Friday, June 24, 2011

Saving Throws: An End to the Madness

As better explained by The Man in the Funny Hat, the AD&D saving throw system may be quirky and the categories poorly explained, it is not without logic. It does the opposite of the 3rd Edition D&D system, which while elegant in organization loses something in the change-over. Should not a Magic-User, Mage, or Wizard be more resistant to magic than others? How do your reflexes help you dodge out of the center of a 30' diameter ball of flame? Still there must be something simpler than the big chart. And why are paralyzation and poison lumped together?

Much like Dave Arneson and Swords & Wizardry, I have become a fan of the single saving throw progression. People have charted the AD&D saves and there's a pattern to them that roughly goes from 15 to 7. Some classes are better, some are worse. When someone pointed out that the Rod/Staves/Wands saves for all classes is 1 better than their spells saves, it clicked. We might as well remove the column from the chart and convert it to a bonus. Why not do that with all of the saves?

Let's start at 15 for everyone at 1st level, and drop by one each level until the target is 5. I suppose there's math to make this work as an ascending bonus, but let's get the math right first. Next up, modifiers:

  • Poison: Dwarves get a bonus, perhaps based on Constitution like in AD&D. For now let's make it +3.
  • Death Magic: This includes negative energy attacks. Clerics get +3 due to their link with the higher and lower planes.
  • Petrification, Polymorph: This is pretty much the same for everyone in AD&D, so no class bonus. Perhaps Constitution as a tip of the hat to System Shock checks.
  • Rod, Staff, Wand: We'll say all magical items effects give you +1 to the save. Maybe we note this with some of the items (Wand of Fireballs), but not others (a bonus to saves versus the Staff of the Magi - I think not!)
  • Breath Weapons: Breath Weapons are nasty. In AD&D, this is the hardest save at 1st level and the hardest at 17+ for most classes. We'll include this as necessary on the specific monster. Is a hell hound attack as hard to avoid as an ancient red dragon?
  • Spells: +3 for Magic-Users, +3 for Dwarves, +2 for Hobbits... err Halflings.

Modifiers for Special Cases:
  • Charm and Illusion effects: Give the Wisdom attribute bonus (for TSR, I've standardized this like BEX D&D)
  • Dodge-able effects: This is a DM's call as to when it applies. Perhaps give Thieves a +2 on save for dodge-able effects (lightning bolts, wands, etc). Perhaps give everyone their Dexterity Adjustment. Like the Defensive Adjustment in AD&D, this works better when it's not applied across the board.

What else should be included?

Monday, June 20, 2011

My House Rules: Tactical Simulation Ruleset

As mentioned in the post, My Vision of xD&D, I have a list of rule sets I'd like to see. Sometimes I like to play by-the-book AD&D, sometimes I want to get a little weird. I'm not a fan of the WotC versions of D&D, but there are a few good ideas tucked in there. My Heartbreak/House Rules set has a little bit of everything.

I don't have any delusions that these rules will get used by anyone else. At best someone may steal a rule twist here or there for their own house rules. Existing posts and links show the general direction, but here is a general outline:

1. Class is distinct from Race (like AD&D)
2. Most, but not all, AD&D races and classes are present. "Humans" are the only race that can be all classes (like AD&D)
3. Ascending AC - mostly to stop players from whining.
4. Experience points gained through accumulation of treasure.
5. Training needed for level advancement.
6. Minimum attributes for class membership, but no bonus XP from high prime requisites.
7. Weapon vs Armor Class (in some form)
8. Modified Saving Throws - the spirit of AD&D, the form of Swords & Wizardry
9. Defenses similar to 4th Edition D&D.
10. Rolls to learn spells, and spells must be memorized/prepared in advance to be cast.
11. Ritual casting - inspired by, but different from, 4th Edition D&D.
12. Skill system - somewhere in between LotFP and 3rd Edition
13. Group Initiative
14. Changes to HP, Fatigue, and Healing
15. Some unification of Experience Point Tables

Friday, June 17, 2011

Love/Hate the Ranger

I've got a love/hate relationship with the Ranger. Not as much hate as Blackrazor, but certainly not as much love as... well, anyone talks about "dual wielding" and "strikers".

Blackrazor's got some good points. The AD&D Ranger *is* just a fighter with bling. I like using some ability score requirements to keep the class unusual and special, but making that the only disadvantage compared to a parent classe "makes the rich richer". The characters already with an advantage in better attribute get Ranger bling as well. The slower level advancement has merit, but I'm trying to avoid multiple advancement charts in the Tactical Simulation Rule set. Trying to "power up" the Fighter for balance's sake isn't the answer either. While the Fighter could use some love, I don't want the arms race of later editions.

Archetype is a messy word, but I don't think Rangers out of place in any game that involves Halflings. If you let pseudo-hobbits in, why not pseudo-Aragorn? Aragorn was clearly the model for the Stategic Review version that shows up similarly in the AD&D Player's Handbook. Like everyone, I passed through a phase where I wanted the Ranger to be Robin Hood, as a scout or hunter class. Perhaps there should be a lightly armorer archer option, but then why hold onto the name? I've gone back and forth on the quirks of the Ranger: starting hit dice, d8 Hit dice, use of spells and other powers. Nowadays I'm apt to keep them - an artifact of Gygaxian quirkiness. Perhaps the spells and magic powers are part of a class branch, like in The Magestic Wilderness or a pseudo Prestige Class (I've always throught Ranger Lord has a neat ring to it). Or they represent a secret martial order, like the Paladins of Mithras. We'll leave creation of another class to another post.

Where to go with the Ranger:
* This brilliant idea from Blood of Prokopius.
* Using armor as a mix of AD&D weapon proficiency slots with the armor categories 3rd and 4th edition. Fighters are proficient in all armor, but Rangers need to spend slots to get access.
* Starting Weapon Restrictions, a la Unearthed Arcana.
* Attribute requirements remain, but not quite as stringent: Strength 12, Wisdom 12, Constitution 12.
* Multiple attacks versus sub-1HD creatures? Followers? Creation of a keep/stronghold? Not for the Ranger.

You'll see a little of all these in the Tactical Simulation Ruleset.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Training for New Levels

[Excerpt from the Tactictal Simulation Ruleset Player's Guide - also suitable for other level based roleplaying games]

  • Upon gaining sufficient XP for a new level, the character can "immediately" roll for new hit points.
  • All other class abilities and improvements require training.
  • Training takes one week of time, regardless of level.
  • The "Trainer" must be at least one level higher than the character he/she is training.
  • Upon reaching "Name Level", the character must spend the same amount of time and money, but does not need a trainer.
  • Training costs [Current Level x 1000 GP]. Loans can be made, and *some* trainers will accept goods or services in lieu of coins.
  • Magic-users and Illusionists automatically gain one new spell upon completing training. This can be of any level they can cast, does not require a Spell Learning Test, does not require a fee to scribe into the spellbook, BUT must be from the Player's Handbook.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Notes from Aria

I pulled out one of my favourite unplayed games, Aria, for some
reading fun. Here are some notes that people may find interested or

* Traditional AD&D "leather armor" is cuirbouille, or leather boiled in oil. It shares the same etymology as the 'cuirass'.

* Aria uses an "encumbrance multiplier" to translate weight into D&D style encumbrance. The boxspring for my bed has a low weight, but high encumbrance multiplier; a sack of ball bearings is the opposite.

* Included in the armor chart for each type is it's "fit tolerance", representing how much physical variation one can have and still wear a given suit of armor. Plate has a low fit tolerance (as Sigurd knows!) and Ring Mail is among the highest. Interestingly, leather armor (cuirbouille) also has a low fit tolerance, since the boiling treatment makes it rigid. Aria, in all it's detail-loving glory, has
scores for height, frame, and physique that tie into the fit tolerance: Conan probably won't be fitting into a suit of Plate armor made for Arwen any more than Sigurd would.

* Weapons have both a reach and speed score. Gary would be proud! Each weapon type lists its attack modes: maces "crush", hand axes "chop", knives "stab" and "slash". Many weapons have multiple attack modes. Armors are rated in their defense versus each mode (crush/chop/slash/thrust, etc).

Quote from (Original) D&D

"Final Note: If sea monsters or monsters of the sea do not get a ship, perhaps it will sail off the edge of the world!"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Vecna = Vance

In games of Dying Earth, (player character)magicians must resist their Arrogance attribute in order to share spells with other magicians.

There must be a good way to work this into D&D.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

TSR/AD&D 2.1 Paladin Inspiration

Something like this.


(Moving some older posts from my shared Iron Rations blog)

"Round-by-round initiative was key to the whole combat action system though. Everyone declared their actions, THEN initiative happened. That injected a whole element of uncertainty into the game. Did you plan to boldly advance towards the altar or hang back near the door where you could restrict the enemy? If you decided to advance and the other side got the initiative you could end up in a heap of trouble, but hanging back could seriously hamper your ability to achieve some goal or other. Switches of init between the two sides also promoted the possibility of sudden reversals of fortune and gave combat an uncertain and rather chaotic caste. And of course the whole thing raised heck with magic users, especially if they were planning on using any of the longer casting time high level spells."