Monday, June 2, 2014

Dungeon Crawl Classics: First Impressions

That monster has a face that even a mother
couldn't love.
One game that I've been wanting to play for a very long time is Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics. For those of you who might not be familiar with this gem of a game, I'll do my best to elaborate. Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC for short) is a "neo-clone" that's heavily influenced by the sword & sorcery works of the past.

Last weekend, while visiting our local FLGS, a friend and I were given the opportunity try out DCC by playing "Sailors on the Starless Sea". Seeing as both of us have been dying play this game, we eagerly jumped at the chance and quickly generated our starting characters.

Since this something I've been looking forward for a very long time, I thought I'd give my initial impressions of the system and answer the obvious question: Did the game live up to my expectations, or did it unfortunately fall short?

The session began with the five or so players creating our characters. Unlike most games where you create one 1st level character, Dungeon Crawl Classics has you create four 0 level characters as part of a "funnel". These characters are generally pretty weak and most of them will be killed (gruesomely too). However, if one or two of them managed to survive the peril, they will gain enough experience (10 XP) to take their 1st class level. I ended up with Bunda the Elven Forester, Emumen the Farmer, Guhic the Grave Digger, and Tulgoth the Elven Navigator. Blame the random charts at the back of the book for those names.

At its most basic level, DCC utilizes a heavily modified version of the d20 system. Like Pathfinder, players roll a d20 and add a modifier or two when attempting certain tasks. If the final result is equal to or greater than a target number assigned to the task by the GM, the character succeeds. Those who are familiar with the simple mechanic should understand how to play DCC.

However, Dungeon Crawl Classics isn't just a simplified d20 system with a new coat of paint. The designers have added a few new rules that help create a unique experience while playing. For example, the game utilizes randomized critical hit/critical fumble charts and a magic system that requires a die roll instead of using the traditional Vancian system. While I'm somewhat neutral on the critical charts, I adore the magic system and love how dangerous and flavorful it is.

The adventure wasn't half that bad either. Although it started on a cliche note (a group of characters approaching a ruined keep to fight the forces of evil), it quickly departed that when we encountered parasitic plant monsters, wells that acted as gates to different dimensions, a subterranean sea that happened to be the home of a tentacled monster, and savage cult of beastmen performing profane rituals to their vile god. Over two thirds of our party met their untimely demise throughout the adventure and the few that managed to survive barely made it out alive. The entire group had a blast.

Although I don't seem myself abandoning Pathfinder for DCC in the near future, I'd play it again in a heartbeat and wouldn't mind running a mini-campaign or two of it in the near future. I love the Sword & Sorcery feel that it fosters and I already have an idea for a post-apocalyptic fantasy game that DCC might be the perfect fit for. I applaud Goodman Games for making such an enjoyable game. 

Our group creating characters. I'm the one with the awesome pokeball dice bag.
If you're interested in giving Dungeon Crawl Classics a look, you can find information for it HERE.