24 January 2022

Dungeons & Dragons My Way

If I were to revise Basic/Expert D&D or Old School Essentials for my own purposes (and that's the "edition" I favor), these are the changes I would make:

  • The players roll their own dice for attacks, skills, and damage.
  • Alignment only exists for supernatural beings. These beings embody their alignment. Some supernatural beings are non-aligned. Listed alignments for monsters and NPCs reflect tendencies to side with the forces of that alignment, but are not mandatory.
  • Experience points are awarded for experiences in the adventure, not treasure and body count. (I'd probably use a variant of the system in DCC RPG.)
  • All classes advance at the same rate.
  • The value of precious metals is akin to that of Europe's actual medieval period. All price lists must change. (Also: coin sizes and weights are based on historical coins.)
  • Combat sequence: Each side rolls 1d6. The side that rolls highest acts first. Individuals on a side act in the order of their choosing.
  • Ascending Armor Class.
  • Classes use "To Hit" bonuses. No attack matrices. (See Swords & Wizardry.)
  • Unified saving throws with possible modifiers based on class or other factors. (See Swords & Wizardry.)
  • There is no total dark vision except via magic. Some creatures can see better in low light conditions, but none can see in total darkness.
  • Revise weapons and armor lists to be historically accurate in nature and nomenclature.
  • Weapons made for smaller folk (dwarves, halflings) are reduced 1 die step. Weapons made for giant folk are raised by 1 or more die steps (ogres, giants).
  • Any class can use any weapon, although clerics might be restricted according to their religion. Player characters may choose to specialize in one weapon appropriate to their class for which they get a +1 bonus to attack and damage.
  • Revise spell advancement.
  • Revise thief skills.
  • Class hit dice as follows: d6 for magic-users, thieves; d8 for clerics; d10 for fighters.
  • No level limits.
  • No minimum attribute requirements for classes.
  • Any player character kindred can be any class, but each kindred has both advantages and disadvantages. Some classes will be more common to some kindreds than others, e.g. thieves (or scouts) are the commonest class amongst halflings, whereas fighters are the commonest amongst dwarves, and elves have a higher proportion of magic-users than any other kindred. (Yes, I use "kindred" from Tunnels & Trolls to denote different species that can be played.)

O.K., this sounds almost like a completely different game (and a heresy to some), but tailoring the game to suit a group's preferences has been how many (if not most) people have played D&D throughout much of its existence. I spent most of my AD&D years resenting its limitations, but if I am to run D&D again, this will be the way I run it — part D&D, part Swords & Wizardry, part DCC RPG, part Applied Phantasticality. That's the way I like it.

(Incidentally, I made many of these changes a few years ago when I started running Basic/Expert D&D again and it morphed into a modified Swords & Wizardry White Box, but I'm just trying to organize my thoughts for my own optimal D&D.)

23 January 2022

Table: Variable Spellcasting System

The premise: Each time a spell is cast, roll on the table below to gauge its efficacy.

Variable Spellcasting System

Roll 1d12

The spell is cast successfully...

1. If the caster makes an oath never to cast it again.
2. But the caster lapses into a state of suspended animation for 1d30 days.
3. But the caster will be unable to use magic for 24 hours.
4. But requires the promise of a favor to a higher power.
5. But the caster's current health is diminished by 50%.
6. But requires a sacrifice of material value.
7. But is forgotten and may be rememorized later.*
8. And with panache, raising the morale of allies whilst lowering that of foes.
9. And is increased in potency.
10. And is doubled in efficacy with regard to range, duration, or area of effect.
11. And is tripled in efficacy with regard to range, duration, or area of effect.
12. And is retained in memory for future casting.**

Note that this system assumes the use of a "Vancian" magic system in which spells are considered to be successfully cast unless countered or disrupted. Magic systems that require skill rolls for spellcasting may use the table above if a spell is successfully cast.

* Alternatively: But the casting time is doubled.
** Alternatively: And the casting time is halved, permitting another action.

22 January 2022

Table: Variable Wound System

The premise: Each time a successful attack is made, roll on the table below to determine how damage is determined.

Variable Wound System

Roll 1d12

1. Roll damage and deduct from target's hit points, health, or the equivalent.
2. Roll on an appropriate critical hit table and apply the result.
3. Roll on a hit location table. That area is scratched.
4. Roll on a hit location table. That area is injured.
5. Roll on a hit location table. That area is destroyed or severed.
6. Reduce target's Constitution, Stamina, or the equivalent by 10-60% (1d6).
7. Reduce target's Dexterity, Agility, or the equivalent by 10-60% (1d6).
8. Target's movement rate is halved.
9. Target is tripped and/or disarmed.
10. Target is flung backwards and must roll to remain standing.
11. Target is stunned briefly.
12. Target is knocked unconscious.

N.B.: If you lack a hit location table, try Hit Location Tables for All Occasions or the Extendable Random Hit Location Generator.

12 January 2022

DCC RPG Thought of the Day 2022-01-12

I've mentioned my dissatisfaction with the standard Luck rules in DCC RPG and how I think fleeting Luck is a vast improvement (q.v.), but I can't shake this feeling that the Luck attribute itself needs to be modified. The simplest thing to do would be to allow Luck to regenerate for all classes. For thieves and halflings (and other classes in MCC RPG), the rules would remain unchanged, but all other classes would regenerate spent Luck at the same rate as spellburned attributes: 1 point per day. The only other solution I would consider would be to eliminate Luck as an attribute. Just pluck it right out and let luck reside where it truly always has — in every roll of the dice.

02 January 2022

What Is a Campaign?

Before we answer the question, let's first consider the dictionary definitions beginning with Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition:

1 : a connected series of military operations forming a distinct phase of a war
2 : a connected series of operations designed to bring about a particular result <election ~>

The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary is in agreement:

1. Series of military operations in a definite theatre or with one objective or constituting the whole or a distinct part of the war.
2. Organized course of action, esp. in politics, as before an election.

Before we can connect the "campaign" as it is understood in role-playing games with its more formal definition, we must first look at how it entered the hobby via war games. Dungeons & Dragons, as is well known, emerged from the war game hobby in general and from the medieval miniatures war game Chainmail specifically.

The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide gives us this definition:

General term referring to one DM's adventures as a whole rather than individually. An ongoing series of games based upon a created milieu.

The D&D Basic Set (1980) defines it thusly:

A series of adventures taking place on the same fantasy world.

It ought to be clear that by any definition, a campaign is a series of activities comprising a greater whole. A single adventure does not a campaign make. Individual adventures can be likened to the chapters in a book — the campaign is the book itself.

I confess I've never been partial to "campaign" as a term to describe a series of adventures. The word is overtly military and suggests carefully planned strategy to achieve a specific objective, which I feel rarely describes the activities of player characters. I'd prefer to call it a "series of adventures" because that's what it is. Sometimes we, as human beings, are prone to classify and apply terminology to things that don't necessarily require either classification or unique (or not-so-unique) terms to be understood. I prefer clarity.

Although I'll admit "campaign" is slightly more succinct.