Review: The God-Seed Awakens

The God-Seed Awakens CoverAuthor:  Paul Wolfe
Publisher:  Mystic Bull Games
Art: Doug Kovacs (cover), David Fisher, Jason Sholtis, Mario Torres, Jr.
Price: PDF $8.99 or Print $15.00 – RPG Now
Pages: 53

The Basics

The God-Seed Awakens is the newest adventure from Mystic Bull Games, written by Paul Wolfe for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG system. The adventure is intended for four to six 3rd level characters.

The cover is graced with the wonderful artwork of Doug Kovacs. The interior has pieces from David Fisher, Jason Sholtis, and Mario Torres, Jr. This review is based on both the Print and PDF versions of the adventure.

A living seed has found its way here from a distant world. A seed from a world-spanning tree where its roots made their way deep to the underworld and branches to the sky above. With the growth of the world-tree unstopped it managed to breach the confines of reality and find ways to other worlds. Two of the creatures from the seed have begun to raise forces from this world to further their own interests.

The backdrop of this adventure is an area around Mount Welwood. A judge can easily drop this area into their existing campaign world or download a hex-map from the Mystic Bull website for new campaigns. Several rumors (including a rumor table!) and hooks are included in the adventure to help a judge spur the characters to action!

In addition to the adventure a full patron write-up is included, new spells, new magic items, and many new monsters.

The artwork is liberally spread throughout the adventure. When one faces lots of new creatures, the accompanying artwork is a very useful tool for the judge to help describe the creatures to their players.

The included maps are clean and cover the cave system within Mount Welwood and the Seed of the Worldbreaker.

My Thoughts

Mystic Bull Games went all out with the cover on this one! Awesome art by Doug Kovacs. I saw the original to this one at Gary Con when Doug had it with him. It looked great then and it looks great on the actual printed module. The beast on the front with the eyes and mouth of a starfield is an excellent touch. And something about the cultists on the ledge really appeals to me.

As I noted earlier in the review, the module has a good amount of art throughout. While helping avoid any “walls of text” the art is a boon to judges in describing the new creatures the characters will encounter in this module. A definite plus.

The module hits the DCC “feel” by having a dimension traveling tree spreading its seed to other worlds. Couple the very premise with the vast array of atypical creatures and a DCC judge is sure to keep his players on their toes. The beauty of it all is the hooks start with things such as glowing spiders, raggedly dressed people preaching of a new god, and such. Then the characters will find themselves at odds with the creatures of the god-seed. I really like the more “typical” setup that really leads to anything but “typical”!

I also like that a full patron write-up is included for Shaloth. My players have the tendency to pick patrons from various modules I run. Some only have the patron and no write-up to go with them. The full write-up for Shaloth would be of great aid should a character choose this patron. Or if I wanted to borrow it for my campaign even without running the module.

Wrap Up

The God-Seed Awakens is great add to the DCC judge’s bag of tricks. With the ease of dropping it into an existing campaign and the plethora of items to borrow for an existing campaign the latest release from Mystic Bull Games is sure to find some use.

Episode 20: Regrouping

dcc_rpg_cover_smallRegrouping’ is the twentieth episode of a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG actual play podcast. Additional information can be found at http://irontavern.com/podcast.

Session Synopsis

With near devastating casualties on the last folks the party sent to Castle Whiterock it is time to recruit some new ones for another push into the castle. Regrouping in Cillamar the group sets out again to root the monks out of the ruins. A perilous climb up the tower high above the ruins grants the party egress into the castle via a different route. That path is not without hazard however…

 

Download Link: http://irontavern.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Episode-20.mp3

Credits

Intro and outro music is ‘Wrecking Ball’ from 137 from http://music.mevio.com.

 

 

Behind The Curtain: Shorter Adventures

Iron Tavern Press LogoThis post is part of a ‘Behind the Curtain’ series for Iron Tavern Press. They are intended to provide some insight to design decisions made for current and future product lines.

Gamer’s time is limited these days. A lot of us have taken on responsibilities of families and careers. These responsibilities cut into our free time and can often lead to playing shorter or more infrequent sessions – if we get to play at all. Even the younger gamers, still new to hobby have a plethora of other interests bidding for their recreational time.

Today’s Gamer

An informal poll of G+ users several months ago indicated the average length of session hovered in the 2 to 3 hour range. This informal poll holds true to my experience as well. My online sessions are 2 hours long and my weekly face-to-face session is only about 3 to 3.5 hours of actual playing time. A far cry from how the sessions of my youth used to be!

Not only are sessions shorter, but for some they are more infrequent. Maybe every other week or once a month. Sometimes that is simply the schedule and other times cancellations make that the more realistic gaming interval.

So What?

What does this shorter and sometimes more infrequent session time mean? It means trying to play through long sprawling adventures can be a chore. Either you can’t get enough accomplished in a single session to feel meaningful or it takes months to close a story arc. Sometimes you just need a short side-trek to fill a session or two where only part of your gaming group can make it.

GMs also tend to have less time to prep for sessions. Or sometimes they need a quick option for a night of gaming. Something that doesn’t take hours of preparation, but rather a brief read through and a small map for an evening of entertainment.

And that is where the Pocket-Sized Encounters line comes in…

Pocket-Sized Encounters

The Pocket-Sized Encounters line from Iron Tavern Press aims to fill this gap. The products are written to be played in sessions that last 2 to 4 hours. This makes is easier to pick one up and finish it in a single session while providing a fun night of play. Something the players and can feel good about accomplishing contributing to the fun of the session.

In addition they purposefully try to keep themselves adaptable. Towns are not explicitly named. Directions to the mountains or hills or plains are kept loose, only that there are some nearby. This helps make it even easier to drop into any campaign world on the spur of the moment. The intent is to drastically reduce the GM’s prep time by not being overly detailed with the backdrop forcing the GM to adapt entire villages or regions he has already taken efforts to detail.

Several adventure seeds are provided in each product so a GM can pick one and integrate with their campaign world. And for a GM that wants to expand the scenario beyond how it is written a ‘Where To From Here’ section is included with suggestions on how to get even more gameplay out of the scenario. So while remaining highly portable from one setting to another, there is information in each PSE to turn it into something bigger.

Each product includes a random table to further help a GM add detail on the fly. Tables from random treasure hordes, to random items found, to rumor tables. All are there to help a GM have the answers to those unpredictable twists and turns a players like to throw at you!

And finally – the maps included with the product are provided in GM’s versions, Player’s versions, gridded, and gridless. More tools to help a GM to be able to pickup a PSE product and be up and running with a limited amount of prep time.

Summary

The changing landscape of gaming are some of the driving factors in creating useful adventures for today’s GMs. The Pocket-Sized Encounter line is there for busy GMs, shorter sessions, and the infrequent gamer to provide an evening of entertainment at a moment’s notice.

You can check out one of the products in the PSE line at RPGNow.

Did you like this Behind the Curtain post? Don’t miss Default System Choice or Cover Art – Or Lack Thereof.

Episode 19: Trouble in Castle Whiterock

dcc_rpg_cover_smallTrouble in Castle Whiterock’ is the nineteenth episode of a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG actual play podcast. Additional information can be found at http://irontavern.com/podcast.

Session Synopsis

This week we check-in on Meffridus, Kpnooney Klaus, Tsanth and the others. From them we learn there has been a possible attack on the Temple of the Moon through the sewers. With precautions put in place we return to the exploration of Castle Whiterock.

With the monks having retreated further into a defensible portion of the ruins, the new crew works on ferreting them out. Their position turns out to be much more defensible than originally thought.

Meta Note: This episode includes a little bit of meta discussion at the end of the session. It frames some of the future direction and felt it should be included. Also – the end seems an abrupt cut-off due to me accidentally cutting the good-byes I normally leave in there.

Download Link: http://irontavern.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Episode-19.mp3

Credits

Intro and outro music is ‘Wrecking Ball’ from 137 from http://music.mevio.com.

Zedkiel’s Chapel Now Available

Zedkiel’s Chapel, written by Dustin Clark, is the fourth release in the Pocket-Sized Encounter line from Iron Tavern Press. This and the other releases in the line are available at RPGNow and shop.d20pfsrd.com.

Two brave adventurers rescued Zedkiel the scholar on his way home from the tavern. A large bat-like creature had attacked the man and certainly would have slain him had Ulad and Frango not intervened. A month later reports of another large bat-like creature surfaced as several townsfolk were killed one night under a full moon. Ulad and Frango grew suspicious and discovered something horrid had happened to Zedkiel. The man eluded them until the pair of adventurers discovered the strange abandoned chapel Zedkiel was using as a hideout. The characters have a choice to make – seek out and destroy Zedkiel or aid him against the vigilante townsfolk.

A Pocket-Sized Encounter compatible with the Swords & Wizardry rules system for 2nd to 4th level character.

Pocket-Sized Encounters from Iron Tavern Press are shorter scenarios designed to be dropped into an existing campaign with minimal preparation. Use them for shorter sessions, provide your players with choices that won’t derail your campaign or even as a launching point for a new campaign path.

Zedkiel's Chapel Cover

Included in this adventure are:

  • New Werebat Monster
  • Multiple adventure hooks
  • Location based encounter area map (grid and gridless)
  • Seeds for expanding the adventure
  • Rumor Table

Episode 18: The Replacements

dcc_rpg_cover_smallThe Replacements’ is the eighteenth episode of a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG actual play podcast. Additional information can be found at http://irontavern.com/podcast.

Session Synopsis

The green group of adventurers begins their exploration of Castle Whiterock at the behest of the seasoned party. Talking their way in, they do their best to poke around the ruins of the castle while under the watchful eye of the order of monks. Put to work helping excavate ruins within the remains of the castle reveals things are not the way seem!

Meta Note: The players decided to use some lower level characters to explore Castle Whiterock under the direction of the higher level characters. 

Download Link: http://irontavern.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Episode-18.mp3

Credits

Intro and outro music is ‘Wrecking Ball’ from 137 from http://music.mevio.com.

New Pathfinder Campaign

pathfinder_core_coverThe week before Origins a new campaign kicked off for my local gaming group with the Star Wars Edge of the Empire game coming to an end. There was a bit of discussion, I pitched an OSR game (Swords & Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord). Well, I sort of pitched an OSR game. I pitched a rules system. The other GM in the group pitched a full on game and dangled his homebrew world out there for it, Tellus. The rule system would be Pathfinder.

Pathfinder won out. I was a little nervous. Frankly, Pathfinder has taken on a bit of an overwhelming feeling for me. Lots of feats, wacky character races, character classes – some of the same things that burnt me out on D&D 3.5.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Pathfinder. Just a lot of my recent interests have been with the OSR type systems where things feel a little lighter. But the group had spoken!

Character Gen

I decided to put a self-imposed limit on myself and stick to just the core rulebook and the Advanced Players Guide. That helped keep things a little more manageable for me. Way fewer rulebooks to peruse and I already have strong familiarity with those two books.

I am not into the more unusual races or even character classes for the most part. So I went with a Dwarven Paladin for this game. We were allowed to have legacy characters that tied back to some of our characters from previous campaigns in this world (the current group started in Tellus back in 2005, the GM that runs it for much, much longer than that).

So I whipped up a Dwarven Paladin (thanks Hero Lab!) and started to get excited for the first game night.

The Campaign Begins

The first night has us running some errands for Lord Phillip (the offspring of a character run by a player who has since moved away). Check on the status of a village, cement relations there and just general get a feel for the lands to the south and bring some stability to the region.

Before the night was over we ended up in a quarry which I quickly recognized as the Caves of Chaos from Keep on the Borderlands. It was a fun romp and I appreciated that the GM was running some of the old school modules.

It looks to be a promising campaign!

I will post periodic reports from the campaign and how it feels putting the old Pathfinder gloves back on!

Summer at The Iron Tavern

Wow! It has been almost a month since the last post at The Iron Tavern. Certainly one of the longest gaps in posting since I started The Iron Tavern a couple of years ago! Let’s see what I have been up to!

Moving

Most of the past several weeks have been filled with moving to a new house. I think things are finally getting settled in freeing up a significant amount of time. As part of stocking the new house I ended up with a sweet dining room table that will easily seat 8 folks and is going to work wonderfully as a gaming table for the Thursday night group (and hopefully a kid’s game soon).

This move really has consumed the vast majority of my time for the past 4 weeks. It is good to be getting settled in at the new place.

Origins

This past weekend was Origins. Last year we seem to have started the tradition of getting the folks from the DCC Actual Play game to meetup for the con. This year we had all the players from the actual play game and another who plays in the weekly Dungeonslayers game Kelly runs.

It was great seeing the guys again. It was four days filled with gaming! We played Dungeon Crawl Classics, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, Paranoia, and Zombieslayers! We all had a really good time – be sure to check out my G+ stream for photos from the Con.

I did pick up a few things at Origins, though really – the dealer hall was a bit of a disappointment this year. I purchased another small Chessex battlemat to hopefully replace the one I bought the previous year that didn’t hold ink well at all. And I also bought the card game Boss Monster. I played Boss Monster at Gary Con with Joseph Goodman, Doug Kovacs, and Rick Hull. It was enough of an intro to warrant the purchase.

Iron Tavern Press

Iron Tavern Press is doing well, though it would be hard to tell by my lapse in release schedule! I have Zedkiel’s Chapel by Dustin Clark through its last round of revisions. I just need to drop in the two pieces of artwork Frank Turfler did for me (have I previewed any of those yet? They are awesome!) and let my proofers give it a glance. I hope for it to see the light of day within the next week or so.

I have PSE #5 written. Just a couple of tweaks and then it will go off to the editor for the first pass on it. Still artwork to be done for it as well, but should be well on track for my more normal 4 to 6 week release schedule. We did playtest this one at Origins last weekend.

A surprise author is writing another PSE adventure for me. The pitch was awesome and I am looking forward to seeing that turnover. More details to come on this as we get a little closer to release time for that one.

While at Origins we also playtested another adventure from Dustin Clark. This one is more of a full sized adventure, so it will deviate from the Pocket-Sized Encounter line’s format. There is a good chance this one will be the first release Iron Tavern Press does for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. Should be a good one!

So there has been lots of behind the scenes work and action going on with Iron Tavern Press!

DCC Actual Play Podcast

I am behind on releasing AP podcasts! I have a bunch queued up – one just needs mixed, the others need some editing. But in either case the DCC group is going strong and plenty of shows recorded and ready to be released. Expect to see these start coming out in the next week or so as well.

Wrap Up

And that’s why it has been so quiet around here the past several weeks! I appreciate your patience while real life has distracted me. Things should start to return closer to normal over the course of the next week or two.

Chained Coffin Kickstarter

Chained Coffin CoverMany of my readers have likely already seen the news about the most recent Goodman Games Kickstarter for the Chained Coffin. As some Kickstarters do, this was taken off and quickly grown to be more than just some perks for the Chained Coffin adventure and is becoming its own entity. This is important and the thing folks (DCC fans and campaign setting fans) need to take note of.

But first, for those that don’t know about the Kickstarter I will highlight a few of the initial selling points. If you already know all of these, don’t leave just yet – skip down to the Boxed Set section.

Chained Coffin Kickstarter

So – the Chained Coffin kickstarter was initially to raise some funds for a cool prop. A spinning wheel puzzle. The adventure is already written and coming out regardless of Kickstarter success. But the original $4,000 goal was to get a spinning wheel puzzle made of cardstock. A pretty cool player handout!

But then the stretch goals started.First it was some additional sourcebook material for the area, then it was more random encounter tables. Shudder Mountains where the adventure takes place is a decent sized area. Then it was some more player handouts with Doug Kovacs art.

As those stretch goals have been met, things began to transform from adventure to gazetteer style stretch goals. Digest sized pages to letter sized pages, and more to further detail the Shudder Mountains. Higher levels include an 11×17 poster and the top stretch goal is an actual full-color box set!

All of this for picking up the $30 Silver Foil limited edition version of the module.

Boxed Set Mini-Campaign Setting

Folks – this Kickstarter has turned into a boxed set mini-campaign setting. Not only that, but at a price point that is pretty darn incredible if the stretch goals are hit.

As a host of Spellburn we get a lot of email asking about campaign settings. Is there anything out there for people? What campaign setting do I use for my actual play? The questions pop up on forums and social media networks all the time.

Here is your chance to show Goodman Games a mini-campaign setting is what you want. Because if this Kickstarter hits the goal of $36,000 that is pretty much what you’ll be getting.

Current players of DCC know the game has a regional feel to it. It doesn’t work under the assumption of needing a continent spanning area, a region can be the start to a very long running game. The Shudder Mountains is this regional setting.

More Kickstarter Info

Goodman Games has provided several ways to help them meet this goal. $30 gets you the silver foil limited edition. There is also a limited edition gold foil for $60. They are also selling print modules at a discount, so increase your pledge and help fill out your DCC adventure collection while helping to get us to that $36,000 stretch goal.

Now some links in case you want more info.

The Kickstarter:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1409961192/dungeon-crawl-classics-the-chained-coffin

Spellburn Talks to Michael Curtis About The Kickstarter and The Chained Coffin

http://spellburn.com/2014/05/12/episode-22-kickstarting-a-chained-coffin/

Michael Curtis’ Blog – Your Fantasy Appalachia Campaign in a Box

http://poleandrope.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-chained-coffin-kickstarter-or-your.html

In Defense of Roll20

Roll20 LogoEarlier this week a blogger posted Five Ways Roll20 is a PITA. A rather inflammatory title and one that certainly caught my eye. I’ve been using Roll20 since about August of 2012 I believe. I run a weekly Dungeon Crawl Classics game on it with folks from a variety of geographical locations. I’ve also played in several semi-regular games during the same time period.

Roll20 has been nothing but excellent to my group and I. Unlike other VTTs I have used in the past we rarely have technical issues that prevent us from gaming. I can think of one instance where Roll20 didn’t work (it was right after one of their larger upgrades), but we played that session anyways. Beyond that one instance technical issues have been minimal.

I do run Roll20 integrated to a Google Hangout though. So audio and video relies on Google, my experience with Roll20’s audio and video is non-existent. Google Hangouts has that covered for us and has some cool low bandwidth options for one of our players or when someone’s cable connection is poor. I’ve played with Roll20 on slower 1.54Mbps connections all the way up 15Mbps connections.

Either case – I did want to address each of the five points in the Five Ways Roll20 is a PITA blog post. I do realize just because I don’t have issues, doesn’t mean others don’t. But if one person can paint their experiences with a broad brush, I can do the same. Of all the VTTs I have played on, Roll20 has been the best and it just sort of gets out of my way when we play.

5 – Really, I work in IT

I am always wary when things start out declaring credentials. But overlooking that, this sound more like computer issues than something to do with Roll20. The post says most of the issues are on the author’s side. He then says he only got in an hour of game time.

My sessions are two hours in length. We’ve never had a technical issue consume more than 5 minutes of time on anyone’s side. There was the one occurrence after the Roll20 upgrade, but we still managed to get 1h45m in of playing that night with ease.

With that said – for my weekly game, I do get logged in about 5 to 10 minutes ahead of time and make sure my headphones and sound work on the computer in general (largely because I switch headsets from the set the kids use to my nice set).

4 – Where is that setting again?

This looks to have been fog of war being enabled. And mention of the author’s kid messing with settings.

I just checked – fog of war isn’t enabled by default on a new map. So the setting must have been changed. I surely hope someone spoke up pretty quickly that they couldn’t see things. There are only a handful of spots to check settings in Roll20 (the map and the general settings). We could usually sort things out pretty quick in our early Roll20 days.

As for the audio settings. As I noted above, I run from a computer my kids use and swap headphones. I usually check things out about 5-10 minute before the game to be sure all is well. Sometimes I need to replug in the headphones.

3 – It’s not me, it’s you

I can’t comment on this one as we use Roll20 integrated with G+ for audio and video. My best advice here is to do the same. Frankly I think Roll20 should drop the audio and video option and focus on the VTT. Between G+ Integration which works great, Skype, Ventrilo, Mumble, etc, etc, there really isn’t a need to try handling that piece on their own. Of course as soon as they dropped it, I am sure folks would complain.

Either way – my suggestion for this is to use it integrated with G+ Hangouts. We’ve had good experience that way. (Just listen to the actual play recordings to hear it).

2 – If you just look right here

I don’t really get this one. Back to fog of war and comparison to meatspace. The handouts option in Roll20 is a great way to show props, bits of text, etc. Just click Show to Players and you are all set. For the Barrowmaze game I had a whole series of handouts lined up for the start of the session – a handout map, the scene of descending into Barrowmaze and some of the interesting structures inside. Roll20  facilitated handouts wonderfully.

1 – It’s all just a setup

There are lots of features to Roll20. Some complex, some not. But yes, it could be overwhelming if you feel like you need to use them all right out of the gate. Shoot – even now we don’t use all of the features. So start small! Fire up Roll20, and toss a map down. Skip tokens for now – or use them just to represent movement. Character journals and character sheets aren’t required, use them later if you want.

At this point my online group uses the map feature, fog of war, minimal token use, the integrated die roller, chat, handouts, and some of the drawing tools. That’s about it. It works great and if you don’t want to get hung up in too much technology the way to go.

Some might think what we use is too much. Use Roll20 only for its die roller if you want. Or die roller and a map. Roll20 can be very, very simple to use or become more complex. But your group makes that decision. Roll20 can facilitate either style of play.

Wrap Up

Either way – Roll20 has been great for my group. I’ve made lots of great friends online and had a great time gaming. I hope the author of the original post sticks with it and after getting used to the tool has an equally rewarding experience. I think Roll20 is an excellent tool for folks with busy schedules trying to game!