Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Tower of Visions, a small dungeon for DCC RPG

(To all my DCC RPG players... stay out! The Judge knows)

I started a “one dungeon room” post series some time in the last year. Those posts were actually my way of making up for a friend, for whom I had promised a dungeon. As usual, I failed miserably in delivering it on time. Let me see if I can wrap it up in one final post.

As I am terrible at drawing, there is no use point using maps, so I will just describe it. Please, bear with me.

The Tower of Visions should be a frigging crystal tower, so it is easy to spot (place it wherever the Judge wants). Its entrance was envisioned to be buried; a crystal tunnel hidden in some cave. Just before the dungeon itself there should be some hostile humanoid tribe living in the caves. While outright combat could be avoided, the humanoids should be clearly hostile or at best they could be bought for a one-time pass through their territory. The idea here is (1) the party cannot retreat to rest without some cost; and (2) if they linger too much, the humanoids will start coming after them. Their only option should be forward. This is the perfect opportunity to roll some crazy humanoid from the DCC RPG Core Rulebook (actually, let me do that right now!)

 

Crazy Humanoids in the Cave

I got “brown”, “fight with two weapons”, “shot and stocky” and “fascinated with jewellery, metal etc.”. OK, so I decided that I will use strange dwarf-like creatures, seemly made of mud or stone, beardless. They wear just crude loincloths, deeply fear open sky, and consider anything made of metal to be holy. Thus, it should be hoarded. Probably remnants of a dwarven clan gone either barbarian or crazy (or both), which caused their elemental heritage to manifest again. There should some 30 humanoids. Use Berserker stats, but our dwarven offshoot use their half-stone fists (1d4) instead of weapons and have a second d20 Action Die (that they can also use to parry, instead of attacking). Their primary goal is not to kill but to stun (if they hit the same target twice in the round, the target must Fort DC 10 or drop anything they are holding and they are stun for 1 round). Our humanoids seek to deprive the party of any metal objects, which are taken into their holy shrine. I am tempted to consider that because they love metal, they either fear or hate magic (probably the first) and must check morale when witnessing spellcasting.

The entrance to the Tower of Visions itself is the Tiger of Doors encounter, HERE.

After the that, the party will reach what I call the Shadowless Room. The Shadowless Room is party’s best place to rest in the Tower of Visions. It is a circular room entirely made of crystal that shines as bright as the sun. Yes, EVERYTHING shines here, from all directions. It is maddening. While it is possible to see for enough time to notice that there are 2 ways out, staying in the room for more than a few minutes will eventually blind any character. At the end of each minute, start asking for Fort saves (DC 10). Failure blinds you for 1d4 hours, then days, months, years and forever! Success just gives the character a -1 Die Step penalty for perception and ranged attacks for the next 1d4 hours. A blindfold can take care of the light and is the only way to stay long in the room. Now, the other weird thing about the Shadowless Room is that its eternal lights play havoc with time. Each time the ENTIRE party gets inside the room, roll a 1d4: (1) means each turn inside is 1 day outside; (2) means time outside stops, so this is the perfect opportunity for rest; (3) means time stop INSIDE, so the party cannot rest until they all leave the room and enter again; (4) means that a paradox happens. Ask the character with the lowest Luck to roll a Luck check. If they succeed, the party will actually meet themselves at the door of the Shadowless Room. Their versions from the future will not let anyone in, but will answer one question about the dungeon (and maybe cast one healing). A failure at the Luck check means time itself is broken. The party are suddenly back at the beginning of the adventure, before the cave and the first encounter, without any XP, loot, damage or whatever (but they DO retain the knowledge from the dungeon – it’s a paradox! – and the Shadowless Room does not exist anymore if they enter the dungeon again).

There are two paths from the Shadowless Room.

One leads to the Stairs of Mortality, HERE. At the end of the Stairs the party reach the Fane of the Lost Reflections, as described HERE. There is one extra item in the Fane: a Mirror Mask, shattered in half and really sharp (it is hard to hold without cutting your hands). This Mask is the key to reach the Tower’s Master. The other half will be in the end of the other path.

The other path from the Shadowless Room leads down, to the Room of the Eyeless Ogre, as described HERE.

From the Room of the Eyeless Ogre, the party finds a weird thing… instead of a room they find a giant hole opened in the otherwise indestructible crystal structure of the Tower. Something BIG broke inside the Tower and literally eat an ENTIRE ROOM (describe clear signs of giant teeth and claws). Following the hole leads the party down to a cold cave where flames burn blue and cold (and anything burned to 0 hit points here return in 1d4 minutes as a hungry un-dead). Spells that deal with darkness, cold and necromancy gain +1 Die Step and are never lost. Spells that deal with light, fire and divination are always lost once cast and the caster must roll a Luck check or suffer a minor Corruption. Divine magic suffers -1 Die Step and the cleric instantly know that the party is in another plane (which one? I don’t know. Niflheim, Gehenna, Malfeas… Judge’s call). What matter is that at the end of the tunnel the party will see themselves in a deep lake over which strange orbs of blue fire burn. There is a hoard – silver coins, jewellery, weapons etc. – and also a big dragon sleeping over it! Yes, a dragon. Do not worry about stats (but if you like it, roll a Large Dragon in DCC RPG Core Rulebook). This particular underworld dragon is sleeping, but if even a tiny coin is removed from the hoard, yes, he will awake in 1d4+1 rounds.

If the party is smart, they won’t touch anything (of course, they are players… so just wait & see). What matter is that any spellcasters (or the PC with lowest Luck) will start hearing whispers coming from the dragon’s hoard. The whisper promise “the King’s Mercy”, “Truesight’s Blessing” and other nebulous things. If the party follows the whispers, they arrive at what appears to be a crystal ball and a Mirror Mask lying in a corner of the hoard. The Mirror Mask is the other half of the one found in Fane of Lost Reflections.

The crystal ball is the one doing the whispers. It begs the party to take it “back” to the King, but it won’t give any extra instructions. As soon, as someone takes the crystal ball (or the mask), the dragon as usual will awaken. At that exact moment, the crystal ball will (mentally) cry to its bearer to “hold me before the Harbinger’s Gaze!”. If anyone manages to lift the orb in front of the dragon eyes, it will daze the gargantuan creature for 2d4 rounds.

If the dragon awakes and the party is still there, they are basically toast. The dragon will demand their names and quest, and also will ask to be entertained (if the Judge leaves that to the dice, entertaining a dragon is definitely DC 20… but only allow rolls if the PCs can come with something clever). Each success should grant the party 1d4 rounds before the dragon attack. When it (inevitably) attacks, its soul-draining breath should deal something like 4d4 Stamina damage (half if they manage a Refl DC 20). Merciful Judges can allow “Shields shall be Splintered” rules to reduce damage by half. If the dragon is mesmerized with the crystal ball, then it will attack in a mad rage as soon as it breaks free.

Other potential hazards in the dragon’s cave are: (1) it is Artic-like cold, plus there is water, so frostbite/hypothermia is in order (i.e. don’t let the party linger); and (2) the blue fire orbs that fly through the cave deal 1d4 damage and can only be extinguished by touching another living creature (this deals one final 1d4 of damage, shared by both targets, but cancels the life-draining flame). Really evil Judges can suggest that there mindless un-dead (skeletons) hidden in the water. Again, use those hazards to make the party move.

After they (hopefully) get out of the cave, they should (again, hopefully) have the Mirror Mask and the crystal ball. Joining the two halves of the Mirror Mask opens a floating gate to the last room of the Tower of Visions: The Room of the King.

The Tower is actually the retreat for the King of Cyclops, the original bastard who sold his people’s eyes in exchange for magic power. The King himself did not lost his eyes, but actually gained the power to use other people’s eyes to see their future or use their magic. He also became an accomplished thaumaturge and eventually created artificial eyes with new powers (considering that the King is a giant, those artificial eyes are actually crystal balls, and perhaps the King might have created the first crystal ball ever). The King cheated some very pissed-off Chaos Powers when he hid himself in the pocket dimension that is the Tower of Visions. If he ever steps out, he is doomed. So, he uses his crystal balls and captures eyes to see other planes and sometimes even possess and enjoy other people’s lives. As I said, make the dude a total bastard.

The King desires knowledge and experience from the real world. He will ask for one eye of each adventurer in exchange for “the power to know his own End”. That is of course the Doom that linger of most Cyclops and is more a curse than a blessing. However, if a PC says “Yes!” that PC loses the eye and his Luck stat and in exchange for the Doom rules (see the rules here). Classes that run on Luck like Thieves and Halflings will be crippled after accepting this pact, but – hey! – they can at least burn their Doom with double effect before dying.

Denying the King will result in the party getting killed, unless they offer something better. If they make a promise to do something for the King, they might be able to walk away, but they will be cursed by “The King’s Shadow”. Basically, every day they DON’T work towards their part of the bargain, they lose 1d6 Luck. When their Luck runs out their shadows become monsters (same stats and hit points as the original, but each attack ignores armor and reduce Strength by 1d6, PCs with Strength 0 are dragged screaming back to the King to have both their eyes removed before being returned to the real world as blind and probably mad creatures). Because the King’s Shadow is a curse, it can be removed if the party can find and befriend a Cyclops (good luck with that!*).

*Befriend a Cyclops is too easy for me, make the party HELP a Cyclops. I would creature a Cyclops that is in love with a giant and the party must play matchmakers here.

The King of Cyclopes (Elder Cyclops): Init +5; Atk huge fists +8 melee (1d4+4); AC 16; HD 5d8+5, 45 hit points; MV 40’; Act 3d20; SP true sight; SV Fort +8, Ref +3, Will +10; AL C. The King can use his second and third Action Die to cast a random spell as a 10th level spellcaster. He literally replaces one of his eyes with one of various flying crystal balls in the room. After so used, he can’t use that exactly spell again this encounter.

To make matters worse, every round each character will be hit by a high velocity flying crystal ball. Roll a 1d14 attack against a PC. If hit, the PC can choose to fall prone and lose his next action or suffer 1d8 damage.

One secret to defeat the King of Cyclops is to offer him the crystal ball found in the underworld dragon’s cave. If the King places that orb in his eyes, he will fall screaming and the Tower of Visions will start shaking. In 2d4 rounds the underworld dragon will come to claim the King’s live. The bastard knows he is doomed, so he will do his best to kill the characters BEFORE that happens. (Oh, if the King of Cyclops suspects that the crystal ball offered came from the dragon’s cave he will NOT touch it and will go mad with rage against the characters.)

If the party managed to kill the King of Cyclopes then the Tower of Visions will start crashing down over them. Each PC can roll a Luck check to grab a random crystal ball before running for their lives!

Having vanquished the traitorous King of Cyclopes is the greatest reward of the dungeon. Afterward, the party will always be followed by a Cyclops (use the monstrous one from the Core Rulebook). They are considered Cyclops-friend. Remember, Cyclopes are man-eating, stinky and barbarian monsters… but they all feel a true debt to the party for killing their terrible King. These Cyclops “hirelings” can be useful, but most of the time they will also give the party a lot of problem. If killed, roll a d6. Anything except a 1 means that another cyclops will show up in a few days or weeks.

There is also a good chance that the nefarious Chaos Powers that made a pact with the King will seek the party, trying to enroll them as new champions of Chaos (after all, they were useful in killing someone that tried to cheat Chaos).

What does this Crystal Ball do? (1d7)

1 – Divination. This crystal ball, if checked during the night, will warn the user about horrible things happening with him during the next day. If the character rolls a Fumble during the next 24 hours, the Fumble is treated as a normal failure. However, if the crystal ball is used by the same person two days in a row, then the next Fumble is actually made worse (add +1d10 to the Fumble Table).

2 – Wild magic. Any character can summon once per day a piece of chaotic magic (non-spellcasters roll a 1d10). Choose your favorite spell generator and roll it (I like the tables from Maze Rats). To determine the power of the spell: 1 (Minor Corruption), 2-9 (Misfire), 10-15 (success), 15+ (wild success, usually targeting an area or 1d6 targets). The Judge will tell with happens.

3 – Clairvoyance. This crystal ball can see any place that within 30 feet or that the party had visited in the last 24 hours. It can see through wood or stone, but not metal. The sensor created can see everything within 30 feet, with the same limitations of a normal person. However, there is always ONE thing that is false in the seeing (a monster, an object, a door). One detail will always be wrong.

4 – Shadow Orb. This crystal ball summons a shadow (see the stat in the Core Rulebook). This shadow will serve the Orb Master for seven nights. After that, the shadow will return to orb taking the Orb Master’s own shadow with it. The now shadowless character can never use the orb again and if attacked by a shadow in the future, he must roll Will DC 10 or be possessed.

5 – Life Ball. This crystal balls, if touched by two creatures, allows them to transfer their life force. Hit points can be passed from one character to another. Unwilling characters can be forced to touch the ball to have their life force extracted by force, usually losing 1d10 hit points per round (however, ask a Will save from both creatures, the one that rolled higher is that round’s winner and deals 1d10 to the other). Unconscious targets cannot resist. Using this crystal ball for evil stuff like draining the life of others is an open invitation for the Judge to inflict Corruption on the crystal ball user.

6 – Fate Orb. This old and cracked crystal ball works as an Invoke Patron for the Three Fates, rolling 3d10! Each time this orb is used it cracks. After three cracks the characters are pulled before the Three Fates and must complete three quests for the Patron or spent eternity trapped inside the Fate Orb.

7 – The Chaos Ball. When the power of the crystal ball are summoned Fate itself is corrupted within a 30 feet radios of the crystal ball owner. In that area Success becomes failure and Failure success. This power can be used once per day and lasts for 1d7 rounds. However, each time it is used the Judge should roll a secret d7: (1) one enemy inside the area is immune, (2-5) nothing happens, (6) the orb activates again in the next day in a moment set by the Judge, (7) the owner loses 1 Luck permanently.

(Remember, Crystal Balls are heavy and cumbersome items! Not easy to carry. Just remember the Palantir from the Lord of the Ring movies)


 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

My version of Ekim’s Mystical Mask

In my last post I showed my horribly unbalanced houseruled version of Chill Touch. Now I did the same thing with Ekim’s Mystical Mask, another spell which doesn't sit right with me. OK, my version is probably too powerful, but it carries a few risks. However, it fits nicely with my current house rules, which make Spellburn a really risk endeavor, not to be taken lightly.

I hope you like it. Everything stays as in the DCC RPG Core Rulebook, except for the new table below.

12-13 The mask grants infravision, allowing the caster to see in the dark up to 60’ away. His eyes reflect light like a cat while this mask is in effect. This effect lasts for 1 minute per CL and the casting time is 1 action.

14-17 The mask helps protect the caster against gaze attacks such as that from a basilisk (q.v.). This effect is cast as an instantaneous action against a gaze attack. It completely blocks one gaze attack. The caster’s face takes on a mirror-like quality while this mask is in effect.

18-19 The mask helps defend the caster against baneful magical spells. All spells cast directly at the wizard can be countered by the spell duel rules without the need to spend an Action Die. Area-of-effect spells or other magics that are not targeted directly at the mask wearer are unmodified. The caster’s face takes on a faceted, quartz-like appearance while this mask is in effect. The casting time is 1 action.

20-23 The mask transforms the caster’s face into a horrible visage. All creatures that see the target’s face (including allies) must make a Will save or flee from the caster’s location for 1d4+CL rounds. The targeted creature must be able to see the caster clearly to be affected by the gaze. Creatures that save are immune and affected creatures cannot be affect again until the next sunrise. The caster’s face becomes monstrously demonic while this mask is in effect. The casting time is 1 round.

24-27 The mask protects the caster against attacks from metal weapons, which pass through the caster. Any metal object held by the caster falls to the ground. The caster’s face appears encased in shining steel while this mask is in effect. The casting time is 1 round.

28-29 The mask reflects melee and ranged attacks back at unlucky assailants. Any attacker that successfully strikes the mask’s wearer with a physical melee or missile attack must make a Luck check or find their attack turned against them. The attacker’s same attack roll (including any and all modifiers) is applied to its own AC and inflicts normal damage if the blow lands successfully. The caster’s face appears to be that of his attacker(s) while the mask is in effect. The casting time is 1 round.

30-31 The mask transforms the caster’s entire head into that of a snake. While in effect, the mask grants the caster both the illusion generating and hypnotic gaze powers of a serpent-man (see page 425). As an incidental benefit, it also allows the caster to pass himself off as a serpent-man under cursory inspection. The mask’s effect on the caster’s face is self-evident. This effect lasts for 1 minute per CL and the casting time is 1 action.

32+ With this powerful casting, the wizard’s face is occluded by a living void that will pull all magic within. Every spell cast in a 30 feet cone in front of the caster is instantly nullified (and treated as lost or spent until the next sunrise). The caster cannot cast a spell while this is in effect. Anything touching the caster’s face is instantly gone, as if placed inside a bag of devouring. After this effect ends the caster must roll a Fort save DC 10 or visible age (10 years to humans, proportional to other races’ lifespan, the Judge can describe this as a 1 Stamina permanent damage).




Saturday, May 8, 2021

Yet another houserule for Chill Touch

 

Chill Touch is a boring spell in DCC RPG, everyone knows that. I really doubt that my home version is properly balanced solution, but it sure looks fun at the table! It was inspired by the AD&D 2nd version. Everything stays as in the DCC Core Rulebook, except the craziness below.

First, yes, Chill Touch still requires spellburn and actually I think that 1d3 of Strength would be better, considering the boost below. Chill Touch here is practically a Patron Spell in power, but I hope the Strength damage will keep casters from enjoying themselves too much.*/**

*The Judge is encouraged to reduce the damage to 1d2 or 1 Strength for Wizards that took Arcane Affinity (Necromancy).

** A caster can use a defenseless target and drain the Strength from the victim (but the Judge is encouraged to roll a second d20 just to see if the PC gains Corruption). This second option is a secret dearly kept by necromancers and black magicians.

Also, before going to the new table, Chill Touch also another caveat: if the caster is healed the spell instantly ends (the necromancy energy being cancelled by the healing). Otherwise follow the results below.

NEW TABLE

12-13 The caster’s hands are charged with negative energy! On the next round, the next creature the caster attacks touches suffer 1d6 damage OR 2 points of Strength damage (creature without Strength suffer -1 to attack and damage). To touch the target the caster ignores any AC from armor (unless the armor is made of metal). A Will save is allowed to ignore the Strength damage. Un-dead creatures do not suffer damage but must save or flee for 1 round. 

14-17 On the next 2 rounds, any creature touched by the caster attacks suffers 1d6 damage and 2 points of Strength damage (creature without Strength suffer -1 to attack and damage). To touch the target the caster ignores any AC from armor (unless the armor is made of metal). A Will save is allowed to ignore the Strength damage. Un-dead creatures do not suffer damage but must save or flee for 1d4 rounds.

18-19 On the next turn, any creature touched by the caster attacks suffers 1d6 damage and 2 points of Strength damage (creature without Strength suffer -1 to attack and damage). To touch the target the caster ignores any AC from armor (unless the armor is made of metal). A Will save is allowed to ignore the Strength damage. Un-dead creatures do not suffer damage but must save or flee for 1d4 minutes.

20-23 On the next turn, any creature touched by the caster attacks suffers 1d8 damage and 1d3+1 points of Strength damage (creature without Strength suffer -1 to attack and damage). To touch the target the caster ignores any AC from armor (unless the armor is made of metal). A Will save is allowed to ignore the Strength damage. Un-dead creatures do not suffer damage but must roll Morale (Will DC 10) or flee for an extra 2d4 minutes.

24-27 On the next turn, any creature touched by the caster attacks suffers 1d8 damage and 1d3+1 points of Strength damage (creature without Strength suffer -1 to attack and damage). The caster can end the spell to cripple any target that suffered Strength damage. Crippling a target leaves him with Strength 3 (-5 t attack and damage). To touch the target the caster ignores any AC from armor (unless the armor is made of metal). A Will save is allowed to ignore the Strength damage. Un-dead creatures do not suffer damage but must save, but flee for 2d4 minutes and if they meet the caster again before the next sunrise they must check morale of flee for 1d4 minutes more.

28-29 As above, but while the spell lasts the caster is overcharged with negative energy. He cannot be healed, unless he spends an Action Die to discharge the spell first. If killed while the spell is in effect, the caster will return as vengeful un-dead. However, he can roll a Will save DC 10 to ignore any drain or damage from an un-dead.

30-31 As 24-27 and 28-29, but any living creature attacking the caster in melee suffers 1d8 damage and 1d3+1 points of Strength damage (creature without Strength suffer -1 to attack and damage). Save still apply. Un-dead that hit the caster in melee must save or flee.

32+ The caster’s body glows a sickly blue light as he crackles with withering necromantic energy. Any creature within 10’ of the caster takes 1d8 damage and 1d3+1 Strength damage each round it stays within the field, and un-dead creatures flee automatically for 1d4 hours. There is no save at this level. The caster not only recovers the spellburned Strength but gain a +1 bonus to Strength every round he damages a living creature (maximum Strength 20). Until the next sunrise, the caster cannot benefit from any form of magical or natural healing. The caster still becomes (a now powerful) un-dead if killed during this spell.



Wednesday, April 28, 2021

On the vicissitudes of a Wizard in DCC RPG


“Low-level wizards are powerful. High-level wizards fear for their souls.”

The phrase from the DCC Core Rulebook sums up nicely how awesome and crazy is the life a wizard. I would like the share how things are going for the spellcaster PC in my DCC RPG campaign.

Our games have been running a little erratically since 2013. We are playing Old School-style, so advancement is slow and diegetic. 5th level is an achievement and as of this post only 2 characters have reached those heights (in a pool of more than 20 created so far!). I don’t see anyone reaching 6th level without some really cool quest. Right now the main characters are stuck in the Purple Planet.

The party’s spellcaster is named Arcádio, a human turnip farmer turned Warlock (that is my human variant on the Elf Class, you can check it here). Arcádio was a peasant that after surviving his funnel (I believe it was Sailors on the Starless Sea) turned to the Dark Arts to get revenge on his liege (a hook for the 13th Skull module that was interrupted when the party was banished to the Purple Planet). Arcádio became a Warlock through his mule, which was actually a disguised demon and is now his familiar (the player elected to play with a type of a familiar that I call Faustian and which uses Arnold K.’s awesome rules, found here).

Arcádio is bound not only to his familiar, but also managed to pledge service to the Horned King (another hook that I hope will eventually take him to Beyond the Black Gate). However, things are not easy for the spellcasters in my games. Arcádio gained a lot of corruption rather quickly (frosty skin, antlers, a pack mentality, a cybernetic virus and a regrown leg of different size are just some of those). Arcádio also suffers from a cool set of mercurial magic and is constantly changing genders (the player even changes names and personality). Arcádio tried to appease different Patrons for some time (including entities from the Court of Chaos) which did not end well. By sheer luck, he and the party’s berserker found an old machine that cleansed them of physical corruptions (the machine was from a Warhammer 40K’s Imperial Battleship, and during that crazy crossover the Warlock almost became a servant of Horus, which showed up as a Patron and used rules from Mutant Crawl Classics).

To make matter more interesting, Arcádio was blinded and brainwashed to Law during Intrigue at the Court of Chaos by none other than the celestial spy Lexaliah (using again more material from Arnold K. from Goblin Punch... I can't find the link, but angels here also deal damage directly to the PC's soul, converting them to Law. In DCC RPG, I do that as Personality damage). Arcádio got rid of all that “Law taint” by making new pacts with his Faustian familiar. Due to the nature of a particular pact, once every seven days, Arcádio must exchanges bodies with his familiar (basically, once every week he is stuck in the form of a goblin-demon). To cure his blindness, Arcádio managed to appease the Horned King, so he is seeing again (but has wolf eyes). And to make things really complicated, when we started the 13th Skull module, Arcádio got a chance of revenge against his nemesis – that is the Duke Magnussem XIII. The Warlock was so bent on it that he sold his soul to Obitu-Que in order to employ a powerful domination magic scroll. That backfired beautifully and now Arcádio is desperately trying to get his soul back. He also had enough with his Faustian Familiar and all his debts so, after meeting with the Three Fates, Arcádio ditched the Faustian familiar and is (right now) seeking redemption. However, the Faustian familiar had the last laugh, because he still can steal Arcádio’s body once a week. The Warlock tried to “fix” this by contacting another creature from the same plane of existence as his diabolical (ex-)familiar. That creature was a rival and taught him a ritual to be performed while Arcárdio had the familiar’s body. The ritual worked quite well (in a crazy way) – Arcádio didn’t got his true body back, but actually “trapped” the familiar in his mortal body. To make matters more (yes!) interesting, Arcádio is now trapped in the form a magical mask with the face as his old familiar. The Warlock became a living magic item and can only interact with the world if placed over someone’s face.

And that is the “typical” life of a spellcaster (of 4th level) in my DCC RPG campaign. The fact that the Warlock’s player is feeling trapped, a bit confused, and desperate (but still enjoying the entire madness of the thing) tells me that I am being true to the spirit of that DCC RPG’s phrase.

Oh, and now our party now has a 2nd level Lawful Wizard that serves the Three Fates. I can’t wait to see how things are going to develop with him.



BONUS CONTENT

Sorry about the lengthy post. I hope you enjoy it. Here are a few more magic items that the players found during my campaign.

A Lance Forged By The Balance is a weapon forged from one piece of some unknown metal that looks like mercury but is (1) solid, and (2) a lot lighter. This magical spear does not give you any bonus to hit or damage rolls but works as a magical weapon. When you pierce a supernatural or incorporeal creature with the spear and pin it down, you can bound the target to that place. For as long as the spear is pinned to a surface, the target can’t move, teleport, remove the spear or die (other creatures can try to remove the spear normally). As far as it is known, the Lance Forged By The Balance can only be destroyed by dragon’s breath or an Eternal Champion’s hands.

The Unendingly Cantankerous and Most Tedious Tales of Agilulf. This old and battered book changes its idiom to that of the reader. If even briefly read, the reader must roll a Will DC 15 or fall at sleep for 1d8 hours. It is that boring.

The Screaming Box. An small ornated jewellery box made from some kind of white wood. If opened it is always (ALWAYS!) empty and it will start to unleash an unending and almost deafening human scream. There is no mechanical effect involved, but most people are freaked out by the noise and would be distracted or even stunned for one or two moments.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Blessings of the Flesh from the Cult of the Pit (an extra for People of the Pit)

 

I remember the first time I faced draconians from the AD&D 2nd Dragonlance Campaign Setting. I was instantly in love with the monster design (never have facing a critter with death throes before) You never knew what would happen when a new type of draconian showed up. Would the monster blow up as you killed it? Turn to acid? Go berserker? It was awesome.

I am not sure why but when I read People of the Pit module, I get a “draconian” vibe from the Cult of Pit. When you kill a cultist, a pulped-tentacled-mess-thing (a.k.a. octo-mass) bursts forth from the corpse and attacks you. That is nice… the first time. Then I noticed that it becomes common place rather quickly. So, I decided to create a table and generate variant octo-mass for my run of the adventure.

Every time a cultist dies, roll a 1d8, and let the chaos begin!

1 – The body starts shaking and gory tentacles emerge from mouth, eyes and ears… it is gross but one round later the cultist just drops dead. You lucky bastard.

2 – Same as above, but one round later an octo-mass bursts forth and ATTACK!

3 – The cultist explodes in gory trash movie fashion. Everyone in melee range must roll a Luck check. If they fail with an even roll they are blinded for 1 round, if they fail with a odd roll they slip and fall in the blood. Oh, and there is a octo-mass SOMEWHERE preparing a sneak attack at the possible worst moment.

4 – The octo-mass jumps some 10 ft. from the cultist’s corpse and attaches itself to a ceiling or wall… from where it promptly starts casting (or helping at the cast of) arms of Palimdybis. This “jumpy” octo-mass has AC 12.

5 – The octo-mass bursts from the cultist as a projectile. One character in range (a 30 ft. line) must succeed at a Ref save DC 12. Failing with an even roll means the octo-mass grabs his face (the PC is blind, cannot speak and is suffocating). Failing with an odd roll means the octo-mass grabbed his torso and the PC cannot use his arms, besides having his movement limited to 5 ft. per round. During the chaos of melee, any normal attack against a grappling octo-mass has 50% of hitting the grappled PC. (but Mighty Deed of Arms to avoid that are in order!) Consider that an octo-mass has a Str 10 when rolling opposed checks to free the PC.

6 – The octo-mass bursts from the cultist as a projectile. One character in range (a 30 ft. line) must succeed at a Will save DC 12 or becomes controlled as the octo-mass’ tentacles get inside his ears and nose. A new Will save can be attempted every round with a +2 cumulative bonus. (No Judge would dare use this tactic to control the party's wizard or elf... imagine if start casting spells? Oh Heavens...)

7 – Dire octo-mass! This critter has 8 hit points and inflicts 1d6 damage! The first time it is hit by slashing damage it suffers no damage but divides in two octo-mass (then in three). After the first slashing, damage is 1d4, after the second the normal damage. A third slashing attack deals damage normally.

8 – Octo-mass swarm!!! Roll twice on this table. (If the Judge believes this is too much, only use this result for Crimson and Yellow Robe Cultists).

Yeah, this tables makes the Cultist considerably more dangerous and unpredictable, but that is the idea. I run People of the Pit with a 5 players’ party who used lots of hirelings and the adventure was devilish fun!


Octo-mass time!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Hellish Pacts with the Hollow Man (an extra for Doom of the Savage Kings)

While running Doom of the Savage Kings (one of my all-time favorite modules) to my first DCC RPG table, a few years ago, I added a few extras to the Sunken Fens. Because there is a Viking flavor to the entire thing, inspired in the legend of the huldre, I created the Hollow Man.


Just an old diviner...


The Hollow Man looks like an old hermit of the swamp, but on a closer inspection he is a hollowed husk-man-thing that carries flasks fulls of hands and eyes. While the party figured it out the illusion, they never interacted with the Hollow Man itself like I wanted (they actually ran away pretty fast!).

The Hollow Man collects hands and eyes and (or so say the legends) eventually traded them with devils. The idea is that the Hollow Man is a source of weird powers (i.e. magic items). Basically, you lose a hand and/or eye and get supernatural mojo.


Run for your lives!


Of course, the encounter was not that simple. The Hollow Man was a unique critter and only offered its services after a riddle contest (I placed rumors in Hirot mentioning that there is “an old diviner in the swamps” that helps people in exchange of riddles… it was a half-true rumor).

- If you give one of your hands to the Hollow Man, you literally get one of your hands (even if detached) in the Hells. The good news is that you can still kind of control that hand and the effect in the Material Plane is that, if spend 1 Action Die and no one is looking, you can move anything that you can see without touching it (if it weights less than 20 pounds/10 kg). So, you could use it (for example) to lift the keys to your cell from the sleeping guard and get away. The bad news is that you are one-handed (-1 Agility) and that one day a devil might show up with your hand, meaning that you own that devil one favour or you soul (your choice).

- If you give one of your eyes to the Hollow Man, you could use it see those that are already Damned. Mechanically, you suffer a -1 in Personality or Luck, but once every day (just after awakening) you can roll a d20. At any point during that same day you could change any other Action Die rolled in your presence by that d20. So, if you rolled a 3 at the beginning of the day, you could change an enemy’s attack roll of 17 against you with that 3. It does not work with your own Action Die rolls (i.e. you know that you are already Damned). The bad news? If you use this power and roll a natural 20, that means that you are doomed and, at some points during that day, the Judge can substitute any of your Action Die rolls for a Fumble (the Judge should go for maximum kill here, the idea is that the Hells want your character). So, if your PC rolls a natural 20 using this power, their best option is probably to stay holed up for the next 24 hours.


A classic!

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

On a DCC Lite

While I still love DCC RPG, I am looking for something lighter now (but still DCC and using the modules!). After all, DCC is such a treasure trove of good rules. I usually praise it for the having the best take on D&D iconic classes while still retaining that classic D&D feel. So, yes, in a certain way I am trying to build my DCC Lite (and I am probably not the first). This post is just me rambling about what I would keep in a DCC Lite (among other random stuff).

I want something that I can start right away with minimum fuss and book checking (and still feel like DCC). My first reaction is to get rid of base progressions from Attacks, Saves and such. I also want to keep Critical Hits and Fumbles, but I want to avoid all those tables for now. I want a Saving Throw system, but one that uses the original idea of saving (from Chainmail and OD&D).

I am very influenced right now by Knaves/Black Hack/SS&SS/GLOG/5TP, so my DCC Lite would be centered on DCC RPG’s 6 ability scores: Strength, Agility, Stamina, Intelligence, Personality and Luck.

Nonetheless… time to kill a sacred cow: get rid of the scores. I just want the modifiers. I will try to keep DCC RPG’s table of Ability Score modifiers and see how it goes (it also keeps inflation at a minimum and looks like older editions). So, if your roll Strength 12 your stat would actually be STR+0. If you rolled a Strength 14 you got STR +1. 

The basic rule is still rolling a d20. Initial DC is 10. Easy stuff (with consequences) would be DC 5, hard stuff is DC 15 and dramatic epicness would be DC 20 (DC 25 would be deity territory). I will address more about checks when I talk about skills.

 I want to start at Funnel, so each PC would just roll his 6 stats, 1d6 + Stamina mod hit points and a Background. Each PC should have 1 character only; however I am thinking on allowing a player to reduce 2 of his LUCK to start with a 2nd PC.

Oh, about LUCK. You still roll LUCK for random stuff, passive perception, and such. However, your Luck Points start as 10 plus LUCK (so, if you have LUCK -1, that is 9 Luck Points). LUCK and Luck Points are tracked separately. You can burn 1 Luck point BEFORE rolling to gain a +1d4 (or +1d6, still not sure) to any check during the game (not while advancing) or to gain a Save. LUCK itself never changes, but Luck points usually go down.

You recover Luck points by Carousing, making sacrifices to the Gods or permanently killing an Un-dead (1 per encounter; as Un-dead are hated by all the Gods as they are basically souls that do not go the Afterlife and thus to a deity’s power source).

You can burn 1 Luck to Save. Basically, after you are screwed you can request a Save (ex: you were hit by a poisoned arrow, you did not saw the pit trap and fell, you were in the wrong spot when the dragon breathed fire etc.) you can burn 1 Luck and request a Save. Usually that is flat d20 roll and if you roll 10+ (it could be more) you avoid the worse. Yes, you can request a Save after failing a normal check. HOWEVER, when you request a Save basically to “roll again” and you fail again, you suffer a Fumble. This does not happen when “there was nothing you could do”. For example: if you are caught in the area of a fireball or dragon breath, failing the Save is not a fumble. If the Judge does not want to inflict a Fumble you lose another Luck point (a generous Judge could return the Luck Point if you roll a natural 20 on a Save).

Advancement would be diegetic. That means no classes, feats and other automatic mechanics are involved. Leveling up usually will get you just: 1 extra Hit Die (usually a d6 and you reroll all your Hit Dice and keep the highest sum); you recover your Luck points, and maybe +1 to a stat every even level. EVERYTHING else depends on the campaign. You want to fight better? You convince the Guard Captain into training you. You want to be more agile? You convince the local Thief Master to teach you his tricks (that might give you +1/+2 to Saves based on reflexes or 1 free Save each day). Want to be more though? Then survive with your barbarian friend in the Dire Wood during all winter (that might grant you more hit points when leveling, maybe a better Hit Dice). Etc. The idea is the Questing for the Impossible, from the DCC RPG Core Rulebook, is now the official way to get powers. Yes, character will get powerful more slowly but for me that is actually better, as I can use more modules. Character development will also be more natural to the campaign.

I want a pick-up game, so the Background would define most of your stuff. Including your initial equipment. You can choose your items DURING GAME, if your Background would allow it. For basic dungeoneering stuff I would write a general list (torch, rope, 10 ft. pole etc.) and during the first session each PC could ask if they have that item. I would then cross the item from the list, say “Yes” and 1 PC in the party has the basic item. That should allow me to start right away.

Each PC can carry 10 items plus his STR. That is your Inventory/Encumbrance Each item above your limit leaves with a -1 Die Chain penalty (instead of rolling a d20 you now roll a d16).

Each PC can usually adventure for a number of turns equal to 6 plus his STA. One turn is usually 1 hour for wilderness exploration or 10 minutes for dungeon exploration. After that the Judge start inflicting Fatigue. Each level of Fatigue is one less level of Inventory/Encumbrance. A turn resting and eating would erase 1 Fatigue.


Now, I removed classes, but I still want the iconic class features as stuff you can train or gain during the game. Let me see what we can take from each class…

The Warrior, for example, has the best combat class trait that I have ever seen in a d20 System: The Mighty Deed of Arms! (besides the most awesome named class feature).

I am going to describe here how I use it, so you are alerted in case I am not following the official version. Basically, every time the Warrior attacks, they roll the traditional attack roll (a d20) and a Deed Die. At 1st level that is 1d3. The Deed Die is always added to the attack roll. However, BEFORE rolling, a Warrior can declare a maneuver (like disarm or push the adversary). If the Deed Die comes with a ‘3’ and the attack hits, the Warrior roll damage PLUS the maneuver effect. If the Deed comes lower than ‘3’ but still lands, the Warrior just roll damage. Does that mean you have to declare a crazy stunt every round? No, if the Warrior just roll the Deed Die without declaring anything, they just add it roll to attack AND damage.

It is simple and – in one struck – DCC RPG got rid of all those feats, maneuvers, styles, and other crunch from other d20 Systems. It is also modular. You can practically remove the Deed Die and add it to other game. In my DCC Lite, if I would offer the Deed Die usually as a result of training with a Weapon Master (maybe the Deed Die would work just with one weapon or style). If I added it to a game like Knaves, I would just change it to a d4 or d6, with the extra it would work as a Usage Die (if a 1-2 came up you lost the Deed Die until you could rest/train/use one action to recover your stance). Done!

And forget rules light systems! If used D&D 5E I would also use the Deed Die (which is closer to the original idea of Expertise Die from the D&D Next playtest and which I find a lot more elegant, simple, and funnier them the current Battlemaster and Maneuver system of 5E).

In my current DCC RPG game I am also inclined to grant 1 Die Chain bonus if you request a maneuver that is good with your current weapon. Like using an axe to shatter armor or a flail to ignore a shield. In those cases, a d3 Deed Die would become a d4. I am still not sure about this.

Now lets us take a look on the Thief (and thus on Skills) for my DCC Lite.

DCC RPG already has the perfect Skill system. That is, for general uncertain stuff that anyone can do and where failure might be interesting you roll a d20 plus your modifier against a DC of 10 (a good description or Background can help you avoid the check, of course). If you try something that you are totally untrained (like closing someone’s wounds or trying to read Old Elvish), you will roll a d10 (if roll at all). Things based on Background (your previous occupation, your current diegetic class and stuff that you managed to train in game) define when you roll a d20. For example: in my current DCC campaign the party’s Berserker trained with a noble that new tracking and hunting – the Berserker now rolls a d20 for “Ranger stuff”.

DCC RPG Skill system’s genius really shines when placed side by side with D&D’s bastard class: the Thief. Like others, I do not appreciate how the Thief discourage other classes from attempting “Rogue stuff” in many d20 games. You also have the issue that in most pre-D&D 3rd games, the Thief Skills at 1st level were ridiculously low. There are A LOT of rulings and variants on the internet addressing that (from treating the Thief skills as supernatural powers, to rolling only when the Thief fails a normal Stat check or don’t describe exactly what he did etc.).  I rather like DCC RPG’s solutions. Everyone follows the normal Skill system. That means that if your Background is an urchin or a hunter, it makes sense to roll a d20 in a stealth check (minus any armor or encumbrance). If someone is watching you roll an opposed check, otherwise the usual DC is 10 (and probably higher). What about the Thief? Well, besides his Ability Score modifiers they have their classic Thievery Skills which gives them usually a +1 to +3 bonus at 1st level. But the real catch is that the Thief operates on a different scale than other PCs. Take for example, Hide in Shadows: most PCs would have to find a place to hide and roll opposed checks. Not the Thief. Their DCs for Hide in Shadows are not opposed. Usually, if there are places with real shadows where they can hide, Thieves roll against a DC of 5 (they are THAT good!). If you are in broad daylight with guards, most PCs would probably roll a d10 opposed by a d20 from the guards. Not the Thief. Those bastards roll against a DC 20 (and it is not that hard, considering the usual bonus of +3 at 1st level and the probable bonus of +10 at 4th-5th level). Yes, DCC RPG’s Thieves are ninja! It is such a simple rule that you don’t need to change anything else to implement it in other games. I am not sure why but it reminds of the position and effect rules from Blades in the Dark.

The Thief Skills would work perfectly in any rules light system. For my DCC Lite I am thinking on removing those complicated Skill Progressions and just keeping the Thief’s scale. In other words, a Thief-trained character would just need to beat a lower DC for that skill in which they were trained by another Thief (no opposed checks).

Now, before moving on, I would probably change the untrained Die Roll rule for my DCC Lite. Nothing against the d10 but I would establish that an untrained roll is a -3 Die Chain penalty. That means that instead of a d20 your roll a d12. That would also work for weapon proficiency (and a d12 is less harsh than a d10 in my mind… besides, we barely used d12s).

OK, I know I still must address the Thief’s Luck and Backstab but lets us leave that for another post. I also need to check the Critical Hit, Fumble and Spell’s tables that I will use. To finish this post, I just want to briefly address the Cleric.

The Cleric of DCC RPG (at least the Lawful one) is already the PERFECT Cleric, so I will just remove the spells for now. The Cleric’s magic system is already perfect just with Lay on Hands, Turn Unholy and Divine Aid. For my DCC Lite I would give the Cleric just one of those powers per quest. They are already considerable powerful and VERY useful. The idea that the Cleric has powers that work constantly instead of spell list also fits the class better in my mind, bringing it closer to the original Hammer Movies/Van Helsing concept.

Hope you enjoyed the rambling. See ya!

How I am feeling after writing this post!