Isbin Arcane Classification: The headless horseman

One the most interesting features of the DCC RPG license is that it's allowed the creation of many different settings and products that, in some cases (like the one this entry is about), wander off far from the original concept, the sword&sorcery theme. I've seen so far, perusing through the huge pile, a space milieu, a post-apocalyptic one, a gothic ambience...


(As usual... BEWARE, SPOILERS!)

The headless horseman is an adventure edited by Mount Parnassus Games, one of the last ones to join the 3rd party wild bunch. Oliver Korpilla, who I suspect is the man behind the publishing house, is the author; several artists contributed with illustrations. According to the credits page, this module also makes use of the Effect Engine system, borrowed from Mindjammer press, but I'm not sure where; it's true that the monsters and encounters are described following a curious and clear structure, maybe that's the aforementioned system. My masters don't own any book by that publisher, I'm afraid.

As the title insinuates, the adventurers will face the legendary headless horseman while they're passing through a small village. The first part of the adventure is a murder mystery, plus an abduction case. The hook, then, will probably be either "please find my daughter" or "hunt the abomination that killed my son" in exchange for some gold (I can't understand that human love for gold... give me written paper any day of the week).

The second part is a "seek and destroy" mission, with a final twist. The forest where this part takes place is outlined through a series of resources (encounters, places, monsters) rather than with a map, called a "living map". It's a clever way of showing a changing and mysterious environment.

The whole adventure is outlined in a very concise and structured way, with shadowed text boxes that remark the essential clues or NPCs. That's great; modules are usually a mess, full of information but badly distributed. It's also greatly written and narrated.

Both the theme and atmosphere makes this adventure a perfect match for Transylvanian adventures, the gothic setting for DCC RPG, and also for the incoming Halloween celebration (it can maybe be squeezed in a one-session game). The headless horseman is a powerful icon, and there's actually a great picture of it in the book.

Conan pirate
This is a Pirate Conan (3 out of 4) module. Don't get me wrong, it's a very good adventure, but I'm a being of sword&sorcery.

You can find it here.


Isbin Arcane Classification: Crawl! No. 1

I found this publication at the bottom of the DCC 3rd party products pile, so I suspect that it was one of the first things that got the thumbs up from the Dark Master to be published under the "Compatible with DCC RPG" seal of approval.


When I was but a speck of dust in my home plane, 'zines were everywhere (the Phlogiston was not used then, kids [it means the Internet]), written by nearly everyone, typed and stapled manually, and then sent by mail or sold in comic-book shops or in even stranger places. So it's a comeback, then; even though you can get it from the Crawl! web page in physical form, it's also available as a magical simulacrum (a pdf).

The Reverend Dak and some of his home campaign players are the authors of both the written content and the art. He's got a small publishing house, Stray Couches Press. It's also worth of note that he accepts submissions for this fanzine, which nonetheless remain property of their creators. Reverend Dak, as you probably know, is nowadays helping Goodman Games with his editing skills.

I love it when humans are sincere; Dak states that this is "a fanzine published by fans for fans". It's a compilation of house rules, no more, and no less. And it's a very complete issue, I can tell you that; rules for a cleric- and thief-less campaign; a new patron (alas, the patron spells and spellburn are not on this issue); alternate rules for the common but sad time when a character arrives at death's gates; a quick guide to convert OSR spells to DCC; and a variant to the skill check system.

Crawl! No.1 brings DCC even closer to the source material by removing the cleric and proposing alternatives for handling the healing needs of a party; it also offers the possibility of ditching the thief, since adventures are generally known for their thieving capabilities. Needless to say, the demi-humans would also go over the board.

Van der Danderclanden, the new patron, stems from a great and amusing idea: your future self, a wizard of great power, travels back from the future to ensure that you follow the right path. I'd say that some of the invoke results seem a bit powerful, alongside with some of the taints.

Illos are quite good, even more considering that this an amateurish product. And my good masters own the black cover version, which resembles a small companion to the black DCC RPG manual. I'll put it next to it on the shelf.

Conan king
For all these reasons, I find this to be a King Conan (4 out of 4 ) issue. Leiber would proud of it.

You can find it here.


Isbin Arcane Classification: Through the cotillion of hours

Purple Duck was one of the first publishers to take advantage of Goodman Games' license, and to date, Daniel Bishop is probably the most fecund 3rd-party writer for DCC, and one of the best. I thought you should know that, 'cause I'll be sorting all of his work, and I don't like to repeat myself, it robs me time from reading.


The booksellers asked me to tell you, dear reader, that this is plagued with SPOILERS.

This adventure, or "Adventure locale" as Purple duck calls them, takes place in the dream lands. It is called a "locale" because it's circumscribed to a place, the palace of Somnos, the dreaming god. And the hook is as easy as it's effective: the PCs are dreaming, and they all are invited to join Somnos' ball. If they get to him, they know that he'll be able to grant them a wish.

As you may imagine, things can be a little different in the dream lands. To start with, Somnos' mansion is full of dream analogues of the PCs, and depending on the mask they wear, their attitude and effects on the PCs can be completely different. This is both entertaining and evocative. There are some rules there concerning what happens to the analogues when PCs move around that seemed a bit confusing, but it's a small thing.

To follow with, the PCs won't get much time to visit the palace; there's a "time limit" that hinges on the way the PCs move around the mansion. The "physical" representation of this is the sound of a chime; when it happens 12 times, the PCs awake and the visit is over... for the time being. Yes, this is a recurrent dream, and it can be completed or attempted another time at a later occasion. Nice mechanic, easy and convenient.

Inside the mansion, they'll find a series of rooms full of oddities that manage to evoke a dreaming imagery, I can assure you that. Here Bishop makes good use of Lovecraft's legacy, in particular from his dreamlands stories, with some "easter eggs" concerning characters and details from said stories. The rooms pose puzzles or hide traps, and are basically in the PCs' way to get to the place where Somnos lies. And careful what you wish, it may become true... or make Somnos blast you out of existence.

And yes, Somnos can become a PC patron. And seeing how you humans love sleeping, I'm sure that he's a very popular patron indeed...

Illos (cover and interior) are by Scott Ackerman. His style is very personal, and I really think that it fits perfectly the mood. Ackerman's work is distorted, wavy, with clean black lines.

Dreams and dream-quests are a common theme in fantasy literature, but I don't think they're used well enough. This adventure manages to do that.

Conan king
This a King Conan (4 out of 4 ) adventure. The Appendix-o'-meter almost exploded.

You can find it here.


Isbin Arcane Classification

The clutter here, at Phlogiston Books, is reaching epic proportions, so now that the Geometrist is gone, we've decided to summon and bind a professional bookseller/librarian to organize our collection: Isbin.

Our brand new librarian 
Our brand new librarian

Isbin is a cross of Don Quixote and the Ank-Morpork librarian, with a streak of Igor. It loves books and continuously craves to read more, so we'll pay it exactly with that: all the DCC RPG products to date; yes, we have them all (how could we be the proud booksellers we are, otherwise?).

After knowing that some people organize their libraries and book collections according to this or that standard, Isbin's come up with a classification of its own: the Isbin Arcane Classification, or IAC for short. In the following weeks (...or months), it'll be classifying all the books, following these guidelines:

  • Alphabetical order

  • Publisher

  • Type of product (adventure/setting/fanzine/other)

But... Isbin's a creature from an elemental plane, born of raw energy, primordial and wild (but very well-behaved). It needs to "vent that steam", giving its opinion about what it's reading. Since it's an admirer of (surprise!) the Appendix N, it'll "grade" the works according to its Appendix-o'-meter (from less to more awesomeness):
Conan thief
Conan when he was a thief. Grade 1.

Conan mercenary
Conan as a mercenary. Grade 2.

Conan pirate
Conan during his time as a pirate. Grade 3.

Conan king
King Conan. Grade 4.

And, of course, a short treatise outlining the book's contents as well as its main appeals (or lack of them... which we find hard to happen, both the official and the 3rd party products are great).

Along with this, all of the titles will be mystically tagged (=under categories in the blog), so just by thinking about a broad category, you'll be able to access to the information (=by clicking on the category).

And, did we tell you that Isbin can dust the floors and shelves with no effort, as well?


The Multicultural Halls

It's been a while since we gave away something (since the only time we did it, actually), so here we go again! In this occasion, though, it'll be a draw; there's already enough competition and strife in this world.

Flying laser-shooting skulls. 'Nuff said. 
Flying laser-shooting skulls. 'Nuff said.

Here's the deal: we've got a copy of The Emerald Enchanter, one of the first adventures published for DCC (written by Joseph Goodman), and we'll raffle it amongst those who send us their adaptation of The Vertical Halls to their d20 system of choice. Or any system, really; we know for sure that the CEO of Vorpalia, the creators of Instant Dungeon, runs a Dungeon World version of it. It'd be great to see the Halls in a D&D5 garb, or in a Pathfinder attire, even an Adventures in the East Mark apparel or, of course, any retroclon skin: Swords&Wizardry, LotFP, Castles&Crusades...

We're in no hurry; let's choose Halloween's eve as the deadline for this. And after lady Luck chooses a winner, we'll publish all the adaptations we received.

(Of course, we'd send the adventure anywhere in the world, so yes, dear Australian friends, you're also in!)

Don't be shy! Send them in!


Coming up next: The Phlogiston Books, Volume I

It might seem that here at Phlogiston Books we've been idle for the summer, but nothing farther form the truth! Our next publication is in the works, and although we can't set a date yet, we can disclose (hehehe, "disclose") that it'll be a collection of various useful articles, including (but not limited to) a new patron. Yeah, I can hear you, "a new patron?! We're already waist deep in patrons, for Bobugbubilz's sake!" Well, not like this one. It suits perfectly well the kind of campaigns that we'd like to promote from this humble house... a "tone" that is also present in the other entries. "But that's a 'zine, then", I can also hear from some people. No, not really; a 'zine entails some form of periodicity, something that we can't and won't promise.

So let us offer you a sneak peek of The Hanged man's Tree...

Result 5 for the table Patron taint: The Hanged man's Tree

Don't cry for me... 
Don't cry for me...

Blood falls from the wizard's eyes. If you get this result a second time, the wizard loses an eye, that will fall to the ground leaving behind a bloody eye socket; its wounds will never truly heal. If you get this result a third time, the wizard loses the other eye. A raven will then fly to the wizard's shoulder. From then on, the wizard will be able to see through the raven's eyes; it will always stay with the wizard, pecking at his bloody eye sockets from time to time. If the raven ever dies or is taken apart from the wizard, another one will appear to take its place.

Illo by the great Manu Saez; you can find more of his works here. Stay tuned!


Dungeon Crawl Classics will be Clásicos del Mazmorreo!

That's right! As Joseph Goodman himself proclaimed last week in the GenCon 2015, there'll be a Spanish translation of Dungeon Crawl Classics, or rechristened as...

Clásicos del Mazmorreo
Clásicos del Mazmorreo Juego de rol will be published by Other Selves, a Spanish publishing house (as Rodrigo himself says, a one man operation), known for La puerta de Ishtar, Ablaneda, and the just recently funded Ryuutama. It's the perfect person for this: deeply commited to quality, passionate about the hobby, he's very well known in the Spanish roleplaying circles.


Phlogiston Books will help with the translation of the book and the adventures, and alongside Rodrigo we'll be offering World Tour games left and right. We'll keep bringing adventures and other resources for DCC RPG both in English and Spanish, of course.

It's a great day for the Spanish-speaking roleplaying community. We can't stress enough how excited we are! We'd like to thank the DCC RPG community, both the English- and the Spanish-speaking, and of course Joseph Goodman, for their trust and support.

Now, where did we leave our dictionaries and thesaurus?


Visiting Scholars: Sergio Martínez, from Carisma 18

Phlogiston Books is indeed a place for books, but it's as well a place where Scholars of DCC RPG and OSR games in general meet. Our doors are always open not only for the creations of many other people, but also for that people (but please check for traps, just in case).

Enter Sergio Martínez, blog master (Carisma 18), DCC Judge, and actor. He's not only hilarious, but also wise, and his articles on said blog are full of great ideas for an OSR game (most of them are focused on DCC, anyways). He's graciously agreed to let us publish his articles here. Thank you, Sergio!

Without further ado, I'll leave you with his article, originally posted here in Spanish. By the way, it's much more enjoyable if you read it while listening to Metal music.

Live for Metal! Die for Metal! Kill for Metal!

Opaí. Metal Gods of Ur Hadad greatly inspired much of my homebrew DCC RPG campaign; I highly recommend the 'zine, but above all I recommend Mister Muszkiewicz's blog (as you may know, such a last name grants +3 on your "OSR guru" skill), since it's a trove of bizarre, arcane, scattered, and amazing information about his milieu, the world of Ore. I really love his Metal Gods mythology.


There's something you just can't ignore: DCC is Metal. The art of Doug Kovacs and Stefan Poag is like the one you'd find on the covers of the folder that a Metal teenager brings to high school... not to mention DCC 'zines. We all know that's not uncommon for a young metalhead to play RPGs, or for a young roleplayer to listen to Blind Guardian.

One day, when I was talking about music on my blog, Sr. Rojo [Translator's note: that's Mr. Red, his Spanish blog is here] showed me his amazing DCC RPG Spotify list: its main feature is that it's made up of bands and songs only from the seventies, which really suits the game. Sr. Rojo was thinking about coming up with a system or a house rule about the music that's playing when they're at the gaming table: depending on the band or the track, you'll get this or that effect in play.

So if it's Black Sabbath... you'll get +3 to eat a living bat. When it's Jethro Tull, you'll roll on the table "Fortuitously-induced minor hallucinations "

I thought hard about that idea, it could definitely rock. But for simplicity's sake and because I didn't want to steal my pal's idea, I turned up with a simpler concept that I now proceed to explain here, one that I indeed use in my games.

All characters are born under a God of Metal sign. Those Gods might smile upon their protégés in capricious ways.

The bottom line:

1. Make a cool playlist for your campaign; bear in mind, though, that music is a powerful evoking tool, and that the style you choose will influence your campaign's emotions. You could also make two, one for combat and another one for hexcrawling / exploration. Make them long, since games usually last for hours. Try not to repeat the bands too much, and to balance what bands you include and how many songs you choose form each. Sample playlists: Sr. Rojo, Gods of Ur-Hadad Metal playlist.

2. The bands on your playlist are Metal Gods in your campaign. Well, not really gods, but saints or demigods, mortals who attained their near-godhood status through a life of partying non-stop full of vices.

3. All players roll on a table to determine their Metal God sign. They don't choose their Gods, the Gods choose them.

If you let them choose, they all choose the same one... 
If you let them choose, they all choose the same one...

4. Play the list with the "random" option on. Keep it in the background, at all times.

5. When you Metal God is playing, you recover 1 Luck point.

6. In order to receive this blessing, the character must Live for Metal, spending half the money he's found during his adventures on partying and frivolous, yet completely necessary, pursuits: it's the "High living" rule, very similar to the one found in the Conan RPG book [Translator's note: Sergio wrote his personal version in this article, in Spanish, soon to be translated as well]. Those who don't live to the fullest don't deserve the Metal God's attentions.

Well that's it! Peace and love!

P.S: When I say Metal, I mean fucking good music. Let's not discriminate other kinds of music.


Tierra de Nadie '15 Con: Here we come!

It's confirmed! In exactly one month's time from now (6-10 August), Phloghiston Books will be in the Tierra de Nadie '15 Con!


Tierra de Nadie, TdN for short, is the biggest and most important Con in Spain, both in number of attendees and games offered and played. It is located in Mollina (a small town in Málaga, Andalucía), and it all started back in '03, so as they themselves say, this year's edition will the number "12+1". Last year, more than 5200 people took part in the 539 activities that were offered; these numbers may look humble if we compare them to other Cons all around the world, but please remember that this is Spain, where roleplaying and board games are still a tiny drop in the vast sea of hobbies and pastimes (or lack of them, for that matter).

Get used to the one on the top, guys 
Get used to the one on the top, guys

It's the first time that DCC RPG is played in the TdN. We're overtly excited about bringing the Appendix N awesomeness to the unsuspecting players who have never tried what we think is its flagship. We'll play safe, so we'll be offering a couple of well-tested (by us and many other people) adventures. If it ain't broken, don't fix it. And to add variety, they'll be an "old" adventure and probably the best funnel out there, Sailors on the starless sea; and a new one, the tournament module The Hypercube of Myt.

So if you're around there on holidays, and the DCC itch is too strong to be ignored, just give in and join us! There's no entrance fee or anything like that, you just need to check in and get your name on the list for the game.

Oh, and... don't forget your sunscreen!


Why so much hate?

A trend has arised in the gaming community, one that we could label as "orthodox", as time passes since the launch of the DCC RPG; a trend that encompasses players and Judges alike, who spurn the non-human races and focus all their gaming and creative energies in what it's called "anthropocentrism", that is, milieus where most of the population, or at least where the population that matters for the purpose of tale- and adventure-making, are humans. There's a frontal rejection towards elves, dwarves, and halflings, and in some extreme cases, towards the clerics, because they aren't considered to be part of the Appendix N canon, the body of fantasy and sci-fi novels whose tone the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG tries to emulate.

Why so much hate? What's the real problem with these humanoid races? In my opinion, said problem is not with the races themselves, but with the ever-present Tolkien canon. With his novels, the guru of fantasy literature laid the foundation for everything that came after (be it to follow that canon or to break free from it): the halflings are joyful and brave, the dwarves are dirty and troublesome, and the elves are mystical and detached. This served mightily well Gygax and associates to craft the first roleplaying game, but clashes headlong with the tone that DCC RPG has adopted until now.

But, why do we hate and take them away when we could adapt them?

If Conan was best pals with an elf, you can, too 
If Conan was best pals with an elf, you can, too

Don't you like elves? That doesn't surprise me, neither do I, but let's make the most of their traits to better adapt them to the tone of the game. The picture that depicts their class is the reason behind the general dislike towards them; according to the class' description, I think that they're closer to Moorcock's Melniboneans than to Tolkien's elves. The elves are defined by their immortality and their relationship with a patron. Therefore, it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that such immortality could be the result of a pact made by the first generation of elves with their patrons, that still today an elf must follow. This should split their society in two castes: those who have an intimate relationship with their patron (level 1+) and those who don't (level 0). Moreover, the different elvish communities should be defined, above all, by the patron they serve. Thus, apart from the typical wood elves who swore an oath with The King of Elfland or The Horned King (from DCC #72: Beyond the Black Gate), there'd be sand elves, favored by Azi Dahaka; swamp elves, allies of Bobugbubilz, etc. Being immortal, the elves would be cold and distant beings devoid of emotions, or at least those emotions that a human being could understand.

The merry life of a dwarf 
The merry life of a dwarf

As it happened with the elves, the dwarves made a pact with some supernatural patrons but, unlike them, they broke it and had to hide deep under the earth to run from their wrath. They spent several centuries in their tunnels until they managed to placate their patrons' ire. They were pardoned in exchange for their skills as smiths and jewelers, that could be required at any time, no questions asked. Thanks to that, their lifespans are quite long, but they don't enjoy the elves' immortality. They dwell in the deep and toil. They don't like the world above and, although they can endure the sunlight, they loathe it. They prefer to sleep during the daylight hours and live during the nighttime and, when they can't help it, they'll wear a pair of smithy goggles to protect their eyes from the bright sunlight, and sunshades or parasols to shield their skin from the rays of sun. Every now and then they hear a call that forces them to make a pilgrimage to a precise place to take part in the creation process of an artifact requested by one of the supernatural entities they're in debt with. Many dwarves sport burns on their bodies, because of the time spent in the forges, or a chronic cough, because of the time spent in the mines.

"What's for dinner? Not halfling again, please!"
"What's for dinner? Not halfling again, please!"

Finally, we could rule that the halflings were the creation of the serpent men or some other ancient race. Let's say that in the beginning of it all the serpent men ruled over the planet and fed on humans. However, the humans were too big, too unwieldy, and sometimes even rebellious, and that's why they modified them with magic and alchemy to create a race intended as food: small, easy to transport and to store and able to withstand even the hardest life conditions. So they created the first halflings, docile, manageable, and with a love for food, so they could get fat fast. And with really big feet, because feet are the tastiest morsel. The halflings lived for generations as trading goods and cattle. When the serpent men's empire fell and their race devolved, the halflings, now free, formed tight-knit communities. This is why they don't like being apart from each other and that, every time a serpent man or another reptilian being comes across one of them, it'll immediately salivate and try to eat the halfling.

These are just a handful of ideas, but you get the drift: demihumans could be aliens trapped in this planet, a mad god's creation, beings from another dimension or time... possibilities abound. It's up to you to make them fit in your milieu.

We'll deal with the cleric later, you whiners.


For a handful of dungeons

The RPG Free Day came and went, and indeed we played RPGs, and indeed some people got them free, and indeed it was a great day!

We played in a dungeon. Try to beat that

We at Phlogiston Books are up to the challenge of spreading the DCC RPG amongst heretics non-believers those who don't know the beauty of its rules and the certainty of its heritage. A dozen of brave souls answered the call and took part in The Ecstasy of Gold, a funnel created by the razor-sharp quill of Velasco, and The Hypercube of Myt, the merciless tournament adventure penned by a team of devious and imaginative DCC writers.


As Velasco himself wrote,

The folk at Shadypass are an enterprising bunch; they've decided to expand their economy by getting into mining, although the only miner in town is a newcomer who assures he's being into it in the past. Some weeks ago they found a vein of coal in one of the nearby mountains and started to dig it out. Unfortunately it came to pass what it could be expected: there was a cave-in and some miners got stuck inside the mine. Time's not on their side. The mayor has gathered a group of brave locals to make a rescue team.

"I reckon we're enough to tackle this". Poor soul... 
"I reckon we're enough to tackle this". Poor soul...

This was a 0-level game, so you know what to expect: high death rates and mayhem. Here are some highlights:

- A petty thief stole a shepherd's bag while he was trying to rescue the miners. Big haul.

- A dog called "Paella" was key to find the survivors amongst the debris. He met a miserable death. And his owner, as well.

- The rescuers used canaries to detect noxious vapors. Even though, some of them died after inhaling poisonous gases. The ways of the adventurers are inscrutable.

- The best warrior was a glassblower, who killed a giant bat with the swing of a spade.

20 went in, 4 came out. That's what I call a funnel...

Tombstones. Made of paper, mind you. 
Tombstones. Made of paper, mind you

Regarding The Hypercube: chaos incarnate. This crazy successions of bizarre encounters is great to test the resolve, wits, and luck of the players. And oh man, were they tested...

- Some strange knights dressed in huge armors went about talking about something like "a breach in the hull" and "xenomorphs on the loose". Some bold villagers managed to befriend them, and were lucky to have them around during some combats; they were horribly corrupted in the Library Dementia. They now serve some Egyptian-called dude.

- The curator managed to hire some of the villagers. Too bad he fell under a demonstration crowd soon afterwards (these vassals know their rights).

- The sticky stick, very real and present in the table (I ruled that the player who found it had to have it in his hands until he died or passed it along), made it to the very end, in the Arcane Arsenal...

- ...which really was the royal rumble I was hoping to see. Myt was reborn after one of the lowly peasants got all the artifacts together. And there was a survivor...

All in all, the players were too nice to each other, considering that it was a tournament, for Bobugbubilz's sake.

A sheep. A giant stone head. Space marines. What could go wrong? 
A sheep. A giant stone head. Space marines. What could go wrong?

The winners got a copy of The Vertical Halls in Spanish, and a wall from the amazing and incredibly useful Instant Dungeon, the same one I used during the game; Javier, the mastermind behind the project, attended the event and showed us some of the new pieces for the crowdfunding that went live some days ago. Check it out, it's an amazing product!

To keep it short, we'll not bore you with further details. We've posted more pictures on the Goodman Games forums and G+, though.

And next... the Tierra de Nadie Con in august. We can't wait!


The Vertical Halls

Yes, the time has come! The Vertical Halls, a level 2 adventure for DCC RPG is now available on Drivethrurpg!

One of the myriad ways to enjoy this adventure

Although this is an Appendix N adventure (of course!), you can bring your elves, dwarves, and halflings along so they can suffer a horrible yet imaginative death at the hands of the various monsters and traps that populate The Vertical Halls. There's never enough demihuman fodder!

But wait, 'cause there's more. Somewhere in the adventure there's a prop for a crucial puzzle; when you see it, you'll know what we're talking about. Once you know, get back here, and try to find the hidden instructions to make the most out of that prop...

...and this is only the beginning...


It's almost here... The Vertical Halls

The babies, resting on a worthy "blanket"

Here's living proof of it! Yeah, literally speaking: the proofs arrived yesterday. It's a lovely A5 book, with 42 pages full of superb writing (Velasco's our personal Shakespeare), amazing illustrations and maps (Valen's the perpetrator), all put masterfully together by Diego, and edited and corrected by the amazing Tim Snider!

The adventure starts in Shadypass, a town better described in this extract...

Shadypass is a small settlement, the last one before the trail wanders crookedly into the Hungrymoon mountain range.

That's Shadypass. Ain't it lovely?

Due to its situation under the mountains’ shadow, Shadypass doesn’t get many hours of daylight. However, in its public square, unsurprisingly named Plaza of Shine, a peculiar occurrence takes place; every day, the plaza is illuminated until dusk because, somewhere on the nearby peaks, the sun is reflected on a bright surface...

The Vertical Halls will be available in pdf and POD+pdf in DriveThruRPG very soon... we'll keep you updated!


Free RPG Day + DCC RPG World Tour 2015

I know, this is a fairly lousy entry for those not living in or around Madrid, but who knows: maybe you happen to be in Spain next month on holidays, or on an undercover mission, or to learn how to play the spanish guitar or cook paella. Weirder things happen all the time.

In any case, even before Phlogiston Books existed as a would-be-publishing-affair, we've been running games for the DCC RPPG World Tour. They'll all have been a blast, so we'll of course do it again this year. In this case, we thought to celebrate the Free RPG Day playing the game we support and love. And, since we've read and listened to great reports about the great Hypercube of Myt, that's what we'll do: a Tournament.

This we can assure you: if you come by Generación X on June 20th, at 11 am more or less, there'll be a seat for you, and an english-speaking judge to run a game. Spanish hospitality for a fellow DCC RPG player, at its best.

What we can't assure you is that your 0-level characters will survive...


Names for Cults! Or other weird organizations, by Chris Fazio

Names for Cults! Or other weird organizations

Roll 1d24 per column

1 The Dread
2 The Silver
3 The Sacred
4 The Glorious
5 The Foul
6 The Shuddering
7 The Virginal
8 The Blighted
9 The Frenzied
10 The Phantasmal
11 The Golden
12 The Tormented
13 The Immortal
14 The Oracular
15 The Loathsome
16 The Holy
17 The Fiery
18 The Carnal
19 The Ghoulish
20 The Sedate
21 The Unworthy
22 The Fiendish
23 The Seething
24 The Elder
Cult of
Worshipers of
Holders of
Keepers of
Singers of
Gazers of
Implements of
Blades of
Children of
Inheritors of
Revelers of
Prophets of
Saints of
Feasters of
Hunters of
Seers of
Order of
Warriors of
Lovers of
Sacrifices of
Stewards of
Fingers of
Cannibals of
Artists of
the Ghostly
the Unknowable
the Lonely
the Dreaming
the Bloody
the Infinite
the Grey
the Dark
the Emerald
the Dread
the Stone
the Shrouded
the Undying
the Eternal
the Laughing
the Grinning
the Sapphire
the Hanged
the Ancient
the Burning
the Thorny
the Drowned
the Flayed
the Decaying

Rolled my own: "The Shuddering Children of the Undying eye". Wonderful.


Disturbing rural encounters, by Nacho Sevilla

Disturbing rural encounters


1        A tattered kid stares wordlessly from the side of the road as he picks his nose. As he turns his back to the PCs, a strange lump stirs under his garments before he disappears.

2        A fevered horse crosses the road, bloodshot eyes and froth in its lips, requiring that 1d3-1 PCs make a Ref save or be hit for 1d6 damage. The horse can’t be calmed down and if it’s somehow stopped or held, it’ll rise on its hind legs and, after uttering a human laugh, will drop dead.

3        A female laborer stops working to watch the travelers and to insult and threaten them, getting more and more violent.

4        A wandering seller shows the travelers her wares insistently. She ends up displaying an eclectic collection of potions and charms, in exchange of which she doesn’t ask for money, just some hair and a blood drop. Those she put inside a pot full of silt, alongside some more.

5        During the journey, the plants and animals look gradually sickly and changed.  Strangely hued corn, lettuces shaped in weird shapes and covered with unnatural outgrowths, pustule-ridden and ill-looking cattle, extremely pop-eyed bunnies...

6        A dog comes near the party and after sniffing them, or trying to, tails them from afar. Oddly, the dog is joined later by a cat, then a rooster, and a goose, a pig, a cow...

7        Those locals who see the travelers greet them kindly from a distance, but if approached they begin to look restless, then fearful, and finally they freak out so much that they try to kill themselves.

Result 14: something like this, more or less*

8        A god-forsaken village on the road. When walking through it, doors and windows can be heard closing as the visitors proceed.

9        The corn growing on both sides of the road progressively invades it, making the path narrower until it vanishes completely. When they turn around, there’ll be no trace of the path and they’ll be in the middle of a cornfield.

10        A sudden hail storm forces the travelers to take shelter. The ice rocks are increasingly bigger and faster (1 hp dmg/minute). The only place to run for cover seems to be a barn; violent blows can be heard coming from the inside.

11        Some locals are laying a fence across the road so “those things can’t get through”.

12       On a nearby stream a mysterious mill’s wheel spins against the current’s flow.

13        Pikes and pitchforks with dogs’ heads stuck on them keep popping here and there, and their number keep increasing.

14        The party stumbles upon Humberto Felipe Arteamado, a somber-looking bard, well known for his horror tales, who joins them to share their wine and fire during the night. He’ll talk about an unspeakable abomination, murmured by the locals to dwell in some peasants’ barn, further ahead in the road. During the night he disappears, leaving behind a small octopoid figurine wrapped in furs.

* Image taken from the Lamentations of the Flame Princess forum header. Of course it belongs to Raggi.


Transplanar Climatology, by Gabriel Ciprés

Transplanar climatology


1    Dead Calm. A mysterious (from the players’ viewpoint) silence settles in, making them suspicious. All players must discuss with the next one who speaks.

2    Nice and calm. The weather is lovely across the planes of existence. PCs are in a great mood and must show it with displays of camaraderie.

3    Weird Rain. Roll 1d7: 1-Feces, 2-Green paint, 3-Nuts and bolts from a gnomish machine, 4-Bat wings, 5-Salt, 6-Forks, 7-All of these at the same time.

4    Magic Gale. A stream of wild magic energies instills life into the biggest non-magical object each character is carrying. Animated objects hate each other, and they talk to and demand their owners that they destroy their rivals. The PCs must save or fall under their influence.

5    Karmic Downpour. A multicolor rain swaps the PCs personalities. Every player takes the character sheet of the player on his/her right. If someone's got the DM on his/her right, instead of taking a character sheet, he/she turns into a 1d3-headed dragon.

6    Spectral Twister. A huge twister made of unknown energies approaches the PCs fastly. It’s completely innocuous and will go through them harmlessly, but they don't need to know it.

7    Someone left a gate open. Just like that. In a nearby plane, an inept wizard took a break for lunch and left a gate open through which stuff is falling on the PCs. Roll 1d6: 1-Soiled clothes, 2-Scraps of food, 3- Big and heavy books (1d5 damage upon impact), 4-Scribbled parchments, 5-Random magic potions, 6-Familiar (a puppy, a parrot, a toad...) that breathes fire when it’s between planes.

8    Pack of transplanar demons. A pack of demons that look exactly like the PCs (save with deer antlers and flip-flops) attack by surprise the PC in the rear. Despite their appearance, their stats are like a goblin’s.

9    Energy Overload. The atmospheric magic is so intense that all magic items triple their bonus but they burn to touch (1d2 damage every round until it’s dropped). Dropped objects will turn into slugs (it’s an irreversible process) on a 1-13 in 1d30.

10    Will o’ the wisps. The second highest-level PC begins to shine (in a color that is the lowest-level PC’s favorite). Anybody who touches him will get shivers and awful nightmares about sawdust for a week.

11    Planar Heat wave. The interplanar space’s got a stale smell. All the PCs lose 1d5 hit points to sweat and heat stroke unless they take off their clothes and take a shower with all their drinking water.

12    Elemental Leak. The PCs’ journey takes them near an elemental plane that, unfortunately, has a leak. The floor gets ankle-deep in (Roll 1d5): 1-Fire, 2-Earth, 3-Water, 4-Wind, 5-Socks (yep, there’s an elemental plane of that stuff).

Socks of planes. Or was it plane of socks...?

13    Night falls, no matter what time it is.

14    Day breaks, no matter what time it is.

15    Temporal Interruption. The space-time continuum stops because of a breakdown. While the maintenance gods fix the issue, the Judge and PCs must keep silent during 1d6 minutes. Whoever speaks takes 1d16 damage.

16    Spectral Cyclone. It’s exactly like the Spectral Twister (result 6 on this table) but it’s deadly.

17    Screaming Snowstorm. Roll 1d7: 1-Screaming leaves, 2-Screaming cat heads, 3-Screaming bricks, 4-Screaming cockroaches, 5-Screaming sugar, 6-Screaming cleaning water, 7-All of these at the same time. Screaming.

18    Outlandish Dew. Humidity from unknown origins soaks everything. You need to stop and dry up or you risk to lose your equipment and food.

19   Rhyme. The lowest-level character becomes encrusted with ice. Unless his/her mates do something, he/she’ll slip and fall to the floor in 1d16 turns.

20    Magic and Electric Storm. PCs wearing metal armor are struck for 1d13 damage. Magic-users have to cast a random spell at a random target at maximum effect.

21    Dimensional Catastrophe. In a nearby plane, a group of adventurers failed to stop a megalomaniac villain from destroying the world. The skies open up and corpses and burnt debris fall from that plane. Roll 1d5 to know what kind of plane it was: 1-Fantasy, 2-Futuristic, 3-Superheroes, 4-Noir, 5-Cartoons.

22    Transplanar Nomads. Mysterious hooded guys who wander through the planes. Roll 1d7 for their demeanor: 1- Friendly, 2-Hostile, 3-Don’t care much about anything, 4-They speak weirdly and are difficult to understand, 5-Democrats, 6-Moustached, 7-Cannibals.

23    Galactic Equinox. A great festival where the gods from all over the multiverse meet up. Clerics must offer a mandatory mass for the party. If there’s more than one, the one who worships the most powerful god takes precedence.

24    Climatic Mashup. Roll 1d5 times on the table and apply all the results.


Setting the (winning) table

I'll try not to rely too much on clichés, but it'll be hard.

First of all: thank you a million. Seven courageous souls answered the challenge, and many of them sent more than one table (for a grand total of 13 tables, what a magic number). I'd a stinking liar if I didn't confess that we wanted even more, but sometimes less is more, because in this case all of them are just awesome.

But this is a contest, so enough of these niceties, and let's get to the point: the winner. After a tense week of deliberations, the solemn jury has come to a decision, and has unanimously chosen Gabriel Ciprés' table, Transplanar Climatology. On its 24 entries, Gabriel details a list of encounters and background occurrences for something that sooner or later will happen on an Appendix N game table: a travel through the planes.

Result 3 on the table "Transplanar Climatology"

Next week, and as soon as possible, we'll publish the table here, both in English and Spanish. After this one, the rest of them will come, so that the community can use and enjoy them.

Congratulations, Gabriel! As promised, we'll send you The chained coffin via express transplanar courier. Here, let me roll on the table...


Swimming in armor

I've been obsessed with the "swimming in armor" rules for a while. Every system has a say on it, with varying degrees of complexity, but none of them really strike home with me. They run the gamut from the not-very-realistic to the not-realistic-at-all. With Dungeon Crawl Classics they just didn't want to tackle this issue, I guess because of the inherent difficulty. Finally, inspired by the extraordinary Fire and Brimstone! A comprehensive guide to lava, magma and superheated rock (Link!) I think I've managed to design an elegant yet simple rule that  can be used not only with DCC, but also with any Dungeons & Dragons clone or iteration:

If you fall into water, you're completely covered by it, and you're wearing armor, you'll sink to the bottom and you'll drown. Yes, that's right, even if you've got Strength 24. If you get out of the armor before drowning maybe you'll be lucky enough to survive, but don't count on it.

That's the only armor you're allowed to take into water

What's nice about this rule is that it can also be applied to characters wearing heavy backpacks, cement shoes, or handbags with a brick in them.


Coming soon... The Vertical Halls

Who can kill a dwarf?

A week ago, there was a tremor near Shadypass. Not long after, the first cases of a strange disease appeared – a disease that is becoming an epidemic as days go by...

The Vertical Halls is an adventure intended for a level 2 party that takes the characters from the village of Shadypass to the very top of a crazed, yet long-dead, scholar’s demesne. In a race against the clock, they must find a cure for this mysterious ailment.

And remember: only one week remaining for our Table contest! Send them in! Our cellar is huge! (You don't want to disappoint Bobugbubilz, do you?).

(And yes, that is a small piece of the gorgeous art featured inside the adventure...)


What's in a name?

Shakespeare wrote in "Romeo and Juliet": "What's in a name? That which we call a 'rose', by any other name would smell as sweet". But I say: "Yeah, but it wouldn't be the same". Well, yes and no. Let's call it 'chufli' instead of 'rose' and, although it's still the same thing, it's not. Take as an example "Here, my love, a bouquet of chuflis", or "But he who dares not grasp the thorn, should never crave the chufli". It's the same thing, yep, a red flower with a thorny stem; but it doesn't convey the same stuff.

O Romero, Romero, wherefore art thou Romero? Deny thy zombies and refuse thy name

The power of names can't be denied. A name tags and sums up the nature of what it defines. In DCC RPG's Appendix S the question Juliet asked herself in Shakespeare's play is also posed: "What's in a name?" Although in this case, the answer is: "The start of an interesting encounter". They're right, so use names. To start with, explore the vast world of titles and sobriquets. The titles in the different class charts are there to be used. Why being "Valbroso, level 3 neutral cleric" when you can be "Valbroso, the chronicler of Amun Tor?" Your attitude is not the same when you bear that title. On the other hand, you don't have to use those exact titles. There's a heap of sobriquets in Appendix T for each class, or you can even make up your own personal title or nickname. But taking Valbroso as an example again: it's such a different matter that if instead of calling him "Valbroso, the chronicler of Amun Tor" you go for "Valbroso, Pontifex of riddles". Sometimes, nicknames come up during adventures, and they can be used in place of or as well as the character's title, such as in "Valbroso, Pontifex of riddles, Goat Slayer". If you wanna foster this nice practice amongst your players, you can use the usual tools at your disposal, like threats or blackmail:

a character recovers one Luck point at the end of a session where she lived up to her title or sobriquet, or where she used it to impress a bunch of gullible villagers or a band of petty enemies.

Now with magic. Jack Vance is one of D&D's biggest influence, and by extension, DCC RPG's as well. One just needs to read one of the first short stories from his The dying earth, Mazirian the Magician, to find the magic system that has shaped D&D's magic not only from the beginning but also to this very day: the so-called "Vancian magic", where spells are learnt and forgotten once they're cast. However, something got lost on the way: proper nouns, as a result of making and organizing a list of spells.

Mazirian the Magician, trying to pick a stranger up

Being as it is as close to the Appendix N source material as possible, DCC RPG states that, like in The dying earth, there's a finite number of spells (716, more than enough); that wizards keep jealously their secrets; and that every one of them casts and writes them down differently. That's why we're invited to rename each spell, so our wizard makes those spells her very own. Rules like Mercurial magic and Spell manifestation are crystal-clear clues to the uniqueness of spells. According to those two rules there shouldn't be two Magic missile spells alike, because every spell is just a blueprint from which to build up our personal spell. In other words: a Charm person manifested as a black cloud that also scares animals is very different to a Charm person manifested as a musical murmur that leaves the magician craving for food, and it should show. "Vapors of supremacy" has nothing to do with "Melody of the consuming allurement". Names evoke a certain atmosphere and a tone, and they help making every magician unique through her studies and creations. One-of-a-kind and inmortal, Alcémides the Warlock will die in a horrible and violent way and he will be certainly and completely forgotten after a few years, but his spell formula "Vapors of supremacy" will be sought-after by many wizard's apprentices. Once again, to help your players adopt this lovely habit, use blackmail:

a named spell gets a +1 bonus to its spell check.

This isn't a bonus to get crazy about, but knowing how mean roleplayers can be, they'll surely won't let this opportunity slip by. Go for it! Spice up your game sessions!


Ain't got enough tables

Yes, that's right, there'll never be enough tables for the DCC RPG, so that's why we thought that we should ask you, the fans, for more. Need a little motivation? How about a copy of The chained coffin? (The module, not the boxed set) Why not a Table contest?

Rules and conditions

Never enough

- The table's topic must be Appendix N - related. A list of rare ingredients for a ritual, the secret name for a summoned demon, the effects of that drug that someone slipped in your drink... are good examples.

- The submitted table must be in a editable-friendly format: .odt, .doc, .pdf...

- The table can have as little as 2 entries and as many as you like. We reserve the right to be partial to tables that use one of the fabled zocchi dice: d5, d7, d14, d16, d24, d30, d666...

- The table can be sent via homing pigeon to phlogistonbooks at gmail dot com, or to the Table Contest shelf in our bookshop.

- You can send as many tables as you want. The more, the merrier!

- The tables can be sent in English or Spanish. Hey, no complaints here: that's more than half of the world's population (we're working hard on our Chinese). Tables written in English will be translated into Spanish and vice versa.

- The tables will be "published" under a creative commons license, either here or on a 'zine. Yes, that's right: if we get a decent amount of tables, we'll put them together on a 'zine, lavishly illustrated and expertly laid out. Or at least we'll try.

It exists, here's proof

- The board of judges is formed by this roster of DCC RPG experts, handpicked by myself: Alberto, Cronista, Sergio, Terrax, and Velasco. Bribes are accepted and encouraged.

- We'll send the adventure anywhere in the world: the shipping and handling are, of course, included in the prize. Regrettably, we currently don't serve other planes of existence.

- The deadline for this contest is April 26th, 2015. Five days after this, we'll announce the winner on this same bookshop. Yep, on the First of May of 2015: Sword and Sorcery never rests.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Post them on the comments, please!

May Bobugbubilz be with you!


Result 11 for Table 4-7: Phlogiston Disturbance

(Found floating in the Phlogiston )

You suddenly realize that you're a fictional character in a make-believe game, sometimes in the pages of various adventures, sometimes in the minds of those who play the game. 

From now on, you'll be part of a series of kickass adventures, until you meet your adversary again to end the magic duel once and for all. Your deeds will be written and displayed in engravings on parchment, for the delight of thousands and thousands of Judges and Players characters alike: and all those adventures, altogether, will be called Phlogiston Books.
Yes, right here