Sunday, October 18, 2015

Disney Crawl Classics - Dragon Curse of the Slack Squirrel

Crawljamming Away from the Starless Sea

We're back!

Somehow, someway, I convinced the family to return to the weird dice, fumble tables, and corruption-filled game of Dungeon Crawl Classics.  Although my middle daughter Evie picked up her Rapunzel character sheet with a bit of trepidation, the DCCRPG really seems to be growing on my eldest.  Carrie's a regular in our local game club events, and just last week played in a Crawling Under a Broken Moon game session.

Before I get into the meat of this post, I just want to note that it's broken up into several parts.  There's a brief intro about running the game (you're reading part of it now!) followed by how we handled the 1st level characters, a play report, and then some behind the scenes info (rules modifications, a dragon named Voracious Steve, you get the point).  So if you get bored with play reports and just want to skip to the mechanics, just keep scrolling and you'll get there.   

Mouse Mood

We've been planning our Disney vacation for several weeks now, and everyone is this house is in "Mouse Mood."  Disney TV, Disney movie marathons, Disney outfits, Disney music… at this point it's coming out of our pores!  In the middle of all this celebration, I started hinting at a return to those 0-level heroes from our two sessions of When You Wish Upon a Starless Sea.  

If you missed those two posts, you can find them here, or save 'em for later:

Over the summer I tortured my family by making them choose classic Disney characters, and then I forced those poor souls through +Harley Stroh's unforgettable Sailors on the Starless Sea.  One by one, my family's favorite characters died horrible deaths as they faced off with beastmen cultists in a cursed fortress.  

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Alice from Wonderland, Flynn Rider, Snow White, Doc, Quasimodo, Aladdin and Jasmine, and Professor Doofenshmirtz… all dead.  

But there were some heroes who survived and took that enchanted boat from the Starless Sea and passed through a portal to the unknown.  I took those remaining seven characters, advanced them each to 1st level and waited patiently to continue their tale… 



Running a bunch of 0-level characters can be a lot of tun, but once a character reaches 1st level they require quite a bit more attention.  For that reason, I wanted to limit the number of characters each player had in front of them to one.  This was a welcome change to my kiddos.  Carrie stated that this was "more like a 'regular' role-playing game."  

I thought that was a funny comment!

I didn't want to ditch the characters from the last two sessions obviously, so I announced to my family prior to the game that we would be using Character Trees should this game continue as a full campaign.  Character Trees are a concept from TSR's Dark Sun campaign setting.  Each player would have a set number of characters and could change characters any time that it became logical in the story.  For Disney Crawl Classics campaign I imposed the following rules:

  • Each player can have up to three characters on their character tree.
  • Each character has the same number of experience points (I'd do this differently with "grown up" players, but for my kiddos this worked.)
  • Players can acquire new characters as they meet NPC's during the course of the campaign.

As to the rest of the player characters, here is who the players chose for this session:

Dark Mickey the Wizard (Jen)
  • Str 10, Agi 10, Sta 13, Per 9, Int 18, Luc 7
  • AC 10, HP 10
  • Occupation:  Wizard's Apprentice
Phineas the Thief (Cooper)
  • Str 8, Agi 13, Sta 10, Per 13, Int 12, Luc 12
  • AC 12, HP 7
  • Occupation:  Indentured Servant 
Rapunzel the Cleric (Evie)
  • Str 10, Agi 13, Sta 10, Per 14, Int 12, Luc 13
  • AC 16, HP 8
  • Occupation:  Healer
Merida the Warrior (Carrie)
  • Str 11, Agi 14, Sta 12, Per 5, Int 9, Luc 9
  • AC 16, HP 16
  • Occupation:  Hunter

Adventure Summary

Following their flight from the Starless Sea, the survivors of Emperor Charlemagne's expedition to the Fallen Fortress of Chaos found themselves floating through a portal into the unknown.  While escaping the subterranean ziggurat, the team grabbed lots of useful gear and loot, and made sure to equip whatever they could.  The seven survivors were no longer simple commoners…

… they were now heroes!  

During their adventure four of the characters found hidden power within themselves, and unlocked their true potential.  Merida led the team as a sharp-eyed Warrior.  Rapunzel joined forces with a mysterious deity of nature to become a Cleric.  Phineas' chaotic tendencies were a perfect fit for his new Thief abilities.  Finally, Dark Mickey would make his master Yen Sid proud by becoming a Wizard.  

The boat was moving slowly through an underground pool for several minutes, but then it started to fall down a seemingly endless hole.  The team couldn't just hold onto the boat and do nothing, however, as a swarm of deadly bats followed the boat down the hole, biting and tearing at everyone's flesh.  Phineas wasn't about to get eaten by bats, and the thief grabbed his crossbow and let loose several quarrels.  Soon, bat-kabobs fell to the deck!  Rapunzel tried to heal some of the wounds caused to the party but failed in petitioning the neutral gods of nature to hear her plight.

Worst.  Cleric.  Ever!  

At least Dark Mickey had a sleep spell ready to go.  Summoning the negative energies within himself, the mouse beckoned each of the bats to fall to the deck and take a nap.  Luckily the bats listened.  Once on the deck, Phineas and Merida lobbed them over the side of the boat.

That's when the boat struck ground!

Using his glowing skull, Dark Mickey shed some light on the small chamber that was at the bottom of the deep hole.  The cave was barely large enough to fit the wrecked boat.  The only noticeable feature in the room was a small pool to the north.  Merida tossed a skewered bat-kabob into the pool and the corpse seemed to sink fairly far.  Exploring more closely Merida believed the pool to lead to another chamber potentially, but would need some light to be sure.  

Between the four adventurers, the only light source was Dark Mickey's glowing skull.  Dark Mickey offered to let Merida or Rapunzel hold the skull but everyone refused…

… no one trusted Dark Mickey!

"Fine, I'll go… ha ha," Dark MIckey exclaimed as he jumped into the pool.  The mouse wizard swam about thirty feet before surfacing in a much larger chamber.

The chamber was over a hundred feet in diameter and contained a massive underwater lake surrounded by a stoney beach.  A strange wasp-shaped craft floated in the center of the lake, crewed by slowly moving creatures.  The glowing skull couldn't reach far enough to illuminate the craft's deck, but it did allow Dark Mickey to notice another figure on the beach to the east.  

Relaying this information back to the rest of the team, Rapunzel, Phineas, and Merida all swam through the underwater passage.  The figure on the beach hadn't noticed the heroes yet, as it's back was turned.  Phineas took this opportunity to sneak up and approach the figure.  When the thief got close enough, he made his presence known, only to be greeted by a jovial Lizardman Mercenary.  

The Lizardman said that his name was "Cap'n Zack" and that he was the commander of the Slack Squirrel, the Wasp Ship that now floated in the center of the pool.  Cap'n Zack's tale of woe began deep in the asteroid belt, millions of miles away from Earth.  The Slack Squirrel had left its home asteroid port of Bral and discovered a beautiful frozen statue encased in ice during a treasure hunting excursion.  But when Cap'n Zack and his crew thawed the statue they realized that the dragon "statue" was not a statue at all...

… it was the evil dragon prince Voracious Steve!

Voracious Steve took control of the Slack Squirrel and forced Cap'n Zack's crew to consume cursed slushies, turning each of the lizard men into mindless zombies.  Cap'n Zack was bound and stuffed in a barrel for later consumption.  Unable to control the spelljamming craft without a helmsman, however, the Slack Squirrel crashed here on Earth and Cap'n Zack escaped.  Cap'n Zack was alive, but he'd need to find a way to climb out of the cave on his own, as he was not powerful enough to face the dragon.  

But with the party's help, perhaps they could defeat Voracious Steve together and take back the Slack Squirrel!

Merida noted to Cap'n Zack that Phineas was a master of disguise.  Perhaps the party's thief could sneak aboard the craft pretending to be a lizard man zombie.  Once he was close enough to the dragon, he could strike a deadly blow!  The rest of the party was okay with this plan, and using some fish heads and bodies pulled from the pool, Phineas made himself up to look like a zombie lizard man.  

The thief boarded the Slack Squirrel at the front of the vessel, followed closely behind by the rest of the team.  Carefully Phineas moved into the center of the vessel, down a long corridor towards the ship's cargo hold.  There, a small dragon, about the size of a house cat, commanded four zombies to repair the damaged vessel.  

"Work, work, my evil minions of death!" Voracious Steve squeaked.  "This vessel must fly again so that we can conquer this world!"  

Voracious Steve then pointed at Phineas.  "You, zombie minion, come here and help with these boxes!"  

The disguise worked!  Phineas inched closer to the tiny dragon and prepared to strike.  Just thirty feet away the rest of the team prepared themselves.  Merida pulled out a battle axe and Rapunzel clutched her holy symbol.  Dark Mickey was busy cutting away a piece of his ear to cast a terrible spell:  Chill Touch.  This spell required the Wizard to Spellburn, sacrificing mouse flesh for more power.  The notch from his ear would guarantee a truly terrible spell-effect.

Once everyone was ready they gave Phineas the signal to attack.  The thief backstabbed the dragon, nearly slaying the creature in a single hit.  

"Treachery most foul!" squeaked Voracious Steve.  He commanded the remaining zombies to charge the four adventurers, but was then struck by Rapunzel's paralysis spell.

While Phineas and Merida were able to stand toe-to-toe with the zombies, and Dark Mickey remained at the back of the team, Rapunzel had a really hard time getting the strange nature deities to listen to her prayers a second time.  Her attempt to paralyze her zombie assailant failed, so much so that she gained the disapproval of the gods.  But Rapunzel's heavy armor protected her from the zombie claws long enough to "turn-undead" and force two of the creatures to flee to the back of the room.

We used poker chips to mark penalties such as disapproval.  Evie was not pleased.

Merida's axe took down one of the beasts, and Phineas' sword another but not before both were bitten by the zombies.  The lizard man teeth broke off when they struck flesh, causing severe pain and limiting the heroes' ability to fight effectively.  By the time Merida pushed her way past the last decapitated zombie the battle was over.

Dark Mickey just finished using his Chill Touch spell to completely drain the life from Voracious Steve!  

Cap'n Zack boarded his beloved vessel and shook the hands of all the team.  The battle was won, and without Voracious Steve, the rest of the zombies collapsed.  

"Are you ready to fly?" Cap'n Zack asked the party.  Everyone nodded, and the Lizardman led Dark Mickey to a strange golden chair.  

"This is a Spelljamming Helm," Cap'n Zack stated.  "Simply sit in this chair and we can take off."  

Dark Mickey did as he was asked, and soon the Slack Squirrel was flying!  It flew up out of the deep cave and far above the forests of Charlemagne's Empire.  Higher and higher the craft flew, and Dark Mickey was ready to leave the Earth and head for the stars…

… and then a stream of crossbow bolts flew past the Slack Squirrel as a warning shot.

A pair of magic-powered, gnome-crewed biplanes appeared on either side of the Wasp-ship.  The lead pilot pointed to the party's vessel and then pointed to something off in the distance. It was a strange floating island hovering in the sky.  The pilot wanted the Slack Squirrel to land on the island's runway.  

Dark Mickey complied, and flew towards the floating island, with a biplane on either side.  Merida noted that each of the gnomes had their names stenciled into the sides of their craft.  

One called himself "Maverick" and the other "Goose."  

Behind the Scenes


I wanted to changes things up for this next series of adventures.  At Gen Con 2015 I picked up my first 'zine:  Crawljammer #1 by +Tim Callahan.  I was a raging Spelljammer fan back in the 1990's, and after losing most of my books during college, spent the last few years recollecting all those beautiful space-fantasy books.  The idea of magical spaceships flying through the phlogiston always gave me a big smile, and Crawljammer's theme and setting definitely hit all my nostalgia nerves.  

Let me just quote Tim from the back of this book:

"If Thundarr the Barbarian and Iron Maiden had a baby and that baby were an RPG zine inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs using DCC rules, that baby might be called Crawljammer and it would be destined to split the moon in half with its wail of glory."

Crawljammer #1 is 32 pages of pure awesome!  

Rules for running DCC in space, some sample ships, a basic cosmology of the Solar System, stats for Lizardman Mercenary characters (like Cap'n Zack!), and a full adventure titled Cry Freedom and Let Slip the Bat-Men of Venus.  I was fortunate enough to buy the zine when Tim was working at the Goodman Games booth at Gen Con, so he signed it for me.  

Thanks Tim!

From what I've read so far (just #1, although I need to get my hands on the rest!)  Crawljammer works great for anyone looking for Planetary Romance adventures.  So whether you are a Space 1889 fan, an old Spelljammer veteran, or someone like me who believes that John Carter is a seriously underrated movie, Crawljammer is right for you.  

Designing the Adventure

When I used to run Spelljammer, my favorite part of each campaign was the acquisition of the spacecraft.  I relished that moment when the fantasy characters first realized that they had in their possession the means to go "anywhere."  There are several published adventures I'd like to run in space, but first we'd need to introduce the Slack Squirrel.

That meant I needed to write the adventure myself.

Fortunately, writing a DCCRPG adventure on the fly is pretty easy.  I had a basic plot written out in just a few minutes that looked something like this:

  • Cap'n Zack is stranded in a deep pit.
  • His ship was captured by a dragon after discovering it "frozen" in space.
  • Zombies

That's probably more than my initial notes actually.  

Since this session was going to be a "bedtime adventure", something that my wife and I put together in the last remaining hour before the end of the kids' day, I didn't need too much filler.  Our typical bedtime adventure lasts between 60 to 90 minutes, so we've got to keep things moving.  I like to start these sessions off with some action to grab my five-year-old son's attention, and then coast into some planning and problem solving before ending the night with a climactic sequence.  

Turning Cap'n Zack into a Lizardman was my first decision.  I wanted to use some of the rules from Crawljammer #1, and this gave the players a new character class to try.  My wife and Evie could both use a new character on their tree, and this gave them the chance.  I didn't give Cap'n Zack any stats before the game, since I didn't plan on him entering combat, but once we were finished with the session I let Evie roll him up:

Cap'n Zack the Lizardman Mercenary (Evie)
  • Str 12, Agi 13, Sta 8, Per 6, Int 10, Luc 13
  • AC 16, HP 10
  • Occupation:  Knave
The bat swarm encounter during the ship's long fall was unchanged from the statistics found in the book, but I did tinker with the Zombie monster entry.

Lizardman Zombies:  As regular zombie but with the following change
  • Brittle Bite:  Lizardman Zombie teeth detach after a bite attack, causing severe discomfort in the target.  Anyone bitten by a Lizardman Zombie suffer a -2 to all actions until they spend one action removing the painful teeth.

Finally I have to again (as always) give a big shout out to Purple Sorcerer Games!  All dragons in Dungeon Crawl Classics are unique, and I wanted Voracious Steve to be something special.  But working under time constraints required me to put him together quickly.  That's where Purple Sorcerer's The Crawler's Companion saved the day!  I entered a "Dragon, Cat-Sized" into the generator and out came Steve:

Voracious Steve:  Cat-sized bronze dragon; Init +1; Atk claw +2 melee (1d8); AC 11; HD 1d12 (12 hp); MV 30; Act attacks 1d20, spells 1d20; SP see below; SV Fort +1, Ref +1, Will +1; Al C.

  • Breath Weapon: Type (Poison gas); Save (Fort 11); Damage (Death or no effect with save); Shape (Cloud, radius 1d3 x 10’, aimed up to 90’ away)
  • Level 1 Spells: Invoke Patron (I chose Obitu-Que but we never really got that far)


Obviously our next adventure will take place on the floating Gnome city of Serraine, as featured in the old D&D Creature Crucible Top Ballista.  But from there, now that the party has a Spelljamming ship, the sky's the limit!  If I can keep the kids interested perhaps we'll visit Bral, or Venus…

… or a certain Purple Planet… 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

DCC "J" RPG - Occupations for a Nintendo Inspired DCC Campaign

Pixels are my Old School

See that picture up there?  That's me (on the left) and my brother (on the right) playing the original Final Fantasy for Nintendo.  I'm guessing this picture is from around 1989.  At this point in my gaming career I still hadn't discovered tabletop RPG's.  That part of my life would begin less than a year later.  Since my discovery of tabletop RPG's occurred around the same time as my NES and early JRPG days, the two events have been forever linked.

Heck, I even wrote a full blog post about the whole connection last winter.  

For those of you who haven't touched a Nintendo, or who shy away from console RPG's, the J in JRPG stands for "Japanese".  It's safe to say that most console RPG's from Japan include anime-inspired art, main characters stricken with amnesia, and at least one anthropomorphic race or species.  

It's been a while since I did a full list of new occupations, but had a great time coming up with those Star Wars - Stormtrooper themed options in the spring.  So I thought "why not capture that feel for Dungeon Crawl Classics games?"  

What I've compiled is a full list of 100 occupations, complete with starting weapons and trade goods, that can replace Table 1-3 in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game rulebook.  Please note that while I'm the one that put the list together, many of these ideas are straight from the minds of +Paul C and +Taylor Frank, who both contributed a TON of ideas on a thread in the DCCRPG Google+ group today.  Thanks guys!  Also gotta give a shout-out to my daughter Carrie who came up with the Pokemon…er… I mean "Pocket Demon" occupations.  

You rock, kiddo!  

Each and every one of these occupations could easily fit in a Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, or Chrono Trigger game.  Some of these refer to weird races/species, such as Automaton or Moonfolk, but for now just treat them as humans.  Or maybe you could make the Moonfolk elves.  I don't know, I haven't come up with new races or classes for these…

… yet.  

On to the list!

DCC"J"RPG Occupation List

(Each occupation is organized as "title - starting weapon - trade good")
  1. Academy Student - Sportstick (as staff) - Textbook
  2. After Battle Cleaner - Rake (as staff) - Bottle of cleaning solution
  3. Aimlessly Wandering Townie - Club  - An extra set of dull clothing
  4. Airship Crewman - Belaying Pin (as club) - Airship badge
  5. Airship Mechanic - Wrench (as mace) - Box of nuts and bolts
  6. Amiable Slime Creature - Mace - Bucket (for storage and a bed)
  7. Angst Ridden Village Teen - Throwing Star (dart) - Sunglasses
  8. Animated Stuffed Animal - Hand Axe - Bell
  9. Anthropomorphic Squire - Long Sword - Saddle
  10. Aspiring Bestiary Author - Dagger - Scroll case, parchment, pen
  11. Atypical Mount Trainer - Whip - Box of treats
  12. Automaton Cohort - Mace - Oil can
  13. Automaton Laborer - Club - Large sack
  14. Big Mouthed Street Tough - Brass Knuckles (1d3 damage) - Wallet on a chain
  15. Bipedal Bird Rancher - Staff - Young Bipedal Bird (Bi-Bir)
  16. Bipedal Bird Rider - Short Bow - Bag of bird food
  17. Black Magic School Dropout - Sharpened Wand (1d3 dmg) - Pointy Hat
  18. Boss Monster Assistant - Club - Burn ointment
  19. Card Game Aficionado - Metal throwing card (as dart) - Deck of cards
  20. Cave Witch’s Apprentice - Staff - Weak poultice, heals 1d3 hp
  21. Celestial Tree Leaf Raker - Rake (as staff) - 1 leaf from the Celestial Tree
  22. Cheerful Nurse - Syringe (as dart) - Adhesive bandage
  23. Cinder Squire - Short Sword - Coaldark Cloak
  24. Crystal Polisher - Chisel (as dagger) - Crystal polishing rag
  25. Cute Mascot Creature - Spear - Soft fur brush
  26. Disgraced Lackey  - Mace Evil Uniform
  27. Disguised Prince/Princess - Staff - Commoner Disguise
  28. Dragoon Jump Trainer  - Spear - Boot polish
  29. Drunken Pirate - Cutlass (as short sword) - Bottle of grog
  30. Dungeon Architect - 10’ Pole (as staff) - Map to an unknown dungeon
  31. Dungeon Chest Placer - Spear - Empty small chest
  32. Eager Innkeeper - Staff - Feather Duster
  33. Evil Monologue Writer - Quill (as dart) - Scroll case full of parchment 
  34. Exiled Space Prince/Princess - Short Bow - Moon rock
  35. Failed Rocket Pilot - Flight Stick (as club) - Cap and goggles
  36. Failed Villain - Short Sword - Red cape
  37. Flamboyant Rival - Rapier (as short sword) - Foppish hat
  38. Flower Vendor - Ornate Staff - Basket
  39. Fountain Dancer - Sharpened Dance Shoe (as dagger) - Fancy suit/dress
  40. Freed Pocket Demon - Sling - Cracked demon ball
  41. Frustrated Mime - Bowling Pin (as club) - Face paint
  42. Ghost Forest Charlatan - Short Bow  - Spooky whistle
  43. Gold to Monster Feeder - Tongs (as club) - Large funnel
  44. Grim Dark Apprentice - Staff - Notes from Grim Dark Master
  45. Gruff Blacksmith - Warhammer - 5lbs of Iron
  46. Gunblade Greaser - Gunblade handle (as club) - Can of grease
  47. Heal Potion Brewer's Assistant - Broken Bottle (as knife) - Three empty bottles
  48. Honorbound Cat Person - Hand Axe - Holy symbol of the Whiskered Goddess
  49. Kid with Amnesia - Dagger  - A picture of someone in a locket
  50. Lava World Native - Obsidian Club  - Decorative loincloth
  51. Legendary Hero’s Mother-in-Law - Frying Pan (as Mace) - Pot
  52. Living Puppet - Dagger - Spool of string
  53. Lost Time Traveler - Blaster Pistol (1d6) - Digital Watch
  54. Magi-Factory Foreman - Crowbar (as club) - Jar of glow worms
  55. Magi-Train Conductor  - Baton (as club) - Extra tickets
  56. Magma Prison Escapee - Club - Tin of tobacco  
  57. Mana Potion Line Cook - Steel Ladle (as club) - Mana potion (cures 2 pts of Spellburn)
  58. Meandering Merchant - Sling - Oversized sack
  59. Mercenary School Graduate - Long Sword - Hot dog (wrapped)
  60. Mercenary School Headmaster/Headmistress - Whip - Manacles
  61. Midi Musician - Dart - Electric harp
  62. Moonfolk Manhunter - Short Bow - 50’ rope
  63. Moonfolk Rockseller - Shovel (as staff) - 3 moon rocks
  64. Naming Lad - Quill (as dart) - Book of baby names
  65. Needlessly Large Sword Maker  - Bokken (as club) - Plans for the world’s biggest sword
  66. Nostalgic Shopkeeper  - Club - Finely crafted wooden horse
  67. Optimistic Resistance Fighter - Short Bow - Six pack of cherry cola
  68. Orphan Sprite Child - Dagger - Bag of candy
  69. Overachieving Tween - Short Sword - Gold Medal (worth 1gp)
  70. Overworked Potter - Broom (as staff) - 5 lbs clay
  71. Pet Store Clerk - Cane (as club) - Ploggle (headless living ball of fur with tail)
  72. Pixel Artist - Hardened Paint Brush (as club) - Easel & Paint
  73. Plucky Treasure Finder - Dagger - Long lost silver necklace (10sp)
  74. Pocket Demon Catcher - Whip - Demon Ball (stores one demon)
  75. Pocket Demon Gym Janitor - Mop (as staff) - Bottle of glass cleaner
  76. Raving Sportsballer - Sportsball (as dart) - Sportsball Uniform
  77. Reformed Monster - Club - Letter of reform from The Mayor
  78. Repentant Cinder Knight - Long Sword - Coaldark Leather Armor
  79. Save Point Tender - Broom (as staff) - Tent
  80. Semi-Civilized Sasquatch  - Big Rock (as Mace) - Teeth of the vanquished 
  81. Serrated Armor Armorer - Warhammer - Small hammer
  82. Sewer Level Slumdog - Dagger - Metal strainer
  83. Shadow World Refugee - Dagger - Jar of pickled worms
  84. Shadow World Visitor - Spiky Mace - Giant Land Snail companion (size of dog)
  85. Spiky Hair Stylist - Mirror (as club) - Tin of hair ointment 
  86. Spoony Bard - Large spoon (as club) - Lute
  87. Submersible Chef - Chef’s Knife (as Dagger) - Pot
  88. Submersible Sailor - Trident (as spear) - Sushi roll
  89. Summoned Monster Tender - Shovel (as staff) - Sack of guano
  90. The Mayor (if this comes up more than once, all but one are impostors) - Staff - Badge of office
  91. Toad-Cursed Knight - Long Sword - Shield
  92. Turnip Knight - Short Sword - Turnip Helmet
  93. Tutorial Sage - Staff - Chalk and small chalk board
  94. Underworld Dwarf Jailer - Hand Axe - Bottle of under dwarven under ale
  95. Underworld Dwarf Miner - Pickaxe (as hand axe) - 1lbs coal
  96. Unemployed Minion - Spear - Last pay (25 cp)
  97. Wannabe Ninja - Ninja-to (as short sword) - Grappling Hook
  98. White Belt - Nunchuku (as club) - Gi and Sandals 
  99. Wilderperson - Spear - Ear necklace
  100. Wolfheaded Pickpocket - Sling - Three finely crafted wallets

Parting Shots

Finishing up this list I got to thinking of how this could all fit in a really fun game world.  Where is the Celestial Tree, and why is it celestial?  What is the Underworld like?  How dangerous is that Magma Prison?  I may have to set a few adventures in this stereotypical, cartridge-themed universe…

… I wonder if I'll have to blow in my DCCRPG rulebook to get the game started… 

Feel free to offer up some more character options, or even some ideas for additional rules.  Also, if you spot any of the many dozen easter eggs in here please call them out!  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Doctor Who in the Cypher System

The Clever Jack who Talked to Machines

Two years ago I began my journey into the Ninth World with the release of Numenera.  I remember being completely captivated by the concept of a world a billion years into the future.  After reading through the core book cover to cover, all I could think about was getting to a gaming table and rolling some dice.  My only challenge was that my regular gaming group at the time was in the middle of a Savage Worlds campaign.  If I was going to run Numenera, I would have to do it as a one shot.  Lucky for me that I had just founded a new gaming club, the Norwin Game Knights!

Our club was only two months old, and we were preparing for our November event.  I ran board games during our September and October events, but for November I wanted to break out a true tabletop role-playing game.  It was the perfect excuse to give Numenera and the Cypher System a shot!

Given how easy it was for me to learn the rules just by reading the Numenera core book, I opened the game up to any and all players, no matter what their age.  With that said, I invited my nine year old daughter Carrie (wow, she was nine once?) to take part in the game.  I used  the pre-gen characters from Vortex for most of the players at the table, but Carrie wanted to play someone else…

… she wanted to play The Doctor!

You need to understand that our family is obsessed with Doctor Who.  While we can't claim to be lifelong fans, we can draw our lineage back to November 2012.  It was around that time that we ditched cable and instead started streaming Netflix in its place.  We were looking for shows to watch and we started with Torchwood.  I'm still a little bummed that we didn't get more than four seasons of Torchwood, but no matter.  

A little Captain Jack Harkness is better than no Captain Jack Harkness at all!

Of course Torchwood led to Doctor Who and my wife and I began our journey like so many others with the Ninth Doctor.  Soon my eldest daughter Carrie was watching and then Evie.  

The rest is history.

Cyphering The Doctor

Building Carrie's first interpretation of The Doctor in Numenera was very easy.  While she wanted to pay homage to her favorite Doctor (the Tenth, David Tennant), we agreed to build something more generic.  The backstory of course would be that the Doctor was stranded in the Ninth World, one billion years in the future, and needed to find a way back to the TARDIS.  For this build we made The Doctor a Clever Jack who Talks With Machines.  We went back and forth at the time with Jack or Nano, but given the Doctor's penchant to come up with skills and abilities on the fly, Flex Skill made a lot of sense.  

After two years of playing Numenera, The Strange, and now the Cypher System, I've had a lot of time to think about how I'd build the Doctor again should he (or she) decide to show up at our gaming table. 

Rules for Time Lords

If you've been a regular reader of my blogs you know that I like to keep things "rules light".  Rather than come up with all sorts of alien species rules for Time Lords, I think that a little creative storytelling from players and GM's can make Time Lords fit into any Cypher System campaign.  


Really, this is the probably the biggest challenge to using a Time Lord like the Doctor in a tabletop RPG.  When a Time Lord dies they have the possibility to regenerate, returning to life but with a new personality and perhaps a few new skills (although retaining the memory of their former life experiences.)  Let's tackle that last part first.  

In most campaigns, when a player character dies, the GM is open to letting the new character join at the same tier, or near the same tier as the rest of the group.  Regeneration is just as easy an explanation for this situation as would be a new hero joining the team.

Should a player choose to be a Time Lord, however, they should take advantage of the ability to take on a new Descriptor and Focus while perhaps retaining their Type.  Although the latter is not necessary, I do feel that some connection to the previous character should remain.  

Given the three portions of a character's build, the Cypher System offers a unique opportunity to not only play a Time Lord, but also to embrace his or her ability to change from regeneration to regeneration.  


Watching Doctor Who, I think one of the most entertaining parts of each Doctor is how they know just about everything there is to know.  It doesn't matter what they face, or "when" they face it, they typically can pull just about any idea out of their head either on the fly or from one of their previous life experiences.  

Lucky for us, the Cypher System already gives us a mechanic to deal with a Time Lord's wealth of knowledge!

Page 222 of the Cypher System Rulebook describes Short Term Benefits for Experience Points.  By spending 2 xp, any character can temporarily gain a skill.  Again, no need to change the rules or come up with something long and complicated.  


This is where we have to split up The Doctor from the rest of the Time Lords.  A Time Lord could of course be any of the four Types from the Cypher System: Warrior, Adept, Explorer, or Speaker.  For the Doctor himself (or herself… one day, right), I think that Explorer with the Technology Flavor is the right pick.  The Adept seems to be magic or psionic oriented, and when I watch Doctor Who I see a jack-of-all-trades Explorer, ready for just about anything.  The Technology Flavor could be used to power the Sonic Screwdriver.  


While a Time Lord could probably be anything they want, there are some Foci in the Cypher System Rulebook that certainly fit should you want to play a character that resembles everyone's favorite galavanting Gallifreyan.

Personally, since I like to think of The Doctor as someone who doesn't rely on "psionics" or "super powers", I tried to steer clear of stuff that could be more supernatural.  Some of these may push the limits, but remember that Sonic Screwdriver (or Sunglasses).  

  • Battles Robots (special, see Examples)
  • Calculates the Incalculable
  • Conducts Weird Science
  • Crafts Illusions
  • Crafts Unique Items
  • Defends the Weak
  • Doesn't Do Much
  • Explores Dark Places
  • Leads
  • Never Says Die
  • Sees Beyond
  • Talks to Machines
  • Travels Through Time (too easy, but I included it anyway)
  • Works Miracles
  • Works the System
  • Would Rather Be Reading


If you've read this far, its time for a treat (or not, as we may disagree).  For this is the part where I take all the modern Doctors and give examples of how they can be built using the Cypher System Rulebook.  

Since I've only been watching the show since Christopher Eccleston, and although I've seen a few episodes featuring the First and Fourth Doctors, I'm going to limit my examples to what I know.  But please, if you want to help with the rest of the Doctors, feel free to let me know your builds!

Ready to build some Time Lords?  Allons-y!  

  • The War Doctor is a Vengeful Explorer who Battles Robots
  • The Ninth Doctor is an Exiled Explorer who Would Rather Be Reading
  • The Tenth Doctor is a Clever Explorer who Talks to Machines
  • The Eleventh Doctor is an Inquisitive Explorer who Defends the Weak
  • The Twelfth Doctor is a  Driven Explorer who Calculates the Incalculable 

Fitting In

I've spent a lot of time covering how to build a Time Lord, but how could The Doctor  fit into your own campaigns?  

The Cypher System Rulebook

The most obvious answer is to just use the Cypher System to run a Doctor Who campaign "as is."  Perhaps you've picked up Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space but just don't want to learn another rule system (hmm… sounds familiar).  If that's the case, it's very easy to grab your Cypher System Rulebook and just start throwing adventures together.  Perhaps you want to recreate a scene from the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who, and your party will include Amy Pond, Rory Williams, and River Song.  Or maybe you want to tell a future tale with the yet to be featured Fifteenth Doctor.  

It's your story!

With the right table of players, especially if everyone is a true Whovian, you can have hours of fun just with the basics….

… but maybe you want to bring The Doctor into one of your other cypher campaigns…


In the First Series of Doctor Who featuring the Ninth Doctor, the second episode takes place five billion years in the future.  So that's a full four billion years after Numenera!  Perhaps the Doctor Who universe coexists with that of the Ninth World, and the Doctor and his (or her) companions arrive just in time to deal with some aggressive abhumans near the Beanstalk.  Now that Into the Night is in print, the players' Night Ship could encounter a strange, spinning blue box in the void.  Just go crazy!

The Strange

I fondly remember taking part in the Kickstarter for The Strange during the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary. In fact, that picture taken above of me and the girls was the fateful night that I became a backer for The Strange!  When I first ran The Strange, and was exploring the idea of The Estate, I immediately thought of Torchwood.  Heck, in my Strange universe Torchwood exists… which means… well you know what that means…

But maybe you want to break the universes apart, and have Doctor Who exist only as fictional leakage.  Maybe the TARDIS itself is a recursion, or just a single location in a particularly engaging episode.  If you have a few Whovians in your gaming group, a week featuring their favorite sci-fi TV show could make for some happy players!

Your Turn!

Agree?  Disagree?  Ideas for the First through Eight Doctors?  Let me know!  Feel free to respond below with your specific builds.  

Maybe I'll write up a Dalek soon… 

… or a bitchy trampoline.