Tuesday, August 9, 2011

These Characters Suck

So, I was home watching my boy yesterday, and during one of his naps decided to roll up my "posse" of characters for the scheduled Thursday game of Dungeon Crawl Classics. Here's what I ended up with (and just by the way, I am naming them right now, as I am posting this...everything else was pure random roll):

Old Orin Pig-Keeper

Strength 11, Agility 6 (-1), Stamina 3 (-3), Personality 18 (+3), Intelligence 12, Luck 12
Luck: Bountiful Harvest (bonus to hit points)
Hit Points: 1
Occupation: Dwarven Herder (alignment: Neutral)
Gear: Staff, sow, 29 copper pieces

Bow-Legged Bill

Strength 9, Agility 8 (-1), Stamina 10, Personality 7 (-1), Intelligence 7 (-1), Luck 11
Luck: Conceived on Horseback (bonus to mounted combat)
Hit Points: 1
Occupation: Caravan Guard (alignment: Lawful)
Gear: Short sword, linen (1 yard), 29 copper pieces

Young Yorin Assistant Pig-Keeper

Strength 9, Agility 8 (-1), Stamina 11, Personality 9, Intelligence 8 (-1), Luck 9
Luck: Fox's Cunning (bonus to find/disable traps)
Hit Points: 2
Occupation: Dwarven Herder (alignment: Neutral)
Gear: Staff, goose, 39 copper pieces

Derrick the Blue

Strength 10, Agility 11, Stamina 14 (+1), Personality 15 (+1), Intelligence 8 (-1), Luck 5 (-2)
Luck: Raised by Wolves (bonus to unarmed attacks)
Hit Points: 3
Occupation: Indentured Servant (alignment: Chaotic)
Gear: Staff, locket, 20 copper pieces

Wow...this is definitely NOT your father's B/X! Four characters with a combined total of 7 hit points, and cumulative ability bonuses of (-1), (-3), (-2), and (-1)...I am anticipating quite the bloodbath!
; )

As I wrote earlier, I intend to be comparing the DCC rules to B/X over the next couple days/weeks due to their superficial similarity (not the least of which is DCC's recycled art from B/X). A few initial observations about the system, specifically with regard to chargen:
  • The idea with funnel system is that playing multiple characters will ensure some survival over time to higher levels, where your character will no longer suck, in the process developing a background and emotional attachment to the peon that had the fortune to survive.
  • Unlike B/X, initial viability of characters is NOT a concern, due to the funnel system...which means that unless one is fortunate with the random dice rolls, each individual character rolled tends to look like a walking meat puppet. Viability is thus determined "in play" (if a character is viable, it is assumed he or she will survive to 1st level).
  • B/X, on the other hand, provides some basis for viability in its chargen process. Ability scores are subject to some adjustment (based on prime requisite), class (and thus prime req) is chosen by players based on those scores, and "hopeless characters" may be discarded. Two of the characters above (Bill and Yorin) would be discarded as "hopeless" under the usual terms given in B/X (all ability scores are below 12 with multiple scores in the less-than-nine range), and Orin would definitely fit the rules-given criteria as well (as a character with both a below-average agility and a 3 for stamina), though his 18 in personality might make the character a fun challenge to play as a very sickly priest.
  • Even should these characters survive to 1st level, I'm not sure they would suddenly become "viable." An extra +1 or +2 hit points probably wouldn't make up for the character's other deficiencies, and if my reading of the DCC rules is correct, then Orin would be forced to become a Dwarf due to his initial occupation (dwarven herder). A dwarf with a strength of 11 and a stamina of 3? Such a stat-line would not even have the option of being a dwarf in B/X; but assuming it did, one could at least "sell down" personality to raise strength. Here the character is left with a high score in an ability that is of little use to his class, and no choice in class due to the random nature of the DCC occupation system.
  • Because of this (the lack of potential viability), the game would seem to defeat its own purpose with its "funnel system;" having multiple characters is supposed to (in part) take the sting out of death and allow one to be a bit more cavalier and adventuresome with characters. Not worrying if one or two bite the dust. And yet, with only one real candidate with decent future prospects, the temptation would be to play UBER-cautious with that single fragile character, "guarding" him with the three other "meat shields."
  • Even should Derrick reach 1st level, my choice of class is somewhat constrained by his ability scores; again, in B/X I have the option of adjusting the character's abilities based on Prime Requisite. If I wanted to play a fighter, I could reduce his personality score to 9 (average) and raise his strength to 13 (bonus to combat and earned XP). This is not an option in DCC...I can play a cleric, or I can choose to suck in a different class - and NOT a demihuman class, as I did not roll the required occupation type.
  • With average (or less) scores in Luck, it would appear the only thing the score is good for is "burning" to gain bonuses, and the random birth aspect is of little use.
All right, as stated these are just my initial observations. I am still looking forward to play and will be interested to see how the game works in practice. Personally, I intend to play all the characters with as much skill and enthusiasm as I can muster. Already, I find "Bow-Legged Bill" is my favorite, and can only hope he survives to 1st level despite his gross limitations (I realize this is unrealistic in light of his 1 hit point but, there you have it). At first I thought Orin and Yorin might be brothers, but after careful consideration have decided they are father and son (extremely aged father, considering Orin's ability scores), and would like to see at least one of 'em survive. Despite Derrick's superficial viability, he strikes me as a bit of a jerk (any indentured servant with ability scores greater than the freemen of the group is going to be looking down his nose at them), and believe I shall have him walking "point."

: )


  1. My experience is that pretty much any B/X character is viable even if they match the "hopeless" criteria.† And with almost every way of taking damage doing 1d6, there's a good chance that any character 1st level won't survive a single hit, no matter how good their ability scores. (With the possible exception of Con, but even an 18 Con only guarantees you 6 hp, and only if you're using the re-roll 1s and 2s rule.)

    So, I question whether the funnel in DCC is really about viability. It's just about starting with four characters instead of rolling up a new one when one dies.

    †Although, admittedly, this may have something to do with my style and my group's style.

  2. Your observations coincide fairly well with my own actual play experience: http://professorpope.blogspot.com/2011/07/actual-play-report-dungeon-crawl.html

  3. I think it's awesome that your most viable character is your least favorite.

    Maybe being forced to play random hopeless characters will cause us to play smarter, and/or emphasize character personality rather than stats and bonuses.

    At least I won't have munchkin guilt.

  4. Just read Prof Pope's analysis; I think it will be more fun with more players.

    JB, you have GOT to update your blogger theme to something more like Pope's; it is infinitely more readable/usable on a smartphone, which is how inroad your blog most of the time (on the bus, in bed, while my wife is hogging the laptop, at lunch, etc.).

  5. @ Josh: I read the professor's blog as well, and agree the experience of play may be different since we'll have more players (in fact, if Luke only allows us three characters, I'm going to drop the 4th "viable" dude from my roster...). However, I don't want to make any judgments on "actual play" until we have ACTUALLY played.
    ; )

    RE: My blog theme...um, are we talking a color change? Because we otherwise seem to have the same set-up.

  6. JB, I'm excited to have you as a player. You were a lot of fun at that one Savage Worlds session.

    It's likely your characters are going to be a lot more gimped compared to the other players since I'm letting folks cherry pick through a pile of pregens.

  7. @ Luke: I honestly can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not...I thought I was pretty obnoxious in the SW game!

    I don't mind being "gimped;" I kind of want to try playing the game as designed (which is why I wanted to use the chargen system instead of picking pre-gens). If my posse goes down in a hail of bullets (or whatever), then I'll be happy to grab a pre-gen or two as a replacement.
    : )

  8. I completely agree the experience will be different with more players. What really struck me as the same was the strange situation the character funnel puts the player in of not wanting to use the most mechanically viable character so as to "save her for the real game."

  9. JB, was not being sarcastic. Your level of enthusiasm shamed the other players. Might have been alcohol fueled though.

  10. @ Luke:

    No, no...the alcohol makes me slur my words and forget stuff. The enthusiasm comes from getting to be a PLAYER for a change.
    : )

    Looking forward to the game.