After patiently waiting for the release of the DCC beta rules I finally had a chance to officially kick off our groups sandbox style old-school campaign, based on the ideas found here: http://arsludi.lamemage.com/index.php/78/grand-experiments-west-marches/
In this game the players were to enter a character funnel adventure (of my creation) and then proceed to a town on the borderlands. From this base of operations the players would be free to explore the lands beyond the Empire and the many dungeons therein. The intent was to play the funnel and have the surviving characters level up for the next time we met. As we were missing one of our regular players (who insisted we begin without him in order to test the rules further) I wanted to stop there, ending the game in town. We ended up having so much fun the players voted to keep playing however. Rather than start one of the main dungeons without our missing player I opted to whip one up on the spot while they levelled their characters. It was a bit sloppy but I don't think the players minded.
This first post documents the funnel...The Character FunnelBackground
The PCs find themselves gathered outside a temple deep within a swamp. Two local villagers have gone missing and the cultists of the temple are the most likely culprits. The players are to storm the temple and try to find their missing friends.Notes
-As the characters search the outside of the temple, a random encounter sees a Stirge attack one of the stragglers. It sucks the victim dry of blood before others can save him.
-The players finally decide to tackle the main doors, carved to appear as though anyone entering the temple is being swallowed by a fanged frog.
-The first unlucky PC steps forward and decides to pull on the handles. As he does the bottom of the "mouth" falls forward to form a slide trap and he is sent splashing in to a dark pool below. His torch sputters out in the water.
-After a few seconds he hears the water churn and ripples beging to roll towards him. He frantically calls for aid.
-Two other PCs jump in to help him and one manages to keep a torch aloft.
-The bottom of the mouth raises shut again and the rest of the party is closed off from the events below. They hear muffled screaming but have no idea what is occurring.
-One of them decides to try and "reset" the mouth and pushes on it with a pole. The bottom "mouth" falls again and the players have a window to the events below.
-A giant tongue lashes from the darkness and wrapping itself around one of the PCs in the water it pulls him in, disarming him in the process (Critical result). Another creature fumbles and comes crashing in to the wall as it tries to bite one of the PCs, revealing itself as a bull sized giant fanged frog. There are three of them and a desperate battle ensues.
-Two more PCs jump in and eventually, after another PC death, the two frogs in melee range are killed.
-The third frog has swallowed the other PC it entangled with its tongue and begins to dive below. Weapons are thrown but it evades all of them.
-The PC that is swallowed (Pearson) is forced to make a Fort save to stay conscious but rolls low. Much luck is spent (which will haunt him later) and after passing out briefly Pearson comes to, trapped within the frogs mouth.
-Pearson begins biting the tongue and clawing at the throat of the frog in desperation. Weapons are thrown at it from the other players and eventually he is disgorged, with only 1 hp left.
-The players in the pool can see no way out (without a grappling hook for the ledges above) and the players outside are too afraid to jump in.
-Note that I created a way to open the doors that was probably easily apparent with even minor exploration but these are not "old school" players and they didn't even bother searching for such clues.
-In the end they decided to tie a rope to their pony and after a lucky roll the doors burst off their hinges. Soon everyone was inside and the players below were pulled on to the platform above with ropes.
-The next room was a simple bath area with wading pool that I knew would confuse the players. They wasted a lot of time poking the water, drinking the water, bathing in it, poking at a pile of clothes and so on. None of it was important...
-Turning to the right they began to pull on the doors when, with a twang, a crossbow bolt pierced out an inch through the door. Three cultists inside were eventually dispatched (of course the players wasted no time trying to talk to them and charged in, even though the cultists were only firing a warning shot and wanted to parley... ugh) but not before another PC was killed. Inside a prayer book was found which was needed for the next major room.
-Returning to the bath room they turned left and found themselves in a strange room containing a giant clay frog idol with blood-stained gaping maw and an obsidian wall to the right on which double doors were carved. The players tried making all kinds of blood sacrifices, animal sacrifices, coins and so on to the idol (apparently they have no issues with risking blind worship of unknown, obviously evil demons as revealed by the prayer book). Nothing worked and I could tell the players were frustrated.
-The players decided to return to the bath room and went forward this time, in to the main worship area of the temple. Encountering a priest, they flee the room when he screams "Arise Arathrak" and casts Darkness in front of them. These two actions were unrelated but the players (wrongly) assumed that the black inky cloud was caused by the summoning of some demon and ran from the room, cowering in the pool room.
-Returning to the clay idol they finally realized the statue needed a human body placed in its mouth and used a cultist for this purpose. The doors locked on the handful of players inside and after correctly responding to an unearthly voice which questioned them (using responses from the prayer book), the obisidian door carvings slid opened, apparently in to time and space. A tongue lashed out from the darkness and pulled the body out of sight. The carvings then sealed shut and laying on the frogs mouth was a magical whip which slithered at their touch. One of the players eagerly scooped it up.
-The only Lawful character of the handful that participated in the "sacrifice" was instantly wracked with guilt over the deed. I had decided he needed to atone for the deed or be cursed but he died soon after and it was never played out.
-One of the PCs decides to smash the idol and is lashed through with electrical current which carries in to a second PC and kills them both.
-Eventually the players get the courage to re-enter the worship room and finding neither demon nor priest, realize it was probably not a summoning spell that was cast.
-Following the priest below they find him cornered in a tall columned room, a giant snake with stubby arms and a half-human face rears up at his side. A deadly battle ensues, the party partially saved when the priest fumbles and falls prone before them. The whip wielding character uses this opportunity to strike the priest and finds the whip, of its own power, wraps itself around the priests neck and begins choking the life from him. The whip refuses to release its hold and after two more rounds of this the priest dies. Finally the whip releases.
-In the end the snake is also slain and only five characters remain.
-The players cut open the bulging snake to reveal the bodies of one of their friends. A slimed column leads one of them to climb through a hole in the ceiling (large enough for the snake) and the second villager is found alive but drugged and disoriented, sure to be the snakes next meal.
-A final vault is opened and after taking the treasure within, a single fist-sized clay frog idol remains in an alcove, covered in dust. A foolish PC takes it and after leaving the temple is wracked with madness and tries to flee in to the swamp. One of the PCs tackles him and saves him but then foolishly decides to place it in a bag and runs off himself. He too is saved and the PCs decide to bury it, rather than risk an electrical attack by smashing it (as was the case with the larger stature). During this time I roll another random encounter.
-Three more cultists arrive carrying a large sack. The whip-wielding PC dies in the battle, leaving his player without a surviving character (the other two have two each). I could tell the player really wanted to keep this character but the "dice don't lie"... He eventually took it well.
-A halfling is found in the sack and the grateful fellow offers his services as a henchman to the PC with the highest personality, Jayne (something the halfling will later regret).
-The PCs that survive are awarded 1 luck, plus a bonus point for saving the kidnapped villager (something they almost missed as they were about to leave the temple at that point).Player Comments
-The players seemed mixed on the 3d6 in order, some of them saying they want 3d6 but you can assign them as you wish (for realism reasons and to get the types of characters they want). We'll see how this plays out as I like 3d6 in order.
-One of them wanted the full 4 hp, rather than rolling. I'm not a fan of this suggestion.
-We started writing the birth augurs as a +/- but the unlucky players (from birth) were quickly frustrated. I decided on a minimum bonus of +1 (lucky players could have either +2 or+3) and agreed this was a constant modifier that would not change if your luck changed. The simplicity seemed to be appreciated.
-The -4 initiative for bows was not well received and we hand-waved this away.
-Overall the game went over extremely well and the players all wanted to push on to see what 1st level play was like.