Thursday, August 4, 2016

Fun with Funnels

Today I ran two funnel adventures for Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics system. It was pretty fun. The players were my 9-year old brother and my 4X-year old father (referred to as "Bro" and "Dad" in the rest of the post). I'm a cheapskate so our gaming materials were the DCC Free RPG Day 2016 modules (I'll link them individually in a bit) and the DCC beta rules.

Regarding rules, I enforced marching orders, initiative, the fumble tables, and crit tables. However, the "0-level characters only roll 1d4" caveat on the crit table was dumb so I tossed that out.

Funnel 1: The Museum at The End of Time

The first adventure for the upcoming Mutant Crawl Classics game, The Museum at The End of Time is 0-level funnel adventure intended for 15-20 (yes, it's that lethal) characters. Dad and Bro only received 4 characters each. The intro was that many aeons ago there was a terrible magic (nuclear) war that ravaged the world. The PCs were the inhabitants of a medieval-level village who were hated by their peers for unspecified reasons, and so were ordered to march into the deadly Glow Desert: If these brave souls could find some mighty relics and return them to the village then they would be allowed to become a part of the community again. 

A scant few minutes into their voyage, the Silane Serpent reared its ugly head. Marilene, Dad's Halfling Moneylender, noticed the strange ripples and led her group to a rocky outcropping; Bro decided to have his characters climb the highest sand dune. In a massive corkscrew motion, the worm devoured three (3 on a 1d3) of Bro's peasants before the last scrambled into the rocks were Dad's group had taken shelter. They waited until the beast finally left at sunset.

Around that time, they noticed a curious sound; as time wore on, it became clear that it sounded like screaming. The group decided to stand and fight. Soon, six gray-skinned humanoids with pulsating mushrooms instead of heads approached the party. I have to note two things here: First, I altered the description of the Screamer-zombies to make it less gory for 9-year old Bro; second, I didn't notice the HP listing in the Screamer stat block so I rolled HP for each one. Two were much weaker (2 HP), while four were slightly stronger (5 & 6 HP). The party hesitated, unsure if these creatures were hostile. Cire the Jester fired a warning shot in front of one of the advancing Screamers. It did not comply. Bros last surviving PC, Elwyn the Gambler, tried to flee but then returned to the fray.

At first it went well. One of the the 2 HP Screamers fumbled and accidentally killed itself. Trystan the Cobbler survived a Screamer's claw and sent the wretched beast tumbling into the sand, surely dead. Marilene the Halfling cut down another Screamer. But the tide quickly turned and the remaining three Screamers made short work of the party. That's the first time I've experienced a TPK as a GM.

Funnel 2: The Madhouse Meet

When all was said and done, The Massacre at The End of Time had only taken about 30 minutes. Both Bro and Dad still wanted to play. Since I didn't have any other adventure handy, I decided to run the other adventure included in the Free RPG Day book, The Madhouse Meet for Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be (legally) available for free anywhere, you have to buy it from a site like RPGnow (I really wish I had monetized this blog but I don't want to sell out).

As a level 1 adventure, I was leery about how well things would pan out. Just to make things faster we re-used the Zeroes from the previous funnel with one exception; Bro got an extra character, Iago the Smuggler. The module starts with a tried-and-true premise; you wake up in a dungeon, shackled to the wall. and all your stuff minus your clothes is missing. Three characters make the DC 8 Intelligence check to remember rumors of kidnappings in The Great City. They were interrupted by a 7-foot tall gray-skinned man with a club in one had, a big sack in the other, and a burlap bag over his head. He dispensed stale bread and a little water then exited.

The PCs leapt into action. First Gladys the Woodcutter managed to find some makeshift tools to pick the lock then promptly broke them. Mave the Elven Navigator didn't have such terrible luck and managed to free herself and everyone else from their shackles. But almost immediately they heard the approach of footsteps! Quickly, everyone slipped into their unlocked manacles and pretended to be still trapped. Their gray-skinned jailor returned, gave a quick look around, and noticed that Elwyn the Gambler's bonds were open. He took a step toward the prisoner, ready to beat some cooperation into him. Initiative was rolled. The first action was by Iago the Smuggler, who fled into the hallway. Everyone else piled and punched the jailor. Miraculously, the jailor managed to miss every attack while the PCs manage to pummel him with their fists. Eventually, he dropped his club and cowered against a wall, whimpering.

Our heroes exited their cell and investigated their environs. Marilene the Halfling Moneylender almost got the door open. Iago the Smuggler tried to bust the iron-reinforced door by ramming it with his shoulder, causing him 1 point of damage. Marilene finally got the door open. The heroes split into groups. Dad's group discovered a room full of (inanimate) skeletons covered in some kind of green slime. Both groups pressed on to the jailor's room, where they found their starting gear and some extra treasure. Exiting through another door, they spotted a staircase and began to ascend.

Once above, Dad's and Bro's PCs split and intermixed. One headed toward what would turn out to be the wizard's bedroom, while the other found the mess hall. Iago and Mave entered the bedroom. Iago stepped on the luxurious carpet and a strange mist rose to entrap him! Luckily he made his saving throw and escaped. Mave searched the wardrobe, finding nothing but pastel silk robes. Iago tried a few on but none fit. Mave discovered a secret compartment with some scrolls and a small brass case. She effortlessly exited the room and began talking to her friends about her find. Poor Iago got caught in the malevolent magical mists of the wicked rug once again. At this point Dad decided his PCs didn't care about Bro's bumbling Iago. Bro had one character in position to help: Daffydd the Gambler. After much waffling, Daffydd charged in to help. He somehow avoided the nefarious carpet. Grabbing Iago's arms he tried to pull him out of those sinister swirls of fog, but to no avail. The fog snaked into Iago's nostrils and its weird touch dealt 1 point of damage. Now one turn away from death, Iago tried to wrest free from the foul fog. He and Daffydd escaped the room to the relative safety of the cruciform hallway outside.

While this was happening, the other group discovered the mess hall. Dad's PCs, suspicious of the connection between the food, magic, and their hulking jailor, decided to immediately exit. Bro's three PCs cracked open a barrel and started tearing into some salted meat. Then they ate some cheese from a barrel. Unfortunately, this cheese was magically tainted (a 30% chance I added to the module). Gladys the Woodcutter's ear shriveled. Elwyn the Gambler vomited a ray of green magic that struck Cian the Cooper. Cian grew four inches.

Mave tried to read the three scrolls but they were written in a strange language. Two were complete gibberish but from the third she managed to glean that it was a thesis on the use of magic-infused slime combined with humanoids to create super-soldiers. At this point, a patrol of two guards swung open the only unexplored door. They immediately spotted six escaped inmates. However, they didn't spot Bro's three magically altered gluttons. The glutton gang had the opportunity to launch surprise attacks against the guards. Bro decided that they would wait. In the ensuing fight, one guard was killed, Trystan the Cobbler (Dad's PC) did, and a guard fled. Dad's characters now viewed the mess hall three with suspicion.

The fleeing guard reported the events to the wizard, who rounded up four additional guards. His cunning plan was for him and two guards to march through the same door from earlier while a squad of three would sneak in through the mess hall, flanking the insolent escapees.

And, so the wizard, in his pastel glory, moved to attack, shielded by his loyal minions. Unfortunately, the flanking squad swung the door open and found themselves face-to-face with three opponents! The gluttons waded into combat. One guard tried to charge but fumbled, landing on his back like a turtle.
Mave the Elf perished in hand-to-hand combat. Elwyn stabbed a guard in the hand and sent his sword flying. Gladys died. Unable to effectively fight in the mess hall's second doorway, one guard quickly turned and arrived to guard his master. The pastel wizard tried to cast a Magic Missile only to flub. A guard died. Mave died. Elwyn died.

To understand what happened next, you have to think about what the wizard was thinking. The jailor was most likely dead (the prisoners wouldn't have escaped otherwise), two guards were dead, the cook (who actually just sat the battle out fixing stew) should have been dead, a contingent were apparently stalemating his mess hall flankers, and while the escapees would inevitably die it looked like they would take even more of the guards with him. He'd not only lose a whole batch of test subjects but also personnel. He failed his morale check. "Just surrender and you guys can walk out of here."

Marilene, burning with fury, stabbed a guard in the brain in response to the proposition. Iago threw a stone from his sling straight into the mage's head, sending it flying across the room (gotta love crit charts). Seeing their employer dead, the guards quickly surrendered. They led the surviving PCs to the exit, where the emerged into the sun-lit streets of The Great City.


It was pretty amazing to me that actual funnel didn't work very well but the level Lankhmar adventure went amazingly and really helped to crystallize the level-0 redshirts into distinctive characters. I did tone down the Lankhmar adventure some: Guard patrols were reduced to two  members instead of three, the jailor and wizard both lost 1 HD (which lead to Iago's miraculous one-shot on him). But otherwise it just seem to provide a much more fun experience for everyone involved than the Mutant Crawl Classics funnel. For the curious, the players didn't pick their PCs' alignments, I assigned them based on the characters' actions in-game. The survivors of the second funnel are as follows:
- Marilene, Lawful Halfling
- Daffydd, Lawful Warrior
- Cire, Neutral Thief
- Iago, Neutral Thief
- Cian, Chaotic Wizard

We should be holding another session soon, I'll post again if anything interesting happens then.

No comments:

Post a Comment