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 Post subject: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 11:23 pm 
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Designer’s Diary #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG

Or, Running DCCs that Don't Suck


As we begin the count down to Free RPG Day, Joseph asked me for some thoughts on running successful adventures for the DCC RPG.

And as I mentioned to one of our playtesters this past weekend, I’m just as much as fan as a writer. So consider these as design notes from a fellow judge; it won’t be long before you are running your own DCC RPG adventures, converting old classics, and sending your PCs off to do battle against the unknown. Together we can work out some guidelines that can that help to ensure that all our adventures don’t suck.

No Old Monsters
Joseph’s first design mantra. Or better put, no known monsters. The world of the DCC RPG is the world of the unknown. As blacksmiths, woodsmen, squires, beggars and slaves, the 0-level PCs in our games are ignorant of the wider world, its mysteries and threats.

We’ve all run games in the past 25 years where this was true of our PCs. But now you have the chance to make it true for your players.

Every adventure will have new monsters that your PCs (or players!) haven’t faced before. Weird, ungodly, alien new monsters, whose very existence threatens the logic of our staid, simple lives. These aren’t the same entries regurgitated from the last 20 monster manuals, these are beasts from the outer dark that live up to the title of “Monster.”

Our players are comfortable with the known. Even if their PCs are 1st level, the players have all “been here and done that” before.

Never again. It’s time for a true test of courage, to pit their precious PCs against something terrifyingly unknown.

Embrace the Chaos
The DCC RPG is unpredictable. Really unpredictable. One moment, the PCs are losing a battle against a Rat God and thousands of his furry minions, and the next, the dwarf has won a strength check against the god, ripped free his bejeweled scepter of death and is hammering that Rat God back through time and space to whatever pit that spawned him.

And the opposite happens as well: When that glorious natural 1 rolls up, the entire table howls with agony, and you get the chance to add another notch in your judge-screen.

It isn’t pretty. It isn’t predictable. But it is a fundamental feature of the game. No battle is truly lost until the last PC gives up, and death is never more than a heartbeat away. With judicious use of Luck, spellburn and piety, the PCs can turn the odds in their favors. But stare too long into the abyss, and at some point the abyss will look back.

Don’t Sweat the Balance
This is true of all good RPGs: When PCs get desperate, players get brilliant. While it is no fun to go up against immediate and certain death, games do get interesting when the PCs have exhausted all their traditional options and need to get a little creative/crazy to survive.

This past weekend our PCs encountered an enormous toad that had a nasty habit of freezing its prey solid, and then gumming the frozen prey into shards. Our thief clawed his way to the top of a frozen cavern only to be swallowed whole.

The party was at a loss and the PC was moments away from turning into a thief-iscle. But then a lucky enlarge spell tripled the thief’s size, bursting the poor toad from the insides, and spattering the ice cave with toady bits. Sadly, the gigantor thief succumbed to the numbing kisses of two other toads, but for an instant he was drawn back from the brink of certain death by creative spell use.

Give them enough Rope (or Magic) to Hang Themselves
Magic in the DCC RPG is predicated on PCs dealing with otherworldly entities. There is no generic power source; rather you are dealing with capricious, fickle, covetous powers. And these are your friends. There is only so long PCs can draw from these alien powers before they expect favors in return.

In this way, there is much more at stake for the PCs than simply delving a dungeon for forgotten loot. Rather the wizard is trying to regain a portion of his lost soul, the priest is bent on a crusade for his patron, the warrior is fighting for mastery over the fearsome helm that threatens to transform him into a raging machine of destruction, and the thief … well, thieves have never needed much help getting into trouble.

By stepping out of their roles as serfs, apprentices, slaves, and indentured servants, the PCs become masters of their own destinies, with the chance – no matter how slim – of shaping it to their whims. Sure, many will perish, but the ones that survive will have spat in the face of Death, torn the loom of life from the three Fates, and triumphed against all odds.

And that is something to fight for.

Appendix N: Know it. Love it.
Finally, a successful run of the DCC RPG is steeped in the weird, otherworldliness that is Appendix N. In the next couple weeks visit your local bookstore and pick though their stacks of musty old pulps. What you’ll discover is fantasy adventure before it became codified.

Thumb through the old magazines and maybe pick out one with a Frazetta cover. Spend the evening imagining lost futures and forgotten empires, their degenerate inhabitants, the weird magic lurking behind altars to obscene gods … and you’ll find you’re set to run a DCC game.

In Closing
These are a few of the covenants we’re following as we write the modules that will reboot the DCC adventure line. But none of it should come as a surprise – you've been preparing the last 30 years. Drag the whetstone down your broadsword one last time and wipe the rust from your hauberk. Adventure is calling.

//H

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Diary #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 12:10 am 
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Joined: Sat Jul 15, 2006 12:09 pm
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Harley Stroh wrote:
No Old Monsters
Joseph’s first design mantra. Or better put, no known monsters. The world of the DCC RPG is the world of the unknown. As blacksmiths, woodsmen, squires, beggars and slaves, the 0-level PCs in our games are ignorant of the wider world, its mysteries and threats.

We’ve all run games in the past 25 years where this was true of our PCs. But now you have the chance to make it true for your players.

Every adventure will have new monsters that your PCs (or players!) haven’t faced before. Weird, ungodly, alien new monsters, whose very existence threatens the logic of our staid, simple lives. These aren’t the same entries regurgitated from the last 20 monster manuals, these are beasts from the outer dark that live up to the title of “Monster.”

Our players are comfortable with the known. Even if their PCs are 1st level, the players have all “been here and done that” before.

Never again. It’s time for a true test of courage, to pit their precious PCs against something terrifyingly unknown.


Music to my ears. :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Diary #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 4:02 am 
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When I was 12 years old, in 1978, a rumour went through the school about some wonderful new game called Dungeons and Dragons. We had heard of it, but being only 12, couldn't afford any proper books for it (AD&D hadn't yet been published if I'm not mistaken, plus Australia was always slightly behind the times due to the shipping distance). The only things we had were a set of dice, a copy of the Judge's Guild Ready Ref Sheets and some second hand info from someone's older brother about what to do.

Boy it was fun!

Our first adventure, of which I remember the most, was set in a dungeon located in the middle of a desert. There was nothing but sand as far as the eye could see and a single plain stone slab that somehow escaped being covered by the shifting dunes. Under the slab were stone steps leading down into....darkness.....

We spent the better part of a week trekking to the location, being dogged all the time by "dervishes", because that's what the Ready Ref Sheets rolled up as a random encounter. Being 12, we didn't have a clue what a "dervish" was. Somehow our DM managed to pull it off without any descriptions (I think all attacks happened conveniently during the night). The dungeon was then full of critters of which we had no idea of either their description or image since they were just names in the Ready Ref Sheets. For example, imagine the pondering of our young minds about what an "owldbear" is and looks like!

Thus, I applaud the aspiration to introduce at least one new monster per adventure. But two things come to mind. Firstly, it will be difficult to create original and interesting new monsters with such regularity. Be careful it doesn't become an albatross around your neck. I'd rather skip the new monster deal than have some 'chicken-man' slotted in because of the convention. Secondly, don't forget races/ethnicities as a source of novel "monster". Having a human adversary decked out in exotic clothes and with some atypical combat/magic abilities would be more acceptable to me than the aforementioned chicken-man.

Still very much looking forward to the game. Currently re-reading Vance,

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Diary #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 4:43 am 
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Well said, and a lot more interesting than my "recycled" attempt at blog entry #4. 8)

I think that these are some of the key elements which will set the DCC RPG apart from other similar games. At the moment there are many games (all quite like one another) out there, and it's often tough to tell them apart. DCC looks to distinguish itself in two ways:
1. A different style (which could be copied by others)
2. Rules that back up the different style (much harder to copy)

It has a similar feel, as Stainless suggested, of the first time I ever found OD&D. Something new and fresh and you never quite knew what might happen next. Over the past 35 years I think gaming has become somewhat predictable, mostly because players and DMs have all seen the same monsters and situations over and over. DCC is breaking that mold somewhat and bringing chaos into order. :wink:

And I can say that it's not often that I have players calling me up and asking to schedule extra game sessions. They've been doing this since I started running DCC. Hmmm. 8)

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Diary #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 5:59 am 
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Stainless wrote:
Thus, I applaud the aspiration to introduce at least one new monster per adventure. But two things come to mind. Firstly, it will be difficult to create original and interesting new monsters with such regularity. Be careful it doesn't become an albatross around your neck. I'd rather skip the new monster deal than have some 'chicken-man' slotted in because of the convention. Secondly, don't forget races/ethnicities as a source of novel "monster". Having a human adversary decked out in exotic clothes and with some atypical combat/magic abilities would be more acceptable to me than the aforementioned chicken-man.


Yeah, I agree with this. Don't get too hung up on trying to be unique all the time. You just end up with 40 different monsters that are all just goblins with a different name and description. You know, just like we ended up with AD&D. And you can have perfectly fine fantasy with just humans - as many of the appendix n books prove.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 9:22 am 
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Absolutely. There is distinction between “different for the sake of being different” and "ungodly thing from the outer darkness about to eat my soul." Otherwise, all our half-dragon, half-unicorn, vampiric, shugenja/paladins from 3.5 would be the epitome of Appendix N.

But they weren’t. And some of them were just silly.

The tone isn’t so much, “this needs to different for the sake of being different.” But more along the lines of: “There something outside our village, out in the darkness. For a generation we used to leave it a goat every full moon, tied to a post on the edge of the woods. But then the hermit vanished, and now it’s taken the blacksmith’s daughter. You can have my old spear, and the blacksmith is wrapping the pommel of our one sword with the remains of his daughter’s golden hair. Good luck, boys. Gods’ speed.”

So it could just be something with the stats of an orc out there. Or maybe a couple of goblins. Or it could be the awakened shadow left by the passage of a haunted priest, two hundred years dead. I’ve no idea, and – more importantly – the players don’t either. When their PCs venture out into the darksome woods there will be a palpable tension that you’d never get from, “Goblins are raiding the village! What do you do?!”

//H

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Diary #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 9:31 am 
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finarvyn wrote:
Well said, and a lot more interesting than my "recycled" attempt at blog entry #4. 8)


But you're the minister of propaganda! You can only work with what we give you, what with budget cutbacks and all. :)

//H

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 10:18 am 
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Reading this, I'm convinced that Castle Whiterock further whetted and confirmed the Goodman Games creative team's unslakable thirst for PC blood, and that DCC RPG is just an attempt to up the ante in the area of the TPK. They must've made one massive deal with Beings and Forces unknown and unknowable to require all this forthcoming PC demise. And for what nameless purpose will these energies be used, none can say and live, I'm sure. But I expect the outcome will be cyclopeanly spectacular...

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Here Be DCC Monsters...

General Yoros, Warrior, Str 13, Agl 8 (10), Stm 17, Per 13, Int 11, Lck 8; Law, HP 39, AC 17, R+2, F+4, W+2, band/shld, warhammer, longsword, longbow, pitchfork

Han Dee, (Weaver) Neutral Thief, Str 10, Agi 13, Stm 11, Per 11, Int 15, Lck 14, AC 13 (Leather), HP 25, Luck Die d6, Backstab 3, Sneak Silently 10, Hide In Shadows 9, Pick Pocket 10, Climb Sheer 10, Pick Lock 9, Find Trap 9, Disable Trap 9, Forge Doc 10, Disguise 3, Read Lang 5, Handle Poison 3, Cast Scroll d14+2, birth augur (Born under the loom) +1 to all skill checks (including thief skills), Banepicks (auto pick lock/disable trap, but lose 1d3 random ability loss, if a 3 then 1 pt is perm)


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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 10:21 am 
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One of the important things about new monsters is that they utterly avoid the problem with players dealing with any given monster as a known quantity: "Oh, a medusa is giving you trouble? Let's go to the adventurers' shop, boys, and buy each of us a mirror, then we'll go take care of her. We've dealt with the likes of her before."

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Last edited by Geoffrey on Mon May 23, 2011 2:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 11:25 am 
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Advice like this is golden. By all accounts Harley, you are one heck of a DM. I only wish I have had the pleasure of bellying up to your table. I find that my recent attempts to run RPG games have always fallen a little short. I am constantly chasing that feeling of wonder and endless possibilities I felt playing the game growing up, and never quite finding it. Convinced that it was the rules themselves, and if I could just find that perfect ruleset or house rules, I could be there again.

Reading this though, I have come to think that it is much less about the rules themselves. I need to forget endless attempts to find a perfect set of rules, and relearn how to just play again. The DCC rpg seems a perfect vehicle, and if you can provide more gems like these either here, or in the ruleset themselves, you would help both those of us who have lost our way, and those looking to enter the dungeon for the first time.


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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Diary #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 1:31 pm 
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Harley Stroh wrote:
finarvyn wrote:
Well said, and a lot more interesting than my "recycled" attempt at blog entry #4. 8)

But you're the minister of propaganda! You can only work with what we give you, what with budget cutbacks and all. :)
Self appointed. Don't forget that part. 8)

Reminds me of folks talking to Jack Sparrow and he always tosses in "that's Captain Jack Sparrow" or "there should be a 'captain' in there somewhere." :P

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"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs, He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own."
-- Gary Gygax
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-- Dave Arneson


Last edited by finarvyn on Mon May 23, 2011 2:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Diary #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 1:50 pm 
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mshensley wrote:
Don't get too hung up on trying to be unique all the time. You just end up with 40 different monsters that are all just goblins with a different name and description. You know, just like we ended up with AD&D. And you can have perfectly fine fantasy with just humans - as many of the appendix n books prove.

I think that where Joesph is going with this is that we don't want some generic stat block that always applies, or you get players saying "oh, another orc? Hmmm. AC of 11 and 3 hp, right? I'll bet it takes us a 13 to hit and it will take it a 16 to hit me. I attack."

Robert E Howard (a fine example of Appendix N if I've ever seen one) has several instances where a character meets some sort of pre-human creature. They don't often get named and it's not usually clear what they can and cannot do. What we get is a vague list of characteristics and the character has to decide how to deal with them. In that sense, you could have "40 different monsters that are all just goblins" and it might not be so bad because each would have some unique characteristics and in that way be somewhat unpredictable.

If you really want a random monster, try this:

FINARVYN'S ULTRA RANDOM MONSTER MATRIX(TM)
For each below, roll a d16 to determine what dice type will determine the number of the thing listed. (1=d2, 2=d3, 3=d4, 4=d5, 6=d6, 7=d7, 8=d8, 9=d10, 10=d12, 11= d14, 12=d16, 13=d20, 14=d24, 15=d30, 16=roll twice)

Monster Name:
1. Roll to determine number of letters in the monster's name.
2. Roll a d24 to determine which letter (ignore Q and Z)

Monster Characteristics:
1. Roll for number of arms/legs
2. Roll for number of eyes
3. Roll d7 for primary color (assume ROYGBIV, in order)
4. Roll d7 for secondary color (assume ROYGBIV, in order)
5. Roll for hit dice


Example:
A monster has (roll=12) d16 letters in its name. I rolled the d16 and got 7 letters. It's called a Ujwxlaj.
It has d5 arms/legs (3)
It has d16 eyes (11)
It is mostly blue, with red highlights.
It has d6 (4) hit dice.


Now that's random! Fun to do, but I doubt that this is what Joseph has in mind. :P

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"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs, He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own."
-- Gary Gygax
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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 2:29 pm 
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Harley Stroh wrote:
The tone isn’t so much, “this needs to different for the sake of being different.” But more along the lines of: “There something outside our village, out in the darkness. For a generation we used to leave it a goat every full moon, tied to a post on the edge of the woods. But then the hermit vanished, and now it’s taken the blacksmith’s daughter. You can have my old spear, and the blacksmith is wrapping the pommel of our one sword with the remains of his daughter’s golden hair. Good luck, boys. Gods’ speed.”


This is what I like best about what I'm hearing about the DCC. I love how literary these descriptions feel, for adventures, and for characters. The blacksmith wrapping his daughter's hair around the pommel of the one sword in town, that's powerful stuff. This is kind of what i was trying to get at in the thread about zero level characters, the mindset of the characters and the people in the world that's going to be played in. Crackerjack details go a long way towards motivation outside from a generic tavern hook. The whole outlook for adventures is different, more organic and story based. This is how I'm going to play it, anyways, and I feel like that's the intent.


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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Diary #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 11:07 pm 
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finarvyn wrote:
Harley Stroh wrote:
finarvyn wrote:
Well said, and a lot more interesting than my "recycled" attempt at blog entry #4. 8)

But you're the minister of propaganda! You can only work with what we give you, what with budget cutbacks and all. :)
Self appointed. Don't forget that part. 8)

Reminds me of folks talking to Jack Sparrow and he always tosses in "that's Captain Jack Sparrow" or "there should be a 'captain' in there somewhere." :P


Sounds like an official appointment to me...

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Diary #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 4:34 am 
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dkeester wrote:
Sounds like an official appointment to me...
Well, the secret is to act like you're important and pretty soon others just thing you are. In this case, since Harley recognized my Minister-of-Propaganda-edness and Harley is a pretty big honcho himself, I'm one giant stride towards actually being official. Some math property seems to cover this, maybe the "transitive" one. :P

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"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs, He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own."
-- Gary Gygax
"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!"
-- Dave Arneson


Last edited by finarvyn on Tue May 24, 2011 6:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 5:19 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 6:12 am 
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Very nice!
So, there won't be a bestiary in the book? Or as a separate book?


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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 6:17 am 
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rabindranath72 wrote:
Very nice!
So, there won't be a bestiary in the book? Or as a separate book?


Heh. Can you imagine the howls if we tried to pass off a core book without any monster stats?

The adventures have all new monsters. The core book will provide stats for Appendix N beasties. But hopefully they will be used as unique instances (ala "The Minotaur") and as guidelines for creating your own fearsome foes.

//H

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 7:21 am 
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rabindranath72 wrote:
So, there won't be a bestiary in the book?

The playtest doc I've seen has 32 pages of monster stats and details. All of the common ones you'd expect are there as well as a few others. Many of the monster types have several variations.

I assume that these are included for folks who don't embrace Joseph's vision that monsters shouldn't be mundane and stereotypical. No reason why you couldn't run a world where some critters are common and others are unique. And this can be a feature of Appendix N as well, only from different books. In the Lord of the Rings, for example, basic creatures like elves and dwarves and hobbits and orcs aren't so unusual but Nazgul and Balrogs are. Just a different style of play....

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"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs, He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own."
-- Gary Gygax
"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!"
-- Dave Arneson


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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 9:56 am 
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Good, I am glad there will be at least some monsters, if for no other reason than to calibrate the difficulty of challenges.


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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 10:03 am 
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finarvyn wrote:
rabindranath72 wrote:
So, there won't be a bestiary in the book?

The playtest doc I've seen has 32 pages of monster stats and details.

Are there giant apes, squid-headed humanoids and forgs? How are dragons solved? :)

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 10:56 am 
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Ravenheart87 wrote:
How are dragons solved? :)



I'm wondering if dragons larger than a horse will exist. I'm not sure how many D&D style dragons exist in Appendix N.


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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 11:30 am 
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JediOre wrote:
Ravenheart87 wrote:
How are dragons solved? :)



I'm wondering if dragons larger than a horse will exist. I'm not sure how many D&D style dragons exist in Appendix N.


One. Smaug.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 11:41 am 
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Ravenheart87 wrote:
finarvyn wrote:
rabindranath72 wrote:
So, there won't be a bestiary in the book?
The playtest doc I've seen has 32 pages of monster stats and details.
Are there giant apes, squid-headed humanoids and forgs? How are dragons solved? :)

Giant apes ... yes! :D

Squid-headed humaoids ... well, there is a "variety in humanoids" section and one random option is "Skin covered in suckers (as an octopus)", so ... yes! :D

Forgs ... I assume you mean "frogs" ... the word "frog" appears a dozen or more times and there is something very frog-like, but I don't want to spoil Joseph's fun so I don't think I should be too specific, so ... sort of! :|

Dragons take up nearly 3 pages of rules, but again I don't want to say much unless given the green-light from Joseph. Are there dragons? yes! :D

Hope that helps a little.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer’s Blog #4: Adventuring in DCC RPG
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 1:57 pm 
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Geoffrey wrote:
JediOre wrote:
Ravenheart87 wrote:
How are dragons solved? :)



I'm wondering if dragons larger than a horse will exist. I'm not sure how many D&D style dragons exist in Appendix N.


One. Smaug.


Two. The 50' long firedrake in Three Hearts and Three Lions :)

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