Opinions about the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG beta release

Now that everyone is talking about the beta release of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG from Goodman Games I felt the need to chime in, too, as I love to look at their upcoming product from a designers and a players point of view. I will try to comment it after a casual glance. My viewpoint will be very strongly 'The Fantasy Game' based as DCC RPG seems to take a similar philosophical viewpoint for its design but a very different technical design route (quote from their website: "Return to the glory days of fantasy with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. Adventure as 1974 intended you to, with modern rules grounded in the origins of sword & sorcery.").
First impressions first:
  • There is a lot of B/W artwork in the game... and I really mean a lot. Which I generally like, especially since many of the famous TSR artists from yonder golden times are on board... Jim Holloway, Erol Otis, etc. And "newer" artists like Pete Mullen show that they absolutely can be on par with the old giants of the hobby. So I really love most of the art although sometimes I find the differences in style too strong and sometimes it's even for me too much art... something I never would have thought I'd say. While there are a few "funnies" too much for my taste I absolutely had forgotten how much I love the artwork of Jeff Easley... if I ever have the budget for that I definitely would have him to the inner artwork for 'The Fantasy Game' together with Jim Holloway. At least large parts.
  • The DCC RPG dicewise takes a contrary approach to 'The Fantasy Game': All the standard polyhedrals are used and you also will need d3, d5, d7, d16 and what not. Which reminds me of a comment on this blog from D.H. Boggs regarding the success of D&D due to its application of polyhedral dice. I am really curious to see how the choice of dice will affect the success of the DCC RPG as I wonder whether D&D hit the right mark with its six dice types or more even today is better. 'The Fantasy Game' definitely will take the opposite route and just apply d6... so much I have decided for me internally.
  • The game has a pretty detailed system with many modifiers and rules. Thus I would see it rather as an "AD&D that might have been" than "a D&D that might have become". In general I find the DCC RPG far more similar to HackMaster than any of the OD&D clones. Hopefully Kenzer & Company didn't take too long with finishing HackMaster 5th Edition as I would hate so see that game and company fail due to Goodman Games' DCC RPG, which IMHO caters to a similar gamer type.
  • The whole skill system is remarkably "almost not existant" and in some respects feel similar to my approach for 'The Fantasy Game'. Usually I like more elaborate skill systems but in an old school game this is highly acceptable and I applaud them for their choice.
  • Thief skills use percentages which I find totally stupid. There really is no need to have two different skill systems at the same time. Ever.
  • There are lots of critical hit and fumble tables. Which I theoretically always like but except for MERP never found as much fun when playing as they seemed in theory. So this is something I really would need to test. And HackMaster 4th Edition still has the cooler d10.000 based critical hit table ;-)
  • Magic is ruled by many tables... there is one table per spell for highly varied effects and there are fumble tables, etc. Sounds brutal in theory and I don't think I would want that but rather would prefer one general kind of "wild magic table" or so. Again something that needs to be tested.
So much for first impressions. I have not yet played the game and most probably won't play it in the near future. My stomach tells me I still prefer the HackMaster approach if looking for old school feel with more complex rules but as HackMaster 5th edition is only out as a basic version I will have to wait with a final judgement.

At least Goodman Games need to be recommended for trying a very different approach to old school gaming and I wish them all the best. My stomach tells me that the final result will not be my cup of tea but I will buy the final game in any case if just for all the great artwork.


  1. Thanks for posting your first impressions. For the most, part I agree with your assessment. It will be interesting to see how the game is changed following the beta release.

  2. Update to the post: HackMaster uses a d10.000 based critical hit table... ten times cooler :-) I fixed that part in the post.

  3. It seems more then a few people are convinced that not having a unified "Skill" system is one key to creating an "Old School" feel. Both Goodman Games and Kenzer seem to agree- The problem I have is my players are use to "unified systems", and this approach is a "step backwards" for them.

    If I were to run an "Old School" inspired campaign I'd be torn on which of the two systems to use -HM5 or DCC.