"I started out not really caring about any of these four peasants," said Jack, "but now I am really attached to this guy... he's becoming a hero!"
This statement, made at the end of our first ever attempt to play DCC RPG, really made my ears prick up. I was paying attention to that one. That was important.
"Yeah," added Will, "It's really cool that I started with one guy I was hoping would make it, but who died. My last guy is really precious now. I want him to make it out alive."
What was going on?
DCC RPG has a rule that I didn't want to try.
Players roll up 3-5 characters, all of whom are basically expendable peasant spear-fodder. These are totally random characters: 3d6 across 6 stats, let the dice fall as they may. Each one gets a crude weapon, an item or two of equipment, and maybe one thing that they're lucky with. That's it. You take the band of peasants into a dungeon. Whoever survives gets to Level-Up and choose a Character Class.
On Thursday, needing a pick-up game for the four 12-13 year old boys I game with at school, I decided to try it. What the hell,eh?
Wow. We had a blast. 16 peasants went in. 7 are still alive, and we're around 60% of the way through the adventure. But we had a blast.
Heroes we care about?
Oddly, having chosen from 20 random characters (which I generated using the cool web-tool from Purple Sorceror
), the guys threw their 16 "mooks" into the dungeon. We had some really fun, and slightly chaotic, roleplaying right from the start because they didn't really care what happened to these peasant scum. And yet...
As the first casualties mounted the guys began to realise the mortality of their surviving wannabes. When one player decided to quite casually have one character risk his very life to allow another to succeed, we had the makings of our first hero. Something changed. THAT guy became valuable. We wanted him to "win".
It was a lot of fun, with some tragically comic moments... even desperate acts. Yet, by the end of that first session two things happened: 1. the guys were treasuring the survivors; 2. they were desperate to see the story through to the end.
Normally characters are heroes set apart and special. Yes, they are mortal... but the conceit is that we won't kill them without it meaning something.
In DCC RPG characters are meat. Nothing. Until they become something more... through their actions, by their deeds.
That feels good.
What happened there?
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