Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sepulcher of the Mountain God, Part 1

This guy is a real party animal.
Last Sunday we played our second DCC RPG session and I walked away from the table with a few realizations. First, we need cheat sheets. We spent way to much time cracking the rulebook. "People them with Monsters" has some great resources that I plan on using in the future. Second, I need to print a stack of randomly generated 0-Levels. The party hired some retainers in town so we had to roll up new characters mid-session. We did it quickly, but the players would have been just as happy to save time and pull from a pile of pregens. Lastly, although first level characters might have some pretty cool abilities and better odds of survival than their previous 0-Level selves, they're still squishy as hell. The first combat ended up roughing the party up pretty badly due to some bad rolling.

Criticisms aside, the first chunk of the module went pretty well. We didn't get too far into the adventure on account of all the dicking around, but we established a beachhead. Picking up from where we left off, the characters had just shipwrecked into a pile of rocks after careening down a waterfall. They gathered themselves up from the banks of the river and followed it downstream hoping to find a village. Along the way they found the remains of some adventurers and helped themselves to the free gear and a map indicating some sort of nearby treasure. They stashed the map and continued downriver until they eventually found the Silverton Mining Settlement. They spent the rest of the day doing off duty adventurer things; buying and selling supplies, tracking down leads, drinking, whoring, etc. After recruiting a few redshirts at the local tavern they spent the night at the Broken Carriage. The following morning they pulled out the map, grabbed their sacrificial hirelings, and set out nice and early.

The first combat was a rude wake up call. The characters entered a cavern at the base of a mountain and quickly found themselves in a sea of pissed off skeletons. By the end of the combat there were a few deaths, some butthurt, and a better understanding of the rules. During the course of this the cleric somehow managed to frustrate his god so badly that his healing powers were revoked. Great. While looting whatever they could find they discovered some religious scrolls on an alter carved into the back of the cave. The scrolls described the area as an ancient holy site dedicated to a mountain god named Ira. At least they knew what they were in for. Over in the next room the thief set off a trap that I found way funnier than I should have. A large set of bronze doubledoors with huge rings to pull them open... pulling on the rings causes the doors to fall forward and crush anyone under them. Reflex to avoid. Simple, effective, and lawlz. Our thief now acts more thieflike and searches for traps more often after almost being crushed.

Behind the falling doors was a set of iron doors leading to a large hall supported by pillars carved like giants At this point the characters were pretty beat up, few in number (one player couldn't make it), and the cleric had lost access to his healing ability. They really weren't in any shape to press into the actual dungeon, so I convinced them to fall back, regroup, resupply, and take another crack at it next session. I'm anxious to run the next session. Everyone is more sure of their abilities now, myself included, so the session should roll faster, smoother, and further.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The People of the Pit, Initial Impressions.

Just look at that sweet retro art.
Next on deck is Dungeon Crawl Classics #68 "The People of the Pit" (Sailors on the Starless Sea was #67 for anyone interested). People of the Pit is the next module in line and designed for 8-10 1st level characters. I'm still getting use to the idea of players running multiple characters, but then again a hallmark of DCC is that player characters die in droves. People of the Pit seems like it's going to do a pretty good job of living up those expectations. Several nasty combats and one hell of a final encounter are going to separate the men from the boys. I'm curious to see how my players approach this module.

I'm excited to run the game for other reasons. Aside from seeing my players driven before me and hearing the lamentations of their women, the module promises to be another pulp masterpiece. It borderline reminds me of an old Sci-Fi film or a Twilight Zone episode mixed with Cthulhu mythos and steroids. The adventure hits all the B-Movie basics; faceless robed cultists, shrouding mists, an alien atmosphere, funky natural denizens, a virgin sacrifice, slaves (to replenish the inevitable character deaths) and more tentacles than a hentai movie. Seriously, the tentacle factor is through the roof here. There are helpful tentacles, harmful tentacles, atmospheric tentacles, mutated tentacles, big tentacles, small tentacles, tentacle beasts, tentacle statues, tentacle cultists, tentacle summons, tentacle transit systems..

The dungeon looks like it's going to be a lot of fun to explore. I feel the entire things is designed pretty well, but there are some bonus areas that add a nice touch of variety to the package. The cursed workshop of a wizard has some great atmospheric effects, interesting loot, and creative encounters. A bit further down the line is a tomb full of ancient chaos warriors that should likewise keep the players on their toes. There are a few other gems scattered throughout the the adventure that add some "ohhhh that's pretty cool" moments to the module, but I don't want to give too much away. I tend to get excited about corny things, but I think that these areas are a great touch.

The trend I'm noticing with Goodman Games products is that they take adventures outside the familiar realm of repetitive room to room combat and skill-checks and into the realm of outright bizarre and fantastic. They're not afraid to take creative liberties with stories, encounters, or settings. This module continues to play upon those strengths and promises to be memorable. People of the Pit doesn't look like it can be finished in one session, although the possibility does exist if players are tenacious enough. If taken from top to bottom this adventure will probably stretch anywhere from 2-3 sessions depending on play style and length. Players might gain 2nd level by the end of the adventure, but I'm not 100% sure on that.

After last session my players are going to want some downtime to explore town, resupply, scheme, and get into trouble. I'll hold off on this module and feed them a one-shot adventure unless they feel like diving right in. Either way I'm looking forward to running it, seeing how they hack it, and submitting the post-game review right next to the obituaries section.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sailors on the Starless Sea Session Report, Part 3

The peasant assaultcraft continued its voyage toward the dark ritual as hordes of beastmen drove slaves up to the top of the pyramid and pitched them into a giant bonfire.

"Behold the sodomy I shall bringeth onto thee."

Two things become important here. First, having not explored the Charnel Ruins, the party had no way to stop the chaos leviathan lurking in the water below them. Second, they really hadn't paid much attention to the tile mosaics depicting.. well.. everything that was about to go down. It was at this point that I honestly feared a total party wipe. 

As the longship drew closer to the chaos pyramid, tentacles emerged from the water to probe the ship and its occupants. The party spent a few rounds trying to hide before the tentacles stopped the progress of the ship completely and began to probe a little more aggressively. Unsure of what to do the party was prompted to action by poor Wester the barber being hoisted into the air and pulled below the surface. That was apparently the universal signal for "everybody get the fuck out!" as surviving crew members all jumped overboard.

In all fairness this should have been a total party wipe. They had, for all intents and purposes, just chummed the water. However, two things happened; I allowed the characters to make luck rolls, which they succeeded admirably on, and two or more of the farmers had apparently been dragging various farm animals along with them. This wasn't the time to argue and I was thankful for any excuse to not murder the entire party. So, in a scene reminiscent of Jurassic Park, the sacrificial animals were left bleating on the ship and torn apart by a large monster while the ragtag peasant mob swam for the banks of the temple. Fine by me.

The soggy heroes emerged at the base of a ramp leading up the side of the temple. From their viewpoint they knew something bad was happening up at the top, but were unsure of what. Luckily the beastmen herding the captive villagers up the side of the temple hadn't noticed the party yet. After a few moments of debate they ALMOST used some moldy robes to pull the old wookie prisoner trick. Instead they opted to storm Normandy and fight their way to the top of the pyramid. I should mention that this is the third or fourth time I feared a total party wipe.

The heroes gained a surprise round and a glorious melee ensued. They did indeed fight their way to the top of the pyramid, losing a good 5 or 6 of their troupe along the way, and managed to summit the pyramid in time to see the horrifying conclusion of the ritual. Emerging from the pit of fire was the avatar of a long dead chaos lord. Said chaos lord wasted no time in immediately laying the smackdown on everyone within sight. The party began to burn luck like it was cool in order to score hits on the chaos lord, managing to kill him and his entourage within a few rounds while suffering only a few more casualties in exchange.

Jebediah the corn farmer had his face melted off by the death throws of the chaos lord as he reformed into a shaky magama avatar to get in a few last licks. The rest of the party set about looting anything they could find as the cavern began to crumble and collapse around them. They wasted little time in beating feet to the longship that had thankfully reached the temple after the chaos leviathan let go of it. 

The group piled into the ship, now stained with bloody feathers and fur, and set off across the cavern as it continued to collapse around them. The entire western wall of the cavern collapsed before they could reach the safety of the shoreline and the ship was sucked toward daylight streaming through the hole. It wasn't until they were close that they realized the daylight was being seen through a large rune covered portal. The longship went through the portal and emerged high atop a waterfall emptying into a ravine. The ship was dashed on the rocks below and the party scattered into the river, washing up along the banks and trying to regain their wits.


I, as well as my players, are 110% sold on Dungeon Crawl Classics. It's everything that I personally have been looking for in a fantasy game. Minimal bookkeeping, maximum ass kicking, and freeform play within reason. The game encourages creativity, laughs, and memories above hours of studying rules and number crunching. It's exactly what tabletop fantasy roleplaying should be. Easily approachable and totally memorable.

This particular adventure was one of the best openers I think I've ever seen or read. Despite a horrendous attrition rate the players had a blast and there were no hard feelings. They now feel more connected than they ever have to any level 1 characters because they've earned it

To the creators of Dungeon Crawl Classics, thank you. You've done a wonderful job. To the writers of the supplements supporting it, thank you as well for contributing to the spirit of the game. I hope to see and play many more great modules set in this fine system. Myself and my players can't wait to continue the adventures.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sailors on the Starless Sea Session Report, Part 2

The group went back outside to take one last look around the courtyard and essentially threw away a brand new character. Poor Johann the caravan guard, who moments before had been tied up and held hostage by a band of mutated beastmen, was unceremoniously given to the collapsing edge of the sinkhole despite a ton of obvious warnings. RIP, Johann. You fought the good fight.

Still not wanting to take their chances with the Charnel Ruins, the angry peasant mob decided to head back into the tower and descend the staircase further into the dungeon. On the way down they discovered a handful of coins scattered on the staircase, but left them alone due to trap paranoia. Lann the Elven forester detected a hastily concealed secret door leading to a looted treasure vault and a probable explanation of the coins on the staircase. Ganja Haze the herbalist rummaged around the empty treasure chests for a few minutes and walked away with a few new rings, a potion, and one less finger.

Further down the hallway the group found the entrance to Felan's Tomb. Flavius Everstar the astrologer deciphered the runes but nobody liked the sound of  "Fire, Ice, Storm, and Hate" so the party backtracked out of the cave and continued down the staircase.

Exiting the stairwell into The Dread Hall the party inspected a room lined with tile mosaics depicting horrendous chaos rituals, human sacrifice, and tentacles emerging from water next to a stone tower on a shoreline. Wester the barber took a swim in the pool at the center of the room and freaked out the rest of the group when he resurfaced screaming bloody murder about glowing skulls. After a few minutes spent getting their shit together the party realized that the glowing skulls were, if nothing else, not immediately harmful and packed a few of them up for later use.

The group continued through the room and followed the staircase further down where it eventually met with the shoreline of The Starless Sea. The ragtag peasant militia stood on the darkened sand beach of the underground sea unsure of what to do as a dragon-prowed longship approached and stopped about 50 feet from the shore. Flavius Everstar the astrologer, feeling good about his previous rune reading, attempted to decipher the runes covering a stone tower on the shore. (Wait, does this look familiar yet?) The runes triggered something in Flavius' mind and he turned on the group, grabbing the nearest member and dragging him into the water as a human sacrifice. Surprisingly, he managed to drag one of the stronger members.

Meanwhile Chuleta ("Porkchop" for you Anglophones) the Halfling vagrant climbed to the top of the stone tower and lit a candle found at the top, which drew the longship to shore. The group took turns beating Flavius into submission before they climbed aboard and set sail for the strange glow, pounding drums, and ominous screams that awaited them somewhere further out in the underground cavern.

Cont Part 3..

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sailors on the Starless Sea Session Report, Part 1

I'm pretty sure we have a winner at the table and its name is Dungeon Crawl Classics. The promise of "XCOM meets D&D" was too appealing to pass up, and everyone in the group agreed. Low level characters? High mortality rating? Maximum lawlz? It was an easy sale, and frankly.. I'm probably never looking back.

We started off with "Sailors on the Starless Sea", one of Goodman Games 0-level character funnels. For the
uninitiated, a character funnel is the introductory adventure designed to whittle down 15 or so level 0 peasants into 4 or 5 seasoned adventurers. Each player controls a handful of peasants and attempts to herd them safely through the meat grinder. The process is brutal yet comical and players are expected to leave a trail of blood, tears, and character sheets from one side of of the dungeon to the other. The reward is a bloodstained post traumatic 1st level character that players feel a deep attachment to. Sure they might be tearing up character sheets left and right, but the survivors now have stories and personalities to go along with their hard won 1st level stat blocks.

The session began with a mob of twenty poorly armed and armored peasants (randomly created using Purple Sorcerer Games Level-0 Party Generator) arriving at a long abandoned keep set atop a craggy hill. Villagers had been disappearing for months and this angry mob, armed with torches and pitchforks, had shown up to put an end to it. Instead of blazing a trail up the hill and through the front gatehouse they decided to scout the parameter and discovered a section of collapsed wall. Maria the cheesemaker, scouting ahead, was ambushed by some Vine Horrors and fell back to the party. Skull Bones the ditch digger, Jack Swallows the mariner, and Chi-Chi Martinez the Halfling dyer met their untimely demise by tentacle rape.

After disposing of the Vine Horrors and burning the seeds that started to crawl toward the freshly dead bodies (RIP angry peasants), the group made their way up the northwest slope and over the collapsed section of wall. Riordan the Dwarven herder saved the party from crushing defeat by spotting some lose boulders on the hillside before the party could bumble their way up and trigger a landslide. He pointed out a clear path and led the party safely up into the courtyard.

Once inside the overgrown courtyard they began to investigate their surroundings; a well, a temple covered in scorch marks, a large sinkhole, and a stout tower. Wester Whitworth the barber decided to peer over the edge of the ominous looking well and almost took a header into an extra-dimensional pocket of mutating chaos energy. Luckily he was grabbed at the last possible moment by Kayce the glassblower before he could tumble completely over the ledge. The rest of the group naturally took turns throwing anything they could find into the well and wondering why it made no sound before they were sufficiently creeped out and left it alone. Sinkslow the smuggler briefly entertained the idea of putting up a warning sign near the well, but decided against it.

The party ignored the Charnel Ruins site completely once they realized that the great demonic bronze doors were barred from the outside and the building looked as though it had been set on fire. They wanted nothing to do with whatever unholy mess was locked behind those doors, and in doing so they unfortunately missed out on the only armor to be found in the adventure and an item that would have saved their asses from the chaos leviathan lurking far below them.

The group decided to move along and investigate the sole remaining tower of the keep. They battered down the sturdy door and quickly piled inside to discover a slaughterhouse. Maria the cheesemaker once more took point and set off a lethal ambush that got almost everyone but her killed. The combat was over in a few short rounds, but not before a good deal more of the peasant mob died to beastman spears. A beastman champion likewise did not go down before splitting Bob the potato farmer and Rusty the guild beggar in half with his battleaxe. Sorry, guys.

The players mopped up the rest of the beastmen and replenished their ranks by recruiting a few villagers that had been tied up in the room. Mitch Goldstein the Halfling jeweler died to a rot grub as he rummaged through piles of debris in search of loot. The party thought about trying to locate the rot grub before it could animate poor old Mitch and cause more harm, but didn't follow through. Apparently the Vine Horrors had left quite an impression. Meanwhile Sinkslow the smuggler lucked out and uncovered a cache of weapons and coins hidden below a loose stone.

Cont Part 2..