Friday, July 8, 2011

Ryth Chronicle: Cover-to-Cover #1

                     Bookletized version, complete with my scribbled notes...

And so it begins--my most ambitious blogging project to date. I've recently been blown away by The Ryth Chronicle document that recently surfaced. It's an amazing source of insight into the earliest days of the hobby, and it really deserves a thorough discussion. My plan is to go through it cover-to-cover, usually covering a few pages at a time. I'll be posting images from the document that connect to the main point of the given post--the document is, of course, approaching 40 years old, and is, I believe, a scan of a photocopy, so don't expect sterling resolution. If anyone can offer insight about how to clean up the jpegs I'm snapshotting out of Reader and editing with Photogallery, I'd appreciate it!

Front Page

We'll start out with the introduction, right on the front page. This is a thing of beautiful utility--it sets up the whole framework for play in four short paragraphs, including all those things that many DMs (well, okay, me anyway) hand-wave:

  • Class-specific lodging
  • Taxes (based on your status, i.e., XP!)
  • Immediate adventuring destinations
"...murky Fenmarch, where few men travel these days."

"Overlooking the road lie the ruins of the once-proud Tar Morgard, a fortress built by the Great Kings long ago. Now the ruins hold only the dread Weir burrowed into the mountain by generations of evil beings. Minstrels sing of vast wealth and powerful treasure hidden in the dark depths of the Weir, but few dare venture there, and fewer still return."

Alright. I know exactly how to set up my Adventurer, and where to go from there. Plus there's an echo of the famous "...vast, ruined pile" quote from the LBB. Oh, and has been pointed out elsewhere, it's called a "Dragons and Dungeons Campaign". :)

Next, logically, come the houserules for this particular campaign. The most fascinating thing to me is the Combat Hit Matrix:

It's a bit hard to read, but it first adjusts AC targets by weapon used. I don't think these guys had Chainmail, nor do I think (given the details of the first character report on the next page, and the fact that the Hit Die Roll Adjustment doesn't include thieves) that they had Greyhawk. It's a fairly logical extension of the combat system, especially if you know anything at all about how weapons and armor actually work, but I'm curious where it came from .

Next is the really interesting part, the "Hit Die Roll Adjustment for Degree (Level) of Attacker". It appears they immediately de-matrixed the combat matrix into a simple hit bonus dependent on level. Sound familiar? So much for the innovations of the d20 system! (okay, that's an oversimplification, but still...) They tinkered a bit by letting everyone increase in smaller increments over levels (as opposed to the combat table which only grants bonuses every three/four/five levels), but that's a pretty common houserule even these days. I'd use this table as it stands.

Current Questions for John and Len
  1. Did you guys have the Chainmail rules?
  2. When did you start using Greyhawk?
  3. Why did you decide to make these particular changes?
If anyone else has questions, just add them to the comments.


  1. I do like the to-hit values being based on the weapon used, I'd really be tempted to play a game that way.

  2. I think the main argument against it is always that it doesn't make sense when you start looking at foes that don't wear armor, since charts like this are always built on some sort of real-life "weapon vs. armor" logic.Of course, that wouldn't stop me from just hand-waving it... :)

    On the plus side, it definitely adds some punch to weapon choice when using a d6 for pan-weapon damage, as well as some tactics to combat, e.g., the platemail-wearing Fighting Man tries to stay out the way of the flail-wielding bugbear...

  3. I'm psyched that you've started this series and look forward to future posts. FYY, John and Len sent me the missing final installment of Ryth and I'll be posting it at some point this weekend.

    I'll try to relay your questions back to them as well (though I alerted them to your blog and they may stop by before then).

  4. Awesome! I'd love to hear from them!

  5. John Van De Graaf replies to your questions at:

    (John and Len tried to reply here directly but were having Blogger issues)

  6. Thanks!

    I've replied to their reply, as it were. Some fascinating stuff!

  7. Thanks for doing this. I will be following this project closely :)

  8. My pleasure, Havard! I'd love to hear your thoughts as this project continues...

  9. Scott over at HUGE RUINED PILE came up with his own version of the combat matrix after paging through the Ryth Chronicle:

    Pretty awesome.

  10. One aspect of this that doesn't seem to be fully appreciated in some circles is the readiness to "house rule" and modify the original game. That practice was due in part - I think - to the nature of miniatures and wargames rules that were available at the time. It was a hobbyist culture, where there was little presumption that the author of a set of rules automatically knew a lot more about the subject of their game than the intended players. It was also the case that rules modifications and variants were seen as a means of adding to the rules, since such modifications could then be reported back to the author and potentially incorporated into the next edition of the game. "Playtesting" was a live-fire exercise, as it were, with an active interest in "well, let's see what happens if we change this. Hmmm!"

  11. Nice! Looks quite awesome, adventure since the first page. Sucks for a dnd fan to live far from the nest. :(

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