Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grafting On The Doom of the Savage Kings

Because I pre-ordered my copy of DCC, I received a free copy of Dungeon Crawl Classics # 66.6 - The Doom of the Savage Kings. Not being the type to be wasteful, and because I found the adventure module to be excellent, I have integrated it into my campaign.

There is an old hermit, named Eustus that lives in the forest near Bluestone Village.  He is sought out by the PCs to help them with their friend who so wantonly donned the necklace of the Serpent Folk at the end of the character funnel sessions.  It seems that he is suffering from a curse, and they hope the Eustus can help them to break it.  He agrees, but says that he wishes them to solve a problem being experienced by the folk of Hirot, up in the foothills of the mountains...  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Finding D&D in Appendix N - Three Hearts and Three Lions

The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG has reacquainted me with Appendix N form AD&D's 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide.  As most of you know, this is the list of literary sources that Mr. Gygax cited as his inspiration for creating the venerable old game that we all love so much.

It occurred to me that many of these books were ones that I haven't read, so I began picking them up.  I started with "Three Hearts and Three Lions" by Poul Anderson.  It is the story of a valiant knight and his adventures in the lands of faerie and elsewhere.  Here are a few of the things that stood out to me as obvious inspirational elements...

(I will be quoting directly from the book and may inadvertently reveal plot details)

Law and Chaos
Throughout the book is the theme of Law and Chaos and their struggle against one another.  Could this possibly the source of the Lawful vs. Chaotic alignment system of D&D?

"Invisible Servant"
The passage below describes a wizard with an "invisible servant"  Definitely reminiscent of the Unseen Servant spell...

"A bottle and three dirty goblets floated in and landed on the table. 'About time,' grumbled the sorcerer.  After a moment, when the invisible servant had presumably left..."

The Troll
At one point in the story, the heroes battle a gruesome troll.  Does the following description sound familiar?

"The troll shambled closer.  He was perhaps eight feet tall, perhaps more.  His forward stoop, with arms dangling past thick claw-footed legs to the ground, made it hard to tell.  The hairless green skin moved upon his body.  His head was a gash of a mouth, a yard-long nose, and two eyes which were black pools, without pupil or white, eyes which drank the torchlight and never gave back a gleam."

Later in the scene, a troll's regenerative ability is described...

"His saber carved a slab off the troll's side.  Greasily, with a sucking noise, that chunk crawled towards its master."


"The troll's smashed head seethed and knit together.  He clambered back on his feet and grinned at them."

Trolls and fire?  It's here too...

"Alianora cried aloud.  She struck back with the torch.  He hooted and went on all fours.  A charred welt across his skin did not heal."

After finding these bits of D&D in Appendix N, I'm off to the next book.  I'll let you know what I find.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

DCC: The Funneling - An Actual Play Report

We have created a herd of zero-level characters and thrust them through DCCs funnel.  The body count...16 dead, 2 alive.

We began the story at the frontier hamlet known as "Bluestone Village".  Named so, because of the three bluish colored stones standing twelve feet high in its center.  They are also know as godsfingers, as they appear quite like giant, skeletal digits.  The village found itself under siege by a throng of bandits.  Every night for a full week, they attacked and were rebuffed by the town militia under the command of the one Endegar Mors.  The local lord, Marwood Brucks and his knights were off fighting at the Duke's command, leaving the village's defense to the lowly sergeant and his conscripts.  Was the timing of the attack coincidence, or was there something purposeful at work?

Mors devised a plan whereby a group of volunteers would follow the bandits to their lair and attack them by surprise.  Of course, the volunteers were the player characters. After getting equipped as best they could, they set out after their attackers, soon discovering that their quarry were led by a mysterious, darkly-cloaked figure.

The bandits had selected as their base, a well-known system of caves known as the Greenpool Caverns.  The group used an ingenious distraction and worked their way inside.  After braving many dangers such as pits, rockslides, a perilous rope bridge, and of course a hoard of bandits, the characters discovered something odd at the back of the caves.

Past a break in the cavern lay an ancient temple.  A temple crawling with snakes.  After several harrowing encounters, the mysterious leader of the bandits was confronted.  He was one of the Serpent Folk who ruled the land many eons ago.  He had traveled through a portal in the wall that was still active when the characters arrived, showing a scene of his ancient primordial world.  One thing that was especially disturbing was that this vista clearly contained the three, upthrust, bluish stones for which Bluestone Village was named.  Could this possibly be the location of the town in the time of the Serpent Folk?  Was it another set of bluestones entirely?

After much carnage, the Serpent was defeated and looted.  Of special interested were a set of thin metal plates attached to a chain that he wore as a necklace.  They were covered with odd writing that was illegible to the survivors.  One of the party, much to this Judge's delight, plucked them up and promptly dropped them over his head!

With this one action, the bridge to 1st level was crossed...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Gods of the Aedossian Cycle

SCORIUS - Scion of Law 
In setting up my "Aedossian Cycle" campaign for the DCC RPG, I've decided to set up both Law and Chaos as entities which are concerned with their own agendas as opposed to the well-being of individuals.  Characters will generally begin the game with a Neutral alignment until the time that they are seduced by the power of either Law or Chaos.  Perhaps the characters will choose neither extreme, and remain unsullied by the taint of Law and Chaos.  These three primal forces all have their champions in the Gods of Aedoss...

The Gods of Law...

  • Scorius, Leader of the Gods of Law
  • Torvallo, God of Judgement
  • Xerishan, God of Righteous Might
  • Coellyon , The Law Giver
(Favored weapons - Swords, spears, bows.  Unholy creatures - Any creature allied with Chaos)

The Neutral Gods...
  • Sylteria, Goddess of the Wild Places
  • Jordannus, God of Protectors
  • Trallin Zell, God of the Song
  • Mordan All-Father, God Under the Mountain, Patron of Dwarves
  • Eleria Fey-Mother, Goddess of Elf-Kind
  • Andarra Goldfields, Goddess of the Hearth, Home, and Field. Patron of Halflings
  • The Golden Lord, God of Commerce and Profit
  • Weyland the Wanderer, God of Roads and Travelers
(Favored weapons - Maces, hammers, staves, and slings.  Unholy creatures - Undead) 

The Chaos Gods...
  • Ahrkallian, God of War and Strife
  • Bel-Baran the Ever-Changing, God of Inconstancy
  • Maldandraxxia,  Goddess of Pain and Cruelty
  • Uuzz the Unclean, Source of Abominations
(Favored weapons - Axes, spiked maces, weapons of cruelty.  Unholy creatures - Any creature allied with Law) 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Peril at Bluestone Village - My DCC Character Funnel

In addition to putting together the underpinnings of my game world, Aedoss (pronounced, EYE-doss), I have nearly finished my 0-level character funnel entitled "Peril at Bluestone Village".  It begins with a village under siege by local brigands who have been united together by a mysterious and otherworldly sorcerer.  There are several elements that I wanted to bring to the fore with this story...

Unlikely Heroes In Extraordinary Circumstances...

  •  Of course this makes perfect sense as this is exactly what the character funnel in the DCC RPG is supposed to be.  The norm is not to begin play with heroes that have already come into their power.  Much the opposite, play begins with characters who are simple peasants or tradesmen with just a spark of the adventurer flame within them.  That being said, I thought that one of the best ways to give these common folk a brush with adventure would be for their village to be attacked by sinister forces.

A Threat From Beyond The Mortal Realm
  • One of the most surprising bits of advice that is given to DCC judges in the core rulebook is that extraplanar encounters should start early.  This is contrary to my experience with running old school adventure games.  Generally, the extraplanar stuff is left until higher levels are achieved, mainly because of the high levels of the opponents.  Once I did a bit of pondering on this idea, I realized that it follows right along with the tenets of many of the stories from Appendix N.  Heroes come right out of the gate, facing some sort of threat from "beyond the worlds we know".  Consequently, my character funnel session will feature a villain from another reality.

Bits Of A Bigger Tale
  • The character funnel session is at its best when it contains markers that will lead the 0-level mooks, not only to first level, but to further adventure as well.  The characters should learn some things that will give the survivors a path to travel, kick-starting their adventuring careers.  In my session, clues will be found about what is motivating the villain.  His interest in the seemingly insignificant village will be revealed.

Paths To First Level
  • For those who survive the meat-grinder, there needs to exist avenues that can be traveled to make the steps to first level reachable.  It seems to me that for each character class, something needs to be interjected that could cause one of the characters to make the choice.  I plan to handle this by creating situations that could be resolved by magic, divine inspiration, melee, stealth, and problem-solving.  This will allow a potential turning point to happen, perhaps causing a character to choose a certain path.  Beyond this idea, I plan to have several NPCs in Bluestone Village that can guide a potential adventurer in their chosen class.
Hopefully these element will mix together and give the players something to create a great adventure around. We'll soon see as the playing of the first session of my DCC campaign draws near!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Alignment And The Cosmology Of My DCC Campaign

Arrows of Chaos
The system of alignment in the DCC RPG is one that reflects its old-school heritage.  Law, Neutrality, and Chaos are the options.  Law is given as the choice of those who would uphold society's system of order and rules, producing the common good.  Chaos is all about over-throwing authority, exercising personal power, and self-serving ends.  The middle ground is Neutrality, the choice of those who choose not to decide, (hmmm...sounds like a famous Rush song of which I'm fond.)

Arrow of Law
I have nothing against these standard tropes, but I decided early on that I wanted my campaign's eternal struggle to have be decidedly less Gygaxian and more Moorcockian. (I'm not sure I like that sentence...moving on...) In my campaign, Law and Chaos will be struggling for dominance.  Either potential outcome will not be good for the mortal folks of the world.  If Law wins, the world become stagnant and unmoving.  If Chaos wins, the world becomes a place of ever-changing pain and torment.  The gods in the middle, those of Neutrality, are trying to protect the mortal realms from the ravages of the Cosmic War.

All that being said, here's a list of characteristics of my DCC RPG campaign cosmology...
  •  The universe exits in a state of war between the forces of Law and Chaos.
  •  Most mortal folks are left to be Neutral in the midst of the conflict.
  •  Good and Evil are not Law and Chaos
  • Law and Chaos are not Good and Evil
  • Good and Evil are choices that people make and can be relative to the chooser.
  •  Law sees life only as a circumstance that allows Law to be applied to it.
  • Chaos sees life only as a circumstance upon which change can be enacted.
  • Neutrality is the only world-view that holds life up as a good thing in itself.
  • The goal of Chaos is to put all of existence into a state of flux.  Wondrous pain and cruelty are signs that change is happening
  • The goal of Law is to ensure that all of existence is in a state where all of its parts act according to the rule prescribed for them.  Never changing, never growing. The abolition of free will is the earmark of Law succeeding.
  • The goal of Neutrality is to see life flourish...organized enough to be civilized, changing enough to be free.
To sum it up from the point of view of a mortal player character...Law can give me power, but may consume my free will. Chaos can give me power, but I may become monstrous.  Neutrality puts me in opposition to cosmic powers that may seek to destroy me, but in the end, that may be the only choice that keeps my soul free.

My Unexpected Attraction to The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG

When I first heard about the new Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG my initial reaction was one of indifference.  I assumed that this new game would be another in a long line of OSR retro-clones of D&D.  OSRIC was my preferred "old-school" game and I didn't see any need to look for anything different.  For some odd reason, my attention kept drifting back to the Goodman Games web site where I watched the progress of DCC from playtest to pre-order.  To say I'm glad that things happened this way would be an injustice.

I think what really caused my attention for DCC to spark was the artwork. To put it simply, it's evocative.  I'd be lying if I said that all of the art was of a style that normally would be a favorite of mine.  That seems to matter little when I consider what it evokes in me as I see it.  It definitely helps me to recall what D&D was like for me back in 1980 when I first picked up the oddly-shaped dice and tossed them across the table.  So, like in the beginnings of many human relationships, I was initially hooked by physical appearances.

The art got the book (or should I say PDF) into my hands and my attraction began to deepen as I delved into the massive 471 page tome.  As I began to understand Mr. Goodman's purpose of creating a game inspired by the fiction of the 1st Edition DMG's Appendix N, I realized that this would be a different game than the rest of the OSR pack.  This approach strikes me as new, original, and genuinely inspired.

From there I continue to find things that I really, really like.  The classes all seem to have good reasons for players to want to play them.  Standing out for me are warriors and their "Mighty Deeds of Arms".  The semi-Vancian magic system for wizards shines forth from the pages.  The simple systems for combat, experience, and skills all fit with a game that hearkens back to the early days of the hobby.  I've not even touched on the 0-level character idea sure to produce a memorable first session of a campaign.

So where I am now is a long way from where I started regarding the DCC RPG. Now, I am more excited about starting this campaign than I have been for any other in a long span of time.  Next week, I'll be happily shoving characters through my 0-level, meat-grinder of a funnel...look here for all the gory details.