Monday, April 27, 2020

Supplemental Material

Started work on a new OD&D supplement this morning (my personal "Book IV"), mainly because I wanted to capture the new illusionist material. My intention, once completed, is to have a working "campaign Bible" to supplement (ah! That's the word!) my edited version of OD&D. At this point, it is perhaps putting the cart before the horse, considering I haven't yet set down one word of Book II.

[there are a couple reasons for this "hole" in The Work. First off, I haven't really needed the book yet: I own two copies of Book II anyway, and many creatures in my adventures to date have been hand-designed or else adapted from other sources. But mainly, I'm really considering an entire overhaul of Book II's structure, organization, and contents...and I'm still considering the exact paradigm I want to use. Is this supposed to be a book for me? Or a book for anyone? Or a book for players and DMs who want to use my campaign setting? Or what? I *do* eventually want some "bestiary" type book, but I'm not yet sure exactly what it will contain...perhaps every entry will have an "ecology" section while the tables have the necessary short-hand combat info for inclusion in adventure write-ups]

[oh, yeah...I also want to completely overhaul or do away with the treasure tables as designed. I do make use of them - somewhat - for identifying how much treasure a monster tends to have in its lair, but then I tailor each encounter's hoard individually to suit my needs. And while I have been using the included magic items as "templates" and inspiration, I am striving to make each one unique and special, and none of them are being generated via random roll. Figuring out how to rewrite THAT section is a bit of a bear, and I might not even do so, instead simply throwing some hasty notes into an appendix of Book III]

Why throw a PC class like the Illusionist into a supplement? Because I'm not yet ready for the class to be "open" to players (some things shall be "revealed" in time). For a similar reason, gnomes (as I conceive them) will not be added into Book I but, rather, left for the "supplement;" they are my own strange species (call them "svirfneblin lite"). Besides, I can't be adding a race with an illusionist option before I've introduced the illusionist, can I?

The new supplement should also include the Thief class, once I've overhauled the damn thing. Despite his Gord the Rogue writings, I'm starting to get the impression that Gygax disliked the thief concept, and I'm starting to feel the same. However, I continue to feel a lot of love for the assassin as a concept, and a thief baseline is thus a necessary evil. Starting player characters at 3rd level mercifully solves the issue of new assassins having no thief skills, and the idea currently bumping about my noggin is that of assassins as a sort of "prestige class;" that is, there aren't any 1st or 2nd level assassins (at least, not as player characters). Non-human thieves are NOT going to be the "go to" class (caused, I'm sure, by the unrestricted leveling); instead, any such character is going to be some sort of outcast from their society, probably restricted from training or progression in ANY other class.

[might make an exception for half-elves with a wisdom under 13; i.e. half-elves who are unable to progress as clerics. To me, half-elves are the true "jack-of-all-trades" character]

Of course, that would do away with my favorite multi-class combo: the gnome illusionist/assassin. But since gnomes, illusionists, and assassins are all going to be part of the supplemental material, maybe they'll get some sort of exception, too. Or maybe not...phantasmal killer is fine and dandy for any illusionist styling herself an "assassin."

[as is using a phantasmal image to conceal a booby trap, pit, or hidden assailant]

Bards will probably be a similar story (i.e. unavailable except as a single, restricted class). But then why would anyone choose to be a thief if you could get all the abilities - albeit at reduced level - plus magical abilities, bardic charming, an increased (d6) hit dice?

Why indeed.

I am, of course, looking at bards as originally presented by Doug Schwegman in The Strategic Review (volume 2, issue 1). This particular bard had none of the multi-classing madness (even though it would have functioned better and more sensibly in OD&D...). Schwegman's bard is also available to elves, dwarves, and hobbits, unlike the version Gygax gives us in the PHB. While half-elves are not mentioned, I would guess that this is a case of the class being submitted to TSR before the publication of Greyhawk (or before it was read by Schwegman), just as happened with Aronson's illusionist class (requiring his later update in The Dragon #1). Schwegman's class is a bit over-powered...attacks and saves as a cleric, magic-user spells up to 7th level (hmmm...guess he did read Greyhawk), bardic charm and legend lore, double languages, chain armor, and d6 hit dice, plus unrestricted weapon use. Sheesh.

[can you imagine a teleporting bard with the ability to cast delayed blast fireball?]

I see why A) Gygax threw the class into an appendix as an optional class, and B) attempted an update to make the thing playable within the spirit of the original, while preserving some semblance of "balance" (OR, alternatively, making the class as hard to play as possible in order to dissuade its use). I haven't yet got around to my (planned) post on the AD&D bard, but...well, now I've got this OD&D trainwreck to deal with.

[one might ask why bother? Multiple reasons, not the least of which my soft spot for the class after spending the majority of my AD&D career playing bards. Recently, I've been reading the old MZB Lythande stories...part of my research on Thieves World, one of the major inspirations for my campaign setting...and I am considering how such a character might best be modeled in the game. "Bard" would be a fair choice...]

As for other stuff that will be in the Supplement: info on the campaign world, including its geography, cosmology, history, etc. The various deities, the PC races (how and why they interact with each other), major political entities, etc. Probably The Haggard Goat (the tavern/inn that is the PCs' base of operations) and its proprietor, Meredith. Assuming she survives the players' antics.

Yes, there will be rangers as a playable class...but again, they have not yet been introduced to the campaign (they are outside the city my players are currently exploring). This isn't Tolkien. And even in Tolkien, "half-orcs" appear (to my reading) to have been very much a product of magical cross-breeding (a la Saruman), NOT the biological offspring of two distinct species. My orcs are not the "fecund race" of 1st edition. I'm not yet quite sure WHAT they are (my players haven't encountered any); once I figure that out, I'll consider blogging about it. Maybe.

[probably some sort of magically created slave race, engineered in the misty past by decadent, sorcerous elves. Would explain why elves speak their language, as well as the animosity between the two species. In fact, done. That's the short answer to the "orc question"]

Monks? Ummmmmm...haven't decided. Need to run some mock combats between monks of various levels with a variety of opponent types. That's a loooong way off, at this point. Assassins first.

Druids? Yeah, maybe, probably. This isn't really a foresty setting (as currently conceived). Mostly sand and scrub and swamp and sea...the four S's of environments (also snow and subterranean...six S's, I guess). My original intention was to include them as a character class (the "neutral cleric" option), but I kind of like the neutral clerics I've already added to the game. Nothing in OD&D prevents a player from playing a "neutral" cleric; they're simply limited to 6th level of experience (i.e. no 5th level spells). This has allowed me to add multiple "minor (i.e. neutral) deities" to my world along with perfectly competent clerics that have no ability to raise dead, commune, or create food (they still have the potential to turn any of the undead types). Adding the druid diminishes the impact and utility of such characters...why go to a lesser cleric when one can find a druid? Mainly, however, it's more of a setting/environment thing. I'm not sure yet how many bears and beasts are going to be in the setting. Still developing.

Anyway. Huh. I sat down to blog about elves this morning and I got completely distracted with my own thoughts and ideas. And I didn't even talk much about the campaign, just thoughts on what's going into the supplemental material. *sigh*

Apologies folks. More later.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Finding the Gnome

I am absurdly happy this morning (despite little annoyances) because, as of about 9:30am, I finally, finally have a decent write-up of the illusionist class.

Hmm. Actually, "write-up" is a phrase too far...I have the nuts-n-bolts figured out (including spell lists) and scribbled on a spreadsheet. Sometime in the next couple-few days I'll get the chance to write the class up (hope-hope). But the point is, I've got the mechanics nailed down, especially the aforementioned spell lists which was a major sticking point. Turns out that going back to OD&D was the (as with many things) the cureall for what ails me: building from the ground up is so much smoother (even if it's time-consuming) when you start your construction on the foundation stone.

But we'll address Ye Old Illusionist in another post...this one is about a (slightly) related subject: the gnome.

As they appear in OD&D
I haven't blogged about gnomes much at all over the years. They're just not...well, just not a subject that's come up. They're not a class in B/X (though I included one in The Complete B/X Adventurer) and even back in my AD&D years, I don't remember seeing all that many.

Scratch that, I don't remember seeing ANY.  As a DM, I probably wrote one up as an NPC (I did that at one time or another with most all of the various class/races), but I'm sure it never saw play at the table. And if I had to guess, we neglected the gnome mostly because A) the racial level limits prevented high level advancement, and B) there was a general lack of enthusiasm for illusionists in our circle (and the ability to multi-class as an illusionist is one of the gnome's strongest recommendations). Personally, I've played one or two in Advanced Labyrinth Lord games (generally, assassin/illusionists) but these were all one-off games, not long term campaign play.

So let's talk about the gnome now...prior to starting up an OD&D campaign, I was deconstructing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with the thought of creating an AD&D campaign. As such (and since then) I have done a LOT of reading/research of the OD&D books, pre-'78 copies of The Dragon, and old records of The Strategic Review (the periodical/magazine that directly preceded The Dragon). For most of AD&D rules, I can find precursors in these older one would expect, given that AD&D was, by and large, a reorganizing of the complete OD&D material into a readily usable (and uniform) format.

The gnome, however, is not present.

At least not as a player character. The "gnome" has been around as long as CHAINMAIL, where it appears as part of the entry for dwarves:
DWARVES (and Gnomes): Because their natural habitat is deep under the ground, these stout folk operate equally well day or night. Although they are no threat to the larger creatures, Trolls, Ogres, and Giants find them hard to catch because of their small size, so county one-half normal kills when Dwarves and Gnomes fight with them, for either attacks upon the Dwarves and Gnomes or returns...Goblins and Kobolds are their natural (and hated) enemies, and Dwarves (Gnomes) will attack Goblins (Kobolds) before any other enemies in sight...However, Dwarves and Gnomes will not have to roll an "obedience die" (as do Knights) to follow orders...
They are listed on the same line of the "Fantasy Reference Table" and they have the exact same move, charge, special abilities, attack, and defend ratings. There is NO difference between the two, and they are both listed on the side of Law.

In Men & Magic (OD&D book 1), the section on dwarves makes no reference to gnomes, except with regard to languages in which the text states dwarves speak Gnome, Kobold, and Goblin (interesting it does not reference them speaking their own Dwarvish language...unlike the entry for Elves). The reference for the race in the alignment list shows them as Dwarves/Gnomes (rather than two separate entries); the only other "double species" so listed is Goblins/Kobolds.

In Monsters & Treasures (OD&D book 2) the entry for gnomes IS separate from the dwarves and says only the following:
GNOMES: Slightly smaller than Dwarves, and with longer beards, these creatures usually inhabit the hills and lowland burrows as opposed to the mountainous homes which Dwarves choose. They are more reclusive than their cousins, but in all other respects resemble Dwarves.
Their lines in the Monster Reference chart are nearly identical, mainly differing in treasure type and lair percentage.

The Greyhawk supplement is the first time OD&D offers a physical description of the dwarf character  type and here gnomes ARE referenced, stating:
Dwarves are about four feet tall, stocky of build, weigh 150 pounds, shoulders very broad, their skin a ruddy tan, brown or gray, and are of various types (hill, mountain, or burrowers) (such as gnomes).
Greyhawk makes no reference to using gnomes as a player character, nor do any of the later supplements. Neither do I find any reference to gnomes as player characters in The Strategic Review and early (pre-AD&D) issues of The Dragon magazine. Their sudden appearance as a playable race in the AD&D PHB is slightly strange...unless one considers they were being used as such all along.

Look: in OD&D, monsters (other than humans found in dungeons) do not have "levels of experience." Only player characters (or those with the potential to be player characters: men, elves, etc.) have levels. You'll find no group of goblins or lizard men containing a 5th level leader for groups over 50 or 200 or whatever. Liches (appearing in Greyhawk) are a slight exception as they were a high level Magic-User "in life;" the presumption is that now, as a monster, they no longer adventure nor advance in level. Tritons use spells "commensurate with their hit dice," though not mapping on an equal basis (5-7 hit dice mapping to 2nd-4th level ability) and hit dice are based on size and strength, not necessarily experience gained (some tritons are just born bigger, better, and stronger).

1977 Monster Manual
But gnomes, as stated "in all other respects [besides reclusiveness] resemble dwarves." And dwarves do have character classes: one "above average fighter" (of various levels) for every 40 dwarves appearing. Thus, gnomes, too, would have above average fighters of various levels. This is born out in the 1977 Monster Manual (released before the original Players Handbook) which shows gnomes encountered in groups of more than forty having fighter types up to 6th level (normal dwarf maximum per OD&D) and clerics up to 7th (again, normal dwarf maximum for NPC clerics, per Greyhawk). Thus, other than size (1' shorter, per the MM) gnomes appear to correspond in all aspects to their dwarf "cousins."

For me, this is enough to allow a player to claim their OD&D "dwarf" character is, in fact, a gnome...that gnomes are simply a smaller variation of the dwarf species. As I use the increased level limits found in Greyhawk (17 strength dwarves may progress to 7th level and 18 strength dwarves to 8th level), I would limit any such character to a maximum of 16 strength, seeing as how there doesn't appear to be gnomes over the 6th level fighting experience. Easy-peasy.

So then...from whence comes the idea of gnome illusionists?

That's an even more interesting quandary (at least for those who, like me, enjoy this type of pseudo-research). Dwarves are notoriously non-magical in the early editions of the game; they even have a higher resistance to magic than other character types (as do halflings) perhaps as a justification for their lack of wizards...despite raising the sticky question of who it is manufacturing all these dwarven warhammers +3?

My initial thought was that this was a svirfneblin thing. The "deep gnome" race, introduced by Gygax in his classic adventure Shrine of the Kuo-Toa is as notorious in its magic abilities as dwarves are in their absence. Like the Drow, the svirfnebli possess a number of innate spell abilities (summoning earth elementals?!), magical resistance, and enchanted accoutrements that make them inappropriate as player characters (*AHEM*), and I reasoned that perhaps the idea for gnomes as a magic-using (or, rather, illusion using) race might have germinated with this unique adventure.

A little cheap research, however, turns up the fact that Gygax both D1 and D2 after completing the AD&D Players Handbook, as a way of blowing off some steam. Gnomes already had their illusionist capabilities by then, and the svirneblin was simply a suped-up version of the gnome.

So then...what? Peter Aronson's illusionist class first appears in The Strategic Review #4 and neither the original article, nor the class "update" in The Dragon #1 make any remarks about dwarves or gnomes. In fact, no remarks are made regarding ANY racial restrictions for the class, though Aronson's (unpublished) notes clearly state "Where not otherwise specified, they are as [Magic-Users]." 

[a DM going by that statement might be inclined to allow the class to be played by both elves and half-elves, actually]

So what's the deal? Where does the idea come from? Who's to blame/responsible? There are no nonhuman deities in Supplement IV (Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes) that might show a "divine influence" on the species. So somehow we went from a short, burrowing variation on dwarves to the tricky illusionist types found from the PHB on to the present. What's the deal?

As near as I can tell, the first (and only) reference to gnomes having any magical ability comes from the original Monster Manual. For the most part, the entry for gnomes transcribes all the same OD&D material found in the original texts pertaining to dwarves (with some elaboration)...except for a single, additional sentence in the paragraph on special abilities:
"It is rumored that there exists gnomes with magical abilities up to 4th level, but this has not been proved."
It is rumored? Um, okay...where? When? By whom?

Here's what I think: structurally, mechanically, gnomes were no different from dwarves. The main differences between the two were size, temperament, and habitat, all things (more or less) related to each other (hills are smaller than mountains, thus gnomes are smaller than dwarves; hills are easier reached by humans, so gnomes must be more reclusive in nature to prevent their proliferation in the "realms of man").  However, to add variety, gnomes must be distinguishable from dwarves, and the distinct mechanic, from a dungeon-delving perspective, is their lack of size...thus, a lack of strength, and corresponding lack of fighting ability (or potential fighting ability) compared to their larger cousins.

But who wants to play a small, weak dwarf? Not many folks. The solution, then, is to give them some magical ability...something conspicuously absent from dwarf player characters. Of course, you can't give them straight magic-user abilities...that steps on the toes of the thing that makes elves (and half-elves) special. And clerical spells? No...Clerics are the purview of human characters (except for NPCs) as are druids, the "neutral option" when it comes to human magic (as outlined in Eldritch Wizardry).

So illusionists, the only new magical option not addressed in the OD&D books. When the gnome is made into its own separate racial option in AD&D (as opposed to a variation of dwarf), illusionist ends up assigned to the species as a possible class option. And just to keep it really special, no other race (besides humans) even has the option of illusionist as a career.

The OD&D version...well, my OD&D version...would allow progression a little higher than 4th, however. 6th gives the character to access those 3rd level spells that really help a "reclusive" gnome community to hide in plain sight (nondetection, hallucinatory terrain), as well as drive away nosy human neighbors (fear, confusion). Since I'm using Aronson's original experience progression chart (as published in The Strategic Review), I'd stop them short of 8th level ability: no first level MU spells, no shadow monsters or improved invisibility (sorry gnome backstabbers). Call it 6th level base, 7th maximum for gnomes of 17+ intelligence.

All right...that's enough gnome talk for the day. Though I will mention (perhaps to discuss later) that there are absolutely no gnome thieves (nor multi-class thieves) mentioned in the 1E Monster Manual's description of the gnome race. For that matter, there is no mention of thieves (or multi-class thieves) in the descriptions of dwarves, elves, or even halflings. Now this I find extremely interesting.

But I'll write about that later.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Master Weapon List (addendum)

Because folks asked for it, here's the PDF for download. I added the "ranged weapons" part to the bottom half.

Master Weapon List

This is the "cheat sheet" I talked about in yesterday's post. Because my players are showing up remotely, I don't have access to their character sheets. I ask what weapon they're using and I tell them what they need to hit based on the AC of the opponent. All ACs of monsters are assumed to be set as "equivalent of" a particular armor class...for instance, my goblins don't use shields but they're quick and dodgy, thus equivalent to a warrior in light armor using a shield for deflection (AC 6).

AC 1 is an armor class I use for adult dragons (and similar armored foes...if I think of any). Subadult dragons (and younger) are AC 3 or 2, depending.

Initiative is the usual (D6 roll for each side); knocked/loaded missile weapons may fire at the beginning of combat before initiative. Bows may load and fire in the same round, light crossbows may load and fire at the end of the round, heavy crossbows may only fire every other round .

The D6 roll of your opponent determines which segment your attack comes on. There are six (10 second) segments per one minute combat round.

The only declarations I require are from spell casters that want to cast spells. Magic-user spells go off on the segment equal to the spell level of the spell being used (for example, fireball goes off on segment three, since it is a 3rd level spell). Damage taken by a caster prior to spell execution ruins the spell. Clerical spells, most of which require touching, occurs during the clerics normal initiative turn (i.e. as determined by opponent's initiative roll).

Um...I think that's about it. So far, this seems to work. Please post any questions in the comments.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Master Weapon List

So much for simplifying.

This will be a short post. Monday's OD&D session was a train wreck. I mean, the players were awful. Doing stupid stuff. Not cooperating with each other. Getting themselves killed. The usual consequences from garbage play.

They're kids, sure. That's not enough of an excuse.

I won't elaborate except to say three out of four PCs were killed. In bad, self-inflicted ways. The fourth barely made it out. Total amount of treasure recovered from the dungeon: zero.  I stocked the place with damn near 50,000 gold pieces and half a dozen magic items. Bupkis.

I do not play easy. Mulligans are over. They can always roll up new characters.

Today we had another session. Due to a rescheduling, I was making meatloaf when the session started. I used the opportunity to explain the premise of the game: cooperation is key. Team work is vital. The only way to succeed is to work together. Splitting up is usually NOT going to lead to success.

They got the point, and today's game went much better. Everyone survived...three of the four down to single digit hit points, but they ALL made it out alive. Survived multiple encounters and even recovered some treasure (a bit less than 300 gold pieces) as well as the bodies of two of their fallen companions (from Monday's session). One of today's PC's was the son of one of the dead ones and he really wanted to raise his much so that when he couldn't afford the 5,000 gold piece price to raise the man, he offered 10,000 gold pieces and agreed to a quest spell to ensure payment.

Not bad. A lot of religious issues being raised in the campaign. And they haven't even met the White Wizard or the Zombie King. Maybe next session.

Oh, the title of this post? I spent half a day working through the Greyhawk (Supplement I) weapon adjustment material, cross-referencing it with Chainmail and AD&D (1st Ed.) and compiling a system that works with the OD&D "alternate (D20) combat system" includes both "weapon class" (from Chainmail) and references space requirements and speed factor, while also incorporating segments as presented in Eldritch Wizardry (Supplement III) and a standardized casting time system (for spells) into combat procedures. Got it typed up on a single page reference sheet and put it directly into use for today's session. Worked just fine and dandy; it's amazing how much detail one can squeeze into a system when you're not worried about ability score modifiers and armor classes outside a nine digit range.

Might have to laminate the card...I'm absurdly proud of it.
; )

Happy gaming to all, and to all a good night!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Third Level

The trial and error and enthusiasm for the D&D game continues in my household. More dead characters abound. I will relate but a single amusing anecdote:

Diego (my boy) playing two characters simultaneously wanted to return to the lizard god temple mentioned last Thursday. This was his third such foray since the TPK that kicked off the campaign; he's like a dog gnawing at a bone. This time, he was bringing two characters: a cleric ("Brother James") and a magic-user whose name escapes me but who was said to be the younger brother of another mage that had been captured (and ultimately sacrificed) in Diego's second foray to the dungeon. D said he wanted revenge against the cultists (who, just by the way, have not established themselves as evil or anything).

Entering under the guise of new worshippers (and paying an offering in gold for the privilege), the pair made it to the main shrine where they cast sleep, dropping all present into a deep slumber. They then proceeded to steal the golden idol from the altar stone and abscond with it before anyone was the wiser. Back in the city, they sold its emerald eyes to a gnome gem-cutter and its gold body to a jeweler that paid them its weight in coin. Diego then congratulated himself mightily.

"Do you feel like you've gotten sufficient revenge for your brother's death?" Um...

The kid realized he'd been so excited at his ruse/petty theft working that he'd forgotten his vendetta entirely ("I should have killed them while they were asleep!")...and indeed, has made dangerous enemies who will certainly be seeking payback of their own for the defilement of their temple. Probably with a hired assassin (time to start working on those subclass rules...).

The more I hone my play, the more I focus on my campaign setting, the more dross and detriment I find myself doing away with. You really, really don't need a "thief" class to play this game (though I can see how one might be helpful in certain instances). And critical hits? Sheesh...I've axed them from the game after a single session and mine were really easy.

[my crit rule was simple: roll a natural 20, do max damage. I did this because I felt players would dig the "excitement" that came with hitting that nat 20 and that they would want some type of reward for the lucky happenstance. In practice, *I* was the one rolling the nat 20s...and why not, when I was acting as so many more NPCs?...which just meant PCs getting cut down faster. That being said I am keeping the "natural 1 attack risks losing your weapon" rule, which I hope will...eventually...affect the NPCs more than the PCs, for the same reasons]

Mostly, I'm running the game as originally written, with very few rule additions...most of which come directly from Mr. Gygax's (stated) house rules. However, there's been one Gygaxian house rule I've studiously avoided since the get go: starting all player characters at 3rd level of experience. I know I've written about this before (most recently back in 2018) and how I find it objectionable from both a design point of view and from general principal.

I've changed my mind.

All PCs in my campaign are now starting at 3rd level. I know there are folks reading this who are going to "tap out" of this discussion as soon as they read that sentence...I'm not the only person that likes to stand on principal. But I've thought about this a lot the last couple days (especially as I've gained more experience with the OD&D system) and I want to enumerate all the reasons I've decided this to be a sensible approach:

  • Enhanced survivability: characters get an extra two hit dice. On average this means they can absorb two more blows (one more as a magic-user) than a normal beginning character, giving the player time to re-evaluate a bad tactical decision (i.e. fighting a superior foe). There's some "wiggle-room" for the player, in other words, rather than a "oh, you made a bad decision and/or just got unlucky" one-shot kill result. At least, THOSE situations are more rare when PCs start with more hit points.
  • Retained low level experience: no OD&D character gets their first "step up" in attack table or saving throw matrices before 4th level (fighting men only). Heck, no character class gets extra weapon proficiencies (their first new one would be gained at 4th level); characters are left with the same basic "skills" as they had at 1st level.
  • Emphasize player skill: with regard to handling starting equipment of a 3rd level character, I allow the players to choose whatever they want off the basic equipment list, with the caveat that they must be able to carry it on their person (in addition, they automatically receive a light horse, saddle, and saddle bags). Players still roll "starting gold" (3d6x10), but this is coin wealth, not equipment. Rather than force players to conform to random chance with regard to what gear they take, they are only limited by their own wishes/choices and encumbrance...and encumbrance is a major part of the game.
  • Bonuses received are minor but helpful: a magic-user has three or four starting spells (one of 2nd level), a cleric has two or three (all first level) and the ability to turn monsters up to wraith, and fighters can make three attacks per round when in melee with "lesser" opponents (men and monsters of 1 HD or less). This provides a little more variation/utility to how PCs approach challenges and it isn't so much as to be overwhelming to the new player.
  • More game content available: DMs working with 1st level characters...especially inexperienced players using 1st level characters...are forced to walk on eggshells with regard to scenarios, monsters, and challenges presented. Goblins, kobolds, normal men, and giant rats (all in small numbers) are about the only thing such PCs have a decent chance against...and even then, poor luck can quickly mean the death of a character or five. The higher level of the PCs opens a larger range of possible opponents to delight and astound the players. The scenario I've written for today's game includes an encounter with ice trolls (adapted from the Fiend Folio)...2 hit die monsters with minor regeneration. Those should be both fun and different for the players to confront! Also, falling into a pit is less likely to break your character's neck.
  • Starting at 3rd level does not preclude low level characters in the game: in the past, I've asked 'If all PCs start at 3rd level, why even bother writing rules for 1st and 2nd level?' There are two very good reasons for this: 1st and 2nd level characters are fantastic for NPCs (wizard apprentices and under-clerics, or up-and-coming heroes) especially the retainers for the player characters (which must start at 1st level). The other reason is that players may end up playing lower level characters: if their main PC dies and they want to take control of a valued henchman, that might well mean playing a character of lower level. And don't forget energy drain! Wights are highly appropriate encounters for 3rd level characters, and it's not too tough to imagine players being drained to a lower level than that at which they started.
  • Still retains the "joy" of paying your dues: in OD&D, it takes a player the same number of experience points to get from 3rd to 4th level as it does to get from 1st to 3rd. All you've done is halved the distance...and the slog...of getting there. And even though your character is "paying dues" by fighting low HD monsters, the emphasis becomes more about the treasure, as the x.p. yield from lower HD monsters is fractional, using the PCs' level as a denominator (i.e. those 1 hit die orcs only yield 33 x.p. instead of 100 x.p. to the 3rd level character; you need to kill three times as many for the same reward). I'm not sure you're cutting more than handful of sessions from the character's career...and if it's half a dozen sessions of dross, so much the better.
  • Adequately handles the elf (and half-elf) "issue:" I actually like the OD&D mechanics of elves multi-classing...the handling of elves in OD&D generally has given me a lot of grist for my campaign setting which I will, perhaps, discuss in a later post (hint: I'm going Moorcock, not Tolkien, with the species). Unfortunately, you have an issue of the beginning elf character: is it assumed to be 1st/1st level from the get-go (thus giving the player an extra level compared to other adventurers?) or does it simply become 1st/1st in its second game session (when the player decides to switch classes solely with the purpose of picking up a much needed extra hit die)? By starting the PCs at 3rd level, I require elves (and half-elves who have the same capability) to chose which classes gain which levels: i.e. they start as a 1st/2nd fighter/magic-user or a 2nd/1st fighter/magic-user (half-elves with a wisdom of 13+ must be a 1st/1st/1st fighter/magic-user/cleric).Players can thereafter choose to split (or neglect) their advancement as they see fit, but all issues of "training" multiple classes are handled.
The "3" is for third level.
For all these reasons, I have no qualms about allowing PCs to begin their OD&D careers at 3rd level, just as "Grandpa Gary" claims to have been running for his own game. As I wrote at the beginning, I'm sure there are folks who will object to my reasoning out-of-hand, but until play-testing shows me the error of my ways, this is what I'm going with. I'll let y'all know how it goes, but right now I feel pretty good about this decision (as ever, I reserve the right to change my mind).


Friday, April 17, 2020

Kicking Off the Campaign

Welp, yesterday's session kicked off quite well.  Using Zoom for video conferencing worked just fine, since we only needed to connect to one household: just put the laptop at the end of the table where they could see us and we could see them.

Max (age 13) and Sonia (age 10) were very excited to play. We discussed their prior experiences, explained some of the differences with the OD&D game, explained the premise of play and themes, and they're on-board with all of it. Turns out they don't have all that much experience with Dungeons & Dragons after all. Max has played five or six game sessions with a friend and his friend's Dungeon Master. Sonia has run in two or three sessions DM'd by Max. He has purchased the 5E books and has been trying to digest them, but mainly he just sits down at the table and "rolls what the DM tells me to roll."

He also has a "really old" edition of D&D that his uncle gave him: the Frank Mentzer basic set. He noted there were many similarities between that game and the booklet I'd given him. Smart lad.

Unfortunately, while the kids had read the (edited) copy of Men & Magic we left under their doormat, they hadn't made characters for the game session, which proved a minor source of frustration for my kids, who had each come prepared with multiple PCs. So we took a little time to roll up a new fighter for Max and quickly converted Sonia's existing 3rd level cleric to OD&D ("conversion" in this case simply asking her to re-roll her hit points based on the system and making sure she had the spell list for her level...oh, yeah, and taking away her short bow).

So armed, the four brave adventurers set forth into my new campaign world which I call Red Earth (for multiple reasons). The party included the aforementioned fighter and cleric, plus Diego's dwarven fighter and Sofia's elf, Count Dracula, who had decided to adventure as a magic-user this session.  Hired for a "rescue mission," the PCs were quickly TPK'd without ever setting foot inside the adventure site.

Welcome to Old School kids.

[for the curious: the person they'd been hired to rescue was believed to have been taken into a new religious cult that had recently sprung up. The cultist's stronghold was a small square tower (30' on a side, three stories tall). located in an area of scrub and trees that had been cleared for about 40 yards in all directions. The doors to the temple stood open day and night, with two acolyte "guards" stationed at the doors 24/7 to greet new worshipers...they're trying to build up their cult as fast as possible. The players decided to try to snipe the guards from a distance, but only had one archer (Max) who missed his shot...the acolytes quickly retreated into the tower and closed the door. The party then advanced on the tower and attempted to set fire to the door by pouring oil all over it. The cultists...mostly unarmored and wielding knives and cudgels...pulled open the door and sallied forth, led by the acolytes and an adept. The magic-user was felled by the first blow, Max was killed before he could load an arrow or draw a weapon, the dwarf (who had been trying to set the fire) was wounded and turned to run, and Sonia's cleric was grappled by four or five cultists while still looking for a spell that might save her. As the dwarf was wearing chain mail and armed to the teeth, the cultists quickly caught up to him, so he turned to fight...he inflicted 1 point of damage (the only hit the party got during the session) before being killed). I ruled the helpless cleric would have been taken into the temple to be sacrificed]

Despite the fiasco, the players had a good time (though Diego was annoyed...more on that later) and all wanted to keep playing, but I decided to shut down the session for the day, after about 90-100 minutes of play. Despite having more "time on the clock," as far as what we'd scheduled, I felt the new players had been given a LOT of information to process: they'd just experienced character creation, been introduced to the setting, had a taste of combat and spell-casting, and received a sampling of "old school" sensibilities. It would have taken another 30-40 minutes (probably) to get through another round of character creation, and then we would have been up against things as far as time to to cut the game short allow and give 'em thoughts to chew over.

As I wrote, my son was irritated: partly because he'd really liked his new character, "Hairy" the dwarf, but mainly because he wanted to play more. He did not like shutting down the session early and he was unhappy with the direction the game had gone (Sofia had fun but she said the dying was the part she liked least)...but after discussing what had went wrong for the party, he saw in retrospect that their frontal assault was probably not the best way to go about their mission. Compared to Max and Sonia, my kids are veteran D&D players by this point (seven sessions in Zenopus, a couple in Tomb of Horrors, and at least one in Borderlands...and, of course, they've both been trying their hands at DMing, my daughter especially). They have a lot more knowledge of the game...including its pacing and procedures...and so it's up to them (Diego especially) to step up and lead a bit more.

As for me, I had a few things to chew over myself: back when I first decided to go the OD&D route, I wrote up a number of house rules that I've been implementing ever since (I even added these into my edits of M&M). After running several sessions, I've see these are mostly useless, pointless, or ridiculous. I've found Gygax's own "house rules" for OD&D are mostly sufficient. Here's what I'm currently running:

  • All weapons do 1d6 damage except daggers (d4) and two-handed weapons (d8). Fighters add +1 to damage for Strength over 14. Lack of proficiency reduces damage die type.
  • No magic-user spells greater than 6th or cleric spells greater than 5th at this point. Added the 1st and 2nd level MU spells from Greyhawk to the spell list...that's it. Added the cleric spells from Greyhawk as well (to take the number up to six in each spell category). Spell-casters still get +1 first level spell for high prime requisites.
  • High constitution just adds +1 hit point per hit die. Fighters roll D8s, magic-users roll D4s, clerics roll D6s.
  • No weapon versus armor adjustments.
  • Only classes allowed are fighters, magic-users, and clerics. Lawful fighters with a 17 charisma can opt for paladin status (as per Greyhawk) with all restrictions. Half-elves have been added to the list of races and function as per Greyhawk (including the ability to progress as a cleric with sufficient wisdom). Thieves (and assassins) exist in the campaign, but are not yet available as player characters.

All right, that's about all I have time to write. Our next game session is scheduled for Monday at 3pm.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

New Campaign

This will be a VERY quick note, as I've got several things to do this morning...hopefully before the kids wake up.

Today we're going to be playing our first session using video conferencing. I'll be running the game for my own children and two others (another brother and sister of ages 13 and 10). These are children of my wife's coworker. 

These kids already play Dungeons & Dragons -- or rather "D" (as they call it). Based on their ages, I'm guessing they've only ever played 5E, which might prove challenging if they're expecting to find dragonborn or tieflings or some other assorted nonsense (I've heard the boy's most recent character was some sort of dark elf "rogue" -- ugh).  I've provided them with a copy of my edited Men & Magic booklet; the thing is now the equivalent of a 40 page "Player's Guide," and apparently they're very excited to play. We'll see how it goes (and how they get along with just three classes!).

[well, four classes if you count the "Paladin" option, though at least they have some demihuman types to mix in. Nope, no thieves. Those (and their subclass) will be presented in a 4th "supplement" book...along with 0E bards, rangers, and illusionists...if I ever get through the first three books. Probably]

What's more exciting (to me) is that in preparing for today's game, I actually made quite a bit of headway on designing my campaign setting. Despite "starting small" (with a home town and an adventure site), I had to suss out quite a bit of the setting, in order to find how the adventure synchs with the rule book. I am VERY pleased with the result, and am hoping to make more progress in the coming days.

I'm not interested so much in "one-off" adventures in setting-less table games anymore. I'm just kind of done with introducing new players to the game through iconic adventure modules or random dungeons. From now on, my intention is to have everything feed into my new world/setting and its history...going forward, this is going to be JB's campaign, and it's time to start etching out its history.

I'll let folks know how it goes.
; )

Saturday, April 11, 2020

In The Tomb

Happy Holy Saturday! As we all await our own "resurrection" from the caves in which we're sheltering (see what I did there? Easter humor), I figured I'd post up a few addendum notes to yesterday's post. I mean, why the hell not?

Regarding my re-typing of OD&D:

Finished doing Book III...well, as much of it as I plan on writing at this point. The thing devotes a LOT of space (about a third of its page count) to aerial and naval combat, neither of which are incredibly pertinent to my campaign at the moment. I understand the authors' original intention of including everything necessary for a "complete game," but this is more appendix kind of stuff for "special adventures" (this may be a B/X prejudice as the original Expert set put ship and waterborne combat info in a just such a chapter at the end of the book). For better or worse, I don't see my players doing a lot of aerial combat maneuvers in game.

That leaves a lot of space, however, which I will be using to fill out GM info (from later works) that I really want to include. I went through the later OD&D supplements, as well as The Strategic Review and early Dragon magazines...

[ha! in the other room my daughter is having a video "play date" with one of her kindergarten friends and she's attempting to explain the Dungeons & Dragons game we've been playing. Funny stuff.]

...and made notes of the things I want to incorporate into the text. There are some interesting world assumptions I'm finding in the text. The fact that orcs are readily available for hire as mercenaries (and for low prices) says something about their place in the world/civilization of the game...especially as other humanoids AREN'T (goblins are too feral? I suppose). But how does this easy relationship sit with rangers? Not good I suppose (which is why they prefer to live in the wilds). Still, it helps explain half-orcs when orcs are regular participants in inter-species relationships...

Then there's the whole issue of evil (i.e. "chaotic") patriarchs. The same rules for high level clerics apply to evil high priests...which means any such individual that builds a stronghold is going to attract a large force of "faithful" fanatics...not to mention the automatic "tithes" (20 g.p. per inhabitant per year!) that starts rolling in to the EHP's coffers. Apparently all gods are honored in this fantasy setting...sets up all sorts of Isle of Pan Tang ideas.

Regarding the Tomb of Horrors:

Man, that adventure is the gift that just keeps on giving. After The Keep on the Borderlands, I've got to believe it's the module I've run the most over the years (yes, more than White Plume Mountain). Last night, I ran the original OD&D tournament version of the module for the kids, though using the illustration pack from the later 1980 publication. Kids each took two of the pre-gens from the adventure: Diego used an 8th level paladin ("Rider") and a 12th level magic-user ("Winklebart"); Sofia used a 4th/6th level Elf fighter-mage ("Fiddly Fiddler") and a 10th level cleric (first call "Sheila May," later changed to "Lovine the Artist"). The kids had a lot of fun picking out all the cool spells their high level characters could carry, and spent a good amount of time selecting equipment that provided them the right mount of utility with the most efficient encumbrance.

Because we were starting rather late at night, I declared we'd go with the two hour tournament time limit (though we probably went over by a bit). The players started by exploring the "right-hand" (western) false tunnel. The collapsing ceiling killed Fiddly, necessitating the use of Lovine's raise dead spell. Fortunately, the elf made his resurrection survival roll and two weeks later they were healed up and ready to try again.

The party's second foray into the dungeon saw them exploring the "left-hand" (eastern) entrance. Despite the rumbling they heard behind them, they decided to press forward and try to open the doors. It was only after they discovered the blank wall behind the doors that they turned to find the tunnel behind sealed by a shifting wall. "What do we do now?" What do you want to do. "Well, we'll check out the fake doors, but we'll be careful for traps." I think you've already set off a trap don't you? Oh, right. Fortunately, Winkle had memorized the passwall spell so they were able to escape.

Next up was the main (central) tunnel entrance. Here they managed to fall in most every pit trap along the path, but led by their stalwart paladin (with high hit points and amazing saving throws) they managed to traverse the length, finally arriving at the corridor's end. Finding and reading the the cryptic message on the floor, Diego decided to try the misty arch while Sofia's characters remained behind to "watch for monsters." The teleportation deposited Rider and Winkle in a rather messy heap in the chamber of the four-armed ghoul who surprised the pair (apparently they were still disoriented by the mist's effects). Random die showed the ghoul going after the wizard, who quickly died. Rider fought a round with the creature before deciding to flee due to low hit points and the strategic disadvantage of facing a monster with 4 attacks per melee. Charging through the exit he kicked open the plastered door to the main tunnel, only to plunge into the pit lying on the other side (death by impalement...he still made his saving throw). Hearing the commotion the rest of the party retraced their steps, recovered Rider's body, and retreated from the tomb.

The paladin was raised (easily making his resurrection roll) and two weeks later the party was back at the Tomb. Down a man (even had they attempted to retrieve Winklebart's corpse, it had been too long since his death to revive the wizard), they party decided to exercise the utmost caution. Taking a vote, they decided to go through the devil mouth this time. Once again, the paladin was chosen to go first (it was really Sofia's idea to try the devil mouth, but then she chickened out of taking the plunge; rock-paper-scissors was executed and Rider was given the job). Tying a rope around his waist and hoisting the lantern, the paladin pushed his way into the mouth, disappearing completely into darkness. Pulling on the rope brought back...nothing. After sticking a few odds and ends into the mouth (torches, both lit and unlit) it gradually dawned on the players that the devil's mouth was a one-way trip. "So where am I?" asked Diego. In were disintegrated! Time for bed!

[there was a lot of laughter at my son's expense, even his own. "Sofia, why do you keep letting me make stupid mistakes?!" followed by the realization of his own words. Ah, D&D...I've missed you]

The children were suitably impressed that the Tomb of Horrors was exceptionally deadly and as fierce as its reputation suggested. Of course, they are also interested in going back, though they realize they're going to have to create some more characters. For my part I feel...refreshed by the experience. Maybe in my own way I'm like some sort of withered demilich that needs to bathe in the blood of young adventurers to get the creak out of my bones!

Regarding the chipa:

It turned out delicious. Here's a picture (we made more, all got eaten):

Used a combo of queso fresco and mozzarella cheese in place of the queso paraguayo. The video was good (converted everything to English units of measure) and did a half order...still made a ton of chipa. Very tasty.

Enjoy your weekend best you can.
: )

Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday

Welp, we've made it through to Triduum, somehow, someway. Kids have the next 10 days or so off school (which means no "remote learning"...thank goodness!) though my wife's work continues. As for my own work: well, I'm through Book 1 (Men & Magic) and on page 26 of 36 of Book 3 (The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures).

Oh, yeah: and I'm attempting my second batch of chipa this morning. The first recipe fell flat (literally and figuratively), but the new one holds promise; used this video after the other recipe I had was just...not...good (won't bother with a link). There's a problem with not having queso paraguayo  in this country (at least, not anywhere around my house) but the ratio of yucca flour to corn meal seems to yield the right consistency.

[also my wife, rather unfortunately, just composted all the leftover banana leaves we had from cooking tamales the other day...if I'd known, I would have saved them for baking the chipa instead of parchment paper. Ah, well...]

SO...things are going mostly well and I won't belabor readers with my non-hardships. Best wishes for you to all have good weeks (well, as good as possible under the circumstances) and hope you find ways to be with, love, and appreciate your friends and relations. That's what I'm trying to do...and it's keeping me (mostly) sane.

[all right...this chipa recipe seems to be a winner. Cheese isn't quite right, but it's not bad at all. Puffed up pretty good]

And speaking of insanity: I told the kids about the Tomb of Horrors and now they really want to "solving" it (or, at least, surviving). They were a little disappointed that it was for such high level characters, as their own PCs have pretty paltry XP totals. However, maybe we'll try running it with pre-gens...just for fun.
; )

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Page By F**ing Page

Happy Holy Week to folks. I suppose we all have reasons to send up prayers to our respective deities these days (though, don't we always?). I'm pretty bummed at the lack of Mass and such (I can't quite bring myself to stream church's just not the same as participating in the celebration), but to be perfectly honest I'm fairly numb to the state of spiritual life these days. I totally grok the defiance of some religious leaders in wanting to keep their institutions open and functioning (even though I disagree with the decision to do so)...stubbornly clinging to habits has often been a bastion against the fears, sadness, and traumas that threaten our functionality.

[as with all human traits, there are reasons for the various evolutional developments of our psychology]

ANYway...more classic (original) D&D last night. I'll recount an amusing anecdote: the PCs, in making their third excursion to a reportedly "haunted" island, were making their way to the ruined tower on the central mountain when a wandering encounter resulted in several beastmen emerging from the jungle. Surprised, they found themselves immediately engaged in melee and thus unable to use their crossbows. As the entire party was bloodied in the first round, the party magic-user decided to flee back through the jungle to their boat, figuring it was every adventurer for herself. "Dabby" the fighting-man likewise tried to flee (after seeing both the party's mercenaries slain), but since he was wearing plate armor, the beastmen were easily able to keep up, bashing him all the way.

After a round or two of this he decided to stand his ground and fight, whereupon he discovered that sometimes the best defense is a good offense (the plate stood up just fine to the beastmen's clubs and he was able to kill all three in single combat). Unfortunately for Dabby, the magic-user had given him up for dead, and by the time the warrior reached the beach, the boat was gone. Knowing it would be impossible to swim the 25 miles back to the mainland, he resigned himself to his fate as a castaway. A wandering encounter in the night with a giant poison snake ended his melancholy situation.

[I'll point out that while Diego was justifiably irritated at being left behind on the island, his sister didn't strand him maliciously: she honestly figured he was a dead duck and was just trying to save her self from the same fate. D also learned valuable lessons about speed, evasion, and encumbrance and his new character...also a fighter...decided to go with chain armor instead of plate]


Regarding the title of this post, I've decided that my new stupid gaming project is to rewrite Original D&D, and I mean that in the most literal sense of the term. I am copying the exact text, line-by-line, chart-by-chart, page-by-f'ing-page into an A5 sized word document. I may (or may not) attempt to copy the illustrations, but for the time being, I'm mainly concerned with the text.

There are several reasons behind this madness, not a single one of which involves "profit." Aside from allowing me to get a deeper dive (and, hopefully, understanding) of the rules and system, my intention is to have a working document I can edit as necessary to meet the needs of my game. I really, really like the format of the original three books...I find them far more practical than a fat volume rulebook (like, say, Swords & Wizardry). But while I own (and actually use at table) copies of the original LBBs, they are in danger of falling apart from age and I'm intensely hesitant to mark them up with changes.  Putting them in a Word doc will allow me to cut, paste, and edit as I want, order monsters, spells, etc. alphabetically, clean up text formatting I don't add rule updates from later supplements (if I desire) or cut things (that I don't).  It will allow me to print copies that I and my children can use or even (some day, if I'm lucky) distribute to other players that might sit at my table.

Anyway, it's not a huge project. Book I is only 36 (A5) pages in length, much of which is not text, and I'm more than two-thirds the way through after only a couple mornings of working on the thing. It's not a bad's helped clear up a few things, and refreshed my memory on certain procedures. And it's kept my mind thinking and percolating with regard to Dungeons & Dragons, rather than simply succumbing to ennui and depression and numbness. Which I'm sure all of us are staring down the barrel at on some level or other.

So there. My other books...well, I've been getting some good updates from my artists (apparently they're still finding time to draw), so I might be able to release a couple eBooks in the near future. I'm going to shoot for something earlier than Summer; we'll see what happens.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Notes from the Plague Lands

Still asymptomatic over here, though both my kids my kids were sick up till this week with what I'd describe as "feverish bad colds"...probably Ye Old Covid 19, given the state of things, but they're both back to their normal hyper-energetic selves. I'm doing a shot of Umcka every time I feel a sniffle coming on (in addition to the hand-washing thing) and so far life in the cell block continues"normal."

As ever, my apologies for the lack of posting. The wife has been absolutely slammed with work due to the pandemic (she works in communications and is doing messaging and advertising for the government) which means I do "everything else." Okay, not entirely true...she did cook up a pretty good tortilla espanola for our lunch yesterday...but mostly. And juggling the kids and the household has been, well, time-consuming. And exhausting (physically, mentally)...I've been going back to bed after feeding the dogs in the morning, rather than writing. This morning is a little strange in that regard.

I'm feeling a bit of energy today, a bit of spark, and not just because I'm back on the caffeine (the wife and I decided we'd give up Lent for Lent and are back on our various sauces...we're bearing enough of a cross this season). No, I think it's because I've got a new D&D bee in my bonnet, which I wanted to briefly share.

First off, allow me to say that my kids' Dungeons & Dragons education is going swimmingly. Diego finished reading the Moldvay rules a week or two ago, and while his immediate impulse was to draw up a dungeon map (which we only briefly played) the last 3-4 days he's been poring over the book in his spare time and rolling up characters. Self-educating, which to me is a normal step in the process of getting the (D&D) bug.

My daughter is on an even more exciting trajectory, however: DMing. When we've walked the dogs this last week (which we do probably two days out of every three, depending on weather) she has run us (Diego and I) through a dungeon of her own imagination. This is not unlike what I and my friends did back in the first and second grade, not having rules, but knowing there was some sort of game that we wanted to play, and narrating our own adventures the way one does with imaginary play. True, her game is a lot less violent than those of my youth (monsters are inclined to turn small and friendly when defeated, though some die "for twenty years") and she is clearly a "Monty Haul" type DM, giving out millions of dollars in treasure...but she is also taking a firm hand with the Dungeon Mastering, controlling PvP issues that come up, striking down players (usually her brother) with divine wrath for insubordination and hijinks, and generally not being "pushed around" by her players. And allowing her free rein with her creative impulses has made for a very entertaining (if extremely gonzo) style.

But last night was my turn in the driver's seat...our first sit-down D&D session in (probably) a week or more, and I wanted to try something new: OD&D. Yes, the Little Brown Books (which I do own...very dog-eared copies). Making the kids start new 1st level characters, I'm running the game By The Book with only a few exceptions:

  • spells include those given in Supplement I: Greyhawk
  • weapons use the adjustments vs. AC found in Supplement I: Greyhawk
  • while weapons do D6 damage, characters with STR >14 bump up the die type of two-handed melee weapons (to D8) and magic-users bump down dice with melee weapons
  • spell-casters with a prime requisite (INT or WIS) > 14 get one additional 1st level spell to start
  • fighters roll D8s for HD; magic-users roll D4; CON > 14 bump HD up one die type
  • characters start with max hit points at first level and can survive down to a negative number of HPs equal to their level (another Gygax house rule); however, characters at 0 hit points are badly wounded and unable to take actions until healed
  • two-handed melee weapons roll two dice for damage, using the best die roll; daggers always roll D4s for damage, regardless of adjustments; melee piercing weapons larger than a short sword bump damage up one die against large monsters

Aaaand...that's about it. We're rolling D6 to determine (group) initiative. I'm using Jason Cone's rule about monsters getting a +1 bonus to hit an armored character that doesn't wear a helmet, but since the party's fighter bought a helm, it's not an issue. I'm using the same price for a silver crossbow quarrel as a silver arrow...and that really is about it.

Oh, it's not! I'm using weapon proficiencies: fighters get four, clerics get two, magic-users get one. I haven't yet decided what the non-proficient penalty is as no one has tried to use such a weapon. Magic-users aren't limited in their weapon use (though see the damage penalty above), partly due to wanting to emulate fantasy fiction (see characters like Gandalf, Elric, Lythande, etc.) and partly because one could easily game the system using the dual class rules (Book 1, top of page 10) depending on how the rule is interpreted.

ANYway, here's how the kids reacted: they both loved it. My son was resistant at first ("but I want to play B/X! I prefer B/X!" ...ah, warms my heart...) but really enjoyed it by the end of our session. My daughter, likewise, really had a good time despite: A) missing her one attack roll, B) being taken to zero hit points almost immediately (and being unable to take actions), and C) never getting off a single spell (her character is a magic-user). However, her takeaway was as a DM: she wanted to know if she could "rewrite" her dungeon (or make a new one) based on the "new" rules. Already considering how to incorporate things (as she's done with Zenopus)...what a mind!

More on this later (perhaps)...back to the aforementioned bee: my perspective on D&D has been changing and morphing over the last several weeks due to a number of influences, very few of them "blog related." What do I mean by that? It means I've been getting less from the blog-o-sphere lately, neither from my own musings (past and present), nor those of bloggers I regularly read.

But I have been reading...and researching, and studying. I've been listening to interviews with the "old timers" that are still left to do interviews about their perspective on the hobby. I've read Gygax's own book (Role-Playing Mastery) and Rob Kuntz's book on Dave Arneson (True Genius). I've been streaming a LOT of video on (1st edition) AD&D. Reviewing people's reviews of the rules...not as they are skirted or ignored, but as they function and interrelate. At the moment, I'm not ready to discuss what's in my brain, but things are percolating.

Anyhoo...that's the news. Stay safe, folks. And find some way to game.