After the initial section comes one of the only big missteps of the beta. The big page of black with white letterings dividing the major sections. As pleasing it looks, it doesn't help people to use this for playtesting as anything they print will need to avoid these pages or go through a lot of ink. This one is one page 8. There is a nice bit of flavor text on the page.
Following this is another full page illustration, again it is evocative and captures the spirit of the of game. The lady in the picture has more clothes on than two of the figure which is a welcome change from the usual chainmail bikini pictures we endured over the years.
Now we come to what will be another controversial sub-system. The character creation funnel. You generate up to 4 zero level characters and run them with other characters of the party and see who survives to first level. I can see it working but... the referee is going to need some more tools than what is given here. First I hope in the full rulebook they give some space to discussion plausible scenarios for having such a gaggle of people tramping on an adventure. Second they discuss alternative starting point.
From running the Majestic Wilderlands for 30 years the problem is that ANY fixed method of starting character gets to be old in the long run. The key is to have a variety of methods to start off a campaign and varying them over time. RPGs should discuss a variety of starting points in order for it not to become a one trick pony.
With that being said I think the funnel will work as described in the hands of an experienced referee and certainly you not investing much time into making each characters so the game will get off to a quick start. The random background table even fixes the issue of having to buy equipment.
The ability Scores are unique to DCC RPG, the six chosen are Strength, Agility, Stamina, Personality, Intelligence, and Luck. Luck is an important score used to influence the dice rolls of the game in a variety of ways.
The Ability modifiers in contrast pretty much echo those of the d20 system. +1 for 13 to 15, +2 for 16, 17,and +3 for 8. Minus modifiers start at scores lower than 8. We also see the first of the humorous cartoons that are liberally sprinkled throughout the book.
The section goes on further to explain the luck score and the things you can do with it. One really cool think is that the modifier for Luck will effect different things for different characters. You roll on a table which give the exact situation your luck modifiers works for (or against for a low luck). It also uses the first of the non-standard dice the d30.
Saving throw are straight from d20. I alway found the d20 setup to be the more straightforward of all the version of D&D and glad to see it used here. You get a number of language equal to your intelligence modifier including common.
Next it explains what goes into a being a level 0 characters. 1d4 hp + Stamina mod, 5d12 copper, -100 XP, One random piece of equipment, One random occupation which determines what wepaons you can use and give you a trade good, and +0 to all attacks and saves.
We get to use a d100 on the occupation table which ranges from Alchemist to Woodcutter. Trade Good include things like a flask of oil, a Pony, Lantern, a Sow, Silk Clothes, Badger Pelts, etc. This table is a key reason why I think that the Character Funnel would be a extremely fun. Rolling on the table may look like extraneous fluff but when you look at what they actually include you start see the possibilities.
Next after a brief talk about Weapon Training and Trade Goods, we come to alignment. It is Micheal Moorcock' Law-Neutral-Chaos full bore and what defines the supernatural in the DCC RPG. I like some of the things included in Neutral like Cthulu, and the Old Olds. While it not how I would run things in my campaign I think it will work for the DCC RPG.
Next we get an Easley full page illustration with a warrior of law about to lay some smackdown on a orcish minion of chaos.
Next the games goes into Level advancement with particular attention paid to how you go from zero-level to first. Interestingly enough reading the Choosing a Class section I don't see anything about mandating race as class.
Read that carefully, the demi-human class are limited to only those races but the reverse is not mentioned. No where it says you MUST pick your race's class. I am not sure if this was overlooked or is intentional.
If your character survives to 1st level, you can choose a class. Your free will is constrained by the fatalism of the dice; pick a class that suits your randomly determined strengths and weaknesses. The demi-human classes of dwarf, elf, and halfling may only be selected by characters whose 0-level occupation was of that race.
I read up on the issue on the DCC Forums and it turns out that the intent is race as class. However the comment was made by Joseph Goodman that having other racial classes is within the spirit of the game. For example a Dwarven Runecaster. His current feeling is to leave it up to the third party publishers to flesh out. Mmmmm
Next we look at the individual classes.