Crawling Under a Broken Moon (also available on DriveThruRPG; paid link) is a DCC RPG (paid link) 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 [paid link].)
I’ve never seen Thundarr, 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 (paid link). 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.
You know what else I dig? The artwork! Here are four of my favorite pieces across the whole run.
(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.
 I know, I know. Someday! It does sound right up my alley.
 There are art credits in the front of the issue, but nothing connecting unsigned pieces to their respective artists.