Friday, November 26, 2010

Seems Like Old Times

The comments field from the last post included this observation from Zzarchov:

“As I look through my old 1e books I can't help but notice you too, are rewriting the game to be more perfect. With new charts and tables, and new rules (such as the trampling rules I heartily absorbed into my games as they were brilliant). Your game may have D&D as a base, but it has moved quite far from D&D.”

I’ll forego the bile and venom today (as a snake, I need at least a week to build up a good charge) and focus instead on what I do retain from AD&D. Remember, I’m not an OD&D fan…I embraced the DMG and Player’s Handbook as primary works when I was a teenager.

First off, classes. There were eleven classes (including the bard) in the Player’s Handbook, and I play my world with eleven classes. The only significant change has been to the bard, which was presented in the PH as an ‘optional’ class. For most of the time I’ve been playing D&D, I did not include the bard, because the way its written in the book is, well, stupid. But for two years now I’ve been playing my upgraded bard, which the player’s seem to like.

The rules from the remaining classes remain pretty much untouched, although minor additional abilities have been added (such as sage knowledge or cantrips), from either my own ideas or from the Unearthed Arcana. It is the UA that gives tables for character backgrounds … my own character background tables are merely more complicated. The classes, and their material contribution to the game, remains unchanged.

No, I don’t play with alignments. Many people don’t. Not playing with alignments hardly dismisses my game from being called D&D.

Virtually every spell that was written for the Player’s Handbook is used in my world. Two are not – nystul’s magic aura, because it’s silly (yes, I know there are uses for it, but after applying those uses two or three times they’re old hat – there’s no place for the spell in an extended campaign), and read magic ... because I presume every mage knows how to read magic.  Why does it need to be a spell?  It would be like an engineer being asked to comprehend calculus.

Beyond that, they're all there - cleric, druid, mage and illusionist.  Tweaked a bit, but fully recognizable.  I've accepted a lot of spells from the Unearthed Arcana, which needed a lot more tweaking, but a few were just dumb.

Races included - all of them.  Exactly the same that were introduced in the PH.  I have explored other races, but I never found any of them added anything special to the game.

Psionics?  Nope, don't use 'em.  Again, under optional rules.  Used them for years, but again, they just offered lucky individuals special benefits, which upset the game's balance.  Haven't missed them.

That about covers the Player's Handbook.  I extend multi-class to humans, I don't use weapon damage against L-sized creatures, I don't use the weapon modifiers against armor class ... but I do use the same weapons, all of them.  A long sword still does 1-8, a short sword still does 1-6, a morning star still does 2-8.

Which brings us to combat.  Now, I have change the order and the timing for when attacks occur, and the effects of those attacks (which I call stunning), but the weapons are still swung in the same old way.  A d20 is still rolled, still modified by strength and dexterity according to the books, it still hits with the same chance according to the 'to hit' tables in the DMG ... and if magic, it retains the same bonuses.  Grenade-like missiles are handled in the same way, as is surprise, penalties for using more than one weapon at a time, invisibility detection and saving throws.  I've lightly modified the cleric turning table to make it a touch harder for clerics, but it still works the same way.  Experience points are still awarded (though differently), still applied to characters as always, and still causing players to go up levels.  I don't use the training rules, but that doen't preclude my game from being D&D either.

All the magic, every single piece, is still part of my game.  I have never removed a single item from the table.  I have added very, very few items of my own, since really I believe there are enough items there already.  The biggest change has been additional kinds of weapons and armor with bonuses.

The money is still gold, silver and copper.  I don't use platinum because no one in history ever did (there are problems with it), and electrum makes no sense because virtually every coin in history was a mix of metals, particularly silver and gold.  But the coins still get rewarded as treasure, they still get used to buy stuff, and the stuff is still available in the local towns.

The monsters are the same, too.  Again, tweaked here and there, more hit points, sometimes causing more damage, but hobgoblins are still affected by their standards, goblins still ride worgs, treats still crush, demons still gate, dragons still cast spells and so on.  It's fully recognizable as a monster-filled campaign, whatever my peculiar political organizations, or complex social structures.  If you cast people out for being innovative in their worlds, none of us are playing D&D.

So I am a bit confused.  The same characters, the same monsters, the same weapons, the same d20 rolls to hit, the same treasure, the same hack, slash and haul away the loot potential, mixed with the same roleplaying strategies.  I don't deny I have changed lots and lots of rules ... but most of those rules have been to ADD to AD&D (poetry), not change the fundamental policies of the game itself.

Finally, a personal word Zzarchov; I don't know if I'm writing all these rules to make the world more 'perfect' ... it's a word I wouldn't ever use.  Let's use 'organic' instead.  That's better than 'realistic,' too - which people condemn me for being.  Organic implies that modifications are there to make the world a living, breathing thing.

If there's anything that we as children used to think of when we were playing in our sandboxes, it was that all the little trucks and cars and tiny people walking around the mounds and tunnels of our worlds were ALIVE.  That is my intention.  To bring D&D alive.  I don't need perfection.

'Breathing' will do nicely.


Zzarchov said...

Organic is a much better word, my apologies for any unwanted implications from the word 'perfect'.

It is very much a question of 'how many drops of black before the white becomes gray'. I do not question that your game is very, very, VERY similar to AD&D straight 'out of the box', to the point where someone could play for months or years and never notice any real changes. So where the line from 'White' to 'Gray' may vary from person to person, often people will just keep adding a few drops here and there and then one day sit back and say 'you know this isn't D&D anymore, it stopped being that about 30 drops ago' and go from there.

Oddbit said...

It becomes a new game when you have about a books worth of rules that you have to teach a player in addition to (or replacing) the core books. Maybe that's my easier answer.

Also, if you can actually step back and look at house rules and the base game, and two different systems and say they just as different, there you are. If you're honest with yourself, it's an easy call.

From most of what I've seen the core of the rules and systems employed here in this blog are on the setting side, an intentionally vague area of most systems. The greatest changes I would have to say are with the combat system, and even those sound like they would improve the game.