The MCDM RPG: Swinging for the Fences!

At recent session of a friend’s Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) game, I found myself growing restless. It was the climatic battle of a year long campaign. Major secrets were revealed and the fate of a world hung in the balance. Yet, I saw there were tons of tokens on the virtual table top.

It was going to be a big fight. A true slog.

Modern D&D is like that. It just doesn’t scale. Everyone needs to be on top of their game and plan out their turns ahead of time. The Dungeon Master (DM) has the hardest job having to manage everything else, keep the combat moving, and adjudicate rules. There’s just too many potential options. It’s quite easy for large sized (and even regular sized) combat encounters to stretch into ninety minutes or more.

And yet, the longer combat continues, the worse it feels. This isn’t a DM problem. This isn’t a player problem. This is a system problem.

Lots of tokens do not necessarily make for an exciting encounter. Often times, it can be the exact opposite.

A Potential Contender

MCDM Productions, a west coast based table top game company, aims to solve this and lots of other pain points from D&D. For years, they’ve been producing books to improve various systems of the game. Yet, it’s impossible to fix a game without building it from the ground up. Thankfully, that’s what they are doing.

On December 7, 2023, MCDM revealed their unnamed game for crowdfunding currently known as the MCDM RPG. The goal was to raise 800,000 with various stretch goals reaching out 2 million. They reached their funding goal in two hours. In over a day, they completed all their stretch goals.

The lesson is clear. People are hungry for a game like D&D that doesn’t play like D&D.

Pain Points

It’s a weird issue to acknowledge. People love the game of D&D. It’s a game that has fifty years of game design built into it. Unfortunately, that design is downright cumbersome at the best of times.

With a new edition of D&D coming out in 2024, Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) is only doubling down on the current design. Things aren’t going to get easier to play. The game will be just as cumbersome except with a set of new rules to confuse existing players.

This is not the case with MCDM. They are building a new game from the ground up. Every choice is to be questioned. There would be no sacred cows. Meaning, they question everything about the modern D&D experience.

To my initial horror and later delight, they even questioned the purpose of dice.

The MCDM RPG doesn’t feature attack rolls. You roll for damage and see if the enemy’s armor negates your attack. This alone is a god send. There’s nothing more tedious than watching a player struggle with rolling their attack dice, then struggle to roll their damage dice. What should take a few seconds can sometimes extend for minutes.

And yes, I’ve been that player.

In “real life”, daggers are lethal. In D&D, not so much.

The MCDM RPG is rethinking weapons. Weapons shouldn’t determine damage. That’s the player’s job. Weapons should provide options. They see “kits” which include weapons and armor. It’s an interesting concept that Matt Coville breaks down in his “Weapons & Armor and Kits! Designing The Game” video. This design is all about player choice for a weapon selection. It makes a whole range of weapons actually useful.

This doesn’t mean it will work in practice. It’s refreshing nonetheless.

Future Unclear

Whether this game is promising to be as fun as D&D is yet to be seen. That said, MCDM has produced some excellent products with the recently released Flee, Mortals! being a much loved success.

Yet, there are many other companies out there who have tried to unseat D&D. The closest contender is Paizo with their excellent Pathfinder. Yet, Pathfinder falls into similar traps as D&D. I’m not sure they solved D&D’s pain points so much as they recreated them in a different albeit “crunchier” system.

I think MCDM has the best shot. They have a large audience of testers and they listen to feedback. I have high hopes they will put together a critical success that will resolve some the long lasting paint points of D&D and a make a terrifically fun game in the process.

By Brian Moakley

Brian Douglas Moakley is a writer and technologist who lives amongst the quiet hills in New England. When not reading tales of high adventure, he is often telling such stories to all who will listen.

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