Category Archives: Uncategorized

DCC RPG – Adventure vs. Character

I really like the feel of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG by Goodman Games. They really nailed the aesthetics of those Appendix N stories – the primordial fantasy stories that inspired Gygax, Arneson, and countless others when the hobby gaming industry was still in its formative years. Leiber, Moorcock, Howard, Vance, and so many others, the authors that really blazed the trail for fantasy gaming to take shape.

That being said, there’s a strange disconnect with the game for me. The disconnect comes in the assumptions between the characters and the published adventures. The adventures are almost all crazy and out there, and in really interesting ways. Post-apocalyptic, Dying Earth kind of stuff, with robots and horrendous beast-men and savage monsters that defy description and corrupt sorcerers that just need to be stopped. These adventures are what really connect with those Appendix N stories.

The characters, however, seem to fall more into the classic archetypes of fantasy gaming that came about after those Appendix N authors. Or maybe it’s so indelibly linked in my mind with Dungeons & Dragons that when I see the list of classes – cleric, warrior, thief, wizard, dwarf, elf, halfling – I immediately go, not to the Appendix N authors, but to the Gygaxian adventures of the early years.

Because, while the starting point may have been Leiber and Moorcock and Vance, the ending point became it’s own thing entirely. It seemed to blend in heavy doses of Tolkien, leaning heavily on the iconic images from Lord of the Rings to base these various races on. This combination resulted in a new style, one that has grown with its own tropes and archetypes over the past 40+ years.

I grew up reading Tolkien, so as far as Appendix N authors go that was my introduction. I didn’t pick up the other masters until much later, so D&D had that Tolkien-esque feel for me right from the beginning. I didn’t glom onto the Vancian spellcasting system – it was simply the D&D spellcasting system. The play between Chaos and Law from Moorcock was secondary to the primary battle between Good and Evil from Tolkien.

All of this is to say that the characters as presented in the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, and even the blurb at the beginning of every adventure, seems to call back to the early days of fantasy gaming, but the content of the adventures themselves reaches back way before that. It creates a disconnect for me that’s been hard to reconcile.

I’ve been itching to play more Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG but I think I’m going to need to change something about it. It might be as simple as removing the demihuman races as options – play humans, simple as that. It might be that simple, though it would require some adjustments to the 0-level funnel table. I like that idea a lot actually and is certainly the easiest adjustment to make.

On the other hand, I’ve been tinkering with some ideas on how to move some aspects of DCC RPG into a more stable core fantasy setting, with those elves, dwarves, halflings, and more thrown in. I even have a great starting point, but I’m going to have to think about it some more. I’m sure you’ll see more here on the blog though!

GaryCon IX – What a Con!

I’m still recovering from the awesomeness that was GaryCon IX in Lake Geneva, WI. This is my fifth year going, and my fourth year running Cut to the Chase Games for as many people as I possibly could. That actually predates Cut to the Chase Games as a licensed company too! I’ve met tons of people there, and I can honestly say I have not had a bad table in the five years I’ve gone (as a Game Master at least – there have been one or two “duds” as a player unfortunately, but sometimes that happens). I hope my players have had a great time!

This year, I went with 4-hour blocks of my new adventure, Crypt of Bones. I skipped the first part of the scenario, which is an undead siege on a northern town. It’s a nice nod to Army of Darkness, but for the game I wanted to run it just didn’t fit in, so I worked around it to get players in and running as quickly as possible. The party of 10th-level characters (for D&D 5E) were sent by the aged Father Barondo to find and recover six stolen children, with divination spells pointing to the sinister Black Graveyard as their location.

I didn’t manage to kill any of the characters (which isn’t the point … really I swear!) but I think all of the tables had their challenging moments. The crypt itself I built on poster board sheets using a wide variety of premade cardboard Dungeon Tiles stuck on with 3M sticky buttons. It worked incredibly well – they were light, easy to transport, and most importantly were functional at the table. My Vault of Thrym that I ran at Gamehole Con 2016 was a bit unwieldy in those points, but it made up for it in “wow” factor.

The trip out to GaryCon was quick and painless. My friend (and co-creator of the upcoming Badlands & Barbarians RPG) Taylor drove and we had a friend of his with as well, Troy. Troy was running Adventurers League stuff all weekend, something I was very tempted to do, but ultimately I’m glad I didn’t cram more than my 30 hours of GMing into the con (which was spread over 3 days, since we left on the 4th). Great traveling companions, great weather (well, at least the weather wasn’t BAD), and a great time.

On Saturday evening, I helped out Danny O’Neill from HammerDog Games with the big finale of his Tower of Jing adventure. I’ll post more on that one, as it was a TON of fun and requires more details than I feel I can bang out just this moment. I’m looking forward to working with him at future cons, that’s for sure!

Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures this year, so you’ll just have to take my word for that it was an awesome time. Slung lots of dice, had lots of laughs, and still managed to keep my voice on Sunday. The trifecta!

12 Days of OSR Christmas Sale!

It’s that time of year – time to celebrate the holidays with some good, old-school fantasy roleplaying with friends and family. What better time than the 12 Days of OSR Christmas to pick up the WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS modules designed to entertain for hours and hours on end. Fight kobolds! Fight curses! Fight … more kobolds! There are other things too, and you can also snag the Tower of Skulls for a higher level romp through a demon undead plant filled dungeon.

It’s all 40% off until December 25th! Get the PDFs and complete your collection for D&D 5th Edition, Pathfinder, Swords & Wizardry, Savage Worlds, or Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. More fun than you can shake a kobold spear at!

Check out the sale today!

Note that this sale does not include the just released TG1 Lost Temple of Ibholtheg. I should post about that release too!

Merry Christmas all!

“Weird Dave” Coulson
Cut to the Chase Games

The Spectacle Game

Woo hoo! You know what’s just around the corner? GAMEHOLE CON IV! It’s a great convention in Madison, WI, the first weekend in November. You’re going, right? I’ll be there, and I can’t wait. In the past few weeks I’ve been knuckling down on my big “Con Game” that I’m designing to be a real showstopper. As a matter of fact, I thought it would be a good time to write about something I’m referring to as “The Spectacle Game.”

I love conventions. I love gaming at them, I love meeting people at them, I love traveling to them, and I love seeing what vendors have for sale. Now I have transferred from “visiting vendors” to “being a vendor” but I don’t think my modules would move very well. I don’t think adventures sell very well, because there’s a lot of decisions that go into buying one. Is there information you can mine for your game? Are the encounters interesting and engaging? Can the designer convey the flow of the scenario without resorting to a railroad?

Most of these elements are difficult to sell at a booth, and since I plan on selling adventure modules pretty much exclusively (no plans for a big setting book or anything like that at this point), paying money and spending time in a booth just doesn’t seem like the best use of my time. Or the time of a volunteer. No, I want to be out in the trenches running games.

Which leads me to The Spectacle Game. Simple put, it’s a game that draws the eye and grabs the attention of people and just begs to be played. I started this earlier this year at GaryCon VIII by running BF1 Tower of Skulls – with a replica of the Tower of Skulls. It wasn’t to scale, but it was impressive in its own right. It caught peoples’ attention and I hope made some memorable games for people.

That was just the trial, however. I’ve been tinkering with an idea for a module series based around a relic called the Primordial Eye, which was used by Annam, god of the giants, to shape the elemental planes from the Elemental Chaos. He then broke up the Primordial Eye and gave a shard to his four favored children – Thrym, Surtr, Skoraeus, and Stronmaus. Each giant god took their shard and hid it away, some better than others.

Thrym took his and placed it in a hidden vault disguised as an iceberg in the Sea of Ice, which bordered the Frostfell and the Plane of Elemental Water. I wanted to BUILD this vault, which started initially as a pile of packing styrofoam that came with some printers where I worked. This was late spring/summer 2016 that I was planning it out, which eventually became Lost Vault of the Frost Giant God.

Tinkering with some ideas, going back and forth with tools, I planned out my three level vault for miniatures and maps and got busy. After a few trials and error, I finally settled on the process, and set out during a few weekends to create the Vault of Thrym. The result was fantastic! I’ve posted some pictures of the (nearly) completed vault on Twitter that you can take a look at.

I plan on taking the Vault of Thrym to Gamehole Con in November – along with Con of the North in Minneapolis in February – to create the first true Spectacle Game from Cut to the Chase Games. As luck would have it, likely the Kickstarter for the next series is going to be running at the same time, which is a bit of a bummer. If I had planned better, my Spectacle Game would be the Temple of Ibholtheg itself, but so goes the best laid plans of mice and men. Live and learn!

It is nice that the current hardcover release for Dungeons & Dragons is Storm King’s Thunder, a giant (literal and metaphorical) adventure that I feel Lost Vault of the Frost Giant God can serve as a nice follow-up. Likely I’ll get the finished module up on the DM’s Guild once it’s completed, though just for D&D 5th Edition. I use a few too many elements of the core product to comfortably release it under the OGL, but that’s OK.

And you know what’s also pretty awesome? I’m running Vault of Thrym five times at Gamehole Con, in two hour blocks for eight players each, and they’re all sold out! I’ll likely carve out some time for a pickup game or two as well. I hope people enjoy navigating the traps, tricks, and monsters of the iceberg vault of the frost giant god!

Monday Workload 8/15/2016

Oi, where has this week gone already? I wanted to get this up yesterday but didn’t, so this week’s Monday Workload update is going to be on Tuesday. Time is a relative thing, isn’t it? Here’s a peek behind the curtain at Cut to the Chase Games!

  • BF0 Conversions – The next 0 module is BF0, the lead up for BF1 Tower of Skulls, and I’ve got the module written. Now I need to convert it to the various systems. This one might slip into next week, easily.
  • BF2 Polishing – I’m polishing up the development on BF2 (which will also be KS2 for the Kickstarter crowd). I really like this module, and my playtests have been fantastic so far!
  • TG1 Contracts – It’s worth noting that all the contracts for TG1 Lost Temple of Ibholtheg are out, and I’ve already got the maps back from Glynn. The man is a map-making machine, completely amazing. Cover art, interior art, and editing are all underway. Pretty excited about that.
  • YF0 Development – The next series after MEMORIES OF THE TOAD GOD (TG) is going to be YF, so I’ve been getting YF0 ready. What is it? Well, you’re just going to have to wait and find out!

This weekend my wife and I are going up to Duluth, MN, to see the WORLD’S LARGEST RUBBER DUCK! I know. You’re jealous. I’ll post pictures!

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 16 – Celebrity Game Wish

It’s Tuesday! Wait. That doesn’t deserve an exclamation point. Ah well, so it goes, and thus we wind down on Day 16 for #RPGaDay 2016.


16) Historical person you’d like in your group? What game?

I’ve got two answers for this one, and I don’t think I’m alone in either one. The first is E. Gary Gygax himself, running or playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons. I think that would be rad beyond words, but also very intimidating. What do you say? What do you do? Do you run a typical dungeon crawl for the Gawdfather of Gaming or do you shake it up a bit? I would probably get incredibly nervous.

My second choice would be a game with the late, great Robin Williams. The man was a gamer too! Not sure if he was into tabletop gaming, but I think a game of something like Paranoia with him would just be a hoot and a half. The man’s improvisational skills make him a natural fit for the Referee, but the question becomes could he keep it together enough to run the game for the enjoyment of everyone? I would hope so.

Not much more to say on this one, but I think when I run Paranoia I’m going to try and channel as much Robin Williams-esque energy as I can muster for the Computer …

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 15 – RPG Inspiration

OK, so I fell off the bandwagon a bit for a few days. It was a strong start to #RPGaDay 2016 for me, but the weekend and it’s nefarious plans of “things going on” distracted me. Plus, I started a new regular day job today, so that took up time. Also, Cut to the Chase Games released TG0 Depths of the Croaking Grotto today for six (!) supported systems – 5th Edition, Pathfinder, Swords & Wizardry, Savage Worlds, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and Castles & Crusades. It’s a Pay What You Want title, but it’s seen a lot of downloads, which is pretty cool.


15) Your best source of inspiration for RPGs?

Hands down, the best inspiration I get comes from movies. I love movies – something about being able to enjoy a cinematic escape for 2 hours has always tickled me, especially in a theater. Movies have a way of stimulating my creative juices, so I look to them to get me pumped for an upcoming game or to get out of a writing run for an adventure I’m working on.

But it’s more than just “movies are fun.” I love the soundtracks, which when used to good effect acts as the de facto GM behind the scenes. I love the sets and the costumes and the clear choices that go into many of them (and the baffling choices that go into others!). I love the writing – movies live and die in the script, because a good actor and good director can only make a bad script into a bad movie.

There are many movies in my personal library that I use for inspiration, depending on the game type. Let’s look at a few specifically for the fantasy genre, yes?

Lord of the Rings
The premiere fantasy movie series, an adaptation of a classic in fantasy literature. There’s a lot here to like, that’s for sure.

Conan the Barbarian
“What is best in life?” The classic sword and sorcery movie of the early 80’s, Arnie’s turn as Howard’s Cimmerian is the prototype for barbarian heroes.

Army of Darkness
Admittedly, this ostensibly third movie in the Evil Dead series does NOT fit in with the first two, but it’s ridiculously fun. The original ending, where Ash sleeps too long, does fit better with the first two movies, but the rest of the movie is too heroic. Stick with the theatrical ending.

Hawk the Slayer
I have Knights of the Dinner Table to thank for turning me on to this fantasy movie! It’s bad, but so enjoyable it’s easy to overlook its faults. Its got one of the best cinematic adventuring parties around!

Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God
The first official D&D movie is bad and completely misses the point of D&D. The second one swings almost too far in the opposite direction, but it has a pile of interesting heroes that I find it hard not to like. Avoid the third movie at all costs.

This is one that I grew up with. It’s terrifying, visceral, magical, crazy, and features Kevin Pollack as a brownie! And Val Kilmer as a wandering swordsman! And fuzzy trolls that turn into a hydra-like monster! And actual uses of the polymorph spell! “I stole de babee!”

This one I remember for one scene – Rutger Hauer’s knight character hurls his broadsword across the length of a church and impales the corrupt priest! AWESOME!

It’s freakin’ Sean Connery as a bronze dragon teaming up with a wandering knight to take down a corrupt lord. What more do you want? I recently picked this one up on Blu-Ray and hope to be watching it very soon. Likely won’t hold up to my memories, but who cares? SEAN CONNERY AS A DRAGON!