Monday 9 December 2013

Rating the 0-Level Funnels

Okay, if you are looking to get into Dungeon Crawl Classics, or are just considering what 0-level funnel to run for a new or existing group, you have a lot of choices.  Which is right for you?

Well, I can’t tell you which is right for you.  What I can do is try to rank the funnels against my own personal tastes and experiences.  The following list does not include Prince Charming, Reanimator (Purple Duck Games) or The Arwich Grinder (Craw! Fanzine), because I wrote them.  If I have forgotten any published 0-level funnel, please drop me a note to remind me, and I will try to slot them in the appropriate place.

There is no intention to imply that any of the following funnels are bad.  Nor is my ordering necessarily going to agree with the way anyone else would order these adventures.  There is no A-list, B-list, etc.  Anything that gets past the Goodman Games DCC Licensing process has already met a high bar.  But, if you are thinking of purchasing a new funnel, and for some unknown reason you aren’t purchasing one of mine (lol), here’s my rundown.

Sailors on the Starless Sea (Goodman Games):  This is still the iconic funnel adventure in the list, with lots of action, real strangeness, and an Appendix N feel that is hard to beat.  For any other game, this would be a high-level adventure.

Frozen in Time (Goodman Games):  Explicitly playable as both a 1st level adventure or a 0-level funnel, this is a very, very close second, and on some days I might put it first. 

The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk (Purple Sorcerer):  In turns Lovecraftian and farcical, and successful at both, this module combines social interaction, wilderness, and dungeon.  It is also our first introduction to the Mist Men, which is worth the cost of the module all by itself.

A Gathering of the Marked (Purple Sorcerer):  The longest funnel to date, this is slightly less effective than Ooze Pits, it is certainly has the potential to be a darker, and more character-defining experience for the PCs. 

Any one of these four could easily have taken the #1 spot, and, no doubt, half the people reading this think that I have these four adventures completely out of order.  The remaining modules are also good, but not quite as good.  Each of them, for different reasons, feels like the beginning of an adventure, to me, rather than a complete arc.  Which is okay, because these adventures also give you some real ideas as to what events might follow the 0-level funnel.

Perils of the Sunken City (Purple Sorcerer Games):  The actual funnel is Madazkan’s Court, and it is a great deal of fun. 

In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer (Mystic Bull; part of the In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer compilation):  A nautical theme, an interesting locale, pirates, and Cthulhu.  This funnel seems more like Lin Carter at his best than it does Lovecraft or Howard, but I like it.

The Witch of Wydfield (Brave Halfling):  She’s a witch!  Burn her!  This funnel makes good use of what might seem a real possibility in the lives of villagers in a DCC world.  The events therein could easily be part of a Poul Anderson novel.

The Portal Under the Stars (Goodman Games; part of the Core Rulebook):  There is a lot of good about this funnel, and a lot of the areas are themselves interesting, but the whole does not hang together as well as the previously ranked funnels.  There are a lot of Appendix N bits, which is great, and a lot of opportunity for PCs to do the right or the wrong thing, which is also great, but to me it did not jell as well as it could have.

The Ruins of Ramat (Brave Halfling):  As we get to the end of my list, I would like to emphasize again that I am putting great material in order, not ordering from great to mediocre.  The Ruins of Ramat has a lot going for it, but there were a few things that I thought kept it from a higher ranking.  First, the descriptions did not always match the visual aids.  Second, the khopesh swords have no damage listed.  Finally, I dislike the way D&D has handled confusion, and one encounter in this module relies upon the same handling.  That said, when I ran this module, a lot of fun was had.  The confusion bit was the only really questionable bit, and it can be fixed by treating the confusion descriptively, allowing the players to decide not to make attacks at shadows, and then allowing those shadows to attack them!  After than, any PC who attacks a shadow has an equal chance to target a friendly or enemy figure.

Attack of the Frawgs (Thick Skull):  This funnel is hampered by a somewhat linear nature, and by lingering unanswered questions.  For one-shots with a time limit, though, it easily jumps upwards to the top three.

The Long Sleep (Mystic Bull; part of the In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer compilation):  Again, nothing wrong with the funnel, but it is a bit short and linear.  On the other hand, if you picked this up, you have two funnels and a whole lot of additional material to play with.  I ran this as a side quest with 1st level PCs; it is a pretty fast playing adventure, and would work well for a pick-up game at a convention.

Remember that many older modules can be converted to 0-level funnels.  TSR-era and WotC-era D&D modules are the obvious choices, but writing stats for DCC is pretty easy, and you should consider converting modules for different systems, such as Gamma World, Traveller, MERP, Space 1889, and Stormbringer.  The results are worth the effort.

I would like to hear how you rate these funnels, what other adventures you have used, and where you think my own work slots in.

Good gaming!


  1. I've only played Sailors on the Starless Sea, but it was fantastic. Best published adventure I've ever played I think.

  2. Hey there, as always thanks for the shout out! :) Your point about Frawgs feeling more of an intro adventure is fair, for while it can be played standalone, it was designed as an "alternate prequel" to Larvik 2 which is still off somewhere in 2014.

    Thank you, sir!

  3. Which one of these would be good as a one shot at a convention? How many hours and players would be needed?

  4. Which one of these would be good as a one shot at a convention? How many hours and players would be needed?

  5. See also

    I have run the following in a four hour slot:

    The Arwich Grinder (Crawl! fanzine #9)
    Frozen in Time (Goodman Games)
    The Hypercube of Myt (Goodman Games, Gen Con 2015 Program Guide)
    Playing the Game (Purple Duck Games)
    The Portal Under the Stars (Goodman Games, Core Rulebook)
    Prince Charming, Reanimator (Purple Duck Games)
    The Ruins of Ramat (Brave Halfling)
    Sailors on the Starless Sea (Goodman Games)

    If I were going to be presenting a funnel in a four-hour slot, my top picks would include:

    Beyond the Silver Scream (Forrest Aguirre)
    Carnival of the Damned (Purple Sorcerer Games) - you will need prep time!
    Frozen in Time (Goodman Games)
    Hole in the Sky, The (Goodman Games)
    Nebin Pendlebrook's Perilous Pantry (Purple Sorcerer Games)
    The Portal Under the Stars (Goodman Games, Core Rulebook)
    Prince Charming, Reanimator (Purple Duck Games)
    Sailors on the Starless Sea (Goodman Games)
    Sour Spring Hollow (Goodman Games, The Chained Coffin Boxed Set)
    They Served Brandolyn Red (Goodman Games)
    The Tribe of Ogg and the Gift of Suss (Mystic Bull Games)

  6. I usually figure 4 PC/player up to 6 players, and 3 PCs per player thereafter. Remember, the number of kills don't matter...even if everyone dies or survives, everyone having fun is the critical thing.

  7. I would like to run a funnel and 1st level finale as you put it in an article several years back. I was hoping to squeeze both into a 6 hour session and am not confident enouph to write my own story (yet). Do you have any suggestions on a good pairing of adventures?

    1. Consider Death Slaves of Eternity or Escape From the Shrouded Fen. EFTSF makes intentional use of the finale format I had suggested.

  8. Portal under the Stars was awesome. I can't wait to try a few others

  9. I played The Emerald Enchanter as a 0 level funnel. Worked great. It has a pretty plausible hook -angry nary villagers, and a spot part way in the adventure to replenish casualties.


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