DCC #100 and the Art of the Reference

Design Diary: The Art of the Reference

By Harley Stroh

The power of RPG art can’t be overstated. A writer can, at their very best, only tell you a story (and most of us fail at that). But a powerful painting invites the viewer to tell the story. A sixth grader huddled up in afterschool detention, drawing a dungeon or character inspired by their favorite painting, is a degree of art-viewer engagement we should all strive for.

It’s easy to see how many of my own adventure modules are seeded in visuals that I wanted to bring to the table. The strange workshops and otherworldly Alembic of the Theophages afforded me the opportunity to work with images that I had loved since I was a child. It was the chance to fulfill old promises.

The efreet on the cover of the AD&D DMG? Of course the PCs should have the chance to wrestle with the fiend, in a desperate bid to close the elemental channel of fire. The severed heads of chaos priests, chanting into the darkness beyond the stars? Absolutely necessary. And if any DCC RPG adventure was going to have a four-headed dragon bent on destruction of all creation, it had to be DCC 100.

Some visuals have been simmering for decades. Ages ago, eighth grade Harley spent an entire month of art class trying (and failing!) to paint a study of the Intellivision D&D comic ad:

It wasn’t until this update that I had cause to think back to the image: the lone archer, atop a paper-thin catwalk; a titanic dragon-thing erupting from the blazing depths. Here was danger, adventure, and defiant courage in the face of certain doom.

It also sure looks a heck of a lot like the final encounter in Music of the Spheres …

Unable to paint the image decades ago, I unconsciously wrote it into DCC 100. The mind is a funny thing.

. . . . .

A collection of references does not an adventure make. I’d be a sorry writer if I asked you to pay for a patchwork quilt of old comic art. (Editor: Challenge accepted!) But by working the pieces together they are transformed in turn; a new whole emerges that is great than the parts.

The Music of the Spheres is, unabashedly, our most epic offering to date, the culmination of the talents of multiple artists and designers. Much like the fell Theophages, we drew from a dozen different elemental sources, mixed them in the crucible and distilled them down to a single grand adventure.

But whereas the Theophages sought after raw chaos to quicken their creation, what DCC 100 needs is you. The imagination and magic that can only be found at the gaming table is the final ingredient necessary to bring Music of the Spheres to life.

Dungeon Crawl Classics #100: The Music of the Spheres is Chaos

The boxed set is bursting with the puzzles, foes, and magic only found in a DCC RPG adventure.

Inside you will find the God Eaters’ grand alchymical experiment, with its spinning alembic and rotating elemental spheres. This takes the form of a large game board, approximately 17″ x 22″, with four separate spinning maps that attach to the board.

An adventure booklet of 112 pages provides hitherto unknown monsters, perils, and traps. These lurk in the forgotten corridors, certain to bring a quick end to overconfident explorers.

Players will have the opportunity to study and manipulate the fabled Alembic Key, a relic rife with Theophagic sigils and zodiac signs. But beware, foolhardy reavers! Rotating the key spins the dungeon, transforming the PCs and altering reality itself! Left in the hands of a fidgety player, it could easily spell the end of the multiverse. This physical prop is composed of two spinning dials and is used by players during the adventure.

And as befitting DCC #100, the adventure is replete with player handouts in the form of a 28-page booklet containing over 40 illustrations of the Alembic, its elemental spheres, and the terrors lurking within the dark halls, as well as the infamous Sheaves of Chaos. 

Finally, any adventure is only as good as the judge running it. Music of the Spheres is Chaos was designed with the judge in mind. The boxed set includes the Bookmark of 4 Parts – a tool for referencing the PCs’ own changes.

This Boxed Set includes:

  • Adventure Booklet (112 pages)
  • Player Handout Booklet (28 pages and more than 40 illustrations)
  • Large 17″ x 22″ Gameboard and four separate Spinning Maps  
  • Double-sided bookmark of 4 Parts (to track changes imposed by the Spinning Map)
  • Alembic Key prop (used by players to spin the dungeon!)
  • 3 Sheaves of Chaos handouts

With its many unique components, Music of the Spheres is Chaos captures all the magic and wonder that you’ve come to expect from a DCC RPG adventure. But fans familiar with Harley Stroh’s work in Legacy of the Savage KingsSailors on the Starless Sea, and his many other adventures will know that our adventures are always far more than the sum of their parts.

You won’t mistake this dungeon for any other adventure, anywhere, ever.

Author: billward

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