Dungeon Crawl Classics by Joseph Goodman. RPG review

DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSICS RPG by Joseph Goodman. Goodman Games, £15.96 – pdf price on rpgnow.com

Reviewed by Patrick Henry Downs

The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG is part of the Old School Renaissance. A game that doesn’t model itself on a previous system of Dungeons & Dragons but uses the concepts of modern D&D and manages to cut away the fat of the last thirty years, then adds seasoning and spices that evoke the flavors of playing a 1st edition AD&D game with a GM who loved using Judges’ Guild and other third party supplements wisely and judiciously. The DCC RPG assumes the reader has a working knowledge of RPGs and the conventions of modern D&D. As the author lays out the rules in each chapter he also includes explanations for why the rules are designed in such seemingly incongruous methods, which certainly helps a reader who might be confused about the subject matter, but the further you delve into the book the more you see that these methods are actually harmonious with the larger work.

During character creation a player randomly generates four 0-level characters along with a few meager items and copper pieces and it is assumed during the first adventure or two that you will gradually lose “extra” characters to death and misfortune. After reading the 0-level adventure included with the rulebook I can safely say it is a party killer. If the party of adventurers plows their way through the rooms aggressively looking for treasure and stomping on anything that gets in their way, they will all die. But if the characters are smart and wily, if they take their time and examine their surroundings, they can overcome the minions and traps of this small dungeon and temper themselves into budding adventurers. Not heroes, the tagline on the back cover makes that clear, moral ambiguity rides shotgun with the adventurers of this game.

The only other thing I will mention is the demons and devils. This game has them in spades. They are not only antagonists, but they are also included as potential allies for those characters willing to risk the corruption that comes along with making dark pacts to foul hellspawn. It’s refreshing to see a slick, big budget game that doesn’t try to soften or diminish the role that evil plays within a harsh, cruel world. In this way DCC RPG manages to remind me of Warhammer, and how alien and aloof the divine powers of that game could be.

The book itself is a lot of fun to read and the older style of artwork can tickle nostalgia as much as it can reignite the imagination. I don’t think this game will appeal to everyone. In my own gaming group the players are split down the middle with budding interest and dismissive ambivalence. I think anybody who gives this game a chance will find it to be a lot of wild and dark fun. I begrudgingly gave it a chance, and I’ve fallen in love with Dungeon Crawl Classics.