Friday, October 26, 2018

A curious look at: "The Gongfarmer's Almanac 2018 - Issue 1" [2/2]

Let's continue our journey through the 2018 GFA by looking at the second half of the first issue. As with my last post I'll give the classes presented there a curious look and discuss some of their interesting mechanics. If you don't feel like you know what i am talking about you missed my last post and should go back to it, as this is simply a continuation of its predecessor.

Kith Of Kingspire by Aaron Clark & Ethan Miller

A Class inspired by a series of official goodman games DCC Adventure Modules, the Kith of Kingspire is a ancient descendant of the mystical Elder Kith. It's fine illustration shows a tall statue with a face, so evil it would outmatch most Disney villains. The introducing paragraphs not only detail the background of this ancient elven race, but also how the class was conceived and which modules inspired it. Look no further than DCC #88.5 and DCC #92 for the classes DCC Background

The elder Kith are a race of ancient, malevolent elves and the Kith of Kingspire are those few who survived the fall and demise. The survivors are of chaotic alignment and not conceptualized as nice elves. On the contrary. They thirst for violence and Bloodshed. The Kith of Kingspire are adept at the arcane and physical violence and train in both ways.

Mechanically the Kith of Kingspire is nothing new, but with one interesting twist. At every level they must choose between an arcane focus and a martial focus. The arcane focus enables them to cast spells and makes them act like normal elves. Casting spells, Critting on table II and having a d6 as Hit Die. The martial focus makes them warrior like by granting an improved Crit Range, mighty Deeds and a d8 as Hit Die.

While this allows a lot of variety within the class and makes the concept of running an entire group of Kiths of Kingspire less tedious than doing the same with most other classes, it is still quite limited, as level ups are rare and you can only change your focus at those points of enlightenment. I am not a fan of this restriction, as it breaks the feeling of an ancient noble warrior wizard elf who diversified his training to become the ultimate murder-machine.

In total i like the Kith of Kingspire as a class, but only within a limited scope. I would not include it in a normal party, as this class lacks the distinctive features that set it apart from the core classes or the core elf. But it has enough flavor to spice up a campaign or allow for a interesting spin off from the adventures mentioned in the intro to the class.

Lycanthrope by Marc Elsenheimer

Ok. Yeah. I wrote this one. I can't pretend i will give this an unbiased critique. So i won't. I will try to give some insight into the design of this class. But i want to get some things out of the way first.

I can't thank Maike Gerstenkorn enought for the cover illustration. I might be biased but even when i try to access this as objectively as possible. This is one hell of an illustration and the wizard-werewolf introduces the class with a humorous wink while still looking mighty and intimidating, thanks to his imposing physique. Speaking of Art. My class was honored with another awesome illustration on it's last page. If someone could tell me who drew this I'd be quite thankful, because i love the artwork.

The lycanthrope class was originally designed to be a "archetype", which could be applied to any other class, once the character gets bitten by another lycanthrope and fails some saves. After James Pozenel convinced me to approach this one more like a traditional class i shifted this from a core concept to a gimmick, introduced in the index. But still. This class was not designed as a core class. Not something you choose to be, but something you happen to turn into by curses or bad fortune.

This approach is still found in his abilities. He handles like a normal character most of the time, which only has some weird saves (negative will save progression) and nice regenerative abilities. He possesses no further special abilities, if he did not have a class prior, but can transform into wolf form, giving him a huge boost to his combat capabilities and making him an incredibly danger (to enemies and potentially even allies).

When enraged, by getting taunted or receiving damage, the Lycanthrope turns into a big, massive beast with stat boosts, bite attacks, monster crit table usage and a general disregard for the concept of not fighting. These abilities were mostly inspired by the (new) World of Darkness Werewolfs found in Apokalypse and Forsaken, as i do enjoy those games quite a lot. The core concept is unpredictability and savageness, as a transformed Lycanthrope can't stop fighting, even if he has only allies left. This massive drawback incentives treating lycanthropy not only as a blessing, but as a curse in many situations.

I like what i did here. It is even more campaign specific and situational than most classes present here, but it can take most campaigns in a totally new direction by applying it to an established character.

Pirate by Dieter Zimmerman

The illustration shows an older pirate with missing teeth and a "piraty" look on his face. The high contrast, line focused nature of this piece sticks out. At first i didn't like it, but the more i look at it the more i start enjoying this artwork. It's not up there with the best, but it is also not bad at all. The introduction paints a picture of the swashbucking, daring outlaw pirate and introduces him as a fighting class who lacks behind the warrior, but should outclass most others in a straight up fight.

With a d7 as Hit Die the Pirate has a hit die quite too small for someone who wants to swashbuckle fools in melee range. But a d8 would be boring and a d6 would be far to low. I sometimes wish the d8 was part of the dice chain...

There are three class abilities that define the pirate. His major ability is called swashbuckle and allows for a agility check in order to gain a bonus on his Attack equal to his level, while allowing for more mobility through free movement or free withdrawal. There are three Problems with this ability. First of all. For a core combat class with no abilities outside of combat, it is just not good enough. Yes. A flat attack bonus is nice, but it falls flat to the deed die, backstab and most other combat abilities. Maybe i am missing something. But i think there are better abilities. At least the Pirate has a good attack bonus to compensate.
Second. It relies on high agility stats. Failing the agility roll results in a fumble and if your agility is not high enough, then you just won't be able to make good usage of this class. A pirate with agility 10 is worse than a wizard with intelligence 10.
And last but not least. There are just too many rolls. What makes the deed die so elegant is that it is rolled simultaneously with the normal attack roll land there are not too many rolls in the way of a combat result.

With his second ability, buried treasure, the pirate can regenerate luck by throwing money away. I like this. Having multiple things to do with money increases the incentive to loot and plunder. Makes a simple "you want money" Hook work wonders once you really have things to do with that money. But there is no synergy with the Pirate class, as he can't use the luck in creative or special ways. He adds his luck bonus to his initiative, but that has got nothing to do with the luck spent or regained.
The third ability is a bonus to saving throws when allies are around. While this might fit the concept of some pirates it's nothing to write home about.

I am not a fan. I have to be honest here, but this one is quite lackluster. It has neither a strong theme nor good abilities. I'd rather just take a warrior or thief and give him a wooden leg. Sorry if i might seem harsh, but DCC has so much potential for great class design and this one is just bland.

Quantum Traveler by R.S. Tilton from Epic Meanderings

We just found the winner of the non existent most gonzo class. While this one might seem like a joke class to many, time and space travel have been quite popular in 1950s pulp fantasy literature and are represented in many Appendix N Books so this class fits DCC more than most might think

The illustration shows a quite modern man wearing many obscure artifacts. He has a weird smile and the twisting portal like background push home the feeling that he is not supposed to be here. Artistically this might be a weak illustration compared to some of the masterpieces here, but it just fits with the class.

A traveler through time and space with his origins in a "modern" highly educated society, who somehow got pulled in the world of your DCC campaign. There is much room for improvisation but you have to put in a little work to make the class fit, as it is nothing you'll just use without thought.

He can use luck exactly like a thief which makes him able to stand his ground in this weird world he got thrown into. Besides that, he has no real abilities to speak of. Ok. That's not true. But he is definitively not competent. His abilities allow for the use of player knowledge within the game world, which can potentially be incredibly powerful, but will most of the time be quite useless, as DCC does not rely on "your basic DnD" Monsters. In addition his doubtful, scientific nature grants him a bonus to will saves regarding the supernatural and he is as good as a neutral thief when it comes to hiding from danger.

This kit fits together to create Mr. everyday nerd to insert himself in a DCC campaign as a player character, which is actually quite a stupidly funny concept. Relying on the Thief abilities copy pasted is nothing i like design wise and the unique abilities kind of fall flat, but it sticks to his gimmick and gets away for that. Mostly because it is a class which is not designed to stick with the party for 10 levels of epic quests. At least that's how i see it.

Sage by José Luiz Tzi

A bearded man with traveling gear and a tired, but curious look on his face introduces the reader to this class. The illustration is fun and the clear drawing style clashes against the jagged background in a interesting way. I like this piece, although it is difficult to say why exactly. The Sage is presented as a travelling Scholar of the arcane, mundane and weird, filling the roll of a supportive knowledge based character with some tricks up his sleeve.

The Sage class is incredibly interesting from a design standpoint, but he is hard to properly access. I think i really, need to run a game with one of these in order to get a proper feeling for the class. There is just a lot going on. I'd say there are too many different abilities, but that's just my first impression as a reader.

The Sage gains an ability that depends on his alignment and they all affect the way they can interact with people. While they are all quite creative and fitting to the alignment, the neutral one relies on the judge to keep track of this ability which is something that i don't enjoy much in character classes. More on that later.

The Sage can and should have a patron and can cast his spells, like a wizard but can't access and learn normal spells. They only gain them through their patron. This turns spellcasting into a minor ability, of which they have many more. I won't talk about all of them, but will try to give a good overview. Sages can expend one point of luck to inflict a penalty on an enemy roll. The penalty itself is rolled with a dice dependant on the level of sage, mirroring the deed die progression on lower levels, but going up to a d16. Their luck also regenerates. This is cool, but the luck regeneration makes it quite strong. And adds to the list of things to remember.

His other abilities are knowledge and wisdom based.He is always trained with all Knowledge Skills and gains a bonus when dealing with his occupation. He furthermore has access to some thief skills using the thief's progression on those. His Action dice are weird. He starts out with 1d16 and 1d12, and only gains a d20 at level 4. He can use his secondary dice only to advice fellow party members, granting them this die to carry out actions. I like this ability a lot and consider it the core of the class, but i don't like him not having a d20 as an action dice. It's just a consistency thing. Even level 0's have 1d20. Why do you "downgrade" when gaining your first level? This adds to the huge pile of things to micromanage and remember

I saved the worst for last. While a bonus to his initiative is not that bad, all foes acting after the sage have to declare, but not execute their actions before he chooses his path of action. I actively dislike this. A lot. While i can see some thematic merit to it, this one just takes the breath out of every encounter. The more people are involved the messier it will get and this ability alone makes me want to not accept this class. Just because i don't want to micromanage and think this much when running DCC. Maybe it's not as bad as i imagine it. Maybe it is great. I don't know. But i can't imagine this being fun.

This class has some amazing design and amazing themes, but it just has too many of those. It is bloated with things to remember and things to make work. The class is (except for one ability) great. But i neither want to play nor run games with it. There is just too much going on. Way too much.

Scout (A Thief Variant) by José Luiz Tzi

This class promises to be a wilderness take on the thief, close to the well known "Ranger" from many iterations of DnD. It's competent at that. The introductory Art follows the same style as the Art for the Sage, but while the Background elevated the picture for the sage, i feel like the Background takes things away here. The scout just won't fit in right. Also i am no fan of the pose. Artistically there is not much wrong. But i just can't get behind it.

This is nothing but a small switch around for the thief. He looses some thief skills and gains new ones. Instead of backstabbing he can Ambush. This is not as versatile but way better, as you can set up an Ambush and let your peers profit as well. Hiding in the wilds is fun but not as versatile as hiding in the shadows and tracking is amazingly useful, as you would imagine.

His final ability allows him to set traps. Whenever he had time to prepare an area he can spend a point of luck to make a free "Trap attack" against anyone there. This is a great ability, but i fear the 1d6 flat damage won't scale into higher levels and this might drop off in usefulness.

While i liked the Writing in Josés other class i dislike it here. A lot of the text is just meta-references or unnecessary addressing of the audience which hides usefull information in some points. My biggest point would be the introduction to the Set Trap Ability.

This class is fine. It does nothing exciting, but i can see why you'd wanna play it. The Traps and the Ranger theme are great. But the writing hampers this one quite a bit. I get the feeling that it would be amazing if José would take this Archetype and turn it into a full class.

Now for something completly different

I promised to write more consistantly and i wanted to write this article as a direct follow up one week after the last. Here i stand, a whole month after the last article, writing this on a friday evening to get it out on my regular release day, at least two weeks to late. This one should have not taken me this long, but it did. And the worst thing is that i haven't even played a single session of DCC (or any other RPG if i remember right) since then. I will continue posting. I'm just quite busy recently.

But there are also great news. For those german speaking readers of my blog. The Project ARoMa which i am a part of, will release it's second issue next month. It's a 100 page fan-zine filled with ready to play adventures. And i wrote one of them.

Wen es interessiert. Der findet unsere Webpräsenz hier:

And while i am quite short on time, i am drowning in ideas. Some way to big to release here. Give me time and amazing things will happen. I promise.

As always. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A curious look at: "The Gongfarmer's Almanac 2018 - Issue 1" [1/2]

Writing a critical look at something free might see redundant to some. Everyone can check it out as they please so why should someone try to analyse something like the Gongfarmer's Almanac? 

The 2018 GFA is packed full with amazing, community created content for DCC RPG and every player and judge will find something interesting in there. Many people committed hours upon hours of amazing work to get this thing done and the labor and love involved in this project is hard to grasp for someone not involved in the making of the GFA. And while the GFA gets regularly praised it never get's a critical look. There is much to dig through and Ravencrowking regularly provides a great content overview. But not critique for the writers to improve even further. So this is why i am about to dive into the 2018 GFA, starting off with "Issue 1 - New Class explosion" and want to give it a curious examination.

The Gongfarmer's Almanac is a free FanZine for DCC RPG. It is made by a big community with lots of authors, artists, editors and layout masterminds involved. This years Zine is divided into 7 Issues, with six of them providing approximately 60 pages of new content each and the seventh being the famed "Master Zine Index", providing a conclusive list of which fan creations can be found in which FanZine.The First Issue is called "New Class Explosion" and contains many new classes, which i will now examine closer.

Bias warning. I wrote a class for this Issue. I won't discuss it in this post, but yeah... i'm involved.

A quick rundown of DCC class design

Classes are a core Concept of DCC. And whilst nearly every concept can be covered with the 4 core classes (and 3 races) provided in the DCC RPG Book, there are still many concepts which thrive with their own rules. A Interesting DCC class should have a nice core mechanic and should with increasing levels, only increase in quality of their abilities not quantity (except for known spells). Also every class interacts with Luck in some way. This at least is how the Core classes are designed and it works incredibly well. I will thereby look for a discernible core mechanic in each class and how their abilities scale with level. 

The quality of the class is highly dependent on how intuitive and versatile the class's mechanics are. While not every class should be able to solve every problem (quite the opposite is true), mechanics should always serve more than one purpose. The Deed die is a great example of a versatile mechanic, as it lets you execute nearly any combat maneuver you can think of and increases your combat prowess in general. The limits of this ability are often the limits of the players imagination.

Magic wielding classes are quite different. Since magic is a core mechanic in itself the class should give a theme or a special twist to the magic wielder. But let's not dive into that and get started.

Let's begin our curious look

Bardic Rocker by Jason Morgan. 


Illustration wise we are off to a great start. The mix of a classic fantasy tavern with an excitingly metal flying V e-guitar and a quite metal looking bard let's you immediately know whats up with this class. The introductory text paints the same picture. It's a bard with a sub tone of heavy metal and hard rock. Mechanics wise this is a bard. There is not much more to say about it.

The class table is fine. Using Crit Table III makes him martial and bad ass, when crits occur and a decent attack bonus, associated with a d8 HD causes him to be the man every rocker wants to be and stand his ground in most combat situations. I don't get why he has flat (thief) skill bonuses that don't increase with level. They just seem tagged on and for me, personally, work as a dnd Bard, but not as a crom-damned DCC Hard rock god. We don't pick locks. We kick doors in. Spellcasting is decent and relies on the disapproval mechanic, but with song requests added to it. Thematically nice but there are no real consequences except for those at judge's discretion.

There are many nice touches, like Spells working with luck as your main attribute and the iconic bardic performance working with a performance die, but in the end this is just one of many Bards, who has a Hard Rock theme associated with it. Don't get me wrong. I like it. The theme is fun, with a great selection of 80s rock artists referenced, but there are many DCC Bards out there and this one does not stand out. It is incredibly competent and the writing is evocative and top notch, but for my personal taste the Rock Theme is only suited to more light hearted rounds.

If you want a fun bard with some nice mechanics and a hard rock theme this class is for you. If you were looking for a completely new take on the bard as a class, then this might disappoint you. 

Berserker by José Luiz Tzi. 


I can't say how much i love the cover illustration. There are no words to describe it. The intro text offers a lot of backgrounds for such a character and paint a nice contrast to the fighter. While the fighter class allows for chaotic and wild characters, the deed die mechanic is a mechanic of calculated intend and this class is quite different.

Thankfully, unlike so many other attempts at a competent martial class, this class did not get a deed die tagged on to make him competent. The Berserker is different. There are many barabarian classes out there but this one is by far my favorite of the bunch. There are two savage mechanics at the core of the character. Cleave and Frustration. As long as the Berserker kills his target in combat he can continue attacking targets. This is brutal. The berserker can tear through weak foes completly lost in blood and rage. It's a great core mechanic. You could over think it but mostly squishing weaklings will be the way to go. 

Frustration is the other core mechanic. Everytime the Berserk misses he becomes more and more frustrated and gets a extra die (d3 and increasing) to his attacks and damage, until he hits. This is close to the deed die mechanic but it just suits the class incredibly. You want to attack and nothing else. If you hit, you wreak havoc, if you miss... you will hit sooner. In addition savage instincts help the character build anger and frustration by experiencing triggers like fighting weaklings. This mechanic is nice in concept but i don't like the execution. It's not bad, but not as stellar as everything else. The list of triggers increases with level and get's harder to keep track of. This is either challenging for the Berserker or for the judge. 

All in all this might be my favorite class from this years GFA and my favorite barbarian in DCC. The class has flaws but they are minor and nitpicky.

Faerie Class by James A. Pozenel, Jr.


Not only offering a new class, but also a new race, this article is just packed full of stuff. It originally appeared in Angels, Daemons & Beings Between, Vol. 2: Elfland Edition. Since i don't own this book i can't say if it was reworked or revised since it's first appearance. 

The Cover Illustration paints a malevolent picture of faeris, with a grim looking faery wielding a sharp and pointy knife. The introductory text is long and offers a detail of the faery race along with their two factions. The seelie and unseelie court. This, combined with the half letter sized format, makes for a not so easy to digest introduction, but the information in there is worth a lot. It's well written and well spaced out, but the level of detail might be too much for someone giving this a first read.

Faeries are fragile, low damage dealing, spell slinging, sneaky beasts. And they excell at this. Their abilities are quite befitting for the small folk, although they play it safe for the most part. They have their own spell list and can turn into a normal sized humanoid for a while to compensate for their martial flaws. Their most unique ability is the ability of flight, which not only makes them quite fast and mobile, but also predestined for exploring those nasty shafts in the ceiling. Their stealth abilities help to further this. Faeries have unique optical features, dependent on the court they align with, but those sadly have no impact on their abilities. One missed opportunity is their use of the luck attribute. It is simply added to their AC and Ref save. I was hoping for something more mythical, unpredictable and weird for those.

Then there are the other additions. Amazing new spells for faeries, faerie occupations, known languages and a new deed to use against fairies. This is just amazing and just fills in all the blanks for this class to be the most complete of them all. Making new DCC races is not as easy as making a new class, but James pulled it off. 

Whether you like this class or not depends on your enjoyment of fairies in general. I am not a huge fan of faeris and while i can see how well those core concepts were executed here, but this is no highlight for me. Its competent and well put together, but i think it could have gone weirder in some places.

Goat'O'War by Randy Andrews


Goats have been getting a good bit of love within the Gongfarmers Almanac. With two goat classes within the last few years, the aspiring bringers of chaos have more options than elves at their disposal. 

It's a goat illustration... and a quite goat one. There is a disturbing lack of intro text, which is quite sad. The introduction only outlines how to become a Goat'O'War and adds no flavor to that. But then again... it's a goat. What did you expect? This class is not meant to be taken serious but can do wonders if it is. Goats speak abyssal, naturally, and have the innate ability to headbutt the living shit out of everyone crossing their way. They can climb and bite but fail to offer anything else. 

While this class could have been a nice, fun class, it has shaved of too many words. Natural weapons, secondary attacks and the use of the deed die are all hidden within the "weapon training" section of the class and while i guess it's not the case, it is never explicitly stated that they can't perform mighty deeds of arms. But that's just one of the many problems with recycling the deed die to attack. Also some things get flat bonuses at levels, for example the charge bonus turning into a +2 at level 5. I strongly dislike this because it's a missed opportunity. One could have done more with the charge and the flat bonus increase is hidden within the text and not represented in the table.

This class has fun aspects, but i prefer the Doom Goat from a few years ago over it, as is relies on fun, new mechanics instead of putting a warrior on four legs. It's quite goat, but i hoped for more. 

Gongfarmer by Reece Carter


The Gongfarmer is a class now. You now have the ability to be a travelling night soil digger, solving problems with your own might, skill and the feces of others. The illustration is funny, as it perfectly depicts what the class does. This one is not meant to hang out with the cool guys. The gongfarmer is lacking an intro text and delivers all its "charm" through it's mechanics. 

The gongfarmer is not a good class. Not if good means well balanced and heroic. It's just the natural extension of the gongfarmer concept. He is not good at fighting, but can deploy some quite shitty (pun intended) tactics to deliver tons of damage to a single foe. He is not likely to ever puke or feel ill. He does that for a living. He regenerates luck. But far to few. Only a legendary gongfarmer (if something like this exists) will ever run around with a comfortable luck stat. That's it for this class. And it's fine. It's really fine the way it is. 

This one is hard to judge. It's a gongfarmer for crom's sake. He is not meant to be competent or fun to be. He is the butt of many jokes and a quite shitty companion. But he could be far, far worse. And i'd love to see him once thrown into a normal, regular group of DCC typical cutpurses.

So far and till next time.

I will spare you from the wall of text associated with me going through all the classes. I'll simply outsource the remaining ones into the next blog post. Stay tuned and feel free to discuss my curious look. It's just a opinion and observation from a biased standpoint.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Elven Strider - A DCC Character Class

You are an outsider to most. Growing up as an elf, a long living demi-human, whose ancient civilization indulges in crafts and arts, magic and mundane, your lack of connection to the arcane world ensured, that you never quite felt at home. Traversing the thick elven forests you found your fulfillment in the martial ways, training in combat and patience alike.

Today's post is about a new character class for DCC RPG

[If the link does not work try this one:]

Character classes are a stable of fantasy role playing games, ever since D&D introduced them into their game along with them. DCC uses a old school line-up of character classes and with those, classes and races are indistinguishable. Being a dwarf apparently is a full time job.
This system has many perks and one of them is streamlining characters and play as well as setting expectations to judges and other players. Character and personality in DCC are not about what is written on your character sheet, but what the character experiences and how the player expresses him, anyway.

I am normally not a fan of elves. I just don't want to play them most of the time. But DCC made quite interesting elves by combining them with patrons and making them into long living vessels for some of the most powerful entities out there. While i liked that concept i felt like i wanted to give elves another option. 

In the long run i am planning on giving all races (elves, dwarfs, halflings) a second class option, just to give their players some choice and make them compensate for the "wrong" stats better. I have not settled for a second dwarven and halfling class yet, especially as there are some amazing ones out there on the Internet and in Fanzines.

The elven strider is a elf whose focus lies more on physical and martial combat and who has only small arcane capabilities, granted through his patron. His defining class feature, the Aim Die came from a Discussion on G+ on a similar class. The Outlier by Nick Baran. Check it out. It's quite cool. I just wanted to have a combat capable class who does not use the deed die in the typical fashion and wanted to give it a unique spin. 

This is not the first character class i ever created. For this years Gongfarmers Almanach i wrote a Lycanthrope class. Feel free to check it out. I am quite proud of it. It can be found in 2018 Gongfarmer's Almanac Volume #1. Huge thanks to my friend Maike Gerstenkorn who contributed the amazing Werewolf Artwork for the Front page of this class. 

Did you know that the consolidated Version is out? No? Go buy it! Its only printing and shipping costs. Literally the cheapest option possible. Gongfarmers Almanach 2018

Please feel free to leave any feedback for the classes, along with fun anecdotes that arise from playing them. I plan on writing a more general post on class systems and am even working on some exciting alternatives to use with DCC. Until then. Have a good time

Friday, August 31, 2018

Curious Dungeon #2 - Cave of The Moths

It's been a while. Not only since i posted a Dungeon, but also since i posted in general. So here is the second Curious Dungeon. 

In my first Curious Dungeon (The Temple of Oyraka) i tried myself at drawing and designing Dungeons by making a map without concept and filling it with life after wards. This time i took a similar approach. 
I always wanted to try isometric dungeons. I love isometric dungeons. They look awesome. So i went out and tried it for myself. I was quite happy with the result and decided that i need to use it for more than just drawing practice. So as with the previous Curious Dungeon i turned this map into a full, system neutral, fantasy Dungeon along with Plot hooks and room descriptions. Enjoy

The Design Ideas for this one came fast. At the moment i started drawing the long staircase i noticed that i was making the stairs quite irregular. I was thinking of fixing it but then decided to completely roll with it, which gave the dungeon a crumbled and dangerous look. 

So the structural damage plays hugely into exploring the dungeon. Every step might bring the building to a collapse. 

Filling the Dungeon was not too hard. I started of with an excuse to visit it. As always, obtaining an artifact was enough of a reason for me. Since i just ran a quick, improvised session in which beings of darkness, hiding in a cave, impenetrable to normal light, were the main danger, an artifact to counter the light was necessary. So i created a lantern, bright enough to vanish all darkness. Instead of a well rounded Dungeon i decided that home of this artifact was the Place where it was built. Crumbled and long abandoned the light unfortunately does the same thing what my light in my room does in these short summer nights. It attracts pesky insects. And so the Cave of the Moths was born.

I am quite happy with this one. Creating a smaller Dungeon is just a fun experience. The first Curious Dungeon with it's 18 Rooms was quite tedious to write down, but this one was fun from start to finish. I always intended curious dungeons to be a series and i want to continue with them. Currently i feel more inclined to create short ones but feel free to tell me what you prefer!

Tell me how you like it. I'd love to hear of someone who incorporated this dungeon (and my other creations) in his campaign and if you just want to use the map, feel free to do so. I'd love to hear how other people fill these maps with life.

On a personal note... I'm back. I had exams in the beginning of august and despite my intentions to write something i just could not get things done. Holiday soon followed and i collected many ideas and began fleshing them out. I will keep a bi-weekly postsduring the summer and hopefully the entire autumn with posts occurring on Fridays. At least that's the plan.

Friday, July 6, 2018

When Magic goes critical - DCC Rules

Magic in Dungeon Crawl Classics is awesome. It really is. And one of the most fun aspects of magic is never knowing exactly what happens. Therefore DCC wizards are among the most fun classes to play in all of fantasy roleplaying. There is just one thing that has always bothered me.

One of the most important things about d20 Systems is, that when the dice come up with a 20, then something awesome happens. This is true for Wizards in DCC to some extent. The rules say that when rolling a natural 20 you get a even higher spell bonus than you already got. So you are incredibly likely to cast the best spell of your life. That's good. But not as fun as rolling a 20 for any other class can be.

To make this more fun for myself and my group i did the most DCC thing i could think off and crafted a new set of random table to roll on. Critical Tables for spells. All spell casting classes can use these tables to determine more awesome results should a natural 20 come up. The tables work incredibly similar to the way mundane critical hit tables work. 

[If this link is not working try this one:]

Those tables have not yet been playtested extensively, but my players like them this far. Feel free to leave Feedback as a comment or on G+

I can't guarantee that I'll keep a bi-weekly update schedule for the next few weeks but I'll try my best. I am definitely not running out of ideas. Just out of time.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Tzashazul - The Dimensional Terror - A DCC Patron

The Dimensional Terror is an ancient beast of magic. Not born, neither created it mindlessly traveled through dimensions, devouring mind after mind to fill its shell with thoughts. The pure basis of its existing was madness. Thousands of minds, living in a immortal body, struggling against each other, trying to seize control or escape this torturous state. As eons passed these minds slowly merged into one twisted, mad, but at the same time genuinely brilliant beast, which calls itself Tzashazul. 

Tzashazul - The Dimensional Terror

[If this link does not work try this one:]

I hereby present to you Tzashazul. A DCC Patron for those seeking madness. I have to give credit, where credit is due. This Patron is inspired by one of the finest DCC adventures i ever had the pleasure of running. Of course i am talking about the magnificent Sailors on the starless Sea by DCC legend Harley Stroh. If you don't know this Adventure skip the following paragraph.

Spoilers ahead. It is no secret anymore that one of the deadliest beasts in Harley Strohs adventure is a giant leviathan living at the bottom of the starless sea. During one of my playthroughs a character began, driven by madness, to cut out his enemies and allies hearts to pacifiy the beast. The elf took such pleasure and fulfilment in the task that it was only natural, after he sacrificed the hearts of the enemy shaman with a combination of suicidal stupidity and unjustifyable luck, to make this beast at the bottom of the starless Sea his Patron. 

Spoilers end here. The Patrons design changed a lot over the course of the last weeks as i was never happy with what i got so the final version has only small resemblence to what Harley Strohs Adventure suggested. The theme of madness and tentacles stuck, though. This is all for those familiar with DCC. I am quite happy with this patron, but i'd love any type of feedback on this one as it is my first Patron write-up ever. To all those who don't know what a Patron is let me explain it to you

Patrons in DCC

Wizards in Dungeon Crawl Classics are fun! DCC is one of the best fantasy systems to be a wizard in. It perfectly fits the theme of wild, unpredictable, yet powerful magic. And the constant struggle of wizards to push their power and knowledge to unprecedented hights is omnipresent within the game. 

Patrons are one of the best implementations of this idea. By learning the spell "Patron Bond" a Wizard can strike a deal with a Patron. A being of vast arcane knowledge and power. The character offers up his wealth, services or even his soul in order to gain more power from his Patron.

In game terms, when a character bonds with a patron they strike a deal. The character gets the ability to invoke his patron for help and might, over the span of his adventuring life learn new spells from his Patron, which are superior to most normal spells. But every request comes at a cost. The character has to carry out quests for his Patron or has to sacrifice his wealth, his allies or himself to the Patrons cause. The Patrons influence taints the character over time, as he uses his masters service more and more. 

There are many types of Patrons. Some are powerful, formerly mortals beings who achieved near immortality through arcane skill and knowledge. Some are gods, supporting their followers with powers beyond celestial magic. Many are demons, abusing weak mortals for their own goals by pretending they could achieve greatness. 

One last note: Check out the amazing Knights in the North Blog, if you don't know of it yet. They post tons of amazing DCC stuff and have recently posted an amazing additional system to further improve upon Patrons in general. I highly recommend using it! Seriously. Take a look at their Patron and Deity Demands!

Until next time, where i take another look at the Wizard Class in DCC!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Out of Curiosity: Designing One-Shots

Not every story has to be an epic. Sometimes a short story can be as exciting as a lengthy novel and a short 20 minute video can be more captivating than a feature length movie. Role Playing is no different. While many people want to play lengthy and epic multi-session campaigns, lasting months or even years. But there are more ways to play then this. One-Shots are roleplaying stories and adventures, play- and completable within a single session. But how do you design a One-Shot? How should you approach running a One-Shot? Is it even different from your regular campaign session?

What is a One-Shot?

One Shots are single role playing sessions that feature a story designed to conclude in the very session it started. One could also call them single session adventures. They are not built around weeks of character progression or complex, open ended, narrative structures. One-Shots have to rely on the strength of their story or gameplay in order to deliver a compelling experience. 

Does this mean that One-Shots have to be completely self-contained? No. Not at all. Some One-Shots rely on knowledge of the world, where they take place or the games systems they use. And this can be good. One-Shots in a familiar setting require less introduction and explanation, therefore leaving more time for the playing itself. 

One-Shots can easily be integrated into a campaign, if the premise is not too far off in order to spice things up and some campaigns might consist entirely of One-Shots. Every session tells its own story and a overarching theme, maybe a villain, brings everything together. But the focus always lies on the single sessions, not the bigger picture.

Why play One-Shots?

First of all we need to take a look at the many reasons, why people would even want to play a single session adventure. 

Time might be the main reason. Not every gamer has enough time to spare for a weekly meet up with his fellow gamers and even those who have might find it hard to coordinate this time with their group. It might just be a necessity that leads to playing one-shots on a regular basis, as full attendance is not required for having fun and those missing out don't need to be filled in on any major events.

One-Shots are a natural fit for any story based on mercenaries, so systems like Shadowrun, Cyberpunk or Traveller feel right at home with such a style of play. Characters are not doing things because they want to be heroes, but because they want to get paid. Not everyone is needed for every job and some might need time off to recover. When the job is done and the money is paid, everyone leaves with a nice story to tell. 

There is one place where, over everything else, One-Shots reign supreme. Conventions. There are few people who go to a convention to play their campaign with their friends. At a Convention you want to sit down at the table and jump right into playing. And it does not matter if you play your favorite system, in your own campaign setting or something new: you are there to have fun and you don't want to leave without the story ending. 

How to design a One-Shot

As with everything creative there is no formula for designing One-Shots. I am just sharing some advice from my personal experience and thinking. I don't wanna say that i know how to write perfect adventures. I really don't. But i trust in these advices and most good one Shots i designed and ran fulfilled those rules.

1. Stick to a Theme

Having a singular Theme at the center of your adventure is key to a good experience. Not only does it help yourself design further elements into a short, but coherent story, it also helps your players in getting a feel for the One-Shot. A strong Theme gives the One-Shot consistency and direction.

A One-Shots theme should not only influence the story, but also the gameplay. The players should be able to identify the theme without being told what the theme is. It does not have to be in the foreground. A theme can be as subtle as "Freedom or Safety?", "Vengeful Spirit", "Secret Ingredient" and "Fear of the Unknown" or as obvious as "Religious Journey", "Old School Dungeoncrawl", "Political Murder story" and "Double Agent Drama".

The only important thing is that your stick to your Theme. While a campaign might be fun, when it slowly turns from a political murder story into a hunt for the ancient treasure, this would be too much for your typical One-Shot. While some adventures might work without a Theme or with multiple Themes, fighting to get the upper hand, those will be the exception, not the norm.

While this might be incredibly vague advice, i will give you some practical applications. When making notes for your One-Shot, write the Theme you choose at the top of every page. This will help with keeping the theme in mind. Another idea to keep sticking to a theme would be writing key words, you associate with the theme, down on index cards. Then make sure you include at least half of them in the adventure in some major way.

2. Don't overdo it

Complex scenes and characters are compelling. Complex story arcs are intriguing. Gameplay does profit from depth, most of the time. But within a single session, there is not enough space for everything to be as detailed and complex as possible. If there are many NSC's and they all have tons of depth and complex motivations then players will be confused and are likely not too reach story's climax in time.

This does not mean that you should build a shallow story and flat characters. Quite the opposite is true. Make characters interesting and unique. But don't overdo it. You don't have the space for 20 interesting unique characters. The main characters in the story should be unique, they should be complex and have personal depth. But those characters at the edge of your story won't benefit from such depth. Cliches are great to convey characteristics through expectations and make interactions with side characters quick and intuitive. Those interactions don't distract from the main story and help give the characters a feeling of belonging into the world, as the players expectations of how they should interact were met by the world around them.

When it comes to the story itself, not overdoing it is even more important. Your goals for a One-Shot story are the following. The Story needs to be easy to get involved in, entertaining to play and it should have a achievable conclusion. Everything that distracts from these goals should be closely examined. While, for example, an unexpected plot twist might add to the entertainment value, the second and third twist will just stand in the way of reaching a conclusion. And even the first twist might be unnecessary if the narrative was strong enough until this point. 

3. Less Scenes, more Impact

It's hard to distinguish this one from the second point but the implications are quite different. Don't plan too many scenes. One-Shots often tend to feel rushed anyway, so giving each scene time to breathe and to develop itself is crucial for an amazing Adventure. But its not only about giving each scene time. Each scene has to leave a impact. Each scene has to be important. If you have a scene which does not advance the story or develop the characters, then why is it in the One-Shot?

Constructing a good scene can be challenging? What makes a scene great? A great designer or author could possibly write an entire essay about this topic and i am neither, so I'll keep this short. A great scene is driven by the characters. It comes into existence because the characters have something they want to achieve or discover. A scene without urgency won't be interesting to the characters.
The outcome of a scene should be up to the decisions of the players and maybe even chance. This does not mean that everything should be open ended. It is nearly impossible to account for everything in the design stage of a One-Shot, but the story should not have scenes with only one possible outcome. In a One-Shot, every interaction should matter and therefore should be rewarded or punished.

4 Raise the Stakes 

When the story will reach a conclusion eventually, when the end of the story might as well be the end of the characters, then why should there be nothing at stake. High stakes are rare in roleplaying. Too rare. And a self contained experience like a One-Shot might be the perfect environment to reintroduce them into your design. Why sit down to safe a small village from goblins if you could instead safe the entire kingdom from a demonic dragon lord?

What does having high stakes mean? High stakes are a combination of three factors. High incentive, high risk and high reward. A good story has a motivation for the characters, challenges to overcome and a rewarding conclusion. The consequence for success and failure should be big. If you ever revisit this world, then the impact of this single One-Shot might still linger around in the world itself. Not all plots work on a scale like this. Sometimes the consequences have to be more personal and sometimes they won't even affect anyone besides the main character. But they always should be severe for the character. When the One-Shot has concluded, something should have changed. And whether it changed for the better or worse might be up to the players.

In most stories the protagonists don't fail. While failure within a novel or movie is a device used sparingly to convey drama and suspension, it is always constructed. Role Playing is a game. You can't force people to succeed or fail without it feeling cheap. Success must be an achievement and failure a punishment. The risk of failure should always be there, but there are many forms of failure. While a characters death might be the most obvious form of failure, it should never be the only one. There are many interesting forms of failure, that create new scenarios and develop characters. Loss of a NPC, loss of an item, success on the villains part or a setback in progress are all interesting consequences for failure.  Including them in the design of encounters helps in raising the stakes and creates a atmosphere of danger and suspension once the players notice that success is not guaranteed.

 5. Go experimental

A One-Shot is the prefect place to get weird and creative. No matter what you want to try out, be it a crazy story element, a dangerous encounter, a new mechanic or a weird gimmick, why not try it in a One-Shot. You could even build the entire one-shot around this experimental feature and you don't have to smuggle the new thing in. You can put it front and center for the whole experience. Trying new things out is a great excuse to design a one-shot and those that are build from the ground up to support a creative new idea are among the best there could possibly be.

Just... Don't overdo it...

In Conclusion

A good One-Shot is a One-Shot designed around some interesting core ideas, with a good focus on whats important and what isn't. It involves the players and creates a narrative that can easily hook players and characters into it until the conclusion, in which the consequences of the players choices and characters actions finally surface to their full extent. 

But good is not objective and there are many things i overlooked. Take these rules as a inspiration more than a guideline. Not everything works for everyone, but thinking about what might work is never a mistake.