Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dungeon Crawl Classics – How I Do Love Thee!

Having read the Dungeon Crawl Classics core rulebook rather exhaustively now, I am coming to the conclusion that this will be my go-to game for all time.  Indeed, it accomplishes nearly everything I wished to accomplish with my own ruleset, and what it does not can be carried over from RCFG with a bit of tweaking.

Some of my posts here have already been house rules for DCC RPG.  No doubt, there will be more.  I am currently working on two DCC RPG modules, and a persistent city setting that will form the core location of my home milieu.

I had earlier expressed some concern about long-term play.  Specifically, I found the idea of creating unique monsters and magic items for every adventure – as well as the focus on questing and adventures as opposed to setting exploration – as potentially detrimental to long-term play.  I am no longer concerned on this score.

The philosophy of DCC RPG rather forces the Judge and players to create a mythology for their game milieu.  I don’t mean mythology is a strictly “deities & demigods” sense (although that, too, is strongly encouraged), but rather that the creation of a milieu’s setting elements mandates or suggests the creation of supernatural patrons, gods, spells, and magic items.  In a world where each magic item is unique, the creation of these objects further reinforces the mythology and history of the milieu.

The process of creation, therefore, seems to create elements that will remain in play for many years of adventuring, effectively ensuring that you get at least 5 hours benefit from each hour of design work.  This will mean re-using locations, maps, and (some) monsters.  When creating setting elements, the Judge should be keeping in mind that some creatures are unique, while others are representative of a kind….and that “kind” is very likely a “local kind”.  When the group travels, they may encounter superficially similar creatures that have been tweaked in some way.

As a real-world example, imagine bears.  Locally, bears are black bears.  But there are also grizzlies, polar bears, spectacled bears, sloth bears, etc., in the world.  As a fantasy example, imagine giant spiders.  The spiders of JRRT’s Mirkwood are not so potent as the unique Shelob or Ungoliant, nor are they the same as the giant spider Conan encountered in The Tower of the Elephant.  In effect, the same idea, seen through different lenses, keeps the players guessing.  Likewise, think of all of the varieties of snakes (venomous and otherwise) in the real world, and all of the varieties of the same in fictional worlds.  It is desirable to mimic this sort of uniformity (in order to give the players context), but also to mimic this sort of variety (in order to keep things fresh).

Dungeon Crawl Classics also revels in the joy of the random table.  It offers means to randomly alter humanoids, un-dead, and many specific monsters (such as skeletons and primordial slimes).  You can build dragons and magic swords using random tables, and then slot them into the milieu where you see fit.  This sort of creation is fast, fun, and opens up new ideas while you’re doing it. 

Early role-playing games developed their rosters of monsters through play.  These rosters were then packaged and sold, originally as examples of monsters to be used in a game.  Often, modules would include new monsters, new magic, and subtle variations to keep the players on their toes.  Players were encouraged to not read the Dungeon Master’s Guide, as it would ruin some of the fun of learning the game milieu and the rules thereof.

Dungeon Crawl Classics gets back to that, and does so by the simplest expedient possible – the Judge himself is the DMG…and to some extent the Monster Manual.  He produces or adapts the creatures and magic he intends to use.  Each game milieu is therefore a unique creation, which cannot be predicted by the players. 

This is very much what was intended by the founders of the hobby…and very much against certain new games that include magic items in the player’s materials so that they can be selected from like cabbages at the greengrocer’s.

I am going to be posting bits and pieces of the player’s materials for the Golden City of Shanthopal (my campaign hub for DCC RPG) here as they are ready.  Meanwhile, I am still waiting for my preorder copy of the core book to arrive.  I really want to read Doom of the Savage Kings, the module packed along with it!

What does this mean for RCFG?  I’m not 100% sure.  I may come back to this, if I find that DCC RPG doesn’t fully satisfy my personal rpg itch.  As of now, the materials remain available for others to build upon, as the game itself is nearly completely OGC.  If you end up using parts of it, I’d love to hear about it!


  1. Great post. I used to shy away from this kind of work because of how tedious it is in 3.X/Pathfinder. My recent experiences with The Burning Wheel and DCC RPG (both very different games, but both very elegant) have changed my opinion on this.

    I'm sick of players memorizing stat blocks in the MM.

    I'm sick of players drawing up shopping and crafting lists for magic items.

    I'm sick of the lack of flavor that these systems have.

    And I'm ready to dive head first into DCC RPG.

  2. Thanks for the kind words. I cannot remember a game lighting a fire in my heart this way, not since Holmes Basic did a long, long time ago.

  3. I'm looking forward to hearing more about DCC in actual play. The impression I got from the players at last year's SoCal MiniCon was positive.