Friday, May 25, 2012

DCC RPG Opinions part 1

Omg this game is so awesome I don't mind
being chewed on.
I'm predisposed to like DCC RPG, I'm biased, Troll and Flame was mentioned in Appendix O! [Thanks for that!  I hope my blog has actually been worthy of honor].  As stated in this post's title these are my opinions, not a review and certainly not a fair or balanced one.

I very much like the phrase "Appendix N Gaming".  It will not, but, I wish it would supplant "OSR" as a tagline.  It is narrower in scope and far less vague.  Leaving little space for endless arguments over its meaning and whether this or that blog/game/foo is part of it or not.  Less baggage around "old", "nostalgia", and other connotations rightly or wrongly piled on OSR.

First Bits

The DCC RPG is aimed more or less exactly at me.  That is, at gamers who like a particular type of RPG (they may not know they like it yet and it's probably not the only type they enjoy).  DCC RPG is not universal.  It has style, it oozes atmosphere, it is opinionated.  What I'm trying to get at is, if you don't like dead cow it doesn't matter how awesomely delicious a steak is, you won't enjoy it.  But, if you've never had good beef, you should try it.  At least once.  DCC RPG is Kobe Beef and oh so juicy.
  • Holy 450+zillion pages! I'm firm adherent of the cult of "less rules is better rules".  Any ruleset should be 32-64 pages.  The bulk really put me off. [Although it's amazing and kudos for staying $40, a bargain for such volume and production quality]  I was mollified by; so much art proly adds 50-75 pages, ~175 pages are spell charts, minus other charts, included adventures, appendixes, monsters, magic, and mayhem. Really ~100 pages of PHB rules.  
  • I have a new appreciation of several artists.  Of the many featured in this book, only one has a style that is not to my liking.  But, none of it is even close to bad.  It all works, fits in, and supports the atmosphere of the game.  Overall superlative art direction.
  • Color end sheets are keen.  Proof, above detail.
  • The qualifications, pg 10;  I dig the intent (and need) and I'm a demanding and harsh guy.  Still, for the first text presented to reader this was too (the right word escapes me... harsh/elitist).  The facing artwork of party being incinerated is apt.
    Book be flamewarring the reader.
  • The next page "How is this game different from what I have played before?" is heaps better.  Excellent in fact.
  • When first exposed to DCC RPG (beta or some preview) I thought "Hey, stuff to steal for my own game."  Now, I'm absolutely wanting to play this thing, as itself, in totality.
That defiant guy with the fist, "Damn you, damn you all to hell!"

Chapter 1 Characters

The very first words of chapter are "You're no hero."  Nailed it.  The foundation on which Appx N Gaming is built. It's the core differentitor of this style.  Hopefully avoiding any author aggro, I'll quote the remainder in its entirety, as it's excellent.
You're an adventurer:
a reaver,
a cutpurse,
a heathen slayer,
a tight lipped warlock guarding long-dead secrets.

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...
Bam! you are gonna be this, you are gonna do this, and you are gonna get this.  Who, what, where, and why.  I read (I think at B/X Blackrazor) about how Basic D&D told you what you were suppose to be doing and some other RPG didn't.  Or, maybe other way round.  Whatever.  Point is, this kind of prose mixed with evocative art is far superior to the boring and probably confusing "What is roleplaying?" / "What is an RPG?" drivel so many weaker games start with.  Even when I *am* roleplaying, I give a rats ass about roleplaying.  I'm too busy reaving, man!  Grabbing that sweet EHP headdress before the damn thief gets to it.

Multiple 0-level, classless schmucks. Aka untrained, uneducated peasants.  I can get behind that!  In most my campaigns "untrained and unemployable" is my excuse for not having a "skill system" and why people with little more than a sharp stick go poking around dungeons.  The explanation of how random character generation works and enjoining to try it are good additions.

Dice chain. I dig it. But why, oh why fuck it up and have modifiers too.  Don't be a flip-flopper choose one or the other.  Yes, yes I know there's not enough granularity, who cares!  Does it make game more fun?  Does it make it more Appx N? +1 ain't worth the math.  But, shunt me up to d24, I get to use the funky die and I could roll awesome! You expect me to remember that invisible is +2 to attack, but squeezing through a tight space is -1d, blinded is +2, entangled is -1d, many others.  Or, even worse break game flow to look it up.  A'never gonna happen, Joe.   I play too many different games and have much more interesting things to remember than how their fiddly bits differ.  Bad thing, -1d.  Good thing +1d.  Done.

Renaming abilities, sure, whatever, the old names aren't that clear.  I already use Charisma very much as Luck is described.  Favor of the gods and all that.  Luck is extremely important element of Appx N stories.  B/X style modifiers, the same for all stats.  Logical and consistent.  Not that I care about those they just make it easy to remember ;)

Very keen on Table 1-2 Luck Score which gives players a unique and random bonus/penalty.  This is the kind of detail / rule that adds flavor and fun without bogging down game (as it's only done once, it's not a min-max tool's tool.).  Like Jeff Rients' deck of starting equipment and the various "Some fighters have..." tables.

Burning luck, I'm against it based on experience with similar mechanics, but, will reserve final judgement until after running several games.  The trope, "thieves are lucky", bugs the poop outta me (thieves and halflings renew burnt luck).  This proly only pertains to me. I'm rather down on thieves and halflings.  Firmly of the view that thieving is what all the players do and is not a class, Conan was a non-thief thief.  Do not argue with Conan. And, halflings are just short!

Saving throws: after much running of 3.5, Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, and homebrew that is closest to Swords and Wizardry I firmly believe that more than one saving throw is superfluous complexity.  Which has been dragged along for nostalgia (the five) or misguided attempts at balance and/or simulation (the trio).  I was outraged at and claimed, possibly on this very blog, I'd never use S&W's one save system, ludicrousness!  Having used it (and the others), all recently, righted me of my wrong ways.  I'm leaning towards running DCC RPG as written, which means using the extraneous trifecta (Fort/Will/Ref).  It will be hard.

Roll for starting equipment and starting equipment is meager.  Both correct.  Fast start, immediate need to go 'venturing, clawing a character up from nothing is the ultimate accomplishment.  Trade goods and the other bits (I've read ahead) reinforce medieval peasantry milieu without straying into historical pedantry.

XP for surviving encounters.  I've not seen this elsewhere.  It is massively elegant.  The optimal reward to guide "smart" and "natural" behavior.  Players have been trained to kill everything that moves (by computer games, ill-conceived rewards (XP for slaying monsters), life).  XP for treasure, I see now, is a half measure.  I'm very curious how well strictly encounter based pass or fail XP will work.  I fear not totally.  Players are very obstinate in their belief that slaughter == XP.

In DCC there is no incentive to stick around until TPK.  Run like the wind as soon as encounter tilts south.  No incentive to slaughter to the last orcling.  Players may still do it but it will be a choice, and a choice as DM I'll feel less douchey applying consequences for.  A (good) reason, same reward for less effort/risk, to figure out how to sneak, fool, non-frontally assault, etc. an encounter.  It cleanly works for tricks, traps, puzzles, even NPC encounter / roleplay if that's your thing.

I can imagine whole series of encounters "at the King's court".  You can, of course, provide "roleplay" awards with other systems. But, it always seems a bit wonky, too arbitrary, hacked on.  Or, like the only choice of someone's precious, pretentious, story telling game.  And always, lurking in the back's of players mind is "Sure if we 'correctly' parley with the King we'll get some xp. OTOH we could just wack the geezer for a ton more."

Chaos, Law, Neutral pick your pleasure.

Chapter 2 Skills

Oh noes! A whole chapter on skills.  I hate skills.  They're never complete and always fiddly.  Only three possibilities exist:  Can do it, it's done.  Can't do it, sorry come up with another idea.  Chance of failure or negative consequence would be interesting, roll and we'll see.  That's called adjudication, don't need no stinkin book telling me how it's done.

Oh snap!  Chapter 2 is all of two pages long.  Not both sides of two pages, just two pages.  Each of which is a third art. No lists of skills. No skill points. No gobs of synergies, and modifiers, and min-maxerisms.  Having noop skill chapter is sly.

DC based, d10 if you haven't a clue, d20 for trained, ability modified.  Meh.

The Difficulty Level descriptions are Appx N appropriate and seem more useful than I remember from elsewhere.  DC 10 tasks are a man's deed, weak and unskilled step aside. DC 15 are feats of derring-do.

I appreciate the section "When not to make a skill check." But, it doesn't go far enough.  Mentioning "Only make a skill check when practical description by the players will not suffice." e.g. MacGuffin behind curtain will be found when player says character is looking behind curtain and not cause some dice got rolled.  Good.  Next "... attempting to sieve the floor [of dirt floored cave] until they find a dropped dagger, a search check may be perfectly appropriate..."  No.  If dagger is there, characters just find it.  Unless they have to find it before the Ogre returns or some otherwise interesting hoodoo.  Then, yeah, roll.  Maybe even taunting the players.  "You hear the Ogre's thumping foot steps, you may have time for one more roll before he sniffs you out."

Ok, I should probably break this up into a few blog posts.

But first, go read this astute article on zero level adventures..

Get your own gang of four starting schlubs

Some DCC RPG resources


  1. Hello! Do you have any recommendations on how to transfer the AC stats from OD&D (particularly talking 1st edition MM with negative AC for tougher enemies) to a DCC monster? The DCC resources link you provided is great and has a really cool generic transfer sheet, but it doesn't mention a thing about AC and the author of that blog is completely off the grid (no contact info anywhere on their site)!


    1. Use the "Difference From 10" rule. So, AC 0 is AC 20, and AC -10 is AC 30.

      10 = 10, 9 = 11, 8 = 12, 7 = 13, 6 = 14, 5 = 15, 4 = 16, 3 = 17, 2 = 18, 1 = 19, 0 = 20, -1 = 21, -2 - 22, -3 = 23, -4 = 24, -5 = 25, -6 = 26, -7 = 27, -8 = 28, -9 = 29, and -10 = 30.

      You will note, I hope, how easy it is to convert the negative numbers. With the exception of -10, just turn the "minus sign" into a "2".

  2. @Keith

    I quickly lost interest in DCC after playing a few games. The flavor is great, like the patron. But, several of the mechanics, spell casting, fighter "moves" are very repetitive. As wizard I kept trying to get "good" roll on burning hands, round after round.

    Point being is I don't remember the rules for AC enough to answer your question.

    1. Just finished Judging my 7th session of DCC. I love it! The thing about the warrior and dwarf is you gotta be creative. If your warrior's turns seem repetitive it is because the player isn't thinking, but possibly waiting for the game mechanics to tell him what to do? I mean, you can do a Mighty Deed of Arms every time if you like. That means every single action can be absolutely different, accomplishing vastly different goals.

      In my game the cleric rolls badly. So far. So his disapproval range got up to 1-6, which is pretty terrible. And that can be frustrating if the player doesn't have the right mindset. The phrase "you're no hero" should be repeated from time to time to remind them.

      Because this game has a HUGE amount of inherent randomness. The magic system in particular has the potential for great swings of luck. I had an elf ropework, burn a bunch of stats, and ended up passing out, with permanent black tendril-like scars along his neck and face. The rope was blood, shooting from his fingertips. But it held three dangerous enemies for many rounds. He almost died casting it but it was epic.

    2. Yeah, I'm playing again in an every other tues game. It is better experience than my couple of convention games. But still, it made me realize the accidental genius of having just 1 or 2, or small handful of spells that are one-shot (but more gurantee on outcome) and then gone. Provokes much more tension and hard decision making. In DCC there's signifcant chance I'll keep my spell so more likely to cast it more of the time and not fret over "is this the one time". Spell burn does recreate some of that.


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