that next. Have them be kidnapped.  But the whole party will probably start getting anxious about going out there without this step. Eventually, sandpeople will come for the PC if they are being passive. Then other servant come if the sandpeople are beaten or the Purple Mage can't find another way to get leverage.

Appendix N:
Now, not only would I mix in a little Lankhmar or Punjar (DCCRPG), but I'd try to find a way to get some good old Clark Ashton Smith involved too. I dunno, the henchmen remind me a bit of the priest-things from The Charnel God. And if you are going to include a mage maze, you got to get some Maal Dweb in there, son!

This story also reminded me a bit of running an old old old White Dwarf adventure,  Halls of Tizun Tane. Fond are my memories of making the faction-head-brothers Sega and Super Nintendo. Then I made the monkey creatures be neck-less things with upside-down faces in their chests. Man, I love this hobby. 
‘The fur trappers and hunters who’ve gone by the isle say they’ve seen some strange things. Hairy beast-faced dwarfs. Giant spiders.’ She shuddered.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Lankhmar Bundle of DCC Holding

Continuing from where I left off, there is a BoH going through May 10th for the Lankhmar material made for DCC. TLDR is buy this. But let's get some words about why.

For all intents, purposes, and intensive porpoises, I consider DCCL to be DCC's second edition. Well, I say that, but you probably need DCC core rules to play it. Luckily, the quick-start rules should be somewhere in the bundle. Here are some interesting DCCL innovations:

  • Benisons and Dooms: Often, these pull you into the setting and give little tastes of it.
  • Languages: More world-building. Everyone at least knows pidgin Black Toga-ese. No more of PCs speaking generic monster languages in an RPG that was supposed to have only special monsters anyways.
  • Spell restrictions: Mercurial magic is often a bit too jarring, so having down to earth magic weirdness is a nice change of pace. Yes, that sentence was ironic.
  • Sing this new corruption to me: Our freak wizards are home grown. Man, there are a lot more of these than in DCC.
  •  Magic gets split into black and white (or just normal).
  • No clerics, hobbits, dwarves, or elves: PCs will be different thanks to their backgrounds, but these things are out, and it's kinda refreshing to have humans that either stab or get stabbed (that's what wizards are best at).
  • Healing without clerics. You use up luck to heal, but that's okay, because
  • Fleeting Luck and Carousing can keep your Luck tank full. Most of the adventures have luck rewards too.

Gosh, this is getting to long again I could have gone on. Anyways, it's a great take on DCC. I ran a campaign that took us to the desert, where a PC led a tribe of pillar men thanks to carousing too much.  We met Ningauble and Sheelba. Fun was had, and a lot of strange wines.

So, let's go down what the bundle has now.

  • The Boxed Set: This has a ton of DCCL books in it. I kinda question that some of it got split up into separate books, because there were a few times I was like, wait, what book from the three main ones is that rule addressed in? The group did play through the included adventure No Small Crimes, and it was pretty good for setting elements. You gotta see the map of Lankhmar the Doug Kovacs did.
  • Gang Lords: This low level adventure is good for learning how to slum it. I like how NPCs give information hoping to call in favors later and research is largely about greasing palms.
  • Land Of Eight Cities: Lots of good information on this area to the north of the usual adventures, but when running it I got frustrated that though the political leaders of the cities are described a bit, there is no information I could find on which cities are whose, but in retrospect I am kinda dumb and I think this was by design, to let Judges make it their own. Included is an adventure which had a fun, odd antagonist.
  • Dozen Locations: If your PCs need to hit up a temple, you can just pull out the temple from here and adjust a few knobs on the fly. The thing is filled with plug and play buildings, maybe even 12 of them total, but don't quote me on that.
  • The lower-level adventures: Are all new to me. I'll just say the authors are very good at delivering the goods.
  • The higher-level ones: Ditto. It seems there is a lot of fun to be had fighting glowing, undead things though. 

Well, I think the main takeaway it that I need to get another Lankhmar campaign going so I can experience some of this material. To add some ballast to this post, I should say some critical things. I found the original boxed set overall a bit rushed-feeling. I think the artists and writers worked hard to get that Kickstarter out the door, but it feels like it needed some playtesting, time, and room to breathe. And most of the art is not by my usual DCC favorites, but that's a pretty subjective opinion that doesn't affect gameplay at all. 

As long as I'm being honest, I'm gonna admit that--because I didn't feel confident running the DCCL modules without lots of mental prep and so needed some lazy Judge padding-- I pulled a couple of one or two page adventure ideas from the reviled TSR-era materials, specifically Wonders of Lankhmar. Michael Curtis will be pissed if he ever finds out about that.



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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Hit boxes, not HP

Ran across this in a Roll20 note I made. I think it has great potential. I guess I was using it in my homebrew Quest Ferrit a few years back.

When you are hit, check off one of the following (replenish once per level each day, between fights):
☑You dead. Dramatically pulling the villain to hell with you optional.
☑Your shield is splintered.
☑Your armor, helm, or jaunty hat saved you this time...
☑'Tis but a flesh wound!
☑Monster rolls on a crit chart (you take injuries; ignore damage rolls generated by this).
☑Monster does something typical for its variety (melts your face off, burns you, ages you 7 years, etc.)
☑You roll your HD & armor die; not rolling a one on either of them means you survived this blow (everyone has at least a d3 armor die).
☑ You suffer an injury of the Judge's choosing.
☑ Lucky dodge! Your luck score goes down by one.

☑ (hobbits only) Another PC you name jumps in to save your bacon .
☑ (fighters only) The pain helps you focus; +1d to your next to-hit roll.
☑ (dwarves only) The foe tosses you into your allies, who toss you right back.
☑ (elves only) Demoralizingly deft dodge and dudgeon. +1d to next intimidation or taming check.
☑ (barbarians only) Rage! +1d to damage and crit charts this fight.
doesn't usually have one.


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Jump on the DCC Bundles of Holding while you can

Bundles plural. There are two bundles, so I'll talk about what I know about each one.

The DCC bundle has the core rule book, Thakulon, a Judge's Screen, and Sailors.

  • Core rules: For 15 bucks, the core rules alone are a bargain. If you have only ever played 5e, you need to give DCC a shot, and this is a good way. Since this version has a funnel (zero level adventure) called Portal Under the Stars, I recommend you break yourself into the game on that one.
  • Thakulon the Undying: Has a couple things going for it: Harley Stroh is involved and he is one of the best DCC writers. The set up of three levels for the three DCC alignments seems it would be a good way to see how DCC handles this DCCism differently. I recommend getting ahold of Court of Chaos (not in the bundle) for alignment shenanigans as well. Anyhoo, I'mma run it instead of a funnel the next time I start a DCC night, which is, thanks to the Bundle, very soon.
  • Judge's Screen: I mean, better to have printed on cardboard somehow, but okay.
  • Sailors on the Starless Sea: The most famous funnel. I've run it once, but do prefer Portal. It's pretty good, but very lethal, so prepare your players with warnings.

All that is worth the money. Then you have the extras for basically doubling your donation. Are they worth it? Let's see what you get (the three low level adventures are described first):

  • Moon Slaves of the Cannibal Kingdom: This is a good one to push the gonzo, one of DCC's best merits. This is science fantasy elfgames complete with a talking ape and three moons. Looks promising, but have not played yet.
  • Queen of Elfland's Son: The DCC take on faerie folk. I dunno, it includes goblins and most of the monsters have that unjustified (?) D&Dism where elven creatures are immune to sleep and charm, which is a bit bog-standard DCC for me, but it does have some new, weird fey and a monster unicorn. I think this one may be a good way to get PC wizards interested in getting patronage from the King of Elfland. Patrons are one of the best things about DCC. Oh, and it has a curse. Curses are a cool part of DCC that don't get used enough.
  • Star Wound of Abaddon: Science fantasy and Clark Ashton Smith gets a name-drop, so I'm pretty interested. And you gotta do this point crawl to experience the Cosmic Perversion table. 
  • Beyond the Black Gate: The rumors tables for this one are very nice, as they are different for each race/class. Also, they don't do that BS where they tell you which rumors are true or false (let's find out together, yo). This one explores multiversalism, which is another important aspect of DCC. Also, there is a bonus adventure with a crashed spaceship in there.
  • Emirikol Was Framed!: The eponymous wizard calls the party imbeciles and whoresons. I like this guy. Seriously, looks like a good fun-house dungeon module.
  • Imprisoned in the God-skull: This one has a lot going for it, what with ancient, epic history of a wizard so badass he had to be sealed away by a god's sacrifice, and wormwood aliens. Very much want to run this one.

So I think the takeaway is this is well worth the cash. You have years of gonzo gaming potential here. I've run DCC since the beta days and even written a third party adventure for it, so you know I'm a fan. Heck, some would say these books are worth it for the art alone. I'd say the biggest strike against the bundle is that it doesn't include Courts of Chaos, but jump on the bundle while there is still time!

 This has run long, so I'll cover the second Goodman Games bundle in my next post. You can still check it out though: DCC Lankhmar bundle.

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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Charismatic Party Leaders Houserule

Who's in charge here?

This idea might be best introduced in session 0 or one.

The PC with the highest Charisma or Personality score is the natural leader of the group, and should be role-played  as such. Maybe even have them be the one that recruits the other PCs.

If two people are tied for highest score, let there be a friendly rivalry. Emphasis on friendly. Maybe one should get the edge for achieving a heroic character arc.

If a new PC comes along with a higher score, there can be tension there too, but eventually, the lower character should realize that the new guy or gal is alright and cede the position (their player will probably like a break from the mental exhaustion of leadership around this point as well).

This is just the musing of someone who has seen a lot of TV shows and movies.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Sympathetic Magic

Been musing. So here's a magic system.

The wizard can do anything, but there has to be a cost and let the punishment fit the crime. 

For instance, the party lacks a thief and they have a locked gate in their way. The wiz steps up and... well, there are several spells they could improvise.

Timeline One wizard demands to be bound in chains. They will be all tied up for the next ten minutes.

Timeline Two wizard is no Hoodini. They opt to trepanate their own skull to unlock a perspective where the lock is like... an illusion, man.

Timeline Three wizard plunges a key into their own palm, digging down until blood is drawn. That wound will take the hand out of comission.

Timeline Four wizard shrugs and says, we should find the key, yeah?

Timeline Five wizard read another of my posts and is considering another, inventory-based, solution...

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Friday, February 26, 2021

My Carcosa Hack

Though it has been mentioned before, I've never actually put this RPG in an embedded form on this here blog. We've been playing for months, using Roll20 to make rolling all the dice ever at once very easy. In fact, I outdid Geoffrey Mckinney by making us roll all the things for skill checks too. Here is a Googdocs link if you can't see/print what's below.

These rules make it so you don't have to have any other elf game rules to run a Carcosan campaign. I use the beautiful dead tree version put out by the Lamentations group a decade or so back. If you want more Carcosan goodness, check out my last post!

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