Wednesday, June 29, 2011

patrons & power

One of the neatest new mechanical toys in the Dungeon Crawl Classics rpg is the rules for magic-users invoking and pacting with demonic patrons.  I haven't done much with them yet, except for a little messing around with a patron in a Gary Con playtest, but I think that conceptually they might be the best new Gygaxian Building Block since the codification of the Feat and the Template in 3E.  I'm all for allowing magic-users to deal with the devil in exchange for more raw power, but I think the patron rules in the beta have two flaws.

1.  Building a patron from scratch looks like hard ass work.  For the full monty treatment you need an Invoke Patron results chart, 2 or 3 new patron-themed spells (in a game where designing new spells is non-trivial), a Patron Taint chart and a Patron Spellburn chart.  Putting that all into spreadsheet fields, that amounts to almost eighty individual blanks you need to fill.  At that point what should be wicked fun starts to look like homework. The prospect of starting on my first custom patron gives me the same feeling I got from trying to make high-level NPCs from scratch in D&D 3.5.  That's not a good thing.

2.  Even though I don't want to add one more item to my checklist of crap need to make a new patron, the patron write-ups should specify the an Agenda for each patron.  From a DMs point of view there's no juice in making a deal with the devil unless the devil is in it for something.  I've found that coming up with ideas for new patrons is a snap, especially when I've written a crapload of demon-themed custom spells.  But unless the patron has something concrete they are trying to achieve in the campaign world there's just no point in putting him/her/it into play.


  1. Seems like one way to make an end-run around the work is for Goodman Games to come out with like, a massive grimoire of patrons.

    If there are enough interesting and evocative choices in print, then nobdy has to make up their own. Anyone who is so inclined still can, of course, but casual players like me who are attracted to DCC primarily because of all of the wicked cool things they have done for spellcasters don't have to hit a huge roadblock.

    Plus, having a lot of existing choices means you have more starting points to make your own by re-skinning and tweaking the existing options, which is a whole lot less work than building from scratch.

    Alternately, this is all the more reason for the amateur-game-designerly-inclined to get out there and put their ideas to paper so other people can use them.

  2. I sense a supplement on the horizon. DCC definitely feels like a game where I'd actually get excited about new releases.

  3. Agree with your points. I started writing up a couple of patrons, and didn't even want to start filling in the details of the patron spells. It is a really cool concept and fun to play around with. So far I've been focusing more on the intervention tables than the spells (and yes - the patron's agenda is a pretty important consideration too)

  4. As you say, there seem to be a few of things I feel conflicted about. On the one hand, I like the idea of the randomness of possible effects and uniqueness of patrons and spells, etc. On the other, that level of detail makes intimidating.