Sunday, December 1, 2013

DCC Peasants in the Purple Worm Graveyard

Last week's game put three players' 0-level peasants in Planet Thirteen's Purple Worm Graveyard.

I tried to make character generation a collective experience. Each player rolled 3d6 in order for the player to their left's characters. After all 12 characters had their stats, each player found their lucky roll, and we went through the various modifiers and bonuses together.

The players certainly embraced the idea that some of their starting characters were going to die, joking that a particular character was doomed or marked for death whenever they rolled low for an ability score or for hit points.

By coincidence nearly every character ended up with a low Agility and a high Personality score. It was totally plausible that this crowd could have talked the rest of the village into gambling their tax on a cricket match, and then blown the game when it counted. The players all really wanted to roll to determine the results of the game, but I hadn't figured out how to decide it at that point, so I simply ruled that they lost.

In retrospect, DCC provides a pretty good method for determining this kind of thing. Since unskilled characters roll 1d10 for skill checks, while skilled characters roll 1d20, I decided to roll for each cricket player. 1s are worth no points, and 10s and 20s explode into a second dice.

Using that method, I got a final score of Villagers 68 to Royals 107.

If the villagers had somehow earned a higher score, I suppose it would have meant that the duke and his men cheated. I've decided that the duke is a jerk, so that'd be totally in keeping with his character. We'll see if the players eventually decide to retaliate against him once they're stronger.

Knowing that these players prefer travel through every dungeon counter-clockwise might eventually make for an important design consideration. In this case it meant that they avoided the two most dangerous traps in the dungeon. They also missed finding the failed landsknecht adventurers' abandoned campsite, the Moroccan sorcerer's feast, and the source of those glowing glands in the Moroccan sorcerer's secret study. On the other hand, never encountering the fire beetles meant that they had no idea where the bio-luminescent glands came from. When the players expressed fear that the light source might attack them just as the puddle had, I knew that we really had achieved the "anything can happen" paranoia that DCC is trying to recreate.

The players were incredibly lucky in their wandering monster checks, only encountering one enemy that way. They also got lucky finding the secret door in the statue room on their first try.

I appreciate that the Purple Worm Graveyard instructs the DM to only check for wandering monsters when the players take a long time doing something or make a lot of noise. (Or more regularly in a couple of rooms.) I'm still not fully comfortable tracking turns. I think I had the candles go out after an hour each, but I was also reluctant to strand the characters in the dark when they hadn't really had any opportunity to buy additional light sources.

One thing I tried that I thought worked really well was to not let the players joke or think aloud without their characters acting out whatever they said. So when Hector's player said that he attacked Twinkle for waking him up, I immediately had him make an attack roll. And when Auhsoj's player joked about betraying the Worm God, I rolled a wandering monster check right away (which would have brought a purple worm if it'd come up as a 1.)

I was surprised that Hector's player kind of forgot to ask for a useful vision and instead only wanted permission to take the worm ivory. I was expecting to show him where one of the remaining treasures was. I also tried to communicate that the Worm God just really didn't care if they took the ivory, meaning that they wouldn't be punished, but also that it wasn't going to prevent a purple worm from showing up in the graveyard if they rolled poorly.

Poor Bovice is currently as good as dead, but his player has more free time than some of the others, so we might run some solo adventures later. If he wants Bovice back, I think a quest involving finding the Tomb of the Iron God and then venturing to Tempus Gelidium should be enough to turn him a return trip. If he wants Bovice to stay in the desert, then I'll probably make the distant city Krshal, the city of towers, and let him venture into the Ruins of the Undercity beneath it.

Overall, the adventure was a success. I awarded each character 10 XP and asked the players what they'd like their survivors to become. I decided that the 0-level adventures weren't really meant for exact XP counts or for giving different awards to different players, although I plan to get a bit more exact for the 1st level characters next time. I also plan to allow carousing for XP, but since I forgot my carousing results table last time, we'll have to wait to see what happens at the fête.

Converting the dungeon to DCC rules was pretty easy. The monsters took the longest, but that was mostly because I'm still not fully comfortable with the DCC monster stat block. I switched the "Dungeon Moves" to regular skill checks with DC 6 to get the middle result and DC 9 to get the good result. For most characters that works out to roughly the same probability that the Moves have, although characters with some reason to be skilled had a much easier roll. (Not that using a d20 actually helped Bobby Ray.)

I'm hoping that the Worm God will become a recurring deity/patron for the 1st level characters. I like the idea of an unhuman deity that hates the undead for entirely different reasons than living people do. If so, I'll have to come up with some Invoke Patron and Patron Taint results. I think I can base the spellburn table on the "Worm Madness" table from the adventure at least.