Saturday, August 3, 2013

Still playing the DCC

Been there, it's full of weirdos.

Game design is a slow process.  Or rather it's slow play-testing things when you do it as a hobby.  I haven't done much work on the Beacon rules for a while now, but I am doing some comparison study, mostly with DCC.  Our game group is still playing DCC and it is still quite fun.  Some of the crack are showing, but really there aren't very many cracks and if you run this game correctly it is a very good one.   Not everyone in our group is a fan of the randomness of the magic system (or of 20 in general really) but I think it's charming.  This is not the game for people that want to define and control their character development, but since I prefer making a story out of what happens in game and not what I want to happen, I think its pretty darn good.

What I really like in DCC?
  • I really like using dice as a modifier over using fixed bonuses/penalties.  That's brilliant.
  • I really like the leveling factor - 1-10 seems the perfect range and there are no padded or empty levels here.
What is an interesting mechanic?
  • Mercurial magic is pretty good and it is fun to have these effects in the game.  I wouldn't port it to another game though and it does really have a feedback loop effect.  Daniloth the Elf had a -2 luck modifier (-%20 on the table!) and so he didn't do so well here with most of his spells barely usable - he was fun to play but there was not much chance he'd make it very far in the game with magic.
  • All the charts and tables used to resolve actions make things very interesting.  Half of the gaming blogs out there are posting neat effect tables and it's a popular game style.  So here is a shit-ton of them at your fingertips.
What I am not so fond of?
  • Luck is very metagamey.  It does work if you really clamp down on players and dish out consequences for low luck scores, but it's not a great design because it relies so much on the in-game implementation.   Also, I don't like bennies in Savage Worlds because players will lean on them instead of playing careful and they dilute the equation of ability vs the random factor of the dice so I don't like luck for the same reason.  I think luck is a bit too important and I can see it spiral out of hand in DCC.  I can see a high level thief being able to do anything they want to with their huge luck reserves.  Now take that with a grain of salt because I haven't even seen level 3 play yet.  Take all this with a grain of salt, this game was play-tested a heck of a lot more than Beacon.
  • I don't like the thief skills, they seem bolted on just like in D&D and I'm not a fan of discrete skills in general.
  • Mighty Deeds of Arms is way to open to abuse.  I like the bonus attack dice but the double down crit system is a bit loose. Again it can work if you make it work, but not because its a great mechanic.  In our game, even with good players, it is seen immediately as a way to bypass hit points and over-perform on the attack. This means the GM and players have to constantly negotiate to prevent abuse or over compensate, and the mechanic is watered down.  I think this would work much better if it was tightened up and there were a simple set of specific feats to select from like throws, disarms and called shots.  This is especially true considering critical hits are stacked on top.
What would I steal for Beacon?

I would very seriously consider changing many of the progression/bonus mechanics to use dice instead of set modifiers.  I very probably will take some aspects of this and incorporate it into Beacon, at least for multiple attacks and for dual wielding of weapons.  I might also use variable dice instead of set bonuses to drive the class and race abilities to some extent.
I've mentioned before that if I wasn't worried about generic d20 compatibility, I might delve into changing the level progression a bit so there were smaller number of them but they were all bigger jumps.  I'd probably take this a bit further and change the spell levels so that they were 1:1. Having something like 8-10 levels and 8-10 spell levels seems so simple - or I'd do away with spell levels all together leaning more on the HP system to scale the effects.  Changing the level ratio for advancement would be good, especially if I was substituting dice for +'s in some way.

That being said there are a lot of things that I think Beacon does right and that I wouldn't change.  I'm still in love with having racial hit dice instead of basing it on class.  I still like the aspect type skill system and using using hp for magic.  I wouldn't be interested in adding luck or any kind of benefit tokens.  I'm pretty happy with the simplicity of Beacon and I'm in no rush to chase the latest trend or redo it for a specific feel.

If I feel the urge to play something more like DCC, I'll just play DCC.  It's a lot of fun.

1 comment:

  1. I think Beacon and DCC are different sorts of beats. Beacon is compact, fast and portable. I feel like I could grab any D20 adventure out there and Beacon would do it without much hassle. It's simple and doesn't get in the way. I like systems like that; BRP, Traveller, V6 and Gumshoe all appeal to me for that reason. I'd be happy to play it again.

    DCC is baroque. The mechanics, the lookups and the art all combine to give it a distinct flavour. It's the last sort of game I'd think of running or playing, but it has managed to combine these elements into such an underlying sense of fun that I can't help but want to play it. I don't know if it's worth pulling bits out to add to other games - would they work outside of the big strange conglomerate of DCC?

    I agree there is great opportunity to abuse the luck, mighty deed and a few other rules in a metagamey way. The authors are aware of this and mention many times that the GM should slap down, in game, any abuse. This puts a lot of responsibility and trust in the GM to be a fair arbitrator of that. And I think once the group has played for a while they find their own house rules and limits around these things.

    The randomness can also be an issue - but like you've said, the randomness can be mitigated in part by planning. Magic especially, including magical healing, is very unpredictable - it can't and shouldn't be relied on. It's a bit of a carry over, especially from D&D 4th, to act as though magic is a tactical resource to be consumed on demand.

    At any rate, I've enjoyed running DCC and hope to run it again. I'd also really like to play it.