Where has this game been all of my life!?
Let me go ahead an thank +Adam Muszkiewicz for talking this game up so much while playing in +JD Clement's Swords & Wizardry: Complete Game.
Sadly, I've yet to play it (but in a few days, we will be rolling up our 0-level PCs), but I just finished reading through it. First off, this book is thick. It is thicker than any other book on my gaming bookshelf I'm pretty sure. I compared it to my Pathfinder Core Rulebook anyway, and it was certainly thicker. That said, the pages are a nice and thick, and the font is nicely sized and readable, so it is quite a bit less in page count.
The prose is quite nice, and I like that the author is honest with his expectations. 'The open beta process revealed that ability score generation is the first rule to be overridden by many players... We do encourage you to "buck tradition" and try at least one game using the precise method described here..." (18). With that said, I do plan to try it by-the-book in my first game (as much as I can).
The 0-level funnel is a new system incorporated into DCC. Every player makes at least 3 0-level, average joe, people that are most likely just desperate enough to risk their lives for money, to start adventuring. Whoever lives through the adventure, congrats, there are your PCs, then they make it to 1st level, get their class (or race depending on what you rolled for them), equipment and so on. DCC does seem very deadly (which I love, remember my blog about my players needing to run away occasionally? this is the game I actually brought to their attention after our 1st carcossa session ended in that TPK).
DCC's rule system covers everything that I can think about in OD&D, while offering some new systems. Some attributes are changed, like seemingly Charisma and Wisdom were merged into Personality, and gives you a new one, Luck. Each character can burn their points in luck to add to whatever roll they need, and their luck may return, or get worse, depending on their actions. Thieves, and Halflings do manage to regenerate luck. That reminds me as well, Halflings did become more of a fighter/thief variant (and yes, race is class) in DCC.
Wizards can burn other attributes to 'spellburn' to increase their casting. The magic system as a whole is very interesting. You seem to know less spells, but you can cast all the ones you know (I believe, the description of this is the only part of the book I still feel sort of confused about) until you fail a spell check. This also means that you have to roll for spells, and every spell has a chart of what happens determined by your roll, so you will lose them for the day when you roll low. I love that this gives Wizards a chance to use their spells that aren't sleep and magic missile, it also makes them a little tougher at first level, but since naturally you don't gain as many spells, without questing and going out to find new ones, you won't naturally be stronger as you grow in levels. Spells have critical hits and fumbles as well that look really fun, and may make you think twice about casting sleep again ;)
Clerics are no longer just heal-bots. They take the old Paladin 'lay on hands' technique and can perform it on any PC X amount of times per day based on their level, however, at the cost of upsetting their deity. Your deity, and your relationship to that deity seems far more important as laid out in the rules here. Each time a cleric fails a spell his chance to upset his deity grows, and you can gain his disapproval where he may affect your ability to cast spells. Wizards also have a Patron that they may upset as well. Doing deeds for both of these may take up a lot of questing times for PCs!
Warriors have some boons to combat too. Their mighty deeds at arms give them a bonus chance to perform stunts with good roleplaying from the Players. Just telling your DM, 'I attack that kobold with my axe', is really doing your character a disservice as a Warrior. Adding in some good flavour like, 'As I charge to the kobold coming up the stairs, I hack my sword to his side and try to sweep him off the side' will help give you some extra maneuvers if your action die (that you roll every attack round) comes up as a 3 or better.
Speaking of dice and fighting, the critical hits and fumble charts are wonderful in here. I would definitely take them out and use them with another system if I didn't feel DCC was for me (but I do). There are charts and different die rolls for different classes and of different levels. The range from relatively minor things from missing, to breaking weapons, to decapitating enemies. Wizards can have spell duels in combat (which I couldn't put the book down when I was reading this, luckily I had a few cancellations from students at this time). The system makes pretty good sense, and really, this is what Psionics should have been all along, so if you're planning a psionics system, look at this (even though its not for psionics) or carcosas as well (but I'm not going into that now!). Wizards get to move around their initiative in combat to cast spells and counter-spell each other with die rolls negating their damage, reducing, causing them to fail, etc... There were some really fun looking effects labeled in this.
The dice however, seem a little funky. I ordered myself some Zocchi dice, as DCC does use d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, and d24 dice. Most of them seem fine, but I'm not so sure how the d5, and d7 are going to give truly random results. They just seem awkward and some of the faces are definitely bigger than the others to land on... I suppose I'll see once I get into play with it.
The mechanics are all rather simple as well, without the huge modifier bloat that I remember having in 3.5/PF. However, there is some, it is d20 based after all, but it all seems easily manageable to me. DCC's slight complexity is all in easy to read charts though. If you had a decent DM screen for the game (come on, we need one!) you would be absolutely set. Most of the core game, are as simple as OD&D, but there are a few add-on systems.
My complaints are few, the zocchi dice, the lack of explanation (that I saw anyway, maybe it is there) about spell casting per day, and originally the price of the .pdf. The .pdf was originally $25 (I think, at least) when I bought the hardback, which I thought was ludicrous since it didn't come with the hardback, but the price has dropped to $18.74 and is now on sale for $14.05 at http://www.rpgnow.com/product/101050/Dungeon-Crawl-Classics-Role-Playing-Game-%28DCC-RPG%29. I definitely suggest the .pdf as it will definitely be easier to search through for crits/fumbles and especially spell effects. The artwork in this book is also gorgeous and definitely evocative.
I am just amazed at how well this read (took me 3 days I think? with most of my reading being just when students cancelled or didn't show up at all). DCC and Lamentations of the Flame Princess both completely entranced me as I read them. Long are the days of reading what felt like encyclopedia tomes of when I originally played 3.5 and PF. They both read more like Gary in AD&D, but without the contradicting rules confusion of that ;)
I'm sure I've forgotten something, because there is so much here to discuss and so many ideas I fell in love with, I've already caught myself saying 'How did I forget to discuss this already!' while writing this numerous times. In the end I would definitely suggest checking out DCC.