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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Scattered thoughts on DCC RPG

I've not sat down and rolled up any mooks with it, let alone played it, but here's my read-through impressions.

- Games are games and I don't have a knee-jerk hatred of the core mechanic. Much of my early gaming was with Tunnels and Trolls, and I was grateful to have a default method to resolve actions. When 3rd edition D&D came out I thought that the Fortitude/Reflex/Will saving roll categories were one of the better 'innovations' of the game as regards ease-of-play. So this is not a 'deal-breaker' for me.

- It does take out of 3e iterations some the things that I did not like (feats, skills, etc), and leaves in some that I did like.

- Funky dice? Why not?

- Luck. Like it. Of course, players will likely 'forget' that their score is low in tight circumstances. I'd also probably ignore the 'sacrifice luck for +6 to roll' thing. My past experience with Fate/Hero/etc points has left a bad taste in my mouth.

- I like that demi-humans learn their native language as an exception. Humanocentrism FTW!!!

- In principle, I like the whole "roll up a bunch of farmers & cross your fingers" thing. Early attrition is a virtue in my opinion - at least the importance of player knowledge of the fragility of their characters in the early game is a virtue. Would the same ends not be served however by rolling up a bunch of 1st level fellers and then throwing them up against some ogres, something tougher than centipedes & slimes?

- Always appreciated Stormbringer's early steps in character generation (i.e. you don't choose to be Melnibonian, you roll on a table and find out that you are a beggar of Nadsokor instead), and so that's one aspect of DCC character generation that I like. It also brings in the background "skill" concept cursorily touched upon in the DMG.

- Not a fan of clerics in general, but allowing their powers to be applied to creature types other than undead is potentially a step in the right direction.

- Cthulhu as neutral? In the three alignment scheme, agreed.

- Apparently I'd really be screwing the thief over if I did away with the luck burn.
I like the thief variations by alignment.

- Mighty deeds of arms. Again, coming from a T&T background, this stuff is second-nature. I'm glad to see it dealt with, and the simple categorization (blinding, disarm, etc) is functional.

- Wizards. There's a lot going on with the wizards. I like the random spell determination (big surprise there!) and the patron material. Would initially be inclined to allow wizard players to start with 3 random spells and chose the patron pair of spells in place of the fourth. The patron stuff is the kind of thing I've always wanted to cultivate with players of magic users. Some like the idea, some hate it. It is consistent with the rest of the game though to keep patronage a matter of luck/fate/chance (at least at the beginning of the game, if it is rolled up as a known spell).

- Not much to say about the dwarves.

- AHA! The elves have automatic patron. OK. I like the iron prohibition also.

- Not much to say about halflings either. Been avoiding them for years... they'd be super-screwed by fiddling luck-burn out, and I do like the lucky charm idea here. Multiple halflings in the party? Roll to see which one has the charm for that adventure.

- Still not a fan of explicitly tying skills to a single stat for purposes of modifying skill rolls. Leave it up to interpretation. Things that are obvious to one GM are not so obvious to others. Arguments can be made for various interpretations - Balance: agility or strength? Break down door: strength or constitution? As a GM, I would rather figure these things for myself, or be free to use different stats in different circumstances. A quibble. I do appreciate the fact that there is a section called WHEN NOT TO MAKE A SKILL CHECK and think it could be expanded, emphasized, and placed closer to the start of the whole section, before even the mechanical explanation of how to resolve them.

- Reminds me that I need to finish writing about Rolemaster's School of Hard Knocks... Each skill in that book has it's own resolution table a la the spells presented in DCC...

- Crits & fumbles. I like this kind of stuff. I like doing it by class/level vs per weapon (again Rolemaster) or general (BRP/Arduin/etc), but I think it might be better to modify the roll by level instead of breaking the tables out into different level-appropriate results. A design decision, obviously, and likely an option considered and decided against.

- Spell duels. Always wanted to see a good implementation of such things, and this is likable. The momentum tracking and phlogiston disturbance table is a bit too fiddly for me (ironic since I still spend so much time proselytizing the theory in pamplets and lectures at society meetings), but wizard players like fiddly things, don't they?

- This looks like a fun game to play a wizard in. The uncertainty of successful casting might be mitigated by wizard's increased selection of weapons.

- I disagree with the 'reversed spell is a separate spell' thing, always have. Personal preference. But particularly given the uncertainty of casting built into the system I would be even more inclined to allow a caster to throw a reversed form of a known spell.

- Perhaps it is hypocritical to dislike luck-burn and like spell-burn. Call me a hypocrite.(once per comment though, please.)

- Mercurial magic & corruption: like them both, but corruption coupled with spell-failure effects might be too much. This is the kind of thing I'd have to see in play to decide on I think.

Overall, it looks great. I love the art (personally I don' think there's too much of it) and there's a lot of neat ideas here. Having played a lot of Rolemaster, tables and charts for specific details do not phase me too much, and as you play a game with a lot of such things, you get used to it, or adapt (i.e. use a copy machine). The spell tables are the kind of thing that would be good as reference pages, cards, etc.

Looks like it would be a fun game to play and not difficult to run.

May Readings

May was not a bad month for personal reading. I needed it as I am drowning in medical coding technical manuals and anatomy and such.

I re-read Fred Saberhagen's Broken Lands trilogy. This is a series that I never really hear anyone talk about, even though it's got "Appendix N" cred. I first read these books (in the omnibus Empire of the East form) when I was... 13? 14? Somewhere right around there. Anyway, it was my first rewarding departure from Tolkien - in fact I think I bought the book because it had a blurb about being better than LotR (a tall claim, sure, and pretty much apples & oranges too - very different writers). I read and re-read LotR as a kid more times than I want to admit, so apparently I was ready for something "better".

I'm not going to say that what I got was better than LotR, but it was different, and it was good. It's science-fantasy, weighed a little heavier on the fantasy side, Saberhagen's style far less lyrical. The story had a good impact on me at the time, and helped me to get some perspective, that there was more to the world that Tolkien.The re-read was good - the books stand up in my opinion.

So in addition to The Broken Lands, The Black Mountains, and Changeling Earth, I managed to sneak in 2 more Vance books.

1. Many Worlds of Magnus Ridolph - Jack Vance. This is SO Jack Vance, Ridolph might be the archetypical Vance 'hero', a smug detective for hire, all brain, no brawn. Kinda a cosmopolitan Matlock or something...

2. Blue Planet - Jack Vance. Liked it. The culture of the planet seems to have been started by prisoners (from the Gaian Reach I assume), the current castes and professions all derive their names from the titles of criminals and crimes of the far past (they do not seem to be aware of this fact). For example, the Hoodwinkers. Hoodwinke are in charge of communications between settlements - this accomplished by blinking light semaphore at the top of towers.

The thing I am finding in trying to write about Vance is that I have a hard time pinning down the what's & why's - I am content with appreciation.