I ran Portal Under the Stars for four players: one person very experienced with both OSR games and modern games (he had read the beta rules but not the final rules), one with some experience with both but no knowledge of DCC, one really only a modern D&D player, and one who had never played an RPG before. Each created four characters and 8 out of the 7 survived.
Things I noticed:
- Portal Under the Stars is a very solid adventure in play, nice to have something so high quality in the rule book. It is full of great opportunities for creative play and problem solving.
- For sustained play it would be really good to have multiple copies of the rulebook, with all of the table referencing that is required. If we keep playing in a sustained way I am sure it will wind up full of tabs like my old MERP book was.
- I would really like to see spells handbook, maybe spiral bound!
- It seemed like people rolled a lot of demihumans in character creation (1 elf, 2 dwarves, and 3 halflings).
- Modern RPG players are very concerned with distances and movement rates. I tend to be imprecise about these things when I am not forced to be accurate. This caused the only consternation over description, theater of the mind, what have you.
- Zero level play is excellent for new players. Having few rules and no abilities let our rookie player focus right in on what is important in the game - asking questions, exploring, experimenting, and problem solving. For example . . . [[SPOILERS!]] when the statue started shooting fireballs, she had her characters run and leap on to the statue instead of simply fleeing, from there the statue had no shot at them. Also, after collecting the demon horn, she searched around for places to put it.
- Except for my most dedicated modern-games-only player everyone loved it. Still two in my group who were out of town to test it out on.
- Luck is an awesome way to select targets.
- I don't foresee any problems mixing 0 and 1st level characters (although this is yet to be tested) making it a good game for inconsistent groups.
- Random occupation and equipment is awesome and brought out the best in my players. Most of the time they entered rooms pushing the wainwright's pushcart ahead of them for cover. Saved at least one life.