Tales from the Smoking Wyrm is a zine for Dungeon Crawl Classics and Mutant Crawl Classics, but there are several articles that could easily be adapted for many different games. This zine came out was released in early 2020 after a successful Kickstarter campaign by Blind Visionary Publications in November 2019. The book has 52 pages of quality content.
Cover and Artwork
The cover of this book is beautifully illustrated. The cover is printed on a thick textured cardstock and has a nice feel. The paper is a thick heavy stock. The cover illustration and pictures throughout the zine are beautifully drawn and match the style of Dungeon Crawl Classics’ core rulebook. If you like that style and want to see more of it, you will be happy with the original art. There are so many great pieces of art, it is a tough choice, but my favorite is the full page tomb drawing on page 3. The layout is good and clean, your eyes are effectively drawn to the text and art.
The first article is “The Paladin.” This article starts out with a very detailed history of the paladin in roleplaying games, starting with Supplement I-Greyhawk through to DCC paladin classes that have appeared in both Crawl! and The Gongfarmer’s Almanac. This article doesn’t try to present a new class for DCC, but rather a way that any class can take up the mantle of paladin. The process starts when an interested player has a cleric cast the new cleric spell Investiture cast upon them. This spell provides the player with a quest from their deity that they must complete within a certain timeframe. If it is successful the player gains some cleric abilities and access to the 2nd new spell, Invoke Deity, which provides various abilities depending on the results of the spell check. The player is able to retain the original abilities and advancement of their original class while having an interesting bonus for performing a quest for their deity. This is a great way to illustrate how a church could have devout followers who may not fit into the traditional cleric mold. Another great thing about this article is that it provides ideas that can easily be used in other roleplaying systems without too much adapting, such as the process of investiture and giving nonpaladin/cleric characters a chance to play around with their traditional abilities.
The great old one gets a nice write up as a patron. Invoking the patron has dangerous results and not for the faint at heart, but if you are lucky (roll high or spellburn), you have access to great power as befitting someone who has the mighty Cthulhu at their beck and call. The patron taints are interesting and provide some great flavor to the game. There is an addendum to Appendix N which includes some additional Cthulhu reading that I am going to have to catch up on. There are 2 new patron spells and a ritual that are added: Summons of the Deep, Breath of the Deep, and Form of the Deep. Summons of the Deep is a level 1 spell where you attempt to summon some of Cthulhu’s chosen servants to aide you in battle. Breath of the Deep is a level 2 spell that can be cast to allow the caster to breathe under water, but the fun way to cast it is to use to fill your opponents’ lungs with water! This is something I have tried cheesing into games ever since I saw the create water spell in D&D. The ritual, Form of the Deep is interesting because it allows the caster to gain knowledge forbidden knowledge that comes at a price, the ritual follows the rules that begin on page 37.
This article is interesting because it is very flavorful and able to be ported over to other systems with ease. The article consists of write ups of two herbs, Aconite and Adder’s False Tongue. It goes over details such as description, where to find them, when they flower, and the astrology behind the plant. There are also descriptions of how the parts of the plants can be used. Artwork accompanies each plant. Funny story, in the print copy of the zine, this article is in the middle of the book and has a cool foldout; I thought it was a defect at first where the pages where not properly cut, but it was not.
The Silver Ball
The Silver Ball is an interesting combination of a monster and a plot device. It is near impossible to kill and if you see one, you should just run away fast, even though you probably won’t be able to outrun it. The ball can swallow characters and npcs and eject them at random places. When ejected there is a table of effects that are humorous and provide some extra kernels of roleplaying flavor for the players. As a Judge, you could use this to transport the PC’s to a new place, as a way to introduce a new character to the game, or a way to remove a player that has to be gone for an extended period of time from the adventure. Another plus to this article is that the concept is easily portable to other game systems, the tables alone can be helpful for when you are looking for a funny random happening to a player that will bring a few laughs to the table. These tables provide a little bit of humor without taking the game off the rails.
I haven’t played much Mutant Crawl Classics, other than a few games at conventions, so I don’t have a lot to go on about the origins of this creature. That being said, I think it is an interesting dynamic that can easily be ported into DCC or other games. Personally, I like to think of the table of abilities that can be granted by the telepathic rat could be adapted to other creatures such as familars, replacing some of the abilities with ones that are appropriate for that creature. Some of the abilities are beneficial and some are quite humorous. Once again, the authors show a good balance between humor and gameplay.
Rites and Rituals pt. I
This is a crunchy article that expands upon the spell rules found in the Dungeon Crawl Classics core rulebook. Rituals are complicated spells that require certain costs, there are several ways to perform each ritual depending on which grimoire you have discovered the ritual from. This extra bit of flavor can be used in a multitude of ways. As a judge, do I pick one to give to the players that fits the campaign? Or can I decide to present multiple ways for performing the ritual, each with a different consequence? Each choice has unique misfires which add some interesting flavor to the game. This article is very meaty and is going to be expanded upon in the next issue.
This comic by Joel R. Philips, had me chuckling, the character names of the party are great and there are a good number of jokes in this 9 panel comic. I don’t want to spoil the comic for you, but it is a nice accent to this already stellar zine.
The editor’s note, “What is the Smoking Wyrm,” humbly places the zine in the same category as early roleplaying game zines. It traces the history of the hobby from its beginnings until now and there is a good discussion of standing on the shoulders of giants. This zine does stand on the shoulders of giants, but like the note says, when we stand on the shoulders of giants, do we not see farther? As I review this zine, I can see how every rpg content creator does indeed stand upon the shoulders of giants.
I found this crossword puzzle to be a fun little addition at the back of the book, some of the words are quite challenging. I didn’t work it because I have a nice print edition and didn’t want to mar it.
This has been an amazing zine. I wanted to start my blog off with a great product to review. This zine expands upon so many things that I wanted to see in DCC that were absent. My preferred D&D class has always been a paladin and in DCC I have always been torn between warrior and cleric; with these rules I can give my warrior some cleric abilities making him a paladin. I also am a huge fan of the Cthulhu mythos, so having a good proper writeup of Cthulhu as a patron is awesome. The entire zine is great, each article is well crafted, usually zines have an article or two that isn’t as good as the others, but all the articles in this zine are high quality and worth your time to read and implement in your DCC game. I like that a lot of the content is easily portable to other games. The question is implied at the end of the editor’s note, do the authors see a little further as they stand upon the shoulders of giants? I say, yes, you all see further together and have provided us with an excellent product.
Click this link to buy a copy from DriveThruRPG.
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You can also find limited print copies from Goodman Games here.