Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Axis of the World

While I haven't been keeping up on the blog, I have been keeping up in my notebook.

Strathos has expanded from a continent to an entire world!

Strathos (the world) is in the style of a "Flat Earth," in that it isn't a globe or sphere, but rather a disc. However, this disc, like a coin, has two sides. A Light side, and a Dark side. Which is kind of a misnomer, as there is darkness on the light side and light on the dark side, but well I'll explain as I go on.

Imagine a coin or wheel floating in the air, laying parallel to the ground. Now put an axle through the center of the wheel, with equal lengths on either side of wheel. At each end of the axle, imagine a light bulb. When one light bulb is turned on, the other turns off. Now, place a bubble on either side of the wheel, encompassing everything within that side of the wheel, including the axle and light bulb.

That's a rough description of Strathos.

I never claimed to be a good artist

For our purposes, I will refer to the world as the Coin, and the previously described axle as the Axis. The light bulb is the Sun.

The center of the coin, the area surrounding the axis, is the hottest area of the world. Jungles, swamps, deserts, tropics, etc.  The outer edge of the coin is the coldest; tundra, ice flows, glaciers, and so on. In between is the temperate regions.

The Light Side of the coin experiences daylight for a uniform 16 hours a day, and 8 hours of darkness. The Dark Side, by contrast, experiences daylight for 8 hours a day, and 16 hours of darkness.

The Light Side is where I'm going to concentrate first.

The Axis in the center of the Coin, rises higher than the tallest mountains. At its pinnacle rests a gigantic sphere that emits light and heat. Not as much light and heat as a traditional star, of course. But just enough to mimic most of the conditions here on Earth.

Surrounding the Axis is a continent filled with steaming jungles.

Outward from that continent are more continents and landmasses, each with their own ecological systems and dominant life forms. These would be the "sandbox," to borrow the popular term. I will build upon the central continent and Axis, while the rest of the world can be whatever; premade settings, homemade ideas, or a mixture of both.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Getting the Word out, part 2

My last post was mainly a rant. Here is some more.

In the last post, I mentioned the term, "street team."  It's a term I lifted from musicians and bands who use social networking to get fans to volunteer to spread the word about a band, particularly in cities and towns the band is going to hit while on tour.

Some games publishers already do this. Off the top of my head, both Goodman Games and Palladium have Ambassador programs, where people who voluntarily run games at stores and Cons get shwag from the company. I have a promotional poster from Goodman Games specifically for Dungeon Crawl Classics that includes spaces for date/time of an upcoming game. It's also a rad looking poster in its own right.

People like free shit, they also like to feel like they are part of something larger than themselves. It doesn't take much for people to advertise their favorite game system and run games for new players to that system. A poster, some beer/pop coasters, a Referee screen (or better/cheaper yet, screen inserts), dice bags, etc... all very cheap to produce, all advertise your game, and all will be cherished and used by your loyal fans.

Availability of your product

I live in a city with four or five tabletop game stores. All of these stores have huge sections devoted to Hasbro DnD, Pathfinder, and Warhammer. With stand-ups, huge posters, books, miniatures, specialty dice, and other company logo'd merchandise.

I've never seen any promo material for DCC or LotFP other than stuff on the "free shit" table or the "looking for a game," corkboard. On top of that, other than Free RPG Day, I've never seen product from either of those two companies inside a game store. Which means that one of, if not the, major channels of introducing new players to those games is completely ignored and out of the loop.

Go to any small publisher's webpage and you'll see halfhearted pleas to get players to request their products at their local game store. But where is the incentive for the game store owner whose main concern (rightly) is making money? Special ordering one game book for one nerd isn't going to increase that store owner's money.

What will get that game store owner's interest in not only stocking your product but not shoving it into a corner some where? Make it worth their while. Contact store owners directly, send them promotional and merchandising material to put up. Agree to cross promotions like, if a customer buys your rule book, they get a discount on an adventure book. Or a free set of dice. 

There aren't that many dedicated game stores out there. Send them promotional material to put up to drive interest in your product, which ultimately means sales.

If a person goes into a game store for the first time and only sees Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and Warhammer, then they will believe that is the extent of the hobby.

Are there record stores that only sell music from three bands or three record labels?  Of course not. They sell a wide variety of music from a wide variety of labels, all at different price points.

which brings me to

Price Point

LotFP publishes some of the best products in the industry, in terms of physical production value. I don't even know if that's debatable at this stage. What IS debatable is the actual monetary value of those products. Especially when considering that for the vast majority of people who buy LotFP products, they have to buy from the LotFP webstore, deal with massive shipping charges, and wait weeks for their product to arrive. Sometimes, you can get lucky and buy a book from Noble Knight before it goes out of stock.

LotFP offers a free, artless pdf version of the rulebook for download on their website. Which is cool, if you can find the link hidden on the front page, or if you are already interested in LotFP. But doesn't help anyone who has limited or no knowledge at all of LotFP.

What would be a low cost alternative? A quick-start rule book with minimal black and white art, the essential rules, and first level spells, and a short 1st level adventure. Send copies of it to game stores and use the merchandising suggestions from above. MSRP of $5.99. It is a stepping stone to drive interest towards more expensive but complete hardcover rule book and all of the adventures.

Goodman Games sells the DCC rule book for around $40-50 for the massive hardbound version. Those hardbound rule books are gorgeous, too. They just recently started selling a softbound version for half the cost. They sell quite a few adventures for a reasonable price, although the cost of pdf versions of those adventures are insane! A pdf should never cost as much as a physical book. There is a reason every single DCC adventure has been pirated online.

GG could make a stand-up display that has ten slots for ten different adventures and ask game stores to place it near the register. Plastic wrap them and put an insert inside with a free download code for a pdf of that same adventure. Once that code is used, it will no longer work.

Now, look at Basic Fantasy Role Playing. Same OSR theme. Physical copy of the rule book? Five fucking dollars. Pdfs are free. There are a bunch of published adventures, too. All ridiculously cheap for physical copies, and free for pdfs. What Basic FRPG doesn't have is great artwork or marketing of any kind at all. Which is the price of not making any money, I suppose. But they sell at cost. So, what if they decided to add a dollar to the cost of the Rule book? It's still cheaper than any other physical rule book out there, and gives them some cash to to actually advertise.

Something you don't hear everyday... Music.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess started out as a fan-zine for metal music. Dungeon Crawl Classics defines itself as a 1970's psychedelic trip. Put out soundtracks to your games. Oh I know, licensing costs a lot of money. That's true. But making an official LotFP Spotify playlist costs NOTHING. Or a Pandora station. Or whatever other streaming music station. Hell, make one on every streaming music source. DCC already has a Google Plus group that shares their fan-made Spotify playlists. Goodman himself should have one, too. James Raggi should definitely have one. His last book, Vagina's are Magic, names its spells after song titles! Why is there no LotFP playlist???

Also, look to your fans. Find out who they listen too. Find out which bands are known to play RPGs. If they already play your game, send them badass looking t-shirts to wear on stage. If they don't already play your game, send them a rule book or quick start guide for free.

Use video to your advantage

Play your games on a video feed so people can watch and see how you play your own product. Twitch is unbelievably popular for this. If you are already playing, you have no excuse. It brings you closer to your fan base and introduces new potential fans to your product.

Finally, and this is unbelievable that I even have to mention this...


This means Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Twitch, Google Plus, Ello, and anything else.

Do NOT use social media to talk about your personal life or your personal politics or beliefs. No one cares about that stuff and if they do care, it is only to use against you.

Use social media to interact with fans; promoting products, and answering questions about your products. Do this EVERY DAY. Not once a week. Not twice a week. EVERY DAY.

Ignore users who try to push your buttons or troll you on social media. I know that is hard to do. I've trolled and I've been trolled. Don't fall for it. Mute, Block, and Ignore are your best friends on social media.

Using social media regularly (remember, EVERY DAY) keeps you in the know about what your fans are into, what they are not into, what they want to buy, what they don't want to buy, what other company's stuff they are buying, and more. Social Media Marketers call these things, "Metrics." It's a very important term any business must know about. Know and track your metrics in order to grow your business.



You aren't helping your business by getting in arguments on twitter. You aren't helping your business by remaining hidden just because you don't want to spend a few bucks on advertising.

I don't know about you, but I want to buy some minis and whatever adventure this is from

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Getting the word out

A couple weeks ago, a prominant 'OSR' publisher asked a question on G+ about how to get more young people to play his game.

I responded, and my suggestions were dismissed. Another, prominent 'OSR' writer responded later who said much the same thing as me, and was heralded!

Both of these guys are older than me. Keep in mind the question was about bringing younger people than them into the fold.

So, here are my thoughts on "How to get younger people to play role playing games."

1. Listen to them.
2. Market to them.

Expanding on these ideas
1. Listen to them: When you cry out, "WHY??? Why doesn't (insert demographic) play my game in greater numbers???"  And then IGNORE and DISMISS comments from that demographic, how do you think that makes you look to the people you are trying to attract?
Story time...
When I was a kid, I used to collect baseball cards. Up until I was 10 years old. I stopped when I went to the baseball card shop and the clerk paid no attention to me. I was standing at the cash register, money in hand, a pile of cards on the table... but he was much more interested in talking to an old guy in a suit who wasn't ready to buy anything. After what seemed like an eternity, I walked out with my money and without the cards I wanted. I never went back to the shop and stopped collecting baseball cards forever.
I now work as a salesman. I have been awarded by my company time after time over the past six years not just for sales figures, but because of customer feedback about myself. See, I treat everyone, young or old, rich or poor, with the same amount of respect and give them the same amount of attention. In fact, I give more attention to the people who are less inclined to make large purchases because I relate to them much more than I do some guy with a fat wallet.
How does that relate to selling games to young people?
Fat wallet guy is going to buy stuff no matter what. That's why he showed up. That's why he's been buying for years. He's a cash cow, and he's not going anywhere. He knows, and you know, he's going to buy everything you publish because he's a geek with disposable income. A collector. Eventually though, he's going to die and his money will be gone.
Young people don't have a lot of disposable income and have far more choices on hand to spend that small amount of money. Ignoring needs and non-entertainment goods, they could spend money on tabletop RPGs, Magic the Gathering cards, miniature wargames, Console or PC video games, or boardgames.

If you want them to choose your game over those other choices, you have to work.
  • Magic cards have a cheap buy-in and dominate every game store. You can keep a deck in your pocket and play during lunch at school.
  • Wargames are expensive to get into, but once a person is hooked, that's where their money is going. Not easily portable and not big with the kids, as it costs too much to start.
  • Video games are the big gorilla and might as well not even be considered competition.
  • Boardgames are having a resurgence right now and people pay a lot of money for them. But it is still mostly people over the age of 30.
So how are you going to get hip, edgy, cool, teenage whippersnappers (that's what you old people say, right?) to buy your product?

Which leads to #2: Market to them.

Identify the types of young people who play RPGs. That's easy; they're the same types who have always played RPGs.
  • Nerds - the base of geek culture. Obsessive about their hobbies and looking for acceptance from other people.
  • Druggies - They have blacklight posters of mushrooms and listen to music their parents hate and smoke lots of weed. This was my demographic (minus the blacklight posters). We had nothing to do and a lot of spare time to do it. Probably two thirds of the people I've gamed with have been pot heads.
  • Military - people who either obsess over the military or have served and got into RPGs while having nothing to do on base. Probably half the gamers I've met in my life got into the hobby while stationed somewhere and played because they had nothing else to do. 
  • Hipsters - people who latch onto trends. They typically let go of something once it is no longer trendy, though.
I hate to say it, but don't market to the nerds. They may seem like the easiest bunch to cater to, but that's exactly why you shouldn't. It's unnecessary.

The druggies and the military kids are the ones you should go for. 

Military sure, but pot heads? Why them?

Because pot heads have imagination. Pot heads have time to sit around with friends and eat munchies. They like to get weird. They wear clothing with stuff printed on it, they skate on boards plastered with artwork, they decorate their rooms with posters of weird shit they think is cool.  Throw the artwork from your product onto skateboards. Make t-shirts that look like they're for a metal band and leave off those three uncool letters, "RPG." 
DO NOT make shirts like those god-awful Dungeons and Dragons shirts from the 90s. No cool person ever wore those. In fact, they probably did more harm to the hobby than anything else.

Put this on a skateboard

Place ads in comic books and skate magazines. Organize street teams at college campus' who can staple posters to telephone poles like they do with concert announcements. Send free posters and merchandising to comic shops, game stores, record stores (yes, record stores not only still exist but are having their best decade in history). Hire graffiti artists to tag your stuff at skateparks or the sides of buildings or overpasses.

As for the military... go to the Palladium Books forums sometime and check out how many people there talk about their former or current military service. I use Palladium as an example because a LOT of Palladium players seem to have a military background. Why is that? Well, one reason could be that years ago, Palladium used to (I'm not sure if they still do) send free game books to deployed military personnel, as a way of saying "thank you for your service." Brilliant move. People who don't play Palladium games are often at a loss to explain why anyone still plays their games. It's because of shit like that.

Lastly, the big thing, that no small business person who thinks they know everything ever wants to hear;

hire someone who knows more than you do.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Primacy

The Primacy

The Primacy is based on expansion and ruled through a strict and formal military bureaucracy that pervades all aspects of life. Because of rapid expansion, massive population growth, and emphasis on military industries instead of agriculture, the Primacy is always in need of food and supplies. This causes the Primacy to constantly raid its neighbors, which also serves as a means of scouting and reconnaissance for future invasions.

The Primus and their subordinates truly believe that subjugating people means bringing order and peace to their lives. That they are doing the conquered peoples a favor by bringing true civilization and law to the lands they invade and the cultures they destroy.

They follow (not necessarily worship) the order and structure of the Modron's Nirvana. The Empire is structured in the same way as Nirvana.
Think of the Primacy abstractly as a wheel, with the Primus as the central hub. Four spokes reach out from the hub and within those spokes are the realms of the Secondus. Each of those quarters is subdivided into a region ruled by a Quarton. Each of the Quarton's regions is further subdivided into the sectors of the Octons.

When the occasion arises where a citizen of the Primacy dies, a member of the next lower class is elevated to the newly opened position as a replacement. This usually happens rather quickly as everyone has ranks and sub-ranks and is well aware of their place in society. If a citizen should fail in their duties, then they can be demoted and replaced. In this way, a lowly Monodrone has the potential to become Primus, and even Secondus have the potential to be cast back to the status of a Monodrone if they fail in their duty. Only the Primus is exempt from demotion. Titles and status are not hereditary; all citizens begin as Modrons.

Lower classes -
  • Monodrones: There are innumerable Monodrones, who are could be considered the laborers or serfs of the Primacy. They also serve as a militia force when needed.
  • Duodrones: There are innumerable Duodrones, about one for every six or seven Monodrones. Duodrones act as the lowest ranks in the military.
  • Tridrones: There are one hundred forty five thousand one hundred fifty two  Tridrones and the act as the corporals in the Primacy's military and police forces.
  • Quadrones: There are twelve thousand six hundred eighty eight Quadrones and they act as the sergeants in the Primacy's military and police forces. 
  • Pentadrones: There are one thousand three hundred sixty four Pentadrones, and they act as the lieutenants in the Primacy's military and police forces. 
Sub-ranks of the lower classes.
Due to the number of Monodrones and Duodrones, they are further divided into lesser ranks based on number. A Monodrone rank 2 outranks a Monodrone rank 1, for example. This ranking system is used for organization of work and jobs. A Monodrone or Duodrone does not have to work their way up every sub-rank in order to be promoted to the next major rank.

Upper Classes – these can be considered the nobility of the Primacy. Most of the upper classes have cleric powers of considerable power, and are correspondingly fanatical in their loyalty to the Primacy. Names in BOLD are those that govern territory within the Primacy.
  • Decaton: There are one hundred Decatons; one assigned to each Octon, and one assigned to each Hexton. Decatons oversee the well-being of the lower classes, and act as the voice of the lower classes to relay their needs and wants to the Octons and Hextons. 
  • Nonaton: Nonatons serve as the Captains of the military and police forces. One Nonaton serves each Octon, one serves each of the nine Tertians, and eight report directly to the Primus, for a total of eighty one Nonatons. Each Nonaton has twelve Pentadrone lieutenants, one hundred forty four Quadrone sergeants, and one thousand seven hundred twenty eight Tridrone police.
  • Octon: Octons are regional governors, of which there are sixty four. The lower classes, as well as the Nonatons and Decatons, are the Octon's responsibility. Each has a personal staff of one Decaton, one Nonaton, five Pentadrones, sixteen Quadrones, eighty one Tridrones, two hundred fifty six Duodrones, and one thousand seven hundred twenty eight Monodrones.
  • Septon: There are forty nine Septons; 8 serve the Primus, four serve each Secondus, one serves each Quinton. Septons are officials who travel throughout their assigned areas as inspectors and charged with transporting/relaying information from outlying areas to the centers of the regions, quarters, and the capital. 
  • Hexton: There are thirty six Hextons, each the commanding general of an army. Nine serve the Primus directly, three serve the Tertians as military police, each Secondus has the services of two Hextons, and the remaining sixteen serve the Quartons. Each has a personal staff of twelve Pentadrones who are fanatically loyal.
  • Quinton: There are twenty five Quintons; five reside within the the palace of the Primus, one with each Secondus, and one with each Quarton. Quintons are record-keepers, inventors, and scholars.
  • Quarton: There are sixteen Quartons, each of whom administers a quarter of a Secundus' territory. Each Quarton resides in a tower that is similar too, although smaller than, that of the Secondus.
  • Tertian: Tertians are the judges of the Primacy. They supervise law enforcement as well as cast judgement in trials. There are only nine Tertians at any one time. 
  • Secondus: There are four Secundus, who each rule a quarter of the Primacy. Each has a staff of two Tertians, two Hextons, and four Septons. Each Secondus has their own tower that is very similar too, although smaller than, that of the Primus.
  • Primus: The ruler of the Primacy. The Primus is chosen from among the Secundus, by the Secundus. The position is for life. Rules from a massive tower that serves as the capital. 
Species of the Primacy

Hobgoblins created the Primacy and hold most of the upper class positions.  As the Primacy has expanded and new peoples have been brought into it, other species have joined the ranks. All start as Modrons and have the opportunity to work their way up the ranks. Theoretically, any person of any species can become any rank, even Primus.
Magical species are never allowed to be citizens and are driven away or killed when encountered. If they are powerful, they are ignored until overwhelming force can be brought to bear. Elves, faeries, dragons, and the like are considered magical.

While this bureaucratic system works for the Primacy as a whole, there is constant infighting and backstabbing as citizens are promoted or demoted based on influence, favors, friendships, and more. 

The Primacy is not currently located in Strathos, but on a distant continent and launches raiding/scouting missions to Strathos.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Wizard Spells in Dungeon Crawl Classics

I'm really trying not to mod the shit out of DCC, which is hard because I love tinkering with rules (which should be obvious from reading this blog or any of my previous blogs).

However, a particular aspect of the magic system rubs me the wrong way and it has to go.

Wizards in DCC have a very limited number of spells they are allowed to know. As in, a level one Wizard could have books with 500 spells in them, but can only cast four of them. Not four in a day and the next day can study and switch them out. No, they know the same four spells forever, unchanging. Those other 496 spells collect dust, never to be used.

How does that make sense? How does that go with Appendix N which DCC constantly trumpets the virtues of?

Screw all that. It isn't fun. The Wizard already has a pretty crappy lot in life; spells have a good chance of hurting them (temporarily or permanently), patron bonding is arguably more hurtful than helpful, they have few hit points and armor makes it harder to cast spells. On top of all that, they can never learn new spells?

It's almost like the rule is a mistake, but apparently it's made it through four printings and the official DCC forums say it's for real.

Furthermore, the rules say a Wizard can not cast spells higher than their level chart indicates. So a level one or two Wizard can not cast spells higher than level 1.  A level three Wizard can not cast spells higher than level 2.

But later on in the magic section it says spells of higher level CAN be cast, but it is more dangerous. It doesn't say exactly how or why it's more dangerous, but I have to assume it's because the Spell Check is higher and the Wizard being of lower level doesn't have as good of a bonus to cast as a higher level Wizard would.

Not only that, but non-magic characters can cast magic, albeit with mandatory Luck burning, but still. If a Warrior can cast a spell at all, then a first level Wizard should be able to cast a 5th level spell (with all the associated penalties).

So, here is my very simple rule change.

A Wizard character can know any number of spells. The number they can memorize is equal to the number indicated on the Wizard chart in the class description. So a level one Wizard can memorize four spells, regardless of the level of those spells. A level two Wizard can memorize 5 spells, and so on.

Spells that are available to be memorized must be researched and a check roll must be made, as is written in the rules. A character isn't just automatically going to have access to a spell just because they have a grimoire or scroll in their possession.

When a Wizard character successfully checks to learn a spell that is in their possession, it goes into their pool of available spells to choose from. If the check fails, they must wait until they reach the next level of experience before attempting to learn the spell again.

So a level one Wizard has their normal four starting spells from level 1. In the course of an adventure they find a spell book with two level 2 spells in it. For brevity, we'll assume that the adventure ends with the Wizard making it to a town or other safe area to rest for an indefinite amount of time. During this down time, the Wizard studies the spell book and attempts to learn the two spells contained within. The fail the attempt at learning the first spell, but succeed in learning the second spell. 
Now, the first level Wizard can memorize a total of four spells per day, but has five spells to choose from. The fifth spell being a level two spell means it is more difficult to cast, and therefore more dangerous to the Wizard, but gives them another spell casting option.

Man, I think that is a simple rule change. Yeah, it's more like DnD, but it also makes sense.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Strathos map using Hex Kit

The new DCC campaign (campaign in the loose sense of the term) now has a map!

I made it using Hex Kit. After spending about a year looking at various map creation tools like Hexographer, Campaign Cartographer, and others, I found Hex Kit and it makes the most sense for me and what I want to do.

I can easily make a map, I can make it abstract, I can add to it later, I can make it in layers, I can add labels and Fog of War, it's super cost effective, and it looks good! This image was exported as a .png, then I added a filter to make it look grittier, and turned it into a jpeg. Normally, it would be more brighter without the filter.

The village is where the player's Zero level characters are from. The Telescope Tower is the location of their first adventure (Tower of the Stargazer by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, with a play report here), and the Portal is the location of their next adventure (Portal Under the Stars by Goodman Games, in case you're wondering).

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Magical Mutant Ape Men!!!!

I've been workin' out the kinks of a race-as-class for a while now. It's become an obsession.

First, I wanted to build it for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Then, a heavily house-modified version of LotFP. Now, I am using Dungeon Crawl Classics.

These Ape Men (Women, People, whichever you prefer) were normal run-of-the-mill ape creatures that were suddenly and recently uplifted by some unknown magical means.

 While this is specifically written for DCC, it can easily be modified for any early edition DnD type game.

Yon, the Magical Mutant Ape People

You are a mystically mutated primate with human intelligence and speech! At some point in the near past, your entire species was rapidly evolved to its present state by unknown means. You are a second generation Yon, and you and your people have no real culture of your own. You pick the appealing parts from other cultures to adopt.

You are of a size in between dwarf and human. And you have a vestigial tail that is effectively useless and about half as long as the rest of your body. The exact details of how you look are up to you, the player. Keep in mind though, that based on your character's visual looks, all other low level Yon will look like you.

Here are some of the things you can do

You receive d6 Hit Points at every level! This is in addition to the hit points you had at Zero level.

You're trained in the use of the Battleaxe, Club, Dart, Javelin, Spear, Staff, Two-handed club, and Warhammer.

You have big sharp teeth that causes a nasty bite. You can bite as an extra attack when in melee combat! (ATK: d14, DMG: d3+Strength Modifier)

Your feet can grab and hold things. They aren't nimble enough to be of any use in combat or to juggle, but they can hold your body weight by holding onto something. The big toe is used as a primitive thumb. You tend to walk and run on all fours.

Unlike other classes, Yon gain random mutations as they are exposed to magic. Roll on the Magical Mutation Table once every time you are affected by a magical effect that alters you in some way (fail a save vs Magic). Examples include; Failing a save against a spell, or drinking a magical potion that requires a saving throw.
  • Cleric or Deific magic does not have this effect. 
  • Luck Modifier does apply; higher your Luck mod, the more likely you'll have a beneficial mutation.

Attack Bonus
Crit Die/Table
Action Dice

 Yon Titles

As Yon don't have a culture or society to call their own, they don't have level based titles. Yon typically take the titles of other classes that they look up to and want to emulate.

Magical Mutation Table

  1. Magical Vulnerability! You take a -1 penalty to all magical saves. 
  2. Big giant head! Your skull, specifically your brain case and brain, grows disproportionately larger than the rest of your body. You can Mind Blast everyone (friend or foe) in a 5 foot radius for d3 damage on a failed Will save of DC 10+your Willpower or Luck modifier. They are -1 to all rolls for d4 rounds. You can do this once per day, for every time you roll this mutation result. Further, the damage increases by one die step, the DC increases by +1, the range increases by 5 feet, and the penalty for all rolls decreases -1. Using this power is painful and causes a piercing headache that forces a penalty of d3 to all your rolls for one Turn. Every time this is rolled, the penalty to all die rolls is made worse by one die step. 
  3. Skin toughens! Bonus to Armor Class: +1 every time this is rolled. This is not in addition to worn armor. There is no penalty the first time you roll this result, however, subsequent rolls of this result incur the following; reduce movement to the point that you move and function as if you were one Encumbrance step higher than you would normally be. 
  4. Intimidate! To intimidate a creature, you beat your chest and growl and roar and pound the ground. They must make an opposed DC 10 Will save if intelligent, or a DC 5 Will save if of animal level intelligence. Failure means they cower or flee. Undead, golems, automatons, and the like are not affected. Add your Personality OR Strength modifier (whichever is higher) to make the DC more difficult. Roll this again and you get the bonus from Personality AND Strength modifiers. Subsequent rolls net you a +1 bonus.
  5. Howler! make loud howls heard for miles. Rolled again and those in close vicinity must make a Fortitude save or go temporarily deaf for d4 hours. Roll this any more times and they suffer a -1 to their save attempt and the length of deafness increases by a die step in hours.  
  6. Prehensile tail! your tail can grab things. It's not very strong though, 1/4 your Strength ability. Rolling this again increases it's strength to 1/2, then 3/4, then full strength. With each growth step, your tail lengthens 12 inches. On the other hand, your size decreases by 6 inches each time this is rolled.  
  7. Bite! Your bite damage increases to d4 damage. Roll this again and it increases to d5, then d6, then d7 and so on. As your teeth enlarge, so does your jaw, and your overall features become more menacing; -1 to any Personality based check every time this result is rolled.  
  8. Hyper-intelligence! Choose a new skill to be trained in; roll randomly on the Background Profession table to determine this. Choose a new skill every time this is rolled. This focus is offset by a penalty of -1 to any and all untrained skill attempts. This penalty is cumulative every time this result is rolled.  
  9. Brute strength! add a D3 to any strength check or strength based action, including melee damage. Roll again and it becomes a d4, then d5, and so on. Your Crit Die also increases by one step!The massive increase in muscle mass causes a loss of dexterity, though; suffer a penalty of -1 to Reflex saves, and dexterity based actions. 
  10. Size increase! You are a foot taller, a bit meatier, and your hit die increases to d8 per level. Roll again and you grow another foot and hit die becomes a d10. Another foot and a D12, another foot and a d14, lastly another foot and a d20. After that, every increase is another foot +1 HP. Also, your Crit Table increases to Table IV, then Table V, then the Giant table. Unfortunately, your tail decreases in length by one foot, and you become incrementally less capable of thoughtful action. Every time you roll this, you suffer a permanent -1 penalty whenever you attempt a skill, and a -1 penalty to Intelligence and Personality checks, as well as Willpower saves. Whenever you take damage in combat, you must make a Willpower save or else fly into a berserk rage; attacking any foes within sight without regard for strategy, tactics, or the well being of yourself or other party members. 
  11. Prehensile feet! Your feet become more dexterous and useful. They can be used attack with a weapon and use a d10 as an Action Die. Each time this is rolled, the Action Die increases a die step. After reaching d20, you get a +1 to hit with your feet every time this is rolled. Agility and Strength bonuses do not apply to feet attacks.
  12. Hand-eye coordination! You get a +1 to hit in combat, and your Crit Die increases by one step. 
  13. Magical Resistance! You gain a +1 to s ave against Magic every time you roll this result.  
  14. Color Change! Your skin and hair change colors. These can be whatever colors you wish, or you can roll on a random table to determine color. 
  15.  Hair falls out! All your body hair falls out. Re-roll this and it grows back. Re-roll again and it falls out again.  
  16. Magic Spell! You learn a random wizard magic spell! This spell is determined randomly; roll a d3 for the spell's level, then roll on that level's spell list to determine the exact spell. Casting this spell is the same as if you were a wizard, and uses your Action Die to roll the spell check. All consequences for failure (corruption, misfire, etc) also are the same as per the Wizard. Any effect this spell may have on you does not cause another roll on this Magical Mutation table.

Friday, April 28, 2017

DCC Tower of the Stargazer play report

Yesterday I ran/played Dungeon Crawl Classics for the first time ever.

It was awesome.

Finding DCC was reminiscent of when I discovered Lamentations of the Flame Princess years ago; a breathe of fresh air! The fantasy game I've been looking for, for the last 20 years.

All the modifications I was making to LotFP are already included in DCC. So, I'm switching systems. A lot less work and stress for me to build the game I want. That's a big load off my shoulders.

The rest of the group enjoyed their Zero Level adventure as well.

So what adventure did we play?

Well, I ran Tower of the Stargazer with a lot of modifications.

First, I removed all the background from the module. The players were supposed to control four characters each, but three players chose to control three characters; I still have no idea why. I explained, exhaustively, how that wasn't a particularly good idea, but they insisted on three.

Anyway, the characters were all from the same town in a run-down barony ruled over by a powerful wizard. The wizard himself hadn't been heard from in many years, and the barony was run by an appointed magistrate who was killed in an ambush by bandits a few months before. Since then, the area around the town has been plagued by monsters, bandits, crop failures, cats mating with dogs, etc. So the town sent a small group of villagers to the wizard's tower in order to appeal to the wizard directly for help. They never returned. The player character's were the B team, sent to talk to the wizard and see what happened to the first group.

Outside the tower, I changed the four large lightning rods into a huge field of smaller lightning rods of heights varying between 10-20 feet. Each with a cable running from the base of the rod to the base of the tower. There was stone path leading to the front door of the tower.
  • Walking along the path at normal human speed would take 3 rounds to reach the front door.
    • There is a 1% chance x number of characters that a random character is struck by lightning for d6 damage. 
  • Walking through the field of lightning rods reduces the chance of lightning strike to a flat 1%, but unless walking carefully at half speed, there is a 1 in 6 chance of a character stepping on a "hot" wire and being electrocuted for d6 damage. I had figured that the players would be fearful of the lightning and attempt to run to the tower to avoid getting hit.
  • There were three bodies of the A Team of villagers on the path, and three bodies in the lightning rod field. Searching a body takes a round, which means another roll to see if lightning strikes.
The first character death occurred when a dwarf grabbed a lightning rod and tried to pry it out of the ground. Lightning strike for 1 damage; the dwarf had 1 HP.
The second death occurred when a human attempted to search a body of a villager and was struck by lightning.

Death Count: 2 

One of those dead villagers had a coin that when flipped, would always land on its side. This would become very important later on.

Reaching the front double-doors, one character decided to knock using the door knocker, while simultaneously another character went to open the other door by grabbing the door knob. Got stuck with a poison needle, failed the save, died.

Death Count: 3

I decided that the tower should not be cleaned/kept up by "magic" as stated in the module, and instead the Calcidus the Stargazer utilized animated dead bodies (zombies) as maids and butlers, While living assistants cooked food and helped with experiments.

Each of the zombies had an iron bar through their neck and would only be animated for a period of time before needing to recharge in the cells in Basement Level 1; each cell had a device with copper wires attached that the zombies would plug into and recharge. Two zombies plug in at a time, while two others work elsewhere in the tower.

So the characters enter the tower and in the foyer is a zombie maid dusting the couches and coffee tables and a fake plant in the corner. The maid has a note pinned to her dress that says, "Please wait to be summoned, Calcidus." One character found some Copper change in a couch, another stole a painting of Calcidus as a young man from the wall. This was a mistake on my part, as I intended for the painting to be the False Chanterelle painting from Maze of the Blue Medusa, but I completely forgot.

Eventually, they tired of waiting to be summoned and opened the door to the next room.

Opening the door caused the maid to attack the character who opened it, while from the other room, a zombie butler rushed at the character moaning, "nooooot summmonnnneed," and attacked. The zombies were eventually defeated by bashing in the skull of the butler, maiming the maid with a critical hit to the knee, and then finishing the maid off by dowsing her head in holy water. Fun tidbit; the Lick-Spitter character armed with a bucket and a tin of breath mints tossed a mint into the maid's mouth with a great roll before she was destroyed.

Searching the Sitting Room, where the butler attacked from, I described the china cabinet and the fine, fragile dishes within. A player stated that one of his characters was going to throw the dishes into his sack. The fragile dishes all shattered.

They quickly figured out the stack of crates were fake and found the trapdoor underneath. After carefully examining the statue, they figured out it too could be slid away revealing another trapdoor.

This is where things got tricky.

The party decided to split into THREE groups. One group went up the stairs to Level Two. Another group went down the trapdoor leading to the storage room in Basement One. And a single character went down the trapdoor leading to the small room in Basement One closed off with a portculis.

The single character didn't even try to lift the portculis, but that was partially my fault; I described it as iron bars, leading them to conclude it was a jail-type cell. My bad. Not that they would have been able to lift it by themselves anyway. Still, I made another mistake. They did notice a red glow coming from beyond the portculis but they couldn't see the source. More on that later.

The second group that went down to the Storage Room found the secret door, and the character with a background as a miner made a skill check to figure out what would trigger the door to open, and discovered a suspiciously loose flagstone on the floor and stepped on it, opening the door. Oddly, no one wanted to open the regular, normal door. They also did a cursory search of the crates, but found none of the strange contents to be interesting enough to take.

Going through the secret door,  they found the zombie recharging stations. The last three cells I kept as actual cells, including the 15 armed skeleton. That tripped some of the players out. I also kept the brain leech, and one of the characters swallowed it. That should be a nice surprise at the beginning of the next adventure!

The laboratory I kept pretty much as written, including the mirror room and the body on the table, and the microscope with the blood vials. One character immediately wanted to look at the blood through the microscope and missed a saving throw and licked the smear off the slide. ewwww. I haven't decided how the blood will affect the character; perhaps some sort of slow, agonizing death as the virus contained destroys their cells. Or maybe a couple rolls on the Corruption table! That's an even better idea.

The mirror room has an issue within it that I didn't realize until the players discovered it. One of the mirrors produces a doppleganger which either fights you or melds into you doubling providing another hit die. If you fight it, it has all the same equipment that you have, so potentially, you could just keep looking in the mirror and doubling your equipment and money, or get more hit points, for as long as you want.

Anyway, another character died here when they failed a save and a laser beam cut a hole through their chest. Two characters saw their ability scores increase, and one saw theirs decrease. Two of the mirrors were smashed. One character looked into a mirror and gained a profound knowledge of something... an answer to a question of their choosing at a later time. More on that later.

Death Count: 4

This group of characters discovered the elevator and took it up to Tower Level 5. 

On Level Two of the tower, the other group of characters found the living servants quarters, which has been long abandoned. They were very interested in the oven and several characters thoroughly searched it, finding nothing. They went up the stairs to Tower Level 3.

The door to Level 3 is locked and trapped, as written, in a really strange way that isn't consistent with the theme of the tower. So I changed it.

Instead of a trickle of blood, followed by a wall of blood pouring out of the door, I changed it to a simple lock trap that electrocutes the lockpicker if they fail their skill check. Unfortunately, the character that attempted to pick the lock failed their skill check and was electrocuted. A few of the other characters used a coffee table as a battering ram to force the door open.

Death Count: 5

Entering Level 3, the characters found the Wizard's chamber. When I ran Tower of the Stargazer last, I felt that the wizard was... lame. So I killed him. The wizard was dead, laying face down in the circle of salt. Died of old age/starvation/whatever before the characters got there. One character decided to try and enter the circle to check on him. I allowed this, with the idea that anything can enter the circle, but nothing can leave. Before this little fact was discovered though, a different character swept some of the salt away, breaking the circle.

One of the characters took the Star Crystal, and they discovered the elevator on this level. Messing with the dial, they saw the characters who used the elevator to travel to level 5 go down past them, all the way to Dungeon Level 2.

Dungeon Level has a puzzle, and it took a while for the players to finish it. Earlier, one character looked into one of the magic and gained knowledge of something they could choose to ask about at a later time. They used it to figure out the puzzle.

All the characters regrouped at Level 4.
I didn't like the thing in the freezer, so I changed it to a Face-hugging alien who implanted its seed in the belly of an unfortunate character. That will be a gruesome death later on. I figured that an alien monster would make more sense for a wizard's tower dedicated to finding life on other planets than a vial of living, but evil, blood. Plus, there was already evil blood in the basement.

The characters searched the first library extensively and found what was hidden in there. They reached the "game room," with the ghost and a player had a great idea for beating it. The last time I ran Tower of the Stargazer, a character died playing against the ghost in a game of Blackjack. This time, it was a different player not involved the first time around who played against the ghost. This player's character was the one who picked up the trick coin earlier in the adventure. The game he chose was to flip the coin, and allow the ghost to call heads or tails. If the coin landed on what the ghost chose, the ghost wins. If it lands any other way, the ghost loses and the characters can pass through the door.
The ghost lost, and the players found the magical library. They searched this library even more extensively than the first, and found a few low level magical scrolls. I'm not as worried about overpowering low level characters with magical scrolls as I would be in other game systems, since they have to roll a d10 vs the DC of the scroll in order to use it successfully. It's pretty much a trap, unless they somehow get really, really, lucky.

Moving to the 5th floor, the characters find the telescope. I had planned for the telescope to be a trap as well; if the controls were manipulated in the wrong way, the whole thing would blow up, destroying the tower and everything in it.
I didn't count on the players though, a classic GM mistake.
The players quickly figured out the pool of water with the fish was acid. They quickly figured out to put the coal and the powder in the coal chamber. And, most surprisingly, they figured out the controls for the telescope on the first try.
However, after putting the powder into the coal chamber and powering the laser, a character looked through the view finder and was transported to another world. Where they were promptly killed and eaten by aliens. This grisly deqth was viewed only by another character who quickly jumped to the telescope when the first character disappeared.

Death Count: 6

The remaining characters found the other part of Dungeon Level 1. I changed the stone spider into a lava giant, who acted as protector if the "treasures," within. The characters dispatched the giant after a time with no casualties. Searching the treasure they quickly figured out the trick. Going into the easternmost room, one character made it in before the portcullis fell and trapped them. Another character got hit by the trap but managed to survive. The trapped character drank ALL of the potions. So, in a way, that character changed enough to almost be considered dead. 

The remaining characters left the tower and made it through the electrical field outside without a hitch. They were talking about using the tower as a base of operations in the future.

Final death tally: 6, with 3 more dying (brain leech, alien virus blood, alien egg) in the near future.

For a group that started with 21 zero level characters, I feel like this wasn't dangerous enough. Which means I failed.

Next adventure I plan to either run Deep Carbon Observatory, or Maze of the Blue Medusa.