"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why B/X Is My Favorite #9

9. Complete but small subsystems for adventuring in dungeons and the wilderness

The near-boardgame nature of B/X means that it has tiny subsystems that cover exploring dungeons and the wilderness. Many of these come directly from OD&D's The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures but are either more clearly written or more discrete.

Examples of these subsystems are:

Exploring Dungeons
1. Resting - After moving for 5 turns, you must rest for 1 turn. (B19)
2. Opening stuck doors (B21)
3. Finding secret doors (B21)
4. Listening at doors (B21)
5. The whole "Order of Events in One Game Turn" (B23)
6. Wandering Monsters (B53)

Exploring the Wilderness
1. The "Order of Events in One Game Day" (X23)
2. the Evasion Table (X23)
3. Foraging (X51)
4. Becoming Lost (X56)
5. Castle Encounters (X59)
6. Wilderness Encounters (X57)

Many of these subsystems may defeat verisimilitude (something I rarely if ever strive for in my games). Why are all of the doors in the dungeon stuck? Why did the patrol of medium horsemen chase us from the castle?

Because the rules say so or because I rolled it on a table.

Why do you have to pay $350 rent if you land on Park Place? Because the rules say so.

These rules/subsystems make the game very easy to run.

To the Core

I am going to be honest with you...

I own a number of 4E books.

I find the whole philosophy and structure of 4E interesting. I have mentioned a number of times that I love the gameist nature of B/X - the fact that it is unabashedly a game and not a theatre improve session - and I see many of the same things in 4E. I can also appreciate the math behind the system - call it a by-product of all of my years of investment banking.

However, I do not like the business model that goes with 4E. I understand that the Character Generator available on the DDI service will begin to have pieces of the Players Handbook 3 available this summer. PHB 3? Already? Didn't #2 just come out? And these are "Core" rules?

Now, I don't blame Wizards of the Coast for how they are trying to generate revenue but from a consumer perspective 4E is unlikely to get any more of my gaming budget. I know there are a bunch of gamers that are more than willing to spend money on the latest rule book available and I do not begrudge them their fun one little bit.

As time goes on, I find that it is not so much the "old school" rules I enjoy but the fact that they are "rules light" games. The mass that will quickly become the core rules for 4E just does not appeal to me. I have found a number of new games over the past year that I enjoy including Savage Worlds, RISUS, etc. B/X is still by far my favorite but it is nice for some diversity.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Why B/X Is My Favorite #8

8. A tight power scale with a max of 14th level - I know this one is serendipitous given the unpublished Companion Supplement but I think the power level of the Expert set is about perfect for my games.

Basic & Expert D&D requires a different play-style than later editions. It is not a game of heroes doing superhero things. The power level doesn't ramp up like that. It is a game of exploration and discovery. Imagine if you, yourself, were thrust into a D&D adventure - you would take all steps necessary to ensure that you survived. You would investigate for knowledge of what you were up against, you would make sure that you had all the resources necessary and available to overcome obstacles and you would make sure you had enough muscle to survive. Instead of Superman think Dr. Livingstone.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fight on! #5 Released

The announcement is on the OD&D Discussion Forums.

I can now place my lulu order.

I also added the Spellcraft & Swordplay books.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Holmes Alternative to High Level Combat

A while ago I made a post here regarding Geoffery's post at Dragonsfoot regarding the potential of a "Holmes-only" campaign.

While browsing some old posts at Dragonsfoot I came across this one: Holmes: Looking better with each reading

The thing that struck me is that, as pointed out by Thorkhammer, under the Class descriptions, pages 6-7, Holmes clearly states that Fighting Men,
"after they reach the fourth level of experience, they also increase their ability to get hits on an opponent..."
Fighting Men includes Human, Dwarf, Hobbit and Elf. There is no such reference for Cleric, Magic-user and Thief. I know that Holmes says to go the AD&D for higher levels and that the intent is that everyone improves at combat. I, however, like the idea that Fighting Men (and their derivatives) are the only ones to improve at combat. Why should a magic-user get better at attacking with his dagger?

If someone wanted to run just the Holmes book and expand it to higher levels (there are a number of excellent examples on the net) there could be another way to handle improvement at combat.

The thought that came to me is that you could reflect the improvement of Fighting Men to "increase their ability to get hits" by giving them extra attacks per round instead of expanding the attack tables. Allow an extra attack per round. Fighting-Men get 1 attack / round for levels 1-3, 2 attacks / round for levels 4-6, 3 attacks / round for levels 7-9, etc...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dark Sun One-Shot is Proceeding

A handful of players I know have indicated that they want to participate in the Dark Sun one-shot I am working on. I ultimately decided to use Castles & Crusades as the rule system. I decided this for ease of conversion. I have told my players that I am not going for a 100% accurate mechanical conversion but instead a "thematic" conversion. It will follow a lot of the thoughts I have mentioned here - no psionics, no defiler/preserver classes, etc.

I am keeping a bunch of the races and classes that I would eliminate if it were a B/X game but, once again, not straight conversions.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

When did Secret Doors become so hard to find?

I was reading through "The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures - Volume 3 of Three Booklets" today and noticed on page 9 that, "secret passages will be located on the roll of a 1 or a 2 (on a six-sided die) by men, dwarves or halflings. Elves will be able to locate them on a roll of 1-4."

On page B21 of Moldvay we see that, "Any character has a 1 in 6 chance of finding a secret door; any elf has a 2 in 6 chance."

Honestly, this is the first time I have noticed that it is tougher to find a secret door in B/X than in OD&D.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Future Sandbox?

The other day I was thinking about a sandbox campaign starting with the venerable Keep on the Borderlands and then surrounding it with Judges Guild adventures. Here is what I came up with...
Of course, some adjustments would have to be made to maps, including orientation and scale.

In the beginning hex is the Keep, the Caves of Chaos and I would use Prey of Darkness for the Cave of the Unknown.
"Prey of Darkness is a Universal Playing aid which details a force of brigands and their advisors, followers, and slaves. Each of the brigands has a price on his or her head. You have been charged with their capture! Can you bring them back to face trial alive, or must you kill them in order to collect the reward? Can you even survive the attempt? Send your heroes and heroines in search of Red Honohon and Black M'Dabb. This scenario can also be used for evil characters that need manpower to accomplish their goals. Join Red and Black in their endeavors to become rich and powerful. Become a brigand and terrorize the countryside! Challenge Red and Black for the leadership of the brigand force! All this and more await you!"
- Acaeum.com

The river that flows out of the SE corner of the B2 Wilderness Map would turn south and be the river that goes north to south on the Wilderness Map from the Illhiedrin Book.
"A search by a beautiful Wizardress involves the recovery of the fabulous Illhiedrin Book, lost during a raging storm amid bolts of lightning in a titanic battle between an inhuman creature and a now-dead Wizard who was the former possessor of the Book. They party must recover the Book, defeat the Creature, and stay alive in the process. This Scenario is designed for use with low-level characters and includes wilderness maps, dungeon maps and inhabitants, plus the dangers of a lost city."
- Acaeum.com

The road that exits at the NE corner of the B2 Wilderness Map would lead to Fortress Badabaskor.
"An adventure in the wilderness stronghold of a band of brigands that includes the background and statistics of an evil local deity, plus history, maps, and keyed room descriptions of a five-level dungeon carved out of the side of a mountain. The first three levels are fairly easy and suitable for breaking in new and inexperienced players; but the lower two are far tougher, and include a cavern that has a series of four dragon dens, indicative of the difficulty of the lower levels."
- Acaeum.com

Beyond the Valley of Fixation would be the Citadel of Fire.
"This is the ancient stronghold of Yrammag with six tower levels and five dungeon levels. It is designed for very advanced characters, and includes encounters with everything from giant rats to a minotaur and a demon. Tables have been provided for the random location and activity of the great Trammag, so that it will be a surprise each time the dungeon is entered by the adventurers. The surrounding wilderness is mapped out according to our Campaign Hexagon System, and Yrammag's spells are listed to provide a complete and detailed dungeon adventure, created and officially approved for use with D&D."
- Acaeum.com

I could then round it out using the Book of Treasure Maps.

The next question would be, "What ruleset?"
OD&D (or S&W)?
Maybe Holmes? I kinda like this idea...

Why B/X Is My Favorite #7

7. The Spellbook System

I made a post about this some time ago and it continues to one of the top 5 posts I have made in terms of number of views.

To summarize...

The spellbook system in B/X in unique among all of the versions of D&D.

It is MY interpretation that:
- Magic-user spellbooks contain a number of spells equal to the number and level of spells the caster may cast in a single day. For example, a 4th level M-U can cast two 1st level spells and two 2nd level spells so their spellbook contains two 1st level and two 2nd level spells.
- There are two ways to acquire new spells: learn them from someone else or spell research.
- Spells may not be copied from scrolls or captured spellbooks into a caster's spellbook.

I really like this system because:
- it results in a de facto specialist system. Each M-U is different.
- it places an importance in finding someone who can teach you the spell that your M-U wants to learn.
- it gives a very prominent role to spell research.

For a little more detail go back to the previous post.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

T&T Barbarian Prince Solo

This long weekend I had some time to myself so I decided to try something I mentioned back at the beginning of this blog. I tried the Barbarian Prince game using the Tunnels & Trolls rules.

I rolled up Cal Arath, The Barbarian Prince. He was a 4th level Warrior with +11 combat adds and a CON of 13. He was equipped with "Bonebiter", his magical broadsword (4+1), Scale Armour (8 hits) and a Target Shield (4 hits).

After escaping the mercenary and royal guards of the usurpers of his father's thrown, Cal found himself in the plains just north of the Tragoth River. After failing to find an easy way across the fast moving river, Cal narrowly avoided being discovered by a mercenary patrol.

The next day, Cal found a place to cross the river and spent the next day trudging through some marshy lowlands. Near the end of the day, Cal spotted a dark wood on the western horizon.

The next morning Cal decided to enter the forest to avoid detection of any other patrols that may be pursuing. In the forest Cal was ambushed by three desperate bandits. It was a close fight with Cal and the bandits exchanging blows -each side was only able to inflict 1 or 2 damage on each side for a number of rounds (which Cal's armour easily absorbed). Then after many rounds Cal landed a devastating blow to the bandits and dramatically lowered their combined MR. After that, Cal easily mopped up.

After spending two more days traveling under the canopy of leaves without trouble, Cal was suddenly surrounded by 18 wolves! The fight was quick. The true heir to the Northern Kingdom died an anonymous death far from home.

Tunnels & Trolls is a very easy rule set with which to do this sort of thing. Poor Cal just got unlucky when he was surprised by 3d6 wolves and I happen to roll an 18. I haven't rolled an 18 with a 3d6 in so long I was nearly stunned.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Some More Thoughts on One-Shot Adventures

Since my post a few weeks ago about Episodic vs Campaign games, I have continued to think about one-shot games or micro-campaigns in general and a Dark Sun one-shot specifically. While the Northern Marches continues to be my main focus, I am enjoying having something else to think about. I like the idea of running some short games as it gives me the chance to pursue other gaming ideas but allowing the Northern Marches to remain the campaign focus.

I have been thinking about how to make a one-shot adventure effective. By "effective", I mean making the session as fun as possible while sticking to a finite time period. Some considerations are:

1. Structure - an appropriately sized location based adventure vs. a plot based adventure with a beginning and end.
2. Giving the players a goal to get the ball rolling - recover the artifact, find the traitor, save the princess, etc.
3. Combining the Goal and the Structure in a way so that the adventure in not a railroad - getting them started but allow them the freedom to do their own thing.
4. Character Mortality - The players won't be as attached to their character so hopefully they will try some wacky stuff but this is balanced against the time constraints and having to roll up new characters.
5. Pushing the players - having a mechanism to keep the pressure on the players to act - recover the artifact before the pillar of fire falls from the sky, find the traitor before he does X, save the princess before she is sacrificed to the dark gods.

I have been considering two possible scenarios for a Dark Sun one-shot. Either the typical "you are a slave in one of the city-states" knowing that the characters will try to escape or a find the mcguffin adventure with a twist.

The Escape Slavery scenario would be a location based adventure focused on the slave pits and escaping the city into the desert.

The find the mcguffin scenario would be more of a plot-based game but to keep it from being a railroad, it would be more about giving the players' the goal and having an idea of how the mcguffin could be recovered. The middle part would be a few vague ideas but more reacting to the players actions while keeping the pressure on them to recover the mcguffin before X happens.

Does anyone have any other thoughts/tips about structuring and/or running a one-shot adventure?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Current Lulu Cart

I currently have the following items waiting in my shopping cart at lulu.com:

1. Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
- This is what happens when I watch as much Thundarr the Barbarian as I have over the last couple of weeks.

2. Legends of Steel - Savage Worlds Edition
- A S&S book to go along with all of the other Savage Worlds stuff I bought a while ago? Yes, please!

3. Barbarians of Lemuria (Revised Edition)
- I have heard great things about this one.

4. Knockspell Magazine #2 (perfect bound)

Now I am just waiting on the Fight On! #5 to add to the list.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

B/X Dark Sun - More Thoughts on Classes

I have actually been canvassing everyone I know about the idea of running the Dark Sun one-shot I have been thinking about. In preparation I have been reading some more of the original Dark Sun box set and thinking some more about a B/X version. As an aside, what would Erol Otus art have been like for Dark Sun?

Here is some more preliminary thoughts on B/X Dark Sun classes:

Cleric - As in B/X but instead of a deity, the cleric is devoted to one of the four elements. The spell list will still have to be worked on for each.

Druid - As in Supplement III - Eldritch Wizardry.

Dwarf - As in B/X but no special ability for detecting slanting passages, traps, shifting walls, etc. Instead they must choose a "goal". While in direct pursuit of their "goal" they receive a +1 bonus to saving throws.

Elf - As B/X Halflings. In addition, their overland movement rates as given in miles/day on page X20 would be tripled.

Fighter - As B/X.

Half-Elf -On reflection, I think I wold get rid of half-elves as they don't really fill a strong archetype.

Half-Giant - I mentioned earlier that I would get rid of half-giants as they infringe on the Mul's niche.

Halfling - As B/X Elf but spells are from the Druid spell list in Supplement III - Eldritch Wizardry. No immunity to a ghoul's touch.

Magic-User - As in B/X with the following changes to spellcasting.
Magic-users can cast arcane spells with a spell level equal or below 1/2 their class level, rounded up.

Edited: [Casting a spell of any kind costs Hit Points. The cost is double the level of the spell being cast:

Spell Level... 1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6
HP Cost........2....4....6....8..10..12]

This loss cannot be healed normally but is recovered after 8 hours rest. There is no need to memorize spells in advance but it must be in their spellbook (I would use the Holmes rules re spellbooks). Select one ‘signature’ spell per spell level from 1st upward that they prefer to use over any other. These spells are easier to cast due to familiarity, costing 1 less HP to use.

Instead of drawing HP from his or her own pool, a magic-user can draw it from the lifeforce of the surrounding lands instead (“Defiling”). For each 1 HP of cost, a 5-ft radius of vegetation gets turned to ash by the power drain. Additional drains further extend the radius. Anyone caught in the radius must make a save or be “stunned” for 1 round. (maybe make this save or damage to make it really bad)
- Modified from Microlite20 Core Rules
Of course, this gets rid of everything that I love about the B/X magic-user but I think it works well with the defiler vs preserver thing.

Mul -
The prime requisites for a mul are Strength and Constitution. A mul character whose strength or constitution is 13 or greater will receive a 5% bonus to earned experience. Muls whose strength and constitution are 13 or greater will receive a bonus of 10% to earned experience.

RESTRICTIONS: Muls use ten-sided dice (d10) to determine their hit points. They may advance to a maximum of 10th level of experience. Muls may use any type of weapon but due to their strict training they may choose one specific weapon-type (eg. longsword, handaxe, etc) with which they gain a +1 bonus to hit. They may use any type of armour and may use a shield. A mul character must have a minimum strength score of 12 and a minimum constitution score of 12. Muls do not gain a stronghold or followers. Due to the fact that they are a slave race all muls suffer a -2 penalty to reaction rolls with non-muls. Muls attack and save as Fighters.


Noble - I think that the Dark Sun setting can support a Noble class. Nobles would progress, save and attack as a cleric but would have no spells and no weapon restrictions. Instead I would give them a bonus or penalty to reaction rolls depending on their stated intent - a bonus of they are trying to negotiate, etc or a penalty if they are trying to goad someone into attacking. I would also give them a protection from evil 10-ft radius effect. It would be non-magical and instead reflect the benefit of command, inspiration, etc (might be a little too 4E for some). They would have a prime requisite of charisma.

Templar - I think that these should be monsters/NPCs only. So, I could just treat them as normal B/X clerics.

Thief - As in B/X.

Thri-kreen -
The prime requisites for Thri-kreen are Strength and Wisdom. A Thri-kreen character who has a score of 13 or more in strength or wisdom will receive a 5% bonus to earned experience. Thri-kreen whose Strength and Wisdom are 13 or greater will receive a bonus of 10% to earned experience.

RESTRICTIONS: Thri-kreen use six-sided dice (d6) to determine their hit points but start with two hit die at 1st level. They may not wear metal armour or use a shield but they may use any weapon. Thri-kreen must have a minimum score of 9 in Strength, Wisdom and dexterity.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Thri-kreen have the ability to track the path of most creatures when outdoors and even in dungeons. Thri-kreen are able to follow tracks outdoors one-third of the time (a roll of 1 or 2 on a 1d6) when looking for them. In dungeons they have a 1 in 6 chance of following tracks. Thri-kreen are also experts at foraging and receive a bonus to Foraging as given on page X51. They are able to find enough food to feed 1-6 men on a roll of 1 or 2 on a d6. At 8th level, Thri-kreen are able to cast druid spells.

COMBAT: Thri-kreen fight and save as Thieves.

Level........ XP...... Hit Dice...... SpelI Ability (druid spells)
1............... 0.............2d6............. Nil
2..........2200.............3d6............. Nil
4..........8800.............5d6............. Nil
5........17000.............6d6............. Nil
6........35000.............7d6............. Nil
11.... 530000..........10d6+4...........2/2
12.....660000......... 10d6+6...........2/2/1

Why B/X Is My Favorite #6

6. Fighters are good with all weapons

This one is me basically saying I don't like weapon proficiencies. When using a system with weapon proficiencies, the Fighter is also given a list of weapons they are not good with. One of the balancing factors for high level Fighters vs high level magic-users is that the Fighter can use all of those magic weapons. If the magic weapon is of a type that the fighter in not proficient with he is kinda screwed.

Fighters don't get a lot (read any) special abilities in B/X. They don't even get the ability for multiple attacks against opponents with less than 1 HD. The only thing they get, and it's not even exclusive, is that they can use any weapon, armour and shields.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why B/X Is My Favorite #5

5. Clerics have to prove their worthiness to their deity before getting a spell at 2nd level

Honestly, this one is just a personal preference with very little rational to back it up. I think it stems from my preference for low magic games. In fact, most clergy in my campaigns are usually non-magic casting priests. It may also be due to my preference for sword & sorcery-esque games.

I read a little while ago on Grognardia about how James wishes he had combined clerics and magic-users into a white wizard/black wizard thing for his campaign which I think is an interesting idea for a S&S-type game.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Basic/Expert Dark Sun

So now that I am over the flu, I now have bronchitis. Which means I will have a few more days with my thoughts. I have been thinking about a Dark Sun one-shot or micro-campaign using Savage Worlds over the last few days. But, this this morning I asked myself if Dark Sun could be done with B/X? Sure, why not.

Changes would be intended to reflect the "feel" of Dark Sun but focusing on keeping things at the power level of B/X, focusing on archetypes as with B/X (even though these may be Dark Sun archetypes), and keeping the simplicity of B/X.

A few things I would do if I were to run Dark Sun with B/X:
1. Ignore the "its a brutal world so start at 3rd level" thing - and use 3d6 in order
2. Adapt the HP cost for casting spells from Microlite20 for magic-users and give them the option to instead of taking the HP cost themselves they can defile - each HP instead defiles X-feet of vegetation.
3. Psionics - dump them. Psionics actually weaken the themes and tension of Dark Sun, as they provide a safe alternative to magic-users, and they lack the whole "devotion to nature" aspect of the elemental clerics and the druids.
4. Remove elemental references from magic-user spells leaving fire, etc to the clerics - thus fireball would be removed but instead replaced with something like Eldritch Burst. It would have the same mechanics just different flavour.
5. Would have to redo the cleric spells into the 4 elements and would likely have to grab some from OD&D to build up the lists for each element (was there a Gaz or something that covered elemental magic?).
6. Grab the druid and ranger from OD&D - I wouldn't use a Gladiator - not different enough from a fighter
7. Come up with a Templar - what I would likely do is use the B/X cleric and spell list but give them a spell at 1st level and a cap of 3rd level spells
8. Redo the elf and dwarf. Maybe use the elf race as class as the ranger. Dwarf would be pretty easy - just remove the stonework stuff and find a mechanic for their focus. I would keep the halfling mechanically unchanged but add in the cannibal stuff.
9. Come up with the Mul, half-elf and thri-kreen - I would dump the half-giant. It infringes on the Mul's niche too much. These would also be race = class. Actually, the thri-kreen race as class should likely be the ranger.
10. Get rid of most of the exotic weapons but keep the idea that most weapons are not made of metal. Non-metal weapons become the benchmark (have the designated damage ranges) but break on a natural "1". Use "magic" to describe metal weapons - a sword +1 becomes a metal sword. Afterall, metalwork would seem like alchemy in a world like Dark Sun.
11. Monsters - get rid of most of the humanoid monsters but I think that the other monsters in B/X - especially the focus on "Lost World" type monsters - could give an interesting, if somewhat different feel.
12. Focus solely on the original Dark Sun box set for the setting.

That looks like a lot of work...
Honestly, I would probably be easier to do this with Swords & Wizardry or just use one of the Savage Worlds hacks on the net.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lots of time with my thoughts

I have been down with a flu the last few days. This has allowed me to:
- read lots of the first volume of my new Savage Sword of Conan books.
- watch more Thundarr on youtube.
- think about the Northern Marches campaign.
- think about getting my act together to submit something to the One-Page Dungeon Contest
- think about a short Dark Sun / Savage Worlds game based loosely on the old computer game Dark Sun: Shattered Lands focusing on how to keep a short (5 or 6 sessions) micro-campaign from becoming a railroad.

I have no idea if I know anyone who would want to play it but, oh well...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Why B/X Is My Favorite #4

4. Race = Class and meaningful level limitations

I love the B/X race as class. To tie this to my last Why B/X is My Favorite post, to me race as class represents the purest form of the archetype system. It make races special. Playing an elf, dwarf or halfling should be more than playing a human with a special ability.

While this is also linked to a future post about:
8. A tight power scale with a max of 14th level.
I find that the lower level limits of demi-humans and the attribute requirements (assuming one is doing 3d6 in order) has the desired effect of keeping demi-humans rarer than humans. I prefer campaigns that are human dominated.

The first 3 books of OD&D play the same as B/X by default as the demi-human races were restricted to a single class - except for elves which are completely different.

While Mentzer's BECM also has race as class, it was very watered down by the expanded range of levels (1-36) and the expanded combat capabilities.

The separate race and classes of other editions just can't compare to me.

A Present for Myself

Just arrived. I had most of the comic books but they went away long ago. I am pretty happy!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Character Advancement

What is "character advancement" to you?

Is it gaining a bonus to your attack roll or more hit points? Maybe gaining the ability to cast 5th level spells?


Is it completing the epic story about the return of the mythical dragons and fighting the war to save civilization?


Is it defeating the marauding orcs, overcoming the ferocious giant, Glogmog the Black, or clearing the Forest of Tears of the vile demons that laired within to keep the residents of your new keep safe and prosperous?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why B/X Is My Favorite #3

3. Strong archetype classes

One of the claims I hear about B/X is that it is a great "whip out the box and play" version of D&D. The nice thing about the B/X rules is that the number of classes is very limited but they cover all of the standard archetypes of pulp fantasy.

There are only seven classes in B/X:

I find that these classes are general enough to portray nearly any of the character types of the pulp fantasy genre. While many people may find the limited number of classes to be restrictive, I find that the low number of classes forces players to use their imagination to develop their character.

While someone could view all clerics as being basically the same, through some good roleplaying and descriptive flavour, the cleric of the frog god of chaos can feel very different than the cleric of the righteous brotherhood. For example, the cleric of the frog god may decide that they would never cast a light spell because their deity prefers dank darkness and that when they are under the effects of a bless spell there skin takes on a green colour covered in warts. The cleric of the righteous brotherhood however, may always be required to take a light spell. each gives very different flavour without any specific mechanics - just roleplaying.

Fighters can be any of the warriors from fiction or pulp literature. Anything from Conan to Jason to a Samurai can be portrayed with this class - you just have to use your imagination.

Magic-users are a bit unique in B/X. I believe that the B/X rules allow Magic-users to be very diverse and fill a number of the roles of various wizards and sorcerers in literature.

Some people have an issue with the thief and how their skills are the cause of much evil in RPG design. I have vacillated on this topic and, at least for now, have settled on the side that doesn't mind thieves. In terms of archetypes however, I find the thief does fill a required role.

To me, the human classes of B/X can fill any of the archetypes with a little imagination and the right attributes. I mentioned in my last Why B/X is My Favorite post that B/X's moderate mechanical bonuses for attributes gives each character some uniqueness. If you roll a high Dexterity your character could be a quick, swashbuckling fighter. A high constitution could be used for a street tough thief. A high strength could be used to make a vengeful cleric of an intolerant deity. As will all version of D&D, a little imagination can go a long way.

I have already discussed the demi-human classes in a previous post and I will cover a few more points when I discuss reason #4 - Race = Class and meaningful level limitations

Monday, May 4, 2009

Northern Marches Reaches Another Milestone

I am pretty excited!

Everyone actually took last week off from the Northern Marches. I was okay with this as we had a great run for a number of weeks getting one or two sessions in each week. I was actually starting to worry that I might get burnt out at the pace we had set.

During the week off two interesting things happened:
1. I emailed a very short (4 questions) multiple choice questionnaire to all of the players which I got some great feedback from, and
2. I was contacted by a couple more players that are interested in joining the campaign.

As for the feedback, it confirmed something that I suspected. I have been stingy with the treasure. I suspect this has been because of 2 reasons. The first, is that I fear and loathe twinkie superheroe PCs and I believe that I have unconsciously kept treasure light to keep the power levels down. In looking at this I see the error of my ways. What can they spend the money on to increase their power? Nothing. Those that can wear platemail already have it - it costs only 60 gp. There are no magic shops to buy a Flaming Sword. It is time to loosen the purse strings.

The second reason I have been stingy with the loot is that I have been using some non-B/X adventures and even some non-D&D adventures. I have also been lazy and not converting the treasure to the proper B/X scale. I will have to ensure that treasure does a better job of keeping up with the system requirements.

But, the thing that has me really excited is that more people are interested in joining the campaign. We are quickly approaching a size where we might be able to get 2 different groups adventuring in the Northern Marches. The idea of having somewhat competing adventuring parties in the campaign is really exciting to me because it has the potential to create a frenzy of activity when players know other players are out there exploring and taking treasure that "they" could be getting. It will also make the sharing of information more important. With two groups of players each individually likely to miss some of the sessions, the sharing of information is vital to ensuring that everyone feels they are part of the same game. I also love the idea of the actions of one group of adventurers having a lasting impact on the campaign world and having that impact noticed by another group of adventurers.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Why B/X Is My Favorite #2

2. Unified bonuses & penalties due to attributes

Come on... the stat bonuses in AD&D (1E and 2E) are ridiculous. And percentile strength? Who thought that up?

Now I have no problem with the OD&D and Holmes versions giving no real in game mechanical bonus or penalty for stats outside of those for experience points. Philotomy's OD&D Musings has a great discussion about OD&D's handling ability bonuses, and its philosophy of bonuses, in general.

Moldvay/Cook uses a unified set of attribute modifiers based on:
3: -3
4-5: -2
6-8: -1
9-12: no bonus
13-15: +1
16-17: +2
18: +3

Off the top of my head, I can see a handful of reasons why the way that attribute bonuses are handled in Moldvay/Cook is attractive:

1. Moderate mechanical bonuses for extraordinary attributes gives each character some uniqueness
2. It does a really good job of following the bell curve of 3d6
3. It is really simple to remember
4. It provides an in-game mechanic for each stat making sure there is no such thing as a "dump stat"
5. Fits in nicely with the attribute requirements of demi-humans to focus on the archetype

And while I can appreciate the unified attribute modifiers in later additions, there are two things I do not like about the way they handle them: they do not follow the bell curve and seeing a character with a strength of 22 is just plain jarring.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Why B/X Is My Favorite #1

I have decided to revisit my post from a while ago about why B/X is my favorite flavour of D&D.

#1 A complete system in 128 pages

I know I have seen on other blogs and internet sites the page counts for all of the various versions of D&D but I am too lazy right now to dig it up.

I began with B/X at the age of 10. There is definitely and unapologetically a nostalgia factor involved. I actually remember when I went into the store to buy it. I actually went to a local game store to buy the AD&D players handbook but my mom convinced me to pick up the basic set instead. I am glad that she did. Moldvay's basic rulebook includes everything you need to start and it is well written and concise. My brother and I had innumerable hours of fun using just these rules (64 pages) and B2.

Later I purchased the Expert rulebook (another 64 pages) and we had the same amount of fun exploring the jungles on the Isle of Dread. I wonder what the hour of fun per page of rules ratio would be?

As for other editions of D&D:
- OD&D - just the first 3 books have a smaller page count. The open ended nature of those rules and the writing style always instills a sense of wonder and mystery. But a 10 year old first picking up these rules would likely have a very difficult time.
- Holmes D&D - a smooth 46 pages. This is my second favorite version of D&D and the second version that I owned. It contains much of the wonder and mystery of the original 3 books but in a slightly better organized format. I have little doubt that if it was the Holmes version on the shelf when my mother convinced me to buy the basic set that it would be my preferred version. The main reason it doesn't hold the top spot is that, even though it could be used exclusive of the other versions and has been expanded using fan created companions, it is not a complete set of the same scope as the other versions.
- AD&D, 2E,... These are just too big to even consider.