Monday, March 28, 2011


After reading both Jeff and Michael's recent posts about playing Goodman Games's upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG at GaryCon III, I am more convinced than ever about two things. First, I need to get my butt to GaryCon one of these days, though the expense and logistics of it make it difficult. Second, the DCC RPG is going to surprise a lot of people with how well designed and fun it is.

I know a lot of people (who haven't actually played the game) have expressed skepticism about the DCC RPG, especially given its use of Zocchi dice and lots of random charts. To date, though, I haven't read a single negative play report of the game. There have been criticisms and concerns, yes, as you'll read even in Jeff and Michael's posts, but pretty much everyone who's sat down at a table and played the DCC RPG seems to have had a great time doing so.

Is it possible the game is too complex? Sure. Is it possible that it's not very newbie friendly? Of course. But so what? I've mentioned before that a lot of people these days are way too quick to associate "old school" with "rules lite," when there's no necessary connection between the two. Likewise, despite the fact that old schoolers are, on the whole, not as obsessed with universal mechanics as are other roleplayers, why should it be a problem the DCC RPG uses lots of individualized charts for spells and other in-game effects? Again, charts are very old school. Ditto for the "funny" dice. Let's not forget that, in 1974, anything but a D6 would have been considered unusual.

I can't predict the future and, even if I could, I'm not sure I'd be able to say that the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG heralds a second Golden Age. More than likely, it'll be yet another quirky, imaginative game that finds and develops a lasting niche for itself, but that won't appeal to everyone, even those who self-identify as old schoolers. In that respect, I don't see it as any different than HackMaster or Castles & Crusades, except that Goodman Games has an established track record of supporting and promoting its products in a way that very few smaller RPG companies do. That alone gives the DCC RPG a leg up over other neo-old school games.

Will I pick it up? I honestly can't say. I'll admit that I'm very intrigued by it. Just about everything that critics have been citing as its negatives I find to be positives, right down to the use of the Zocchi dice. My only reservation is that I'm already playing OD&D and don't really need another fantasy RPG. I've already got one that I like and have tons of others -- Stormbringer, RuneQuest, DragonQuest, Chivalry and Sorcery -- that I'd love to play and won't likely ever get the chance to do so. Would one more hurt? Probably not, particularly when it's a game that likely has ideas and rules in it I can easily pilfer for importation into my OD&D campaign.

So I don't know what I'll do except keep a close eye on this game as it develops. The more I hear, the more I find myself considering grabbing a copy when it's released later this year.


  1. The playtests at NTRPG Con last year got universal "thumbs up" from players. And Harley Stroh is apparently a pretty great DM....

  2. I am yet another person who got a chance to play it and had a blast doing so - so much so that I'm thinking about holding off on running a campaign using Labyrinth Lord because I've got a feeling that DCC is going to be a better fit for me.

    The only thing that bugged me about it was that it seemed like spellcasting characters got to play with all the cool random mechanics, while warriors just kind of hit stuff real hard. But that's apparently something that has been addressed since I played the game, if the design journals are to be believed.

    As I said earlier on my blog, I think DCC is going to surprise a lot of people. I can't wait for the open beta to be released so I can pitch some of the rules tweaks my group brainstormed at the table to the publishers.

  3. One of the ironies that your post highlights is that for many people (myself included), "old school" sometimes equals "simpler." We look at the books currently being published (which are thicker, more inclusive, have 'universal mechanics,' etc.) and we state a longing for 'the good old days when "elf was a character class." I often have to remind myself that when I started playing D&D with the "Holmes" version, it seemed pretty complicated at the time simply because my conception of a "game" had been formed by Monopoly, Chess, Avalon Hill war games or miniature war games with d6s and toy soldiers.
    And we were always muddying the waters of simplicity in the old days by adding rules of our own creation anyway.
    But, after some disenchantment with 3e, I've renewed my love and once again become big fan of 'quirky.'

  4. It not complex as RPG goes, just has a lots of charts that reflects the random and brutal nature of both combat and magic. If you have the time to run a playtest game, you should email Joesph Goodman and see what he says. He very easy to work with and give clear directions as to what he needs and expects from playtesting.

  5. James,

    Yes, please do make it to GaryCon soon. The energy and awesomeness of being around great classic/old school people is well worth it. Watching Frank and Tim riff off of each other during the auction was worth the price alone, as you could just feel this sense of "we're here together and this is magical" - seeing them and Tom Wham and just so many others... it was really special.

    I didn't do much of a review in my blog post because I'm going to do more justice when I give DCC a review in their forum, but I actually do agree with you in that this game will be very cool to run, provided you grok it and you learn the various subsystems. HARLEY knows his ... uhh... stuff and he made the game rock, so much so that young kids and old adults alike were dicing with ease. It does remind me of a Hackmaster game, where you can get as indepth with the dicing and charts as you want, but I have no doubt it's going to be flexible enough that you can abstract it away or just dice a 20 and see what happens.

    I also agree it doesn't have to be newbie friendly, but that is a valid concern to a lot of people. As long as they ship HARLEY or his brain in the box, they'll have no problems. :)

    I will definitely buy the game when it comes out, as nothing else it will help me to enrich what I already run and it's got a lot of good stuff in it.

    And thank you for the link to my post. I hope you'll make it next year. (And if you do, please drink the Spotted Cow. It acts as a DM/Player Skill +1 potion.)

  6. Harley Stroh is apparently a pretty great DM....

    I agree. But he was also leaning on what seems to be a pretty dang good system that combines a lot of lessons learned over the last 35+ years with some very clever innovations. But all these charts puts a lot of the success of the game in presentation. If the charts are easy to find and navigate we may have a hit. But this is a game that could quite possibly be ruined by poor layout, a crappy index, failure to provide good player resources and other non-system issues.

  7. Old-school = rules-light is just modern nonsense. Aftermath, anyone? How about Living Steel? D&D started off sparse, and in no time at all massive tomes were produced that over-complicated the game like nobody's business. AD&D has a lot of rules if you use them all. I do think that the movement back to "simpler" gaming is mostly due to a lot of older gamers not wanting to spend a ton of time dealing with crap. When you're 14, if you blow your whole weekend designing a dungeon for your buddies you consider this a good investment. Now you've got to convince your wife that 4 hours on Saturday night is better spent playing D&D than meeting her parents for dinner. The older games allow you to come up with stuff while you're driving to work or taking a shower or whatever because you can focus on what you want to do instead of worrying about specific rules.

    Anyway, I'll buy this. I buy everything, though. I've yet to get any RPG release in the past 10 years I couldn't cull something useful out of, except (no joke) D&D4.

  8. Nice, I'll have to check it out.
    I don't personally care about the 'liteness' of rule systems, and have happily played both very abstract systems as well as ones that tell you that your axe strike severed the left femoral artery but didn't quite crack the bone. Still, this sounds exciting, mostly because it excites you, who seem rather particular about what you let excite you. ;)

  9. My prediction: more people will take ideas from the game to use in D&D than will use it as their basic game.

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  11. Harley DM'd a game for us here in Denver not too long ago at Genghis Con, and yeah, it was generally a ton of fun. My concern is how it plays in a campaign setting. It's brutal, and chaotic and just super high-speed. Which in my mind makes it absolutely perfect for a con-based or one-off experience.

    But long term? I'm just not sure...And I've yet to see any play test reports from those folks who've been involved in Joseph's DCC RPG campaign. Maybe there is an agreement not to spill the beans, not sure, but I'd love to hear. I'm also eager to test it out when it's released in Beta sometime this summer.

    Oh, and yeah, Harley is an exemplary DM.

    You can read my play test report here:

  12. I enjoyed play(test)ing it out with Harley at Garycon too. He knows how to run a game, no doubt. I do think that the system has some neat ideas, but it is –in his words– still very much in draft stages. I'm sure the final product will have at least a few changes from what he ran.

    The Zocchi dice were a fun twist, and there were actual reasons for using them (mainly to give a better spread of possible ranges on certain rolls).

    I will reserve judgement on whether I'll pick up a copy for now. I'll want to see something closer to the final product. Initial impressions are favorable, though.

  13. One thing to remember is that it's not OD&D. It has positive AC, a somewhat different magic system (though a really fun one), and both critical hit and fumbles. Warriors have gotten more tweaks, but are still very loose and easy to play. And Zocchi dice. Yes, they are in there. Yes, the application makes sense. They will get used in actual play, not just to reference a chart.
    Playing this game didn't make me think of D&D. It made me think of Michael Moorcock, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, and Poul Anderson.