28 November 2016

Fantasy Monday: OD&D Single Volume Read-Through, Pt. 2

     Well, in an attempt to continue coverage of Greyharp's single volume compilation of the Original Dungeons & Dragons LBBs that I began here. Today, I'll cover "Spells & Magic" and "Adventuring Rules." Let's get to it, then!

Section 3: Spells and Magic

     Spell-casting and memorization seems similar enough to later editions. There is the clarification that more than one of any given spell can be memorized and/or cast from a scroll per day. I remember arguing with a DM back in my early B/X days that that's how it was, but he said if I wanted a second magic missile, then I would have to learn it a second time when leveling. Lame.
     Spell books are next with the charming notation that each level of spells requires its own book! Ouch! And to replace or copy cost 2,000 g.p./level...that's a 2,000 g.p. investment given by the master to his apprentice!
     Apparently only clerics have reversible spells. Interesting. This also seems to be a function of alignment (i.e., Lawful clerics can cast Finger of Death, but they better have a darn good reason!).
     Spell research is merely a function of money and time; each period of research costs the base for the level (2,000 g.p. per) and gives a 20% chance of success. Fairly simple. Creating magic items is the same, but can only be done by Wizards (8th level and above). Pay 2,000 g.p. and spend two months and you too can enchant armor to +1! Of course, the wizard won't be doing anything else and I'm sure he has his own things to do, so....explains why items are worth more than it costs to make them.

     On a side note, there are no rules for clerics making scrolls. A quick glance forward to the magic item section produces this line: "All scrolls are spells for Magic-Users, and regardless of the level of the spell they can be used by any Magic-User capable of reading them." Oops. However, the Type of Scroll chart has the notation: "*There is a 25% chance that any scroll of spells found will contain those usable by clerics." So it makes sense that clerics can produce scrolls in a manner similar to magic-users. Potions are another thing, and they should stay firmly in the hands of Wizards.
     Next we have the Spell Lists. Few surprises here. All fairly basic. No magic missile, making sleep the combat spell du jour. Cleric lists are the same: familiar with some little differences; bless is 2nd level, which is a little different. There is a typo here in that the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level lists for clerics are marked 4th, 5th, and 6th, but that's minor. (On a side note, this also means that the group in Doctor Demento's "I'm Always the First to Die" are playing B/X because the magic-user learns "the two standard spells, magic missile  and light.")
     Going through the Spell explanation section, little stands out. 
     Charm Person notes that the spells works on "two-legged, generally mammalian figures near to or less than man-size." Lizardmen are out, then? 
     Contact Higher Plane is interesting as the planar cosmology has yet to be defined; there are 10 higher planes rated from the 3rd to the 13th with a greater number of questions and accuracy the higher one goes, but with an increased chance of caster insanity as well. Unlike the AD&D version which caps out a 50% chance of insanity, OD&D takes it up to a 95% chance at the highest level of veracity!
     That's all that really stands out, other than the dimensions of spells being given entirely in map inches (walls, for example).

Section 4: Adventuring Rules

     This section starts off with time and movement. No surprises here: 10 minute turns, with two movements allowed per turn. It is interesting to note that unarmored hobbits have the same movement rate, 12", as unarmored men. Then we come to our old friend: encumbrance. 
     First of, every character has the same encumbrance profile: 750/1000/1500, based on "coin weight" (i.e., 10 coins weight 1 lb.) and conforming to light, heavy, and armored foot movement of 12"/9"/6". No adjustments for size, race, sex, or strength. So, in a way, more simple. Realistic? Well, this is a game not a strict simulation, so it's probably OK as it stands. Encumbrance is still one of those things I eyeball--that is, until the players are saying they're carrying a kitchen sink list.

     Resting is required, 1 turn/hour, although no penalties are mentioned for not doing so. "Light and Darkness" has the interesting note of "Monsters are assumed to have permanent infravision as long as they are not serving some character." So, the orc henchman you pick up loses his infravision for hanging out with a "hoomie?" Tough break, there. On doors, even dwarfs get a better "hear noise" roll than humans (1-2, same as elves and hobbits)! "Traps are usually sprung by a roll or a 1 or a 2 when any character passes over or by them." Good to know. And falling is the familiar 1d6 per 10 feet but without an upper limit. Oh joy!
     The Wilderness section (only about a half-page of material) gives some basic rules and charts for movement on the hex map and chance of becoming lost. Each hex is 5 miles across and a man can cross 3 hexes a day in normal terrain, a man on a light horse 10, for example.
     The section continues with guidelines for hiring retainers, mercenaries, and specialists. Hirelings are more akin to what AD&D calls henchmen, and it is a more expensive and demanding process than getting mercenaries because the player-character is essentially hiring a low-level PC class type. The rules do note the possibility of using charm spells or enticements on Men encountered in dungeons (as they are then considered "monsters"). This seems to be the only way to entice high-level class-types into service.

     Normal hirelings are simpler to hire and require the posting of notices and expense from 100-600 gold pieces. Availability and success is up to the DM. Specialists are "rare" and cover the range from armorer to spy. An interesting note on orcs explains their prevalence among the armies of Chaos: "Chaotic characters may wish to employ Orcs; Orc support and upkeep is only half that of a man." It's a bargain! Well, that and you have do the pesky Chaos thing, but hey, Warduke and Death Dealer for the win, am I right?

     This section ends off with rules for awarding experience. Familiar ground once again. Experience is awarded for monsters defeated and treasure gained. Only one level can be gained per award, and the example given places the character 1 point shy of 3rd level. An interesting part of the passage is as follows:

Gains in experience points will be relative; thus an 8th level Magic-User operating on the 5th dungeon level would be awarded 5/8 experience. Let us assume he gains 7,000 Gold Pieces by defeating a Troll (which is a 7th level monster, as it has over 6 Hit Dice). Had the monster been only a 5th level one experience would be awarded on a 5/8 basis as already stated, but as the monster guarding the treasure was a 7th level one experience would be awarded on a 7/8 basis thus; 7,000 G.P. + 700 for killing the Troll = 7,700 divided by 8 = 962.5 x 7 = 6,037.5. (pg. 30).

Well, that takes care of monster levels versus player levels very simply. Of course, unfortunately for those 1st levels that manage to take out a 4 HD Ogre or even a 6 HD Minotaur, the reverse is not true. "Experience points are never awarded above a 1 for 1 basis, so even if a character defeats a higher level monster he will not receive experience points above the total of treasure combined with the monster's kill value." Oh well.
   That's all for this time, mi amigos. Tune in next time when I go over "Encounters and Combat." Adios! Or, in other words, scram! :)

21 November 2016

Fantasy Monday: OD&D Single Volume Read-Through

In an attempt to begin blogging again several times a week, I am starting a re-read of Original Dungeons & Dragons using the 2011 one-volume compilation of the LBBs by Greyharp and edited by il Male. And it's definitely a version I want to run. Even with PDFs of the LBBs available on RPGNow, this compilation has merit in that it is very well organized and usable. In his Foreword, Greyharp states that his purpose in compiling the LBBs was:

....to reorganize the 3LBBs into a single document. In doing so it quickly became apparent to me that Original D&D could be played without possessing Chainmail, and so I removed references to that game. I also removed references to the Outdoor Survival board game, which as far as the rules are concerned provided only a diagram to indicate in which direction a lost party was headed. A small amount of information was imported from The Strategic Review (page 3 & 4 of Vol. 1, No. 2), being Gygax’s official answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning the Dungeons & Dragons rules. Although some light editing was necessary in reformatting the 3LBBs into one volume, I kept it to an absolute minimum. 

Besides, Frazetta art always sells me. So let's begin.

Section One: Introduction

The only thing that really stands out for me here is this section:

The use of paper, pencil and map boards are standard. Miniature figures can be added if the players have them available and so desire, but miniatures are not required, only esthetically [sic] pleasing; similarly, unit counters can be employed - with or without figures - although by themselves the bits of cardboard lack the eye-appeal of the varied and brightly painted miniature figures (pg. 6, emphasis mine). 

Interesting, eh? Especially for a game gaming out of miniatures wargaming--miniatures are not required but map boards are standard. There might not be a need for positioning figures on a map, but we need to see what's going on. This makes sense--minis can slow down play, but everyone having a visual representation of the terrain is most useful. Of course, this is probably just a reference to the Outdoor Survival game mapboards....but maybe not. These are just my impressions, after all.

Section 2: Characters

No surprises early on: stats are 3d6 in order, 3d6 x 10 for gold pieces. Of course, there are not many bonuses out there yet, just a couple of +/-1s. The most important reason for a high stat is the 5%-10% xp bonus for having a high perquisite.

But there is something I've never caught or thought much on before: Constitution of 13+ does not require system shock/resurrection rolls, 7-12 varies from 40%-90%, and 6- cannot survive at all! So, if one is reasonably hearty, one is pretty safe from all of those death chances!

Charisma affects the number of hirelings, that is to say, "hirelings of unusual nature," as well as affecting the loyalty of normal men-at-arms and the like. AD&D would begin to use the term "henchmen" for these "hirelings of unusual nature."

There are, of course, only three classes: Fighting Man, Magic-User, and Cleric. There is no Thief class, something we think of as "core" in these days. There is an alternative (about which more below), but I am not convinced that I would use it. Oh, poor 1st-level Clerics with no spells! As far as non-human races, only Dwarf, Elf, and Hobbit. All three can be Fighting Men (with level restrictions), only the Elf can be a Magic-User, and none can be clerics. Speaking of which, Clerics can only be Lawful or Chaotic: no Neutral priests! (This would, of course, lead to the Druid class in Eldritch Wizardry.) 

This leads us to the Elf and early multi-classing. Only the Elf can choose to be both a Fighting Man and a Magic-User, but he must choose which class he is to portray at the start of the session and cannot change to the other during the adventure. This has little effect than determining which set of hit points and attack tables to use as the Elf, even when acting as a Magic-User, gets to wear magical armor and wield any weapons. If the Thief as shown below is used, I would limit the Elf to leather armor, possibly magical when acting as a thief.

One last comment on races: "There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to the top, i.e., a player wishing to be a Dragon would have to begin as let us say, a 'young' one and progress upwards in the usual manner, steps being predetermined by the campaign referee," (pg. 10).   o.O   Headache, definitely a headache. On the other hand, it just shows that tinkering is encouraging and that these are more quick and dirty guidelines instead of hard and strict rules. And hence, my preference for the title of Judge rather than that of Dungeon Master or Referee.

Alignment is the three-part system of Law, Neutrality, and Chaos (thank you, Moorcock), but I did note that Ogres and Orcs are both listed as having Chaotic and Neutral as valid choices. That makes killing off orc and and ogre babies a little problematic. How a Judge handles this in his campaign is up to his discretion, but there could be kingdoms of Neutral orcs who try to hold the line against their Chaotic and barbarian kin. 

"Law, Chaos and Neutrality also have common languages spoken by each respectively" (pg. 11). This doesn't bother me as much as it does in AD&D. I can see the language of Law similar to use of Latin in the Middle Ages by the Church or maybe Celestial from later versions of the game. Maybe it's because there are only 3 and not 9 as in AD&D.

Money and Equipment comes next. 5 copper to the silver, 50 to the gold, 10 silver to the gold. Electrum is either 2 to the gold or 2 gold to the electrum (Judge's choice). There's also the footnote on the list not repeated in the Combat section (I checked!) that states, "Any hit should be given a 10% of striking the Helm." We're going to assume that means head, so that there is a 1-in-10 chance of some cheapskate not wearing a helmet getting a hit to the AC 9 noggin!

And that covers he first two section of the Complied LBBs! Up next: Section 3: Spells & Magic.

Addendum: The Thief Class

This compilation lists the Thief class, as taken from the Greyhawk supplement, in an appendix. However, that is a little unsatisfactory as the class is written under the assumption that hit dice are now different dies for each class, the improved stat bonus also from Greyhawk, etc., and requires tinkering to work with just the original LBBs. What to do?

Well, back in February of this year (2016), the Zenopus Archives had a post about the Thief class as envisioned not in 1975 with Greyhawk, but rather as envisioned in 1974 in the Great Plains Game Players Newsletter (May, 1974).  There is much to recommend this version over the later published version. Climbing sheer surfaces seems to be automatic, shield use is unclear (Judge's discretion!), and, most importantly, the class is open to all races with no level limit on advancement. That stops the crying about maxing out a demi-human's level and is the main reason I would probably use this class. Feel free to check it out as an alternative to the published one if you prefer the 3 LBBs but want a thief class.

02 November 2016

Elementary, my dear Watson!

Well, it has been a while, but I'm ready to jump back into writing in my blog. It's been a long summer, but we're ready to go!

Now, as for this entry, I've recently made a decision that when I start any new Dungeon & Dragons campaigns in the future, I will use either Swords & Wizardry Complete (SW&C) or a Holmesian clone I found a few tears ago titled Dungeons & Dragons Holmes Reformatted (more on that later).  The reason is simplicity itself. The older I get, the less time I want to spend working on minutiae; even Fifth Edition, which is a breeze to run, has many fiddly bits. For instance, monster have huge stat blocks with detailed powers and attacks. I am left with one of two alternatives: first, I can just use monsters found in published modules or the Monster Manual (boring) or, second, I can detail out all the monsters myself and make them unique to the adventure I'm designing (time-consuming). I do not have to do that with earlier editions and especially not in anything close to OD&D like S&WC or Holmes Reformatted (hereafter HR).

If I do need more monsters, I can easily use the AD&D Monster Manual. As is regularly pointed out by the cast of the Save Or Die! Podcast, the Monster Manual was published around the same time as the Holmes edition (1977) and was the first of the AD&D Core Rules to see the light of day. As the system was not quite set in stone, there are many Holmes and OD&Disms in its text. For instance, base AC is 9, there still appears to be a 3- or 5-point alignment system in use, and a couple of others. It's definitely easily compatible with Holmes as it stands. I can also lean on Rafael Chandler's Teratic Tome (which has some truly terrifying creations in its pages) and New Big Dragon's CC1 Creature Compendium. that's really all I need; and creature creation is simple enough in the early games; a quick and easy stat block and I'm done.

"Why Swords & Wizardry Complete, then?" I hear you ask. That's another simple one. For years I have dreamed about getting Isungr Games off the ground and publishing through RPGNow my on line of PDF and POD adventures. I can contribute to the mass of stuff out there in a good way. The ultimate goal is to publish my campaign world, the one that I've been working on since 1986 when I started scribbling out the political and continental map in Mr. Stemper's World History class. I want it to be a 128-page hardcover with map similar to the AD&D Dragonlance book; that is my dream anyway. 

"Ok, so what about this Holmes clone you mentioned? How does that fit in?" I have recently fallen in love with Holmesian D&D. I never had the chance to play when I was younger, but I do remember perusing the open boxed set at my local Kroger's grocery tore when I was 8 or 9 and being entranced. I like the simplicity of the system--there's much in the way of "What if?" floating around in my head about what if there had been no Moldvay and Holmes had continued.

Enter 2010 or -11 when I came across D&D Holmes Revised. Written anonymously by "The Reviser," this project extrapolates what might have been using Holmes's notes and postings on the Zenopus Archives. This fits the bill nicely and might well be the ruleset that I use in the future. The one thing that would keep me from using it exclusively is the fact that I do want to become a S&WC author. Also, while S&WC is actually an OD&D emulator that consists of the LBBs + Supplements, it plays like how I and my friends played AD&D back in middle school in the early 1980s; we ignored the complex AD&D initiative, speed factors, weapon length, bonuses/penalties to hit due to AC, etc. So, there is that nostalgia factor working overtime as well.

Some might question why I don't use Mazes & Perils. Well, the authors themselves admit that there is much from AD&D blended in as well. Whenever I want that fictional Holmes Expanded version, well, I have to agree with the Reviser:

"The various Holmes expansions borrow from a variety of sources, from the original game through to 1st Edition AD&D, and in one case even 3rd Edition D&D, but none have attempted to faithfully follow the path that Holmes himself trod by using only the same source material, without the "taint" of house rules....Having said that, this document is more than just a reformat of the original rulebook, and more than just an expansion of the rules, it is also a revision of those rules. Quite a few changes were made by TSR to the Holmes rulebook between its first print in 1977 and its third edition in December 1979. Thanks to the wonderful detective work of "Zenopus76" in his article List of Changes Made to the Holmes Rulebook (1st/3rd)*, we have a detailed list of these changes. Working from that article I have revised this document to include various weapons, monsters and magic items mentioned in the rulebook but lacking detail, as well as text missing from one print to the next."

And there it is. Such are my thoughts. Now, if I can only keep writing....