Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Swordfish Islands, or "The best thing I discovered at NTRPG Con"

I've been having more fun with this than I can express. I think part of it is in the order in which I started reading the material: 1) Toxic Elven Smut (NTRPG release) - loved the map, the day/night encounter tables, and some of the monsters were born of fantasy-gone-horror. The system-neutral factor is a plus, as I'd mentioned. Not sure where (or how) I'll use the introductory story plates, but they should be used. Yeah, I'm hooked. 2) I read through the first couple of chapters of the Field Guide to Hot Springs Island. Brilliant stuff. The whole premise is that the chain of islands is discovered after a cataclysmic event, an unknown period of time after it was half-submerged by water...and other stuff. I got through the letters coming from the first people to stumble across Hot Springs Island (or, at least, the first whose notes survived), some correspondence to/from universities about studies made from these notes and personal accounts, as well as a couple of "alphabets" for languages cobbled together from said explorers' notes. Given what I'd already read in TES, some things started shifting into place in my brain.

I should preface this by explaining that this volume, a good-sized trade paperback, was sold as "something suitable for the players to read." Don't make the mistake of giving away any of this info without first digesting it yourself - or at least having a copy handy for your own reference. No stats are involved anywhere, but I feel the judge should understand the conclusion of "Oh, this must be where *this* happened" before players are given the clues to make that connection. For instance, Hot Springs Island was predominantly inhabited by elves prior to the cataclysm, but there's little to lead to this at first.

**NOTE TO JACOB: NEED THE FIELD GUIDE IN PDF FORMAT. SERIOUSLY. Being able to print off a single page (or portion thereof) to hand out would be *perfection*. 3) After an unwilling hiatus, I returned to the Field Guide today and picked up where I left off: Plant life. Some very cool stuff. Some had me cross-referencing Toxic Elven Smut, making some mental connections and leaps of logic, which got me flipping through ... 4) ... the "public" version of Toxic Elven Smut [2nd printing], which elaborates on some of the monsters with motivations and gives more info on the primary powers & influences of Hot Springs Island during its heyday. It had me flipping back & forth between the TES versions and the Field Guide, putting more things together.

5) Then there's the Lapis Observatory. Absolute genius. The whole thing is consistently presented in system-neutral format (so my DCC pals can see where I'm going with this). The observatory, one of the most easily-accessible areas from the main shores of Hot Springs Island, sheds a little light on the history of the island with the critters and artifacts. As for encounters: you can either roll to determine what kind of stuff is waiting on each floor, or compile it yourself -- and remember, while special attacks/qualities are noted, you get to stat them up to fit your needs.

After an hour or two of this fevered reading, cross-referencing, and reading some more, I feel energized (I want to run this for every one of our local groups NOW) and fully satisfied, as if I've just conquered a huge Cthonic mystery set forth by one of Bob's old CoC campaigns, with the levels of research and library use that my brain just went through. Damn if I don't want to start taking notes and flagging pertinent pages...but it'll need to percolate for a bit while I tackle some real-life adventures first.

Mind you, I'm barely halfway through the Field Guide. I still haven't hit the follow-up correspondence or known monsters [save for those appearing in the zines], or any number of other goodies.

My understanding is that Hot Springs Island is but one of many to be described in the upcoming compendium (likely a KS) for the Swordfish Islands. And I can't friggin' wait.

Friday, June 10, 2016

I miss my FLGS.

Just stopped into a comics & game shop in the area by our hotel.

Good points:
...Such a store exists!
...Shop Guy was more knowledgeable about RPGs than comics (the lady behind the counter was the comic guru - also a nice change.
...Shop Guy had nothing bad to say about Goodman, save for not having core books available for long stretches.

But then he went and said DCC was "too crunchy" ... and I may have gaped at him like a clubbed seal.

Hubby suggested helpfully that it may have been the spells. S.G. said he was the only one in his group (5E players, per previous convo) who could grasp it.

Then S.G. went on to rave about Dark Eye, and how it kind of has the same type of swingy spell results.

I ... uhh...

It is so hard leaving someone with a misconception about something I have a passion for. I would've offered to run it for him tomorrow (my last full day in town) if I had the day free, but I don't...and I don't know if I could summon the patience to weave a thread of logic through that, anyway.

If any readers find themselves in southwest Nevada, I'll pass on the quasi-FLGS info so you can tag in on the proselytizing!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Rolling over the body of the blog

Oh wow. Just realized how long this poor thing has gone neglected...not by desire or design, of course, but that's how life goes sometimes. There are many things I've wanted to shout on the rooftops, but life gets in the way.

To parallel this, I've not run DCC RPG (or any other games) since Gary Con in early March due to an auto accident within a week of our return home...but I'm not here to dole out medical updates or whine for sympathy. Instead, I give you a list of seemingly disjointed thoughts:

...I noticed that Friday was a very popular day on this page. Is Wayne Con to blame?

...Gary Con was another first: I ran 4 sessions at a convention. It's nothing compared to +Brendan LaSalle's nine sessions, for a total of 36 hours... That man is a friggin' MACHINE. I avoided the brunt of the resultant con crud; he did not. I'm sensing a correlation.

...Dark Trails is something that must be experienced. (Who the hell dug this Baity guy up and brought him into the DCC community? He's top-notch.)

...I must admit deep sadness that I do not get to convert the printer's proof of the 4th printing leather cover into the Acolyte's Hymnal or Acolyte's Screen of Awesomeness.

...Gary Con currently holds my heart, but we're venturing out to NTRPG Con this year to check it out. I'll be running two slots, continuing the playtesting for one of +Harley Stroh's upcoming DCC projects, The Music of the Spheres (Is Chaos).

...The Dark Master has me editing some upcoming releases that I'm dying to run and/or put into use at my table. I'm stupidly excited to see the public response!

...I'll be running on Free RPG Day at the FLGS aka home base, Dungeon Games in Estero, FL. I haven't decided which module(s) or if I'll do a double-header or not, but tables start at 12:30pm and 6:00pm. If nobody shows up, I'll just grab one of each of the *5* (!!) covers of this year's Goodman Games release as a consolation prize. (I'm not even joking.)


...Our performing group has been confirmed by Gen Con, so we will be there! Yay! As per usual, our hotel and performance schedule have not yet been dispersed. Boo. Learning from prior years, we didn't even bother with event registration this time around, so we're banking on after-hours shenanigans. I've been toying with the idea of running Against the Atomic Overlord over a series of 3 nights...but not knowing if I'll be out of costume by 8pm makes planning difficult.

...We'll be performing in Peoria, Illinois, again this June - this time it'll be the weekend after Free RPG Day, thankfully! But I rarely travel out of state without my DCC tome, so if anyone's in the area that weekend and interested, I could perhaps be persuaded... For that matter, I may open this up to folks in the Chicago suburbs...say, Tuesday evening? I doubt we'll have the chance to swing through Cincinnati this time around (sorry, guys!) since we're looking at being home for a grand total of 9 days in the month of June. [Note to self: Revisit this. ASAP.]

To address a couple inquiries floating around the aether:

...Spellburn is not dead. It's just taking some time to recover from all the stat loss. (Remember, fellow casters: you can't recover stat points each day unless you refrain from spellburning that day.)

...Sanctum Secorum has scaled back to once a month for the foreseeable future. Prior to real life "getting in the way," we all decided it was unrealistic to continue the breakneck pace of every two weeks, considering the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to produce clean audio + a full companion PDF for every episode, after the reading assignment homework. So we're sticking with the first Friday of each month -- even if that coincides with conventions.

And last, but certainly and NEVER least ~~
Happy birfday to our very own Bacon Wizard, +David Baity!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Beyond the Black Gate did NOT go as planned.

Dear DCC RPG Community,

I never thought it would happen to me...

One of the PCs in my long-running campaign has become a patron--or at least taken the mantle (or horns) of one.

To be fair, he was simply taking the Horned King's crown. His new cohort (new PC, long-time player with us) didn't understand the mission fully, wasn't familiar with the legend of the Wild Hunt, and twisted the meaning of the word "king" and immediately killed the poor guy without consulting anyone else in the party. All this, despite my repeated warnings that they may not get the prime/desired outcome if they simply murder-hoboed their way through this one (Beyond the Black Gate).

To continue, in all fairness: It's Bob's PC. He's copacetic with retiring the dwarf as soon as this scenario [module] is wrapped up. While bittersweet, it's wholly fitting, thematically, that the "Ooh, I've never killed one of these before!" guy is now the master of the Wild Hunt. And, because this is Bob we're talking about, he's totally willing to rewrite the patron taint & invocation tables to reflect his personality, and even his current newness to the job.

My qualms... The crown was taken, no biggie. This other guy, and his actions based on misunderstanding, just screwed the rest of the party out of a few choice options, leaving them to follow Bjorn, the 6th-level murder-hobo-turned-badass-turned-nearly-NPC, to finish this chapter of the campaign.

On one hand, I'd been trying to figure a way to wrap up this particular game and its current set of characters without resorting to the "game got cancelled and we never reconvened" route, which sucks for everyone. I'd like to go about playtesting something different and have not been successful in carving out additional days/times, but I also hate loose ends.

On the flipside, this new development gives me a lot to play with...if I don't burn out on the current player/character combo at the table.

Anyone else run into such a major game-changer?

The Sanctum!

There's been new DCC happenings in the proverbial neighborhood. If you're reading this, you probably know about it already.

Part of me has been remiss over here; part of me has been waiting for the website to go mostly-fully-live. Then it was, and I was busy having my skull nommed on by life. (Really gotta stop using basting sauce as a perfume. Sorry 'bout that.) There's been a lot of prep for this thing, too. And more editing. All of this is cool, it's just a little brain-consuming.

So here she be. If you haven't already visited the hub to listen, check out the Sanctum Secorum podcast.* I adore the overall aesthetic quality; something about those woodcuts just gets me.

Hint: Explore the Dark Acquisitions to find the free show companions, free "for the community, by the community" offerings that accompany every show. And sometimes they hit the stacks independently...

*Caveats: Sanctum Secorum is neither affiliated with--nor in competition with--Spellburn, as it's all about spreading the love for the game. Nor are my loyalties divided. Et cetera. Ad nauseum.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Between working, traveling, editing, reading up for future projects, and more working, I found myself seriously stressing about where my campaign was going (the party took a left at Albuquerque last game, ending things on an awkward note after 3 sessions of People of the Pit with a good 20% of the place untouched). There simply wasn't time for me to do the normal prep work this week, and I certainly haven't had the brain capacity to stew on it and come up with some awesome resolution. But I had an epiphany yesterday: Interludes!

When Bob's 1E sandbox campaign [please note, I'm specifically not tagging him yet] recently came to a point where he needed some time to pass in the game, he put together some "interludes," episodes in which the players were given pre-generated characters that pertained to a different part of the world. Maybe they're designed to tell some backstory, and the scene takes place in the past to give us a better understanding. In one, we played thieves who ended up thwarting an assassin's attempt on the Mayor's life. We don't know exactly when that particular scene takes place on the grand timeline, but he'll reveal the resulting mayhem to our regular characters when we resume the main story. We've also had a one-shot where we played characters that would've been NPCs or villains to be taken out in regular play. It offered a lot of insight to us as players, in regards to the underlying motives.

I've decided on the "meanwhile, in this other location" approach. They'll all be playing 2nd-level ...well, formerly NPCs, who have to deal with the aftermath of one of the party's recent raids. They'll witness a previously-dismissed enemy limping back home, and will have to shoulder the subsequent wrath of a boss for allowing the PC party to desecrate his territory. I'm willing to bet they'll also stumble into an area that's off-limits to lackeys like them, and discover how a particular plot-driving item has been manufactured.

The interludes have been really enjoyable to play, and break up the monotony a bit, so after a mere hour of work - and most of that was statting up these particular lackeys - I feel pretty good about it now.

XP is going to be awarded after the fact (in both our games) to the regular PCs for participating in these cut-scenes.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

DCC RPG #68: The People of the Pit

I'll admit it; I'm one of those who didn't give this one enough credit when I first saw it. "Oh goodie, cultists summoning something with tentacles. I get enough of that in our two-year-long Call of Cthulhu campaigns..." 


You know you've been thinking it too. "I'm sick of judging combats with tentacles!" 

Please hear me out.

I see very few people in the G+ communities talking about running this one, which leads me to believe that many others are judging books by covers and falling into the trap of viewing only the basic premise. 

Or, to be fair, it could be that it's not a new release. Or that you didn't find the cover art stunning at first glance. Or you might just not be into the "cultist" scene. 

Seriously, shed those reservations now. 

One-shot vs. Campaign?
This has a lot of meat to it. A LOT. It's not going to play nicely as a one-shot unless you condense it to a few key encounters -- which, actually, could provide for some high-quality play. I might try that for our next game day and/or mini-con.

Conversely, if you're running a campaign and you read this module ahead of time, there are tons of hint you could start dropping. Or, if you're like me and hit a wall during the campaign, you could find yourself picking this mod up, gritting your teeth against the "trite" concept, and coming up for air a couple hours later armed with pages of notes and a maniacal grin that worries anyone you live with. 

As I mentioned previously, the most often-encountered foes harken strongly to the Hollow Ones found in the core rulebook, which I ran as part of a huge, multi-session, crescendoing scene in the sandboxed village, Port of the Black Pearl (formerly the small shanty town from which Tower of the Black Pearl kicks off). The party still isn't sure if the faceless men with things spawning from their midsections were creatures that had been summoned, or if they'd been working alongside a coven of witches, so it made perfect sense to play on that bit of mysteriousness: The eyeless acolytes in the Pit are now faceless, albeit wearing robes in a different method of color-coding. [Note to self: Do not allow faceless creatures to become a crutch just because a judge doesn't want NPCs to be able to answer interrogations.]

Summary: Even if you've only skimmed it, it's worth taking a good cover-to-cover look -- or at least check out the 3rd level, and the intricacies of travel within. There are still plenty of other monsters besides cultists, and I could see reworking a good portion of this place to be run by the mineral mining critters instead of humanoids...even with no huge threat in the pit itself.