I told myself that I wouldn't buy any more of what JB calls "fantasy heartbreakers" (or FHBs). I don't need a different variant on a very similar game, especially after spending so much time and effort putting my campaign's rules into Basic Fantasy. But at a chain bookstore, I found the softcover version of Dungeon Crawl Classics on clearance for $15.00, and I couldn't resist.
I have yet to read the entire rulebook, but I've finished most of the sections on character creation and combat; the bulk of the 376 pages (!) is taken up by the magic system. I'll list some bullet points of my initial impressions below.
- Ability scores: 3d6 in order is enforced. I like the removal of Wisdom, replacing it with Personality as the most important attribute of clerics; after all, in the real world, many religious figures used their speech and personal magnetism more than their insight and knowledge of their sacred texts. (I also like the renaming of Charisma to Personality, as it's a lot clearer that it doesn't govern physical attractiveness.)
- Luck: Though I think that burning Luck is a bit too close to systems that use "fate points" or "bennies", which in my opinion doesn't fit great with the grimmer, deadlier setting that DCC assumes, it might be necessary given the things that can happen in this game.
- Backgrounds: Randomly rolled, as they should be. I like that the character's former profession is explicitly baked into the rules, right down to their starting weapon and trade goods. Some players might balk at not being able to play demihumans if they don't roll the proper result, but...
- Race as class: Humans are automatically more flexible. The elven allergy to iron is also pretty cool, and would easily explain why they don't become clerics or thieves.
- Magic: Every wizard is basically a wild mage from AD&D 2e. Fortunately, the results are dependent on the spell being cast. The system for spell dueling is an excellent idea, even if the version presented in the book is horrendously complicated.
So, those are some things I like, along with the art. Some things I'm not a fan of?
- Alignment: To its credit, the rules do make explicit that characters can be "lawful" and still commit theft, extortion, and murder. Even with only the single-axis alignment system, though, I can see where some gaming of the system might come up, especially where clerics are concerned.
- Critical hits: These get way too detailed for my taste. Yes, they're realistic, but I feel like they encourage the wrong mindset; they could just do extra damage, instead of reveling in how the opponent is drowning in their own blood. (Major content warning for anyone with PTSD or similar conditions.)
- Funky dice: I'm aware that the use of the d3, d5, etc. is part of the appeal of this system. From my perspective, it just means more dice I'll have to buy, at a time when I'm trying to stop accumulating more plastic crap that has little other use. d6s are always handy, as are d8s; I bought a d30 for a very specific purpose. But at this point, I would need to get a whole new set of dice for just this one game. I think the extra types of dice would also be a deterrent to new players, who are still learning the shapes of the standard six polyhedrons; adding additional shapeless lumps would just confuse them further.
I doubt I'll get to run this game soon, but if I can find enough like-minded players - the same ones who were interested in trying out HackMaster 4e - I definitely want to give it a shot. I know how I'll deal with the differences in setting from my primary campaign... but that's a subject for another post.