Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG

Goodman Games has released a beta version of their tabletop RPG for free. Free. Download here.

I like a lot of elements of the game but don't think I would play it as written. If I was going to run a different game than 4E I would want it to be a simple as possible, and as streamlined as some of the rules are, some bits are a bit complicated.

Various thoughts as I skim over the pdf again, both good and bad:
  • Starting as 0-level and picking a class after 100XP sounds cool, but I could see many players turned off by this. I'd like to give it a shot.
  • I like the change up of ability scores. Wisdom and Charisma are combined into Personality. Luck modifies one random type of roll, plus some class abilities, and PCs can burn luck points to get bonuses to rolls. 
  • The complete randomness of character creation could be another sticking point for people. 3d6 for ability scores, straight down the line. Random professions are optional at least, but some are just better. Random spells I don't like (more on that later). 
  • I know the spirit of the game is to take a nobody and let them grow into a powerful adventurer during play. I think its a valid way to play, especially since every other RPG I've played recently lets you create a custom badass right away. But its something I'd have to talk gamers into.
  • The Cleric has some interesting points. Turn Unholy is cool because it affects any creature antithetical to your alignment, not just undead. I like that they have a different spellcasting schtick than wizards; -1 cumulative to spell checks when you cast the same spell multiple times in a day, but you can theoretically cast all day. Not much different than a standard D&D cleric, though. I don't think clerics really fit the Sword & Sorcery theme that well. Cultists of dark gods, sure. 
  • Not too crazy about the Thief. I've never really like playing rogues, so maybe I'm biased. They get extra benefits from spending Luck, which is cool. But other than that they're typical old school thieves--useless  in combat unless they can backstab, and they use percentage based skills. Grrrr. 
  • The Warrior is awesome. They use a variable die as an attack bonus and if they roll a 3 or better on that die they get a Mighty Deed of Arms. Basically, something cool happens in addition to damage. This covers cinematic stunts and stuff not normally covered by the rules. Really good stuff. They are so good, I wonder why anyone would want to play any other class. 
  • Contrary to what I posted a few days ago, Warriors do pick a favored weapon, which gets their Luck bonus. I don't like this 1)PCs shouldn't be picky about weapons in S&S, 2) if you have a high Luck bonus you'll never spend Luck points, 3) if you have a low Luck with a penalty your "favored weapon" will be something you never use so you don't get the penalty. I'd have to houserule this.
  • Wizards have great flavor but I feel like it was bungled a little in the execution. 
  • Rolling randomly for spells sucks. If you don't get Magic Missile you're really underpowered in combat. You have an equal chance of getting Cantrip, Comprehend Languages, or Mending. Lame. I'd rather see a variety of attack powers with different effects.
  • You can get spells to invoke a patron, then learn spells to call on that patron...too much to keep track of. I want to streamline this a little.
  • Demi-humans. I don't see why a game trying to differentiate itself from mainline D&D still has elves, dwarves and halflings. I wouldn't mind a "changeling" class similar to the elf that represented fey-touched characters, with some fighting a some magic. Dwarves are just warriors with a shield attack. Halflings seem have some interesting quirks like Good Luck Charm. Could be good for a sidekick to a warrior, like the dwarf in Three Hearts Three Lions, or Ukko from the Slaine comics.
  • The skill chapter is two pages. Good. Makes me wonder why Thieves do things differently, though.
  • Pretty standard weapons and armor. Good armor is incredibly expensive, which could limit high ACs to higher level characters, but only if you keep that in mind when handing out treasure. I don't want to hand out treasure based on what AC I want my PCs to have. 
  • Actually thinking about attack bonuses and AC makes me wonder about how likely it is to hit things and makes me worry. "Balance" is a bad word to many who play old-school, but if your first level character has an attack bonus of +0 and you fight monsters with AC in the 11-16 range your chances to hit vary between 50% and 25%. That's not much fun.
  • Combat is mostly dirt-simple, one move and one regular action, no opportunity attacks. The biggest change is crits and fumbles. The crit tables are cool but sometimes produce effects that don't match the situation, and they get complicated because there are different charts different classes and levels. Not too much trouble if you just need to reference them, I guess.
  • Fumbles are worse for characters with heavier armor. I don't think I like that a character in full plate is more likely to stab themselves than a PC in leather. Sure, heavy armor can make you clumsy, but warriors trained to be as adept as possible. Plus, its awfully harsh to make people roll every time they roll a natural 1. Maybe something like the Dark Sun optional rule that lets you re-roll a natural 1 but risk breaking your weapon, only it'll be a roll on the fumble chart.
  • Spell Duels sounds good but its four pages of rules. Again, guidelines.
  • More on magic. I like that spell checks are made with a d20 to determine the power of spells. I don't mind that every spell has a chart of effects, it eliminates the need for lots of spells that are just higher level versions of other spells. I don't like that most of the spells are just standard D&D spells.
  • Also, many of the spells require a saving throw in addition to the spell check. I'd prefer something more like 4e, with a static defense for spells for the spellcheck to beat.
  • Spellburn is cool. Wizards can take ability damage to get bonuses on spell checks. Very flavorful.
  • Mercurial magic sounds good. The idea is that no two wizards cast a spell the same way, so you have a random side effect for each spell you learn. Sounds novel, but you can get very good bonuses or very bad drawbacks on the chart. It would suck to have Primordial Channel on magic missile, because you become stupid and can't cast spells for 1d4 rounds. Suck. I'd like more flavor and less big game effects.
  • Corruption again sounds cool, but like fumbles you have to roll every time you roll a natural 1, and all the effects are really bad. And permanent. I'd be scared to cast a spell except when absolutely necessary, which means I wouldn't really be playing much. Maybe a toned-list, and use it as an optional thing to re-roll a natural 1. 
So, some good ideas. But I'd rather cherry-pick good ideas than use the system as written. Which means basically writing up my own game system. Not sure about that.

I really like the Warrior's Mighty Deed of Arms mechanic, the Luck ability, and the flavor of the magic system. I'm tempted to mash these together with the playtest rules of the Redwald setting. That would take some work, but the flavor of the Redwald setting is awesome. Warriors and skirmishers could use similar rules, and I'd have to create some spell write-ups and charts for the different spellcasters.

That means I wouldn't get to use my cool map from the last post though. Or maybe I still could, just use the classes from Redwald. Or I could just modify what I want in the DCC RPG and use it closer to as written. We'll see.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lands of Mystery

The last print issue of Dungeon magazine came with this map:

That is an awesome map. I want to run a campaign there someday. The map key points out several locations that link to other maps Christopher West did for Dungeon magazine (most of which I have). The place names seem so evocative. It strikes me as a good setting for a pulpy, sword and sorcery-type game.

And I just discovered that Goodman Games is putting out a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. It looks like a trimmed-down d20 game really trying to capture the feel of old S&S stories. Things I like that I've heard about it:

  • Magic is unpredictable, with spells having variable effects based on how you roll on a spell check, random side effects (flavor mostly), and options for gaining power by hurting yourself or calling on supernatural powers (and bad side effects potentially)
  • A leaner system would be great for a fast paced game, and plus I don't want to learn another complex set of rules
  • May seem small, but a saw a message board reference about trying to come up with cool abilities for warriors that aren't dependent on just weapon specialization. I hate limiting characters to one weapon because they've invested feats or whatever into it. Pick up that weapon you found in the Atlantean tomb and use it, dammit!
So that's another pipe dream for a campaign. I'll try to outline some ideas for the setting as I remember them.

P.S. This totally seems like a good system for random houserules like Shields Shall Be Splintered or Consolation-Prize Weapon Damage.

Gaming and Social Etiquette

So, I've played a couple of sessions of Pathfinder with some guys I met through a local game store. I played 3rd edition for years and I like the general improvements although its really just 3rd edition D&D. All the guys in the group are big Pathfinder fans, and I know that means they probably don't like 4th edition. So I don't make a big deal of it, but occasionally in talking about gaming it will come up that I run a 4E game.

I mention that last night, and this guy that I just met turns to me and says, "I fucking hate Fourth Edition." Not real aggressive or anything, but I'm still taken aback. I understand that people get into really heated arguments on the web about this sort of thing, but this seems like a breach of the basic social contract to just blurt that out to someone. And then the DM says, "yeah, why would you play fourth?"

Why do I have to defend my fucking game choices to people? Part of the reason this bugs me is because I don't get the arguments. Its just personal taste in gaming. RPGs are a very small hobby, and insulting someone over their choice in game, much less their choice in Edition of the same game, seems really small.

But the real issue is that its just fucking rude to talk to people like that when you're having a conversation. I remember once in college I was talking with some friends and mentioned another friend of mine, and they both started talking about how they hated her. I got up and left. I didn't really want to have to start defending my friend, because hey, not everyone likes everyone else. People don't always get along. But its rude to insult my friend right in front of me, regardless of how you feel. I was reminded of that situation. Its not the same as insulting a friend of mine, but its a hobby I'm invested in. I wasn't even espousing the greatness of 4E, or bashing Pathfinder--1 hour to do 2 rounds of combat, Jesus Christ! That's why I don't run that anymore. But I kept that to myself. I just said something about the game I run and somebody decided they had to tell me they hated it. Well, fuck you. Did I ask for your opinion or your approval?

I'm ok with debating geeky stuff. I spent 2 hours after the previous session talking about Star Wars vs Star Trek and Marvel vs DC with a couple of the guys. This wasn't the same thing. Several of the players in the group are also LARPers. I don't really have anything against LARPing, but I've made fun of it plenty in the past. But I didn't make fun of their game or say anything bad about it. I even asked them more about it, since I'm trying to make friends.

Anyway, I'm hoping venting on the interwebs will get this out of my system. Really I'm just trying to make new gamer friends, since most of the people I used to game with were my friends first. Can't we all just get along?