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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG

I've been running a Dungeon Crawl Classics game on Monday nights for about 5 months at the game store. If you haven't heard of it, DCC RPG is very similar to D&D but it has an old school flavor with an emphasis on random charts. It is awesome. And it's pretty scary how similar D&D 5e ended up being to it. This post has a lot of spoilers for the published adventures, so tread carefully!

I've been posting reports of my games on the goodman games forum and it dawned on me yesterday that I might as well post them here, too. In this article, I am going to give you a very short overview of the game and then I'll talk about how running the game has gone thus far. I'll be using art from the DCC RPG book, mostly by Peter Mullen, who is one of my favorites. I am in my 30's, so black and white art is cool to me. I am kind of wondering if younger players,can accept black and white art in this day and age, what with the art tablets and everything. I know I've had at least one younger player tell me that black and white art is unacceptable to them. The fact that the line art does not have a "painted" look really threw them.
This game is based on D&D 3rd edition. It has FORT, REF and WILL saves. Here's some of the things that make DCC RPG different from D&D:

- Each spell cast has a chart that you roll on. The higher the roll, the better the spell effect. For example, the highest roll on the Darkness spell literally causes an eclipse.
- Every player has a Luck stat. They can subtract points from it to give a bonus to roll. Those points do not "heal". Sometimes, you will be rewarded a Luck point at the end of an adventure.
- Warriors have "mighty deeds" - these are mechanics that allow them to trip, disarm and blind opponents.
- There are lots and lots of critical hit and critical miss tables.
- Rolling a one when casting a spell is a fiasco. Each spell has its' own fumble mini-chart, which usually includes a roll on the corruption chart. That chart has all sorts of hideous ways in which the magic transforms your wizard. A lot of them aren't bad at all. I just had a wizard who rolled a corruption that made her skin permanently sparkle.
- Maybe the most popular feature of the game is the fact that you start as a 0-level character. You roll to see if you're a potato farmer or a ditch-digger or whatever. You have around 3 hit points. You start with three of them per player, and then you all pile into a dungeon which grinds them up and spits them out! The 0-levels who survive hit 1st level and are your PCs. These adventures are a heck of a lot of fun.

- Wizards have patrons, which are powerful entities that grant them special powers and spells. One patron is an ancient wizard, while another is a weird frog-demon.. thing.
- This is a game where "dwarf" is its' own class. As in, you don't make a dwarf warrior or a dwarf cleric. You're just a dwarf (who can smell gold).
- XP is interesting. On average I hand out 2 XP per PC for an encounter. A deadly fight can earn them up to 4 XP. I believe you need 110 XP for 3rd level, and 190 XP for fourth. We've played around 17 sessions and they are closing in on 4th level.
- There is no "good" or "evil". There are three alignments: Law, Neutrality, and Chaos. It's interesting, though, that Law seems to be portrayed mostly as "good" and Chaos is pretty "evil".

I have been running the game as part of Goodman Games' World Tour program. Every few games that I run in the store, they send us some free stuff. Stickers, bookmarks, even special promo adventures.
My biggest issue with this game is keeping all of the charts straight. The book looks nice, but isn't organized all that well. The table of contents is embedded in art a few pages in, and the index is about 5-10 pages from the back of the book. I've printed out reams of paper packets to have handy, but there are so many that it still takes me some time at the table to find the right ones.

The most important charts to have handy are the critical tables (I don't even bother with the special monster critical tables, as it will just slow things down and the game is lethal enough as it is), the lay on hands cleric table (clerics heal people differently depending on their alignment) and by far... the spells. Each time a spell is cast, the spell must be looked up and the corresponding chart must be rolled on. It is mandatory for your wizard players to either print out each spell they have, or at least write down the page number for each spell!

Another thing to make sure to keep on top of is all of the "customized" wizard stuff. A wizard has a few charts to roll on to see how a particular spell comes out of them. I have a wizard in my group who, when he casts flaming hands, a face appears on his chest that casts a second spell of his choosing!

I feel the need to point this out. If you have a player that really enjoys playing wizards, that player will love this game. Wizards in DCC RPG are so much fun.

Players in this game are encouraged to have 2 PCs. It is a deadly game, so having two characters insures that if one dies, they'll have something to do. The problem that has cropped up, though, is that there sometimes are too many characters, and a fight is over before round one has ended!

This is a deadly game. I have had a lot of experience running RPG games, and I would say that about 20% to 35% of players do not take this well at all. You have to know your group well before you decide to run this. Warn them! PCs will die, no question! I run this game on super-soft creamy easy mode and I think there is only one PC who remains from the original level 0 party.
I run the official DCC RPG published adventures. They are fantastic! Even if you don't play the game, you might want to buy some. They are easily converted to D&D and in my opinion they are much better than official wizards Dungeons & Dragons adventures like Scourge of the Sword Coast and Legacy of the Crystal Shard.

I'd highly recommend you check out Intrigue at the Court of Chaos, The One Who Watches From Below, or The Old God's Return. They are really original and just plain fun. The print version is a measly 10 bucks, and the adventures are written in a way that they can be read quickly but will provide 1-2 sessions' worth of material. In my opinion, Intrigue at the Court of Chaos is one of the greatest adventures ever made.

We have had a bit of tension over looting procedure. DCC RPG emphasizes that your characters are not heroes. The back cover says it: "You seek gold and glory, winning it with sword and spell, caked in the blood and filth of the weak, the dark, the demons and the vanquished. There are treasures to be won deep underneath, and you shall have them..."

This attitude has lead to a lot of frantic snatching of magic items, and resentment was building. I finally had to clear the air and make sure we just distributed treasure like in my other games: Spread it around and give each item to whoever is best suited for it. Roll off if necessary.

One of the coolest things about the game is that it somehow gets players to shed the "min/max" mindset. A player had a 0-level character with bad stats. The player used him as "trap bait", because he didn't care if the character lived or died. This character fell into a well of souls, and was barely able to climb up a melting chain before the swirling souls engulfed him. He escaped, but suffered three rolls on the corruption chart. The results: He was covered in sores, he was 10 feet tall, and he had donkey ears.

This character became beloved. From that point forward, this warrior with an 11 strength was carefully protected as he went on a quest to cure himself. He eventually did, but almost immediately after was subjected to a wave of radiation that turned his skin blue. He was corrupted again! Everyone died laughing.

He perished soon after, in a trapped room that filled with water. He was killed by the bites of 25 vipers. The plan, last I knew, was for the heroes to go through a 4th level adventure called Blades of Death that allows the PCs to play a game of cards against Death to reclaim the warrior's soul.
Here's some other weird and fun things that have happened so far:

- They cried rainbow tears that formed a rainbow bridge that allowed them to cross a bottomless pit.
- A hero was cursed to become a sentient pair of eyes. His eyes popped out of his sockets and he slithered around the dungeon for a session or so.
- I know this isn't for everybody, but there is an adventure where the heroes come upon a time-traveling complex that has everything from dinosaurs to laser pistols in it. My players ended up misfiring while trying to take down a t-rex with a laser rifle and I think a PC died from the resultant explosion.
- They fought giant hairless cats on a cliff while being heckled by an invisible imp.

I'll be posting actual play results here each week. Our heroes are 3rd level. The party's evil wizard was "unmade" by a phlogiston mist in a demi-plane and may well be destroyed forever. The heroes went home to rest (in Gnatdamp, a town detailed in Gygax Magazine number one).

They were given a gift from the Scions of Law, a ship painted white and gold. This worked out good, because they were about to go through an adventure known as The Sea Queen Escapes...

If you want to check out DCC RPG, you can download the beta version of the game for free! The final version has adjustments, but the beta book has a ton of stuff and can give you a real good idea of whether or not the game is up your alley. I think at the very least, the book can be used to mine for material for any fantasy game.


knobgobbler said...

I love DCC.
You mention that 5e has a lot of similarity to it... how so? Not much of what I've read about 5e sounds anything like it... except for the D20.

Sean said...

Knobgobbler: DCC's beta came out in 2011, and the first playtest packets had a lot of similar stuff. Fighters had deed-type gimmicks and halflings had some luck-related stuff. A typical character's round became one action alongside a move (which could be broken up) like DCC rather than the 4e version, which was: standard, move, minor. Maybe I am overstating, but when that first packet came out I remember being a little shocked at the similarities.

Eodrid said...

There's a smartphone app called The Crawler Companion for DCC that auto-rolls the crit and fumble tabels for you, and it has a dice roller with all the funky dice on it too.

Nick said...

Hi Sean, my apologies for the off-topic comment. I was hoping i could get your email since i wanted to ask you something regarding your blog, and i can't seem to find your contact details anywhere. You can reach me at admin [at]

Thank you!