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Where do I begin? With Dungeon Crawl Classics!
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Author:  Jim Skach [ Tue Apr 29, 2014 9:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Where do I begin? With Dungeon Crawl Classics!

I'm tired. I'm sore. I've got more work to do than I really want to contemplate.

But I miss you guys.

Where are you?

So I shall begin with a discussion of DCC...

Author:  Jim Skach [ Wed Apr 30, 2014 1:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do I begin?

DCC has been around for a while now. It has garnered quite a loyal following. Why?

Here's my breakdown of the why:

  1. It uses just the right amount of d20 and in the right spots.
  2. It leaves behind the complexity and replaces it with flexibility.
  3. It adds interesing new systems.

All of those can then be used as each group sees fit. The result is an almost perfect blend of Old and New School.


Author:  Jim Skach [ Thu May 01, 2014 9:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do I begin? what's d20-ish?

Fundamentals...but only the fundamentals....

There are six abilites. Most are the same, though there is a bit of a twist in one case. But for the most part, these are your familiar abilities.

Ascending Armor Class
Your basic d20 flip of the old AD&D method. Unarmored is an AC of 10, better armor increases this number. An attack is the roll of the d20 beating armor class*

Core Mechanic
The Attack roll mentioned above is essentially a specialized version of the general mechanic - a d20 roll versus a Diffculty Class (or rating).*

[Edit: forgot these!]
Saving Throws
Like d20, there are three types of Saving Throws: Fortitude, Reflex, and Will. Also, the mechanic is the same (roll, add modifiers, beat a number).

Next up - what is different?

* What is the asterisk, you ask? We'll get to that in a bit...suffice it say one of the fun things, to me, in DCC is how they take this simple core and add little twists and turns that are not complex in their implementation, but lead to interesting (again, to me) effects.

Author:  Jim Skach [ Mon May 05, 2014 2:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do I begin? With Dungeon Crawl Classics!

[NOTE: If you've been following along, you might want to review the previous post. I forgot Saving Throws!]

There are three most notable, inescapable changes to the basic d20 system: Skills, Feats, Magic. We'll look at the first two, and save Magic for its own post - since that departure is one of the most fundamental changes to the game.

The most notable change with skills is that it is a stripped down, simplified version. It takes up all of two pages in the rules and is very abstract. The basic skill check mechanic remains the same; that is, a difficulty class (DC) is determined by the Referee and the player rolls to try to beat that number. But in DCC, skills are placed in three categories: Trained, Untrained, and Ambiguous. If a character is Trained, the player rolls a d20 (adding modifiers, etc.). If the character is Untrained, the player rolls a d10 (plus modifiers, etc). Finally, if it is Ambiguous, the player rolls a d10 but gets a +2 bonus along with any modifiers. What determines the category of the skill? That is based on the starting profession of the character (which we'll cover in the discussion of the Character Funnel).

Feats are gone. That's feats. Feats, feat chains, figuring out which feats to take and what to do when you're halfway down a feat chain and decide you want this other one over here...this is one of the things I really didn't like about d20 (YMMV). So for me this was a great.

However, there is a closely related system that applies to Fighters (and Dwarves!) called The Mighty Deed of if you're really looking for that extra kick, hang around for that discussion (and see how it starts to balance the fighter at high levels with magic users)...

Next Up – Magic!

Author:  Thengel [ Tue May 06, 2014 7:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do I begin? With Dungeon Crawl Classics!

Some of us are still around and look forward to your witty repertoire. :D

Author:  Jim Skach [ Wed May 07, 2014 11:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do I begin? With Dungeon Crawl Classics!

Thanks Thengel!

Now magic...magic is going to take some 'splainin...

Author:  Jim Skach [ Wed May 07, 2014 1:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do I begin? With Dungeon Crawl Classics!

The most significant difference is that spell casting is no longer a certainty – which has both benefits and drawbacks from the character point of view. But what does it mean? We’ll start with the fundamental mechanics for casting, followed by the differences between Wizard’s (and Elves!) and Clerics, finishing with some examples of things like Misfires and Corruption.

Each Spell, whether divine or arcane, has a chart…think of it as a kind of a codified DC chart for that spell. A caster no longer automatically loses a spell when it is cast; nor is it a sure thing that the spell is going to work as intended. Instead, the Wizard rolls a “spell check”. Ability modifiers (Personality for Clerics, Intelligence for Wizards) and Caster Level (usually the character’s level) are added and the total is then compared to the Spell’s chart to determine the results. As with most things d20-ish, the higher the roll the better the result. So while it is possible to have a spell fizzle and do nothing and be lost for the remainder of the day, it is also possible to achieve spectacular results and be able to cast the spell again without resorting to eight hours of study.

There are some basic results that are fairly consistent across spells. For example, in first level spells a roll 11 or less means the spell failed (nothing happens) and is lost for the day. For Wizards, second-level spells often provide for a roll (12-13) where the spell fails but it is not lost, whereas for Clerics, higher level spells increase the chance of the spell failing (at second level, a 13 or below is failure)..which carries its own set of consequences. One thing is certain…do not roll a 1. In either case, Wizard or Cleric, a 1 is bad, bad thing (we’ll cover how bad in the near future).

However, this is focusing on the negative….when the positive can be so spectacular! Take, for example, the lowly Magic Missile. Sure a pretty standard roll of 12 would provide this result:
The caster throws a single missile that does 1 point of damage. He must have line of sight to the target. The missile never misses, though it may be blocked by certain magic (e.g., magic shield).

Seems pretty poor – but recall that as long as a 12 or better is rolled, the Wizard can cast this spell multiple times. But what’s really fun is when you get a little higher on the chart. Let’s say you are really lucky and at first level you roll a 19. After you add your caster level, this becomes a 20 with the following results:
The caster throws 1d4+2 missiles that do damage equal to 1d6 + caster level. Each missile can be aimed at a separate target to which the caster has line of sight. The missiles never miss, though they may be blocked by certain magic (e.g., magic shield).

Add some Luck and Spellburn and you could really go to town!

We’ll get into the specifics of the negative consequences of spell check fumbles (rolling a 1), as well as applying Luck to spell checks and explaining Spell Burn, in future posts. What I want to do with this basic overview of how magic works is describe some of the general effects in play (IME).

Spells Scale with Level
This is a really interesting mechanical effect – the same spell can be used with some great effects when/if higher levels are reached. Let’s go back to our Magic Missile example. It is true that at first level, to get those spectacular results, we’d have to roll a 19. But when we are fifth level, we only have to roll a 15. And our chances of rolling 11 or below drop dramatically. So the same spells can still be useful and effective at high levels.

And lest ye be worried about greater results at higher levels, know that the table for Magic Missile have results that go up to 32+ and results that include sending a single missile against a target that isn’t even present.

Are you sure you want to cast that?
Now magic is not a sure thing. Now a Wizard has to think a bit before just casting a spell. Sure I could cast Magic Missile a hundred times in a single day if I rolled over 11 every time. But each time I’m taking the 5% risk of having it misfire or getting Corrupted. Take, for example, the Misfire portion of the Spell Chart for Magic Missile:
Roll 1d6: (1) explosion of missiles sprays in all directions – all creatures within 100’ (allies and enemies) are hit by 1d4-1 missiles, each doing 1 point of damage; (2) missiles launch then ricochet back on caster, who is hit by 1d3-1 missiles for 1 point of damage each; (3) explosion of force energy centered on caster, causing 1d6 damage to caster and all within 10’ (DC 10 Ref save for half); (4) delayed blast – no effect now, but at a random point sometime in the next 24 hours, determined whenever the caster rolls his next 1 on any dice roll (not just a d20), a single magic missile bolts forth to strike one randomly determined character within 100’ for 1d4 damage (strikes the caster if there are no other targets) – if no 1 is rolled in 24 hours, risk passes without damage; (5) caster becomes charged with force energy, such that the next creature or object he touches suffers a blast damage for 1d6+1 damage to target and 1 point of damage to caster; (6) force energy manifests in downward direction, burning a hole in the ground under caster –ground beneath him rapidly disintegrates to a depth of 1d20 feet, and he sinks with the falling depth of the ground to find himself at bottom of pit – there is no initial falling damage since he “rides” the drop in ground level but depth of pit may open to lower level of the dungeon (potentially causing damage), and he must now climb out.

That risk…every time you cast Magic Missile.

In turn, evens the power balance
I know, who would have thought that creating a system where it is possible for a Wizard to cast spells multiple times would level the power balance…but it does. Because there are so many possible negative effects, to both the wizard and his or her party, it’s not so easy to sling spells at the drop of a hat. Suddenly the Wizard’s power comes with strings attached…strings that bring the power balance at higher levels more interesting and the relationship between Wizard and party into an interesting space.

Inadvertent Hilarity
When spells misfire, it can be devastating. But some of the possibilities are hilarious. We were playing in a game at GenCon when my son cast a spell to read some runes/glyphs. It misfired, and instead caused one of the other characters to only understand the Dragon language for the next 8 hours (game time). This led to some great moments when he would try to tell us things or react to situations…without muttering a word in English to mimic out inability to understand him.

This magic system has to be one of my favorite changes to the basic structure of D&D…and I don’t know if I’ve even played a Wizard yet. It is such an interesting change that has so many impacts with such a simple (albeit wordy) implementation. And in our experience to date, it really brings the fun...

Author:  Jim Skach [ Fri May 16, 2014 10:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do I begin? With Dungeon Crawl Classics!

Luck we'll back up a little and talk about one of the abilities that affects spell checks, as well as many other rolls....Luck.

Luck is an interesting ability; not from your normal d20-ish game. It is simply a measurement of, as the rules say, "Right Time, Right Place" for each character. One of the most amusing aspects of luck is that it acts as a kind of pool of...what do other games call similar tools...Aweseome Points?

In DCC, you can "burn" Luck by using it to modify a roll, even after the roll has been made. Miss an attack that's crucial to survival by 5? Burn some luck to get a one-time +5 bonus. However, now your Luck is 5 points lower. This might seem like a no-brainer is some cases, but it does have consequences.

For the purposes of this discussion, realize that Luck can be applied to Spell Checks. So when you roll a spell check for Magic Missile and your result is that miserable 12 that would only do a single point of damage and you really need more damage to finish off the last of the Goblin Horde, you can “burn” 2 points of Luck and make your spell check a 14. Voila!

There are limits – you can’t burn your Luck to below 3, for example. There are consequences. For instance, the Luck Modifier (the plus or minus associated with the character’s Luck score) affects rolls like Critical Hits or Fumbles. Drop your Luck into negative modifier territory, and it might just cost you something significant whence next you fumble. Or what happens when the Judge makes you roll a Luck check (roll under your Luck for success) for some reason – and you’ve just knocked yours from 13 to 8?

Spellburn is a powerful cousin of Luck, reserved for the Wizard and, in extreme cases, Clerics. Spellburn allows a Wizard to sacrifice other ability scores in order to modify the spell check. So, for example, in exchange for “burning” 5 points of Strength, a Wizard could gain a +5 bonus to the spell check.

Like Luck, this has consequences. First and foremost a character could go from a good or at least neutral modifier for a given ability to a negative modifier. And as with Luck, if, given our example, a Strength check is requested, chances could be drastically reduced.

Unlike Luck, which is recovered in specific ways detailed in the rules (really…go get them…they are awesome), ability points lost in this way heal as normal – one per day that another Spellburn attempt is not made.
Also, Luck can be applied either before or after a roll (and there is some debate over why anyone would apply Luck before). But SpellBurn must be announced and calculated before the roll.

I must admit, I have no experience with the impact of these rules in a long term campaign…if anyone does, please feel free to chime in! But I do have some experience of this impact in con/one-shot games – and it’s a riot. Wizards without a fear of tomorrow can do some pretty awesome things with these two methods used in tandem. I was in one game when a couple of characters actually went back in time and tried to convince the rest of the party not to take a certain path.

Author:  Jim Skach [ Tue May 20, 2014 3:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do I begin? With Dungeon Crawl Classics!

Idol Magic
This is the term used in Dungeon Crawl Classics to refer to Divine or Clerical magic. We’ll breeze over the similarities, which are many, and focus a bit more on the differences.

In many fundamental ways, Idol magic “works” the same way as wizard’s magic – in game terms. That is, when a cleric casts a spell, the player rolls a spell check, adding Caster Level and Personality modifier, and compares that to the chart for the spell. However, other than the difference in the kind of spells of Wizards versus Clerics, the consequences of each now veer quite dramatically away from each other.

Spell Loss
Remember how a Wizard’s attempt to cast a spell can results in losing the spell for the day? This does not happen for Clerics. That’s right – whatever spells a Cleric knows can be cast as many times as desired…barring any unforeseen consequences…

Remember how a Wizard could fumble a spell (roll a 1) and risk having bad things like Corruption and/or Misfire take place? When Idol Magic is involved that risk is Deity Disapproval.

Deity Disapproval means something has caused a breach in the relationship between the Cleric and his Deity. The exact narrative meaning of a Cleric’s Deity responding with Disapproval is left to the Referee and/or the Player(s), but usually entails the Deity being angry with Cleric in some way, shape, or form.

Initially, Disapproval only occurs if the player rolls a 1 on a Spell Check. However, each time a Cleric fails a Spell Check that Disapproval range increases by 1. So after the first failure, Disapproval occurs on roll of a 1 or a 2. This process continues and the range increases after each failed Spell Check, even if the Spell Check roll would normally be successful. That’s right…even if the player rolls a 13 on a Spell Check, if the Cleric character has had 12 previous failures, this normally-successful attempt would now be subject to the consequences of Disapproval

And just to really throw a wrench into the works, this failure-causing-increase-in-disapproval-range business applies to the Laying Hands AND Turn abilities. That’s right…try to heal a friend one too many times and you could end up losing your ability to Turn Unholy.

In terms of rules, however, there are two basic consequences:

First, the spell atomically fails. This may not seem like much, but in a moment it might be clear why this has serious possibilities.

Second, the player rolls on the Disapproval table. This has everything ranging from the Cleric needing to atone by spending the next 10 minutes chanting to losing the ability to Turn Unholy!

Now, take the increasing disapproval range along with these consequences and see what can happen. Let us say that our 2nd Level Cleric with an average Personality ability has had the misfortune of failing 12 spell attempts during a day’s adventuring. Remember, this includes any Lay Hands (healing) or Turn attempts he has made. He is bedding down for the night and wants to cast a Protection From Evil spell in the hopes of getting some peace and quiet, if only for a short time. The player rolls a 10. Great! Add the Caster Level of 2 and 0 for a Personality modifier and that makes the spell check a 12 – normally enough to succeed, even if minimally.

But wait! The poor sod failed 12 times today – making his Disapproval range 1-13. So not only does the spell attempt automatically fail, the player has to roll on the Disapproval table.

As the Core Rule Book explains:
When the cleric regains spells on the following day, his disapproval range is reset to a natural 1. Probably. Clerics who test their gods may find they are not always forgiving.

It is also possible to ameliorate the effects of spell failure on the disapproval range through Sacrifice. The details are left to the Referee and Players, but there are some rules and guidelines in the Core Rule Book with respect to how much “wealth” would be necessary, etc.


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