Lying to Telepaths

For all those who think the SW Mind Reading power is too powerful: How do you lie to a telepath?

You don’t. You lie to someone else, and let the telepath read their mind.

This is a variant on what Sun Tsu refers to as "doomed spies" in his Art of War. You pass the false information to someone expendable, and betray them to the enemy. The enemy then interrogates them, and finds out what you wanted them to know; almost everyone breaks eventually. (There are some historical instances of people who didn’t, but they are very much the exception.)

Whether the interrogation is by seduction, bribery, torture or telepathy is irrelevant, and telepathy requires no special considerations.

PCs enmeshed in intrigue must always allow for the possibility that they are themselves "doomed spies". PCs reading an NPC’s mind must always be aware that they can only find out what the NPC believes to be the truth; the NPC may be mistaken, or may have been deliberately misled, but a truthful answer is not always an accurate one.

Review: DB2 Crater of Umeshti

The second in the DB series of Castles & Crusades modules, Crater of Umeshti is 26 pages of old-fashioned dungeon crawl, written by Casey Cristofferson and illustrated by Peter Bradley.

It’s aimed at characters of 2nd or 3rd level up to roughly 5th. There is a background story, based around the ever-popular ancient culture destroyed by a meteor strike, a surface feature (the crater) and its inhabitants to explore, and three dungeon levels with puzzles to solve, monsters to slay, and treasure to loot. Adventure hooks are listed in the form of NPCs and organisations who know of the crater and want what’s inside, or raving survivors of earlier expeditions.

The level maps are small, and hard for me to read; they take up about 1/6 of a page, and really should be at least half a page. As a PDF file this is an inconvenience, since I can read them perfectly well by zooming to 200% magnification; but in print they’re verging on unusable. The layout of each level is essentially a ring of rooms and corridors around a central sinkhole.

As is traditional, there are a number of new magic items, spells, and monsters; DB2 as a whole is kobold-themed. There are a bit over 50 encounter areas, and almost all of them have monsters, so I’d say a party would get 3-10 sessions out of the upper dungeon levels; certainly the module is openly intended to be one of repeated forays into the dungeon, with intermissions while the party rest, recover, and spend their ill-gotten gains at some suitable base location such as a town.

Rating: 3 out of 5. Solid stuff, if stereotypical; easy to use and to drop into an existing campaign. Let down by hard-to-read maps.

Real Dungeons 1: Labirintus

Recently, I visited Budapest, and took advantage of that to investigate their honest-to-goodness D&D style dungeon, called Labirintus. Here’s the first in what will hopefully be a series on Real Dungeons.

History

About 350,000 years ago, hot water springs and specific rock types led to the formation of caves under what is now Castle Hill.

During the Mediaeval period, a two-level system evolved; cellars were dug 3-5 metres below the houses on the hill to store wine and food, and wells went down into and beyond the lower level, about 15 metres below ground, to access fresh water. Over time these were connected to each other and the caves, forming a labyrinth. Arguably there is a third level as well, since where the water from the springs encountered rock it couldn’t penetrate, it ran off the hill sideways, creating sloping passages. The interconnections made it possible to go down one cellar, cross the city underground, and emerge somewhere else, which was useful for military purposes. The complex was also used by townspeople to shelter from fires and battles.

Later, as the vineyards disappeared and piped water appeared, the labyrinth was used for dumping rubbish and debris. It was largely forgotten, living on in legend, until geologists rediscovered it in the 19th century, exploring and repairing the network and opening it to the public in 1935. At about the same time, the army built bunkers, bomb shelters and a small hospital in it; these facilities were upgraded during the Cold War era for civil defence.

Size and Layout

I was able to gain access to about 1500 metres of the 10,000 metre length of the labyrinth; the overall floor area is about 40,000 square metres. Walls were generally smooth and made of small stone blocks – they reminded me of dry stone walls. The corridors ranged from just under two metres high (I had to stoop in a few places to avoid banging my head) to about 2.5, and from one metre to 2.5 wide – the average passage was wide enough for two people to pass each other, just, and the roof had either an arched ceiling (if low) or raw exposed rock (if high). The average room looked to be about 5-6 metres on a side, and was surprisingly square, although I can’t tell if that was the original wall, something from the 1930s, or a modern reconstruction.

If you prefer D&D style 5′ squares, that’s a series of looping corridors, one square wide and about 6,500 squares long, connecting about 300 chambers each 4×4 squares.

Here are a few images from the labirintus website to whet your appetite. I think they are public domain, but if you know otherwise, let me know.

metszet

Side view of the labyrinth layout.

budavari_1983

labirintus

Two plan views of the layout

budavari-labirintus

One of the better-lit and better-preserved sections.
The arches are roughly two metres high, I think.

Environment

The labyrinth has a temperature of 10-15 Centigrade and 90% humidity; it’s cool, damp (water dripping from the ceiling in a lot of places) and smells of mould, but not strongly. Except where lights have been run in, it is extremely dark. Even with the lights on and arrows pointing to the exit, I managed to get lost once while down there; you’d need lanterns, chalk, and possibly a ball of string.

What Was Missing

No monsters, although I suppose during the Ottoman occupation you might have encountered resistance fighters and Janissaries hunting each other in the dark. (I have no evidence of that, mind.)

No traps, although blundering around in the dark I suppose you could have fallen down one of the wells, or just the stairs.

No treasure, unless you count wine during the Middle Ages.

Review: DB1 The Haunted Highlands

The Haunted Highlands, or DB series, is a sequence of modules for the Castles & Crusades RPG, so easily converted to most d20-based fantasy RPGs – that’s why I’ve filed it under D&D. The whole series can be had for less than I spend on coffee in a week, and that’s way too much, so I did a short caffeine detox and diverted the funds thus freed to RPGNow.

(The detox didn’t last, of course. It never does. Much like my resolution to stop buying new RPG stuff until I’ve used what I already have.)

DB1, the eponymous Haunted Highlands, is – like many first-in-a-series products – really intended to set the scene for a longer campaign, rather than an adventure plain and simple. It’s a 26 page document, written by Casey Cristofferson and illustrated by Peter Bradley.

The campaign area consists of the Duchy of Karbosk, which is kinda-sorta civilised; the Haunted Highlands, which are definitely not; and the lands east of the River Mandras, which are dominated by orcs. Based on the map scale, it is roughly 34,000 square miles; about the size of Hungary or South Carolina. With five villages, one city, a handful of ruins and a couple of forts, this is virgin wilderness; using typical population values for mediaeval settlements, it has less than one person per square mile – people are spread thinner here than in contemporary Alaska.

This setting is an old-school sandbox. By that, I mean:

  • It’s up to the players to decide what to do and where to go.
  • Encounters are not gated to PC levels – you meet what you meet, and woe betide you if you don’t know when to fight and when to run.
  • The DM is presented with a framework, but has quite a bit of work to do. Yes, it’s a standalone RPG setting, but you need to prepare some adventures to get the PCs up to 3rd-4th level, and it won’t take them much higher than 7th level as written.

The duchy is geographically isolated, conquered some centuries ago by a kingdom now in decline, and largely independent. Unknown to most who live there, this was once part of the vanished Empire of Umeshti. The history of the area is dealt with in a handful of paragraphs, then it’s on with the motley. The Duchy and the remains of the Kingdom both currently have their hands full with a full-scale orcish invasion, and thus the bulk of the land is left to its own devices.

The author recommends a fairly standard mix of classes for the party; one cleric, one mage, one rogue, and a bunch of fighting men of various types.

Places to go, things to kill:

  • Dirty Bowbe’s Roadhouse. A cross between the House of Beorn in Lord of the Rings and the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the Mos Eisley starport cantina, this fortified inn and its occupants are treated in some detail, as it is assumed the PCs will base themselves here. The details include the ongoing soap opera around the serving girls, the proprietor, and providers of other services; rules of the establishment; menus and price lists; pub games and customs.
  • The Crater of Umeshti. This is the obligatory large dungeon, detailed further in DB2 and DB3, but mentioned only in passing in DB1.
  • The City of Dro Mandras. This is the only city on the map, and is the subject of DB4 and DB5, although again it rates only a few lines in DB1. That part of it west of the river is still under the Duke’s control, but the area on the east bank has been overrun by orcs and is in ruins.
  • The Tower of Nesturon, a local mage of some note. That’s pretty much all you ever find out, so one for the DM to flesh out.
  • Assorted villages, ruins, and forts. For the most part, these are left vague, for the DM to expand upon as he sees fit.
  • Four fleshed-out encounter areas, each of which is intended to provide a single session’s entertainment. These are Mythnoc Cairns, a burial ground haunted by the restless dead; the ruined village of Bortenski, and its current unwholesome occupants; the Witch Moor, which features barbarian highlanders and witches; and the enchanted glen known as the Circle of the Green Man. You can see where those are on the map.

Conclusions

The module as written is suitable for adventurers of 4th through 7th level, and while it mentions scaling the encounters for different levels, I couldn’t see any advice on how to do this; the DM is thus expected to do this for himself. There are also sections on random encounters and a new monster, the Charnel Spider.

The setting introduced in DB1 is small enough, and generic enough, to be slotted in to almost any fantasy game without causing any problems – I could see that initially, and it’s one of the things that attracted me to it.

Rating: 3 out of 5. This is standard fare, but well done overall despite the lack of scaling advice and low-level scenarios.

Shadows of Keron, Episode 15: Green World, Part 2

The players once again wrecked the nicely scripted arc. And I’m OK with that, because the point is to have fun together, not slavishly follow a particular story. The scenario book remains useful because of the appendix on the care and feeding of demons, which will definitely come in handy later on.

However, they essentially blew through the story backwards, going straight from partway through Act 1 to Act 4, missing out most of Acts 2 and 3, killing everyone they should have saved, and saving everyone who should have died. I could have stopped that with plot immunity for key NPCs, but that never feels right to me – I let the PCs live or die by the players’ decisions, and don’t see why the NPCs should be treated any differently.

Highlights of the trip:

  • Athienne doing a called shot to the leg of a minor villain so that she could be captured and interrogated; then rolling a 27 for damage, severing the femoral artery. (They did manage to save her, but it took three PCs out of the fight with a big ugly bug thing to do it).
  • Gutz climbing up a wall and using his cloak to make Batman shapes in a cone of light. Control of the light source was surprisingly useful until he fell off because he was attempting too many actions in one round and failed a couple of rolls.
  • The Warforged dropping a Fear spell which caught Garstrewt while others previously banished to the Green World charged out through their escape route around him, so that he now has a Major Phobia of crowds. Still, better than his original idea of Blast I suppose. As it turned out Nessime used Banish and Repulse to get rid of most of the opposition.
  • Nessime taking an oath to allow the villains to live, and be set free, in exchange for information; then directly killing one, and indirectly killing the other, by accident. Her defence to the Temple of Hulian is going to be that they were evil, and the ends justify the means. Can’t wait to see how that plays out.
  • The race between The Warforged looting sorcerous goodies from the evil wizard’s lair, and Nessime smashing them up because they are evil. We called the session before I could decide how much she smashed and how much he looted.

They have made good their escape from the Green World, and will now move on into the Borderlands, where I have a few one-shot style adventures lined up for them. All but one of them are now broke, and some of them have been for a while without being concerned about it; so I think I’ll quietly introduce the savings rules and let The Warforged trade in his money for the tower he wants when they get to Gis. I have just the place in mind, but more of that in a later post.

Meanwhile, there is unhappiness in some quarters about how the No Power Points option is working out – failure causing Shaken and dropping maintained powers is seen as too high a price to pay for being able to cast a potentially unlimited amount of spells. We’ll give it one more session, and if it’s still a source of complaint I’ll switch back to power points.

Review: The Imago Dei

Here’s a new free web supplement for Stars Without Number, 9 pages long including the front cover and an advert for the Crimson Pandect, which is already on my wish list.

*** Warning! Here there be spoilers! ***

SUMMARY

Robotic Knights Templar guard the periphery of human space, in secret. How cool is that?

CONTENT

Human memory of unbraked Artificial Intelligences in Stars Without Number is dominated by Draco’s attempt to destroy mankind, and the Code Wars that followed. Yet, there are other AIs, ones who embraced human faiths and took it upon themselves to protect humanity from alien threats. They call themselves the Imago Dei.

This supplement reviews how the Imago Dei came to be, their organisation, missions and purposes, their interactions with their human "auxiliaries", and the three main factions; those who wish to safeguard humanity warts and all, those who see humans as imperfect vessels best controlled tightly (for their own good of course) and those who have gone completely nuts in their efforts to understand God more clearly than any organic sentience can manage.

And of course, one can’t help wondering if Draco is still out there, somewhere.

Next, a table of Imago Dei ship hulls. While not as powerful as Terran Mandate ships, they are advanced compared to what the average surviving planet can field. Notes are given on fleet composition, shipyard capacity and AI naming practices.

I was getting the feel by this point that a SWN campaign involving the Imago Dei would need to be more than one sector in size, and I can infer support for this view from the flavour text here – it seems each fleet is responsible for a dozen or more sectors, spread so thin than any threat short of global extinction of a human population doesn’t draw their attention.

FORMAT

A plain gold cover wrapped around basic text. It’s all you need when the ideas are this good.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

None. I love this one.

CONCLUSIONS

Although starting from a very different initial assumption, this winds up at the same place as Traveller: The New Era with regard to AI – fleets of self-aware starships the players can encounter, some friendly, some not so much; although the Imago Dei are more likely to be friendly than their TNE equivalents. You could also see them as Battlestar Galactica’s Cylons without too much of a stretch – the reboot rather than the original series, due to their religious bent and pro-human faction.

SF campaigns need secrets, and this would be a good one to layer underneath a SWN game, and I plan to do so – probably by having the PCs encounter first a looted Imago Dei base, then a scout from a nearby fleet investigating the sudden silence.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5. I have got to run SWN at some point to use all these cool goodies, but I shall grit my teeth and finish Shadows of Keron first.

Review: Pathfinder Lite Products

Paizo recently emailed me to advise that most of the things I bought from their Pathfinder line are now available in a Lite PDF format, optimised for viewing on tablets, laptops and so forth. Paizo makes these available free of charge if you have already bought the full version of the PDF. Clearly, tablets of one form or another are a significant thing among gamers now. Of 15 people I game with at least once a year, two of them have iPads; I have no idea how representative that is.

(This is the kind of innovation that makes me like Paizo. It’s as if they understand what I want from a game company.)

I wondered: Just how useful is this change? So I fired up the Kindle and the netbook and tried it out. The Inner Sea World Guide is the biggest Pathfinder PDF I have, and I reasoned that the changes would be most apparent in that.

Here’s what I found… Numbers are times are in seconds.

Activity Normal PDF on Kindle Lite PDF on Kindle Normal PDF on Netbook Lite PDF on Netbook
Open file 9 17 4 4
Turn to p. 10 251 14 25 9
Go to beginning from p. 10 <1 <1 <1 <1
Go to end from beginning >300
(Got bored, gave up)
> 300
(Got bored, gave up)
3 2

The normal PDF is 147 MB, and the lite one is 243 MB. Why making the lite one bigger makes it faster is beyond me, but there it is. The lite version takes the same time, or longer, to load initially, but once you have it open, it’s definitely faster. I don’t have an iPad, so I can’t check that.

It could just be my aging eyes, but I fancy the lite version illustrations are crisper on the Kindle. The fact that the Kindle can handle a graphics-intensive, 243MB file at all is impressive, never mind how fast it is.

Free Downloads: Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Beta

If you’ve kept even a cursory eye on d20 products since the OGL came out, you will have heard of Goodman Games, and probably of their Dungeon Crawl Classics line of adventures.

This is the free public beta of Goodman’s own D&D retroclone, the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, and is a 160 page PDF download published in 2011, intended as a teaser and stress test for the full game. It allows you to create characters, and advance them up to 5th level. You can still find it on Goodman Games’ website.

CONTENT

Introduction (2 pages excluding pictures)

As well as the usual credits, this has a page explaining what the author assumes about your knowledge of, and intentions regarding, roleplaying. In particular, it’s assumed that you are moving to the DCC RPG from one of the earlier versions of D&D, whether that be Original, B/X, or 1st Edition flavour.

The Core Mechanic (one page)

This is a handy page, explaining both the core rules mechanic (roll 1d20, apply modifiers, and if it equals or exceeds a target number, you succeed) and differences between the DCC RPG and other incarnations of D&D.

It also warns you that the DCC RPG makes use of "funky dice", namely things like d7, d24 and so on. These are less common than the standard d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12, but can be emulated with those – and since you are assumed to be a D&D player, you already have them.

Chapter 1: Characters (41 pages)

The DCC RPG starts with an unusual approach: Each player generates 2-4 0-level characters completely at random, even unto their occupation and beginning possessions. (In no other game I know can you begin as a gongfarmer whose sole possessions are a trowel and a sack of night soil. No wonder you start adventuring.)

The bunch of them now enter their first dungeon, where most of them will assuredly die. Any survivors who earn at least one experience point are then promoted to 1st level, and may choose a character class; this is harder than it sounds, as you start with -100 experience.

To an extent, this is similar to Warhammer Fantasy Role Playing, in that the player’s input into the character is very limited to start with; more options appear later, but the PC is forever tainted, or blessed, with features of his origin. This is undoubtedly realistic – none of us had much choice about our health or birth parents – but I’m not sure how much fun it would be for my group and I.

Ability scores are slightly non-standard: Strength, Agility (replaces Dexterity), Stamina (replaces Constitution), Personality (replaces Wisdom and Charisma), Intelligence, and Luck, with attribute modifiers following the B/X model of no more than -3 or +3. Unusually, the bonus from your Luck score applies to a completely random activity determined from a Luck Table; it may well be something you can’t even do, because your character class rules it out. The three saving throws of D&D 3rd Edition are in force; Fortitude, Reflex and Will. Alignment is the original Law-Neutrality-Chaos model.

Character classes, at least in the Beta rules, are warrior, cleric, wizard, thief, dwarf, elf and halfling – yes, race as a class is alive and well. Dwarves are basically another type of warrior, elves are fighter/magic-users, and halflings are notoriously lucky rogues.

Each class is described over the course of a handful of pages, but like Joe Goodman, I’m assuming you have a passing familiarity with those concepts already, so I won’t dwell on the details. Something that is a bit out of the ordinary is that each combination of class, level and alignment has its own title or rank name; I’ve never used these myself, and wouldn’t start now, but there they are.

Note that unlike traditional D&D, casting a spell requires a successful "skill check" of some kind. Clerical magic is powered by the gods, while wizardly magic is fuelled by pacts with demons, elder gods, angels or some other supernatural being not part of the pantheon of deities. In either case, one’s patron spirit can be offended; as you’ll see later, magic in this system is unpredictable and dangerous compared to D&D spellcasting.

Also of interest are Mighty Deeds of Arms, which make warriors more interesting than in the base game; if successful, these allow the fighter to add colour to an attack – it might smash a demon’s goat horns, for example, or push a foe back into a wall, or sever the hangman’s rope in time to save a comrade. Thus, these are similar to Combat Manoeuvres in Pathfinder. though perhaps with more scope for dramatic licence. I’ve seen GMs doing this for decades, but mostly in an informal way, not codified in the rules.

Chapter 2: Skills (3 pages)

As well as whatever his class dictates, your PC also knows the skills appropriate to his former occupation; it is these he can use in non-combat situations, so this section is fairly short. A former blacksmith can make a skill check using the Core Mechanic to forge a weapon, a former scribe can make a check to translate an old book, and so on.

I’m not sure what my hypothetical gongfarmer could do with a skill check, but probably nothing nice.

Oh, you can also make checks to do things like climb, break down doors and so on. Those are handled by ability checks.

Chapter 3: Equipment (5 pages)

As you probably know by now if you’re a regular ready, equipment sections don’t do anything for me, and I tend to skip gaily past them in search of something that interests me more. Suffice to say that if you’re familiar with any form of D&D prior to AD&D 2nd Edition, you already know what’s in here; armour, weapons, thieves’ tools and holy symbols, among others.

Chapter 4: Combat (29 pages)

This is standard d20 fare, for the most part. Surprise, initiative, one or more actions per round depending on class and level, roll a die and match or beat the target’s Armour Class to hit, roll weapon damage dice to wound, die at 0 hit points. What is new is that on the second and subsequent actions, PCs could be rolling a d16 to hit instead of a d20.

A natural 1 is always a fumble, and a natural 20 is always a critical hit; in either case you roll on the appropriate table to see what happens. The type of die you roll on the table varies with circumstances; when fumbling, you roll d8 if in full plate, up to d16 if unarmoured. When rolling for criticals, both the table and the die type used depend on class and level. In all cases, lower scores get you worse results, so there is a definite advantage in rolling dice with more sides.

Next we get some more detailed examples of Mighty Deeds of Arms; blinding, pushbacks, trips, throws, rallying, defensive fighting.

Damage and healing follow, again in the usual manner for 2d0 games.

Burning Luck is another interesting innovation. Characters can permanently sacrifice points of their Luck characteristic for a one-time bonus on a roll; you can make the roll first, so you know how much you have to burn. When a player says "My luck’s running out," in this game, he means it literally.

Finally, there is a special-purpose combat subsystem to cover duels between wizards or clerics, fought with spells. This can happen outside the normal initiative order. Casters can counter one spell with another, building momentum which is tracked by means of a die until one is dominant. More tables explain the impact of the counterspells, and the effect of disturbing the mana around the casters. This subsystem is 6 pages long, and is more complex than I’d want to use myself.

Chapter 5: Magic (47 pages)

My normal rule is that whatever gets the most page count is what the game focuses on; this may not be true for the DCC RPG, since as you’ll see each spell requires at least a page to describe. It’s fair to say, though, that the game’s approach to magic is what sets it apart from other retroclones.

Casting effectively requires a skill check, as noted above. Casters can burn ability scores to get bonuses on casting; with the exception of Luck, these "spellburned" points return as the caster heals. As well as a mechanical effect, these have in-game consequences for the character; spellburning might require him to cut off a finger, for example, or pledge his soul to a demon. As you might expect by now, there’s a table for that.

One of the core themes of the game is that magic manifests itself differently at different times and for different casters. The Mercurial Magic table is invoked each time a character learns a new spell, and reveals how that caster can use that spell – the effect may be good (e.g., can cast in complete silence) or bad (e.g., caster devolves into a subhuman for 1d4 rounds).

Fumbling (natural 1) on a spell check triggers a roll on the Corruption table if a wizard, or the Disapproval table if a cleric. Corruption can result in anything from growing a giant scorpion’s tail to your flesh falling off in lumps to your nearest ally being partially turned into a cow to even less desirable consequences. Disapproval is less severe, generally just limiting clerical abilities.

The defining feature of the system, however, is that each spell has a full page devoted to it. This has not only the usual data like spell level, range, duration and so forth, but also variable effects depending on how well your spellcasting check roll went. Again, we see the core theme that magic is unpredictable; a character casting a spell can never be quite certain what the effect will be, or how many people it will affect, although the higher his character level, the better he is likely to do.

The Beta version of the rules includes about 30 spells, all first level ones.

Chapter 6: Judge’s Rules (9 pages)

This chapter starts with more detail on wizard’s spells; general principles, available patrons and how wizards deal with them, and the entertaining rules for "patron taint"; each time a wizard casts a spell, he grows more likely to manifest some aspect of his patron, and eventually will acquire all manner of taints. The example patron given is a toad demon, and over time his wizards will come to look and smell like toads, drip moisture, and be surrounded by small toads and flies. In exchange, the patron grants access to spells not otherwise available, for example turning into a giant tadpole.  Patrons also have their own unique ways of interpreting spellburn. Choose your patron wisely.

Chapter 7: Monsters (9 pages)

The DCC RPG aims to have no generic monsters; while any given monster may be of a recognisable type, their statblocks vary from region to region. However, the Beta rules provide some 16 familiar standbys as sword-fodder for trial games, including favourites like orcs and skeletons.

Coda

The file closes with character sheets, the OGL, and some adverts for other products in the line. Nothing unusual there.

FORMAT

Text layout is fairly basic, plain black and white in two columns with the occasional drop caps, and I like it that way. It’s easy to read and easy to print.

Artwork is black and white, apart from the colour cover, with roughly one illustration per page, and frequent full-page pictures. The style is reminiscent of the pictures in AD&D 1st Edition or 1980s issues of Dragon magazine, and ranges from cartoons to more serious pieces.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

I have quite a few, actually, mostly about the reliance on tables – which reminded me a lot of Rolemaster. However, I shan’t go into them, because once you start messing with the tables, the DCC RPG is no longer itself; they are integral to the philosophy of knowing less and predicting less.

CONCLUSIONS

Most retroclones are very similar in look and feel, but the DCC RPG drives off at some speed down a tangent, a road where the players have much less knowledge about, and control over, what happens than usual. Depending on the group, this could either be very frustrating, or refreshingly different.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5. It’s got some cool ideas, and I like the unpredictable effects of combat, spells and monsters; but I don’t like the complexity that entails, and it doesn’t grab me enough to lure me away from my current favourites.

Here we see one of the key aspects of free-to-download quick start rules; reduced risk to the customer. I now know the DCC RPG isn’t my cup of tea, and all it has cost me is a couple of hours enjoyably browsing through the Beta rules.

Shadows of Keron Episode 14: Green World, Part 1

This weekend, I started running the party through the third Beasts & Barbarians adventure, Green World. As ever I’ll avoid spoilers as much as I can, but it’s not giving much away to reveal that the party wake up in a strange jungle, with a strange girl, and no memory of who she is, what’s going on, where they are or how they got there.

(I really must start using the scenario generator, so that I can clue you in what’s really going on. But I digress.)

Highlights included:

  • Garstrewt deciding to leap on the mysterious girl to wake her up.
  • The party’s debate over whether they should bother rescuing the girl when she was seized by jungle flora and carried off. (And yes, I do mean flora.) Nessime is Heroic, so said she was going to help; Athienne and Gutz have Loyal: Friends, so followed her; Garstrewt has Curious, so went to see what was going on; and The Warforged has Bloodthirsty, and reasoned that anywhere there are screams, there is something to kill.
  • Garstrewt throwing oil and lit torches into a pit where The Warforged was fighting Something Nasty. Naturally, he fumbled and hit The Warforged instead.
  • The Warforged heroically leading a sinuous monster off into the forest while the others made good their escape, and managing to tie it in a knot by weaving in and out of a patch of trees.
  • Nessime working out early on that they are not on their home plane, and trying to Banish the party back to the Dread Sea Dominions. (As if I’d let that work this early in the scenario.)

Two thumbs up for this one, it was a blast.