Friday, May 27, 2016

Accursed: Blood Tide - Vampirates of Caribdus

Summer seems to be the time that I kick off the majority of my campaigns, so it should come as no surprise that my "next big game" is beginning next month.  Following a long-term Cypher System Fantasy campaign, I thought we'd switch systems and spend some quality time with Savage Worlds.  While I continue to run mini-campaigns, demos, and one-shots with Savage Worlds, it's been eighteen months since I've run a full campaign, and two years since a campaign with all grown-ups!

In that same amount of time, my Savage Stack of Awesomeness has continued to grow.  Just in the last year alone I've picked up everything for East Texas University, pre-ordered Rippers: Resurrected, and Kickstarted Weird War 1 and Accursed: World of Morden.  At this point, if I don't start using some of these books they are going to come to fuse together in a giant, sentient ball of of jealousy. 

But which one to choose?

I've hemmed and hawed about this for several weeks now, but last weekend I finally buckled down and made my decision.  I absolutely adore the Accursed campaign setting, and had a terrific time running a one-shot for my friends online.  But I'm also really itching to give the 50 Fathoms plot point campaign another go, after my wife and kids' lost their ship at sea last summer.  Since I'm always looking for a possible mash-up I came up with...

Accursed: Blood Tide - Vampirates of Caribdus

(Is the name too much?  The first part was my first choice, but then +Jeremy Land mentioned "vampirates" and I had to use it!)

Borrowing the character design and backstories from Accursed, I'm going to throw those cursed monstrous creatures into the fantastic waters of Caribdus.  Swashbuckling and witchcraft and cannons and curses... it's going to be a fun excursion at sea!  

As I started to re-read all of the setting materials from both Accursed and 50 Fathoms I realized that I needed to give my players some kind of reference guide for character creation.  There are some clear differences with skills, gear, and certainly setting rules.  For the purposes of this campaign, this blog post will serve as reference guide for my players, and anyone else who wants to see what I mashed together.  

Source Material

For the journey that will take our ragged band of Accursed from the Discordian Sea to Caribdus, we will be using the following Savage Worlds books:

  • Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer's Edition:  Fairly obvious choice, at an incredible price point!
  • Savage Worlds Horror Companion:  Entirely for the game master.  The players will find out soon enough.
  • 50 Fathoms:  Mostly for the GM, this campaign setting book will give us the Plot Point Campaign that I plan on utilizing for sandbox style gameplay.  For players, there is an abbreviated Player's Guide available at Pinnacle's website.
  • Accursed:  This campaign setting guide will fuel the backstory of our characters, as well as offer starting edges and hindrances.  For players, there is an abbreviated Player's Guide available on DTRPG.
  • Accursed, World of Morden:  Another one for the GM.  This book gives more depth to Port Sorrow and the Discordian Sea, which will be our starting point for the campaign. 

Skill List

Both 50 Fathoms and Accursed have recommended skill lists for player character creation.  The former is fairly standard and in line with the Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition, however Accursed brings back Guts, boots Boating, and offers Athletics and Subterfuge as alternatives to a wide range of other skills.  For the purposes of this campaign, the following skills are available for characters:
  • Boating
  • Climbing
  • Fighting
  • Gambling
  • Healing
  • Intimidation
  • Investigation
  • Knowledge (Battle, Carpentry, Gunsmithing, History, and Navigation are all common)
  • Lockpicking
  • Notice
  • Persuasion
  • Repair
  • Riding
  • Shooting
  • Stealth
  • Streetwise
  • Survival
  • Swimming
  • Taunt
  • Throwing
  • Tracking

Personally I prefer just having players roll Spirit for fear checks, rather than messing around with Guts. It just seems easier, especially for new Savage Worlds players.  Even though we'll be using monster characters, and there will be some horror aspects, I won't be running this as a "horror campaign."  Athletics combines Climbing and Swimming, while Subterfuge combines Stealth and Lockpicking.  While perfectly suited skills for Accursed, in 50 Fathoms it shouldn't be uncommon that a character would have only one half of each of those skill-combos. 

Edges & Hindrances

Characters in this campaign will be starting in the World of Morden, so players are free to choose just about any Edges and Hindrances they can find in the Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition or Accursed campaign setting guide. As the game progresses, they may choose to take Edges and Hindrances from the 50 Fathoms campaign setting.

Due to their connection with the Witches of Morden, Accursed can never take the elemental Arcane Background found in 50 Fathoms.  If they want access to this type of magic they will need to find NPC crew members.  Those that bear the Witchmark may only learn Alchemy or White Witchcraft. 

It should be noted that we will be using the 50 Fathoms resource system, which includes Gold Pieces in the form of "Pieces of Eight." Edges and Hindrances that bolster Accursed's Acquisition Roll system (a skill-like resource die) should not be chosen.

Setting Rules

To help create an exciting and monstrous action adventure feel, I've gone and picked out a series of setting rules from all of the source material. Fans of either of the settings may note that I haven't taken everything from both Accursed and 50 Fathoms, but I didn't want to complicate the game too much. Also, "Savage Intrusion" is new, something that I stole from the Cypher System's "GM Intrusion" mechanic.  

  • All Out Move:  Double move as a full action.
  • Armor & Swimming:  Subtract the non-magical Armor Bonus from Swimming checks.
  • Blood & Guts:  Spend a benny to re-roll damage. 
  • Damaged Characters:  Starting player characters can take an additional Hindrance at character creation.  
  • Defeat the Caster, Defeat the Spell
  • Pain Management:  If a Wound is suffered, spend a benny to turn it into Fatigue
  • Savage Intrusion:  The GM can take narrative control of a scene and offer an additional obstacle or threat by paying the affected player 2 bennies.  The affected player must give one of the bennies to another player.
  • The Ship:  Should the players acquire a ship, they must deal with Navigation, Upkeep Provisions, Crew, and anything else that comes with such responsibility.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cypher System Fantasy - A Shark at the Finish Line

A Shark at the Finish Line

This is it, the end of the road for this Cypher System Fantasy meets The Strange campaign.  This whole thing started off last summer as a way to test-drive the new Cypher System Rulebook, and get an idea of how it handles traditional fantasy.  Of course I had to go and break that "test-drive" and completely "jump the shark" a few months later after revealing that everything had been part of The Strange all along.  

I'm going to toot my own horn a little, as I think the big plot twist was a success.  With the exception of Frank, the only other player who was "in" on the twist, everyone seemed surprised when their Ardeyn characters ended up on Earth.  This all happened at the end of a climactic scene on a ziggurat located at the heart of a Starless Sea.  One minute the player characters and battling evil, and the next they are checking into a Hampton Inn.  Since I knew this was coming, I essentially built the entire campaign up for this single moment.

In hindsight I wish that I had been better prepared for everything that came after this game master jumped the shark.  

"My life was perfectly fine until Sister Sariety dragged my ass over here!" - Shenuesh.  

The first ten adventures of the campaign were certainly lighthearted, especially when it came to "player character-to-player character" interaction.  Zamani was needled constantly about whether or not he was a wizard, and for some reason Sister Sariety had terrible luck when it came to wells.  But most of this originated at the game table, and not in the campaign setting itself.  The players made the jokes, but the campaign was relatively sincere when it came to the story.  Up until the end of Sailors on the Starless Sea (session 10), we were enjoying the typical fantasy campaign.

At one point I made a comparison about how our transition to The Strange was inspired by "Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time".  Little did I know that the analogy was spot on, even before I experienced the campy mess that I created post-session 10.  The last three adventures of this campaign were straight out of a terrible late '80's, early 90's B-movie.  Let's review some of the scenes:

  • Fantasy characters trashed a Hampton Inn hotel room.
  • Zamani experienced bacon for the first time, and became an addict.
  • The entire party played D&D "in game" with two local, truck-driving, hunters.  
  • The super secret evil organization owned a golf course.
  • The PC's infiltrated the aforementioned golf course, and did battle with golf-club cyphers.  
  • The entire final scene...

While I'm being critical of myself, I should also note that I'm a little torn on how I ended the campaign.  I don't think I did a very good job as game master and storyteller.  What seemed to be a fairly fun inter-party dilemma could've been executed in a much better fashion.  You'll see soon enough, but Marc really put this in perspective when he said this:

"That was easily the strangest ending to any adventure I've ever been in." 

Perhaps I'm being overly critical, as it seemed like everyone had a good time.  But I think I learned some valuable lessons running this campaign, and I'll carry them through as I move forward to the next.

I need to spend more time listening to what the players want from their characters.  Looking back, there were so many opportunities to explore Shenuesh's backstory, and while I touched on them a few times, I never went deeper.  I should have, and regret not doing so.  The same goes for the potential relationship between Verrenn and his grandson Yaren.  

I also turned the bad guys into idiots.  Seriously, I had the Bradley Cooperative running a golf course.  Why?  At this point I had gone so far off the rails, that I was delving into "gonzo nuts", DCCRPG Crawling Under a Broken Moon style antics.  

So that's it.  That's my rant.  Lessons learned, and at least my players stuck with me through the end.  I think they may even be staying through for the next campaign!

Living 4 Crits Presents

Cypher System Fantasy/The Strange Campaign

Gabriella Winter and the Dragon Curse of Ardeyn


  • Zamani, a Spiritual (Ugallu*) Explorer (Magic) who Masters Foot and Fist**, played by Andy
  • Shenuesh, a Rugged Adept (Combat) who Wields Two Weapons at Once, played by Jeremy
  • Yaren, a Foolish Warrior who Stands Like a Bastion, played by Craig
  • Verrenn, a Spectral*** Adept who Casts Spells, played by Marc
  • Gabriella****, a Charming Spinner who Works the System, played by Frank
* Ugallu is a race option from Broken Immersion by Ryan Chaddock Games
** Masters Foot and Fist is from Worlds Numberless and Strange by Monte Cook Games
*** Spectral is a new and original focus written by Marc Plourde and featured on his blog, Inspiration Strikes
**** Formerly a Charming Speaker who Works Miracles on Ardeyn

Episode 12: Dragon Hunt, Part Two


The fantasy characters from Ardeyn, along with their handler from the Estate, fled the scene of the helicopter attack by hot wiring an RV.  Rather than fleeing town, the party figured that the Bradley Cooperative would never expect them to return.  So Gabriella drove the RV to a parking lot located a half mile away from the Bradley Cooperative's super-secret, golf course base of operations as part of a stakeout.  

While observing the Bradley Cooperative from a distance, the party heard something strange underneath the RV.  After investigating, they noticed a still-drunk woman exit the storage compartment, looking for "Steve."  The woman entered the RV, and Verrenn locked her in a stasis field.  Gabriella had the idea to use the drunk as a distraction.  Using her suggestion twist, Gabriella convinced the woman to crash the RV into the side of the golf course clubhouse.  Everyone climbed out of the RV for this scene, except for Yaren, who accidentally got left on board.  Fortunately he escaped before the crash.

While everyone at the Bradley Cooperative dealt with the RV crash, the party sneaked into the largest building on the complex.  From the outside, the building appeared to be a seventy foot wide storage shed, but once inside, the team found a feathered dragon monitoring an iMac.  

Verrenn was the first to the dragon, and let loose with an arcane flare against the dragon's Baezedaar Bracer.  Thee attack missed, as the dragon appeared to be a hologram.  After chiding the party for thinking a full-grown monster would be sitting in the middle of a storage locker, the dragon requested a parlay.  

The dragon wanted to make a deal.  It admitted that it needed the four visitors from Ardeyn to stay on Earth so that the combined power of the remaining bracers could finish summoning the World's Scale, a massive draconic planetovore.  Once the World's Scale arrived, it would devour Earth, freeing Ardeyn forever, and then the dragon would help the Ardynians return home.  The dragon believed that the people of Earth, especially the Estate, would eventually turn on Ardeyn, after raiding it for magic and resources over time.  The dragon also informed the Ardynians that they were all just "stories" and "NPC"s being used by The Estate.  Unlike Gabriella or even himself, the dragon told the four fantasy characters that they lacked the "spark", and should they take off the bracers, they would become mindless minions.  He said that Gabriella knew this, but was not sharing the information with her team.    

Given that the characters from Ardeyn were not happy to be on Earth, and Gabbie was looking to be somewhat dishonest, the deal was sounding pretty good.  

While searching the room, Zamani broke the hologram projector, causing the dragon's image to disappear.  Gabriella was able to detect the surface thoughts of the dragon, and noted to the party that it was less than fifty feet away.  Shenuesh's sharp perception led the werecreature to the corner of the room, in an area surrounded by boxes.  Using his shatter spell, Verrenn blasted the boxes away one by one, finally revealing a small drainpipe, where an eight inch tall dragon sat in front of an iPhone sized iMac.  

The dragon popped out of the drain and continued his plea to have the Ardynians help him in his cause, and for quite a long time the entire party was deadlocked.  The Ardynians didn't trust Gabriella and the Estate, and at least the dragon was from their home recursion.  It soon became apparent that half of the party might turn on the other half.  Out of nowhere, Zamani attacked Gabriella, just before Yaren attacked the dragon.  

Yaren used his powerful katana for a razor sharp slice against a tiny, thimble-sized Baezedaar bracer.  Once the blade connected, the bracer, exploded, and the dragon fell to the floor.  With the laws of magic no longer governing the dragon, the creature's shrunken lungs could not support it's mass.  Even though it looked small, it still weighed as much as a full sized dragon.  Eventually the poor creature died.  

The party left the golf course and returned to the Estate.  After a brief debriefing, the four Ardynians returned home.  Yaren, Zamani, and Shenuesh all destroyed their bracers, but Verrenn kept his.  Perhaps it would be the secret to returning the undead to life.  

Notable Moments

  • I used an image of "Ke$ha for the drunken woman locked into the lower part of the RV.  When she tried climbing into the vehicle, Zamani, in all his furry glory, tried stopping her.  She just called him "Jeff" and pushed past, grabbing a cold baconator out of the fridge.  Zamani went nuts for the baconator, and there was much inner party conflict over the sandwich, especially when Verrenn locked it within the woman's stasis field.
  • Most campaigns end with a "big bad", but I wanted this one to end differently... hence the tiny dragon.  The dragon became tiny through magic, so that it could stay hidden and out of sight.  The amount of effort spent on searching for the dragon and trying to ascertain the truth of the creature's "deal", was almost as much as the party could've sustained during a battle.  
  • The scene where the party parlayed with a dragon took nearly an hour from start to finish.  The dragon pressed for the party (at least those of Ardeyn) to join his side, and there was a short time when I thought this would happen.  
  • In the last moments before Yaren attacked the dragon's Baezedaar Bracer, everyone started powering up.  Spells were cast, cyphers used, and I really thought there was going to be a conflict, but wasn't sure who was going to be attacking who.  When Zamani punched Gabriella I thought the campaign had imploded.  I was close to being right.
  • I big question throughout the end of the game was what would happen if one of the Ardynians took off their bracer?  Frank's character actually knew the truth: those from Ardeyn were lacked the "Spark", and would become mindless NPC's on Earth.  But originally, I was going to have the characters "translate" into the players.  Zamani would become Andrew Lyon, and Shenuesh would become Jeremy Land, and so on.  


"I wanna get to Shop n'Save!" - Craig saw a grocery store on Google Maps, right near the Bradley Cooperative headquarters.

"Yeah sister!  How does this thing work?" - Zamani wanted to hot wire the RV.

"I look like a freakin' green ghost person... BOO!" - Marc describes his character for Ke$ha.

"I could cast ray of confusion, but I don't think it would do anything to her." - Marc, regarding Ke$ha.

"I don't care about the girl, I just want the Baconator!" - Zamani was really ticked off that Verrenn's stasis field kept his beloved Wendy's sandwich trapped in Ke$ha's hand.

"My life was perfectly fine until Sister Sariety dragged my ass over here!" - Shenuesh to the rest of the party.

"We got tons of experience points to use until someone rolls a nineteen or twenty." - Frank justifying one final attack against the level 9 bracer.

"The Schlieffen Plan!" - Jim exclaimed, as everyone powered up for combat.

"Who's attacking who?  Is it every many for himself?" - Craig started to panic.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

FLGS Quest 2016 - Phantom of the Attic

Phantom of the Attic's tucked away, yet awesome storefront!

First Stop

The first leg of my quest to tour Pittsburgh’s friendly local game stores (FLGS’s) took me to Phantom of the Attic in Oakland. Phantom Games was my first exposure to Pittsburgh’s tabletop gaming scene when I moved to the area in 2000. Actually, I discovered my first role-playing group by responding to a flyer posted on Phantom’s bulletin board, a group that would eventually include two of the players who still sit at my table regularly. 

If you are unfamiliar with the Pittsburgh area, the Oakland neighborhood is home to four of the city’s universities. Phantom of the Attic, on Craig Street, is sandwiched between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Phantom Games is on one side of Craig Street, and Phantom Comics on the other and both locations are on the second floors of their respective buildings. 

As soon as you enter Phantom Games you realize you’re in for a treat, and your wallet is going to be in trouble. Every square inch of the location is wall-to-wall gaming, with no nook or cranny wasted. Dice, cards, and other gaming essentials are at the front of the store, but as you venture back you’ll find role-playing games, board games, miniatures, and war-gaming models. If you’re in the mood to play, Phantom Games keeps a pair of large tables for demos and pick-up games.

In that rare instance that you can’t find something in the store, chances are that owner Jeff Yandora can find it for you.

Me and Jeff!

A Phantom Dwells in Oakland

Jeff is a staple of Pittsburgh’s tabletop gaming scene, and has been the owner of Phantom of the Attic in Oakland since 1990. The Oakland store first opened in 1983, with subsequent locations opening in Greentree, Monroeville, and Greensburg. In 1990 the original owner decided to sell the locations to the managers of the respective stores. For Jeff, a University of Pittsburgh alumni, Phantom of the Attic in Oakland became home.

“I went to Pitt, and I just stayed here,” Jeff commented, in regards to Phantom of the Attic and the Oakland neighborhood. Since purchasing the original business, Jeff mentioned a few changes in Phantom’s location but all on Craig Street. The current location has been open since 2008. 

The relative hustle and bustle of being at the heart of a college community certainly brings Phantom of the Attic a lot of foot traffic, but Jeff notes that their location came sometimes be a detriment. 

“A problem we do have is we’re not on the first floor.” Sure enough, if you keep your eyes level and ahead, it’s easy to miss Phantom Games, located at the top of a staircase from the sidewalk. 

Even with the challenge of a second floor storefront however, Phantom Games capitalizes on its location. 

“What you can sell is dictated by your environment,” says Jeff. “We have a clientele that is diverse in their interests.” Tabletop gaming involves strategy, tactics, and above all else: imagination. Some of the brightest minds in the country regularly frequent the shops on Craig Street, and many stop in to see what Phantom Games has for sale. College students, professors, and campus administration alike all purchase games and comics from Phantom of the Attic. 

A view from the front of the store

Get 'em While They're Hot

I’ve had the pleasure of spending two afternoons at Phantom of the Attic recently, as part of Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics World Tour. Living in a digital age, it’s wonderful to have a vibrant haven for gaming enthusiasts located in the heart of our city. Amidst all this technology, Jeff believes that 2016 is a “maddeningly brilliant time to be in the industry."

Tabletop board games are solid sellers for Phantom of the Attic, and availability from distributors can be a challenge for Jeff. 

“Which board games in particular?” I ask, in regards to the biggest sellers. 

“Whatever’s a 'hit', if we can get it,” Jeff says. “Supply's an issue."

A fantastic online review can actually make it hard for Jeff to find inventory for Phantom games, with every other retailer in the country dueling with online sellers for copies.  You wouldn't know it by looking at Jeff's inventory though.  All of the popular games from our local game club are on the shelves, and my wife picked up an expansion for Ticket to Ride while I was doing the interview.   

On the role-playing front, Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is Phantom’s top selling product-line, followed by Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars. Jeff noted that Paizo’s Pathfinder sales, while decent, have definitely dropped off since 5th Edition's release. We spoke a bit about the previous edition of Dungeons & Dragons, to which Jeff blamed some of the sales difficulty on the poor economy of the late 2000’s. 

Back in 2008, Phantom of the Attic held a special midnight release of the D&D 4th Edition Players Handbook. According to Jeff, for those first few weeks “[D&D4E] came out of the stable like a crazed nightmare!” Sales for the product line soon dry up, however, and Jeff recalls 2008 and 2009 being the bleakest years for overall sales at Phantom of the Attic.  It wasn't just discord over the new edition hurting sales.  Pittsburgh gamers were just pinching pennies during the Great Recession.
Fortunately time have changed.

Aside from Wizards and FFG, you’ll actually find a myriad of other RPG products at Phantom of the Attic, with Jeff carrying just about every other contemporary title. Savage Worlds, Fate, Numenera, Mouse Guard, 13th Age, the list is incredibly long and varied, and Phantom’s new stock is hot and fresh. There’s also a large selection of gently used products for sale, carefully sorted by rules system. 

That’s where I did my first shopping in 2000 as a broke college student!


Fighting for the "Geekery Dollar"

From super hero movies to Star Wars, Phantom of the Attic is at the epicenter of a growing movement.

“There is a general swell in geek interest,” Jeff says.

Even still, like many other FLGS’s, Jeff has to deal with a lot of competition. Online retailers like and Barnes & Noble can undercut local game stores, offering products at impossibly low prices. Kickstarters are another source of competition, allowing gaming companies to skip distributors and retailers and deliver straight to the consumer. Even when a Kickstarter offers a retailer reward, the benefits are nebulous. 

“You need a cash flow to operate a business,” Jeff says. When Phantom of the Attic participates as a retailer in a Kickstarter campaign, Jeff’s return on investment may not come for several months or even years. “You need to stay liquid.”

You also need to stay ahead of trends, and Jeff has taken note of the rise of digital resources and PDF copies of gaming products so prevalent in Kickstarter campaigns. Through a company called Bit & Mortar, Phantom of the Attic can include, with purchase, free digital copies of many of their products, such as 13th Age and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. 

Indirectly, Jeff believes there is business pressure from other geek activities. From conventions to cosplay to services like Loot Crate, everyone is competing for Phantom clientele cash. 

“There’s more competition than ever for the geekery dollar.”

Crazy RPG selection!

Time to Play

Walking into this interview, I envisioned FLGS owners playing games nonstop, whether in the store or in their off hours. Jeff dispelled this myth.

"I don't game as much as people think I do."

Even with a store full of new and modern games, Jeff’s heart actually lies with historical war games. He still recalls his first war game, “1776”, purchased as a gift from his mother in 1976. A few years later some fellow war gamers introduced Jeff to Dungeons & Dragons. 

But even with the obvious time constraints of owning his own business, Jeff still manages to find some time to play board games and card games with friends. He admits that he is now “very super casual” when it comes to his gaming. 

“The last time I played an RPG it was ‘Villain Mission Force,’” Jeff says. Friend, game designer, and fellow Pittsburgher Scott Pyle game mastered the session, using Scott's own Super System rules set. 

Jen spending money!

Your Next Destination

Here's hoping for a lovely weekend, and if you're looking for something relaxing to do, why not stop by Oakland to visit the shops on Craig Street?  Jeff and the folks at Phantom of the Attic are ready to serve up slices of high-quality geek products. Whether you're interested in role-playing games like me, or any other manner of tabletop gaming, I'm pretty sure your experience will leave you very satisfied. 

Definitely make sure to spend some time with the incoming used books as well, as there is always a gem to be found in those stacks!

I'd like to thank Jeff Yandora and the staff at Phantom of the Attic for participating in this interview and letting me come visit the store. I appreciate Jeff's openness to participating in this project, especially since he is my guinea pig!

If you have an idea for another location for me to visit as part of the FLGS Quest 2016, please let me know!  Also, we'd love to hear your stories about other retailers in your area. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

DCCRPG World Tour 2016 - Norwin Game Knights - Tower of the Black Pearl

Crawling Under a Broken... Shanty?

Last year I started running Dungeon Crawl Classics with our local game club the Norwin Game Knights here in the Pittsburgh area.  After a few one-shots, we tried Mall Maul, a 0-level funnel by +Reid San Filippo for his brilliant post-apocalyptic campaign setting Crawling Under a Broken Moon.  Something about those characters and Reid's outlandish setting really resonated with my younger players, so we continued the quest into 2016.  Our ragged, post-apocalyptic wastelanders journeyed across Umerica in their custom Dodge conversion van, and eventually followed a portal back to 1877.  

By February our table was overflowing, and there were several folks who wanted to play but couldn't get a seat.   Setting our CUaBM campaign aside, two of our players (Evan and Matthew) donned the heavy mantle of DCC Judge and started running their own tables.  In March, April, and at International Tabletop Day we had three tables slaying 0-levels and exploring 1st level game play.  

It's truly been a fantastic spring!

For our May event I thought we'd return to our roots, and bring the wastelanders back for another adventure... this time on the high seas!  

Dramatis Personae 

The Post-Apocalyptic, Time-Traveling Crew
  • Lord Old Man Legolas of Ikea - Elf (Level 2), played by Evan
  • Lisrayten - Mutant (Level 2), played by Carrie
  • Scrooges McDucks IX - Thief (Level 2), played by Dylan
  • Lithium Shield - Halfling (Level 2), played by Jeremy

The Scurvy Swabbies 
  • Craig's 0-levels
    • Namar the Atlantean
    • Genghis the Mongolian Horseman
    • Nas the Washed Up RPG Writer
  • David's 0-levels
    • Bob the Minstrel
    • Dylan the Animal Trainer
    • Joe the Elven Forester

Tower of the Black Pearl, Part One

The Night Train must have been designed by Doc Brown, because it accidentally carries the wastelanders across time and space to a watery, piratical realm known as Caribdus.  When the train sinks into the sea, the time travelers find solace on a desert island, where they meet other scurvy souls.  Captain Jack Sparrow soon arrives, and tells the team that he'll save them, so long as they go into a nearby sunken tower and return with an artifact known as the Black Pearl (not to be confused with his ship, also called the Black Pearl.)  

The scurvy wastelanders infiltrated the upper level of the tower via a small dinghy, slaying the pirate guards with ease.  Traveling down through the tower they uncovered a room full of candles linked to lawful adventurers.  It was here that Lord Old Man Legolas of Ikea accidentally made contact with the dark lord of magic, the one, the only Sezrekan.  Taking the old one as his patron, Legolas made some kind of pact but kept it from the rest of his associates.

After fighting with a quartet of evil, stone fetish-figurines, the scurvy wastelanders used a grappling hook and rope to descend into a room with three archways.  It took some time, but the adventurers learned that these were magical portals, powered by blood, after Dylan the Animal Trainer sacrificed his pony and poured the blood all over one of the arches.  

The portal created by Dylan led the scurvy wastelanders into a chamber situated far below the tower itself.  It was there that they did battle with another merry band of pirates.

    Adventure Highlights

    • I thought we were going to lose our beloved mutated duck-amalgamation Scrooges McDucks IX tonight!  The Thief was the first to climb the side of the tower, but he rolled a "1" on his climbing check.  It was a DC 5, and essentially he rolled a 1+4, but I ruled that he was very noisy climbing the rope.  Once at the top he alerted three of the pirate guards, who dropped the Thief by 50% hit points in one round.  He was lucky only one of them hit!
    • I'm so proud of Evan and his Elf, the Lord Old Man Legolas of Ikea!  For a character so central to our campaign to end up with Sezrekan as a patron, my DCC-heart just melts.  While in the candle room of the adventure, LOMLOI extinguished one of the flames and felt an instant connection to the old master wizard.  I gave Evan the option to use his Patron Bond spell, and Evan rolled a 23!  This will lead to further awesomeness.
    • Immediately after taking Sezrekan as his character's patron, Evan stated aloud that he couldn't remember his patron's name.  Even if out of character, Sezrekan heard this, and it didn't bode well for poor Lord Old Man Legolas of Ikea.  Sezrekan flooded the Elf's mind with dreamy images, and knocked him out of combat for a couple rounds.
    • The battle with the fetish figurines on the stairwell was brutal!  2 hitpoints with damage reduction 8?  I dropped the DR to 5, but the party still had a hard time defeating these things.  Taking a lesson from +Scott Malthouse's incredible blog post about combat taking too long in RPG's, I had the last figurine run after his friends were killed.  This cut down an inevitable battle by 10-15 minutes.   
    • We were running out of time, so I ended the game right after the first pirate encounter after the portal.  We'll be continuing this adventure next month!  If you are in the Pittsburgh area you should come join us!


    "I'm a thief, and I shot a deputy."  - Scrooges McDucks IX describes himself to one of the scurvy newcomers.  

    "We should've gone with the grappling hook!" - Lithium Shield screamed as he was beset upon by demonic figurines.  He wanted to climb down the side of the staircase, but Scrooges McDucks IX insisted on touching the figurines.

    "Like Sezrekan's children, they laugh!  A combination of the Pillsbury Doughboy and Chucky." - Craig got a kick out of the twisted figurines.

    "Does anyone want to remind me of what 'his' name is?" - Evan couldn't remember his brand new patron Sezrekan's name.  This had negative ramifications in the game.

    "Go get the bag of dice, these aren't working for him." - Whenever Craig's son Dylan rolls poorly he makes him swap out his dice.

    "Dad, is this like golf, where the lowest number wins?" - Carrie's dice were not agreeable this night.

    Evan - "Look at your characters, and tell us if you have anything useful."
    Carrie - "I have the Mona Lisa."
    David - "I have a pony."

    In Memoriam 

    • Namar the Atlantean - Mauled by a figurine
    • Bob the Minstrel - Pummeled to death by a figurine

    Sunday, May 15, 2016

    DCCRPG - The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk - Part One

    Great SCOT Returns!

    The SCOT stands for "Sunken City Omnibus Tour," and what makes this series of events "Great" is that we plan on running through all four of +Jon Marr's amazing adventures one by one:

     The Sunken City Omnibus comes with four adventures:

    Back in March we finished "Perils of the Sunken City", as The Free Company fled Madazkan's Dungeon with a hefty stash of loot and a surly, lying skull named Cedric.  It took our group two sessions to finish "Perils of the Sunken City":

    We had a little player turnover this game, so I'm sharing rules for this attempt at a long term, but open door campaign:

    • Schedule five players for each event
    • Hold a sixth seat free for last minute additions
    • Players who complete an adventure have "dibs" on joining the next adventure
    • Players can bow out, and rejoin later with living or new characters so long as there is a open spot at the virtual table
    Michael (Ramson the Dwarven Priest) had to bow out last night, so we were thrilled to have +Jarrett Crader join our merry band.

    As always, Die Rodney!

    The Free Company Roster

    The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk, Part One

    The Free Company used the Sending Stones to travel to Slither's Edge, a strange little village located in a dark corner of the swamps.  The people of the village are mostly human, highly eccentric, worship an evil snake god known as Salissak, but are otherwise quite welcoming to the adventurers and take them on a tour.

    After the tour, The Free Company takes part in a festival known as "All Fang's Friday."  The party takes part in a muck mellon eating contest and a foot race.  At the end of the footrace (in which Nicodemus wins), a local farmer named Grik comes to the festival covered in muck and blood.  He proclaims that Mist Demons have come to his pig farm, and are carrying away his prize hogs.  

    The Free Company is contracted by Mayor Beechem to defend Grik's farm.  The Mist Demons appear to be dark and shadowy figures wearing strange technology that puffs out red and black smoke.  The demons are startled by The Free Company's arrival, and a battle ensues.  The Free Company wins, but the remaining Mist Demons drag their dead away under cover of mist before any prisoners can be taken.  Grik, a witch doctor and shaman of Salissak, offers up free snake cocktails to the victors.  

    Once back at Slither's End the mayor hires the party to investigate a series of kidnappings affecting the town's children.  The Free Company takes on the job, and settles into the local inn for a few days rest to heal up.  Ssof Rethaf converts Grik to the worship of Aristemis to remove some of his disapproval, but fails to win over anyone else from the town.    

      Adventure Highlights

      • Nicodemus, the Thief with a 4 Intelligence, spent a lot of time speaking for Cedric the Skull. Carefully placing the skull on his shoulder, Nic kept mentioning things that Cedric was saying, even though the skull was silent.  Overjoyed by his new friend's interest, Cedric decided to make Nicodemus' shoulder his new home, growing spiny roots that drilled into the Thief's flesh.  As the Spice Girls say, "... tonight is the night when two become one."
      • During the brief tour of the village, The Free Company discovers an ominous cage on a boom in the center of the village, just above a blood filled pool.  The village welcoming committee states emphatically that the cage is just a speaker's lectern, and the water is rusty.  Apparently everyone in the village was in on the sham, because they all called the obvious "dunk tank cage" a "lectern."  
      • While talking with some of the common townsfolk, Jiminy Chrismas is mistaken as a child by a human child.  The kid says something pretty creepy, that only Jiminy hears:  "Thirty eyes for every day, thirty souls shall come his way.  Wrapping, wrapping, one by one.  Every year the feast will come."  In general, the children of this town are fairly joyless.
      • Hooray for demi-humans!  Bellows and Jiminy Chrismas were glorious gladiators during the battle with the Mist Demons.  Two attacks per round, even with a lower die-type, turned the tide of the battle very quickly.  In hindsight, since this was originally an adventure for 0-level character, I should've up'd the hitpoints on these baddies, but oh well!
      • During his attempt to convert the pig farmer Grik to Aristemis'ism, Ssof Rehtaf agreed to drink some of the snake tea.  His goddess was okay with the consumption, but the Cleric started growing scales on the back of his hand.  
      • Watson the Wizard meets a fellow magic-user, Vokas the Fire Mage.  The enigmatic spellcaster also went by "Vokas the Man Ape", and constantly apologized for his terrible bestial appearance, even though he just looked like some dude in a loincloth.  Clearly no Man Ape.  Vokas offered to sell Watson a "Potion of the Claw Hand," but Watson turned him down... poor choice.
      • New Magic Item - Potion of the Claw Hand
        • Turns the user's left hand into a claw, just like Wolverine, but bone not Adamantium.  So more X-Men Origins: Wolverine, not any of the good movies.
        • If not wielding a shield, the user gets an additional attack with a d16 Action Die for 10 minutes.
        • The claw does 2d5 damage.
        • The attack can be modified by Strength or Agility for attack and damage rolls.  Deed Die take effect for Warriors and Dwarves.    
      • Ssof Rehtaf may have made an enemy of the Little Sisters of Salissak at the end of the game, when he was going around town trying to convert other followers to Aristemis.  Even though the cleric had already taken care of his disapproval, Ssof wanted to help the town out by switching to a lawful deity.  The people of Slithers End weren't budging, and took note of Ssof's activities.    


      "All butcher's have grappling hooks." - Andy comments on his character's starting occupation gear.

      "Who's this 'Salty Stack' guy?" - Nicodemus was taking an interest in the village's patron deity Salissak.

      "Does anyone else think this town is a sham, but not a Sham Wow?"  Bellows spent a lot of time watching late night infomercials in Mustertown.

      "Go get 'em, champ!" - Jiminy Chrismas' Halfling words of Luck to help get Ssof back in the action.

      "I used to be an adventurer, then I took a blow dart to the knee." - Marc, after his character Bellows took a critical hit to the knee.  I wonder how often this comment is used in other games, given the prevalence of this critical on the chart?

      "Well, you weren't a lot of help killing the bad guys, but you helped my friend out here, so... thank's for that."  - Ssof's prayer to the goddess Aristemis.  

      "I knee'd some justice!"  - Bellows' war cry.

      In Memoriam 

      • N/A - No kills!?!  What the heck!