I decided to not start with "Portal" and convert an intro S&W (OD&D) module (Splinters of Faith #1: It Started With A Chicken by Frog God Games) instead. I did this for two reasons. I wanted to see how an OSR mod would play with DCC and I wanted to use OD&D XP values as the baseline. I talk more about this later.
The group consisted of a newbie, whose first RPG experience was playing the D&D4e version of Gamma World. And several vets of varying D&D experience. One with no 3x, but some AD&D and IndieRPG time. One with tons of Old-school through 3.5. And one that played all versions of D&D fairly consistantly from 2nd through 4e. I, the Judge, have tons of B/X and AD&D, a bit of 2e, and played 3 through 4e consistently until last August. 4 players, 16 zeros. I called them the town mob.
The Character Funnel
No one had a problem with the Character Funnel. A couple really loved and embraced the idea, the rest were indifferent if not totally cool about it. The vets knew what to do, the newbie was the last one done and needed help the whole way through. It took longer than 10 minutes but it didn't help that we got a late start, and the power went out in my neighborhood about half-way through character generation. The power stayed out the whole sesson, so we really old-schooled it by playing by candlelight, flashlights and headlamps. (Don't drop your dice when the lights are out, finding dice is tough with flashlights!) The group had several questions that weren't clearly stated by the Beta (june8). I decided to adopt S&W rules where I saw fit. The first question was Randomly Determined Equipment: Could they sell it? I allowed it, and went with 1/2 value. No one actually did, but it came up so I noted it. The other question that came up was, "do you get your ability modifiers to Attacks and Saves at 0-level?" Some argued that the rules specify that you get only a +0 at Zero. The rules were clear to me, but some disagreed. I made the call that they DO get them. Then there was the question about Initiative. I couldn't find it stated anywhere in the book, but I'm sure it was safe to assume it was the Agility modifier. In fact for the Combat Basics section of the character sheet it wasn't clear in Character Generation what those things would be at Zero level. I assumed a d20 for Action Dice and +0 for Attack. I had to figure out Crit Die and Table, it wasn't in the Character Funnel section (I would also have to figure out the Fumble die later.) I allowed all the characters to make further purchases with their 5d12 coppers. Bottom-line about the character funnel, no one complained, everyone was totally cool and excited to play thier Ditchdiggers, Chicken Farmers and Gongfarmers. I think that all the information that would be filled out on the Character Sheet should be found in the Character chapter. [note: I found initiative information later while writing this under Combat, p63.)
I don't want to spoil the adventure, but I chose this module because the monsters were all undead, and even generic undead works well with the concepts behind DCC. Their first encounter could have been a small band of hired thugs. But I decided that they would have heard an angry mob armed with pitchforks and torches coming their way, so I had them run and hide. I did this logically but arbitrarily. The angry mob (because that's what the PCs ultimately were) found a tunnel and assumed that the thugs (who they are after for stealing their chickens) went down into it. This is was one of the first things I wasn't sure what to do about. The tunnel was slick with grease and asked for a Dex check to not slip and fall. There were already knotted ropes heading down into the tunnel. I didn't want to make an "event" out of climbing down ropes that were obviously placed there for that reason, so I asked who had the lowest Agility. The Gongfarmer had a Agility of 5. So we made him out to be tubby and clumbsy. Two of his cohorts, both elven foresters, offered to help him down, so I decided to make it a non-issue. A chicken farmer decided to take home some equipment, left-over cooked chicken and an ox the thugs left behind. He unfortunately took off on his own, promising to catch up. The mob continued to the bottom of the shaft and headed into their first room. They had a couple torches and a lantern. There weren't any rules on the range of these things, so I again had to reference S&W.
Meanwhile the lonely Chicken Farmer was heading back, pitchfork in hand. He was stopped by the leader of the thugs. We had our first issue with combat, specifically initiative. The pitchfork (as a spear) used as a melee weapon we deemed to be two-handed for the farmer (I did note that a footsoldier would fight with a shield in one-hand and a longspear in the other.) Since, rules dictate a -4 on initiative for 2-handed weapons, this was enough for him to lose initiative and he was immediately slain by a single stroke of a short sword. We modified the initiative order retroactively. Ironically it was the player that pointed out the -4 modifier. He originally won initiative and hit first (although not killing the thug.) This reminds me of speed factor in AD&D we never used... not sure I like it.
Back down in the dungeon, the mob will have thier first encounter. Three zombies stumbling their direction. I wanted to have them surprise them, and that's when I notice that there aren't any rules for surprise! I did it S&W and rolled a d6, no surprise so we went to initiative. I didn't use minis, just focused on front lines in contact. I used logic and allowed them to have 5 zeros on the front line versus the 3 zombies. Surprisingly no one died. They then moved on to the first trap. I allowed them to peel open some iron doors with a crowbar on a 20. Behind the door was a floor trigger that filled the room with a "stinking cloud". There aren't rules for dealing with traps, so I had it automatically activate since they didn't deliberately look for it. I used the effect of the Choking Cloud spell as if it was cast with a 13. And used that as the Fort save DC. The two halflings that triggered it made their Save and they turned around. I basically arbitrarily triggered the trap, and used an equivelent spell as the effect. It works well, but I'm not sure how I am supposed to have them "search" and at what DC. They had one more encounter before we ran out of time. A Ghoul at the back of a room, eating himself. They approached it, tried to make friends. But there are no rules for reactions. But it didn't matter because I had it attack the first one to get close with a weapon out. Let's just say I called it a readied attack. Claw-claw, dead. It took two more PC deaths and one paralysed (but left for dead!) before they killed the ghoul. There was one PC fumble. I didn't know what die to use off hand, but I figured it out (p65.) This should probably be something that should be included on the character sheet. The Ghoul also fumbled. I wasn't sure what die to use for him. This should probably be noted in the stats or some rules. I just used a d16, for no armor. But it was soon over. The killing stroke was a big one, I made the ghouls head crack open to reveal a large shiny emerald (worth 100gp.)
I issued XP based on the module, 30 ea for the zombies. 60 for the ghoul and 100 for the gem. (I gave XP for GP because I am using the S&W standard for this module.) It came to about 19XP each. I'm not sure if they will get 101 by the end of the adventure.
I studied XP values and levels for 3.5 and S&W, they're totally different. In 3.5 it takes 1000 XP to reach 2nd level. In S&W it takes 2000 for a Fighter (which I'll use as a baseline.) A Ghoul is worth 300 XP in 3.5 and 60 XP (plus treasure value) in S&W. (S&W awards gold at 2 to 4 times monster XP value, effectively making a 3HD monster worth, on average, 240 XP.) At 1st level Fighters have pretty much identical HP and do exactly the same damage. While Ghouls are also, stats-wise, pretty much identical. The Warrior in DCC is almost identical to both games but they need only 1000 XP (as in 3.5.) If we're to play-test -100 XP at 0, it's pretty much necessary to include XP values for the example monsters.
Everyone had a blast. Time flew by QUICK! Even in the dark. I'm pretty sure everyone will be back next week, and we'll continue on. They should complete the adventure at the next sesson. We should also be adding couple new players who will start with multiple Zeros. Other than the hitches I noted above, it went pretty damn good.
_________________Reverend Dakota Jesus Ultimak, S.S.M.o.t.S.M.S., D.M.(Dungeon) Master In Chief of Crawl! fanzine. - http://www.crawlfanzine.com/
"[...] there is no doubt that Dungeons and Dragons and its imitators are right out of the pit of hell." - William Schnoebelen, Straight talk on Dungeons & Dragons