Isbin Arcane Classification: The headless horseman

HeadlessOne 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…


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 pirateThis 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

crawl01.mockI 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 kingFor 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

AL3Purple 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 kingThis 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 thiefConan when he was a thief. Grade 1.

Conan mercenaryConan as a mercenary. Grade 2.

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

Conan kingKing 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?