Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Admiring the DCC Warrior

So it has been a few days since the pre-order electronic copies of the Dungeon Crawl Classic Roleplaying Game went out. With some time to really let the game sink in, I have been coming more and more to admire the Warrior class. For those who were not fortunate enough to preorder, DCC has seven roles to select from: Cleric, Thief, Warrior, Wizard, Dwarf, Elf and Halfling. The Warrior is DCC's answer to the swordsmen and champions of fantasy literature previously described by the Fighter of Advanced Dungeon & Dragons.

Of course, that class was always rather lumpy and assymetrical in power and ability at different levels—something which you either loved or hated. This created a marked difference in the feel of low-level play (characterized by extreme lethality) and high-level play. With mundane armaments, a first level fighter would likely die upon his first wound. By ninth level, the same fighter would withstand nine or more wounds from an equal opponent. While toughness progressed linearly, the ability to inflict harm did not. The attempt to bridge this gulf in low and high-level play came to one extreme in Dungeon & Dragons 4th Edition, which made the relative deadliness of combat scale perfectly over all 30 (!) levels. Without a doubt, this was even less satisfying than the gap of previous editions, as now nothing changed at all as characters gained experience and supposedly progressed.

I was curious if the new Warrior of Dungeon Crawl Classics had addressed this issue, so I decided to crunch the numbers and find out. One thing that stood out immediately is that the scale of characters in DCC is very different. There are only 10 levels, but each level means a lot more than in any edition of D&D. The result is that low level DCC characters are noticeably more resilient in comparison. While a zero level DCC character is weaker than even the humble Fighter of AD&D, by the time that DCC Warrior reaches Level 1, he is more powerful than his peer, taking an average 3 sword strikes to bring down (a nice, well rounded number in my opinion).

High level characters also seem tougher than their AD&D compatriots, at least at first glance. The average 10th level Warrior has 68 hit points (compared to the Fighter's 53), while weapons cause the same damage in both games (1-8 points for a longsword, for example). However, high level DCC Warriors can really dish it out using the simple "Mighty Deeds" mechanic. To give you an idea, a 10th level Warror will make three attacks a turn, each one hitting as hard as three sword strikes on average, and each attack having a 20% of achieving a truly nasty critical hit (the average critical at that level is +3d12 damage with a free follow up attack if the attack drops the victim, but instant death results are common). It gets even more ugly for a dual-wielding warrior.

The end result is that, armed with mundane weaponry, a fight between identical high level Warriors will be over in about three to four rounds. Again, there is the nice symmetry with the number 3, yet the perfect scaling of Dungeon & Dragons 4th Edition is avoided. High level fights are very different than low level fights, as they should be, with multiple attacks, tactical Mighty Deeds, critical strikes and so on. Such duels are much more flashy, fast moving and narratively surprising, while low level fights are more nail-biting, gritty and personal. Interestingly, this is attained without giving the Warrior a single new ability (in fact, the Warrior does not gain any new abilities as he levels).

On a related note, while their are no rules for resurrecting the dead (unless you count the gruesome and temporary "Replication" spell), there is a chance for your character to survive a lethal encounter. A fallen character will take time to bleed out. If he is not rescued and does bleed out, the party could recover the body within an hour and might find that he's actually still alive. Life is neither cheap, nor death completely avoidable, which gives just the right feel for pulp fantasy.

Fighters have always been my favorite class to play, and I am happy to see that they get a good treatment in DCC. Often their chance in the spotlight it stolen by Magic-Users and other more specialized classes, especially at higher levels, but the simple addition of rules like Mighty Deeds and specialized critical hit charts mean that Warriors will continue to be the central characters right up to the end of the game. Furthermore, the careful attention to pacing at each level implies that there was an impressive amount of care, concern and playtesting put into Dungeon Crawl Classics, which bodes very well for potentially running long term campaigns with this game.

Appendix S: Extra Swords for your Warriors
Dagger: Lawful, +1, Int 8, urges to enforce the law, death dealer to warriors (Fort save DC 1d20+10 or instant death), light at will (20').
An unnamed dagger used to overthrow a tyrant long ago.

Longsword: Chaotic, +1, Int 7, urges to punish interlopers and those who interfere and to slay lawful dragons. +1d4 dmg vs lawful creatures, 20' darkness, strength +4.
Barbspite: A sword forged by the hags of Drearmore to aid a fanatical and corrupted hero in his self-destructive quest.

Longsword: Neutral, +1, Int 5, urges to live alone as a warrior hermit, +1 critical range vs clerics, speak thieves (druid) cant.
Sword of the old ways: Hammered by druids to resist the new faiths, the sword of the old ways drives the wielder to withdraw deeper into the wilds to avoid the encroach of foreign civilization.

Dagger: Lawful, +2, 12 Int, Empathical drives wielder to punish murderers and slay chaotic creatures. Unerring throw vs Serpents, +1 dmg vs men, detect magic (1/day), detect water (1d8x10'), Thunder Blade, Supreme willpower.
Blade of Sph't: Created by the underground dwellers of Shokassam to mercilessly hunt down the cult of snakemen that was hiding in the desert and raiding, torturing and sacrificing their people. The hero used the thunderous booming of the dagger to draw out their avatar - an enormous cobra.


  1. I been on the fence about this game, but your post has done much towards putting it in the buy column, for me.

  2. Man, your Appendix S stuff rocks!

  3. Happy to please. PS Kesher, those are all randomly generated from the DCC book (rolled up in that order, not a single item thrown out). In fact, I just rolled up a neutral sword that drives the wielder to banish all outsiders, bind demons, survive drowning and pave the way for the coming of the Old Ones. I'm calling it the "Sword of Dagon."

  4. I don't know if you didn't notice (it is tucked away in the sentence on mighty deeds or attacks, I think) but Warriors get to add their deed die to damage rolls as well as attack rolls.



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