Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Playtest: Part 2 (The Adventure)

Now that I have the characters, it's time to put them through my pseudo-adventure. As I said before, I'm playing the part of all of these characters. This isn't a real adventure, but a series of planned encounters meant to simulate the sort of things one faces in a real D&D session.

We begin with the PCs just outside the entrance to the Barbarian King's tomb. Dusk is falling, and they know that there are goblins inside. Their plan is to creep into the tomb quietly, hoping to get a jump on the goblins and defeat them as quickly as possible. Before they begin, Dog lights a bit of tinder and gets ready to put flame to his flask of lamp oil. The PCs then creep along the outside wall of the cave before bursting in.

I have the party roll an Agility check, based on the PC with the worst modifier (+0). The result is an 8. The goblins, who are just inside the tomb's entrance, roll an opposed Intelligence check to see if they notice the PCs. I figure goblins are fairly stupid, so I give them a -1 penalty and roll a 9, for a total of 8. The result is a tie. I decide to be kind to the PCs and give them a free surprise round against the goblins.

The PCs burst into the cavern-like opening of the tomb. There are six goblins here, with three standing guard right by the entrance and the others hanging back, whiling away their time doing nothing.

Dog is the first to act. He lights his flask of oil and hurls it at the first of the three goblin guards.
Dog hits and rolls maximum damage of 6, killing the goblin outright.

Bunder draws his longsword and decides to hold back near the entrance to see how this all plays out.

Sirus steps in next, firing a sling stone at one of the two remaining goblin guards.
He hits AC 18 and does only 2 damage, but it's enough to kill the goblin.

Next up is Alfred, who brings his quarterstaff up and attempts to pummel the last remaining goblin guard.

Finally, the group's leader, Squire Tavor, draws his longsword and steps next to Alfred, attacking the same goblin.
He hits AC 18 and then rolls maximum damage of 8. Another goblin dies a painful death.

It's the goblins' turn. Since they've suffered their first casualty as a group they all have to test morale. Their three guards are dead, leaving the three that were deeper in the cave.
I need to roll Will saves for each goblin, DC 11. Two of them fail and one succeeds.

Panicked by this sudden and effective assault, two of the goblins break ranks and sprint for the entrance. Feeling the momentum of victory, the PCs let them pass unharmed. Only one goblin remains.

First, I have to roll initiative. I roll a single d20 for the group and d20 for the goblin. The goblin rolls high and wins.

Steeling its beady red eyes, the monster lunges at a nearby human.
I randomly determine that he attacks Tavor. He rolls a 5 and misses by a long shot.

Dog moves into the room and tries to smash the goblin with his club.
He rolls a 5 and misses.

Bunder is up next. Seeing that the others have things under control, he decides to stay out of the fight.

Sirus, not wanting to fire his sling into a melee, takes a short sword from one of the dead goblin guards as a backup weapon.

Alfred attacks the lone goblin.
He rolls a 4 and misses.

Tavor tries to finish the fight, swinging his longsword furiously at the monster's head.
He also rolls a 4. Miss.

The goblin lashes out at (random roll), Dog. The monster slashes with his short sword and..
He hits! He rolls 1d6-1 for maximum damage. The goblin's blade catches the poor slave right in the gut, killing him instantly. Dog is dead!

It's Bunder's turn again. He can't believe Dog could have dropped so easily. Keeping out of the Goblin's reach, Bunder creeps up to make sure Dog is really dead.
Checking the rules, I note that players do have a chance of helping other PCs who have been dropped to 0 hit points, if they can get there in time. However, level 0 guys don't have this luxury. For them, 0 and below is instant death.

Sirus decides that things might be getting ugly, but he still doesn't want to risk hitting an ally, so he gets his sling ready and waits.

Alfred, fearing this little goblin might be tougher than it looks, tries again to brain the thing with his staff.
He rolls a 2. That's a miss.

Squire Tavor attacks from the other flank.
And he rolls a 2! Damn you Gamescience Dice! You make it hard to pass the blame onto my dice!

The goblin, an evil grin coming over its face, begins to sense fear in its opponents. It attacks Alfred.
It rolls a 4. Miss!

At this point, Bunder decides he needs to act or risk losing out on the payoff he came here for. He asks if he can try to move around behind the goblin and gain a bonus to his attack, since the creature is fighting two people already. I don't see any flanking rules specifically, but I decide to grant him a +1 bonus to hit for one round only.
 Bunder rolls well and hits AC 17. He does 4 damage, but that's not enough to kill this goblin. The creature is wounded, but it's still fighting.

Sirus again waits. It looks like the others have things handled.

Alfred, encouraged by Bunder's assistance, swings his quarterstaff.
He hits a 6. No luck.

Squire Tavor follows up with an attack of his own.
He rolls a 9. Damn goblin refuses to go down.

The goblin now turns its attention to Tavor. It ducks low, coming at him from a surprising angle.
The goblin hits AC 15. It does 5 damage. Taken completely off guard, Squire Tavor's dreams of becoming a knight die as his life blood runs out onto a goblin's short sword.

Bunder is now feeling desperate. A few moments ago, it looked as though the PCs were going to easily best these goblins. Now things are turning against them in a hurry. He slashes at the goblin's puny head.
Bunder rolled a 1. A fumble! Because he's wearing hide armor, he rolls a d12. He gets a bonus for his Broken Star ability and ends up with a result of 8.

Bunder falls prone onto his back, his arms flailing.

Sirus decides to risk a ranged attack into the melee.
He rolls an 11, -4 for shooting into melee = a miss.

Since he missed, there is a 50% chance that Sirus hits a random ally.
I roll percentile dice and get a 20. Sirus hits Alfred. He rolls 3 points of damage. Poor Alfred only had 1 hp. As the errant sling stone smacks him in the back of the head, the former servant drops to the ground dead. He never even knew what hit him.

[DM's note: This is getting really out of hand. If this were a real adventure, the players would probably flee at this point, especially since the remaining two guys are kind of shady characters. However, its a playtest. Plus, it's just ONE GOBLIN, darn it!]

The goblin leaps toward Bunder's prone form, trying to finish him off.
The goblin rolls a 4, +4 for attacking a prone foe, is still not enough to hit. Bunder just manages to roll out of the way, and the goblin's blade strikes only dirt.

Bunder uses his action to roll away from the goblin's reach and then stand up from prone.

Sirus, now with a clear shot, fires another sling stone at the lone goblin, but misses.
He hit AC 6.

The goblin resumes its attack on Bunder. The monster is convinced that it can win this fight.
He hits a 10. Not enough to penetrate the mercenary's armor.

Bunder, back on his feet, swings his sword toward the goblin, but the monster parries it away.
Hit AC 11. This goblin is wearing a bit of armor.

Sirus draws the goblin shortsword. He would normally be at a -4 penalty, since a 0 level character is only proficient with the weapon he starts with (in this case, a sling). I forgot this rule in the heat of the battle, though, so let's just say that the smuggler's Luck is working in his favor.

The goblin attacks Bunder again, hoping to finish him off once and for all.
Lucky break for the PCs as the goblin rolls a 9 and misses.

Planning to burn some Luck if need be, Bunder puts everything into this attack. He needs to finish this goblin!
Bunder rolls a 14 and doesn't need to use any luck. He rolls a 5 for damage. The goblin, tenacious fighter that it was, is finally dead.

Their strength down to only two men, the PCs decide what to do next. They're not certain that they can defeat any other monsters that might live in this tomb. On the other hand, with the goblins dead and the tomb only recently unearthed, it's likely that the treasure is now unguarded. Greed wins the day. Bunder dons Squire Tavor's steel helmet and, with Sirus the smuggler following, proceeds deeper into the cavern.

As they make their way down the narrow earthen hall that they believe leads to the Barbarian King's treasure, the party stumbles into a trap! Bunder, in the lead, is the first to encounter it: a small pitfall, concealed in the floor. Bunder has a split second to react.
Bunder must make a Reflex save, DC 10, or fall in the pit. He rolls a 10, narrowly escaping certain death.

With the pit trap exposed, the two adventurers are able to circumvent the danger. They finally arrive in a large, circular room. In the center is a stone sarcophagus. Atop of the Barbarian King's final resting place sits his treasure: a golden goblet filled with sweet-smelling red liquid, a small chest of silver coins, and a fine-quality axe.

Together, Bunder and Sirus creep carefully over to the treasure. As Sirus reaches out a hand toward the golden cup, the air ripples with magic. A dark wind blows and, in a puff of acrid smoke, the Barbarian King's long-dead body guards are summoned from beyond the grave.

I roll 3d4 for the number of skeletons that appear: 7

Clad in tattered furs and moldy leather head-dresses, the barbarian skeletons appear in a circle around the PCs. As the monsters move in menacingly, their grave-mouldered claws reaching with murderous intent, the two remaining adventurers have no choice but to put their backs together and fight.

Rolling initiative, the PCs get a 14. The skeletons get a 5. The initiative goes to the PCs.

Bunder slashes out with his longsword, trying to fend off the nearest skeleton.
He rolls a 5 and misses.

Behind him, Sirus dodges sideways and attack a skeleton with the shortsword he stole from a dead goblin. (Recall that I forgot about the -4 penalty).
He rolls a paltry 6 and misses.

The skeletons are up. I decide that there are currently two on each of the PCs, with the others coming up quickly to join their boney brethren.

The first skeleton snatches at Bunder with its claw-like fingers.
17! Bunder is hit for 2 damage. As tough as he seemed, the mercenary only had 1 hit point to begin with. The skeleton finds soft flesh, tearing into Bunder's throat and killing him instantly.

As Bunder falls to the ground, Sirus the Smuggler knows that he's about to die. With nothing left to loose, he braces himself for the incoming assault, hoping he can burn enough luck to turn the tide against the skeletons and escape with his life.

The first of two skeletons attacks Sirus.
It misses with a 4.

The second skeleton attacks Sirus.
It hits, but only inflicts 1 damage. Sirus has 1 hit point left.

Sirus' only hope now is to hit or come close enough that his luck can make the difference. He rolls.
...a 4. Desperate, he burns 6 points of luck, which actually gives him one more than he needed to hit. He rolls a 2 for damage but, since he's using a slashing weapon, it only does ½ against the skelton, or 1 damage.

The blade turns awkwardly off the skeleton's ribcage. The monsters continue to advance and Sirus' luck is running out!

Sirus's Luck is now 5, meaning he's at a -2 to all missile attacks due to his Fortunate Date luck ability.

It's a new round. There are three skeletons engaged with Sirus, with four more circled around the melee. One by one, the monsters claw at the desperate smuggler.

Skeleton 1 hits a 15. That's enough to hit. The skeleton inflicts only 1 damage, but that's enough.

Sirus swings in vain, trying to fight off the boney barbarians, but they overpower him and throw him to the ground. In a frenzy, the monsters tear Sirus apart.

The would-be adventurers are all dead.

There your have it. While not a true playtest, I can say with certainty that the DCC RPG is very deadly for level 0 characters. Had any one of these guys survived and graduated into a full scale adventurer, it would have made for a cool backstory. I rather like the “funnel” method, but it obviously works best with a normal-sized group of players, each running 3 characters or so. I'm sure that a party of 12 would have overcome the skeletons and made off with the treasure.

My first impressions of the game were pretty good. I liked making the characters and things went smooth and simple. I wasn't really getting into anything new, though, as the game becomes different than D&D only when you start running characters greater than level 0. Even then, I'm not sure that there is enough different here to distinguish DCC RPG from standard D&D in the long run. After all, its still fighters and wizards rolling d20 to hit the AC of the same old goblins and skeletons. The new bits, like the spell charts, might be a lot of fun if they aren't too much work. However, what happens when the novelty wears off?

I'm eager to see the final product, of course, and I'll hold off judgement until then. I will say that I enjoyed my little solo playtest. I really want to try this out with level 1 characters so I can test some of the new rules. I feel that its important to create characters using the funnel method that the book prescribes, though. Maybe I'll rerun this mini-adventure a few more tames with the same characters and see if the dice don't favor one or two of them surviving. Whatever I decide to do, I'll be sure to post the results here.

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