Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Immortals...

Previously I mentioned that there are pitfalls to being a self-taught DM, and I wasn’t kidding. I already talked about my confusion between Expert and Advanced, but that’s neither my worst, nor my most embarrassing blunder.

From my perspective, my worst and most embarrassing blunder was my completely screwing up how hit points were calculated for characters. It went kind of like this:

Open the game. Create 1st level characters. Roll 1 die for hit points (as per table). Adventure. Gain level. Roll 2 dice for hit points and add (as per table). Adventure. Gain level. Roll 3 dice for hit points and add (as per table). Etc., etc..

By 4th level, characters had hit points equivalent to a 10 hit dice character. Sure we were only adding the Constitution bonus once per level, but remember that in B/X (and for most classes in AD&D), characters never received more than 9 hit dice total. Those were pretty stout halflings!

The end result is that (eventually) we had had high level characters with 2 or 3 times as many hit points as a demon prince or arch-devil.

I was one of those notorious “killer DMs” in my youth…which is to say I used to throw encounters at players far in excess of what might be considered reasonable. However, this was due in no small part to the un-killable nature of the PCs. A band of orcs or ogres might prove no sweat to high level characters anyway, but I was waging a constant battle of attrition with characters that possessed hundreds of hit points! My killer behavior was a reaction necessary to challenge the players.

Fortunately, I discovered my error around the same time (or slightly before) the Unearthed Arcana was published…which is to say about 4 or 5 years after I started playing. We blew up our campaign world and started over from scratch (same characters, but now 1st level).

Of course, by that time we had already established certain characters as legendary names in our campaign. And I had already trained myself to be a vicious, no prisoners type of DM.


  1. I missed this the first time around. It's hilarious.

  2. Well, it DID give me a chance to use all those Arch-Devils and Demon Princes from the Monster Manual. In future campaigns, I can think of exactly two incidences where characters encountered "god-like" monsters...neither ending in a victory for the PCs.

    Ah, youthful innocence...
    : )