Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Some Selective Play-Testing and Reflection

My new rules modifications for Classic D&D seem to be going well enough. Most players converted over to the new system, finding a way to more or less keep their PC the same (Don's still playing a dragonborn, a race which got axed, but did update his class from Fighter/Magic-User to Lark, and Jeff is still running the old Ranger class that gets Druid spells). Of the new Fighter (and Assassin/Paladin/Lark) combat options that have been tried out, both my younger son and Jeremy opted to go with Defense (+2 AC, +4 if attacker is giant sized) for their Fighter Combat Style (a 4th level ability), while my older son went with Cleave (like the 3E feat) and Don went with, I think, Iaijutsu (like a backstab: +4 to hit, x2 damage; but only on the first round of combat if you get initiative). 

Cleave and Iaijutsu haven't come up yet (pretty sure my son could have used Cleave last game, but we forgot about it). Defense is obviously overpowered. Not sure what I was thinking there. Obviously I was thinking of the Halfling bonus to AC vs large creatures, but +2 base was ridiculous. Even 5E's Defense ability for Fighters is only +1. I will change it. At 5th level, Jeremy's Fighter has AC 23 (I use ascending, obviously), and my younger son has AC 22 at 4th level. I'll be toning that one down a bit, and re-evaluating all of the Fighter Combat Options (a bonus ability at 4th level). 

Yesterday, Delta posted this discussion of the Fighter's ability to attack multiple low level enemies across editions.

It's interesting on its own, but since I've given my Fighter class the Sweep ability (from 2nd level) to make one attack per level vs 1HD or lower opponents in Classic (which if you haven't read Delta's thread, Frank Mentzer is commented as thinking is totally unnecessary in Classic D&D). But they also get an option to Cleave (drop an opponent to 0hp, gain a bonus attack on a nearby enemy) AND at higher levels gain multiple attacks against more powerful opponents with 1+1HD or more (2 attacks at 8th level, 3 attacks at 12th level, level cap 15th), I feel like I'm just handing out extra attacks like candy! 

Still, I've got to say the Sweep ability has been pretty useful in games so far, as it helps speed up fights with the weaklings. 

This past weekend, I ran my procedural dungeon crawl game with the boys. Their encounters skewed humanoid, so they made good use of Sweeps. First encounter with 16 bandits, and after negotiations failed, the bandits were wiped out quickly. Fire beetles and giant black widow spiders were spotted, but left alone. A group of warriors appeared, but were evaded. A Red Knight appeared (as a "special") and tried to arm wrestle the PCs (the boys' PCs legit won with good rolls)! Then they tricked a pair of white apes into opening a portcullis to allow access to a ruined castle. In the next room were (as determined by random roll) 40 orcs. They tricked the orcs and apes into fighting, leaving 29 orcs alive when the apes were finally defeated. Then they went to town, using Sweep, and the Sweep ability evened the odds, although both characters took some fairly heavy damage, even with my younger son's PC's amazing AC. In the end, all the orcs were cut down and the pair returned to town with the loot.

In my West Marches game that same evening, they finished off Quasqueton. Well, not completely finished, there were secret doors they missed, despite having a wand of secret door detection which helped. They didn't always think to use it, though. Most of the 1st level was already explored, and they had about half of the second level explored when the session started. So they put in the effort to finish it off. They encountered troglodytes (which proved to be the toughest fight of the evening!), a pair of ettins (spells rendered them ineffective), wraiths (only one level drain, Justin's PC - and just as he was about to reach the level cap for a half-elf Warlock, before the dragonborn blasted them and himself with a fireball), some ghouls, and gnolls. They avoided stirring up the bats in the giant cavern. And they finally found Zelligar's wand (Roghan's spear and armor had already been recovered). 

As for the character abilities under the new rule set, Nate has been searching for a way to make use of the Shaman (cleric subclass) ability to perform rituals, but they haven't really come up yet. The three rituals they can perform 1) allow detection of astral/ethereal creatures, 2) sanctify a small area for 24 hours, 3) allow up to four creatures suffering from poison, disease, etc. to make a new saving throw. 

The other area that's come to my attention through the game is the Paladin's Aura ability. Denis has been confused the past few sessions about it. The effects are fine, but the wording is poor. I need to rewrite the section to make it more clear.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Maybe this will work

I'm trying out an interesting arrangement for my wilderness encounter tables (mentioned in my previous post). I have a table for each terrain type: clear/grassland, forest, hills/badlands, mountains, desert/barren, swamp/marsh, jungle, river/lake, ocean, arctic, settled, city. For each table, there are five columns (six with numbering) and twelve rows. 

The columns are Animal, Human, Common Monster, Unusual Monster, Rare Monster. These are determined by a d12 roll: Animal 1-3, Human 4-5, Common 6-9, Unusual 10-11, Rare 12. A few terrain types get some adjustment to the number spread, but that's the basic. 

I haven't filled out the monsters in any of the tables yet, but I have 12 slots for each. If there aren't enough suitable creatures, I can double some up or adjust the rarity. It doesn't give quite as much variety as Mentzer's charts, but 60 creatures per terrain type should be enough for a general table. 

Oh, and these twelve tables only took up three columns of my 2-column layout, so I had room for tables for the Planes: Elemental, Ethereal/Astral, Upper, and Lower. These are arranged a bit differently, but I think it will be handy to have some random charts for planar adventures if I don't have anything worked up for a specific plane.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Wilderness Encounter Table arrangements

I'm revising wilderness encounter tables. I've recently consolidated my "regular" and "Eastern" monster lists for TSR. Treasure tables, too. And now I'm working on new wilderness encounter tables.

In the past, for Chanbara, I pretty much copied what Cook/Marsh and then Mentzer did, with a table by terrain type for monster classification, then tables for each classification broken down by terrain type. In Chanbara, I also included seasonal variation for some of them. I'm not planning to go down the seasonal variation route again, but I am considering different ways to lay this out. 

AD&D and the Creature Catalogue go the route of the big master list (d%) by terrain type. There's an advantage to this in that it allows wiggle room to set monsters as common or rare. But every monster is jammed onto one table, and they take up a lot of space. I'd like to be able to lay this out on two facing pages if possible, for convenience. 

I have a couple of other ideas for how I could do this. 

First would be to do something similar to BX/BECMI, except instead of the initial table, just break down each terrain type by monster type. So the Forest Table would have columns for Animal, Fey/Yokai, Humanoid/Giant/Oni, etc. But I'd either need to give everything equal probability of appearing, or have numbering for each column. This would probably be the most space efficient way to do it. Although I've got more categories than Cook/Marsh/Mentzer, so I'd probably want to consolidate classifications a bit more.

Second would be to divide terrain types by proximity to civilization. So each terrain type would get columns for Settled, Borderland, and Wilderness (to borrow from the Companion Set's domain management classifications). This would end up with a grab-bag of monsters on each list, but they would be more sorted into challenge levels for low, middle, and high level PCs. This one seems interesting, different, and useful, but would probably take up more space than I'm hoping for, unless each list is fairly short. 

I've got over 400 monsters in this thing. Nearly everything from BECM/RC (a few I NEVER use or just don't like removed), plus monsters and NPC types from Flying Swordsmen and Chanbara, and some extra monsters from modules, 1E, 2E, 3E, and homebrew monsters from my Beast of the Week series way back when (many of the sillier monsters -- but by no means all silly monsters -- removed, so no more Saurons running around in packs :D). Of course, many of these are "dungeon only" or planar creatures, but it still leaves me with a lot to work with, and not every monster will make the cut. 

I guess I should spend some time building prototypes of each system and see which one I like most.