Father of the Year
Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG lets you and your family create some very special bedtime stories!
You may remember, several weeks back, when our family gathered around a table for a Disney Character “Draft” as part of our Disney Crawl Classics adventure. Twenty different Disney Characters in all, each with randomly generated stats, quivered in fear (despite being figments of our collective imagination) as they prepared to embark on +Harley Stroh's epic Sailors on the Starless Sea.
Or as we like to call it: “When You Wish Upon a Starless Sea.”
In a little over two hours of gameplay we made it through the first part of the adventure, wrapping up just after discovering the stairwell heading down towards the sea itself. Six characters were dead: Quasimodo, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Doc the Dwarf, Aladdin, Professor Doofenshmirtz, and Alice (from Wonderland). Despite all the craziness in our session, all three children were interested in finishing the adventure.
It has been a busy month, so we weren’t able to play DCCRPG again until last night. As a family we were all fairly exhausted from Saturday’s day-long yard sale and Sunday’s back-to-school shopping. We didn’t even have dinner until 8:30pm, and finally sat down to game just after 9pm.
Way to go Walls Family, in getting those kids back on a school bedtime schedule!
I promised +Jennifer Walls that we only had another hour or so left in the adventure, especially knowing the way my family blasts through quests, so she let the game go forward. Perhaps it was the time of night, or maybe just the general mood of the kids, but last night’s game felt decidedly darker than our first session.
I am fairly certain that Evie would agree with me…
When You Wish Upon a Starless Sea, Part Two
Following the epic battle with the beastmen and their champion, our ragtag party of commoners was more than eager to completely eradicate all evil from the keep. A stairwell to the north awaited the group, the sounds of distant drums echoing through the stony corridor. Bufort took point, spear in hand, and carefully descended into the underworld below. After several dozen feet the brutish bully came across a few stray gold coins. Pocketing the money, Bufort poked about, revealing a secret doorway. On the other side of the portal a ransacked room contained three overturned chests and some spare coins.
“It’s a trap!” cried Snow White, who convinced the party to leave the room alone. Bufort shrugged and continued leading the descent.
[When I say “Snow White” I mean my wife Jennifer, as Snow was one of her characters.]
A few dozen more feet down the long stairwell and the party came across a long room with a murky pool of water in the center. A pair of ornate murals depicting scenes of battle and sacrifice decorated the eastern and western walls, and on the northern end of the chamber an ancient doorway led to another stairwell going down.
“Hmm, that doesn’t look good,” exclaimed Snow White.
Glancing in the pool, Snow couldn’t see a bottom, so she slapped the back of her pig forcing it into the water. The poor creature splashed about until finding its way to the edge of the pool. Although it didn’t seem to be injured, the pig’s thrashing caused a single skull with two glowing eye sockets to bob to the surface of the water.
Grabbing a stick Mickey pocked the skull and fished it out. To determine whether or not weird artifact was cursed, Mickey poked the pig in the face with the skull repeatedly. When the pig seemed to have a negative reaction to getting smacked with a wet skull, Mickey’s face went grim.
“It must be cursed,” the mouse murmured. Due to his chaotic alignment, and the fact that he was already wearing the Chaos Medallion taken from the beastman champion earlier, Mickey mounted the skull on a stick and proceeded to carry it forth towards the staircase. The mouse didn’t seem at all unnerved that the skull’s glow intensified the closer the party traveled into the underworld.
[As you will find out very soon, there came a point when Jen decided Mickey was some kind of dark and unholy sorcerer mouse. This may have been that point, but I really didn’t see it coming. Cooper will have a hand in “sealing” Mickey’s damned fate.]
After several more minutes descending the staircase the party finally came to the bottom of the tunnel. The stairs led to a small beach, overlooking a massive subterranean cavern. Thousands of feet across, and nearly two-hundred feet high, the cavern’s defining feature was a small, black, underground sea. On the far side of the enormous chamber the party could make out a dimly illuminated ziggurat with a brighter glow at its peak. The sound of the drums was far more intense on the beach, and the troupe could almost make out shrieks and wails accompanying the thumping percussion.
About fifty feet offshore a single longboat floated in the water. The vessel’s bow was carved into a dragon, and several oars could be seen on the deck. Pinocchio noticed that an alter rested at the edge of the beach, just before the waves, and that an unlit candle sat upon the alter. Grabbing one of the party’s lit torches Pinocchio lit the candle. Immediately the boat started to rock and move, eventually beaching itself right in front of the party. Pinocchio hopped aboard, as did Mickey, Flynn Rider, Snow White, and Merida.
But not everyone was excited for an underground boat ride. Jasmine, Rapunzel, Phineas, Ferb, and Bufort were all boycotting the trip. It took several minutes of discussion before the five could be convinced that the party needed to stick together. After all the effort to get to this terrible place there was no going back.
[Perhaps I should’ve given Evie and Cooper more credit. After describing the boat and the water, my two youngest children (ages 9 and 5) both exclaimed that they weren’t going any further. I took several votes to see who was going, because at first each of the kids were going to let at least one of their characters get on the boat. Even when I ran this adventure for “grown ups” earlier this year we had some dissent in the ranks, and several characters stayed back and survived because of their caution. Eventually everyone agreed to go along for the ride.]
The cavern was incredibly dark, and the party’s torches did a poor job illuminating the murky surface of the water, so no one noticed the tentacles following the longboat until it was almost too late. With a splash one of the black tendrils roared out of the waves, lashing onto the boat’s bow. Hoping that the creature attached was just hungry, Pinocchio grabbed some of his chicken meat and tossed it into the water. When this didn’t satisfy the beast’s belly, Snow White took one look at the party’s pig and then kicked the beast into the waves. But for the lawful animal trainer, performing this kind of sacrifice to an ungodly creature of chaos would cause terrible repercussions later.
[I considered this a sacrifice to chaos by a lawful character, so I stripped 1d4 points of Luck away from Jen’s character. The gods were firm but fair this time, but should Snow White perform another ritual of chaos there would be more serious consequences. Mwa ha ha ha ha!]
As the longboat approached the ziggurat the sound of the drums grew louder and louder. The party could make out beastmen leading poor human villagers up a great ramp towards a fiery inferno blazing at the top of the pyramid-like structure. There was only one way onto the ziggurat, a simple sandbank near an escalating ramp.
Mickey believed that his own dedication to chaos, along with all of his “chaos bling”, would most certainly gain the beastmen’s favor. Jumping off of the ship Mickey landed right in front of several goat-headed creatures.
“Behold, I am one of you!” the mouse shouted, pointing to his Chaos Medallion and gripping the brightly glowing skull-stick.
Three of the beastmen did not seem impressed, and while the rest of the creatures were greatly confused, this trio hefted their spears and lobbed them at the wizard’s apprentice. Mickey dodged two of the javelins but took one to the neck. The mouse fell face forward as he bled out on the sandy ziggurat’s ramp.
As the rest of the party looked on with terror, Phineas and Ferb reached into their sack of morbid goodies and pulled out… some extra skin.
[Again, this is a Cooper Intrusion! My 5 year old son said that he had a lot of extra skin in a bag that could be used to “fix” Mickey. I decided to use the idea.]
Snow White grabbed the skin and jumped off the boat, draping it over Mickey’s body. Snow White then asked the forces of chaos to help this poor, dying mouse.
[Do you remember that part about Snow White dealing with gods of chaos?]
An eerie green smoke started to pour out of the skull’s mouth as the spare skin wrapped Mickey’s lifeless body in a cold, wet embrace. Slowly Mickey began to rise, his eyes glowing red, while Snow White screamed in agony. Piece by piece, the animal trainer turned to ash, her entire form eventually blowing into the air.
Mickey looked out and shouted, "ha ha!"
The age of Dark Mickey was at hand!
[For some reason, at this point Carrie decided that Merida fell in love with Mickey.]
[What a wickedly delightful bedtime story!]
Apparently Dark Mickey rise gave the beastmen a bit of a pause, as they all stepped aside and allowed the wizard’s apprentice to ascend the ramp. Quickly the rest of the party gathered behind their new “leader”, save for Jasmine and Flynn Rider. Unfortunately for that pair, this was a poor choice. The beastmen may have had some respect for Dark Mickey, but they had no problem slaying the noble princess and outlaw compatriot.
[I warned Evie and Jen about splitting the party. Evie was especially upset about this as Jasmine was her “preferred character” of the two she had left. She didn’t want to hand over Jasmine’s character sheet, and told me that she didn’t want me to turn the sheet into a tombstone, as I do with the rest of the dead characters. I told her I wouldn’t turn it into a tombstone. So when she handed over Jasmine I just tore the sheet to pieces. I should get the father of the year award!]
At the top of the ziggurat the remaining members of the party assembled around a beastman shaman and three of his guards. Dark Mickey, Phineas, Ferb, Bufort, Rapunzel, Merida, and Pinnochio were all that was left of the original team tasked by Charlemagne to deal with this terrible threat. The shaman hoisted high over his head an effigy of a chaos lord, and then cast it into a massive flaming pit at the center of the pyramid. Almost immediately the flaming chaos lord effigy rose to life, and started to crawl out of the pit. The three beastmen were all struck with fear after gazing upon Dark Mickey’s glowing eyes, and Rapunzel quickly struck down the shaman in one mighty blow.
But the Chaos Lord simply let out a terrible laugh and moved forward with a great spiked flail.
That’s when Dark Mickey sprung to life! The small, fiendish mouse-lord charged the Chaos Lord pushing it into the flames. But before Dark Mickey fell to his death, his new admirer Merida reached out and grabbed the mouse’s hand. She too was about to tumble into the fiery pit but then Phineas took hold of Merida, pulling everyone to safety.
[It was the end of the adventure and I wanted to end everything on an upswing, so I was really trying to let the kids win. Unfortunately the rolls were terrible. Dark Mickey failed his reflex save to not fall into the fire, and then Merida failed her own reflex save. I let Phineas make a final attempt… but he too failed. That’s when I told Cooper he could burn some luck, which he did, and so “happily ever after…”]
Once the Chaos Lord sank to the bottom of the pit the entire structure, and surrounding cave, began to collapse. The party ran to the bottom of the ziggurat, Phienas and Ferb scooping up what little treasure they could, and made it to the longboat just in time. As the ceiling and fortress above plummeted into the waters, a great wave washed the longboat through a small crack in the wall, a portal to somewhere… else.
There were several moments while running this adventure when I wondered how much my kids were enjoying Dungeon Crawl Classics, although at the end of both sessions all three expressed an interest in playing again… perhaps after another campaign. I was somewhat relieved, especially after Evie’s difficulty with losing Jasmine. I was very clear with Carrie, Evie, and Cooper before our first session back in July that character death in DCCRPG was far more prevalent than in the other games they play. I should’ve reiterated this fact before last night’s game but I forgot, mostly because of the time.
Interestingly enough, this was the first time that I saw a distinct age gap in gaming between Carrie (11) and Evie (9). Carrie had no problem handing over characters, although she has played previous games of DCCRPG with our local game club, the Norwin Game Knights, without her sister. Evie was a bit more attached, and saddened at the losses, even if the characters were described early on as “expendable.” Cooper simply refused to let his characters die.
Still, we had a great time playing DCCRPG as a family, and I think some valuable lessons were learned during our quest… somewhere.
I wonder what the kids thought...
Question: What did you think of our Disney Crawl Classics experience?
- Carrie: "It was awesome, except the parts where the character died. I didn't like when Quasimodo died climbing over a wall."
- Evie: "I think its cool and I think its a good game that is a mix of 'oh my gosh, I think I'm gonna beat this' and 'uh, your character just died, give me your character sheet so you can make a tombstone.'"
- Cooper: "I loved it."
Question: What was your favorite moment from the game?
- Carrie: "My favorite part was when Snow White went over to Dark Mickey, and Snow White dissolved, and Dark Mickey came up and was like 'ha ha!'"
- Evie: "I kinda liked when Cooper was like 'here's the extra skin', and the part last game when he was like 'here's an extra heart.' He was Phineas and Ferb and he had a lot of stuff.'"
- Cooper: "When you tore Jasmine apart."
- Evie: "That was kinda mean!"
- Cooper: "Well that was my favorite part!"
Question: What game would you like to play next?
- Carrie: "I'd like to play more of The Strange, and I want to dress up as my character again."
- Evie: "Either X-Wing or Numenera."
- Cooper: "I wanna play Dixit!"
Mickey/Dark Mickey the Wizard's Apprentice/Dark Master of Chaos (Jen)
- Str 10, Agi 10, Sta 13, Per 9, Int 18, Luc 7
- AC 10, HP 5
- Lucky Sign: Hawkeye
Snow White the Animal Trainer (Jen)
- Str 9, Agi 14, Sta 10, Per 11, Int 11, Luc 14
- AC 11, HP 2
- Lucky Sign: Harsh Winter
Flynn Rider the Outlaw (Jen)
- Str 14, Agi 14, Sta 6, Per 9, Int 6, Luc 15
- AC 13, HP 3
- Lucky Sign: Conceived on Horseback
Phineas the Indentured Servant (Cooper)
- Str 8, Agi 13, Sta 10, Per 13, Int 12, Luc 12
- AC 11, HP 3
- Lucky Sign: Lived Through Famine
Ferb the Orphan (Cooper)
- Str 11, Agi 13, Sta 8, Per 12, Int 13, Luc 14
- AC 11, HP 3
- Lucky Sign: Guardian Angel
Bufort the Soldier (Cooper)
- Str 14, Agi 9, Sta 13, Per 10, Int 13, Luc 10
- AC 10, HP 4
- Lucky Sign: The Raging Storm
Jasmine the Noble (Evie)
- Str 13, Agi 9, Sta 13, Per 16, Int 13, Luc 8
- AC 10, HP 4
- Lucky Sign: Survived a Spider Bite
Rapunzel the Healer (Evie)
- Str 10, Agi 13, Sta 10, Per 14, Int 12, Luc 13
- AC 11, HP 3
- Lucky Sign: Wild Child
Merida the Hunter (Carrie)
- Str 11, Agi 14, Sta 12, Per 5, Int 9, Luc 9
- AC 11, HP 4
- Lucky Sign: Fortunate Date