Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
Allow me to start this review with a caveat; I do a lot of work for Goodman Games, and I contributed several pieces to the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, so my opinion is going to be perceived as colored by several factors that I need to put forth right away.
1) Goodman Games is one of my main art clients, so it is in my best interests to give the game a glowing review. It follows that I am going to gloss over any negatives. If I do, I hope it is unintentional.
2) I am no longer actively a gamer, so my opinion is based on how fun the basic read-through of the book was.
3) I do have a fondness for older-style games, so the idea of an actual Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG was exciting to me long before it was made public knowledge... one of the fringe benefits of working closely with a client.
That said, and this is based on an incomplete-as-yet read... this game is awesome. I make no bones about my fondness for older swords-and-sorcery and weird fiction: I am a self-described Lovecraft Nazi, an aficionado of R.E. Howard’s original Conan and Solomon Kane stories, as well as the macabre fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Michael Moorcock’s entire Eternal Champion Cycle, and countless other oddities like John Jakes’ and Lin Carter’s fantasy novels, not to mention the Dying Earth stories of Jack Vance. The point of that rather long sentence being: my love of fantasy reaches back to its roots (even the 19th century fantasies of Lord Dunsany)…
Not to mean any disrespect to today’s fantasy authors, but I have read few published in the past thirty years that made me go “what the f—k was going on in his guy’s head?, “ the way a story like Smith’s “The Dark Eidolon” or R.E. Howard’s “The Tower of the Elephant” did.
And what, you may be wondering; do those stories have to do with the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG?
Yes, the DCCRPG has Elves, Hobbits, and Dwarves... but in its twisted heart, it harks back to the bizarre fiction that appeared in magazines like Weird Tales back in the 1930s: grim, bloody, and bizarre stories that had no concept of “game balance” or “political correctness.” In those stories, the heroes were thieves, brigands, and occasionally fanatics, trying to get by hoping to make that one score that would make them richer than a sultan (shades of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser!), and wizards risked their lives and souls for power (shades of Elric’s relationship with the demon lord Arioch!)…
Yes, the DCCRPG invokes those memories, all the while building an actual rules-system that seems to be both easy to play (it is built from the basic D20 system), with enough fun fiddly bits (an amusingly bewildering array of D3’s, D5’s and Dhuh’s? in addition to the standard D4, D6 and D20’s) to keep system geeks happy for a long time.
How does it actually play? I can’t honestly say: I may never get the chance to run through a session, but I can tell you, it seems to be well-written, and clearly presented with a true love for the idea of an old-school game with new-school mechanics.
Other details I would like to mention: the book is lavishly illustrated, with pieces by over a dozen artists, including TSR alumni/art gods such as Jeff Easley, Jeff Dee, Jim Holloway and newer artists like Doug Kovacs and Jeremy Mullen (and myself… I will not indulge in false modesty here). Not all of the art is “great” per se, but all of it is at the very least highly competent, as well as fun and appropriate for the game. Plus, it has cartoons (!) something I have not seen in a rules set since the first–edition of that other game we won’t mention.
In short, the DCCRPG is a valentine’s card to a weirder time in the annals of fictions, and a loving homage to a simpler time in our hobby.
If you have not at least looked at it, I would recommend you do so… if for no other reason for its toy value. At a time when many games run $50-60 dollars for a 120 or so page book (or less), the DCCRPG offers a whole gaming system, complete with a bestiary and a beginning adventure, for $39.99 worth of 480 back-muscle-punishing pages. Hardcover.
In the words of the DCCRPG, that should be enough to stop at least 1d7 worth of damage.
I rate this a 4 () out of 5. Definitely worth it.