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Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
by Ted C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/19/2012 22:40:20

I've been playing RPG's since 1981and have experience a lot of rules systems. This is an excellent system that blasts pulp Sword & Sorcery right back into your gray cells. There is fantastic retro styled S&S art on almost every page and the rules are designed around busy people who want memorable adventures to remember rather than min/max accounting sessions.

The XP system is dead simple to understand and use. The funnel system of character creation is brilliant!

This game is about adventure and making the most of your play sessions, with minimal down time crunching numbers and bookkeeping. It's based on the Appendix N 'Inspirational Reading' of the original Gary Gygax AD&D and it shows. Very inspired RPG and I highly recommend checking it out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #71: The 13th Skull
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/15/2012 17:33:38

The 13th Skull is a mixed bag, almost quite literally, as it is two adventures in one package. The first, the 13th Skull, is pretty much a 4th level rescue mission.

The quick backstory is one of the Duke's ancestor's promised the daughter of one of his 13 generation of decedents (and 12 sons of earlier decedents to a devil for power and immortal life - the fool! ;) The daughter gets kidnapped in front of the PCs, the Duke offers a fortune for her safe return and the game is afoot!

The adventure itself is good, but doesn't rise to the level of Goodman's previous releases in the DCC RPG line of adventures. The art still rocks, the maps are awesome, but the adventure itself? Maybe it's the short length - 9 pages plus map less the rocking art. Maybe its the fact that even success will likely result in the death of the hostage (I know it's DCC and it's dark by nature - but when the designer states only one playtest group managed to rescue the princess, I think there might need to be a tweak or two.) It looks like it should play well until the end - so tweak the final battle is my suggestion.

Further in it's favor, the adventure does leave itself a few hooks for further adventures at the end.

Now, on to the second part of the bag: The Balance Blade, a 2nd level adventure. This one is a head scratcher for me.

First, it is stated it is better played as a one-shot, as it concludes with intra-party combat. This effectively means it isn't much use in an on going campaign, which is where I assume the vast majority of DCC RPG gameplay takes place.

Second, it requires mixed alignments to pass through certain areas. Which means it makes it even harder to try to edit this at home into something that will work in a campaign.

Third, it requires props - index cards and colored stickers. I understand why the props are needed, but it makes online play a bit awkward.

It might make a fine one-shot for a con or gameday, but except for the fairly linear map it's going to take some work to fit this into a campaign.

So, one good adventure and one less good adventure, for the price of one adventure.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #71: The 13th Skull
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #71: The 13th Skull
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/15/2012 08:07:05

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/08/15/tabletop-review-dungeon-crawl-classics-71-the-13th-skull/

I’ve been a big fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics since it was using Wizards of the Coast’s Open Game license for Dungeons and Dragons 3.0/3.5. Since Goodman Games turned DCC into its own system, I’ve found I love it even more. The DCC system IS pretty prolific though as in the past month I’ve reviewed three other DCC adventures The Emerald Enchanter, Jewels of the Carnifax and the Free RPG Day release, and that doesn’t include adventures for the system put out by other publishers! I have no idea how they can churn so many of these out so quickly.

The 13th Skull especially caught my eye as the adventure bears the same name as a pretty popular point and click adventure/hidden object video game put out by Big Fish Games that I reviewed back in December of 2010. I thought that was a pretty odd coincidence and was curious to see what the two had in common besides the name. Aside from that, there really is nothing in common. The video game is set in modern times and involves a kidnapping and ghost pirates while Goodman Games’ adventure involves a kidnapping and a generation curse that condemns an entire family line to the 417th level of Hell. Ouch.

The gist of the The 13th Skull is that the progenitor of the Magnussen line, Magnussen I, has cheated death after a fashion thanks to a deal with a devil. Thirteen generations later, Madnussen I returns disguised as a hooded executioner and steals away the current Duke’s daughter in order to finally finish his pact with the devil. The player characters, after being offered a reward by the Duke, chase after the Duke, now known as The Silver Skull since well…that’s all he is –a silver plated skull. The adventure leads them into the Magnussen family crypt where horrors and adventure await.

The 13th Skull is a short adventure and is designed to be played in a single evening. That does not mean it is an EASY adventure however. In fact, it’s actually quite hard to achieve the adventure’s goal, which is to save the Duke’s daughter for a horrific fate. The adventure even states in its introduction that only one playtesting party ever managed to save her and that the mortality rate of characters widely varied. Now I’m fine with the amount of PC death in The 13th Skull. It is after all a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure and like Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Call of Cthulhu, there is MEANT to be an extreme amount of player characters meeting grisly ends. It’s an inherent part of the system as well as part of the fun to be honest. Where I do have a problem is that only one playtesting party was able to save the damsel in distress and that the adventure proudly states that. To me, this means one of two things and neither of them are good. The first is that the adventure was playtested by some pretty poor gamers, which I really hope isn’t the case. The second is that the adventure is extremely unbalanced and should have been retooled. In all honestly, after reading through and fiddling with the adventure, a case can be made for either…or even both.

A good adventure doesn’t have the GM gleefully punishing PCs and making it all but impossible to accomplish their primary goal. Even with something like the aforementioned Call of Cthulhu where your character is guaranteed to die horribly or go insane at some point while playing them, being able to achieve the core mission of an adventure is always within the realm of possibility…even if the characters are then raped and eaten by Deep Ones or sucked into a horrible dimension of chaos and dementia. Not so with The 13th Skull. Players are stuck trying to save a 0th Level Human with a randomly rolled 1d4 Hit Points in a situation where everyone loses 1 HP per round. So with a bad roll, if you actually want to go that route, there isn’t even a chance to save her. The text also encourages the GM to outright kill her if the PCs are screwing around or are simply too slow/dense to properly protect their meal ticket. If it was up to me, I would run this encounter very different from how it was written in order to give PCs a chance to save the duke’s daughter. Honestly though, my first instinct would have been to rush up and prevent her sacrifice or, if playing a character with spells, give her some sort of protection to buy the other characters time to kill the devil trying to ritually disembowel her. Either way, this part of the adventure set off several red flags for me and, if I was the one publishing it, I would have either reworked this section, or questioned the quality of my playtesters.

Overall, The 13th Skull isn’t a bad adventure. It’s a very memorable one with an especially creepy antagonist and players get to not just go through a dungeon crawl, but they get to go to hell and back to boot! The penultimate encounter could have been done a lot better, but the actually final battle against The Silver Skull is a fun one. Even if the PCs meet defeat in their primary goal, they can still accomplish the secondary one and that’s something at least

But Wait –there’s more!

Sorry for the Ron Popeil impression, but you’re actually getting two adventures for the price of one with this Dungeon Crawl Classics release! The second adventure in this collection is called The Balance Blade and it’s meant to be a one-shot or convention piece as it eventually boils down to inter party fighting with either one character dying or everyone else dying. It just depends on how the dice roll. Usually I abhor the idea of any adventure where the sole purpose is to get characters to kill each other as it can often lead to hurt feelings, especially when younger gamers are involved. The best adventures are those where players work together instead of sniping at each other with plans of betrayal. The only exception I’ve ever seen to this is in a large scale Vampire: The Masquerade campaign. Unfortunately, The Balance Blade is no exception and the entire affair hinges on forcing an unsuspecting PC to turn on his or her teammates and futily try and kill them all (which they should fail at miserably due to the numbers against them). Because this IS a one-shot however, it’s a little more palatable as it’s not like any of the characters involved would ever be played again.

The adventure itself is a typical dungeon crawl where players proceed through an exceptionally linear dungeon, avoiding traps and solving puzzles along the way until the climax where the one of the PCs tries to kill the others. It’s a pretty straightforward and unimpressive affair. Most of the puzzles revolve around alignment or finding some hidden traps. It wasn’t a terrible adventure by any means, but I can definitely see why it was included as extra padding for The 13th Skull. On its own, it’s not something I could recommend for purchase, but as a two for one deal, it’s a decent little add-on that you can play provided you have enough prep time to put this together because it requires a few extras…props shall we say.

Basically the two adventures contained in Dungeon Crawl Classics #71 aren’t the best. They’re decent but flawed adventures that would probably leave a gamer feel unsatisfied had they paid full retail price for one or the other. As a two for one offer, you’re getting a pretty good deal. Think of it as two decent, but not great adventures for three to five bucks each. That’s definitely something I can live with. The 13th Skull is by far the better and more memorable of the two, but there is fun to be had with both. It’d be a thumbs in the middle for either adventure, but getting two for the price in one lets me give this a mild recommendation – albeit with the stipulation that there are many better DCC adventures out there that you can purchase instead.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
by Jason H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/09/2012 09:39:02

We finished the 0-level funnel adventure, Perils of the Sunken City, and ready are to dig into SC2: The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk with actual class level characters. Aside from these 3rd party adventures being outstanding, this review is for the DCC ruleset itself, which is such a lovingly crafted game one cannot help but admire the craftsmanship, time and thought that went into it.

First off, the art is reminiscent of 70s and 80s era artwork, and for me, i love that. I think a lot of older gamers will feel that same nostalgic tug. It even has a few silly cartoons thrown in there.

What is similar to current edition D&D? Fighter, Thief, Wizard, Cleric. D20 rolls. Skill DCs.

What is different? LOTS. The 7 main classes, fighter, thief, wizard, cleric, elf, halfling and dwarf, all have very, very different abilities. Magic is powerful and mysterious in this game, and can actually corrupt a wizard physically and spiritually. Clerics call upon divine intervention, but can possibly displease their deity and must make appeals and sacrifices. Thieves have the standard set up thief skills everyone is used too, but they have special Luck recharging bonuses that most other classes lack. The fighter is special too, not just a dude who swings a sword, he has a special ability called Mighty Deed of Arms, which basically means, "If the player can think of something cool to do in combat, here's his chance at success." Thsi can be anything from plucking out the eyeball of a basilisk, parrying an attack, kicking someone down a set of stairs, swinging across a chandelier and impaling the black knight, etc.

The racial classes are interesting too: elves are essentially fighter-mages, halflings are thiefy, and dwarves make excellent fighters.

What else is different? The Critical Hit and Fumble charts. This game is DANGEROUS. Losing limbs and organs can be a common occurrence. For me, i think i might tone down some of that lethality just so the PCs can survive a little longer, but the system is imminently tweakable, i don't think any gamemaster in the world could resist putting his own stamp or twist on the rules.

There is more, but in the end i just have to say...buy it. You won't regret it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #70: Jewels of the Carnifex
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/02/2012 06:16:45

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/08/02/tabletop-review-dungeon-crawl-classics-70-jewels-of-the-carnifex/

Jewels of the Carnifex is the latest Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure put out by Goodman Games, creators of the system. Like most DCC adventures, there really isn’t a lot of setup for this hack and slash affair. You’re just given the hook of “Here’s a map to an ancient forgotten temple filled with treasure. Go to it.” As always, I’m disappointed that the creators of DCC adventures don’t put more of an impetus on why PCs are going through this dungeon but at least this particular DCC adventure steps up with a tremendous amount of back story for the DM to flesh things out to his or her own liking.

Jewels of the Cartnifex really turns the whole Law vs. Chaos concept on its head. Long ago, there was a godling known as Carnifex, whose followers embraced death, suffering and pain. The Carnifex became the patron goddess of executioners and torturers and was responsible for more than her fair share or hellish undertakings. Eventually a priest of light, life and law (alliteration!) stepped forwards to fell the foul cult of Carnifex. He and his swords of Pious were successful in imprisoning Carnifex within her own chthonic temple. However, it would turn out that this priest, Azazel of the Light was not quite as holy as he seemed as he and what remained of his warriors are now trapped within the Undertemple forced to guard over Carnifex until the end of days, the Carnifex is destroyed by a third party or the Swords of Pious are put down. It also doesn’t help that Azazel has become a living embodiment of life, causing living things within the Undertemple to grow massively in size as well as become covered in hideous tumours. The Knights of the Pious are completely mad at best and at worst, have become far worse than the Goddess of suffering they have entombed. Of course, the PCs have no idea any of this is coming. They’re just looking for treasure and a good battle. Little did they know they would be forced to take a side in an ancient battle between powers beyond their understanding.

I really liked the back story given throughout the adventure, along with the motivations of Carnifex and Azazel. It makes up for the lack of a PC hook and the further you get into the adventure, the more engrossed the Keeper and the PCs alike will become in what turns out to be far more than a simple ransacking. The whole alignment thing is thrown out the window with the Law side being backstabbing insane psychopaths and the chaotic goddess just wanting to be free…and get a little revenge on the side. PCs can choose to side with either or take them both out. It all comes down to who makes up the party.

Jewels of the Carnifex is written for six to ten Level 3 characters. That’s an insane number of PCs…unless you’re used to Dungeon Crawl Classics. These adventures ten to be both unforgiving and extremely harsh to player characters, almost to the point where the writers want there to be a “Keeper Vs. Players” conflict going on. It’s almost Call of Cthulhu-esque in that it’s a matter of how and when your character dies horribly, not if. So the more PCs you have, the more likely at least one of them is going to come out alive. As well, Dungeon Crawl Classics tends to suggest that players have more than one character each, although I find that when games do this, they become even more two-dimensional roll-laying sessions rather than role-playing. Still, it’s a convention of the system and when you realize six to ten characters means three to five players, it’s not as overwhelming and chaotic as it might first appear.

As I mentioned above, Jewels of the Carnifex is an exceptionally cruel adventure with several deathtraps from which there is little to no escape. It all comes down to luck and being overly paranoid that even the very walls of a dungeon are out to get you. I really enjoyed the final deathtrap as it definitely relied on players using their wits rather than hacking through things. You usually don’t see logic puzzles in a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure, so, like the emphasis on story, this really helped make Jewels of the Carnifex stand out amongst the many other adventures in this line that are little more than dice hucking Monty Haul affairs.

Finally, I’d be remiss without mentioning the artwork in this adventure. From the cover art by Doug Kovacs to the interior art by five different talented artists, the adventure looks and feels like it has travelled through time from the 1970s Lake Geneva, WI. I’m a big fan of this art style and I especially love the maps that Dungeon Crawl Classics have with their adventurers. Jewels of the Carnifex is as much fun to read and to look at as it is to play through and that’s damn impressive.

All in all, this is one of the better Dungeon Crawl Classics adventurers since the series broke off from using the OGL to its own system of mechanics. I really enjoyed it and think it’s a definite must buy for fans of the DCC line. If your players require more of a setup or motivation than the old cliché of “Here’s a map, now go get the treasure.” You might have to spend a little time coming up with a better hook. Aside from that though, this is yet another hit for the Dungeon Crawl Classics system.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #70: Jewels of the Carnifex
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Critter Cache 6: Lovecraftian Bestiary
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/30/2012 23:53:37

Putting stats to Lovecraftian creatures is tricky. In Lovecraft’s own stories, monsters rarely featured as opponents, but rather as harbingers of the vast truths that revealed to Lovecraftian protagonists their own cosmic insignificance. In Dungeons & Dragons, however, monsters exist to be killed. The test of a Lovecraftian bestiary, then, is whether the creatures succeed at being terrifying without being utterly unbeatable. Aeryn Rudel has certainly made these creatures into stiff competition for D&D heroes, and he’s captured their flavor quite well. The artwork is very evocative, too. But where are the byakhee, the dark young, Nyarlathotep, and the rest? This volume’s greatest weakness is that it never had a sequel. (Parts of this book are, however, reprinted in Level Up #2.) Its other primary weakness is simply the publication date; it predates Monster Manual 3, so you may find it prudent to adjust the hit points and damage expressions to bring them in line with current standards—being sure to also inflate the heavy hitters accordingly.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Critter Cache 6: Lovecraftian Bestiary
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Critter Cache 3: Animals & Beasts
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/30/2012 23:53:15

D&D heroes routinely face down monstrous foes, but mundane beasts can give them significant and interesting challenges as well. In this vein, Critter Cache 3 offers eleven basic types of beasts, each with several variations, giving you a total of twenty-seven distinct creatures. The lore and stat blocks do a good job, as far as I can tell (I’m no zoologist), of translating these real-world creatures and their fantasy kin into D&D 4e stats. However, since publication of this bestiary predated Monster Manual 3, you may find it prudent to adjust the hit points and damage expressions to bring them in line with current standards.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Critter Cache 3: Animals & Beasts
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #70: Jewels of the Carnifex
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/29/2012 23:28:12

Jewels of the Carnifex is a level 3 adventure for 6-10 characters or fewer 4th to 5th level characters. Judges who have been following the Dungeon Crawl Classic adventures should know that the mysterious monsters and other obstacles can easily be modified upwards to make sessions more challenging. Spoilers ahead.

Much like the previous adventures, Jewels combines strong theme, mystery, logical consistency ("method to one's madness"), an occasional backdoor solution (secret door), fighting, and traps players have to defeat, not skill rolls. The plot of Jewels is the Lawful Azazel and his followers have destroyed the Cult of Carnifex has been destroyed and sealed away its patron deity. Azazel, however, has called for the primal light for aid. This light infuses him, and, ironically, has corrupted the undertemple far more than Carnifex could ever do. The PCs enter the undertemple to investigate, and either aid Azazel to finally destroy Carnifex, or free her from her prison.

DCC adventures implement well the "method to one's madness". Azazel and followers have settled into the undertemple (and are corrupting everything), so the enemies are either his followers, or corrupted overgrown versions of underground vermin. Likewise, many rooms reflect either the atrocities of Azazel, or the original temple of Carnifex.

Probably the only nitpick I have is that there's not much of a conflict in choosing Carnifex over Azazel. Azazel's a fanatic whose first impression towards to the PCs is to kill them. Carnifex is babe of a goddess who gives stat bonuses. No contest, really.

Otherwise, another fine job by Dungeon Crawl Classics!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #70: Jewels of the Carnifex
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #70: Jewels of the Carnifex
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/29/2012 11:01:23

If only other RPGs had this much support shortly after release. Actually, let me rephrase that slightly, if only other RPGs had this much quality support shortly after release. Everything I've seen release for the DCC RPG has been very good or better. Jewels of the Carnifex is no exception - it's damn good.

The background material for the Jewels of the Carnifex is awesome. There are seeds here to use in designing your own adventures if you are so inclined. Harley Stroh has done another fine job.

Something that struck me (but I'm sure I've seen it before in previous DCC RPG adventures from Goodman) is the rumors table. The roll is by player, not by PC - so there is an assumption here that players may be bringing more that one PC into the group. I know we often played with 2 PCs per player in my early AD&D days, as it was hard to fill a full group. I'm not sure if that is the intention here, but for the most part I've preferred 1 PC per player (plus henchmen). As a DM it's easier to follow who is doing what, and as a player it allows one to put a bit more focus on the roleplaying side of things. It's a minor thing, but something that struck me.

Jewels of the Carnifex is an adventure of twists and turns, and no greater one than in the last encounter. PCs can do very well for themselves, but as always, not everything is as it seems. Harley really has done a great job with this adventure. I can't praise him enough.

Even the wrap up after the adventure isn't neatly tied up with a bow as it often is in other adventures. There is much more here than meets the eye.

Crap - I'm sounding very cryptic, but this adventure is not as straight forward as it seems on the surface. As such, it should be a blast to run (and play in)

The maps are, as always, excellent. I'm going to sound like a broken record - "Joseph, start offering prints of these maps damnit!"



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DCC RPG Free RPG Day 2012
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/27/2012 06:27:12

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/07/27/tabletop-review-dungeon-crawl-classics-free-rpg-day-2012/

I love the concept of Free RPG Day. It sprang from Free Comic Book Day and gives newcomers or those on a limited budget a chance to taste what tabletop gaming has to offer. Unlike Free Comic Book Day however, I’ve never personally picked anything up on Free RPG Day, mainly because I get so many free review copies sent to me that it feels a bit dirty taking more stuff for free. Instead I’d rather see those copies go to a younger gamer just getting into the hobby or someone who loves a system but can’t afford to buy a lot. The one thing I really wanted from this year was the Dungeon Crawl Classics offering, as it was two full adventures! Goodman Games always tends to be up there with Wizards of the Coast and Paizo in terms of the most impressive freebies, which is all the more notable as Goodman Games is a fraction of the size of either big company.

I will admit I was pleased to see a free review copy head my way a month after Free RPG Day, as I love the Dungeon Crawl Classics system. However, I was a bit shocked and dismayed to see Goodman Games is charging five bucks for what was originally free. That’s kind of a disservice to gamers who didn’t get out to Free RPG Day or worse, didn’t have a retailer anywhere near them that was participating. EVERYTHING else for Free RPG Day that is now available as a PDF online is still free, from Catalyst Game Labs’ Shadowrun Quick Start Rules to Eden Studios Conspiracy X Introductory Kit. Why Goodman Games is SELLING this is not only beyond me, but it also comes off more than a little slimy. I took Chaosium to task for doing the same thing with their Call of Cthulhu Quick Start Rules back in April (which also came with a full length adventure BTW), and Chaosium came right out, admitted they were wrong, apologized over at DriveThruRPG.com and made it free to everyone. Goodman Games really should follow suit and unfortunately until the price tag on this changes, I have to strongly recommend that NO ONE buy this because of the message that sends.

The good news is however, that in terms of actual quality, the two adventures in this Free RPG Day release are top notch and in fact the first one in the offering is my favorite adventure for the system so far! “The Undulating Corruption” is an adventure for four Level 5 characters. This is one of the higher level adventurers out there and if you’re a DCC fan, you know that reaching Level 5 is a pretty impressive feat. It’s great to see an adventure already made for characters that manage to survive long enough to hit this point. What makes the adventure even better is that it revolves around the ability to remove corruption from your characters! Corruption is a DCC aspect of magic where PCs will slowly be mentally and/or physically altered by their use of arcane forces. For those that haven’t played Dungeon Crawl Classics think of it as akin to a failed Ravenloft Powers Check or a large failed sanity roll in Call of Cthulhu. The fact that characters can be completely cleansed of their Corruption by going through this adventure makes it one that nearly all DCC players will want to experience once they are high enough to play this. That the adventure is exceptionally well done and a lot of fun to play makes it all the sweeter.

The crux of “The Undulating Corruption” is that an extra-planar creature known as the Night Worm has broken free from its ancient prison. This monstrosity, which feeds on the taint of corruption is not a benevolent creature on the side of good. Rather it is a purely chaotic creature that just happens to have a positive side effect…if you let it swallow you whole and defecate you out. PCs will have to track down the Night Worm and stop its trail of slime, devastation and horrible mutations as its very blood and ichor spawn horrible Corruption Beasts. Can the heroes slay the Night Worm, or is the possibility of magic free corruption too great a temptation that they will try to capture or subdue this ancient horror? There are many ways that this adventure can go, although the text does push the DM to try and have PCs kill the Night Worm. It’s a fairly straight forward linear adventure and one that features little to no dungeon crawling at all. It’s a nice change of pace from the average DCC adventure which tend to be, “Here’s a dungeon. Now go stab things.” Those are always fun for what they are, but a cross country-race against time to stop a rampaging abomination really stands out all the more against the bulk of DCC releases.

“The Jeweler That Dealt in Stardust” is the name of other adventure in this collection. It’s for Level 3 characters, but the amount of PCs needed is not listed. The adventure does suggest that at least one (with a preference towards ALL) of the PCs is a thief. The adventure is a heist, pure and simple, and this is another great idea that really stands out from the pack of hack and slash adventures out there. Pure heist adventures are so rare for a fantasy game, left more to systems like Shadowrun. Of course, like any good heist story, this one goes off the rails pretty quickly, leaving PCs to deal with one unexpected twist after another. In the case of this adventure, Boss Ogo, a premier fencer has not been seen in a month and people are assuming the worst has finally befallen him. As a fence, Ogo was privy to a lot of expensive and/or rare items and there’s no doubt that his home is not only full of these valuables, but is also ripe for the picking…once you get past a litany of deathtraps, that is. Can the PCs get in and out without any real issues, thus making a name for themselves amongst the thieves of the world? There’s a potential fortune to be had after all…

The truth of the adventure is that Boss Ogo is still alive and continues to dwell within his manor. It’s just that he has become the servant to a creature from beyond the stars known as the Spider-Mother, Ygiiz, and plans to open an inter-dimensional portal for Ygiiz and her children to come through and ravage our world. So maybe being dead would have been better for everyone else. To top it off, Ogo’s old crew has reorganized without him and are watching over the manor, making sure no one defiles it. So players will have to sneak past this guild of thieves, enter the manor, dealt with what awaits inside and stop Ogo and Ygiiz’s machinations. That’s a little bit more than a simple grab and go treasure hunt, eh?

“The Jeweler That Dealt In Stardust” is a fun little adventure that combines the usual hack and slash with an Ocean’s Eleven style twist. There’s not a lot of combat but when there is, it’s fairly intense. Like a good horror movie, this adventure throws one last combat situation at the PCs after the think everything is done and over with…which will most likely to lead several players saying adieu to their character as they are butchered horribly. It sounds mean, but Dungeon Crawl Classics is anything but kind to PCs.

Overall, this really was the best offering from Free RPG Day 2012 and it shows just why Dungeon Crawl Classics is as popular as it is in just its first full year of existence. Still, it feels more than a little slimy to charge five dollars for an electronic version of something that was given away for free, especially when all the other Free RPG 2012 offerings are out there, costing gamers nothing. If Goodman Games corrects this, then this is a must have for ANY gamer as it will surely suck you into the Dungeon Crawl Classics system. At five dollars though, you’re still getting two of the best adventures I’ve seen for the systems so far, but it’s hard to recommend something of even this quality knowing that it shouldn’t have a price tag at all.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DCC RPG Free RPG Day 2012
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/25/2012 08:00:55

Those wizards! Give them half a chance and they will conduct bizarre experiments without a thought for their neighbours... and this adventure, designed for 8-10 2nd-level characters, is all about stopping one such wizard in his tracks. He lives on a clifftop near a village, and the rascal has even been using some of the locals in his experiments. Maybe some of the locals were friends or relatives of the characters, or maybe these budding heroes have been asked to help out.

As well as giving a bit more background about the Emerald Enchanter and what he's up to, the introduction points out that whilst there are a good few dangerous opponents to be faced, there are 'backdoors' that crafty characters can exploit to their advantage, and that cautious groups who think about what they are doing, and rest and regroup at intervals ought to survive with at least most of their number intact.

The hilltop complex is described in detail, making it easy for the GM to set the scene for the players, and to run the action as they explore. Each monster or other threat has a clear 'trigger' upon which it will act as well as notes on how it behaves in combat. And there are some truly novel and ingenious encounters, about which I shall not say more so as not to spoil the surprise. Everything hangs together well, bizarre as it all may seem it all actually 'works' within the alternate reality of the game.

Ending with a cinematic and climactic final battle, this adventure provides everything one could ask for. There is a real feeling of having walked into something bizarre and strange yet within the context of fantasy quite credible. It's an excellent adventure and I cannot wait to round up some players to run through it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
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DCC RPG Free RPG Day Adventure Starter
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/24/2012 07:16:34

In 2011, Goodman Games were busy working on their Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, and had already released a set of beta-test rules, so they took the opportunity of Free RPG Day to provide a couple of adventures to play with them. (Now, of course, you can run them with the final publication version of the ruleset!)

Starting with what is now becoming iconic art for this game and a page describing what the DCC RPG is and is not, the core game mechanic is then presented in sufficient detail that you could probably play a game without other information (especially if you are an experienced role-player) although having the beta-test rules - or now the full core book - is recommended. If nothing else, it is only there that you will be introduced to the concept of the 'character funnel' where each player starts off with several 0-level characters generated in a truly random manner, developing those that survive the first few adventures.

The first adventure, The Portal Under the Stars by Joseph Goodman, is a Level 0-1 adventure designed to exploit this character funnel, to winnow out the unlucky and the feeble and to set the survivors on the path to become heroes: a process core to this game's philosophy. While focussing on tricks and traps rather than combat there are opportunities for a good mass brawl as well, as the characters venture through a portal that only appears every half-century or so to raid a long-dead wizard's tomb.

With a brief introduction to get the characters to the threshold of this portal, and a little background for the GM, they step through to find out what perils and riches lay beyond. Descriptions are evocative, with encounters laid out clearly accompanied by a map that lays the tomb out well for the GM. However the adventure has no real conclusion, although if a certain act is performed the characters will be pointed towards further opportunities, indeed the potential for a whole campaign, if the GM so chooses (and is prepared to develop it for himself!).

So, on to the second adventure, a 5th-level one from Harley Stroh called The Infernal Crucible of Sezrekan the Mad. Remember that in DCC RPG 5th-level is regarded as quite high level, thus this adventure provides a nice contrast with the one proceeding it. Here we have yet another long-dead powerful figure who has left plenty of stuff behind that the daring may attempt to steal. Naturally, those venturing here will have to fight and figure things out... and there's a delightful sting in the tail here, potentially requiring an awful decision to be made.

It is left up to you to determine how the characters find out about Sezrekan and what he has left behind, the adventure beginning with them having cleared the entrace to what is, in effect, an inverted wizard's tower extending down into the ground rather than up into the sky. It's well mapped and described for the GM, with everything laid out for ease of running. Again it is a simple and short exploration with no clear ending - except, perhaps, the sheer challenge of getting back out again!

Overall, these two adventures give a fair flavour of what you will get with the full Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, and after reading or playing them you should be able to decide if this is a game for you. It might have been improved - particularly when after Free RPG Day, you have to pay for even the PDF version - with adventures that did not seem to end without much of a conclusion, but they do give a good impression of what the game is like and so achieve the purpose of this product.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DCC RPG Free RPG Day Adventure Starter
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/24/2012 06:58:59

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/07/24/tabletop-review-dungeon-crawl-classics-69-the-emerald-enchanter/

I’ve always enjoyed the Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures. They tend to be quirky and have a little more substance to them than the average dungeon crawl hack and slash. I’m an even bigger fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics since the series stopped the Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition/Pathfinder/OGL bit and started using its own gaming system, also under the DCC name. The Emerald Enchanter is the third Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure by Goodman Games to actually use the DCC rules system, but it’s the first I’ve picked up since the switch was made. I was a huge fan of Goodman Games Age of Cthulhu: A Dream of Japan that was released earlier this year, so I was optimistic that The Emerald Enchanter would be just as impressive. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. While The Emerald Enchanter boasted some great artwork and wonderfully designed maps, the adventure itself was a little too dull and two-dimensional for my liking. I’m sure people who prefer roll-playing to role-playing will get a kick out of it, but this just felt like going from room to room and stabbing soft things with sharp things for my liking.

There isn’t much of a story here. Villagers have been disappearing and it appears that they have been taken into the fortress of the Emerald Enchanter. The Enchanter seems to be a strange mix of scientist and sorcerer as he is known to engage in strange experiments. As some of your friends are amongst the recent abductees, you and your party venture forth to free them, take down the Enchanter…and loot his palace. It’s not the most substantive of stories and while playing this, and there were a lot of unresolved points and unanswered questions in this adventure which disappointed those of us that went through this. Why is the Emerald Enchanter green? Why is he doing these experiments? If he can build emerald constructs out of non-living materials, why do it out of living as well. Even if the players don’t get a back story for the antagonist, the Keeper/DM/GM/Storyteller/Judge really should have something to go off of, otherwise you have a two-dimensional and uninspiring villain. After all the best bad guys are those that think they are in the right, no matter how deluded they are. Sure, a good GM can just flesh out the Emerald Enchanter to make the adventure more interesting story-wise, but then what’s the point of purchasing a pre-made adventure if you have to do a lot of the work?

Another odd thing about the adventure is that it is for eight to ten Level 2 characters. That is a lot of PCs running around a little magical citadel. I’m not sure why the decision was made to go with that many characters, especially as the maps show that this would make everything an exceptionally tight fit, especially when you have a horde of enemy cannon fodder in a room with you as well. With this many characters you’d have to march in one very long line to get through many passageways and some rooms wouldn’t be able to accommodate that many PCs, much less the monsters that are supposed to be in there. For example, the last battle would have roughly two dozen characters in a 120′ by 100′ foot room (The biggest room in the entire adventure BTW)…and that doesn’t include that at least a fourth of the room is taken up by machinery and various apparatuses. An adventure that has this many monsters and PCs needs to reflect that reality in the maps.

So what was good about the adventure? Well there were several interesting battles like the Tile Golem and the final battle which has a time limit of sorts attached to it. The artwork and the maps are quite stunning and are by far the highlight of the adventure. It’s times like this I wish I love showing the interior art of an adventure to players – not only to give them a visual idea of what is going on, but because it’s so awesome you can’t help but want to share it. The location is quite interesting on its own and I loved that the adventure actually put in things like a kitchen. Too many fortress/dungeon crawls forget that the big bad needs to eat, sleep and defecate (unless they are undead), and I was really happy to see this particular adventure remembered what so many forgot. The emphasis is definitely on the dungeon crawl rather than any story or antagonist motivation and in this respect the adventure does its job wonderfully.

So even though there isn’t a lot of substance to The Emerald Enchanter and it’s a literal room by room hack and slash without any real impetus for players, the location itself, the monsters within and the level of detail given to the room that most adventures skimp on makes this a decent experience, if not a great one. Again, some gamers are going to want nothing more than a dice rolling hack and slash instead of character building moments of an engrossing plot. There’s nothing wrong with that. Gamers who are looking for something more akin to Goodman Games’ Age of Cthulhu line will probably be disappointed by what’s here, but then Call of Cthulhu and OSR fantasy RPGs are so vastly different from each other, that gamers should know what they are getting into here. The Emerald Enchanter is almost pure combat and that alone should let you know if this is an adventure that you want to pick up or not. If you’re looking for a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure with a little more meat to the plot, you’ll have to look elsewhere, but worry not, as so many small publishers are starting to churn out adventures for this system, that you’re guaranteed to find an adventure that has exactly the right balance between talking heads and swordplay for you and your gaming troupe.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #68: People of the Pit
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/23/2012 09:12:37

This adventure is intended for a big bunch (about 8-10) of 1st-level characters, and its recommended that a good spread of classes/races participate. It is likely that not all of them will survive - unless they are both skillful and lucky! So, what horrors do they have to face? Well, I'm not telling! Suffice to say that an ancient evil has arisen... and that tentacles are involved.

Legends tell of how a vast monster that lives in a massive canyon awakens once a generation, and how in centuries past a cleric deduced that sacrificing a few local virgins would assauge its hunger, allowing it to return to its slumbers without ravaging the whole countryside. Naturally, the characters happen along just as it begins to stir and worse... some strange grey-robed figures have been seen associated with the tentacles, worshippers of the beast, perhaps even able to control it. This is all public knowledge, but it is left to the GM to decide how to reveal it and get the characters to take action.

After a run-down on the nature and organisation of the cult for the GM's eyes, we move on to the action, which begins with the characters standing high above the canyon on the mournful spot where sacrificial virgins were chained in years gone by. They will have to find a way down into the mist-filled pit wherein the monster dwells, doing battle with its cultists and eventually the creature itself. Keen observation and caution is advised... and of course there are other monsters to combat on the way.

This adventure is quite cinematic, and redolent of the sort of escapade Conan the Barbarian might have. Characters will need to think as well as wield sword and spell to good effect if they are to accomplish their goal. The GM is supplied with copious notes on what the characters will see, as well as how all those they encounter will react, enabling him to concentrate on running the adventure and building the atmosphere rather than checking the rules or making up descriptions. The final scene is climatic and dramatic and has the potential to inspire many a bard! Well up to the standard being set for this game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #68: People of the Pit
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DCC RPG Free RPG Day 2012
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/21/2012 11:48:33

Unlike many offerings for Free RPG Day, this isn't a 'starter pack' in the conventional sense of introducing a ruleset in sufficient detail to play a short adventure with the characters provided. Instead, herein are a couple of adventures at different levels - a level 3 heist and a level 5 expedition - but it is assumed that you have access to the rules and have some characters already.

First is the level 5 expedition The Undulating Corruption by Michael Curtis. It's based around the premise that ALL wizards, be they good or evil, acquire the taint of Corruption by the mere fact that they use magic, and that should a mechanism be found to remove said Corruption without harming the wizard, it would certainly be worth seeking out... however it might actually work. Both the party and a bunch of tomb-raiders have got wind of this, and so the race is on to discover and harness such a potent resource for anyone who uses magic seriously.

Brief notes are given on how to get the party involved and where to put the adventure site, but it's loose enough to fit pretty much wherever in your campaign world you want to put it. Needless to say, just getting there involves a few challenges, all mapped out and with sufficient detail for them to be run with ease... although it's clear something is going on and characters will likely not wish to linger overmuch. Some innovative monsters bar their way, however, and the chance to gain a few clues about their goal, and then the chase is on!

Eventually, the characters will have a chance to deal with any Corruption that they have, but the price is high... and given the circumstances, it's a one-off deal. Overall, this is a splendid romp that captures the essence of what Dungeon Crawl Classics is attempting to achieve on your tabletop, an adventure well worth tucking away until your characters reach the dizzying heights of 5th Level.

Inserted between this adventure and the second one is a map-based competition: you have until October 2012 to come up with an adventure built around this map with the winner getting to write Goodman Games's contribution to Free RPG Day 2013! I feel some ideas coming on already...

Next, from the pen of Harley Stroh comes a 3-rd level adventure The Jeweller Who Dealt in Stardust. Set in Punjar, a city well-known to DCC affectionadoes and notorious for its ethically-challenged inhabitants, it's basically a heist. A leading fence has gone missing, so someone's got to break into his place and find out what's happened to him... Whilst thief skills are essential, it is likely that swords and spells will also come in handy.

This is a fine adventure redolent of some of the burglarious escapades Conan gets up to in the novels, with plenty of scope for sneaking around, dealing with unspeakable horrors and perhaps even pocketing some loot. Right now I wish I hadn't read it because I would have loved to play a character in it! Guess I'll have to run it, instead, at least I shall have an excellent map and some quite innovative surprises to throw at my players!

This work is an exemplar of the sort of adventures to run with this ruleset, truly catching the flavour of the game and promising a couple of sessions of epic fun for players and game master alike!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DCC RPG Free RPG Day 2012
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