Each cycle of hype and release of new old-styled, commercially-produced rpgs elicits a (mostly) silent groan from me. Seems like one can not toss the proverbial stone into the OSR blogosphere without hitting a post about LotFP Grindhouse or Dungeon Crawl Classics. Cranky contrarian thoughts aside though, its undeniable especially in DCC's case there are some intriguing ideas percolating in the minds of Goodman Games.
For one, the game looks like it is expanding gameplay “downward” (much in the way that I have been thinking about rediscovering or unlocking gameplay upward in the Domain Game) to “zero-level play,” a concept I have been interested in ever since seeing Lenard Lakofka's overly-complex system in Dragon magazine way back when.
I really like the idea of players going down even deeper into schlubiness; exploring their own origin story at the table. Rather than just talk about it, I reworked, trimmed down and synthesized some of my own chargen subsystems as a starting point for some simple guidelines for such play for older edition D&D.
The PDF for the full zero-level system can be downloaded here. Feel free to chime in about any suggestions.
Rules for Zero-Level Play
- All characters start at zero-level “normal men” with 1d6 hit points and Neutral alignment.
- Zero-level characters can be rolled using the alternate chargen and equipment tables below (see PDF).
- Human or elven characters with INT 13 or over start with one cantrip (0-level MU spell) OR human characters with WIS 13 or over start with one orison (0 level Cleric spell). Only one such type of spell can be chosen. See this BFRPG supplement for a list of spells (or use a comparable system).
- Any character with DEX 13 or over can attempt thief skills at -4%, all others at -10%. (Hear Noise is the same as first-level.)
- A zero-level character receives no extra AC benefits from armor heavier than chain mail due to unfamiliarity with its usage. Similarly use of weapons over 1d6 in damage convey a -1 to damage.
- At the completion of the party's first successful adventure (this can span multiple sessions at the GM's discretion) and a year of training the character levels up to 1st level. In consultation with GM, player picks class and alignment based on performance and experience in the adventure. Fighter and other warrior types receive an extra hitpoint after training, magic-users lose one from making deals with various eldritch forces. All other class abilities for 1st level characters are assumed as normal.