Monday, May 23, 2011

DCC RPG and Character Death in Old School Gaming

The first adventure included in the upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Adventure Starter is called "The Portal Under the Stairs" by Joseph Goodman. Its introduction includes the following words:
This adventure is designed for 15-20 0-level characters or 8-10 1st-level characters. Remember that players should have 2-3 characters each, so they can continue enjoying the fun of play even if some of their PCs die off. In playtest groups of 15 0-level PCs, 7 or 8 typically survive. The author has playtested this adventure with groups of up to 28 PCs and experienced one complete TPK and several sessions with only a handful of survivors.
When I first read that, I was floored. "15-20 0-level characters?" My first thought was that it couldn't possibly be serious. My second thought was that it made a HackMaster-esque mockery of old school games' lethality. But as I thought about it, the more it started to make sense to me, especially in light of my own experiences playing D&D back in the day. Nowadays, it's commonplace to reduce all discussion of character mortality in old school gaming into one of two extremes. Either old school campaigns were non-stop killfests of characters without any depth or, well, character or they were in fact finely crafted epics of song and story little different than the trendiest indie RPGs of the 21st century. As usual, the reality, at least as I remember it, lies somewhere in between.

In days of yore, characters did die in droves and few of us gave it a second thought. You played D&D for three hours and were slain by an elf? Ah well, time to roll up a new character. What's often forgotten, though, is that it was primarily low-level characters who died in droves. Certainly it's true that even high-level PCs in OD&D and AD&D were significantly less mechanically "robust" than are their contemporary descendants, so they could die, but it was, as I recall, pretty rare for them to do so and even rarer for them to remain so permanently. No, what has, over time, become exaggerated into this notion that old school gaming was an abattoir is based on the fact that low-level characters were pushovers and it took a combination of skill, luck, and referee kindliness to get them beyond that point. 

In reflecting back on my old D&D campaigns, most (though not all) the character deaths I can still remember, occurred when the character in question was somewhere between 1st and 3rd level. There was the ill-named Hercules, who was slain by the minotaur in The Keep on the Borderlands and there was Father Miles, paralyzed and then consumed by ghouls in the Moathouse outside The Village of Hommlet. I could go on, conjuring up the names and circumstances of long-dead PCs who never had a chance to gel beyond being "a 1st-level fighter" or "a 2nd-level cleric," but I think the point is clear: in old school gaming, there's no guarantee that any newly-created character will make it beyond 3rd-level and indeed the odds are somewhat stacked against that possibility. But characters did (and do) make it beyond 3rd level if luck is on their side. And the fact that they did so while many of their companions did not is, in my experience, an important part of the old school experience and a major element in the transformation of "a 3rd-level fighter" into "Morgan Just, Scion of the Snow Barbarians and Bane of Trollkind." That Morgan Just would never again be in serious danger of death doesn't matter; that he once was and overcame it is the significant thing.

That's where I think the DCC RPG has the right of it. By making it clear from the outset that a player needs 2-3 characters at the start of a new campaign sets the proper tone. It gives the referee leave to let the dice fall where they may and it warns players not to expect that any given character will ever become more than a bloody smear on the floor of some godforsaken dungeon. Because of this, I imagine that any PC that manages to survive to 3rd level or higher will feel much more fun to play, even if he's not necessarily the character one would have chosen in advance to make it that far. He'll feel real, like someone with actual experiences and a genuine past -- a past filled with the corpses of his fellow adventurers who weren't so lucky. I actually think that's pretty cool and about as fine an evocation of old school gaming in a modern context as any I can imagine.

64 comments:

  1. I have never understood the allure of this play style. Why not just start characters off at 3rd level or so when they a decent chance to survive?

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  2. Risk is fun; survival is overrated.

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  3. Why not just start characters off at 3rd level or so when they a decent chance to survive?

    Because it's not as much fun.

    Being able to say, "I took on the Minotaur in the Caves of Chaos -- and lived" means something when your character actually did so and other characters weren't so lucky. Looking back at the pile of corpses of your comrades and heaving a sigh of relief that you're not among them is awesome. And I can't tell you how much more depth a campaign can have if the characters can reflect on their fallen friends later. There's a strange kind of poignancy to it that no amount of pre-made backstory can match.

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  4. DCC is starting to sound rather dreadful to me and I can't imagine anyone other than a few real old Grogs being willing to entertain that sort of "wargaming" adventure at least outside of a store demo where it could be a boon.

    Even back in the old school days "AD&D 1e and Holmes" we only played one PC and never brought henchmen or hirelings. It made things more complicated than they needed to be and detracted from the "RP" and "Story" aspects of the game

    Also my players , all 2e era cleave much more to the RP aspect of the game and managing more than one guy,maybe two guts that.

    Of course of thats just THIS adventure, well its a good call. That way you can get everybody into one game. So long as the other dungeons are set for the far more typical 4-6 players max with instructions to scale as needed.

    The big hmm, to me seems to be the complexity of the system, I can't imagine managing spells and other complex rules galore with a large group of newbies.

    Last point , the lower lethality of the 3x editions (I haven't played 4e so no comment there) is kind of a myth . Despite HD and powers inflation damage has inflated even faster. We found that it often came down to, 3 or 4 (granted often long rounds) or at high level whoever got initiative

    Combat came down to #1 szzt, quickened true strike, rod maximization, disintegrate spell for 144 points, roll up a new wizard) #2 sneak attack swarm attack

    than a round or two toe to toe

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  5. And I can't tell you how much more depth a campaign can have if the characters can reflect on their fallen friends later. There's a strange kind of poignancy to it that no amount of pre-made backstory can match.

    I think this is the best possible summation of the appeal of this style of play.

    Sigh. I guess one either "gets it" or doesn't. I can't say yet whether I'm intrigued enough to buy into the new DCC game, but reading some of the comments here reminds me why I quickly became disillusioned with the "story" aspects of 2e and the mechanical character "builds" of 3e.

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  6. I'm a recent returnee to old-school rules (bringing out Labyrinth Lord for a Stonehell-focused campaign) but have always considered myself an old-school style DM.

    That being said, I've been running my 3E campaign for about 18 months and my LL campaign for maybe three months, and we've had perhaps four character deaths in the former and a couple of dozen in the latter. I'm anticipating the first character to make it to Level 2 will be basically crapping himself with joy and all the other characters will be basically bowing and scraping at his accomplishment.

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  7. @5stonegames - I highly encourage you to participate in a play-test of the game. It'll change your mind. I was highly skeptical of it as well, until I played at GaryCon and it dawned on me that it was ME that had to change my expectations of this game.

    This is not D&D of 2e and follows. This is not Legolas-loving and your character-as-delicate-flower-assured-of-winning.

    No, this is wargaming D&D. You're gonna need guns. Lots of guns. And the guns are your PCs. It's you against the scenario and it's fucking AWESOME in how it goes about awesoming you up.

    I don't like modifiers and I don't like a lot of fiddly shit. What I like is brutal, straight forward play and HARLEY STROH made that all work. Now Goodman has a challenge of presenting this game in such a way that it does work, that the spell listings and modifiers flow well without a lot of page flipping and if they pull that off, this game will be the shit.

    Don't compare this to 3e/4e. That's unfair to DCCRPG and that was my mistake early on. No, compare this to Chainmail with the Fantasy supplement + OD&D. Beacuse that is where the DCCRPG is going to live.

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  8. "8-10 1st-level characters"

    Seems a bit overboard to me on the deadly scale, and I'm big on character death as a DM. That many potential PC deaths does not resemble any edition of D&D I played. However, it's not really possible to compare PC deaths across campaigns (or editions) since the PC death rate is essentially controlled by each individual DM with fudge rolls and so on. My campaigns may be more deadly than others even if we play the same game.

    To me, the death rates across versions of D&D haven't changed much, but access to bringing dead PCs back to life has. Finding a cleric who can cast raise dead in our 1E campaigns was much more of a problem than in our current 3E campaigns.

    I have always felt the best balance between character death and character investment is the Dark Sun character tree method. This is what we use today.

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  9. Something cibet said made me realize that the point needs to be made: DCCRPG is not D&D. It may be D&Desque in its pedigree, but it's not the same in "scale" or matched to any edition. It evokes similarities, but it's expectations and execution is/are far different.

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  10. Ok, sooo... absolutely agreed that death comes quicker at low levels than high levels. Having more hit points allows you to take some hits, gauge how powerful the monster is, and make a decision to flee before dying.

    But surely you pushed the argument just a bit too far with, "That Morgan Just would never again be in serious danger of death doesn't matter..." I mean, there still is the existence of finger of death, disintegrate, poison, wand of orcus, fall-into-abyss-of-lava where you're one die-roll away from destruction.

    I don't think most people are fond of multiple spotlight characters per person like this (and I really can't get 15-20 people together to play as in the old days). I do very much like a ruleset and adventure that supports that kind of play if you can get enough people. I also like the flexibility to "dial up" to say, level 3 with 4 players, if that suits your play situation. 4E making the former impossible is a big no-no for me -- kudos to DCC-RPG for supporting it and being explicit about how things can be altered at different levels.

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  11. @James - I was just thinking about module difficulty this morning. Do you know how it was determined; if Gygax/TSR had a formula? I just posted my own solution (first draft) here: http://digitalorc.blogspot.com/

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  12. In addition to what James said about the sort of relief of surviving, character death forces the players to be creative and collaborative which is more fun for everybody, especially the DM.

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  13. "It evokes similarities, but it's expectations and execution is/are far different."

    Is the game still controlled by DM discretion? If so, than it seems pretty similar to D&D to me. You can't compare lethality (or many other aspects) if the game is essentially controlled by a game master.

    Now if DCC is an "open table" kind of game where the dice rule and the DM has no impact on the results, then I would agree it's something different and you could accurately gauge its lethality. With a DM though, much like D&D, every game will vary significantly and there is no way to measure if one is more lethal than any other.

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  14. I'm mildly interested in this game. That's way up from not interested at all, which is where I started a year ago. I'm even slightly interested in the adventures- and I have never actually run a published adventure. I will almost certainly give it a look and steal some junk from it. I'd also be totally down with running a PC or ten in it.

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  15. Great overview. I'm getting more and more interested in this game. Thanks!

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  16. @AnthonyRoberson

    I have never understood the appeal of this style of posting. Why pose a question/argument, have it refuted, and then say nothing?

    Why not say "Ok, I see, different strikes for different folks" or go "Well actually, I disagree because..." otherwise why bother writing anything?

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  17. @Zak:

    Maybe that just means "OK, that argument makes sense to me."

    But with less politeness.

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  18. @taketoshi

    In that case, we've all won a lot of fucking arguments.

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  19. I guess that makes me an optimist?

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  20. As someone who has only fairly recently had his interest in rpgs re-ignited, I was quite surprised by the tone of many of the posts I read on various rpg forums that decried the "lethality" of D&D back in the early days. Frankly, I'd reverse the point made in the first comment here and say I completely don't understand the appeal of an rpg that offers some sort of assurance the character you are playing will survive to a higher level. Whats the fun in a game about entering dark places and fighting horrible monsters without a substantive risk of death? Frankly, thats the whole point of the endeavor afaic...

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  21. @Don: "Whats the fun in a game about entering dark places and fighting horrible monsters without a substantive risk of death?"

    From what I understand about any version of D&D, and any other RPG with a GM that I have played, is that the risk of PC death is essentially and entirely up to the GM running the game. So unless DCC changes this in some way (which I think would be very interesting) I fail to see how one can compare the lethality amongst RPGs.

    As DM I could run an OD&D game in which I allow the PCs to live to ripe old ages and levels and I can run a 4E game that kills PCs by the dozen at any point instantly. The mechanics of either system will support this either way.

    I would be interest to know if DCC somehow wrests this control out of the GMs hands and eliminates any opportunity for GM fiat or fudging. I doubt it does, but who knows!

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  22. GM fiat is part of the game. If you play D&D, you play with some level of GM fiat. I know when I play D&D, I'm accepting that th eworld is the GMs to manage. But I personally certainly don't want him fudging the dice. If I decide to face off against some foe and end up getting hacked to death so be it. I fail to see where the elmination of GM fiat is the responsibility of the rules system. As a player, if I find the GM is fudging rolls one way or the other I have the choice to continue playing or to quit. I don't need the rules to make that decision for me...

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  23. Don:

    Hmmm. I guess I'm not communicating my point effectively enough. My point is that when the GM controls the game you can't gauge lethality. So one can not say "OD&D" is more lethal than "3E D&D" since it's up to the GM running those games, not the rule set (as you indicate you prefer).

    Assuming we agree on that point then it is impossible to say whether DCC is more or less lethal than any other DM based RPG. Just because the suggested number of characters in DCC is high does not mean it is more lethal UNLESS the game rules remove the lethality decision making from the GM. If that were the case, well, now there is something that can accurately be measured and discussed.

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  24. Well, I think we can look at the raw numbers of the game and get a reasonable idea of the "relative lethality." I mean if the avg character starts with 5 hit points, and the average hit from a common weapon does 10 hit points of damage, you have a fairly lethal system. If otoh the average 1st level character has 25 hps and weapon damage per hit remains 10 on average you has a less lethal system no? Again, unless the GM is fudging dice rolls (and as I said I really don't want that) then the rules do represent a specific set of fundamental assumptions about how hard it will be to survive...

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  25. In my adnd2e games, character death was generally regarded as a Bad Thing unless it was warranted. I.E. the character attempts to drink cyanide, or charges a demon lord at level 4.
    This can lead characters feeling invincible. Which, in turn, leads them to order the charge on said demon lord, which leads to the death of your character's best friend, which leads to a life drenched in guilt, which leads a life spent defending Sigil in an attempt to rid self of said guilt (It doesn't work, R.I.P. Jason).

    The two main problems I see with rampant character death are 1. Death can become so commonplace as to loose it's impact. After fifteen of your friends die, do you shed a tear when the new guy gets wasted? Or just kick his body into the newly-established mass grave?

    and 2. When character death is that rampant, making an intentionally weak character is discouraged. It can be fun to play the cowardly weakling who, through getting caught up in this adventuring business, over-comes said weaknesses and becomes a legend in his own right. That is unless he's murdered by a minotaur in the first fifteen minutes because he can only cast magic missile once per day.

    TL;DR Character death is a powerful tool and should common enough for players to know they're not supermen, but not so common as to force them to be supermen to survive.

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  26. And once again I'll link to my post excerpting an article from Dragon #20 (Nov. 1978) tabulating the character deaths from Lyle Fitzgerald's home campaign. 600 deaths over 2-3 years:

    http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2009/09/death-statistics-in-d-1978.html

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  27. Interesting that you just posted this as I and a couple of my players were just discussing the same issue this weekend - complete with the same basic recollections by myself and the one other 'Old Schooler" present.

    PC death was somewhat common at the lower levels. Heck, one notable one that I'll always remember was a paladin killed by blowing his poison save vs. a giant centipedes bite in the manor house in Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh - ever notice how what thier poison does is never specified? I shrugged my shoulder and stated that he went into anaphylactic shock and died. That group was paranoid about bugs for *years* later.

    But what it also meant was that when characters occasionally died off in those 5th to 7th level ranges it *hurt* - and everybody suddenly focused in and the adventure became "personal". The aftermath of such deaths turned into some of the best "mini-campaigns" (or, *cough* "story arcs") that I ever had the pleasure to run.

    Character death, and survival, is what really gave the game it's edge. Nobody liked it when a player had a hissy-fit over a character dying, but those players would slowly get weeded out - or they became really effective players who worked overtime to keep thier characters alive.

    Neither or those possibilties are a bad thing in my book.

    Just my two cents. ;-)

    D.

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  28. Death can become so commonplace as to loose it's impact.

    indeed.

    i wonder how groups that enjoy high character turnover avoid this.

    i believe that players should fear death, not expect it.

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  29. The more I hear about DCC, the more enthusiastic I become.

    Makes me want to create my own 'henchmen shall be splintered' rules.

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  30. I guess one either "gets it" or doesn't.

    Increasingly, that's my feeling too.

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  31. You're gonna need guns. Lots of guns.

    A fan of Split Second, are you?

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  32. But surely you pushed the argument just a bit too far with, "That Morgan Just would never again be in serious danger of death doesn't matter..."

    Inadvertently, yes. What I meant to type was "That Morgan Just might never again be in serious danger of death doesn't matter ..." My point was supposed to be that I think an important part of the old school gaming experience is that every character who makes it beyond 3rd level had a compatriot or three who didn't. Whether an individual character ever again stares Death in the face again doesn't matter so long as he had done so and lived to tell the tale in his early career.

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  33. Do you know how it was determined; if Gygax/TSR had a formula?

    I highly doubt there was a formula. I suspect, like most things in those days, it was achieved largely by gut feeling.

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  34. My point is that when the GM controls the game you can't gauge lethality.

    Sure you can. If all 1st-level characters start with 1D6 hit point and all weapons do 1D6 damage, you can certainly say it's a more lethal game than a game where all 1st-level characters start with 30+ hit points and no weapon does more than 1D10 damage. Sure, a kind referee might fudge rolls in any RPG, but I don't think that materially affects the lethality of a game as written. By that kind of logic, one could similarly argue that ability scores in a 3D6-in-order campaign aren't necessarily lower than those in a 4D6-drop-the-lowest-arrange-to-taste campaign, because players can cheat on their rolls in the former.

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  35. Makes me want to create my own 'henchmen shall be splintered' rules.

    I'd love to see such rules, although I must admit that what really intrigues me about DCC RPG is that it's not henchmen who die in droves but PCs. I really think it's brilliant the way the game seems to make it clear from the start that player characters will die.

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  36. " 'I guess one either "gets it" or doesn't.'

    Increasingly, that's my feeling too. "


    I've often said the same thing about Call of Cthulhu.

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  37. I've often said the same thing about Call of Cthulhu.

    It's interesting that you mention that, because I've found that, along with old school D&D, CoC is the game that often fails to resonate with a lot of people and for a similar reason: played as written, beginning PCs tend to die with alarming regularity -- and that's part of the fun.

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  38. You have a solid point there about resonance and dying being part of the fun for some people.

    Personally quick char-gen or no I find bloodbath style "roleplaying" gaming (as vs you brought that on yourself type deaths) tedious and uninteresting. If I wanted that I'd play minis games.

    YMMV of course but I am certainly not the target market for that sort of thing.

    And note I am of the generation that started with Holmes, not from the 2e/WOD gen like my players.

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  39. nice simpsons nod there......

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  40. YMMV of course but I am certainly not the target market for that sort of thing.

    And that's fair enough. One of the things I really like about DCC RPG is that it clearly knows what it's about and makes no attempt to be all things to all gamers. Goodman is aiming for a very specific style of play and has crafted a game that'll deliver it in spades. I think that's terrific.

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  41. "...I've found that, along with old school D&D, CoC is the game that often fails to resonate with a lot of people and for a similar reason: played as written, beginning PCs tend to die with alarming regularity -- and that's part of the fun."

    Exactly. I've seen it happen when I or friends explain CoC to people who have never played: either their eyes light up with excitement, or they look puzzled and say "but don't your characters wind up going crazy or dying a lot?"

    To which we reply with a smile, "Yes! Doesn't that sound great?" :)

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  42. @James:

    -- You're gonna need guns. Lots of guns.
    A fan of Split Second, are you?


    Which one? The 1953 movie, the 1992 movie or the TV show? :)

    The way I use it is from The Matrix, the scene where Neo and Trinity are discussing how to rescue Morpheus from the Agents.

    I bet JG will be pleased to see this discussion. I have a feeling the sentiment that many of us have from the initial test games is helping them to know how their game is going to generally be received.

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  43. Eeek. I really don't like the idea of multiple characters for a player. I think it detracts from the character's death if they are simply considered fungible goods. Sure, low level character's die, especially if they bite off more than they can chew, but even a low-level character's death should mean something, even if it is a silly stupid avoidable death.

    I think the problem with this sort of module is it is not well matched to low-level characters if it requires replacing quality with quantity. But that's what's going to have to be necessary if you start chaining encounters together. Low level stuff really needs separate encounters that the players can be free to engage or avoid, according to what they feel are their capabilities. Sandbox campaigns work really well in this regard.

    Again, it's all a matter of resource allocation. The dungeon doesn't have to be explored in a day.

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  44. the 1992 movie

    I was thinking of this part of the film:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQvMWD-_Nfo

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  45. I have to admit, as a closet Rutger Hauer fan, I've never seen this. It's going on my Netflix queue.

    As a return favor, here's the scene I was thinking of: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y70vcs3oV14

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  46. One thing to consider is that simpler, quicker characters (ala OD&D-style) with fewer options and fiddly bits are much easier to create and play. You do not end up suffering the paralysis of choice problem, either before or during play, the way many players do with more modern games (and even a few of the older ones). In this sense, it isn't so much a problem managing a couple or three different characters, because each one only has a few mechanical options at any given moment.

    I would hate to try to play more than one character in D&D 3.x. I get paralyzed just trying to pick a race/class pairing for a level 7 character.

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  47. Don't forget that this is a level 0 (!) adventure. It's there to test, which one of your two-three characters is good enough to become a level 1 PC, which one is worth keeping.
    If you don't like it, as written above, run it with 7-8 level 1 characters. If you don't like the deadliness, start your party at level 3. The free playtest rules will cover level 0-5. The final game will go up to 10.

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  48. Alas, nobody's still reading at comment 50, right?

    This sounds phenomenal: a really clear communication that you're playing a different sort of game. I also think this would be perfect for adventure #1 in a CoC campaign, to get over the "how do the PCs know each other and why do they care?" problem. What if you played, say, Sandy Petersen's ski lodge example scenario using this method: your characters don't know anything until people start dying, out of the big pool of characters at the start. At the end, each player selects one primary character out of the survivors. The rest are a pool of allies they can draw on as needed.

    I don't like the idea of more than one character/that's not roleplaying

    It's certainly different from improv, but yes, it's roleplaying. DMs do it all the time. I've played groups before - up to 13 kobolds, which lets you do small unit tactics... I find it helps to pick one primary and maybe a lieutenant, and then give the rest one distinctive characteristic each, seven dwarfs style. And very often the minor characters will grow the most memorable reputations through play. Most of all, though, Ars Magica troupe play always works like this: each player typically gets a wizard, a companion and a share in the henchmen pool (grogs). It's always worked fine when I've seen it.

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  49. Being a Traveller Man, I completely related to this topic. One of the things, that I came to dislike about AD&D (game of my youth) was the levels - they added a certain sense of accomplishment but nothing more.

    I wonder, however, if AD&D or Old School went the way of Runequest would we still have the hobby today. For one of the things that did propel the hobby was video games aping D&D and computers are very good bean counters therefore made the conversion easier to make sophisticated shoot'em up games which in turn channeled a sort of Shoot & Loot mentality in RPGs rather than aspiring to higher things.

    Could the model of RPGs (including those we call Old School) be responsible for some of the things we detest (my words only) about the latest crop (ok, the d20 phase is gone but has left its indelible mark on the way we game...and don't even get me started on 4e) of RPGs?

    I think the secret would be to rescue RPGs from the bean counters and go back to a more pure form of RPG - or am I just a product too much of a later stage of RPGs and not really Old School at all?

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  50. My curiosity was piqued when they announced the DCC RPG, but posts like this have been going a long way in showing how I'm not the target audience for this game.

    That said, I have to wonder about an adventure that recommends that a player should have more characters than you get clones in Paranoia.

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  51. That said, I have to wonder about an adventure that recommends that a player should have more characters than you get clones in Paranoia.

    That's not quite accurate. Paranoia gives each player six clones of his PC, whereas DCC RPG only recommends 2-3 0-level characters per player.

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  52. "5stonegames said...
    DCC is starting to sound rather dreadful to me and I can't imagine anyone other than a few real old Grogs being willing to entertain that sort of "wargaming" adventure at least outside of a store demo where it could be a boon.

    The big hmm, to me seems to be the complexity of the system, I can't imagine managing spells and other complex rules galore with a large group of newbies. "

    I understand your concern, until I playtested DCC, I'd never run more than 1 character. The complexity isn't an issue because they are Zero Level Characters. They don't have classes yet, they're farmers, squires, village idiots, smiths, etc. And rolling these characters up, literally takes about 5 minutes per PLAYER, not character. We started with 15 characters & at the end we had about 7. Moving to 1st level we all chose to focus then on 1 PC. The cool part is are characters went through the process of becoming more than peasants together. We didn't meet in an inn, we went into that mind-bending temple & survived. We didn't win, we survived. It was some of the best gaming I've had in the last 5 years.

    And to reiterate, this isn't D&D. This inspired by Appendix N, but its not a retroclone or a what if project. Its the D20 engine attached to the works of Appendix N.

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  53. Again, no one holds a gun to anyone's head, saying "you must start with two-three level 0 characters". Level is just a darwinist hellride, where hopefully one of your characters survives, and becomes your one first level character. The others retire, or may become henchmen. :)

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  54. I have no problem with character death and am a fan of fast character generation but I'm a little confused.

    DCC claims to be inspired by Appendix N. But where is the basis in S&S literature for a bunch of farmers going on an adventure and getting randomly slaughtered. S&S is populated with competent protagonist who generally act individually or at most as a pair.

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  55. Appendix N has one important story, where a bunch of commoners become level 1 adventurers: The Fellowship of the Ring. The way of the four hobbit to Bree is a good example for level 0 adventure, although there's only four of them and all survives. :)

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  56. @Rudd - I think in my own imagination that most S&S stories aren't telling us of the adventures the hero had when he was 14 or 15 or 16 yrs old. In other words, we don't get any stories about Conan (just as an example) when he was level 0. We get stories starting when he was already maybe level 4 or so (just for the sake of argument). Who knows how many fellow adventurers died alongside Conan early on in his adventuring "career."

    And even allowing for that fact, there are still lots of characters in the Conan tales who he teams up with at various times and who end up dead...

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  57. Well, Conan was there when Venarium fell. He was around fifteen. Maybe this is the battle, where he became a level 1 warrior? :)

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  58. I think the people who "don't get it" are the same ones who think RPGs are "art" or some "higher form of entertainment"

    It's a f*cking game, people!

    Yeah you get stories, plots, and blah blah blah...but when it comes down to it, it's killings monsters and taking their stuff.

    Anyone who thinks otherwise is just fooling themselves and making themselves sound more impressive.

    Get over it and just have fun!

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  59. We typically start PCs at 3rd level where they are already competent, well-rounded individuals but not yet powerful. One of the reasons we are not doing the first level thing so much is that we do not have the time anymore for that stage now that we mostly play on a tri-weekly basis. If I had a weekly or more regular game going, I might reconsider. (Of course, there are other reasons - part of that is like Rudd suggested, the kind of inspiring material we base our campaigns on imply competent protagonists, even if they are socially flea-bitten nobodies.)

    Of course, playing disposable first-level PCs has a lot going for it: you can enjoy the carnage, and feel that warm glow when you get to 3rd level (which, again, is where characters start to stay alive more). Ironically, the campaign that was closest to that ideal was our main 3.0 one.

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  60. Yeah you get stories, plots, and blah blah blah...but when it comes down to it, it's killings monsters and taking their stuff.


    Nah, that's just one way to play. It *is* a game, though.

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  61. blackstone of course its a game (isn't it ;) ?). I know that. However I don't like all the games out there and given a limited amount of time to play I choose to play ones I know I'll like rather than ones that sound like I might not like them.

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  62. If there are 20 characters on an adventure together I hope there's rules for fighting formations. Also imagining 20 people in whatever room you're in right now would most likely be a very crowded space. Certainly many classic D&D modules wouldn't work for groups of that size.

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  63. My favorite thing about this method is that it is a way to get my group to accept 3d6 in order as a character generation method. Since they will be rolling up 4 guys, they get 4 sets of scores, and I fully expect them to be taking most of the risks with their guys that have the crappier scores, hoping to have their favorite character survive to level 1.

    I have suggested 3d6 in order in the past, and they balked, but this they are on board with.

    It's like you are generating characters in the tradition of the LBBs, but the players still have a semblance of choice when it comes to what character they are going to end up with. It's a great compromise between old school and modern character generation - at least that's how I see it.

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  64. @Ravenheart87:

    "The way of the four hobbit to Bree is a good example for level 0 adventure"

    That is an excellent observation! Nice.

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