Dungeon Crawl Classic: Portal Under the Stars

In which one is nearly saved by a pound of clay…

A skeleton with pitchfork in ribcage looking at a shocked peasant, implying that the pitchfork does not hurt.
Umm you may want to consider your tactics. (From DCC 3rd printing)

I ran a one-shot Dungeon Crawl Classic zero-level adventure for four intrepid players at Better World Books in Goshen. I chose “The Portal Under the Stars” from the 3rd printing of DCC.

This was my first time running Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC 🔍). It was also the first time playing DCC for each of the players.

The adventure ended in a Total Party Kill (TPK 🔍) (20 characters). But not before executing an outrageous plan.

Here are some of the action highlights of this under-equipped hodgepodge of humanity:

  • Action: Attempting to force open a trapped door by hammering a 10' pole with a mallet. Result: Flame weakened 2 foot pole.
  • Action: Using a fallen armored companion as a heat shield from gouts of flame. Result: Success…though the armor became melted slag.
  • Action: Gathering kneecaps as sling ammunition. Result: Gruesome butchery but 4 sling bullets.
  • Action: Using a shovel handle to pick up and fling a flaming lantern at the terra-cotta warriors in hopes of drawing the crystal creatures towards the heat. Result: Missing the warriors and shattering the lamp on the wall.

And the most absurd plan:

Fashioning a pound of wet clay (Yay for random equipment items!) into the helmet shape of one of the many terra-cotta warriors that were advancing. Then pulling a Scoobie Doo as he walks through the ranks towards the general and warlord in hopes of getting to the glowing crystal orb. This was too cool, so I didn’t require the character to even roll to fool the warriors nor generals. The warlord would be a different matter.

During this time the other characters are slaughtered by the terra-cotta warriors. I chose to hand-wave this as it was 50 to 7 and time was running out.

After exchanging a few grunts and mumbles, the warriors and generals let the character pass. Making his way to the generals room. As he walks past the warlord, the warlord takes note. The character turns, runs to the crystal, grabs it and smashes it on the ground; Shattering the only light source. I narrate a “Quick fade to black followed by a lone scream cut short”.


This was my first time running DCC. I kept things fast and loose. It was a bit confusing for players to have 4 characters. Many of them took actions together. In DCC, this is a bad idea. As a player, consider each character as its own resource; Only risk one at a time.

There was some impatience and brazen actions. Little in the way of listening at the door. Cracking the door for a peak. Caution is a mandatory mode of operation.

Within the read aloud text there is helpful information for players to leverage. Unless the situation is immediately in motion, dig into that read aloud text. Pay attention.