, at PopiCon 2023 My pre-event post about PopiCon 2023 Game Convention in South Bend, Indiana. , I ran Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry 📖 using the Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC 📖) system for five players. One of the players joined halfway through. More on that in a bit.
Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry]] is an adventure for 0th level characters; a “character funnel” as they all it. I’ve run it a few times before. I reported on Play Through of Nebin Pendlebrook's Perilous Pantry.
Procedure for Getting Started
- Set Expectations
- Meaningful Choices
- Explain Unique Procedures
- Dig a Little Bit and Leave Breadcrumbs
After feedback from a previous pick-up game, I started setting expectations with the following introduction to all DCC games:
We will be playing a Dungeon Crawl Classics character funnel. Each of you will have 4 fragile characters to start. The goal is to make it through the dungeon with at least one of them alive. In campaign play, the survivor(s) would be your character(s) in further adventures. It won’t be easy, and you should think of your characters as pawns. Don’t risk them all at once.
As this was a one-shot, I wanted to give folks choices for who they were playing. The reason is two-fold. First, I know some folks love rolling up characters, and pre-mades removes that beloved activities. Second, I want them to find characters/professions that speak to them.
I came with a stack of characters generated by Purple Sorcerer Games’s “0-Level Party & Tourney Generator”. I gave each player two sets of four characters and asked them to pick one of the sets. Encouraging them to pick ones that sounded fun and/or interesting.
The four players picked their set of characters and started naming their characters and I talked through the procedures.
Explain Unique Procedures
I quickly summarized the following:
- When a character drops to 0 Hit Points (HPs 📖), they die.
- You have four characters, when you want to do something, tell me who amongst them is doing it and we’ll go from there.
- Your character has a profession, that might be helpful for prosaic lore/knowledge.
Then I got to the Luck attribute.
Luck is a different attribute than other games. When there’s doubt, I’m going to pick on the character with the lowest luck. For each of you, I want you to establish a character marching order. Who is “first” amongst them and who’s bringing up the rear. I’ll go to this if and when a creature strikes in surprise.
For this game, we were in a space that had a white board behind me. Oh my heavens did I love that. I went around the table in turn asking the player to introduce their characters in marching order. They gave their name, occupation, animal (if any), and luck score.
I wrote this up on the white board for all to see.
Dig a Little Bit and Leave Breadcrumbs
While folks are introducing their characters, I like to banter just a bit. Poke to help the characters build connection. We had three farmers: radish, turnip, and wheat.
The radish and turnip farmers were friendly but had their deep held opinions about who had the best root vegetable. And the wheat farmer was simply “John the Farmer”. I quipped, “Not to be confused with John the Butcher, that guys a jerk am I right?”
They named their pets, “Barthal-a-mule” the mule, “Bill” the Pony, “Henry” the hen, and I forget the other hen. That hen died rather quickly. But set the tone for the rest of the game.
And with that we built a little bit about Bitterweed Barrow, the village where all this started.
The Plays the Thing
The group began their delve, and I required that they have one torch per four characters. We wrote on the white board who had the torch. After all that’s a beacon and might cause trouble.
They moved through several encounters unscathed, until things went sideways a bit. Character’s sliding off cliffs, an overloaded bridge failing and poor Barthal-a-mule plummeting to its death while their handler quickly let go the lead that would’ve dragged him to his death.
They hit a point where they could take Bill the pony no further. And the farmer who spoke horse It was a language on their character sheet. Kind of cool to have that. gave a Bill blessing and sent him back. They proceeded a bit and then we took a break.
At the break, a fifth player joined. I rummaged through the character pile of pre-generated characters and saw “halfling chicken butcher” as one profession. I handed them the sheet and said: “Here’s your characters, and this butcher must be named John.”
I explained that their characters had decided to stay back at the tavern when the others went. And there was a rivalry between John the Farmer and John the Butcher.
I gave another sheet to one of the players who had lost three of their characters. The player was new do table-top role-playing games. His mother, who was at the table, told me midway through the game that her son had neurodivergency and was easily distracted. She was pleased that he was fully attentive, engaged, and not retreating to his phone. This sheet had a dwarven miner and a squire.
In my head the squire was keen to see what was causing all of this ruckus and loss of good working folk. And the squire demanded that the dwarf miner come along.
For this new batch of characters, they had chosen not to go along, and were ending their night at the local pub when Bill the pony came to them.
Clearly something was amiss and they all went to investigate what had happened.
And with minimal disruption, the characters joined the group. Even if it hadn’t narratively worked, I would’ve dropped these characters right in.
We continued playing and wrapped up with an high stakes theater of the mind combat; many characters fled and others died at the end of spears.
I love low-level DCC adventures, balancing the heroics and the heartbreak; asking questions and seeing players dig deep with minimal resources.
When a friend had approached me to run a game at PopiCon I had trepidations; I really wanted to be a player at a game. Yet, I was (and still am) feeling a strong urge to play in face to face games. Between and , I played many online games but have grown weary of that. My day job involves lots of over video chat lots of impromptu meetings and problem solving.
I had been listening to Fear of a Black Dragon 📖’s “Planar Compass” episode. During The Expert Delve segment, they talked about “Whimsical Fantasy” and how it’s a good way to introduce players into the game.
I’ve also found it’s a great way to get back into running games. DCC does just that. Especially a 0th level character funnel.
Years ago, I had stopped running games, and I started running a drop-in game. See Campaign: DCC Better World Gaming 📖 From that I started chipping away at the little things that kept me from running games.
Because I love the theatrics of DCC. With it’s numerous tables and uniquely important Luck attribute; a meta-currency that players can use to nudge things in their favor and the Game Master (GM 📖) can as a guide for who to target.
I write the blog post to help me reflect on the experience and to acknowledge the deep love I have of face to face games.
- Adding bits of fiction that seed potential future re-incorporation.
- Being a fan of the characters.
- Challenging the characters and players.
- Laughing at those moments of serendipity.
- And gasping in horror as a beloved mule plummets into the dark depths of a chasm.
There’s something magical about Role Playing Games (RPGs 📖). They create for theatrics, imagination, problem-solving, serendipity, and emergent story-telling built from the foundations of a back story only partially known.