I recently backed the two Kickstarters that resulted in small boxed sets from Goodman Games. As part of the first Kickstarter I ended up picking up a modules I was missing from their DCC RPG line. I have continued to collect the modules they have been putting out, despite the fact I don’t play DCC RPG or really use modules when gaming. In this fashion I am a bit of an idiot.1
DCC RPG 80: Intrigue at the Courts of Chaos opens with player characters being whisked away to said courts. There is nothing they can do to avoid their fate, but you paid good money for this module so the least they can do it shut up and take their loss of agency like proper friends. Once at the eponymous Courts of Chaos the players negotiate with the various lords of Chaos to determine whether to undertake a quest to retrieve a MacGuffin artifact—well, sort of:
Give the party time to debate the merits and drawbacks of serving the Host, but realistically, unless they choose to martyr themselves for their beliefs, they have little choice but to agree—if temporarily—to accept the Host’s demands.
Well, that seems kind of lame. The “dungeon” the MacGuffin is located within is basically a spoke of 5 rooms, where players are required to visit each room and solve a puzzle to get to the final room and their goal. I thought the presentation of both the lawful plane and the chaos plane was a little bit uninspired. I wasn’t too impressed with this module, though the art is great. I know other people have actually ran it and had a lot of fun, so keep that in mind when I complain about it.
DCC RPG 81: The One Who Watches From Below is a more traditional dungeon crawl. Characters explore a cave that happens to be sitting on top of a temple dedicated to an Elder God. There are eyeballs throughout the adventure, all used to good effect. As usual, the cover art is pretty fantastic.
The adventure features one of the most creative curses I’ve read, which also happens to involve eyeballs. The requirements placed on cursed players would probably make this a tricky module to run online, via a video chat. In person I think playing the curse would be a lot of fun. This is probably one of the better dungeon crawls put out by DCC RPG. Or maybe I just like this curse a lot.
DCC RPG 82: Bride of the Black Manse is another example of Goodman Games branching out from their usual fare. The adventure takes place in a manor home, and is meant to be played over 4 hours of real time. Inspiration for the adventure comes from Fritz Leiber’s The Howling Tower, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. This looks like it’d be a fun module to run. The manse is a small setting, but it changes as the hours tick by in the real world. Players will need to be mindful of how much time they are wasting while playing.
I still have mixed feelings about the DCC RPG line. Many of the modules feel like they have the same underlying structure, which is usually quite linear. This set of modules was interesting because for the most part they are each unique in their own way. Anyway, these Goodman games modules are probably worth the price of admission for the Doug Kovacs covers.
Zak Smith wrote an interesting article on consumerism in gaming. I think in many hobbies there is always a subset of people who participate in the hobby simply by buying things. With photography I knew a lot of photographers who were more into buying lenses and cameras than they were in learning how to take good pictures. Similarly there are people who seemingly buy gaming books, but don’t really use them to much effect, or produce their own gaming work. ↩
I’ve been reading through my DCC RPG adventures recently. I’ve been buying them as they come out, mostly for the covers, but there is probably some aspect of comic book collecting at play. Each adventure is titled with a giant number indicating where it fits in the sequence of DCC RPG modules. There’s probably something deep in my subconscious that makes me want to buy DCC 68 because I own DCC 67, and then buy DCC 69 because now I own DCC 67 and 68. So it has gone for the last few months.
In Sailors of the Starless Sea (DCC 67), an abandoned keep sits atop an ancient underground sea, where beast men attempt to summon their demonic god. Next we have People of the Pit (DCC 68), in which mutant cultists worship a tentacled Cthulhu monster that feeds on fair maidens. This was followed up with a raid on a wizard’s home in The Emerald Enchanter (DCC 69): a bright green wizard communes with dead sorcerers, uses imprisoned demons for power and resources, and spends his spare time building emerald golems–sometimes out of innocent villagers.
I think it’s fair to say that all of the plot hooks in these modules are pretty fantastic. The adventures are very pulp-fantasy. I could picture running these modules in the world of Carcosa or a game set in the Land of a Thousand Towers just as easily as I could in a more typical fantasy game. For the most part each modules is a well realized set pieces.
There’s a lot to like in these modules, though they all share a very linear structure and a combat heavy focus. To be fair, this is more or less how the adventures are billed by Goodman Games themselves.
Remember the good old days, when adventures were underground, NPCs were there to be killed, and the finale of every dungeon was the dragon on the 20th level? Those days are back. Dungeon Crawl Classics don’t waste your time with long-winded speeches, weird campaign settings, or NPCs who aren’t meant to be killed. Each adventure is 100% good, solid dungeon crawl, with the monsters you know, the traps you fear, and the secret doors you know are there somewhere.
All the adventures end with a ‘boss fight’. Regardless of how messy the maps might look they can often we unwound into a series of rooms the players have to walk through. After reading through modules with more interesting layouts the DCC RPG dungeons can feel a bit lacklustre.
The modules themselves are well put together. They’re 8’x11.5’ softcover books. They have thick glossy covers and paper the modules are printed on doesn’t feel flimsy. All the modules feature fantastic covers by Doug Kovacs that are worth the price of admission alone. Each module is about $10. I’m pretty sure if I wanted to buy a glossy Doug Kovacs print it’d cost me more than $10. The fact the covers come with adventures is a nice bonus. The interior art for each module is just as strong. As objects the modules don’t disappoint.
The Emerald Enchanter is my favourite of the first three modules from DCC RPG, but they are all enjoyable reads. I feel like you could turn them into something more open-ended if that’s the sort of thing you like, and they each have some interesting ideas to steal.
If you’re looking for the next Kickstarter project you should be supporting, look no further than Brave Halfling Publishing’s Appendix N Adventure Toolkits (DCC RPG Modules). For $20 you can get a copy of 5 modules and a slew of other bonus material. From the Kickstarter:
Each Appendix N Adventure provides Game Masters with a challenging adventure that can easily be dropped into an existing campaign, as well as an inspirational module map and a set of illustrated player handouts. Each also contains new monsters, unique enemies, creative traps and bizarre settings to challenge players, and inspirational ideas for expanding the campaign and launch points into further adventures for the Game Master.
The project is already funded. You have nothing to lose. If the project hits $15,000 than they plan to also release a new campaign setting.
Five years ago, I spent many months working on a unique campaign setting (“The Old Isle”) to help try and spark renewed interest in Gary Gygax’s rpg, “Lejendary Adventures.” With Gary and Gail’s blessing, I consulted with Gary frequently about the design of the setting, npc races, magic item creation, divine beings, etc. I bounced ideas off of him and he provided suggestions and critiques. It was a very special time in my hobby gaming that I still treasure. However, while Gary played a supportive but indirect role in my creation of the Old Isle Campaign Setting, he did not create or write one word of the setting - The Old Isle is 100% my creation. Maps were created and art was commissioned. With Gary’s passing and the end of his Lejendary Adventures game, I decided to not release this material. However, from the first time I read some of the early DCC RPG play-test material, I knew this campaign setting had found a new home!
If you haven’t used Kickstarter before, this is a great first project to support. Brave Halfling Publishing has been around for a long time, and has a great reputation. They already have 6 modules ready to go, so you’re really only paying to help them bootstrap their printing costs. This seems like a pretty low risk venture. By the sounds of things, you should expect modules in the mail by July or August. That’s pretty fast turnaround for Kickstarter.
Saturday June 16th was Free RPG Day. If the name didn’t give it away, the basic idea is that you show up at your local game store and you collect free RPG swag. Goodman Games was giving away a DCC RPG module that I was looking forward to grabbing. Different stores have different rules about how to distribute the items various publishers send them to give away. Duelling Grounds, my local gaming store, was giving away stuff to anyone who participated in games that were being run that day.
There were two busy games of Pathfinder taking place when I arrived at the store, each with 6 players. DCC RPG doesn’t quite have the same mindshare I suppose, so only I had arrived specifically to play in the DCC RPG game. Another fellow, Richard, who came to Duelling Grounds unaware it was Free RPG Day also joined us. We each played two characters: I grabbed a fighter and a halfling, while he took a thief and a wizard. The Jeweler That Dealt in Stardust is a fun little adventure. It’s a jewellery heist story with some demonic twists. How did we fare? Well if you’ve been reading this blog you can probably guess. To our credit, we had absconded with a ton of jewels and had defeated a demon, so we weren’t slackers by any stretch. The adventure was a lot of fun.
We managed to get through it all in about 2-3 hours of play. I felt like we accomplished a lot in that time. DCC RPG plays quite fast. I was also impressed at how quick the game is to pick up. I had read through the rulebook, but never played the game. Richard had never even heard of the game before. We occasionally had to pause the game so Daniel could explain how the rules worked, but for the most part things work the way you expect them to. Though the game requires funky dice we made due with a ‘normal’ set of gaming dice and a D30.
Free RPG Day was a big success. I left Duelling Grounds with the DCC RPG module I was hoping for, a module for 4th Edition D&D from Wizards of the Coast, and a map of some fictional world called Harn. I finally got to play a game of DCC RPG, and meet a fellow DCC RPG fan. It was a good day.
Yesterday I received my copy of Crawl!, a fanzine for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. In a surprise move the fellow behind the zine, Dak Ultimak, mailed out limited edition copies of the zine to people like myself who pre-ordered. The cover of the zine mimics the cover of the limited edition DCC RPG book: it’s black on black, with a little gold foil sticker. It was a pleasant surprise.
The zine is 20 pages long, and features 4 articles filled with new ’crunch’ for your DCC RPG game. The opening article discusses tweaks to the character creation rules that will help create a more traditional sword and sorcery feel for your DCC RPG campaign: dropping demi-human classes, and moving the skills and features of the cleric and thief classes elsewhere. This article is followed by one about a new patron for wizards. Apparently this character came about from Dak’s actual home game. The third article presents rules for variable DC: easy ways to randomly make a mundane task difficult or a difficult task easy. The zine ends with some rules on converting OSR material to the DCC RPG system. Subsequent issues will expand on some of the material presented in this issue. I thought the articles were all quite enjoyable. The article about the new patron really stood out. It features a great backstory along with some humorous wizard corruption descriptions.
For a bunch of paper and cardboard, the zine’s actually very well put together. Running contrary to the classic zine aesthetic, Crawl! is a well designed little book. The layout is quite well done. The articles are laid out neatly, and there are lots of great little illustrations throughout the issue. For a DIY publication it feels pretty professional. Well, except for the fact it’s cardboard and folded paper, I suppose.