The DCC Dying Earth Wayfarer Class

Welcome to the wondrous far-future world of DCC Dying Earth! The DCC Dying Earth Setting is an all-new gaming universe for Dungeon Crawl Classics, inspired by the classic sword-and-sorcery works of Jack Vance. To celebrate the release of DCC Dying Earth, we are showcasing a series of articles that looks at the many unique classes, spells, equipment, mechanics, and themes that go into making DCC Dying Earth a completely new experience!

The Ebb and Flow of the Wayfarer’s Luck

By Terry Olson

You are a fortune-seeker, a con artist, a churlish rogue spending the last days of the dying earth searching in the shadows of half-empty cities or wondering the ancient wilderness. Acquirers of trinkets and baubles, your treasure-hunting often comes at a price of personal enmity from the magicians and peoples you bilk. – DCC Dying Earth, volume 1.

The wayfarer is the DCC Dying Earth class that mimics two of Jack Vance’s notorious characters, Cugel the Clever and Liane the Wayfarer. The wayfarer is not a thief, per se, but rather a swordsman and minor magician who relies on finesse, luck, and charming rhetoric.

In this article we’ll focus on what makes the wayfarer special: his supererogatory luck. There are three aspects to the wayfarer’s Luck mechanic that make it unlike any other class at the table. Similar to Cugel’s relationships, there will be times your that your allies are happy to have you, and there will be times that they are not so happy.

Luck Checks

The wayfarer begins play being slightly less lucky than his comrades. He rolls a d24 for “roll under” Luck checks, whereas his allies roll a d20. However, whenever the wayfarer fails a Luck check, his “Luck die” (not the same as a DCC Thief) reduces by -1d; as he fails, subsequent Luck checks become easier. On the other hand, if he succeeds, then subsequent Luck checks become harder with the die increasing by +1d but never exceeding a d30. Remember this mechanic because it has an insidious consequence rarely appreciated until one becomes its victim. But first we must see how the wayfarer’s Luck is used.

Spending Luck

The wayfarer gets a larger bonus to his roll the more Luck he spends. If he spends 1 point of Luck, he gets a +1 bonus. If he spends 2 points, he gets a +2d2 bonus. If he spends 3 points, he gets a +3d3 bonus. And so on, such that if he spends 10 points, he gets a +10d10 bonus. (Pro tip: Burn luck when rolling damage!)

An Aside: The Party’s Cumulative Luck Burn

There is an additional bit of bookkeeping at the table for a DCC Dying Earth game. We must track the total luck spent by the party. The pool starts at 0, but whenever anyone, including our precious wayfarer, spends Luck, we cumulatively increase the pool by that amount… until the wayfarer steals… no… “reappropriates” it.

Luck Thief… (ahem)… Reappropriation

For this, let me quote vol. 1 of the DCC Dying Earth rulebook directly:

Whenever an ally expends Luck, the presence of a wayfarer can cause unexpected results, often to the benefit of the ally and to the general imprecation of the wayfarer. Whenever an ally expends Luck in the presence of a wayfarer, the wayfarer must make a Luck check using his current Luck die against the cumulative Luck expended by the party each day. If the result is higher than the party’s cumulative Luck burn, then the ally’s Luck expenditure is taken from the wayfarer instead, increasing the wayfarer’s resentment of the importunate companion. This cannot take the wayfarer below 3 Luck, and any excess is taken from the original ally as per the normal rules for burning Luck.

However, if the result is equal to or less than the party’s cumulative Luck burn, then the wayfarer immediately adds the party’s cumulative Luck burn to his current Luck, resetting the cumulative Luck burn to 0 in the process. This cannot take his Luck score past its natural maximum. In addition, the ally loses the expended Luck and treats the result of the roll or action she was attempting as if the Luck were not expended.

For example, Nalde the wayfarer is journeying with the necrophage Edail to seek the famed city of Ampridatvir. At the start of their journey, they stumble upon the domicile of a bearded thawn. Edail strikes at the obstreperous creature with her dagger, deciding to burn 2 points of Luck to ensure the blow hits home and slays the beast, increasing the party’s cumulative Luck burn from 0 to 2 as a result. Nalde makes a Luck burn check with his d24 Luck die against the party’s cumulative Luck burn and rolls a total of 10—a failure! Instead of the burned Luck coming from Edail, the unfortunate Nalde must spend the 2 Luck in her place, much to the merriment of his companion, and his Luck die drops to a d20.

Later that day, the bauble-seekers strike sail across the Melantine Gulf and are soon beset by a storm, rocking their skiff and threatening their safety. Edail struggles to hold on and decides to burn 2 more points of Luck to add to her Reflex save to avoid being thrown off the fragile vessel. This increases the party’s cumulative Luck burn from 2 to 4, and when making his next check Nalde rolls a total of 3—success! Edail fails the Reflex save and Nalde gleefully adds 4 points of Luck back to his total (and his Luck die returns to a d24) as he lowers an oar to fish out his bedraggled companion.

Note that the wayfarer must be nearby and visible to the ally for the effect to occur, and the wayfarer’s effect on Luck burn applies to only a single wayfarer in the party. If multiple wayfarers accompany an adventuring party, the closest one to the ally in question causes the effect. Wayfarers do not cause other wayfarers to make a Luck burn check.

Finally, unlike other classes, a wayfarer recovers lost Luck to a limited extent. The wayfarer’s Luck score is restored each night by a number of points equal to his level. This process cannot take his Luck score past its natural maximum.

Now you can see how the wayfarer’s Luck mechanics combine to create triumphs, defeats, and extreme entertainment. In many playtests a pattern would arise where the wayfarer would fail the first few Luck checks when the party was burning Luck on things that were inconvenient but not incapacitating. Then something dangerous arose and big Luck burn occurred (usually from a spell-caster). By this point, the wayfarer’s Luck die was so low and the party’s cumulative Luck burn was so high that the wayfarer was almost guaranteed to steal… No!… reappropriate the spent Luck to his own total. Of course, with the wayfarer’s success the Luck burn was not applied to its original intent, which usually resulted in someone other than the wayfarer bleeding out. Obviously, that bleeding-out buffoon should have used their resources more wisely!

It’s tempting to view this as somewhat of a PvP mechanic that is counterproductive to the party working together. To those players who feel they are succumbing to such negativity, let me offer the following advice. First, realize that although a PC might lose their Luck, the party does not; the Luck is simply shifted to a different PC to (hopefully) do something for the good of the party. Second, admit to yourself that no matter what a wayfarer tells you, he’s a party of one. Embrace it! Personally, I’ve had more laughter at the table around these mishaps than in most other games.

Check out the All-New DCC Dying Earth line:

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