Saturday, February 20, 2021

A Game of What-if Pt 1

 It has always been on my mind, the familial bond between Chainmail and D&D. I have always been entranced by the OSR titles that explore that DNA. I have pondered my own take on how to meld the two, even to the point of devising my own half-baked attempt. The thing, though, is this: I have always looked at it from a standing start. In other words, I have approached the exercise as if D&D hadn't been written. Alternatively, I have approached it with more of a piece-meal attitude, intent on replacing certain aspects, such as the alternative combat system with that from Chainmail. Yet, in either event, in my mind, my starting point was that whatever I had was the origin point. So, in my design space, my conceit was that I was trying to merge the Chainmail combat system with D&D, and pretend that was the way it was when I opened the box.

I know that sounds weird. It would be difficult for me to express the influence that nostalgia has on my gaming. It informs so much of my gaming, from ordering old Avalon Hill games off Ebay, to how I approach developing ideas for D&D. I want to put my mind in 1976 and approach D&D from there. It may sound delusional at best, or a misguided effort doomed from inception at worst. But it's my time spent with my hobby, and I pursue it for relaxation. If spending some time in 1976 will relax me and bring me some edification, then it was well-spent.

This is intended to be a design log of yet another effort to reconcile Chainmail with D&D. This time is different though. This may be nuanced to the point of nothing more than semantics. It may be putting too fine of a point on it, but this time really is different. The perspective I am approaching from is this:

I've played Chainmail, even fighting battles with the fantasy supplement. Now, it's sometime in 1975 and I've gotten my hands on D&D. I love the ideas and potential I see in it, but I'm not thrilled with how it abandons so much of Chainmail. So, this design log will be all about how I take the finished product of D&D and retool aspects so that they draw more from Chainmail, rather than all-new systems created whole cloth.

In future posts I intend to explore the following:


  • Bring Fighting-Men more inline with the Heroes and Superheroes of Chainmail
  • Give Magic Users more of the "fire at will" aspect of Chainmail wizards, while keeping Vancian casting, because it is flavorful and keeps magic users from dominating the campaign
  • Examine Clerics more as members of militant religious orders, rather than priests.
  • Thieves will be based more on the GPNL thief, which went on to inspire the Greyhawk thief.


  • Reconcile the three combat subsystems into a seamless, integrated whole


  • Crack the "code" of the Fantasy Combat Table in order to plug "new" creatures  from M&T into the system.


  • Reconcile magic swords and armor with the D&D classes and Chainmail combat system.

It is my desire to divorce specific experience I have from my thinking on this project. In other words, there won't be any ascending AC, stat-based saves, or even single save numbers. I will only consider including things that were available as of my (admittedly arbitrary) start date. That will probably include Greyhaw, Strategic Review, and possibly Blackmoor and maybe early issues of the Dragon. That doesn't mean that anything from them will be included, I'll just consider them available.

So, there it is, the foundational philosophy of this project. As always, comments, advise, thoughts, and encouragement are always welcomed.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Zero to Hero

 Welcome to 2021.

So, I had an epiphany. I realized one of the reasons I like OD&D and the Z2H model. If you reference my last post, it is about the part of me that enjoys a more heroic playstyle right out of the gate. It also touches on how 4e supports such a game.

It occurs to me that OD&D functions similarly in its design space, which is the zero-to-hero model. The thing about it, though, that was at the focal point of my epiphany, is that beginning PCs are pretty much common folk. They don't have powers or hit point kickers. Magic users can't cast cantrips at-will. Clerics don't even have spells at 1st level. Fighters have the same chance to-hit as everyone else at 1st level. These are common people who have chosen, or had thrust upon them, a life of adventure.

They may be looked upon with a healthy dose of distrust by their fellow commoners. Yet, by the time they've reached 3rd level or so, the common folk of their home area are starting to look to them to solve dangerous problems. The magic-user can conjure illusions, become invisible, read minds, or bind opponents in a mass of webs. The cleric can cure wounds with a touch and protect himself or others from evil. He can also drive away skeletons and zombies with a command. Fighters can endure longer in combat than normal men, biding their time to land that telling blow. Fighters at this level are also likely outfitted with enchanted armor and/or weapons.

Yet, I believe, that whether at 1st level or higher, they are looked upon with a mixture of awe and envy by their fellow commoners. The barkeep knows that the magic-user could have been him, if only things had been different. The blacksmith knows it could have been him with the gleaming enchanted armor and impossibly sharp magic sword, if only he'd apprenticed to the wandering mercenary.

They all started from the same place. The PCs weren't touched by destiny or singled out by fate. At least not yet. Those proclamations are the province of historians and biographers. In the beginning they are all cut from the same clothe. Far more die in the vain attempt at fame and glory than attain such status.

I think that in a way that is what I find so appealing about this style. I can identify with it. I'm nobody special. If I statted myself out, I wouldn't have a single bonus. But. . . if I could find a sword or a cranky old man that knows a spell or two, I could one day be the guy that saves the village and is everybody's hero. Even if it is just for a day.