Tuesday, October 16, 2012

More Gushing About DCC

My reading continues. I finished the Combat chapter last night. Here are some more of my thoughts.

  • The equipment chapter is sparse, but I'm OK with it. It contains lists for weapons, ammo for missile weapons, armor, and mounts and related gear. Aside from that, there is a single table with precisely 24 items of a more general nature. They are all items that are useful, if not essential, to the successful dungeon crawler. There's a geek in me that likes extensive equipment lists, I have to be honest. But I can also appreciate the brevity of a list like this. After all, equipment lists are everywhere in this hobby, and with DCC's stated target audience, it is a certainty that anyone with this game has access to more than two or three extensive equipment lists. I know I do.
  • The writing style is direct without being terse. For example, in many games there is a multi-page section in the combat chapter dealing with odds and ends. Things like fire, falling, charging, shooting into a melee. These things are described in detail, either for those new to the hobby, or those with lawyerly aspirations. Not here.  All of these peripheral combat relations are given a grand total of a full column plus about half another. In that span you will find rules for: Ability Loss, Catching Fire, Charge, Dropping a Torch, Falling, Firing Into Melee, Grappling, Recovering Armor, Recovering Missile Weapons, Subdual Damage, and Unarmed Combat. All that in a column-and-a-half.
  • A lot has been said about the art and layout, so I won't rehash stuff you've probably already read. Both are superb. The thing I do want to say about it (two things, actually) is this: The fonts are outstanding. I'm a total font geek and the ones in this book are near perfect. Easy to read and definitely evocative of an old school experience. The layout is genius. Most of the time it is 2-column, but every now and then it slips out to single column to better wrap a particular art piece. Sometimes the text is part of the art,  as in the descriptions of the fighting orders under the Warrior class. So far, I haven't seen that effect used on anything "crunchy", it has been limited to parts that are implying the background.
  • Back to the writing style, for all it's brevity, it is not dull or lifeless. This is not a technical manual on fantasy gaming. It is a big ass set of guidelines for having a good time playing a gonzo fantasy game. The prose is loaded with dry, sarcastic humor (which is right up my alley). Several times I have laughed out loud while reading.

For my last item, I give you the paragraph on falling damage. I woke my wife up laughing last night as I read this.
Falling causes 1d6 for every 10' fallen. For every damage die that comes up a 6, the victim breaks a bone. For each broken bone, the victim permanently loses 1 point of Strength or Agility (player's choice). The affected limb, rib, or vertebrae never heals quite right and affects the character in some fashion from then on.
OK, we all know that one of the oft-lamented facts of D&D is that a character with enough hit points can jump from a known height without fear of the damage. If I have 83 HP, I can just step off that 50' cliff without a blink because the worst it will be is 30 points of damage. There have been all sorts of work-arounds and house rules for this problem. This particular solution is, to me, pure genius. There is no other rolls, no math, nothing else to consider. Roll the d6's and get on with it. Yet, it introduces a truly sobering random element. Go ahead Mr. 83HP, step off and let's see what happens. I just rolled 5d6 and came up with 19 points of damage, but guess what. One was a 6, so OUCH! That 50' jump was a little more serious than it first looked. In fact, I did that little experiment five times and had broken bones on all but the last time. One time had two breaks. That is a fairly elegant solution, I think.

There you have it. There is a lot more I am loving about this game, but that's all I am posting this time. I think the Mighty Deeds of Arms probably needs a post all to itself. Plus, I'll be digging into the magic chapter today. I am a little intimidated by it, but it is an exciting sort of intimidation, like a rock climber staring up at a formidable cliff face.

Speaking of which, there is one more thing I wanted to say. When I started playing D&D, when I wanted to try to introduce a friend to it, I always said something along the lines of "you can do whatever you want to". Somewhere along the way that sense of derring-do became lost in a mountain of rules designed to adjudicate "whatever you want to". Not just D&D, but pretty much every game out there. Games went from players saying "I want to try to . . ." to them saying "Can I . . .?" That's just no good. Nobody told Indiana Jones that a whip only does d3 damage and he shouldn't waste a proficiency slot on it. Nobody told him he couldn't snap his whip out and wrap it around a bunch of electrical wires and swing around to the room next door, in the pouring rain. He just did it. That's adventure. Trying the shit nobody else thinks of, or would dare even if they did think of it. Too many rules kills that spirit of adventure, that sense of "you can do whatever you want to". Simple rules, elegantly applied, will carry the day every time.


  1. Somewhere along the way that sense of derring-do became lost in a mountain of rules designed to adjudicate "whatever you want to".

    Yes. In my college d20 group, nobody ever did anything interesting with feats...all the warriors had Power Attack/Cleave/Great Cleave. No disarming, no derring-do, just calling out numbers every round. (Power Attack 4. Power attack 6.)

    Those sorts of mechanics end up punishing the interesting and rewarding only the mathematically efficient.

  2. I think that is also one of the reasons so many of us have gone back to older/simpler rules.

    My issue though with DCC is it is thicker than Pathfinder! And not cheap either. I will probably buy it some day.