Thursday, July 17, 2014

Zero-Level Funnels for AD&D

One of the fun things about Dungeon Crawl Classics is the idea of the funnel for zero-level characters. The premise is that you create four to eight zero-level characters almost completely at random and run them through a tough meat-grinder of a dungeon. Whoever survives becomes your player character.

One can easily apply the same premise to AD&D. The AD&D module N4 Treasure Hunt from 1986 is essentially a funnel! Within this module, you create a zero-level character, get washed up on a remote island, and over the course of the adventure you answer the call of a character class.

I present here a generic recapitulation of the rules presented in that module which can be used to simulate DCC style funnels in AD&D.

Creating a Zero-Level Character

The player rolls 3d6 for each of your abilities, in order. The Dungeon Master may allow alternative methods at his or her discretion.

The player chooses one of the races in the Player's Handbook, or another race at the Dungeon Master's discretion. Modify abilities accordingly.
  • Human (no modifiers)
  • Dwarf (Constitution +1, Charisma -1)
  • Elf (Dexterity +1, Constitution -1)
  • Gnome (no modifiers)
  • Half-Elf (no modifiers)
  • Half-Orc (Strength +1, Constitution +1, Charisma -2)
  • Halfling (Strength -1, Dexterity +1)
All zero-level characters are neutral. The player will choose an alignment when the character reaches first level.

Hit Points
Zero-level characters have 1d6 hit points. These hit points will be re-rolled when the character reaches first level.

Optional Hit Point Method (One I Made Up)
Alternatively, each zero-level character may belong to one of three "proto-classes". These proto-classes determine your starting hit points and will restrict the player's choice of class at first level.

  • Sedentary: You lead a comfortable sedentary life. Perhaps you are a scribe, merchant, librarian, acolyte, high-born noble, or other such member of the upper class. You start with 1d4 hit points. At first level, you can choose any class for which you qualify.
  • Active: You live an active life. Perhaps you are a carpenter or artisan, a servant, a sailor, or perhaps you were a ne'er-do-well or street tough. You start with 1d4+1 hit points. At first level, you may choose any class save Magic User.
  • Laborer: You live a life the requires much physical activity. Perhaps you were a worker, a town guard, a ditch-digger, a farmer, or low-ranking soldier. You start with 1d4+2 hit points. At first level, you may choose any fighter class.
All zero-level characters speak the common tongue and the tongue of their race.

The player rolls on the following table to determine your career to this point. The Dungeon Master may substitute alternative tables at his or her discretion.

Dice Score Result
11-14Fisher (netting)
15-20 Forester
24-27Hunter/fisher (hook and line)
28-32Husbandman (animal husbandry)
35-37Leather worker/tanner
45-46Navigator (fresh or salt water)
47-49Sailor (fresh or salt)
50-51Shipwright (boats or ships)

Weapon Proficiencies
All zero-level characters are proficient in a single weapon. Choose one of the following: dagger, dart, quarterstaff. Characters suffer -5 penalty when using any other weapon.

A zero-level character can learn one additional weapon during play after using that weapon in two combats. However, learning an additional weapon prevents the character from becoming a magic user.

A zero-level character begins play with a staff, club, hand-axe, or dagger (choose one), and 2d3x10 gold pieces to purchase equipment.

Experience Points
Zero-level characters begin play with -500 experience points.

First Level
Once a zero-level character earns 500 XP, putting them at zero total XP, they advance to first level. At this point, the player selects a class for which the character's abilities qualify and rolls new hit points. The new hit points override the original zero-level hit points.