The DCC RPG arrived this week. I fell instantly in love. I waited to write this post until I had read the whole book (minus spell and monster descriptions) and had a chance to reread some sections. I wanted to make sure I had read thoroughly and the fires of lust had cooled a bit before commenting.
This is a game for a specific audience, and being part of that audience I am very happy. I love that this is not a game for beginners. Assuming that the readers are experienced is a great place to start. There is no attempt to make the game bad-DM proof.
They have taken the good of modern D&D - the d20 system and the save system - and combined it with many things I find excellent about traditional D&D: simple combat, skills based on profession, race as class, single axis alignment, and high-risk adventuring. Something that I in particular find appealing but others may not: institutionalized low-magic. Throughout the book it talks about the rarity of magic, the specialness of magical items, the unusual nature of adventurers.This is something I have tried to bring into D&D but the systems often seemed geared towards high-fantasy play. I also love the focus on low-level play. I suspect that DCC will become my fantasy RPG of choice.
With the possible exception of halflings as two-weapon fighters I love the treatment of every class. Clerics are awesome holy crusaders, thieves are cool and useful, warriors are mighty, wizards are probably about as much as fun as I can imagine (although if you don't like randomness they won't be for you), and the demihumans are special. I also like how alignment plays into actual game mechanics.
The elimination of wisdom and charisma is an excellent choice. Personality is a much more useful statistic and I like the way luck plays into the game in a variety of ways.
The experience framework is brilliant. Getting experience granted for surviving encounters and based on the difficulty of the encounter can help solve some of the fairness issues I have been talking about. An example of a 4xp encounter is one in which you expend all of your resources and have to retreat. So even if you run, you can still potentially learn something and advance.
That being said there are some annoying vague areas and contradictions. The book explicitly states that it is not intended to be comprehensive (that it is a framework not a straightjacket) and that one should feel free to fill in the blanks but there are areas where clearer intent would be appreciated. For example, as one spends luck (which for most classes is a permanent expenditure) does your luck bonus degrade? Basically, is luck spent like a regular statistic or like hit points? The fact that it is a statistic (and that there are areas where luck uses the initial bonus) says the former is probably accurate but it would be nice if that was a little more spelled out. Likewise, it is not entirely clear that deeds of arms do not need to succeed for the attack to succeed (I am almost certain this is the correct interpretation, but again, not entirely spelled out).
The one major contradiction I have found is with wizard spells known. Most parts of the book seem to imply that the wizard's "spells known" is the maximum spells that they can know. So a 10th level wizard can know up to 16-18 spells depending on intelligence. However, the book also says (on p. 126) that if a wizard "should ever know more than this many spells [referring to the master spell list] he will be a great mage." Since a 10th level character is a semi-divine, a few times in history power level character, he would certainly seem to be a great mage. So what exactly is the spells known? Is it supposed to be a minimum? There is other evidence in a few places in the book for each interpretation.
I realized that I spent more space talking about what I didn't like than what I did, but that does not reflect how much I love this game. There is just more to talk about with the confusions.
Probably should have posted this a while ago . . . . Got some clarification on this apparent contradiction from the man himself here.
I also wanted to add that there has been some people confused and or unhappy with the treatment of alignment in DCC. I will definitely go on the record saying I love it. First of all, it is single axis which is good. Second, at least under my interpretation, law is not at all a proxy for good, and chaos is not a proxy for evil. Elves are chaotic, goblins are lawful. This bothers a lot of people on the forum. I like the nuance of it. Elves, while being generally non-destructive, traffic with outsiders, exchanging favors, souls, whatever, for personal power. While goblins might generally be in opposition to humans, live in communities and pursue their own communal goals. Law and chaos is not the same thing as good guys and bad guys.