Thursday, November 19, 2020

"You can be a GNOME?"

 Ah, AD&D...still king after all these years.

My kids are only now just starting to discover the majesty and mystery of that tome we call The Players Handbook. At first, they were only really using the ability score and equipment, they're starting to dive in.

As I suspected, their first excitement simply came from the fact that we were playing Dungeons & Dragons again...the boy made an elven fighter, the girl made a halfling ("kender") fighter/thief. Both were approaching the game much as one might a game of B/X or OD&D (their previous forays into D&D), though of course there was some confusion ("What's ring armor?" "What's a bastard sword?" etc.). They were both happy to purchase guard dogs.

Everything else they've taken in stride. I don't think they've noticed, for instance, that armor class goes to 10, or that weapons do different damage versus large creatures.They prefer to shoot arrows into things anyway. They appreciate the extra hit points, of course, but those are always a precious resource and never in large enough supply.

But playing D&D has once again fired both kids' desire (though my son's especially) to run the game. And Diego drafted a dungeon to run AD&D for myself and his sister. And he was tres shocked when I brought a ranger to the table. "What the heck is that?" Maybe you should read up on the new sub-classes and races in the book, I suggested. And, oh boy, did he's trying to get his sister to roll up an assassin or an illusionist, while he himself created a ranger of his own...though his has a bow (unlike mine).

[I am so tired of the ranger archer trope]

I am glad their imagination has been sparked; my own has had a jumpstart as well. However, I will whine that the old complaint still lingers: it's frustrating that one has to wait and wade through novice challenges without being able to get to the higher level content (i.e. "the good stuff"). When last we left off (last night) the party was just attacked by a handful of fire beetles, who appear to be getting the upper hand (AC 4 is especially rough for low-level PCs to hit). It may soon be time to create new player characters...too bad, as they just spent the gold and time to train up to 2nd level.

[ah, AD&D]

For the curious, I will list the particularities of the game I'm currently running:

  • Rule books being used include: the PHB, DMG, MM, and Fiend Folio. The MM2 and DDG might be used in the future but have not, as of yet, been necessary. No Unearthed Arcana or later rules.
  • Ability scores are rolled 4D6, arranged to taste, and character must have at least two "15" scores to be considered viable.
  • Demihumans who single class may add +2 to their maximum applicable level when otherwise limited.
  • First level hit points are maximum to begin; "1s" are rerolled when leveling. 
  • Training costs are in silver pieces instead of gold. Training time is determined randomly (roll 1d4), doubled without a trainer/mentor.
  • Psionics have not yet been added to the game.
  • To this point, I have simply been using 2d6 (B/X) reaction rolls when necessary, rather than the more complex system provided in the DMG. This might change once I've had a chance to put together a cheat sheet, but it seems unnecessary for a more complex system, considering that none of the PCs have any kind of reaction adjustment (average charisma scores).
  • We are not using alignment at the moment; there are no alignment languages and players have not chosen alignment for their characters. Right now, the entire issue of alignment seems an inconvenience; i.e. an obstruction to play. Not only is it difficult to explain, its mechanics are obscure. The players are basically "good" (and are playing their characters as such) and until it matters for some reason, I am simply using alignment (with regard to NPCs, magic items, etc.) as rough guidelines for motivation. 

And that's about it. Um...yep. Everything else is being used as written. I'm only going to worry about changing things if/when we run into a "snag" in play. 

Regarding the campaign setting: as I wrote the other day I am taking it extremely slow with regard to putting things together. The world definitely has a "post-apocalyptic" vibe to it, though in the way of Bakshi's Wizards rather than Dragonlance/Krynn.  Orcs, for example, are simply mutants. They are not a particularly "fecund species;" instead, mutants (caused by bad magic/radiation/something) are found amongst most species. A "half-orc" is the mutant offspring of a genetic human; tainted areas of the wilderness might give rise to a higher percentage of "half-orcs" in the population. Orcs proper are bestial descendants of such creatures being driven into the wilderness, forced to band together in tribal communities, further mucking up their own blood lines. Such creatures have an antagonistic relationship with the races that have spurned them.

[goblin kind, on the other hand, are an actual, non-mutant species. They're enmity towards dwarves are based on rivalry born of competing subterranean species; their hostility towards humans and elves come from these latter groups being allies with dwarves. Kobolds, in my game, are simply "small goblins," (like gnomes are "small dwarves") not dog-headed gremlins]

Typical orcish horde.

I've often, in recent years, considered orcs to be something akin to the sword & sorcery trope of "beastmen," creatures that, AD&D, would normally be modeled by the mongrelman creature found in I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City and later (published officially) in the Monster Manual II. The justification for this comes directly from my reading of the Tom Moldvay's (B/X) description of the orc:

"Orcs are ugly human-like creatures who look like a combination of animal and man."

...the first time ANY physical description of orcs (outside of coloration) is given in any of the D&D books. To me, it conjures a bit of an Isle of Dr. Moreau vibe, and I'm happy to run with that...especially the idea of such mutant creatures setting down their own laws and traditions in an attempt to build some semblance of "society."

But, again, I'm digressing. And I have errands to run. The Seahawks are playing tonight (we'll see how THAT goes...), and since the MLS playoffs don't start (for Seattle) till Tuesday, that means my weekend should be very freed up for Dungeons & Dragons. Rainy days in November are good for gamers!

: )


  1. Glad to see you are playing again.

    I assume you are using the B/X combat with a little 1e mixed in.

    For my campaigns I typically do 20% world building before the start, flesh out the basics, then do the rest in play. Current campaign just hit session 95 so the world is fairly detailed, but concepts and places the player avoid are still just sketches.

    1. Nope. I'm using straight AD&D. No miniatures.

  2. Good! In my campaign (family, kids and friends in open table aproach) i use ad&d as a plus for OD&D. So I keep 2d6 for reaction and morale too, and 1d6 for some dungeon checks.

    1. The adventure module I am running includes its own wandering monster tables so I am using those.

      I have now read up (i.e. re-familiarized myself) with the NPC rules (reaction, loyalty, morale, etc.). In the adventure I'm currently running, an issue has not yet arisen that has required a dice roll.

  3. 1) I have no idea who would not want to play a gnome.
    2) Ages ago I showed Gary Gygax the kobold pictures by Brian Froud from the old Faeries book (via ENWorld) and he said that this is how he pictured kobolds and wanted them, but the Monster Manual version stuck and became canon.


    1. I've played gnomes myself...more than once. But I love illusionists, and the chance to multiclass with one is a pretty heady temptation to pass up.

      However, I do not play my gnomes like mischievous tricksters. Rather, they tend to be MEAN and NASTY...basically, "dirt bag dwarves."

      You ever noticed it's always the little guy who's more eager to fight and scrap? That's the gnome. Always wanting to throw down and show toughness.

      RE: Gygax

      Doesn't surprise me at all.