Monday, April 6, 2015

Dead and Loving It - My Evening as a DCC Player



Last night I had the opportunity to play Dungeon Crawl Classics with Judge and DCC Icon: Doug Kovacs.  If you are at all in tune with the DCC community, you know that Doug is an incredibly talented artist/graphical mastermind who creates much of the artwork and cartography that makes the DCCRPG so special.  See that awesome cover above?  Yeah, that's his!  So last week when my friend Scott forwarded me Doug’s Google+ call-out looking for players to delve into Sailors on the Starless Sea, I jumped at the opportunity!  

While I’ve had the chance to judge DCCRPG on four other occasions, this would be my first time on the other side of the table as a player.  This would also be my first time on the receiving end of the legendary “0-Level Funnel.”  In a DCC funnel, players receive multiple 0-level characters, often generated through dice rolling and table upon table of random goodness.  All character attributes are 3d6, in order, no re-rolls, and a 0-level PC only receives 1d4 hit points.

If a player would rather keep things electronic, they may also use Purple Sorcerer Games’ 0-Level Character Generator… which is what I did! 

I ended up with a pretty amazing party!


Sendrasta, Khan Tigranus, Garland, Chuckles


Of course the expectation with a funnel is that with three or more other players also bringing a handful of 0-level characters, character death would be frequent and bloody.

Needless to say, Judge Doug Kovacs did not disappoint!  

At 8pm last night I joined Scott, Craig, and Todd as Judge Doug threw our characters into the fray.  Our party of adventurers from the town of Questreal arrived in a valley where an abandoned keep lay in ruin.  While I’m not going to give out any spoilers, I did want to share how each and every one of my characters died during the game… 


  • Garland was the first to go, taking a spear to the neck in the first fifteen minutes of gameplay.  This was a shame, as the little Halfling was probably my favorite of the bunch at character creation.  I even had some backstory for this little guy, stealing the name from the first boss in Final Fantasy 1.  Garland had planned to become a great and powerful villain at some point further in his career.  I guess that lizard man was doing the world a favor.


  • Chuckles was the second to die, getting splashed in the face with hot tar inside a boarded up temple.  Too bad he didn't take heed of the sign on the outside that said “Repent.”  On the bright side, he had a very memorable scene earlier where he attacked a lizard man with a jar of mustard!


  • Khan Tigranus died trying to save Sendrasta from Todd’s armorer, who had been charmed by an ancient artifact.  The armorer was trying to toss the elf sage into the Starless Sea and Khan came to the rescue… only to get dragged into the black waters by a tentacle.  The shame of Khan's death is that despite his terrible statistics, he had some big victories during the evening.  He killed a vine horror early in the night, and also drove back one of the tentacles when Sendrasta first explored the Starless Sea.  Oh well.
  • Finally Sendrasta bought the farm fighting beastmen in the epic finale.  With her 6 intelligence she spent most of the evening giving useless yet sagely advice to a disinterested party.  


Our group was lucky in that three of the characters survived the adventure, and made it out alive and on to greater glory. I can’t speak for Scott and Todd, but I bet they will always remember those that lived to tell the tale.  I’ve watched other players in a DCC funnel experience the bonding that goes on with some of these weak and flawed 0-level characters.  As a judge I could appreciate the connection, but I didn’t quite understand it until last night.  

There I was, at the end of the adventure, in a one-shot, and I really, really wanted Sendrasta to survive and make a name for herself.  

In most other D20 based systems Sendrasta would’ve been considered a terrible character.  Save for her 14 Luck score, her second highest stat was an 11 Stamina (identical to Constitution), and it was all downhill from there.  But as a 1st Level “Elf” (DCC uses Race as Class), she would’ve had an incredible backstory, a developed personality, and a group of fellow adventurers who had been through the same hellish first quest.   I wanted to see her acquire a powerful patron, and spellburn herself to oblivion.  But instead she died from a simple claw swipe.  

As a hatchling DCC judge I learned quite a bit about running a successful game from Doug last night, and I hope to both play and judge the game more in the future.  I challenge any of my readers who have never tried Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG to give this game a try

 especially those who feel warm, snuggly, and comfortable in your more modern fantasy systems ...

 I’m looking at you, Pathfinder, D&D 5E, and 13th Age players!

Even if you end up preferring your home fantasy systems, and I’m sure some of you will, there are a lot of great fantasy RPG lessons to be learned at a DCC table. 

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Interested in learning more about Dungeon Crawl Classics but not sure where to look?  Have you played before, and are you willing to tell your tales of adventure and woe?  Let us know!