The DCC Honeymoon Is Over

I still love you, DCC.  We’ve had some great times together, and I look forward to many more.  It’s just I’m starting to notice how long you take to get ready, sometimes you chew with your mouth open, and you’re always leaving lights on.

DCC really puts its best foot forward.  The level 0 funnel is just so much fun; it’s beautiful in its simplicity.  It’s light even compared to B/X!

But then everyone starts getting levels…  I absolutely loved playing my thief, and I’m realizing that a big part of that was just how easily the thief class played.  Roll for thiefy things and roll for combat (except I never rolled for combat, because thieves should not be fighting)!  But man!  The fighters with their stupid Deed dice, declaring their stupid deeds, and the magic users having to pass a freaking 8 pound book back and forth across the table to check all of the crazy spell tables.  Everything grinds to a halt, and even simple push-over combats can end up seeming like arduous affairs.

The crit and fumble tables, while inspirational for flavor, typically don’t make any sense in context of what’s going on, especially for any ranged attacks or thiefy backstabs.

Any fix for wizards would fundamentally undermine the feel of magic in DCC.  So the real fix is to have multiple copies of the book.

Fighters, though… Drop the deed.  Keep the deed die if you want.

So, thoughts for a FrankenDCC:

  • Take DCC’s 0 level funnel as a foundation.
  • Do some ratios, figure out the equivalent Class XP between B/X and DCC’s tiers.  Use those instead of the ones out of DCC.  Classes should level up at different rates.
  • Use B/X for hit dice and DCC for level-specific abilities/attacks.  Ignore crits or have crits do max damage.
  • Use Holmes for magic (sorry, B/X!) but use spells and spell tables from DCC.

Honestly, though, none of that solves the problems of DCC’s clunkiest elements.  There’s almost nothing that DCC does at the table mechanically that B/X doesn’t do smoother.  I do really like how weird the magic is in DCC’s implied setting, but god, the game balance!  A magic user can either be a magical Gatling gun or damn near useless depending on where he falls on his tables.  I also kinda wish scrolls and spellbooks were a thing, because I actually like Vancian magic.

I do still love DCC, but when I see even the fighters’ turns taking a relatively long time and combat dragging long enough that people are shocked when they find out that an encounter only lasted 3 or 4 rounds, I just get this feeling that something is wrong.  It could just be that DCC does not accommodate parties as large as the one I’m in very well.  Slow-down is not an issue I noticed until we were regularly having between 7 and 9 players, and one that I would not have begun to imagine when there were 4 or 5 of us.  But it’s a testament also to B/X that it can, perhaps better than any other system I’ve played, accommodate large groups of players with minimal slow-down.

Oh, yeah, we beat a bear!  It wasn’t the right bear, but we beat A bear.  And yeah, the hug would’ve killed me in one hit if my magic cursed half-plate of doom didn’t also have damage reduction.

6 responses to “The DCC Honeymoon Is Over

  1. Some of the heppest cats I know play DCC and they love it. If I had more time I would be in on those games for sure. Having said that, flipping through the rule book always gave me, as Vance would say “a small frisson of horror”. I think it was pitched to me as an old school game which I understand as being like B/X or OD&D or Mentzer. The last thing I want to do is get into an internet nerd fight over what old school means. But the point is that the size of the rules and the magic especially scared me a bit, regardless of what OSR means.

    • Y’know, I really want DCC to come out with a no-frills “basic” or “player” edition to supplement or act as an alternative to the main book. I bet they could half the size of the corebook by stripping out the artwork. Don’t get me wrong, the art is beautiful and I love it, but I was just looking at Moldvay Basic the other day and was all “Wow, there are maybe 20 illustrations in this thing tops, none of them take up more than 1/3 of the page and most of them are tiny!”

      I can definitely understand being daunted by DCC. Having played it for awhile now, I can say it’s not something I would want to run. One of the things I loved about the B/X game that I ran was that it was never an issue that we only had one set of rules. Most folks can get the “roll a d20 and tell me the difference between your roll and your THAC0” down pretty easy and there’s not much more to B/X than that.

      The DCC Funnel feels oldschool (to me at least) because level 0 characters really don’t have any rules to worry about other than “roll to hit”. I didn’t notice the clunk playing my thief because the thief more or less plays like a 3e thief with fixed skills (like B/X or AD&D’s thief table) instead of point-buy.

      Fighters should not have mechanics to memorize besides roll to hit. Deeds and defensive maneuvers and other silly stuff bogs down what should be the quickest to learn, simplest to play class. Also, it was funny at first, but it’s grown rather annoying that clerics can bungle their healing so badly. I’d rather have a cleric that can’t cast at level 1 but can still turn undead than a cleric that is constantly giving grave offense to her god and having to undergo ridiculous ordeals every time she botches a cure-light.

  2. I commented recently during a game that DCC was pretty paper intense. I have three elves and a cleric in my group and now every character has a folder with their spell tables (from the excellent Purple Sorcerer grimoire producing tool) in them. One of the players said I didn’t need to have all this paper at all but I’m baffled that anyone can think passing the giant book back and forth is a better solution. We already spend too much time looking up tables I think, I don’t want to spend even more time finding the right tables to look up.

    I don’t think I explained it very well to the dwarf player but as far as I’m concerned you don’t need to come up with a deed every time. If you don’t have some exotic move that you want to make it is perfectly acceptable to just take the increased chance to hit and damage. We did spend a couple of minutes while he tried to think of something clever to do with his deed while fighting 2 hit point skeletons in a narrow corridor but eventually he settled on “I guess I just smash them”.

    I do sometimes find myself thinking that Funnel Crawl Classics would be a better game.

    As far as killing a bear, I recently read a SMBC comic where someone was being questioned by St. Peter about his last words, “Hey, this bear tastes alive.”

    • One of the things we eventually did was ditch the crit tables since they were class, rather than weapon specific.

      I probably mentioned this already somewhere, but Goodman Games really should offer a saddle-stitched redux rules for players, but the spell lists/charts were really the main issue for us once we dropped the crit tables.

      Also, running a B/X game while allowing players to start with multiple characters more or less captures some of the feel of the Funnel, though DCC’s random schmuck generator is still pretty neat.

  3. For Warriors and Dwarves, there are some useful third party docs that have LOTS of deed suggestions. Also, the DCC Ref pamphlet (free PDF, or cheap at Lulu or Goodman Games website) has, in addition to all the crit charts and fumble tables, some great excerpts from the rules about Mighty Deeds. If your wizard or elf or cleric can print out their grimoires (which I highly recommend!) then the warrior and dwarf can print out a couple pages about deeds for inspiration during play.

    • Yeah, that would certainly be one way to do it, and since I wrote this post, GG has published what is essentially “Basic” player guides, which is a huge help.

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