Four fixes for DCC

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Johann
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Four fixes for DCC

Post by Johann » Wed Jun 19, 2013 6:00 am

Running, tinkering with and reading about DCC, I’ve encountered four problems. I’m offering my solutions to the first three – and asking for help with the fourth.

1. The balance is spotty in some places

Disclaimer: I do NOT care about balanced encounters or classes that can always contribute equally to any given situation. I do however care about niche protection – and I want it at the mechanical level.
Phenomenon: The elf class is like the wizard, only better. Elves get more hp, more spells (!) and a bunch of special abilities.
My problem: I don’t want a class overshadowing another. I don't want to compensate for this at the adventure level (i.e. designing adventures to cater to or reign in certain characters).
My solution: Elves may not use spellburn, except to the minimum extent required by some spells (e.g. chill touch).

There are some other balance problems, but this is the most egregious.

2. Spellburn is overpowered

Disclaimer: I love DCC’s magic system, including spellburn and 32+ results on the spell tables. It’s the reason I play DCC rather than Labyrinth Lord.
Phenomenon: Wizards can resolve just about any single situation by using spellburn to its maximum effect. They can unroof dungeons or take out all monsters at once. Tales of this phenomenon are legion on the boards.
My problem: There’s no cost or risk to offset the awesome effects available via spellburn. Maximum results are so easy to achieve that they are not special.
My solution: I am limiting spellburn to +10. I am disallowing the use of Luck to ward off corruption. I add +1d10 to critical spell checks (rather than +5).

3. The game is not deadly enough

Disclaimer: The funnel is very deadly. Cf. my write-up here.
Phenomenon: Luck is used to bolster saves and rolls to “recover the body”. Hardly anyone ever dies.
My problem: I prefer a game with real consequences, specifically character deaths. I am Out for Blood.
My solution: I am limiting the use of Luck to active rolls (e.g. attacks and spell checks). It does not affect saves (!) or rolls to “recover the body”.

4. Ability drain is a nightmare to handle

Disclaimer: D&D 3.5e's fix - using only 'even' bonuses and penalties - doesn't work here and even if it did, there'd still be calculations.
Phenomenon: Abilities constantly fluctuate - Luck goes up and down, poisons do ability damage, wizards use spellburn etc. – which means having to recalculate ability bonuses and derived characteristics (AC etc.) all the time.
My problem: I don’t want to have to do this during the game, particularly as I cannot offload it on the newbies among my players.
My solution: None. I’m at a loss. As a stopgap measure, I refuse to recalculate derived characteristics (AC, hp etc.) but that still leaves attack rolls etc.

I love DCC – just take a look at my love letter or my review. I'm also following Joe's advice of house-ruling DCC and making it my own.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Ravenheart87 » Wed Jun 19, 2013 6:53 am

1, Elves are also burned by iron, equipping them is very hard and they don't know more spells at all. Elves know 3 spells plus invoke patron and patron bond. Wizards knows 4 spells and if one of them is invoke patron or patron bond, they get the other too. Thus in the beginning elves know exactly as much spells as wizards with patrons. In my eyes it's an advantage on the wizard's side that they have the option to not have patrons. High level wizards also know a bit more spells than elves. Wizard luck roll bonus is far more useful and universal than what the elves get. Elves seem to get lots of small features, but some of them are quite worthless.

2, No cost or risk in spellburn? Heck, if you aim for maximum effects or you spellburn often you become a cripple for days before your ability scores return - if you survive the return to a safe place where you can rest. With a natural 1 you can even loose ability scores permanently. Spellburn actions can also have nasty results, especially with a more vicious patron. Yes, you can do awesome things with spellburn, but after that your wizard won't be too useful for the rest of the adventure.

3, The game is deadly enough. Higher level characters deserve to be sturdier, the players worked hard for their experience and they would loose more in DCC with the death of a 2nd level character, than in D&D. And even if they survive they'll surely obtain a lot of permanent damage, physical and psychical. You can't use luck to save your ass always, because unless you're a thief or halfling it won't regenerate and low luck is a magnet for disaster - it's a downward spiral. Luck is there to save your ass, but it's not almighty. Especially if you get a critical that chops your head off or a dragon devours you.

4, You don't have to calculate too much, because there are smaller bonuses and the real difference only kicks in on really high or low values, since they aren't linear. What worked for us, is write the temporary value next to the real one with pencil and erase once it's gone.

Still, if you think the things your brought up are really issues and your changes would bring something to the table, then feel free to house rule it. :)
Vorpal Mace: a humble rpg blog with some DCC-related stuff.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by IronWolf » Wed Jun 19, 2013 7:15 am

Johann wrote:Running, tinkering with and reading about DCC, I’ve encountered four problems. I’m offering my solutions to the first three – and asking for help with the fourth.
The game is great for some tinkering!
Johann wrote: 1. The balance is spotty in some places

Disclaimer: I do NOT care about balanced encounters or classes that can always contribute equally to any given situation. I do however care about niche protection – and I want it at the mechanical level.
Phenomenon: The elf class is like the wizard, only better. Elves get more hp, more spells (!) and a bunch of special abilities.
My problem: I don’t want a class overshadowing another. I don't want to compensate for this at the adventure level (i.e. designing adventures to cater to or reign in certain characters).
My solution: Elves may not use spellburn, except to the minimum extent required by some spells (e.g. chill touch).
I don't see the elf overshadowing the wizard. Similar, yes. Overshadowing I don't think so. I think I echo many of Ravenheart's thoughts on this one and can't say much more!
Johann wrote: 2. Spellburn is overpowered

Disclaimer: I love DCC’s magic system, including spellburn and 32+ results on the spell tables. It’s the reason I play DCC rather than Labyrinth Lord.
Phenomenon: Wizards can resolve just about any single situation by using spellburn to its maximum effect. They can unroof dungeons or take out all monsters at once. Tales of this phenomenon are legion on the boards.
My problem: There’s no cost or risk to offset the awesome effects available via spellburn. Maximum results are so easy to achieve that they are not special.
My solution: I am limiting spellburn to +10. I am disallowing the use of Luck to ward off corruption. I add +1d10 to critical spell checks (rather than +5).
Spellburn is powerful, but not overpowerful in my opinion. Wizards in my campaign have certainly had moments of glory. I've played in games with huge moments of glory by a spellburned invoke patron check, but they are here and there, not every single combat.

A wizard in my campaign spellburned the heck out of something at the tail end of what they thought was the end of an adventure. They thought they would knock this out, head back to the city and rest up. Unfortunately for them, the same patron had other plans and diverted their trip back and the group found themselves in an isolated area in the mountains with no chance for rest. The wizard in question had to deal with horrible ability scores during that adventure as he had spellburned so much.

That wizard still spellburns, but is much more cautious about it now. No limits through the rules needed to be put in place. The game as it unfolded presented enough risks.
Johann wrote: 3. The game is not deadly enough

Disclaimer: The funnel is very deadly. Cf. my write-up here.
Phenomenon: Luck is used to bolster saves and rolls to “recover the body”. Hardly anyone ever dies.
My problem: I prefer a game with real consequences, specifically character deaths. I am Out for Blood.
My solution: I am limiting the use of Luck to active rolls (e.g. attacks and spell checks). It does not affect saves (!) or rolls to “recover the body”.
My players would beg to differ!

Burning luck to 'recover the body' does not make sense to me. For that check you are trying to roll under your luck score. So if you are a normal luck using character and I have a 12 and I burn luck to add to my roll I am actually hurting myself. I need to roll under, the last thing I want is to reduce what I need to roll under. (note, I do read the luck rules as a bonus, a positive bonus, not a negative modifier to a roll). So I really haven't run into a problem with anyone wanting to use luck checks here. In fact, if anything they become more conservative with luck in case of the inevitable recover the body check.

Another area that really impacts the characters over time is the Damage and Death rules themselves. Bleeding Out causes a permanent loss of 1 point of stamina. This hurts over time. I know I have at least a character or two in my campaign who is going into negative modifiers to Stamina just from bleeding out.

Recovering the body has a permanent ability score effect as well to one of the physical scores.

I have found the damage and death rules pretty cool as it allows a character to survive a time or two, but soon the character is beat down through ability score loss as the campaign goes on if it happens too many times.
Johann wrote: 4. Ability drain is a nightmare to handle

Disclaimer: D&D 3.5e's fix - using only 'even' bonuses and penalties - doesn't work here and even if it did, there'd still be calculations.
Phenomenon: Abilities constantly fluctuate - Luck goes up and down, poisons do ability damage, wizards use spellburn etc. – which means having to recalculate ability bonuses and derived characteristics (AC etc.) all the time.
My problem: I don’t want to have to do this during the game, particularly as I cannot offload it on the newbies among my players.
My solution: None. I’m at a loss. As a stopgap measure, I refuse to recalculate derived characteristics (AC, hp etc.) but that still leaves attack rolls etc.
I have not had much trouble here. Like ravenheart noted, we pencil it in, adjust the modifier to the ability score if applicable and the associated attributes with that score. I can understand it might be annoying to some though, but it doesn't slow the game down much for us at all.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Raven_Crowking » Wed Jun 19, 2013 8:28 am

Johann wrote:Running, tinkering with and reading about DCC, I’ve encountered four problems. I’m offering my solutions to the first three – and asking for help with the fourth.

1. The balance is spotty in some places

Disclaimer: I do NOT care about balanced encounters or classes that can always contribute equally to any given situation. I do however care about niche protection – and I want it at the mechanical level.
Phenomenon: The elf class is like the wizard, only better. Elves get more hp, more spells (!) and a bunch of special abilities.
My problem: I don’t want a class overshadowing another. I don't want to compensate for this at the adventure level (i.e. designing adventures to cater to or reign in certain characters).
My solution: Elves may not use spellburn, except to the minimum extent required by some spells (e.g. chill touch).

There are some other balance problems, but this is the most egregious.
I have not found this to be the case in play. The iron vulnerability does not just mean that elves cannot use your average sword or armour, it also means that they cannot use that iron band of fire. It means that, when you board the alien starcraft, you had better hope the decks are not made of steel, and the cool blasters you recovered are likewise made of some metal not containing iron. And the robots....feel free to allow iron and steel monsters to do extra damage.

Elves are cool, but they are not that cool.

FWIW, in the original source material, elves do not have souls. Even in JRRT, a dead elf or dead dwarf does not go on to the paradise assigned to mortal men. You can rule this to be true in your game as well, in which case you should really read Poul Anderson's The Mermaid's Children and Three Hearts and Three Lions for ideas on how to use it in game. My own The Revelation of Mulmo and AL5: Stars in the Darkness, both available on RPG Now, may give you some other ideas on how to make elves different from wizards.
2. Spellburn is overpowered

Disclaimer: I love DCC’s magic system, including spellburn and 32+ results on the spell tables. It’s the reason I play DCC rather than Labyrinth Lord.
Phenomenon: Wizards can resolve just about any single situation by using spellburn to its maximum effect. They can unroof dungeons or take out all monsters at once. Tales of this phenomenon are legion on the boards.
My problem: There’s no cost or risk to offset the awesome effects available via spellburn. Maximum results are so easy to achieve that they are not special.
My solution: I am limiting spellburn to +10. I am disallowing the use of Luck to ward off corruption. I add +1d10 to critical spell checks (rather than +5).
A couple of things here. First off, are you using the d24 table of Spellburn actions? If not, you should. When a character wants to utilize spellburn, that is what the supernatural forces available to him at this time demand. And, should he then blanche and decide not to go through with it, you can and should penalize his Luck and/or spell check. Also, players should NEVER be certain that "the adventure is over" after a particular fight. They should NEVER be certain that months of rest will occur between adventures. Sometimes, using up all of your resources should result in having to face a major threat without them.
3. The game is not deadly enough

Disclaimer: The funnel is very deadly. Cf. my write-up here.
Phenomenon: Luck is used to bolster saves and rolls to “recover the body”. Hardly anyone ever dies.
My problem: I prefer a game with real consequences, specifically character deaths. I am Out for Blood.
My solution: I am limiting the use of Luck to active rolls (e.g. attacks and spell checks). It does not affect saves (!) or rolls to “recover the body”.
I was running The 13th Skull last night, and the PCs (who beat the odds on the adventure's main task by invoking divine aid at great cost); they were escaping the adventure area when jumped by 5 monsters of some type. I am trying to avoid spoilers here, but those who know the adventure will have some idea of what I mean. The thief was dropped (actually, he had already passed out due to drunkenness, having played through The Revelation of Mulmo - and if you know that adventure, you will have an inkling of why). While three monsters engaged the other PCs, two dragged the hapless thief into the darkness.

While it is true that the thief survived, no one at the table believed that they were anything other than a round or two from losing him in the darkness, and that he would indeed die. Which would have been part of a run of bad luck for the thief's player, who had recently lost another character at the conclusion of People of the Pit.

Death does happen in my games. And worse - the thief's wife carries her brain around with her in a "jar". (Those with In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer know why!)

Okay. Done with blatantly plugging products now.
4. Ability drain is a nightmare to handle

Disclaimer: D&D 3.5e's fix - using only 'even' bonuses and penalties - doesn't work here and even if it did, there'd still be calculations.
Phenomenon: Abilities constantly fluctuate - Luck goes up and down, poisons do ability damage, wizards use spellburn etc. – which means having to recalculate ability bonuses and derived characteristics (AC etc.) all the time.
My problem: I don’t want to have to do this during the game, particularly as I cannot offload it on the newbies among my players.
My solution: None. I’m at a loss. As a stopgap measure, I refuse to recalculate derived characteristics (AC, hp etc.) but that still leaves attack rolls etc.
I make the players responsible, but really just because they take responsibility anyway. After rolling up a few funnel parties, most of them have the cut-off points where modifiers change memorized anyway. I have used a lot of "ability drain" monsters and effects, and it hasn't been a problem at my table.

When I was going to write my own game system, I dealt with it this way: Give an automatic -1 penalty to related rolls every X points (I would suggest 3 in DCC), don't recalculate anything except in the case of permanent damage, and wait to do the recalculation at a point where it is convenient. The results won't be exact, but who cares? You will get a fast-and-loose system that works in play, and is close enough.

Daniel
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Cathbad the Meek (herbalist Wizard 1): AC 9; 4 hp; S 7, A 7, St 10, P 17, I 13, L 8; Neutral; Club, herbs, 50' rope, 50 cp; -1 to melee attack rolls. Hideous scar.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by finarvyn » Wed Jun 19, 2013 11:04 am

Nice post, Johann, and one that clearly shows that you've put a lot of thought into DCC. While I'm not ready to "weigh in" on your issues with the game, I do like the way you thought this through and your solutions aren't at all knee-jerk but instead offer solutions.

My thoughts are that:
(1) If something doesn't work in your game for some reason, tweak it to see if it works better.
(2) Report back. I'll be interested to know how those changes work for your game.

Again, nice post. 8)
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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Eyeball360 » Wed Jun 19, 2013 11:33 am

Hi Johann. I think you're handling your areas of concern rather well, but I have a few thoughts I figured I'd throw out there for your consideration.

1. The balance is spotty in some places (Elves vs Wizards)

As mentioned by others, the iron vulnerability could be a bit of a liability, though if you play the RAW and give the first level elf mithril items you pretty much completely negate this liability. There are other aspects though, that I think are more important and sure to have a greater impact on elven dominance. A wizard really only needs a good INT to be an effective spellcaster (and by "good" I mean better than 7 or 8 ). This is almost always the case, because you generally choose to be a Wizard only if your INT is above an 8. The elf however, has no choice about being an elf (it's randomly determined by the Occupation Table) so a large portion will have a penalty to casting checks. Likewise, with poor HP's and weapon/armor hindrances, they are rarely overly effective in HtH compared to Warriors, Dwarves, Halflings, Clerics and even Thieves, especially since they have the same chance of having poor STR to negatively impact their to hit and damage rolls. What they do have is their versatility, and occasionally you will get lucky and roll one up with good INT and STR and they can perform more equally with the other classes. It's pretty rare, though, and a character to be treasured.

Please don't misunderstand me. I know it can be fun to occasionally play a spellcaster with a 6 INT, but let's be honest, we all generally have more fun playing characters that are more effective than that guy will be.


2. Spellburn is overpowered

Yeah, there is potential for this to be abused, or make your life difficult. I have similarly put a 12 point cap on it, and further limited it by saying that it takes two rounds to cast a spell if you use more than 8 points. But I give a nice 10 point bonus anytime a character wants to do the full ritualized version of a spell (which takes 10 minutes per spell level), and I also give bonuses for other things, like exotic spell components or special circumstances or sacrifices. I also often send the party on long, multi-gaming-session adventures, so the spellcasters tend to hold back from massive spellburn.

3. The game is not deadly enough

Yeah, but I have found that the permanent ability point loss will make players want to retire a character that's died a few times. I have also had several occasions where more than half the party went down in an encounter and the rest of the party really had no choice but to run. It's a pretty swingy system, and when the party's dice are cold and/or the Monster's dice are hot, characters die.

4. Ability drain is a nightmare to handle

Yeah, I really haven't had much trouble with this, honestly. I'm playing with people who are pretty experienced RPGers, though, so everyone is taking care of their own characters and it really doesn't add any work to my plate.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Raven_Crowking » Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:16 pm

finarvyn wrote:Nice post, Johann, and one that clearly shows that you've put a lot of thought into DCC. While I'm not ready to "weigh in" on your issues with the game, I do like the way you thought this through and your solutions aren't at all knee-jerk but instead offer solutions.

My thoughts are that:
(1) If something doesn't work in your game for some reason, tweak it to see if it works better.
(2) Report back. I'll be interested to know how those changes work for your game.

Again, nice post. 8)
Yes.

And nice blog.

Please be aware that, while people may chime in with their experiences, and even suggest that you try certain things (like the d24 spellburn table), they are not meant to take away the validity of your own observations/choices. Like the book says, let the rules bend to you, not the other way around.
SoBH pbp:

Cathbad the Meek (herbalist Wizard 1): AC 9; 4 hp; S 7, A 7, St 10, P 17, I 13, L 8; Neutral; Club, herbs, 50' rope, 50 cp; -1 to melee attack rolls. Hideous scar.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by cthulhudarren » Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:41 pm

Eyeball360 wrote:2. Spellburn is overpowered

Yeah, there is potential for this to be abused, or make your life difficult. I have similarly put a 12 point cap on it, and further limited it by saying that it takes two rounds to cast a spell if you use more than 8 points. But I give a nice 10 point bonus anytime a character wants to do the full ritualized version of a spell (which takes 10 minutes per spell level), and I also give bonuses for other things, like exotic spell components or special circumstances or sacrifices. I also often send the party on long, multi-gaming-session adventures, so the spellcasters tend to hold back from massive spellburn.


I also am limiting spellburn to 2 + caster lvl per round, and that spellburning a spell is a full round action. So if a 1st level wizard wants to spellburn 10, he'll be casting for 4 full rounds before anything happens. I don't have rules for what happens when spells are interrupted... yet. Some kind of DC save would be required to maintain the spell.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by jozxyqk » Wed Jun 19, 2013 2:47 pm

Fantastic post. I find some of the counter arguments extremely weak.

Wizard spellburn--especially combined with some halfling aid--lets a wizard more-or-less guarantee a massively powerful spell effect with a fair degree of regularity. This is particularly true for spells where the effect requires a save, because using spellburn can make the save DC virtually impossible. Yes, it's not like the wizard can do it all the time, but the fact that in any given adventure, a wizard has the option of "going nova" and annihilating whatever challenge is facing him is a pretty incredible ability. I have never had the d24 table faze a wizard. The sort who plays a wizard generally *likes* those type of things to happen to him. As for the "crippled" wizard with extremely low ability scores that supposedly results from spellburn, I don't find this to be the case at all. It's almost axiomatic in DCC that ability scores don't matter that much because the bonus/penalty scale is pretty low. At most, the wizard is taking a -2 or something to rolls associated with a couple of physical abilities. (a) this penalty is not huge; and (b) it's not like wizards spend much time bashing down gates or scaling walls anyway.

I don't think there can be any real argument that DCC is particularly deadly--especially in melee combat. Characters just don't die much. If you want to play a game like that, that's fine. But not everyone does.

As for ability shifts, I can't say I have run into them over much, but I do find the luck fluctuations hard to keep track of. People on the board are always talking about how a DM should punish luck burns by making bad things happen to unlucky characters. But am I supposed to have a table with everyone's luck score that I constantly update? Am I just supposed to remember -- there are 8 PCs! I feel like I'm constantly asking my players -- "so who of the PCs walking down the staircase has lowest luck?" It takes away from the drama a little bit when that party member then suffers some mishap.

Anyway great post. Interesting points.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Colin » Wed Jun 19, 2013 2:52 pm

Apart from the fact that being vulnerable to iron means a lot more problems than simply not being able to use iron/steel weapons/armour, even having mithril comes with a raft of problems. I mean, it's rare, very desirable, attractive, and anyone with any lore knows elves carry the stuff. That makes the elf a potential walking target for some thieves, thugs, and other interested parties. Also, if said mithril items are broken/lost/stolen, the elf ends up in a world of hurt again. Time to quest for replacements!
Never mind that most magical weapons/armours are still going to be made of steel/iron. Plus, iron is a severe vulnerability; play that up! Make it uncomfortable for the elf when the fully-clad knight sidles up, etc.

Spell burn has been nicely addressed by others folks, and issues often seem to arise from the meta game conceit and view that everything must be safe/finished as "that was the big boss fight at the end of the module." Punish that outlook, remind players that life is more unpredictable than that, that they still have to safely get home, that the whims of patrons and life don't always allow a nice, easy period of recuperation. Rivals find out the wizbang is screwed up? When do you think they'll attack? Do you think every potential threats will hold off until the wizard is at full strength? Hah! Severe spell burn should always be a gamble. Also, as with the elf's vulnerability to iron, play up how diminished stats impact the wizbang. How crap/ineffectual do you feel if you have a severe cold/flu, let alone a real injury? So, how is a wizbang going to feel if their stats take a real hit with spell burn?

Make your game less predictable, more real and alive, and such meta game worries and thinking will soon become less of a problem.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by IronWolf » Wed Jun 19, 2013 4:04 pm

jozxyqk wrote: Wizard spellburn--especially combined with some halfling aid--lets a wizard more-or-less guarantee a massively powerful spell effect with a fair degree of regularity. This is particularly true for spells where the effect requires a save, because using spellburn can make the save DC virtually impossible. Yes, it's not like the wizard can do it all the time, but the fact that in any given adventure, a wizard has the option of "going nova" and annihilating whatever challenge is facing him is a pretty incredible ability.
Wizards can go supernova, no doubt about that. I've seen it happen a few times in my online DCC RPG game. Of course after the wizard supernova'ed in an early adventure they were quite surprised to see they weren't going to get to walk home to town without incident. Instead an angry patron (from some other events), whisked the whole party off to the middle of nowhere with a sensitive quest. Now the wizard was spellburned down. It wasn't the penalties from low scores that were especially problematic. It was that they had no supernova ability. And with no rest, those ability points weren't especially coming back quickly.

And then following that adventure they were lost. There was no fast way back to town. The group had to find their way out of the mountains and then across the plains to the city. During the course of this another adventure occurred, again with minimal ability point restoration during that time.

So the wizard in the party who supernova'ed one encounter (which was really fun actually, I had no issues with how that encounter played out) was unable to do any significant spellburn for at least 2 more full adventures before he finally reached the city where he could rest up properly.

If the characters are able to "do" and adventure, be guaranteed to return to town for a couple of weeks and then rinse and repeat, then yeah, the wizard will get to become much more powerful. So far it has not been an issue in my games though, as the characters/players never know when they are going to get consecutive days of rest or if some adventure might whisk them off to some entirely different region or plane.
jozxyqk wrote: I don't think there can be any real argument that DCC is particularly deadly--especially in melee combat. Characters just don't die much. If you want to play a game like that, that's fine. But not everyone does.
I am sure this varies widely amongst groups. 32 sessions into my game and there is not a single original party member in the group. Now some of them are headed to the realm of death to try to steal two souls from death, which will correct that. Many, many sessions have at least one character reach the bleeding out stage or recovering the body stage. Shoot, a few sessions ago a 4th level wizard was downed by a rat and combination of factors resulted in the character's death.

But, again, I am sure this varies widely between groups. So I think it is hard to judge a game's deadliness because of so many other factors.
jozxyqk wrote: As for ability shifts, I can't say I have run into them over much, but I do find the luck fluctuations hard to keep track of. People on the board are always talking about how a DM should punish luck burns by making bad things happen to unlucky characters. But am I supposed to have a table with everyone's luck score that I constantly update? Am I just supposed to remember -- there are 8 PCs! I feel like I'm constantly asking my players -- "so who of the PCs walking down the staircase has lowest luck?" It takes away from the drama a little bit when that party member then suffers some mishap.
For luck I ballpark it for the most part. I have a good feel for which characters have been burning luck like crazy and who has not. The ballpark estimates work for me. Sometimes I just roll a die to see which character is affected by something.
jozxyqk wrote: Anyway great post. Interesting points.
Definitely some interesting points in the original post. Good thread so far!

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Raven_Crowking » Thu Jun 20, 2013 3:17 am

jozxyqk wrote:Wizard spellburn--especially combined with some halfling aid--lets a wizard more-or-less guarantee a massively powerful spell effect with a fair degree of regularity. This is particularly true for spells where the effect requires a save, because using spellburn can make the save DC virtually impossible.
I think that this has been addressed, but I would like to echo what has been said. If the players know that there are no consequences to "going nova", then it is smart play to do so. If the players are never certain what the consequences (if any) will be, then it becomes an interesting choice.

If you go back to OP's #4 issue, you will see that he notes many things target ability scores in this game. If a Strength 9 Wizard is attacked by a creature that does 1d3 Strength damage, he is assured of at least three rounds of survival to do something about it. If the same wizard has spellburned down to 3, he is assured of nothing. The DCC modules by Goodman Games sort of encourage an A. Merritt-like ending to some adventures as well....the adventure location is now collapsing, and you need to get out or die. The Wizard who has maximized his spellburn is not going to be as spry when checks are called for to do so.

The D24 table includes results other than mere ability loss (8, 2), some rolls require props be at hand (1, 15, 9, 21), and others might conceivably take more than 1 action (15, 10). How many fingertips can you cut off before you run out of fingertips?

So yes, the wizard can certainly "go nova", and with the aid of a halfling he can assume a 95% chance of success (with a 5% chance of failure or more). If this really becomes a problem in your games (it has not been a problem in mine; my players are reluctant to spellburn because they weigh the potential cost against the potential benefits), there are two bits from the rulebook that might help you yet. First, wizards are jealous bastards who steal each other's magic, given the chance. Sending off beacons like that not only alerts other wizards to your presence, but lets them know when you are most vulnerable. Secondly, magic is fickle, and the judge is encouraged to make magic behave in unpredictable ways in special environments. This should sometimes favour the players - that spell goes off better than expected! But, sometimes, dark forces should also taint what spellcasting is done in a given vicinity.....This can also affect spellburn, in the same way that a patron does.

Remember too that, if you have spellburned at all on a given day, you do not heal ability points naturally on that day.
I don't think there can be any real argument that DCC is particularly deadly--especially in melee combat. Characters just don't die much. If you want to play a game like that, that's fine. But not everyone does.
My table has seen its share of death. TPKs seem to be mostly a thing of the funnel, but I have had characters drop in nearly every adventure run, and several of them have dropped never to arise again. The closest I have come to a TPK post-funnel is running James Raggi's Death Frost Doom - the surviving characters actually left their party members to be devoured by ghouls while they fled. I had a near-TPK in one encounter playtesting The Revelation of Mulmo. In another adventure, one cleric was killed by a snowman and another character was slain by another PCs mercurial magic result.
As for ability shifts, I can't say I have run into them over much, but I do find the luck fluctuations hard to keep track of. People on the board are always talking about how a DM should punish luck burns by making bad things happen to unlucky characters. But am I supposed to have a table with everyone's luck score that I constantly update? Am I just supposed to remember -- there are 8 PCs! I feel like I'm constantly asking my players -- "so who of the PCs walking down the staircase has lowest luck?" It takes away from the drama a little bit when that party member then suffers some mishap.
About once per actual hour of play, ask everyone to roll 1d20 and let you know if they roll over their current Luck. Jot these folks down. They are your sacrificial victims. Once they realize how it works, they will begin dreading the coming bad luck, and perhaps trying to keep a bit left. If there is no "bad luck" event during that time, you can either have a minor mishap occur, or you can let them dodge the bullet this time.

I find that this method adds to the drama. YMMV.


RC
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Cathbad the Meek (herbalist Wizard 1): AC 9; 4 hp; S 7, A 7, St 10, P 17, I 13, L 8; Neutral; Club, herbs, 50' rope, 50 cp; -1 to melee attack rolls. Hideous scar.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Johann » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:15 am

Thank you all for this very civil discussion and the great feedback!

Ravenheart87:
I agree that “higher level characters deserve to be sturdier”. You say that Luck is a downward spiral, though. Doesn’t that mean that survivability decreases?

(Thanks for the correction about Elves and Wizards. I’ve been using my own table for "Spells known" and forgot all about the wizard’s extra spell at 1st level, for instance. Seems like they are at least on par in the most important area.)

IronWolf:
Do your players retire crippled characters (like Eyball360’s do)?

An “angry patron (from some other events), whisking the whole party off to the middle of nowhere” sounds cool. I’d hesitate to insert this at a specific point to ‘get back at’ a burnt out wizard, though. (That’s not what you’ve been saying, mind you.)

Raven_Crowking / Eyeball360 / cthulhudarren:
I think I foolishly dismissed the d24 table of Spellburn actions because some of the actions seemed to take too long for one round. But I’m warming to the idea of spellburn possibly taking a bit longer thanks to Eyeball360’s and cthulhudarren’s comments. I might use the table after all and decide on the fly how long it would take to cut off a pound of flesh in the middle of a combat round… Maybe a warrior can help out with a mighty deed! :mrgreen:

“Give an automatic -1 penalty to related rolls every X points (I would suggest 3 in DCC), don't recalculate anything except in the case of permanent damage, and wait to do the recalculation at a point where it is convenient.”

This is solid advice! I’m going to use this. I’ll probably go with -1/two points lost to compensate for the effect that I don’t recalculate derived statistics (AC etc.). So burning 9 points of Agility won’t affect AC but incur a -4 penalty to ranged attacks and Reflex saves. Still not 100% happy with the fluctuations, though.

jozzxyqk:
I’m with you on the save DCs for spells. I’ve capped them at 20 but that may be too harsh on castaers. 25? 20 + spell level? I dunno.

Colin:
“Play that up” or “punish that outlook” –I’d rather not try to solve my issues at the adventure level. I’m running vintage and OSR modules and I really don’t want to consider thoughts like “In this adventure, the PCs can control the pacing so I’ll have to throw in some iron constructs to balance out Jeff’s ever well-rested elf.”

I agree that “severe spell burn should always be a gamble” but I prefer a simple mechanic. Corruption works for me (as long as it can’t be bought off via Luck).

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by cthulhudarren » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:48 am

I must admit that I am confused with the option of NOT having a patron. You only miss out on the bonus patron spells and invoke patron. Seems to be not so big a sacrifice for not owing allegiance to a patron.

Does allowing spellburn depend on the patron too? How does a wizard know HOW to spellburn, where does that knowledge come from?

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Ravenheart87 » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:50 am

You're welcome, Johann. :)
Johann wrote:I agree that “higher level characters deserve to be sturdier”. You say that Luck is a downward spiral, though. Doesn’t that mean that survivability decreases?
Burning luck is the downward spiral. The less you have the more bad things are going to happen - see the guidelines on page 360-361. The players have to be careful to avoid this, since regaining luck is no easy task.
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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Ravenheart87 » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:55 am

cthulhudarren wrote:I must admit that I am confused with the option of NOT having a patron. You only miss out on the bonus patron spells and invoke patron. Seems to be not so big a sacrifice for not owing allegiance to a patron.
Patron taint, patron spellburn can be bad. Plus there might be roleplaying reasons. Some patrons are downright assholes and want to make you their slaves.
cthulhudarren wrote:Does allowing spellburn depend on the patron too? How does a wizard know HOW to spellburn, where does that knowledge come from?
You can spellburn without patron. The wizard learned it from ancient tomes or while experimenting with magic. He might contact otherworldly beings that he didn't ally himself with, and ask for something in exchange for a sacrifice.
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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Eyeball360 » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:56 am

jozzxyqk, I see characters die quite regularly in my gaming sessions. I don't have a huge sample set - we've played about 12 or 15 times, but there have been at least 10 or 12 post-funnel deaths with a party of 6 adventurers. A couple of characters have also decided to retire due to the reduction in ability points (one character lost 3 points of STM, going from 7 to 4).

Regarding spellburn during the adventure climax and the threat of additional encounters afterwards, I have one word of caution. I would suggest a truly random chance for something additional happening on the way home, with the random encounter roll done in full view of the party. Even if you assign a relatively high probability, like 50%, I think it should be clear to the party that it is truly random. I don't think it is conducive to play if the characters start to feel that the ambush on the way out of the dungeon is occurring because of the wiz going supernova. For the players, it should never feel like they are being "punished" for using the system the way it was designed and intended to be used.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by cthulhudarren » Thu Jun 20, 2013 5:00 am

cthulhudarren wrote:Does allowing spellburn depend on the patron too? How does a wizard know HOW to spellburn, where does that knowledge come from?
You can spellburn without patron. The wizard learned it from ancient tomes or while experimenting with magic. He might contact otherworldly beings that he didn't ally himself with, and ask for something in exchange for a sacrifice.
Good idea! It could probably/possibly be different for each spell. So right off the bat they might not even know HOW to spellburn at all.

Seems like a good limiting factor for low level wizards!
Last edited by cthulhudarren on Thu Jun 20, 2013 6:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Raven_Crowking » Thu Jun 20, 2013 5:42 am

Eyeball360 wrote:jozzxyqk, I see characters die quite regularly in my gaming sessions. I don't have a huge sample set - we've played about 12 or 15 times, but there have been at least 10 or 12 post-funnel deaths with a party of 6 adventurers. A couple of characters have also decided to retire due to the reduction in ability points (one character lost 3 points of STM, going from 7 to 4).

Regarding spellburn during the adventure climax and the threat of additional encounters afterwards, I have one word of caution. I would suggest a truly random chance for something additional happening on the way home, with the random encounter roll done in full view of the party. Even if you assign a relatively high probability, like 50%, I think it should be clear to the party that it is truly random. I don't think it is conducive to play if the characters start to feel that the ambush on the way out of the dungeon is occurring because of the wiz going supernova. For the players, it should never feel like they are being "punished" for using the system the way it was designed and intended to be used.
This is good advice.

Also, while you may find this difficult using some modules, you should consider the following:

(1) Death Throes & Behind the Curtain: The "Big Bad" isn't always the Big Bad. Sometimes, the Big Bad is what appears after the "obvious" boss monster is slain. I can think of two DCC modules that fit this description, one official and another not. I will avoid naming names for spoilerish considerations.

(2) You Must Escape: Having beaten the opposition causes the destruction of the adventuring site, or leaves you stuck somewhere not easy to escape from. Either way, there are challenges to survive even after the party has "won". I can think of several DCC adventures where this is the case, both official and unofficial. The culmination of the Slave Lord series for AD&D 1e could easily be worked in this direction. For that matter, transitioning A3 to A4 as written would have this same effect. I, personally, would stat out the Slave Lords and let the PCs try to wipe the decks with them....transitioning to A4 only if they failed. I would, however, weigh the encounter in the favour of the Slave Lords when I was statting them.

(3) Into the Unknown: There are several adventures, both official and unofficial, where some device (potentially) whisks the PCs away at the end of the adventure. The G-D-Q series of AD&D 1e modules also lends itself to this.

(4) While the Iron is Hot: Time constraints can prevent PCs from resting as long as they would like between adventures. The game has this built in, at least partially, with the clerical disapproval system, which sometimes requires a task to be completed within a given time frame. Likewise, the deity requests from asking for divine favour. But adventures can be scripted to include a countdown as well, where the encounters are based as much on time as location. I know of two unofficial adventures for DCC that use timeline mechanics, and others have implied timelines. Using AD&D modules, if the Ghost Tower of Inverness appears only on one night every X years, you either go now or you go not at all. The Saltmarsh modules are similar in that the adventures are time based, whether or not you are fully recovered.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not suggesting that these methods be used for every adventure, or every third adventure. I am suggesting that using these methods from time to time forces the players to consider the potential risk of "going nova" along with the potential reward.

Just my 2 cp.
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Cathbad the Meek (herbalist Wizard 1): AC 9; 4 hp; S 7, A 7, St 10, P 17, I 13, L 8; Neutral; Club, herbs, 50' rope, 50 cp; -1 to melee attack rolls. Hideous scar.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by IronWolf » Thu Jun 20, 2013 5:48 am

Eyeball360 wrote: Regarding spellburn during the adventure climax and the threat of additional encounters afterwards, I have one word of caution. I would suggest a truly random chance for something additional happening on the way home, with the random encounter roll done in full view of the party. Even if you assign a relatively high probability, like 50%, I think it should be clear to the party that it is truly random. I don't think it is conducive to play if the characters start to feel that the ambush on the way out of the dungeon is occurring because of the wiz going supernova. For the players, it should never feel like they are being "punished" for using the system the way it was designed and intended to be used.
I do not use that trick all the time, in fact, I don't think I have actually used it since early in the campaign. And it wasn't punishing the wizard, as much as his patron requiring a favor in exchange for the assistance in boosting the magic to get them out of a hot spot. It all made sense in game.

By nature of doing that just one time though, players in my game think carefully before spellburning all of their abilities in one fell swoop. They still do it if the situation is dire enough. Which is fine by me. I like seeing how they pull their bacon out of the fire!

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Raven_Crowking » Thu Jun 20, 2013 6:19 am

IronWolf wrote:By nature of doing that just one time though, players in my game think carefully before spellburning all of their abilities in one fell swoop. They still do it if the situation is dire enough. Which is fine by me. I like seeing how they pull their bacon out of the fire!
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Cathbad the Meek (herbalist Wizard 1): AC 9; 4 hp; S 7, A 7, St 10, P 17, I 13, L 8; Neutral; Club, herbs, 50' rope, 50 cp; -1 to melee attack rolls. Hideous scar.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by cjoepar » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:44 am

I like the ideas about extending casting time with greater amounts of spellburn. I'll have to put some thought into that.

I have adopted a system of increasing the chances of corruption as more points are sunk into spellburn, with each point of spellburn adding an additional 5% chance of corruption. So using 9 points of spellburn would increase the chance of corruption to 50%. Any roll of a natural "1" results in 2 corruption rolls when spellburn is used. It is possible to successfully cast the spell and still suffer corruption and anytime the character sinks 19 or more points into spellburn, they will automatically suffer corruption.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by oncelor » Sun Jun 23, 2013 6:11 pm

Johann wrote:Running, tinkering with and reading about DCC, I’ve encountered four problems. I’m offering my solutions to the first three – and asking for help with the fourth.
1. The balance is spotty in some places
2. Spellburn is overpowered
3. The game is not deadly enough
4. Ability drain is a nightmare to handle
After one year of weekly sessions, the characters in my primary DCC campaign have just about reached 6th level. We're having a huge amount of fun with DCC, but I've noticed similar issues.

The main problem we had with spellburn was that the wizards burned 20 points and used this to max-out "Wizard Staff," which then gave them +2 on their main offensive spells. One of the wizards has an honest-to-goodness 18 intelligence (he rolled it with 3d6), so with the bonus from his wizard staff, at 5th level he casts "Color Spray" with a +10 on every roll. He only loses the spell on a natural '1', but after he loses it he continues to cast it because it's stored in his staff or he spellburns to continue to cast it. He casts it twice per round and typically causes at least 6 monsters per round to have to make two Will saves or become blind and/or unconscious. The expected DC of these saves is 20, so even creatures with Will saves of +10 are likely to fail one of the saves and go blind. To address this I haven't really house-ruled anything, but I've been bumping up the monster saving throws considerably, and have been giving many sorts of creatures magic resistance or who are accompanied by casters with counter-spell abilities. In future campaigns I'm going to limit the amount of spellburn that can be spent on any one spell, or perhaps rule that excessive use of spellburn on any one spell always causes some sort of extra indebtedness to a higher power.

The problem we've had with the game not being deadly is the rule that lets players save dead characters if they can heal them within a number of rounds equal to their level (though I don't allow burning luck on recover-the-body checks). The same wizard with "Color Spray" has a mercurial magic effect that heals everybody within 15' every time he casts "Color Spray." But he casts "Color Spray" pretty much every round. Characters recovered in this way do receive permanent ability damage, but the cleric has a spell that heals this damage, so that penalty really doesn't mean very much. I'm considering two house rules here. The first: allow negative hit points, and rule that revived characters must be restored to at least 1 point. This way when somebody is flattened by the dragon instead of going to 0 and being recovered the next round by the wizard's stupid "Color Spray" spell, he'll instead go to -80 hit points and will require serious attention to be recovered. The second: rule that ability damage caused by death affects the base statistic and thus cannot be healed through normal clerical methods.

Finally, we play online using "Map Tool," so ability drain hasn't been a problem for us. In table games, something I've tried in the past to make ability drain easier to manage is to make all ability drain generic, and then to apply a -1 penalty to all rolls for every 3 points of ability drain a character suffers. We kept track of this with poker chips. I pass out a number of red chips equal to the ability point drain. Every three red chips turns into a black chip and causes a -1 to every action roll. If your ability drain equals your highest ability score, you're rendered unconscious until the ability damage is healed.

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by Rythwold » Sun Jun 23, 2013 10:50 pm

Very quick point on spell burn - you can recover the abilities scores in time, but there are physical consequences. I rolled and my dude pulled his hair out with his fists and now my character has a no scalp. He has to wear a turban to cover it up. You may be able to recover the stats, but what about your dignity??

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Re: Four fixes for DCC

Post by beermotor » Mon Jun 24, 2013 4:55 am

Man, that guy with color spray sounds pretty powerful.

I bet he'd cry like a girl if you attacked him with about 20 small and quick mindless undead with no eyes. :shock:

:mrgreen:


What I'm saying is, I don't think it's unbalanced at all.

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