Wednesday, 15 June 2011

One DCC Comment: Fighter Feats

Having now read the Dungeon Crawl Classics beta document, and observed the whirlstorm and piñata party of posting around it, I find that most things I want to say about it have already been said.

My personal reaction is: it could be great fun as a convention one-shot, but not something I'd use or even plunder for a campaign. The game is indeed old school, but think 1980 rather than 1975, and a 1980 that never existed at that. Imagine if every producer of heartbreakers and complications for the ol' roleplaying chassis had asked, not "How do I make this more realistic?" but "How do I make this more crazy and fun?" Imagine if in 2008, the Wizards team had asked, not "How do I make this more balanced and tactical?" but "How do I make this more crazy and fun?" That is certainly the obvious aim of this game. I'll reserve judgment on whether it is actual fun until such time as I sit down and play.

Also, I especially enjoyed the line drawings by Peter Mullen. They are like Sidney Sime's material as drawn by Tove Jansson, in other words, double weird fantastic.

But I want to focus in on one specific reaction I had (and Mr. Rients, too, in his scrawlings). I really liked the idea that fighters had a special power that they could use with some of their attack rolls, to do improvised maneuvers like knock an enemy back. The "Mighty Feats of Arms" in the player's section are great, and presented in the right amount of detail.

Then you get to the judge's section. And each MFoA is presented in excruciating detail, with a paragraph detailing the exact result in game terms for each level of success rolled.

Once you have written a rule you cannot unwrite it. It doesn't matter if you have encouraged the judge and players to "be creative, hey presto old school." The space for that creativity has to be kept open by not making any kind of official rule. Otherwise, whatever you improvise might be seen, on a later perusal, to be "wrong" or lacking.

In other words, if this was my reaction to the Mighty Feats rule for the players:

the judge section did this:

This betrays a fundamental uncertainty about audience. Are you writing for the kind of confident judge and players who feel good about improvising? Are you writing for the less than confident judge and players who need rules guidance at every step? Or are you writing  to help the second group make the transition to playing as the first group? DCC (and not just on this issue) seems to preach for the first group but practice for the second. I'll also note that there's precious little material out there that tries for the third goal.

By the way, if you want to implement "Mighty feats" in a more standard D&D-style game without rolling an extra die, a quick solution might be to roll the fighter's weapon damage die whether or not the hit succeeds, and have a feat-style effect happen on a natural 1 or 2. This advantages the dagger and other low-damage weapons, but also gives somewhat of a consolation prize for missing in combat.


  1. The suggestion you have for "Mighty Feats" in D&D is basically how I'd implement them, too. I've mentioned using the basic Situation Roll concept as a feat/maneuver system. It's not as imbalancing when all weapons do 1d6 damage...

  2. That is the major issue I've had with the whole of DCC. It seems really confused about who its intended audience is and I'm not sure there is one aside from one-off games in between other campaigns. A lot of it seems likes gimmicks thrown together to be different. I wrote a review over on RPGgeek and Joe Goodman responded to some of my issues if you want to have a look.

  3. Yes I had exactly the same thought... Read about them in the fighter section and thought "wow that's cool!", then turned to the referee's section and was like "what?".

  4. Your mention of figuring out who your intended audience is spot on and I think has been and is a big issue in publishing RPG products.

    I think playtesting should focus not on "how did the adventure run?" but "how much experience do you have as DM and what difficulties did you have?"

    I also think rather than laying down specific rules sections, talking about how to make rulings would be better in a lot of cases. Or in the absence of that, at least design notes: "what were the game experiences that made you decide to make the rule like that?"

    I'm talking in general, haven't looked at DCC closely.