Portal under the Stars – DCC RPG

I had never heard of Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG until I saw some posts about it in r/Solo_Roleplaying and my interest was more than picked when solorpggamer linked Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure in the sub. However, before trying that I wanted to try vanilla DCC RPG to see if the system is good for me or not.

In the RPG groups I’ve been we usually play Dungeons and Dragons 5E or Call of Cthulhu 7E and the other RPGs mentioned around the table are nowhere even close to DCC RPG. I’ve never found the idea of dungeon crawling too appealing as I prefer sessions with a balance of social and combat encounters and generally prefer to uncover a mystery (like in CoC). HOWEVER, when I played part 4 in my DnD campaign Archfey, I found solo dungeon crawling to be quite fun and fast paced so I was curious to try DCC RPG just for that.

DCC RPG is quite opposed to everything I’ve played before: the character sheets are so simple, there are no specific abilities/skill checks and the characters seem even more squishy than those in CoC so I don’t really care to build a backstory for them. Especially for playing a level 0 funnel solo, I see characters without a defined backstory as almost mandatory since I need tons of them. What I specially dislike about old-style games is that non-human characters don’t get to have a class, their race is their class! That’s so odd to me.

For those unfamiliar with DCC RPG, level 0 characters are not warriors, wizards, rogues, etc. They are bakers, farmers, beggars and all sorts of useless for adventuring. The usual level 0 adventure is called a ‘funnel’ in which these useless adventurers are traveling through a dungeon for some reason, possibly hoping of unearthing a great treasure so they can escape their miserable lives. However, normal people going through a monster-infested dungeon have very little chances of survival. This is why players should prepare around 3-4 character sheets/cards for the game. As a matter of fact, the book states that this funnel can be completed with a minimum of 15 characters.

How I tried DCC RPG solo:

Since I am testing the system for the first time, I want to do it as similarly as a normal party would work. That is why I rolled 5 pages of 4 random characters in the online 0-Level Party & Tourney Generator. This gives me 20 characters in total but I treat each of these pages as a group of characters so it would be as if 5 players where playing the game. I had to print the pdf because otherwise I would have gone mad from just trying to browse through the character cards on the computer and remembering which were on the front.

The 5 groups without non-human characters, therefore, are:

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Wainwright Blacksmith Trapper Butcher 2 Merchant
Butcher 1 Costermonger Barber Turnip Farmer Grave digger
Cutpurse Potato Farmer Squire Rice Farmer Ostler
Cobbler 1 Cobbler 2 Tax Collector Woodcutter Slave


I will use this table constantly to show who goes first in each room of the dungeon.

If I need to ask the Oracle questions, I will just use a simple Yes/No system.

NOTE: I haven’t read the adventure beforehand, so I am uncovering the dungeon and its contents as I play. The number of the rooms is the same as those in the book so there is a chance that I do not explore the whole place.

Actual Play:

Room 1:

As the characters approach the portal, they find a hallway that ends in an iron-banded door. It doesn’t budge.

Cobbler 1 has Thieves’ Tools and tries to unlock the door with them: FAIL.

The stronger characters, the Squire and the Costermonger, try to force the door open:

Costermonger: FAIL.

Squire: SUCCESS!!

As the Squire manages to break the door open, searing light burns from it. The Squire tries to evade (Reflex save) but fails: -1d8HP = 8HP. The squire is burned to death.

Group order:

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Butcher 1 Potato Farmer Tax Collector Rice Farmer Grave digger
Cutpurse Costermonger Trapper Butcher 2 Merchant
Wainwright Cobbler 2 Barber Turnip Farmer Slave
Cobbler 1 Blacksmith Woodcutter Ostler

Room 2:

To the other side of the room there is another door. On each side, 2 mechanical statues quickly hurl their spears at the characters!

The ones at the door aside from the dead Squire were the Costermonger ans Cobbler 1 so they roll to avoid the attack.

Costermonger: -6HP: DIES. The Blacksmith takes his longsword.

Cobbler 1: is saved! The spear broke as it hit the ground.

After a second companion has been killed, the group is scared to proceed, but when after a while nothing else is heard or seen coming from the next room they advance.

The 3 remaining spears are taken (Slave, Cobbler 1, Cutpurse). The group also realizes that the 4 statues are wearing scale mail armor. (Potato Farmer, Tax collector, Rice Farmer, Cutpurse).


Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Butcher 1 Potato Farmer Tax Collector Rice Farmer Grave digger
Cutpurse Cobbler 2 Trapper Butcher 2 Merchant
Wainwright Blacksmith Barber Turnip Farmer Slave
Cobbler 1 Woodcutter Ostler

Room 3:


Behind the door that was guarded by the 4 statues is a large square room with doors in all sides and in its center is the enormous statue of some kind of Barbarian whose hand is pointing at the door the characters are coming from. The muscular savage wears animal hides, but his eyes are intelligent and his engraved neckline sports amulets and charms. A grimoire hangs beside a broadsword on the hip of the thirty-foot-tall monument.

Considering what happened in the previous room, the smartest characters decide to take a good look at the room before stepping in.

Trapper: FAIL

Merchant: Success! → there are many fine scorch marks on the marble floor, as if campfires had been started there.

As the Merchant points this out to his peers, the group sends the cow and the duck the Turnip Farmer and the Potato Farmer have brought with them into the room to check what happens. Nothing apparently. Then Cobbler 2 throws his Shoehorn into another of the scorched areas but nothing happens either.

Q/A: Does the cow return to her owner? NO.

               Q/A: What about the duck? NO.

               Q/A: Does the cow approach one of the other rooms? NO. She just remains some paces away from the entrance.

               Q/A: Does the duck? YES!

               Q/A: Which of them? 1-2= left, 3-4= opposite side, 5-6=right. Right.

As the duck starts walking toward the right door and still nothing happens, the group starts to follow it. However, as soon as the group starts walking in that direction, a deep bass groaning sound is heard, the statue is turning! It seems like it is tracking their movements! They walk a bit around the room to test it and indeed, the statue is always following the group.

The smartest characters try to take another good look at their situation:

Trapper: FAIL.

Merchant: SUCCESS! → The merchant has noticed something interesting, the scorched areas all seem to follow a pattern and always start in certain areas close to the doors. However, the ground doesn’t seem to be booby trapped since the duck went to the right door and nothing happened to it. It has something to do with the statue! Perhaps if it is pointing to the door it is then when the fire occurs?

The Potato Farmer goes by himself to recover his duck and the Turnip farmer goes for his cow. Interestingly, nothing happens, the statue is pointing at the group. The Potato Farmer indicates that the door is unlocked, unsure of what else to do, the group starts going towards him and so does the statue.

“Wait! What if we go one by one? Since it seems like it only follows the group.” Someone suggests.

However, as over half of the group has reached the Potato Farmer, the statue sends forth a bust of flame from its fingertip!

Butcher 1: -5HP DEAD!

The characters try to run away but the statue keeps firing:

Statue attacks Potato farmer: -4HP DEAD

Statue attacks Tax collector: Crit fail, so I am going to be nice and say the next statue attack doesn’t work.

Statue attacks Grave digger: -2HP. Still alive!

Then suddenly, the statue stops firing. It’s as if its supply fuel had been exhausted.

The characters try to put out the fire that is consuming their allies and that is now avoiding them from reaching the door they were going to but can’t. Thus, they continue on to the following door, the one closest, the one opposite the way they entered, as they approach it the statue no longer follows them.


Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Cutpurse Cobbler 2 Tax Collector Rice Farmer Grave digger
Wainwright Blacksmith Trapper Butcher 2 Merchant
Cobbler 1 Barber Turnip Farmer Slave
Woodcutter Ostler

Room 6:

This enormous chamber is filled with a large, rectangular pool of water running the entire length of the room. Diffused light shines upward from the pool, illuminating wide pillars lining the walls. Strangest of all, however, are the man-shaped crystal creatures visible in the shadows. They shuffle about slowly, their strange crystalline bodies sparkling like jewels whenever they catch the light from the pool. There is a door in the far corner of this chamber.

The characters ready their weapons, expecting the creatures to attack them. However they don’t seem to care that a group of people have entered their room. Perhaps they are blind and or deaf?

I roll agility for the entire group as if all of them are trying to be sneaky. Success!!

As the group carefully advances, the creatures keep ignoring them. Upon closer inspection of the pool, it seems that the bottom is encrusted with thousands of crystals forming what could be some kind of constellation, however nobody seems to recognize it.

Feeling greedy, the townsfolk wish to gather some of those beautiful crystals but are more than suspicious after what they have been through, so they send the Turnip Farmer’s cow (at this point I realized that the Rice Farmer also has a duck!) into the pool to check if is booby trapped. As the heavy creature sloshes through it with no problem, the owner decides to follow and starts pulling one of the crystals. As he does so, many of the others look to the creatures around the room expecting a situation similar to the giant statue, however, they still just wander around the room without paying them any attention.

Once the Turnip farmer has successfully extracted a crystal and nothing seems to have changed, he is joined in the pool by the rest who wish to extract a crystal for themselves. As all of them were too busy prying a crystal for themselves they hadn’t noticed at first how the pool was starting to drain but, by the time the 16 of them had obtained their own crystals, it was more than obvious. Scared of what might happen, the townspeople quickly run out of the pool.

Q/A: Has any of the crystal creatures wandered towards the characters? NO.

As they catch their breath, they realize that all the water is slowly filtering through the holes left after removing the crystals. However, the creatures around the room still don’t seem to mind them at all. Someone points out that they should stop pushing their luck and that they should keep advancing before the creatures in the room turn hostile. After agreeing, they proceed to open the door in the back of the room which opens to a spiral staircase.

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Cutpurse Cobbler 2 Tax Collector Rice Farmer Grave digger
Wainwright Blacksmith Trapper Butcher 2 Merchant
Cobbler 1 Barber Turnip Farmer Slave
Woodcutter Ostler


Room 7:

The spiral staircase leads to a long, narrow room with a door in the far wall. There are several ledges holding miniature clay solders and two tables with armies of opposing soldiers are laid out around buildings and hills.

The 5 groups roll Intelligence: all fail the DC check.

The townspeople look with curiosity at the figures but don’t really see anything of value in the room so they keep advancing to the door at the other end of the room.


Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Cutpurse Cobbler 2 Tax Collector Rice Farmer Grave digger
Wainwright Blacksmith Trapper Butcher 2 Merchant
Cobbler 1 Barber Turnip Farmer Slave
Woodcutter Ostler

Room 8:

The door opens upon a breathtaking scene. An enormous, three-tiered chamber spreads before you. An oversized throne rests upon a raised dais at the far end of the room. Seated on the throne is a clay warlord that resembles the giant statue from earlier. A pulsating light emanates from a crystal globe atop the throne.

Below the dais at floor level seven statues of clay generals stand motionless. Below them, in a huge pit that runs the length of the room stands an army of clay soldiers submerged in water. There are dozens of soldiers arrayed in marching formation, their clay armor and clay spears equipped for war, however they are slowly turning into mud from being underwater. Has the water from the pool filtered down here?

A great stillness pervades the room. It is the stillness of death; the silence of a tomb. Then, suddenly, the stillness is broken as the clay warlord jerkily raises an arm toward his generals. Then, the entire army takes a lurching step forward, shattering the silence with the tramp of doom.

All creatures In the pool suffer 1d6 damage. There are 7 generals, and 10 warriors in the pool for each of them:

The clay soldiers start climbing out of the pit. (-1hp per turn as they keep turning into mud).

The generals and the warlord just look on.

Terrified by what they are seeing, the townspeople retreat into the other room. Perhaps they can pick the clay soldiers off as they try to enter the small room?

After many turns of combat, the remaining soldiers turn to mud and the remaining characters are:

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Cutpurse Blacksmith Barber Rice Farmer Merchant
Wainwright Butcher 2 Ostler
Cobbler 1 Woodcutter


As the last soldier crumbles, the remaining townsfolk can hear a new sound, it’s the generals on the move! Defeating the normal soldiers even as they were weakened by the water was a difficult task, they have no hopes of destroying the generals in peak condition!

“What we need to do is destroy the leader! They all started moving after he signaled them!” the smart Merchant shouts.

“Quick! Into the water! If we lure them there, they will start dissolving like the others!” someone else shouts.

Before that, the Cutpurse recovers his spear and the merchant recovers the one that the Slave had been carrying. Even as the clay generals advance, the humans are much faster and reach the pool before the generals have barely advanced through the sides of the room untouched by the water.

Generals, try to throw their spears at the group:

G1: fumble! He falls into the pool, taking 1d6 damage: -4HP (5hp)

               G2: Goes for the Merchant. hit! -3HP Kills him!

               G3: Goes for the Ostler. FAILS.

               G4: Goes for the Blacksmith. CRIT! Strike reduces face to a formless mass of flesh and bone fragments. Inflict +2d12 damage with this strike, and the foe has trouble making hard consonants. Kills him!!

               G5: Goes for the Ostler. FAILS.

               G6: Goes for the Rice Farmer. FAILs.

               G7:  Goes for the Rice Farmer. FAILs.

               G1 loses 1HP (6HP)

As they are nearing the Warlord, the Woodcutter grabs the spear the Merchant was carrying, and the Cutpurse throws his spear at the warlord! HIT! -2HP.

The warlord also chucks his spear at the characters: Goes for the Cutpurse who attacked him: Misses!

The generals start walking back trying to reach their lord, but they are much slower than the humans and can not attack them at this point. G1 -1hp (5HP)

The Rice Farmer climbs out of the pool and attacks the Warlord with his Pitchfork! Hit! -7HP: The warlord crumbles!!

As their masters, becomes an inanimate clay statue once more, the generals also lose their mobility!

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Cutpurse Barber Rice Farmer Ostler
Wainwright Butcher 2
Cobbler 1 Woodcutter


Congratulating themselves on a job well done, the townspeople begin searching the room, this army must have been guarding the treasure they came here for!

The crystal globe atop the warlord’s throne is pried out by the townsfolk and the barber (after rolling for intelligence) quickly shouts that there seems to be a hidden door not far from the throne.

After opening the secret door, the group reaches what they had been looking for! It’s the wizard’s treasure! They take everything they can and leave the place as fast as possible before any further calamities occur to them!

Notes/Lessons Learned:

This was indeed fast as I had hoped! And even more characters than I anticipated survived! I started with 20 and ended with 8! Considering how deadly level-0 funnels are I am very surprised.

If I had explored rooms 4 and 5 the number of survivors would have been less, I am certain. However, since they couldn’t access room 5 because of the fire in front of the door, I felt it only made sense for them to proceed to the nearest door which lead to room 6. Thanks to this, I later learned that thanks to that I missed two combat encounters that would have probably killed several characters.

As I said before, I didn’t read beforehand what was in each room. I did this to avoid metagaming as much as possible but even then, I found this quite hard to do and hindered my fun. There are some rooms, especially rooms 1, 3 and 6 that I had to think very hard about what to do while trying to keep separate the knowledge I had of the room after reading it and what the townspeople would do. I decided that they would be a greedy, cowardly and not very smart bunch so I tried to base my decisions based on that. I only rolled for intelligence with those characters that had a +1 or +2 in that stat. Moreover, I decided to send the animals some of them carried with them as bait for the possible traps was the smartest thing to do. I have no idea why else you would bring a cow and a duck to a dungeon.

The last encounter was absolutely crazy to keep track of. 70 soldiers, 7 generals and a warlord?? Plus my characters?? Thankfully, since the water had hit the soldiers and I had them funneled through (heh) the door of the room it was just a matter of time and several characters after that I managed to continue the encounter. However, at that point I was just wishing for the game to be done already. If I had entered Room 5, there was a chance that the generals hadn’t been there, and things would have been easier. Still, since they were much slower than the characters and I made them throw their weapons at the characters, they became quite useless and left me with just the warlord to deal with. I think this might be the only reason I finished the dungeon. I fear I might have metagamed the characters realizing that they had to kill the Warlord but I WAS TIRED. I just wanted to be done with it. That is also why I didn’t explore the last room in detail and just said they took the treasure.

To sum up:

I don’t think I enjoyed this system for playing solo. At least not for a pre-generated dungeon, because I found it too hard not to metagame. It was the opposite way when I was playing that pre-written story of Call of Cthulhu. I had a blast with that one because even if I had a set of pre-written event, the Oracle and the GME still randomized things enough for it to be an interesting experience. In here, there was not much I could ask the Oracle so there were not many surprises to be had.

On the other hand, I would love to try it with a group! It seems like it would be a lot of fun! And I can even imagine my friends that aren’t into TTRPGs liking it!

I still want to try Hubris though, so I might just use it as a setting with a different roleplaying system. I’m thinking that perhaps using Cthulhu Dark Ages characters would be the closest thing. Any ideas are welcome.

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