I had high expectations for this game and it met them. That's unique. As in almost never happens. The 0-level funnel was enjoyed by all and I was surprised that this group dug it as much as they did. I have high hopes for this game and the group (my regular group minus one member, btw) has already signed on to play Crucible of Sezrekan the Mad as well as make DCC a regular system. We'll play it alongside the regular 4e game. That's high praise indeed!
The group had a couple of concerns and a few unexpected criticisms and sticking points. Nothing majorly indicative of a deep problem with the mechanics though. Mostly things that could be easily addressed. Those are listed below in the player commentary.
Started with meager 3e experience. Plays mostly 4e but was involved in a Basic D&D campaign recently. Prefers the hijinks and speed of older rulesets, although still likes 4e a good bit.
- Chuck: Parsnip Farmer
- Phil: Dwarven Miner
- Bruce: Dwarven Blacksmith
(Feels strongly that 4e is the best edition ever. Has played 2e but came on board during the 3e era.)
- Esmerelda: Fortune Teller
- Sven: Con Artist
- Mortimer: Radish Farmer
(Has played AD&D on. Hard to gauge which edition he favors. Enjoys a little bit about all of them. But is very critical of all of them as well.)
- Orn, son of Garn: Dwarven Miner
- Threg the Unclean: Urchin
- Hengst: Blacksmith
(Not sure if he played in the 3e era. Plays mostly 4e. Has some issues with it but likes it significantly enough to keep it going. Enjoys older rulesets but has had limited exposure.)
- Augustus: Soldier
- Lepidus: Herder
- Nero: Guild Beggar
- Three characters were dead in the first 15 minutes. One was recovered, which was a nice little treat.
- Player B commented "Three characters dead and that's the INTRO?!" It was funny and not a complaint.
- Threg the Unclean had a begging bowl. Player C had Threg put the begging bowl on his head to wear as a helmet. Very nice.
- Player B noted that his Fortune Teller had the highest Strength in the group (17) and would likely class into a Fighter if she survived. He followed that by pointing out "And she's FIFTY YEARS OLD!"
- The big fire statue was a good deal of fun. The party split up wildly attempting to avoid it.
- Threg, Phil, Bruce and Chuck wound up in the hallway leading to Ssssiraug. Phil, Bruce and Chuck wound up shutting Threg in with the demon-snake. What followed was classic old school gaming. Threg had no weapon to speak of and mainly avoided the demon-snake through clever use of the surroundings, like using the throne for cover and the stone tablets like a tower shield. Sssiraug didn't hit him once. Phil and Bruce opened the door to see how things were going and Sssiraug struck and killed one of them. As it turned out, Chuck, Phil and Bruce were all slain and Threg walked out of there with an "understanding" from the demon-snake. It was pretty wild and one of the highlights of the session.
- The party made it through to the end, although everyone had at least one 0-level character killed. They were clever and resourceful, even cautious. Which is high praise considering it's predominantly a 4e group. There was lots of roleplaying at the table. Most of it between and among the 0-level characters.
- Threg the Unclean made such a pathetic and moving plea to Ssssisssraug (as well as sacrificing Chuck's goat) that Sssissssraug gave him a single use of Charm Person at d16. The reasoning for this was two-fold. Player C put on one of the most glorious moments of roleplaying insanity I'd seen in the last half decade (so he deserved it) and I wanted to see how the group would warm up to the spellcasting. Threg failed to cast the spell. But the overall nature of spellcasting (rolling against a table, etc) was well-received. They liked it and looked forward to playing a real spellcaster.
- It was a blast. I can't recount all the hijinks. But I recall there was definitely the use of farm animals as trap detectors. And even a goat sacrificed to Ssssisssraug. Chomp, chomp, chomp.
- The 50-year old fortune teller is alive and kicking.
I did a post-mortem after the session to get the players' thoughts and impressions on the mechanics and the game in general. Here's what I got.
- Player D was disappointed that Luck spent was just gone. He was hoping for a way for it to come back. I told him it worked a bit like Action Points or Hero Points and that Halflings and Thieves recover it like a normal stat.
- The players commented that they thought the stat names were silly (except for Luck). They didn't understand why Constitution had to be Stamina and Dexterity had to be Agility. They also didn't get what Personality was supposed to be or why there was no Wisdom stat. It had never occurred to me. I just took the stats of face value. But there were more complaints about the stat names than the dice.
- Player B, an avowed 4e aficionado, commented that the game was "not about big bonuses". He followed that with "I kind of like that". A positive.
- All the players commented on hit points and hit point recovery. Coming from 4e, they were very interested in not having Cleric-based healing. They all wanted a faster way to recover after a combat but didn't commit to any suggestions. A Second Wind mechanic or a big bump immediately following an encounter were both featured in the discussion.
- Player C was really concerned about Armor, Armor Class and the ability to play a viable character that was hard to hit when unarmored. A lot of familiar suggestions came my way (Armor as Damage Reduction being the biggest one). But it was his biggest concern post-game.
- Not much critique of the mechanics. Remember, this was me asking open-ended questions about the experience. The group's main focus was wanting to know more about the rules and how the game handles X, Y and Z. They were focused more on problems they couldn't see versus problems they experienced. I'd take that as high praise.
- All the players hit on the lack of ability score increases too. This was something I'd honestly not thought about beforehand. But all four felt strongly that this was something DCC needed. I've begun advocating on their behalf for it because they made some really good arguments in its favor. Among the arguments stated were losing ability points permanently to criticals made really bad stats even worse, such that a Level 0 schmoe would be likely to climb a wall better than a 10th level Elf. Even if they both started out with the same STR at 0-level. Also they pointed out that never getting better at just general everyday stuff like finding where the treasure is hidden was a downer. Even moreso when faced with the prospect that a bad roll could actually make them worse at it.
- There was much commentary on the "funky" dice at the onset. But they weren't used that much. I think we rolled a d16 two or three times. But that's it. In the end, the group was interested in seeing leveled play to figure out how prominent they were. They weren't a turn off, though. As far as I could tell. One player commented that he just loved dice so any excuse to buy more was just grand.
- Being 4e players, the group was underwhelmed by the stats at first. After I explained that the DCs were lower than they were used to and static, they warmed up to the stats. But it raised some eyebrows at first.
- The d16 was hard to find in an array of dice containing d10s and d14s. We reached for the wrong one more than a few times. I gotta say I think that the biggest issue concerning the dice will be distinguishing them from one another on the fly. Just a usability concern there.
- I used jmuchiello's "roll a d10 for an action that doesn't apply to your occupation (or that a reasonable person couldn't attempt without training)". It worked really, really well. As in better than I'd thought it would work.
- One crit. Two fumbles. Didn't get much of a chance to kick around the tables. There's always next time.