I'm pretty sure we have a winner at the table and its name is Dungeon Crawl Classics. The promise of "XCOM meets D&D" was too appealing to pass up, and everyone in the group agreed. Low level characters? High mortality rating? Maximum lawlz? It was an easy sale, and frankly.. I'm probably never looking back.
We started off with "Sailors on the Starless Sea", one of Goodman Games 0-level character funnels. For the
uninitiated, a character funnel is the introductory adventure designed to whittle down 15 or so level 0 peasants into 4 or 5 seasoned adventurers. Each player controls a handful of peasants and attempts to herd them safely through the meat grinder. The process is brutal yet comical and players are expected to leave a trail of blood, tears, and character sheets from one side of of the dungeon to the other. The reward is a bloodstained post traumatic 1st level character that players feel a deep attachment to. Sure they might be tearing up character sheets left and right, but the survivors now have stories and personalities to go along with their hard won 1st level stat blocks.
The session began with a mob of twenty poorly armed and armored peasants (randomly created using Purple Sorcerer Games Level-0 Party Generator) arriving at a long abandoned keep set atop a craggy hill. Villagers had been disappearing for months and this angry mob, armed with torches and pitchforks, had shown up to put an end to it. Instead of blazing a trail up the hill and through the front gatehouse they decided to scout the parameter and discovered a section of collapsed wall. Maria the cheesemaker, scouting ahead, was ambushed by some Vine Horrors and fell back to the party. Skull Bones the ditch digger, Jack Swallows the mariner, and Chi-Chi Martinez the Halfling dyer met their untimely demise by tentacle rape.
After disposing of the Vine Horrors and burning the seeds that started to crawl toward the freshly dead bodies (RIP angry peasants), the group made their way up the northwest slope and over the collapsed section of wall. Riordan the Dwarven herder saved the party from crushing defeat by spotting some lose boulders on the hillside before the party could bumble their way up and trigger a landslide. He pointed out a clear path and led the party safely up into the courtyard.
Once inside the overgrown courtyard they began to investigate their surroundings; a well, a temple covered in scorch marks, a large sinkhole, and a stout tower. Wester Whitworth the barber decided to peer over the edge of the ominous looking well and almost took a header into an extra-dimensional pocket of mutating chaos energy. Luckily he was grabbed at the last possible moment by Kayce the glassblower before he could tumble completely over the ledge. The rest of the group naturally took turns throwing anything they could find into the well and wondering why it made no sound before they were sufficiently creeped out and left it alone. Sinkslow the smuggler briefly entertained the idea of putting up a warning sign near the well, but decided against it.
The party ignored the Charnel Ruins site completely once they realized that the great demonic bronze doors were barred from the outside and the building looked as though it had been set on fire. They wanted nothing to do with whatever unholy mess was locked behind those doors, and in doing so they unfortunately missed out on the only armor to be found in the adventure and an item that would have saved their asses from the chaos leviathan lurking far below them.
The group decided to move along and investigate the sole remaining tower of the keep. They battered down the sturdy door and quickly piled inside to discover a slaughterhouse. Maria the cheesemaker once more took point and set off a lethal ambush that got almost everyone but her killed. The combat was over in a few short rounds, but not before a good deal more of the peasant mob died to beastman spears. A beastman champion likewise did not go down before splitting Bob the potato farmer and Rusty the guild beggar in half with his battleaxe. Sorry, guys.
The players mopped up the rest of the beastmen and replenished their ranks by recruiting a few villagers that had been tied up in the room. Mitch Goldstein the Halfling jeweler died to a rot grub as he rummaged through piles of debris in search of loot. The party thought about trying to locate the rot grub before it could animate poor old Mitch and cause more harm, but didn't follow through. Apparently the Vine Horrors had left quite an impression. Meanwhile Sinkslow the smuggler lucked out and uncovered a cache of weapons and coins hidden below a loose stone.
Cont Part 2..