Friday, July 6, 2018

The 13th Skull review

I recently ran my home group through The 13th Skull adventure for DCC RPG. This post is a review of our experience.

This group of PCs are part of a campaign that started as zero level nobodies in a funnel and have all leveled up to 3rd level. This wasn't a one-shot or a tournament where PCs may burn themselves down to the nub to get off a big spell cast. I feel this is worth pointing out as campaign games seem to be played more conservatively than one-shot or tournament games; or even Road Crew games!

Additionally, this party was made up of 3rd level characters including: 2 warriors, 2 wizards, 1 cleric, 1 halfling, 1 fighting man retainer.

I felt the party could handle the 4th level adventure because the halfling has 18 Luck which he burns liberally to help the wizards get off extremely powerful spell casts.


From the Adventure Introduction:

"Nearly three centuries ago the wizard Edward Magnussen
made a deal with a devil. That devil gave
him precognitive powers and uncanny good luck,
which Edward parlayed into a royal title and his own duchy,
becoming the first Duke Magnussen. The devil also promised
him immortal life. In exchange for all this, Edward had to deliver
his own soul, as a deposit of sorts, and then twelve additional
souls—those of his next eleven male heirs, and finally,
the first daughter to follow. When all thirteen souls were delivered,
so said the devil, Edward would come back to life, revivified
with pieces and parts from his descendants, and they
would go on to an afterlife in hell.

Now, twelve generations later, a daughter has been born to
Duke Magnussen XIII. Father and daughter have lived in terror
for years, afraid that the prophecy of the Magnussen clan
would someday come true."

The adventure began when the party was present for the execution of a prophet who was essentially telling the truth about the above introduction. He was trying to warn the city of Punjar that the Duke was in league with a demon. For this, he was scheduled to be beheaded.

As the executioner came down with his axe the face of the prophet became that of the Duke, who himself looked on in shock. This is great imagery that appears to come from the Robert E. Howard Conan story "The Hour of The Dragon" or "Conan the Destroyer" wherein Conan kills an executioner and steals his hood, shocking all of his enemies who assumed he was dead in an earlier chapter.

After this wild moment, a pterodactyl shows up and plucks the Duke's daughter from the parapet overlooking the execution. She's then spirited away into a crypt in the side of a cliff with a waterfall just under the Duke's keep.

I'll mention that this scene is fun and interesting but, with 3rd or 4th level characters on the scene for this moment, they'd have a million options on how to destroy the tension immediately. One of the Wizards, for instance, had a max level spell casting of Invisible Companion; which gave her an invisible companion with 24 ability scores, across the board. The Companion was named "Super Steve" and he could fly at 120 feet of movement per round. Super Steve could have easily grabbed the princess from the talons of the Pterodactyl if I hadn't Judge Ruled that it was impossible. I regret ruling in such a biased manner but it was done at the end of the previous session late into the night; it honestly hadn't occurred to me that the hook could have been ruined so easily.

As a form of apology to the players, I made the princess somewhat easier to save later in the adventurer. Advice to other judges: let your players save the princess at this moment if they can and allow them to investigate the Silver Skull if they wish.

One of my players said that this adventure was "extremely challenging but overall a lot of fun". It sure seemed that way to me. No other adventure has pushed my home group of DCC RPG players so close to the breaking point. By the end of it all the Halfling was down to 2 Luck and 2 Strength and was being carried on the back of one of the Warriors.

Thanks to the Halfling with extremely high luck, this party has rarely been pushed to the edge of difficulty in their DCC RPG party. Oh sure they complain alot about how they wish they were more powerful, or how their dice don't roll in their favor, but I've yet to kill even one of them in 9 sessions since they acquired first level.

The Good

Some of the imagery was great in this adventure by Joseph Goodman.

My favorite, beside the intro cribbed from RE Howard, was the spirit that welcomes you into the crypt beneath the Duke's keep. It points at it's family crest then at the player with the family crest signet ring to tell them how to delve deeper into the crypt.

I also liked the concept of the roaring river beneath the royal family crypt. In the center of the river is a massive stone pillar (30 feet in diameter) jutting from the waves. It's slowly degrading from the river's movement for the last 13 generations of the Duke's clan. Sitting atop it is the powerful Silver Skull.

Also, in the center of the river is a portal directly into Hell itself which vomits out demons. My players barely investigated this anomaly so they had Worm Demons, Toadstool Demons, and Eyestalk Demons waylay them from behind for much of the delve.

One of my players said to "add more demons with 4 eyeballs", making humor of the fact that these monsters were the ones that finally gave the party an extreme challenge.

"This top-heavy creature has four small
legs, a narrow body, and a tall, stout neck. Set into the neck are four
eyes facing forward. Each eye glows a different color…then begin
shooting beams at you!"

The imagery is great and my players were freaked out!

The beams were to paralyze or burn alive (I rolled them randomly based on the charts in the book). I had the demons play smart and target the low Armor Class (AC) characters with Flaming Beams but the Paralyze Beams targeted the Warriors and heavy armored characters since it didn't require an attack roll. Demons are smart, I ruled as a Judge, they'd know who to hit with which beam.

They avoided attacking the Cleric since he had a mirror shield that reflects beams from the One Who Watches From Below. What demon wants to get hit with his own reflected beam?

This battle with eyestalk demons (the 3rd battle with demons of the evening) happened AFTER the battle with the penultimate "Silver Skull" so the party was already depleted in resources.

The wizards both died, one dying twice. But in each case they were healed without the time frame necessary to keep them from tasting oblivion. In DCC RPG you have 1 round for each level of the character to heal them before they are actually dead.

Also good was the battle with the Silver Skull itself. There is imagery of a massive 30 foot diameter stone pillar in the center of the dungeon jutting out of an underground river. Sitting at its top is the Silver Skull; which is a 6th level Wizard artifact...thing.

Being able to toss Lightning Bolt and Sleep spells at the player characters was pretty rewarding, considering they have spent the last 9 session throwing them at my monsters.

One of the PC warriors was able to golf club the skull off the side of the pillar after some of the party (the perfidious halfling!) made some unlikely saving throws versus the Sleep spell.

The magic items in the adventure were outstanding, as well. There is a massive book made of bronze pages that teleport you to other dimensions as you flip through it. It took them to the Plane of Water before depositing them in a level of Hell itself where the princess was being sacrificed in an unholy ritual.

The Bad

The worst part of this adventurer, I think, is probably the cliche nature of many of the concepts. Crypts, zombies, shadows, coffins, etc. These are all basic images that have been seen by most RPG players a hundred times before.

Even so, I think Goodman gave them all some nice twists that made them acceptable if not inspiring.

The difficulty level of these adventure, itself, could be considered "The Bad". One thing to keep in mind as a Judge is that the party is allowed very little in the way of respite from the monsters attacking them.

The Shadows attack immediately and come back after a Turn Unholy right in the middle of the fight with the Silver Skull. The zombies come in around the same time. The Pterodactyl flies up from the middle of the stone pillar to engage the party during the Boss Fight. The Stinking Pit to Hell spews out demons the whole time every 30 minutes or less, as well.

Don't toss your players into this adventure if you're not ready to give them a serious challenge! This was great for my party since they've strolled through most of what I've thrown at them this campaign but may be bad for Judge's with weaker groups.

The halfling's player said that "if you spend the entire session feeling like you're going to die but you squeak out and survive, it was a good session!"

The Ugly

My biggest issue with DCC RPG is probably its saving throw system. This doesn't relate to The 13th Skull in particular but the system in general.

If a wizard rolls a 25 as their spell check, for instance, the enemy has to roll a DC 25 Will, Reflex, or Fortitude save. That's all well and good considering that, if the wizard doesn't do this, some of the melee focused PCs will likely die. But what happens when the monsters, such as the Silver Skull, toss spells?

A DC 25ish Willpower save for a Sleep spell from the Silver Skull may end up as a TPK (total party kill). Luckily enough, my players had two of their number roll natural 20s and save so it all worked out. I know DCC RPG was playtested ALOT so I assume this is "working as intended". I just wonder if this intention works for my table.

I may house rule some things to make the Difficult Class (DCs) of saving throws a bit more realistic to roll and save against.


This is a great adventure with powerful imagery that will challenge your player characters. Be sure you want them to engage in an extreme challenge if you toss out hooks for this adventure. Additionally, be sure they can't destroy the opening scene of the Duke's daughter being captured unless you are prepared to improvise the rest of your session.

I'd give this adventure a 4.5 out of 5 primarily because of the way the writer understands the give and take of the DCC RPG system. It keeps the players on edge and uncertain when to spend their limited resources of Luck etc.

I would recommend this adventure for any Judge running DCC RPG but I wouldn't recommend trying to convert this adventure to another D&D style system. The imagery isn't strong enough and the adventure's strength is the writer understanding his own game system.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Azi Dahaka Disapproval Chart

I've made another disapproval chart for a deity in the Dungeon Crawl Classics rule book. This time for the Demon Prince of Storms and Wastes: Azi Dahaka! You can find my charts for Gorhan, Cthulhu, and Klazath at the links embedded in their names.

"But isn't Azi Dahaka a Patron?", you may ask. Yes! But he's also a deity option for that most rare of Player Character: the Chaotic Cleric.

Azi Dahaka's themes are fire, reptiles, and sandstorms, which I tried to reflect on this chart.

I went all out on the chaos in this disapproval chart. Also, the entries are much more punishing in general since I imagine one would not want to anger a Demon Prince, even if they are his Cleric. It includes what I used before on the Cthulhu chart which I call "Specials".

Specials work thus:

-you can only have one Special active at a time.

-if you have to roll on the chart again while you have a Special active and then roll another Special (or the same one again), you instead gain a penalty to all your Cleric abilities.The penalty is shown in brackets next to the entry name.

-Once the original Special duration has expired then you lose these penalties as well.

-For Instance: you roll entry 7 "Breathe with the Hydra" which causes your Cleric to breathe fire for 2d7 hours. You roll a total of 3 hours. But one hour later you have to roll disapproval again and land on Entry 9 "Become the Hyrda". You don't "Become the Hydra" you instead get -2 to all Cleric abilities for the duration left on the original Special (3 hours or less now) which you already rolled. It all drops off and you become "normal" once the 3 hours is up.

-If my explanation of "Specials" is unclear please hit me up on how I might simplify the language. Thanks!

I'm assuming, as always, that anyone reading this knows how the Disapproval mechanic works in DCC RPG.

Have fun and fight on!

The Chart

  1. (1 or less): Spin like the whirlwind Azi Dahaka demands his cleric spins in place for 1 turn like the whirlwinds of the waste. The cleric receives -1 to all checks until this is accomplished.
  2. Pray to the Wastes Azi Dahaka demands that his cleric kneel in loud wailing prayer for 1 hour. The cleric takes -1 to all checks until this is accomplished.
  3. Enough! Azi Dahaka weakens the spell or ability the cleric was using upon receiving the disapproval. It is now rolled at a -3 for the next 2d3 hours. The penalty can stack. the cleric also rolls on the Minor Corruption table (page 116).
  4. Face the Flame! Azi Dahaka refuses the cleric's request to Lay on Hands for 1d7 hours. The ability may be restored before that time if the Cleric receives damage from a flaming attack from an enemy or chooses himself to walk on hot coals. Setting up coals takes 2 hours if not prepared or 20 minutes if materials are readily available. The Cleric takes 1d7 + CL damage that he can't heal himself. Fort DC 10 for half damage.
  5. Bring more heads to the hydra Azi Dahaka wishes more followers for his fiery cult. The cleric takes -1 to all checks for 2d5 days or until he brings a new follower to Azi Dahaka. A ritual to bring a new worshiper to the god requires 10 minutes to prepare and the follower must be scarred with flame for 1 permanent damage. If the new follower is Level 1 or above the cleric makes a Luck check of DC 15 (+1 to the roll for each level of the follower). If he succeeds the cleric gains 1 luck permanently. The follower can also attempt to gain 1 luck in this manner.
  6. Burn with the Sign of the Hydra Azi Dahaka senses the Cleric's faith is weak and demands he shows the universe that he a loyal follower. Roll 1d6: (1) eyes burn with flames that never quench [+1 Personality checks with Chaotic humans or humanoids] (2) the cleric's head turns bright neon red (3) a scar shaped like an angry serpent burns onto the neck and face of the cleric (4) the cleric's hands turn into reptilian claws with red burning scales, his unarmed attack is now at 1d5 +CL damage (5) any weapon the cleric wields burns with flames that never quench, this does an additional +2 fire damage but the cleric takes 1d5 fire damage if he rolls a fumble (6) the cleric's tongue forks like that of a snake, he rolls diplomacy checks at -1 with civilized humans but +1 with reptilians
  7. Breathe with the Hydra [special -2] The cleric's face begins to pock and becomes scaley like a flaming red serpent. The transition takes 2 rounds while he is vulnerable. He is unable to speak anything except abysmal for 2d7 hours, eliminating his ability to cast spells or Turn Unholy. He gains a fiery breath attack during this period. It's a 15' long cone that does 1d7 x CL damage. DC 12 + CL reflex save for half damage.
  8. Leave me Be The Cleric immediately loses access to the specific spell or ability that resulted in the Disapproval for 72 hours. If he burns a Lawful Human alive during this time he regains the ability.
  9. Become the Hydra [special -2] The Cleric's arms turn into scaly red wings and he gains the ability to fly at 20' of speed. This lasts for 2d8 hours and he is unable to Lay on Hands or wield a weapon well during this time.
  10. Be Careful Lest I Burn You Next time Azi Dahaka deprives the cleric of the ability to cast 1 spell, determined at random, for 2d4 days.
  11. Control My Serpents [special -2] Azi Dahaka deprives the cleric of the ability to Turn Unholy and cast all spells for 2d10 hours. A whirlwind appears and drops a serpent or serpents* that the Cleric can control during that time. If the Cleric burns 1 Luck he can control more of the serpents. The whirlwind returns at the end of the above duration spiriting the serpents away.  Serpent: Atk +5, dmg 1d4+1 plus poison (Fort DC 18 or 1d6 STR), HD 1d8+CL. *[Cleric Level 1-2 = 1 serpent, CL 3-4 = 2 serpents, CL 5-6 = 1d3 +1 serpents, CL 7+ = 1d5 + 2 serpents]
  12. You Waste My Power Azik Dahaka deprives the cleric of the ability to cast 2  spells, determined at random for 2d7 days.
  13. Be Overrun by Mine Enemies Azi Dahaka deprives the cleric of the ability to Turn Unholy for 72 hours. The Cleric gains a Major Corruption as a sign of his deity's anger.
  14. You Will Burn Azi Dahaka deprives the cleric of the ability to Lay on Hands for 1d10 days. The cleric also gains a Patron Taint from page 331 of the DCC RPG rulebook.
  15. Look Not Upon Me! [special -2] Azi Dahaka burns the eyes out of the Cleric with angry flames. Somehow the Cleric sees through the astral plane with this ability and can see invisible creatures, detect magic and detect any Lawful creatures within 200'. The ordeal lowers the Cleric's maximum Hit Points by 1d3 x CL (minimum 1 remaining HP). The Cleric returns to normal in 2d10 hours.
  16. Make Offering To Me The cleric suffers a permanent -4 penalty to all spell checks, lay on hands checks, and turn unholy checks. The only way to remove this is by sacrificing 10% of the cleric's net worth for each penalty point. In other words, the cleri must sacrifices 40% of his net worth to return to normal. If the cleric sacrifices more than 1,500 GP of wealth in this way he gains 1 Luck.
  17. Control the Whirlwind [special -3] Azi Dahaka sends a whirlwind down that blows itself into the Cleric's mouth and nose, suffocating and knocking him prone for 2 rounds. When the cleric rises again he finds himself unable to speak, cast spells, Turn Unholy, or Lay on Hands. But he is able to send gusts of fiery wind from his hands at will. These can be used to Attack with a Mighty Deed dice of a Warrior of his same level when Controlling the Whirlwind (the Cleric loses any Attack Bonus for his level). The gusts have 20' of range and do 1d7 slam damage (1d14 at level 4+). This effect lasts until the Cleric kills a Lawful human with the Whirlwind or 2d10 days; whichever comes first.
  18. Enough from You! Azi Dahaka deprives the cleric access to 1d7+1 spells, randomly determined from all the cleric's spells. These spells can't be cast again for 2d7 days. The deity's wrath is shown on the cleric's body in the form of a Greater Corruption (page 119).
  19. Face the Hydra! Azi Dahaka sends a whirlwind that drops a massive fire breathing hydra within 10 feet of the Cleric immediately. The following round the Hydra will attack the Cleric unless the Cleric (and only the cleric) chooses to burn 1 Luck that round (and pray for one action) . Doing so as a sacrifice will direct the Hydra to attack one of the Cleric's enemies instead. If there are no enemies within sight then burning 1 Luck in this way will give the Cleric and his party respite from the Hydra's attack for one round. The Hydra remains for 1d10 +1 rounds wherein the whirlwind will return to claim it. Hydra: Init +4, HD 6d10, Attack Bite +10 (damage 2d8 pls DC 20 Fort save or additional 2d6 points of poison damage) or Breathe Fire (2d8 damage Cone, Reflex DC 20 for half damage). Act 2d20 (+1d20 if Cleric = Level 5+), SV Fort +8, Ref +2, Will +6.AL C.
  20. (20 or Higher) To the Wastes With You The cleric glows with a light red flame around his whole person. A low roar of a sandstorm can be heard, but not seen, by all who stand near him. Azi Dahaka is preparing to banish the Cleric to the Wastes for displeasing him. Each time the cleric attempts to use a cleric power for 1d5 days, roll a Luck check (1d20 equal or LESS than the cleric's current Luck score to succeed). On a failure, Azi Dahaka opens a portal to the plane of fire, or the 13 Hells, or to a nigh endless desert on the Aereth, and blows the cleric through as banishment. Anyone attempting to help the cleric (rope, grabbing his hand, etc) will very likely be blown through. Judge's discretion on how to handle most of this.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Descending Armor Class Attack Conversion Chart

I didn't care for what I read of James Maliszewski's level of The Darkness Beneath megadungeon from Fight On magazine. It's Level Four: the Mysterious Crystal Hemisphere.

I do, however, like some of the ideas he (or the authors of the other levels) had for Level Four. So I'm remaking Level Four in my own gonzo DCC RPG image. Spoiler: I've decided to toss the kith from Peril on the Purple Planet into the mix.

To stock the dungeon otherwise I've been using the AD&D 1st edition Monster Manuals and Fiend Folio. The Monster Manual II, in particular, has been very helpful because the back pages have a frequency chart laid out for likely certain monsters are to be encountered on certain levels of the dungeon. (Did you know that a Hydra is COMMON on level 4 of a dungeon? Level Four is not for the faint of heart.)

But alas DCC RPG uses ascending armor class (*grognards hissing from the upper deck*) while AD&D famously uses descending (*storygamers groan in annoyance*).

So I made a chart based on the attack matrix in the Dungeon Masters Guide* simplifying the chart into a plus to attack system. I realized it might be helpful to some of y'all as well. This may be old news but I don't recall seeing this elsewhere.

Enjoy and Fight On!

*(the greatest table top gaming book ever published.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Gorhan Divine Disapproval Table (god of valor and vengeance)

One of my favorite things about Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC RPG) is the way it handles the Cleric class. Divine Disapproval, in particular, is an outstanding way to force the PC to play "push your luck". Do you keep begging your deity for intercession in the form of healing and Turn Unholy and risk angering it? Or do you cut your losses and shrug at your compatriots when they ask you to heal them up after a battle? "Gorhan might get angry. Sorry, pal."

I just wish the Divine Disapproval table in the DCC RPG book was a bit better. I quickly realized that having a different table for each deity would be the best way to add flavor to the god and, hopefully, bring yet more gameable content to my DCC RPG sessions. 

My Divine Disapproval table for Cthulhu is here and my table for Klazath is here.

In this post is the Divine Disapproval for Gorhan, the Lawful Deity of Valor, Chivalry, and Vengeance! In my campaigns I picture Gorhan's appearance as that of a large human man with a winged helm who wields a blue steel hammer. 

I'll assume anyone reading this post understands how a Disapproval Check in DCC RPG works. 

  1. (one or less) "Pray for Vengeance" Gorhan demands that the Cleric kneel in prayer for 1 Turn (10 minutes) and pray for vengeance against his and his god's enemies. The cleric receives -1 to all checks until he prays in this way.
  2. "Pray for Valor" Gorhan demands the cleric kneel in prayer for inner strength and valor for one hour. The cleric takes -1 to all cleric ability checks until this is accomplished. The penalty can stack.
  3. "Grow in Valor!" Gorhan weakens the spell or ability the cleric was using that caused the disapproval. It is now rolled at -3 for the next 2d4 hours. The cleric may engage in an act of valor to remove this penalty at the Judge's discretion. 
  4. "Grow my Church!" Gorhan demands his Cleric find more followers for him. The cleric takes -1 to all checks for 1d4 days or until he brings a new follower to Gorhan. (This penalty can stack but only require one follower.) The prayers and vows to uphold honor and chivalry take a follower 30 minutes. If the follower is Level 1 or higher the Cleric can make a Luck check of DC 20 (-1 per level of follower) to gain 1 Luck.
  5. "Focus on the Task at Hand!" Gorhan removes the Cleric's ability to cast one Level 1 spell chosen at random for 2d5 hours.
  6. "Bring Vengeance to Me!" Gorhan demands that the Cleric enact mortal vengeance on a Chaotic human or humanoid. This is left to the Judge's discretion but some likely ways of addressing this are: being involved in a lawful execution (as overseer, judge, or hangman), killing a Chaotic human or humanoid in or after a battle. The Cleric receives -2 to all Cleric abilities until this is accomplished. Or 48 hours expires, whichever comes first.
  7. "You Ask Too Much!" Gorhan immediately forbids the Cleric access to the specific spell or ability (lay on hands, turn unholy) that resulted in the disapproval for 3 days. The Cleric may lift this penalty before 3 days by doing something chivalrous: rescue a damsel in distress or something akin to this. Judge's discretion.
  8. "I will ponder your failures" Gorhan is unforgiving. The Cleric's Disapproval range will not reset on the next day, as normal. Instead it will reset after 3 days.
  9. "Show Yourself as my agent of Vengeance!" Gorhan senses the cleric's faith is weak and demands he display an outward sign of faith. The Cleric's bodily form changes in one of the following ways. Roll 1d5: (1) eyes change to a dull blue without irises, (2) hair changes to a shock of white, (3) Gorhan's holy symbol glows with blue light as a strange tattoo on the Cleric's forehead that burns through any helmet or hat worn, (4) the cleric's skin color changes to that of a marble statue, -1 Diplomacy but +4 to Hide checks if holds completely still, (5) any helmet the Cleric wears grows small metal wings that gently flap, if the cleric doesn't wear a helm his AC is at -1 as a punishment from Gorhan
  10. "Eradicate my Enemies" Gorhan deprives the cleric of 1 spell of any level he knows, determined at random, for 72 hours. The Cleric also feels a jolt of combat prowess with melee weapons. He gains +1 to hit and damage against elves, Chaotic Humans or chaotic humanoids, or abyssal creatures during this time. This prowess stacks if the Cleric gains this disapproval multiple times but expires in 72 hours of the first occurrence of this disapproval.
  11. "Your Wealth is Gaudy" Gorhan penalizes the Cleric -4 to all spells checks, lay on hands checks, and turn unholy checks for 3 days. The Cleric may end this disfavor by casting aside (destroy or dispose of) at least 200 GP in treasure that he has accumulated. If the Cleric destroys or casts off more than 1,500 GP value in treasure he gains 1 Luck point as well. (Companions may NOT give him gifts to be used for this purpose. Gorhan will know!)
  12. "You Waste My Gifts" Gorhan deprives the Cleric of two level 1 spells, determined at random. These spells cannot be cast for 1d5+1 days.
  13. "Vengeance is Best Served Cold" Gorhan does not punish the cleric, for now. Instead, the Cleric's Disapproval range goes up by FOUR. Be careful!
  14. "Wade into the Fray" Gorhan deprives the Cleric of the ability to Turn Unholy for 72 hours. A light blue light in the shape of Gorhan's hammer floats around the Cleric at this time. It blocks any attacks coming from those unholy to Gorhan, giving the Cleric +2 AC against such attacks.
  15. "Hammer my foes!" Gorhan deprives the Cleric of the ability to Lay on Hands for 2d5 days. Gorhan's hammer floats down from the sky glowing with faint blue light while a voice booms from the heavens "Hammer my foes!" This is a magic one handed weapon and does 1d12 damage (1d16 if the Cleric is level 4+ and 1d20 if the Cleric is level 8+). At the end of the Disapproval period the hammer leaves the Cleric's hand and floats away. The Cleric may end the disapproval immediately if he uses the hammer to smash the altar at a temple or chapel dedicated to a god of Chaos.
  16. "The Flesh is Weak" The Cleric breaks out in a blue pox that may or may not be contagious. The pockmarks on his skin cause him to take 2 damage to his Strength, Stamina, and Dexterity. This damage heals as normal as the pox fades. (1 point Ability healing per normal rest period.) This damage cannot be healed by any cleric of Gorhan. This disapproval can stack if rolled multiple times.
  17. "You are Tiresome, mortal" Gorhan deprives the Cleric of 1d5+1 spells determined at random from all he knows for 2d3 days.
  18. "Glow with valor for your compatriots" Gorhan fills his cleric with a need to prove his valor in battle and weakens his connection to his deity until the Cleric does so. The Cleric's armor glows with glue shimmering light during this time: 1d5+2 days. The Cleric is penalized -4 to all Cleric abilities. The blue light on his armor pulls him into battle and into the danger of enemy attacks, urging the Cleric to sacrifice himself for his comrades. Whenever a comrade within 10 feet is successfully struck by an attack, the Cleric can make a Luck check to choose to allow the blue light to pull him into the path of the attack, the Cleric taking the damage instead. (Must be declared BEFORE damage is rolled.) Once the Cleric has taken his total hit points in damage (less 1) the Disapproval and blue light fades. Rolling this disapproval multiple times can stack the penalty but the duration continues as before.
  19. "I've wasted enough time with you!" Gorhan deprives the Cleric of the ability to Cast Spells, Lay on Hands, and Turn Unholy for 2d5 days. The Cleric can end this disapproval prematurely by sacrificing all of his worldly goods to Gorhan with the exception of a warhammer, holy symbol and loincloth.
  20. (20 or higher) "Face your Lord!" Gorhan rips open the fabric of space and time between the plane of Law where he resides and the material plane where the Cleric is at the moment and smashes the ground with his holy hammer. All Chaotic creatures on the ground must make a DC 12 Fort save or suffer 1d7 holy damage. The Cleric is so shocked by the Helmed visage of his deity that he must make a DC 20 Fortitude save or be struck blind for three days. No cleric of a Lawful deity can remove the blindness. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Darkness Beneath Session 2

My DCC RPG Road Crew game is already going strong in 2018. Last time I continued running The Darkness Beneath; the mega-dungeon from the OSR Fanzine Fight On!

This is the sixth session of the campaign and the second in this particular dungeon. The previous session report for this dungeon can be found here.

The Band

Current Lineup:

Denis: 2nd level Thief and former gongfarmer. "It's definitely not trapped." It was trapped.

Mr Crowley: 2nd level Cleric of Cthulhu."All I know that I'm not smart enough to understand."

Sniper: 2nd level warrior archer known for firing at enemies engaged in melee combat with his pals. With a laser rifle. Until they are dead.

Harold Fairhair the Neanderthal: 1st level warrior with a respectable name and attitude for a caveman. Known for breaking his own weapons in battle.

Scarabus the Neanderthal: 1st level wizard with a jovial undead rat familiar. As wicked with a sword as he is with a spell. (Achieved level 2 at the end of this session.)

Grok the Dwarf: 1st level dwarf from a faraway(?) clan in league with Azi Dahaka.

Mirage: Chaotic 2nd level Elf who has a pact with the Demon Prince Azi Dahaka. "Are all humans so stupid?" Player wasn't present for this session.

Retired Members:

Trog-dar the Neanderthal: 1st level Cleric of Cthulhu. Former apprentice to the caveman shaman of the winter camp.

The Stand Off

The Lady Quinn squeezed the trigger on her odd wand and a beam of red light shot from it, hitting Trog-Dar. His skin started to burn red and his eyes melted into a slurry down his cheeks. Trog-Dar fell over, dead. The Lady pointed the contraption at Mr Crowley. "I'm leaving and you're not going to follow me, human," she sneered.

Mr Crowley was shocked that his fellow Cthulhu cleric had been so easily killed but he pressed ahead with his parley. He offered The Lady a handful of jewels if she was to return "the beautiful boy, the son of Cthulhu". (Crowley's mission for the Elder God was to "save the boy" and he suspected she knew where to find the son.)

The Lady Quinn considered the offer, revealing that she did in fact know where the son of Cthulhu was. She demanded a counter offer, a greater tribute! 

So Denis put his foot in his mouth.

"How would you like this fine hand mirror", he asked her, "so you could look at your pretty face?"

The Lady Quinn was not amused by Denis's light misogyny and she raised her weapon to attack.

Shooting first at Crowley and hitting him directly. His eyes began to burn and water but, after a moment, he realized he had survived the initial blast from the pistol wand, though he was very hurt indeed!

The rest of the battle moved quickly, with many of the party getting out of sight of Quinn so they couldn't be the next victim of the powerful lazer attack. Sniper shot her with his own Mark IV blaster but was shocked to find the beam went right through her as she blurred into the Astral Dimension even though Sniper had scored a direct hit. 

The party allowed Quinn to escape, rather than face off with her, fearing her "wand" and being down sights of her. They heard her glass slippers clicking away down the stone caverns.

The Vortex Returns

Somewhere in a far off mountain, a clan of dwarfs were making a deal with Azi Dahaka, the demon prince of sands and wastes, to have their great forges re-lit. The forges had grown cold as most of the clan who knew its fiery secrets had grown senile and confused and couldn't get it lit again. 

The elders who still had their wits entreated Azi Dahaka with a mad ritual in the sands of the withering mountainside. Grok the Dwarf was watching dull eyed, like most of the clan. The demon prince arrived in a vortex of hurricane sands and blasting flames. "What is it you want, dwaaaarves?" he hissed. 

Upon hearing the clan's request, Azi Dahaka agreed, but for the blood price of one battle ready clansmen to be sent to a place of the demon prince's choosing. Realizing that he had been generally useless as a miner or smith, and a nuisance with his un-dwarflike curiosity about the world, the clan elders pointed at Grok. "Take him!"

Azi Dahaka lifted Grok into the sky with powerful sands and winds, shooting him into the astral vortex. Grok passed Mirage the Elf inside the vortex, the elf with his arms crossed in annoyance for being summoned from The Darkness Beneath to go help the clan.

Grok landed in the sands along the cave beach just as The Band were running The Lady Quinn off from the short lived battle.

The party asked Grok some questions, learning where he had come from and how the party elf had been taken from them by his patron. Some of the party had begun their life of adventure from Azi Dahaka sucking them into the same vortex, so it didn't seem to alarm them a great deal. 

All that settled, Grok joined The Band. Onward!

The Crabs of Doom

The party wisely decided to explore down the cavern river in the OPPOSITE direction from where The Lady Quinn had run. Gentle blue light glimmered off the underground river from the patches of mushrooms nested at the bottom. The thin walkway next to the river demanded the party walk in single file. They eventually came to a wider beach, with a cavern hallway going into the dungeon and away from the river as before.

The beach was littered with bleached bones and stank of death. More fresh corpses laid upon the riverside as well, some human and many more of an amphibian-man look; creatures the party had met previously and been friendly with. Two crab shell canoes were there as well. Denis explored the canoes and saw a couple potion bottles and magical scroll. Scarabus red the scroll realizing it to be a scroll of Patron Bond. He decided to keep it to learn the spell at a later time.

While the party was exploring, large crabs of about 6 feet across in diameter came from the walls and river, surrounding the party. Fight!

The battle raged with the angry crabs with some positive notes as follows:

-Crowley cast a medium sized pit of darkness in the center of the battle, keeping the crabs from approaching him directly. Giving him time and a strategic position to heal from.
-Scararus the Wizard wielded his sword with great proficiency, killing 4 of the large crabs himself! Who needs spells?
-Denis the thief stabbed at crabs willy and nilly, helping Scararus the Champion Swordsman, finish some off.
-Grok the Dwarf bashed 2 crabs to pieces with his warhammer.

So that's it for the good, lets get to the bad.

Fairhair the Fumbler

I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons for over two decades. I've camped in the Valley of the Archmage, explored White Plume Mountain. I've walked the streets of Greyhawk as the dual moons of Luna and Celene glimmered overhead. I have judged parties who sent wave after wave of doomed heroes into the meat grinder of the Caves of Chaos. I've seen much, my friends. 

But on February 10th of 2018 anno domini, I witnessed something truly mind blowing. My world may never be the same.

Harold Fairhair, intrepid warrior of the neanderthal clans of the Frozen North, rolled six natural 1s on a 20 sided dice, in one battle.

In. A. Row.

So how did this cursed event look in the game-world itself? Cue the Benny Hill theme song!

Harold Fairhair attacked with his spear at a giant crab and missed wildly towards the ground. His spear smashed against the stone floor, leaving a sad nub. 

Harold then attempted to attack the crab with his spear nub but got it caught in the ties and laces of his armor. The crab then snapped at Harold's Achilles heel and sent him reeling onto the floor prone. (Judge Note: the crab rolled a natural 20. Yes, it was going just that poorly for Harold.)

Harold attempted to roll under the crab and punch up at its soft underbelly! But he got his fist wrapped up in his armor as well. He tried the other fist... same result! His armor was like a straitjacket. 

In the meantime, Sniper pulled out his bow and shot arrows at the crab. Missing the crab... but not Harold!

Harold attempted to extricate his first from his armor and punch again... but wound up missing wildly and rolling himself onto his back. The crab made hay of this mistake and snipped at Harold many times. Another crab joined the fun and ripped Harold's face off, leaving him downed and nearly dead.

There were more fumbles and more slapstick but, honestly, it all began to blur together. There was a seventh natural 1 rolled but not "in a row" with the sixth. No, Harold rolled a 3 before his seventh 1. So, you know.

Needless to say, the gaming table itself was in hysterics of laughter here and there despite the danger of battle.

The party eventually finished up the melee and Crowley was able to heal the warrior before his soul was lost. He pulled the arrow from Sniper out of the warrior before Harold could see it so he wouldn't realize he died to friendly(?) fire.

The Aftermath

The party gathered up the large crabs and stacked them, tying them. They were on a mission to acquire crab meat for Old Bae, a great giant in the first chamber of the dungeon. He had agreed to give them information if they provided him crab meat, his favorite delicacy. They needed to get all of their crabby spoils back to him.

Scararus dived in the river for some mushrooms to cover the pallet of large crabs with, to use as a light source, and the party went about returning the way they had come deep into the dungeon.

Along the thin inlet along the river they were pulling the crab pallet along with ropes. So they were nearly surprised by the freakish mutants that had set an ambush for the party. The long jawed creatures jumped from the ceiling with their long stained fingernails spread like a demented claws.

One tackled Sniper into the river and tried to drown him. Denis pulled the thing off his companion.

Two jumped down to the front of the marching order and scratched and bit Grok the Dwarf about the face and neck, downing him and leaving his soul to take a slow walk to Valhalla.

Scarbarus was able to get off a Sleep spell and put down two of the four mutants. The other two were scared of the wizard and took off down the hall to escape. The party allowed them. They killed the sleeping mutants.

Cthulhu's Price

So Grok the Dwarf died. Mr Crowly the Cleric wasn't able to fight his way through the fray to heal Grok before his soul slipped away. The party turned him over... and he was indeed dead.

But when one has an unholy alliance with the elder god of indifference is dead ever truly dead? Not for Crowley!

He rent his garments and called to the sky for Divine Aid from Cthulu the archpriest of the old ones. "Bring this dwarf back from the realm of the dead!" Cthulhu agreed. 

(Judge Note: Crowley used a DCC RPG ability called Divine Favor to try and resurrect Grok, for a price.) 

So there Grok was, whistling as he walked along the Elysium Fields towards the halls of Valhalla. Death isn't so bad!

When in his path stepped something we'll call a squid-wolf. It was dark and dripping with purple slime, a messenger sent from Cthulhu himself. It stood on hind legs with ragged wet dark fur, pointing with a paw somehow topped with fingers. "Go back" it said in a growling hiss of the common tongue. "But there will be a price."

Behind Grok had appeared a black stone door hanging with skulls. Opening it he could see Crowley's face leaning over him in fevered prayer. Grok decided to step through and return to the realm of the living.

Grok stepped through the door and found himself back in the cave with The Band. But a pain came over him, a massive headache as his skull began to split open like an egg. It opened up and out crept a snakelike head with Grok's same visage, long dwarf beard and all. 

The price was great but he was alive again; only now as a strange hybrid dwarf snake...thing...

(Judge Note: I had Grok's player roll on a Greater Corruption table in the DCC RPG Rulebook.)

Well, no harm no foul. Onward!

Fairwell, Fairhair

The party backtracked into a grotto they had previously explored. They found their crab canoes there and began to load up the crab meat into them and jump in the canoes to row upriver toward Old Bae and the entry of the dungeon. 

When about half of the party was in their canoes, hybrid crab-men and their cavemen servants came pouring from the unexplored hallways to attack the party. Actual completely mutant crabs, walking like men but fully changed head to toe into a crab abomination, were with the attack force.

The cavemen tossed spears as the party decided to flee upriver and not engage in battle. The half-crab men could swim pretty well but not enough to keep up with the canoes. The fully formed crab-men, however, scurried along the bottom and kept up with the fleeing canoes. 

Harold Fairhair, unfortunately, was at the back of the line. Crab men were jumping out of the river to try and pinch at him. But he was mostly dodging their attacks and trying to keep up with his fleeing friends.

He didn't count on one particularly powerful enemy however. Sniper.

Sniper pulled his Mark IV blaster rifle from behind his back and stood in the canoe to shoot toward the engaging crab men. "I'm just going to shoot at the water to boil it and cook them where they are," he assured Denis.

But that's not what happened.

Instead, the blaster beam of red light connected directly with Harold who was in the line of fire. It cut through his metal armor and through the bone in his shoulder. His entire arm fell into the water along with a shower spurt of crimson blood. He fell over into his canoe in shock; dead.

The crab men pulled him into the water and the heroic band of intrepid adventurers bravely left Harold to his fate. 

"If I die I will haunt Sniper!" he gurgled out before being pulled beneath the waves.

The crab men didn't pursue the party. They were happy with eating Harold instead.

Old Bae and the Exit

Eventually the party paddled the long trek upriver and came to Old Bae's cave. He was happy to receive the crab meat and gave the party some information about the dungeon:

-Cthulhu's son was in fact in the eastern part of the dungeon enthralled to Lady Quinn somehow. Perhaps it was the Multi-Levered-Contraption that he's seen her with.
-He said something like "yes Quinn is a lady, for now"
-the crab men worship a demon named Garaskis. 

Old Bae also gave them a bag of gold pieces in return for their crab meat prize.

The party bid the old withered giant farewell and went across the river to the rope they had left to escape the dungeon up to the surface. Unfortunately, when they pulled the rope, stones came falling down on the head of Grok and Crowley instead. (Judge Note: Crowley burned 3 Luck at this point to avoid the stones and prevent being killed.)

The party took a much needed rest, huddling in a corner. Scararus spent time identifying one of the potions they had found as a healing potion. 

Grok investigated a nearby cave-in and noticed it blocked stairs going up, and saw a glint of paper being held by a rotting dead hand under the rocks. Clearing some away he found a dead man holding a map. 

The map showed a way up and out of the dungeon past the cave in. Then a further map showed a way across land to the town of Marchand. 

The Band decided to take the show on the road and find the town of Marchand for some much needed rest and recovery. But that would be for the next session. We ended there.

Judge Thoughts

What a wild session. Things got very difficult for the party in this session. The main problem, I believe, was that they dove deep into the dungeon last time with two clerics. Lots of healing. But, this session, the player for Trog-Dar their second cleric retired. He would no longer be able to make time to play.

So poor Crowley was stuck trying to keep the party upright as they were assailed by deep dungeon denizens.

I got the sense the players were feeling overwhelmed with the difficulty of the dungeon so I'm happy they returned to the entrance and found proof of where they might escape for civilization for a time. Assuming they make it to Marchand, The Band will be in a nice-sized city for the first time in the entire campaign.

Being able to regroup, gear up and plan a better strategy may help alleviate some of their anxiety. Or not, idk.

Regarding Harold Fairhair. The player was a good sport with his horrifically bad run of luck. We had alot of fun and alot of laughs. He didn't seem to take it personal that Sniper had a bad shot and blew his character into oblivion. 

I stayed a bit late after the session to help Harold's player create a 1st level wizard to play next time. While we were rolling up spells someone who had been watching the game between his games of Magic the Gathering asked me if he could play with us next time. 

Maybe Harold's death was meant to be, to bring more new blood to the madness that is DCC RPG!

Game on!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

D&D Diplomacy Simplified

I made a thing.

Last session the party met a great deal of humanoids. About half of these weren't immediately ready to kill the party and were prepared to parley. I think I handled this pretty well as a Judge but I've decided a need a more set in stone system.

I bought the book "On the Non Player Character", written by the outstanding Courtney Campbell of recent "Megadungeon" fame. "On the NPC" is a great little book that I use all the time but I'm not sure how Courtney uses it quickly at the table. Based on my readings of his blog, I sense he has a much better memory than me. I used some of the concepts from the book last session, but it was mostly from memory and I know I missed some important elements.

My little chart uses many of the same concepts but I've stripped away some of the things I was unable to keep up with quickly at the table. Behold!:

So how do you use this thing?

First, you need to make a Reaction Check when the party first comes across an NPC or Monster. I use this one, which is taken directly from Courtney Campbell's book. You roll 2d6. (Note: "Monsters Feel Stronger" or "Monster Feel Weaker" should be the subheadings. I took out "Feel" for the chart I use at the table, for space purposes. Some monsters, though strong, are cowards and vice versa.)

Each time the player character tries to parley with a monster or NPC, they make a d20 roll adding or subtracting their Charisma (Personality) modifier. I also intend to give the player a bonus or negative to the roll based on their roleplaying of the request/demand. If they want the monster to just leave them alone, maybe it's rolled at +2. If they want the monster to give them their treasure, it's rolled at -4, etc. Language barriers will also cause a negative.

Additionally, diplomacy directed at "Friendly" targets are at +2 and "Helpful" at +4".

As the Diplomacy and parley goes on, the monster or NPC may change it's disposition towards the party, depending on how badly or well each roll of the dice goes.

Enough failures and the monster becomes Hostile and attacks or Flees. Parley's may go on for many attempts, or may end almost immediately. Roleplaying will adjust the chances of things going one way or another but the dice will tell the tale, as I believe it should.

Why not just wing it?

As a Judge, I find that I need the dice to keep me honest and to help me be creative on the fly. If I'm having a bad or less creative day, perhaps I will just fall into the old trap of having the monsters be violent jerks who won't hear the party out. Maybe I'll lean towards having them be too helpful because I know the next room has a big fight the NPC might be able to help with.

It's similar to the way using random encounter tables help shake up the creativity of a Judge or DM.

The Judges of the Spellburn podcast recently had a guest, Steve Bean, who somewhat derided the Gameism aspect of tabletop RPGs. To me, it's very important. This is a game. When the rules are unclear, as they often are with parley and diplomacy, the players don't know where they stand.

I want my players to know I'll give them a fair chance to turn the Ogre into an ally, the shopkeep into a villain, and everything in between.

I'll have a future blog post about the Tabletop RPG game theory that Steve Bean and the Judges J went into on Spellburn.

I hope this chart may prove useful to other Judges and DMs out there. Game on!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Darkness Beneath Session 1

I ran a DCC RPG Road Crew session a few weeks ago using The Darkness Beneath; the megadungeon from the OSR fanzine Fight On!

This is the fifth session of the campaign proper. Some may notice I'm skipping two sessions between my last session report and this one. I likely won't do a session report for sessions 3 and 4 of the campaign as the ideas are no longer fresh in my mind. Mea culpa.

My conclusions on judging the dungeon for DCC RPG are at the bottom of the session report.

So let's get to it.

The Band

Denis: 2nd level Thief and former gongfarmer. "It's definitely not trapped." It was trapped.

Mirage: Chaotic 2nd level Elf who has a pact with the Demon Prince Azi Dahaka. "Are all humans so stupid?"

Mr Crowley: 2nd level Cleric of Cthulhu."All I know that I'm not smart enough to understand."

Sniper: 2nd level warrior archer known for firing at enemies engaged in melee combat with his pals. With a laser rifle.

Harold Fairhair the Neanderthal: 1st level warrior with a respectable name and attitude for a caveman.

Scarabus the Neanderthal: 1st level wizard with a jovial undead rat familiar.

Trog-dar the Neanderthal: 1st level Cleric of Cthulhu. Former apprentice to the caveman shaman of the winter camp.

The Hook

The party escaped the collapsing facility inside the Ghost Ice during the previous session. (DCC RPG adventure #79 "Frozen in Time") They trotted across the snow dunes back towards the winter camp of the Neandarthals in the party. The Shaman there, who had previously given them the quest to investigate the "Ice Demons" inside the Ghost Ice, heard their tale of adventure and daring. Upon realizing the Ice Demons were no longer a threat to the caveman tribe he looked to the gray skies and said "my work on this world is done!" Eldritch tentacles burst from the shaman's chest, killing him instantly. The black otherworldly things wiggled about making a sort of sign language that Mr. Crowley could understand: they were conveying a message from Cthulhu!

The 2nd level cleric of the elder god spoke with the tentacles until he understood that his deity wanted him to travel to the Cursed Well to "save my child!" When Mr. Crowley approached the tentacles they slapped him in the face conveying a -4 Luck penalty on him until the quest was complete. He also received a vision of Cthulhu's child which looked like some cross between an octupus, a milipede and a duck. "He's a beautiful young man," remarked Crowley.

The Cursed Well

Back into the snowy wastes for the party. They took a day or two to arrive at the Cursed Well; the cavemen in the party knew exactly where it was. Legend had it that generations in past had defected from their tribe and entered the well following the siren call of some strange demon's call. None are certain what happened to the cultists down in the cursed well.

The party hitched some rope to the top of the well and sent Mirage the elf down first. At the bottom he saw a winding cave river glowing with blue mushrooms sprouting in the river bed. A small beach to the southern shore. Since there was no obvious danger the party all joined him at the bottom, leaving the rope swinging.

On the beach were large crab shells that had the capacity to spirit three men with shells shaped into paddles. There was also a 10 foot wide passage with stairs leading up that had a cave-in that the party wasn't particularly interested in clearing out.

The Booming Voice

The party took the crab shell canoes across to the opposite shore where they could see another cavern with a beach. They landed on the beach and explored into the cavern which had a 10 wide roughewn hallway. About 30 feet down the passage they came to a big pile of oversized crab shells, including legs, which appeared to have been cooked and eaten with butter.

When the party started climbing over the pile of crabby detritus the noise was noticed by a booming voiced individual deeper in the cave. "Stop right where you are."

Mr. Crowley took the diplomatic lead and agreed with the voice in the darkness that the party would approach no further. In conversation they learned that the monster was hungry for crab meat and would provide them information if they acquired some for him. He then told them to go away. They complied. During the short parley they learned that his name was Old Bae.

Scarbarus sent his undead rat familiar sneaking into the chamber to get a look at the monster, who the rat described (through jovial telepathy with the Wizard), as a really big version of a human, except really old and strong looking. The rat searched the chamber and found no other entrances in what appeared to be a "really cool party bedroom" with furniture of massive size. Massive crab legs were boiling in a pot of water over a fire.

The Stone Island

The party returned to their crab shell canoes and rowed merrily down the river. Eventually they came to a large flat-ish rock jutting out of the slow moving river and splitting it. The island had some old broken down parapets of stacked ancient bricks, perched upon one was a humanoid sort of figure with bat wings and dark gray rough, almost stone-like, skin. "Don't you land on that island" Methelhed threatened (the party later learned his name). (Judge Note: rolled a reaction roll of "threaten the party".)

Mr. Crowley, who was having a great deal of trouble staying balanced in the crab canoe whilst wearing FULL PLATE ARMOR stated matter of factly "I AM getting off on this island." Methelhed huffed and insulted the party with some colorful words. Soon-after, he spread his heavy bat-like wings, and flew off in the opposite direction from where the party had come.

On the island were two arched stone bridges, one going west and one going east, into the walls of caves and 10 wide halls of brick and block dungeon. In the western hallway the party could hear the sounds of cavemen preparing for battle and threatening Methelhed to not enter their domain. Apparently, the creature had been taunting them before the party arrived. The cavemen in the party tried to talk with these cavemen by yelling across the bridge (Judge Note: I made many random encounter rolls for the party's loud speech).

The cavemen refused to parley and advised the party to come no closer.

The Rur-rur-rurururs

Back on the island some of the party members came upon a strange pack of fishlike tribal humanoids decked out with bone swords and other assorted weaponry. They were fishing the southern shore of the island, occasionally swimming about. The fish they caught glowed strangely. The fishmen seemed happy to see the party. (Judge Note: I rolled the most positive reaction roll possible.)

These odd little creatures were happy to talk with the party and told them all they knew about the dungeon level. The Elf was able to communicate with them in Naga, although the creatures spoke like hillbilly Nagas, or Nagas that had suffered a major concussion. Some highlights:

-the creatures are called Rur-rur-rururus.
-the Rur-rur-rururus are here to fish but often battle with the cavemen cultists.
-the split in the river led southeast to a treacherous waterfall.
-the split in the river moving south led to "more crabs".

The party decided to go down the southern river since Old Bae wanted crab meat to give them more information. They assumed they'd find it there. The Rur-rur-rururus jumped into the river and swam away while the party was debating their plan of action.

The Mutants

Whilst the party was debating their plan some freaky mutant-like humans came from the east, jumping easily across the shattered bridge with a superhuman agility. The men were wild eyed with long jaws sporting phial sharpened teeth, long nails they used as claws as they slobbered and screamed bloodthirsty blasphemies. Their clothing was shredded rags.

They engaged the party quickly and made a bee-line for Mirage the Elf, scratching and biting at him.

Harold the warrior engaged with two of the mutants, holding them off with shield and sword, while Sniper shot arrows with his carbon fiber Purple Planet artifact across the bridge as more were on the way. The Elf and Harold were taking scratches and bites from the crazed freaks before Scarabus was able to fire off a few powerful sleep spells, calming the mutants into a slumber.

The party slit most of their throats but held one mutant for questioning. Unfortunately all he seemed to be able to say was that he would "KILL ALL OF YOU AND BURN YOU IN MY BLOOD DIE DIE DIE!!!1" So the party killed him.

Trog-Dar attempted to heal a wound he had acquired in battle and angered Cthulu instead. (Judge Note: the deity bestowed a -3 penalty on the Cleric's Lay on Hands check for X hours.)

The Crab Men

The party canoed down the southern river to look for crabs to give to Old Bae in exchange for information. After about twenty slow minutes the river had turned from south to directly east and came to a stop at a grotto. The cavern had two beaches and glowed with eerie blue light from mushrooms beneath the underground pool.

Along the beach were five men who appeared to be melded with crabs. They had large pincers and their skin was pocked with fire red carapace here and there. They were vile abominations of man and crab, things more than men, unholy creatures walking sideways in imitation of crustaceans. They were fishing the grotto for the glowing yellow fish that swam about it. Going in and out of the calm pool.

Behind them, as attendants, were five cavemen.

None of the creatures noticed the party and were likely to be surprised if the party attacked. Mirage had seen their piles of crushed mushrooms that the crabmen were using as a light source on the beach. But the party had no light source whilst canoeing since the river itself produced enough.

The party pushed themselves quietly upriver away from the grotto to make a plan. Whispering in the caverns about whether they should wait out the crustacean men or use their element of surprise. They eventually agreed on doing the latter.

The party quietly pushed their canoes across to the opposite beach from their enemies, planning to engage them on the inlet separating the two. The crab-men noticed them and battle began.

Sniper shot his bow whilst standing in the canoe and blasted the pincer off one of the crustacean creatures. (Judge Note: Critical Hit!) Mirage cast Choking Cloud into the massive group and left most of the creatures confused and coughing in a pale green cloud of noxious gas. It persisted the rest of the battle.

Mr. Crowley attempted to cast a spell whilst standing in the canoe but waiving his arms about with hocus pocus put him off balance in his heavy full plate armor and he fell into the pool. Denis the thief offered the cleric his ten foot pole to hold onto as they went to land on the beach.

The rest of the battle wasn't particularly dangerous for our reavers and cutthroats. The Wizard was able to put many of them to sleep, and Crowley (once he was on his feet) was able to cast Word of Command and have many of the creatures swim upriver in obedience to his word. The party took one of the cavemen prisoner and learned the following through questioning:

-The Cavemen are of a cult to the crab "god" Garaskis.
-The Cavemen serve the Crab-Men since they are transforming to reflect the crustacean nature of their "god".
-The Cavemen fear The Lady and Methelhed (who serves her) because they sometimes capture cavemen for unknown reasons.
-The Cavemen are happy to die in service to Garaskis and he wished to be fed to crabs upon death.
-Mirage the Elf recalled the name Garaskis deep in his old elf mind. He's a demonic patron of crablike visage, not really a god proper. Mirage couldn't recall if his patron, Azi Dahaka was in league or at war with Garaskis.

The Cavemen didn't seem to fear death and made fun of Mirage's pointy elf ears. Mirage cut his off gleefully in response. Then the party killed their prisoner. (I'm sensing a theme with prisoners.)

The Lady

There were many passages exiting the grotto cavern and the party spent quite a while debating their next direction. Eventually they decided to down a south eastern leading corridor. It curved roughewn for about 60 feet and opened into a beach along the river. Piles of junk were sprawled across the beach, most of it seeming to be weapons and equipment from the Rur-rur-rurururs.

The party went about looting it, acquiring some of the odd weaponry the salamander creatures wielded: in particular a few party members salvages some macanas. These are the short swords of dark gray bone flecked with night dark obsidian.

Mirage noticed a young woman hiding behind a large boulder up the beach while his party was looting trash. She looked like nobility, wearing a flowing gown that was old and tattered.

something like this
"Have no fear. We are not going to hurt you," the elf comforted her, "who are you?"

She revealed herself as Quinn, a lesser noble from the small nearby town of Marchand. She claimed to have entered the dungeon as a dare, with her brother and his friends, and became lost.

Mr. Crowley didn't believe her tale and cast Detect Evil to ask his god if Quinn meant the party any harm. Above her head the cleric saw the elder god Cthulu nodded slowly that yes, Quinn did mean them harm!

The Lady seemed to notice the spell. She reached behind her back and pulled out a strange wand wish a trigger. Sniper (who claims to be from the future) recognized it as a laser pistol. She pointed it at the party with an angry sneer.

The Judge ended the session there.

The Conclusion

This was the fifth session of this campaign with these same characters. Previously I had been using products from Goodman Games DCC RPG line of adventures. I've heard mixed opinions about whether or not DCC RPG, as a system, is suited for megadungeon play. I recall an episode of Spellburn where most of the Judges J seemed to agree that the system was better suited to episodic play, something akin to Howard's barbaric Conan tales. A new session, a new wild adventure or discovery.

As a counterpoint I read a blogger who ran a homebrewed megadungeon called Skull Mountain with the DCC RPG system. It sounded awesome. It always struck me as something I'd like to try, even before I had bought the DCC RPG rulebook and started running it as my home game.

The Darkness Beneath is a wild megadungeon with so many interesting ideas and cool levels that I decided to give the party a hook to one of the deeper levels, adding a direct entrance to this location. The megadungeon was written for an OD&D type game, although the magazine isn't edition specific. I converted the monsters in the dungeon to a DCC stat-block and changed up some of their descriptions and powers to make them a bit weirder and pulpy to match the DCC RPG "everything turned up to 11" style of play.

It's a good rule of thumb to double the level a DCC player character has to figure out about what level of classic D&D character they'd be. I had a party of 2nd and 1st level characters so I figured the third level of the dungeon would be suitable to their level of power. Also, level 3 of the dungeon is an AMAZING read.

I think the session went rather well. I worried there would be too many humanoids (a no-no as per the DCC RPG rulebook game theory) but they were all strange enough with interesting enough motivations that I think it worked well. The party parleyed more than I would have expected for DCC RPG and it worked in their favor quite a bit.

The excitement level at the table seemed to stay high with each new discovery of weird dungeon room or humanoid freakshow.

I look forward to seeing how the party moves forward in The Darkness Beneath. Will they delve deeper or will they escape the topsy turvy place ASAP?

Time will tell.