Episodic Adventures and Then Some

So it’s been a while …

As I mentioned over on G+, my wife and I are expecting our first child this June, and her first trimester wasn’t the easiest going for her. Compound that with my new position at work (started in August) starting to ramp up and the result is a lack of blogging.

Continue reading “Episodic Adventures and Then Some”

Holy Shit: Let’s Talk about Clerics in DCC RPG, Part 3

As previously noted, I am writing with two particular assumptions in mind: One, that alignment represents allegiance, and two, that the majority of “nature gods” are Neutral.

deviantART by diablosdemie

I would say that Turn Unholy poses the biggest problem for me in regards to Chaos clerics. Last time I mentioned the anti-cleric, who completely lacked any version of Turn Undead. Considering what the power represents in the fiction, it makes sense that it would be exclusive to Lawful clerics. It’s Peter Cushing rebuking Christopher Lee with a cross; it’s a holy man passing unharmed through the valley of the shadow of death. When I first started playing D&D, the fictional truth behind Turn Undead instantly made sense to me, even if the rules for doing it didn’t. But where does the Chaos cleric fit in that fiction?

Continue reading “Holy Shit: Let’s Talk about Clerics in DCC RPG, Part 3”

Holy Shit: Let’s Talk About Clerics in DCC RPG, Part 2

As I noted in Part 1, I am writing with two particular assumptions in mind: One, that alignment represents allegiance, and two, that the majority of “nature gods” are Neutral. Also, this topic will now be split across three posts instead of just two, as I previously expected.

Chaos Knight by Ian Miller

In little brown book OD&D, all clerics are Lawful in alignment, and the priests of Chaos are “anti-clerics.” This distinct class lacks any power over undead, not even AD&D’s command variation for evil priests. Also, the anti-cleric spell list lacks any healing spells. Now, DCC comes together from an amalgamation of ideas across all editions of D&D, along with a lot of excellent original material. But I think there’s still a lot of value in looking back at the anti-cleric when considering Chaotic clerics and how they are distinct from Lawful and Neutral clerics, both fictionally and mechanically.

Continue reading “Holy Shit: Let’s Talk About Clerics in DCC RPG, Part 2”

Melt: A Space-Age Sorcery Spell for DCC RPG

Space-Age Sorcery is a free PDF stuffed with flavorful OSR-compatible spells of a strange science-fantasy bent. If anything about that sounds close to your game, it’s well worth your time to head over to Hereticwerks and download it.

Here’s a DCC RPG conversion of one of the spells from that PDF using the spell conversion article in Crawl! Fanzine #1 as a guide. This one could have a lot of potential dungeon crawl benefit. I may go back later and expand the effects range to more closely mimic the 1st-level spells from the DCC rulebook.


Level: 1 (Wizard)
Range: Touch
Duration: Instantaneous
Casting Time: 1 action
Save: None

General: The caster gains the ability to liquify metals and alloys on touch, manipulating their form and causing damage golems, automatons, and metal-based lifeforms.

Corruption: Roll 1d8: (1-3) the caster’s hands transform into a gleaming, cold chrome; (4-6) minor corruption; (7) major corruption; (8) greater corruption.

Misfire: Roll 1d6: (1-4) all of the caster’s metal possessions immediately melt away into liquid; (5-6) all metal possessions of a random person within 30′ of the caster melt away.

1: Lost, failure, and worse! Roll 1d6 modified by Luck: (0 or less) corruption + misfire + patron taint; (1-2) corruption; (3) patron taint (or corruption if no patron); (4+) misfire.

2-11: Failure, spell is lost.

12-13: The wizard can use a finger to carve symbols and messages into the metal as though it were wet cement. This ability lasts for 1 turn. Alternately, on the next round a metal-based creature attacked by the wizard takes an additional 1d4 damage.

14-17: On the next round, the caster’s touch liquifies 1 pound of metal per CL. The metal will re-solidify in 1 turn; during that time the caster may sculpt and manipulate the metal with his hands, though the quality of the final result is dependent on the caster’s artistic ability. The wizard may attempt to grapple with an opponent to melt their weapons and armor.

Alternately, on the next round a metal-based creature attacked by the wizard takes an additional 1d4 damage per CL.

18-19: On the next round, the caster’s touch liquifies 1.5 pounds of metal per CL. The metal will re-solidify in 1 turn; during that time the caster may sculpt and manipulate the metal with his hands, though the quality of the final result is dependent on the caster’s artistic ability. The wizard gains a +2 bonus to attempt to grapple with an opponent to melt their weapons and armor.

Alternately, on the next round a metal-based creature attacked by the wizard takes an additional 1d6 damage per CL.

20+: On the next round, the caster’s touch liquifies 2 pounds of metal per CL. The metal will re-solidify in 1 turn; during that time the caster may sculpt and manipulate the metal with his hands, though the quality of the final result is dependent on the caster’s artistic ability. The wizard gains a +1d bonus to attempt to grapple with an opponent to melt their weapons and armor.

Alternately, on the next round a metal-based creature attacked by the wizard takes an additional 1d8 damage per CL.

Vassals to the Lords Unending: Elves of the Age of Ruins

Two blogs which I respect and enjoy the hell out of had some semi-recent posts about elves that got me thinking about how the pointy-ears fit into my own setting.  Adam Muszkiewicz of Dispatches from Kickassistan detailed a bit more of the history of elves in his Ur-Hadad setting, and I love his twist on the “elves leaving this world” concept: the elves already left a long time ago (a lot of them at least), and then came back (relatively) recently. Tom Fitzgerald of Middenmurk mused beautifully about elves in general before detailing several evocative types of elf. Really great stuff that inspired me; check it out.

In deep forests and forgotten valleys lie places where the border between the world of men and the realm of the elves is weak; around these hidden paths the Fair Folk have established footholds of dominion in the lands of mortals. This is not to imply that the intent of elves is sinister, nor is it certain that their will is benign. The minds of elves are not easily understood, being alien in thought as they are in birth.

'The Meeting of Oberon and Titania' - Arthur Rackham
‘The Meeting of Oberon and Titania’ – Arthur Rackham

While all elves ultimately owe allegiance to Oberon, the King of Elfland and First Among the Lords Unending, each is also sworn to the court of a lesser lord, the princes and princesses of the Unending Reign. More than mere allegiance, elves have distinct physical and metaphysical characteristics dependent on the court from which they hail. Different courts tend to also be associated with certain natural features in the world of men, and the paths between worlds near those features will often lead to the domain of a particular Lord Unending.

The very first elves to cross over into the mortal world did so in ancient eons, when mighty forces were still shaping reality itself. The wood-watchers of Prince Fyonheil’s court became fast friends to the servants of the Great Bear, so much so that they too marched to war when the Great Bear’s wrath stirred and brought about the First Ruination.

deviantART by bridge-troll

The lore keepers of Prince Arcanus also dwelt in the world in those early days and some shared the secrets of magic with the first men to practice the art of wizardry. Even the prince himself crossed into this realm, establishing a great citadel on the large moon that bore his name. The Court of Arcanus took little interest in most affairs of the world; the elves’ looked instead to other worlds that lie yet beyond the mortal realm, for despite their ancient and strange magics, it is impossible to summon entities of other realms into the land of elves. By way of the land of men, however, many an elf established allegiance with godlings and demons of all sort. And once brought into the world of men, such beings can follow the paths to Elfland with a guide to show the way.

The experiments of the Court of Arcanus surely played some role in the onset of the Second Ruination, for all elves fled from the world in those days, and the gate from the lunar citadel to Elfland was destroyed behind them, shattering the moon.

Shattered Moon

Elves remained apart from the mortal world for countless millennia until the Sixth Ruination, the Maelstrom of the Chaos Lords, opened many new paths into the elven realms. Drawn forth by the surging magics of the last Ruination, elves from all manner of courts entered the world of men and have remained here in the centuries since — a mere blink of an eye by their accounting of time.

Elf Characters: The elf class remains unchanged from the DCC RPG rulebook, though the physical appearance of an elf varies based on which court they come from. 0-level elf characters already have infravision, heightened senses, and iron sensitivity per the rules; in addition, they know and are able to cast one of their 1st level spells based on their court. For example, all elves from the Court of Arcanus know and can cast Read Magic at 0-level, while those from the Court of Fyonheil know Animal Summoning. This counts as one of the 3 spells the elf knows at 1st level, it is not a bonus spell.

Also, regardless of occupation, all elves begin play with either mithril scale mail or a mithril short sword; this is in place of the rule in the book that allows them to purchase the items at regular price once at 1st-level. Elves do not begin with any coins or randomly determined equipment.

My Mother was a Witch: Tiefling Class for DCC RPG

tiefling1I was a big Planescape fan back in the 90s, and I still think it’s a pretty great. Tieflings were one of my favorite aspects of the setting, though as the years went by the race definitely developed something of a “good drow” problem. While it made perfect sense for there to be a tiefling or two in every party when the game is hopping all over the multiverse, having them all over the place in more traditional fantasy worlds drains a bit of what made them special. That being said, I think the core concept can fit very well with the Appendix N style of DCC.

While many times the strange offspring of wizards and witches may be powerful outright half-demons, there’s definitely something cool to the notion of the slightly off child who becomes more sinister as they grow into their own power.

Tieflings level up as elves in terms of hit points, attack bonus, spells, saves — all of the level-based table stuff covered on p. 58 of the DCC RPG rulebook. They also get Patron Bond/Invoke Patron free as elves do. Due to their nature, they tend very strongly toward aligning with Chaos. In addition, tieflings gain the following abilities.

Second Sight: Because of their otherworldly heritage, tieflings are able to perceive the bonds between worlds. Tieflings can tell if someone is aligned with Law or Chaos just by looking at them. They can also perceive this alignment in magical artifacts.

Immunities: Tieflings are immune to being magically charmed and having their thoughts read.

Sins of the Forebearer: Tieflings begin play with two Minor Corruptions per DCC RPG p. 116 (or from Marks of Chaos 1: Subtle). As they gain power, they display ever more outward signs of their heritage — at every odd level (3, 5, 7, and 9), the tiefling gains another corruption. Roll 1d10 and add the tiefling’s new level: 1-6 Minor, 7-9 Major, 10+ Greater. Luck modifies the result on the corruption table normally, but Luck cannot be spent to avoid gaining the corruption.

Supernatural Sympathy: Because of their connection with the otherworldy, tieflings gain a +2 spell check bonus to all summoning spells and patron spells.

Luck: Tieflings are said to be harbingers of misfortune and ill fate. They gain additional abilities when spending Luck, as follows.

First, tieflings can expend Luck to bring bad luck to others. For every 2 points of Luck expended, the target gains -1 to their roll. The tiefling must be able to see the target or have some part of them (a lock of hair, some toe nails, their wedding ring).

Second, tieflings recover Luck to a limited extent. A tiefling’s Luck score is restored each night by a number of points equal to their level.

OK, here’s the thing — I was originally going to make the bad luck ability a 1-for-1 expenditure, but I was worried that it could be game breaking. I’m still worried it might be a little unbalancing. My main concern is a situation where there’s a party halfing spending Luck to help boost a wizard’s spell while the tielfling is spending luck to reduce the target’s saving throw. Yet there’s another part of me that still prefers the simplicity of a 1-for-1 expenditure. I’d love some thoughts/feedback on this.

The Night Children: Hobgoblins in the Age of Ruins

Hobgoblins are by far the most sinister and devious of the Night Children, possessing a sharp, cunning intellect to rival that of mankind. They commonly employ ranged weapons, such as bows, and many display knowledge of spellcraft — traits unique among least demons. Because of this wit, hobgoblins are frequently encountered as leaders among large groups of goblins and orcs; on rare occasions even the mostly solitary bugbears and trolls can be found serving hobgoblin masters.

Despite this accumen for command (or perhaps because of it), hobgoblins almost never gather in large groups of their own kind. They are most commonly encountered in small bands, traditionally referred to as “haunts,” consisting of a hobgoblin warlock, 3-4 warriors of diverse and complimentary combat styles, and a small swarm of common goblins. These groupings have such a fearsome reputation for brutal efficiency that itinerant human mercenaries and mages have emulated their structure since time immemorial, recruiting desperate, foolish, and greedy peasants in place of goblin swarms. This is why decent folk refer to those who choose to engage in such activities as “hob-os.”

Hobgoblins are also the only Night Children that actively seek out and summon their demonic superiors. Some sages believe that all of these traits, taken as a whole, suggest that hobgoblins are the larval stage in an unfathomably long and hideously alien lifecycle that culminates in the ascension of a demon prince.

Awesome original art by one of my players, Alex Rivera
Awesome original art by one of my players, Alex Rivera

Hobgoblin Warrior: Init +2; Atk sword +d4+1 deed melee (1d8+1) or bow +d4 deed missile (1d6); AC 15 (chain mail); HD 2d8+2; MV 30′; Act 1d20; SP infravision 60′, -1 attack in bright light, mighty deed of arms, vulnerable to fire; SV Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +0; AL C.

Mighty Deed of Arms: Hobgoblin warriors have a d4 deed die (at least) and are capable of performing deeds as members of the warrior class.

Vulnerable to Fire: Hobgoblins take an additional 1d6 damage from fire, and have a 50% chance of catching fire whenever they take damage.

Hobgoblin Warlock: Init +1; Atk balefire missile +3 (1d12); AC 10; HD 2d6+2; MV 30′; Act 1d20; SP infravision 60′, -1 attack in bright light, spellcasting, summon balefire, vulnerable to fire; SV Fort +0, Ref +1, Will +2; AL C.

Spellcasting: Hobgoblin warlocks may know wizard spells as high as 3rd level. They have a bonus to spell checks equal to HD+1.

Summon Balefire: Hobgoblin warlocks can summon and hurl orbs of sickly green flame called balefire. Though it appears as fire, balefire is deathly cold and does no damage to demons of any sort (Night Children included). In addition to attacking with balefire, warlocks can make a spell check against DC 14 to transform all natural flame in a 30′ radius into balefire.

For Savage Worlds:

  • Use the hobgoblin stats from p. 127 of SW Fantasy Companion
  • Night Children traits
  • Warriors have Fighting d10 and Parry 7, as well as 2-3 combat edges up to seasoned rank
  • Warlocks have Spellcasting d10 and can hurl balefire at a -1 caster check (2 spell points) and transform fire at a -2 caster check (2 spell points), in addition to any other spells known

Making it Rain (without casting Control Weather): Spending Gold for XP in DCC RPG

Stephen Fabian

A couple weeks ago I posted a version of Jeff’s carousing for xp rules, adapted to reflect the DCC RAW experience scale. So far in my DCC judging, I’ve awarded experience while adventuring using the guidelines in the rules, which are mostly centered around surviving threats. I’ve also stuck to Luck awards for good role-playing and such, as the rules suggest. However, I wanted players to have the option to spend gold on xp-gaining activity for two reasons: One, my group doesn’t meet super frequently (every 3-4 weeks), so I wanted to bump up the xp curve a bit to make mid-level play attainable within a somewhat reasonable amount of time. Two, I think it’s very much in keeping with the style of Appendix N to encourage players to spend large amounts of hard-earned coin on things other than practical adventuring gear.

To further encourage that sort of spending, I’ve decided to incorporate a couple additional class-specific gold for xp options into the game. I’ve also made a few tweaks to my take on carousing, as noted below (and in the updated download document). Each activity requires at least one full week of downtime between adventures, and characters can’t gain xp from engaging the same activity again until they’ve gone out and done some real adventure-type stuff in between.

Consecration: Clerics can spend their gold constructing altars, shrines, and temples to their gods, or otherwise engaging in ritual consecration of sites if the god doesn’t go in for the flashy stuff. (But really, if they don’t, why is your cleric worshipping that lame god?)

Clerics earn 1 xp for every 100 gp thus spent, to a limit of 5 xp at a time — this can be from partial construction of a much grander structure, though it should start with the actual altar and move out from there.

There are no immediate consequences for temple construction, but over time there’s a chance that your great work will be desecrated by heathens, and the gods don’t like that. For every month that the cleric goes out adventuring (even if they are only gone for a week or two out of that month), there’s a 5% chance that one of their constructions is desecrated in some way. The cleric gains 1d6 to their permanent deity disapproval range until they spend the d6 result x 100 gp re-sanctifying and repairing.

Magical Research: Not to be confused with learning new spells, this is the sort of miscellaneous weird and dangerous magical research that results in tiger/giant centipede hybrid creature that destroys three blocks before being taken out. Wizards and elves earn 1 xp for every 100 gp thus spent, to a limit of 5 xp at a time.

When engaging in such research, the caster must make a spell check against DC 15 or suffer consequences. I’m still working on the table for that, but it will combine some things from Brandon’s list with the Corruption tables in DCC rulebook and a couple other sources.

Carousing: All characters can carouse for xp, but some know how to have a good time better than others. You must have at least 100 gp of wealth to try carousing for xp. Roll 1d5; you gain the result in XP and spend the result x 100 gp. If the cost of carousing is more than you possess in coins, gems, and luxury items, you are now indebted to someone who expects to be paid back the difference plus 1d6 x 10% interest. If you then roll a “lose all your stuff” consequence, double the debt. Thieves, warriors, dwarves, and halflings may choose to double the XP earned and gold spent, provided they have at least enough wealth to cover the initial result’s cost. Any additional cost incurs debt as normal (so if a warrior or thief rolls a 4 and has 400 gp, they can take the 4 xp or choose to earn 8 xp and have 400 gp debt with 10-60% interest).

In addition, after each carousing die is rolled, you must roll d100 on the consequences table; subtract your permanent Luck modifier x 10% from the d100 roll.

Servants of Order and Entropy: Alignment and Allegiance

Elric of Melnibone
deviantART by Isra2007

Earlier this week, Keith Davies posted a comparison of three different “alignment” systems: The nine alignments of AD&D, the three alignments of OD&D, and the allegiance system of FantasyCraft and d20 Modern. In a bit of synchronicity, last week I was reading the Beyond the Black Gate Compendium 2010, which touches on the ideas from these two posts about the difficulty with alignment in sword & sorcery and shifting the OD&D alignment system toward an allegiance system. As I was reading BtBG, I was thinking that  the allegiance scheme might be more in keeping with the tone of DCC RPG, and reading Keith’s post put me over the edge.

So what is the fundamental difference between the classic conception of D&D alignment and the allegiance concept? A comment on one of the BtBG posts sums it up best: “It’s basically the idea of Alignment as something one does, roughly, as opposed to something one is.” Essentially, it is viewing alignment as the devotion of a character to certain higher cosmic forces rather than as a descriptor of a character’s behavior or attitude. In the allegiance view, a character who is quite honest and believes in strong government could very likely still be Neutral in alignment — a character is only aligned with Law if they work as an active servant of cosmic order and the eternal. It works very well for DCC, as it actually hearkens back to the Appendix N inspiration for the OD&D three-alignment system, Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion stories.

Looking at how the various classes’ alignment tendencies play out in the allegiance model, I’d expect that spellcasting characters wouldn’t see any change in alignment diversity, as magical characters are those most likely to serve a patron of a cosmic force. Likewise, demi-humans could be seen as inherently magical and therefore tending toward an actual alignment, though halflings would probably shift strongly toward Neutral. (In fact, there’s a nice, simple elegance to dwarves = Law, halflings = Neutral, elves = Chaos.) Warriors, thieves, and all of the other folk in the world would overwhelming tend toward Neutral alignment, not getting involved with the machinations of otherworldy beings save for when they are swept up in them by the world around them.

In light of this differing outlook, I’m giving all of my current players a one-time shot at changing their characters’ alignment. Since I don’t plan to incorporate any new mechanical twists to alignment beyond the already-present Luck rewards, the shift here is purely one of meaning.  This works out well, as DCC doesn’t have any real integration of alignment explicitly into the mechanics as it stands, even with cleric spells and abilities, which simply refer to “evil” and the “unholy” as relative concepts defined by the role-playing of the character’s faith. There is, however, one point in the system where alignment is integrated in a mechanical manner that marginally complicates things: Thief skills.

In the DCC rules as written, there are three progressions of thief skills, each based on one of the alignments. But if thieves are almost universally Neutral, this would mean they all follow the same progression. I think that the simplest solution will work just fine here: When a character hits 1st level as a thief, they must choose to follow either the Path of the Boss, Path of the Assassin, or Path of the Swindler, and alignment has zero bearing on the matter. I can’t see any way this complicates or unbalances the system, as players were essentially already making this arbitrary choice when determining the alignment of potential thief zeroes. If any DCC peeps can foresee a issues or complications I’m not accounting for, I’d greatly appreciate the feedback.

The Ace of 3d4 Goblins: Playing Card-Based Random Encounters for Dungeons, Part 2

So you’ve decided to use playing cards instead of dice to determine random encounters in your dungeon. The next step is to create an encounter table that corresponds to your cards, so that a single draw not only tells you that there is an encounter, but it also tells you what is encountered.

Going with six cards corresponding to encounters but assuming that you don’t have an easy way to distinguish between Jokers, you’ve got 5 spots to fill. That’s not as much variety as you see on a typical dungeon encounter chart, so that’s a tradeoff — but maybe not all that much of a tradeoff.

Thanks AnyDice

There are all sorts of dungeon encounter tables out there using all sorts of dice, but I’m going to state with no supporting evidence whatsoever that 2d6 tables are a fairly common option. Looking at the distribution of 2d6, the five most common results (5-9) will come up 66.7% of the time, so you’d end up with one of those five results well more than half the time anyway.

At this point, it’s just a simple matter of filling out the encounters, remembering that the Joker encounter can come up twice. A simple first-level dungeon might look something like this:

  • Joker — 4d4 kobolds
  • Jack/Spades — 1d3 giant spiders
  • Queen/Spades — 2d4 orcs
  • King/Spades — 2d4 skeletons
  • Ace/Spades — 3d4 goblins

Personally I’d add a little “dungeon dressing” to the mix, but I would assign that to a different suit. It increases the overall chance that something is encountered, but  it doesn’t cut into the odds of running into a standard wandering monster. If the PCs keep revisiting the same dungeon level and the same dressing result keeps coming up, it’s clearly an adventure hook waiting to happen.

  • Jack/Clubs — Whispering voices seem to come from the shadows
  • Queen/Clubs — The low rumbling of earth shifting is heard overhead
  • King/Clubs — A wailing spirit appears but ignores the PCs
  • Ace/Clubs — The temperature drops suddenly, forming frost on stone and metal

You can also use this method to incorporate special hazards/effects that can potentially occur after a certain amount of time. To riff on one of my dungeon dressing effects from above, PCs exploring a mine could be risking a cave-in. You could note that for every Diamond face/ace drawn, the PCs hear rumbling and you make a mark in your notes. When the fourth Diamond comes out, a cave-in occurs around the PCs.

Finally, if you want to spice things up with an encounter that’s really tough for that dungeon level, such as an ogre in an otherwise 1st-level dungeon, it’s important to remember that encounter must always correspond to the ace of spades.