Thursday, April 14, 2011

Damn Forums

Tomorrow is going to be a killer day. I can tell already...once again up too late and just feeling...I don't know. Too tired to sleep.

Mi suegra just got in from Mexico tonight, so I was up talking to her a bit. Now I'm just cooking up some pacifiers. And reading the forums over at Dragonsfoot.

Dammit...I refuse to be sucked into them!

And yet they have so many interesting posts for days! It's been a while since I was hot on forums (I prefer to prowl the blog-o-sphere for my sordid gratifications) so I don't really remember proper forum etiquette. Is it considered necromancy to post on a 2 week old thread? Man, they seem fairly active over there.

Of course, there's "active" and there's active. Topics seem a little scattered, though that appears to be due in part to MY favorite edition being lumped together with Holmes and BECMI and the RC, etc. Still, there are definitely some useful threads/food for thought.

The guys playing Basic without ability, it's not often I hear something new that blows my mind (understand I think about this D&D stuff an awful lot), but it makes quite a bit of sense in light of my more recent musings (not posted here...sorry), about ability scores NOT needing to describe characters. Consider instead that they are simply random customizations of varying in-game effectiveness whose names are nothing more than a short-hand for the arenas of customization.

You grok what I'm saying? FOR EXAMPLE, "Strength" is a misleading conjures to mind muscles and fitness and size and physique. What if instead we just called it:

"melee hit/damage bonus"

Then, all of a sudden it could represent a lot more than "just muscles." Maybe your character is just lucky when it comes to bashing people. Maybe you're super-fast and skilled in hand-to-hand. Maybe you've got a giant frigging hook where your left arm used to be and you've taught yourself to use it as a 2nd weapon, giving you a fat bonus when fighting in melee.

Who knows? It can be ANYTHING. Conversely, your character with a Strength of 5 may be incredibly muscled and fit...but be completely untrained and hopeless in a stand-up fight.

I really like the idea that ability scores describe nothing more than "in-game" effectiveness. It leaves so much more open to the imagination. Your character might be missing an eye and have a speech impediment but you rolled a high DEX and do you explain that? Well, he's learned to COMPENSATE for his impairments. Just imagine how good he'd be if he had BOTH eyes! Likewise, the guy with the CHA of 3 may be incredibly suave, smooth-talking, and attractive, but something about him just rubs people the wrong way (he's too perfect) AND he has a tendency to pick terrible hirelings (what with their low-low-low Morale score).

Anyway, just some things to think about. I'm going to consider getting rid of ability scores in a future B/X game. Are they really necessary? Really?



  1. Don't do it JB.

    Well do it if you want but eventually you are playing an entirely new game.

    I still want to play D&D.

  2. Those are goods points. There's plenty of modern RPGs that do that sort of thing (well, pretty sure there is), so I see no reason it couldn't work for older games. Something to think on, thanks.

  3. What if instead we just called it:

    "melee hit/damage bonus"

    The whole "modifier as stat" thing has shades - at least for me - of Ars Magica. This in itself is no bad thing, but it may be the gateway drug to such vile WoD-isms as (*spit*) dice pools.

  4. I actually just got sucked into a "strength doesn't really mean strength, it could mean just about anything" debate on a forum. After lots of off-topic back and forth, no one was happier. Which is often the way with forums, in my experience.

    I can see how and why some players might want to take that approach. But it is not one that I'm terribly interested in.

    Strength means strength. And it's defined in the rules. The point was made that a halfling with 18 STR wouldn't have "bulging muscles."

    I pointed out that he would, because he had an 18 STR.

    Personally I think that a halfing with bulging muscles (Schwarzenhobbit) is a lot more interesting than a halfling with +3 combat bonuses for, well, whatever someone decides.

    In the end, of course, everyone is free to play as they like. And I encourage them to do so. But I do think that mucking with the ability scores too much does start to change the game.

  5. @ Everyone: I was probably just tired and not thinking clearly at the time.

  6. Who need forums when you can get smacked doown on your own blog? :)

    Actually, I like the idea. I'll have to look that thread up.

    The thing about DF is not to engage. I read general, 1E, Classic, Adneture Logs and Other Games. I'll also hit Gygax's Greyhawk, Worlds of TSR, and Simulacrum Games (clones) once a week. :)

  7. DF was key in my own "back to basics" thing, but real life pulled me away from it. Since the Nortex con last year, I've been trying to visit once a week. And even then, only the general and classic forums. But I'm re-assessing my priorities lately, and I'm afraid it is going to fall into the "not enough time" category again.

    I'm a big fan of "don't take the names of mechanics too seriously" and looking for different interpretations. Probably since a moment many years ago when I was reading the PHB and realized that a members of the fighter class could be quite a wide range of characters.

    I've also been interested in trying to strip as much away from the game while keeping it something I'd enjoy. I think Searchers of the Unknown may have nailed that, and I really want to give it a try someday.