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!


  1. Blogging takes a surprising amount of time. At least if you're going to do it right. I've seen some blogs take off and churn out great posts with regularity for long periods of time, but that kind of madcap muse doesn't stay around long, usually. They generally burn out or reach a point where they're only posting a few times a year.

    In short, you're doing fine. Keep plugging away at it and don't get too concerned over how "late" a post may be.

  2. Great reviews of the classes presented in the volume! Fun to read you insights into the design process of the Lycanthrope.