14 July 2011

Two Character Funnel Scenarios

One of the things that bugged me about our DCC play experience was the artificiality of the character funnel.  I get that the game wants to emphasize very humble beginnings to non-heroic characters -- essentially the radish farmer trading his chicken for a life of perilous adventure where death is more likely than not.  I think that works nicely as a conceit for individual characters.  Where it strains to the point of breaking for me is when you put 16 of those radish farmers together and herd them into a dungeon, especially a dungeon that seems designed to eliminate 10 of them to form a potential adventuring party.

I think a lot of that could be eliminated with some creative set up, something that gives the radish farmers a reason to "adventure" and, for those that survive, nudges them toward further exploits.  When thinking about DCC, two immediately come to mind:

1.  An orc invasion!  An orc (or other sort of humanoid or human force) invades the character's lands.  The first DCC adventure can take place immediately after the PC's village is sacked.  The PC's are the only survivors and must venture into the nearby dungeon to acquire resources to survive, since everything else has been destroyed.  An alternative is that the PC's go and hide out in the dungeon to avoid being overrun by the advancing army and a few decide (or are forced to) explore the caverns.  The later scenario is something like "what all the average Joe's of Rohan did at Helm's Deep while the army was fighting above".

2.  Shipwreck!  I've always wanted to do a shipwreck game, where the PC's begin play stranded on an unknown piece of land, with only the jungle and ship detritus to use as play begins.  The character funnel works perfectly for this set-up, as the band of castaways begin to explore their surroundings.  Some meet untimely ends, others end up gaining in experience, riches, and power.  All you would need to do would be to change the occupations table a bit to give it a more nautical theme.  It's a wonderful set up for a hex-crawl, and would even work well for a West Marches sort of game with a large band of rotating players.  This is the D&D version of Lost, which makes it even more appealing for me.


  1. I had a similar thought while reading your and Risus Monkey's thoughts on the funnel. The scenario that occurred to me was something along the lines of the first option, where a band of nobodies gets trapped inside a dungeon, perhaps maliciously so. The Evil Wizard who runs the dungeon likes to round up local commoners and put them through his gauntlet, that sort of thing. Sort of a fantasy version of Saw or The Running Man. (In the latter case, perhaps it is a form of a game, where a debauched empire takes slaves won in war, i.e. the PCs, and puts them into a deathtrap and monster-laden dungeon for their debased amusement. Survivors are granted their freedom and a one-way ticket to the Borderlands.

  2. (Of course, this is purely academic on my part. Any game whose central mechanics require this much mental gymnastics on my part in order to maintain my suspension of disbelief isn't a game I'm interested in. I have similar problems with 4e's "powers.")

  3. I think these are two great scenarios. I'm still hung up on hanging to play more than one character at a time, which I think is my main beef with DCC. That, and well,the purposeful killing of characters.

    No reason why you couldn't just have one zero-level schlep and activate another if the he/she meets an expected but still untimely demise.

  4. I like the slave in a dungeon idea, sirlarkins. Of course, we are all missing the obvious solution, which is to just start at first level.