0th Level

I was looking at Dungeon Crawl Classics today. They have a free starter set that goes from level 0 to 2nd level.

Yes, it starts at 0th level.

At that point, you are No Profession. You get to play your character and you are suitably unskilled at just about everything. If you survive, you get to choose your class/profession when you progress to level 1.

We have always done this just by giving the character 10,000 EXP and using their chosen profession skill costs.

The point of the 0th level funnel, as it is called, is that it weeds out some characters, and only the fittest survive. DCC appears to be very much like Basic D&D (remember I have only looked through the quickstart, I haven’t played this at all) which means creating a character is a matter of minutes. In consequence, losing a character that took 3 minutes to make is of little consequence.

In Rolemaster terms, writing a 0th level adventure with only skill challenges, or maybe a fist fight for groups that really cannot go without combat, should be easy enough.

You could run a basic adventure using just Race and Culture abilities, making the characters pretty quick and easy to create.

Then you pit these 0th level characters against a local problem, some other 0th level antagonists and see how they play out. After that, you can level them up to 1st level.

I am ignoring the idea that 1st level is supposedly a child, and that RMu was suggesting 3rd level as a starting point.

Does this idea have legs?

It shouldn’t be any more lethal than any other game, if the characters are 0th level and the foes they face are equally 0th level, everything really comes down to problem solving and teamwork, not huge OB bonuses and spell lists.

Just a thought.

5 thoughts on “0th Level”

  1. This feels kinda like a gimmick to me. Not quite sure what I think of it. First edition Warhammer FRP had a more elegant system using base vocations and then exits as you ‘level up.’ That, to me, was more useful. You could change before you actually ‘finished’ a vocation, but you at least started play as something with skills and abilities. And since my main genre (non-magic) doesn’t use spells everyone starts off pretty much equal anyhow (except for skill focus, perhaps), so zero level is redundant at best and a nuisance at worst.

    1. Is that the one with the funnel system? You start out with a sheaf of potential characters and by the time you complete the first level one of them should have survived to make a “hero” to play on in the greater levels. A friend was explaining it to me but like intothedarkness I felt it was a bit gimmicky.
      The same really applies around the whole level 0 or level 3 discussion around RM and RMu. But then you know I have fallen out of “love” with the whole concept of levels for roleplay. It’s aptitude and knowledge that define how good you are.
      If a level is to mean anything it is as a definition of success as an adventurer not as a descriptor of years of experience as say a carpenter.

  2. This is a pretty common strategy that has a very long history. People have been doing it in various games since the ’70s in a lot of different game systems. I’ve seen people talk about it for PathFinder, D&D, and even doing super low point-cost characters in GURPS and Hero system to simulate level 0 characters from leveled games.

    One blogger I really like for worldbuilding, GoblinPunch, made a custom adventure (for a custom game system he calls GLOG “Goblin’s Laws of Gaming”) called the Lair of the Lamb that lets every player starts with multiple level 0 characters all are identical. The expectation is most die and the player turns the one who survives into their level 1 character based on the actions they took during the adventure. the adventure also serves to teach how the rules work.
    http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2020/04/lair-of-lamb-final.html

    I’ve been thinking about this for RMU myself. Letting everyone start with a couple characters that just have their level 0 and background stuff, run a meatgrinder adventure and the ones that survive to level 1 get their classes. Use the adventure to each the rules by having a series of situations that cover using skills to overcome a physical challenge, and then separately a social challenge, then some combat, and some magic. End up with everyone understanding their character and the rules.

  3. Could be fun. In RMu, it is easy to do: level 1 is your apprenticeship level, and you choose your adult profession at level 2.

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