What It Is, And What It Isn’t
What if Gygax and Arneson had access to the Open Game License when they created D&D? What if they spent their time adapting thirty years of game design principles to their stated inspirations -- rather than creating the building blocks from scratch? What if someone were to attempt just that: to immerse himself in the game’s inspirations and re-envision the output using modern game design principles?
That, in short, is the goal of the Dungeon Crawl Classics role playing game: to create a modern RPG that reflects D&D’s origin-point concepts with decades-later rules editions. For many years I have been a fan of old-school gaming, the history of TSR, and the lore of Appendix N, as reflected in many of the products I’ve published. When Dungeon Crawl Classics #1 appeared on shelves way back in 2003, Goodman Games and Kenzer & Company were the only publishers of “old-school” products. Over the eight years since, the “Old School Renaissance” has blossomed, and now a host of high-quality product lines and thriving communities offer “old-school” products. A subject of some controversy has been the proliferation and originality of “retro-clones”: is it enough to simply re-hash the past? Where my DCC modules once did just that -- dwell in a rosy-toned version of early-era D&D game style and art direction -- the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game goes much further. This is not a retro-clone: this is a re-imagining.
There is a lot to cover regarding DCC RPG, and in the next eleven months we’ll cover all of it. But let’s start with the basics. For those of you who have not read the various con reports and blog commentaries over the last year, this diary entry may be your first exposure to the game. Therefore, for this first designer’s diary, I’d like to establish the record on a couple basic facts. Here’s what the DCC RPG is, and is not:
It is not a retro-clone.
It is an OGL game.
It uses a rules engine derived from the 3E d20 system.
It is not compatible with 1970s/1980s D&D rules.
It plays like a 1970s OD&D session.
It is generally compatible with other d20-derived systems.
It does not include complexities like attacks of opportunity, prestige classes, feats, or skill points.
It does not utilize miniatures or a grid-based combat system.
It utilizes races as classes -- you can be a warrior, or an elf.
It utilizes six ability scores, including one called Luck.
It is built on the assumption that some characters will die.
It is built on the assumption that the strongest characters will provide long-term campaigns.
It is built for low-level, mid-level, and high-level play.
It does not require that you start at 0-level (though doing so is fun).
It does not use the traditional D&D spell system associated with memorizing spells.
It uses spellcasting rules influenced by the foundational authors of swords & sorcery.
It uses a Vancian magic system…if you use the term “Vancian” to mean “based on a reading of Vance’s original works,” not “what D&D does.”
It is grounded in the fundamentals of Appendix N.
It is a proud descendant of a long tradition.
It is an opportunity to showcase outstanding art in a classic fantasy style.
It is lots of fun to play.
It primarily uses the conventional dice suite: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20. Most combat and spell checks are resolved with a d20 roll.
It also utilizes Zocchi dice. All of them. Including the d5, d7 and d24.
It is, in my humble opinion, a version of what D&D could have been, if the early pioneers had access to an existing, robust rules engine to which to adapt their Appendix N inspirations, instead of dedicating their energies to building the foundational blocks from scratch.
It is, as Harley described it early on, “pre-D&D swords & sorcery.”
That’s all for now. Next time: more on, pre-D&D swords & sorcery -- or, Brought to You by Appendix N…