Friday, May 25, 2012

DCC RPG Impressions: Theorycrawl Edition

It seems appropriate to begin this post with the art, as everyone else has done. This tome is bursting at the seams with a wide variety of styles that range from a funny-pages gag strip aesthetic to the kind above. Everyone is going to find something to like and dislike here, and the lack of any unified art direction is just one more thing that distinguishes DCC RPG from other games on the shelf. Just flipping through the book is unusually fun.

Much has also been written about "The Funnel", the process of creating a horde of 0-level peasants, sending them through a dungeon, and building a proper party with the survivors. I'll deal with this more in depth once I've run more games at this level, but for now, I'll let one of my players speak for me. "This is probably one of funnest games I've ever played."

Today, I'm going to deal with the classes and the impressions formed after seeing their finalized version. I have yet to play test them. DCC RPG only has seven classes: Cleric, Thief, Warrior, Wizard, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling. The latter three are analogs to the Warrior, Wizard, and Thief, respectively.

Alignment plays an important role for all classes, if not from a mechanical standpoint, than certainly in regards to your character's concept. For example, Lawful warriors are knights, soldiers, upholder of some kind of order; Chaotic, are brigands who undermine that order. Those who remain Neutral are likely mercenaries or seek only to test their strength. You'll notice there is no mention of Good or Evil; DCC RPG has a simplified three-step alignment axis.

The Cleric is the most obvious example of how alignment influences mechanics. Clerics who attempt to heal others outside of their own alignment (or those who worship opposing Gods) find they must work harder for diminished effects. They risk displeasing their deity in doing so. DCC RPG establishes a much more direct connection between Clerics and their deity than I've seen in other systems. You can actually call on your deity for assistance. Of course, they may be busy, or annoyed with you, or not feel your request is worthy of their attention.

Some people will probably be frustrated by how alignment affects the Thief. The bonuses a Thief gets to certain skills is directly correlated to their alignment. For example, Chaotic Thieves are the best at backstabbing, whereas Neutral Thieves have better odds of successfully casting a spell from a scroll.

I could go either way. I like any system that makes players sacrifice ability in one discipline to excel in another. I can also understand players feeling the distinctions in the book are arbitrary. Should you fall into the latter camp, this is very easy to houserule. You could let players choose sets of elite, average, and below average skills Players could swap the progression within an alignment if a character did something approximating that skill during The Funnel. Each DM will use what makes sense for their group.

Anyone who has ever sat at my table knows my disdain for Fighters in 3.5. Pathfinder only made them marginally better. I've always found other martial classes to be more interesting more useful in those editions. DCC RPG places the Warrior at the top of the ladder in terms of martial usefulness. To start, the Warrior is one of the only classes to threaten a critical hit on anything besides a natural 20 as DCC RPG does not assign individual threat ranges to specific weapons.

The real usefulness of a Warrior is in the Mighty Deeds mechanic. DCC RPG doesn't use feats. All of those cool combat maneuvers that are feat dependent in other editions can be accomplished with a Mighty Deed. Before rolling the dice, the Warrior has to declare what he's attempting and then roll his action die. Warriors in DCC RPG don't get a static attack bonus. They get an action die that modifies all attack and damage rolls in a turn. Should it be 3+, the deed succeeds. While the game codifies some examples of deeds, it encourages players to make them situation specific. For example, using a deed to smash out a basilisks eyes . The possibilities really are endless.

One of my complaints with magic in high fantasy RPGs is that it functions like science and technology. DCC RPG reintroduces the mysterious and often dangerous nature of magic. Gone is the system of Vancian magic; there are no spells per day. Instead, you roll to cast a spell, and you better roll well, lest you gain corruption, or roll on the spell fumble table (trust me, you don't want to do this). Quite honestly, there is too much to cover on Wizards and arcane magic in this post, so I'm going to clip my overview of Wizards here and reserve an in-depth look for another time.

Some people probably groaned to see the race-as-class come back. I did initially as well, but there are some really distinct differences between them and the classes they mirror. For all intents and purposes, the Dwarf is a Warrior. He has access to action dice, mighty deeds, increased threat ranges on weapons. He can also smell gold, even a single coin, and notice unusual stonework. The Elf is more or less a Wizard, but with some racial spell resistances and a much, much longer lifespan.
Of the three race-as-classes, the Halfling is probably the most unique. It is most closely analogous to the Thief, but only has access to two of that classes skills: sneak and hide. Like the Thief, burned luck gets replenished. The Halfling can also burn luck to affect others around him, making him a veritable good luck charm. Though he may not be able to backstab, he can wield two-weapons very competently at first level and scores critical hits on natural roles of 16 on a d16. There is more to this class still, but, without the book in front of me, I will have to leave this as the summary of Halflings.

This is a very long post, and I absolutely glossed over some important things. As I continue to digest the book, I'll fill in those gaps and provide further impressions. As it stands, Goodman Games has given us something both familiar and new, and they deserve all the praise they're getting for DCC RPG.

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