Monday, September 16, 2019

Ten (or six) second combat rounds

I started playing D&D with Classic D&D, so it's probably no surprise that I'm a fan of the six ten second combat round, rather than the 1 minute combat round of AD&D.

Sumo is on now (watching it as I type even). And I think sumo shows us a good example of why combat rounds should be short in man-to-man combat systems. OD&D and AD&D's one minute rounds came out of the game's wargame roots, where a minute of mass combat makes sense. But for smaller scale battles, it's too gross a measurement.

Here's a sumo match from last year between Kaisei (orange) and Ryuden (black). I picked this because I actually know the winner of the match, Ryuden. He was my student when he was a middle schooler. Yes, I'm name dropping a name hardly anyone who reads this blog has heard of before. But I enjoy watching him as he's risen through the ranks over the years.

Anyway, the match starts at the 0:48 mark, and finishes at the 0:58 mark. 10 seconds only.

I think I remember hearing somewhere that the average length of a sumo match is 6 seconds. That means many of them don't even go on this long!

In D&D terms, that means whoever gets initiative usually pulls off an attack that either knocks the opponent down or out of the ring in the first round. And in AD&D terms, that's in the first segment!

Granted, sumo isn't deadly combat. But I think it provides a good example of why a very short combat round is a good thing.

[And I'm surprised that after 10 years of blogging, and 21 years of watching sumo, I'm just creating my "sumo" post label today!]

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Pendulum Swings Back

I've been using my house rules to Classic D&D for many years now. Call it a Franken-game, call it D&D Mine, call it a heartbreaker. It works for me. But I'm constantly tweaking it. Sometimes based on how the rules play, sometimes just based on my feelings.

Ever since I started this blog 10 years ago, I've been using additions to Classic D&D based on AD&D and WotC editions. Ever since Gamma World 4th Edition came out in the early 90's, I've been a fan of ascending AC. Yes, the math is the same. But there's one less step involved compared to descending AC. And I've been using it so long that if I use a module with descending AC, I'm instantly converting the number in my head to the ascending value.

It really does save time, as sometimes you know just based on the die roll that it's a hit before the math gets applied. So I don't think I'll ever move my house rules back to descending AC, even though sometimes the nostalgia of having an AC 2 or AC -1 makes me reconsider.

Recently, for fun and as a bit of an experiment, I did start a (play-by-post) game using the RAW. OK, there are still a few house rules. But just the classes from BX/BECMI, descending AC, all that. And it's been pretty fun. Of course, being PbP it's slow at times. If I'm busy, or the players are busy, we end up waiting around a long time for things to move forward. But the main thing is, I'm playing it mostly by the book. And the house rules I'm using are as follows:

Spell Progression -- not technically a house rule, but my printed edition of Mentzer has different spell progression for Magic-Users, and Elves than the PDF version or the RC (print or PDF). So I'm using the version in the printed book I have, which give more low level spells earlier. And for Clerics, I'm using the BX spell progression. This gives more high level spells earlier, but limits them to 5th level spells.

Fighters (but not Dwarves, Elves or Halflings) get the AD&D ability of one attack per level against 1HD or weaker creatures.

Thieves use the BX advancement table for their abilities, which again is a bit more generous than BECMI.

And that's it. That's the extent of my house rules. Nothing is actually made up or cribbed from an outside source, it's just taking a few pieces of other old school TSR versions of the game. And as I said above, it's been fun.

So now I'm looking at the Gothic abbey that is my house rules document that I've been tinkering with for over a decade now. At the moment:

9 Races: Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Gnome, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Dragonborn, Changeling

12 Classes, divided into the 4 main classes and 2 subclasses each: Cleric [Cavalier, Druid], Fighter [Berserker, Ranger], Magic-User [Bard, Illusionist], Thief [Acrobat, Assassin].

And yes, there's a chart with what races can be what class, and what level they can rise to in each class. And each race has a list of allowed multiclass options.

Humans can dual class as in AD&D. I also gave them a perk where each level above 1st they roll twice for hit points and take the better result.

I won't go into all the minutia of the other races and classes here. But Fighters  have a list of combat styles and they get one at 1st level and more as they level up, plus the BECMI high level combat options when they get to 9th level. So they're not the simplest class to play any more.

For spells, Bard spells are all pulled from the Cleric or Magic-User lists. Druid spells are mostly as in BECMI (most Cleric spells plus a few special unique spells), although I think I added in a few of the unique spells from AD&D as well. Illusionists have  simplified lists based on the AD&D spell lists. Cavaliers just use Cleric spells [didn't call them paladins because they're not forced to be lawful only].

For gear, I've slightly expanded the weapon list from BECMI. And I added some general equipment from other editions of the game. Nothing too noteworthy. Except for one thing. I added large shields that grant a +2 to AC instead of a +1. But since I'm using old school modules for a lot of my West Marches adventure locations (and my monsters & treasure house rule document was made before I added the large shields) all of the magic shields found so far or placed so far (2 found, a few more placed) in West Marches aren't tagged for size. So I'm defaulting to small. And players are wondering why they would give up a normal large shield for a magical small shield +1. Good question.

So even though I think large shields deserve to be in the game, and shields really deserve more than a +1 to AC, the way the game has been designed I'm seeing some small problems with this addition. I think I'll do away with it in my next revision.

And all that blather brings me to my point. I'm having fun with my heavily house-ruled game. I'm having fun with my barely house-ruled game. And I'm feeling like it's time to simplify. Go back to Race-As-Class. Get rid of the extra classes and races. Reduce the amount of pondering players do when they roll up a new character (having just come off a TPK, I realized how much faster it would have been to get everyone up and rolling again if it had just been the seven classes of BX/BECMI to choose from).

But if I pull another switch like that on the West Marches, I don't think it will go over so well. So I'll probably just save the simplification for the next campaign. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

And we're good

Today is Chuseok, the Korean "Thanksgiving" or harvest moon holiday. And it's Friday the 13th. What better way to break the party's luck after a TPK than to play more D&D?

As I predicted, and played off as information from Goldie the Fairy Princess (who escaped the TPK by only playing in the first half of the game last Sunday), the new adventurers went out and found the remains of the previous party -- and all their magical loot! Of course, the previous party had two halflings and a gnome, while this party is a human, half-elf, two half-orcs and a full elf. So some of the magical armor didn't fit. But for the most part they all got kitted out with magical weapons (a few from before, plus the five new ones discovered last session), some magical armor, and several potions, a staff, and a wand.

And they didn't die this time. Only "Boy," the 58 year old human servant of the noble Elf Fighter (NPC) got killed by a gargoyle. And the magic weapons came in handy with their first gargoyle run-in!

They also made friends with a trading post manned by cyclopskin, and are thinking of trying to set up a lucrative trade in psychedelic mushrooms from the Fungal Forest not far away. And ideas of building an alliance of neanderthals and cyclopskin, and possibly the myconids, against the mysterious and evil Horned Society.

I love this game so much. I don't need to set up plots. Just introduce groups and the players build the conflict into it.

Redone Barrier Peaks Map

So, yesterday and this morning I redid the first level of the map for S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks for my personal use. I used GIMP 2.10.10. It was a lot easier than I'd thought it would be. The biggest hassle was setting up the grid to the proper proportion. Once that was done, the "snap to grid" feature made it really simple to lay down all the lines. Hopefully I got all the doors correct. I probably missed one or two.

Instead of letters for coding the color cards for the door locks, I used colors. Of course, gray and black didn't look good with the already black lines and gray shading for the lighting effects. So I switched them go green and blue.
And with layers, I was easily able to make some alternate versions.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Modifying S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

Yet another classic TSR module that I want to stick in my West Marches campaign.

I've been going through the module the past few days. Here are a few observations (in no particular order):

  • I have no problem dropping "sci fi" or tech in my Medieval fantasy game, so I don't need to re-fluff everything as magic items. In fact, I might even do away with the Gamma World-style "roll lots of dice to see if you figure this thing out or shoot yourself in the chest" charts. It's always been one of those subsystems that seems like a good idea in theory but just isn't that fun at the table. 
  • Instead of the tech discovery chart, maybe just have a simple Intelligence check, and if failed, a saving throw to avoid mishaps? Easier and faster than trying to describe what's happening while a series of d10 rolls are made and I'm consulting the chart. And it still preserves the outcomes of: "you figured it out" "you have no idea" "it blows up in your face"
  • Classic D&D doesn't have a comprehend languages spell. Read languages is low level and easy to come across, so they can figure out any written information if they need to. Speak with monsters requires a level 11 caster. I might want to throw a few scrolls of that spell the party's way before they find the ship. Or communication with the androids and recorded voice messages will just be missed. Or just make it clear to them that while they may (probably will) stumble upon the ship at a lower level, they should wait until they're higher level to fully explore it.
  • The map in my PDF scan of the original module is fine on screen, but when I print it out it's really hard to read. I should redraw the map. 
  • This place is huge! I knew this, but considering how the players so far have not been as interested in dungeon crawling (with the exception of the Caves of Chaos), I think only the first level will be enough crashed spaceship for them. 
  • Since there are plenty of empty spaces on the first level map, I may throw some of the interesting encounters from lower levels into the first level so that it's not just vegepygmies and androids. 
  • I copy/pasted the text and have been editing out extraneous bits that I won't need at the table. I was complaining about Gygax being wordy a few weeks ago, and while this text has a lot of unnecessary verbiage, it's a lot more concise than some of the other modules I've been using. Gygax packed a lot of useful information into the descriptions of the areas. 
  • I love the rooms with a bunch of stuff to experiment with -- you know (as a player) that some will be helpful, some harmful, and some could be either depending on how you mess with it. There's a lot of that in this module.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

10th Blogversary: A Decade of WaHNtHaC...

Ten years ago today, I wrote my first post on this blog.

It's been a fun decade. The OSR has gone from a major force among blogs to the big draw of G+ to a diaspora of varying social media/blog outlets. We've gone from nearly 100% hobbyist to having a significant professional presence. We've had all kinds of wacky adventures, battles over minutiae, the "death of the OSR" more times than I can count, friends have been made, and all in all I'm glad to continue to be a part of it.

I've posted a lot of musings, created a lot of monsters, written two OSR games (and made a little money), written a popular series going through Mentzer Basic cover to cover, written a not-so-popular series about how to approach a Megadungeon as a player, and evolved my house rules for Classic D&D along the way. I've even got two or three posts on the Links to Wisdom page. So I guess I'm doing something right. :D

Thanks to all of you Constant Readers.* If no one was reading and commenting, I would have quit a long time ago. As it is, I'm starting to get back into blogging, and hope to have more regular posts going forward.

*Stephen King, please don't sue me for using that phrase!

Sunday, September 8, 2019


And in today's West Marches game, the players decided (based on my rumors) to go exploring.

They discovered four or five new hexes. They found five magical weapons. They negotiated and avoided combats with various monsters (neanderthals, hellhorses, giant goats, and myconids riding giant ants).

Then, when camping for the fourth night of the expedition, three carrion crawlers attacked.


Luckily, we had enough time left for everyone to roll up a new PC.