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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.

Categories
Story games Tabletop RPGs

My “go folder” of zero-prep, zero-notice RPGs

Attending Go Play NW prompted me to rebuild my “go folder” — the games I can run on zero notice, either by grabbing the book (and having everything else in the folder) or because the whole game is in the folder.

All of them are self-contained, require no prep from anyone, can be played in a session or two, and come packaged with a premise/hook to get us rolling.

The games

My go folder contains the stuff I need for these seven games, each in its own pocket (plus characters, blank paper, and stuff for my group’s ongoing games in the other pockets):

  1. Lady Blackbird (whole game), a steampunk game with a pregenerated cast that nonetheless plays out entirely differently every time, and which somehow managed to fit the core rules onto every character sheet without impeding usability. So, so good.
  2. GHOST/ECHO (whole game), a two-page RPG that kicks off with a bang: “WHILE HUNTING FOR LOOT IN THE GHOST WORLD, YOUR CREW WAS SOLD OUT. YOU’VE WALKED RIGHT INTO AN AMBUSH, WITH HUNGRY WRAITHS ON YOUR HEELS.” I haven’t played this one yet.
  3. Jedi Blackbird (whole game), a Star Wars (Old Republic era) hack of Lady Blackbird. I haven’t run this one either, but I posted about it on Yore.
  4. Ghost Lines (whole game), another John Harper game (because John is amazing at designing this style of game), this one about hunting spirits in a setting where they’re “free to roam the world since the gates of death were broken in the cataclysm.” The game assumes you’re familiar with Apocalypse World; I haven’t gotten to run it yet.
  5. DCC RPG (whole game), condensed down into a convention funnel edition, including The Portal Under the Stars and a stack of pregenerated peasants. Funnels are a hoot, and this short one is excellent; for a longer option, I could grab Sailors on the Starless Sea.
  6. Psi-Run, one of the only RPGs I rate a 10/10, because it’s perfect. The PCs are pyschic escapees from some sort of sinister program, being pursued by relentless Chasers, and if they get caught, they lose. Starts with the tension already ratcheted up to about an 8, and goes from there.
  7. Love in the Time of Seið, which is based on Archipelago, a Norse-themed Shakespearean tragedy that spirals into blood and death. I played this at GPNW, and it was amazing. All of the characters start off beautifully dovetailed with one another, and there’s almost never any downtime.

I would literally be happy to run any of these games right this hot minute.

The folder

I use an Esselte Oxford poly 8-pocket folder (paid link) as opposed to a multi-pocket folio, because in my experience those tend to smush pages unless I’m extremely careful with them (which I’m not).

This one lays flat (coil binding!), holds a ton of stuff, and has bounced around in my gaming bag for the past year with no signs of wear. It’s now tucked away in my new gaming bag — poised, catlike, ready to pounce on gaming opportunities with no notice whatsoever.

Categories
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.

Categories
Old school Tabletop RPGs

One choice, two consequences

Over on Monsters and Manuals, David McGrogan (author of the excellent Yoon-Suin, one of the starred recommendations on my big list of RPG stuff on Lulu) wrote a neat post about a rule of thumb for sandbox games: Two Problems for Every Solution.

David shares an example from his campaign that explains it well:

For example, in one of the games I am running, the PCs solved the disappearance of a group of villagers – but as a result of this they now have a vengeful demigoddess to deal with and a magic potion to track down, not to mention having to act as a go-between for two power centres and becoming entangled in an apparently unrelated issue to do with the enchantment of a young noblewoman.

Emergent play with a high degree of player agency is my jam, and I love this rule of thumb. It reminds me of last Sunday’s Star Wars World session, which makes sense because, as David points out, Star Wars is full of solutions that only beget new problems.

One bad roll popped us out of hyperspace in the wrong place, and we crashed our ship. We survived, and learned of a settlement not far away . . . full of dangerous poachers, and about to be attacked by angry natives. Problem > solution > problem, problem, and so forth. It’s a good fit.

For where I’m at in terms of sandbox experience, though, I’d like to offer up a related, but not identical rule of thumb: one problem, two consequences.

Making meaningful choices which have meaningful consequences is a hallmark of sandbox play (and other sorts of game with no predetermined plot), and “problem” is just another way of saying “meaningful consequence.” Reminding myself that choices ripple, and those ripples don’t lead to a single new choice, or consequence, or problem, should help my sandbox stay vital and alive.

When I’m stumped for how the world might react in my DCC RPG hexcrawl campaign, I’m going to keep both of these rules of thumb in mind.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.