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DCC RPG Tabletop RPGs

The DCC RPG Quick Start is brilliant

The DCC RPG Free RPG Day 2017 Quick Start is brilliant.

Apart from featuring one of my all-time favorite covers, by Doug Kovacs​​, it includes everything you need to make peasants for a funnel; a fabulous funnel, The Portal Under the Stars; levels 1-3 for all of the classes; and a slightly stripped-down rule set that means you can fit all this plus the rules the GM needs to run it in one 48-page booklet.

But! But. Why have rules for 1-3 and only a 0-level funnel? Because that’s not all: It also includes a new 1st level module, Gnole House, by Michael Curtis​​. So your newly minted crawlers will have plenty to do.

The only thing that could make this better is if it was free. Oh wait, it is free!. (Post-2017 update: It was free on Free RPG Day 2017, now it’s $2. Still worth it!)

The Quick Start is a master class in how to design, package, and present a deeply satisfying and highly functional introduction to an RPG. I can drop this in my bag for a con and be able to run DCC at the drop of a hat. If it gets someone jazzed about the game, I can give it to them. Splendid.

I also want to give a hat tip to Noble Knights Games, my FOLGS, for their one-cent promo program: For every $15 you spend, you can add a one-cent item to your order. That category includes Free RPG Day items, making it my favorite way to acquire them.

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DCC RPG Tabletop RPGs

DCC RPG: convention funnel edition

When I thought about what I wanted to be able to run on short notice at Go Play NW, if the opportunity arose, DCC RPG was on the list — except I didn’t want to carry the whole rulebook.

Having already trimmed the rulebook down to 18 pages, I wondered if I could go even lighter by printing out a version that only includes the rules I needed to run a funnel. There’s stuff in the “core 18” pages that doesn’t apply to funnels, but for a pickup game with strangers I’d also want a few other things included. Here’s what I came up with.

Funnel packet

So what’s in the pile? Seven things (starting in the bottom left in the photo, and working deeper into the pile):

  1. A stack of pregenerated peasants, produced using Purple Sorcerer’s o-level party generator[1] and then cut out, so that we could draw randomly for everyone’s PCs (which feels appropriately DCC).
  2. The 12-page convention funnel edition of the DCC rules, which is only the stuff you need to run pregenerated peasants, and nothing else. Setting aside the cover pages (use whatever you like), and using the printed page numbers from the 4th printing (not the numbers my PDF reader assigns), that’s:
    • Skill checks, pp.66-67
    • Equipment and related rules, pp.70-73
    • Combat, pp.76-82
    • Damage, healing, and other misc. rules, pp.93-96
  3. The Portal Under the Stars, a fantastic funnel, printed straight from the core rulebook (pp.452-456); ideal for a short session.
  4. A second funnel option, Sailors on the Starless Sea, which I haven’t run before but have heard only good things about; ideal for a longer session, at least four hours.
  5. A character creation packet, pp.18-24,[2] in case we decided to make characters. I wanted to have that option, because making funnel PCs is fun.
  6. Extra copies of the occupation tables, pp.22-23, because experience has taught me that having more than one of these available is a big timesaver.
  7. A few blank “four-up” 0-level PC sheets, also from Purple Sorcerer, which are hiding at the very bottom.

The whole idea is to reduce size and handling time. If I was less concerned about carrying stuff, I’d have stuck the pages in a binder; keeping them as little packets made them smaller. Making packets also helps with handling time: Not creating PCs? Set that packet aside, and now I don’t have to flip past those pages to look up rules I actually need.

I didn’t wind up running DCC at the con — my lone pickup session was of another game I’d brought, The Quiet Year (one of my favorite RPGs). But the next time I need my “convention edition,” it’ll already be there in a tidy little stack, just waiting to mangle some peasants.

[1] With the option to only show Luck modifiers if they matter turned on, because those are just noise to first-time players.

[2] This could easily be included in the main packet, and it does contain rules that aren’t unique to character creation — stuff about saving throws, etc. I’ve run enough DCC that I don’t need these basics handy.

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DCC RPG Old school Tabletop RPGs Zines

Zine roundup: Crawling Under a Broken Moon, issues 1-12

Crawling Under a Broken Moon (also available on DriveThruRPG) is a DCC RPG zine absolutely packed with gonzo post-apocalyptic goodness. Designed, published, and frequently written and illustrated by Reid San Filippo (with other collaborators, depending on the issue), it wears its love of Thundarr the Barbarian (and other iconic ’80s media) on its sleeve, and it’s rawlished and marvelous.

(Update: There’s now a full setting sourcebook for Umerica, The Umerican Survival Guide.)

I’ve never seen Thundarr[1], but it’s clear Reid loves it — and, based on CUaBM, it’s one hell of a good fit for DCC. Here’s a snippet from the intro to issue 1, which describes CUaBM’s setting, Umerica:

Welcome to the twisted hills and boiling plains of Umerica, a post apocalyptic version of the Americas centuries after a cosmic event changed the very rules of reality. Now the land is full of powerful sorcery, alien super science, and strange mutants.

I’d initially heard that CUaBM was “post-apocalyptic DCC” and decided not to pick it up because that didn’t sound like something I needed, but I kept circling back to it — and I’m glad I did. “Post-apocalyptic fantasy” puts the dial in a fun place, and CUaBM is great. I spotted lots of stuff in these issues that I could drop right into my non-post apocalyptic DCC campaign, too.

So many great covers

CUaBM’s appeal starts with the covers. Here are my two favorites, no. 8’s piece by Nate Marcel, and no. 12’s cover by Claytonian JP and Matt Hildebrand:

If “cannibal Ronald McDonald” sounds like something you’d love to sic on your DCC players, then CUaBM will be right up your Happy Meal.

The highlight of each issue

So what’s inside? Here’s my favorite thing from each of the first 12 issues:

  • Issue 1: I love the Technologist class, which is kind of like a “science thief.” Its class abilities all involve tinkering with and reprogramming found tech, from robots to vehicles — with lots of tables. The d16 failure tables are a hoot, but the best stuff is on the table for alien devices. For example, on a 1-3, “An alien intelligence gets downloaded into the Technologist’s mind. When they sleep, the intelligence takes over the body and goes about its unfathomable business.” I’d play one just for the chance that might happen!
  • Issue 2: “Interesting Places to Die” is a dungeon (SPOILERS), the Floating Tower of the Cyberhive. Situated in a crater, it hovers over a lake of boiling mud, and inside are zombie monks, a dangerous power chamber with golden spikes to steal, and a lab where robo-liches are made. Plus, the whole place is an AI-controlled extradimensional space.
  • Issue 3: This is the issue where it becomes clear that CUaBM is building the setting of Umerica one zine at a time, because this one has character creation rules for 0-level Umericans, plus a funnel: “The Mall Maul.” The cleverest thing about this funnel is that its completion is resource-based: To level, the scrubs have to recover X amount of stuff. And if they do, they may not have gotten all of the available stuff, a nice open-ended challenge if they want to venture back into the mall.
  • Issue 4: I like all three of the patrons in this issue, but I have to single out Theszolokomodra, a multidimensional hydra with a thousand heads. It can grant visions of the future, force the GM to answer a question about the current adventure, cause the spellcaster to grow extra heads, or give her multiple personalities.
  • Issue 5:Twisted Menagerie” is CUaBM’s regular bestiary feature, and this issue’s entry is a standout. I like creatures with random abilities or traits because they offer a lot of interesting variety, so this issue’s serpentoids, whose consumption of mutagenic herbs warps their bodies, and un men, whose high-tech cyborg bodies feature random (and deadly) gear, are right up my apple cart.
  • Issue 6: There’s plenty of good stuff in the vehicle issue, but I particularly enjoy “Popping the Hood,” which hacks DCC’s “recovering the body” rules to apply to vehicles. If a vehicle is damaged, rather than totaled, this issue’s Petrol Head class is just the ticket to get it working again.
  • Issue 7: CUaBM’s issue themes are tightly executed, and this one is a great example. Built around railroads, aircraft, and power suits, it offers up a suite of related content. My favorite bit is “The Rail Wastes,” an encounter table for the cleared land that borders every railway line. And it’s a 3d3 table to boot, for maximum DCC-ness.
  • Issue 8: Issues 8 and 9 are the alphabet issues, with A-M in this one and N-Z in the next, along the lines of The Monster Alphabet. I’m a fan of “F is for Factions,” a d12 table containing random factions. Here’s #7: “The Tattered Kings are a vicious bloodthirsty biker gang. Grtanted sorcerous powers by their patron, known only as the “Unspoken”, they ride through the wasteland on hellish supernatural vehicles looking for human sacrifices.” That’s exactly the amount of detail I need to drop these hell-bikers rights into play.
  • Issue 9: I’m a sucker for good random weather mechanics, and “W is for Weather of the Wastelands” is the best subsystem for weather I’ve ever seen. It uses a d3-d3 roll and a grid, with each square containing a weather condition. The GM plots points on the grid based on the coordinates of the roll to determine weather every d14 hours. That alone is cool. But it also communicates a lot about Umerica’s wastelands as a setting through those weather conditions: This is a place where burning mud storms and freak storms which drop sugar-dye rain, spiders, or imps shooting hellfire blasts aren’t uncommon occurrences.
  • Issue 10: By the time I hit the monster issue, I knew what it treat it would be. And it fucking delivers. I want to share them all, but I only get one — and it has to be the jack-o-rang-utans. Anyone trying to tame the wilds risks the wrath of these pumpkin-headed apes, who throw burning shit and unleash a fear-inducing cacophony on interlopers.
  • Issue 11: I could go with my favorite god (lots of options), or the Umerican halfling re-skin (think Feral Kid from Road Warrior), but my pick has to be another class: the Hologram. The Hologram is a Tron frisbee with a program attached, which has escaped from the cyberspace of yore and roams Umerica. Like issue 1’s Technologist, this is a class that makes me want to bug one of my players to start an Umerica DCC game so I can play it.
  • Issue 12: And yet again, I have to highlight a class! This time it’s the Clownight. “These disciples of Buddy O’Burger – god of feasting, customer service, and cannibalism – appear as humans wearing clown makeup except all of the garish coloration, bulbous nose, and outlandish hair are their actual body and facial features.” Clownights can unhinge their fang-filled jaws, bite their victims, and use the flesh they consume to enter a FoodRage.

Groovy artwork

You know what else I dig? The artwork! Here are four of my favorite pieces across the whole run.

(uncredited)[2]

(Claytonian JP)

(uncredited)

(Frank Turfler Jr.)

I’m not sure what it is about the DCC community that makes its zine game so fucking strong, but there’s no denying it. CUaBM is the fourth DCC zine I’ve written about here (I’ve also done roundups of Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, Crawl!, and The Gongfarmer’s Almanac), and not only are all four of them excellent, but they all coexist beautifully — complementing one another, with not an ounce of redundancy.

I can’t wait for issue 13 of Crawling Under a Broken Moon. Bring it on!

Or better still, bring on Umerica: The Sourcebook, which collects and lightly expands the contents of CUaBM in book form. Instant buy/Kickstarter back for me.

[1] I know, I know. Someday! It does sound right up my alley.

[2] There are art credits in the front of the issue, but nothing connecting unsigned pieces to their respective artists.

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DCC RPG Tabletop RPGs

Wilderness encounter chance by terrain type for DCC RPG

I use the wilderness encounter system from the B/X D&D Expert Set in my DCC RPG hexcrawl (the binder for which is full of hexcrawling tools), but it occurred to me that it would be pretty easy to tweak that system to take advantage of DCC’s dice chain.

In this tweaked version, an encounter occurs on a 1 or 2, but the die type varies by terrain.[1] In general, roll once per day.

If the PCs are doing something that would dramatically increase or decrease their chances of bumping into something while traveling, like leading a small army of hirelings (increase) or wearing camouflage cloaks and moving at a snail’s pace (decrease), just step the die type up/down accordingly.

For example, if they’re in the woods (d6), but wearing camouflage garb, roll a d7 instead. Now the odds of getting a 1 or 2 have gone down from 33.33% to 28.6%. If they’re also moving super-slowly, consider rolling a d8 (25% odds) or even a d10 (20% odds).

Be wary of adjusting the die type by too many steps in already-dangerous terrain. Two steps down on a d4 is a d2, which is a guaranteed encounter.

The terrain types in the table above match “fantasy western Europe,” and play nice with my wilderness travel speeds and encounter tables by terrain type for DCC, but the sub-system itself should work fine with other approaches.

The only difference in odds between this table and the one in B/X is plains, which gives 20% odds here and 16.67% odds in B/X.

[1] In B/X, it’s always a d6, but the range of results that produce an encounter changes based on the terrain.

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D&D DCC RPG Old school Tabletop RPGs

DCC RPG wilderness travel speeds

I wanted to use the wilderness travel rules from the B/X D&D Expert Set in my DCC RPG hexcrawl, but character’s movement speeds don’t translate 1:1 across the two games.

I compared species (races) in both editions, crunched the numbers, and turned the results into a one-page PDF reference for DCC RPG wilderness travel speeds by terrain type.

I also tweaked my favorite weather mechanic, weather as a reaction roll, from The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms, and stuck that on the bottom of the page, mostly because there was room for it.

This one-pager is designed to work with my DCC RPG wilderness encounter tables and Hexmancer (for procedurally generating terrain), and all three share the same terrain types (“fantasy western Europe”).

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DCC RPG Old school Tabletop RPGs

DCC RPG wilderness encounter tables

I needed wilderness encounter tables for the DCC RPG hexcrawl I’m running, but there aren’t any in the book. Jeff Rients created some excellent tables for wandering monsters by dungeon level (which also appear in Crawl! #5), but after searching high and low I couldn’t find any wilderness encounter tables online. So I created some.

They’re broken down by terrain type (for “fantasy western Europe”) and include number appearing for each monster. You can download them as a free PDF: DCC RPG Wilderness Encounter Tables. They’re also available as a plain text file so that you can fiddle with them to your heart’s content.

(2018 update: My tables, along with a shortened version of the design notes, appear in The Gongfarmer’s Almanac – Volume 3, 2018, with excellent editing by Rob Brennan.)

There’s no scaling by PC level or party size in these tables, and they’re not “balanced” in any way. The world is the world, and what’s out there is what’s out there.

To use them, you’ll need a way of figuring out whether or not a random encounter takes place (I use the system from the B/X Expert Set). That’s all!

I love design notes in gaming books, and a surprising amount of design goes into making wandering monster tables (these took me about 12 hours to make!), so the rest of this post is about my goals, process, assumptions, and the theory behind my tables.

Design goals

I went in with a few goals in mind:

  • Quick and dirty — when in doubt, make the choice that sounds the most fun, and do a lot with one roll
  • Showcase the flavor of DCC
  • Give each terrain type its own feel, which should be discernible to players after just a few encounters
  • Use only the monsters in the DCC core book, and use whatever they say (including rarity)
  • Don’t have too few monsters, because lack of variety is dull
  • But don’t have too many, either, because that dilutes each terrain type
  • Reflect “fantasy western Europe,” and a borderlands/wilderlands kind of region
  • Match the terrain types I used in Hexmancer, my system for procedurally generating hexcrawl terrain and features
  • Play nice with B/X D&D’s encounter chances by terrain type, since that’s what I use

The overuse of “men” in the monster names, while matching the feel of Appendix N, bugs me, but I figured changing it would make these tables less useful to others, so I left all of the monster names as-is.

Baseline

My baseline was always “What does the DCC rulebook say?”

If a monster entry listed terrain types, number appearing, relative rarity, or other details, I used those. If it didn’t, I looked at B/X and/or Jeff’s wandering monster list, and then came up with something that felt right to me.

I excluded monsters that are listed as underground-only, as well as the weird ones that seem like they’d work best as placed encounters, not random ones (extradimensional analogues, for example). I also left out things that only live in hot places or jungles (which aren’t in fantasy western Europe, or in Hexmancer).

Massage, dismantle, repeat

My first step was to list every DCC monster under all of the terrain types where it could appear. That gave me a picture of what a world created with this monster manual might look like, as well as some unique monster for specific terrain types and a host of critters that appear only in a couple places — both great starting points for flavor.

It’s not a short list, but it is short on specific things — normal animals, for example. And it’s a quirky list, which I like! Sure, the world likely does have animals in it the PCs could meet . . . but I didn’t worry about that.

I started out with d8+d10 tables, because that roll produces one of my favorite distributions for encounter tables. But I quickly found that I wanted more granularity, which led me to percentile tables. Those also have the added advantage of making the odds immediately discernible, which I like.

A few hours in, I hit on the idea of creating a template table based on the concept of using “brackets” of monsters to convey things about the world.

Broken out, those brackets look like this (in the order they occur on the table):

  • 10% (1-10) say a lot about the world (and the style of game I like to run), while being quite rare. Results 1-10 are on every table except Water, a big-picture statement about what kind of world feels like DCC to me.
  • 25% (11-35) emphasize the importance of humans and humanoids. Humans, humanoids, and subhumans (which are kind of like a mix of both), are on every table.[1] Humans are big in sword and sorcery fiction, and humanoids are big in D&D.
    • Taken in aggregate, the first 35% (1-35) also serve another purpose: Most of them are things that won’t always just try to eat you. Intelligent monsters, and encounters that aren’t always fights, are both good things in my book.
  • 20% (36-55) round out the flavor of the terrain type. These are often unique to the terrain type, but not always, and they’re indicative of what kind of place it is.
  • 45% (56-100) define the terrain type. You have a 45% chance of meeting each terrain type’s signature monsters. More than anything else on the table, these convey what that terrain is all about.

Seeing those odds in graph form also helped me decide that this was a fun distribution model (column height equals percentage chance of that encounter):

Having a template really sped up the process, too, because it made it feel less daunting. Instead of staring at long lists and not being sure quite where to start, I could just look at each terrain type and go, “Okay, which three say ‘forest’ best? Cool, now which four also look like good forest options?”

I ripped apart my draft tables a couple of times, but once I built them using these brackets they stayed pretty stable. My last couple iterations mostly involved comparing the lists, looking for ways to sneak in monsters I regretted not including (so many!), and — most importantly — making sure that the flavor of each terrain type came through clearly.

In B/X, some types of terrain are more dangerous than others by virtue of how likely it is you’ll have an encounter there: 1 in 6 on clear terrain (plains) vs. 3 in 6 in the mountains, for example. The way my lists shook out, some terrain types are also more dangerous because of what’s on them. For example, you’re 40% likely to meet some sort of giant in the mountains, which seems like fun to me.

Surprises and rolling your own

Two things surprised me about this process: how much work it was, and how personal it turned out to be. If two GMs sat down with the DCC book and designed wilderness encounter tables, I guarantee they’d look different — and probably not much like mine!

They’d use different die rolls, different breakdowns of monsters, and different philosophies about what a DCC world looks like. One would follow the B/X model of rolling once for terrain and then again on a sub-table for that terrain; another would compress things into one roll, like I did, but use 2d6 instead of d100. And since they’d both have to choose a subset of the overall monster list, they’d play favorites (just like I did!).

Chances are, if you’ve read this far, you can think of all sorts of things you’d do differently in building a set of DCC RPG wilderness encounter tables. I included my template in the plain text version, in case you like that baseline.

If you make your own tables, I’d love to see them. Post them somewhere and share them with the DCC community — the more the merrier!

[1] Except Water. Just add “except Water” to pretty much everything. Water is weird because there just aren’t that many water monsters in the DCC core book.

Categories
DCC RPG Old school Tabletop RPGs

DCC RPG in 18 pages

While running DCC RPG the other night, there was a good-sized chunk of time when I had my DCC core book, Expert D&D (for wilderness and reaction rules), and Crawl! #5 (for the wandering monster tables) open at the same time, along with scratch paper for hit points . . . and my DCC book was open in two places, combat and monsters. Too much!

The combat I was refereeing was already pretty robust: 5 PCs (1/player), their 4 retainers, and 16 acolytes. It was also my first time running DCC post-funnel, and (I believe) everyone else’s first time playing characters above level zero.

That’s not a situation where I want to be awash in books and stuff.

Conan needs not your art and spells

The DCC core book is massive — in the neighborhood of 470 pages long. If you mush it all together, something like 100 pages of that is artwork. Which is awesome! Another 200 pages or so are devoted to spells. Also awesome! These are two of my favorite things about DCC.

But the book being such a beast really ups my handling time at the table, particularly since I don’t have much experience running the game. It’s just too damned big to navigate quickly and comfortably in the heat of the moment.

By Crom, a mere 18 pages!

I realized after game night that I don’t need most of what’s in the book from moment to moment, though, which got me thinking about the PDF.

I went through my PDF copy and noted all the pages I needed at the table, and there were 18 of them. In 18 pages, I can cover (page references come from the 4th printing, and are the number printed on the page, not the “page” in the PDF):

  • Skills, 66 & 67
  • Combat, 77-79
  • Damage, healing, Luck, other combat stuff, 93-96
  • Magic and spellburn, 106-108
  • Corruption, 116
  • Deity disapproval, 122
  • Retainers, 310
  • XP, 359
  • Luck, 360 & 361

I printed out those pages, hole-punched them, and slapped them in a binder. Now I can reference the 4% of the book I need often without having to deal with the other 96%.

I’ll still bring my book so we can all use it, of course (plus two copies of the awesome DCC RPG Reference Booklet, one of the most useful books on my Lulu recommendation list), and there’s stuff I’ll need periodically or occasionally which I didn’t bother printing out. But where it counts, this approach has streamlined things a lot.

I can’t wait to use my “booklet version” of DCC at our next session!

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D&D DCC RPG Tabletop RPGs

Debauchery & Dragons: Carousing for XP, 1977 to 2015

It’s 1977. D&D is wild and wonderful and everyone’s doing their own thing.

So much so, in fact, that in that same year two people published alternate versions of one of the core mechanics of old-school D&D: earning XP for treasure.

In 1977, Dave Arneson, co-creator of D&D, and Jon Pickens, who later became an editor at TSR, each published alternate systems for earning XP.

While the baseline was 1 XP for every 1 GP of treasure recovered and brought back to civilization[1], Arneson did things differently in his Blackmoor campaign, and Pickens proposed much the same alternative in Dragon Magazine #10.

I love this stuff, so I want to talk about it here — and about its modern descendants.

Special Interests

Here’s Dave Arneson in The First Fantasy Campaign (which — a crying shame! — isn’t legally available in PDF, and tends to command high prices in print), under the heading “Special Interests”:

Instead of awarding points for money and Jewels acquired in the depths of the Dungeon or hoarding items against the indefinite future, the players will receive NO points until they acquire the items listed below unless it happens to already fall within the area of their interest.

The “items listed below” are:

  • Wine
  • Women
  • Song
  • Wealth
  • Fame
  • Religion or Spiritualism
  • Hobby

The wine rules are entertaining, awarding XP only until the PC is drunk. After recovering, she can drink more to earn more XP. “Song” is basically a big-ass party, with rules for how damaging the tavern impacts XP earned. Wealth covers hoarding gold, which would be a bit of a cop-out (doing that in vanilla D&D earns you XP, too) except that here, if it’s stolen you lose that amount of XP.

Fame is based on dueling and gladiatorial combat — basically picking fights for glory, but you have to go to a big party afterwards. Religion covers donations to churches, as well as quests, and “Hobby” is just that: Pick Your Thing, do Your Thing, and earn XP for it. (One suggestion is “the devising of better Torture machines,” a peculiar hobby indeed.)

“Women” is problematic. Sleeping around for XP, sure — that sounds like fun, and it’s true to the source literature (more on this in a moment), but it assumes the PCs are male and straight, and that all prostitutes are women.

Appendix N is rich with examples of carousing in action, notably in the Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser tales and Robert E. Howard’s Conan yarns. Lankhmar’s duo and the fearsome Cimmerian are frequently broke, and rarely shy away from wine, companionship, or song. But just that simple shift, substituting “companionship” for female prostitutes, costs nothing and admits all comers[2].

And then there’s this bit:

Slaves of the appropriate type (left to player) may also be purchased with the funds and utilized to fulfill this classification. These slaves may then be sold at reduced value, the difference being credited to the players account.

That crosses a line for me, and it’s something I’d strike before using Dave’s carousing system in my game.

Apart from those sour notes, though, this is a neat system. “XP for GP blown in Conan-like excesses” is a fantastic concept, and despite sharing a publication year with Pickens’ article in Dragon #10, I think it’s fair to credit Arneson as the first, as he’d been running Blackmoor for years prior to 1977.

Orgies, Inc.

Pickens’ article in Dragon #10, “Orgies, Inc.,” proposes basically the same thing:

Instead of receiving experience for gaining treasure, players would receive experience only as the treasure is spent.

He lists five options for accomplishing this expenditure of wealth:

  • Sacrifices
  • Philanthropy
  • Research
  • Clan Hoards
  • Orgies

Salacious title aside, Pickens leaves “Orgies” at “Lusty indulgence in wine, women, and song.” You can orgy for a number of days equal to your Con score, with a cost per day (earned as XP, and then you have to rest for a like amount of days. Set aside the “women” assumption, and I like this version better than Arneson’s.

Philanthropy is about the same as in Blackmoor, and “Research” and “Sacrifices” likewise map pretty well to Hobby and Spiritualism, respectively.

Clan Hoards is a much cooler idea than plain ol’ hoards, and it’s very Tolkien: Dwarves are called out specifically, and they must return home and consign the treasure to the clan’s vault (no withdrawals!). That’s awesome.

The artwork for the article is great, too (though uncredited[3]), depicting an interspecies Bacchanalian revel. I’ve trimmed out a safe-for-work portion, but it’s worth seeking out the whole picture.

Ale & Wenches

Fast forward to the 2008, and we get the best-known OSR system for carousing, published by Jeff Rients: Party like it’s 999. Here’s an excerpt:

At the beginning of a session if a PC is hanging around Ye Olde Village Inne with nothing better to do, they can roll 1d6 and spend 100gp times the roll on liquor and/or lechery. The character gains experience equal to the gold spent. The d6 x 100 standard applies to villages only. A PC could travel to a town or city and debauch much more efficiently.

Where Arneson and Pickens assign categories and break things down in more detail, Jeff simplifies everything down to carousing/debauchery and adds a glorious d20 table. If you fail a save vs. poison while blowing your gold, you roll on the table.

A 10 is “Beaten and robbed. Lose all your personal effects and reduced to half hit points.” A 14 gets you “One of us! One of us! You’re not sure how it happened, but you’ve been initiated into some sort of secret society or weird cult. Did you really make out with an emu of was that just the drugs? Roll Int check to remember the signs and passes.

It’s a light, easy-to-implement system, and it looks like it’d be a hoot in play. Again, I’d substitute “Companionship” for “Wenches.”

Carousing, orgies, and their alternatives

Claytonian JP mashed up “Orgies, Inc.” and Jeff’s carousing system and designed a DCC RPG version tied to Luck. His table is also fantastic. My favorite carousing result is 20, “An evil magic user has some of your hair and flesh… you wake up with a gash and covered in strange runes.

He also spun off systems for martial training, research, and sacrifices, each with its own fabulous, quirky table of delights/horrors. (They’re collected in a free Google Doc.)

  • A 4 on the martial table is “You lose a hand, but now have a wicked hook and intimidation rolls are easier for you.
  • Roll an 8 for sacrifices, and you get “Thou must feed my sheeple. 3 Idiots join you. They fight as henchmen, but they are bumbling fools and will constantly give away your position. Killing or turning them away is bad luck.
  • The table for research is pretty brutal. An 11 is “You attract ghosts like the dickens. Whenever you are in a haunted locale, wandering ghost are twice as likely to show up and primarily target you.

Unlike its predecessors, this system also assigns no gender specifics and makes no assumptions about the PCs — anyone can feel welcome to carouse.

Claytonian’s take is my overall favorite. It’d be easy to port into your own campaign (or out of DCC, or both), and it encompasses a variety of activities without adding much in the way of rules overhead. It’s slick.

Carousing in Marlinko

I wrote a bit about carousing in Fever-Dreaming Marlinko, but I want to expand on it here.

What Chris Kutalik and company have done in Marlinko is really neat: Carousing is based on which city quarter you do it in, and unless I’ve missed something it’s an optional addition to the normal XP-for-GP arrangement.

The different quarters of Marlinko are quite different from one another, which gives this system a lot of flavor. In one quarter, the PCs can hit the bathhouse, booze it up, and visit lotus powder dens. In another, a variety of pleasures — from savory to unsavory — can be indulged.

Spend the gold, earn the XP . . . unless you Lose Your Shit, which happens if the carousing roll exceeds your level. Out come the tables, also divided by quarter, and they’re awesome (spoilers):

  • Lost your shit in the Golden Swine quarter? You just joined the Church of the Blood Jesus, and are being held by nun-maenads in their private dungeon.
  • After a bender in the Domesman quarter, you took a purgative and shat your room at the inn so badly that it’s going to cost you some cash.
  • You thought Mercator would be better? You wake up while being serenaded by “horrifically disfigured serial murderer Taurus the Clown.”
  • In the Apiarian quarter, you spilled beer on the wrong woman’s dress, and she’s going to make you pay — hard.

Like Claytonian’s system, the one in Marlinko makes no assumptions about the PCs. As Humza Kazmi, one of the book’s editors, said on G+, “We tried to make sure that the carousing table in FDM was gender- and sexuality-neutral, to avoid the idea that all PCs are straight dudes.

It’d take new tables to adapt Marlinko’s carousing to another city, but the bones are all there.

2016 and onwards?

These are the five published carousing systems I’m aware of, but I bet there are others (and I’d love to hear about them in the comments!). Almost 40 years on, this idea is still going strong and being used in play, so I’d also bet there will be other takes on it in the future.

I’ve never run or played in a game that used carousing-for-XP, but it’s on my list of takes on D&D that I’d like to try.

[1] Plus XP for defeating monsters, of course.

[2] Pun intended.

[3] According to commenter Tony Rowe on G+, the artist is Dave Trampier.

Categories
DCC RPG Old school Tabletop RPGs Zines

Zine roundup: The Gongfarmer’s Almanac, issues 1-6

The Gongfarmer’s Almanac is a free, community-created DCC RPG Fanzine — that link leads to the full run in PDF.

If you don’t want to print it out yourself, see this G+ post from Jon Hershberger for other options. I ordered the complete run from him for about $7 — yes, $7 total. (They came stapled but unfolded, and my folding job leaves a lot to be desired!)

I confess that I’m sometimes wary when RPG stuff is free, particularly stuff that’s available in print. On the flipside, I’ve written hundreds of free articles, I make free tools, etc. — free is good! I’m a big believer in free.

In the case of GFA, free is awesome. The Gongfarmer’s Almanac is excellent, made with love by folks who know their DCC, and it’s absolutely worth adding to your collection.

So what’s in there? All sorts of stuff! As I’ve done in past zine roundups, here’s my favorite piece from each issue of GFA:

  • Issue #1: This issue is a strong start to the run, but I have to go with “Gold and Glory Beyond the Grave,” which is all about playing undead PCs (by way of species-as-classes). It’s fucking metal. Want to be a ghost? You can manifest a phlogiston weapon, possess people, and become incorporeal. How about a skeleton warrior? You get a save whenever damage would kill you, and if you succeed you return to life with a few HP. Awesome.
  • Issue #2: Ghrelin, the Demon Lord of Hunger and Starvation, is one hell of a creepy patron. Invocations can ravage the earth or summon wasteland zombies, taint starves the caster and surrounds her with rot, and spellburn can result in gobbets of the caster’s flesh being torn away. Ghrelin would be right at home in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay’s Old World.
  • Issue #3: Peter Mullen both wrote and illustrated a dungeon in this issue, “The Marvelous Myriad Myconid Caverns,” and it’s a delight. It includes trolls who communicate in Morse code by tapping on the walls, slime that causes earthquakes, a giant spider named Edgar, and a sword, Gorgosaurus, which bites opponents and demands to be fed.
  • Issue #4: I love tables, and Tim Callahan’s “The Crawling Castle of Crumblethorn and Other Architectural Horrors” is a little toolkit for generating weird places using d7 rolls. (It reminds me of The Tome of Adventure Design.) Rolling 5, 2, 4 got me the Hovering Keep of Crystalgrim; a 3 tells me that the place will contact one PC and ask to be “fed” undead; and a final roll, a 2, turned up a covered painting that, if uncovered, can do all sorts of weird things to the PCs. I’d buy a whole book of these.
  • Issue #5: When I started reading OSR zines, one of the first things I thought was, “I wish there was an index for all this great stuff!” Thanks to issue #5, there is, at least for nine (!) DCC zines published through July 2015. It’s really a collection of indexes, one each for the categories you’d expect: monsters, adventures, etc. So useful!
  • Issue #6: Need to make higher-level DCC characters, but don’t want to sacrifice the flavor and joy of the funnel completely? Enter “The Virtual Funnel.” Not only is the funnel part great (make four 0-levels, roll on a harrowing table), but the article also includes a separate 2d5 table for the events that shaped the funnel survivor’s later levels.

Every issue of GFA has the same (awesome!) Doug Kovacs cover, so I want to take a moment to share some of the interior art. Here are several pieces that grabbed me:

Boom, the splash page for issue 1, illustrated by Marc Radle!

(Craig Brasco, I think)

(Michael Bukowski)

(Peter Mullen)

(Mez Toons)

Here’s the download link again: The Gongfarmer’s Almanac. If you prefer print to PDF, print it out or bug Jon and see if he’ll do it for you. I highly recommend this zine!

Categories
DCC RPG Old school Tabletop RPGs Zines

Zine roundup: Crawl!, issues 1-11

Crawl! (also available on DriveThruRPG) is a DCC RPG fanzine designed and published by Dak Ultimak, with a rotating cast of writers (which often includes Dak). I recently snagged the full run, and this zine is really, really well conceived and executed. It’s rawlished — both raw and polished at the same time, which is a balance I enjoy in zines. And it’s hard to pull off!

Crawl! also pairs well with Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, the subject of my first zine roundup.

The Crawl! blog lists the contents of every issue, so I’m not going to do that. Instead, here’s my favorite thing from each issue (it was often hard to choose just one!):

  • Issue 1: The last article in this issue is a gem: spell conversion rules for non-DCC spells, in just two digest-size pages. Want to port a D&D spell into DCC, or play a D&D character in a DCC campaign? Boom. Spells are covered. (Special mention: the spell “Snafufubar,” new in this issue.)
  • Issue 2: “Be Prepared,” which covers new equipment, is a gem. DCC pricing, and flavor, for everything from lodging to bow drills to lutes to glass eyes (for those inevitable funnel-related manglings) — all in two pages. I’d love to see this folded together with the core book’s equipment list.
  • Issue 3: “Magic Wand,” a multi-page spell that enables the caster to create a kickass wand, is a strong choice, but it’s edged out by “Let’s Get Familiar,” which expands the options for familiars to include floating tesseracts, stained-glass butterflies, and crawling hands.
  • Issue 4: The entirety of issue #4 is an adventure, the highlight of which is its monsters. They include venomous deathwolves, door frame mimics, and living flesh mounds. The latter are particularly gruesome: They have a chance to absorb victims’ limbs on a successful attack.
  • Issue 5: I dropped “Quickie Wandering Monster Tables” straight into my DCC campaign, resisting my inclination to build my own charts by terrain type in favor of doing nothing and using Jeff Rients’ excellent work instead.
  • Issue 6: I’m not big on new classes, and this is the new class issue…but the gnome is great. Gnomes are illusionists, and they get a Trick Die added to their spellcasting that makes it less likely their spells will fail. They can also cast sturdy illusions, which become tangible, and scripted — triggered or time-based — illusions. Neat!
  • Issue 7: Kirin Robinson’s article “Lost in Endless Corridors” takes a hard, sharp look at including mazes in games, why they often suck, and how to make them not suck.
  • Issue 8: This one’s all about guns, and while the gun rules themselves are slick and very DCC, “Invasion!” is awesome. It’s a toolkit for introducing firearms into your game by way of alien invaders. The invaders might be rum-soaked Napoleonic soldiers who came through a wormhole and crave your blood, or they might be demons from across the sea, staves barking fire, who hunt you like game. This is one of my favorite articles out of the entire Crawl! run to date.
  • Issue 9: Like issue #4, this one’s all adventure — the 0-level funnel “The Arwich Grinder.” It starts with weird redneck hillfolk and winds up in madness and giant, invisible babies and cannibalism. It’s fantastic.
  • Issue 10: #11 is classes again, but these grab me more — they’re alternate species-based classes. The dwarven priest is my favorite, managing to feel both very D&D and very DCC, with Mighty Deeds, divine aid, and the ability to smell treasure.
  • Issue 11: “Fantastic Forms of Sea Ship Propulsion and Their Congenital Complications” is a great article, offering up ships powered by moonlight, pulled by giant eels, or with wind-wraiths filling their web-like sails.

I also dig Crawl!’s covers, particularly these three.

(Scott Ackerman)

(Mitchell Hudson)

(Mario T.)

I’d heard nothing but good things about Crawl!, and it doesn’t disappoint. My “blind buy” of the full run (about $3-$5 per issue) was well worth it. Highly recommended!