Monday, June 13, 2011

LotFP vs DCC

Is blogger giving anyone else hassle this morning?  This is my third attempt to get a post up today.

Anyway, over the weekend I re-read the free download version of Jim Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg. I was keen to re-examine LotFP in light of the shine I have taken to the Dungeon Crawl Classics beta. Both are grade A examples of post-retro-clone design and I would play either.

Aside from the obvious differences (DCC rpg wants you to use funky dice, LotFP's art will creep up your soul) I made two basic observations.

1) DCC rpg is designed with a lot of razzle-dazzle.  This is most obvious in all the new tricks the various classes can do and the spell charts.  Heck, running a magic-user with all the extra rules (the spell charts, mercurial magic, spellburn, corruption, spell duels, demonic patrons) could push the play experience completely outside what you consider normal D&D. I've got no great problem with MUs as written in earlier editions, but if you want weirder and less Vancian magic then DCC is your huckleberry.

2) Assuming you aren't weirded out by the artwork then LotFP shines as pretty much the tightest version of D&D ever.  This virtue comes across most clearly in the section devoted to what I call "operations", i.e. how to open a door or check for traps or crap like that.  Most reviews of most D&D descendants (and many whole games!) completely skip this stuff because it's usually boring to read, but in actual dungeoneering play these mechanics are crucial. LotFP delivers the best, most coherent set of operations rules I've ever seen.

Again, I like both these games.  It's really a matter of what best fits your particular game scene.  If you've got players who like to wrestle with new mechanics and you don't mind risking that maybe the game will fall apart under the weight of a bunch of new-fangled widgets, then DCC rpg looks like a rip-roaring good time.  If you want a rock solid design that isn't going to trip up the players with too many moving parts, then go with LotFP.  DCC rpg appeals to my inner adolescent, with lots of imagined explodey noises and splattering blood.  LotFP comes off as the more grown-up option, working efficiently so I don't have to work hard.  Of course, the latter feeling might be muted if I had the fullblown version in front of me with all the tits-and-gore artwork.

Part of me wishes I could just cut and paste together a hybrid between the two games, but I'm not sure that really work for me.  Each has been designed with its own ethos and I don't think they would ever blend smoothly.