Friday, February 19, 2010

Dungeon Crawl Classics, the RPG

You've probably read, by now, the reports of Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG in development. Judging by the quality of work they've done on the DCC modules line, they've got a pretty good idea of what makes something "old-school", from the art and classic layout, to the site-based nature of the adventures, to the fairly reverent Greyhawk-homage of their campaign setting. I think an original system is a good move on their part, even though everyone and their mother seems to have an "old-school" RPG in development right now.

One of the big strengths of the various retroclones (and, of course, their source inspirations) is that you can pretty much mix-and-match stuff from every game with little or no conversion required. That is to say, you can use the Swords & Wizardry "engine", with OSRIC classes, while playing through a classic TSR module like "Keep on the Borderlands", and its no strain on the GM or players whatsoever to make things jive.

Goodman Games would be wise to try and follow the same ethic, to as great an extent as possible. There are certainly "D&D-based" games out there, like the new Hackmaster Basic, for instance, that would not be easy to use with all that other stuff, due to some idiosyncracies like hit point "kickers", skills, and such, and I think such sytems suffer for it. Comparatively, something like Castles & Crusades is remarkably compatible with just about anything, while still retaining its own identity and flavor. How much more appealing is a system that is usable with stuff you already like, as opposed to something that is almost compatible? There are only a limited number of steps away a game can take from what most of us consider to be "D&D" before you might as well pick up something really different like GURPS or Rolemaster.

I posited a question last year about whether anyone would have a chance of producing "one clone to rule them all". To have a fighting chance, lets hope Goodman Games keeps the compatibility issue in mind.


  1. I find that people who are D&D monogamers are unwilling to pick anything up without "D&D" on the cover. The game I wrote is sort of close to a few editions of D&D, and it plays very much like D&D. But I had to sell it to my players by talking about what it did differently, and they got excited about that.

    But everyone has different ideals here, and I'm sure there won't be one game that everyone in the OSR plays. Part of what defines our nostalgic little subsubgenre is a willingness to ignore what's being printed now and look everything over for what you want to play.

  2. This sounds promising and I think that the success of the Goodman Games product will be mostly dependent on two factors. Compatibility (as you describe it) and availability, meaning it's price. I think it wont be a competition for S&W,OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord, if it is not free.

    On the other hand, if the product manages to be both compatible and original (which is an extreme challenge) it might end up joining the big three of retro clones.

  3. I'm sure it will do well. I'm looking forward to see what they have to offer.

  4. Not to come across too bitchy, but, when did gamers become so lazy as to not convert stuff over to their fave system? Post AD&D2?
    --Am I really /that/ old?

    Converting D&D monsters to Traveller and then porting in characters from Star Frontiers was just an accepted part of the /art/ of being a GM back then.
    --Seriously, what happened?

    I'll blame it on 3.x (true or not) ;)


  5. I agree with @Timeshadows here. I think that this whole run of retroclones has created a sort of glut in the market for games that are all derivatives. Not to say I don't LOVE them--I run S&W and 4e for my two campaigns--but I think that it's created something of a stale landscape for games of late.

  6. I also worry about a glut. How many "restatements" of D&D or AD&D do we need?
    While I am still very interested in modules and supplements, I am rapidly losing my enthusiasm for retro-clone rulebooks.

  7. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for originality and seeing new games and stuff. But this game specifically, the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, will be targeted strait at fans of classic D&D, so to really need to succeed it'll need to be compatible to some extent with say, Tomb of Horrors or Fiendish Folio, or its just not going to do very well.

    As far as glut goes, I think a degree of compatibility goes a long way to make different games more "supplemental" than "alternative", not unlike OD&D's relation to AD&D, Arduin, Tekumel, Tunnels & Trolls, and so on.

  8. [Rant: On]

    Tunnels & Trolls, the second-oldest RPG, used OD&D as its source of inspiration and then took a rapid mechanical departure so as to make the game-play entirely different.

    No polyhedral dice are necessary to create a character or play the game. In this fashion, it is entirely original, and again suggests that games really can be mechanically independent from the D&D structure and still be a viable game.
    --In short, apart from 5/6th of the ASbility Score names, the two games are extremely divergent.

    So, that all clarified, how many extant OSR games are as mechanically divergent from OD&D? ** Zer0 **

    That is both glut and redundancy and a particular lack of originality.
    --That folks can essentially endlessly re-copy the SRD or something with D&D in its title and sell it for profit and the OSR continue to gobble it up is both mind boggling and supremely disappointing to me for the reasons I stated before.

    I'm not knocking GGDCC before I see it. I don't need to. Its ** yet another ** D&D simulaclone. Woopde*******do. And to top it all off, the OSR blogs will be scruitinising every tiny difference and making proclamations to folks like me who'd like to see something substantively different that, in fact, this or that feature is divergent and so forth, so that justifies yet another flippin' regurgitation of this endless tail-chasing.

    Attempts by some to draw sympathies to 'D&D is the source', and therefore, the only universal system for emulation/minor variation (ooh, look, they have AAC in square brackets for the New Kids, too!) just don't hold up in light of Tunnels & Trolls -- the primary torpedo to sink that argument, both on that mechanical ground, and with its Old School creds.

    I'm actually looking forward to your Mars RPG, Al, but not because it is D&D-esque. Rather, because you exhibit a great zeal or the quality of your work, because Denmark is such a wonderful artist, and because my unpublished (alternate-) Mars RPG could probably use the existence of another RPG in the similar vein so as to completely and utterly steer itself away from duplication.

    [Rant: Off]

    I'm sorry to have ranted on your blog, because I don't see you as militant as at least two others in 'the community'.

    Much success in your commercial endeavours, Al. :)


  9. I hope Goodman's system is awesome, though I have a hard time picturing it replacing either C&C or S&W for me. I definitely plan on looking it over, at the very least. One big advantage that Goodman will have is that the public is pretty much guaranteed a lot of support for the game direct from it's main publisher.

  10. Timeshadows,

    I agree with your comments. At this point, Goodman HAS to have at least a few major changes to the base system, or most prospective buyers won't bother with his game. They already have almost 10 versions of it.

  11. @Dan: I'm not as optimistic, but I agree with your logic. :)

  12. Goodman Games to me is all about the adventure modules. I see GG putting out this version of a retro-clone DND, solely to drive future module sales.

    I don't think GG wants to put out 4e and 3.5e modules going forward. I think they want to put modules out on "their" system.

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