Our Trip to the Dungeon: Dungeon Crawl Classics Session One–Sailors on the Starless Sea

Almost two weeks ago  (wow, things have been busy around here lately) we had our first session of Dungeon Crawl Classics at the FLGS.  We had just ended our Pathfinder game, and in keeping with the “theme” of the night, I wanted to keep the night “fantasy,” thus began our Dungeon Crawl Classics game.

In preparation, I printed out 16 0-level sheets from the Purple Sorcerer Games site.  Now, my table limit was 6 players, because I generally don’t like to break that limit.  While DCC with one character each would likely be really easy to manage compared to some games, when everyone still has multiple 0 level characters, the sheer number of actions means that I’m happy that I stuck to my six player limit.

We played through Sailors on the Starless Sea as our introductory adventure.  I was torn on whether to run this adventure or Perils of the Sunken City.  I really liked the overall story of Sailors, but I loved the “home base” and roleplaying possibilities of Perils.  For a while I was even making up my own funnel, but finally, I settled on Sailors.

The nice thing is, I’ve noticed that there isn’t a huge difference between 0 and 1st level adventures in many cases in DCC.  The objectives that a 1st level character can manage because they can take more than one hit and have a few things they can do well can almost be simulated by an army of 0 level types really pressing their luck.

Anyway, with 6 players, why 16 0 level sheets?  Because I wanted to make sure if anyone happened to lose their whole array of characters, that they could replace them later in the adventure.  It did come up a few times, but not as often as I had feared.

The adventure itself was a lot of fun.  The story is great.  I will say we had fewer fatalities than I initially had thought we would have, with almost every player having multiple survivors in their groups.  I chalk this up to a few things.

1.  The adventure assumes less than six players with four 0 level characters.

2.  One player managed at least one round of three out of four of his characters scoring critical hits!

3.  I was dumb and forgot to apply the “second half” of the “death and dying” rules to characters that had dropped during a fight, so I was failing to apply the -4 penalty to rolls and the loss of a point of strength/stamina/agility when a character was “turned over.”

Live and learn.

Spoiler Time!

Read no further if you plan on playing in this adventure.  You have been warned!

I had each player roll to see what rumor their group of characters knew about the ruined keep near their village.  What was amusing was that most of them forgot about the rumors until something became evident as true or untrue, and they remembered the slip of paper I gave them.

The standard set up for the adventure is that there is a ruined keep near the village that housed an army of Chaos decades ago, and was put to the torch by the forces of Law, and villagers are disappearing left and right more and more frequently, thus causing your not-quite-heroes to venture in and make things right.

As a framing device, I created a slightly different set up.  The village had been set upon by an inquisitor and his hired mercenaries, and the inquisitor is sure that the upswing in disappearances is an indication that Chaos is on the rise.  He wants to put the village to the torch in case they are corrupted, but is giving the 0 level types the chance to purge the keep and find answers before applying the final solution.

This was a fun scene, since some of the players were used to the more “civilized” fantasy RPG set up of at least relatively “fair” governments and religious officials.  Those that picked up on the more traditional “appendix N” feel of the game reined in those complaining about their “rights” as “citizens” before the inquisitor set them all on fire and called it a day.

Now, a few times members of the group asked why they couldn’t just run into the wilderness beyond the keep and leave the inquisitor behind.  I wouldn’t actually have stopped them, and the overall outcome ended up the same for the village, but enough of the group was intimidated by the inquisitor and the fact that he had holy knights arriving to supplement the mercenaries that they didn’t opt for the quick exit for the scenario.

Highlights of exploring the keep:

  • One group of 0 level characters, that was extremely lucky up until they all died, took out the Beastman Champion that was leading a large group of bad guys in the upper level without him even taking an action.
  • The magically cold crypt of one of the Chaos Lords killed more adventurers than the beastmen in the upper levels of the keep just because the lure of treasure was so strong.
  • One character, who committed himself to Chaos tried to drink the Tar Ooze in the burnt out chapel, and was saved in spite of himself.
  • One of the characters read the runes on the monolith on the underground sea, and tried to sacrifice the nearest PC to Chaos Leviathan, and most of the PCs decided it was kind of like a domestic dispute, and stayed out of it until the poor elven sage got his brains caved in.
  • Halfway across the water, with the the incense running low, one of the players decided his Chaotic character was okay with offing another character of his own group, and committed shock and awe on the rest of the party by yanking out his heart and tossing it in for the Leviathan.
  • Instead of sneaking up on the beastmen or climbing up to the shaman on the pyramid, the elven barrister decided to use the tabbard he was wearing to convince that beastmen that he was a Chaos champion and that the Chaos Lord would be summoned much faster if they were willing to toss themselves into the magma as well as the villagers and the treasure.  The shaman were in a bit of a disarray as the beastmen-lemmings stormed the stairs.
  • After dispatching the risen Chaos Lord from a distance and running for the boat, the group decided that they wanted the Chaos Lord’s weapon and armor, and ordered the other bound villagers to bring it to them, and they would save them a seat on the boat.  This, despite the fact that the villagers were still tied up, and several of them died trying to free themselves and/or secure the treasure.  No villagers that were NPCs survived the destruction of the temple.
  • The adventurers sold the ship in a fishing village and headed for the city, as the mercs slowed the inquisitor down enough to make good their escape, as the mercs had been impressed with the PCs “moxy.”  So the inquisitor is still out there, ready to burn the heretics that got away.
All in all, this was a lot of fun, although I’m left with two thoughts, one about the adventure itself, and one about how I wanted to run it and how it fit into my campaign plans.
1.  The skulls that were available to the PCs to harm the Chaos Lord were a little too effective and a little too easy to obtain.  PCs don’t just happen upon them in the room, but are attracted to the pool, making it more likely they look in, and with a good number of survivors towards the end, that’s a lot of skulls to lob at the Chaos Lord, meaning that he doesn’t get to be quite as devastating as he might seem at first.
2.  I rushed a few bits of the adventure that I probably should have played out a bit more, such as some of the rooms in the lower section of the keep, and even the ending, mainly because I wanted the funnel done in one night, so that I could “fast foward” the campaign a year for the PCs being 1st level.  Spending even another hour would have made me feel that I had done some of those neat little areas a bit more justice, but it’s still amazing that an adventure with as much in it as this adventure had could be run in a four hour slot.
Looking forward to the next session of the campaign.  I’ve got tons of thoughts, but I have to admit, in all of the holiday hubub, I’ve not done nearly as much work as I had planned at this point in time.  Thankfully, DCC is much more forgiving when it comes to last minute prep than a lot of RPGs.


  • I'll admit that I know next to nothing about DCC, but it sounds like each player plays a group of four adventurers so you had 24 people running around?


  • Indeed, each of the six players had four characters. Two dozen villagers with the potential to become either worm food or a 1st level adventurer.


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