Everywhere I look these days, people are talking about my favorite role-playing game – Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. While it’s great to see more and more people talking about the game of love, I’d rather see more and more people playing the game I love. Hopefully, I can help jumpstart a few new players’ journey into Goodman Games’ masterpiece.
If you haven’t heard of it before, DCC RPG is fantasy role-playing game with an intense old-school aesthetic. It’s not a retro clone, but it does riff heavily on earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons and other darlings of the OSR. There’s a healthy disregard for game balance. Players will need to use their wits as well as their weapons to survive.
There is a high degree of randomness in the game. Critical hits, fumbles and spell effects are determined randomly – even spell manifestations. When you cast magic missile, you roll a die to see what you magic missiles look like. It can be anything from a meteor to a screaming eagle claw to a force axe. Every spell has a table of effects as well. Rolling low holds the possibility of misfire and losing the spell for the day. The higher you roll, the more epic the spell effect. For example. a spell check of 34-35 for the fireball spell has the following effect:
The caster calls down a fireball from the heavens, targeting a point up to 500’ away and doing 14d6 damage. The caster can choose an area of effect ranging from a single human-sized target up to a sphere of 30’ radius. Instead of projecting from his fingertip, the fireball falls from above like a meteor strike, exploding in a fiery burst. The caster must have line-of-sight to his target, but he can cast around obstructions in this manner. For example, he may be able to view the target through a periscope or via a crystal ball of some kind.
So why aren’t you playing this game right now?
Some people are put off by having to acquire new and hard to find dice. While not absolutely required – you can simulate the rolls with standard polyhedral – Zocchi dice are highly recommended. A set of Zocchi dice consists of a d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24, and d30. I love new dice. I’ve had a blast tracking down mine. At 0-level play, you don’t even need them.
I’ve found that many people are intimidated by the size of the DCC RPG core rules book. There is no denying it. The book is enormous weighing in at over 460 pages in length. However, there is nothing to fear. Hundreds of pages are dedicated to spell tables, patrons, monsters and other things that you do not need to read to play the game. The amazing artwork and layout takes up half the remaining space. The art is just gorgeous. I keep the rule book by my bedside and flip through the art at least once a week. I’m always finding new details in the art I didn’t notice before.
Running Your First Game
In the core rulebook, Joseph Goodman strongly recommends starting with a “character creation funnel.” Each player rolls up of two or more 0-level characters. All stats are rolled randomly and in order. Every character gets an occupation and one piece of random equipment. For example [gets out dice], I just rolled a halfing vagrant with a club, begging bowl, a crowbar and 3 hit points. After everyone generates a handful of characters each, you throw your band of ill-equipped commoners into the cauldron of battle. The lucky ones who survive go on to level 1.
When I first read the rules, I thought the 0-level funnel was not for me, but I was so wrong. The funnel is essential for any gaming group new to DCC RPG. 0-level play uses a smaller set of rules so it helps teach the game to new players. It also helps undo some of the expectations that modern RPGs have instilled in players. Your characters are not nearly invincible sacks of hit points with super powers. If you meet every enemy head on, you will end up dead or with severe ability point damage.
You can run a 0-level game with little to no preparation. You only need to read a few sections of the core rules: Chapter 1: pages 16-27; Chapter 2: pages 66-67; Chapter 3: pages 70-73; and Chapter 4: pages 76-96. The core rule book is extremely affordable. The first printing retails for $39.99. I’ve seen it as low was $20-30 on Amazon and eBay. The PDF is available at RPGNow for $24.99.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the rules, you’ll need an adventure to run. The core rule book comes with a functional funnel adventure, “The Portal Under The Stars” by Joseph Goodman. It’s deadly and simple to run. You can easily read through it in 15 minutes or run it on the fly. If you want something with more depth, I high recommend Harley Stroh’s “Sailor’s On the Starless Sea.” I’ve been a fan of Harley’s adventures since I first discovered the Dungeon Crawl Classics line of adventures, and this adventure is no exception. The adventurers battle hordes of beastmen in an underground stronghold. This would be a tough adventure even for level 1 characters so expect the body count to be high. Fortunately, there is a story-driven way to introduce new characters if the party takes heavy losses.
There are a ton of fan-created tools out there. The resources at People Them With Monsters are indispensable. Print out the Reference sheet booklet front and back, fold in half and staple. Don’t forget the cover. If you want to save time creating 0-level characters, I also recommend using the 0-level character generator at Purple Sorceror Games. It prints 4 characters per page. I usually print 10-20 sheets at a time and cut them up. Let your players pick through the stack for characters at the game table.
Welcome to the club! Check out the DCC RPG forums at the Goodman Game’s website. Make sure to introduce yourself on the “Join the band” thread. The DCCRPG community on Google+ is a hotbed of discussion as well.