Last week I found myself pushed into running a module cold - and since I’d bought a bunch of funnels from Bundle of Holding, I decided to let the players pick one, and I’d just run it by the book’. What the players ended up picking was Attack of the Frawgs by Thick Skull Adventures. It’s short; has a campy name, and a frogman right on the corner - who does not want to thump some frogmen and get some loot, right?

Well… It was terrible. I stopped in writing a mega-teardown of the module because there ain’t anyone who wants to read that. So instead I pulled out a chunk to explore: What the hell makes a good funnel anyways? I should probably introduce the concept first.

What’s a funnel?

Funnel modules come out of the OSR world and are particularly prevalent in Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC). So, if you have only played Dungeons and Dragons or other non-OSR games, you might not have encountered it.

A funnel is a Darwinian method of generating a party of level 1 adventurers. Rather than carefully crafting your guy, the player starts by randomly generating 4 level-0 characters who only have the the barest amount of health and abilities - they are newbies, shit gong farmers who are swept from their mundane lives and called to arms. Then, as a mob, these lemmings are fed into an woodchipper adventure’ - a dangerous trial of traps, monsters, and sweet loot, where by the end, each player is expected to have 1-2 standing characters that can now be promoted to full adventurers.

Basically; a funnel involves a LOT of zergling-rushes and stupid-silly character deaths, and after watching them bumble and survive their way through a harrowing hell, many players become quite attached to their little screwups. More than just creating an emotional connection and paring down a bunch of options’, the funnel is also supposed to provide moments that reveal the lemming’s personality and potential future: The Why” behind what turns him from a peasant, into a warrior, thief, or spellcaster.

What’s a good funnel?

So here’s what I consider the characteristics of a good” funnel in short.

  1. The funnel is deadly. It appropriately savages the party to ensure enough people die to narrow the field. It paces this action across the module for easy modulation.
  2. The funnel accounts for over’ savaging the party. Some parties are just unlucky, and people will need to refill’ on lemmings.
  3. The funnel has character hooks. It has opportunities for PCs to reveal’ themselves in a way that leads to personality traits and class choices via spellbooks, artifacts, weapons, holy symbols, skill challenges, equipment, potential instructors, manuals, documents, and so on.
  4. The funnel introduces the basic concepts of the game such as traps, skill challenges, puzzles, etc.
  5. The funnel is instructive to the GM - it’s probably their first adventure too!
  6. A call to adventure. After undergoing a trauma-induced nightmare where half of their friends die, why do they go back for more?

Let’s go through these in a bit more detail.


No matter how good the players are, this is a selection process. Pressure should be maintained on them. A good funnel should not handhold and then cull all the characters at the end, but rather have the psychology of a foxhole under siege; players should feel their little screwups survived despite the odds.

I actually think a good funnel tends to inverse the combat difficulty: The module starts with the most brutal combats up front where the most characters are still alive, and then tapers off in actual difficulty as the pack narrows. A good funnel also needs to take care to make combat highly modular. A really lucky party might enter the end-game with lots of lemmings, but some might be absolutely savaged by a streak of bad rolls. A GM will need to be able to add and remove monsters situationally.

Not deadliness

Keep in mind; unlike a normal dungeon dive, a funnel is a character creation process as much as an adventure: Dying in character creation fucking sucks, the party should succeed and make it out! Parties can fail in a normal module, but it’s an annoying outcome in a funnel.

For that reason, the scenario should have some excuse for refills’. If a party gets absolutely savaged, the module should have ways of adding more people to the pool: Other parties, freed slaves, prisoners, etc.

Character Hooks

In a funnel, The characters should encounter a lot of things that make their future obvious. Here are some examples:

  • The characters encounter an abandoned shrine, and as one character interacts with it - prays to it, loots it, destroys it, they receive a divine message or call should they prove themselves.
  • The character finds an exotic weapon embedded in the stone bearing the sigil of a long-dead order of knights. This ancient, wondrous blade can’t be wielded properly except by one who sets themselves down the path to learn it.
  • The characters find the remains of a magical researcher - he stumbled alone into this hole, and now only bones and belongings remain. On top of clues about the dungeon, you find his battered spellbook. With study, you might take his path.
  • The party finds the tomb of the Gray Hatter, a rogue of some legend.If one of them takes his signature disguise or tools, the legends can start anew.

Basically, give the characters a lot of trinkets, books, small artifacts, NPCs, holy symbols, weapons, and world lore-nuggets are all things that can be used by your players. Also, isn’t it just fun to give your dungeon that kind of history?


A funnel is likely to be the player’s first encounter with a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure - so it should put the players through the paces. Of note here is that these challenges should be ones that are quickly dispatched once one or two characters have succeeded. Given the lemmings stats, if every character has to make anything but a trivial check, you are liable to wipe out huge swaths of the party on a river crossing. Ask me how I know.

Also, if you can make it show alternative solutions without beating the players over the head, that is great too. Some players just don’t understand that there are many dimensions of problem-solving available to them.


Attack of the Frawgs ends with the following note:

Now that the surviving PCs have had a taste of adventure, there is certainly no way they can go back to their original life as mundane laborers …

That got a good laugh from my party. Attack of the Frawgs doesn’t create adventurers, but drags some villagers through a traumatizing mess where 2/3rds die with nothing much more to show for it but the appreciation of their fellows. There are no temptations of richness, power, or discovery that compels them to brave danger again. One player commented, I think my guy just wants to go home, hug his goat, and cry himself to sleep.”

So that’s probably the best take-away. If you’re evaluating or writing your own funnel, ask yourself: Is this thing creating an adventurer?