Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Playing with the System Part 1: DCC

Playing with the System Part 1: DCC

DCC RPG ignited a spark of creativity in me and my players. It had the old school feel, modern d20 mechanics, and an Appendix N take that made it unique from all the other OSR and/or third party d20-esque products out there. It's still the system of choice for my players and me. Development is not as easy as with your traditional OSR systems, but it's crunchy enough to be interesting without being completely overbearing. 

With all that said, I think every DM wants to tinker, regardless of the system. For me, the OSR legacy of DCC does not fully capture the Appendix N feel -- it does a really really good job, but there are just a few things I want to jettison. I'm talking about the presupposition of demi-humans as player races, graduated humanoid threats (though DCC has a system for making these unique), and adherence to idol (read divine; cleric) magic and patron (read arcane;wizard;elf) magic. 

With this series, I'm going to talk about how I'm tinkering with the system by presenting a campaign setting in process. I DID NOT create this setting whole cloth from my own brain -- I stood on some shoulders (some rather big shoulders, actually). First and foremost is Rob Conely's Blackmarsh, Majestic Wilderlands, Points of Light, and many thoughts and ideas from his blog. Secondly is Chris Gonnerman's Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game (specifically BF1: Morgansfort). I think Chris did a good job in that module of presenting a mono-theistic religion, and I think that is missing (at least in my game). Obviously, Goodman Games DCCRPG is at the core, but I'm also pulling stuff from Shadrac MQ's Vancian Spell Lists, in the Vancian Magic Supplement. And from Castles and Crusades, a system that I think is strangely underrated in the OSR circles. 

Excising Demi-Humans

Everyone loves to be an elf. Some are drawn to the dwarf, while a few even love to play the lowly halfling. Apparently, no one loves the gnome, half-elf and half-orc anymore. For my money, I'm tired of all of them. Not only are they directly cribbed from Lord of the Rings (regardless of what the grognards say), they have become, for me, just another RPG trope that's played out. I also think they bring a certain presupposition of "character role" that forces DMs to write demi-human histories that read almost exactly the same from campaign to campaign, and ultimately limits a game that should be limitless. Dwarves love gold. Elves are long-lived hipsters. Halflings are fat burglars. Et cetera forever. 

When I go back and read Appendix N, these creatures don't exist. What does exist? Strange alien humanoids. Mutants. Demons, half-demons, and other spawn. Fey. Spirits. And humans. Lots and lots of humans. But players like to play characters that are "different." I take a more positive position and believe that they don't mean "more powerful," but it could mean that.

DCC RPG does a great job of setting the "demographic" of a game world. If you live (and die and die again) by the 0-level Funnel, you should rarely have an elf, dwarf or halfling as a 0-level character and even more rarely have one survive to make it to 1st level. I've always said that the funnel continues long after 0-level, especially for elves, since they have to contend with all the external threats of a normal character and also the "internal" threats of their use of magic. And, in addition to being tired for me, dwarves and halflings get short shrift (um...nevermind). I like the halfling Luck burn mechanics, but the "all dwarves are

So, my task, as I saw it, was to maintain the "demographic funnel" of DCC (as well as the general 0-level funnel) while providing players with the opportunity to have a character that's "different." My solution was to build a new set of 0-level character creation tables comprising: Race, Background, Occupation, and Associations.

Race Table

d100 Race Description
01-80 Human Three Primes; 1 Free Association
81-95 Half-Breed 1d6: 1-5 - Human appearance 6 - Fey appearance; 1d2 Mutations, 1 weakness
96-00 Fey Roll Appearance; 1d3 Mutations; 1d2 Weaknesses

Race Description
Characters are humans, fey, or half-breeds. If a character is a fey or half-breed, they may appear mostly human (i.e. they can "pass"), or may be very distinctively fey. Humans receive 3 Primes (cribbed from C&C -- I'll explain later), 1 at 0-level, 1 from their class, and 1 more at 1st level. Fey receive a Prime from their class and can choose another at 1st level. Additionally, humans receive a free Association (I'll explain later -- its essentially a character contact for resources or aid...though it may also be an enemy). All characters receive a base of 2 associations (1 at 0-level and 1 at 1st level). Humans start with 2 at 0-level.

Fey receive up to 3 mutations and up to 2 weaknesses. Half-breeds, up to two mutations and 1 weakness. Weaknesses are similar to the elven allergy to iron. Something fairly common that either repels or harms them.

Fey Type Table

d100 Fey Type Description
01-65 Bestial Mammalian qualities
66-80 Reptilian Reptile, amphibian, dinosaur qualities
81-90 Insectile Insect, Arachnid, other bug-like qualities
91-94 Vegetal Plant-like
95-98 Elemental Guess. 
99-00 Demonic Amalgam 

This table should be fairly self-explanatory. Probably need a better word for "vegetal," but I'm thinking of classes of traditional fey, like dryads and the like, that have plant-like qualities. Though, for very gonzo games, this could include fungi...

Mutation Table

d100 Mutation type Bestial Reptilian Insectile Vegetal Elemental Demonic
01-65 Body Covering Thick Fur Scales Chitin Bark Wisps of Element Choose one
66-80 Head Horns/Antlers Snout w/ Teeth Mandibles Fungus Eyes of element Choose one
81-90 Arms/Hands Claws Claws Pincers Vines Hands of element Choose one
91-94 Powers Scent Gills Multi-Limbed Pass without trace Project Element Level 1 Wizard Spell
95-98 Powers II Darkvision Shapeshifter Wings Smell Resist Element Choose one
99-00 Powers III Shapeshifter Breath Weapon Web Passwall Pass Element Rebuke Demons

Mutation Description

Body Covering -- +1 AC
Head -- A physical attack to be determined by the GM and player (my guidance would be 1d4 damage)
Arms/Hands -- Another physical attack to be worked out by the GM and player (same here 1d4 damage)
Powers -- These should be fairly self-explanatory with general d20 concepts.

  • Multi-limbed: I'm ruling this an extra set of arms: 1d16/1d16 attack
  • Shapeshifter: Think Changeling from Eberron...not necessarily a doppelganger or lycanthrope.
  • Breath Weapon: Generally, cone (20' long, 10' wide?) and max of 2d4 damage. Obviously implies a draconic origin, but could also be a long sticky tongue. 
  • Gills -- can swim underwater, but also might require the character to spend some time in the water every day.
  • Wings -- I'd go beetle-like wings here with a limited range, speed (and control). And the character probably can't wear armor (I'd grant a +3-+5 AC). 
  • Smell -- This is an attempt to get the dwarven "smell gold and gems" in there. This could be "sense" just about anything: Magic, gems/gold, evil...whatever.
  • Fungus -- Think Poison Ivy (Batman). This could be a puff of spores that have some detrimental effect on the target.
Weaknesses
d10WeaknessDescription
1-5SubstanceSilver, iron, salt, quicksilver, etc. 
6-7Light Blindall d20 rolls -4 in daylight
8-9ElementalRunning water, smoke, mud, etc. 
10MagicIdol or patron magic

These are, again, discussed and decided between the DM and player. I think the game benefits from this dialogue.

Fey in the World

I'm not going for an "Inquisition" type campaign, where fey are hunted, but I'm definitely leaning toward certain areas and peoples having prejudices against them. And certain areas that are fey dominated and being human is uncomfortable.

I'll talk a bit about the world setting in the next part of this series, since it precludes talk about Background, Occupation, and Associations.

Opinions?

Let me know what you think. I think there is lots of room for abuse and the power level is a bit higher than the traditional DCC game. I'm testing it in play now. Let me know if you do the same... 




1 comment:

Venger Satanis said...

That's different, but sounds cool. I can see where the standard Elf, Dwarf, etc. could wear thin and become tiresome.

I wouldn't mind a game where all non-human characters were some kind of half-demon race.

VS