What is Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG?

Veterans of Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG will have to forgive me if I do a little bit of navel-gazing to define exactly what the game is–without comparing it to Dungeon & Dragons.

Both are fantasy RPGs, sure. There’s magic, monsters, elves, dwarves, halflings, all in a vague pseudo-medieval setting. The mechanics are based on the d20 system, the Open Gaming License. Here the similarities, for the most part, end and DCC becomes very unlike D&D.

When I’m pitching DCC to prospects, I try to avoid saying Dungeons & Dragons all together for two important reasons:

  1. To persuade players who might have fun with DCC to play the game.
  2. To dissuade players who might not have fun to go away.

If you’ve read the introduction in the DCC rulebook, its clear this game isn’t meant for most RPG players. To compare it with Dungeons & Dragons might invoke false connotations and expectations.

I don’t even want to tell potential players it’s a re-imagining of D&D.

So instead of focusing on what it’s not, I focus on what DCC is:

  • It’s a role-playing game of swords & sorcery heavily influenced by the science-fiction and fantasy novels from the last 1970s and earlier.
  • For most actions, you roll a d20 add or subtract modifiers. But sometimes you roll a d24 or higher, or a d16 or lower.
  • Luck is an important attribute for many reasons.
  • In most games of DCC, you start with 0-level characters–gongfarmers, squires, farmers–with the bare minimum equipment. If any of these survive to first level, then you chose a class.
  • Warriors and dwarves can perform combat maneuvers you read in good fantasy literature or see in film.
  • Wizards and elves cast spells. The higher the spellcheck, the more potent the spell effect.
  • Cleric use spellchecks, too, except they can cure diseases and mend broken bones along with casting spells. They can turn creatures unholy to their alignment or god.

Back when I first ran DCC, I had a few players get upset with me because most of their 0-level characters died. One sat there, pouted, considered running her remaining character, but then ultimately quit. Another couldn’t believe you rolled 3d6 for ability scores, the game didn’t have skills or feats, then complained he couldn’t do anything with his characters.

So what is Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG?

I honestly haven’t come up with my own definition.

I certainly know its not D&D, I just don’t tell that to any prospective players…


  1. This is fantastic! I’m going to use this same approach when I describe DCC to newcomers. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. What do you think of this?: DCC is a role-playing framework for doing fun, collaborative story telling in the sword & sorcery / sci-fi genres of pulp fantasy from the 60s/70’s.

    Liked by 1 person

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