What is DCC RPG?
In brief, the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG is an Old School Rules reimagining of D&D Basic Edition from the 1970s and 1980s with a lot more randomness.
The publisher, Goodman Games, provides a quickstart, from which I drew most of the following. (I also own the full rules in PDF.)
The aforementioned Quickstart draws these comparisons with D&D 5th Edition:
- DCC RPG does not use proficiency bonuses, advantage and disadvantage, specific skills, or spell slots.
- Instead of advantage and disadvantage, a player might roll a die with more sides (a larger die) or one with fewer sides (a smaller die) depending on if circumstances favor or hinder them. You could roll a 1d12 to hit an opponent if conditions aren’t in your favor, but you also might roll a 30-sided die to attack if you’re in a position of superiority!
- Ability points and even race are randomly determined rather than chosen. While this might sound limiting, in practice it’s been observed that players often end up with characters they never could have imagined on their own and love these unexpected heroes.
- Classes and races are one and the same. You are a wizard or an elf.
- There are only seven classes in DCC RPG.
- There are only three saving throws (Fortitude, Reflex, and Will) and these are not ability saves.1
- DCC RPG does not have prestige classes2, attacks of opportunity, feats, or skill points2.
- There are no backgrounds in DCC RPG, but there are occupations which might suggest what your character did before becoming an adventurer. These occupations suggest rather than codify what types of knowledge and talents a character possesses.
Generally, like those earliest editions, the game defines a character’s adventuring abilities and leaves everything else up to “roleplaying”.
As stated above DCC defines only seven classes:
- Thief (Rogue)
- Warrior (Fighter)
Yes, Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings are classes: Dwarf is a sort of Warrior with some dwarfish extras, Elf is a Warrior/Wizard with a few elflike traits, and Halfling is a wee warrior with stealth and luck abilities.
DCC RPG uses not only the standard d4, d6, d8, d10, d100, d12, and d20 but also a d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24, and d30. They even form a chain, such that instead of adding a bonus or penalty the player rolls the next higher or lower die, e.g. a d8 can become a d7 or a d10, a d20 can become a d16 or a d24, etc.
Characters roll 3d6 for each attribute, in order. They also randomly generate a pre-adventuring profession, starting hit points (1d4 + Stamina mod), and a Lucky (or Unlucky) Sign which determines what sort of die rolls the character’s Luck modifier modifies. (Yes, Luck is a characteristic.)
Character’s start at 0th (zeroth) level. Players typically roll up three or more, put them through a 0th level funnel adventure, and continue with one of the survivors (if any).
Critical Hits and Fumbles
The game defines multiple Critical Hit Tables; which one a character uses depends on class and level, with high-level Fighters and Dwarves getting the best ones and 0-th level characters and Wizards getting the worst. On a natural 20 each character rolls their class’s and level’s Crit Die to determine what happens.
Likewise, a natural 1 is a Fumble. Players roll a die based on their armor. Those with less armor get smaller dice, and naturally the worst results are at the lowest numbers on the table.
The Deed Die
Instead of gaining a flat bonus to attack rolls, Warriors gain a deed die, which begins at d3.
The Deed Die also doubles as the modifier for a “Mighty Deed of Arms”3. Whenever the player wants to do something besides hitting, i.e. disarm the foe, push them back, swing on a chandelier, strike at a chink in their armor, etc., the player rolls an attack as normal. If the attack succeeds, and the Deed Die rolls a 3 or better, the Deed succeeds.
Here I’ll quote the Quickstart again:
- All spells are cast with a spell check, where the caster rolls 1d20, adds certain modifiers, and tries to score high. The higher the roll the more effective the spell’s result. Each spell has a unique chart that adjudicates the spell’s effects.
- Wizards may or may not lose the ability to cast spells as they adventure. Instead of memorizing spells or using spell slots, a low roll means the wizard cannot cast the spell for the rest of the day. On a high result, they can cast the spell again.
- Cleric spellcasting works differently from wizard casting. Clerics never lose a spell when its cast. However, when a cleric casts a spell and fails in their attempt, they may increase their “natural failure range.” By the end of the day, a cleric may automatically fail on more rolls than just a natural 1
Despite the deliberately retro and random rules, the game contains a few modern mechanics to streamline the game.
Instead of the arbitrary resolution methods of the oldest editions, nearly all player actions are resolved with a d20 + modifiers. Sometimes those modifiers are another die. In a few cases the rules replace the d20 with a lower die to represent a severe penalty on the action. But in all cases the players try to roll at or above a target number.
Likewise saving throws match the 3rd edition of the game rather than the arbitrary categories of 1st and 2nd, as noted above.
While the huge casting results table don’t streamline the text, they do remove the need to track spell slots or castings per day.
The 0-Level Funnel
Quoting the Quickstart again:
DCC RPG generates characters using what the author refers to as a “funnel.” First, each player generates at least two, and possibly as many as four, 0-level characters. It is critical that the characters be generated using the process as described: completely random ability scores, random occupation, random Luck modifier, and random equipment. Each player ends up with an assortment of characters who could potentially serve as several different classes. When all characters are generated, have the players go around the table and introduce their 0-level peons to their peers.
The “funnel” takes place in 0-level play. During the first 0-level game, it is expected each player will lose some or most of their characters. When mere peasants and yeomen explore deadly dungeons, a high mortality rate is a matter of course. By the end of the first game, the players will be left with a motley crew of survivors, and this group of heroic adventurers becomes the 1st-level party
The Five Stooges
Using an online random generator, I’ve rolled up five characters with five random names4.
|Name||Str||Agl||Stm||Int||Prs||Lck||HP||Augur and Lucky Roll|
|Baldo||11||7||11||10||12||10||2||(11) Fox’s Cunning|
|+0||+2||+0||+1||+0||-1||missile fire damage rolls|
|Hargrim||7||14||12||9||14||9||2||(10) Born Under The Loom|
|-1||+1||+0||+0||+1||+0||skill checks (incl. thief skills)|
|Robert||12||10||6||13||9||13||2||(28) The Broken Star|
|Wilbert||14||12||10||11||8||10||1||(21) Lived Through Famine|
|+1||+0||+0||+0||-1||+0||fortitude saving throws|
Next we choose alignment5, roll for profession, and roll for starting money.
|Name||A||Profession||Weapon||Trade Goods||Money (cp)|
|Baldo||C||(13) Confidence Artist||Dagger||quality cloak||49|
|Geoffry||N||(53) Guild Beggar||Sling||crutches||44|
|Hargrim||N||(19) Dwarven Apothecarist||Cudgel6||steel vial||33|
|Robert||L||(68) Hunter||Shortbow||deer pelt||30|
|Wilbert||N||(97) Wizard’s apprentice||Dagger||black grimoire||36|
Making a Thief
We’ll assume Geoffry survived with his higher than normal HP, Agility, and Intelligence.
Casting aside his crutches, he decided to become a full-time Thief. He gains the following benefits:
A 1d6 hit die. (I rolled a 3 for first level)
Training in a blackjack, blowgun, crossbow, dagger, dart, garrote, longsword, short sword, sling, and staff.
Knowledge of Thieves’ Cant.
Thief skills, all of which use 1d20 + attribute + class modifier:
- Cast spell from scroll
- Climb sheer surfaces
- Disarm trap
- Disguise self
- Find trap
- Handle poison
- Hide in shadows
- Pick lock
- Pick pocket
- Read languages
- Sneak silently
As he is a Neutral character, he will advance more slowly in Backstab, Disguise self, and Handle poison. (Lawful Thieves join or form organized gangs; Chaotic Thieves becomes assassins. Neutral thieves tend toward swindling, burglary, and living double lives.)
The ability to roll a Luck die when he expends his Luck attribute, and the ability to restore Luck at a rate of one point per level every night. (Other classes lose Luck permanently.)
That said, Geoffrey won’t be relying on his terrible luck very often …
|Name||Alignment||Occupation||Class||Level||Max HP||AC (Armor Type)|
|Geoffrey||Neutral||Beggar||Thief||1||7||13 (padded + Agl)|
|Initiative||Action Dice||Attack Die||Crit Die||Crit Table|
|Melee||blackjack||1d20 +0||1d3 subdual (2d6)|
|Reflex (Agl)||Fortitude (Stm)||Will (Prs)|
Lucky Roll: Missile weapon damage
|Climb sheer surfaces (+Agl)||+5|
|Disable trap (+Agl)||+3|
|Disguise self (+Per)||+0|
|Find trap (+Int)||+2|
|Forge document (+Agl)||+5|
|Hide in shadows (+Agl)||+3|
|Pick lock (+Agl)||+3|
|Pick pocket (+Agl)||+5|
|Read languages (+Int)||+1|
|Sneak silently (+Agl)||+5|
|Cast spell from scroll (+Int)||d12+1|
Some may recognize these from D&D 3rd Edition. – Frank ↩︎
If I recall Goodman trademarked this phrase, but there’s no ™ in the text. ↩︎
The generator came up with “Baldu”, but I know a guy named Baldo, so I just used that. ↩︎
Like those earliest editions, there are only three alignments: Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic. Also like those editions, alignment reflects the character’s ethos and affects the character’s destiny to an extent. ↩︎
Equivalent to staff ↩︎