The 2016 Halloween modules from Goodman Games has arrived and it is awesome! We will get in to some minor spoilers, so this review is geared towards judges looking for something to run either in the coming weeks, or any time you want to run something in the horror genre. This adventure is decidedly creepy with a nice insanity mechanic appropriately termed “unraveling”.
This is your final warning, players look away! You will suffer dire corruption if you don’t close this page now!
Just us judges? OK – Michael Curtis did an amazing job with this adventure. This one starts with a theme about closets/wardrobes/drawers acting as portals between worlds, and has the party (who may be in the same place, or entirely different planes) called to the pocket dimension of the House of Tattered Remnants, home and prison of the Sempstress. It is digest-sized and weighs in at 20 pages, so is perfect for a convention slot, or one-shot for the holiday.
The Sempstress was banished to this pocket dimension ages ago by ancestors of the party. She sent her minions through the various seemly mundane closets or wardrobes to exact revenge on the heroes for her imprisonment. The PCs give chase and emerge in the House of Tattered Remnants. This horror house is filled with creepy challenges and mood-setting details. One of my favorite features of this adventure is the unraveling mechanic. Each PC starts with a stability score equal to their personality stat. If the PCs see something mindbogglingly horrific, they make a DC 10 Will save. On a fail, they lose a point of stability. Once it drops below 10, PCs start manifesting physical signs of unraveling which acts similar to corruption for wizards. Most of them aren’t debilitating, but represent the character losing grip on reality in this twisted pocket dimension.
There are a nice mix of encounters and traps, and the gore level is just right for my tastes: present, but not over-the-top. Another excellent feature in this adventure is a nod to classic haunted houses. Clever PCs will search for an artifact that was discarded in vats of spare body parts the Sempstress uses to create her minions. Prepared judges can blind fold a player and physically have them search in bowls peeled grapes as eyeballs and peeled tomatoes as hearts, etc. to find the representation of the artifact in real life. Such a great idea!
The final battle with the sempstress herself looks to be quite challenging, even for the 6th level PCs recommended for the adventure. She will likely have a pair of Reality Tailor allies that cast spells using set numbers rather than rolling a spell check result. Those numbers descend over subsequent rounds, but between unraveling checks from the Sempstress and her ability to stitch heroes to themselves or stitch her own wounds, this will be a boss battle to remember!
I may just print out a few 6th level pre-gens for ScareFest this weekend. It seems like the perfect venue for this spooky adventure! If you’ve got a seasonally appropriate game night coming up and are looking for a memorable adventure, head to the House of Tattered Remnants. Just don’t become unraveled!
The Frost Fang Expedition by Mark Bishop has been released by Purple Sorcerer games for Dungeon Crawl Classics. This beast of a 1st-level adventure weighs in at a digest-sized 72 pages plus a 40-page full-sized digital appendix for printing handouts, maps, minis, and rumors. Also included in the appendix are great tips for judging the adventure in general, as well as ways to fit this into a four-hour convention slot.
The premise is to save the town from a floating earth mote that has been the residence of a reclusive wizard for about 100 years. Recently, lights have started going out in the castle and chunks of earth have fallen into town. The townspeople fear the magic is fading and need brave adventures to summit the peak, cross the rickety bridge, and avert the impending disaster.
This adventure features lots of background information on the town, NPCs, and baddies that inhabit the different locations. Providing this level of detail allows the well-prepared judge to bring the setting and the scenes to life. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend this adventure to a novice judge. If you have about a dozen tables under your belt, you can probably handle the amount of juggling required to keep the adventure running smoothly.
There are two NPCs traveling with the party that want the mission to get to the end goal for very different reasons. This allows a clever judge to use them to drop key hints to the party should they be stuck, but in several scenes will require these NPCs to argue in front of the party about what to do (allowing the PCs to decide the ultimate course of action). This is a really cool device, but may be tough for new judges.
The Frost Fang Expedition also has branching paths within the adventure on the way to the peak. This allows for some replay (and certainly re-run) value as the adventures will have some agency in deciding how they want to approach the summit of the mountain. That being said, the encounters are numbered a bit confusingly. Everything throughout the entire adventure is 1-something, like the typical 1-1, 1-2, 1-3 for denoting sequential encounters in certain areas. I would have liked to see the mountain broken up in to different sections, with the branches named with numbers and letters. For instance, at the end of encounter 1-1, the party must choose the left path or the right path. the left path leads to encounter 1-2A and the right leads to encounter 1-2B. both end up and encounter 1-3. Instead, the lettered encounters represent sub-rooms in a particular location. This makes the order of events and following the path of the adventure for the judge a bit more difficult.
The overall tone of the adventure is fairly lighthearted despite the impending doom of the town, should the adventurers fail. The illustrations (many by the author himself) are similar in style and tone to the Flaming Deathpits of the Minotaur Mage: Descent into Doomfire (which if you haven’t played, you really should).
The final encounter includes quite a bit of juggling (as mentioned in the included appendix) and may be a lot to handle. While there are some simplified spell-duel rules included, I would leave that out for all but the most experienced judges. There will already be a ritual to perform, plenty of NPCs and baddies to run, and a d6 counting down.
Currently on sale for $9.99 for Print+PDF, this is an awesome gaming value for some very memorable encounters. I would highly encourage experienced judges to take this one on for a con, and for home campaigns, stretch it out to two or three sessions! There is certainly a lot of good times to be had on the Frost Fang Expedition!
Fall is here! That means that AVLscarefest is only about a month away. Last year was a really fantastic time, and the organizers are going out of their way to apply feedback and make this year truly fantastic! From October 21-23 add set in the picturesque mountains of Montreat, NC, the old stone buildings of the campus and convention center set the mood for some spooky games of all types. Beyond the truly staggering amount of Pathfinder Society games, you’ll find thematically appropriate games of Call of Cthulhu, Dread, Ghostbusters, D&D adventurer’s league, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Lankhmar, Cryptworld, Savage Kingdoms, Bolt Action, and many more! Get your ticket and sign up for games at the warhorn.
Last year I had an absolute blast trying games I had never tried before like Deadlands Noir, Bolt Action, and Shadowrun. I also ran a pretty creepy table of Star Wars which became the impetus to get the Star Wars bounty hunter game going. This year I’ll be running Masks of Lankhmar and two sessions of Star Wars bounty hunters. Mike will be running the Shambling Un-dead and the Arwich Grinder!
New this year is a token system, in which players and GMs are all provided tokens that can be used to reward awesome role-playing, helping out around the con, and can be used at the end of the con to win some awesome prizes from local vendors. This encourages both excellent games and excellent community spirit. I can’t wait to see the results!
Don’t miss out on this fantastic con in the mountains. Try a game you have never played, or bring your favorite game to run. I’ll see you there!
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!
The 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!
Mike 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.
Fantastic 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!