Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rules & Reflections

I went into Sunday's game with only one house-rule in mind: All characters start with maximum HP. This just makes sense to me. Life is already hard enough for a first-level character without him suffering the most likely fatal indignity of starting the game with one or two hits.

Now, once people started making characters, there was some light consternation expressed about, shall we say, the prevalent lack of differentiation between characters. And weapons. So, with the wisdom of Philotomy in mind, I offered up the possiblity of two-handed weapons and arrows rolling two dice for damage and picking the best result. After thinking about it a bit, for the next session I'll add that those using two-handed weapons will always lose initiative unless gained through surprise and that arrows, if a round is spent aiming at something other than point-blank distance, will do two dice of damage. I'm a firm believer that arrows need to be more than just a nuisance. Actually, after writing all that, I can't see why it wouldn't apply to any missle weapon...

When play began, an interesting thing happened: I started making decisions about outcomes on the fly. Now, I had promised myself that I wouldn't fudge the dice--I suffered from that affliction all through my youth, and it was now time to put childish things aside! So, I never did fudge a roll, but I started making some choices based on random dice rolling having nothing to do with anything in the rules. For instance, there were a number of times where a decision needed to be made quickly and so I just rolled a d6: low=bad, high=good. I mean, this is no earth-shattering mechanic, but the thing is, I didn't plan to do it. The die just sorta jumped into my hand and I threw it and we kept on playing. Latent gaming instincts? Desperation? Genius? You decide. I'm just happy it happened, as the French say.

I also, on at least one occasion, let Prem, whose Int happens to be 16 (maybe the highest overall score of anyone?), figure something out without making a roll. Again, not ground-breaking except... I spent four or five very active years in the indie game community and learned many, many wonderful things. One of the wonderfullest was simply this: Say yes or roll the dice. This can be paraphrased as "Only roll the dice when it really matters." Back to Prem. His score was high enough that it seemed pointless to risk him failing; the stakes just weren't important enough. I love that this clicked in my mind while we were playing because, although that maxim became second nature to me in many of the indie games I played, I've never followed it while playing Dungeons & Dragons. Ever. Until now.

See, and I'm not going to get too detailed right now 'cause this deserves its own post, I have a terrible crust built up in my mind where D&D is concerned, and that crust has only recently begun to crack.

I learned at The Forge, but ODD is my hammer.

I can't wait to see what's underneath...


  1. Glad to see you are making it YOUR game. A couple things to point out. I'm a big fan of what I've dubbed the 2in6 Rule. Many tasks in OD&D use a simple 1 or 2 on a roll of a d6 to achieve success. in other words, a 34% chance when in doubt.

    Also, in regard to missile weapons, I think many players forget that in the original rules, missile weapons are already quite formidable, having +2 to hit at short, and +1 to hit at medium range. Nothing to scoff at!

    I rule that two-handers deal +1 damage, so an average of 4.5. I'm not sure what the average of using 2d6 is; each averages 3.5 but might be better on average than +1? Not sure.

  2. Combining the best of the indie and the best of the old school movements seems like a winning strategy to me, well done! And I'd like to hear more details :)

  3. I thought you were the very model of a modern old-school gamemaster (which doesn't actually scan as well as I'd hoped it would...)

    All of the decisions you made on the fly did two important things:

    1) They gave the player concerned a chance, and

    2) They kept the game moving!

    We all had a good time and weren't bored, so that's a win in anybody's scorebook.

  4. Sham: I must say I didn't realize that about the bonus to hit for missle weapons; for good reason I'm committed to read through all the rules yet again before the next time we play. Also, it's actually fascinating (or maybe just beyond my mathematical ability) to think about what rolling two of the same dice and picking one does for your average score... Anyone know?

    Pedro: It's working well so far. And I defintely have a few posts in me on that topic alone, so check back!

    coffee: (sorry, man---in my mind you are permanently branded with that name...)Thanks! And yeah, I've had waaaay to many encounters with boredom in past games; the worst wandering monster of them all... or maybe it's a lurking monster... Again, in the indie world, they talk about the hideousness of "four hours of play for 15 minutes of fun". Eeegh. No more.

    Oh, and the scansion works if we simply amend it to: "you were the very model of a modern old-school game'aster..." We are now only one step away from THAC0: The Musical.


  5. Re: Missile Weapons

    Don't forget that if you're using Chainmail for missile weapons ranges and rates of fire, many common missile weapons also fire twice per round.

  6. Yeah, Philotomy's right. Rate of Fire.

    Do you have Chainmail? Because I do, and can give you those ROFs if you need/want them.

    And as far as being "branded" Coffee -- how can I object when I picked the moniker myself?

    Re: THACO: The Musical -- how about "modern old-school referee?" Seems to me to work even better.

  7. I think it worked really well. Rules and dice should not get in the way of good story telling; things like damage bonuses and whatnot are just ways of tilting the story one way or another. I'm generally of the opinion that extensive rules are a way of making up for a poor GM, and that you are not. :-)

  8. Aw, shucks, Teej; thanks! I'm glad you had a good time.

    Philot: AH, that solves it pretty well, actually.

    And yup, I do have Chainmail, so I'm obviously gonna have to look at that section again. And yes, "modern old-school referee" is indeed scansionally superior! Now write the rest!

  9. kesher,

    Unless I'm mistaken, rolling 1d6 twice and picking the higher roll increases the average by about 1 (4.47 vs. 3.5 for a simple 1d6).

    It's not overwhelming, but nothing to sneeze at!

  10. That's actually pretty interesting---it's almost the same as simply adding +1. Hm. My mind is mocking me right now by telling me that makes sense but not letting me in on exactly WHY...