RPG Review: Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG from Goodman Games, Part IV

Yes! I’m back exploring the huge tome of the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game from Goodman Games. I think it’s pretty clear I’ve enjoyed it so far (check out part I, part II, and part III if there’s any doubt). Today we’ll dive into “Chapter 4: Combat” to see if the book continues to impress.

Combat in DCC RPG feels like an old friend. It follows the same flow as we’ve had in D&D and other games for years, with only a few tweaks along the way to keep things interesting. See if this flow looks familiar…

  • Step -1: Surprise!
  • Step 0: Initiative
  • Step 1-N: Combat round in order of initiative

Lather-Rinse-Repeat. Pretty darned easy. As you might expect, the rest of combat also uses common sense.

Time-wise, there are two main measurements. Each combat is broken into 10-second rounds. And everything else (if you need a way to keep track) can be broken into 10-minute turns.

Movement-wise, regular-sized humanoids (like elves and humans) can move 30′ in a round and shorter-height humanoids (dwarves & halflings) can move 20′. Minus any encumbrance or armor penalties of course.

Once you get to initiative you start to see where some of the twists are. Here all characters get the traditional initiative bump for a high Agility score. But here’s the twist. Warriors also get to add their class level. Apparently combat-specialists get a bit of a bonus for being in combat! [gasp!] Think that’s shocking? How about the fact that characters wielding two weapons in combat roll a d16 instead of a d20 for their base initiative value. No complicated tables or rules to remember. One paragraph. Boom. Done.

Then there are actions. I seem to vaguely recall a time when certain classes gained additional actions as they went up in levels in a previous version of D&D but can’t remember (and my Google-fu is weak while I’m writing this) what edition that might have been in or if I’m imagining the whole thing. Even so, many incarnations of D&D have had the idea of free actions, full-round actions, and more for a while. And it always takes me a minute to remember how it works.

Goodman Games

Goodman Games (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DCC bypasses that. Unless you’re at a high level, you usually only have one action (and at a high level you may only gain one more). So you can move your normal speed and do one thing for each action die. Want to move again? Cool. Want to attack with a weapon or spell? Go for it. Have more action dice? Then you have more options to explore. But ultimately an action is an action. Whether you’re swinging a sword, slinging a spell, or simply trying to find something in your backpack – it’s an action.

If you’re trying to hit something, if it’s within reach (typically 5′), it’s a melee attack. Add your Strength bonus to your attack and damage roll. Beyond 5′? It’s ranged. Add your agility bonus to the attack roll. Ta da.

Honestly most of the chapter is like that. Plain language. Simple rules. Common sense.

Where things get fun is with the Fumble (natural 1) and Critical Hit (natural 20) tables. These are like the Critical Fumble or Critical Hit card decks I’ve seen from Paizo and other publishers to try and spice up combat. It’s also a little like the old Rolemaster tables from what I vaguely recall. Roll an 8 on the Fumble table and your mundane weapon is ruined (imagine denting a sword by accidentally hitting a wall). Roll a 9 on Critical Hit Table III and you’ve shattered your opponent’s leg, they take additional damage, and their movement is decreased… Cool flavor text that can really turn the tide in a battle.

Now back in part II of this review I mentioned “Mighty Deeds” as they apply to the Warrior class in DCC. Well, they’re described in greater detail on page 88 of the combat chapter. Everything from blinding and disarming your opponents to pushing, tripping, and throwing them… Using precision shots to ruin their day… Or even offering a Rallying Cry to boost morale. There are simply a ton of cool ideas for making combat more interesting without going overboard with rules. They hit me a bit like Stunts in the Dragon Age system.

La bildo estas kopiita de wikipedia:es. La ori...

La bildo estas kopiita de wikipedia:es. La originala priskribo estas: Dados típicos de 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 y 20 caras (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That said, this is not a kinder, gentler system when it comes to character lifespan. If your character gets to zero HP, he’s dead or bleeding out. If you have a 3rd level character, he will bleed out if he’s not treated in 3 rounds. But if it’s a 0-level character, you’re out of luck. If the character is saved from bleeding out, he or she gets a scar and loses a point of Stamina. If the character is dead, there’s still one ray of hope – a Luck check that happens when the body is rolled over. If successful, the character was just knocked out and is at 1 HP with a permanent -1 to one stat just for good measure. Keep in mind however that healing is slow as well (1 point a night or 2 for a day of bedrest) so you might just want to master the art of not being hit or you may get really good at rolling up characters…

There are also rules for spell duels (imagine wizard battles where spell vs. counter-spell is used!), turning unholy creatures (go clerics!), and a short list of other miscellaneous rules (grappling, falling, charging, etc.).

So far so good – DCC RPG is continuing to impress me with its no-nonsense approach to OSR rules.

Next up… Magic!

(This is part IV of the ongoing review of DCC RPG. Check here for part I, part II, and part III. I’m slowly working my way through this 400+ page tome and enjoying every minute of it so far!)

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