Review: The Black Goat

The Black Goat CoverAuthor:  Daniel J. Bishop
Publisher:  Purple Duck Games
Art: Luigi Castellani
Price: PDF $2.50 – at RPGNow / at /
Pages: 12 (incl. cover)

The Black Goat is the second release in the Campaign Elements line for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. The Campaign Elements series is designed to be run with minimum preparation by the judge and provide “quest for it” areas. Whether your wizard needs a spell component or to be taught a certain spell, a rare metal or element for the crafting of a wondrous magic item, or maybe just a way to restore some ability damage, the Campaign Elements series from Purple Duck Games aims to fill this niche.

The PDF is 12 pages long including the cover and the OGL license information on the last page. A map of the mountain pass is included helping depict the gate system the pass residents have here. A rumor table covers twenty different rumors about the mountain pass and its inhabitants. In addition to eight encounter areas there is also a patron write-up for the Black Goat, this includes invoke patron checks, patron taint results, spellburn results, and a new patron spell, Silence. There is also a short section on getting the most out of the adventure with suggestions on expanding certain elements of the area.

The encounter area centers around a mountain pass that can be dropped into any hilly or mountainous region of a campaign world. The pass has been known as the Pass of the Black Goat, taking the name from a sphinx-like creature living in the pass.

The Black Goat is a spellcaster who could be a patron to a PC wizard or simply provide a resource for spells or other pieces of knowledge. A creative judge could find many ways to work the Black Goat into their campaign beyond the ideas suggested.

There are two factions of races that live in and near the pass. One race controls the gates of the pass, while the other group lives just beyond the pass. The factions do not get along with each seeking to control the pass. This friction between factions creates a wonderful backdrop for plots within a campaign.

The Review

I am once again quite satisfied with the direction the Campaign Elements line is taking. The Black Goat can easily spice up a mountain pass in a campaign or the Black Goat itself can be used as a source of knowledge or ability in “quest for it” situations.  The two factions in the area provide several ideas for a DCC RPG judge to work with to weave this encounter area into their own campaign world.

I know in my current DCC RPG campaign I wrote my own adventure to handle some travel the party needed to do at the time. Looking back I could easily see this encounter area as filling that need with much less work on my part! I really like products that are so easy to plug and play into a campaign world. It does a lot to make my job as a judge easier from week to week.

Essentially, from this short 12 page PDF I get a detailed mountain pass, two rival factions, a patron-type figure, and a patron write-up. This can all be used as a whole or in parts by the enterprising judge.

The Black Goat proves the Campaign Elements line is off to a great start. I see this series a wonderful time-saver for the busy judge and is giving the opportunity to finally adequately provide some “quest for it” options to my players. If you run a Dungeon Crawl Classics game, you should definitely be keeping an eye on this series.

Review: The Falcate Idol

The Falcate Idol CoverAuthor:  Daniel J. Bishop
Publisher:  Purple Duck Games
Art: Luigi Castellani
Price: PDF $3.25 – at RPGNow / at /
Pages: 15 (incl. cover)

Campaign Elements

The Falcate Idol is a new product line from Purple Duck Games for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG called Campaign Elements. The line is designed to help a DCC RPG judge create a persistent campaign world and provide patron quests, divine quests, or any number of quests to help fill the “quest for it” vibe of DCC RPG.

What is the “quest for it” vibe? It is an underlying facet of the DCC RPG game in that many things are possible. But to obtain these things such as ability score increases, great magic weapons, or any number of afflictions, the character must “quest for it”. It is not a simple matter of going to the magic shop to buy a magic item, but rather it is ancient story that tells of a location, pool, or any other source of ability to provide the character with what they desire.

In addition, the Campaign Elements releases are designed to be short adventures that can also act as something to drop in if you have some missing players on your gamenight. Typically playable in a single session, they are easy for a judge to pickup and run on a night where some folks are going to miss the game.

The Falcate Idol

This first release, The Falcate Idol, is a short adventure area detailing a cult’s sanctuary of a little worshipped patron. Within this sanctuary is the Egg of Creation with untold powers.

The PDF comes in at 15 pages including the cover. A map of the encounter area is also included, along with random treasure tables tailored to the sanctuary. In addition to the encounter area descriptions there is a short section on expanding the adventure or getting more from the adventure in the course of a broader campaign. There are of course new monsters as well.

The adventure actually has two items of interest in the same location. One is a spider idol with a gem told to be as large as a pigeon’s egg. Hidden within this same sanctuary is the Egg of Creation which is said to have great power in and of itself.

The Review

This adventure flowed quite well on a read-through and presented several hooks for a judge to use in their campaign. A creative judge is sure to find many, many more ways to use this adventure. I immediately thought of several ways to use it in my own campaign with only a few tweaks to get it to fit just right.

The length of the adventure should fit in most people’s single sessions. This is handy in a couple of ways – one, letting you more easily drop it in as something to run when short some players, and two, allowing you to use it with a “quest for it” adventure without derailing the whole campaign. The adventure can drop into an existing campaign world with minimal reconfiguration, if any.

The map is easy to follow and differs from some of Purple Duck releases other maps in their DCC RPG products. The map is simple, but I like the look of this one. It features an interesting layout without being cumbersome.

As noted earlier there are random tables included for treasure, unique items, and a spell effect chart. I liked the tables and several items on there could easily be borrowed by a judge even if an item was not found or used in the adventure.

The new monsters in the adventure are interesting and have some special qualities to help add to their mystery. The monsters can also be added to a judge’s bag of tricks for other adventures in their campaign as well.

I was very pleased with this adventure and this new product line. I think it fills a need in the DCC RPG market by providing areas a judge can use for “quest for it” type tasks. I think all judges are good intentioned, but sometimes time impacts their ability to come up with quests between major adventures to handle patron requests or desires of the characters.

This initial adventure looks to deliver on many of those fronts. I was easily able to insert it in my own campaign to take care of some recent requests and questions from the PCs in my game. It also is short enough to run without taking us too far away from the campaign as a whole.

This adventure is well worth picking up if you want to have a short adventure on hand or start having the PCs quest for some of the things they have been asking for. I look forward to the future releases in this line and hope they hit the mark as well as this one did.

DCC RPG: Tables, Tables, and Tables

DCC RPG Limited Edition CoverOver the weekend Erik Tenkar posted about why he liked Dungeon Crawl Classics and noted it certainly wasn’t the neverending spell tables. This spurred another post from Wayne Rossi on his blog about DCC RPG, tables, and the Pareto principle. Both good posts which led to two different conclusions – one person finding magic in the game and the other turned off by the tables.


Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG does have a lot of tables. Tables for spells, tables for critical hits, tables for fumbles, tables for mercurial magic, tables for disapproval, and so on and so on. Tables are an integral part to DCC RPG. Tables bring the randomness. Tables occasionally bring the “over the top” results. Tables are what help keep DCC RPG players on their toes.

When I first heard about DCC RPG and all the tables I was pretty skeptical too. In fact, I ended up with the DCC RPG rulebook because I kept hearing great things about the art in it. I initially bought it for the art, but then after reading it thought the game sounded like a lot of fun. After playing in a one-shot online, I was hooked.

The focus of Wayne’s articles is on the spells and accompanying tables. From where I sit I am less concerned with applying Pareto principles and more interested in whether the spell tables add fun to the game for me.

Closer Look at Spell Tables

For sake of discussion I am going to limit my post to the spell tables, but a lot of my comments will likely be applicable to many of the tables in DCC RPG. But let’s take a look the spell tables.

I think the tables are *where* DCC RPG gets it magic from. The spell tables lead to the unpredictability of the game. This unpredictability creates the feeling of the unknown. This unknown is what sparks the magic for some of us who have been playing RPGs for a long time.

Let’s take the magic missile spell. Depending on edition of D&D, we all know magic missile is going to automatically hit and do 1d4+1 points of damage. As the caster’s level goes up, the more missiles the caster unleashes. That is how the spell works today, it is how it works tomorrow, and how it will work the day after that.

When we were new to the game, that in and of itself was enough to be new and treading that line on the edge of the known. As decades have gone by, magic missile gets a little stale. Our wizards have cast it hundreds of times with the same results.

Enter DCC RPG. Now magic missile has a unique table covering the possible results. Now my wizard casts magic missile. I roll a quick 1d20+caster level+intelligence modifier and I step into the unknown again! Now my magic missile could do anywhere from 1 point of damage to 4d12+ caster level of damage to multiple missiles causing 1d10+ caster level of damage. The result changes each time! Magic missile suddenly has become fun again due to this unpredictability.

Each spell has its own table, because each spell is unique in its results. Trying to apply a single table to every spell would ultimately end up being too generic in the long run and steal from the power of specific spell tables.

Each spell table in DCC RPG is interesting. Actual play in my groups indicates that rolling random results on spell tables has everyone at the table anxiously awaiting the result. Will the spell fizzle? Will it do some trivial amount of damage? Or will it be a battle changer and finally swing the tide the party’s way? These are questions asked each time a spell is cast. I think this recurring unknown is what gives DCC RPG its magic.

Tables With Purpose

A table for the sake of having a table is not a good thing. But the tables in DCC RPG are there with a purpose. A purpose of adding randomness into the game. Randomness that adds to the unknown. Unknown that aims (and succeeds in my opinion) to rekindle that magic we saw in the game so many years ago.

Review: The Revelation of Mulmo

The Revelation of Mulmo CoverAuthor:  Daniel J. Bishop
Publisher:  Dragon’s Hoard Publishing
Art: David Fisher
Price: PDF $5.00 – at RPGNow
Pages: 76 (incl. cover)

The Revelation of Mulmo was released several weeks ago from Dragon’s Hoard Publishing. The module is written by Daniel Bishop and comes in at 76 pages, including the covers. The adventure includes descriptions of 60 locations which consume the first portion of the book. The book’s appendix has a large section on patrons, including invoke patron checks, patron taint, spellburn and more. The module is intended for 3-8 4th level Dungeon Crawl Classics characters.

The Revelation of Mulmo is a site-based adventure location making it possible to drop into an already existing campaign world. The adventure also has the potential to return a fallen party member back from the dead. This can be a handy hook for a DCC RPG campaign where death typically isn’t resolved in a quick raise dead or resurrection spell.

The adventure takes place in a fallen elf-hill from battles decades past. Due to temporal oddities some lingering denizens of the hill still think this conflict is in progress. This temporal effect is sure to toy with the characters passing into the elf-hill as well!

The module includes one good, strong hook to get characters vested in the adventure. A creative judge can surely come up with some other hooks to get characters involved. Patrons can make the most unusual of requests sometimes in exchange for their favors!

The elf-hill itself is a rather large expanse of rooms and encounter areas to be explored. The module includes many new creatures fitting in with the DCC RPG mantra of creatures should be mysterious. A few new magical weapons are sprinkled in as well.

A magical sword called Alemourn in the module is a particular favorite. Without revealing too many details, it is another example of how I think magical weapons in DCC RPG should be. Magical weapons in DCC RPG should be something more than just a +1 weapon. The sword grows in power under a some unusual conditions. A fine example of how I think magical weapons should work in this game.

As noted above the appendix includes new patrons for DCC RPG. The patron write-ups do include invoke patron check results, patron taint options, patron spells, and spellburn examples. The patron spells do need written by the judge for their game, but the titles should help get the creative mind moving.

Several maps are included in the module showing the various levels, including very helpful exterior and interior side views. I always find these useful, as while some layouts are quite clear in the designer’s mind, that does not always translate well to the reader without illustration.

The Review

This thing is big and chock full of bits! 60 room descriptions, patrons, magic items, new and twisted creatures, and spells; there is a lot of information here. Compared to many other DCC RPG adventures I have read and reviewed this module is much longer in length and with a lot more material within.

I like this brings another option to the table for returning a fallen character back to the living. While DCC RPG does not have the “easy button” for bringing a character back from the dead, it does encourage question, planar travel, and any other number of Appendix N oriented quests to do just that. Sometimes a judge does not have the time to write their own quest to allow a player to bring a character back. Having another option added to adventures allowing such a thing is a good thing for time starved judges.

The adventure itself is interesting and sure to keep characters on their toes as they make their way through the elf-hill and the encounters within. The toying with time and temporal shifting is interesting and adds an element to the adventure to keep things uncertain and mysterious.

This is not the first adventure by Daniel Bishop that I have reviewed at The Iron Tavern. One thing I can count on in his adventures is the use of a mechanic in a fun and interesting way. An example from this module is the use of spellburn to power a certain effect or ability of an object. I do not want to reveal too much, lest spoil the adventure, but I like how he takes DCC mechanics and works them into an adventure in a way not first thought of.

While this module contains a lot of material for the DCC judge, I fear it may also be its downside. The trend in DCC RPG modules has been short and sweet. Even in my shorter two hour sessions over a VTT (Roll20 and G+ Hangouts), we can make our way through a typical DCC RPG adventure in three or four sessions. I suspect this one would take several sessions longer.

Perhaps it is just the trend already set that biases me towards the shorter modules, but I do have some concern my players would start to become a little weary of the adventure as we carried across many sessions. That isn’t to say any part of the module is “slow” or “boring”. Just I have found attention spans for longer modules is shorter in my DCC RPG games. I think DCC players might expect “bite-sized” adventuring.

I admit, my review is based only on a read through and not an actual play through of the adventure. So the length of adventure comments should be taken with the grain of salt. Sometimes the play through reveals things not expected!

Regardless, there are plenty of items to work with in this adventure. Whether tweaking it to run a little shorter, stealing certain gems from the module (hello 24 random skulls!), patrons, spells, or even just some of the new and unusual creatures. So even if I end up not running this module in its entirety, there are numerous pieces I can use from this adventure that I feel it still has value.

The artwork within the module was done by David Fisher. There are a lot of interesting art pieces inside the module. The color cover of the module with red eyes looking over the party from behind is certainly enough to draw one in!

The Revelation of Mulmo is another impressive module from Daniel Bishop. I continue to enjoy the material he produces for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG as he explores various reaches of the DCC RPG essence and system!

What do you think?

So what do you think about long modules versus short modules for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG? Do you want to see more longer modules like The Revelation of Mulmo or would you rather see some shorter ones?

DCC RPG Podcast: Spellburn

SpellburnFor the past several weeks I have been working on a “secret project”. The time has come that I can reveal what I have been working on, a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG podcast called Spellburn!

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Jim Wampler, the art director for Gygax Magazine and a Save or Die podcast host. He asked if I was interested in a trial run as a podcast host. My DCC RPG articles here at the Iron Tavern and G+ activity had identified me as someone excited about DCC RPG. The other partner in this was Jobe Bittman. Jobe’s name keeps popping up in various RPG circles, one of the more recent times for his winning of the Mystery Map competition Goodman Games held last year.

Jim and Jobe already had a solid framework in place. They had a website up and running and arranged to have us under the fold of Wild Games Productions. I readily accepted the offer of a trial run and a few days later we were recording the pilot episode of Spellburn. We had a great time and we seemed to gel together as a trio of hosts quite well.

With the first episode in the can, I earned a place as a host on the podcast! The first episode is currently available from the website and will be available from iTunes as soon as it is approved. Be sure to check out the site as we continue forward. We also have a forum over at The second episode has been recorded and will be released soon.

I am looking forward to working with Jim and Jobe as the podcast continues! If you are a fan of DCC RPG or old school gaming in general, be sure to check out an episode.

Review: Stars in the Darkness

Stars in the DarknessAuthor:  Daniel J. Bishop
Publisher:  Purple Duck Games
Art: Christopher Heilmann
Price: PDF $6.99 – at RPGNow / at / at
Pages: 38 (incl. cover)

Stars in the Darkness

Following quickly on the heels of The Waystation, Purple Duck Games has released another adventure in the Adventure Locale line. Stars in the Darkness is for 4 to 8, 3rd level Dungeon Crawl Classics characters. As part of the Adventure Locale line the module is designed to be dropped into any existing DCC RPG campaign with minimal effort.

This is the 3rd module written by Daniel Bishop for the Purple Duck Games. With Bone Hoard of the Dancing Horror and Through the Cotillion of Hours Daniel has proven his firm grasp on what makes an Appendix N influenced adventure tick. Stars in the Darkness continues with Daniel’s streak.

In ancient times elven ancestors used to protect the stars. As time went by the stars appear to have lost their protectors and stars have begun to go missing. Some are lesser stars, others are stars that are responsible for luck being drained from the world as they disappear. Eventually as this luck disappears with the stars the PCs will become affected and seek to rectify this issue.

Once the PCs realize something very dear to them is being affected there are a myriad of ways to introduce the rest of the adventure to them. The heart of the adventure takes place in a “conceptual space”, allowing it to be dropped in any campaign with relative ease. This also leaves several avenues for a judge to get their PCs to the location.

The adventure includes a chart linking 30 important stars to each of the birth augers in the DCC RPG rulebook. As the stars are captured they will affect the PC’s birth auger. The included chart makes it easy to link birth auger to star, referenced by name, and a description of the star.

Several new creatures are introduced in the adventure. Perverted cousins of the elves, flying creatures that harvest the stars, and more.

The main portion of the adventure takes place in a conceptual space with large rifts and caverns the PCs must explore to rescue the captured stars. Making their way through this cavern the PCs must seek to rescue the stars they can and put an end to what is taking the stars.

The Review

While I have been impressed with the entire product line from Purple Duck Games for DCC RPG, I am always glad to see one authored by Daniel Bishop. My online group still fondly talks of Bone Hoard of the Dancing Horror. I was anxious to see what he had in store for us this time.

Easy placement in an existing campaign is a staple of the Adventure Locale line. Stars in the Darkness remains true to that. I have already begun plotting introing this adventure at the first opportunity in my current campaign. It will still be a bit before we get to it, but it allows for a gradual introduction to an existing campaign.

As mentioned above, there are several new monsters for this adventure. New monster help keep long established gamers knocked off their game a bit, as they never know what is coming. The final encounters in the module are very well done as well with a couple of unique features thrown in to help keep things interesting and far from ordinary.

The stars disappearance being tied to the character’s luck being affected is an interesting mechanic. It plays well to the DCC RPG ruleset and is sure to quickly get the character’s attention and give them heartfelt motivation to resolve this issue for something more than treasure.

While this adventure is ready to dropped into nearly any campaign, it does require a thorough read through for the judge to get familiar with it. Nothing particularly difficult, but I get the sense this adventure will run better with some prep from the judge instead of trying to run it on the fly. Several of the earlier Adventure Locale offerings I felt could be run with minimal prep.

This looks like another very strong adventure from Purple Duck Games. It hits the Appendix N feel for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, introduces new monsters and interesting concepts. This one will be a hit with my gaming group.

New DCC RPG Limited Edition Cover

easley-DCC-coverLooks like Goodman Games is releasing another limited edition cover for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. This one has the art of Jeff Easley gracing the front. The cover appears to depict some demon-hoof-ogre-giant-like beast on the front clutching a woman in one hand while menacing another adventurer on a magical floating disk. Yep! This is Dungeon Crawl Classics!

This is the 4th cover for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG rulebook. The first was the gold foil cover, then the “normal” cover, and the “wizard” cover by Doug Kovacs. Cool stuff!

It is $59.99 for the pre-order and pre-orders will also receive a copy of Stefan Poag’s Classic Dungeon Crawl Art Folio.

It also looks like at least a couple of new modules have shown up on their coming soon page. Both lower level adventures with Fate’s Fell Hand, a 2nd level adventure, and Frozen in Time, a 1st level adventure. And I do believe that is a robot I see on the cover of Frozen in Time.

Frozen in Time Cover

Review: The Waystation

AL4 The Way StationAuthor:  David Przybyla
Publisher:  Purple Duck Games
Art: Luigi Castellina, Marc Radle
Price: PDF $3.50 – at RPGNow / at / at Paizo
Pages: 19 (incl. cover)

The Way Station

The Way Station by David Przybyla is the most recent release from Purple Duck Games for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG system. The Way Station is part of the Adventure Locale line written to be easily dropped into nearly any DCC RPG campaign with minimal prep. This adventure is for four to eight 3rd level characters.

The adventure involves finding a ventilation shaft from the ancient dwarven kingdom of Upanesh. A large network of tunnels connected the various wards of the Upanesh. Railcars would shuttle people and goods from way station to way station. Eventually these way stations came under attack from both earthly and supernatural beings.

Eventually the South March Way Station came under assault and a dwarf that was the chosen hero of Upan held the station as the others fled. This was the last the dwarven hero was seen.

The adventure is entered through a ventilation shaft that has been lost to time. A judge can easily work this into their campaign by either having the characters randomly come upon it, hear stories of an ancient dwarven kingdom, or perhaps even a child lost and discovered inside the ventilation shaft. Simple entry points like this make great strides to making the adventure easier to drop into a campaign world.

Once beneath the surface there are several unique things awaiting the characters. From a rather unusual rail car used by the Upanesh to the new monsters introduced in the module. True to DCC RPG fashion, none of the monsters found in the module are going to be ones the judge or players would find in a traditional monster book. Each of the monsters within are well done will make for interesting encounters.

A new magic item is also in the book. I do not want to detail it too much so as not to spoil the surprise, but I really like how the item works. One of the tenets of DCC RPG is that magic items should be special. The Way Station does this very well. The item has some story to it and has an interesting mechanism of gaining power over time in interesting ways.

The Review

It has been some time since Purple Duck Games has released a DCC RPG adventure. I was glad to have this one come across my path. I have enjoyed their previous adventures released for the system and they have been popular among my players as well.

Featuring easy placement into an existing campaign is always a strong point to an adventure when I use it. This one has just enough background to make it interesting, but still portable. Unique creatures for the various encounters help lend it the Appendix N feel and throw long seasoned players who can recite the stats for a troll from memory off their game a little. The unique magic item has an eloquent mechanic behind for those that wish to see it gain in power.

The download also includes maps for use on the Virtual Tabletop. One includes the numbering scheme and the other has the numbers removed. This is a very useful feature for the judges that run on VTTs. It is nice seeing a publisher taking notice and making their maps as easy to use with a VTT as they can.

I continue to be impressed with DCC RPG releases from Purple Duck Games. This is another adventure I look forward to working into my own DCC RPG campaign. There is also use to a judge who just wants to “borrow” the creatures and magic item from the module as well.

If your DCC RPG campaign is near the 3rd level mark, this adventure is well worth taking a look at. It is an another strong entry in an already strong adventure line.

The Cut-Scene Funnel

TombstoneCharacter Death

Character death is inevitable in Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. The 0-level funnel DCC RPG games start off with practically guarantee it. These early campaign deaths are easy to deal with as the game is just getting started. The 0-level funnel helps form the psyche of these want to be heroes and is a valuable formative part of these adventurers.

As characters level-up it does become increasingly more difficult to “kill” a character. Between the luck mechanic, bleeding out rules, and recovering the body rules, even fights that go south quickly are frequently survivable with a little luck. Despite that there will be continued character death in a DCC RPG campaign, sometimes things just get a little crazy and luck is not with the player as their character fails a luck roll.

We have been trying to find a way that works well for our group for introducing new characters to our DCC RPG campaign. This post covers the path to what will be our upcoming experiment – the cut-scene funnel.

My Campaign

I have been running a DCC RPG campaign on G+ Hangouts for a little over six months now. The characters in the party are now 3rd level and have been there for a couple of sessions. We have three characters that were in the original 0-level funnel that have lived to continue adventuring.

Along the way we have had several opportunities to experiment with how we add new characters to the campaign. We are still trying to figure out the best way (well, the way that works the best for our game) to add these new characters to the campaign. The method that works best seems to change as the levels of the main characters increase.

Early Attrition

In our campaign the character deaths that occurred early in the game seemed to happen to players that still had two characters from the funnel. This led to not much needing done when a character died in the low levels as the player would still have a character to continue playing.

For the exceptions to this I would have the player roll up three new 0-levels, choose their favorite and then level that one to a matching level – in this case, 1st level.

This method seemed to work well as the main characters weren’t that far out from the funnel. The new characters were still early enough in their adventuring career that missing the funnel was not hugely detrimental.

During this phase of the campaign we also added a new player to the mix. For the new player I had him generate three 0-levels and play them. This worked out well too. In fact I could have easily swapped this method for the advance one 0-level to first level with no issue.

2nd Level Era

Eventually the group reached 2nd level with their main characters. Here 0-levels were already feeling a bit too far out of a reach for our group. A lot of the characters that we introduced during this stage of the game were brought in via the generate three 0-levels, advance your favorite to 1st level and join the party.

This seemed to work mechanically, but the new character seemed harder to get a feel for. They had not had a 0-level funnel experience for the formative stage of their character. Most of these characters eventually “gel-ed” with the group, but it seemed to take more effort to do so. Luckily I have a great group of players, but I could see this being an issue for some groups.

3rd Level Era

My campaign has only been in the 3rd level stage for a couple of sessions. At this point the players were realizing having a stable of characters to draw from might be worthwhile. We discussed how to do this and at first settled on bringing in 0-levels to complement the existing characters. Our group feels the 0-level play is what really turns a character from a cardboard cut-out to something with experience and formative events.

This experiment did not pan out very well for us. The 0-levels accompanying the 3rd level characters on an appropriate level adventure really didn’t stand a chance to survive. Using them as “trap detectors” was pretty much instant death. If they found themselves too close to an enemy, one hit was certainly all that was needed to put an end to them.

The 0-levels we introduced in this fashion all met their fate in the very first session.

Phoenix_DrawingWhat Now?

This led to more discussion on how we were going to introduce new characters to our DCC RPG campaign. We’d tried several methods along the way, some of which worked well mechanically but left us feeling disjointed story-wise and others that seemed to lack mechanically as well.

I offered the idea of a cut-scene funnel. What I proposed was that we would shelve the main characters for a session or two and “cut away” to a trio of 0-levels for each player. I will run these 0-levels through a special funnel session independent of the main characters. Once that session is finished we will have the surviving characters leveled up to main character level minus one. So in this case, the survivors will be allowed to advance to 2nd level.

These 0-levels are from the same area, “The Great City” in our campaign, and likely have even been hearing tales of the heroics of the main characters. Eager to find fame and success of their own and possibly catch the attention of the main characters with their own heroics, these 0-levels will set off to make a name for themselves.

There are several reasons for trying this approach. First, everyone in my group enjoys the funnel. They have a good time playing it, we get a lot of laughs and we all think it is a shame we only get to do it at the start of the campaign. So this new trial will let us play the funnel again without scrapping the whole campaign.

We also think the funnel really helps develop a character. So now the stable of characters we build will have actually played through a funnel and get the opportunity to play in this “development” adventure.

The first session of the experiment will be happening this week. Once we finish the experiment I will post more details of how it played out. Be sure to check back if you are curious about the results!

Review: In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer

In the Prison of the Squid SorcererThe Iron Tavern recently received an early release copy of In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer from Mystic Bull Games. The book comes in around 44 pages not including license information and is written by Ken Jelinek, Daniel Bishop, John Humphrey, Jon Wilson, and Paul Wolfe. The book is a collection of short encounters, 12 in total, designed to be easily dropped into an existing Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG campaign. Each encounter comes with a map and a new creature. The book is available in PDF format at RPGNow. I believe a print-on-demand version is in the works.

Most of the adventures are 2-4 pages in length and can be played in a single session. A couple of the adventures are actually designed to have portions “sprinkled” in over a longer period of time. This style lends itself well to being used to add detail to existing campaigns. Filler for between the major plot points of a campaign that help a campaign feel like there are always things going on in the world.

The level ranges covered tend to be low-level to mid-level, though a couple of the adventures are suitable for any level. From what I have seen from my various social media circles the low to mid-level focus should cover a lot of the already running DCC RPG campaigns.

The adventures within do an exemplary job of hitting the Appendix N feel. Extra-dimensional imprisonments, time shifting, alternate realities bleeding through to the known world, and fantastical creatures all contribute to unique feeling adventures. The many threats contained with this book are sure to torment your players and keep them on their toes.

For the judge, the adventures are just the right size to drop into existing campaigns as noted above. Several adventures can make good side treks for adventurers on the road or passing through small villages. Others work well for adventurers operating from a city as the base of their operations.

A map is included for most of the adventures. The one’s that do not are not tied to any one particular location, so a map is not required or applicable. The maps are done by John Humphrey and are often isometric in style. I always enjoy isometric style maps and it is nice to see this style in this book.

Black and white art fills the interior of the book accompanying each adventure.

Even if an adventure does not quite fit in with your campaign, there are numerous bits ripe for plundering from the book. Unique creatures, new cults, or even maps that could be re-worked with your own story. There is certainly something a judge of a DCC RPG campaign can “borrow” for their own campaign.

Normally when reviewing an adventure module I try to provide some detail about the adventure itself without giving too much away. Given the shorter nature of the adventures in this book, I am hesitant to detail too much about each adventure. As I noted above, the very strong Appendix N feel of each adventure within makes it a perfect choice for DCC RPG judges.

I really like the nature of a book that has many smaller encounters or adventures for me to use. All too often I pick up a module, which may be great, but just doesn’t fit into my campaign well. Either the subject matter doesn’t fit in or it is simply for a level range not appropriate for my campaign.

With this book, I already have plans to work several of the adventures into my existing campaign. The adventures make it very easy to drop-in as the group heads from place to place or while they are hanging out in their base city of operations. Products like this help make my job as a DCC RPG judge easier by providing these easy hooks for adventures. In addition there are several monsters and possible patrons I can “borrow” for my own campaign, even from the adventures I might not run in this current campaign.

This is a very strong offering from Mystic Bull Games for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. I definitely encourage DCC RPG judges to check In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer out. I suspect you will find use for several of the adventures within. Even if you choose not to use an adventure as written, there is sure to be creatures, maps, magic items and more you can make use of in your game.