The Cut-Scene Funnel

TombstoneCharacter Death

Character death is inevitable in Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. The 0-level funnel DCC RPG games start off with practically guarantee it. These early campaign deaths are easy to deal with as the game is just getting started. The 0-level funnel helps form the psyche of these want to be heroes and is a valuable formative part of these adventurers.

As characters level-up it does become increasingly more difficult to “kill” a character. Between the luck mechanic, bleeding out rules, and recovering the body rules, even fights that go south quickly are frequently survivable with a little luck. Despite that there will be continued character death in a DCC RPG campaign, sometimes things just get a little crazy and luck is not with the player as their character fails a luck roll.

We have been trying to find a way that works well for our group for introducing new characters to our DCC RPG campaign. This post covers the path to what will be our upcoming experiment – the cut-scene funnel.

My Campaign

I have been running a DCC RPG campaign on G+ Hangouts for a little over six months now. The characters in the party are now 3rd level and have been there for a couple of sessions. We have three characters that were in the original 0-level funnel that have lived to continue adventuring.

Along the way we have had several opportunities to experiment with how we add new characters to the campaign. We are still trying to figure out the best way (well, the way that works the best for our game) to add these new characters to the campaign. The method that works best seems to change as the levels of the main characters increase.

Early Attrition

In our campaign the character deaths that occurred early in the game seemed to happen to players that still had two characters from the funnel. This led to not much needing done when a character died in the low levels as the player would still have a character to continue playing.

For the exceptions to this I would have the player roll up three new 0-levels, choose their favorite and then level that one to a matching level – in this case, 1st level.

This method seemed to work well as the main characters weren’t that far out from the funnel. The new characters were still early enough in their adventuring career that missing the funnel was not hugely detrimental.

During this phase of the campaign we also added a new player to the mix. For the new player I had him generate three 0-levels and play them. This worked out well too. In fact I could have easily swapped this method for the advance one 0-level to first level with no issue.

2nd Level Era

Eventually the group reached 2nd level with their main characters. Here 0-levels were already feeling a bit too far out of a reach for our group. A lot of the characters that we introduced during this stage of the game were brought in via the generate three 0-levels, advance your favorite to 1st level and join the party.

This seemed to work mechanically, but the new character seemed harder to get a feel for. They had not had a 0-level funnel experience for the formative stage of their character. Most of these characters eventually “gel-ed” with the group, but it seemed to take more effort to do so. Luckily I have a great group of players, but I could see this being an issue for some groups.

3rd Level Era

My campaign has only been in the 3rd level stage for a couple of sessions. At this point the players were realizing having a stable of characters to draw from might be worthwhile. We discussed how to do this and at first settled on bringing in 0-levels to complement the existing characters. Our group feels the 0-level play is what really turns a character from a cardboard cut-out to something with experience and formative events.

This experiment did not pan out very well for us. The 0-levels accompanying the 3rd level characters on an appropriate level adventure really didn’t stand a chance to survive. Using them as “trap detectors” was pretty much instant death. If they found themselves too close to an enemy, one hit was certainly all that was needed to put an end to them.

The 0-levels we introduced in this fashion all met their fate in the very first session.

Phoenix_DrawingWhat Now?

This led to more discussion on how we were going to introduce new characters to our DCC RPG campaign. We’d tried several methods along the way, some of which worked well mechanically but left us feeling disjointed story-wise and others that seemed to lack mechanically as well.

I offered the idea of a cut-scene funnel. What I proposed was that we would shelve the main characters for a session or two and “cut away” to a trio of 0-levels for each player. I will run these 0-levels through a special funnel session independent of the main characters. Once that session is finished we will have the surviving characters leveled up to main character level minus one. So in this case, the survivors will be allowed to advance to 2nd level.

These 0-levels are from the same area, “The Great City” in our campaign, and likely have even been hearing tales of the heroics of the main characters. Eager to find fame and success of their own and possibly catch the attention of the main characters with their own heroics, these 0-levels will set off to make a name for themselves.

There are several reasons for trying this approach. First, everyone in my group enjoys the funnel. They have a good time playing it, we get a lot of laughs and we all think it is a shame we only get to do it at the start of the campaign. So this new trial will let us play the funnel again without scrapping the whole campaign.

We also think the funnel really helps develop a character. So now the stable of characters we build will have actually played through a funnel and get the opportunity to play in this “development” adventure.

The first session of the experiment will be happening this week. Once we finish the experiment I will post more details of how it played out. Be sure to check back if you are curious about the results!

2 thoughts on “The Cut-Scene Funnel

  1. I like the idea of the “main” characters having henchman or apprentices step up if the “main” character dies. I can see how that could become difficult in higher level encounters as your group found out. Maybe there is a formula like apprentices/henchman should be main character level -2, then they immediately level one level if the “main” guy dies? That way they’re still not the focus, but not useless and 4 hp fragile.

    • We’ve done a little bit of that in our experimentation so far. We’d intro a character at a level below. It worked, but those characters felt a little like “cardboard cutouts”. They just did not quite have the same feel to them.

      The group I run for likes the funnel sessions. So this experiment gives them a chance to play the funnel again and give these characters in the “stable” the funnel experience to help give them those formative experiences.

      Once the survivors of the funnel are determined, the players will level them up to “current level minus one” to be spares for the main characters. It will take some time to see how this all works out!

      At the moment though, we’ve been having a good time running/playing another funnel! It has been quite deadly so far. Deadly enough I needed to add in some “prisoners” to help repopulate the party. Good times!

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