Saturday, September 16, 2023

Aquilae Bestiary of the Realm (Abridged, DCC)

Ever want to play B/X adventures with Dungeon Crawl Classics, but did not want to make up monster stats? Well, Infinium Game Studios has you covered. They did a heck of a lot of work and converted 410 monsters (in the abridged 1 book set) of all the most popular B/X creatures to the DCC system.

If you want more, you can find (these 410) and more in the 2-volume set, 1,660 monsters for DCC. The abridged version is refined for most games and gives you a quick reference for hundreds of monsters and stat blocks (with 4 challenge levels each). The two-volume set is two 800+ page books and an incredible collector's item and reference work.

This book (or a 2-book set if you buy all the way in) bridges the gap in DCC between the standard B/X experience and the gonzo DCC set of rules. I know the DCC mantra is to not recycle the past, do new things, and create monsters and beasts that no one has ever seen. I agree, and we shouldn't keep endlessly recycling the past. We need new ideas.

But the seeds for new ideas can come from the old. Having so many monster stat blocks, special abilities, special attacks and defenses, and the abundance of choice and variety gets my mind working overtime. Even if I flavor these as something else and change them up, they are helpful as bases for my creations, monsters for Mutant Crawl Classics or Weird Frontiers, or any other DCC-aligned game like Star Crawl and many others. Every one of these can be the canvas for something new and extraordinary.

Also, there are new players out there who haven't seen the classics. If they want to experience these monsters for the first time in a DCC environment - let them! If you run a funnel of level-zero villagers fighting an advanced fire beetle as the boss monster, that is cool, and it gives me a whole new perspective on how terrifying that monster can be in a game like DCC.

If all a 5E player experienced fighting a fire beetle was laughter and dismissal at how easy a 4-hit point AC 13 creature could be killed in a single stab from a dagger, seeing an elite fire beetle with 18 hit points, AC 11, and two +2 to-hit and 1d10+1 damage attacks per turn slicing villagers in half in one hit will sober them up. Is that cool? Heck yes!

Here's the point: what is more authentic and accurate to you? Is the 5E cockroach the fire beetle you see in your head? Or is it the insect that can crawl, fly, and kill like Jason Vorhees, the fire beetle you want to see in your game? Yes, Goodman Games, don't endlessly recreate the past - but come on, the 5E version of the past sucks.

To paraphrase MythBusters, I reject the 5E version of the past and replace it with my own.

Suddenly, I am not recreating the past but seeing it differently.

And seeing things in new ways is as cool as imagining new stuff.

And I could always say, "These fire beetles are intelligent, and communicate in sound above our normal hearing range. They have a culture around fungus harvesting." Oops, the past is broken. They may share the two-noun name as the 5E monster, but suddenly, they are lightyears away from the original step wrong and you crush it, unimaginative annoyance.

This is the problem with nostalgia. It makes you stupid.

AI Art by @nightcafestudio

Yes, if you wanted to replay Keep on the Borderlands with DCC, you could with these books, and your monsters would be DCC enough to make the game feel right. The module would play much more like B/X on crack, but that is DCC, and go to town.

DCC play in traditional modules would likely turn into a slog of epic proportions, as traditional B/X modules are often of incredible length and depth. I would cut them down to the essential few areas, cut down the number of monsters, and focus the run through the area like a story with set parts and action scenes. A valid criticism of many adventures written for DCC is that they can't be used for one-shot games. If players want to get together and solve a situation in one 4-hour game, that is a good design goal for a module.

Classic B/X modules were all over the terms regarding the time it takes to play, with tournament modules being the more refined experiences with fewer encounters and a set flow to the action. I like the old tournament modules with scoring, a party of pre-gens racing to meet a time limit, limited gear, limited spells, no resting, and trying to survive as many rooms as possible before the clock runs out. Those generally make better frameworks for DCC adventures since they were designed to play in one session.

These books are the "missing monster manuals" that DCC never wanted but always needed. Having them opens up B/X style play and adventures and is a great resource for any zochi-dice based game.

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