DCC Review: Bride of the Black Manse

April 15, 2014 Leave a comment

GMG5083CoverLargeI recently got my hands on the very latest adventure in the Dungeon Crawl Classic series, and this one is a winner. I own just about all of them, with the exception of the holiday special, and most are pretty awesome, but this one is excellent. A self-described horror-mystery with such influences as The Shining, Fall of the House of Usher, and The Howling Tower, this would be an excellent choice to run around Halloween. Also there is a bonus adventure called Blood for the Serpent King which is a more traditional Indiana Jones style underground tomb crawl by Edgar Johnson, one of the moderators for the awesome DCC Google+ group.

First let’s dive in to Bride of the Black Manse. This is a perfect adventure to run at a convention, as it has events that are triggered by the actual hour striking in real life. The adventure will end after 4 hours, whether the heroes are prepared or not. I don’t think it is much of a spoiler to say, since it is on the cover, this adventure ends with a wedding and the groom is the arch-devil Mammon! Who he claims as his bride is up to the PCs. The descriptions of the various areas of the massive house are some of the best in any DCC adventure and really evoke the creepy atmosphere of an ancient house fallen in to ruin. Not only that, but the house changes as the bell tolls and marks actual play time at the table!

Each PC is associated with a specific heir of the house, and each heir has a mask associated with them for the coming hellish fete. The masks do have some mechanical benefits as well, but I’ll leave that to the PCs to discover what those are. When Doug Kovacs posted the art from the house to G+, it reminded me of the description of House Black from Harry Potter.

BrideBlackManseThis adventure has an excellent mix of combat, exploration, and social encounters for a very balanced adventure. I think having the pressure of actual time passing causing events to happen in game is a compelling element, and any adventure in which an arch-devil is throwing a party in a haunted house is going to be a good time! The very nature of the house allows for a bit of a mini sandbox, and is likely larger than the PCs can explore in the time allotted, making the replay/re-run value of this adventure very high.

The bonus adventure, Blood for the Serpent King, would be an excellent choice to run at a convention or your FLGS as part of the DCC World Tour 2014. It involves battling snake-men while exploring an ancient crypt with some very cool secrets. The two maps for this adventure do well to illustrate what would have been hard to conceptualize otherwise. The first map is the temple from a side view, the second is the more traditional top-down dungeon map, if any of Doug Kovacs’ maps could be called traditional. This is a fairly straight forward adventure, some would say it is a bit of a railroad, in stark contrast to the Manse. There are several excellent encounters, and it does a whole lot with the space provided. I just ran Doom of the Savage Kings for a new group recently, and they immediately wondered what was causing this malevolent power in the swamp. Perhaps they will discover it to be the Emerald Cobra! The encounter with the Serpent King will definitely be memorable!

Overall, this is an excellent buy. At $9.99 MSRP, you get two excellent convention or game-day ready adventures with very different genres. Someone recently asked what the top ten best DCC adventures are, and I would certainly list this among them.

Categories: Adventure, DCCRPG, Reviews, RPGs

Exercise in Character Creation, Part 1

April 5, 2014 Comments off

Several weeks ago at MACE West in Asheville, NC my very first Pathfinder Society character, Sir Danaris Redfeather, Knight Captain, (character sheet + background) reached 12th level. For those who do not know, this means that he is basically retired from the Pathfinder organized play program. It has been a blast to play this character as he was my first real Pathfinder character. I say ‘a blast’ because he exclusively used a musket. Yes, a musket… in a fantasy setting. Besides being the bane of all GMs, he will be missed.

Let’s get down to business. As you may have noticed from my other posts on Skyland Games, I love character creation. The entire process is enjoyable for me as I take numbers and raw ‘stuff’ and mold them together into a rich, detailed character. With me retiring two characters at MACE West (the other was Master Matsunagi, a nagaji cleric), I wanted to make a new one and I wanted to do it a different way.

That is where you, the readers, come in. Below is a link to a 10 question survey that I will use to create Adrian Redfeather, son of Danaris; my next Pathfinder Society character. I will share the results at my next posting next month.  And thank you for taking a moment to do the survey.  I think the results could be very interesting and fun to play!



A Game of Game of Thrones

March 31, 2014 Comments off

GRR2707_450Winter is… actually over, but almost here. Again.

This Sunday, the newest season of Game of Thrones returns on HBO. To celebrate this, our gaming group has decided to give Green Ronin Publishing’s “A Song of Ice & Fire Roleplaying” a try. SIFRP, as it is called, has been out for a while now and there’s several sourcebooks out to help both players and GMs play on the continent of Westeros (and beyond).

We’re going to play through the adventure included at the end of the book, which presupposes the players all being of the same house who set out to increase their fortunes at a tourney held by King Robert Baratheon. While character generation is pretty standard and straightforward, the game really shines (for me) during the House creation, which is unique in my experience.

I’ve created a House for the game to be used as needed. It could be an ally, it could be an enemy. The generation system is both simple and complex, and allows for quite a bit of leeway for the Narrator (GM) to adjust as they see fit. I followed the system as is, without making any changes and came up with the following:

Step One: Realm

You roll 3d6 and that determines which part of Westeros the house is from. The North, Dorne, King’s Landing? All are possible, but with my roll of 11, the house is located in the Mountains of the Moon.

Step Two: Resources

Defense, Influence, Land, Law, Population, Power and Wealth. You roll 7d6 for each resource and adjust it based on location. For example, The West (Casterly Rock) has all those Lannister gold mines and get a bonus to Wealth. The North is vast and gets a bonus to Land. The Mountains of the Moon is a sparse (minus to land) location, but very hard to assail in battle (bonus to Defense) and all those clans in the mountains continually cause problems (minus to Law and Population). The rolls were above average in both Influence and Power, so this tells me that the House is well known and influential… about the size of House Florent or House Frey in the books. But we’re not done yet… as all of the Resources can be influenced by the next step, History, or by a monthly Fortune roll (to increase one Resource).

Step Three: History

Rolling a d6, I got the highest result, meaning the House is very old and was founded during the Andal Invasion. That certainly explains it’s Power and Influence! A number of “Events” are generated. The six I got were: Victory, Ascent, Victory, Scandal, Decline, Scandal. Each “event” adds or subtracts a random amount to the resources. I can see why maybe nobody has heard of this House tucked away in the Mountains of the Moon. In the past, they were well known and even on their way to a powerhouse, but their more recent history is plagued with a couple scandals with perhaps a death of an heir? That could cause all manner of problems. The last step with resources is for each player to roll and add to their choice of Resource where they think it would do the most good.

Adding It Up

I rolled expecting four players and, after all was said and done, came up with the following:

Defense 48 – This is a house with excellent defenses. A castle? Soldiers? Plenty of resources to spend there. We’ll spend 40 points to have a Castle. Because: castles are cool.

Influence 43 – Again, an excellent score and still commands respect, and is perhaps well known outside of it’s Realm for one reason or another. This score they like to (as I said above) either House Frey (Red Wedding, anyone?) or House Florent in the South. With that much Influence to spend, we can have an Heir for 20 points, a second son for 10 and a first daughter for another 10. Don’t fret, if we had been in Dorne the Heir could be a daughter.

Land 13 - Small holdings. Not much room in the valley or the mountains, so this makes perfect sense. Not much to spend here, but let’s spend it all. We can have a stream for 1 point, a road for 5 and hills for 7.

Law 18 – Banditry is common and lawlessness outside of the main environs. Rampaging clans of Black Ears maybe? This has no effect except later during our monthly “Fortune” roll, and gives us a -5.

Population 19 – Small. One small town, probably in the shadow of whatever keep or tower we decide upon. Again, no effect here, but just barely enough so we do not suffer a penalty to our Fortune.

Power 31 – 20 points spent means least 1 “Banner” house sworn to the main house (maybe the player house?), and some soldiers; as well as being generally respected by other houses militarily. We can buy Household Guards for 6, Archers for 3 and Scouts for 2. We’re not concerned so much with chivalry (and horses are expensive) so we’ll stick to our scouts and archers for now.

Wealth 36 – A surprising good roll means that there is something on the land or in the past that makes the house prosperous. 10 points buys us the presence of a Maester. Another 10 buys us a mine, which gives +5 to our Fortune roll for a net of 0. Another 10 and we can have a Marketplace. Makes sense… with our road and stream, trade is brisk in our little town.

My Kingdom for a Shield

The final step is heraldry. I rolled randomly for house colors (blue and silver) and followed the directions and got something completely unworkable. Therefore, I took some of the books other advice, which is to come up with something on my own. Swirling those around with all of the information rolled previously, I’d ended up with the followng:



House Durant of Silverstream

Formed shortly after a decisive victory during the Andal Invasion of Westeros, House Durant has been a fixture in the Mountains of the Moon. Sworn to House Arryn, they comported themselves with great honor in their antiquity, being granted lands north of the Eyrie and a silver mine as well. However, when the Targaryens conquered Westeros, they attempted (perhaps unwisely) to stay out of the fight and were called to task for their cowardice. That led to a long period of decline. In what could have been a fatal blow to the House, twenty years ago the last Lord contracted greyscale and the only children left were a bastard and several distant cousins. Jon Arryn took pity on the ancient house and raised the bastard to Lordship, married him to one of the cousins, and let him keep his father’s mines and titles. The current Lord Durant hopes that the tourney he and his household are attending will be a turning point for the family.


So there we have it: an interesting House generated almost entirely via the rules of Green Ronin’s SIFRP to use in our latest game. We’ll have to wait and see if the players have what it takes to win the Game of Thrones, and which house will Fortune favor?

Dangerous Covenants Review – Star Wars Edge of the Empire

March 27, 2014 Comments off

AggressiveNegotiationsThe latest sourcebook for Edge expands on the Hired Gun career. The TL;DR is this is my favorite Edge sourcebook yet. First off, the cover has a heavily-armored Aqualish brandishing a smoking multi-barrelled repeating blaster. This is the book to use when the party decides “aggressive negotiations” are in order. The races added are Aqualish (walrus dudes), Weequay (Hondo Ohnaka and his pirate gang) and Klatooinians (tough dog-faced people from Klatooine). The new specializations for hired guns are Enforcer (good mix of melee/underworld social skills), Demolitionist (Awesome for setting traps, and blowing stuff up of course), and Heavy (Unstoppable tank, best at wielding the biggest guns possible).

SWE08-book-leftTo Edge of the Empire’s credit, it’s not just all new guns and new characters to use them. It provides a lot more detail and ideas for hired gun backgrounds and obligations for the new as well as the originial hired gun specializations. The book is divided into three chapters, the first is all about the new backgrounds, races and specializations as well as new signature abilities like the ones added for explorers in Enter the Unknown. The second chapter is new weapons, armor, explosives, attachments and vehicles. Toward the end of the chapter there is a quick conversion table to turn a civilian vehicle into a paramilitary version. This allows you to drop a template on any stat block for vehicles already detailed in previous books and make them armed and armored! The third chapter is GM-focused, and deals with encounters, campaigns and rewards that cater to the hired gun career, as well as tips about running cinematic combat.

The page count breaks down this way: Total 96, intro 6 pages, new races/specializations/talents 30 pages, new gear/vehicles/ships 34 pages, encounters/campaigns/rewards 26 pages. Most of the stuff in this book is going to appeal to PCs, though really any of it could be used by the GM. If there is one thing I’ve learned from running this game, put big guns on the field and the PCs will find a way to use them. I think the combat system is one of the real strengths of Edge, and this book gives you a much bigger toolbox to work with than what is in the core. Plus, I’ve already got a smuggler in one of my groups that is always trying to rig up a trap with grenades, he may want to stat up a demolitionist!

If you’ve been on the fence about buying any of the expansion books for Edge, but really like the combat aspect of the game this book is a must have. If you enjoy more of the diplomatic missions/characters you may want to pass, but I don’t think any party of scoundrels and ne’er-do-wells would be complete without one guy with a whole lot of firepower.

DCC Leprechauns!

March 17, 2014 Comments off

271px-Leprechaun_ill_artlibre_jnlJust in time for St. Patrick’s Day, we present a new twist on an old favorite for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG: The Leprechaun!

Leprechaun Init +2, Atk shillelagh +2 melee (1d6); AC 17; HD 3d6; MV 20′; Act 1d20; SP invoke patron (The King of Elfland) at 1d20+5; SV Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +2; AL C. Patron spells: Forest Walk and War Horn of Elfland (caster level 5). Always found with triple treasure.

Leprechauns are small fey creatures in service to The King of Elfland as guardians of His Fey Majesty’s treasures. Typically found at the end of a rainbow in deep forest glades, these seemingly friendly creatures look like small elves wearing green garb and shiny black boots, but are ferocious if confronted — fighting to the death to protect their hoard. Capriciously, however, they do sometimes seek out adventurers to play tricks upon. Even after their defeat, the pernicious magic of Elfland can reach out and curse anyone who steals from the King: the first person to touch any part of a leprechaun’s hoard (which is usually kept in an iron cauldron) will be affected by The King of Elfland’s patron taint (spellcasters roll 1d6, non-spellcasters roll 1d5).

Speaking of Dungeon Crawl Classics (and Goodman Games)… they are currently seeking funding via Kickstarter for next year’s World Tour. In 2013, the “Band” of DCC RPG creative team ran games at different conventions around the country, and fans and GMs were given free swag to support events at local game stores and conventions. There’s a lot of chances to get some cool swag for you and your group as well as games ran by “The Band” and even *drumroll* A WIZARD VAN! Sounds like a great opportunity to increase the play of DCC in your area.

Categories: DCCRPG, holiday, kickstarter

Review: Ultimate Psionics

March 10, 2014 Comments off

psionicsOne of the Kickstarters that I had been waiting for excitedly and impatiently was Ultimate Psionics by Dreamscarred Press.  The original Kickstarter back in 2012 was to combine Dreamscarred’s Psionics Unleashed and Psionics Expanded into a single hardcover.  With all of the stretch goals achieved, the book grew even larger with more content that took this book to a level that I was not expecting.  I purposely did not partake in the forums or even read the previous editions because I wanted to be introduced to psionics for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game in a bold and fresh way.  Psionics have always intrigued me and I backed this one without hesitation.  And I am glad I did.

The content of this book is very informative and provides options for anything that a player may want to play.  The races, classes, skills, feats and powers run from the very simple to the more complex to be used easily by both beginners and experienced players alike.  Advanced options, such as archetypes, alternate racial traits and prestige classes, fit seamlessly with original and psionic character concepts.  Psionic weapons, armors and other items in the equipment chapter provide a few new options for any character, psionic or not.

The only drawback I could see is if you are not prepared for a psionics campaign.  Specifically targeting a player could lead to problems, but on the other hand there has to be ways to counter psionics.  A GM will need to be able to balance that effectively.

Let me just finally say that Ultimate Psionics is a beautiful book.  I was unable to get the full-color version of the book, but the art inside is top notch.  Dreamscarred did a great job with their artist pool and the gorgeous Wayne Reynolds cover ties it all together.

My recommendation?  Buy this book for your Pathfinder campaign.  Do it.

It was during the D&D 4th Edition Encounters season that introduced the Player’s Handbook 3 and I created the infamous Banglor Granitehide, dwarf battlemind.  It was during this time that I met the rest of the Skyland Games fellas.  After the end of the season we decided to keep our adventures going and create a campaign where each of us played a dwarf.  Sort of a bit of nostalgia for me; now back to Banglor.

Banglor Granitehide was a tough son-of-a-dwarf and I longed to convert him into Pathfinder, but there was no real way to do that, until now.  During his adventures in 4th Edition, he was basically untouchable as a battlemind (except for falls from ladders and beholder’s death rays) and even received an Elan body.  Keeping all that in mind I set about re-creating Banglor for Pathfinder.

I decided to go with the Elan race, but take the ‘failed transformation’ alternate trait to signify his origins as a dwarf.  I then chose to go with the Aberrant archetype of the Aegis class to give him the incredible resiliance he was known for.  Finally, I decided to level him to where he could take the Warmind prestige class, which closely matched the Paragon Tier he achieved in 4th Edition.  His character sheets are below; the first is just regular and relaxed, the second is focused and armored up.  I did this all by hand and I only found 2 mistakes (Will save is 1 too high and I think the Power Points are off).  I cannot wait until the Hero Lab files are released!

BanglorGranitehide BanglorGranitehideArmored

Suns of Fortune review: Star Wars Edge of the Empire

February 24, 2014 Comments off

SWE07-3D_LeftThis one is for the GMs. Edge of the Empire’s latest sourcebook is Suns of Fortune, detailing the planet Corellia, all the major planets in the system, and the planets beyond in the Corellian sector. Corellia is home to Han Solo and Wedge Antilles; as such, Corellians are known for their piloting skills. Unlike the previous source book for explorer characters Enter the Unknown, this book has only 16 pages of its 144 dedicated to player options, ships, species, and equipment. The majority of the book details planets and points of interest on those planets, as well as dangerous local fauna that will likely try and eat the party.

For those Star Wars fans familiar with the galactic geography of the Star Wars universe, Corellia seems like an odd system to expand upon for EDGE of the Empire, as it sits squarely in the core worlds. However, Corellia has always blazed it’s own trail and was aptly described in a recent Order 66 podcast as “Space-Texas.” (If you’ve got a spare 2-4 hours, or are going on a roadtrip, it makes for a fun listen.)

Somewhat surprisingly, there is not a full-length adventure included in the book. Instead, this book provides several “modular encounters” which are set pieces that can be dropped in to a lot of different adventures, but definitely have a Corellian feel. Some of the more versatile encounters include a Sabacc game with some crafty card-sharks, a merchant transaction that gets spicy when a very unhappy customer shows up with the PCs caught in the middle, an encounter with local customs authorities while smuggling etc. Throughout the book there are lots of stats for adversaries in all sorts of situations, and lots of adventure seeds from descriptions of planets just off the beaten path.

The new species are the Selonians, the Drall, and the Corellian human. The Corellian starts with a skill in piloting (space or planetary) and interestingly can train up to rank 3 during character generation which breaks the typical limit of two. The Drall seem like highly intelligent, note-taking Ewoks. The Selonians are like tall battle ferrets with a tail attack. I’m a bit underwhelmed by the few character options that are in the book.

For a system known for building some of the best and fastest ships in the galaxy, there are precious few pages dedicated to them. There are a few airspeeders, landspeeders, and some stats for some mining vehicles, and a good mix of fighters, patrol boats, light freighters and one small capitol ship (the assassin corvette). I had imagined there would be more focus on the ships as that is what Corellia is known for.

Overall, I think the focus and audience of this book is a lot more narrow than Enter the Unknown. Maybe my expectations were set higher from being so pleasantly surprised with the Explorer’s sourcebook. Unless you are a GM looking to please a group of PCs who want to play pilots and extensively explore one sector, this is probably a pass. The material is all here to build an entire Corellian campaign, but with the rest of the galaxy just a few parsecs away, why limit yourself?

Categories: Books, Reviews, Star Wars

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