Crawling Through “The Vertical Halls”

June 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Coming back from NTRPG Con loaded with goodies, I started going through things I hadn’t read yet and putting stuff in order. Glad I looked, because I discovered a lost treasure! When I was putting stuff into the zine boxes, I found a great level 2 adventure for DCC RPG called “The Vertical Halls” from Phlogiston Books and written by Gabriel García-Soto that for some stupid reason I never got around to reading before this weekend.

Spoiler Alert: It’s pretty damn epic. I loved it from beginning to end. The interior art by Francisco Tebár and Valentí Posa is especially great.

I don’t want to spoil anything too much, but there is a lot to work with here. The adventure can literally fit into any kind of scenario. For your ‘typical’ fantasy campaign, you can place it as is into any mountainous region. It could really work well in a Shudder Mountain campaign for sure. You could crank up the weirdness factor and put it into something like the Purple Planet, too! Make the town a ruin an go Crawling Under A Broken Moon. It could fit almost any setting if you do just a little adjusting, I’m sure.

It starts out simple enough: your adventuring group enters the town of Shadypass where, like they do, the villagers are all acting a little odd. Some investigation leads you to the main event and I’ve yet to see a creepier or more disturbing setting. Excellent throwbacks to some Lovecraftian goodness and the best part is that the author has taken some ‘typical’ monsters and put their own spin onto them. Great stuff! I can’t wait to get a party inside and make them squirm!

The PDF and Softcover combo are available on RPG Now. Definitely one to pick up and I am anxiously awaiting the next product this studio will be releasing!

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DCCRPG – The Dread God Al-Khazadar Review

June 20, 2016 Leave a comment

GMG5091CoverLargeThe Skyland Games crew has been busy these last few weeks! Mike and Kevin attended North Texas RPG con, which we will likely need to write a longer recap about later, but here is my tiny review: if you go to cons for the gaming, NTRPGcon is definitely worth the trip! Saturday was also Free RPG Day, which marks the 4th anniversary of pretty much the best FLGS of the modern era: The Wyvern’s Tale. Mike and Kevin ran a table of both Mutant Crawl Classics and Lankhmar each, and an awesome time was had by all.

But on to to the main event for this blog. I picked up several awesome souvenirs from NTRPGcon, most of which we’ll be reviewing here. The latest DCC module came out that weekend, and it is not to be missed! If you plan on playing this adventure instead of running it, you may want to stop reading now. The review will contain some spoilers!

The Dread God Al-Khazadar is a 24 page module that starts in the famed city of Punjar (could be any city really…Lankhmar?) but quickly the party is transported to an entirely different world. Once there, the party encounter Zardu and Zarya, two natives who may be used to provide information about the world, function as replacement PCs, or in an appendix-N-themed style, love interests for PCs. The author includes some mechanics like +1d when defending their true love and possibly losing luck points if separated from them. This could encourage some really interesting role-play during the adventure and is unique to this module.

There are a lot of great new creatures and side-bars that detail different aspects of the world, including a hex-map in the inside cover that shows various details of the region and would allow for several sessions worth of material. I would not recommend this one for a single 4-5 hour convention slot, as you would have to make so many edits, it would feel rushed and wouldn’t do the source material justice. This could have easily been expanded into a boxed set in its own right like Chained Coffin and Purple Planet. In the hands of the right Judge, it could be mini-campaign.

My favorite aspect of this adventure is the end. It is a bit of a twist and a very compelling choice that actually made my jaw drop when I read it. No spoilers on this, but just know that your players will be talking about this adventure for a long time, no matter what they choose!

I own nearly all the DCC adventures and this has probably been my favorite read since Fate’s Fell Hand. This is a must-own adventure. Daniel J. Bishop knocked it out of the park!

Categories: Adventure, DCCRPG, Reviews, RPGs

Formula Kart – Adding Mario Kart items to Formula D

May 30, 2016 Comments off

comboYesterday I watched the Monaco Grand Prix F1 race from start to finish. I had never really paid much attention to F1 racing before, and this was quite the dramatic race. Check out the highlights if you missed it.

Monaco is the track that comes with the board game Formula D. I’m such a big fan of the game I own all the expansions which include F1 tracks from around the world. The game is a lot of fun in its own right, but some games can turn to run away victories with a few fortunate rolls of the gear dice. This got me thinking about other racing games I love, like Super MarioKart.

If you are looking to add another layer of excitement, and to add some randomness and equalizers to the race, just add Mario Kart items! For the uninitiated, in MarioKart when your Kart runs over a question mark box, you get an item that can help you in the race. At this point there have been a lot of MarioKart games, and with them a lot of different items with different effects. Some would be more difficult to simulate in a board game than others. Here are my suggestions.

Use the red debris markers to simulate the the boxes, adding one per player. For a one lap game, I would suggest adding them half-way through the lap, for a two lap game, I would add them just before the finish line, or in both places if you want a lot of items! Once a car runs over the box, that player rolls the standard d20 “danger die” to determine what item is received. I’ve mixed and matched items from several different versions of MarioKart to make the mechanics easier to handle.

I’ve borrowed a few mechanics from 5th Edition D&D for the shells. While the game comes with one standard d20, I would recommend adding a few more to the box if you’ve got a few lying around (and if you’re nerdy enough to be reading this, you probably do!). For green shells its just a simple contested roll: both attacker and defender roll a d20, if the attacker has the higher result, the shell hits and the defender spins out. If the defender has the higher result, the shell misses! Red shells work the same, except the attacker rolls 2d20 (advantage in 5th ed. terms) while the defender still only rolls 1d20. Highest result wins, if its the defender, the red shell misses!

Download the full table here. I hope you guys enjoy this expansion to the rules. Watch out for blue shells!

Categories: 5e, Board, Games, House Rules, Mechanics, Tips

Zine Scene – Crawl 11 – The Seafaring Issue

May 22, 2016 Comments off

Screen shot 2016-05-22 at 3.14.30 PMMike and I attended GaryCon VII (2015) together, and had an incredible time. While I bought up just about everything I didn’t already own that Goodman Games has released, Mike had the forethought to take one look at the rack of zines available, and pick up one of each. Since then, he got in on the Zine Vault kickstarter and recently lent me his collection to become more familiar with the medium.

I have paged through several, but Crawl #11 caught my eye and I read it cover to cover. Included are rules for naval warfare and nautical mighty deeds by Bob Brinkman, Fantastic Forms of Sea Ship Propulsion by the DCC editor (and Crawl! creator) Rev. Dak J. Ultimak, The Deep Elders by Daniel J. Bishop, and Life Aboard by Sean Ellis.

The last big pirate RPG I had played was the Pathfinder adventure path Skulls and Shackles. This (like most of my Pathfinder experiences) started really well, but got a little ludicrous as the story progressed. In contrast, Bob’s rules about ships, cannons, and alternative weapons like chain shot and greek fire provide a canvas on which a flavorful, action-packed adventure could be painted! These rules hit all the right notes without getting too bogged down in mechanics. Tables for both crits or fumbles with cannons and fire-throwers ensure the need for the last table: brutal injuries! Also included are brief descriptions of special maneuvers such as boarding, crossing the T (coming across the bow and firing), as well as ramming. The naval mighty deeds are the icing on the cake, and include tables for boarding, cannon shots, and general piracy.

crawl11Fantastic Forms of Ship Propulsion detail eight alternative forms of naval locomotion. These range from the sun and stars, to creatures acting as the motor such as turtles and eels. My favorite is the skeleton crew, which is literally a necromancer’s ship with skeletons at the oars. Each include possible complications of the alternative power sources. These could work well on the Purple Planet, or any sea adventure that needs an interesting twist.

If you are looking to add some elder god flavor to your next oceanic excursion, The Deep Elders describe starfish like servants of Dagon that glow with blue, green or yellow light and possess sailors. Those enthralled become puppets of the deep elders and may only be banished with very strong magic. There are interesting rules about starting over as a 0-level and choosing an alternate, or gaining levels of your demi-human class once possessed.

Sean Ellis writes Life Aboard, which is a great set of tables to simulate days or weeks at sea. The Ship Morale table affects the subsequent Wind Speed and On-board Events tables, as the crew is either motivated (or not) to get the most out of the ship and the winds that day. The events are well thought out, but include the use of a d18, which is not part of the standard DCC chain. I love weird dice more than most, but even I draw the line somewhere. Since both 1 and 18 are non-events, you could substitute a d16 for a lively journey, or a d20 to include more non-event days.

Overall, this is an outstanding value in either print or PDF form. Since this issue is focused around this one theme, if you are looking to run a nautical adventure using DCC, Crawl! 11 is an outstanding resource. Even if you hadn’t considered it before, I bet you are now. Great work!

Categories: DCCRPG, Reviews, RPGs, Zines

May the Fourth Be With You

May 4, 2016 1 comment

 

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A few weeks back, I was roped into trying my hand at running a session of the Fantasy Flight RPG Star Wars “Edge of Empire” at the local Bounty Hunter’s Guild at The Wyvern’s Tale in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s a weekly (or semi-weekly) “drop in” game that Kevin has posted about before, and since I had played several games figured I would step up and try my hand at GMing.

It was a complete blast!

I am normally a person who preps like crazy. As noted before, I have a penchant for making detailed binders for trips and for campaigns. The story-telling nature of the typical Star Wars game, however, doesn’t lend itself to my normal GM style. Stepping way outside of my comfort zone, I came up with a basic premise with three “scenes” to make the entire game. First up, an alien xeno-archaeologist (with a bounty on his head) discovers a hidden temple and needs rescue; there’s unique environmental effects which cause havoc (and preclude the use of the bounty hunter’s overpowered normal transport) and causes their ship to crash to the planet’s surface; and at last a big scary beast to scare the bounty hunters off.

For the first part, I decided to make the alien a Brizzit and that he would have a protocol droid translator who was demolished. The temple he was hiding out in was dedicated to the Sith, and there would be a Sith or Sith-spirit present. The second part would be the planet itself: heavy electrical storms in the high altitude meant that any vehicle without specialty shielding would almost certainly crash (luckily the Bounty Hunter’s patron had just such a ship); and finally, for the third scene I’d have to create a creature loosely based on the Krayt dragon, but capable of flying for the final battle, followed by rescue from another ship.

I tried to play it fast and loose. I figured the first scene would be a combo: quick RP interaction with the Hutt boss and outline of the mission followed by a piloting / mechanics check scenario as they try to navigate the horrific lightning storm. Right from the get-go that didn’t go according to plan. With a double-Triumph and setback dies removed from the check due to some crazy co-pilot talents, the ship sailed down with minor damage, enough that I ruled there was a hull breach and they’d need to set down for repairs.

The second scene was originally supposed to be interaction with the alien (who did not speak Basic) and repairs to the protocol droid, and that went as planned for the most part. We didn’t have a real ‘face’ character so without too much misunderstanding the repairs were effected and the Brizzit convinced the group to take cover from the approaching storm in the temple itself.

This is the point at which having tried to plan on every contingency would have been a very bad mistake. The original idea was to very cinematically have the Sith Master drop in front of the hole made by blasting through the wall, threatening the PCs and then being swallowed (fancy red lightsaber and all) by the humongous “dragon” and the smaller ones (still quite dangerous) leaping in to attack.

Of course, two of the PCs got first attack and one of them rolled a Triumph (again!) to shoot the lightsaber out of his hands and the other one did some crazy maneuvering to roll around and grab it. At this point, things are very much off the rails. A Chadra-fan mechanic skill monkey with a lightsaber can just about ruin any campaign, so I had to think fast. Additional fire from the high-powered assassin droid and several rounds of crits from the Bounty Hunters rocked the Sith back on his heels and it was only a matter of time before he fell.

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Now I felt it was time to panic. I knew I’d have to get that away from them somehow, and then it hit me: this was the “treasure” the Brizzit and his no-good protocol droid were after the whole time! I played up the fact that the storm wouldn’t be abating for several hours and they were in for a long repair session, but afterwards they’d be good to go. With a few nudges about how exhausted they were, everyone played right into my hands by putting the assassin droid as “guard” while the rest of the crew napped. One restraining bolt later and the “xeno-archaeologist” steals the lightsaber off the sleepy Chadra-fan and runs out into the storm to “escape” while the droid fought everyone who was waking up.

Cue the music and it’s the other bad guy who gets scooped up by the big “dragon”(along with that saber)… and everything from there continued more or less as planned. They killed the big thing (again thanks to a lot of crits), got the ship up and out of the storm and away back to home base. They had to explain why their bounty was dead and the ship had a hole and they really had nothing to offer beyond the location of an old Sith temple. The Hutt (and by extension me) took some pity on them, swore them to secrecy saying he may have a buyer for that sort of information (and a potential plot hook for another game).

All in all, I had a great time with a low-prep way of running and everyone seemed to have a good time. The game lends itself to a different style of GMing than I am used to and I really enjoyed it when all is said and done. Kevin pointed out that only I could make a Star Wars game with space wizards and thunder dragons. Rightly so.

With it being May the Fourth today would be a good day to write down some ideas of your own for your Star Wars campaign. Just look out for those untrustworthy droids…

Fun with the Three Fates in DCCRPG

May 2, 2016 1 comment

A few months ago we ran some fourth level pregens through the awesome Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure “The 13th Skull” while taking a week off from our regularly scheduled D&D game. Someone had to be the cleric and so I pulled a Neutral priestess and using just the Core book as inspiration chose “The Three Fates” as her patron. Thus was born the legend of Sister Aramella…

Her background occupation was fortune-teller and she had a tarot deck as one of her pieces of equipment. We had a printed copy of the Deck of Many Things, so I grabbed that and whenever someone questioned Sister Aramella or wanted me to cast a spell, I pulled a card and wove that into my role-play.

We faced an enemy: I pulled a card – “Death” – and said “Well this does not look good…” It was a great hook and the spell Second Sight got the most use out of any previous DCC game because I’d pass the deck to the GM and he’d arrange for me to pull a card and let me interpret it as I saw fit. “Oh you’d like healing?” Pull out the Skull and “Sorry, the Fates decree that you might not survive the day. We’ll see.” Botched a spell? Pull out the Idiot card and cry that my actions have upset the Triplicate Goddess.

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One of the things I would like to add more of to my own DCC games are additional patrons, and additional spells or effects like I described. The 2015 Gongfarmer’s Almanac (available at the Google+ DCC community for free and now in an omnibus addition) has a whole slew of new patrons and even a great chart for additional daily effects expanding upon the birth augur in the core rulebook.

What sort of props have you added in to your DCC games? What kind of patrons or additional effects would you like to see? Comments are open!

The Death of Jar Jar Binks

April 21, 2016 4 comments

NEpVH1HqB1S5sx_1_bThe weekly Bounty Hunter game at our FLGS The Wyvern’s Tale continues to be a hit! Never have a seen so many sign up so quickly, as when I announced the target would be the notorious representative from Naboo, Jar Jar Binks. With the release of Nexus of Power, we now have PC stats for Gungans, as well as Gungan weapons, details about their culture and significant locales on Naboo. I’ll provide links to the three NPCs I stated out at the bottom: Gungan Guard, Boss Nass, and Jar Jar himself.

I employed my typical three scene strategy for this week’s episode, but quickly adapted to a new setting for the final scene based on what the players wanted to do once we got to Otoh Gunga. This mission was sponsored by the ISB, and as this particular chapter of the Bounty Hunters Guild had run afoul of the ISB last week, the ISB would provide the equipment for the mission, but the pay was just a matter of settling a previous debt. Most players would probably take a shot at Jar Jar pro bono, anyway. The imperials provided a commandeered Mon Cala explorer sub (from Stronghold of Resistance) as well as a Verpine Shatter Rifle, and a Verpine Shatter Pistol on loan. Due to the rarity of these weapons and the listed cost of 30,000 and 15,000 credits, respectively, I allowed the players to chose whether to bring the weapons or not, with the caveat that if they were lost or destroyed, it would incur a personal 30 or 15 point obligation to the ISB. The PCs took them anyway!

Colo_claw_fish_SWK_magazineThe first scene involved the team descending into the depths and navigating to Otoh Gunga, the underwater capital of the Gungans. This involved piloting planetary checks that became more difficult as the PCs descended into the depths. Failures and threats could do hull damage or system strain to the sub, despair causing a vehicle crit. Successes and advantages could allow for finding shortcuts, and safely maneuvering the sub, while a triumph may give them the drop on the first encounter: colo claw fish! While these creatures are not much risk to the sub, I had a great time describing their bio-luminescence. It also served to illustrate there are big, bad terrible things in the water.

The second scene was the team arriving in Otoh Gunga, and meeting with Boss Nass. There was some negotiation and skullduggery around carrying weapons around town, and certainly into the meeting hall. Once that was settled, the team learned that Jar Jar was in Otoh Gunga, but that he had been a headache to the Boss and sequestered in a remote section of the city. This involved several negotiation, deception and charm checks, and allowed the “face” characters to really shine.

The third scene I had planned was going to be a chase through the streets of Otoh Gunga, culminating in an underwater chase, ultimately resulting in Jar Jar and his aiwha mount (Stay on Target) being eaten whole by a sando aqua monster (think underwater godzilla). The team would then have to battle this giant beast underwater and retrieve proof of the kill.

kill-jar-jar-binksInstead, the team wanted to see about entering in a bongo race. So sure enough, there just happened to be a bongo race at Otoh Gunga Garden (info in Nexus of Power), and who would be in attendance, but Jar Jar himself! I intended this to start the chase to get to the sando aqua, but we had such a great time in the stadium we ended up with a Sudden Death (campy Van Damme/Hockey movie)  type of assassination-in-a-stadium situation. This involved the team covertly getting into the catwalks for the lighting in the stadium to line up a shot on Jar Jar’s VIP box seats, and the ensuing mayhem when the team missed the shot. Eventually they chased him down and brought back his tongue as evidence for the ISB.

The reason the team missed the shot is due to how I built Jar Jar. At first I thought I would try and pick what I feel to be one of the more useless classes, the Colonist Performer. It ended up working perfectly, as performers have talents like distracting behavior (ideal for Jar Jar) that adds automatic threat to rolls, as well as coordination dodge, which allows you to add automatic failures to a roll when spending a destiny point. This allowed me a modicum of control as to when they finally made their takedown, and narratively, allowed me to describe some appropriately infuriating Jar Jar hijinks! It was definitely a memorable session, and one I am likely to run again.

Here are the Gungan NPCs I stated out:

Gungan Body Guard

Boss Nass

Jar Jar Binks

 

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