Wednesday, January 5, 2011

DCC RPG News

This week has proven more sluggish than I had hoped, which is why I didn't notice this post by Joseph Goodman until several readers pointed it out to me. It's the first in a series of "designer's blog" entries in which Goodman discusses the upcoming (November 2011) Dungeon Crawl Classic Roleplaying Game. Here's what he has to say:
What if Gygax and Arneson had access to the Open Game License when they created D&D? What if they spent their time adapting thirty years of game design principles to their stated inspirations -- rather than creating the building blocks from scratch? What if someone were to attempt just that: to immerse himself in the game’s inspirations and re-envision the output using modern game design principles?

That, in short, is the goal of the Dungeon Crawl Classics role playing game: to create a modern RPG that reflects D&D’s origin-point concepts with decades-later rules editions. For many years I have been a fan of old-school gaming, the history of TSR, and the lore of Appendix N, as reflected in many of the products I’ve published. When Dungeon Crawl Classics #1 appeared on shelves way back in 2003, Goodman Games and Kenzer & Company were the only publishers of “old-school” products. Over the eight years since, the “Old School Renaissance” has blossomed, and now a host of high-quality product lines and thriving communities offer “old-school” products. A subject of some controversy has been the proliferation and originality of “retro-clones”: is it enough to simply re-hash the past? Where my DCC modules once did just that -- dwell in a rosy-toned version of early-era D&D game style and art direction -- the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game goes much further. This is not a retro-clone: this is a re-imagining.

There is a lot to cover regarding DCC RPG, and in the next eleven months we’ll cover all of it. But let’s start with the basics. For those of you who have not read the various con reports and blog commentaries over the last year, this diary entry may be your first exposure to the game. Therefore, for this first designer’s diary, I’d like to establish the record on a couple basic facts. Here’s what the DCC RPG is, and is not:

It is not a retro-clone.

It is an OGL game.

It uses a rules engine derived from the 3E d20 system.

It is not compatible with 1970s/1980s D&D rules.

It plays like a 1970s OD&D session.

It is generally compatible with other d20-derived systems.

It does not include complexities like attacks of opportunity, prestige classes, feats, or skill points.

It does not utilize miniatures or a grid-based combat system.

It utilizes races as classes -- you can be a warrior, or an elf.

It utilizes six ability scores, including one called Luck.

It is built on the assumption that some characters will die.

It is built on the assumption that the strongest characters will provide long-term campaigns.

It is built for low-level, mid-level, and high-level play.

It does not require that you start at 0-level (though doing so is fun).

It does not use the traditional D&D spell system associated with memorizing spells.

It uses spellcasting rules influenced by the foundational authors of swords & sorcery.

It uses a Vancian magic system…if you use the term “Vancian” to mean “based on a reading of Vance’s original works,” not “what D&D does.”

It is grounded in the fundamentals of Appendix N.

It is a proud descendant of a long tradition.

It is an opportunity to showcase outstanding art in a classic fantasy style.

It is lots of fun to play.

It primarily uses the conventional dice suite: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20. Most combat and spell checks are resolved with a d20 roll.

It also utilizes Zocchi dice. All of them. Including the d5, d7 and d24.

It is, in my humble opinion, a version of what D&D could have been, if the early pioneers had access to an existing, robust rules engine to which to adapt their Appendix N inspirations, instead of dedicating their energies to building the foundational blocks from scratch.

It is, as Harley described it early on, “pre-D&D swords & sorcery.”
I'll admit that this post sparked my interest a great deal. I still have no idea if the final product will be one that I'll ever use, but I'll take a good, long look at the DCC RPG when it's released, because it sounds like Goodman's going to be offering a genuinely unique old school fantasy RPG rather than another set of tweaks to the D&D rules we all know and love. The fact that it uses all the Zocchi dice says a lot about its design -- good things in my opinion, but I suspect I'm in the minority in thinking this. Regardless, I look forward to learning more about the DCC RPG in the months to come.

28 comments:

  1. I like the way JG is going about it - release is at the back end of the year - loads of time for playtesting between. The magic system sounds chock full of good ideas from the details I've read on the forum. The combat crit tables that vary by class/level is a cool idea.

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  2. Sounds like a mish-mash of strangeness. There are a few tidbits of noteworthy ideas, to me; but, otherwise, I'm left with the feeling of "why?".

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  3. i guess that might sound stupid, but what is gained by using a d5, d7 or d24?

    are 6 different dice not enough? (or maybe even too many for some?)

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  4. @KP

    I don't see how it's a "mishmash of strangeness". It seems like a relatively straightforward attempt to give an "old school"-esque experience with mechanics that are familiar to players of newer games and which might be a little less clunky/ambiguous in practice than the original games.

    @shlomius

    different probability ranges at speed.

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  6. I have to laugh at his statement eschewing attacks of opportunities and other complexity in combat, when 0d&d was itself a simplification of a more robust melee system from the MtM rules of CM.

    James is right, old-school game shouldn't be synonymous with simple. Especially since 0d&d players had access to CHAINMAIL and the fiddly bits that it entailed, like weapon speed and attacks based on weapon length and facing (chainmail pg. 25). Combat complexity is unrelated to the grognards distaste of skill, karma, and character-story driven abilities. There is nothing old-school about not having rules for withdrawl from combat or free attacks against retreating foes.

    Looks promising.

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  7. So what game would one give up in lieu of this? Is this supposed to draw from the OSR crowd? 0E? 3E? I don't get what niche this is filling.

    I mean this in the nicest sense but this seems like a vanity project to me.

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  8. @cibet

    It seems like an outline for experienced or new DMs trying to introduce players who grew up on d20 to a more traditional approach.

    Or for people who like the old stuff but want the ambiguities in the rules sorted out fir them.

    Which is to say: if you've been playing an older edition or retro-clone all along, then it's probably not aimed at you.

    Which is to say: if you're reading this blog it may not be aimed you, since probably you're comfy with the old rules and have interpreted and ironed them out to yr satisfaction already.

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  9. @cibet

    This is something I could use to introduce my players who refuse to give OSR games a try to the older play style. They'll try anything d20 because they are familiar with it but nothing older than d20.

    I'm not all that familiar with Goodman Games if I pre order this is there a pretty good chance it will be published?

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  10. cibet - it's what Zak wrote, it's that old school experience, the Appendiz N fetishism, but with contemporary mechanics. It'll end up more sword & sorcery than C&C and a rival for the upcoming AS&SOH (that title's too long to type), with more brick & mortar visibility than smaller-but-just-as-cool old-meets-new rulesets like Flynn's MyD20Lite.

    Keeping me interested till November would depend on the public playtesting and actual play reports. If only a few aspects of it are new and cool, I'll just steal 'em but if the whole is more than the sum of the parts..it's a 2011 Xmas prezzie contender.

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  11. I don't see the mish-mash of ideas; it seems to be pretty centered on a OD&D-style game. I hope that when he says OGL, he's going to make it easily usable by others, instead of just using it as a shield against WotC.

    I'm mixed about the dice; on one hand, dice are just cool, but on the other, when everyone has to get these special dice it's expensive and annoying, and they're impossible to get matching your favorite set, etc. I guess I'm not that mixed; it's not worth what it costs.

    You can fake them; the d5 is d10 / 2, round up, or d6 reroll 6s, the d24 is d12 + 12 if the coin comes up heads, and the d7 is a d8 reroll 8s.

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  12. I've got to be honest.

    Why do I need yet another OS rule system? I've got OD&D, AD&D, LL, S&W, OSRIC, etc.

    It sounds like 3ed minus extra-mechanical combat, feats, and skills, then sprinkled with esoteric dice that next to nobody owns. How is this going to be innovative?

    No thanks.

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  13. @ toddroe

    I think the published reports of playtesting thus far point to a game more in line with HackMaster Basic than OSRIC, LL, etc.

    I'm really excited about this.

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  14. I own Moldvay Basic, Holmes Basic, AD&D 1e, 2e, 3.0, 3.5, 4e, S&W and Labyrinth Lord.

    Do I really need yet another iteration of D&D?

    Do I?

    Of course I do. I have no self-control and will buy this game happily. Joseph used to send me tons of review material when I wrote Scrollworks and he even gave me a column in the short-lived EN World Players Journal. I feel like I owe it to him to give the game a read. :)

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  15. How is he handling stealth if there are no skill points? Does it just go up automatically with level like attack ability does? What about ability to detect stealth?

    Stealth and infiltration is a key part of all pulp fantasy literature. I am not a fan of games that do not take this aspect seriously.

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  16. Sounds ALOT like C&C with some extra sauce on top. I wish Goodman games had just done more C&C modules / products..

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  17. Of course stealth is important, withdrawal, etc. But sheesh, you don't need a rule and a table for everything. It gets a lot more tedious than it needs to be.

    I suppose it's nice to have an excuse to own Zocchi dice. :)

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  18. I find this bit the most intriguing:
    "It uses a Vancian magic system…if you use the term “Vancian” to mean “based on a reading of Vance’s original works,” not “what D&D does.”"

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  19. there is a mathematical term for this . . .

    Ergodic refers to a mathematical or logical system that within a finite sequence of steps or permutations will frequently revert back to a state resembling its original condition.

    OR as the French say
    " the more things change, the more they stay the same."

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  20. Whoa, the next big thing is not retro-cloning, but re-imagining. Is this what they call a paradigm shift?

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  21. @shlominus:
    Dice:
    Coolness is Gained! Don't forget the Zocchihedron, Goodman! And won't somebody think of the D30? It needs love too.

    @cibet:
    Game Preference:
    You don't have to 'give up' anything, it's just another possible game to play. More options are good. If it fails, oh well, it was Goodman's addition to the hobby. Worthwhile in itself.

    @Zak S:

    "Which is to say: if you're reading this blog it may not be aimed you, since probably you're comfy with the old rules and have interpreted and ironed them out to yr satisfaction already."-Absolutely, what I was thinking of saying, myself, but you beat me to it.

    Vanity Project:
    Pretty much anybody's tweaked RPG is this! :-) The addition of another entrant into the niche will either not make a ripple, or be a game changer. It'll be fun to see which.

    @suburbanbanshee:
    Zocchi Dice: There's NO excuse for not owning ALL of them, amirite? ;-D

    @Akrasia:
    Vancian Magic: Especially this. The ramifications for PC Wizards will be 'interesting' to say the least!

    Cyclopeatron also had a post and follow-up on the October DCC playtest at his blog.

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  22. There is a long bost by Goodman about how magic works in this topic:

    http://www.goodman-games.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=7141

    It sounds fun. I'd like to see more examples about this, just like the critical tables mentioned somewhere...

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  23. I playtested this back in November (http://beyondtheblackgate.blogspot.com/2010/11/playtesting-dungeon-crawl-classics-rpg.html), and it was enjoyable enough, if a bit clunky in parts.

    Its very much like playing 3xD&D with most of the feats, skills, and mini-intensive combat rules stripped away.

    I'm curious to see how much, if any, of the playtest feedback the group provided after the session will be incorporated into the final product.

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  24. It sounds like it might have individual rules that could be used in D&D. Maybe this will be the most common use of it?

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  25. Al said..."Its very much like playing 3xD&D with most of the feats, skills, and mini-intensive combat rules stripped away."

    So you mean like I've been running 3E since it came out? :)

    Otherwise I'm intrigued, more games is always good.

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  26. Why the weird dice?

    races as classes? I thought that was a horrible idea the first time I encountered it. I can't see how it has gotten any better with time.

    I read C&C. I promptly sold it.

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  27. It'll be lovely if it ever gets delivered. It's been allegedly in work for how many years now? I'm not holding my breath.

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