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 Post subject: Portal Under the Stars (Free RPG Day - Austin, Texas)
PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 9:13 pm 
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Tight-Lipped Warlock

Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:52 pm
Posts: 1084
So I'm finally getting to post this. Busy week. It took much effort but I got a DCC demo together at Dragon's Lair in Austin, Texas, on Free RPG Day. I'm posting this in the same format as my previous post. The TL;DR sections follows...

Summary
I was really sweating this one. I talked to, what, 10 people about DCC. Some of them approached me. Some of them I approached. Yet still my table remained empty. No one remotely willing to give it a try, although there were a few who were interested in hearing more. Just not in missing their Pathfinder or 4e demo to do so. Maybe I need to work on my sales pitch?

By the fetid grace of BOBUGBUBILZ, two unwary souls approached my table. Listened to my schpiel and rolled that d30. Interestingly, one of them was a brand new roleplayer. The other was her dad, who was shopping around for a light rpg in the vein of the rpg's of his youth (AD&D, 2e) to introduce to his kids. So they decided to give "Portal Under the Stars" a try.

Shortly after we began, a friend of mine showed up as well. He's a game-designer-by-night and has his own publishing imprint. So he had some interesting comments on DCC from that perspective, having heard next to nothing about DCC beforehand.

Overall, the game was well received. Even by the uninitiated. It took a while for everyone to warm up to one another. But things took off after they did. The party got all the way to the Clay Army having only lost one PC. I was appalled at my inability to slay the peasants in this session.

But my Judgehood was restored when a series of really nice die rolls and poor decisions on the players' part netted me 4 kills. Every player had one PC survive. But only 5 total made it out of the dreaded Portal. I can live with that.


The Party
Player A
Played in the '80s while in school, mostly AD&D. Then some 2e. Had not heard of DCC.
  • Ruby: Jeweler
  • Pots: Halfling Trader
  • Rocky: Dwarven Miner

Player B
Never played an rpg before.
  • Trellala: Minstrel
  • Tuntun: Fortune Teller
  • Herb: Herbalist

Player C
Has been playing since OD&D days. Favorite edition is still OD&D. Game Designer by Night. Prefers indie-style games like Dogs in the Vineyard and Diaspora. Hard to sell on (yet another) fantasy game. Still has a soft spot for Traveller.
  • Mandragora: Woodcutter
  • Hamnor: Soldier
  • Rute: Guild Beggar


Highlights
  • One character died in the bone room. Other than that, the coffins were bare until the Clay Army.
  • Player B took a while to warm up but once she did she really got into it. She was doing off-the-wall stuff like looking under chairs and just generally doing things you'd always want players to do.
  • I changed the trappings of the dungeon a bit to account for some of this stuff. I'm generally of a "Say Yes" mindset so when Player B did things like search under the throne in the observatory, she found some black, obsidian stones that looked like they might have been used in the ritual to bind Ssssiiiissssraug to the room. Good for some gold if they could find a Wizard to buy them.
  • The party successfully disarmed the big fire statue by bewildering it with music (Player B's Minstrel and her ukelele) and buying enough time to jam its rotation with two crutches and a crowbar.
  • The party avoided the pool with the jewels in it. When asked later, it was because they thought the water would turn them into rock people too. I hadn't considered that angle.
  • Having avoided the pool, the Clay Army was in full force. A lucky shot on the Warlord prevented the adventure from ending in a TPK. No joke. Player A rolled a Nat 20. Great ending because they were about to wind up in a clay zombie apocalypse in the treasure vault.
  • I think everyone had a good time. Not as raucous as the last playtest. But there was a lot more exploration with this group. More teamwork too. But they were also really cautious. Hence the low body count up to the Clay Army room.


Player Commentary
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 C commented that burning Luck "forever" was fine. But he felt he should get more for it than a +1 to a die roll.
  • Player C commented that the flavor of the game reminded him of the Arduin Grimoire.
  • Player A said that the system seemed very straightforward and easy to play. He thought the numbers were easy to manage, not out of control with bonuses and such. He'd checked out 4e before and it wasn't to his liking.
  • Player A commented on the lack of healing and low hit points. The other players concurred. This may be unique to the 0-level experience. Both 0-level groups said the same thing re: hit points and healing. I've got a 5th level game coming up. We'll see what kind of feedback I get there.
  • Player B felt that the characters had personality because they weren't just warriors and wizards. They were people with jobs. She liked that.
  • Player C wondered if the traditional six stats were necessary or if they were there just because it's D&Dish.
  • Player C thought it would be fun if 0-level characters like the Fortune Teller (and I'd assume the Wizard's Apprentice and Elves) could get "half-baked" 1st level spells. Like broken spells that they could cast for a meager effect.
  • Player A didn't like that no one's Lucky Roll came into play. He also didn't like that it could potentially be a negative thing. He'd assumed it was a bonus all the time. The only Lucky Roll that was used (Find Secret Doors) had a +2 ability modifier.



My Observations
  • The funky dice weren't mentioned much at all with this group -- though we did use them a couple of times. They all seemed of the opinion that ALL the dice were funky. The new ones didn't seem any funkier than the others.
  • I was surprised at the number of people who were interested in DCC but didn't want to give the demo a try. I was happy that we had the group we did but a little disappointed at the number of people who walked up, asked questions for 10 minutes and then went on their merry way.
  • "Recovering the Body" in 0-level games may be a little too good. If the players would've yanked the gems out of the pool, they could've gotten through the whole dungeon with less than 3 fatalities. Maybe "Recovering the Body" should only be allowed for leveled characters? I can only imagine it with retainers -- as in Sven, the Link Boy Who Wouldn't Die!
  • I again 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)". Again it worked well.
  • Two crits. Both by PCs. One on the Warlord, the other on Ssssssissssraug. One fumble that killed a PC.


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 Post subject: Re: Portal Under the Stars (Free RPG Day - Austin, Texas)
PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 9:20 pm 
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Cold-Hearted Immortal

Joined: Sun Dec 01, 2002 2:41 pm
Posts: 2694
Location: San Jose, CA
Good playtest report!

Interesting observation on the funky dice, that the players thought "all the dice are weird." That's similar to my experiences. It seems the younger gamers, who aren't used to "normal" dice (i.e., d20, d4, etc.), actually acclimate better to the Zocchi dice than some of the "change-resistant" older gamers who think they're "weird." Kind of ironic but it's what I keep encountering - the guys who object to the Zocchi dice are never the youngest ones at the table...

As far as people showing up for a game, every con and every store is different. I had two great experiences at a couple recent stores but at a con not too long ago, ended up having to recruit players for a game, similar to what you did. Sometimes you're hot, sometimes you're not - don't sweat it, that's how it goes.

I suppose I should point this out somewhere, but I don't allow 0-level characters to recover bodies. If you're 0 level and you die, you die!

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Joseph Goodman
Goodman Games
www.goodman-games.com


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 Post subject: Re: Portal Under the Stars (Free RPG Day - Austin, Texas)
PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 9:36 pm 
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Tight-Lipped Warlock

Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:52 pm
Posts: 1084
goodmangames wrote:
Sometimes you're hot, sometimes you're not - don't sweat it, that's how it goes.

I suppose I should point this out somewhere, but I don't allow 0-level characters to recover bodies. If you're 0 level and you die, you die!


Good to know on both counts. Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Portal Under the Stars (Free RPG Day - Austin, Texas)
PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:26 am 
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Far-Sighted Wanderer
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Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2011 12:03 am
Posts: 44
Location: San Francisco, CA
The idea of some characters having meager magic, maybe represented as 0-level spells, has to be one of the better suggestions I've seen. If Goodman doesn't do this, then someone needs to hop on this.


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 Post subject: Re: Portal Under the Stars (Free RPG Day - Austin, Texas)
PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:18 pm 
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Tight-Lipped Warlock

Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:52 pm
Posts: 1084
Talath wrote:
The idea of some characters having meager magic, maybe represented as 0-level spells, has to be one of the better suggestions I've seen. If Goodman doesn't do this, then someone needs to hop on this.


Stay tuned...

:D


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 Post subject: Re: Portal Under the Stars (Free RPG Day - Austin, Texas)
PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:33 pm 
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Hard-Bitten Adventurer
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Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:35 pm
Posts: 133
Location: Travelling the Otherworld
Great Play test summary! :D

Talath wrote:
The idea of some characters having meager magic, maybe represented as 0-level spells, has to be one of the better suggestions I've seen. If Goodman doesn't do this, then someone needs to hop on this.


+d5 I like it!

I feel that any character that can justify it at 0 level ought to be at least allowed say the "Cantrip" spell or something similar. I mean the spell is pretty free form as it is and even if the players do not end up as a WIz?elf I think I might allow them to still be able to cast it if they role played their background 0 Level Pc's well in the first place. Not certain if I'd also go for a Mercurial effect as well mind you... Hmmmm...!!!!

What say you good people!?

_________________
{Standard Disclaimer} If it was mentioned already and I missed it, please put this down to my advanced age and senility rather than discourtesy!
My DCC spell work page is here https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1x_NmKhGbZLBukbWH78qR-38ebmMULEIbz1vt64YaILM


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 Post subject: Re: Portal Under the Stars (Free RPG Day - Austin, Texas)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:31 am 
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Tight-Lipped Warlock

Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:52 pm
Posts: 1084
Ducaster wrote:
Great Play test summary! :D

Talath wrote:
The idea of some characters having meager magic, maybe represented as 0-level spells, has to be one of the better suggestions I've seen. If Goodman doesn't do this, then someone needs to hop on this.


+d5 I like it!

I feel that any character that can justify it at 0 level ought to be at least allowed say the "Cantrip" spell or something similar. I mean the spell is pretty free form as it is and even if the players do not end up as a WIz?elf I think I might allow them to still be able to cast it if they role played their background 0 Level Pc's well in the first place. Not certain if I'd also go for a Mercurial effect as well mind you... Hmmmm...!!!!

What say you good people!?


I agree. Mercurial Magic needs some tweaking, IMO. There aren't enough variations to make them feel unique, which leads me to think it needs a wider range of "spell goes off as expected". And possibly more open-ended results, allowing the player to fill in the blanks as it were.

As for 0-level spells, I think they have a place in DCC. And adding them is going to be a lot of fun.


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