How to Play Dungeon Crawl Classics
Match report: Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC)
New game New luck. In contrast to most of my club rounds, this time we generated the characters from scratch and moved into dangerous dungeons to gain a bit of fame and fortune.
Table of Contents
After I decided to offer DCC in a oneshot round in the club, I fell into the buying frenzy. I not only got myself a whole set of crazy dice at the local role-playing game store, but also the hardcover itself. (I already had the PDF.)
I was referred to the thickest book in the novelty section. Except Nova RPG I've never come across such a big band before. Stately 480 pages on a size roughly estimated DIN A4.
I like the book a lot, it seems to be solidly bound. I flagged it just because of its size. The table of contents is hardly worth mentioning. When looking up spells, I'll probably go back to the PDF. Alternatively, I've printed out the spells table so my players can use it for quick reference.
The hard facts - DCC RPG:
- publishing company: Goodman Games
- Author (s): Joseph Goodman
- Publishing year: 2012
- language: English
- format: Hardcover
- Number of pages: 480
- price: 34.95 EUR (print), 24.99 USD (pdf)
- Source of supply: Sphere Masters (click), DriveThruRPG.com (click)
The Hard Facts - Lair of the Mist Man:
- publishing company: Purple Sorcerer Games
- Author (s): John Marr
- Publishing year: 2013
- language: English
- format: PDF
- Number of pages: 15
- price: $ 2.49
- Source of supply: DriveThruRPG (click)
Got to the funnel
The first round was the level 0 adventure The Portal Under The Stars from the base book. The recommendation is 18-20 level 0 or 8-10 level 1 characters. With six players at the start, the game pieces were rolled, three per player, 18 in number.
Some tables went really fast, especially a lot of fun came when the job was rolled out (Occupation), for which starting equipment is also determined. A cart full of dirt, a chicken, a sheep, a donkey, kilos of obscure herbs and a collection of pitchforks made for amusement.
A real delay in the start of the game turned out to be the rolling of the special application of the luck modifier, which each pawn keeps for its entire life, whether it makes sense or not. There were a few laughs here too, but there is usually a lot to write about per character. In addition, most characters have a luck modifier of 0, and since this particular application only applies to luck on the first roll, there is actually no point in rolling the dice for characters with a modifier of +/- 0, which would have accelerated the generation significantly.
How the modifiers of the individual attributes affect game-relevant values (attack, armor class, saving throws, hit points, etc.) would have been better represented as a table. The relevant description in the book was short enough to be implemented quickly.
The first character death overtook the party about a minute after my introduction to the first trap. Not that it had to be like that - thoughtless roleplaying tends to be deadly here. In other words: one should exercise more caution than sheer greed for gold if one wants to survive.
The same thing went on - careless players quickly lost one or two of their characters, while more prudent players even lost no character at all - probably also because the players guessed the structure of the dungeon correctly and completely bypassed the biggest fight of the adventure. Perhaps I was too gracious there - after all, a too curious dwarf died in the right place, but I didn't want to deduce a pursuit of the remaining warriors from it.
What was particularly noticeable was the ambition with which some players tried to put every available or apparently available piece of equipment on their heroes. A single cursed object would certainly have worked wonders here. True to the blurb of the main volume, it was about the purest troop of looters, which does not have to be a mistake.
After the adventure, we took the time to increase all remaining adventurers to level 1. That went quite quickly for most classes, mainly values had to be adjusted. Only the magicians required significantly more time:
As described in my review, DCC Mercurial Magic - i.e. every magic spell works a little differently. How different is determined by a W100 roll. So after one of the four spells learned in the first stage has been determined by chance, the dice are rolled again. Writing down the deviating effect takes a lot of time, but at least the sometimes absurd or overpowering effects are fun.
And how does it go on?
The adventure from the land register leaves it open how it continues. In fact, no book published by Goodman Games to date has taken up this open story thread.
What amazed me a lot more was the lack of Level 1 modules. There are a few different publishers, but the majority of the modules are either for level 0 or for higher levels. Here I also discovered that I had made a mistake in my review: Goodman Games has now published almost 80 modules in the Dungeon Crawl Classics line, but only the last dozen are also written for the publisher's own rules. Most were written for D&D first, third and fourth editions. A conversion is certainly possible, but playing right away without any problems looks different.
What also struck me about the adventures available was that many of them violated the basic idea represented in the main volume: They were written for would-be heroes, not for greedy petty minds who first worry about their own skin. Whether little girls are being helped or villages in need are being freed from evil - it doesn't really fit the idea of rising out of poverty and looking for happiness underground and in dark dungeons.
The hikers above the sea of fog
A third-party adventure was used as the second adventure - Lair of the Mist Men by Purple Sorcerer Games. (Incidentally, the same game maker also has a few generators on the website so that you can start playing even faster.) Here, the entry into the adventure was bent by me so that it fits the end of the adventure from the base book. In search of more parts of their mystical artifact, the heroes had to deal with the strange fog men (Crap men) and explore a kind of magic mountain in the midst of misty swamps.
The module itself was more fun than other modules, which the authors explicitly pointed out. The players got into it a bit, but not fully. It was a nice little thing that the characters often made saving throws on Willpower had to do to keep the madness in check. It's a bit like a Cthulhu adventure without leaving the rule system.
The relatively confused dungeon with its many cross-connections was well received by the group, the adventure itself makes a very solid impression with a successful finale. Unfortunately, it is also more combative, which causes big problems, especially for low-level groups - all of them now had level 1.
A character of the first level does not die immediately, but bleeds to death for one round. According to the rules, however, he can only be healed by the laying on of hands by a cleric. For every group of eight there was exactly one cleric who constantly had his hands full trying to save characters from death. In response, I just closed down the demise. So I did it in such a way that a character can give up his round of combat in order to connect someone. It then remains unconscious, but also no longer bleeds to death. The actual rules are rather stupid: Healing someone right away means you Spell check and giving up the action, but if someone is left lying dead, he'll get one when he is salvaged Luck-Litter and with a little luck one life point for free. Well
Even then it was troublesome. A cleric can heal by the laying on of hands, but the same rule restriction applies as with other spells of divine magic: If the cleric fails at the spell check, the likelihood of falling out of favor with his deity increases. Usually this only happens with a real 1 on a W20. With each failure, this value goes up by 1 - so then with 1 and 2, etc. After a few encounters, it quickly rose to 5, which was too hot for the cleric. Deity Disapproval becomes more dangerous the higher this value rises. If the limit rises to 5, you have to roll the dice with 5d4 on the table, higher results are more dangerous.
In order to balance the whole thing, and not to take the only cleric out of the game, I pointed out that one can also regain the grace of the gods through sacrifice. The limits are a bit high and inflexible for novice characters, but after some negotiation with the GM, a nice pyre full of offerings came about. (I really didn't want to accept that a squire's mule mount ended in the swamp.)
This relief was also urgently needed - in each fight an average of 2 - 5 characters went down and needed healing. In the first one, we were just short of one Total party killOf course, the extreme luck of the dice on the opponent's initiative roll can have enormous effects. The halfling of the group was the purest berserker thanks to his two-weapon combat technique, but with 2 HP just a paper tiger.
In the same way, a magician sifted all his halfway useful spells, and could then only act in close combat. And the second magician didn't have a really useful spell in his assortment either. The manual recommends that the game master reroll the dice if the magicians get too weak. (The sayings are given at random.) A noticeable deviation from the basic principle "May the dice fall where they may." Apparently, thin magicians spoil the fun for some ...
In terms of entertainment, this round was also really good, but the understanding of constant character death sinks in the second adventure, at least it feels very quickly. In retrospect, I have probably defused the system too much, but the current group could be completely switched off just by the fact that attackers concentrate on the cleric. Playing too tactically as SL can be ultra-fatal with DCC, as there is no repetition of the throw, none Bennies, etc. The rules for burning Luck-Points seem to allow subsequent burning, but that doesn't help with particularly bad throws either. And happiness does not regenerate itself for almost all classes.
I draw the conclusion for myself from this round not to form too large groups of opponents anymore. Although the ten warriors in the adventure band were grouped together, there is a risk that the GM throws players better than the whole group and then suddenly rains so many attacks on the players that the party bleeds to death before its first action. If you split such a large group of opponents into two smaller ones, the probability that one group will get ahead of most of the players increases, but the risk of mowing down half the party before their turn decreases significantly. Especially since it is not particularly realistic that there is no element of surprise all Opponents in front of the group.
Two evenings DCC have shown that the system can entertain well and entertainingly. But for me the basic variant is too deadly, especially since the adventures left me with no choice in some places to quickly introduce a new round of characters when the old hops go. As I knew from reviews and comments on the net, combat is always very risky for characters on the first level. That Lair of the Mist Men relied almost exclusively on combat, therefore turned out to be particularly problematic.
I will probably have to write the follow-up adventure myself, because Purple Sorcerer Games has the right module Against the Vortex Temple has not yet published. With a little imagination, it shouldn't be difficult to pull a module out of the hat yourself. At least the existing modules for level 1 adventurers don't necessarily fit into my campaign.
I found that the players adopted the system very quickly, even the magic with tables went quickly and was sometimes a source of amusement. Only sayings with long-term effects like Find familiar and Patron Bond are rather tough because you have to look them up separately in the master section of the volume. If you print out the page number references from the book and have a few small sticky notes in the tape, the game runs smoothly. The tables bring the game to life with their almost unpredictable effects, and they very quickly individualize even freshly thrown rounds.
I'm going DCC Certainly not make it my main system, but it is predestined for mini campaigns and for offering on cons. I'll see if there's an old one D&D-Either from Goodman Games or one of the re-releases from Wizards of the Coast. There is still a lot to try out with this nicely designed system.
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