Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bitching About Energy Drain

[I tried to keep this response to my last post; unfortunately, it was too long for Blogger to accept as a comment. If I sound irritable, it's because I'm watching election results...sorry, folks]

@ Fumers:

In B/X, as opposed to Labyrinth Lord, a dwarf’s attack bonus increases by +2 for every 3 levels of increase. A 7th level character hits AC 0 with a 15; a 6th level character hits AC 0 with a 17. In White Plume Mountain specifically, no monster has an AC better than -1. With his 16 strength and +2 axe, his chance of hitting AC -1 went from 9 in 20 (45%) to 7 in 20 (35%)…in relative terms, a decrease of 22.2% effectiveness, and that is the greatest RELATIVE decrease he’ll face, in this particular adventure.

However, both of these "AC -1" monsters have been avoided at this point (one was the sphinx), and a simple bless spell will increase his THAC0 to a 9 in 20, being only a relative reduction of 10%. To me, this isn’t a gross reduction in abilities…Borgnine should be okay. In addition, his other “dwarfy abilities” (infravision, trap detection, bonus languages, etc.) are completely un-diminished.

Sly the thief, on the other hand, had NO reduction in combat abilities: a 5th level thief has the same attack rank and saving throws as a 7th level thief. He lost somewhere between 15-20% on most of his abilities, but again, many skills were unaffected (backstabbing, reading languages, his ability to wear leather armor, his ability to use all weapons, climbing only down 2%). Again, I don’t see this as big a deal as you.

But your main beef seems to be the way the energy drain was encountered in this particular adventure (White Plume Mountain). Let me address your issues:

1. Rolling for wandering monsters while characters were asleep: the dungeon has wandering monsters; your party was already aware of this. Sleeping in a dungeon means checking for wandering monsters many times (once per turn, though in WPM the chance of wandering encounters is low: only 1 in 12). When a wandering monster appeared, I had your single guard (Sly) roll for surprise. He failed. I interpreted this as “falling asleep on the job,” but mechanically I did nothing more than would have occurred had everyone been awake and been surprised (i.e. the wights each got one free attack, they made attack rolls, then the party rolled initiative, then they attacked again (having won initiative), then the party got to attack and the clerics “did their thing”). The "falling asleep" was just color, not an arbitrary “screw you.”

2. Regarding wights being wandering monsters at all: wights are 3HD creatures and are considered an appropriate challenge for parties averaging at least 3rd level. Wandering monsters tend to be of equivalent or lesser level than the rest of the adventure, and these wights are fairly pansy compared to other monsters. Part of this has to do with wights being weaker in B/X than they are in AD&D (in AD&D they’d have 4+3 hit dice and thus hit MORE often). However, they have been standard "level 3" wandering monsters since the Little Brown Books of OD&D (with the same stats as the B/X monster) and neither B/X nor OD&D have restoration on the spell list.

3. Regarding "Restoration in AD&D:" Restoration is a 7th level cleric spell, not 6th, and is only available to clerics of 16th level or higher with an 18 wisdom. Even though S2 is an AD&D module, this would not be a spell readily available to characters in a levels 5-10 module (certainly not for characters of 3rd level for whom wights are a standard challenge). IF available for sale, the DMG recommends a price of 10,000 + "a like amount per level of experience of the recipient." Since the spell only raises the life level of a character by ONE per casting...that would be 70,000gp to restore Borgnine and 130,000gp for Sly. A 7th level dwarf fighter in AD&D only has 70K-125K in XP and a larger percentage of this is from monsters than gold (as opposed to B/X where monsters are worth less in XP)...consequently, Borgnine would have probably BANKRUPTED himself to increase his level one step. The thief would not have been able to afford restoration to full level.

This seems to be quite a sticking point, Luke, which is why I bother to address it. I know that tallying XP is all part of the fun (that is, when I ever bothered awarding any), and I know that getting ‘em ripped away seems like a bummer. Rest assured that if this were something other than a one-off adventure, I’d be sure to provide means of “restoring” the party members (I’m not THAT big a jerk…well, not usually). On the other hand, “shit happens” in D&D…sometimes, despite all precautions, an arbitrary roll or two can really throw a wrench in your happy world…and when that happens, you just have to roll with it. It’s the nature of the game.

I promise: I really will try to be less gleeful if such a fate befalls YOUR character.
; )


  1. “shit happens” in D&D

    While playing AD&D2E, my Elf Wizard was accidentally scared to death by a pair of prankster Faerie Dragons.

    For the encounter, I failed a System Shock Roll, which is how the character died, so the DM roleplayed them having a fit over what happened. He then had me try a Resurrection Roll, which I failed, so he then roleplayed the Faerie Dragons having a nervous breakdown over their tomfoolery-gone-awry. The DM was VERY apologetic for killing my character (which is why he had the Faerie Dragons try to raise the character somehow), but the scene was just too fun(ny) not to let it stand as-is.

    It's all about the roll of the dice sometimes, even with a "nice" DM.

  2. Eh. Actually this post was just me feeling grumpy and irritable. Truth be told, I'm still grumpy this morning, but I'm going to try to move on to other things.

    I understand where Luke's coming from...I DO have a lot of Libra buddies after all. In addition, to playing "devil's advocate" (a Libran tendency) he is concerned with what he perceives as a "gross miscarriage of justice." Players that worked hard for their XP (kind of...these are pre-gens we're talking about) being "arbitrarily" or "randomly" reamed by energy drain seems like a terrible travesty.

    My (Scorpionic) tendency is to get defensive about it. "Of course I'm trying to play nice and fair! I could be a lot meaner!" This isn't terribly helpful I'm afraid.

    In the end, I know Luke (Fumers) and I both want to see the same thing: a good game at the table. One of the reasons I've been writing these "session reports" is to explain how/why things happened from my "behind-the-screen" perspective...and I'm inviting comment and reaction! It's good for me to know when players are frustrated and why...hopefully I can use it to raise my game up a notch.

    I can't promise future posts won't be grumpy, but I will try to balance it with good/fun/interesting content whenever possible.
    : )

  3. I *wish* Borgy had a 16 strength (alas, 13--and apparently 3rd in line for those damnable gauntlets)!

  4. JB, I've also been coming at this with a lets-have-a-lively-and-friendly-discussion about the behind the scenes mechanics of the game. I appreciate that you take the time to do so. And now for my rebuttal... :)

    Page X26 of the light blue Expert book with the groovy Erol Otus wizard on the cover has the dwarf's thac0 going from 17 to 14 after level drain which is where I'm getting the -3 from. (Are you using a different table maybe?) Using your AC -1 example (and he has a 13 str i believe), he was hitting AC -1 50% more often before the level drain. My point was that power progression in BX is chunky, a figther/dwarf going from 7 to 6 is much bigger deal than 6 to 5 or 8 to 7 purely in terms of combat mechanics.

    Re: 1, I literally didn't get what was going on at first because it's hard to hear at the other end of the table. I'm glad the sleepiness was color and not some "roll to stay awake" house rule. Otherwise we'd have to make sure to bring coffee into the dungeon or something.

    Re: 2, Even given the hit dice, I'd rather fight a polar bear riding a manticore than a wight. In BX, level drain is irreversible whereas rising from the dead is easy. BX has no spell component cost, Con loss or system shock roll requirement.

    Re: 3, in S2 the wealthy collectors offer the players whatever they desire if they rescue the weapons. And maybe just dropping off the evil near-artifact Blackrazor to a good church would be worth a few restorations. It sounds like you're more into scenarios like that in a real campaign vs a one-shot which makes sense to me.

  5. @ Fumers:

    The expert set table has a typo...at least based on the written text earlier in the Expert set (I don't have my book with me to reference...I'm on my coffee break right now). So yes, I AM using a different table (my "corrected" one in my own book).

    Just by the way, there IS a means of curing Energy Drain in B/X (besides going out and earning the XP back): it's called a Wish spell, which has been present since the beginning. If the wealthy collectors would be willing to spring for Restoration costs, I'm sure they could do the same with a ring of wishes (which can be manufactured by any wizard of 9th level or higher in B/X).

    @ Josh: Even so, I don't see it as an incredible detriment...you're still one of the "heavy hitters" of the party, inflicting as much damage with your axes as Farnsworth does with his 18 strength and flaming sword.
    : )

  6. I checked out the table in the later dark blue Elmore art Expert edition and it has a combat table that has the numbers you're talking about.

  7. "...and neither B/X nor OD&D have restoration on the spell list."

    Just thought I'd mention OD&D has Restoration as a 7th level spell introduced in Supplement I: Greyhawk, in case you weren't aware of it.


  8. @ Dusk: Thanks for pointing it out...though once you add the supplements, OD&D becomes AD&D for all intents and purposes (at least, as far as I'm concerned...).