Monday, January 13, 2014

Play Report: DCC (and a little tremulous)

Today, I got together with J, J2, B, and L and played some Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC). We were supposed to play Warhammer, but with one guy home sick and another guy out of town, I decided to take the opportunity to play something new, rather than leaving our missing guys behind.

Character creation, as it commonly is in a new RPG, was a little clunky but we figured it out. In DCC, oyu make several level-0 characters. As they die in the first few dungeons, the survivors level up and become your "real" characters. Since there were four players, they each made four level zero characters. My insistence on witnessing rolls slowed progress considerably. I'll definitely just trust everyone next time!

The point, as I understand it as written in DCC, is to create normal people who make that choice to become adventurers. The first adventure, or the "funnel", filters out the fat, leaving the best characters behind as your heroes. By then, those little level-0 nobodys have earned the right to live. They really are heroes. So that first dungeon is really like an introduction to your character and the game world as a whole. This works great with more old-school, traditional players, who are used to rolling dice, writing down numbers, and jumping right into the dungeon. However, a few of my players are more new-school and used to a game where lots of thought and emotional investment goes into them from the beginning. The idea of holding back on that creative energy and letting a few of those characters die was a rough adjustment. Again, I can see this system working fabulously for a bunch of grognards who just want to get to the monster-slaying, but it's definitely old school, and those accustomed to a more modern RPG sensibility may not "get it."

This extended into the adventure itself. We played the adventure in the book, the Something-Something Under the Stars (I'm writing this on my phone as I watch the Golden Globes, so I'm not going to look it up right now). The adventure, as written, is clearly designed for archetypical adventurers...brave to the point of foolishness, greedy to the point of madness, kicking in doors and killing anything that isn't a PC. After the first couple of PCs died in the first two rooms, everyone was playing very conservatively. B and L were so concerned about losing more characters that they left the dungeon before finishing, only returning when J and J2 found a way to safely defeat the monsters in the last room. Again, I don't fault the players for their mentality. It's the way they were "raised" on RPGs. Again, I could see some grizzled old grognards really embracing this style of play and having a hoot with it. But not everyone!

So overall, it looks like DCC absolutely is what it is: an homage to old-school retro role-playing, one that people who played back then will love, and players who didn't will scratch their heads and wonder what the fuss is all about. I'm still glad I've got the game, and I do look forward to playing it again, but next time I'll probably pitch DCC purely to old-school gamers!

After DCC wrapped up, we switched to something much more our group's typical speed: tremulous! We returned to Ebon Eaves, this time envisioned as a sun-drenched Georgia town in the late depression-era instead of its typical dark, New England incarnation. J was a Handyman. B was a Doctor. L was a Diletante (again, though this one was a young, naive southern belle while her previous one was an old lady). J2 made an Adventurer.

The results the players came up with on their survey lead me in some bizarre directions. Unlike the last story where everything clicked, I had to think fast on my feet to try and tie all of the odd little story bits together into something cohesive. I kept it up for a little over an hour, and then, creatively exhausted, I ended the session. The real horror has not revealed itself yet, but here's what's happened so far:

The Diletante's sister, Molly, is a morose and severely withdrawn young girl. Her parents, increasingly concerned about Molly, have decided to commit her to an asylum. As the Diletante overhears her parents argue, she discovers that her sister was adopted. This doesn't matter to her, however; she still loves her sister. And so the next morning, before her parents can do anything, she takes her sister and leaves the house.

The Diletante brings Molly to the Doctor's home. The Doctor has known the Diletante and her family for many years, and the Diletante, not knowing where else to go, turned to him for help. The Doctor has his own problems, though; the previous day, he was called by the police to examine an odd male they found walking around aimlessly in the woods. The Doctor suspects inbreeding; the man is freakishly strong, with an elongated, ridged forehead. After a day of unsuccessfully getting the mutant man to speak, the Doctor sets him free, then follows him into the woods. There, the Doctor discovers the mutant is living in the middle of the woods with a number of other mutants, perhaps his family. One of them attempts to attack the Doctor, but the others, at the behest of the one the Doctor was kind to, protected him.

Meanwhile, the Handyman, a trusted retainer of the Diletante's family, is approached by the father. He speaks openly about his problems with Molly, and conversationally asks the Handyman's advice. When the father reveals that Molly is adopted, the Handyman decides to ask his father about the family. The Handyman's father, who has lived in Ebon Eaves his entire life and for some reason is highly distrustful of the Diletante's family, finally tells his son what he knows: that Molly's mother was commited to a mental institution after Molly's father was found with his heart missing from his chest. The first night Molly's mother was committed, she went on a murderous rampage in the asylum, slaying five other patients. She was sentenced to death by hanging, and Molly was brought by the mayor of the city to the Diletante's family. The Handyman's father is not aware of what deals and cohoots the Diletante's family may be involved in, or why the mayor suddenly had a hand in all of this, but he distrusts the entire lot of them, and only wants to live out the rest of his days in peace, far from the comings and goings of Ebon Eaves' upper crust.

Across town, the Adventurer has been hired by a shadowy patron to recover an ancient tome that used to belong to Old Man Skitter, who has mysteriously disappeared. The Adventurer broke into Skitter's home and discovered that he had been killed. A man-thing (later revealed to be one of the mutants in the woods) was feasting on Old Man Skitter's corpse. He/it ran off after the Adventurer threatened it with his machete.

The book now in his possession, the patron asked the Adventurer to help him round up "volunteers" for a ceremony he is planning. The Adventurer is unsure of why, and the patron will not provide answers yet, but for the moment he's working on it. Currently, he is heading to the Diletante's family home and having a word with the plantation workers there about a rally happening up on Precision Point. Meanwhile, the Handyman is sent by the Diletante's father to go into town and find his daughter and Molly. He finds out where Molly is from the Diletante, heads to the Doctor's house, only to discover that Molly fled the house overnight.

The session ended with the Doctor and the Handyman working together to find Molly. It has begun innocously enough, but I know where it's headed, and things are going to get weird in due time...

...if we ever get back to it. I've got two other sessions with two other groups before I get back to these four, and when we do get back, it will probably be to Warhammer. So this particular session of tremulus may enter the Void of Unanswered Questions. Time, as always, will tell.


1 comment:

  1. Yeah, DCC was a well made game, but it's just not my thing anymore. I could see myself playing it for a great old school one shot adventure, but even then I'd probably prefer to play Dungeon World or Torchbearer. I can see old school D&D fans eating it up though. It was an elegant way of reimagining a classic. Hopefully we can return to Tremulus sometime. I'm actually really glad you keep a record of sessions. We can always refer back to these for a refresher.

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