Following on the heels the release of the beta, we solicited a few of the other lead developers for advice on how to run a DCC RPG game in the spirit of Appendix N. Michael Curtis
is the award-winning author of Dungeon Alphabet and author of an upcoming DCC adventure. Doug Kovacs'
artwork has graced the pages of dozens of RPGs, and his paintings and maps established the tone of the DCC RPG. Together, Michael and Doug participated in dozens of playtests, hammering out the rules in preparation for the beta release.
Doug Kovacs offered up four recommendations:
1. In order to write you should read. Keep reading classic fantasy and sci-fi. Reread what you have read, or read what you've missed. I personally never get tired of going back to Lovecraft or Tolkien and there is still plenty of stuff I haven't studied yet in appendix N. Any kind of mythology is good source material as well.
2. Look at still art for ideas. Moving pictures seduce us all but illustration allows us to think our own thoughts in a way they quick cuts and forced emotion never will. Look at all the old RPG art that got you into gaming in the first place and then think a little more about it. Cool inspiration can also come from even older sources: check out Bruegul, Bosch, and Durer. Come to think of it, if you look at those last three guys, its also ok if you watch Ingmar Bergman's Seventh Seal.
3. You absolutely must listen to Rush, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath and Hawkwind. You can listen to Priest and Maiden too if you want.
4. When running a game the main thing to avoid is coming anywhere near boring your players. If the game slows, make something happen even if it's not part of the script. There's no way a DM can predict everything that will happen in a game and like any good story you want some surprises. A DM should always have an answer to the PC's questions, but when they can be arbitrary try to make them engaging and not seem banal. Tell the players the door is made of dark wood with rusty hinges as if it really mattered. Maybe it will. Remember the sense of smell, and tactile sensations. Experienced players can add a lot to your game so let them add as much as they can and they will enjoy the game that much more. I've often asked my players for a name of a tavern or a NPC in a pinch. You'll find players remember names much more easily when they have given them to you.
For more inspiration and art visit dougkovacs.com
Michael Curtis shared the following thoughts:
What sums up the stories that DCC seeks to emulate most to me is ‘ambiguity,’ especially that of a moral sense. Looking back over the tales from the pulp era and into the late 1960s and early 1970s, one sees that there is seldom a sense of black and white morality, or good and evil at work in these stories. Everything is painted in varying shades of gray. From wide streaks of larceny in such heroes as Fahfrd, the Gray Mouser, Cugel, and Conan, to the outright anti-hero status of Elric, nobody wears a white hat and it’s only when the welfare of others coincides with the good of our antagonist that we ever seem to see “selfless” gestures occurring.
Even the characters that the heroes in these tales interact with have their own hidden agendas and motivations, ones that the heroes only learn about when they find themselves betrayed by these same individuals. Treachery is rife in these tales and it should also be common (but not so common as to make the players always expect it) in your own adventures.
A judge setting out to start a DCC campaign should have read at least six to a dozen titles from Appendix N, enough to identify the common elements that connect these tales as being of the same genre. In addition, the would-be judge could do a lot worse than attain a little familiarity with film noir and hardboiled detective stories. The ambiguity of morality that occurs in these stories is very similar to that in pulp fantasy. It doesn’t take much to imagine the events of a Raymond Chandler tale occurring to Leiber’s Twain or picture Phillip Marlowe on the case in Lankhmar. There is a lot to be mined there, much of which is not only useful, but you can be sure it will be unexpected by those players who restrict themselves solely to fantasy fiction.