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Dungeon Crawl Classics & XCrawl (Free RPG Day)

Free RPG Day: Dungeon Crawl Classics & XCrawl
From: Goodman Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Free RPG Day: Dungeon Crawl Classics & XCrawl is a new Free RPG Day Adventure Booklet from Goodman Games.

One of the more surprising things about this year’s Free RPG Day was the amount of free full size books it contained.  One of those books was the complete Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG core rulebook, which is no small book.  That book is reviewed separately on this web site.  I only mention that because this booklet – Free RPG Day: Dungeon Crawl Classics & XCrawl – contains no rules and in fact contains adventures for two separate settings.

From the back cover:
“You’re no hero.  You’re an adventurer: a reaver, a cutpurse, a heathen slayer, a tight-lipped warlock guarding long-dead secrets.”

Dungeon Crawl Classic: The Imperishable Sorceress

Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) is one of the many old schools games that have recently come out.  In the aftermath of d20 SRD age, many people wanted more (or less) out of their game and many branched off what the d20 system built and retrofitted many of the classic aspects of older versions of the most popular fantasy RPG into new systems.  Aside from the use of the wonkie “Zocchi Dice,” the game system is a fairly solid system reminiscent of classic D&D.

DCC has a very streamlined and simplified character generation system and many I know that have played it say it is a quick system.  This might explains why the DCC adventure The Imperishable Sorceress does not have characters.  The Imperishable Sorceress requires a little more work up front, with the lack of characters.  That is my first primary issue with it.  Obviously, the publisher’s goal is to illustrate how easy it is to create characters and I supposed this is one way to do it.  However, for a Free RPG Day product, I still would expect a few pre-generated characters.

Aside from the lack of characters, the adventure is a very interesting and in-depth dungeon crawl.  It involves an ancient race called the Builders, the ghost of an ambitious sorceress, Ivrian, and several other denizens hidden in mountain ruins of an ancient Builder stronghold.  This stronghold was once under the ocean where the Builders explored the secrets of eternal youth and immortality.  These secrets were lost with time until Ivrian sought them out.  Things did not go well for her in the end, and now her spirit haunts the halls of this mountain bastion, calling out to anyone who can help her.  In these halls, a party will face demons, resurrected Builders, the spirits of ancient predator fish, and a few other very interesting challenges along the way.

This adventure is fairly original and has a lot of potential for creating a whole campaign around it.  These Builders could have other locations holding secrets, some perhaps underwater.  Ivrian can become a longtime ally or more likely enemy for a larger story arch.  Why was she exploring the Builder secrets of immortality, other than for obvious reasons?  How did she learn of the secrets and who did she upset to get them?

As a Free RPG Day product, it has potential if the GM is willing to put the work into it.  The GM needs to be familiar with the game system.  It’s nice that they supplied a core rule book for anyone willing to run it.  But I think it still would take someone familiar with the game to run it.

From the back cover:
“Ancient Rome meets smash TV meets ganger rap? WTF?”

Maximum Xcrawl : 2013 Studio City Crawl

During the big d20 craze, an interesting game came out called XCrawl.  In my time of coordinating gaming for conventions, I think I have seen that game on the schedule once.  I don’t mean to downplay it, because it’s actually a pretty cool game but I am just making the point that the original version was never really popular within my circles.

Now we see a resurrection of all things d20 now under the umbrella of Pathfinder (PF) compatibility.  PF has really taken over the industry and for very good reasons.  It’s no wonder games like XCrawl want to try again at the market.  If you don’t know anything about XCrawl, it is set in an alternative fantasy version of modern day.  The Empire of North America is quelled with the mind-numbing entertainment displayed on the magically powered TV.  One of the more popular events on TV is Xcrawl.  If D&D dungeon crawling could be crossed with NASCAR and Reality TV, this would be the result.

Once again, the adventure does not have pre-generated characters.  In this case, I suppose they are relying on the fact that fans of Pathfinder will have characters to play.  Technically any character will work as long as it is compatible with Pathfinder, but the pending Xcrawl rulebook will add new classes and systems to enhance your experience.

Players’ characters participate in an “artificially” created dungeon complete with monsters, challenges, secret rooms and artifacts, all in a glorified competition.  This adventure has all the above for the characters to experience.  Reading through it is reminiscent of the classic Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man, except with magic.  The characters are brought into the Green Room where they are briefed on the Studio City Crawl.  They are told the general rules of the game and how they win.   There is even a twist involving sexy dungeon dance girls.   In the Crawl, they face traps, puzzles, locks, as well as creatures and other challenges.  There are creatures like the Doom Tuskers, Whammy Gorillas, Dungeon Wights, Terror Birds and Twilight Squids, ranging from CR 4 to CR 9.  Throughout the challenge, the group needs to be collecting statues to get the final prize.

This adventure will also take some preparation and work to run at a Free RPG Day event.  In fact, unless the GM knows about it ahead of time, I doubt anyone would be prepared to run it.  It is definitely something people would take home and try out later.  I would much prefer something more along the spirit of what I feel Free RPG Day is, however – ready to run and play right there and then.

In conclusion, I think instead of cutting corners and putting two adventures into one, perhaps the publishers should have done two separate booklets and included characters in each.  At least that is what I would have done.  Overall, these are great adventures and I would not mind playing them.  However, if these are not ready to play at Free RPG Day, I think people would move on to something else.

For more details on Goodman Games and their new Free RPG Day Adventure BookletFree RPG Day: Dungeon Crawl Classics & XCrawl” check them out at their website http://www.goodman-games.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 12

Product Summary

Free RPG Day: Dungeon Crawl Classics & XCrawl
From: Goodman Games
Type of Game: Free RPG Day Adventure Booklet

Written by: Daniel J. Bishop
Contributing Authors: Rev. Dak J. Ultimak
Cover Art by: Doug Kovacs
Additional Art by: Doug Kovacs
Number of Pages: 5
Game Components Included: One Free RPG Day adventure
Game Components Not Included: Core DCC rule book

Written by: Brendan LaSalle
Contributing Authors: Byron and Marie LaSalle, Jeff Erwin
Cover Art by: Jeremy Mohler
Additional Art by: Brad McDevitt
Number of Pages: 7
Game Components Included: One Free RPG Day adventure
Game Components Not Included: Core XCrawl rule book

Retail Price: Free on Free RPG Day.  $4.99 (US) as PDF
Website: www.goodman-games.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung


Dungeon Crawl Classics

From:  Goodman Games

Reviewed By: Barry Lewis

So I really don’t play very many RPGs anymore, but with the “old school renaissance” happening I’ve found myself checking RPGs out more and more.  After much “huzzahs” and “hey nonny nonnies” from my friend about Dungeon Crawl Classics or DCC, I decided to check it out for myself.  When you first see the book, don’t let its size intimidate you, although I still wouldn’t recommend dropping it on your foot.  The book is basically everything you need to play.  It’s player’s manual, bestiary and magic tome rolled all into one.  DCC definitely takes its cue from the original D&D and AD&D, but without THACO.

I definitely want to start with character creation.  DCC is different in character creation in that it suggests a “funnel” system that requires each player make at least 4 “0” level characters since most or all of them won’t live to the next session.  DCC is the “Game of Thrones” of RPGs.  Don’t get attached to any one of your PCs because they might not be around for long.    You’ll start off rolling 3d6 for each of your 6 attributes; Strength, Agility, Stamina, Personality, Intelligence and Luck.  I’ll get into a little more detail on the Luck attribute later.  You’ll have 1d4 hit points, modified by stamina, a random piece of equipment and a random occupation.  Good luck.  Any character or characters that survive and make it to level 1 then get to pick a class.  That is basically the “funnel” system.  A motley group of poor shmucks looking for glory and gold go in and PCs come out.    Currently, you can only advance to level 10, but with how dangerous  and unforgiving DCC sessions are if you actually make it to level 10 you’re basically a legend.

Let me touch base about the Luck attribute now.  As you would think Luck plays a part in all rolls, but it also plays a part in certain elements of play for your PCs depending on their class.  You can also “burn” Luck as well.  For example, you can “burn” 4 points of Luck and get a +4 on your next roll.  The downside to that is your Luck attribute is now 4 points lower.  Luck though can be restored over the course of an adventure or adventures and you can declare you’re burning luck either before or after the die roll.  Although you may only burn luck once per roll.

You might be asking where are the races?  In DCC, races and classes  are one and the same.  As the book states “You are a wizard or an elf”.  The character “classes” are what you might expect:  Warrior, Wizard, Thief, Cleric, Elf, Halfling and Dwarf.  I especially like the non “PC” use of the term “Thief” rather than “Rogue”.  They all have their strengths and weaknesses and all have their own special “crit” table to roll on when they critically hit an opponent in combat.

My only real hang up is the “Funky Dice” or “Zocchi Dice”.  We all know the regular RPG dice, but DCC has along with the regular dice added in a d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24 and a d30.  You can get these dice made especially for the game or you can be like myself and make yourself a little cheat sheet with what regular dice you need to substitute for the “funky dice” roll.  With the “funky dice” comes DCC’s “dice chain” which I like.  The “chain” starts in ascending order with d3, d4, d5, d6,d7, d8, d10, d12, d14, d16, d20, d24 and d30.  Sometimes a situation may come up where the rules will state for the PC to use an improved die.  So you’ll move up the “Chain” and use the die to the right of the die you were originally using.  For example if you’re a magic user using a spell you’re familiar with along with an item that grants you an improved die then you’d go from using a d16 to a d20 or even to a d24.  This does work the other way too.  If you’re fighting with an unfamiliar weapon then the DM may ask you to use a reduced die.  So you’d move to the left on the “chain”.  This all sounds confusing with the “funky dice” and the “dice chain”, but it’s really not and once you start playing it’ll come to you quickly.

I’m only going to mention skills briefly since the book uses a whole two pages to cover this subject.  You’ll start out with the basic skills that are determined by your “occupation”.  Those skill checks are considered “trained”.  You may also attempt to make skill checks that are not common to your occupation.  These are, of course, “unskilled” checks.  You’ll still have difficulty checks(DC) and use a d20 for all checks.

Now to combat.  I can hear the “Huzzahs” from here.  The combat system should be fairly recognizable.  The DM rolls for surprise for the first round then everyone rolls initiative and “acts” in that order.  All attacks are then resolved by rolling dice and adding or subtracting modifiers to the roll.  The roll is then compared to the defender’s armor and if the attack is higher or equal to the armor’s rating then it’s a hit.  This is where the “funky” dice and the “dice chain” will come into play the most.  PC’s also have action dice and depending on their level they may have more than one action dice.  So basically the more action dice you have, the more things you may do in combat.  For example, if you have two action dice you may attack twice.  I’ve already touched upon the “Crit” tables earlier for PCs, but there’s also a “fumble” table for all of you who have a penchant for rolling a “1”.  The fumble chart is not as deadly as the “crit” chart, but when you’re a “0” level PC with very little hit points a fumble could still be very deadly.

In combat, Warriors have what are called “Mighty Deeds of Arms” or “Deeds” for short.  Basically a “Deed” is a heroic feat or mighty action called by the warrior before his attack or action.  These can result in what I call “Errol Flynn” moments.  The Warrior will roll his bonus attack die, which is also his “deed” die, along with the d20 and add them together.  If the attack hits and the “deed” die is 3 or higher, the deed also succeeds.  The higher the result on the deed die, the better.  Even if the deed die does not succeed, the attack or action may still succeed.  There are many different types of “deeds,” but I will not go into them in this review for the sake of time.

Last, but not least…MAGIC!  Fear not spellslingers, DCC has not forsaken you.  Wizards will learn one of three types of magic; black, elemental and enchantment.  Clerics learn a style of magic called Idol Magic.  Casting a spell is how you would think it would work.  Roll a d20 and add your modifier whether it’s Personality, if you’re a cleric, or Intelligence, if you’re a wizard.  Compare that roll to the results table for that spell and if it’s equal to or higher than the spell’s DC then it succeeds.  There are criticals and fumbles for spells as well.  What I really do like is the mechanic, Spellburn.  It works basically like burning luck, but instead of luck a wizard can burn either strength, agility or stamina to add +1 to his spell roll.  Example:  A wizard decides to burn 5 points of agility in an attempt to cast a spell.  So he’ll subtract 5 points from his agility and add +5 to his spell check.  “Burned” attributes may be recovered 1 point a day as long as spellburn is not attempted during that time.  You may also regain spells using spellburn as well.

Well, that’s it or at least most of it.  There’s a few things I didn’t cover, but these rules only encapsulate about a third of the book itself.  The rest of it, like I’ve said, is spells, magic items, bestiary, some various appendices and two mini-adventures.  One for 0-1 level characters and the other for 5th level characters.  This book is all you’ll ever really need unless you want to run a game and Goodman Games has many adventure modules for GMs to choose from.

If you’re a fan of “old school” RPGs than this book is for you and if it isn’t then broaden your horizons a bit and delve into what us “geezers” used to chuck dice to!

Codex Rating: 17

Product Summary:

From: Goodman Games

Type of Game: RPG Core Rule Book

Written and Designed by: Joseph Goodman

Additional Design: Tavis Allison, Andy Frielink, Todd Kath, Doug Kovacs, Harley Stroh, Steven Thivierge, Dieter Zimmerman

Additional Writing: Michael Curtis, Harley Stroh, Dieter Zimmerman

Editing: Aeryn “Blackdirge” Rudel

Art Direction and Graphic Design: Joseph Goodman

Cover Art: Doug Kovacs

Endsheets: Doug Kovacs (front), Peter Mullen (back)

Interior Art: Jeff Dee, Jeff Easley, Jason Edwards, Tom Galambos, Friedrich Haas, Jim Holloway, Doug Kovacs, Diesel Laforce, William McAusland, Brad McDevitt, Jesse Mohn, Peter Mullen, Russ Nicholson, Erol Otus, Stefan Poag, Jim Roslof, Chad Sergeketter, Chuck Whelon, Mike Wilson

Number of Pages: 480

Retail Price: $39.99 (US)

Website: www.Goodman-Games.com