Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG

After looking at several retroclones (and actual editions of (A)D&D), I thought I had finished my search and could decide on a rule-set to stay with and really learn. I had heard some murmurings of Goodman Games’ new system with the debut of its beta rules: weird dice! 0-level character funnel! gonzo! That last word, actually, is exactly how to describe DCC, even after taking the time to read it.

At the time I had dismissed DCC, both due to the notion of Zocchi die (didn’t D&D use enough as it was?) as well as already having a plate full of so many other rule systems to read and consider. I owned a few items published by Goodman Games, including GM Gems, PC Pearls and The Dungeon Alphabet.  Especially the latter, its writing, artwork and layout are phenomenal.  Like many other publishers their layout and look was improving, and their writing has always been great.  Did they need to be making their own ruleset though?  What could they offer that all the other ones didn’t?

Flipping through DCCRPG, the most obvious thing that stands out is the artwork.  It’s seriously amazing.  As good as the images in The Dungeon Alphabet are, DCCRPG puts even that to shame.  The roster of artists who’ve contributed, from old-school Dee to golden age Easley to my current retroclone hero Mullens, this book serves up wonders for your eyeballs.  Even the classic images from D&D’s peak can’t compare.  There’s no doubt Goodman Games wanted this book to impress people from its first impression, and that it does.

The overall layout and readability are also excellent.  Most pages are in 2-column format, which to me is superior (I HATE 3-column!).  There’s a lot of charts and artwork to break up the text, but they never get in the way.  There is a bit of excess white-space throughout the book, but again with such excellent artwork and writing it’s barely noticed.  Each chapter begins as white text on a black background; a welcome change that helps mark the beginning of a section.  The font for chapter titles and section headers is also unique and a nice change from the over-wrought “ye olde font” used in Labyrinth Lord.

This book is huge; almost 500 pages!  A big chunk of it is for spell descriptions; not because there’s so many spells, but because each spell has to have a “fail table”.  It’s an interesting twist for magic (along with corruption), but I can see it getting long in the tooth in an extended session and/or campaign.

There’s a decent selection of monsters, but not as many as I’d like (but that applies to pretty much all games up until AD&D with its dedicated monster manuals.  Like most pre-3E games the monster stat blocks aren’t too complicated, but in DCC RPG’s case the way it’s presented is.  Instead of a nice block, it’s crammed onto 2-3 lines.  I just can’t process all that info with so many semicolons; it looks like compressed C or Javascript code, not some nice elegant Python.  In a book already nearing 500 pages, I can’t believe that saving space was the reason for this.  Does Joseph Goodman just hate stat blocks?

There’s alot to DCC that I like: race-as-class, ascending armor class, D20 for initiative, etc. But there’s alot that I wouldn’t personally use for more than one session (0-lvl character funnel, spell failures/corruptions, etc.). DCC is a big book of wonderful and inspiration, but standing on its own I don’t think it’s my kind of game.