Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure

Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure was written by Mike Evans. Art is by David Lewis Johnson, Alex Mayo, Jeremy Duncan, Angie Groves, Doug Kovacs, Jason Sholtis, and Wayne Snyder. The Foreword is by Harley Stroh. The publisher is DIY RPG Productions.

Disclosure: I supported the kickstarter and am listed in the Gallery of Strange Mutations.

Hubris is a world created from the festering corpse of a dead god. Hubris is an eminently usable toolkit for use in almost any Dungeon Crawl Classics milieu. Hubris is 348 pages of awesome....well, most of those pages are awesome. Some are OGL, index, etc. Either way, it can be a setting, or it can be a toolbox for use in creating/fleshing out your own setting.

Let's look inside!

The book starts with an Introduction, Setting Summary, and World Map.

Chapter 1: Character Creation: Here things get interesting. There is a new occupation table with entries for things like "alien abductee" and "pus diviner".

Hubris includes four new classes and five new race-classes. The classes are Alchemist, Blood Witch, Druid, and Shadowdancer. The race-classes are Avarian, Ekrask, Half Demon, Murder Machine, and Mutant. These are all well-designed classes. Although some are tied into the setting of Hubris (in particular, the Murder Machine, all of these classes are easily enough ported to other milieus.

The Alchemist and the Druid are fairly self-explanatory. You can listen to Jen Brinkman wax poetic about the Blood Witch on this episode of Spellburn. The Shadowdancer is similar to reminiscent of Shadowjack in Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny by way of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons' Shadowdancer class. Similarly, the Avarian, Ekrask, Half Demon, and Murder Machine appear to be re-imaginings of the Avian, Dragonborn, Tiefling, and Warforged from 4th Edition. In any event, they are fully enfolded in the Dungeon Crawl Classics ethos and the Hubris aesthetic.

The Mutant is the odd man out for race classes, and appears to be devised specifically for Hubris. Nonetheless, this is a well-crafted, flavorful class that could easily be used in campaign settings such as those of Mutant Crawl Classics, Crawling Under a Broken Moon, or Crawljammer.

I believe that the aarakocra (originally from the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Fiend Folio) was another inspiration for the Avarian.

Finally, this chapter includes some Optional Rules. These are Sacrifice Shield (effectively the "Shields Shall Be Splintered" rule from Crawl! fanzine #2), Weapon Proficiencies, Class Damage, and Quick Start Gear for characters beginning at 1st level.

Chapter 2: Equipment: This chapter describes new equipment for the Hubris setting, including many items that might be useful in other Dungeon Crawl Classics milieus. Again, the influence of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons appears with items such as the two-bladed sword, or an entire section on alchemical items.

Chapter 3: Territories of Hubris: The author writes:
The territories of Hubris are all set up in the same format: quick summary of the area, a d100 chart of the Lay of the Land, a d100 chart of encounters, and then it moves on into a brief description of a few interesting locations (and sometimes other pertinent  information, such as charts and tables unique to this territory). This format has been used to keep the fluff of the setting to a minimum, yet that is evocative, and can keep the book useable at the table.
This is a really great format, which focuses more on game play than setting minutia. The Lay of the Land section are features that can occur while traveling. The PCs may sometimes interact with these, but many are color. These, along with the encounters, could well be used (sometimes with cosmetic changes) in almost any Dungeon Crawl Classics game. For each of the areas, below, I am going to provide an example Lay of the Land and an example encounter, to give the reader a sense of what the book includes. Note that these are d% charts - while some features or encounters occur with a fairly frequently, each area has many options.

In order to avoid picking only the most interesting items, I am going to assume a roll of "50" in all cases.

Blighted Sands:
Lay of the Land: Jagged rocks jut out of the sand for several hundred feet There is a 35% chance the area will have patches of quicksand, 25’ radius (3d10+10 ft deep).
Encounters: A desert troll sitting atop a sand dune eating a giant scorpion.
Bogwood Swamp:
Lay of the Land: Sink pit (2d10+10' deep) full of orange leeches that will latch on and begin to drain a target’s life essence (1 Stamina loss per round until freed).
Encounters: 2d4 crocodiles.
Canyons of the Howling Red Rock:
Lay of the Land: Area is filled with softly glowing orbs that hum when living creatures approach. They are warm to the touch.
Encounters: 2d12 soldiers of Undra are being attacked by: Roll 1d5- 1) beastmen (outnumber troops 2-to-1); 2) 3d5 blood harpies; 3) 4 enraged centaurs; 4) a drake; 5) attacking each other, driven mad.
Frozen Wastes:
Lay of the Land: Small Ingvar village harvesting tubers and catching wild game.
Encounters: 3d4 Icy Flesh Clan goblins riding on the back of a wooly mammoth.
Great Plains of Unbidden Sorrow:
Lay of the Land: Small undefended farming community with 3d6+3 people.
Encounters: 3d4+3 guards from Fairweather. They are: Roll 1d6-1) fighting Eisenbar paladins; 2) camped out along the side of the road; 3) investigating rumors of a haunted keep that has appeared seemingly out of nowhere; 4) harassing a small avarian caravan; 5) dead and been torn apart by a vicious troll; 6) are looking for the characters.
Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire:
Lay of the Land: Large tar pit (30’ deep). Anything that falls in sinks 1d3’ per round. DC 20 Strength check to get out.
Encounters: 1d4 Rabid Ravens wish to bestow the characters with prophecy… if their minds can withstand the assault.
Mountains that Crawl:
Lay of the Land: Heavily defended Fairweather outpost resisting Malfactorum siege.
Encounters: Gnoll slavers traveling between the Great Plains of Unbidden Sorrow and the Bogwood Swamp.
Sea That Runs Red:
Lay of the Land: A small island of pure white sand. 2d4 marooned sailors are on the island after their merchant vessel was lost to the sea.
Encounters: A mutated orca bursts from the water and begins flying through the air.
Unsettled Expanse:
Lay of the Land: Bubbling pit of thick tar. There are several bodies of animals stuck in the pit.
Encounters: The animated heads of humanoid victims hover through the air and gleefully look for a victim to torture to death slowly.
Weeping Forest of Forgotten Memories:
Lay of the Land: A stream that flows gently through the woods; small amounts of gold are deposited in the waterbed. Successful Int checks will yield 2d14 GP worth of gold per hour.
Encounters: Small Wretched fairies cruelly pulling the wings of giant moths, giggling gleefully as they do it.
The reader should be well aware that, while these are glimpses offered into a variety of overarching locations, these locations may also have information that is specific to them (there are good reasons not to watch the auroras in the Frozen Waste), and all have specific locations (complete with Rumors/Adventure Hooks) within them.

Chapter 4: New Spells and Patrons: This chapter contains three new 1st level wizard spells, information on wizard's spellbooks, and four new complete patrons. The spells are Furnishings of the Mad Wizard (turn your enemies into chairs, pillows, candlesticks, or grandfather clocks!), Necrotic Mass (control your victims through the treat of magical tumors!), and Summon From the Void (summon a creature from the Void! It'll quite possibly kill you!).

The new, fully developed, patrons are the Charred Maiden, the Floating Island of Terror, the Spider Goddess, and the Twisted One. None of these are patrons for the timid. Or the sane. But there you have it. They are all well devised and flavorful.

The information on spellbooks actually comes first in the chapter, and is quite interesting. This material could easily be ported to other Dungeon Crawl Classics settings.

Chapter 5: The Strange and Terrible Gods of Hubris: This chapter begins with a clerical ability called Invoke the Name...essentially a form of invoke patron for clerics, which allows spellburn on a deity-specific table for each god.

The gods of Hubris are Bailey (God of Trickery, Deceit, and Profit), the Corpulent One (God of Excess, Want, and Obsession), Digradia (Goddess of Sacrifice, Shadow, and the Poor), Drallic the Flayer of Flesh (God of Pain, Intolerance, Strength, and Righteousness), the God of the Terrible Whisper (God of Knowledge, Secrets, and Madness), the Great Slumbering Monolith (God of Dreams, Prophecy, and Time), the Heathen Below (God of Death, Decay, and Betrayal), Set (Serpentine God of the Klind - God of Poison, Schemes, Forbidden Knowledge, and Deviance), the Stillborn Unwanted Child (God of Healing, Life, and Love, usually spoken of "with a contemptuous sneer"), Vralkar (God of Battle, Strength, Pride, and Survival), Yelsa (Goddess of Sex and Violence), and the Great Behemoth, Zxyldon (God of the Sea, Water, and Destruction).

There is a lot of meat here, and a lot of great ideas to steal for your game, even if you are not running it in Hubris!

Chapter 6: GM Tools and Tables: "This chapter contains a large collection of tables and
charts that can be used prior to or during the game to generate many things, like: creepy ruins, ancient and forgotten demigods, taverns and inns, villages, NPCs, city districts, and much more." You get:

  • Ancient and Forgotten Demigods
  • Bandits, Brigands, and Rapscallions
  • City District Generator
  • Diseases of Hubris
  • Grave Diggin'
  • NPC Generator
  • Planes of Hubris
  • So You Decided to Make Camp
  • Strange and Interesting Herbs of Hubris
  • Tavern and Inn Generator
  • A Vial of…?
  • Instatown/Village Generator
  • What are These Strange and Ominous Ruins?
  • Declaration of Years

Again, much of this is usable, either directly or as inspiration, in any Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign.

Chapter 7: Magic Items: This chapter includes a Strange, Mystical, and Fantastic Items Generator from which one might devise the Bottled Pitchfork of the Lecherous Fairy, the Squalid Mosaic of the Lamentable Prophet, and other items. It uses four columns of 100 descriptors each, allowing far more than a campaign's worth of strangely titled items to be created.

Ten specific "lesser" items are described, one of which is actually six items, and then a dozen Artifacts of the Deities. Finally, the chapter ends with Oddy Bodden’s Stupendously Amazing Magical Dice of Treasures Unimagined and Horrors Rather Left Undiscovered!

Chapter 8: Monsters: This chapter includes Contamination From Demonic Possession and a table to help determine What’s on Their Festering Dead Body before jumping into the bestiary proper. There are well over two score new monsters, including four types of dinosaur, a discussion of fae, and fallen angels (with two named examples).

For some reason, the really simple statblock format from the DCC core rulebook was not used. Given how easy this makes it to cut & paste statistics into your own home-brewed adventures, this is a real shame. This is not a unique flaw to Hubris, however, and it is the only one I have found, if you disregard terminology quirks like the dice chain being referred to as the dice ladder. And I do.

Adventures: Hubris includes two adventures:

  • It Came From Outer Space: This is a 0-level funnel that is designed "to highlight the strangeness of Hubris and that ANYTHING goes in this bizarre setting." 
  • In Her Realm: "An old hag who worshipped the Spider Goddess nearly all her life has grown thirsty for power and figured out a way to encroach into an area of the Spider Goddess's realm. The old hag must be killed for the pocket to be absorbed back into the realm of the Spider Goddess." This is a 1st level adventure.

Appendix N: Finally, the tome concludes with the "Yummy, Tasty Inspiration" that it was built off of. There is then an Index, and the OGL.

This listing took a long time to write because there is a lot to write about. The book is dense with usable tools, and playable material. Most of the sections justify the cost of the book by themselves. Taken in combination, this is an incredible value for the cost.
Hubris is a land of terrible creatures, grand inequality, strange and cruel gods, dangerous magic, opulent nobility, destitute commoners, people that have become corrupted and turned to savage beasts, constant wars, and worse.
The kingdoms are not kind or benevolent: In the Blighted Sands the Klind are slavers and openly practice sorcery, offering sacrifices to their depraved serpentine god, Set. Across the continent the Fairweather kingdom is governed by a corrupt and inbred royal family with the nobility following suit. Esenbar is ruled by a staunch xenophobic theocracy that tolerates little outside of their strict doctrine. The barbaric Ingvar of the Frozen Wastes wage vicious battles against the savage frost giants of The Crag, and care little about the goings on of the world; their life is cut from battle with an axe or sword. The Black Queen rules the citizens of the Floating Island of Terror from her throne of bones and dreams terrible machinations for Hubris. Shadowfall, built in the remains of the burrow of a gigantic worm, is ran by vampires and their thralls, and they welcome all who are devious, vicious and cunning.
There are no easily recognizable heroes in the world. You wander the wilderness or delve into ancient ruins: out of desperation, some crazed need for adventure, or for some bizarre belief that the world can actually be made a better place. Though civilization offers you security and comfort, you shirk those in the hopes of gaining riches and power. But when you die, no one will sing songs of your deeds. You will die a horribly bloody death at the hands of some twisted abomination or by the knife of an assassin sent by some fat, scheming noble.
Your epic tale will be forgotten in days as the dangerous world continues on without you and the apathetic masses stay complacent to dogmatic control of their government.
This is not a fairy tale or an epic ballad. This is a savage world. This is Hubris.
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