Dungeon Crawl Classics
Allayre is a tiny farming, herding and crafting village in the mountains. They are simple folk who follow the Old Faith of the Earth Mother. Vornheim is the closest city. The island kingdom of Ey is actually a loose confederation of city-states who pay homage to a nominal King with little power outside the capital.
- Slink is a local thief, pickpocket and troublemaker whom Grandfather took under his wing in a attempt to reform him. Having failed, he now tries to control his tendencies while covering for him with local authorities.
- Hibiscus Vanillafog is an elf from the nearby woods who used to enjoy long walks under the stars with Grandfather, gazing at the heavens and discussing the ways of the fey.
- Friar Lodens is an herbalist who follows the Old Faith and works alongside the Druids of the Grove.
- Guldoon is a former beggar hired on as a porter and torch-bearer.
It has been decreed by the King in faraway Konungsgard that Ey be brought firmly under his control. His nobles have been sent to all corners of the island to build keeps from which they are to consolidate the King’s rule. Many of the traditions of the Old Faith have been outlawed and rites forbidden.
Open in village of Allayre in the manor house of Grandfather the Seer, village elder. Grandfather is venerable, in poor health, and increasingly suffering from nightmares.
Allayre is a cursed village. Some 60 years earlier, hooded figures emerged and started raiding and pillaging farmsteads near the Great Gorge. The raids were followed by demands for sacrifices to their strange god in exchange for peace. At first the villagers laughed at this but the raids continued. It was decided that one citizen, chosen by lot, would be sacrificed to these figures and their god. Every decade since they have made the sacrifice and were at peace. The next 10 year sacrifice is due in one month but the King has outlawed rites that are not of the All Father, the new god of the King. All those born in Allayre are subject to the lottery and if they try to leave Allayre it is said the curse will follow them.
On one particular occasion, Grandfather is being attended by Slink, Hibiscus and Lodens. He lapses into nightmares, causing him to thrash about in bed and scream “They are coming… they are coming…”. Fires and candles go out and the room dims as five shadowy, indistinct robed figures appear. They have no faces behind their grey hoods and their robes undulate as if their bodies were not human. The figures mutter, “He is still protected, we cannot harm him. Take these others as sacrifices to our Master.” Producing black steel daggers with strange glowing runes, they attack.
The party defeats the figures with some difficulty, Lodens caving in one’s head with a nightstand, and the nightmare dissipates. When Grandfather awakens he warns that no one near him is safe anymore. Plus, the presence of royal troops in town building a new keep bodes ill. None of the three were born in the village and are not subject to the curse, so Grandfather bids them leave and find their own fortunes. The party refuses at first out of loyalty to those they leave behind. Grandfather suggests that they can be of more service by finding wealth and magic that might help lift the curse for good.
He knows the local legend of a wizard who build a tower in the unpopulated hills nearby, which are rumored to be haunted. No word has been had of the wizard for many decades, so perhaps his wealth and knowledge lies unguarded. It is very dangerous and probably guarded by many clever traps but the reward may be worth the risk. Also, the tower is said to be ringed by a great earthen berm overgrown with briars and hedges. The party prepares and then sets out.
First, Hibiscus attempts to serve the King of Elfland as a patron. She succeeds and is quested with retrieving an Unseelie Fey who had been captured and imprisoned in a magical glass globe, but whose captor had failed to deliver to the Elf King. Hibiscus was told that the globe would make itself known to her.
The party made their way on foot and encountered the earthen berm. A 5-foot tunnel had been dug out of the berm to allow access along a trail. They made camp for the night. In the night they rescued a tethered horse from coyotes. Hibiscus spoke to it and learned that someone else had gone toward the tower (the horse was unable to indicate how). Then they healed it, took some supplies from the saddlebags, and sent it back in the direction of Allayre. Lightning lit up the clear sky above in the direction of the tower.
Entering the berm’s tunnel, Hibiscus saw a flash of green light from beneath the mossy bed. The moss began to grow unnaturally to cover the entrance and exit of the tunnel. Hibiscus was able to locate the source of the emanation and retrieved a small glass globe filled with a swirling green light. Surmising that this was the Unseelie Fey she was bid to recover, she put it in the empty chest carried by Guldoon. By this time the roots in the tunnel had come alive and were trying to entangle the party. Slink and Lodens were able to bull their way through to the other side, while Hibiscus chopped her way back to Guldoon. The roots were now attacked from both ends and defeated.
As they approached the tower they noticed a body lying on the ground, perhaps the person who left the horse. It was a man who had fallen from high up the tower, lying dead next to a mangled grappling hook on a rope. Slink checked the stairs up to the main double doors while dodging lightning strikes. Lodens came up and knocked on the large iron ring knockers. A loud gong sounded and the doors opened effortlessly.
At this point we will wait to enter the tower proper.
Yesterday I ran the Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) RPG, by Goodman Games, for the family. DCC is a new system with streamlined d20 mechanics that is a stylistic throwback to 1970’s-era D&D, right down to the rulebook artwork. I will describe features of the system as I retell our game sessions.
DCC strongly encourages groups to begin a campaign with a technique they call “the funnel.” Each player randomly generates 2-4 level 0 characters–a motley assortment of clowns, ne’er-do-wells, wannabes and zeroes–who are then thrown into a beginning adventure. A high body count is expected and characters who survive the funnel (if any) attain 1st level and can then choose a class. Humans can select from Warrior, Thief, Wizard and Cleric, while demi-humans are forevermore Dwarf, Elf or Halfling (i.e., race as class).
Links to reviews of the system can be found at the Goodman Games website. Next, our zeroes start out on their lives (often brief) of adventure.