Sunday, March 31, 2013

Delving Deeper in Action

A rare and marvelous thing happened last night. I was able to have a game with my two teenagers. Their previous experience was limited to a friend's campaign, which was a blend of 1st/2nd Editions, along with copious house rules. There was a brief attempt and 3E, along with a dubious flirtation with 4E. So, they are completely unaccustomed to the old school paradigm.

They had a great time. It was their first time keeping a map, but my son took right to it. They were a bit hesitant at first, not having Perception stats to check, or being able to rely on other rolls to help them out. By the time we broke, though, they were getting a bit more comfortable engaging with the system.

The most amusing moments were when my daughter (playing a magic-user) decided to open a chest. It was trapped with paralyzing gas, and she failed her save. So, my son (playing a fighter of questionable intellect) decided to press ahead and leave her lying there before the chest. He emptied the chest before departing the room, however. His intent wasn't to abandon her, just to scout ahead some and see if the paralytic would wear off. Naturally, my daughter was incensed by this, especially since there was a bit of loot in the chest and they didn't know how long the paralytic would last or if it would wear off at all.

Well, it did wear off, the two of them linked back up and continued their exploration. I had pretty much thrown together a simple dungeon, with the design idea of including some old school iconic elements. Thus is was that my son's character tumbled head-long into a pit trap in the middle of the corridor. My daughter thought that was the cue for her revenge. She smiled a big smile, looked over at the map, and said she wanted to go back to "this room", leaving her brother in the pit.

I calmly asked her, "Which room?" Again she pointed at the map and said "this one". I informed her that the map was in the pit with her brother and as far as I was concerned she was telling me she wanted to a point in thin air. She got a foiled villain look on her face and we got a big laugh.

All in all, it was great fun. I realized that all my gaming career I have basically played old school, but not with a system that really supports it. I may have lots of ideas that strike me as shit-hot, or I read a new system that just fires my imagination, but when the dice start hitting the table, I default to those old paradigms (that word again).

My house rules played pretty well. They both rolled much better then I ever have with 3d6 and were able to play the characters they wanted to. My son, the fighter, selected Two-handed and Dual Weapon as his fighting styles, relying primarily on Dual Weapon. It didn't strike me as over-powered, since there were rounds where he did miss altogether.

From a referee point of view, I had forgotten what it was like to describe "empty" dungeon rooms on the fly. They would open doors to rooms I didn't have an encounter for and want to know what was in the room, as they should. But, since I had thrown the dungeon together only about 3 hours before we played, the empty rooms were really empty as far as my write-up was concerned.

Delving Deeper played beautifully. It got out of the way, and at the points we had to engage the system, it played so much like the LBBs that I had absolutely no issues. I did forget where the Cleric Turning Undead table was, but that was my problem. I had a great time running it, just making up rolls for whatever needed a roll as it was needed. Just like the old days.

The kids definitely want to keep it going. I hope we do, and I'll do my part. I want to introduce more old school elements and eventually work our way up to a true mega-dungeon (especially one of the "mythic" variety as discussed in Philotomy's Musings). Thanks to all concerned with the design and production of Delving Deeper.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Delving Deeper House Rules - Addendum

I forgot to mention a few things in my haste to post.

Armor and Dexterity

Armor modifies the chance of success of all forms of combat and most of the thiefly talents, based on its weight. Light -1, Medium -2, Heavy -3. Characters with a Dexterity of 15+ may ignore one point of the penalty. Additionally, Fighters may ignore one point when engaged in combat. Thieves may ignore one point in pursuit of thiefly activities.

Thiefly talents and the non-thief

Any class may attempt the thiefly talents, except for backstabbing, deciphering treasure maps and magic-user scrolls. The roll to succeed is still 3+, but the non-thief must roll on d4. (Note: I know this is still a 50% chance of success, on the surface. However, when you consider the non-thief classes, the fighter and cleric typically go about armored, thus they won't be able to succeed most of the time, unless the character in question has a DEX of 15+. That leaves magic-users. If you consider the manual dexterity required by their art, coupled with their implied intelligence, they should have some chance when trying their hand at illicit activities.) It is possible that failure by a non-thief is more hazardous than failure by a true thief.


Clerics begin knowing the Sword and Shield fighting style.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Delving Deeper

During my lull in activity the free pdf of Delving Deeper finally came out. I had been waiting for it for a long time, since I am such a fan of the LBBs. I have to say, it does not disappoint. I should qualify that: if you want a good, true clone of the LBBs, it does not disappoint. It doesn't make any truly radical digressions from the source material. It merely makes it more understandable and usable by beginners.

Anyway, this isn't intended as a review. The pdfs can be downloaded free here, so go grab them and see for yourself. They are awesome. One thing, though: these are "no art" pdfs, which in a strange way fits with the nostalgia of the early edition experience. Sure there was artwork in the LBBs but it was akin to studyhall doodling and rarely bore any correlation to the topic discussed on the page it occupied. I tended to ignore it for the most part, and the no-art of DD plays right into that.

Some House Rules

These are some ideas that have been rattling around my brain for a few weeks. Getting DD made me want to get them written up (however roughly). I'm going to share them here. I've done countless OD&D house rules, but these strike me as different. These are more subtle and (I think) more in line with OD&D power levels. Please let me now what you think. Obviously they can be used with any version of OD&D.

Stat Determination
Roll 3d6, assign where desired. Repeat for remaining stats.

Hit Points
Re-rolled at each level. If the new roll doesn't exceed the previous total, keep the previous total. Note that this is per level, and so applies even when a +1 or +2 is indicated on the class table.

Fighters begin knowing two fighting styles. They add an additional style at levels 3 and 6. There is no benefit to taking a style more than once.
Fighters add +1 to all damaged caused. This increases by +1 at 4th level and again at 8th level.

Clerics add +1 to their rolls to turn undead if their WIS is 15+.

Magic-users with an INT of 15+ have a +1 bonus which may be used in two ways.
It may be subtracted from a targets Saving Throw;
It may be used to increase a level-dependent variable of a cast spell. For example, a 5th level magic-user could cast a Fireball that does 6d6 damage.
The bonus may only be applied once per spell cast. So in the above example, he could cast a 6d6 Fireball, or a standard 5d6 Fireball, but force his target to subtract -1 from his Saving Throw roll.

Each time a thief adds a new hit die, he also improves in his illicit skills. At levels 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, and 12 the player selects one of the eight thiefly skills listed on page 14 of the Adventurer's Handbook. He now rolls a d8 when using that kill. The roll needed to succeed is still 3+.

Fighting Styles
There are four fighting styles a character may be proficient in:
Sword and Shield
Two Weapon
Two-handed Weapon
Sword and Shield is the standard. Note that it refers to any one-handed weapon and not just swords. This style allows the combatant to subtract his shield's bonus from his opponents to-hit roll.
Usable by Fighters and Clerics.

Two-weapon refers to the skill with wielding a weapon in each hand. The player rolls 2d20 when attacking and keeps the more favorable result. Note that only one of the attack rolls actually counts, even if they are both good enough to hit.
Usable by Fighters only.

Two-handed Weapon is the use of a larger, heavier version of a standard weapon, which requires two hands to wield properly. When such a weapon hits, rolls 2d6 for damage and keep the better result. Any weapon may have two-handed variant which may be used with this style.
Usable by Fighters only.

Missile refers to any thrown or mechanically propelled weapon. Proficiency in this style confers a +1 to-hit and damage.
Usable by Fighters and Thieves.

Armor is considered either Light, Medium, or Heavy for rules purposes. The Armor Classes are Light 7, Medium 5, Heavy 3. Construction material is irrelevant in determining AC, thus you can have Heavy Leather that is AC3. Construction material may be considered where specific types of damage are concerned, such as an electrical attack against someone in chainmail. These will need to be considered on a per case basis.
Magical armor subtracts its bonus from the enemy's to-hit roll. The armor class itself remains fixed.

Hit Points and the One Minute Combat Round

I was watching Troy this afternoon. It led me to the following train of thought.

Many aspects of OD&D (and, by extension, the more modern titles based on it) are much maligned. Of course, on of the hot-button issues is hit points. It has been discussed ad infinitum what hit points actually represent, as well as what their loss represents.

Another aspect that isn't particularly maligned, but is probably one of the most house-ruled is the one-minute combat round. It is quite often said to be completely unrealistic that combatants could swing swords at each other for five or six minutes straight, or longer. There is another aspect to the hit point/combat round that had completely eluded me until I was watching the movie.

It was the big showdown between Achilles and Hector. They swung, they dodged, they dipped, dodged, and dove. Hector tripped over a rock. Achilles narrowly avoided a sucking chest wound. Obviously, all of this was wearing down their hit points. I may have even posted about it before. I know I did a movie-hit point post, but I can't remember the movie and I'm too lazy to go back through my posts, so there. Anyway . . .

I'm currently hip deep in Delving Deeper, a most excellent OD&D clone, and freely available here. It finally clicked with me that there is a distinct correlation between the rather modest number of hit points and the one-minute round. An 8th level fighter is a fearsome opponent in OD&D, but still only has, on average, 28 hit points, lacking any adjustments. With a CON bonus, he would have a whopping 36 hit points. He could conceivably be smacked down, by a comparable opponent, in 6-8 rounds.

My point here is that I think the one-minute combat round started getting a little hoary when hit point inflation started taking hold. An 8th level fighter with an 18 CON would have the aforementioned 36 HP in OD&D. The same fighter in B/X would have, on average, 60 HP (8 x 4.5 per d8) + (8 x 3 CON bonus). in AD&D the same fighter would have 76 hit points on average. That's more than double the OD&D fighter.

Now, I know somebody out there is saying "But what about variable weapon damage and monsters' attack schemes?" Sure, an AD&D fighter faces more damage potentially than the OD&D fighter, but I seriously do not believe the damage threat doubled right along with hit points. So, it is my contention that the one-minute combat round is perfectly acceptable in OD&D, where there just aren't enough hit points to drag fights out for too long.