Friday, October 25, 2013

Rethinking a Rumination

Very recently, I posted about archetypes. I had something of an epiphany yesterday. Most of my thinking and rules tinkering occurs in a vacuum, since I have no group. So, when I pontificate on a topic, such as the idea of many different classes, it is essentially based more on principle than practice. It finally dawned on me that my thinking on classes comes from such a place.

My best friend and gaming buddy used to run his own brew of AD&D 1st, with bits of 2nd thrown in, and a heavy dose of house rules. He also had a lot of classes unique to his world that he had made up. Whenever you would sit down with him to make up a character, his guideline was "Any class is available, from 1st, 2nd, Dragon, whatever. If you have one you made up, run it by me." He wasn't worried about how the classes balanced against each other. If somebody wanted to play a class that was a little weak in actual play, that was their choice.

So, yesterday it hit me: a plethora of choices doesn't automatically restrict player options. Just because there is a ranger class shouldn't mean that other players can't track. Paladins do not have to be the only class that can Lay on Hands. If a players wants to make up a fighter and we can work out some backstory where he has some divine gift of healing, we can do that. If he wants to play a full-on Divine Warrior, he should be able to do so.

We do this for fun. As a player, I would not have found it fun in the least if I had told my friend "I have an idea for a druid for your new campaign" and he said "Well, ok, we'll start with a cleric. I'll try to work something in where you can quest for the shapechange ability, and I'll look over some of the druid spells and work them into the cleric list. How does that sound?" I would have said "It sounds like I'm playing a cleric. Nevermind."

As a corollary to this thought, it hit me that I don't play/referee enough for balance inconsistencies to actually manifest at the table. So, maybe some house rules isn't especially balanced. I can't tie myself up in knots over it, because it's likely I will never know, since I'll never generate a large enough play-experience example to chart it. So, maybe my latest monster design is actually too tough to appear on the 1st level of the dungeon. Well, oops. Maybe you should start running.

Monday, October 21, 2013

More on Magic users

One of the perils of stream-of-conscious writing is that things get left out. I fancy myself some sort of Mozart of the blog, putting out a completed post in a single pass, no editing required. Of course, I know that's total horseshit, but we all have our delusions. Anyway . . .

There are a couple of more setting-centric thoughts about magic users that didn't make it into the recent relevant post.

I envision magic users in my setting as more adventurous than their "standard" brethren. With a more restrictive spell system, with a more limited number of acquisition options, they are forced to venture into the wild places in search of spells. They are also forced to be more pragmatic and seek more mundane solutions to many of their problems. Thus, they are slightly more robust and more capable in a fight.

  • They may use any one-handed weapon
  • They may wear leather armor, but still may not use shields
  • Their hit points are slightly better, adding +2 on the even levels, rather than +1
It seems like there was something else, but now it eludes me. Oh well, there's always another post.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Late to the Party (again)

As usual, I'm late to the party where new games are concerned (actually where everything is concerned, but we all have our crosses to bear). Here I am speaking specifically of Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures.
At this point I can tell you very little about it. For the paltry sum of $7.99 it can be had at Drive Thru RPG. That gets you the core rules plus a bestiary. There are also several free add-ons available, so you can get it all bundled into a single download (I did).

My limited exposure leads me to believe that character generation is a focal point of the designers. They have developed something reminiscent of a lifepath type system. Not as in-depth as a true lifepath system, but it definitely smacks of one. Certain points in character generation also inform the creation of the characters' home village. So, it is created right alongside them, which, if well done, would definitely invest the players in the nascent campaign from inception. Very groovy.

It is definitely based on D&D, with the expected attributes and other descriptive factors, such as class/level, hit points, etc. From my horribly brief perusal it seems to be based on a blend of B/X, with the unified attribute bonuses a la Moldvay, and 3.x, with ascending AC and BtH. It does have the Five Saving Throw scheme, but includes the Three-Fold Save scheme from 3.x as an optional rule.

It also includes some ideas unique to it. There is a section on True Names, which I find endlessly fascinating and underused. I can't comment on it beyond its inclusion, but the fact that is there is a good start. Reviews indicate that the magic/spell system is somewhat different, so that may be fun.

All in all, this should provide, at the very least, some new ideas and an interesting read. I would say that I'll post more about this at a later time, but we all know how those promises play out. So, I won't say it.

Magic users and Magic

I have some thoughts on spellbooks, scrolls, and magic in general. These ideas are a mash-up from various sources, and my own thoughts on the subject. If I'm covering some old ground, please bear with me, I'm just trying to consolidate these ideas.

The driving force behind these ideas is my personal assumptions of how magic works in my campaigns. These house rules are designed to enforce the particular flavor I am attempting to achieve with magic and how it fits into the overall "experience" of being in the campaign setting.

Spellbooks and Scrolls

Only Magic users keep spellbooks. Cleric spells are more akin to divine abilities, rather than the written prayers implied in various iterations of the rules.
The spellbook may only contain a number of spells equal to the number the character may cast, plus one extra spell per level if the character's Intelligence is 15+.
Magic may not be cast directly from the spellbook. Spells must be prepared in order to be cast.
Scrolls may not be copied into spellbooks. Scrolls do not contain the necessary formula for preparing the spell. Scrolls essentially contain a prepared spell, along with a trigger.
The only ways to add spells to a spellbook are through copying from another spellbook and research. Remember, though, that a spellbook may only contain a limited number of spells (see above).


Spells may be "Readied", that is their casting almost complete, waiting only for their power to be loosed. Readied spells take effect earlier in the combat sequence than normal, occurring during the missile fire stage. Otherwise, the player must state the spell being cast during Declaration. Assuming the casting proceeds uninterrupted, such spells take effect on the character's initiative  point.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Ruminations on OD&D: Archetypes

An archetype is defined as "an ideal example of a type". We've all heard D&D classes referred to as archetypes. They are the base foundations of the characters found in the source literature. The idea is that using one of the three (or four, if you go to Greyhawk's thief), you can model pretty much any character from the stories we all know and love. Like all things with D&D, though, this takes imagination. Is Aragorn a fighting-man, straight from the book? What about Conan? Are Gandalf or Elric magic users? Of course not.

I enjoy reading new classes. I used to love it when the latest issue of Dragon featured a new class. I don't like having them in my game so much, though. For me they are like detailed skill systems: they limit player options. In fact, a lot of classes are almost like skill packages added to one of the Big 4. They take one of the archetypes and add special abilities, impose a few restrictions, tweak the XP table, and BAM! New class. The only problem is, when you make a class that automatically enjoys a +2 to saves vs Illusion, it feels like they're the only ones that should have that. Furthermore, at character creation, if a player envisions a character that sees through illusion better than most, it implies that he must be that class. Otherwise, it cheapens that class.

One of the things I really like about DCC is its philosophy about this sort of thing. In a nutshell, if you want your character to be perceptive enough to see through illusions better than most, figure out a way to quest for it. Maybe perform a great deed for the god of acuity and he will grant you such a boon.

I also don't have a problem as referee with working with a player to create and develop the character he envisions. If he wants a guy good and tracking and wilderness survival, I would rather him roll up a fighter and we'll role play the rest. I'll just give him a little bonus on whatever roll I call for in wilderness situations. If you play with a relatively mature group that is out to have a good game, that's no problem at all.

So, the bottom line is that I like additional classes as ideas. They may give me an idea for a different direction to take a standard class. Suggest some abilities that a player may like to add or quest for. Yet, when it is all said and done, all the characters in my game will be firmly based on one of the archetypes.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ruminations on OD&D: Clerics (Addendum)

I forgot to mention how I would actually handle applying the Moldvay principle to the cleric.

Firstly, I would not require the cleric to keep a spellbook, nor study to regain spells. They would need to spend an appropriate amount of time in meditation/prayer, following proper rest.

Secondly, they may only "know" a number of spells equal to their spells slots available, +1 per spell level, if Wisdom is 15+. For example, a 4th level cleric with a Wisdom of 16 would know three 1st and two 2nd level spells.

Thirdly, they may cast any spells they know, in any combination, up to the number of times listed for their level. This is not adjusted for Wisdom. So, the cleric in the example above could cast two 1st and one 2nd level spells. They do not have to prepare them ahead of time.

Fourthly, the cleric's spell selection should be based on player choice, broadly influenced by deity. Detailed pantheons aren't strictly required. It should be a simple matter for a player to declare that his cleric is devoted to a god of battle and choose spells loosely based on that. Once chosen the selection may only be changed when the cleric gains a level. At that time, the cleric may change one spell per spell level. So, the cleric above could change one 1st and one 2nd level spell upon attaining the 5th level.

At the risk of sounding immodest, I am pretty happy with how this reads. Of course, playtest may reveal problems, but that's a horse of another color.

Ruminations on OD&D: Clerics

I've posted at length about Clerics, several times. The thrust of it is that I don't really like them. I've been thinking about that lately, though, and I think with some tweaks, they may actually work for me.

First off, my objections have nothing to do with the "they aren't in the source literature" argument. My main beef with them, especially in OD&D, is that they are almost on par with fighters and they have spells. Not only do they have spells, they have access to every clerical spell out there, whether they are required to keep spellbooks or not. That makes them slightly above magic users, in that they can wear armor, use most weapons, and have access to their full spell list from 2nd level on. All of this is theirs for a seriously paltry XP table.

Now, I know that "access to their full spell list" may cause some of you to cite the brevity of said spell list. Accordingly, that may not seem such an advantage. I contend that it is a huge advantage due to additional spells. If additional spells, say, cherry-picked from Greyhawk, are introduced, the cleric has access to all of those as soon as they hit the street. Just adding one or two spells per level will increase the value of this advantage tremendously.

I have recently turned to Mr Moldvay's Basic for a possible solution to the Cleric Problem. According to a strict interpretation of those rules, with regard to magic users, a spell book may only contain as many spells as the magic user can cast in a day. This has the interesting side effect of making all magic users Specialists. I like this, very much. I think it can also be applied to clerics, and have several benefits, vis-a-vis my personal issues with the class.

  • It promotes a sense of service to a particular patron without any heavy-handed rules for such
  • It limits their spell abilities, which mitigates their low XP requirements
  • It brings them more in-line with magic users and fighters, power-wise

I think this also feathers in nicely with the notion that clerical spells are divine. Done this way, the power that makes the spells work could be seem as coming from the cleric's zeal. I've always had problems with players of clerics doing things with their spells that their gods may not really approve of. Well, they can still do that using this idea, but at least the power for the spell is coming from within, rather than directly from the god.

Also, and this is a personal campaign-centric thing, I wouldn't allow clerics and paladins in the same campaign. Clerics are paladins, in that they are the righteous hand of their god. They are gifted with tremendous zeal coupled with a clarity of vision and willingness to battle forces opposed to their god. They are not kindly old men leading worship service on holy days, baptizing babies into the faith, and blessing crops every spring. They go into the dark places and meet evil head-on. Unless, of course, they've turned to evil and are hell-bent to bring suffering to all those who oppose them.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sleepy Hollow

OK, I know I am going out a limb here. I have no desire to be thought of as a fanboy, or, worse yet, a Twilight-o-phile. But, I am really digging this show. I love over-arching themes drawn from Revelations (when they're well done). Being one of God's chosen in a great battle of good and evil is a dream of mine. I also love the character of Ichabod Crane. He's almost a Colonial James Bond. Very educated, proper English upbringing, but cool as the other side of the pillow when evil shit starts happening.

Even though it is set in our time, it makes me jones for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. It is based on eerie and creepy and all-is-not-as-it-seems.

Oh, and as a final bit of irony, Clancy Brown guests in the pilot as a sheriff. You may remember Mr. Brown as the Curgan from Highlander (the original). I really like him and was happy to see he was in the trailers before the series actually started.

SPOILER FOLLOWS (highlight to read)

Well, as fate would have it, he is the Horseman's first victim. That's right, he loses his head.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


That was my 300th post! I didn't even notice until it published. From the bottom of my heart, thanks to all of you who read, and comment. I have said numerous times I was doing this mostly for myself, but to be honest, I'm not sure if I could have kept it going without all of you. Thank you all so much for the support.

Combat Bonuses in OD&D

This is pretty off-the-cuff, so please be kind if you comment.

I was rummaging around in the Howling Tower, Steve Winter's blog. I forget the exact post, but he made the comment that characters from classic fantasy fiction are not defined by their magic weapons. That threw my mind into a spin. I like magic items, in general. A gold piece is a gold piece, and that's great, but nothing screams treasure like magic items. He has a point, though, and it lands squarely on an amorphous unease I've had for some time. I want characters to be competent, even dangerous, intrinsically, not because of a glowing sword. The glowing sword can certainly make them more dangerous. Imagine two thieves plotting to steal something from a fighter with a magic sword. If the sword defines the character, the conversation could go something like this:
"We need to separate him from that damnable sword of his. Should be pretty easy pickins if we can do that."
If the sword merely augments the fighter, the thieves' plotting could go something like this:
"We need to catch him away from that shiny sword of his."
"Are you mad? He killed five men with his bare hands just to get the sword."
I prefer a game where the second conversation is the one that happens. Seems easy enough, right? Just keep a tight reign on magic bonuses. Bam! Done.

In my mind it's not that easy. It never is. See, I do want magic weapons to mean something. I want the thieves above to shit themselves at the thought of facing the fighter with his sword. I also want them to know that if they face him without it they are in deep trouble, too. Balance that against the fact that said fighter can't be a total badass and tote a sword that makes him a total badass.

And that's the tricky part. Make the weapon something to be feared, but not something that will throw things completely out of whack when wielded by a character who is rightfully feared. Keeping weapon bonuses low doesn't do it for me. A sword that hits 5% more often isn't exactly fearsome, even though we are assured that a +1 bonus in OD&D is meaningful.  I have an idea, based in principle on Chainmail.

The notion that a +1 bonus is significant comes from Chainmail, where it is indeed significant. However, Chainmail is a considerably different animal than OD&D. A +1 in Chainmail would be applied in one of two ways, depending on the type of combat being prosecuted. In the 20:1 Troop system, magic weapons add an extra die per "+" (in a nutshell, you roll a certain number of d6, scoring a hit on 5-6, or 6, for the most part, and in that system a hit = kill). That's pretty potent, since it gives the opportunity to kill an additional opponent. In the Man-to-Man and Fantasy Combat it adds its "+" to the roll, which is 2d6. Modifying a 2d6 roll by even +1 is much more significant than modifying a d20 roll by +1, especially when fighting creatures that require a 10 or more on 2d6 to hit.

So, here's my thinking: if a character is a big enough badass to deal with "common" threats pretty reliably, then a badass magic weapon is just overkill. The badass fighter could deal with those thieves just fine without the sword. BUT. . . such a weapon in such capable hands allows said fighter to take on foes beyond the ken of normal men.

I am looking at Chainmail for the answer to this conundrum. I have a couple of ideas, but they require looking at the to-hit roll in a different way. In Chainmail, in the Troop and Man-to-Man systems, a hit is synonymous with a kill. When the term was ported to D&D it came to be (mis)understood as a singular "attack". The d20 roll "to-hit" does not represent an attack. It represents the chance that a combatant wounds his opponent. It is necessary to embrace this idea to process my proposals for magic weapons.  I have two proposals:

#1) Any character armed with a magic weapon of any sort rolls an additional number of d20's equal to the "+" of the weapon. The rolls themselves are not modified at all. Each roll that indicates a hit will do d6 damage. 
#2) Only a single attack roll is made, with a number of additional d6 for damage equal to the "+" of the weapon.
Obviously, the second option is more powerful, perhaps too much. I prefer the first option, myself.

This allows an interesting option for magic armor, as well. Using this, I would rule that magic armor negates one damage die per "+" of the armor. If an opponent has only one die of damage, the armor subtracts its "+" from the roll. So, if a character with no magic weapon hits an opponent wearing Plate +2, he rolls his normal d6 for damage and subtracts -2 from the roll. If he had a +1 sword, he would roll a d6 and subtract -1.

I would also rule that characters with a 15+ STR is granted a +1 to the damage roll, but this bonus will not negate any penalty due to magic armor.

So, there it is. Perhaps a bit disjointed, perhaps even confusing. I am a stream-of-consciousness kind of guy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ruminations on OD&D: Armor

The success or failure of a to-hit roll in OD&D depends on the target's Armor Class (AC). In its earliest form, AC was based entirely on the actual armor worn by a character, or the relative protective value of a creature's hide. Things such as Dexterity bonuses or magic armor modified the attacker's roll, not the defender's AC. Mathematically there may be no difference, if things stopped right there. However, doing it this way does open some possibilities.

The chief option this allows is a modifier based on weapon v. armor. I'll grant you, this is not a popular option. It is seen as "too fiddly" or just too much bother by most. I happen to like it. I don't really see where it is a bother. It is a fairly simple matter to jot down to-hit numbers on your character sheet. Most old-school character sheets include a small matrix for just such a thing. It is a small matter to fill that in for your weapons, with the modifiers already factored in.

The main reason I like this option is it introduces a mechanical reason to influence weapon selection. With the OD&D paradigm of all weapons doing d6 damage, I like the idea of having something that prevents weapons from being generic. I don't want to turn this into more of a weapons discussion, though. That's going to be another topic.

In my gaming travels, I have run across several ways to handle armor. The other main method is to have armor absorb/block/soak damage (terms vary). In these systems the to-hit number remains relatively fixed, based on attacker's skill, sometimes modified or cross-referenced with defender's skill. If the attacker is successful, he rolls damage. The defender subtracts his armor's rating, and applies any remaining damage to the character. If the damage roll is less than the armor's rating, the character takes no damage.

I played in a GURPS campaign once. GURPS armor functions in this damage-reduction model. There were so many times in every combat encounter where rounds would be fought with no effective damage being dealt. We had our share of successful to-hit rolls, but many times there wasn't enough damage to penetrate the armor. It finally dawned on me that this is what "misses" are in D&D (any flavor): they aren't necessarily misses at all. They are simply failures to cause damage. Sadly, even with that epiphany (which I had almost 20 years ago) I doggedly continued to search for a system that featured damage reducing armor because I was still convinced it should be the True Way.

I am pleased to say I abandoned that foolish quest and I am now quite satisfied with OD&D's take on armor and armor classes.

Ruminations on OD&D: Nostalgia or Just a Good System?

When my mind returns to OD&D, I get caught up in this sort of duality conundrum. On the one hand, I am constantly drawn to OD&D out of nostalgia. It was my first RPG. I actually started gaming with Avalon Hill wargames (Tobruk and Third Reich being the first), but that's another story. I still remember buying my white box, mail ordering Eldritch Wizardry and a set of dice (the soft ones that saw the d20 turn into a ball after some steady use). Hell, when I started there were no d10s, the d20 was numbered from 0-9 twice. All the d20s were like that, there weren't any numbered 1-20 back then.

I have a lot of extremely fond memories of those times. There's a part of me that turns to OD&D in an effort to recapture the sense of those games. That part of me doesn't want to change the game, at least no more than we did back then. So, I don't want a lot of house rules or "outside influences", beyond what we may have been using in 1976-78. This included Greyhawk, pretty much whole clothe, but very little from Blackmoor or Eldritch Wizardry. We had zero access to Strategic Review, Dragon, or Judge's Guild materials.

Then there's the other reason I turn to OD&D. It is simply a damn good system. It does what it intends to extremely well.

(An aside: It never ceases to amaze me when people compare OD&D to other games on the basis that OD&D is all about killing and looting and doesn't promote role playing at all. "There's nothing in the rules to support role playing and the only way to improve your character is by killing things" is the common refrain. Then they will point to systems, usually skill-based, as champions of "role playing not roll playing". Funny thing is, these systems all rely on die rolls to adjudicate skill use, and the skill lists are usually quite detailed, as are the rules governing their use. OD&D has no skill lists, relying instead on player skill and role playing. Players are encouraged to role play their characters' actions, rather than rely on "skill" rolls. Bizarre.)

I'm honestly not sure how much of OD&D was intentional design and how much was serendipity. We all know it was born out of a miniatures wargame. There are references to Chainmail throughout the LBBs, and it is in fact required for complete descriptions of some of the monsters. So, essentially, the LBBs were house rules bolted on to Chainmail to turn a wargame into a roleplaying game. By all rights it should have been an odd fit, to say the least. Especially with so many artifacts from a 20:1 scale miniatures game making  their way into a game about 1:1 conflict between "characters" and creatures. Yet, somehow it works, and it does so in an almost transparent-to-the-user fashion in many cases.

Take for example the simple, yet profound, relationship between armor, HD, and weapon damage. In Chainmail a  standard figure was killed by a single hit. In order to score that hit a target number, based on the target's armor and the attacker's weapon, must be met. (In a sense, armor reduces damage, as a hit roll that wasn't sufficient to kill the figure is ignored. Only enough damage to kill is considered.) In OD&D this was translated as a standard figure having d6 HD and all weapons doing d6 damage. Thus, we set the standard that a normal man may be killed in a single attack. But, I digress.

My main point here is that for all the nostalgia that may fuel the OSR engine, OD&D is a fine, fun game on its own merits. It may seem antiquated to some, but I am very comfortable with its practices and forms. I have my LBB pdfs printed and spiral bound into a single volume and spiral bound. In that minimal 114(ish) page tome is all the gaming I need.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A New Critical Hit Idea

I came up with this idea yesterday. I would really like some feedback, so if you would be so kind as to comment, I will greatly appreciate it.

I don't really like have a to-hit roll of 20 represent a critical hit. It essentially means everyone crits at the same rate. I don't like "confirming" crits, either. I've discussed this in an older post. I think the damage die should be the indicator, but I am against exploding damage dice.

OD&D is about modelling results. With that in mind, I had this idea. If a player rolls max damage, he gets a +1 to-hit on his next attack against that opponent. This represents such a severe flurry of blows that it affords a continuing advantage. Really it represents the potential to do it bring the fight to a swifter conclusion, thus modelling the result of critical success in combat. I also like it because it can only occur as the result of a successful hit, which means that characters and creatures with better to-hit numbers will achieve it more often. It is also a small bonus which is well in-line with the OD&D philosophy of such things.

Please let me know what you think.

Ruminations on OD&D: Hit Points

In the pursuit of my job I have a lot of time to think about gaming (and anything else that crosses my mind). However, I have no time whatsoever to write, design, or develop anything I think about. One of the things I've been thinking about lately is OD&D, but I've been thinking about it on a much more philosophical level. I'm a huge fan of Philotomy's OD&D Musings and read and reread them frequently. This will (hopefully) be a series of posts of my personal observations, with the title inspired by those musings.

First up: Hit Points

I've blathered about hit points before. Anyone that makes a conscious choice to have D&D in their life has. I'm not going to rehash those previous thoughts; they are easy enough to find. No, this is about the drama inherent in hit points.

Over the course of my gaming travels and experimentations I have run across the notion that hit points aren't dramatic. According to many systems, designers, and players, it isn't realistic nor dramatic to know with absolute certainty how much abuse you can take before being killed. A lot of games trumpet their "fun" and "realism" by pointing out that death is always possible and any blow may kill any character at any time. Each and every creature in the game, from stableboy to the Queen's Champion, from kobold to ancient red dragon, could be killed with a single stroke of a blade.

I have been lured by this temptation myself. I have bought into the idea that it is a bit meta-gamey and jarring to base one's willingness to risk combat on knowing how much more damage on'e character can sustain. It occurred to me yesterday, though, that while ripe with dramatic potential, systems which support this notion of ever-possible character death are better in theory than in fact.

Think of it from the player's perspective. How much fun is it to have a favorite character killed by random chance? Sure, it makes combat more tense, and perhaps causes the player to actually consider the risk/reward every single combat rather than only when hit points are low. Yet, for that threat of imminent death to be real, and not just some sort of boogeyman, it has to actually happen from time to time. I was playing in a sort of mini-campaign with two friends. My friend Rick was DM and he had developed some critical hit charts that included the possibility of instant death. The other player was my friend Todd. He was playing a dwarf. We were about 4th or 5th level and quite attached to our characters. We had a random encounter with a small number of goblins, definitely not enough to pose a real threat. One of them scored a critical hit on Todd's dwarf. Rick rolled on his new chart and ended up with the goblin getting in a one-in-a-million hit that pierced the dwarf's heart, killing him instantly. Todd was devastated.

Granted, with the charts being experimental, Rick could have invoked fiat and ignored such a horrific result, but that's not the point. The point is: the supposed fun brought on by the "dramatic tension" of the dangerous critical hits did not outweigh the let-down as a result of watching a favorite character killed by pure chance. So, ultimately, from the player perspective, I just don't see this type of thing fun. Whether it is through a bolted-on critical hit table, or baked into the health/damage system, it is not an even trade. Furthermore, since we actually play these games for fun, I wouldn't ever, as a referee, allow a player's character to be killed in such a manner. So, the threat of imminent death becomes hollow and meaningless.

From the referee's perspective, and the player's as well, to a degree, this type of system saps the fun from battles which end prematurely in the characters' favor. Who wants to spend months of real time and many sessions to get to the Ultimate Threat only to have him killed by an exploding damage die on the first hit? Again, the point of the exercise is fun, and it is hard to do that when a planned three-hour session ends in 15 minutes because of a lucky roll.

Upon reflection, I have to say that I see a lot of drama in D&D's hit point system. It's all in how it is role played. Hit points, especially in the relatively low amounts as generated in OD&D, really model the ebb and flow of a battle. I have been in countless games where I was sweating bullets because my hit points were at a point where one more really good hit could kill my character and I knew I had my opponent in bad shape (or at least I thought I knew). I was praying to the dice gods that I hit him before he hit me. For me, that is a much more satisfying sort of drama than that offered by random chance death.