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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rules Tinkering and Unintended Consequences

For those of you that didn't read the lengthy report I posted late last night about Sunday's OA game, to summarize very briefly, Lee Ann's character Ami died and Ashli's character Aiko suffered a broken leg because I am using a slightly modified version of this and will be out of the game for 2d4+9 weeks. Ami died from poison, so she didn't get to roll on the table.

Here's where my rules tinkering has had an unintended consequence, under "standard" AD&D rules, as played by pretty much every group I've ever played with, death comes at -10 hp. Aiko got knocked down to -3 hp. Which would have been unconscious and bleeding, there were plenty of people there to "bind her wounds" and a Shugenja to cast Cure Light Wounds, which she had memorized and ready to go.

Instead, she is going to wind up making another character to take the place of Aiko for the three months or so that she's going to be laid up recovering, all because I decided to change a rule to make combats simpler, more survivable, more "realistic" (from my point of view) and do away with tracking negative Hit Points. 1st edition AD&D is actually MORE forgiving here, maybe EGG was on to something when he wrote the Hit Points section in the DMG. That being said, apparently every single group I have ever played with has read no further in Zero Hit Points sub section than the first paragraph, because at no point has any group I have ever played with ever used any of the penalties associated with dropping below 0 hp. Hell, I've had a long standing house rule that once your wounds were bound, or any cure spell was used on you, you automatically returned to 0 hp and started raising your total from there. This made small 1 hp doses of healing potion, 1 hp uses of a Paladin's "Lay on Hands" ability, the Cleric Orison "Cure Minor Wounds" in 3e and simply "binding wounds" very popular activities to do before any serious healing magic was used; which was another unintended side effect of a minor rules alteration.

This is where I feel kind of bad for Ashli and not for Lee Ann. Lee Ann's character died from poison in a "standard" AD&D save or die way, we were both cool with that. Her decision to stick around and duke it out with the Huge Spider wasn't perhaps the best thought out, but poor choices kill Thieves, and apparently Yakuza, that rely on luck to save them all the time. Ashli's character is getting sidelined, essentially retired, which in D&D terms might as well be dead, due to a rule I changed and she'd be more or less fine if I hadn't. Her character Aiko is especially screwed by the injury to any limb because she's a Kensei that specialized in a two-handed weapon. Any Fighter type would have been hurt by a broken limb, what would have been most playable would have been broken ribs, it wouldn't have been fun or easy, but it would have been playable.

The thing that gets me is that this is the second session in a row where unintended consequences have struck my game, and they were both based on the same desire to do away with the negative hit point tracking and having everyone act like they were a combat medic. The last time it was my wife Moan's character Misaki and she got totally hosed by a table I designed on the fly for dealing with the people who hit 0 hp, there was a tiny chance of a permanent stat loss and she not only hit that, but got the worst possible stat loss. I decided to commute that to temporary, because I hadn't had too much time to think the table through while I was creating it, and moved on with the game.

Both of these session's worth of unintended consequences were the results of good intentions, and I can't say that I intend to do any alteration of this week's result; I just feel kind of bad about it because of the fact that Aiko would be pretty much fine under standard rules. The session before had one of the intended results of increasing survivability, all of the characters that were dropped to 0 hp or below survived what would have been, almost certainly, a TPK under standard rules; just because characters would have stopped being active participants in combat to try and save other party members. TPKs three weeks in a row killed my OA game last year, so I was/am a little gun shy on this issue, which is part of the reasoning behind this rules tinkering I've been doing. A few extra spells for the Wu Jen at lower levels isn't going to dramatically impact the game anymore than a few extra spells for Clerics does in standard AD&D. I couldn't use the "Shields Shall be Splintered" rule here, because they don't use shields in feudal Japan. I still use the d30 rule.

Now, the last game session technically ended with Aiko still unconscious with her lower left leg broken. The Henchmen had returned with the spooked horses and the party had searched the room for treasure. Ami's body had been found. My wife's character Misaki had not cast any cure spells because, inconveniently at the end of combat with the Huge Spider, Mona's Aunt called and she had to take that call. It was getting late-ish by then anyway and John and Em had school in the morning. Theoretically the party doesn't have to leave, Aiko can limp along with them and there are three NPCs with the party currently that could be played by Lee Ann and/or Ashli, although I'd rather keep Buntaro to myself for now and the foreseeable future, and I can't see either Dalton or John really wanting to give up their Henchmen to the other players to use. Plus Lee Ann really seems pretty psyched about bringing in her new character Chakha.