Running DCC with VERY Low Magic

A forum for DCC RPG judges. This forum covers adventure design, monsters, judges' advice, campaign building, and all other such things.

Moderators: DJ LaBoss, finarvyn, michaelcurtis, Harley Stroh

Post Reply
User avatar
mightyuncle
Ill-Fated Peasant
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Nov 05, 2013 2:34 pm

Running DCC with VERY Low Magic

Post by mightyuncle » Wed Nov 06, 2013 12:09 pm

First let me state that I love Appendix N literature and gritty Sword and Sorcery play. However I find a lot of the modules produced at this point to be a bit slapstick/wild in comparison to the source material. Not saying they're bad or anything, just a different matter of taste. I really like the system's mechanics, especially in regards to the dangers of flirting with magic, but the adventures produced still come off as fairly cavalier in regards to "the Weird."

Some general ideas I'd have in my DCC would be distant and aloof gods (low clerics and wizards would only invoke or contact lesser outsiders, not the Masters of Matter, Void, Law, or Chaos who would dare not cavort with such low beings), witch hunts and inquisitions for obvious magic users/clerics, higher costs for a patron bond, most encounters pitted against humans of varying alignments/factions with some truly monstrous horrors popping in once every adventure or so, etc. I want to go beyond the feral magic, named magic items only ethos put forth in the text and really push into the Howard-esque tone that still sits in the back of my head. Is it doable or is DCC too gonzo from a design basis to really fit with this sort of play? Would it even be any fun? Would this sort of play be better in a different system altogether?

User avatar
Raven_Crowking
Cold-Hearted Immortal
Posts: 2975
Joined: Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:41 am

Re: Running DCC with VERY Low Magic

Post by Raven_Crowking » Wed Nov 06, 2013 12:18 pm

The easiest way to produce this effect is to lower the die for spell checks. You may also consider allowing casters to have a "manna pool" which they must use to cast spells; i.e., 1 point for a 1st level spell, 2 for a 2nd level spell, and so on. 1 manna per level is replenished each....day?....week?....major sacrifice?

Used in conjunction, these two ideas should do the trick.

DCC has a very strong warrior and thief class, and a campaign can easily focus on these two classes.
SoBH pbp:

Cathbad the Meek (herbalist Wizard 1): AC 9; 4 hp; S 7, A 7, St 10, P 17, I 13, L 8; Neutral; Club, herbs, 50' rope, 50 cp; -1 to melee attack rolls. Hideous scar.

smathis
Cold-Hearted Immortal
Posts: 1091
Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:52 pm

Re: Running DCC with VERY Low Magic

Post by smathis » Wed Nov 06, 2013 6:57 pm

mightyuncle wrote:First let me state that I love Appendix N literature and gritty Sword and Sorcery play. However I find a lot of the modules produced at this point to be a bit slapstick/wild in comparison to the source material. Not saying they're bad or anything, just a different matter of taste. I really like the system's mechanics, especially in regards to the dangers of flirting with magic, but the adventures produced still come off as fairly cavalier in regards to "the Weird."

Some general ideas I'd have in my DCC would be distant and aloof gods (low clerics and wizards would only invoke or contact lesser outsiders, not the Masters of Matter, Void, Law, or Chaos who would dare not cavort with such low beings), witch hunts and inquisitions for obvious magic users/clerics, higher costs for a patron bond, most encounters pitted against humans of varying alignments/factions with some truly monstrous horrors popping in once every adventure or so, etc. I want to go beyond the feral magic, named magic items only ethos put forth in the text and really push into the Howard-esque tone that still sits in the back of my head. Is it doable or is DCC too gonzo from a design basis to really fit with this sort of play? Would it even be any fun? Would this sort of play be better in a different system altogether?
Not my intention to pitch the game too hard but you might want to check out Transylvanian Adventures.

Probably Premature Disclaimer: I wrote it. But the positive side is not many people know better what it is capable of.

It's a supplement for DCC RPG. Nominally it exists in a Gothic Horror setting. But... in order to make that happen I had to "solve" a number of riddles that any OSR-inspired game would need to solve in order to make that setting work.

And consequently, a lot of them are needed in order to do a Sword & Sorcery or Low Magic game.

Here's a few things that bedeviled me in the writing/development/playtesting of TATG that likely will pass on to anyone looking for a S&S experience in OSR...

1) What do you do without the cleric healbots? In TATG, there are several very simple options (none magical).

2) Most OSR games feature 7 classes, 3 of which use magic. If you limit magic, what is the impact on playability? TATG features 8 classes, only one of which is a spellcaster (although all have the capacity to learn how to use magic). Another class (the Half-Breed) is more appropriately a demi-human and may or may not have "racial" abilities that approximate magical effects.

3) In DCC, a whole lot is tied to armor. Not just armor class, but Fumbles as well. Yet in TATG, armor was not used. Much like in S&S, where a character typically ran around in a mail shirt and a loincloth. TATG assigns armor class to the character classes. It's armor-less by default. Fumble die are also tied to classes (not armor) and there are Melee/Missile Fumble tables that have no tie to the type of armor a character is wearing.

4) How do we emulate the shock-and-awe of S&S tales? You know, that moment where Conan just froze in his tracks when first seeing the giant snake? Without making everyone a quivering pile of Jello Pudding at the sight of a human corpse. TATG takes care of this as well with a Fear save. It's non-intrusive and has fairly minimal impact on gameplay. In many circumstances, it takes the place of "Surprise". But there's no Madness or Sanity or ablative mechanic that slowly weakens a character over the long haul. If a TATG character gets scared a few times, it's cool. He can sleep it off after the adventure is over.

There's a lot more in there. The book is 300 pages. But it's fairly straightforward to make TATG into a S&S setting.

All you need to do is...

1) Use the Occupation table in DCC RPG (instead of the one in TATG).

2) Re-skin the anachronous entries in the Hobbies table. When I release a setting hack for Sword & Sorcery, I'll probably create a new Hobbies table for it.

3) Ignore the rules for firearms. Or use them. Or say they're laser-guns instead of flintlocks. Boom, Thundarr. World is your oyster on that one.

4) Use the character classes in TATG. It's basically 5 flavors of Fighting Man, with one flavor of Everyman, a ritual magic-user, and a very versatile demihuman class. So instead of having to rewrite or ignore the Wizard, Cleric, and Elf and getting stuck with only 4 classes rinse and repeat. You have 8 options to bring to a S&S game. And all of them have their own entry into the traditional Thief class and can be skillmonkeys to varying degrees. Conan? Easy. He's a Hunter. Or bump some Reaver into him for the muscle-bound Hollywood version. And Solomon Kane is either a Survivor or a Hunter or a mix of the two. (Yes, you can do that)

And all this works really, really well. With those sneaky rules issues that will derail the game when you least expect it taken care of. I know because I traveled that road for a long time before this book was done.

Re: Magic. At this point, TATG magic is only ritual. That limits the spells that can be used from DCC RPG somewhat. But, on the flipside, there's absolutely NO distinction between cleric and wizard spells/rituals -- outside of any flavor you'd want to add in your campaign. A Polymath (the spellcasting class is called a Polymath in TATG) can learn and cast any ritual in DCC RPG (much like the Wizard does). So, points off for no -- say -- Fireball? But points back for the ability to use white/black magic a-la-carte?

And if a character wants, say, Magic Missile or Fireball, all he needs to do is call up a Patron and ask for it. Which sounds a lot like what you're looking to do. Polymaths (and the upcoming "Theorist") in TATG are either Patron groupies or they're like Dr. Van Helsing and are just content with their little list of SFW rituals.

The caster in my last session, got off a Circle of Refuge, Speak With Dead, performed an Exorcism, and did some other spell that I can't remember. Very low magic. Take off the tri-corner hats and it's very much in the spirit of S&S.

smathis
Cold-Hearted Immortal
Posts: 1091
Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:52 pm

Re: Running DCC with VERY Low Magic

Post by smathis » Wed Nov 06, 2013 7:23 pm

smathis wrote:Polymaths (and the upcoming "Theorist") in TATG are either Patron groupies or they're like Dr. Van Helsing and are just content with their little list of SFW rituals.
Not to derail too much, but in one playtest of The Winter Home, there was a player who was also testing out the Theorist. While everyone else was investigating the house, he snuck off to go "investigate". But he was trying to Patron Bond the Big Bad of the adventure. Not sure what he was wanting out of that (he muffed the spellcheck by a whole lot). But it was a lot of fun.

As I recall, he was eaten.

User avatar
Karaptis
Cold-Blooded Diabolist
Posts: 411
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2012 6:24 pm
Location: The end of time.

Re: Running DCC with VERY Low Magic

Post by Karaptis » Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:36 am

After reading TA, I totally dig your jive Mr Mathis!

smathis
Cold-Hearted Immortal
Posts: 1091
Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:52 pm

Re: Running DCC with VERY Low Magic

Post by smathis » Thu Nov 07, 2013 7:43 pm

Karaptis wrote:After reading TA, I totally dig your jive Mr Mathis!
Thanks!

Post Reply

Return to “Judges' Forum”