Monday, August 27, 2012

"You're No Hero..."

I normally blog about gaming over at Gonen's World, but I wanted to make a quick note here about Dungeon Crawl Classics. I got this at first thinking it was another OD&D retroclone, but the truth is, it's perhaps closer to 3e than 1e in everything but attitude and presentation.

The author states the DCC RPG is neither a part of the so-called OSR (old-school renaissance) or totally compatible as a new D&D game under the OGL (open game license). What it seems to do is blend old and new, keeping the best parts of both and adding some satisfyingly wonky bits (like using d7, d14 or d16 occasionally, which I won't bother to go into here).

The game clearly seeks to emulate gaming of the 1970s, and has a few notes about how RPGs should be played that seems a little crusty or bitter. In short, Goodman is not afraid to take pot shots at younger players, or at least the way they play (while simultaneously encouraging older players to accept the changes younger gamers bring to the table). It also does not necessarily live up to its dramatic back-cover material that states "NPCs are there to be killed," and other material designed to strike a chord with old-school gamers.

That minor amount of what I can only call "inconsistent grognardery" aside, DCC RPG is right up my alley. The artwork is spectacular, in a hobbyist sort of way, and the rules are clean and simple. Sure, the book is 450 pages in length (it's as big and bulky as a hardcover phone book) but much of that is supplemental material such as "fumble charts," monsters, a few adventures, and so on.

The game abandons traditional D&D attributes in favor of a new mix of names, and uses saving throws from 3e (which makes sense to me), and adds some great critical hit tables that are obviously influenced by Warhammer (another reason I think my group would like it). Instead of feats it includes a rule for Mighty Deeds of Arms that is pretty much a codification of the stuff players try to do anyway (for example, if you roll right, you can specify some effect other than, or in addition to, causing damage, such as pushing someone down the stairs or whatever). But in most other ways it's very much in the spirit of OD&D. And that's the key here - it's in the spirit of OD&D. It isn't OD&D. It isn't new D&D. It's something else, and I like it.

Most intriguing is the suggested "funnel" method of character creation, where each player creates 4-6 zero-level characters without a class; these are pitted against something horrible (the first dungeon, or some crisis their community must deal with). Most of them will die. The ones that live through it all choose a class that's reflective of what they actually did during their first adventure, and become "the party." This would certainly not be to everyone's taste, but I'd love to try it. You'd think you'd get really attached to those guys who made it through, and those characters would all have a great backstory for how they became adventurers.

Can't wait to give this one a spin with my gaming group sometime. I've always liked OD&D better than the newer versions, mainly due to the relative simplicity and lack of 19 bazillion options and arbitrary "balance" between characters, which I've never thought was all that important. But let's face it, as much as we all love Gary there was stuff in older editions that was not well thought-out. DCC RPG cleans up the new, fuses it with the spirit of the old, and creates something that should appeal to both camps. I'm impressed.

Here's a pretty fair review that goes into much more detail than I have.

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