Part of the greater renaissance of tabletop gaming that’s been going on lately is Free RPG Day. Modeled after Free Comic Book Day, it’s a sort of holiday for particularly inclined nerds. I’ve been participating the last couple years, even managing to play a couple scenarios for Dungeon Crawl Classics at a friendly local game store (FLGS) in 2019.
Goodman Games, the folks behind DCC, seem to especially embrace the mindset of Free RPG Day. They produce a really nice “quick start” rule booklet in great quantities, making sure folks get the chance to check out their product. The booklet is very well presented. It’s got copious amounts of artwork to sell the general ‘Old School’ vibe of the game, plus enough of the basic rules to allow you to get into playing right away. There’s an excellent starting adventure, called a ‘funnel,’ that’s reprinted from the full basic rule book. I have now played and run The Portal Under the Stars, and I think it’s a really good, fairly basic starting adventure. Funnel adventures are a bit crazy, as each player takes control of four ‘level zero’ characters (essentially hapless peasants) and then watches them get picked off one by one through a series of misadventures. If all goes well, you come out the other end of the adventure with a survivor who moves up to level 1 and now has the dropped equipment and money of their fallen companions to get started in a life of adventure.
The quick start rules for 2020 also have a new adventure called The Legend of the Silver Skull. It’s for first level characters, so the threats are definitely upgraded. The story for this one has some very cool themes, and if you’re thinking about starting a long term game, this might make a really good opener. One of the fun and strange things about DCC is that supposedly ‘game breaking’ things happen all the time. You can’t be too precious as a player or as a GM with the game, because you might get horribly killed, gain a mutation, or find an incredibly powerful artifact. Where you think you’re going at the beginning of any given scenario might not be the direction you’re heading in when it’s over. And this scenario really doubles down on that. I don’t think it’s outlandishly difficult, though there are a couple foes that could definitely ruin the party’s day. The rewards for beating this one, though, are really wild and could shake your game’s future to the core in the best ways.
Dungeon Crawl Classics doesn’t strike me as the kind of game where you’d spend years of real time with a cohesive group of adventurers, building a grand narrative. I suspect it’s the kind of game you play feverishly for 6 or 8 months, have tons of strange adventures, go through a half dozen characters per player (not including the body count from the starting funnel), and come away with a bunch of fun & funny memories. As a GM, I can’t really imagine having any grand plans. Maybe a few vague ideas about what’s happening in the larger world and what effect your PCs might have on that, but…That’s about it. Whatever the case, I’m looking forward to breaking my game by running The Legend of the Silver Skull at some point in the future.