Doom of the Savage Kings – Review

Answering the Raven Crowking’s call, a review of Doom of the Savage Kings, DCC #66.5: A Level 1 Adventure by Harley Stroh.

I have run Doom of the Savage Kings for two different groups (see my session reports).

What you get

  • An opening quandary
  • A rumor table
  • A dungeon
  • A village
  • A wilderness region
  • A situation with multiple possible solutions

What I love about this adventure

The situation starts with an immediate decision – do you save a woman being carted off for sacrifice? Do you defy the village lord and his strongmen? From here, a rich adventure situation and locale unfolds as the time pressures mount.

The adventure instills a strong sense of Norse/Celtic villages. As I read and play through this adventure, I think of King Hrothgar’s Hall from The 13th Warrior and Theoden’s Hall from the Lord of the Rings.

The tightly written Doom of the Savage Kings sits on the top-tier of campaign opening adventures. The opening quandary pushes characters to show their true colors and sets the initial tone of their upcoming career.

Random Encounter Table for Bitterweed Barrow Region

Every 5 mile hex, roll 1d6. On a 6, see below. Outside of the Barrow Ward, roll 1d10. Inside the Barrow Ward roll 1d10+3.

D8 Random Encounter
1 Devil Frog (1) [DCC 402]
2 Time Traveler [DCC 429]
3 Hollow One [DCC 418]
4 Orcs (1d6x5 and boss) [DCC 423]
5-7 Roll on Guess Who’s Coming to Bitterweed Barrow
8 Troll (1) [DCC 429]
9 Witch (95% of 1; 5% of 12) [DCC 434]
10 Bandits (2d6) [DCC 432]
11 Chip – Plague Ensorcelled Corpse
12 Varooth Moss [Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry]
13 Barrow Wives (1d6)

Barrow Wife – A DCC Monster

Deep and ancient magic infuses the funerary rituals of mighty warriors and great leaders. One such ritual involves the voluntary sacrifice of a lover of the deceased, burying them in the loamy foundation of their beloved’s barrow. Forever soothing and serving their lover for the eons.

A year and a day after the funerary ritual, the barrow wife begins to establish their barrow ward – the land around the beloved’s burial site. From the moss, lichen, reeds, and wet clay of their barrow ward, a barrow wife may take the form of a misshapen humanoid. From a distance you might confuse them for a person covered in mud and twigs. Those traveling through a barrow ward may hear the low and wordless soothing song of the barrow wife, comforting their departed lover.

While you can destroy the physical form of a barrow wife, it will reform during the next moonrise. Destroying a barrow wife outside of its barrow ward forever destroys its spirit.

Their love and devotion drives a barrow wife to protect the final resting place of their beloved and to add to their beloved’s wealth (and even glory). The means of gaining that wealth is often through gifts, offerings, and the occasional robbery.  After all, their beloved is dead, they don’t know that the silver was a gift from peasants and not from the plunder of conquest.

It should be noted that the barrow wife is not undead. Their spirit has transferred to the barrow ward.

Barrow Wife Statblock

Init +0; Atk slam +3 melee (d6 + suffocation on natural 17-20); AC 14 (or more); HD 4d8; hp 18; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP blind (see barrow-sense), spirit; SV Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +3; AL N.

Suffocation: A barrow wife that rolls a natural 17 to 20 on a slam attack and hits begins to suffocate their opponent; Pieces of moss, lichen, and clay fill the targets nostrils and mouth. The target, or an ally, may spend an action die to clean out their nostrils and mouth and end the suffocation. At the end of each of the targets turns in which they are suffocating they take 1d6 temporary Stamina damage. When the target’s Stamina drops to 0, the target dies. The target fully recovers from this temporary Stamina damage after a 10 minute rest.

Barrow-sense: While within the boundaries of their barrow ward, a barrow wife can sense and locate all creatures in the barrow ward. Outside of the barrow ward, a barrow wife is effectively blind.

Fire: A barrow wife first damaged by fire gains +2 AC and -10’  MV, as the clay hardens and solidifies.

Design Notes

The barrow wife is my response to the adventurers encountering a wayside shrine with an offering of silver coins; It was something I added to a random table for events while traveling. One of the players looted the offering. From there, I knew I had to introduce something.

With the first session taking place in the area surrounding the village of Bitterweed Barrow, and second session involved exploring a barrow mound outside the village of Hirot, I felt a very strong Danelaw vibe was warranted.

When I think of the look and feel of the barrow wife, I envision the Swamp Thing, only less viney and less defined. While the barrow wife name implies a female, I am deliberate in my language that anyone of any gender may be a barrow wife. I just don’t like the sound of Barrow Spouse or Barrow Partner. It also could be confused with Barrow Wight.

Chip – Plague Ensorcelled Corpse – A DCC Monster

Digging around the documents for my Open Table DCC game at Better World Book, I stumbled upon the following creature.

Chip – plague ensorcelled corpse (magic missile): Init +1; Atk claws +1 (1d3), pitchfork +1 (1d8) or spell; AC 12; HD 2d6; hp 10; MV 30′; Act 1d20; SPmagic missile (spell check +2, the spell is never lost) undead, goat form, ensorcelling plague bearer (see below); SV Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +1; AL C

Chip is the victim of an ensorcelling corpse plague. During his brief adventuring career, he encountered a sorcerer’s scroll of magic missile. His successful reading of the scroll infused his soul with the strands of magic missile. In the moment of his death in the cursed halls, the dweomer claimed his soul and reanimated Chip.

Chip appears much as he did in life; Though when stressed his eyes flare iridescent green. When bumped, jostled, or damaged, eldritch green runes crackle across Chip’s body.

Chip can, at will, transform into a green-eyed farm goat. As undead, Chip need not eat, drink, nor breathe, and is immune to critical hits, poison and disease.

Ensorcelling Plague Bearer: When Chip is destroyed, the ensorcelling corpse plague bursts in a scintillating green miasma. All intelligent creatures within 15′ of Chip must make a DC 12 Will save. Caster’s may add their caster level to their Will saving throw roll.

Any creature that fails their Will saving throw gain the ability to cast magic missile 1d3+1 times; With a CL equal to their character level. The creature now becomes a vector for the ensorcelling corpse plague. When the creature dies if it has any remaining castings of the plaguing spell or ever spell burned to cast the plaguing spell, it becomes a Plague Ensorcelled Corpse of power commiserate to its level / HD.

A Plague Ensorcelled Corpse will appear as they did in life. They gain the ability to cast the plaguing spell with a bonus equal to their HD (and never suffer spell loss). Also roll on the Traits or Properties of Undead (Table 9-6) to determine additional uniqueness.

Ruins of the Dwarven Delve [Session #9]

The previous session

Preamble

This session, we playtested a DCC conversion of Purple Duck Games Purple Mountain II – Ruins of the Dwarven Delve. As a patron of Purple Duck Games, I responded to the call for play testing the conversion; An abandoned dwarven mine lined up with the adventurers current locale.

I reiterated last session’s rumors:

  • “Last month, one of the caves had an explosion. To this day, you can hear the howls of the dead.”
  • “The other night, I was drinking and this elf came in. Someone had mugged him, his ears clipped and bleeding.”
  • “I heard that the Guild Elders are forcing the old Master Guilder, Gentle Steve, to step aside. He may still lead the Guardians Guild.”
  • “Yesterday, or the day before, I heard a guy talking about finding a cache of old silver coins in the cliffs.”
  • “I heard that someone to the west found treasures from a buried king.”

I advanced the timeline 8 days – from the 18th of Spring’s Laugh to the 4th of Spring’s End.

I followed my session start procedures, asking the luckiest and unluckiest characters (who had sleighted Sir Calcidius) to make a Luck check. Quinlynn the Unlucky failed his. Ungo the Beggar made his.

They learned that Sir Calcidius (from the Tower of the Stargazer)

  • gained his freedom (by a meteor strike on the tower)
  • aligned with Iraco (from Hirot)
  • knew they went to Steelhart

The Cast

Character Class (Profession) Level Luck Alignment Player
Ahm-al the Witness of Cthulhu Cleric (Guild Beggar) 1 12 Neutral Joan
Ungo the Beggar Thief (?) 1 13 Neutral Joan
Obexo the Agent Dwarf (Stonemason) 2 13 Lawful Aidan
Strove Warrior (Rutabega farmer) 1 13 Neutral Aidan
Pickling (Watchman) 0 12 Lawful Ben
Faudur (Roadwarden) 0 6 Neutral Ben
Wilberton (Minstrel) 0 8 Neutral Ben
Puggi (Dwarf Merchant) 0 16 Chaotic Ben
Oliver (Orphan) 0 12 Lawful Jacob
Aeris (Elf Refugee) 0 15 Neutral Jacob
Dan (Agitator) 0 3 Chaos Jacob
Belar (Rake) 0 10 Neutral Jacob
Ralph Quickfingers Halfling (Haberdasher) 2 11 Neutral Erich
Quinlynn the Unlucky Elf (Sage) 1 8 Neutral Erich

None of the characters starting out this session had went to the safe-house from the previous session. Aidan, playing Obexo, arrived as they left the altar room for the first time.

Carousing

I again brought out the carousing table for some quick XP.

  • Quinlynn upset the Church of Tses; Waking up naked and hungover in the temple of Tses upset the priests. Adding yet another anecdote for the city’s growing disdain of elves.
  • Faudur and Aeris, bank rolled by Quinlynn, ended up owing a favor to the King of Elfland. The King charged them with finding a dwarven ledger from an abandoned dwarf mine up in the hills.

Getting There

Miners travel each day from Steelhart to the mines. As non-miner’s guild members, they each paid the 5sp toll to take a gondola up to the cliff top. From there, they traveled to the mine. With some rope they descended into the “Ruins of the Dwarven Delve.”

Mild Spoilers Ahead…

Entrance

In the first room they found several piles of refuse. They spent a bit of time searching through the mounds finding broken or discarded gear.

In one pile, Quinlynn stumbled upon a three legged tentacle monster that flailed but missed. The adventurers responded with ferocity, inflicting many wounds. Quinlynn followed up with a powerful sleep spell, and the adventurers hacked the monster dead.

Noting the water pipes up high, they opted to check out the door with the water pipe running above it. Ungo looking for traps, found none. They opened the door

Next Room

In this room they noted two doors. One blocked by iron slag, another open. Ungo, as per standard operating procedures, checked the unblocked door. Finding it safe, they opened the door and went into an altar room.

Altar Room

Entering this room they noted an altar and three other doors. A general sense of “rightness” filled the hearts of Pickling and Oliver.

They continued to follow the water pipes to one of the doors. At the door they heard some snickering. Ungo followed his standard operating procedure, and they entered the room.

Smith Room

Here the adventurers encountered two diminutive creatures with spindly limbs and functional wings sprouting from near their ears – gremlins.

As a Judge, I love role-playing mischievous and chaotic creatures. I keep the verbal sparing quick and to a minimum before pushing the players to action. The gremlins goaded the players into the water room. Or did the player’s decided to go there and the gremlins pleaded them to go elsewhere.

Water Works Room

Again, Ungo checked and opened the door. Dan took a few steps in and sprung a trap. Jets of steam blasted Dan, slamming him into the wall, killing him outright. Snickers erupted. Faudur triggered another steam trap, slamming dead into the wall. Even more snickers.

A gremlin, with a large cantaloupe belly, along with five other gremlins launched into an attack. The cantaloupe bellied gremlin fired a blast of thistles, knocking Quinlynn to 0 hit points. The other gremlins charged the adventures.

Ralph came barreling to Quinlynn’s aid, stabilizing him. The others fought the Gremlins. A few tense rounds, and the adventurers won out. Through the power of Cthulhu, Ahm-al healed Quinlynn.

Searching the room they found three nests. Each nest had a small box. Ungo checked the boxes and found a small spring. Ungo disabled each of the boxes.

Inside each box he found a single silver coin and a fragile tube of liquid. One side of the coin had an etching of a snickering gremlin, the other side had the words “Ha!”. The fragile tube rested by a small spring loaded hammer.

Back to the Altar Room and to the Crypt

Back in the altar room, they opened the door behind the altar to a crypt. Inside they found an anvil and dwarven statue lying in repose; with a rune etched shield overlaying a fine hammer. A riddle. Ben quickly answered the riddle and they resolved the puzzle. The shield moved, freeing the adamantine hammer.

Obexo took the hammer and smiled.

Calling It A Night

The adventure took a lot out of me. Each room had nice and brief read aloud text. For the Judge there was also large chunks of text; mixing exposition, situational, and encounter information.

At 9pm I closed up the adventure. I hand-waved finding the dwarven ledger.

Quinlynn invoked the King of Elfland to present the dwarven ledger. He bound Wilberton to the King of Elfland. The King of Elfland, however, said that Aeris was not worthy.

We spent the next 30 minutes leveling up characters; Three characters went from 0th to 1st level.

In Memoriam

To Faudur and Dan, blasted by steam.

Resources Used

Aside from the Dungeon Crawl Classic core book

Observations

I sent my playtest observations back to Purple Duck Games.

Writing adventures demands different levels of consideration. The author must first win over the Judge. And once won over, the author should get out of the Judge’s way by making the material as convenient and easy as possible to use.

At the beginning of the dungeon delve, I drew a turn tracker on the map. I explained that every 6 turns I would check for wandering monsters. In older D&D wandering monsters sucked resources for little XP gain. That is not the case in DCC as written.

Raiding the Ziggurat of Dis Pater

Previous session report | Next session report

Preamble

As with each open game table session, I never know the roster of players, nor the specifics of what I will run. In my preparation, I scrounge for random tables, write generators, procedures, and rumor tables.

To prepare for anything I did the following:

With a rumor table and the fallout from carousing, I knew I’d have fodder for this session.

Two of the characters leveled up:

  • Yeasty became a Bard (from Crawl #6)
  • Dave became a bow wielding Ranger (from Crawl #6)

Joan checked Ahm-al’s Trauma score of 1, and passed. Ahm-al still has energy to continue adventuring. (See here for more details on Trauma and Retirement)

The Cast

Character Class (Profession) Level Luck Alignment Player
Ahm-al the Witness of Cthulhu Cleric (Guild Beggar) 1 12 Neutral Joan
Ungo the Beggar Thief (?) 1 13 Neutral Joan
Obexo the Agent Dwarf (Stonemason) 1 13 Lawful Aidan
Strove (Rutabega farmer) 0 13 Neutral Aidan
Spike the Acolyte of Ramat Cleric (Herbalish) 1 12 Lawful Greg
Fredora (?) 0 14 Neutral Greg
Tink (jeweler) 0 14 Neutral Greg
Albert (?) 0 13 Lawful Sam
Dave Ranger (Woodsmen) 1 12 Neutral Sam
Badger’s Bane Thief (?) 1 10 Chaotic Marlene
Yeasty Bard (Baker) 1 15 Neutral Marlene
Mainge (Beggar) 0 13 Lawful Marlene
Robin (?) 0 6 Lawful Luke
Mason Stone Dwarf (Stone mason) 0 10 Neutral Luke
Shear Madness (Barber) 0 9 Chaotic Luke
Al (?) 0 6 Lawful Erin
Boo (?) 0 6 Chaotic Erin
Cap (?) 0 14 Chaotic Erin
Dog (?) 0 10 Neutral Erin

Carousing

I offered the players a chance to carouse. Six opted to carouse (Tink, Ahm-al, Obexo, Ungo, Dave, Strove); The following failed their DC 15 Will save:

  • Ahm-al stumbles into a minor misunderstanding with local authorities. Roll a Personality check. Success indicates a fine of 2d6 x 15gp. Failure (or inability to pay the fine) indicates 1d6 days in the pokey.
  • Obexo, the teatotaler dwarf, burns carouses while going to theater performances, makes lewd advances at a witch or conjure-man. Succeed at a DC 15 Will save or they turn you into a pig. Pick a character played by the player on your left. That character can understand you; For everyone else it’s squeals and oinks.
  • Ungo, despite his best efforts, you found love in your latest dalliance. 75% chance they’re already married.

Rumors

Each player rolled on the Rumor Table that I setup for Steelhart. They got the following results:

  • “Last month, one of the caves had an explosion. To this day, you can hear the howls of the dead.”
  • “The other night, I was drinking and this elf came in. Someone had mugged him, his ears clipped and bleeding.”
  • “I heard that the Guild Elders are forcing the old Master Guilder, Gentle Steve, to step aside. He may still lead the Guardians Guild.”
  • “Yesterday, or the day before, I heard a guy talking about finding a cache of old silver coins in the cliffs.”
  • “I heard that someone to the west found treasures from a buried king.”
  • “Hey, you’re new here…you looking to get rich? I need to know if this interests you? Any concerns about legality?”

Two of the players rolled the same result.

Further Details of Steelhart

As players wrap up their character advancement, reviewing rumors, and thinking on their carousing results, I added bits of information about Steelhart.

Map of city, river, lake, cliffs, streams, and mines

Steelhart – with mixed perspective because I couldn’t decide

The guilds rule Steelhart. And in the four days of carousing they learn aspects of Steelhart.

The Gods with temple in Steelhart are:

  • Tses the Arbitrator who Waits – Lawful, responsible for contracts of Steelhart
  • Dis Pater – Lawful God of Death, the Underworld, & Riches
  • Brigid – Lawful Triple Goddess of Fire, Water, Poetry, & Craft

Up beyond the cliff, active mines produce ore. Workers pole the ore along the Sludge Trails by pole and rafts. From there it careens over the water fall into the Sludge; Workers further sift and sort the ore in the Sludge.

The smell of sulfur permeates the city even as it buzzes in anticipation of next month’s Metal Faire.

Dealing with Carousing

Ungo had fallen for Anga, a married woman. “And what was it about Anga that Ungo fell in love with?”

“Her flowing green and purple hair. And her radiant emerald eyes.”

A Swine Time Was Had

Obexo worked with Dave to track down the witch. They came to her urban three story shop, with herbs and meats hanging in the window and throughout the shop. The witch, a 19 year old woman with a walking stick, greets Dave. She goes for her butchers knife, slamming it on a chopping block, asking Dave if he came for bacon.

Obexo, through Dave, pleads for her to lift the curse. He will give her the Star Crystal if she restores him. Her eyes light up with recognition, and she restores Obexo.

In the Jailhouse Now

While in jail, Ahm-al strikes up conversations with followers of Dis Pater. A moment of doubt passes for Ahm-al.

Should Ahm-al be following Cthulhu? A god that so often disapproves of any and all his requests.

Ahm-al would need to shift alignments. Joan, Ahm-al’s player, weighs the decision as the other players talk about a heist against the temple of Dis Pater. Would Ahm-al convert? If so, what would he do about the planned heist? Ultimately, Ahm-al feigns interest in learning more about Dis Pater to aid in the heist. And Cthulhu turns a bit in its sleep.

Following up on the Rumors

Robyn and Mason Stone expressed interest in the heist; and pressed on with some role-playing.

A noble, with airs of superiority, wanted someone to strike at the wealth of a rival merchant. In the Ziggurat of Dis Pater the merchant had deposited his wealth. During the funeral ceremony of the Lesser Priestess Pelendra, they could break in and steal it.

The noble tells them to look for the wealth in the vault on the main floor (in a lapse of judgement, no one asks how to identify said wealth; but I can always inject that later). Their co-conspirator wants to bankrupt his rival; He does not even want the rival’s wealth.

The noble then gives them a description and directions to a safe house (a two story, tile roofed house with a flag that has a squid emblem).

Here we introduce Erin, playing her first RPG session. Her characters know that the top level of the ziggurat houses the Blessed Helmet of Dis Pater. They have also worshipped in the lower level of the Ziggurat of Dis Pater; A large open room with support columns, tapestries, and braziers.

The Heist

A multi-hour funeral ceremony and procession through the large city park outside the ziggurat will honor the Lesser Priestess. The participants walked to slow drum beats, each naked except for a helmet.

They plan to sneak up behind the ziggurat, on the other side of the procession. Then cut through the box wood labyrinth and enter the temple while the majority of priests and priestesses attend the funeral.

Some of the characters opted to not join. The following characters went forth to loot the temple: Ahm-al, Ungo, Obexo, Strove, Fredora, Dave, Badger’s Bane, Yeasty, Robin, Mason Stone, Shear Madness, Al, and Cap.

The Approach

They approach the ziggurat, Ahm-al and Robin scout ahead, noting two naked guards with helms and staves. A bit of discussion and they strip down, don helmets from the group, and approach. “We’re here to take over. You can go to the funeral now.”

The guards accept the order, and leave their post. The rest of the adventurers wait, and then flood into the entrance of the ziggurat.

Crossing the entrance they find a 10′ x 10′ room with a stone beaded curtain on the other end. One wall has etchings of the underworld. The other has etchings of dancing skeletons. The group moves through the beads and onto a landing and head downstairs.

Lower Level

They light a torch and a few braziers in the main area of worship. Splitting up they explore a few alcoves that appear to be the quarters for acolytes. Others approach and investigate the obsidian altar and large chest for offerings.

Obexo smells gold and silver both in the large chest and behind a tapestry. Ungo fails to pick the lock on the chest. Badger’s Bane tries, but snaps her thieves tools in the lock.

In one alcove, Robin finds a silver dip pen, some silver coins, and a foot locker with sandals, undergarments, a purple robe, and a purple cloak. He takes the robe and cloak.

In the other alcove, Fredora notes a small box. Inside she finds a gold band and a stack of letters written from a Lady Suzanne to Emory; The letters express Lady Suzanne’s pleading for Emory to come back. In the foot locker Fredora finds sandals, undergarments, a purple robe, and a purple cloak. She takes the gold band, robe, and cloak.

A pencil map

Ground Floor of Ziggurat of Dis Pater

Up to the Main Floor

Obexo’s nose leads him up the stairs and to the door right across from the stairs. Approaching, he knocks. A voice responds “Yeah? Who’s there?”

“Just checking if you need anything.”

“Nah, we’re good.”

Next Room

The party proceeds to the right and enter the next room.

Inside they find a bed, footlocker, a small table with lamp, oil, and a devotional book to Dis Pater. In the footlocker is the now standard sandal, undergarments, purple robes, and purple cloak. This also has a purple headband with an embroidered blue eye.

Cap looks under the bed and sees an etching on the floor. Above the etching, tucked under a support, Cap finds a small leather box. She pulls it out and opens it. Inside she finds a viridian pearl and a small obsidian goat figurine.

They take the pearl, figurine, cloak, and robes.

Moving the bed, they see four lines etched into the floor.

Stone Etching of Orcus

Stone Etching of Orcus

A clear sign of Orcus.

To the Next Room

They move further down the hall and enter a dorm room. Numerous footlockers and bunk beds. They grab the robes and cloaks.

Further down the hallway, they find stairs heading up. They double back.

Meanwhile, Outside

The Greater Priestess came back to the Ziggurat, engaging in a brief conversation with Ahm-al and Robin, before she went into the temple. Ahm-al pauses a moment and follows. The Greater Priestess stands past the beaded door. Hand outstretched touching a stone. She withdraws her hand. And asks “Yes?”

Ahm-al offers a quick apology and returns to his post. Robin and Ahm-al wait 10 minutes, then grab their gear, put on their clothes, and head into the worship area to follow where their friends went. See one of the tapestries by the altar somewhat astray, they push it aside, climb the spiral staircase and bump into their party.

Back to the Main Floor

A pencil map

Main Floor of Ziggurat of Dis Pater

They circle up and agree to bust into the vault. But they will need a plan. When in doubt, FIRE!

Into the Vault

Not feeling well, Joan left, taking Ungo and Ahm-al with her. We rationalized that they opted to return to the watch.

Fredora decides to smoke the guards out. She pours oil on the door and starts fanning the smoke underneath.

Minutes later, they offer to help the guards get out. They hear the bar to the door lift. As the door opens, Obexo says “I get out of the doorway.” Everyone else follows suit. The door opens and 3 crossbow bolts whiz by, hitting the stairs. They now hear the telltale ringing of an alarm bell.

Initiative! Note: For such large groups, I’ve adopted group initiative. Each round, each side rolls. The winning side goes then the losing side. The adventurers win out. Yeasty, Robin, Al, and Boo charge in. One of the five guards falls. They notice the fifth guard pulling on a rope ringing an alarm bell.

From the back ranks, Robin throws his torch into the melee. And rolls a natural 20. On his critical result he rolls a 3 – “Foe jabbed in the eye! Ugly bruising and inflict +1d4 damage with this strike.” The table erupts in celebration as the torch strikes flame end into the hapless foes eye socket, striking him dead.

The guards respond, inflicting minor damage (no one collapses). Three tense rounds of back and forth, most attacks missing, but a few hit their mark. On the fourth round, the five guards lie dead and none of the adventurers have fallen.

Alas, I forgot to check morale, meaning the guards fought to the death. Surrendering guards would have complicated the escape.

Further Exploration

Fredora heads down the other side of the floor. Exploring rooms. Again standard issue, footlocker, oil, lamp, table, bed.

Towards the end of the hall, they find a locked door. Fredora knocks, yells “Hey there’s a fire!”

A male acolyte, in purple robes and cloak stumbles out. Perspiring, with blood-shot eyes, confusion, and slurred speech he does his best to help put out the fire. I lost track of this NPC during the extreme chaos of the session; Even though he wouldn’t have done much to disrupt the heist.

Back to the Combat

Having dispatched the guards, they turn their attention to the three stone chests. I clarify everyone’s location on the map. During the fight, Obexo and Fredora had started exploring the other passage. Strove, Badger’s Bane, and Al standing watching the hallway by the stairs, keeping watch.

Dave, Yeasty, Robin, Mason Stone, Shear Madness, and Cap decide to loot the stone chests. Robin opens the chest and blast of poisonous gas erupts. I grab 4d6, roll an 11, and call for a DC 15 Fortitude save. Dave, Yeasty and Robin fail their save (and each take 11 damage).

I explain that the poison cloud continues hanging in the air. They pause and discuss a plan. I help narrow down the options:

  • If you leave the cloud now you won’t get hurt
  • If you stay (or pull a friend out) you’ll need to make a check

Mason Stone leaves the cloud. Shear Madness tries to pull Robin out but fails their save, and dies. And Cap pulls out Dave.

A Bit More Side Exploration

Obexo and Fredora head down to the locked door. They bust it open and see a narrow hallway with paintings of naked helm-wearing men and women, each standing in that pose reserved for the nobility of the Middle Ages.

The high priestesses room has a large bed, armoire, writing desk with lamp and oil. In the corner of the room they also see a small statue of a medusa. Opening the armoire, they find three helmets:

  • A plain steel conical helmet
  • A round steel cap with cat ears
  • A helmet with rams horns curling down and back

Looking for secret doors, Badger’s Bane jabs a dagger into each painting, hitting stone in all but the last one. The last one feels like wood. She looks around and finds the secret door and the release. Cracking the door, she sees the stone beaded curtain of the main entrance.

Recovering Some Bodies

Cap rolls Dave’s body over. Dave lets out a cough (losing a point of Stamina, and gaining a point Trauma). Mason Stone, wanting the magic short sword from Robin, goes back in. As does Cap, trying to rescue Yeasty. They take precautions, but Mason Stone fails his save. Cap pulls Yeasty out, rolls her over, and sees death has claimed Yeasty.

The rest of the party leaves the room and lets the cloud dissipate. They loot the stone chest. Grabbing a dozen or so small leather boxes.

Obexo starts laying out options to get out of there. They settle on a plan. They will go to the high priestesses room, wait for the guards to come into the temple (going downstairs), then sneak out through the main entrance.

To the Safe House

The guards come, lead by the high priestess. She leads them through the stone-bead door and down the stairs. The adventurers stumble out, all dressed in purple robes and cloaks. Fredora scampers out saying that people attacked the temple. Then Ubexo with a believable tale. Badger’s Bane, Cap, and Al then come out with Dave between their arms.

The gathering crowd, partially clad in sheets or whatever they could find, looks to help Dave. With a bit of coaxing 4 towns people offer to help get Dave to a doctor. Badger’s Bane leads them to the safe house; Asking one person to fetch some water.

At the safe house, they ambush their rescuers. Two fall, but the third flees into the streets, surviving two failed attacks. Fredora throws a spear at the fleeing person in the city street. The players ask if anyone sees it. I call for a Luck check (roll under). Fredora’s character rolls a 1. Nope. Not a soul saw what happened.

We draw the session to a close on the evening of the 18th of Spring’s Laugh (Setday).

In Memoriam

  • To Yeasty, Robin, and Shear Madness who died in a cloud of poison.
  • To Mason Stone who attempted to recover the body but inhaled the lingering cloud of poison

Resources Used

Aside from the Dungeon Crawl Classic core book

Observations

Again, I had a large table (7 players and 19 characters). Through most of it, players opted to play a subset of their characters. Six characters abstained. Two more kept guard. Leaving 11 to explore the ziggurat.

I ask everyone to flip over the character sheets of characters not present in the current “scene.” It helps as a visual cue.

Blending into a crowd of naked people ran contrary to equipping for a bank robbery style heist. The single random aspect (a naked religious procession) from the Tome of Adventure Design help imprint this session on my mind.

From the second session the players have heard “Beware, beware the eyes of green.” They keep finding emeralds, viridian pearls, and now Anga the married love of Ungo.

Group initiative continues to shine. I noticed some confusion as most of the players come from the individual initiative systems and assume I will call them to act. I may adopt the Veins of the Earth rule about whomever holds the torch calls out when other characters act.

The Heist system provided a solid framework for an impromptu session. Throughout the session, I incremented the Heat die, and rolled it with regularity. Most of the time rolling below a 4. Regardless, the Heist system helped frame an evening of adventure.

Consequences to Consider

  • The High Priestess goes looking for the people she saw
    • What befalls the bodies of the adventures that the party left behind?
    • What does the temple say happened?
      • Will they acknowledge the robbery?
      • What will they do behind the scenes?
  • How will the wrath of Dis Pater manifest?
  • How does the city respond to the attacks?
  • Will Anga’s spouse respond with jealousy? vengeance? relief?
  • What will the cultist of Orcus do? Do others in town worship Orcus?

Things to Do

I asked the following in the DCC RPG group on Google+ before posting this session report:

In last night’s session, the characters robbed the temple of Dis Pater. They broke into the safe room and absconded with 12 or so leather safe deposit boxes (of 200 or so); The boxes measure 6″ x 5″ x 2″ (about the size of Veins of the Earth). The safe deposit boxes each varied in weight. Please help me create a random table of “What’s in the safe deposit box?” Need to find a random encounter table for Steelhart.

A Slow Path to Dungeon Crawl Classics

While out visiting my brother and sister-in-law, I bought Dungeon Crawl Classics in Lawrence, Kansas in October 2012. The art was captivating (and I should’ve bought the Easley cover). But the rules were not yet for me; I was deep into Dungeon World and felt the DCC book to be rather intimidating.

The game lingered on my shelf for years. I’d pull it out to look at the art, but it never took hold. Then in August of 2015, something changed.

Fate-based games were tiresome and predictable (see Fate Point Economy: All the Glories of Accounting and Fiduciary Obligations). Dungeon World’s shimmer and shine as a new GMing approach had worn thin (It took 18 more months to outline in a blog post a primary issue I have with Dungeon World.)

I was looking at running a new campaign, and DCC made the short list (but was still a dark horse, I think because of the funky dice). But 5th Edition hit and I wanted to give that a spin. I even set up rules for a 5th Edition Character funnel (and should revise those rules based on my observations.)

That campaign fizzled due to scheduling conflicts amongst the players; Also, Out of the Abyss is a hot mess and requires a lot of organizational effort.

A few months passed, and I started playing in a 5E game at Better World Books in Goshen. The group was rather large, combats moved at a glacial pace, and the campaign style was not for me. But it didn’t matter who showed up, the DM ran regardless.

During this time, I was listening to the Save or Die podcast, and I couldn’t help but not GM Jim’s exuberant praise of DCC.

I stopped going to those 5E sessions, as a perfect scheduling storm occurred. I had a chance to start a Burning Wheel campaign based on an idea I had been noodling on for years. We set the group, cleared schedules, and then life shifted and the campaign stopped.

During that short-lived campaign, I saw the Road Crew kits that Goodman Games provided. I decided to run a game to get some swag. On one of the Thursdays when the D&D group wasn’t playing, scheduled and ran a DCC Funnel. At this point, I had never played nor judged DCC.

I left that session energized and excited. My 5th Edition funnel was a pale comparison to the DCC funnel experience. The session felt part Looney Toons and part B-Horror film (abbreviated session write-up for Portal Under the Stars).

As winter passed, I was delving further into OSR options, working a modified Whitehack and writing my own FLGS Quickstart Rules. By this time, I had listened to all of the Save or Die episodes, and moved on to Spellburn. I love Jim Wampler’s podcast energy and enthusiasm.

And that’s when DCC clicked. I re-opened the books, and saw the game for what it was – an intriguing and energizing paradox.

A rules light system in a book that could maim a person. A game that eschews balance in favor of judgement calls and wild randomness. Where death is memorable and an inevitable stepping stone in the campaign story arc. And how a simple mechanic, the Might Deed, can obviate all of the feat chains of other game systems. Where players can get anything they want if they are willing to quest for it!

Now, I am running a regular DCC drop in campaign. I write up session reports, session preparation, and other procedures for the game. I am enjoying it. If the revolving and returning players are any indicator, so are the other players.

It’s a bit chaotic digging through my binder full of characters, never quite knowing what the session will look like, but I enjoy those challenges and improvisations. I’m running from a mix of modules, my own procedures, and improvisation.