Angels, Daemons & Beings Between: Extended Otherworldy Edition (DCC) (Patreon Request)
This massive book clocks in at 177 pages of content, already disregarding editorial, introduction, etc. – that’s the pure, game-related material contained herein. It should be noted that the introduction, which I did not include in this tally, might be actually worth reading for some judges, as it reiterates that patrons need not only be for spellcasters, and provides some interesting ideas. These were not new to me, but they are very much worth bearing in mind.
This review was requested by my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.
The review is based on the Dagon hardcover edition of this book, which brings me to an important aspect: In many ways, this book is a labor of love of the authors and the DCC-community. I was not part of the crowdfunding for the book, nor am I privy to any details, but the production was deeply troubled, and Shinobi 27 Games stepped in to make it properly available. The IP-related complexities stemming from this unique story are also why, at least regarding what I could dig up, there is no pdf for this book: You can purchase it in two softcover versions with different covers, or the hardcover this review is based upon. Anyhow: To all involved: Kudos for saving this project.
Patrons are awesome, and one of my favorite mechanical aspects of DCC. Heck, even when I’m not playing DCC, whether it’s in PFRPG or 5e, unless I am running something for the purpose of playtesting/reviewing, I use a modified version of DCCs patron-engine to make my game’s magic granted by otherworldly forces more volatile.
So yeah, conceptually, this book is something that not only the DCC-game, but also other games can at least draw some inspiration from – though, as always, conversion from DCC can be a bit tough on less experienced judges. That being said, if you’re reading this, chances are that you’re a diehard DCC-judge and thus don’t care about the hackability of the system, so let us take a look at the types of entities this book introduces us to, shall we?
This massive tome is the rarest of things: A crunch-centric DCC book. DCC’s draw, to many, after all is that Goodman Games committed to keeping rules-bloat to an absolute minimum, leaning on the community to provide rules for more niche uses of DCC, which they did with abandon, glee, and often, panache. One thing that became evident quickly, though, is that few concepts in DCC demand as much additional support as the patron-system. Indeed, it is an unfortunate and somewhat annoying tendency that many published adventures introduce patrons, but don’t deliver the whole array of information. This is not the case here: The full-blown patrons herein come with Invoke Patron, Spellburn, Patron Taint and custom spells (usually one for levels 1st to 3rd) – they are fully realized, and vastly expand your arsenal of entities. Considering the sheer amount of material, I will not go into the nit and grit of every patron, instead focusing on giving you an overview. Balance-wise, the patrons are interesting, in that slightly more powerful spells are balanced well with spellburn/patron taint, with flexibility properly valued as an important factor.
The first patron featured is one of two ocean/sea-themed ones, namely Dagon – and he does pretty much what you’d expect him to: The patron taint can make you more fish or toad-like, among other things, and the spells allow you to properly call forth the children of the deep, transform into creatures of the sea, or wrack the targets with the powers of the sea and its denizens. If you’d prefer a less Mythos-related sea-themed patron, Umwansch fits that niche, being more in line with Neptune or water elemental kings of the sea.
My favorite water-themed patron here, though, would be the four maidens of Tylin, a quartet of local water goddesses of the Holikoke valley, and if you want to use their power beyond this region, you’ll need to engage in a ritual and secure rocks from their shrines: Being 4, they do grant an additional second-level spell for that limitation, and their spells, ranging from dumb lust to despairing cloud, monstrous rage and touch of innocence represent rather well different moods often associated with lakes. These maidens genuinely feel like that occult, folksy deity that the strange villagers might worship. Plus, the stone angle begs to be used as an adventure hook.
We also have some quasi-divinities in this book: For example, there would be serpent-skinned and jackal-headed Set-Utekh, whose spells allow you to consume spells with spell eating (Literally!), generate canopic jar-based force fields or invoke The Imprisoning Spell of Osiris, which is very powerful, but has this teensy-tinsy caveat that, you know, it can kinda free Set-Utekh’s creatures…and they are not under your control. Not hostile either, but yeah… Ptah-Ungurath, the Black Goat, the Father and Mother of Monsters, is the herald of chaos, and the opener of the way: As such, his spells, like Rend the Veil, grants absolute vision – but also makes the caster subject to the tender ministrations of creatures only they can see and affect. Wanted to share ole’ Al-Hazred’s fate? There you go! And yes, the other spells of this fellow are just as volatile and friendly. I mean, you can end up calling strange columns of flesh, or jersey-devil-like demons.
While we’re on the subject of the more sinister patrons: If you thought that this sounds cool, but would prefer a more straightforward form of self-destructive channeling of unearthly power, fret not: There is Entorpus, a deity of entropy and chaos, who comes with a chaos-themed debuff (disorder), the ability to call forth a living chaos-beast armor (which can, at 34+, detach and act independently!), and, obviously, the rather lethal heat death. This entity is directly opposed by Trisdeus, the Tri-God – who may btw. be worshiped by clerics, with all rules provided. This fellow, with his three faces and focus on order, is one of the more clever concepts herein: The theme of “3” allows for pretty easy scavenging of Christian mythology, courtesy of the overlap with the whole trinity-theme, and all without being a simple cardboard copy. Clever. And no, I am not pulling that analogue out of my behind – the spells of this fellow are aura of guilt, confession, penance.
While we’re on the subject of patrons based on real-world mythology, you might have noticed that there is a second version with a different cover – the patron depicted there is Hecate, the Goddess of Witches, who btw. greatly prefers female servants. Her spells sport a powerful charm, namely Hecate’s Seduction, the dangerous Death Curse, and easily one of the strongest spells in the book – Drink the Moon nets you essentially a buffer of Personality modifier + an escalating amount of Spellburn. As a mistress of witches, this magic-mastery theme makes sense – and the moon energy granted may not always be wise, as it results in being rather, well, creepy/age-fluctuations/etc..
The second lady from real-world mythology would be another famous one – none other than the Queen of Air and Darkness, Mistress of Freezing Shadows: The book presents Mab, Dark Queen of Fairie as a new patron – and I like her more than Hecate: The dark fey angle is evident in the invoke patron effects, and even her Dark Curse of Mab is surprisingly distinct: Each non-failure entry comes with a line from the Bard’s work – “Her Whip of Cricket’s bone”, for example. It’s a small touch, but I loved it. It also fits well with the other spells, which are appropriately dream-themed.
Of course, not everything is alluring ladies herein: If you’re more of an aficionado of cold and calculating creatures that likely see you as food, we have two candidates: Hhaaashh-Lusss, the lord duke of reptiles (who comes with saurian summoning, turning into serpents, and a spell to enter suspended animation), and Hizzzgrad, the daemonic lord of crawling things: This charming insectoid monstrosity allows you to consort with vermin, but it also lets you use creepy-crawlies to animate the dead (can I hear Kyuss-zombie?), which can infect others and even detonate at higher HD. Did I mention the mocking animation as essential salts, essentially returning the dead to a facsimile of life. Unique here: Only the highest result actually is a success (after all, death is pretty sacred in DCC) – like it. Like the unnatural angle, and the subdued exorcist-vibe.
Which can be well-contrasted with Lavarial, Angel of the Temple –a patron for those goody-two-shoes or fanatics, depending on how you look at essentially a crusader/borderland-guardian, whose spells allow for buffs, healing and smiting – but only the non-chaotic will benefit from her blessings…and those swearing allegiance to chaos? They will face her wrath. Yan Oshoth is another guardian, but one of a more limited manner – this patron is a revered ancestor, who only cares about their family, their bloodline – and as such may well require demeaning tasks. On the other hand, making blood bonds, being guided by ancestral voices or drawing upon the strength of the family may be worth shoveling pig-feces for your country-bumpkin nephew, even if you’re an archmage. Or not.
Speaking of “or not”: Apart from Dagon, who was too obvious for me, there is one patron I personally did not like: King Halgaz Bekur is an un-dead ice-king from the… *snore* Sorry. The spells, crushing fear and the wraith king’s army do what you’d expect, though the latter does come with 5 unique creatures, which is nice. The one thing I enjoyed about this fellow was the Veil of Unlife spell, which becomes progressively more flexible, with transformation of targets to self-buff and healing or un-dead blocking included, among other things. More interesting, at least to me, would be another trope I’ve seen before: Enzazza, the Queen of the Hive, is a patron who prefers females, and is essentially the Wasp-queen. Unlike Pathfinder’s Calistria, she is not about vengeance – instead, she is cold, calculating, and utterly inhuman. Her spells include swarm-forms, conjuring insects, but also healing, golden honey – as seductive as this monster garbed in pleasant attire.
There is also one patron to lord over all others – a patron that requires that the character had multiple prior patrons, and low-level characters are penalized badly…this would be Pesh Joomang, the Gate and the Keeper. …yep, there is a massive patron herein that is essentially a homage to Joseph Goodman, including his henchmen: Harstrow the Harrower and Kur’tis the Colossus. Yep, the weaponry of these avatars of Mr. Stroh and Curtis have fitting abilities, though Kur’tis is missing his Act entry in the stats. This super-patron has 5 highly volatile spells, can have random spellburn from other patrons, and is essentially a huge bow before DCC, including spell that lets you call forth artwork from the DCC core-book’s first 58 pages, conjure walls of words taken from the core tenets of the DCC-aesthetic, etc.. It’s a cute patron, I guess, but it’s a bit too self-referentially meta for my tastes.
Indeed, it is time to come to my favorite patrons in this book, which, in no particular order, begin with Logos, the Perfect Form – a metallic thing of perfect, Platonic solids, creates surreal scions, machines – and the patron guides an invasion. Ultimately, Logos loathes organic life, and seeks to annihilate it for its imperfections, though that need not be readily apparent, a fact also mirrored by the patron spells, which begin with directional magnetism and energy play, and then proceed to the potentially planet-destroying solar vampirism, which powers magic by stealing the sun’s life…That is amazing. Pure awesome.
Then, there would be the most unlikely anthropomorphic animal/fey patrons I could imagine: On one hand, we have Mulferret, the bloodthirsty Queen of Weasels, who has a battle-spell called Weaselball. Weaselball. I cast Weaselball. I killed my enemies by casting Weaselball. Come on. You know you want to do that! If you ever saw a weasel tear into prey, you might even wince for a second. Awesome, favorite battle-spell in the book. The second fellow would be Radu, prince of Rabbits. This patron is remarkable, in that he manages to evoke the whole rabbit-theme (Alertness,, luck, transportation via extradimensional warren) very well without being cute. And then there would be easily the coolest concept for a patron in the entire book: The Arm of Vendel Re’Yune. No, this is not a typo. This is no mistake. If you can find the arm of the immortal sorcerer who dared to challenge the gods, and now exists in a state of perpetual death agony, you can tap into its dimension-bending, pain-powered abilities. This is so perfectly old-school: The ancient sorcerer’s mummified arm, jutting from a wall, granting power for those that dare – but at a terrible price. Love it. The spells, a debuff touch, stealing the target’s breath, or pushing targets into solid objects? They mirror the predicament of the entity perfectly. There also would be Mulmo. Mulmo is very cool, for very unique reasons – but this patron has their own adventure, so I’m discussing him in my forthcoming review of that adventure.
The book has more to offer than these patrons: First of all, it introduces an easy way to classify patrons in 4 tiers: The core patrons and the ones herein would be major patrons, while less potent entities may have a more limited reach or spell arsenal. It’s a simple one-glance operation to determine a patron’s power-level, and widening a patron’s influence is a great angle to Quest for It. Fans of Purple Duck Games might be already familiar with the concept of what follows, but not the specific examples: The pdf closes with 3 new demi-patrons, which come with invoke patron, spellburn and patron taint entries limited by their power-level…but all are interesting enough to integrate: We have, for example, A’KAS, a telepathic AI that currently is being mistaken for a god, while acting as a steward for a containment vessel. There is Tareus, a somewhat puerile godling from a young star…and there would be Myrddin. Myrddin is awesome. This entity is essentially a totem of squalor and filth, worshiped outside Ugama by the ostracized and exiled caste of the Zombi. The brief write-up brought the whole situation so perfectly to my mind, I want to know more!
Editing is the weakest aspect of this book: While certainly not bad, particularly considering the genesis of this tome, the book does sport a whole array of typo-level glitches, of “and”s missing, minor homophone errors, and to my chagrin, these do, in a few instances, influence rules-integrity, with e.g. a “+” missing and the like. As a whole, I’d consider this to be still good, but only by a margin. Formatting is better – while there are a few instances of minor snafus, these are relatively few and far in-between. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard (or one-column for the massive tables of spellburn, the spells, etc.), and the book sports quite a bunch of b/w-artworks, which range from nice to “okay.” The hardcover is solid PoD, as you by now expect. I can’t comment on the 11-patron snippet-pdf, since I do not own it, nor can I comment on the merits or lack thereof of the softcover versions. The hardcover has the name properly on the spine, which is a plus for me – I really dislike it when a hardcover (or any book of sufficient size) doesn’t have the name on the spine.
Daniel J. Bishop, Paul Wolfe and David Fisher deliver what is 100% a labor of love, and always reads like it. In spite of being a crunch-book, this tome surprisingly never became dull to read, and in fact, I maintain that many designers could draw some serious inspiration from the patrons herein. Now, the troubled history of the book can be felt in the glitches that are herein, yes, but frankly, I expected to encounter much more, considering the crunch-density. The team that saved this project really deserves my accolades, for ultimately, in spite of its imperfections, this tome represents not only an inspiring book; its concepts have managed to worm their way into more than just my DCC-game, and it actually inspired me.
If you’re playing DCC and don’t mind a typo here and there, then you have to consider this to be nothing short of required: This, alongside Purple Duck Games’ PHENOMENAL Steel and Fury, is one book I’d definitely consider to be an essential for DCC-games. As such, my final verdict will account for the glitches, by clocking in at 4.5 stars…and while I genuinely should round down, I just can’t bring myself to doing so. The book may have a few duds, but almost every patron had something I considered mechanically and flavor-wise interesting and inspiring. Thus, this book gets my seal of approval, and is designated hereby as an EZG-Essential for any DCC-game. You owe it to yourself to expand your patron-cadre!
You can get this amazing collection of patrons here on OBS!
The softcover version can be found here!
An alternate cover version can be found here!
Finally, if you somehow own the original iteration, you can get just the extra bits added to this version in pdf here!
Purple Duck Games’ amazing Steel and Fury can btw. be found here!
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