Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dungeon Crawl Classics

Yeah, yeah...I realize the internet is abuzz with reviews about DCC from people who are arguably more intelligent than me, better writers than me, with more readers than me. But, hey, I have something they don't: an undying loyalty to being as blunt as possible. If you've read more than one post on this blog, you know I don't give one fuck about pissing anyone off, making friends or towing some party line with sycophantish nonsense. Hence, what follows is my honest opinion. Very very honest.

Okay...DCC is one of the first D&D-like rpgs I've read in a long time that makes me want to play it. When I read Labyrinth Lord, or Swords & Wizardry, I really want to play D&D. Not necessarily THAT iteration of D&D, but the real thing. I've stated numerous times that I'd rather play AD&D over OSRIC (and don't understand why anyone would choose the latter to be honest), B/X over LL, etc. I realize the rules-sets are cleaned up, but essentially they offer nothing I can't get, with more flavor, from the original. DCC is not like that whatsoever. Yes, it is a D&D-like game, but it's actually unique. Wow, someone wrote a new game with D&D roots that simply isn't a ripoff with a couple house rules bolted on. I am impressed. Seriously. When reading the book, I didn't evaluate it as a source to provide more options to an existing B/X game, instead seeing it a its own entity, meant to be played as written. It's telling that in the section dealing with attribute generation there's a passage about differing die rolling methods, stressing the use of 3D6 down the line, with the admission that this will be one of the first areas to be house ruled. The author understands people immediately want to create "more powerful" characters to aid in survival, which defeats the whole purpose of the game. Before house ruling anything, the whole book must be read and digested; it's a moral imperative. The underlying premise is that characters will die, and die often. Fucking with attribute generation does nothing more than fuck with this premise, which undermines the whole game.

I don't make that last statement lightly at all. The game assumes characters will die like flies in the beginning, hence the creation of many for every player. Roll up three or four level 0 guys and send them into a dungeon. Whichever ones make it out, well, they're destined for greatness and get promoted to level 1 with an actual class. It's hilarious to think about, really...sending a bunch of bakers, blacksmiths and bankers into a dungeon to gain fame and fortune, mostly fortune. Where D&D (and nearly every other rpg in existence) sort of glosses over why a character would be adventuring in the first place, DCC addresses this fact head on. For whatever reason, a bunch of incompetent rubes make their way into a dangerous situation with the survivors making a career out of it. DCC calls it the funnel, aptly named. I doubt anyone will get more than one or two characters through the first adventure. If so, you are one lucky bastard.

The classes are standard fare, clerics and wizards and warriors and thieves, along with the usual demi-humans (race-as-class, because that's the only way). But the spell casting, that's new for sure. Talk about pulp...I don't know if I'd even want to cast spells as a wizard in DCC as the possibility to mutate into a demon or get eaten by one is way too high. Refer to previous comments: THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT. You want power, DCC gives it to you. In excessive amounts. And power corrupts, right? Sure, cast spells as much as you want, just be prepared to deal with the consequences. Each spell is unique in the specific meaning of the word. Every single spell description differs from the others in all conceivable ways. Cool concept, but the first knock on the game arises...where's the index? I love the mechanics behind spell casting, but how can you quickly find the effects without an index? In this modern age of publishing the lack of an index is unforgivable and it sucks. Still, like any good wargamer, if I was to play a wizard in DCC I'd just print out the relevant spell pages from the PDF and put them in a binder for easy referral. Not everyone is as anal as I am, so I can definitely see where massive irritation would arise. You cannot play the game without referring to the rules so no index sucks ass. Whatever, I got by with my index-less PHB in the past, just something to deal with.

Other nifty parts include the skill system (literally one page; 99% GM arbitration), warrior deeds (make up cool shit to do) and burning attributes for bonuses. There is plenty of reason to play every class, even halflings. I cannot stress enough how pulp-y the game feels. Alignment is ye olde law-chaos axis, but the choice is extremely meaningful to everyone, especially spell casters. Thief abilities are defined by alignment, with chaotic thieves becoming essentially assassins. A nice way of handling that old problem. I saw the physical copy in my FLGS and have another major knock besides the index: the quality sucks. Reminds me of the OSRIC books I got last year at NTRPGCon, and that's not a compliment. It's hardcover, with some colored inserts, but the paper feels cheap, even though it's sort of thick. The cover itself looks like it'd fall apart at a moment's notice. No idea where Goodman Games got this printed but my suggestion is to find somewhere else for the reprint. I'll probably just get my PDF printed out somewhere instead of spending the money on hardback. Overall, a pretty great game that I really want to play.


  1. From your description and what I've read elsewhere, I'd like to give this a try as well.

  2. Wow, that tears it: if the Skull Crusher likes this thing, then I've got to get it. Period.

  3. You can always join my online Barrowmaze game, if you haven't read Barrowmaze already.

    Currently in their second expedition, with mixed 0-lvl and 1st-level characters. You could get in on the third expedition when they are winnowed down again..... :D

  4. I agree with pretty much everything you say about DCC. The halfling ninjas annoy me though. Dual weapon wielders, why? It is a game that you have to play out of the book, due to all the tables, but that doesn't bother me, especially since it is only one book. Also, it is a pleasure to read. Also, the art is awesome.

    I have the black and gold "metal" version of the book, and it seems pretty sturdy. The paper is oddly thick, but it seems to be a very high quality binding, and is is sewn, not glued.

  5. I also have the 'metal' version. It seems sturdy, but at the price of being very stiff. It doesn't lie flat very easily. It may loosen up with use, which it's going to get.

    Re: spells. On the goodman forum someone suggested that when you learn a spell you just get the basic info. What actually happens when you cast it (the table results) is blank. You have to cast it enough to hit it at the various levels to fill out your spell book. Seems consistent with the DCC approach to things.

    My #1 house rule was to toss the table-driven dual-wielding stuff, which is far too 3rd edition-y for DCC in my opinion. I made up a simpler replacement, basically if you dual wield you get +2 on the attack die, if it hits and comes up odd you hit with the off-hand, even it's the main. Use a two-hander for big hits, two weapons for enhanced chance to hit, or shield for enhanced AC. (Or a torch if you want to see what the hell you're doing.) Pretty much in line with the lost city approach.