Writing up Eero's Primordial D&D

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  • edited April 2014


    The procedure I use is that the GM offers a "deal" to the players, and once they accept, we can end the combat. The GM of course tries the get the players to accept some attrition in exchange for winning the fight, while the players might ask for easier terms if they feel that the fight favours their side. If no agreement is reached, the combat continues until it resolves in the ordinary way.
    Is this a regular thing? I would totally play a D&D that was forever about striking overt deals with the DM as a group of players. "Ok, we'll end combat with one casualty and the loss of a mule if the Goblins are intimidated and retreat."
  • Yes, it's a regular part of my procedures. However, as the GM I only accept deals when I am not interested myself in rolling out the combat. The players will offer to deal when they want a combat to end, which is almost always because it's slow and boring and a done deal.

    Generally the likeliest combats that are like this with us have involved unintelligent opposition engaged with extreme advantages, such as mantlet shields + chain mail + clubs against ordinary D&D skeletons in a narrow hallway - that's the sort of match-up that the humans will take 99 times of a hundred, so no real reason to waste time rolling dozens and dozens of dice for it.

    The other situation is when the stakes are very low and the odds very high in favour of the PCs. For example, a part of 20 mercenaries ambushing three goblins. I might offer a 1/3 that one of the mercenaries takes a hit. If the players care, they might even refuse that an micromanage to attempt to avoid even that little bit of attrition.

    Combats against intelligent opposition rarely end with a deal because of how important a factor morale is - the opponent might break any minute, so it doesn't hurt to roll another round of combat to see. I could well say that the native D&D solution to stretching combat is morale, and it is a good one; if I changed all morale-free opponents into intelligent ones that'll escape when they've lost, there would basically never be a need for cutting combat short with a deal.
  • Thank you Eero and Paul!
  • there would basically never be a need for cutting combat short with a deal.
    ...except for real life issues, of course, right? Running out of time, player boredom, a desire to focus on another aspect of play, and so forth.

    Not to dissimilar how I've seen you handle, say, social negotiation:

    "Ok, if we just want to skip the talking and get to the adventure, how about we make a Charisma roll. On a success, you learn everything the merchant knows; on a failure, you learn nothing and you're on your own. Deal?"

  • I suppose the reluctance to "skip the talking" of combat is a that the stakes appear to be higher. Although with low-level OSR going into a dungeon undermanned and with poor info is tantamount to death, so perhaps we should be more thorough with these merchants?

    Personally, I'd be excited to see combat pared down into something resembling Tunnels & Trolls where combat is about two opposing teams duking it out rather than following all individual behaviours of each combatant. Nowhere in D&D do we have so much focus on what each PC and NPC is doing moment-to-moment. We're all aware of the statistics - we don't need to draw out the suspense. I'd much rather see a competitive resolution between two parties (whose attributes are calculated by its member's tactics, equipment and stats) with individuals electing to take "heroic action" as a notable event in the hectic melee rather than just hold the rear. Your party loosing the melee generates all kinds of fall-out and immediate decisions- flee or face further casualties, etc. Taking heroic action (like challenging the Snakeman Chief to manly single combat) would also expose you to the worst of the fighting fall-out - being a hero is the quickest way to die, always.
  • That's a very cool idea. Does that exist in any published RPGs?
  • Not sure. It resembles parts of different systems I could list but I'd be much more interested in seeing how you might systemise what I've expressed.
  • I think the main problem would be making it feel consistent with the fiction: making those fights into a straight-up mechanical roll-off could be disappointing in other ways, and discounts smart strategy. I could see handling this kind of thing a little bit like Apocalypse World, however: you roll some dice and see whether you drive off the enemy (decent success), slaughter or capture them (great success), take damage (failure), or have a difficult tactical choice to make (partial result).

    On a failure, the enemy deals its damage to the group, so failing against a large group of aggressive enemies might be lethal. Straight-up success should be rare, unless the group has the situation under control and has set things up in their favour (e.g. an ambush).

    The tactical decisions, though, would be the meat of this system. You might have to choose full-unit tactics like a fighting retreat versus staying in the fight and suffering losses, losing ground (or hirelings bolting for the exit), surrendering or heavy losses. Or maybe the GM would be picking from some unfortunate options for the party, perhaps depending on who had initiative - the PCs or the monsters.

    The fun part would be, as you suggest, in individual actions. Heroic characters could attempt desperate feats in order to change the outcome of the fight. The stakes would be high: on a success, the desperate maneuver could upgrade the result of combat one category better. On a failure, that character would take heavy damage (or risk capture or whatever) and possibly land the others in deeper waters, too.

    This sounds like it could be fun. Imagine rolling well and routing a group of goblins, sending them fleeing down the corridors of the dungeon. However, we know that if they get away, they might alert the demons below, spoiling our plan. One of the heroes (perhaps a Thief) was lurking further down the tunnels, so he announces that he will attempt a desperate feat to improve this result. He leaps out into the path of the fleeing goblins, yelling and brandishing his sword. If he fails, he's overrun and probably run through by a goblin spear. But if he succeeds, he might be able to hold back the goblins or delay them long enough to upgrade the decent success into a great success: the party catches up to the goblins, surrounds them and now has the option of slaughtering or taking them captive.

    Is that the kind of thing you had in mind?
  • Sounds pretty good to me. Yes, you've caught the idea of player action being expressed through coherent tactical decisions rather than individual action (for the most part).

    The playgroup would have to be pretty hygienic about losses. If the tactical interplay concludes that the Goblins have found you under-strength and uncoordinated, and the subsequent roll indicates that several party members sustain wounds then the DM and the Players are going to need a system to negotiate who is wounded in the end. Rolling for it is fine, as is a more protracted conversation about comparable loss.

    I imagine a Party Cohesion Score (higher when the party is moving carefully in marching order, lower when members are off elsewhere, distracted or disorganised) or something will be useful when testing to see if the Goblins have ambushed the party or vice versa. I recall Paranoia had a similar "stress level" party-DC or something that would rocket up in bad situations to make life harder for the players when shit was hitting the fan and time is an issue.
  • Oh Mike, your loyal disciples are pining for you tonight. You have awakened a thirst for adventure in them...
  • Mike, my idea for dealing with "losses" would be fairly simple: everyone in the group takes damage. (With potentially very low damage as a possible result, depending on situation, enemies, and tactics: like 1d6-2, no minimum.)

    But distributing damage randomly is an option, as is letting the group decide (if they roll well enough).
  • edited April 2014
    Ran the first session of my face-to-face OSR game last night. I decided to go with Eero's rule on hitpoints - in that there are no max hp, you just reroll your hit dice every time you rest and that becomes your new current hp.

    An interesting side-effect of this that I hadn't really thought through beforehand was that, as a simplifying procedure, I didn't ask players to roll these hitpoints until there was a situation that needed them. For example, when hexcrawling they travelled for two and a half days, with rests at night, but only encountered a monster on the second night. At that point I asked them to roll both hp and initiative. (People who had just woken up rolled 2d6 HD and took the lowest as their hp - not sure if I'll keep with that. A penalty to initiative for being sleepy makes more sense to me).

    So when they rest we don't actually reroll hp - we just rub out the previous value. When they began exploring the Tower of the Stargazer no one had a hitpoint score. It was only when Able the questing nobleman's son fell down some stairs and took d6 damage that he also rolled d6 to find out how many hitpoints he had (only 2, alas).

    I thought this was interesting in relation to the conversation about hidden hp earlier in this thread. It was generally agreed above that it was a pain procedurally. But with this approach, I'm perfectly happy for them to know their hp between when they first take damage and when they next rest. But between resting and the first time hp comes up it's simple to keep it unknown. Very neat.

    This has the effect of making it so that players can't put the person who has low hp to the back as it's really not clear who they are. Whether this is a good thing or not... I quite like it, but it does give the players even less knowledge with which to make good tactical decisions.
  • Huh, I wouldn't have thought of that. The players are already walking into hidden dangers (traps, ambushes, etc.), but those are all on the world's side; having a hidden danger on the player's side (surprise low HP roll, you can get one-shotted by a kobold again) is kind of... like telling everyone that they might have one hand tied behind their back, or they might not. It's Schroedinger's debuff. I like the idea of rerolling hit dice in general but by obfuscating its impact on a character until damage is being taken, you're also removing a major ability of players to mitigate damage, by putting those least at risk on point.
  • edited April 2014
    Like I said, it didn't really happen on purpose - just a side effect of lazily evaluating things where possible. I'm keen to hear opinions on it as to whether it should continue like this. I think the other approach would be evaluate at the last minute by default, but allow the players to call for their roll sooner if they like. That way it puts the burden of deciding whether this is a situation where we care about tracking hp on the players, who are most motivated to have that info.
  • edited April 2014
    True dat. I don't know, I can make arguments for it either way. In a way, it's giving that first damage roll (whatever it might come from) a chance of doing an unexpectedly large amount of critical damage, implying a world in which falling down the stairs can snap the neck of even the hardiest of men - or putting them off their game for the entire day, to the point where the next bump or poke will do 'em in. Maybe that's a good world!

    Now I'm imagining rolling hit dice against damage dice as a saving throw vs death, every time damage is taken...
  • I'm tempted to make being able to roll your hp in advance a Perk for one of my classes. Possibly the adventurer/thief/specialist class.
  • What if when you reroll HP, it can't go down? Doesn't that solve everything?

    When we play Carcosa, we roll HP at the beginning of every encounter (including the size of the HD) and it works OK. But not when we first take damage.
  • edited April 2014
    Why even bother with HP at all?

    -Everything does 1d6 damage.
    -Level 1 Magic Users die (or Save Vs Death/Roll on Wounds table) on damage of 4 or greater, thieves/clerics on 5+ and fighters on 6+.
    -Wearing armour gives you an Armour Save before death rolls (geez, this is getting
    Warhammer pretty fast).
    -Higher levels increases the Damage Save score above 6 at some point. Powerful attacks deal 2d6 damage.


    There you go. I think I could probably run a dungeon crawl with those rules. Beermat Character Sheets for playing at pubs.
  • Some people really value the resource-management aspect of the game and HP are one more resource in the balance.
  • HP-as-resource is such a temperamental and awkward subject as it deals with the conscientious issues immediately surrounding whether someone at the table can play right now or not. There's plenty of resource management systems to keep you occupied if you like them, why not HP become more like Encumbrance, something only noted when you trigger it - like trying to lift a heavy chest, or getting stabbed in this case.
  • I think the counterpoint there is that there are some players who really enjoy monitoring Encumbrance, down to the last scrap of electrum, to make sure they're maintaining an ideal and accurate state of character. (And on the other hand, there are players who don't want to count gold, and now Resources is a saving throw.)
  • Right! I wasn't saying that's the only game I like -- your suggestion for HP, Mike, seems interesting to me. But you asked "why bother..." and I was giving you an answer that I've seen at my table. Some people really value those things.
  • There are design strategy reasons for hitpoints that have to do with what an "experience level" means, and what "romanticized heroism" means in the setting. Of course D&D is possible without hitpoints or reduced hitpoints (one HP per level for everybody is an interestingly constrained variation, for example), but that 1d6 per level is such a cornerstone that I don't wonder at all if a given GM or group wants to retain it.

    In our play the balance I've struck regarding those variable hitpoints is as suggested above by Martin: it's up to each individual player whether they want to be maintaining a hit point balance at any given time. Thus it is likely that characters floating in downtime-ish circumstances won't have a HP total, but as the degree of tactical spec increases, first the more analytical players and then the more casual ones start rolling them to have more sense of their odds for the day.

    Limiting the shift from unknown hp to known hp to the moment of first injury is an entirely possible variation. The main reason why it's been a rare phenomenon with us (it has happened, it's just that usually the players want to know a bit earlier) is probably the great prominence of a specific Fighter perk: there's one that not only changes your hit dice to d8s, but also allows you to selectively keep your old hp total when rerolling them. This means that a significant fraction of the characters tend to have an existing HP total at all times, even when they haven't been fighting for a while.
  • This is interesting to me:

    Why do people feel that rolling HP at the moment of injury is more dangerous/risky than rolling in advance?

    The only difference I can see is that, under the normal rules, low-HP characters have a chance to know in advance that they are "weak", and therefore try to avoid danger. High-HP characters can know in advance that they're more likely to survive certain dangers, and can do so consistently from adventure to adventure. But, aside from that, your odds of dying (or whatever outcome) are no different from ordinary play.

    It may seem like it's more random, but it's not, really: it's just that the two rolls (HP and damage) are happening at two different moments in time rather than simultaneously.

    I, personally, have an issue (from a design perspective) with the way HP are determined in low-level D&D; it's just too wide a range of results for the kind of gameplay we want. It makes no sense to me that a 1st-level character might have 700% more hit points than his peer, despite all else being equal. It's also uninteresting (to me, at least) to play a game where we know for a fact that Mike's PC is guaranteed to survive the first blow, no matter what (true under many versions of D&D rules), while Eero's, with only 1 hit point, is *guaranteed* to die from any blow or injury received.

    My personal variation on this has two possible states for characters:

    1. The character is unharmed, fully healed. No HP total, just hit dice.
    2. The character is wounded; a hit point total is recorded to reflect their current state, and erased when they heal.

    However, I think this works best when the range for HP is not so "swingy" or so large (as is the case for higher-level characters, for example).
  • It may seem like it's more random, but it's not, really: it's just that the two rolls (HP and damage) are happening at two different moments in time rather than simultaneously.
    It's not just that, right? Normal: the HP roll happens once. Extended: the HP roll happens repeatedly. So a PC can be Mike's superhero one day and Eero's glass-jaw the next. So when we introduce the
    The only difference I can see is that, under the normal rules, low-HP characters have a chance to know in advance that they are "weak", and therefore try to avoid danger.
    That's what I'd call conventional, sensible behavior on a player's part. It's why any 1st-level character will avoid a dragon. Mechanically speaking you're right that the randomness has not changed per se, the two dice are being rolled and compared against each other, but contextually speaking it creates a potential dragon out of the first damage every character takes coming out of downtime - one they can't see coming.
  • edited May 2014
    Why even bother with HP at all?

    -Everything does 1d6 damage.
    -Level 1 Magic Users die (or Save Vs Death/Roll on Wounds table) on damage of 4 or greater, thieves/clerics on 5+ and fighters on 6+.
    -Wearing armour gives you an Armour Save before death rolls (geez, this is getting
    Warhammer pretty fast).
    -Higher levels increases the Damage Save score above 6 at some point. Powerful attacks deal 2d6 damage.


    There you go. I think I could probably run a dungeon crawl with those rules. Beermat Character Sheets for playing at pubs.
    I've always been fond of this kind of rule for D&D-esque game design. However, you have a bit of problem when a series of lucky rolls can have your 1st-level Fighter surviving 12 blows from a frightening monster, with no reduction in future chances of death. I mean, it's not necessarily a *problem*, but it might feel a bit funny that this same dude can go take *another* arrow in the chest with only a 1-in-6 chance of snuffing it.

    I would do it like this, personally (and in D&D-esque games, I tend to adopt a rule like this for monsters instead of tracking hit points in any case):

    * Everything does 1d6 damage. (Or maybe really scary things are d6+1, d6+2... EDIT: roll extra dice and keep the best! That's a better match here.)

    When you get hit, check the amount of damage against your personal scores:

    * You die if the damage total is...
    - Magic-User: 3+level (i.e. 4+ for 1st-level)
    - Thief/Cleric: 4+level (i.e. 5+ for 1st-level)
    - Fighter: 5+level (i.e. 6+ for 1st-level)

    * You are wounded if the damage total is...
    - Unarmoured: 1+
    - Wearing armour: 2+
    - Wearing really heavy armour: 3+


    When you are wounded, decrease your "if you die" number by 1 until you have a chance to heal your wounds.

    This models current levels of deadliness in standard D&D pretty well, actually. A third-level Thief with 3d6 hit points can take two to four hits before going down. Under this system, he has a "dead" number of 7+, so the first hit is just an injury, the second kills him on a 6, and the third on a 5-6, and the fourth on a 4-6. (Cumulatively, 17% chance of dying on the second blow, 44% chance of dying with the third blow, and 72% chance of dying with the fourth blow. With D&D hit points, assuming the Thief has 10.5 hit points, that would be a 0% chance of death on the first blow, a 17% chance on the second, 62% on the third.)

    If you want to work Consitution and stuff like that into this, have it come into play in the "healing" part of the rules. Maybe you normally only heal overnight under safe conditions, but a Constitution check can "heal" one level of damage even in a short rest or under inhospitable circumstances. Then you can still have "hardy" characters, who seem to bounce back easily from an injury, versus "sickly" ones, who need extended bed-rest to do the same.
  • Veav,

    I don't know. I, for one, don't mind making Mike's superhero a little less consistently super if it means Eero's glass-jaw has a better chance of survival. (I mean, really: having one hit point makes any damage roll completely pointless... that's when you know you've overstepped the bounds of the game mechanics, I'd say.)

    On the other hand, I'll grant that, were I to run my own version of D&D, I would combine this rerolled-hit-points concept with some kind of means to make the rolls a little more consistent. (My current preferred version is like World of Dungeons: roll a handful of dice and keep the best one.)
  • edited April 2014
    Oh, sure. The superhero/glass-jaw divide is indisputably wonky - if we change the existing level-HD-HP architecture in a way that bell curves the chances of survival, that puts a different spin on things. :)

    But if we don't, extended blind HD rolls haven't helped balance the experience; they've just made it possible for any character to spontaneously become a glass-jaw, a condition that's generally terminal at low levels. It'd just make Mike and Eero both roll up new characters more often, instead of only Eero. (I guess that's balance? But it feels like chaos.)
  • edited April 2014
    Yeah, that's certainly true!

    It explains why so many D&D rules have some kind of special case for minimum hit points or for rerolling 1s and 2s...

    If we like the survivability of the "superhero" characters (and expect most surviving PCs to come from the pool of characters who rolled above average on hit points), then we should change the method of determining hit points to result in above-average results more consistently, I think.
  • What is the reason so many OSR-people have for keeping damage to always/nearly always 1d6? Coming from 3rd Ed as I am, it's requiring some adjustment in my thinking. I get that there is certain verisimilitude to it, in that a dagger can kill someone just as dead as big two-handed sword. Is it just for simplicity?

    The conundrum I have in particular is that one of my players has kitted himself out with a heavy crossbow - we were going off the LotFP equipment lists as a starting point. Now as far as I can tell in LotFP (and I was reading fast to make rulings mid-session so I may have misunderstood) there is no mechanical difference between light and heavy crossbows other than range penalties. Heavy crossbows can fire further more accurately.

    So far he hasn't fired it and hit anything, so damage hasn't come up. But it feels to me like, at least at short range, the heavy crossbow should do at least a little more than a light crossbow - maybe 1d6+1 - because it's launching bigger, heavier, thicker bolts with more force.

    So there seem to be verisimilitude reasons for varying the damage, and also game/challenge ones: A mechanically differentiated set of weaponry gives interesting choices. I'm sure my player thought that when he chose the heavy crossbow he thought he was making a trade-off between having a light weapon that wouldn't slow him down and a powerful slow thing.
  • There are differences between the crossbows in LotFP: light crossbow fires every second round and ignores 2 points of AC, heavy fires every three rounds and ignores 4 points of AC.

    For me there is no verisimilitude reasons for variable damage with bigger weapons because I refute the premise that hit points are physiological, and damage rolls mechanical (in the physics sense); that is, a character does not have X HP because they have so much flesh and blood and bones, and neither does their weapon cause Y points of damage because it weights this much or is swung with that much force. I understand that if one ascribes to one or both of those viewpoints (physiological hit points, mechanical force of a swing as determinant of damage), then it's almost mandatory to have higher damage for bigger weapons. As I don't, however, I don't have that difficulty.

    LotFP isn't hardcore about the static damage dice, by the way - different weapons do different amounts of damage in it. I know that the book is laid out quite confusingly when it comes to weapons stats, so it's not always easy to notice all the details.
    What is the reason so many OSR-people have for keeping damage to always/nearly always 1d6? Coming from 3rd Ed as I am, it's requiring some adjustment in my thinking. I get that there is certain verisimilitude to it, in that a dagger can kill someone just as dead as big two-handed sword. Is it just for simplicity?
    For me personally it's a realism/consistency thing - I didn't set out to have largely static damage dice, that just happened as a result of the various basic assumptions I made. Once your basic unit of fictional establishment in combat is "a successful attack", and your basic resource are hit points understood as a dramatic protection, it makes perfect sense for each "successful attack" to shave off the same amount of "dramatic protection".

    This thinking might be easier to understand if you imagine it this way: each character gets hit points equal to their level, and each successful attack takes off one hit point. So a 3rd level character can take three successful attacks before being taken out. It's an extremely simplified model of combat where "level" is all. Now can you see how one might desire to not have some attacks be "more successful" than others, just because they were made with weapons that are arbitrarily (and unrealistically) considered more lethal? Fact of the matter is that a successful attack is debilitating, incapacitating, when made with near any weapon, when considered at this level of abstraction.

    (A side point that is very useful to understand: justifying a conceit with realism does not work when the proposed more realistic solution is inconsistent with the general strategy of fictional parsing that the game is using. In other words, it is not realistic to be selectively realistic. D&D historically suffers from massive amounts of arbitrary realism, partly because Gygax was very vulnerable to going on unnecessary side treks that over-emphasized various fictional factors over others, all according to what happened to interest him on a given rainy day. Bigger weapon = bigger damage is an excellent example of this problem with inconsistent level of abstraction, as it's a rule that would make perfect sense in a game with blow-by-blow biomechanical force feedback one second combat round rules system, while being completely irrelevant to the level of abstraction that D&D rules apply.)

    Once you grok how this logic works in that "one hit point, one attack" scheme, imagine that instead of having one hit point vs. one point shaven off for each successful attack, we instead have an uncertainty: sometimes that successful attack takes out one hit point, sometimes it takes two, sometimes it takes half. The point of this variation is to increase uncertainty and confusion to the combat simulation; we acknowledge and appreciate that the simulation is simple, and we compensate by increasing uncertainty factor. This strategy of glossing over fictional complexity with randomness is a general approach that D&D takes, and very successfully, too: almost always when dice are being rolled in D&D, it's because we're glossing a bunch of presumably available fictional details into a highly abstracted dice roll that doesn't tell us how and why things happen exactly, but it does tell us what the outcome is.

    When you've decided that it's a good idea to have a successful attack's actual impact on hitpoints be variable, it makes sense blow up your hit points and damage points: instead of every character getting 1 hit point per level, you have each get 1d6 points, and instead of each successful attack causing 1 point of damage, they each cause 1d6 points. You'll note that this is mathematically identical to 1 hp and 1 damage per attack with a suitable fractional random element to each; it's just that multiplying these supposed fractional random distributions by a factor of 6 makes it easier for us to produce the numbers at the gaming table :D
  • As for why it's 1d6 per HD and 1d6 per attack, that's to a great degree an accident of history. Six-sided dice are easy to procure, common even before rpgs, generally the dominant dice type in war games... A d5 would work as well from the viewpoint of pure game mechanics, for example. Or d10. Of course one might wish to fine-tune some secondary game mechanics if this was messed with. And nowadays the d6 is obviously a matter of tradition, all the various strata of D&D mechanical thinking are calibrated to that d6. The big scary weapon causing d10 damage, the stalwart dwarf with his d12 hit dice, the wimpy wizard with his d4 - they're all calculated off that d6 baseline.

    I hope that helps explain how one might arrive at static damage dice constructively; it's not a matter of reducing 3rd edition D&D into simplification, but rather a matter of starting from scratch with the concept of "successful attack" and arriving at the idea of hit points and variable damage from there.

    Considering my own specific simulation model, where hit points are not assigned a primary biomechanical interpretation in the fiction, I'll note that I do feature variable damage. It's just that the variation is not tied to specific weapons, which I find an unrealistic and ill-matching conceit for the rules-system for the reasons skimmed over above. Instead, examples of reasons that might cause damage different from the d6 baseline on an attack:
    - The attack is made with generally ineffective, sub-lethal means. Unarmed attacks or being unfamiliar with a weapon and thus misusing it are examples of situations where this comes up. For example, I generally have characters cause 1d3 damage or so on unarmed attacks. This is not because a fist is lighter or less sharp than a sword, or any such crass basic physics reason; rather, its' an acknowledgement that a vast martial difference exists between these types of fighting, sufficient to be represented at the level of abstraction the game operates at. There's just no practicable one-hit kill available to a fist-fighter not trained in specific lethal techniques, which is different from the far more lethal weapon-wielding man.
    - The fighter is trained in a specific style of fighting that, among other possible effects, bestows a bigger damage die. This is a very "rule of cool" thing in that at the level of abstraction D&D operates almost any such special fighting school goes into the realm of martial arts fiction rather than martial arts fact; think of it as "ninjas are more lethal" logic more than as an attempt to simulate reality. This is sort of my answer to the weapon-based variable damage dice: instead of weapons, why not privilege specific fighting styles in particular situations they are intended for? Seems like a more interesting and flavourful thing to do.
    - A particularly successful attack causes extra damage. As we've discussed, I do degrees of success, and in combat those degrees can be used for "stunting". One of the basic stunts is to cause a bit of extra damage. I've traditionally had two degrees (attack result 10 points over AC) equal +1d6 damage for most modes of combat, but a simple +1 damage per degree of success might be more appropriate.

    Note also that having static damage dice does not mean that weapons are necessarily identical with each other. There are other ways that weapons can differ from each other, and frequently do to drastic effect. Under this "successful attack" model the issue of effectiveness between a dagger vs. a sword against a man armed with a bill-hook and leather armor is much better addressed by modifiers to the attack roll and AC than by varying the damage roll; a successful attack with the dagger might have the same consequences as that made with a sword, but nothing says that it has to be as easy to accomplish that successful attack with the both of those!

    Finally, I should say that my approach to this thing probably only makes sense if you're not hot for weapon fetishes. That is to say, if you think that the traditional D&D structuration that emphasizes weapons as fashion statements is cool, then all of the things I do probably mostly don't make sense. The variable weapon damage thing, and generally hooking game mechanics to specific weapons, makes sense if you think that weapon choice is a "character build" issue: dwarves should use axes, my ranger is cool because he fights with a sabre, this paladin has a special hammer fighting technique, this fighter has a +1 to attack with this specific sword here, and everybody chooses their weapons from a list of 30-40 options. If these types of weapon-focused conceits work for you aesthetically, then variable damage profiles for weapons go well with that, and support it. In fact, my understanding of the matter is that variable weapon damage profiles have been one of the big cornerstones that have contributed to establishing this aesthetic in the D&D fantasy world - and by extension, the world of modern gaming fantasy in general.

    For clarity, the reverse of that observation is that for me the emphasis on individual signature weapons in gaming fantasy doesn't do anything - it feels dumb and unrealistic, and it comes in the way of exploring real martial issues. (That's always a big issue for me with the fantasy conventions - I have infinite patience for varieties of dragon-people, but when the fantasy comes in the way of exploring things that are actually real, such as historical swordplay, it becomes a problem for me in D&D.) Thus it's not surprising that I like to shape the rules system in a direction that encourages pondering the "real" reasons for different arms to exist, and the real implications of that martial landscape. Instead of thinking "my character uses a hammer to make him distinctive" the thinking is rather "a sword is a widely available, flexible weapon that my character is culturally familiar with, and that he trains with the most, so that's what he uses, just like everybody else".

    I guess it would be fair to say that I find the entire conceit of a weapons list from which you choose your weapons to be moronic, and the "all weapons are mechanically identical" thing is something of a compromise solution in lieu of "use a fucking sword, that and the spear are the only things that might be reasonably expected to be available in this podunk town". The question of why there are different weapons is a somewhat different one from why there is or isn't variable weapon damage, though, so perhaps we'll leave that for another time :D
  • Oh, sure. The superhero/glass-jaw divide is indisputably wonky - if we change the existing level-HD-HP architecture in a way that bell curves the chances of survival, that puts a different spin on things. :)

    But if we don't, extended blind HD rolls haven't helped balance the experience; they've just made it possible for any character to spontaneously become a glass-jaw, a condition that's generally terminal at low levels. It'd just make Mike and Eero both roll up new characters more often, instead of only Eero. (I guess that's balance? But it feels like chaos.)
    I like that. We already have bell curves built into the ability scores.
    Maybe your starting HP is equal to your Constitution score divided by three? Or by two if we want to be generous.

  • edited April 2014
    The whole "variable damage" (different weapons dealing different amounts of "damage") is quite involved and complex. Eero touches on it nicely: in a game where armor class and "hit points" obviously don't have anything to do with physical damage (else why would an elderly thief have more hit points than a young Orc warrior?), and a single "attack" represents a full minute of combat, it's very bizarre to expect a shortsword to be meaningfully different from a broadsword in terms of "damage". After all, we don't even know how many times you hit your enemy, and whether they dodged, parried, or suffered a number of smaller blows.

    However, there are a lot of things involved. Historically, D&D originally used d6 for everything, including hit points and weapons. This makes sense: any attack can kill any target, if it hits right. A dagger through the throat is no different from a sword through the throat after all, and the whole concept of "hit points" makes it pretty clear that only the fatal strike is "real".

    You could also say that a large, heavy weapon hurts the target more when it hits, but a small, nimble weapon might be less likely to kill but also might allow its user to attack more often or land more (small) blows - over a long combat round, whether a minute or 10 seconds, this evens out.

    In some versions of old-school D&D, you had consistent d6 damage for weapons, but then also a chart of "weapons vs. armor" which gave certain weapons bonuses or penalties against certain types of armour. This has a certain logic to it: your dagger is just as likely to kill someone, but if you're fighting someone in plate mail, you're going to have to roll a lot better with your dagger than if you were using a polearm. Although clunky mechanically, from a logical perspective this approach to modeling combat is very coherent; it makes a lot of sense.

    When they brought in other types of dice, they started changing hit dice for various classes and monsters, so it was natural for weapons to follow. Introducing different die sizes makes weapon choice meaningful and gives a boost to fighters (who are more likely to use the weapons with the high damage dice). I've seen rules where only fighters with high Strength scores receive a bonus damage when using two-handed weapons, for example.

    This led to an increase in average damage dealt across the board, which led to monster hit dice being upgraded to d8s, and so on.

    Some other complaints D&D players had before variable damage had nothing to do with "realism" and everything to do with real-life decisions. For instance, if every weapon has the same chance of killing a monster, why would you buy an expensive sword when you can just get a bunch of iron spikes or a sharp stick? Variable damage brings these tendencies back into reasonable territory.

    Other ways to approach this I've seen in the OSR include:

    1. Variable damage by class. Like in Dungeon World, wizards do d4 damage, thieves d6, etc. This kind of thing makes sense and allows your wizard to pick up a sword to defend himself without throwing "game balance" out the window.

    2. Considering weapon choice a tactical trifecta: do you maximize defense, offense, or damage? I've seen different ways of handling this, but the goal is to make the three options mechanically balanced, so that one option isn't always better than the others. An example implementation might be:

    * Weapon and shield: +1 AC (from the shield)
    * Two-handed weapon: damage bonus (+1 to damage, or roll two dice and keep the best)
    * Two weapons: +1 to hit

    Here's a link to a sample discussion of variable damage (you can see a variety of opinions in the comments): OD&D Weapon Damage
  • Ultimately, the main problem I see in D&D with hit points is that they serve different functions in different situations. With characters, they seem to represent some combination of dramatic "plot immunity", experience/training, and luck. This has to be earned over time: those who survive are proven to be of "hardy" stock, rewarding the player with improved survivability (much like saving throws).

    In the case of weapons and monsters, however, hit points and damage seem to correspond quite strongly to physical size and damage. A bigger ballista does more damage than a crossbow; a larger fireball does more damage, and so on. Big creatures have more hit points, and small ones have fewer. (With a few exceptions, we won't find a giant with 4 hit points, nor a tiny rat-sized creature with 54 HP.)

    This makes it difficult to create consistent rules around what hit points are and how they actually work: no matter what you come up with, it's likely to feel off or wrong in the other context. For instance, if hit points are your ability to evade blows and be lucky, why does your little Tinkerbell fairy have more trouble avoiding the giant's slow axe-swings than the claws of a housecat? And so on.

  • edited April 2014
    What is the reason so many OSR-people have for keeping damage to always/nearly always 1d6? Coming from 3rd Ed as I am, it's requiring some adjustment in my thinking. I get that there is certain verisimilitude to it, in that a dagger can kill someone just as dead as big two-handed sword. Is it just for simplicity?

    The conundrum I have in particular is that one of my players has kitted himself out with a heavy crossbow - we were going off the LotFP equipment lists as a starting point. Now as far as I can tell in LotFP (and I was reading fast to make rulings mid-session so I may have misunderstood) there is no mechanical difference between light and heavy crossbows other than range penalties. Heavy crossbows can fire further more accurately.
    Stop right there! The elegant solution to this problem has already been uncovered in your own post - all weapons do 1d6 damage but this heavy crossbow seems like it would do more, right? So you tell your player "Ok, this crossbow does +1 damage," he marks it on his sheet and play continues. The player just does the maths and reports a higher damage rate when it occurs in combat. If the table wants to extend "+1" to all heavy crossbows, sure! I don't see the need to then immediately jump to the conclusion that you then need to consider calculating all modifiers for all weapons in all situations (or whathaveyou) for the purpose of just in case.

    Eero's history of the d6 seems on the money to me!

    It's really a pro in terms of simplicity too: All monsters have d6 damage and HD are all d8s. Some larger monsters have multiple HD and multiple attacks/round (i.e. 2 or 3d6 damage). This is great for me as a DM managing different creatures.

    I've always been fond of this kind of rule for D&D-esque game design. However, you have a bit of problem when a series of lucky rolls can have your 1st-level Fighter surviving 12 blows from a frightening monster, with no reduction in future chances of death. I mean, it's not necessarily a *problem*, but it might feel a bit funny that this same dude can go take *another* arrow in the chest with only a 1-in-6 chance of snuffing it.
    I think the superhero thing has been a little overstated here. These are still pretty glass-jawed characters: the Fighter is dead on a roll of a six (this is a single attack roll, not Roll-to-Hit followed by Roll-to-Damage). The character has snuffed it. There's a level of war-game abstraction going on in the combat here - we're not counting individual arrows shot into the Fighter (if the table cares for colour, perhaps a near-miss means some superficial injury is noted), only what his chances are in this particular pressing attack by the opposition. 1-in-6.
    If you consider I'm using Wandering Monster tables that can generate 18 homicidal Halflings all about to charge the Fighter on the front line then this idea that just because he can withstand 12 blows with a slim chance of never getting a 6, that doesn't mean I can start being superheoric as a player. It would still be dumb to pick fights. And it would be dumb not to position your fighters on the front line the above method means the fighter always knows he's tougher than the other classes - the idea of the 1HP fighter annoys me slightly, if only for the contradictory feelings it gives me as a player where I both want to play conservatively and also get into fights. Fighters - professional fighters - are tough and their stats should prove it. The "Commoner" class (with a random medieval career) should be officially risen into the ranks of OSR classes (MU, Cleric, Elf, etc) and the Fighter should require a STR score of 14 or more as a specialist class.

    Anyway, I liked your ideas! We should go off a swap some notes on some d6-y D&D mechanics. Ideally, I'd love to work out a Warhammer-inspired d6D&D, or at least make all the Stats and Saves work on 6d lines. The other dice still have a place on the table, but I feel the players need to touch d6s more than anything else. It's just me as a DM looking for the easy life.

    Speaking of which, the other simplification I want to work on is Hex Dungeons. I'm not sure why, when we enter the dungeon, we move from the wilderness hex (a lovely simplification of the minutiae of travel) to this linguistically complex describing of dungeon-space in real terms. I realise I waste more time at the table talking about the walls than anything else. So, why not a 60' hexmap? So an unencumbered character can move two hexes in 10 minutes. Suddenly Dungeon Space, Time and Movement are visualised and crystal clear. I'm not scared by D&D getting boardgamey (Talisman is an RPG, secretly), are you?

    .
  • (Talisman is an RPG, secretly)
    You should hunt down Tales of the Arabian Nights. :D

    Isn't this getting back to wargames, where it all started? Each player fields a group of units, because there are no hero units, everything can go from "perfectly healthy" to "kicked the bucket" in a single round so there's no emotional investment, only tactical decisions?
  • edited April 2014
    I'd like to think of it less as Tactical Decisions Leading to Victory but instead Tactical Decisions Leading to Story Data to be Justified Later. If that makes sense? I'm happy to give up some agency and nitty-gritty combat choices for a more fluent system of negotiating hostile dungeons as a War Party. Maybe I should go hunt down Tourchbearer too?

    I've seen friends playing Arabian Nights! Never got the chance but it looks so very complex.
  • It's not really, it just has some fiddly bits used to mimic character sheets for tabletop so it looks a little Arkham. Characters have skills, a wealth/destiny tracker, various conditions they can pick up. There's a deck of cards used to emulate rolling dice against terrain-specific encounter tables, with rare potential for unique encounters like the lamp of the djinn, etc. Most of the time it's an encounter like Possessed Hag. Then there's a "reaction matrix" that gives the player the option to: ATTACK the possessed hag, HIRE the possessed hag, ROB the possessed hag, and so on.

    But the core gameplay loop is reading an encounter blurb, checking for things - if a character has a certain skill, or a certain condition - then announcing the result (yes they had the skill, this happens/no they didn't have the skill, that happens). It's actually something my mother played with me when I was little Veav so I guarantee it's nothing a fully functioning adult can't sort out.
  • For those who have a problem with the wonkiness of first level HP, is is solved if we say that all 0-level folks have 3HP and whatever the rules give a first (and further) level character is added on? Is it more plausible that the young mage has 4 HP and the young fighter has 12?
  • For those who have trouble with low-level lethality, I would rather suggest either the vitality/hits system (you have your Con in vitality points on top of HP, but they're slow to heal and whatnot, representing physical injury), or messing with the boundary event (what happens when your HP hits zero) until satisfaction, rather than giving more hitpoints at first level. To me the latter seems like an ugly hack - if you can't handle the fact that 1st level is low, then perhaps a linear progression starting from zero (a cornerstone assumption of D&D) is not your speed to begin with. I would rather start from 3rd level than remove the 1HD, 2HD, 3HD... progression.

    For example, I personally think that 1st level fragility is fine (I actively want those low hit points, it's not just that I tolerate them), but that having characters just die at 0 is dumb, so what I do is that I mess with the boundary event: when you hit zero instead of dying you make various rolls that determine whether you're out of the fight, whether you're permanently injured, and whether you're immediately dead. The difficulty of these checks depends on the mode of assault, so e.g. fist-fighting is less likely to knock you out even if you're already at zero HP. This way I can have the best of both worlds: on the one hand I have this elegant system with fragile 1st level characters, but on the other hand they can have a little bit of extra staying power: some characters survive being brought to zero, and on occasion some even manage to fight on until they take one more hit. Makes characters ideally robust in my experience: they're like '80s action movie ensemble types, who might go down at a swipe, but might also hang on for a few exchanges on a good day.

    If I wanted characters to be less mechanically fragile, so that they simply can't be taken out by incidental friction most of the time, I well might enjoy the vitality/hp system. It's elegant, has all sorts of mechanical possibilities, and makes clean distinction between real injury and dramatic injury. Despite the differentiation, it still essentially means that all characters have an extra 10 points or so on their HP gauges, even if those last ten points are something you'd really rather not draw on if you can avoid it.

    Needless to say that I am not at all in favour of the LotFP way, which is to roll hp at 1st level normally, but then replace any below-average roll with the average of the die, rounded up - and with Fighters, it's actually replaced with the maximum result of the die, so they always start at 8 HP. Not only is this chicken-shit, it's also inelegant :D

    Also, if you have issues with the random variation of hit points, I suggest getting rid of permanent HPs. Once you reroll them for every adventure you can just treat the daily variation as normal part of the human condition: some days the ronin just wakes up with the discrete feeling that today would be a good day to die. Over the long term all 1st level characters are in the same boat, though.

    I am admittedly beyond hardcore on this matter. I entertain myself thinking up ways to make the D&D support even more meaningless lethality. I find that the constant, nihilistic existential pressure focuses minds wonderfully, and makes the occasional streak of success taste all the more sweet. I simply don't have any interest for facilitating the survival of this particular character any further than his choices, talents and luck take him.

  • Other ways to approach this I've seen in the OSR include:

    1. Variable damage by class....

    2. Considering weapon choice a tactical trifecta: do you maximize defense, offense, or damage? I've seen different ways of handling this, but the goal is to make the three options mechanically balanced, so that one option isn't always better than the others...
    I use both of these, plus a third technique, that have developed from OSR ideas or just come up in play. Our fighters get Arneson's "Chop til you Drop" ability to keep attacking when they kill, but instead of a +1 damage at various levels as he suggested along with it they get to roll bigger and bigger dice. It's nice. I also let improvised weapons or weapons used to subdue do one die smaller and unarmed attacks deal two dice smaller—so an unarmed mid-level fighter is as deadly as most folk. This feels fairly elegant.

    Then when people ask me about weapon choices I offer a different version of those three choices. Most people don't take this up to serious though. But two-handed weapons are for fighting the heavily armoured or striking without getting close, so get +1 to hit. If a character dual wields I let them switch techniques round to round, with slightly inferior results: +1 ac but not against missiles or +1 "to-hit" but not against shields.

    These rules mostly developed through people asking me a question and us coming up with something on the spot that got canonized after coming up repeatedly.

    And the third thing is that weapons are different fictionally. Obviously spears are really strong. I've just ditched initiative for the first round of combat in favour of weapon length. And players love to do other things with their equipment, after all.

    But mostly they end up using whatever magic weapons they can get their hands on by the time they are level four or five anyway rather than choosing their own.
  • (As a total aside: I'm with you on the lethality thing, Eero. In fact, I don't like the solution to "start at 3rd level", because it makes characters too durable, in my opinion. I think getting stabbed should be potentially deadly; that's part of the charm of low-level adventuring to me. I just don't like the *range* of hit points at first level in D&D as written: it's too random for my tastes, compared to the way other things work in the system. You get the 1 HP wonder alongside the guy who's got 10-12 HP - that's just too much, I think, when you know for sure you can take a blow and still live. I very much like the meaningless lethality; I don't want it go away. Your thoughts on the boundary condition are solid, though - although perhaps not lethal enough for my tastes!)

    Mike,

    Are you aware that there are OSR folks who play D&D with just d6s and a d20? For instance, in early versions of D&D all hit dice were d6s. I like this reinterpretation of it here: Rationalized Hit Dice
  • Eero,

    I have another round of questions for you. You've spoken in the past about your fondness of Tunnels&Trolls...

    * How did you decide to get into this "Primordial D&D" business? What led to this starting up? Was it sparked by an interest in the OSR, or something else (perhaps your involvement with LotFP, and/or publishing modules)?

    * Why did you decide to play D&D instead of, say, Tunnels&Trolls?

    * Did you borrow or import any aspects of Tunnels&Trolls for your own D&D game? Which ones, and why?

    If you have any thoughts on how D&D and T&T might be complementary or opposed to each other in principle or agenda, I'd love to hear about that. Are they near-cousins, or different species?
  • * How did you decide to get into this "Primordial D&D" business? What led to this starting up? Was it sparked by an interest in the OSR, or something else (perhaps your involvement with LotFP, and/or publishing modules)?
    It was around Christmas of 2007 or so, I think, when my friend Sami was visiting with us in Upper Savo. Sami, Sipi, myself and a few local teenagers were hanging out and playing games. D&D came up, and as is often the case, Sami said some ignorant stuff about it. I challenged him to play, so we broke off the boardgame night we were having and moved to a local kebab restaurant for a D&D one-shot session.

    This was the first time I'd played D&D since our Bextropolis campaign in Helsinki broke off, so it'd been a while, and a lot had happened since - I'd played a few hundred sessions of Forgean drama games, for one. The session had a surprisingly clear chemistry, and I found that unlike before, I had a rather clear theoretical understanding for what I was doing as a GM. A lot of things contributed to that - playing T&T, reading theory, playing a lot of Forge games, maturing as a human being, etc.

    You can read about the details at my blog, I documented this at the time. That "Challengeful adventure gaming" post that I like to link to people for a short overview of my D&D theory is from that time.

    After that session I grew more actively interested in returning to adventure games; I ran an on and off campaign called "Alder Gate" for local teenagers in midsts of more serious story gaming, and then in 2010 started the weekly campaign that blew the lid off the exercise in terms of quality and creative interest. Played like monkeys. In fact, still do.

    I hope that answers the question. Consciously reading up on OSR came about in consequence of my renewed interest; meeting up with Raggi and getting involved with his Grand Experiment was more of a function of my culture activism - I like to get to know people new to publishing, and see if they need any help or such. The fact that there are certain creative harmonies between my current interests and Jim's is a happy coincidence.
    * Why did you decide to play D&D instead of, say, Tunnels&Trolls?
    Accidental. I could imagine how instead of a Grand D&D campaign I could've started a Grand T&T campaign sometime in 2007-10. I've got a few notes on that in the desk drawer, although not as developed and play-honed as my D&D stuff. Had I done it, my campaign would've been set in a relatively high fantasy take on 12th century Finland. Fighting with giant magical pikes, waging war on the enroaching Goblin Land, that sort of thing.

    Difficult to remember what exactly might have tipped in favour of D&D at the time... I was running the occasional T&T one-shots for people, showing off the interesting bits of the game while demonstrating what Gamist play (and old school techniques) actually mean. I have a vague impression that it had probably to do with the specific mechanics of the respective games; I was just then figuring out my currently preferred "readings" for various cornerstone D&D mechanics (hit points, armor class, attack boni, etc.), and putting all these ideas floating around all into one campaign had appeal. In the meantime the T&T thing would've required some real work to revise & streamline - to get to where I'm at with D&D, essentially. Could well be that I chose D&D simply because my D&D was more ready than my T&T for the prime time when the social environment called for a hero to entertain the local youths with fantasy adventure gaming.

    I'm currently apparently still finding D&D inspiring, but I might move on to T&T or Warhammer at some point if I get bored with hit points and armor class. We'll see.
    * Did you borrow or import any aspects of Tunnels&Trolls for your own D&D game? Which ones, and why?
    Not directly, no. Bricolage (putting existing things together) is not really my primary style, so melding the two together never really occurred to me. Rather, my design work's usually all about first principles: given that D&D has a linear hit point scheme with too few hit points at low levels and too many at high levels (to pick an example recently discussed), what does this mean, and how can I make it work so it's not "too few" or "too many", but rather something rich and unique and desirable? That's the sort of conundrum I tend to work on when figuring out D&D stuff - make it be more of what it is, rather than make it be what I want it to be.

    Bringing in ideas from the outside just because they're cool does nothing for me. For example, when the Purple Worm Graveyard had those Apocalypse World tables for resolving certain corner cases specific to the adventure, my reaction was not "cool, I like that AW mechanic"; rather, it was "interesting, it is true that D&D has a strand of 2d6 rolls running through it in limited applications". So I reflect solutions readily against the tradition, as well as against my own mechanical aesthetics. Not much room for Tunnels & Trolls to get a foot in, in a process like that.
    If you have any thoughts on how D&D and T&T might be complementary or opposed to each other in principle or agenda, I'd love to hear about that. Are they near-cousins, or different species?
    They're the same game from my viewpoint. (That totally should not be read as anything else than my having an esoteric understanding of the concept of "game".) Or rather, they have an identical creative agenda and identical methodology, so the only thing they differ in is in mechanical solutions and some procedures. T&T is further away from the D&D core than old editions due to not honoring the technical cornerstones (HP, AC, Saves, individual combat actions, relatively static abilities, etc.), but that just makes it one more step removed rather than an entirely different game.

    It would be easy to mix the two in various ways. For example, a natural thing to do would be to implement the T&T combat system as an alternate resolution mode in D&D, one that you could swap in when the nature of the situation makes it preferable to the round-robin D&D system. One could also use the D&D xp protocols in T&T, or vice versa, with no difficulty. Really, there aren't any ideas in the two games that couldn't be fruitfully integrated in the other, given a bit of thought.
  • Excellent answers, thank you, Eero!

    Makes me wonder how many people have played old-school D&D (and possibly rediscovered it) entirely on a dare!

    Do you remember what your own expectations and/or assumptions going into that first session were?
  • Do you remember what your own expectations and/or assumptions going into that first session were?
    I was confident - I'd been musing on the matter previously, and had prior experience from my Helsinki campaign to fall back on, so it wasn't like I was playing D&D for the first time. I'd also been playing T&T occasionally over the last few years, so I knew what I wanted to accomplish that night in technical terms. I was playing with good friends and high-quality gamers, so I didn't really have any expectations or worries - we'd just see what would come of it. Also, because the session was planned and executed during the same night, I didn't really have any time to develop any doubts or expectations.

    I was pretty hot on immediate expression then - this can be seen in Zombie Cinema, it's all about elevating immediacy over such standby values as reliability or quality - so doing a D&D session without books or prep ("primitive" style, as I characterized it) was a natural move to make. In hindsight the session ("Fury of Nifur", you can find a detailed writeup in the blog) had the characteristic marks of "storygamer D&D", same as e.g. Jason Morningstar's and Ben Lehman's scenarios have - Mike's seahex stuff has some similarities, too. Not surprising, considering how similar our gaming experiences through the few preceding years had been.
  • Fighters - professional fighters - are tough and their stats should prove it. The "Commoner" class (with a random medieval career) should be officially risen into the ranks of OSR classes (MU, Cleric, Elf, etc) and the Fighter should require a STR score of 14 or more as a specialist class.
    I think this is an excellent idea. It appeals to me on many different levels, aesthetically and design-wise.

    However, I'm not sure how it would be best handled: is the idea that you rolled bad stats, so you're punished by a "bad" character class, or would the "Commoner" have some other benefits to balance the lack of fighting ability/magic ability/whatever else?

    How would the Commoner work in play? The D&D rules make this kind of thing difficult: for instance, it would be tempting to say something like, "The Commoner's advantage is that he levels up faster", but then you get this weird situation where the Commoner might end up having more hit points than a Fighter with the same amount of experience (for example) - it's not easy to balance that.

    Eero has the "Servant" class, which starts out being pretty useless, but gets to level up easily and improves his stats with each level. Any other brilliant ideas?

    Eero, did you experiment with any other non-standard D&D classes in an OSR context? (I know that in your original D&D game class was effectively a "freeform" trait, make up your own, but did you gradually gravitate to something more like standard D&D classes, or stick with that concept?)

  • edited April 2014


    Mike,

    Are you aware that there are OSR folks who play D&D with just d6s and a d20? For instance, in early versions of D&D all hit dice were d6s. I like this reinterpretation of it here: Rationalized Hit Dice
    Sure. I believe the later editions of the game are all about d20s... who knows? ;D But, yes, I'm sure there is an appeal - at least for the sake of elegance and grace. I'm conflicted of course: I just love the physicality of the dice. Any game that lets me roll a different die for each weapon or skill has my nod. I'm keen to break out Warhammer Fantasy RP First edition, mixes a central percentile system with the D&D-dice in support.

    An interesting alternative to the HP/HD conversation thus far is to change how Leveling works. What if 2nd Level is only 80xp or something and 3rd is 200, 4th 400, 5th 800, etc? If we loosen our hoarder's grip on Levels-as-Reward and let them rack up quickly (and drop again? Loose half your levels to recover a mortal wound?) perhaps we can more readily assess the nature of Low Level vs. High Level play. I simply don't have enough Data about character growth, simply because so few people have grown characters beyond 3rd level. Even OSR vets!

    However, I'm not sure how it would be best handled: is the idea that you rolled bad stats, so you're punished by a "bad" character class, or would the "Commoner" have some other benefits to balance the lack of fighting ability/magic ability/whatever else?

    How would the Commoner work in play? The D&D rules make this kind of thing difficult: for instance, it would be tempting to say something like, "The Commoner's advantage is that he levels up faster", but then you get this weird situation where the Commoner might end up having more hit points than a Fighter with the same amount of experience (for example) - it's not easy to balance that.
    So it's not that Commoners are a bad character class, but that they're the basic class. No specialist Prime Requisites that could mean they start play as any other class. You could have the highest CON or CHA in the party and still only qualify as a commoner. Commoners have access to a "Career" table plus Trade Goods. Dungeon Crawl Classics has this table for Lv.0 PCs that could probably be leveraged into D&D here. The idea with being a Commoner is that you can choose a class later or define your own specialisms perhaps..?

    Eero, would you run some T&T for us sometime? I'm super interested in variants.
  • Eero, did you experiment with any other non-standard D&D classes in an OSR context? (I know that in your original D&D game class was effectively a "freeform" trait, make up your own, but did you gradually gravitate to something more like standard D&D classes, or stick with that concept?)
    Our big campaign used a reconstructionist class-based approach with 3-4 "base" classes and a number of "prestige" classes, sort of like 3rd edition. The base classes were intentionally flexible and vague, while the prestige classes were socially and culturally specific. I don't know if you'd count that game as being "freeform" regarding classes, but to us it feels class-based.

    In LotFP we've stuck pretty close to the standard classes, excepting the addition of the "Servant", which I've felt necessary within the context of randomly rolled abilities and the entire campaign structure.

    My thinking on the matter tends to be relatively flexible - not too many classes, base the classes logically on the setting, allow characters to have realistic flexibility in their development. That doesn't mean character builds, but neither does it mean being imprisoned by their class.
    Eero, would you run some T&T for us sometime? I'm super interested in variants.
    Why not. Perhaps switch to it for a session or few at some point in the Grey Sands game.
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