Tuesday, September 29, 2009

All about combat, huh?

The other day at my board game group, we were discussing RPGs in general, and D&D in particular with a new guy, Dave. Someone mentioned that OD&D only had rules for combat. Of course that's pattently wrong.

Today I went through the LBBs (on .pdf, don't have the real thing, unfortunately). Here's what I found.

In Men & Magic, there are about 4 digest size pages worth of combat rules (counting the weapon lists). Monsters & Treasure has 0 rules of combat, although I suppose the monster listings count. Maybe I should go back through that for completeness. Maybe not. Anyway, Underworld & Wilderness Adventures has 10 digest size pages of combat rules, including mass battles, sea battles, and aerial battles. There are 22 digest size pages of exploration rules.

So that's 11 pages of exploration rules, 7 pages of combat rules.

Case closed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm the greatest swordsman that ever lived!

Fighters. Good old solid, dependable Fighters.

Some people think they're the most boring class, but if that's so, then why are 90% of all mythical, legendary, or modern fictional fantasy heroes warrior types?

Sure, in D&D the Fighter has the fewest special abilities. In a game where the non-spell casters are pretty cookie cutter in abilities and class bonus functions, and Fighters don't really get any, they look boring on paper.

But in play, most of the stars of the show tend to mirror fiction--they're the Fighters. At least in my experience. Even the high level spell casters, who can steal the show, usually do so in one or two encounters, then the Fighters take care of the rest.

Anyway, my houseruled Fighter pretty much looks like the Classic D&D Fighter we all know and love (or hate). As per Mentzer, at high levels they get Multiple Attacks, Parry, Disarm, and Smash maneuvers. I don't want to fiddle with "can I hit it on a 2?" questions (I'm using ascending AC and attack bonuses rather than matrices), so if they get multiple attacks, they just get multiple attacks. I doubt that will make the Nightwalkers or Elemental Rulers any less scary. Especially since I've capped the basic 4 classes at level 20.

The one AD&D rule I borrowed for Fighters is Weapon Specialization. At 4th level, a Hero can choose one weapon they prefer, and get a +1 to hit and +2 to damage. (No silly 3/2 attacks or anything like that though.) I'm considering dropping the level of WS to 3, for the single reason that the level is called Swordsmaster. It would seem thematically to fit, and would actually give the Fighter something besides that extra 1d8 hit points at that level. They already get a bonus to hit and better saving throws at level 4.

In a departure from Mentzer, the chance to become a Paladin/Avenger/Knight no longer exists. Paladin and Avenger became their own classes, then I combined them and brought back the Knight into my own Cavalier class (more on that in the future). Also, with the level cap lowered, I changed around the levels when multiple attacks are gained.

So my Fighter is a little more spiffy than the Classic standard, but not really that much different (and I avoid the need for Weapon Mastery cluttering up my game by giving Fighters only a flat bonus to one weapon they prefer).

Good old Fighters. When the chips are down, the M-U and Cleric are out of spells and the Thief's been cursed by some bit of treasure she was trying to steal, they're gonna pull the group's collective ass out of the fire.

Friday, September 18, 2009

We're on a mission from God

Thorkhammer started a thread over on Dragonsfoot that touched on something I had planned to post about here on the blog. He was wondering about how Clerics in Classic D&D manage to heal enough, when Cure Light Wounds only heals an average of 4.5 points per casting, and with Cure Serious being a whopping 4th level spell with an average of 9 points per casting. And that's also without being able to cast bonus spells for high Wisdom, or even any spells at all at 1st level.

Several of us answered to the effect that Clerics AREN'T supposed to be the bandaid. They help when it comes to healing, but consumables (potions and scrolls) as well as good old fashioned retreating to heal up are just as important as having that Cleric around.

Looking at the Cleric's spell list, I love the fact that there are no curative spells of any sort for Clerics in the 2nd spell level, with the possible exception of a reversed Hold Person, but by the book that only works to remove Hold Person spells, not any form of paralysis. Cure Light Wounds does that for ghoul, carrion crawler, or other forms of paralysis. So I really don't think of Free Person as a healing spell so much as a counter-spell. But that may just be me.

As a player of a Cleric, you should love those 2nd level spells. Everyone else may expect to go without Resist Cold, or let the M-U or Elf take Dispel Magic (but since they could sling another Fireball instead they usually don't...) in order to get as many cure wounds spells as possible. And 3rd level spells tend to be reserved for the 'condition' heals to borrow a CRPG term, although you can get away with Striking now and then. 2nd level, though, is where you get to take some spells that you can use during the exploration phase, or to benefit the group during a tough battle in a way besides healing up lost hit points, even if the group demands you perform a walking bandaid function.

I also like the way most of the Cleric spells are arranged in groups that make selections meaningful. Every level, besides the above mentioned 2nd, has some healing magic, some general purpose exploration magic, some protective magic, and now and then something offensive. Because Clerics have access to any spells on the list, the choices they make matter.

And this brings me back to the first point, about Clerics not being the walking bandaid--or at least not during a dungeon exploration. Back when I was a kid, our Clerics rarely maxed out healing spells. They'd maybe have one per level healing for emergencies, and other slots would be filled with other useful spells. When we'd retreat and rest, we'd often specify that we were doing so for 2 days' time. That way, the first day Clerics could max out healing spells, and the second day they could then regain the general mix of healing, protective, and exploratory spells that came in handy.

Clerics just have too many useful spells for exploring dungeons to waste all of them on bandaid spells.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One piece at a time...

...and it didn't cost me a dime. --Johnny Cash

Okay, it has cost a bit of money for the original rules, but thanks to being a teacher, hard copies can be produced at work when no one's looking. What am I talking about?

Well, I've realized lately that I'm slowly piecing together what will be, if I ever follow it to completeness, my own personal retro-clone. Of course, since I'm not intending to publish it for the world at large, it's full of copyrighted stuff (thanks to Frank Mentzer, mostly). But that's more or less what it's becoming.

I started out, when I quit 3.5 and got back to Classic D&D a few years back, just putting together a document of my 'homebrew' classes, which at that time were just retrofitted from level 1 versions of Mentzer's high level option classes--Druid, Paladin, Avenger.

I then toyed around with some options for upping demi-human level limits, but then scrapped it. When I was happy with the three classes above, I thought about adding in some of the AD&D favorites like Rangers and Bards. And I figured that in order to make it easy to see what classes were available in my games, I'd make a document which combined my new classes with the originals.

I couldn't help but tweak the originals, of course. I added in a few special abilities here and there, decided that the four basic human classes should be capped at 20 rather than 36 (21st or 22nd is about the highest I ever got any characters in the long campaign that ran from me getting the Red Box in 84 up through the last college summer break where we broke out the old characters around 94 or so). I doubt I'll get any more 10 year long groups together again, so 20 ought to be high enough.

I rearranged spell tables, added in and tweaked my homebrew classes, and ended up with mostly new classes that either were human but played more or less as a demi-human (dwarf--barbarian, elf--bard, halfling--ranger), or that bridged what would be a multiclass combination in AD&D (half-orc is a fighter/thief, druid is a cleric/magic-user, etc.). Then I tweaked some more.

Currently, because I've created an Illusionist (magic-user/thief) and had to write up a bunch of spells for it, I've been copy/pasting all of the spells from Mentzer, giving them a slight re-write most of the time, and adding it to my big houserule character document.

So if I keep this up, in a few years I may have monsters, treasure tables (more on that in another post, as that's another project I'm already working on which will be for release), and general rules for exploring dungeons and wildernesses, what to do at high levels, and general advice for running a game.

So I'll basically have my D&D. Who knows, if I get ambitious, I may replace Frank's text for OGL text some day, and try to release it. There seems to be some interest in a game that's basically Classic D&D rules, but with AD&D flavor, and that's sorta what I've got here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Gamer Manifesto (of sorts)

Here's why I roleplay, and why I now prefer the older, simpler kinds of D&D over the new, slickly produced versions (my ideas about why I prefer D&D over other RPGs will have to wait).

1. I like to have fun with my friends when I game. I'm not looking to create some amazing story, or some amazingly in depth character, or anything like that. Just have some fun.

2. Older versions of D&D, especially my edition of choice, BECM, are simple games to prepare. In an hour or less I can whip up a 12-15 room dungeon, with monsters, traps, and treasures. And it only takes me an hour because I'm a little rusty with the rules. With 3rd Edition, that one hour would likely have been spent on one or two rooms only (haven't tried DMing 4th, only gave it one play-test as a player so far).

3. In my experience, those older, rules light game systems tend to create more and better roleplaying. If every Fighter is mechanically the same except for Ability scores and magic loot gained, then it's up to the players to roleplay to make the two Fighters distinct. With more 'skillz & powerz' type systems, I've noticed that people tend to distinguish characters by what they do in game, mechanic-wise, rather than by personality.

4. I'm a father and husband, and am currently working 1 full time and 3 part time jobs. I don't have time to mess with rules heavy systems with a ton of splat books coming out all the time. Gimme some short, simple rules that I can tweak to my liking, and I'm good to go.

5. I've got nothing against newer games if I'm a player, but I almost always end up the DM, so I'll stick to the old TSR stuff, with my house rules.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Innaugural Post

Well, this is my first time blogging on my own. Being an old-school gamer, I intend to mainly discuss TSR's versions of D&D or other older games. But I've also got an active board game group that meets weekly, so expect to see me commenting on whatever games we're playing there, as well.

And occasionally, I'll talk about books, films, video games, or other things that I'm interested in, most likely in a way that relates to gaming.

Hopefully you'll enjoy what you read here.