Category Archives: Dungeon Crawl Classics

Transylvanian Adventures Has Landed

Transylvanian Adventures My print copy of Transylvanian Adventures by Land of Phantoms has arrived (thanks for the great sale back in December, Lulu)!

It looks good in the flesh and though I’ve had the PDF for a while now and it’s always nice to have a solid hardback to put on the shelf. I have given the game a couple of cursory reads and like what I see. With any luck I’ll actually get to do something with this… thing… in the nearish future.

Oh, and in case you don’t know what the hell Transylvanian Adventures is (and can’t be arsed to click any of the links above) I’ll summarize it by saying that it’s the supplement you’ll want for Dungeon Crawl Classics if you’d like to take that system for a Hammer Horror-esque ride. There, that oughta whet your appetite. For blood. Ah-ah-ah-ahhhh!

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DCC Party: A Merda Job For Patrão Ferrão

Wherein your humble scribe presents a (probably doomed) party of Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG characters and the monsters that will most likely leaving nothing left but memories of the poor schlubs.

Smoke hung thickly in the humid air of the back office. It was always humid this time of year in Porto Alego. Maximiano Ferrão hated the humidity almost as much as he hated the city itself. But business was business and though he could generally trust Anacleto to keep things running properly, sometimes the patrão had to handle things personally. And since it had been a while since Maximiano had come down from his estate, today was one of those days.

“Is there any other business that needs my attention?” he asked of his tenente. “I’d like to be back up front before that fat macaco from the guard comes sniffing around for his payoff. I want to speak with him personally this time.”

“There’s just one thing, patrão,” Anacleto Alves rasped. “It seems we’ve got a bug problem at the… warehouse… on the east pier.”

“A bug problem, Anacleto? What do you mean a bug problem? Maximiano Ferrão’s goods are not known for their bugs.”

“These aren’t, ah, normal insects, patrão. They’re big. Really big. And they… well, it sounds like they talk.”

Merda! It’s that bruxo maldito again. Why haven’t the boys dealt with him yet? He’s bad for business, Cleto. Very bad for business.”

“The last group we sent to his condenável tower came back in a box, patrão. A very small box.”

Droga! I’m sick of this filho da puta! Get in touch with the sacerdotes over at the church and get them on this. Clearly we need a little bit of help dealing with this. If they don’t jump at the chance to crucify a bruxo tell them we’ll make a nice donation. They could use a new bell. The old one sounds so tired.”

“Consider it done, patrão. Consider it done.”

“Good, now let me get out of this maldito humidity…”

“Ah, about the warehouse, patrão?”

“Oh, that. Send that little bicha Tiago. I don’t like how he hangs around my daughter, so it won’t matter if he doesn’t come back. Give him a couple of âncoras and let him hire some thugs who aren’t part of the family. We can’t afford to lose any more leales right now.”

Claro, patrão.”

Tiago Duarte / Smuggler / Thief 1 / Lawful
STR 10 AGI 15 STA 7 PER 10 INT 13 LUK 9
Birth Augur: Guardian Angel (+0 Escape Traps)
HP 8 AC 11 CP 29 GP 3
Short Sword (1d6), Sling (1d4), 30 Stones, Waterproof Sack, Small Sack

Nash / Caravan Guard / Thief 1 / Neutral
STR 11 AGI 10 STA 10 PER 8 INT 12 LUK 17
Birth Augur: Four-Leafed Clover (+2 Find Secret Doors)
HP 6 AC 11 CP 26 GP 4
Short Sword (1d6), Dagger (1d4), Padded Armor, 1 yd Linen, 10′ Chain

Ponty / Jester / Warrior 1 / Chaotic
STR 14 AGI 13 STA 10 PER 14 INT 6 LUK 13
Birth Augur: Born Under The Loom (+1 Skill Checks)
HP 13 AC 13 CP 30 GP 3
Longsword (1d8), Leather Armor, Dart (1d4), Silk Clothes, Lantern

Leocádia Ferrão / Astrologer / Wizard 1 / Neutral
STR 5 AGI 12 STA 4 PER 11 INT 14 LUK 13
Birth Augur: Seventh Son (+1 Spell Checks)
HP 3 AC 10 CP 26 GP 17
Dagger, Spyglass, Large Sack
Spells: Color Spray (Gibbering Allies), Magic Shield (Demonic Voice), Ropework (Chain Casting), Sleep (Breath of Life), Ventriloquism (None)


Though they appear insectile, like 4′ tall humanoid locusts or grasshoppers, Hornhoppers are actually demonic creatures from the nether hells, summoned to this world by foul magic. They are covered in chitin marked with coruscating bands of colors and have thick, antler-like structures atop their heads.

Hornhoppers are motivated by hunger and will generally attack the least-armored (i.e., easiest to take a bite out of) individual in a party first. In addition to their bites, they occasionally wield small curved daggers and are capable of a dangerous impaling jump attack with their antlers. Hornhoppers devour flesh, bone, sinew, hair, and anything else organic that is part of a kill, leaving nothing behind.

Hornhopper: Init +3; Atk bite +3 melee (dmg 1d3) or jump/antlers +1 (dmg 1d7) or dagger +0 melee (dmg 1d4); AC 13; HD 2d12; MV 20′ walk or wall-crawl, jump 30′; Act 2d20; SP Ravenous (cannot “recover the body” of any party members left behind as long as one or more Hornhoppers survive); SV Fort +1, Ref +4, Will -3; AL C.

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Heists For Fantasy Thieves

Wherein your humble scribe, drawing on the “All The Dice” random generator concept (tip of the hat to Grim), presents a random table for your nerdly needs.

My latest obsession/idea is an old school urban crime mini-campaign, something along the lines of the old Gamelords Thieves’ Guild RPG.

My first thought was to use Labyrinth Lord/AEC and break down the thieving skills a bit to turn that subsystem into something that players could customize to reflect their own individual thief’s specialties (sort like AD&D 2e did – but I don’t have those books handy to steal from reference). But when I started doing the math I quickly realized I’d be better off using a different system (one that was already skill-based).

So in rode BRP and the fabulous Classic Fantasy monograph (to be used if I feel the need to retain a degree of D&D style). If I ever make this get off the ground (and given my current levels of gamer ADD and the general scheduling issues with the folks I play with, that’s a dubious proposition) I’m going to need an idea generator for some thiefly adventures & heists. Hence, the tables below. Please feel free to make use of these in any way you see fit. Sharing makes the world go ’round!

Let’s Roll

Grab yourself a d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20 and roll ’em. Check against the charts below and let your creativity fill things out as needed.

Location of item(s) to be liberated, 1d4

  1. Temple or other religious/ceremonial building
  2. Private residence (1d4: 1 lower class, 2 middle class, 3 upper class, 4 nobility)
  3. Mercantile building (guildhall, apothecary, etc.)
  4. Governmental building (military hq, prison, town hall, etc.)

Complications of the job, 1d6

  1. No complications, job as described by the rest of the dice
  2. Minor complications, roll for a second guardian for the item (now under double guard)
  3. Major complications, roll for a second location (the item has been moved)
  4. No complications, job as described by the rest of the dice
  5. Serious complications, roll for two more guardians and a second location – the item(s) has been moved to a new location and is under a different kind of protection
  6. It’s a setup! A double-cross! A trap! Everything proceeds normally, but something bad happens if the job is successful (not paid, guard alerted, the job is completely fake, etc.)

Method of payment for liberating the item(s), 1d8

  1. No payment
  2. Keep anything else you can take
  3. Coin: ((2d4-1) X 10)% of item’s value
  4. Coin: ((1d10+10) X 10)% of item’s value
  5. A minor, limited-use magic item (potion of healing, etc.)
  6. Information (a treasure map, the name of a spy, etc.)
  7. Coins: (3d8 X 10) total gp value
  8. Gems: (4d6 X 10) total gp value

Nature of the item(s) to be liberated, 1d10

  1. Plain ol’ coin money
  2. Magic item (weapon/armor/shield)
  3. Religious relic
  4. Gems or jewelry
  5. Paperwork of significance
  6. Object d’Art (statue/painting/etc.)
  7. Symbolic item
  8. Magic item (non-weapon)
  9. Roll again twice using d8s
  10. Roll again three times using d8s

Guardian of the item(s) to be liberated, 1d12

  1. None
  2. Locked chest/safe
  3. Trapped & locked chest/safe
  4. Magical wards
  5. Generic human/demihuman guards
  6. Tougher-than-generic human/demihuman guards
  7. Natural animal(s)
  8. Monster(s)
  9. Undead
  10. Demon/devil
  11. Roll again twice using d10s
  12. Roll again three times using d10s

Source of the job, 1d20

  1. Professional connection (guild, crime family, etc.)
  2. Freelance theft-for-hire (merchant, sailor, etc.)
  3. Rumor/Innuendo/Legend
  4. Personal Reasons (revenge, matter of honor, thrill seeking, etc.)
  5. Religious connection (prelate with a problem, a favor for the god of thieves, etc.)
  6. Professional connection (guild, crime family, etc.)
  7. Freelance theft-for-hire (merchant, sailor, etc.)
  8. Romantic connection (spouse, mistress, etc.)
  9. Family connection (no-good brother-in-law, dying aunt, etc.)
  10. Political connection (local political faction, foreign government, etc.)
  11. Professional connection (guild, crime family, etc.)
  12. Freelance theft-for-hire (merchant, sailor, etc.)
  13. Rumor/Innuendo/Legend
  14. Personal Reasons (revenge, matter of honor, thrill seeking, etc.)
  15. Professional connection (guild, crime family, etc.)
  16. Freelance theft-for-hire (merchant, sailor, etc.)
  17. Military/Police connection (the corrupt sheriff, a questionable general, etc.)
  18. Rumor/Innuendo/Legend
  19. Professional connection (guild, crime family, etc.)
  20. Freelance theft-for-hire (merchant, sailor, etc.)

Some Sample Heists

  • Your older brother offers to pay you a lot of money to break into the town armory and steal the enchanted Shield of the Sentinels. Of course, the armory is guarded by a pair of basilisks, but that’s not a problem for someone like you. You know he can afford what he’s offering; you just don’t know what he’s up to, which is planning on double-crossing you by turning you and the shield in for the reward to pay off his gambling debts.
  • Old Garril the Stonemason offers you a number of small diamonds he once found in a wall he was repairing to steal the sixteen large sapphires Korath the Bold recently donated to the Temple of Naali. These are locked in a chest stored within the high priest’s chambers.
  • You’ve heard a rumor that there’s a woman in Amberton who will pay a nice sum of money for a set of enchanted combs that are currently available in the shop of Forlburt the silversmith. The smith is a paranoid sort, who employs a small number of human guards and trained hounds to stand watch over his shop even as he locks all of his merchandise within a heavy (and trapped!) safe every evening.
  • Your guild or crime family needs you to break into the manor house of the Harbormaster and steal the ledgers for the last season’s shipping taxes. Your reward for pulling off this heist is the name and location of the man who killed your family when you were young. Everyone knows that the house is protected by magical wards. Not even your contact knows about the wraith that has been bound to guard the grounds.
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Dungeon Crawl Classics Is Fun

So I’ve been running a game for some friends in Dungeon Crawl Classics. And you know what? It’s been quite a good time. Actually, it’s been one of the better games I’ve been able to run in a long while.

Before we go any further, I should point out that the book itself is so jammed full of incredibly enjoyable old school style art that it’s a joy just to flip through the thing. With full-page mood-establishing pieces alongside 1e AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide type humor spot cartoon bits, and plenty of smaller illustrations throughout, the book is basically a masterpiece of RPG art. In fact, it was seeing all of the illustrations in the PDF that caused me to snap and buy the physical book. The players (below) have all remarked favorably on the art as well and at least one of them picked up a copy of the book because of it as well.

Who’s Playing

The group consists of me as GM and three players, Lomax, Parker, and Saul.

Lomax is a dear, close friend I’ve gamed with off and on for 20-odd years. He’s not a serious RPG player when compared to dorks like me who read and write about RPGs with some (varying, of late) frequency. But he’s been around the block more than once.

Parker is a great guy and a good friend of the past 10-ish years who is a serious RPG player. He’s the one who was running the Call of Cthulhu game for the past year. We’ve played in quite a few things over the past five years and he really digs into the meat of gaming.

Saul is a relative newbie, both to RPGs and to my circle of friends/players. He’s a bright guy who really gets into the spirit of muderhoboism, which isn’t necessarily what DCC is about, but it fits.

High Tech Fun

I’ve been running the game almost exclusively from my tablet, referencing the rules and adventures electronically. All three players have also purchased the PDF and have it on their tablets at the table as well. Several of us have also been beta testing the very handy Crawler’s Companion by Purple Sorcerer Games. Most of the 0-level characters we’ve used were generated using the 0-Level Party Generator, also from Purple Sorcerer. Those not-cheap physical books are getting plenty of use, too.

About Those Funky Dice

One of the complaints I hear (and had myself back when DCC was in beta) was that it required the funky Zocchihedron dice (d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24, d30). In practice you don’t really need these, since those number ranges can be pretty easily reproduced using standard dice and clever rolling. But I sought out a set of the funky dice because I’m a dice nut. And they’ve been fun to have. They get shared around the table as need be and it’s not been a problem.

Oh, speaking of dice, I’ve done all of my combat rolling in the open and I’ve enjoyed it. Actually, most of the rolling (except for rolls to notice secret doors and stuff) has been in the open. This is pretty contrary to how I’ve played for the last 30-odd years, but it’s worked well within the context of DCC. I won’t likely import that behavior to other games, but here and now, that’s how I roll (pun intended).

The First Session – The Funnel Under The Stars

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
After a bunch of dithering on my part – because I wasn’t terribly interested in the funnel and wanted to get straight to the nifty class mechanics like Mighty Deeds of Arms and Corruption and such – and all three players expressing a desire to give the funnel a try (Parker in particular was hot for it, but Lomax sold me on the move with his observation that it shook things up and made the game more improvisational), we went with the dreaded 0-level funnel of death. And I’ll be the first to admit that it was very enjoyable.

I ran the group – with four 0-level characters apiece – through the 0-level adventure in the DCC book, The Portal Under The Stars. I won’t divulge anything about the adventure itself since there’s always a chance someone out there hasn’t played it yet and I don’t want to be the spoiler guy. But I will say that there were a reasonable number of deaths (mostly in amusing ways) and an unexpected amount of badassitude and heroism. They conquered the dungeon and escaped with four newly-minted 1st level characters among them (Lomax had two, Parker and Saul each had one): two warriors (Saul, Lomax), a dwarf (Lomax), and a wizard (Parker). We bashed through this relatively short adventure in about five or six hours, from rolling up characters to handing out experience and leveling up.

Observations On The First Session

  • None of the characters are particularly powerful in any kind of traditional D&D sense. I think the highest attribute on a surviving character is 16. There was a dude with two 18s, but he had only 1 hit point, and you can guess how well that worked out for him.
  • The luck of the dice, at least at 0- and 1st level, decides almost everything. The players aced what should have been the toughest encounter in the dungeon, with no fatalities and just a scratch or two, all thanks to a string of exceptionally lucky rolls. Then they lost a character to an absurdly unlucky roll in an easy encounter.
  • The above statement is true if there’s not a lot of planning and cleverness on the part of the players. Situations that are approached with caution and intelligence can generally be passed with a minimum of suffering. At least as long as outright combat is avoided whenever possible.
  • Completely random 0-level schlubs begin to take on personalities very quickly and people get attached to such characters more easily than you might expect. Some of this comes from working to keep characters with good stats alive so that they might live to level up. But, at least with these players, there’s a natural tendency to imbue even the weakest character with some semblance of life.
  • We used lego minifigs for laying out positioning and stuff for this session and it was great fun to see grown men moving their little dudes around and having them talk to one another like we used to do with action figures when we were kids. This was even more amusing when it was one guy making two of his characters argue.
  • I may never have had a more enjoyable first session of a game system or campaign than this one. It really was that much fun. The people involved were surely the meat of that, but the system didn’t cause any problems (as so many often do), so points for DCC there.

What Follows

The players, after surviving this adventure, have a goal. And that goal means they must leave their crappy little village and set out into the wilds in search of the witch who resides in the hamlet of Hirot (yes, that’s foreshadowing). Sessions 2 and 3 (and 4, though it hasn’t been played yet) see them beset by terrible swamp dragons and chased into an ancient, cyclopean ziggurat. They are joined on this journey by a few more recruits from their village, and rescue still more potential PCs captured by the denizens of the ziggurat within its walls.

I won’t say much more since this adventure (which is homebrewed, fyi) hasn’t wrapped up yet. But I will say that the game has continued to be fun even as the death toll has increased and the challenges have gotten more perilous. The leveled-up warriors and dwarf have succeeded in several Mighty Deeds of Arms and the wizard has cast a few spells to great effect. She (for it appears that Alfred is actually a woman) has also had to rely on Spellburn to cast a few spells that she would have otherwise lost access to due to failed casting rolls. So we’ve gotten to see a bit more of the DCC mechanics in action, and those game bits are truly gems.

Sadly, schedules have remained out-of-whack enough that the next session (wherein they should conquer the ziggurat, or die) is probably a couple of weeks out yet. But once they meet or defeat their fate, I’ll provide an update.

A Premature Conclusion

DCC is, as the title of this post suggests, fun. Big fun. Serious old-timey RPG fun. I’m still itching to see more of the game system in action, since we haven’t had an Clerics, Elves, Thieves, or Halflings make it to first level and start doing their special schticks. We’ve also only had a few meaningful fumbles, which as the GM makes me sad. But we’re getting there, and I’m very hopeful that we can continue this run long enough that the rest of the great tastes of DCC can be sampled.

In the meantime, I can say that you fine folks out there in RPG land could do a lot worse than DCC for your gaming experience. It’s definitely D&D in a lot of key ways (classes, levels, etc.), so if you don’t like that particular aspect of gaming then you’re not going to really appreciate DCC. But if you don’t mind such things (or even actively like them) then by all means give DCC a go. Just be prepared for deaths in the party and for the random nature of the game to be felt pretty strongly. I consider these things a plus, personally, but they’re definitely not for everyone (or even for me all the time).


We’ve been playing to a soundtrack of quality hard rock and classic heavy metal. It hasn’t exactly been immersive, but it has (for me, at least) helped with the mood and spirit of the game. If nothing else, hearing Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden in the background helps remind me that this is a game that, in some ways, harkens back to how I played when I was a kid. Anything goes, life is cheap, and the next encounter could well be your last. Rock on.

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What Fresh Pao Is This?

Well howdy there, anyone who still happens to have Strange Stones in their RSS readers! Yeah. I know. Long time, no blog. I just haven’t had anything I felt compelled to share. But I have been gaming some, at least:

  • The year-plus Call of Cthulhu campaign I was playing in just went on hiatus after, well, more than a year.
  • The Dungeon Crawl Classics game I started up with some friends has made it through three sessions and the fourth is going to happen, just a little delayed because of work schedules and new babies and such amongst the crew.
  • Another guy I know is talking about starting up a 1st edition AD&D campaign that I’m leaning towards playing in.
  • Oh, and I got to play in a session of Mythic Iceland (BRP) that was pretty cool.

And since it’s now October I find my mind turning to:

  • The Chill/Ghostbusters thing I always want to run around Halloween but never do (and probably won’t again this year)
  • The Thanksgiving game I’ve run the past few years with my oldest of gamer buddies (but probably won’t this year due to some logistical stuff)
  • The half-dozen or more games I want to run, kinda sorta (but probably never will, for assorted reasons ranging from lack of player interest to lack of time in anyone’s schedule and beyond)

But hey, I’m gaming at least semi-regularly and that’s a good thing.

In Other News
The Sword’s new album comes out in just two weeks. And the advance tracks I’ve heard have been tasty. So that’s exciting.

And speaking of music, I’ve been playing a lot of bass lately (I’ve been playing bass almost as long as I’ve been gaming), having taken up with an absurdist jazz punk art noise rock ensemble here in Austin. We’ve even, in spite of the expected limitations of the genre, had a couple of actual gigs and there are at least a couple of additional shows on the horizon. And some recording that should actually lead to some kind of released album of some sort. So that’s a thing or two.

What Now?
Well, I’m not going to shut the blog down or anything. There’s stuff here that people keep finding and enjoying (the mighty G-Man’s BoL adventures, if nothing else). And really, who knows when inspiration will strike and I’ll have to start posting like mad again or risk burning up from the inside? So there’s not really an answer to the question I’m afraid. I just decided I should poke my head in and say hello, yes, I’m fine, thank you, how are you? So I did.


p.s. I’ve been trying to read a lot more of the Appendix N classics lately, too. Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is on my table right now. Just beneath it in the stack you’ll find Clark Ashton Smith, the smattering of Lovecraft I’ve never read, Beowulf, the recent non-Conan REH compilations, Vance, Moorcock, and more. Yay, books!

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Dungeon Crawl Classics: The First Character Funnel

Here are four quick characters I rolled up using the Beta rules for Dungeon Crawl Classics. It seems likely that not a one of these would actually make it out of their first dungeon alive, but hey, that’s supposed to be part of the fun this game, right?

I think my only initial complaint with the random 0-level character generation is that the poor trapper gets stuck with a sling and only one damned stone to hurl. Everyone else has weapons that they can use more than one time, while Linara is even less useful than a 1st level magic-user with a dagger, some darts, and a Light spell. Worse, with the paltry, paltry starting funds these mooks get, there’s no way she can hope to afford more (or even a dagger as a supplemental weapon) at this stage. That seems just a bit too harsh for an enjoyable game. Otherwise, though, it seems like solid enough random, low-level character generation.

Actually, I’ve got a bit of a gripe with the Luck attribute and how it is applied to rolls for good or ill. The idea – and I hate to keep using the trapper as the example, but it’s the most illustrative – that Linara “survived famine” but is now hit with a negative to fortitude rolls messes with my head a bit. I mean, I can wrap my head around it if the phrase were changed to “Endured famine.” But “Survived famine” carries a different connotation for me. Of course, I’m also really just being nitpicky here. But still. Nits. They itch.

Anyway, here’s the quartet of scrubs for your amusement:

Ghelb / Level 0 Human / Neutral
Occupation Caravan Guard
Str 11 Agi 9 Sta 13 Per 12 Int 10 Luk 11
HP 5 AC 10
XP -100
Saves +0
Money 37 cp
Items Shortsword (1d6), 1 yd linen
Notes Survived a spider bite (Luck bonus to poison saves)

Dirak’aan / Level 0 Elf / Neutral
Occupation Elven Artisan
Str 8 Agi 14 Sta 18 Per 14 Int 12 Luk 10
HP 5 AC 11
XP -100
Saves +0
Money 38 cp
Items Staff (1d4), 1 lb. clay
Notes Pack hunter (Luck bonus to 0-level trained weapon attack & damage)

Forbush / Level 0 Human / Lawful
Occupation Locksmith
Str 12 Agi 4 Sta 12 Per 8 Int 10 Luk 11
HP 3 AC 8
XP -100
Saves +0
Money 32 cp
Items Dagger (1d4), Fine tools
Notes Resisted temptation (Luck bonus to Willpower saves)

Linara / Level 0 Human / Chaotic
Occupation Trapper
Str 11 Agi 10 Sta 8 Per 6 Int 9 Luk 8
HP 3 AC 10
XP -100
Saves +0
Money 33 cp
Items Sling & 1 stone (1d4), Badger pelt
Notes Lived through famine (Luck bonus to Fortitude saves)

I reckon when they make it to first level they’ll earn the right to wear a funny hat.

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