Sage LaTorra, Adam Koebel, I see that you are also avid DCCRPG players and Torchbearer supporters.

Sage LaTorra, Adam Koebel, I see that you are also avid DCCRPG players and Torchbearer supporters.

Sage LaTorra, Adam Koebel, I see that you are also avid DCCRPG players and Torchbearer supporters. What kind of different experience do these games give you compared to DW?

I guess this is a “tell me how system matters” kind of question.

33 thoughts on “Sage LaTorra, Adam Koebel, I see that you are also avid DCCRPG players and Torchbearer supporters.”

  1. Hmmmmm.  That is a VERY big question to answer.

    So, okay, my very first reaction is that you can’t necessarily compare all three to each other as one big thing.  It’s easier to say “This is how DCC is different from TB” or “This is how TB is different from DW”.  

    It would be easiest to say that the games care about different things.  Dungeon World cares about putting the characters in the spotlight – about giving them complications because complications are a good excuse to be cool and show off and mostly, it paints a world of crappy jerks for you to beat on and strain against and uncrappy ladies and dudes to partner up with and be awesome together.  Dramatic oversimplification, but that’s how she goes.

    Torchbearer cares about the characters, sure, but as a vessel for all the bumps, bruises, infections, severed limbs, lost packs, trauma and tragedy that a life of adventuring dishes out.  It’s about scraping by in the terrible underworld and coming out on top just because this time nobody died and holy shit you got yourself a necklace you can pawn for a meal.  You’re adventurers not because you’re noble or goodly but because where the fuck else do you go in a world where you have no place?  It’s scrappy and hard-won.  There’s little to nothing (in my experience, 10 or 12 sessions in) “epic” about Torchbearer characters.

    DCC cares about, on the one hand, being a genre emulator of the weird fantasy that slightly predates D&D.  It wants to show a world of randomness, of danger and cost and chaos and the PCs are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of TB and DW.  At level zero, they’re shit and deserve to die alone and crappy but if they scrape to level one, they’re superhuman, more or less, despite still being beat-on and walking the thin line of death.  

    Where DW is moment-to-moment complications and always rolling forward from scene to scene, Torchbearer is a more methodical, high-pressure crawl, where, by god, every step might mean fortune or doom and DCC is a frantic dash around a world full of crazy-ass weirdness.

    That’s only surface stuff, really.  The mechanisms of each game are too complex to really cover in so few words.  It’s funny to think, but all three are going to have a permanent place in my gaming repetoir.  I love each one dearly, even though Dungeon World is the obviously the best.  😉

  2. Here’s my feelings:

    DCC is great for randomness. It’s the unpredictable, sometimes-zany, side of fantasy adventure.

    Torchbearer is the tough, strategic game of fantasy adventure. It’s the challenging side of fantasy adventure.

    Dungeon World is fantasy adventure focused on leading questions and spiraling consequences. 

    Of course all of them have elements of all of those. It’s more what they emphasize.

  3. DCC isn’t always so random, though.  I mean, it’s really traditional in the way shit is framed.  From an actual play perspective, it’s 3.X + Basic Classes + A bunch of random tables – the whole thing is very much DM-orchestrated adventuring.

  4. I have played DCC and TB!

    In my play the defining thing in DCC tended to be the roll of the dice, especially in spells and the luck stat. It starts with the character funnel, I think. That randomness continues through the game.

  5. The randomness is 100% on the player end.  The GM doesn’t have any like, procedural randomizing tools for play (in the same way that, like SWN does).  Even the adventures published don’t make use of random encounters.

  6. Oh yeah, for sure. But that’s true of DW as well, and that doesn’t feel as random to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the randomness. I feel like the randomness of  DCC was like the leading questions in DW: it prompts you making more stuff.

  7. Please guys don’t wait for me to carry this forward. I am on a different time zone than you guys, it’s morning and I need coffee.

  8. I can see the appeal in playing “against the game” in DCC and TB, where you try to crack an objective puzzle without dying and the GM acts as an impartial referee. Wouldn’t you say there is quite a bit of overlap between TB and the low levels of DCC though? (haven’t tried TB yet)

    Also, does DCC really work in a campaign game crawling up to higher levels? Can you keep a strong long commitment to a character when death can be sudden, unfair?  Wouldn’t DW play better on semi-heroic levels?

  9. There’s next to no overlap in the funnel of DCC and how Torchbearer works.  In early DCC, there’s no suffering or struggle, you just die.  You get bonked on the head once and splat, you’re dead.  In Torchbearer, death is a thing that only comes after a long time and you know it’s on the way. 

    The other thing about DCC and lethality is that once you’re level one and above and if you’ve got a cleric in the party, it’s SO hard to die and stay dead.  You bleed out from 0 hp and have 1 round per level to do that, then, even after you’re dead, if the party turns over your corpse you still get a Luck check to see if you were alive all along.

    DCC is absolutely great for long campaigns.  We’re on our 35th session this week, give or take. The level range in the party right now, because of various folks joining at different times and a few dead characters, is between 1 and 4.

    By contrast, Dungeon World is a focused, 1 to 15 session operation, whereas I’d hate to only play Torchbearer or DCC once and never play again – I’d feel like I was missing out on a lot of the meat of the game.

  10. Thank you, considering the genre is almost the same it is super interesting to deconstruct the different agenda and user experiences of the games

  11. If I had to do a one-sentence tag-line for the feel of each game, I’d say;

    DCC: “Chaos and weird fantasy in the style of Appendix N”

    Torchbearer: “Desperate, exploratory dungeon crawl action.”

    DW: “Character-driven dramatic fantasy adventure.” 

  12. I tend to stay away from “character-driven” since it carries some connotations I don’t really dig. I also don’t feel like it’s super accurate: the characters are caught up in big things, sure, but they’re not often the drivers of them. They’re the wrench in the gears the messes everything up.

    Same goes for drama. I haven’t seen DW do drama in the sense of Burning Wheel or Monsterhearts or such. The interpersonal aspect is icing on the adventuring cake, not the focus.

    I’d make DW’s one-sentence: “Snowballing, spitballing, collaborative fantasy adventure.”

    That’s probably the thing that stands out the most to me in DW. The way things always keep building, from everyone involved. DCC and TB and other games do that as well, but DW it really seems like the focus is in spinning everyone’s contributions out of everything.

  13. Sage LaTorra I think you’re right – “character driven” has some baggage and people will assume what they like. I think that” be a fan of the characters” is what makes DW stand apart from DCC or TB.  In those games, the GMs job has next to nothing to do with the characters at all.

  14. Adam Koebel yeah, but being a fan of the characters doesn’t make them the drivers of the action, does it? That’s why we have fronts and GM moves. I think what you’re calling “character-driven” I’d call “collaborative.” 

  15. Sage LaTorra it’s debatable, I mean, the GM has a framework to operate in and makes moves to snowball the game forward, but those moves are triggered and guided by a set of principles that focus on the characters.

    That said, I think we might be debating a point of semantics.  Terminology clutter! Maybe I mean “more character driven” rather than “completely”.  I’d never use “Character Driven” as part of the marketing for DW, though.

    (anyone ever wanted to watch two game designers disagree about a game they co-wrote?  YOU CAME TO THE RIGHT PLACE)

  16. Ivan Vaghi 

    A DW GM is supposed to give the PCs a chance to be awesome.  They’re on the PCs side as characters in a fictive space. (clarification: which isn’t to say you want to “help” them win, but that they’re the centerpiece of the game)

    A DCC GM is supposed to be neutral.  If the PCs fuck up and look like assholes, that’s their problem.  The world goes on.

    A TB GM is supposed to poke and prod and challenge the PCs.  To look at them through a lens of “okay, life’s tough, let’s see you get out of this one!”

  17. I disagree that the GM is on the PC’s side in DW.

    “Think of the players’ characters as protagonists in a story you might see on TV. Cheer for their victories and lament their defeats. You’re not here to push them in any particular direction, merely to participate in fiction that features them and their action.”

    We explicitly say you’re not here to be on their side. Maybe we should have phrased that better. It’s not being a fan like wanting them to always be awesome. It’s being a fan like being interested in invested in whatever happens to them.

  18. Sage LaTorra yeah, I guess I see that as “being on their side” in that they’re the ones you’re rooting for – you want to see them be awesome.  I mean, for me, seeing PCs be awesome sometimes means watching them suffer and kicking the shit out of them while they’re down.  This is pretty much how I play by default, but I do it to see them get back up.

    DCC and TB aren’t like that.  In those games, kicking the crap out of the players is because either a) the world is scary and that’s what happens or b) your job is to challenge them.  Respectively.

  19. Adam Koebel but DW is also about portraying a scary world. In fact, “Portray a fantastic world” is part of your agenda, but “Be a fan of the characters” is a principle. 

    In my experience, DW was actually more focused on the world, because of fronts. (It was also way longer than 15 sessions, whereas we burned out on DCC pretty quick.) The characters are caught up in those because of asking questions, but they were important because they were caught up in big things. The characters came and went but the big scary world was constant.

  20. It’s probably a challenge in comparing these that we both played them in the order DW, DCC, TB. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some unintended mental leakage. Fronts, for example, tend to make their way into everything I run to a degree, unless the game explicitly gives met something else.

  21. What’s interesting is that there is overlap between the games, but not necessarily intentionally.  A lot of agendas and principles from DW have worn off onto my DCC GMing (draw maps, leave blanks, etc) and the way that a fail result works in DW is pretty similar to introducing complications in TB.  

Comments are closed.