Sunday 7 August 2011

N is for Appendix

As in Appendix N.  And if you don’t know what I am referring to, it is a list of “Inspirational and Educational Reading” in the back of the 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide.  It is also the stated inspiration for Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics Role-Playing Game.

Now, it is a fact that there are works in Gary Gygax’s list that I’ve never read.  And it is a fact that, were I making a similar list, there are things that were not included in the DMG list that would be included in mine.  But, in the case where Mr. Gygax’s recommended reading overlaps with mine, I can clearly see the influence on Dungeons & Dragons…not only in content, but in tone as well.

Many times, when I am reading posts (like those in a recent thread on the Tomb of Horrors), where one or more posters seems to have no idea how to deal with the material presented, I imagine that this lack comes from not having read Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack Vance, or Fritz Leiber.  Because the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG so firmly brings these (and others!) to mind when reading its text, I have found it the most enjoyable reading of any RPG product I’ve come across in a long, long time.

I recently had a chance to play through the first of two playtest adventures released by Goodman Games for Free Role-Playing Game Day 2011, and I’d like to share some thoughts.

First off, it was really fun to create random characters.  In fact, it was far more fun than simply crafting a character to do exactly what you wanted.  Low rolls, I was reminded, are as much fun as high rolls.  The random backgrounds, because they affect starting equipment and what “skills” a character has, turn out to be fun, too.  It was cool to have a gravedigger and a couple of farmers enter a dangerous area in search of adventure.  It was exceedingly cool to see the players try to use the odd bits of equipment they had gained through the character generation process to try to circumvent reliance on combat.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I had only two playtesters, each with seven characters.  The playtesters were my son and my oldest daughter.  And they were cunning.  Rather than leaving with 1-2 character each, they managed to avoid damage repeatedly, and instead lost only 2-3 characters each.  And, sadly, there were neither critical hits nor fumbles to enliven the evening.  We had all looked at the charts, and were ready for real hilarity.  Instead, you would imagine that those two were veterans of low-level AD&D play (which they are not).  They never dared combat where wits would avail, and they never simply charged in blindly.  I could have upped the strength of creatures considerably and they would still have done all right.

I don’t think that DCC RPG will be able to replace my own home game, but I do intend on buying it, if only for “Inspirational and Educational Reading”, like the Appendix that inspired it.

(I have a lot more to say about Megadungeons, and I will eventually return to that topic.)

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