Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Dwarf" vs. dwarf

Whom do you think is the cooler dwarf?

I mention this because I believe, as Gygax did, that D&D is essentially human-centered. In my OSR game, I offer the other races for their game-mechanic benefits, but I still refer to them as humans, and encourage my players to think of them as such. At best, they may be singular representatives of a different race, but there is no concentrated population of their kin to be found in the campaign. If they truly are non-human, they are outsiders, cast-outs, strangers in strange lands.

(P.S., I love Lord of the Rings, and I think John Rhys-Davies did a great job of portraying Gimli. But swords and sorcery is a different sub-genre from High Fantasy, and s&s is the style I currently prefer, and I believe it fits the original game better.)


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thoughts on Multi-Classing

As I've mentioned before, I'm not fond of 3e-style "I'm a wizard, but I'm going to be a monk for this level" style class-switching. But I do think there should be room for some kind of multiclassing. If the character classes really represent years of training and study, then, how are we to model that in the game? (Presuming we aren't simply using the 1e AD&D rules.)

I like two options: one, a character can start out with two classes, representing an extraordinary background; I would require such a character to have at least 13 in the prime attributes of each class. Two, characters can gain another class later on, but I would limit it to one every 4 levels past first, and the player has to pre-declare what their character is studying to become.

In any case, once the character has multiple classes, experience must be split between them.

Since I like to start 1st-level characters with max hit points, the question becomes, which die to use? If you're a "nice" GM (and I try not to be, but who am I kidding?), you might give the best of the two. But you could also roll one die for each class, and use the *lower* result as the die type. In other words, suppose you have a Fighter/Magic-User. Roll a d4 and a d10 (depending on which version of the game you're playing, of course). Whichever die is the lowest, you use that as the basis of h.p., although you may max it at first level if you choose. So if you rolled a 3 on the d4 and a 2 on the d10, you'd start out with 10 h.p. But with a roll of 3 on the d4 and, say, 6 on the d10, you start out with M-U hit points. The rationale behind this is, the less combat-oriented one of your classes is, the less likely your character would be to have learned the skill of mitigating damage.

In this way, players can eventually free themselves from the supposed restrictions that class-based gaming imposes, without too much power imbalance as a result.


We're All Just Playing Holmes Basic

The game is intended to be fun and the rules modified as the players desire. Do not hesitate to invent, create, and experiment with new ideas. Imagination is the key to a good game. Enjoy! --J. Eric Holmes

With that in mind, if anyone asks me what my home-ruled OSR mish-mash is called, I just say it's Holmes Basic. Even though the rules differ, and sometimes radically, from that wise tome.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Late to the Party, Again

Since I've only just recently replaced my stolen laptop, I wasn't able to be the first on the block to share this news, but I'd be remiss in my duties as a self-proclaimed general in the OSR if I didn't mention the Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls Kickstarter. They've already hit their funding target, but I'm sure more money wouldn't hurt the end product. And a lot of the old gang have their input, too: Liz DanforthJim "Bear" Peters, and Steve Crompton are working along with Ken and Rick. It looks very, very promising.

cheers, Adam

The Ringing and The Singing of the Bell's curve

How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells -
Of the bells -
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells   -- Edgar Allen Poe, "The Bells"

(This is a sorta-followup to this post, just so you know.)

I've been knocking about the idea of replacing a d20 "to-hit" roll + damage with 3d6 + static modifier. Suppose a sword does 1d8 damage and a 1st-level fighter with no BAB needs to hit an AC 16 target. What is the expected damage done? Assuming an average roll of 4.5 points of damage x 0.25 (25%) chance of hitting, you have 1.125 points inflicted per round.

Now, suppose we use 3d6. Alone, 3d6 have a 4.63% chance of rolling 16 or higher. So that translates, with an average d8 die roll, to .208 points per round. But here's the trick: rather than rolling damage, the sword adds a static number to the 3d6 roll, and additional damage is determined by subtracting the AC from the eventual result. Assuming the sword gives a static 5 point bonus, we get a 25.92% of hitting, on average, 4 points, or 1.0368. Fairly close.

The idea behind this is, people are often going on about how high rolls on a d20 should somehow represent that their attack was extra special. These people do not understand the difference between a bell curve and a linear distribution, but if we don't want the fun experience of having a high "to hit" roll to be spoiled by rolling 1 for damage, we need to swap out systems.

In d20, people like to have at least the possibility of doing extra damage on an unmodified, or "natural" 20. How would we model that in 3d6, you might ask? One answer would be to swap something from the latest edition of Tunnels & Trolls: the concept that doubles and triples add and roll over. So if you roll 5,1,5, you take the two fives, re-roll them, and add that number to the total; say the second roll is a 2 and a 4, you have a total of 17, plus the static +4 bonus for the sword. Now you've done 5 points of damage. If those had been 2 and 2, you would roll them yet again.

(To be accurate, in T&T you only add and re-roll doubles when rolling two dice, and triples with three, but the principle isn't that far off this way.)

The numbers seem to work out if you take half the maximum die roll and add one, so a d4 gets 3, a d6 gets 4, etc.

Now, some purists would accuse me of tainting our dear retro-D&D play with such blasphemous bell-shaped results, but I think this is perfectly within the spirit of the OSR, since this is a simple mechanism that can be swapped out with the existing one without changing any other element of the game. (Magic swords that have different bonuses "to hit" and for damage might be a problem, but consider reversing the adds: a sword, +3 to hit and +1 damage becomes +1 to hit, but +3 damage. So our average damage becomes 3 points. A 40% chance of getting 5.5 points with the traditional system equals 2.2 points. Tweaking the numbers, +1/+2, gets us closer, at 2.72 points. Taking doubles and triples re-rolls into account gets us closer still.)