Friday, January 20, 2017

News from the Graylands 3

The merry season of Cripple Feast is upon us in jolly old Phaidecia!  Already Merry John, the beggar that hangs around the Ten of Wands Inn, has reunited his old vassals to form the Merry Men!  Merry John is looking for a second term as the Cripple King and his followers have already donned their usual, multipointed, rust red, hats and are looking for trouble!  So pick up a local beggar, start a militia, and don paper mache hats in a festive color to represent your new liege!

As a part of the holiday season, though the Church strictly forbids the practice of pagan Cripple Feast in favor of Moreclocksday, the celebration of the Church's perpetual quest to put clocks everywhere, it does hold a spectacularly festive event that all members of the clergy and believers of the 3rd Cog Rank and above can participate in.  The Song of the Fallen Leviathan is an event in which the most beautiful hymns of the Church are sung and a ritual is performed that summons a real angel!  So don your magenta robes and CooCoo hats and come on down to the Ticking Cathedral!

A whisper flies upon a chilly northern wind through the ancient boughs of the Grymwald.  The word from some woodsmen is that Skrain's fortress, long abandoned, is now occupied once more!  Some claim the Ancient Bane of the Saints has returned.  Others think it is just bandits and hysterical reporting has greatly diminished the trust of the people in the media.  Farmer Jared seems to think that Faerie creatures from Hell have dragged Skrain's soul, kicking and screaming from the pit to serve their weird purposes.  What a nutjob.

In other news, an odd patch of greenery has appeared on the Forbidden Isle.  Observers say that the newly appeared grove seems to surrounded in a perpetual twilight and that many animals, including some not native to this area or dimension, have begun to frolic about it.  As you know, dear readers, frolicking is strictly forbidden by the Wands under penalty of complete and instantaneous body hair removal so I do hope these animals watch themselves.

The Church has officially offered up a reward of 100 gold for anyone willing to destroy that center of pagan worship known as the Cave of Secrets near the Chaotic city of Punjar.  It is rumored that they have made this decision because a number of the cities elite have been secretly visiting the cave, encouraging heresy amongst the upper echelons of our society!  Go to a church for more information.

The Legions of the Raven have begun their siege of the Crusader fortress-city of Thrandhelm.  It is said that a new sorcerer has risen up to lead the hoards of Chaos against the Crusader Kings of Law.  His Majesty Bran Thrand IX, the Giant of the Graylands, raised a flabby arm to reporters to report, mouth full of small crustaceans, that there was nothing to worry about.  "Afterall they are just barbarians!"  He said spewing tiny carapaced legs and spicy red sauce.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thoughts on Bards, Clerics, and Christianity

A new player is joining the party and speculated on perhaps playing a bard of some kind because he had seen from the blog that this party was pretty combat savvy already and thought it would be cool to be a purely social character with some support elements.

That got me thinking about the Bard classes I have seen from other games like 4e,5e, and Pathfinder but I always had some trouble with these classes.  For one, performing in combat is stupid.  In the midst of that clash of steel on steel with adrenaline pumping through your veins and blood pounding in your ears, would you even notice someone playing music to give you encourage you?  Would you notice the story telling or dance of some half-elf while arcane explosions and dragon fire rages all around you?  The logistical problem becomes evident.

However, I like playing the role of the traveling performer and the magical rogue.  The bard fits into the world of medieval fantasy.  In real history, these were people that played a crucial role in the social machinations of medieval Europe.  They preserved Western culture with their oral tradition.  They comforted weary travelers around campfires or peasants in Inns.  The songs and stories of a people are central to their collective identity.  In this way, bards played a similar role as priests.  Priests were a core part of the Medieval world.  They preached the foundational ideals of the Western world that are essential to our fantasy: Incredible people, braving the chaos of their time, redeeming themselves and their world by bringing light to the darkness.  It is no wonder that clerics were made into magical figures when they are such an important aspect of western fantasy.

Why can't the same be true for bards?

They are a part of that heroic tradition in the West.  They take the stories of incredible people and make them known to all.  They play into the archetypical heroes journey, which is the same redemption narrative that the clerics represent.  Let's just throw out the notion of Bards doing non-magical performance during combat.  Let's make their music explicitly magical when they are in combat while preserving their normal social role outside of combat.

It is really the reverse problem that designers have with Clerics.  Clerics lose their out of combat importance too often.  Their blessings are not to be spoken over congregations but as buffs in the heat of battle.  They don't speak sermons or attempt evangelism.  Part of the problem is the removal of Christianity from an archetype that can never truly be free of its Christian roots.  Pagan clerics were just wizards.  They spoke spells and curses and had dark gods (patrons) that had to be appeased with rituals.

I recall a recent problem I had with describing a small church in a game.  Most of the Lawful religions in games are just pseudo-Catholic and this church was no different.  In the back of the church, I had to stop myself from saying that there were implements for Communion because there is no reason for Communion to exist in a world without Christianity and something felt lost.  The image of the small chapel was incomplete because I had omitted something foundational to the fantasy world.

I was omitting Christianity.

I am a Christian myself, so I am admittedly biased but I really think that Western Medieval Fantasy is, for better or worse, inexplicably linked to the Christian worldview.  This post has gone in a different direction than originally planned so I will have to change the title but I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.  How could you implement Bards into the Dungeon Crawl Classics ruleset?  How ought Bards to be implemented in games period?  Is D&D intrinsically linked to Christianity?  Leave me a comment.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Religion in the Graylands

It may seem as though since we have already seen that there is a multitude of deities on the side of Law and Chaos, that there must be a multitude of religions.  This would be a misconception.  There are really just two main religions in the Graylands.  Law and Chaos are religions.  They have different pantheons which have different sects built around the individual gods but when the time come for war, the sides are Chaos and Law.  There have been many Crusades on both sides and whenever the Lawful world is under attack, the adherents of Law come to defend it.  The hoards of Chaos have a more complex relationship to one another, but, in general, when one sect is under attack, others will come to defend.  More often than not, Chaos is the aggressor, however, because it is far easier to rally Chaos worshippers when you offer them the chance to smash and burn things.  Old texts like the Eternal Tome offer this often forgotten dichotomy between Law and Chaos: "Beneath the rule of Chaos, the strong consume the weak.  Bathed in the light of the Eternal Law, it is the strong who protect the weak."

The Grand Ticking Church of Timekeeping Decachrontatus who turns the Grinding Gears of Reality

This is a Lawful cult whose power base is in our own Phaidecia.  Its beliefs about Law are best described as "For all things, a place and function."  The priests of Decachronatus believe that each person is a cog in a cosmic machine and perfect order will be achieved when each person submits themselves to their preordained purpose.  This does result in a rigid class structure.  Social mobility is not just distasteful but can be considered sinful, though there is some theological bickering on this point.  The church is also laid out in a strict hierarchy and it is only by incredible ability, effort, and divine mandate that any cleric ascends through the ranks.

Most of the cities of the Lawful sects find themselves in the heartland of the Civilized Lands but the Church set up in the land that would become Phaidecia because there the first Wands found the staves made from the bone of the Storm Leviathan.  There Decachronatus appeared to them and established his church on the site where he slew and buried the beast.  Phaidecia then built itself around that holy site.

The Red Temple

In Redrum, the Red Temple stands as a defiant thorn of Chaos in the side of the Wands.  There the Hidden Lord and Cadixtat, the Chaos Titan, are worshipped with human sacrifice and orgies.  The Red Temple Cult is a weird group of oddly stuck together sects.  Like most things in Chaos, organization is next to nonexistent.  There are occasionally quite odd fusions as a result.  The two sects both believed that the land taken by Phaidecia was sacred for different reasons.  Cadixtat's mother was the Storm Leviathan.  The Hidden Lord's reasons are his own.  The two sects decided that they both hated the Phaidecian, so they decided to build a great big middle finger together in the form of the abominable Red Temple.  The Red Temple Cult believes exactly the opposite of the Grand Ticking Church out of spite.  Whereas the Church believes in a rigid social order, anyone can get anything they want in Redrum through the act of murder.  You want this guy's bar?  Kill him.  You want to step up the clerical hierarchy?  Kill the next highest priest.  The Red Temple priests are not really very organized but there are some remaining clerics that still hold to the original plan of the Red Temple Cult to destroy Phaidecia.

Monday, December 19, 2016

An Idea for an Elf Ranger

The DCC Elf class is not what most of my players think of when they think of elves.  The DCC class, like older D&D, is an odd combination of magic-user and warrior, but in DCC, this combination really makes it entirely a magic-user.  The Warrior Class is so much better at fighting than the other classes that the Elf is just a slightly more robust wizard by comparison.  This is not what my players think of when they think of elves.  They immediately pick up a bow and try to be Legolas.  I could just tell them that the game doesn't work that way, but in my experience, defying players' expectations from popular media with such fundamental elements like the class and race they will be playing just leads to confusion and disappointment.  So I sketched up what I thought would be a good compromise between the DCC conception of Elves and the common view of them.  This would be an alternative that a player could choose when they roll up an Elf.  The other class would remain in use and unchanged.  Tell me what you think.!Avgowdv63eX9hwoBtLVXJk1nov0Z

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Horrible House of the Mad Doctor Area 2

Before we continue into the Mad Doctor's abhorrent abode, we ought to take a look at the enemies that the PCs will be facing as they traverse this terrifying trek.

These creatures do not have HP.  In order to reproduce their cartoonishness, I have replaced their HP with a table.  Every time they are hit, roll a d4 on their table to determine the result.  These creatures are quite resilient and this is purposeful.  The PCs ought to be running like Mickey Mouse is in the cartoon.

Skeleton: +3 Smack (1d6), +3 Choke (1d4/2d4/3d4), +1 Skull Throw (1d4+1), AC:11, HP:NA HD:1d4, Fort: +1, Ref: +1, Will: +1, Mvm: 30ft
HP Table:
1) The Skeleton tumbles apart to reform in 2d8 rounds.
2) The Skeleton's head is knocked off.  The Skeleton loses the ability to use Skull Throw and will spend next round trying to find its head, but it will forget about its head and continue its attack, otherwise unhindered.
3) The Skeleton loses its legs, meaning that it is Slowed.
4) The Skeleton's torso falls apart and its Skull falls on its pelvis.  It can no longer use any abilities but Nip: -1 (1d4).  If it should lose its head, it will spend 3 rounds finding its head.

Skeleton Spider: +3 8-Armed Smack (1d6+1), +3 Web Grab (Pulls the target onto the Spider's web.  The target is then trapped, unable to take any actions until he is freed by a PC with an Action.), +5 Skeleton Cage (The Spider jumps on top of the target becoming a cage around the target.  The Spider is immune to dmg from the inside.  The Spider will free the target if it is hit or if the target tickles its ribs.), AC:11, HP: NA, HD: 1d4, Fort: +2, Ref: +2, Will: +2, Mvm: 30ft
HP Table:
1) The Spider loses most of its bones, becoming a much smaller version of itself.  The Spider then runs away to rebuild itself in 2d8 rounds.
2) The Spider falls on its back and will spend the next 1d4 rounds trying to right itself, during which time it is defenseless.
3) The Spider loses its skull.  The Spider will spend a round trying to find its head before it will continue its attack unhindered.
4) The Spider loses its hands, losing the ability to use 8-Armed Smack.

Chicken: -1 Peck (1d4-1), AC: 12, HP: 3, HD: 1d4, Fort; -2, Ref: +2, Will: Same as Before, Mvm: 25ft

Area 2: Foreboding Foyer
If a PC was pulled into this room by the knocker, the first thing they will see an absurd amount of locks, resealing the tiny door you were thrust through to be thrown against the pillar.  The whole door will not open now, from the inside or out.  This will potentially leave a PC alone in this room and they may have just been beheaded.  This will be somewhat bewildering to the poor, lonely PC and this is fine.

The room is about 30 by 30.  It is somewhat different from the picture above but the idea is the same.  There is a column in the middle that a PC will be thrown against if they used the knocker.  Another column juts from the west wall.  A fireplace is on the north wall.

There are quite a few things in this room:

There is a cauldron of strange soup by the front door.  If a PC drinks it, they will be horribly sickened, they will take 1d6 temporary Stamina dmg.

A Skull on a string hangs above where the knives are or were on the central pillar in the room.  If a PC should try to closely examine it or touch it, the Skull will try to nip them.  If the PC fails a DC:10 Ref Save, they will take 1d4 dmg.

There is a hatchet (Handaxe) leaning on the wall by the other pillar in the room.

On the column to the west wall of the room, there are a saw and a cutlass (Short Sword).

A large bottle full of menacing, thick, black liquid sits next to the fireplace.  If a PC drinks this potion, they will be turned into a Chicken until a cure can be found.

A keg sits in the corner.  It is full of very sour, but safe to drink, ale.

A pot sits on the fireplace.  It has 2d6 copper pieces and 1d8 silver pieces.

There are 3 staircases in the room:

There is a staircase going up along the back wall that leads to 6A.

There is a staircase going down near the front door that leads to 3A.

There is a staircase going down near the central column that leads to 4D.

More will be coming very soon.  This is a project I have been wanting to finish for a while now and I have time now that Christmas break is here! Merry Christmas to you all and keep an eye out for the rest of this adventure.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Reflections on the First Season of the Campaign

My third semester of college is just about over and with it, the first season of the Graylands campaign has come to an end.  If my players are reading this, you guys have been awesome and our marvelous adventures have been utterly incredible.  This is as good a time as ever to introduce the PCs from the campaign.

Dimitri Petrokov, 4th Level Chaotic Wizard: He originally rolled up an Elf and we let him stay an Elf purely as a cosmetic thing.  So he is really more of a half-elf.  Dimitri is the third brother of the Petrokov family.  Both his brothers, Ivan and Sergei (Not sure how that's spelled), died in a dungeon.  He escaped their fate and went on to learn the magical arts.  Dimitri, once a Barista (A misunderstanding of the Barrister occupation), now uses coffee, ale, and magic to defeat those who would want to stop him from ruling the world.

Milo, 3rd Level Lawful Cleric of Decachronatus: Originally a remarkably healthy bard, he has since found his true calling in being a follower of the Lawful God, Timekeeping Decachronatus.  Wielding holy hammer and healing hands, he is here to try and bring a modicum of sanity to a world and a party gone mad.

Toro, 3rd Level Lawful Thief: This farmer heeded the call of adventure when he stole a terrifying sheep from some passing cultists. He named this animal Sheep.  It might be noted here that he has 6 Intelligence.  Toro has since lost a pitchfork, walked into a dungeon with a crossbow without bolts, and constantly heard the eldritch whispers prophesying death and destruction from Sheep.

Galadriel, 3rd Level Lawful Elf:  This highly originally named Elf has a habit of getting last hits on bosses with her bow.  She is a balancing force to Dimitri but often soft-spoken.  She was thrown into the Guild in the middle of a pretty hectic time and has rapidly adapted to become a useful part of the team.

Lillith (Formerly) of the Shadows, 3rd Level Lawful Thief: Lillith is a rather new recruit but she has come into her own with her invention of the throwing knife attached to a rope.  I'm honestly surprised someone hadn't come up with it already.  She has most recently found a sword imbued with the spirit of a dead paladin that gave her a choice to hand the sword over to a Lawful character or become Lawful herself.  She chose to give up Chaos and take on the mantel of Law.  Only time will tell what comes of this.

Doc, 3rd Level Chaotic Dwarf: Husband of Snow White, Chaotic in every aspect except his loyalty to her.  He also consistently complains about her but I think it's a loving whining.  He has had his soul trapped in a porcelain homunculus for most of this season. The party went into Faerie to save him from the clutches of Agatha Silkspinner.

Hippy, 3rd Level Lawful Dwarf:  Hippy has a keen nose for treasure and follows it wherever it leads.  This is often to his benefit and to the rest of the parties.  He is upbeat and stays on task, diligently pursuing his goal and ignoring distractions.

These PCs are all great in this game.  I have especially liked the playstyle of Lillith.  She was always trying crazy things during combat beyond "I hit it with my sword."  Toro's crazy out of combat antics are the stuff of legends.  His backstory has been changing so rapidly and in such odd directions that we might have decided that he is Dimitri's son, somehow.  Still not sure if that is actually canon or a joke.  Dimitri has a way of coming up with very effective in and out of combat strategies and his player has added a lot to the setting.  Milo is always thinking about the party first and that is awesome for a cleric.  Galadriel is just consistently useful and shines whenever she is most needed.  Doc's player is the same as Dimitri, and that is why he was stuck in the homunculus.  Hippy is a character who knows how to make the most use out of his skills possible.  He is resourceful and fun to have in the party.

They wrapped up their season by killing Agatha Silkspinner in giant spider form and stealing all her loot.  The interesting question to find out moving forward is: Now that they have killed a Demigod, where do we go from here?  Well, they put the label demigod on Agatha, but it is fitting.  They want to think that they have just taken down a deity and they are free to do so but they will have to come to the understanding soon that most sidhe, disregarding the Lords and Ladies of the Seasonal Courts, would be unable to take on a dragon one on one.  Avatars of cosmic entities will generally be as powerful as dragons and beat regular sidhe every time.  They will have to be reminded that they are still mortal, albeit very powerful mortals.  The enemies are going to have to ramp up in difficulty and weirdness and I, as a merciful but decisive GM, will have to stay on my toes.

If you have any ideas about dealing with PCs who are rapidly gaining in power level, please leave a comment.  I'd love to hear from some more experienced GMs.

By far my favorite part of this season has been seeing how the PCs have begun to grow into their characters.  These are new players for the most part and they are still trying to get a hold on what it really means to roleplay.  I don't know if a real in-game conversation, involving everyone in the group has happened yet but I would be delighted to see how I can help that process along.

I want to thank Chris Kutalik for putting a link to my blog on his:
He is partially responsible for this madness, so give him a look.

Thank you to all the people who have given this blog a chance.  I know time is man's most valuable resource and I am delighted you spent even a second of it here.  May your dice always show you their 20s and God bless you this holiday season.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Knightly Orders of the Grand Tournament

So here is a little bit of an update on what is currently happening in the Graylands Campaign:

In an encounter with the powerful Fae Lady, Agatha Silkspinner, one of the PCs, a dwarf named Doc, made a bad deal.  He ended up having his soul taken from his body and replaced with one of her minion's.  Mr. Aphenaeus put a stop to the minion's dastardly ritual and sent the party to retrieve Doc's soul.  He sent them through an in-between dimension where there was much danger and adventure.  They made it through this weird realm and found themselves in Faerie.  They heard tell of a tournament that Agatha Silkspinner is hosting for the prize of a mortal soul. They made a deal with the Summer Lady to become here champion in the tournament.  In exchange, the PCs must steal the Silver Rose Key, an artifact of unknown power, and return it to the Summer Lady.

The PCs then went on to the tournament and met an unusual cast of characters.  Here are the factions and main characters at work in the Grand Tournament.

The Leisurely Knights of the Summer Days:  This odd group of Fae is more of a social club than anything else.  They are an order devoted to doing as little as possible and maintaining a disinterested malaise.  This group of morbidly obese knights is represented politically by their lowest ranking and skinniest member, Sylephus Aramb,  Their knight in the tournament is a silent knight that stands perfectly still in its armor bearing its lance and shield all the time.  Though the PCs have already tried their best to make it move, the knight seems immovable and its armor tightly buckled together.

The Lollipop Knights:  We represent the Lollipop Knights, the Lollipop Knights, the Lollipop Knights.  These gnomish lancers have been beaten year after year and they are looking to get a victory this year and have their little beady gnome eyes on our party.  You can't trust a Gnome.  Don't trust the Gnomes.

Mindseer Bilobax, representative of the Eld Overmind:  The Eld is a race made by Chris Kutalik.  Check out his blog: and his latest book, Misty Isles of the Eld:
Mindseer Bilobax is an Eld of my own invention.  The PCs met him in the in-between dimension.  He then fell off a platform and fell on a demon from the Hot Hell which he has now turned into his mount for the tournament.  The Eld are always hated at these events.  The rules of the event are that magical cheating is forbidden while mundane cheating is encouraged.  Technically, this allows the Eld to use their highly advanced biotechnology to become next to unbeatable.  The Eld also don't even need mortal souls.  They already get a lucrative amount of mortal souls in their realm of the Cold Hell.  This has made them completely hated in Fae social circles but, due to ancient blood pacts, they must allow a representative of the Overmind to compete.

The Frozen Blood Fangs:  This knightly order hails from the icy mountains on the border of Faerie, facing the Cold Hell.  They are a brutal bunch of drunken louts and probably the toughest, roughest warriors in all of Faerie.  They have no qualms with "accidentally" injuring opponents during the nightly feasts.  If the Eld can somehow be beaten, these guys are the next biggest threat.

The Harbingers of Rot:  This odd cabal of Fae revel in ugliness and aging while the rest of Fae kind clings to beauty and youth.  Little is really known about these beings other than rumors.  It is said that, upon entering their primordial forest, its corrosive forces begin to age the victim at an accelerated rate.  The knights then circle the prey, keeping it in the forest until its inevitable demise.

The Bogeyman:  The Bogeyman has become increasingly fascinated with mortals over the ages.  He is supposedly benevolent but no one really knows why.  People have guessed that he might be siphoning off fear from the mortals he helps.  Others suspect he has some grand scheme he is working on.  Some think he might just be a nice guy.  He is not in the tournament but he is observing and helping the party.

Agatha Silkspinner:  Mortal souls have become more and more rare amongst the Fae.  It is a grand prize for her tourney.  She intends to amuse herself and increase her social standing and political clout to try and take power from the Court of Summer, particularly the Summer Lady.

The party is set to face the Lollipop Knights in the first round.  We shall see if they are able to prevail.