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Monday, 7th May, 2012, 11:20 PM #1
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Review of Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) RPG by Goodman Games
Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) RPG is Joseph Goodman's entry into the roleplaying game industry as a game system designer. Mr. Goodman has stated that he wanted to "create the Dungeons and Dragons game as Gygax and Arneson would have created if there had already been 30 years of D&D." To accomplish this, Mr. Goodman read all of the inspirational and educational reading listed in Appendix N of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide and reviewed the 30+ years of D&D to find out what worked and what didn't. Though, many games have had an influence on DCC RPG, it is its own system taking its place at the table with Pathfinder, 3.X, 4e, Runequest, and other games systems.
Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) RPG by Goodman Games
- Design and Writing: Joseph Goodman
- Editing: Aeryn "Blackdirge" Rudel
- Publisher: Goodman Games
- Released: May 2012
- Media: Hardcover
- Page Count: 488
- Price: $39.99
The first thing one will notice when flipping through the book is that this is unlike any new RPG book in recent years. If you are old enough to remember, the art, font, and layout is more reminiscent of AD&D and Judge's Guild magazines than anything put out recently. The art particularly stands out. Rather than go for the more modern designs of color art that has been influenced by anime, which might be attractive to younger audiences, DCC RPG showcases a style from the 1970s and 1980s. If you are a fan of Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta, then you will love this art. Mr. Goodman even went as far as to hire many of the same artists for DCC RPG that had created the art for AD&D over thirty years ago in order to keep that "Old School D&D" feel. In fact, the book is filled with art that is revisiting the same pictures that graced the pages of the AD&D Player's Handbook. (See if you can find the long-armed thief from p. 27 still doing his dirty deeds in DCC RPG.) The font appears to be more in line with the Judge's Guild magazines than AD&D, but still keeps to the sword and sorcery theme.
At almost 500 pages, the book is fat enough to club a kobold to death with.
The book begins with an explanation of how this game is different than other games, whether you know 3.X, AD&D, or neither. There is a brief explanation of the core mechanic of rolling a d20 adding some modifiers and comparing the result to determine success or failure. A roll of '20' is an automatic hit and a critical success and a roll of '1' is an automatic miss and a critical fumble. Yes, that's right, DCC RPG brings back the instant kills and instant deaths to monsters and characters.
The next section is on characters. Three things stand out in this system. First, players create their characters randomly. Ability scores, occupations, and starting equipment are determined randomly. There is no min/maxing in this game. Second, each player will randomly create four or five 0-level characters that will then go through an adventure called a 'character funnel'. The expectation is that most of the characters will die and the surviving character will be the player's first level character. This is very much a game of making do with what you have rather than building what you want. Third, DCC RPG goes back to the D&D Basic game in which races and classes are one in the same. You can be an elf or you can be a wizard, but you cannot play an elven wizard. Using the random system, there is about a 30% chance of rolling a non-human character.
DCC RPG falls back on races and classes that are iconic to just about every fantasy setting: Cleric, Thief, Warrior, Wizard, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling. Clerics are plate-mail-wearing, spell-slinging, healing, deity-worshiping humans in which the alignment and god you choose will affect how you roleplay in the game. For instance a Lawful cleric healing a Chaotic thief risks insulting his god and losing all of his powers. Thieves go back to the good old days of sneaking, backstabbing, and disarming traps. They excel at using Luck, one of the ability scores, and are one of the few classes that are able to regenerate it easily. Thieves can afford to take risks. Warriors are bad asses in combat. Period. They can wear any armor and wield any weapon. They have access to mechanic called 'Mighty Deed of Arms' or 'Deeds' for short. A Deed is anything extra that the Warrior can describe. When rolling an extra die for attack and damage, which Warriors get for every attack, if they get a natural 3 or higher, then the Deed takes effect. If a player ever says that combat is boring for a Warrior, then that player has no imagination and deserves to be bored. Wizards are a dangerous lot. They get access to spells through their patron, which could be a demon, a dead wizard, or extraplanar creature. Like the Cleric's deity, each patron is different will affect the roleplay of the Wizard.
The demi-human classes are characterized as slightly different forms of the base four classes. Dwarves get access to the Warrior's Deeds, but they aren't as good at them. Instead, they get the ability to see in the dark, detect underground structures, and smell gold. Elves are like Wizards in that they gain access to spells through a patron, but not as many. However, elves are able to wear heavier armor and are better in combat. Halflings use and regenerate Luck like a Thief though not as well. In exchange, Halflings have a natural ability to dual wield weapons.
Skills, Combat, and Magic
The Skills section of the book is two pages long, which is exactly as long as it needs to be.
Combat works much as you might expect if you have experience with a d20 system. However, there are tables of random results for critical fumbles and critical hits. Each class has its own table to follow. So, a Wizard will never be as spectacular as a Warrior in combat. Monsters also have their own tables as well and a zombie will never be as spectacular as a dragon. DCC RPG brings back character death. This is a game in which players should always fear for their character's lives. In fact, parties are given experience points for surviving an encounter rather than killing monsters. So, if you can think of a creative way to get past or escape from an encounter, then you still get the experience.
DCC RPG has done away with Vancian magic and it has not fallen onto the idea of daily, encounter, or at-will powers. When a spell caster uses a spell, a d20 is rolled, modifiers added, and then a table is consulted. The results on the table dictate if the power has been used and how severe. For instance, if a Wizard casts Magic Missile and rolls too low, then the spell fails and it is lost for the day. However, an above average roll means that the spell succeeds (1 missile that does 1 point of damage and the Wizard must have line of sight) and the spell is not lost. A spectacular roll means a spectacular success (3d4+2 missiles that do 1d10+caster level damage that can be cast at multiple opponents or a single target that does not need to be in line of sight and can hit a target up to 100 miles away) and the spell is not lost.
Magic is scary and dangerous not only to the monsters but to the spell caster and his allies. Critical fumbles can cause massive damage to the caster, as well as lead to corruption which twists the caster into something more to the liking of his patron. Magic item creation is rare and characters are not likely to find magic items outside of a dungeon and guarded by jealous monsters.
DCC RPG has a section for Judges that includes how to adjudicate Cleric and Wizard spells, reward experience points, and use the Luck ability score to characters' benefit and bane. There is a list of some magic items and monsters, but this is a game that really encourages Judges to create their own adventures, populated with their own monsters, and littered with their own magic items. However, the lists here give Judges a good starting place to begin. Also, the adventures that were released with Free RPG Day in 2011 are included, which has a 0-level character funnel and a sample level 5 dungeon.
This review seems inadequate to review all of the great things Goodman Games have put into DCC RPG. I'm sure others will come along and talk about the other tidbits that I have left out. However, I believe this is enough to give you the impression if this is the game for you or not. Make no mistake, DCC RPG is not for everyone and it does not try to be. Randomization, heavy use of tables, critical fumbles, and no multiclassing are strong departures from what many new gamers have become accustomed to.
I believe that Joseph Goodman has not created a game for the pleasure of others. Rather, he has, to the best of his ability, created the game that he would like to play and asked the rest of us to join in. Any great creator, whether a writer, musician, or game designer, must first ask himself, "Do I like it?" I believe that Gygax and Arneson followed this same path when they created Dungeons and Dragons and I believe that Mr. Goodman has done the same. The books oozes with his love of the game and of the books that inspired it.
If you find yourself reading blog posts about the ideas being presented for Dungeons and Dragons Next and you are excited, then do yourself a favor and check out DCC RPG. I think you'll find there is no need to wait for WotC because Goodman Games has already created it!
Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)
- Presentation: 4.75
- - Design: 4.5 (good format and solid writing, but small font is hard on the eyes)
- - Illustrations: 5 (Old School sword and sorcery that has been missing for decades)
- Content: 4.25
- - Crunch: 4.0 (A lot of tables but few hard and fast rules)
- - Fluff: 4.5 (No campaign world, but a lot of inspiration to create your own)
- Value: 5 (The only book you will need in order to play the game.)
- Overall Score: 4.5 out of 5
Website: DCC RPG
Last edited by Morrus; Saturday, 9th June, 2012 at 03:34 AM.
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