On DCC RPG: The Funnel

So we've been play-testing the DCC RPG.

This game is a complicated beast.

Today we're just going to talk about the Funnel section, where 0-level characters are hewn down like wheat at harvest.

First, the funnel part was highly entertaining, people did laugh a lot during play, but there was a substantive amount of player frustration. Everyone enjoyed themselves, but afterwords expressed some comments that they had no desire to repeat the process.

This was played out with 2 totally different groups sharing no players, running the same module. My thoughts follow

On Randomness and the determination with that method:
The random determination of the characters and the low stats were a *huge* issue. Even with characters that were way statistically above average (on 3d6) players had serious issues with playing any character that has a penalty. This is among 8 players in two different groups with no overlap.

This was compounded when it was time to pick a class. People wanted (of course) to maximize their choices with their luck bonus and such, along with their stat selections. This is, of course, not possible; leading to many of the players feeling like they were playing substandard characters (even when their character was above average).

The biggest problem of the whole exercise really was that it was very difficult for the players to get attached to any of their characters in a long term type sense. They basically felt out of control of the process and didn't look forward to investing energy in whatever was just given them for a three to six month campaign.

I do have some ideas for solutions, I think for any long term play that characters would need to each be created by hand, with the profession selected (as the rules suggest) rather than sticking with random determination.

Also, the scales could be altered slightly so that 3 offers a +0, 4-5 offer a +1, 6-8 offer a +2, 9-12 offer a +3, 13+ offers a +4, 16+ offers a +5 and 18+ offers a +6 would go a *long* way towards mitigating the feeling like you were playing a lousy character.

On Beta Design:
The layout and design of the beta testing document is atrocious. Yes, the art is very pretty. Sadly I do not own stock in ink, and having to print out dozens of ink heavy illustrations for reference during play was a pretty thoughtless move. I'm sure it will look wonderful in it's final printed version.

On Luck and Confusion:
Other more minor things include the fact that Luck was somewhat confusing, and the fact that it is spent permanently being an issue. Also, luck modifiers being negative can make the birth-signs bad.

In spite of the comments and criticism above, there was a lot of laughter during the game. The herd animals and various and sundry items caused a lot of entertainment. At one point someone said "We only have 50' of chicken". However when combat happened, no one was able to remember animals that were able to attack. 

The funnel play seems great for a 1-off, but for campaign play which is primarily  what my gaming groups participate in, it requires a lot of work before we'd find it suitable for our table.

Here are some comments from the players:
"I think that, like most well-done random character generation, it provided us with hooks to make up fanciful stories about our fresh meat. I definitely would not want to do it every month or two, stalling the start of short campaigns. I also wouldn't use it to introduce a first-time roleplayer to the hobby--it might be traumatic to lose so many characters in such a short time.
     Overall, I think it's a fun concept that lets you throw around super-low-powered pre-adventurers with barely two hitpoints to rub together. I just wouldn't want to reset to that power level constantly. " - G
"So far it seems like the best part of the game. It is at least the most original part. The rest of it seems relatively standard." - R

"fun and entertaining... could be a game all its own." -J. M.

"The funnel play was entertaining. It was fun and I think it added a nice dynamic to the game. I would play it again." -J. S.

"I do not feel inclined to play this system again. 

Starting with a handful of random names, numbers, backgrounds, even if allowed to customize each one, still inserts to (sic) much of a degree of randomness. From a power-gaming perspective, there are effectively only two methods of character creation that should be followed. Each player should create each of the four fundamental character types or each player should create multiple versions of what they want to play so that the survivors are most likely to cover standard party needs and be something the player wants to play. I'm also not inclined to want to have a starting character (though proven to be indifferent in Hackmaster) trying to "run" with higher level characters - making the funnel just a mechanic for playing 0-level characters. Both magic path systems provide interesting development options, but at a cost that is probably a little too steep at the outset and just irritating at higher levels. Certainly having disapproval (or whatever the term is) of the divine spell casting path makes the cleric more interesting and not the standard heal-bot. However, such limitations on spell-casting make an already underpowered caster even less effective when combined with the silly "turn everything opposed to you" mechanic. If the mechanic were scaled back to a more limited target: undead, outsiders, beasts, etc. - it would make for a more directed (and possibly interesting) character and limit "wasted" turning attempts and reduce disapproval build-up. Corruption of an arcane spell caster is a pretty common theme in media and makes some sense as it relates our generally perceived ideas of magical addiction. However, using this type of rolled 1 mechanic is specifically punishing spell-casters. Certainly, the ability to continue casting spells as long as you don't fail a roll is powerful, but so is being able to swing a sword or fire a bow indefinitely and there isn't much punishment for a thief or fighter rolling a 1 - saving dropping a weapon, getting it stuck or breaking a bow string. To balance that playing field, why not have the weapon wielder remove a finger/toe/eye/ear leading to them being "freaks" in the same manner as the arcane casters eventually become? I know, because magic is so powerful, but a one-eyed, hook-handed, peg-legged barkeep is a great NPC. Luck dice are just an added complication that people will often forget about or misuse (cheat) because they don't fully understand the mechanic and/or if it does or does not apply to every character and does or does not apply to each roll. I'm not saying dumb it down, but it seems there could be a more effective implementation of this type of "bonus"." - P (You can comment on this at his blog.)


  1. Interesting. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.

    I have my doubts about the funnel, though the random generation isn’t an issue for me and my group.

    It would seem to me that the funnel would work better for campaign play than one-offs because it delays becoming invested in the character.

    And yes, the beta version is not print-friendly. I went through and deleted all the unnecessary pages before printing to save ink, which I hope doesn’t make it even harder to use in play.

  2. "I also wouldn't use it to introduce a first-time roleplayer to the hobby--it might be traumatic to lose so many characters in such a short time."




  3. Sorry for the lateness - I just found your blog.

    First, when you talked about being time to pick a class, was this after the funnel process? Zero level characters do not have a class. They don't earn that distinction until they survive to level one.

    About the stats: the scale of this game is not the standard epic level hero. The point is that you start out as an Ordinary Joe, then work your way up to being a hero (if you can survive).

    This is not a game where you are meant to come up with a background story before you start playing. The game IS your background story. You have to earn it!

    Which brings me to my final point. DCC is about player skill, not character skill. I don't mean the player's skill in creating a character/power gaming. The whole point is to avoid this! I'm talking about the player's ability to problem solve, manage resources, and work with others in the party. It's also their ability to take a random set of numbers and names, and turn it into a hero.

  4. Well said, arcadayn! I totally agree.

    As for the original post, there are some good points brought up. Ability scales could be modified a bit. Maybe a -3 at 3 and 4, +5 at 18 and 19...

    Some things have undoubtedly been fixed or cleared up now that the official core rules are out.


  5. I played once and later DMed Sailors on the Starless Sea funnel-style. It was fun both times, but that had nothing to do with the system. It really felt like playing OD&D/B/X D&D 1st level characters with a couple of hirelings, except no one had any armour and only one of them had an actual weapon.

    It's a pity because DCC really *is* its own game, only its unique sub-systems kick in on 1st level and after.


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