Saturday, June 18, 2011

Free RPG Day: Pod-Caverns Under DCC RPG Rules

Just got home from Lake Geneva Games where I ran a slightly truncated version of Matt Finch's Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom (great module by the way!) using the DCC RPG Beta rules. It was pretty much awesome, but I'll try to keep this short and sweet (and fail miserably at that as usual). Here are some points about the game, in no particular order.

  • The adventure states it's for 6-8 OSRIC (AD&D) characters of 2nd to 4th level. We ended up with 6 players, each running a 3rd level DCC character.
  • I generated the characters beforehand, doing everything mostly by the book. To get ability scores, I rolled several series of four sets using 3d6 in order, choosing the best set from each series. This was to replicate the filtering that would have happened at level 0. (I'll post up a downloadable package of all my pregens as soon as I get a chance)
  • The PCs started with a single healing potion (one for the whole group, not one each), a magical tent that would allow them to rest once or twice inside the dungeon, and no other magic items.
  • I ran the module almost exactly as written, with no changes to monsters aside from converting their AC to ascending and giving them an attack bonus equal to their HD, which was all easily done on the fly.
  • I didn't use a screen, and made all rolls in the open. If a player wanted to see my notes or maps, they probably could have easily done so, but it wasn't an issue. I spent about 2/3 of the time sitting and 1/3 on my feet. I really enjoyed running the game this way, and will probably do it this way from now on, unless some player takes advantage of it and sours me on the method.
  • I followed Harley's tips as he outlined in this thread. This really helped the flow of the game. It also helped that I got to play in a game run by him, so I was able to learn a lot from that. Harley is an excellent DM, and if you ever get the opportunity to play in a game run by him, I suggest doing so. I did forget to have players roll the damage they took a few times, but no biggie.
  • Another thing I did that was very important to the flow was this: When a caster is up, have them make their spell check and then go to the next character's turn while they look up the result. Then go back and let them roll their damage or whatever. This was very effective, as it kept the spell lookups in the hands of the player, but eliminated the issue of everyone else sitting at the table staring at them.
  • I used my ref sheets to great effect. They were extremely handy and helped keep things moving. I referenced them on average 2 or 3 times per round, so it made a big difference.
  • Funky Dice! I think everyone enjoyed using them. I purchased and brought 3 sets with me, but three of the players already had their own sets! They were the topic of discussion quite a bit as well. I don't care what anyone says, Mr. Goodman made a good move by having DCC use these dice. I think a set was sold that day as well.
  • We had a 10-yr-old (my little cousin) playing a warrior to great effect. I didn't even tell him what Mighty Deeds of Arms were, he just did his thing. He often used stuff from his backpack, like a crowbar or chain rather than his weapon, and was doing all sorts of crazy stuff. The MDoA tables were a great way for me to adjudicate the results of his crazy stunts. Big thumbs up to MDoAs, and big thumbs up to giving the imaginative kids the warrior!
  • Deaths. There were none. At least not any permanent ones. There were several times where people were knocked to zero, but without fail they were healed back to life by the cleric within the requisite 3 rounds. At the very end, I could have possibly had a TPK against the shroom, but a lucky save turned the tide in the PCs favor, and a high spell check blew the boss to bits. Victory belonged to the PCs.
  • I think the adventure would have been a lot harder if the players weren't so good at spellburning and burning luck at the appropriate times. They used this mechanic to great effect.
Here were a few of the awesome moments from the game:
  • The chaotic wizard had an awesome mercurial result with his scorching ray spell, allowing him to roll a d30 instead of a d20 for spell checks using this spell. Of course, on his first roll, he rolled a 1, and earned himself some elephant ears. Even still, he kept using this spell almost exclusively (who wouldn't!), and it basically smoked the shit out of a lot of encounters.
  • When they got to the phosphorescent pool, they promptly filled their waterskins with it, poured it all over themselves, rubbed in on their gums, drank it and peed it out later - you name it. I'm guessing many groups would have avoided this pool like the plague. Basically this is a good example of how I had a great group for enjoying this game and trying silly things.
  • At one point a stirge inserted his proboscis (a body part I had to repeatedly ask one of the players what it was called) into the warrior's eye. Another stirge had his proboscis in the wizard's knee, and was sucking the marrow out of his bone.
  • The dwarf's "smell gold" ability led them up the ledge to a fun encounter they would have probably otherwise skipped. This ability is awesome for leading PCs to those cool areas or treasures that they have a tendency to miss.
  • The thief did a good job with negotiating a backstab attempt with me just about every single round. Lots of failed thief skill attempts, but a few were made when it really counted. I was afraid the thief would be totally lame, but he was run by a good player, so he was pretty effective. However, I'd still like to see something more flashy given to the thief. Something that gives him another viable combat option besides backstab.
  • The lawful wizard failed a magic missile attempt and earned himself a pustule-covered face and a permanent -1 Personality score.
  • The "stuff you do to spellburn" table was a source of great amusement. We had a wizard brand himself with an image of a tadpole, rip out one of his fingernails and burn it, and the other wizard offered up his firstborn son to an unnamed demi-god. Good stuff, and I look forward to fan versions of this table.
  • Probably close to a dozen crits in the session. They were a good source of entertainment for us all.
  • Found magic arrow that happened to be black was named Rick James by our 10-year-old warrior, and there were many times it was fired to the tune of "I'm Rick James _____" (The one drawback to playing in public - not nearly enough swearing. This games goes well with lots of colorful language at the table.)
  • The last fight could have gone very badly for the group, as I had the chaotic wizard charmed under my complete control, with 3 of the PCs on the floor already. If I would have taken a moment to think about it, I could have probably killed the cleric with the wizard, but I was caught in the moment and tried to have the wizard blow his own head off with a scorching ray, which afforded him another save - a difficult one - but one he was able to make with some smart luck burning. He immediately roasted the boss after that.
Other observations about the game:
  • Luck burning and Spellburn played much differently than I anticipated when reading about them. I would have expected them to barely be used, but it seemed the casters were using these roughly every other turn. They were obviously metagaming the fact that this was a one shot. I am curious to see how players manage these resources in campaign play. In future one-shots, I will likely amp up the difficulty of the adventure and make this use an expected tactic, or I will place limits on the use of these abilities. They were just playing within the rules, but something about it didn't feel right, and it had the stink of munchkin-style gaming. 
  • Taking the above into account, I think there should be some advice in the rules for one-shot beer and pretzels style play versus campaign play. I think the general impression of the game is that it is primarily for one-shot convention play, and that it is overall an unserious, gonzo game. However, it seems the luck and spellburn stuff is more geared for campaign play. I still have high hopes for the game as being a viable system for campaign play, but I would be welcoming of some advice about how to do it. If it just intended for beer and pretzels fun, that's cool too, but let's just come out and say that explicitly if that is the case.
  • I know it's already been addressed and is going to be fixed in the final release, but we got some further confirmation in the game today that the multiple chained "as above" statements in the spell tables are cumbersome.
  • Taking this module as an example, 1E content seems to work great for this game. If the PCs have any magic items, my best guess would be that a DCC group could tackle content 1 or 2 levels higher than their AD&D counterpart PCs.
In summation, this was a great session. I am lucky in that a had an awesome group of players, and this system is simply built for action-packed adventures. This was my first public game I've ever run, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was a very rewarding experience.

Please post any questions you have about the session or the game itself. I'd be happy to answer!

Hvaen't played DCC yet? Get off your ass and get to it!


  1. Awesome playtest report. Sounds like a great game, run by an expert DM. Very cool.

    (And I love the Rick James bit ...)


  2. Great report! Did you use the Mighty Deeds tables and if so, did you find them useful?

  3. Thanks Harley!

    @Jeff: Yes, I did use the Mighty Deeds tables. I included them in my ref sheets, and found them to be extremely useful in giving me guidelines for adjudicating the effectiveness of all the crazy stuff the warrior was doing. I'm the type of referee than can be creative within a framework. Give me a starting point, and I can run with it and take it in other directions. However, I tend to suck if I have a blank page in front of me. For this reason, I appreciated the tables.

  4. What a hoot the game was! First time playing after reading the post-beta rules!

    Being the Thief player - I think the Thief needs more combat options other than backstab. Each time I did it - the monsters in question were fortunately grappling with another character. Frankly 1d4 (dagger) or 1d6 (short sword) per normal attack seems pretty weak compare to the damage the other classes can dish out. I am not expecting the Thief to be a combat monster, but at the same time not a one-trick pony.

    I think the conversion between Old School D&D is easier than I thought it would be - especially with a good Dungeon Master.

    Looking forward to the next game of DCC!


As long as this isn't nonsense spam, I'll approve your comment.