Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG: The Character Funnel and Stead of the Druid Sons

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If you haven't tried Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, I highly recommend taking a peek. I ran Stead of the Druid Sons, a 5 room dungeon of mine, for a group last night. The party started out with 11 characters. Only 3 survived.

A little back story on the Character Funnel of DCCRPG. Characters start with -100 XP at 0-level. They have no class, but rather an occupation rolled randomly on a d% chart. Getting to 1XP is the goal of the first session, and those who do so become the party and may choose a class. Because of the general weakness and suckatude of 0-level characters, players are encouraged to create up to 4 characters when starting out.

In the party last night were a myriad of characters, all of which I decided were from the nearby village of Whitehill. There were two dwarven miners, a dwarven herder, a halfling trader and several humans - a minstrel who played a ukulele, an idiot squire, a cooper, an armorer, an animal trainer, a caravan guard and a nimble farmer girl. They all set off in a big mob complete with torch and pitchfork for the great black tree tower - The Stead of the Druid Sons.

The young maidens of Whitehill had gone missing, along with a young boy named Thern. The villagers assumed that it was some dark magic of the old druid tower and decided to storm the place. Upon arriving, they discovered a pair of silent sentinels which the idiot squire, who's player named him Twat, poked one. The sentinels burst to life and began throwing silver, leaf-like blades. Luckily I rolled low and the party was spared even a single hit before they managed to down the sentinels with their picks and pitchforks. A dancing flame led them further up the tower. One of our players had to leave, so he had his characters, the cooper, a dwarf miner and the dwarf herder, chicken out and head back to the village.

The first character to die was the nimble farm girl, who blundered carelessly ahead despite her low hp of 1. A pendulum trap swung down from the ceiling, impaled her, carried her through an open window and flung her fifty feet to the ground! The rest of the party made it safely across by making jump checks or by throwing the smaller characters. The idiot squire, Twat, took a blow to the shoulder for 2 hp. He sucked, but he had the most hp of all the characters.

Moving further, the party came upon a platform whereupon a dais stood. Upon the dais rested two identical scimitars that gleamed faintly with a white light. Inevitably, one of the characters, Flint, the armorer, decided to touch one of the blades. Sentinels immediately materialized from the walls like shadows and hurled their leaf-blades from the ramps on either side of the tower. Flint and the halfling trader, Thea, died instantly as their throats were slit simultaneously by the deadly blades. The party was panicked, but on their turn they managed to down one of the sentinels. Next round, I rolled a natural 20 for the remaining sentinel!

In the DCCRPG, rolling a 20 or a 1 means you roll on the Critical Hit chart or the Fumble chart. Rolling on the crit chart, it said the sentinel dodged a foe's attack and got a counter attack, and got an extra attack that if successful, did +1d6 damage. So two official attacks in total, but I added an extra fluff attack for flavour that wouldn't even be rolled for and would miss. Since it was a ranged situation, I made that tweak. 

0-level characters have extremely low hp, so the dwarf miner, Baelgrid, was almost assuredly going to die at this point. He fought nobly, deflecting one of the leaf blades with his mining pick, but the second found his heart, and the third buried itself into the exact same spot. I told the player that Baelgrid was dead, but he could say one final word. He yelled, "FREEDOM!" Hehe. 

The rest of the party downed the remaining sentinel without any further casualties. Moving on to the final room, they were made an offer by the sentient flame that had been guiding them through the tower. If they would let the fire engulf them, they would receive the blessing of the Witchfire of Therngost. 0-level characters are not so good at surviving fire.

Blunker, the animal trainer, went first. He didn't make his saving throw and burned to ash. He was that player's last remaining character, but she didn't mind too terribly. The minstrel, Leith, and the caravan guard, who's player named him Survivor, both succeeded on their saving throws and received a permanent +1 to-hit and damage! Twat, the idiot squire, was too much of a wimp to try.

The fire burned down a wooden belvedere in the center of the room and revealed the boy, Thern, dressed all in white and glowing softly. In a Catch-22, the Witchfire announced that their blessing would only be active if the boy was alive and near to them. He was the last of the blood of Therngost and must be protected. 

The young maidens were nowhere to be found, and it was decided that their disappearance was unrelated to that of the boy's. Perhaps the goblin tribes of the forest had taken them.

The remaining 3 villagers, Leith the minstrel, Survivor the caravan guard (irony!) and Twat, Leith's idiot squire, returned to Whitehill.

All in all, a very fun and successful run of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. I highly recommend giving it a try. The magic system is particularly interesting, with a spell check mechanic and varying degrees of casting success. Everyone had a great time and wanted to play DCCRPG again.

Here is my 5 room dungeon for 1st level characters, if you are interested. If you have played DCCRPG, leave a comment about what you thought of the game! 

Stead of the Druid Sons 
by Ben Shaw

Entrance and First Room

 A stone arch covered in twisting black vines leads into an open courtyard within the tower. Silver leaves are scattered about the stone-lined ground. Just beyond the arch, two hooded sentinels stand in strange, layered armor of a material that seems a mix of wood and leaf. They are silent and their faces are lost in shadow. In the center of the yard, a wide circular brazier sits upon a narrow wooden dais, and a fire that seems every colour at once burns within, appearing first bright blue, then cat's eye green, then crimson and back again. Tiny motes of light drift in the air.

The burning flame is the legendary Witchfire of Therngost, a sentient flame said to make pacts with mortals to allow them control over its power. The fire will communicate psychically, telling visitors they must give some of their essence if they would wield the Witchfire of Therngost. One who would make a pact must drip a bit of their own blood into the flames. The fire will then dance up into the tower, laughing.

Exits: The inner wall of the tower is ringed with a covered gallery that spirals up to the summit. The gallery is smooth and without steps, and elegant pillars hold the vaulted roof above it.


The fire dances at the upper end of the sloping gallery. Tall, narrow apertures decorate the vine-covered wall and you can see the sky behind them.

Encounter: Pendulum trap in the ceiling swings down and through the apertures. 1d8 damage, save negates.

Ring Platform 

The gallery splits off here, swirling into the center of the tower to create a platform. On another similar dais at the middle, two faintly gleaming scimitars with bone hilts rest. The fire dances around them and then bobs away to the other side of the platform. The gallery continues up and you can see a carved wooden door at the end.

The scimitars belong to the sentinels below. If they are touched, they will awaken and rush up the stairs to destroy the intruders, hurling the silver leaves like knives. If the sentinels below have already been destroyed, two more sentinels will appear from the walls like shadows. On the other side of the platform, the gallery continues up to another similarly carved door; both lead to the same chamber.

Encounter: Sentinel (2): HD 2; AC 8[11]; Atk 1 leaf blade (1d4+1 missile); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: +1 to-hit if adjacent to its partner.

Tactics: The sentinels will attempt to keep the party on the platform, staying as far from them as possible, circling and throwing leaf blades from the gallery.

Treasure: Each of the scimitars is a +1 magic weapon. Elegant script lines the blade of both. The sentinels' armor counts as leather, but missile weapons receive a -2 to-hit against it. 

Chamber of the Pact 

This circular garret is full of cool blue light which pours through many tall, narrow windows. Vines snake along the walls and cone-shaped ceiling. An enclosed wooden belvedere stands in the center of the room, carved with strange runes. The fire floats before it.

The Witchfire will finally suggest the pact that will bind its powers to whosever wishes it. Each person must allow themselves to be engulfed by the Witchfire (1d6 damage, saving throw negates). If the person gives themselves over to the flame by removing their armor and clothing, they receive a +2 on the saving throw. All other bonuses to saving throws apply to the fire as if it were a spell. The fire gutters in a cryptic voice, "Those who face my flame without resistance will better resist its magic."

All those who survive the ritual are bonded with the Witchfire of Therngost and receive a permanent +1 to-hit and damage. There is one catch. The fire fuses itself with the soul of the slumbering druid boy, who lies within the belvedere and will awaken and emerge when the pact is complete. The bonus is only active as long as the boy is alive and within 1 mile of a pact maker. His name is Thern (Human, HD1). He has amethyst eyes, a tangle of white-blonde hair and is dressed in exquisite white and silver robes and adorned with jeweled gold and silver bracelets, armbands, rings, necklace, anklets and a silver circlet about his head. His druid powers are dormant as of now.

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