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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

D&D Fault Lines- Where I Am

Brendan over at Untimately brought this subject up and I thought it was interesting, so here goes-

Race as Class- I am on the fence here. I can see the argument for both sides, and I have supported both sides at different times, but in the end I am too much of an AD&D guy to be all that into it I guess, despite starting with Holmes Basic or more likely probably because I started with Holmes Basic, every Dwarf and Halfling was a Fighter, although Halflings get hosed on Hit Points, and every Elf was a Fighter/Magic-User (and with a level cap of 3, if min/maxing had been invented yet, everyone would have played an Elf). I guess it really depends on the campaign and the rules set the DM is using; in my opinion whatever the DM is most comfortable with running is what you should be playing, but that's probably just because I am usually the DM.

Cleric Weapon Selection- Here's another one that I am on the fence with. On the one hand, if you open it up and give every weapon to Clerics, they're all going to worship longsword using Gods and be just Fighters with slightly fewer Hit Points and a bunch of spells, on the other hand if you keep it closed then my Cleric of Poseidon has to use a mace or hammer instead of a trident. The reasoning behind the Cleric's weapon selection is firmly medieval western European Christian thwarting the intention of a rule by following the letter of the law, all of these younger sons of nobles that had grown up in a warrior tradition, but had been sent off to the church instead of getting to be knights. They still wanted to be kick ass warriors like their brothers and cousins, so they found out how they could. My next AD&D campaign is probably going to be modeled on a western European medieval romance, so Clerics with maces would be perfect there. Otherwise, I think the most elegant solution, which I have suggested to my players and had them reject, is to just have damage done by class rather than weapon. Then any class could use any weapon and they would still only be as effective in combat as they are supposed to be, according to their level of martial training. Fighters (and their sub-classes) would be best, then Clerics, then Thieves, then Magic-Users. My thought was to have their damage die correspond to their Hit Die type, and have it move up a die type if they switched to a two handed weapon. So Magic-Users would do 1d4 with most weapons, but 1d6 with 2-handed weapons like a Staff of a Greatsword or a Pike. Maybe at some sort of initiative penalty or something for non-fighters, like they automatically go last in the round.

Demihuman Level Limits- Love them. Humans should be the most common characters in a campaign. I HATE seeing a party full of elves, 1/2 elves and Dwarves romping around my world, or even a Greyhawk campaign or a Forgotten Realms campaign; in every established AD&D or D&D world it's noted that demihumans are a serious minority, yet there they are always so damnably numerous in every single adventuring party. I admit, when I was younger I played a few Elves, I liked the multi-classing capability, but I understood this was counterbalanced by my level limits and when my beloved Elven Fighter/Magic-User maxxed out he was just done. Retire those Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Half-Orcs and Half-Elves with some dignity. Gnomes didn't have any to start with, but they need retiring too.

Alignment- I never had a problem with alignment and most of the people I met who did were just looking for an excuse for why it should be OK for their character to be a dick. You know, the guys that want to be able to torture puppies, rape kittens and backstab their fellow party members while still getting all the awesome abilities of the Paladin class. They say "Don't straight-jacket my roleplaying!"; I say "Don't be a dick". Honestly if you can't hack having a shorthand term for a world view, that encompasses some key game concepts maybe you should not be playing any form of D&D. The rules of D&D and many of the spells work using alignment, so it is kind of there whether you like it or not, and it's a huge pain in the ass to remove.

Save or Die traps (Poison too)- Yep, life's not fair. Every now and again my players remind me of how I killed half a party once with three giant centipedes in an abandoned kitchen, not the most heroic of deaths. Humans die from venomous bites all the time in real life too, and they aren't out there actively messing with stuff that is venomous usually. Making poison ever so much wussier was one of the things that I liked as a player of 3e and grew to really dislike as a DM.

Ability Score Generation- Personally I love roll 3d6 in order, but I play AD&D and 4d6 arrange as desired has been ingrained in us for a long time. Stats matter more in AD&D than they do in OD&D or B/X or BECMI/Cyclopedia so I guess it just depends on what variant you are playing and how Iron Man/Hardcore you want to go with it. I have awesome dice luck, so it doesn't really matter- the last NPC I rolled was Otomo Hikaru and these are the stats I rolled 4d6 drop the lowest- Str 17 Dex 13 Con 17 Int 15 Wis 15 Cha 16 Com 14 - Since they were high enough to meet the myriad requirements for the Samurai class as is, I didn't bother rearranging them. I tried to get my group to play some Iron Man AD&D and roll 3d6 in order and just play the character you got, nobody liked it, several people had to keep re-rolling because of the hopeless character clause. I am tempted to try 4d6 drop the lowest in order one of these days though just to see what kind of a party we'll get with stats that aren't optimized by class.

Level Drain Attacks- I have actually always hated them, but I use them anyway. Clerics can restore lost levels, sure it isn't cheap and you have a limited time frame, but it can be done. The mechanics of level drain are the biggest pain in the ass, it's like you have to remember an earlier state of the player character so you can go back to it, sometimes multiple earlier states. Get hit 4 times by a Wraith? Remember how many Hit Points your character had at max 4 levels ago? Me neither. That said, sometime in the 1990's I started house ruling that PCs got a Saving Throw vs. Death Magic to avoid the energy drain. I am a softie I guess.

OK, here's a bunch of gaming stuff I got in the mail over the last couple of days-

This Oriental Adventures book brings my total up to four in the house, thanks to an anonymous donor and a couple of EBay bargains. Things are much easier around the table now, seven players and one book was a little rough.

Prime Adventures, Uprising (a Prime Directive Adventure Module) and the five issues of Captain's Log here I got for a pretty good bargain. Then I went looking for all my older Star Fleet Battles stuff, including older issues of Captain's Log and Nexus and the SFB Tactics Manual and a bunch of other stuff only to find that they were among my "missing" items, along with my 1st edition Pendragon boxed set, both editions of Twilight 2000, a bunch of old WEG Star Wars stuff, some of which I have already replaced, some not.

The WEG Star Wars stuff I got because it was cheap fodder for my lovely wife's impending Star Wars game. I wish the module had come with cards too, that would have been a nice bonus, but you can't have everything if you want it cheap.