DCC RPG: Snog, Marry, Avoid?
(I'm not sure whether DCC RPG counts as 3.x or an "older edition"/retroclone, so I'll just drop this thread here.)
Recently I bought the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG in dead tree form, and now I question the wisdom of my choice. Things I like:
- DCC combines Wisdom and Charisma into a single score "Personality". Wis and Cha are interdependent and badly delineated, whereas "Personality" -- the prime characteristic for Clerics -- reflects force of will, presence, charm, wit, and all the other mental factors apart from pure intellect. They also rename Con and Dex "Stamina" and "Agility", respectively, also clarifying their meaning and use. I wish they'd renamed Intelligence "Learning" or "Memory" to narrow its focus, but whatever.
- The sixth characteristic is "Luck", rolled up just like the others. Unlike the others, all characters can "burn" Luck points permanently for a bonus to a die roll; circumstances and experience can also add Luck points.
- Experience points are in the tens, not thousands. It takes 10 points to move from Lvl 0 to Lvl 1, another 40 to get to Lvl 2, another 60 for Lvl 3, etc. Each encounter nets 1-4 XP, regardless of monster hit points or gold, so a Lvl 0 character who survives one adventure gets to pick a Lvl1 class.
- Warriors can perform Mighty Deeds of Arms, essentially one-off free-form stunts depending on how well they hit. In DCC Warriors don't get a fixed Base Attack Bonus, but a die that ranges from 1d3 at 1st Lvl to 1d10+4 at 10th Lvl. If a warrior declares a Deed and hits, and his Bonus Die is 3 or more, he achieves the declared special effect in addition to damage: disarms the foe, pushes it back, cuts off its hand (for higher rolls), whatever.
- No skills, just attribute rolls. Much as I like skill systems, a 0th-level profession (randomly rolled) and a class say just about everything about a character's areas of expertise.
Things I'm on the fence about:
- The "funnel" for 0th-level characters. The rules are adamant about generating a bunch of 0th-level characters completely randomly, sending on their first adventure, and promoting the survivors to "real" characters. I've thought about doing this myself, but more in the sense of a pool of 0th-level backups for 1st-level PCs. How many people would be willing to run 2-4 random 0th level characters through a quasi-Darwinian meat grinder rather than design their 1st-level (or 3rd-level) character?
- The "randomness is easier than balance" defense. Game balance is a chimera, but if players' choices hinge on random dice rolls what does that do to player agency?
- The classic Thief is back. I share some other OSR pundits' misgivings about an entire class devoted to things anyone can attempt, albeit badly. The DCC version has almost a magical ability to sneak, hide, climb sheer walls, etc., but theoretically a Warrior or Wizard can attempt to stay quiet, duck behind cover, climb, and so forth.
The main thing I don't like is that every magic spell, for Wizards and Clerics alike, has a page-long table of effects based on a "casting roll". I like the casting roll part, but flipping through the book every time someone casts a spell -- or photocopying/printing the spell description for a caster's entire grimoire -- just rubs me the wrong way. Worse, if I want to invent a single spell of my own, I'll need 20+ entries of possible effects ranging from a backfire to success beyond the caster's wildest dreams. I've said often enough I think RPGs have too much magic; give me either the minor buffs and curses of RuneQuest, the summonings of Stormbringer, or the once-or-twice-a-session free-form effects of Barbarians of Lemuria. 200 pages of magic rules in a 450 page book is just too much.
I knew about the spell tables going in, but the "Transylvanian Adventures" supplement from RPGNow offered an alternative where I could cut out classic spellcasters for classes with subtler special powers. However, the more I read about it -- and the more I read through their quick-start adventure -- the less happy I was about throwing out half the rulebook and adding eight new classes which didn't seem all that different.
Only half-way through the DCC RPG tome so far, I'm going with "snog". The Mighty Deeds of Arms are worth stealing to make fighters in other OSR games more interesting, the Luck mechanics are cool but could be better, "Personality" or something like it is better than the classic pair, DCC XP really is less fiddly, and so forth. On the other hand I'm left with the same problem I've always had with D&D: the more I house-rule, mix-and-match, and rewrite to my satisfaction the less the game resembles what other people regard as D&D and the more likely I am to have wasted my effort.
The point of the foregoing is to ask: Does anyone have experience playing or running DCC? Any more detailed reviews out there?
"On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
- Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)