Sunday, July 29, 2012

DCC thoughts - Now that I have played a bit

Alright, last time I wrote about my love of DCC I had not actually played yet. Now I have. Not a ton mind you, but played I have. To be specific I have run DCC three times (once in person, twice online), and played once online.

And now, some random blatherings:

Ability Checks

Well, this is a d20 game with no skills, so I find myself calling for a lot of ability checks. This is partly a practice thing but I'm not especially consistent yet about which scores and what DCs. If you don't know, "skill checks" in DCC are made with a d20 if you are reasonably trained (by occupation or class) or d10 if you are not. I like ability checks over skill checks because it is less rulesy but I'm not positive that I prefer it over the flat die rolls for things like listening in pre-d20 D&D. I do very much like it for thieving abilities though. DCC offers an excellent thief system if you ask me (thieves have a list of skills that they get bonuses in by level).

Saving Throws

DCC uses the modern three save system. This has pluses and minuses. I like it because, well, there is something a little funny for having people save against breath weapons or whatever every time they are dodging something. So, selecting which save is easy and non-arbitrary, the DM needs to determine if the character is able to dodge, and whether it is a physical or mental effect. Easily covers any scenario. It gets finicky with DCs though and rapidly leads to DC escalation. Someone out there in the OSR blogosphere (I don't remember who, sorry) wrote about how save or die is not such a big deal in OSR games because in the traditional saving throw system your odds always get better over time, whereas there is a DC arms race in modern games. This is potentially problematic.


Mighty deeds of arms are fantastic. Fighters (and dwarves) get to do cool things but there is not a lot of looking in the book needed (remember that the mighty deeds in the books are intended as examples, not as rules). Having the critical and fumble tables right in front of you is a MUST.


Awesome, but very table heavy. Like the criticals and fumbles, having your spell tables at hand is necessary.  The rules themselves work well and are relatively non-complicated. There is a fair amount of up-front work require of wizards.

And as a final note, I have been collecting the Goodman Games adventures as they come out. So far they are excellent. Some people don't like published adventures ("I can do better myself!") - I was of that camp as a kid - but as an adult, I love collecting modules, and these are first rate!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Eridanus, the Dreaming City

Along the banks of Akash Ganga sits the Dreaming City, Eridanus. Ancient, dark, hive-like, its inhabitants live in the semi-twilight of its serpentine walls. The city has been built up over eons, packed on top of itself. It is said that there are places in the city that have been walled off completely, the inhabitants living in total isolation over generations. It is also said that the city is not always the same, that it changes and grows of its own accord.

Outside the walls is a massive nameless slum home to the city's wretched. A horrible noise and shaking wracked the slum, and a hole opened in the ground in the middle of a marketplace. Smoked billowed from it for five days and nights, and then something came out. The various eye-witness accounts are confused and nonsensical, but there is no question that it dragged many down into the darkness. There was one survivor, a wild-eyed old dwarf who somehow dragged himself back to the surface. He died hours later, ranting about gold and gems in the deeps. In his hand he clutched a brilliant red gem.

A few brave and desperate now journey into the darkness seeking their fortune.


Still have at least one slot for Thursday, 8:00pm EST.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Urban Swords & Sorcery

Kotor Circa 1600

I have been thinking about the setting for my upcoming G+ DCC game. The main requirements are that there needs to be lots of opportunity for weird adventure in a small space.  The more I think about it, an a city fits all of my needs. I don't like bookkeeping in the ACKS sandbox rules sense, but I do want things to make a certain amount of sense. If the setting is too small, it is implausible to have access to things like armorsmiths, apothecaries, and sages. In a small town, it may even be difficult to find basic supplies for sale. A city solves this problem.

Krakow circa 1500
A city is also a plausible location for a megadungeon. Mines, caves, catacombs, sewers,  buried ruins.

Map of the Odessa Catacombs
In fact, in ancient city is wouldn't be implausible for their to be many layers of such things built upon one another.

For low-fantasy DCC it is important that the city be more like Vornheim, and less like Waterdeep. That means that the place is strange and magical, but the economy is mundane. There are no magic item shops, or wizard schools. Magic is strange and shocking, but yes, you can buy a horse or a suit of plate-mail.

I think if I am going to go for a city, it needs to be dense. Going halfway will make things too ordinary.

Cross-section of Kowloon

A city also explains professions like elven falconers. It's hard to imagine the more esoteric professions showing up in a tiny hamlet all at once.

Istanbul, 1638

A city gives plenty of options for adventure if it is large enough. Ancient ruins, dark under-cities, strange temples and laboratories; and there can always be outlying areas for wilderness adventure and other locations. Small towns will tend to cluster around the city providing a wealth of options.
There are more options still if it is a weird city. Portals to distant lands and other planes. Monstrous inhabitants. Shifting roads.
Istanbul, 1730

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Options in Dungeon Crawl Classics

I talked last about how there seems to be a desire in the DCC community for more character options. I'm going to talk a bit about why I think there are already plenty and about some of the options that may not be so obvious.

First of all, one can always have options through roleplaying. What is a ranger anyways other than an outdoorsy warrior? You don't need permission from the rules to be outdoorsy. Likewise, isn't a bard just a rogue standing in the back with a lute? You don't need permission for doing that either? Oh, I see, you want a mechanical advantage. Well, I think there are lots of options out there already:


Backgrounds determine your initial skill set? Want to play something specific? Well, ask the DM if you can choose your background! If its because you have a character concept I think I would say yes for one. There are lots of backgrounds, and if you don't see what your looking for, here is an easy place to make up your own (although again, I think there are plenty).


Clerics are very different from each other! Different powers and weapons based on alignment (and deity) and different spells! Each cleric will be unique based on their spell selection and the more you flesh out the religions the more variety you can have. I see no reason to have paladins when clerics are as awesome as they are in this game (I know you want the warrior hit die and mighty deeds of arms, but well, no, because I like niche protection).


Different ability sets by alignment mean like the cleric you have three subclasses. Join a guild or other roguish organization to flesh your character out more. If you want to buy a lute, buy a lute. A thief could also decide to be outdoorsy.

Warrior & Dwarf:

Every warrior should be different! They have lots of options just looking at mighty deeds, weapons, and armor. Be creative and there is no need for other warrior classes. Maybe a ranger specializes in bows, a barbarian wears light armor and carries two-handed weapons, a paladin (if they are not a cleric) is heavily armored with sword and shield.

Wizard & Elf:

The limited access to spells will inevitably make every spellcaster unique. Spells are rare, and a wizard or elf will only be able to master a few of them over the course of a career. The master of the elemental magics will be quite different than the wizard who traffics chiefly with otherworldy beings, who will be very different than the roguish enchanter.


I admit that halflings stump me a little. The only class that does not just seem to be obviously teeming with options to my eye. But, roleplaying, roleplaying, roleplaying! Just because halflings are sneaky and good with two-weapon fighting does not limit you to playing them that way!

I don't feel like I explained my thinking well but I wanted to give at least a glimpse of the options I see in the core classes. True, there may not be that many differences in the way a Pathfinder player would view them (the characters "powers" will be the same) but there are plenty of viable ways to play any character class. I think this is a game that gives a lot of options to players based on creativity and roleplaying, I don't think new rules are necessary.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Desire for Options

It has been fascinating to watch the birth of Dungeon Crawl Classics. The game has been enthusiastically received by its fan base, and well, the game is fantastic. Goodman Games has a series of modules lined up (a few are out already) as do a few other publishers. There is a fanzine, and at least one setting kickstarter. Goodman Games has a decent listing of these projects here. Not to mention the blogs and forum posts.

The thing that has been really interesting for me was the desire for among the fans of the game for character options. From what I have been seeing, many of the projects (other than the modules) are providing options, and people got straight to work the forums creating alternate classes, skill systems, new spells, etc.

I think I have gone on the record as loathing too many options. DCC has 7 very distinct classes, and that seems like plenty to me. In fact characters within the same class have lots of opportunity to be very different from each other (more on this later). I think the skill system is fine (it is basically the AD&D secondary skill system). There are lots of spells already (they take up at least half the book). I certainly don't begrudge anyone the right to play DCC however they like, to tinker, to add, to subtract, to completely change. In fact the game is somewhat unusual in that tinkering and house-ruling is given official blessing in the rulebook.

The seemingly massive desire to add options to what is theoretically an OSR game has made me stop and think. That desire for options that creates the rules-bloat of 3e and Pathfinder, the baroque eclecticism of 2e, is present in the OSR as well.

Where does it come from?

Upcoming I will have my thoughts on the hidden character options of DCC.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pathfinder Character Creation

Well, not many of my group were interested in playing an OSR game.

However, one of the players has been secretly planning a Pathfinder campaign world for lord knows how long (there were lots of player handouts) and offered to run it! I've never been a player in a Pathfinder game (although I have in 3.5) so I joined.

Last night we made characters. Hours of reading and choosing and I'm still not done I'm afraid. The DM had us roll 3d6, one swap, so the options were limited slightly by our stats, but still just way too many options. I had never read much of the player stuff in detail so a lot of it was new. I think I really like the character I wound up, but I'm not sure all of that agonizing was worth it.

The short version:

  1. On the way over to the game, I thought to myself, gee, I haven't played a cleric or a rogue in a long time.
  2. I roll up stats, cleric or rogue are very possible.
  3. I start really looking at the rogue and remember I don't find rogues very appealing in Pathfinder.
  4. So I look at the gunslinger. Guns are cool right? Wow that's a lot of rules. Workable, (I did read them all) but kind of fiddly. Not sure if I have a character concept here or if I just like guns.
  5. So I look at the cleric a bit, but then I remember how lame channeling feels compared to turning, and I also don't want to be the heal-monkey especially - and that seems to be the expectation of clerics as their melee has been downpowered compared to fighters, monks, etc.
  6. Shoot, I still haven't even chosen a  race. Well, I'm thinking sort of an outsider-wanderer (even though we are all going to be nobles in this game, but maybe I'm a bastard, heretic, or whatever). Sounds like a good opportunity for a half-elf! I don't think I have ever been a half-elf.
  7. Back to class. I look at the inquisitor. Here we go! Strong melee abilities, cool divine powers, cool powers for roleplaying with. Lots and lots of powers. Sigh. Also having some difficulty with my character concept. Hmmmm, the other players are an evil monk and an evil rogue. Better be something with a bit more flexibility.
  8. I like wizards, but wizards are kind of weird in this game. Hey! This is cool, Elves have an archetype called spellbinder. That just sounds cool. What does it do? Wait, I can swap out memorize spells for a favored spell? And it gets rid of arcane bond (familiar)? Familiars are very fiddly. I think we have a race and a class! I had become very dissatisfied with elves but DCC has renewed my enthusiasm for them.
  9. So I want to be a elven wizard searching for arcane secrets, ooh, there is a perfect subrace! I will be a dusk elf. Some of the other players scoff because I am trading off racial abilities in a non-optimal way ("you know you can just take the traits you want") but I like the description of the race, it fits for my concept, so fuck that.
  10. Now I need to choose a school . . . there are so many . . . shadow-illusionist! Love it.
  11. Okay, so I've chosen a race and a class. Crap. I still have to do skills, traits, languages, favored class bonuses, feats (as an aside, of all the feats that I hate, I hate metamagic the most), record everything, buy equipment, roll for hit points, figure out starting spells. And did I mention we are starting at level 3?
  12. Needless to say, I did not accomplish all of that last night.
Pathfinder character creation is way too complex. As I said, I like my character. I think it will be fun to play. I would rather have just rolled up an elf for a simpler game though and roleplayed the rest in.