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What can I say about DCC?  Well, pretty much it is chock full of awesomeness.  After the group talking a long time about playing, Loren ran a one-shot of a 0 level funnel – which we never finished.  And then an epic amount of time passes, while we played GURPS, Firefly universe using Deadlands Classic rules, and a lot of Pathfinder.

The desire and want was still there.  It festered, it whispered to us, and finally screamed at us.  Meanwhile some of the players played some DCC at Paizocon, and had a great time.  The rest of us just sat mournfully hoping and waiting for the return of DCC.

Eric lamented that he has waited too long for the Kickstarter of the DCC 4th printing, then he missed out on the softcover printing that Goodman Games pushed out…  Eric had obviously gone crazy when he stated things like “I am not going to Kickstart Mutant Crawl Classics, because they haven’t even bothered to ship me the books in the first Kickstarter yet”.  I tried to explain to Eric that this wasn’t the way that Kickstarter worked.  Kickstarter got you excited, made you pay, then ignored you until you were beaten into submision.  Once you forgot about the Kickstarter project, then another 4 to 16 months goes by and you get a package in the mail.  Eric was unmoved.  We had all seen this type of cray-cray from our own family members before, and realized that nothing would allow the logic of the universe to enter Eric’s addled state, so we decided to just nod and say reassuring yet non-committal things as he ranted about the inequity of Kickstarter and how Kickstarter is actually a far right wing conservative Tea Party Illuminati joke on the highly educated left wing…  Then we stopped listening.  He may still be raving now.  We like Eric a lot, but occasionally the diatribes about how NPR isn’t liberal enough for him get old.

But then I digress.

The gaming group went through the process of rolling up four characters each.  They did it per the book.  Everyone was surprised and amazed at how poorly stat blocks can develop if you simply roll 3d6 six times and assign the stats right down the block.  There appears to have been some payback from the dice gods.  After years of doing things like rolling 4d6 (and dropping the lowest d6) 12 times and taking the highest 6 rolls, or Epic point buys for your stats, the dice gods responded with a huge number of rolls that totaled under 10.  Daron had several characters where the only way to describe them was “weak, ugly, dunce, clumsy, dullard, weakling and ready to die”  Everyone else had some really bottom of the barrel characters, but that is OK.  This is DCC.  Zero level DCC is meant to be the bottom of the barrel, and hopefully somebody of the party lives through the zero level adventure.  If not, well, that is why the DM creates a bunch of extra zero level characters for the player to play after the first sheet gets wiped out.

So the party starts out in the Goodman Games classic “Sailors on the Starless Sea”  In this adventure, the town is finding that people keep coming up missing.  They suspect that the missing people are being taken to the bad castle about a mile from the town.  The castle is an old ruin, and there are lots of rumors abound about this bad place.  Things like:

  • There is a great treasure under the ruins of the castle
  • The keep was ruled by chaos lords, and even after their defeat, the corpses were never discovered
  • Beware of the well, it has swallowed many a poor soul

You know, the typical nonsense that people convince themselves of when they don’t know any better.  Ruined keep + superstition = pure evil.  Of course this equation can never equate to fluffy bunnies, or prancing my little ponies (ok, that is pure evil, maybe I am not making my case here).

So the party sets out to the ruined keep.  The first thing they see is that the keep are covered with creeping vines and a foul miasma surrounds the keep.  The air is full of biting flies and mosquitoes.  There are clouds of these nasty critters trying to get inside your mouth and nose.

An aside.  I spent a year in the Australian outback when I was 16.  They had a lot of flies, and those flies tried very hard to get into your mouth and nose.  These were moist, the flies wanted moist.  It is very nasty to have this happen, let along happen continuously. Everyone is constantly waving, not because they are friendly, but it is a natural response to files trying to get into your mouth, nostrils, ears, eyes and any other place that is moist or sweaty.   There is a reason why the Aussies wear the hats with all of the corks.  The corks help, but are not a cure all.

So the party braves the swarms of flying bugs and moves on towards the keep’s entrance.  They see two humans standing among the vines.  Upon closer inspection, they realize that the vines are actually two of their townspeople.  Keary and Alban, the sons of the village smith.  The vines are coming out of Keary and Alban’s mouth, eyes, ears, and poking through the skin.  Nobody is sure where the vines enter, but the vines probably found the point of entry with the least resistance…  ugh.

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The two dwarves in the party are also ironworkers, so they are actually pretty OK with the demise of Keary and Alban.  After all, that means that there will be less competition for their wares because the other Smith in town now has no helpers.  Lemons from lemonade?

The party also notices that Keary and Alban are animated.  It appears that the thorny vines are moving the bodies around so that they look like creapy (yes, that is spelled correctly, a mix of creepy and crappy) animitronic Disney displays…

One of Daron’s characters realizes that Keary has a very nice sword.  He takes his 10-ft long pole and attempts to see if he can latch onto the belt that the sword is on, and pull it out.  Daron misses, and the vines appear to start trying to grab the pole.

So Daron does what Daron does best.  He attacks.

And then Daron.

I have missed saying that.  I really have.  I am going to say it again, for good measure.

And then Daron.

Daron tries to whack the bush, and knowing that he needs a good strike to damage the bush, he gets a good wind up with his 10 foot pole, rolls the d20, and rolls …..  1.

Fumble.

In DCC fumbles are never good.  Never, Ever, Ever, not even on a Sunday.  Fumbles are bad.  So we consult the fumble table, and have Daron roll again for the type of fumble.  AAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNDDDDD, his wind up strikes a nearby party member.  Daron rolls damage, and he outright kills the party member in the windup.

This is where zero level DCC characters are different than other games, and why each player rolls up four characters to start with.  Zero level characters are classless, so they only roll 1D4, and then add or subtract their constitution modifier.  Several of the characters rolled a 1 on 1d4, and had no constitution modifier.  The poor guy that Daron whacked and killed actually rolled a 1, and had a negative 1 constitution modifier, which should have given him zero hit points, but I ruled that 1 hit point was the minimum.  After all, Traveler should be the only game where your character can die during creation.

Daron gets the prize for being the first one to kill a party member.  Now Daron usually only kills a party member when provoked.  In this case, nobody in the party provoked Daron, he just needs to figure out which dice will be the better dice in his bucket-o-dice.

So 20 became 19.  Daron, unperturbed, decides to try again to whack the plant.  Everyone wisely moves back, way back.  Daron eventually hooks the belt, and starts pulling.  Now, Keary has been dead for about a week, but he isn’t soft and gushy yet.  Daron can’t get the leverage necessary to pull the belt free, so he convinces the others to help him on the pole.  They pull, but nothing happens.  Well, almost nothing, the vines start reaching out to the pole pullers, whacks at another party member with only 2 hit points, and then 19 became 18.  As the vines assumed the puppeteering of the newly dead party members, someone remembered that one of them was the only member that had flint and steel.  There were ample torches, candles and lanterns, but no flint and steel.  Eric wanted to know if they should go back to the town and light the lantern, so they at least had an original fire source.  While this was an excellent idea, Jason decided that going back to town would not be a good thing, as daylight was burning, and no one wanted to be here at night.

The party decides to try burning the vine.  This may have been a good idea, but everything was soaking wet, and nothing will catch fire.  Also, the vines got pretty testy when they were singed.

So, what to do.  The party needs to get by the vines, and hopefully not become a corpse-puppet in the process.  Loren says “Toss the dead to the vine”, so Eric and Jason’s characters toss the dead over.  The vine quickly reaches out, and they see the corpses stand up and jerk around as the vine takes over the insides of the corpses.  No one really wants to think about how the vines get into the bodies…  But, things are pretty bad when the vines burst out of the body orifices and other places.

The party gets around the vines, and comes to what should be the drawbridge over the moat. The drawbridge is gone.  Rotted away.  The moat is dry, but it is full of the same type of nasty vines that had Keary and Albon puppets.  So I try to make this “easy” for the party.  I tell each player that each character must make a DC 10 dexterity check to cross the 10 ft rotted slippery plank.  If they don’t make that check, they can make a DC 15 dex check to see if they can catch their balance.  Now before anyone things about the fact that they have rope, and could possibly improve their chances of crossing by having one person cross with the rope, and hold it…  The party starts crossing, and falling the 10-ft into the pit.

Now in DCC, if you fall, every 10-ft has 1d6 damage. When you are a normal RPG character, it is likely that you have more than 2 or 3 hitpoints.  When you are a zero level DCC character, a fall of 10-ft has a good chance of killing you.  Couple that with a medium dex check, and let’s just say that five characters didn’t make it.  It was ugly.

Then Daron.

You see, one of Daron’s still living characters had a cow, “Bessie” as his trade goods.  Now Daron wasn’t about to leave the cow behind, besides, if he could ride the cow, with the 10-ft pole as a weapon, he would get some pretty sweet advantages in combat.  Never mind the fact that I have never heard of a warcow before.  I had heard of a warhorse, but a warcow seemed as likely as a wardonkey, or a wargoat, or maybe even a warllama.  But then, this is a fantasy game, so I figured, “why not, you use what you got.”

Daron’s pole dude was not ready to leave Bessie behind.  So he tied the rope to Bessie, and figured that he would pull her across the planks.  Now Cows usually don’t walk on planks.  I am no farmer, but I am going to assume that you need to convince a cow to walk a plank across the 10-ft gap over a 10-ft drop.  Daron said that he would pursuade her to walk the plank.  He was successful, but then Bessie slipped and fell, breaking the rotted plank and crashed down the 10-ft.  Nobody knew how many hit points Bessie had, but I figured she was a zero level bovine, and let Daron roll a d4 to see how many hit points she had.  Bessie had 2 HP.  I then rolled damage on a d6, and Bessie took 1 HP damage, so Bessie was alive, but stuck in a 10-ft deep dry moat, with grasping vines everywhere.  Bessie was abandoned in place.

Castle Portcullis against a blue sky Stock Photo

So the Party got to the Gatehouse.  The gate itself was a heavy iron gate, that was stuck about 4-ft up.  There were many murder holes, arrow slits and other likely places to rain down terror on attacking parties in the gatehouse.  It looked like anyone could scoot under the gate and enter the main part of the keep’s grounds.  For some reason, the Party was convinced this was a trap.  After several rounds of 1, 2, 3 NOT IT, one party member entered, and the gate dropped like an anvil onto the party member, doing way more damage than available hit points.  There was a lot of nasty gooshiness.  Matthew wanted to know he could loot the body.  I made him roll.  Even, the trade goods were on the other side of the portcullis gate.odd they were on his side of the gate.  Matthew got lucky, and got some trade goods.

Now Loren came up with a good idea, if they could lift the gate and then pin it with her one iron spike, then they could all get underneath.  Too bad she didn’t think of that while the gate was 4-ft up, before the party member was cut in two…  The party tried to lift the portcullis gate.  They were able to barely budge it, but didn’t have the strength to lift ti more than an inch, or hold it up.  They dropped the gate, and it squished in the gore, splashing it around on more people.

Jason asked if they could get around the walls, by shimmying on the top of the rammed earth trying not to fall into the dry moat.  They could with a successful DC 10 dex roll, and didn’t lose anyone in the process.

After shimming around the front of the keep, then around the side, they came to an area in which the walls of the keep had collapsed.  The huge rocks looked unsteady, but one of the dwarves were able to climb successfully to the top, and showed the proper way to ascend without causing catastrophe.  Two other party members were successful.

And then Daron.

Daron didn’t make the dex check.  He was able to scramble to the top, but he let loose an avalanche of boulders which squished several party members.

Now, Daron did manage to move the boulders and that did open up a large shaft with stairs going into the wall.  That’s good, right?  He found a place to explore.  That kind of makes up for the massacre, doesn’t it?

Now this is where the Party really came into its own.  They realized that as zero level characters their life expectancy as pretty darn short, and started looking for all of their options.  Kind of like “what can I do, which will help me survive this”.  From the top of the keep’s walls, they could see the following in the large open area of the keep:

  • A circular tower with a door
  • A burned out building with bronze doors that were blocked from the outside
  • A well
  • A large area of debris.
  • An enormous pit spewing some sort of fog

and of course, the shaft that they uncovered.

Matthew goes over to the well.  He looks in, and I have him make a willpower save.

He makes it… Darn!  I mean good!  Matthew feels a feeling of vertigo, and a strong desire to dive into the well, but he doesn’t do it.  Instead he decides to find out how deep the well is, and drops a rock into it.  He never hears a splash or clunk.  That can’t be good.

Daron goes over to the burned building.  The building has toad faced gargoyles, along with a double bronze doors that is barred from the outside, with a single word painted on it in red paint “Repent”, however it is flaking and very old, so it may actually say “Repaint”, No one is sure.  The bronze doors are cast with hundreds of wailing demonic faces.

The party decides to check everything else out before moving forward.  The large area of debris looks like it was a stockpile, maybe including some scaffolding and other detritus.  It is quite rotten, and nothing is of use here.

The door on the circular tower is a heavy wood door barred on the inside.

They don’t check out the enormous pit that is spewing some sort of fog.

The Party huddles, and decides to go into the building with the bronze doors.  Jason volunteers to remove the bar.  I tell him that it is removed.  His response was “That’s it?  Nothing happens?”  It is like he expected something bad to happen.

The party opens up the doors and finds a charred room, with multiple skeletons on the floor.  As they enter, the party also finds a golden censer, a blackened iron coffer, three chainmail hauberks (which I have to explain several times are NOT halberds). three blackened maces and a flail.

Jason also sees a leering toad like fountain, with jeweled eyes and teeth, and a black liquid oozing out of the toad’s mouth into a  basin below.  Now for some reason, Jason thinks this is probably bad.  The gems look good, but he is concerned about the oozing black liquid.

The party also notices that the skeleton bones are still hot to the touch, and there are glowing embers below the bones.

Loren walks towards the toad statue, and sees out of the corner of her eye that a tendril has risen out of the black ooze and takes a swipe at her.

Then Jason says “And there it is”.  He says things like that.  Like he is expecting something bad to happen, and when it does, this fulfills his pessimistic, yet realistic attitude.

The tarlike tendril hits Loren, and catches her on fire.  It deals 1 damage, and I ask her what she does.  She says the correct response… Stop Drop and Roll.  That puts out the fire.

The party backs out slowly, while gazing longingly at the gems on the toad statue.  They open the coffer.  Now, the coffer could have the lock picked, or they could bash it open.  Being zero level characters, there are no thieves in the party, so bash it is.  Inside are three cones of incense, wrapped in a soft cloth embossed with a chaos demon’s brand.  There is probably nothing bad that could come of that, right?

The party decides to burn one of the incense cones in the censer, and swing it around in the burned out chapel.  The acrid, awful smell of chaos fills the room.  Then the party can’t decide what to do.

Having had enough of the charred chapel, the party goes back to the shaft that they found in the wall, after Daron moved the huge stones out of the way… while sacrificing several party members in the process.  The shaft had stone stairs cut into the fissure, which ended in a small chamber with an enormous round stone door at the end.  The stairs and room are filled with chalky dust and the smell of rot.  The stone door is silver pentagram circumscribed with runes.  Luckily, one of Eric’s characters is an astrologers apprentice, so he can make out some of the runes.  The runes tell him:

  • The scorching splurge, which sours the world
  • The stiffening glamour, sill in life
  • The baneful store, sheepless to specification
  • The ranging temper, denouncing from within
  • Banes four I pace upon this portal
  • Fire, Ice, Storm and Hate

Now being an apprentice, Eric isn’t sure exactly how good of a translation he did of the runes, but he confidently tells the party what the translation is.  He is pretty convinced that the four banes are correct.

So the party decides to open the portal, gate, door, or whatever it is.  They don’t know any cantrips or magic which could remove the curse, but then, what other thing is there to do?  This is obviously better and safer than going and trying something else, like the well.

Eric and Jason position one character each, and pull on the door.  They open it, and an explosion of fire erupts from one of the runes, cooking the two characters.  It was pretty messy.

Now the basis of the adventure is that all of the 20 people in the adventure are all from the same town, and they all know each other.  As each person in the party dies, no one seems to mind much.  I would hate to be from this town, where everyone is cannon fodder, and no one seems to care at all what happens to their townspeople.

Behind the ruined door is an unnaturally cold cave.  The entire cave is filled with ice, and there is a massive body laying in repose on a low funerary bier.

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Loren sends her STR 18 character in, and makes the constitution saving throw (good for her), reaches down and tugs on the ax.  She has to pull several times, and then with a crack like someone has broken a large bunch of celery, the frozen arms shatter, and she relieves the corpse of the ax, except the ax is still being held onto by the fingers, wrists and forearms of the corpsicle.  No problem, Loren figures that the ax will warm up, and there should be no problem unconnecting the fingers, so the ax is now hers.  After all, what bad could possibly come from pulling an ax from a 7-ft tall frozen corpse that was laying in repose in a warded chamber…  They had seen the “fire” and “ice” part of the banes.  The other two banes, “storm” and “hate” didn’t show up, so they probably were only for scaring the meek away, right?

Armed with her new ax, with the extra arms, Loren feels pretty good.  She is ready for anything…

So the party decides to go back to the door on the round tower.  The door is barred from the inside.  So the charred chapel was barred from the outside, and that was bad.  If this is barred from the inside, it must be OK, comparatively, right?

Maybe, maybe not.  This is where Daron outdoes himself.  The party knows of no other way to get into the barred door, so they start hacking it to bits, to get in.  After several minutes of hacking it to bits, they finally bust it down.  Then Daron looks inside, and is overcome by the smell of rot.  Inside are many skins rotting, animal, human and others that are not recognizable.  As Daron backs away, he thinks he sees several people, who are dressed all funny,.  They are wearing different types of masks.  One looks really odd, and has a vulture mask on, but he can’t figure out where the man’s head really is inside the vulture mask.  Hmmm.

So Daron backs away, picks up a rock, and throws it at the man wearing the vulture mask.  I say “Roll to hit”.  Daron rolls a d20 yielding a “1”, fumble.  We go to the fumble table, and Daron rolls again, the fumble table says that the damage he would have done to an opponent is done to him.  We decide that the rock that he threw went wild, ricocheted off the wall of the keep, and came back and hit him.  Daron rolls for damage, and kill himself.

Daron is now the bookend for all RPG’s.  In one session, the first kill is him killing another party member by accident then killing himself by accident.  That is really hard to top.

We decide to hold at that point.  To pick up next week.

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