Gary CON and The DCC RPG

That’s Gary Gygax CON……. it is not in Gary Indiana.

Although It seems like there might be a place to discuss the merits of “old school” versus “new school” gaming  art under this topic, I’ll save it for another time. The following is simply an account of what I did.

This past weekend I drove to Lake Geneva from O’hare airport for Gary Con II. GaryCon is a small gaming convention in commemoration of the life and work of Gary Gygax. I’m not sure I need to explain who he was, but suffice to say he something do with with the creation of Dungeons and Dragons.

I met Joe Goodman of Goodman Games, and Steve Chenault of Troll Lord Games in Chicago and we headed north.

Having published Gary Gygax over the past few years, Steve was listed as a VIP and was there to run a Castles and Crusades game.  Joe was primarily interested in play-testing his upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game (DCC RPG).   Additionally, Joe wasn’t opposed to playing  a few board games.  My purpose, as always, was to eat, think and seek the holy grail.

Joe and I had been bouncing email back and forth since my last visit to southern California regarding the direction the art for theDCC RPG would take.  Gary Con seemed like an ideal place to continue the discussion face to face.  Being at a convention as a “civilian” has been rare to me lately, so having the opportunity to play a few games was enjoyable. Equally rare was the ability to play in an RPG rather than run one. I participated in a few play test sessions of the DCC RPG.

It is impossible to make a room full of old school gamers  look pretty.

In the first game I played a couple of incompetent villagers ( a ditch digger, and a blacksmith). Along with a bunch of other equally incompetent, non-heroic peasants,  my characters bashed their way through a dungeon designed to kill them. The point of the game, at least in the beginning ,is to avoid attachment with characters. The death rate tends to be high. There is a process of separating the wheat from the chaff as Joe describes it. It makes sense that a lot of would-be adventurers in the classic frame of D&D would die before any emerged as having any talent for survival. By the time the night of the first game was over we were all dead, but it was fun.

Later, I played a chaotic fighter and a lawful thief that spent most of their time counteracting the each others behavior. Perhaps because of the general level of sobriety of the players during the day as opposed to the night, the later party was somewhat more successful. Not everyone died.

The mechanics  of the DCC RPG are that of a stripped down, rules light game.  Interesting elements include zero level origins in which the characters have some sort of non-adventuring trade. Farmers of various sorts are pretty common. There are difficulty checks, three saves, and close to standard attributes. Character generation is quick. Straight 3d6 ability generation provides a humorous plethora of miserable mediocrity, making any stat over a 12 something to be cherished. The funniest part of character generation is probably rolling for your occupation and getting its applicable trade good. For instance the ditch digger I made got a shovel. Other characters ended up with 10 feet or chain and a pound of fleece.

The ultimate aim aesthetically is to bring some of mystery back into to fantasy. Magic Isn’t a dime a dozen, and isn’t a science. Messing around with magic is more akin to using  addictive substances than employing technology. Joe Goodman has been reinvestigation  pre-D&D fantasy literature lately. Notably, Robert Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Fritz Lieber, Michael Moorcock, and Jack Vance have influenced his thoughts. I’m personally very  familiar with all these authors accept Vance, who I was informed by Ernie Gygax, was a major influence on his father. Makes me want to finish the Vance book I’m reading now and get on to more. So far I have have found The Eyes of the Overworld more like a painting by hieronymus bosch, than Frank Frazetta.

I anticipate heavy involvement in the art of the upcoming Dungeon Crawl classics role playing game. At the moment it’s publication will be sometime next year.   Work is being done on a particular pen and ink style for the art of the DCC RPG.  It will be simialr to other styles I’ve used for various projects in the past, but slightly different. If you could imagine it, I’ll be aiming to combine the the styles below…. and, of coarse, the drawing will better. More art will be posted as it emerges.

About dk

Doug Kovacs is an Artist and Illustrator who lives in Chicago
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