DCC Level 0 Character Funnel is a Bad Concept

Clint_L

Hero
Getting back to the funnel OP, I used a funnel to start my most recent home campaign, but I ran it as an extremely aggressive game of Dread, and players could choose how many level 0 characters to start with; the more characters you had, the more blocks you had to pull. The set-up was a zombie attack on a village fair, instigated by a relic that was on display. At the end of the game, players chose their ongoing character from their pool of survivors (including me; we very occasionally swap DM duties, so I maintain an NPC as my main for when I'm not running the game).

It was super fun, and I loved how all our characters started with having barely survived a desperate struggle while seeing a bunch of their friends, family, and rivals wiped out. My character wound up being a teenaged girl who was participating in the talent show when things went to hell and she had to lead her dance squad to safety; she's evolved into a Buffy-esque monk. My spouse's surviving main is a goblin artificer who was in town selling toys; their toy cart would eventually be tinkered into also being their guardian defender. Our druid was at the festival specifically to investigate the relic before everything went to hell, and so on. The fighter was a retired soldier who was only at the festival to show off his prize pig. The barbarian was the town smith who had finally worked up the courage to ask out her crush when she (the crush) died in the onslaught, enraging the barbarian for the first time.

Even though it's primarily a D&D game, I throw in other RPGs freely, so in addition to Dread, we ran a jewel heist caper using Fiasco rules, and so on.

But this version of the funnel worked really well. I have great memories of it. So many potential characters snuffed out, but the ones we came away with are excellent.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
However, they've shot down actual B/X or AD&D as being too "underpowered."
That's a case where, were it me, I'd have a sit-down with those players and try my best to significantly re-set their general expectations.

On success, and-or as an example of what I'd be getting at, out comes a campaign focusing mostly on the zero end of zero-to-hero.

On failure, they're looking for a new GM. I'm not interested in running a supers game right out of the gate.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Zocchi's d7's do. I've tested mine, using a dice cup, 2d7, and two results tables. Both passed with a Chi well under 0.5 with N of 49.
Zocchi's dice probably would, as he pays close attention to that sort of thing.

The worst I've seen are d5s that roll 1 or 5 much more often than 2, 3, or 4; due to their uneven shape. (it's about 50% 1 or 5, 50% 2-3-4).
THe least fair dice I've ever tested? Games Workshop branded d6's. ona 48 roll test, Chi came out to be over 2. Heavily biased to 6's. (one of them was a Chi of over 3. 48 rolls, not a single 1.)
There are some intentionally-loaded dice (usually d6s but I've seen a loaded d20) out there on the market. I have some. They never see use.

And in any case, all you need to do to hose a player using those is to change it up such that low rolls are sometimes best... :)
 
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aramis erak

Legend
Zocchi's dice probably would, as he pays close attention to that sort of thing.

The worst I've seen are d5s that roll 1 or 5 much more often than 2, 3, or 4; due to their uneven shape. (it's about 50% 1 or 5, 50% 2-3-4).

There are some intentionally-loaded dice (usually d6s but I've seen a loaded d20) out there on the market. I have some. They never see use.

And in any case, all you need to do to hose a player using those is to change it up such that low rolls are sometimes best... :)
I've never bothered testing dice advertized as unfair; I see no point to doing so unless the don't work...
 

pablomaz

Villager
So I had the misfortune recently of playing a Level 0 Character Funnel for my first experience of Dungeon Crawl Classics. I'll describe the ordeal for you.
1) Six players. Four characters each. Two actions a turn. For a ridiculous 48 actions per turn (plus the monsters actions.) Keeping up with positioning of 24 characters, what they're doing, etc.
2) Random character creation is awful in the system, because your class/background has no bearing on your ability scores. So I had an elven sage with a 4 Int. Even if he survived, what would I have wanted to do, play a worthless elf who couldn't even use magic.
3) Random die rolls to kill characters. If you're going to use a character funnel with a stable of characters, the player should be able to volunteer the character to be killed as "tribute" - or at least have their actions lead to the character death. My best characters died before I got a chance to make a single decision and I was left with garbage tier random generated losers unfit to adventure.
The experience has completely soured me on the game system.

There's nothing wrong with the concept; maybe it's not the right game for you guys, which is fair... Trying to use a grid for 48 PCs was a big mistake, though.
 

Retreater

Legend
There's nothing wrong with the concept; maybe it's not the right game for you guys, which is fair... Trying to use a grid for 48 PCs was a big mistake, though.
We didn't use a grid - it was all done in theatre of the mind (which honestly, may have made it worse). The number of characters made a tedious experience.
Some of the bad experience I had was probably attributed to the GM who would roll a d6 to pick out a player, then a d4 to choose one of the characters, to determine randomly which character would be killed.
 

Some of the bad experience I had was probably attributed to the GM who would roll a d6 to pick out a player, then a d4 to choose one of the characters, to determine randomly which character would be killed.
Again that randomness is part of the fun. I have rollEd to determine who to hit target since almost always a one shot and random is part of the fun. doing the player layer first on who gets hit does seem less fun And more mean but gets same result, random killed.

but I think it‘s been long been established you didn’t like the lack of control and agency. 17 pages and still discussing.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
So I had the misfortune recently of playing a Level 0 Character Funnel for my first experience of Dungeon Crawl Classics.

The experience has completely soured me on the game system.
First off, I guess you can't win them all. Better luck in your next campaign!

Secondly, don't claim something is bad just because you had a bad experience.

It's important to realize WHY the funnel is used. What is is intended to accomplish?

Some players have a "charbuild" approach to gaming. The focus isn't so much on characterizing a living breathing person with his or her flaws and strengths, but to use the character as the tool to influence the world. By "influencing" I mean things like: accomplishing goals, defeating monsters, successfully completing scenarios.

The character in itself isn't so important just as long as it can do its job. The focus can often be on dealing a lot of damage or being very hard to impact with spells. Numbers. Statistics. Minmaxing.

In this regard, the character is just the vessel the player is steering in order to achieve goals. Furthermore, many D&D players expect and assume nobody will take this character away, except possibly at first level. But many spend a lot of time planning out the first ten levels or all twenty levels already before the first session.

The bulk of "characterization" becomes: choosing the best class abilities, looking for the best equipment and so on. The notion that this character is a real person with actual insecurities or weaknesses is remote or non-existent.

In my view, the funnel is designed to challenge this view, and bring such gamers out of their comfort zone.

The funnel accomplishes several things:

You aren't entitled to an awesome high-level character. You need to work to deserve one.

In far too much D&D scenarios the text and the NPC tells you you are a great hero, regardless of whether you have actually worked to deserve that. D&D fosters a mentality where you basically become a great hero just by showing up to play.

This is the mentality DCC aims to challenge with the funnel concept.

Instead of you automatically becoming a hero, you actually need to work to become one, by doing actual heroics. What defines a hero? Well, it's taking the dangerous route even when a safer exit presents itself because it's the right thing to do. But D&D combat mechanisms ensure that just showing up for combat isn't heroic. Combat in D&D is a reward, not something lesser men avoids.

By asking you to do dangerous adventures where there is a real risk of death and defeat you foster an atmosphere of actually growing into being a hero.

And as this hero you will remember your fallen friends and acquaintances. Because there will be some of those. You will yourself carry the sting of seeing your characters die, sometimes even when they did everything right.

This makes for a far richer campaign start than regular D&D, where you are almost assured of living to become a great hero already when you sign up at level 1.

I would say a DCC hero is much more deserving of the "hero" epithet than a D&D one, simply because you the player have yourself experienced how choosing the heroic and dangerous choice can and will lead to death, and skill and luck have created and formed you and you are a survivor, carrying actual scars. :)

---

So. That's the background and rationale of the funnel system.

Now it's important to note that lots of gamers already play rpgs in such a way where developing an actual personality for their characters is an important aspect. And in these cases it's 100% okay to skip the funnel.

You see? The funnel is a tool you should use to shake D&D rollplayers out of their focus on numbers and minmaxing, and hopefully start thinking about their character's hopes and dreams, their character's fears and failures!

Now to your three objections:
1) Six players. Four characters each. Two actions a turn. For a ridiculous 48 actions per turn (plus the monsters actions.) Keeping up with positioning of 24 characters, what they're doing, etc.
1) A good GM uses very quick and fluid rules for the first few sessions, before the character roster has been whittled down. For instance, don't place each character individually on the map. Just ask the player "do Bob lead the group, does he hang back, or is he in the middle". This should result in the gang of characters being led by 6 brave characters, and if there is an ambush from behind, the GM knows which six characters are cowards or volunteers for the rear guard.

Then don't track exactly who is fighting who. The first round, the first (or last) line of six characters engage with monsters. Then, on subsequent rounds, each player makes six attack rolls. You can roll damage, but I would simply say rolling high kills the monster and rolling low don't.

There is no reason to go into details over how a single character spends its action allowance. Focus on speed and resolving the combat, so the players get to role-play their joy of surviving and/or lament the loss of the fallen.

A level 1 DCC character is exceedingly simple with very few mechanical details.

As the funnel whittles down the number of characters to 1 per player (or 2 per player tops) you can start engaging with the full combat system.

Sounds like your GM wasn't prepared for DCC and attempted to run the combat in the same way you would do for 5 heroes...

2) Random character creation is awful in the system, because your class/background has no bearing on your ability scores. So I had an elven sage with a 4 Int. Even if he survived, what would I have wanted to do, play a worthless elf who couldn't even use magic.
Old school baby! The notion here is that the player that manages to have his character survive despite a debilitating handicap is rewarded with a higher satisfaction. There's no notion of "the game should ensure fairness". Life isn't fair like that. If Bob rolls only 18s the solution is simple: have him go first all the time!

Compare a game of Lord of the Rings. A Hobbit is not meant to be given equal opportunities as an Elf or Dwarf. The group should have the mindset that overcoming challenges together is what counts, even if the Elf needs to carry a greater burden during combat encounters (killing more Orcs) than the Halfling.

Same here: there are no (okay, almost no) unplayable characters. Even the hero with low scores could get a moment to shine!

Plus: the funnel gives you four characters! Chances are, at least one of them will be somewhat playable. So enjoy your Elf Wizard for as long as you want. :) If he survives, perhaps you've grown attached and keep playing him despite his handicap. Or you let him retire in peace, satisfied you helped him avoid death.

You can always roll up more characters later. Yes you only start with 4 but only the most dogmatic of GMs would insist you stick with them if you don't fancy any one them.

In fact, many DCC adventures make a point of telling the GM which NPCs would be suitable to be "adopted" by a player short on characters. Let's take an example: the adventure has you fight cannibal cave men. Pure happenstance means that one of these survives a combat encounter, and now your group debates what to do with her.

But let's say you lost your fourth and final character in that fight. If you declare the cave NPC is a woman named "Gabi" and you want to play her, the GM can easily agree. You roll up stats as normal for this 5th character (it's best not to reuse her "monster stats") except you already know her equipment and her profession.

The randomness is - again - intended to tell players to not focus so much on numbers, and instead try to bring a real personality to life. DCC only uses +3 to -3 for a reason. The modifiers doesn't matter as much as in 3E or 5E.

---

More importantly (and you probably couldn't have known, unless your GM had the foresight to tell you): ability scores are much more fluid in DCC.

Or, at least, they can be. Or, if you ask me, they should be! :)

That is, it is much MUCH less of a big deal if you don't start with a 16 in Strength as a Fighter. Maybe you will find a sorcerous potion later which grants you extra Strength points. Maybe you fall into a random trap and get lucky. Maybe you'll even sell your soul to a Demon or Necromancer in exchange for higher Strength!

Quest for it! is the answer to every problem in DCC! :)



3) Random die rolls to kill characters. If you're going to use a character funnel with a stable of characters, the player should be able to volunteer the character to be killed as "tribute" - or at least have their actions lead to the character death. My best characters died before I got a chance to make a single decision and I was left with garbage tier random generated losers unfit to adventure.
Why?

Why should the player have control, when the whole point of being a hero is that you weren't given a promise you would become one? You just did the right thing and ended up victorious.

The key thing is: in order for putting your life on the line to be heroic, your life really needs to be put on the line.

Regular D&D is so very heavily slanted towards PC survival that this - in the eyes of OSR and DCC - does not count as actual heroism.

Only when you see your friends and comrades fall beside you, getting killed or maimed or transformed or worse, does your willingness for sacrifice carry real weight.

The idea here is that each time your lucky PC gets killed by a random event, the rest of the group gets a galvanizing event to carry with them.

And when you finally manage to roll up a character with high scores AND see him live beyond the first few levels (where death happens most often) it will be a real accomplishment and something to truly cherish.

This is a completely different mindset to ordinary D&D - where you expect that in return for showing up you will be next to guaranteed a good time, and a capable hero. Neither mindset is wrong. Point here is that declaring the DCC funnel as "bad" only betrays you don't realize what its aims are.

Had you known why DCC uses the funnel, you could have said "DCC funnel is not for me" and that would be fair. That's different from claiming the concept is bad, is what I'm saying.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
To add:

I both loved and hated DCC at the same time.

I loved the idea of the funnel and how mutable characters can be. I LOVED the adventures that were written specifically for DCC (they are MUCH more OSRy than the adventures Goodman wrote for 3e or 4e)

I hated their idea of making each and every spell super random. Every parameter is randomized, which is much to much randomness to be playable. I hated how some of the writers apparently think rules vagueness is a strength instead of the huge flaw it really is. Their special dice is a gimmick they should have dropped.

Just to clarify that while my previous post could be read as me being a fanboy, it isn't quite that easy all things considered.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
The issue for this specific group of players is the perceived underpowered characters. They want to feel badass - and that's difficult when you have d4 or d6 HP, one spell at 1st level, limited to "swing and attack" (even if you CAN attempt other actions, if there aren't rules for it and it's not on the sheet - it seems primitive to them).
I think this is a hurdle Professor Dungeon Master on his Dungeon Craft YT channel has done a good job discussing over the years.

A character with fewer HP can still feel badass and heroic and even more cinematic if common enemies have few enough HP that you don't have to hit one over and over again to kill it. Legolas in the LotR movies looks awesome one-shotting orcs. If your average orc has 4 HP, a B/X Fighter swinging a normal sword has a 5/8 chance to kill it with a single hit, even assuming no strength bonus. But (especially with the point-swapping to PR) a B/X Fighter can normally be relied on to have at least a +1 Str bonus, so make that 3/4 chance.

Similar with old school spells. You may start with 1/day, but original sleep can one-shot an entire fight. Ogre down- no save. Or a whole squad of orcs. Or it takes out 3/4 of the baddies and your Fighters suddenly have a manageable or easy fight where before it was looking like a TPK.

For me the main virtue of the HP inflation in later editions is that it gives the players more decision space. It's less swingy and you're less at the mercy of getting taken out with one lucky attack. You have more opportunities to heal or maneuver or (gods forbid) even retreat or negotiate. But that does come at the cost of usually slower fights, which can become grindy slogs.

It's a fair concern about relying on DM judgement to run special maneuvers or tricks and tactics. This is really a skill for DMs, to say yes and assess good enough odds of doing something awesome that it feels worthwhile but doesn't become "well, let's ALWAYS do that then". But I also think there is a certain relaxed mindset really necessary for the players to let go of control a bit and attachment to maximizing outcomes. I know that's been a challenge for me, too.

This actually makes me think of my own main current reservation about running DCC- the Mighty Deeds. I love this concept and how it makes Warriors able to do awesome stuff, without having to choose between sweet stunts and regular attacks. And I'm glad that they provide a bunch of examples and guidelines for "levels" of deeds and what kind of stuff can be done and how powerful it can or should be. I do feel a little intimidated by the details of those guidelines, though. It seems like quite a lot to internalize to make sure my judgements/rulings are good. That being said, I'm sure I need to take some of my own advice and let go a little, and not obsess over the fine points of individual rulings.
 

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