27 March 2012

20 Rules Clarifications

Despite the sandbagging by TSR, nothing could prevent the flood of house rules that emerged ever since Dungeons & Dragons became commercially available. Here are my answers to the 20 rules clarifications that tend to come up in most campaigns. (The answers may vary, but they tend to be the same whether I run Basic/Expert D&D, AD&D 1st Edition, Labyrinth Lord, or OSRIC.)

1. Ability scores generation method? Roll 4d6 (drop the lowest die) seven times and assign to attributes and starting coin as desired. Multiply starting coin by 10.

2. How are death and dying handled? Unconscious at 0 or less hit points, automatic loss of 1 hit point per round starting at -1 hit point unless healed or stabilized, death at -10 hit points. [Edit: Alternatively, I am considering the merits of various death & dismemberment tables.]

3. What about raising the dead? The usual spells exist, but knowledge of them is very rare and the cost is generally a hazardous quest in the case of raise dead or resurrection. Reincarnation can potentially be had for less than a quest, but the price is still exorbitant.

4. How are replacement PCs handled? Replacement PCs will usually be a relative or friend of the deceased. If the death happens at a low level, then a new PC can be introduced as soon as logically possible. If the rest of the party is 2nd or 3rd level, I might arrange a solo adventure or two for the new PC before he or she joins the party. If the rest of the party is 4th level or higher, I allow the player to generate a PC of the appropriate level based on the average number of experience points possessed by the other PCs.

5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else? Group. One player rolls. Initiative is rolled every round. [Edit: Unless I decide to use individual initiative rolls. It depends on the situation and my mood.]

6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? A natural 20 is a critical hit. The player chooses between maximum normal damage or double rolled damage before rolling. Sometimes I also use a random injury table. A natural 1 is a fumble, the results of which will be rolled on a random fumble table or determined by me.

7. Do I get benefits for wearing a helmet? Each piece of armor missing worsens its effective Armor Class by 1 whether it's a helmet, a greave, a gauntlet, or any other piece. Helmets also protect your head from falling rocks, falling masonry, low ceilings, and sunburn.

8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? If you miss, there is a chance you may hit any of the combatants. There is generally a 10% chance of hitting someone else per additional combatant in the melee. Designate each combatant as numbers 1 though 10. Roll 1d10. Whichever number is rolled determines the combatant that is hit. If the number rolled is higher than the number of combatants in the melee, then no one is hit. If there are more than ten combatants, only designate the ten who are nearest to the intended target.

9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? A wise player knows when to fight and when to flee (or when to bribe, or when to avoid being noticed). The campaign world is a world. Use good judgment.

10. Level draining monsters: yes or no? Yes, but the effects may vary. Most levels that are drained are restored at a rate of one level per week of rest and spiritual recuperation, if the character is not reduced to undead status first.

11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? Yes, but the effect may be delayed and possibly reversed (depending on the circumstances). Most poisons, for instance, do not kill instantly, although they may debilitate the PC very rapidly.

12. How strictly are encumbrance and resources tracked? I need to know where every item is stored. Every item listed should have its location noted, whether it's in a backpack, poach A, pouch B, a saddlebag, whatever. If everything looks plausible, that's all I need. If the PC is trying to stow everything including the kitchen sink on his person, then I will require an exact accounting of every unit of encumbrance.

13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? Levels are gained as soon as you have the required amount of experience points. Training is unnecessary — your adventures are your hands-on training. Magic-users get the capacity to cast new spells automatically, but selection is limited to those spells present in their spell books or whatever spells they can acquire through adventuring or their guild (if there is one). Clerics get new spells automatically as long as they are in good graces with their deity. All of the above can happen in the middle of an adventure.

14. What do I get experience for? Acquiring treasure, defeating foes, acquiring esoteric knowledge related to your class, rescuing those who are in distress, achieving mission goals.

15. How are traps located? Description, dice-rolling, or some combination? Traps are primarily detected by description and by any PC. Dice-rolling is permitted for thieves and dwarves (where appropriate) as a second chance to detect traps that would otherwise be missed.

16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? Retainers are neither encouraged nor discouraged. Morale is a matter for my judgment based on circumstances, but I may roll if I feel that there is a chance it could go either way.

17. How do I identify magic items? Unlike the AD&D standard of all magic items appearing to be identical, ordinary objects, magic items in my campaigns are much less common and certainly neither identical nor ordinary-looking (for the most part). Some will have inscriptions in known or unknown languages or runes, some will be ornate, some will exude magic that anyone can sense, some will seem ordinary unless detect magic reveals their true nature. It's all quite erratic. Sometimes research by PCs or sages can identify a magic item. Sometimes an identify spell is the only means short of trial and error. Generally, a magic-user will only cast an identify spell in exchange for extraordinary services.

18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? Minor potions can be purchased from apothecaries, major potions can sometimes be purchased from alchemists, and healing potions are usually available from temples, churches, and abbeys in exchange for monetary donations or services. Clerical scrolls are only made available to clerics of the same religion (possibly only of the same order) in exchange for donations or services or for a purpose specifically sanctioned by the cleric's superior. Magical scrolls are only available from a magic-user's master (if he has one), the guild (if there is one), or the antiquities back market. Other magic items must be discovered or constructed.

19. Can I create magic items? When and how? In most of my campaigns I abide by the rules of whichever game I am playing.

20. What about splitting the party? It's the players' choice.

[Originally posted here in Fudgerylog.]

[This article has been transferred from this location in Roundhouse #2.]

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