Review – Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game (Beta)

By on February 22, 2012

“All characters start at 0 level. Most will die in a dungeon, alone and unknown.” – This quotation is in the first page of the Quick Start Guide, so I thought it will be fun, as an ‘auld style Dungeon hack’.

The six pages of the Quick Starter

I reviewed the Quick Start Guide of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, and the Beta Rules after that. All of them are available for free, and made to the Free RPG Day. You can download them from here.

The Quick Start Guide‘s for Players, provides rules to make 2-4 characters in an easy process. You’re at 0 level (-100 Xp).

The game mechanic’s are cruel, and fast. For example, you have to roll 3d6, to each ability. No more dice, no more methods, no more change. So, in the game you have to roll for everything, and for everything has a table. And so, you are not a hero, but an adventuring person, who will earn experience, and if you live after the first adventure, you will be an adventurer.

My favourite thing is the Ability Score table, with some taste of the old Adnd 2nd edition‘s ability table (without the percentage of strength 18). So, you have only +1 modifier with an ability 15. (Remember 3d6!)

The occupation is the background, which helps to define your characters life, your characters only weapon (with proficiency), and his trade goods. You don’t have as much equipment as a Dragonlance character, but only one, randomly. And soon, your first character will die, and your second character could loot his corpse.

The alignment could be only three, and have role in the game mechanic. For example, a Law aligned cleric heals less to a Chaos, or Neutral aligned.

And a funny thing’s more! The special dices! The system uses d3, d7, d14, d16, d24, d30! (Funky dices of master Zocchi)

The Beta Rules

Ok, after the 6-page quick starter I wanted to read the Beta Rules. This is really Beta rules, as many things are absent (i.e. character levels above fifth level, spells, patrons, etc.). But the system is playable in this form.

At page 6, the writers list the difference of the Dungeon Crawl and the D&D. For example: the dwarf, hobbit and elf are a character class here, not a race. Or other example, clerics always turns, here isn’t rebuke.

The book has 7 chapters. The first chapter is a very massive, about forty pages – don’t worry, many illustrations, and tables are located here. The first part is the 0 level characters (these are in the Starter mainly), and the biggest part is the description of the seven classes. The four old classes are cleric, thief, warrior, wizard, and three non-human classes are the forest-dwelling and spellcaster elf, the shield fighter dwarf, and the two-weapon fighter, always lazy halfling.

The Classes of the Beta Rules

The cleric knows all the spells, and cast any, but every cast he has a -1 to the next spell check. (Every spellcaser must to roll a check.) The alignment is important, in the case of the patron god, and in the case of healing.

The thief is like the old Ad&d 2nd, if you remember, the lower part of the character sheet were the skills of thieves, in percentage. 13 different skill, in the range from backstab to handle poison and cast spell from scroll. But the alignment is differ the skills measurements.

The warriors most significant difference is that there isn’t base attack, but an attack modifier die. He has The Mighty Deed, it is a kind of trick, or heroic act, like cut off a giant scorpion’s tail, disarming, throwing a flask of burning oil to the mouth of a beast.

The wizard is as weak, as in the times of the Ad&d 2nd edition. He has 1d4 hp, four known spells at first level. But he may roll to every cast a spell check, and he has a familiar and a supernatural patron. The spells and patron see bellow.

And here it is the Dwarf class (!). The sturdy dwarves can wear any armour, he can use his shield in the heat of battle. He has the underground skills to find secret passages, or the direction to a hoard of treasury. Anymore he acts like a fighter, he has the Mighty Deeds feature too. The Elves are the typical warrior-mages. They have sensitivity to iron, start with mithrill armor and weapon. The Halflings are the un-ambitious country-dwellers who live in quiet. They are lucky folks, with two small weapons.

Skills and Equipment

The chapter of the skills are the shortest part of the book. Mostly, here are some examples of the cases when you have to roll a check, or an opposed check. But, there’s no more skill list. Everything what you know is in your occupation. And the Judge will decide.

In the equipment chapter, there are the list of armours and the equipments what you meet before the Quick Starter. Nothing’s special. Maybe, in the future here will be placed the magic equipments, I hope so.

Rules of Combat

Massive tables are here for Fumble, Critical Hits by Class, Turning Unholy, and enlist of Mighty Deeds of Arms. And, so, the rule of spell duel is. It’s a table by opposite checks, and results. It’s a little bit confused rule, but I read only one time, the example of spell dueling a little bit helps to understand.

Magic and the Judge Rules, Monsters

In the Magic chapter there are two school of magic: Corruption and Mercury. These are the magic of Chaos and Law (and there is the Cleric spells too). And there is 716 spells exists: no more, no less. Every spell is a one-page table, and here is only 35 spells are.

In the Judges chapter we can read about Bobugbubilz, he’s one of the wizard’s patron. It’s only that. No more stuff here. But in the Monsters chapter some monsters with stats and descriptions, but without experience. The character sheets are in the appendices, and many kind, for every class.

Summary

My feelings are a little bit at odds. Because the old style dungeon hack is always a good theme, but I think the magic is a little bit likes the Warhammer FRPG, a little bit too dangerous and difficult, and hard to play. The funky dices are funky, and there is three kind of graphics in the book. The one-page illustrations are very good, the one-person adventuring like little illustrations, and the fantasy caricatures are epic. I give it a 4/5.

Jeremy A. Wylie

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