20 March 2014

Cure This and That

If clerics can cast cure disease, why is there disease in your game world? Wouldn't all diseases eventually be eradicated? Wouldn't all those tables about diseases in the Dungeon Masters Guide be rendered useless except in areas where there are no clerics?

Assuming that there are Lawful clerics in your campaign world, why are they not constantly surrounded by ailing people seeking their healing powers? The clerics are peripatetic, you say? They take to the road to spread their faith? That wouldn't stop them from being mobbed by the sick wherever they go. That wouldn't stop the mobile sick from following them, nor would it prevent the newly cured and saved from tagging along. Imagine your small party of adventurers — a thief, a fighter and henchman, a magic-user, two hirelings, a cleric, and several hundred of the faithful in various states of health — embarking on a journey to raid the tomb of the lich duke. It will get very crowded down there, and you can forget about stealth. The conscience of a truly Lawful cleric would not permit him or her to leave a community where there are people in need of healing. So much for the adventuring cleric.

Well, the D&D cleric is more of a spiritual warrior who is needed to defeat great evil, you say. That explains the cleric's assignment, but it doesn't explain how he or she will avoid being constantly surrounded by the sick and injured unless the cleric's identity is kept secret. Could a cleric be sent on a mission in disguise? It's possible, but unlikely to work. How can a moral healer turn away a wounded friend or even a stranger in need? As soon as someone gets stuck with an arrow it will be cure light wounds here and neutralize poison there. There will be miracles all over the place, and miracles have a way of grabbing the public's attention.

What exactly is the rationale behind a class of individuals who routinely work miracles? At least in Empire of the Petal Throne it made sense: a secretive and jealous priestly caste that had few humanitarian instincts. In Dungeons & Dragons, however, it is much less clear. The cleric class is based on the Christian priesthood, more or less, apparently with elements of Bram Stoker's (or Peter Cushing's) Van Helsing. Imagine what the world would have been like if every medieval priest had been a spellcaster. Imagine what a typical fantasy world in fiction would be like if every priest were a spellcaster. It would certainly alter the balance... of everything.

This is not a rant about whether the cleric class ought to exist. It's a proposal that perhaps it ought to exist differently. For my own campaigns, I'm taking a cue from Roger the GS inspired by FrDave and replacing cleric with prophet. Prophets are not nearly as numerous. They are not necessarily members of the clergy and their talents are not necessarily as well advertised. Being very scarce, there is no institution surrounding them and no expectation of how they will react when encountered. In fact, they are usually not even identifiable as prophets unless they introduce themselves. My own prophet class will have a number of other differences, but just the change of name and what it entails has a profound impact on the game world.

Incidently, I revisited this conundrum when a new player heard me mention a "cleric" and thought I meant a secretary. That's another benefit of the name change.

11 March 2014

Healing and Constitution

Constitution, as the attribute that represents one's hardiness, ought to have an influence on the speed at which one recovers from wounds. Therefore, any bonus derived from one's constitution shall be added to one's normal daily rate of hit point recovery, which in the case of Basic/Expert D&D and Labyrinth Lord is 1d3 hit points per day of rest. Penalties for low constitution do not apply under normal circumstances. If, however, any of the wounds were caused by the undead, then the penalties are applied as follows: -1 penalty = 1 hit point per day of rest; -2 penalty = 1 hit point for every two days of rest; -3 penalty = 1 hit point for every three days of rest. The frail and sickly are especially vulnerable to attacks by the undead and correspondingly take longer to recover from an encounter with such.

10 March 2014

Healing by Level and Constitution

A common problem with healing is that it takes a disproportionately longer time for higher level characters to heal than it takes for lower level characters. This is because there is a uniform healing rate. Some propose to correct it by having characters recover a percentage of their hit points. For example, if everyone has a 20% hit point recovery rate per day of rest, then a character with 10 hit points would recover 2 hit points per day whereas a character with 40 hit points would recover 8 hit points per day. It's an excellent solution, but I think there is a simpler (and therefore better) way. [EDIT: It is not excellent, and what I propose below is not better.]

In the interest of keeping calculations minimal, I suggest that the rate of recovery ought to be 1 hit point per level per day of rest. [EDIT: Bad idea. See comments.] Characters of 0 through 1st level would recover 1 hit point per day. A 9th level character would recover 9 hit points per day. The advantage, of course, is that all one needs to know is one's level. No calculations are required. The other advantage is that one is rewarded for one's level, which is a result of experience, rather than being rewarded for one's luck at rolling hit dice. [EDIT: True, but still a bad idea.]

I also suggest that the constitution bonus should be added to one's rate of hit point recovery. (Conversely, I do not recommend that the penalty for low constitution should be applied, on the the grounds that all characters should be guaranteed a minimum recovery rate of at least 1 hit point per day under normal circumstances.) It seems reasonable to me that the attribute representing one's health and endurance should be a contributing factor to one's ability to recover from injury. Those who are healthy recover more quickly than those who are not. [EDIT: I stand by that, but I haven't playtested it yet.]

So, in summary, my house rules for healing are:

  • Hit points are recovered at the rate of 1 hit point/level/day of rest.
  • Any constitution bonus increases the rate of recovery accordingly.

08 March 2014

Return to the Keep

It's been a long time since I've read The Keep on the Gaming Lands, the gaming Web log of Mike Mearls, and although he hasn't posted anything since August 2013, I must say I miss it. I prefer his turn-of-the-millennium creations (PERP, SEIZE THEM!, HAND AXE), but I've also enjoyed what he's written on the subject of revisiting classic editions of Dungeons & Dragons such as as OD&D, Basic/Expert D&D, and AD&D, which brings me to a couple of his articles.

What You Know, Who You Know addresses the difference between acquiring knowledge in early edition D&D (sages) and later edition D&D (player character knowledge skills), and reconciles them quite nicely.

I Am Not a Storyteller is a reminder that the fun of being a DM (or GM) for him [and me as well] is not in crafting plots (railroading), but in creating possibilities for improvisation. The last paragraph reveals his preference for using OD&D and (I assume from the term "BD&D") Basic D&D.

Please update The Keep on the Gaming Lands, Mearls! Everyone else, check it out!

04 March 2014

Happy GM Appreciation Day 2014

Alas, I have nothing planned for GM Appreciation Day except research and development, but I would like to share this passage from Monsters & Treasure, the third book in the original Dungeons & Dragons game by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson back in 1974:

MINOTAURS: The Minotaur is classically a bull-headed man (and all of us who have debated rules are well acquainted with such). Assume that they are above human size and are man-eaters. Minotaurs need never check morale. They will always attack. They will pursue as long as their prey is in sight.

That puts me in the mood to play some OD&D...

01 March 2014

March Fourth Countdown

As March 4th (otherwise known as GM Appreciation Day) draws near, I would like to make a solemn vow, which is this:

I, Gordon A. Cooper, vow that any gift card (or sum of money) that is given to me in observance of GM Appreciation Day — be it for RPGNow.com, Lulu.com, Warehouse23.com, e23.com, eBay, or any other site or store that sells gaming merchandise — will be used exclusively to purchase role-playing games and/or RPG support materials that I will use in my capacity as a GM to bring enjoyment to the players at my table.

Just something to consider. ;-)