Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Joy of Six

One of the great joys I get from running OD&D games, as a mathematician and quasi-OCD numerologist, is getting to play the game almost entirely with just one d20 and a fistful of d6's and nothing else. (Well, that and the opportunity to come up with clever blog titles.)

In OD&D, hit dice are d6. Weapon damage is d6. Spell damage is d6. Search and hearing checks are d6. Surprise and initiative are d6. You simply don't have to keep track of any other dice types (is that a d8 or d10, or are you just happy to see me?). The d6 is of course the most widely available type of die, so it's really easy to get a big batch of them for all your hit dice rolling needs (as opposed to the big batch of d8's I had to keep together for AD&D; and don't get me started on the big fistful of everything you need in 3E).

Now, if you read my last blog post you'll notice a few exceptions to that. I use variable weapon damage in my OD&D games (from Supplement I, snip out the extra L-size damage column). I use variable PC hit die (again from Supplement I). In general, I'm happy to have reasons on the players' side to have some variety in their dice, as long as it doesn't effect me on the DM's side of the screen.

So does that mean that I'm being inconsistent when I still use d6's for all the monster damage, including humanoids using actual weapons? (This being the self-criticism that demanded this particular blog post.)

I think I can make a pretty reasonable defense of that. First, let's say that most monsters' fang/claw routine is about as damaging as a sharp spear or arrow. Well, both of those are d6 even in Supplement I, so we're fine.

Secondly, let's assume that humanoids are generally too primitive to make the highest quality arms and armor. Spears and hand axes and arrows are easily made in the field without complicated tools (in fact, that might be a primary advantages of such weapon types). But when they try to fashion more advanced armament like swords, polearms, battle axes, etc. (normally d8), the results are sufficiently crude as to lose one die size in damage (that is, d6). Under this assumption, we maintain our consistency.

But there's a little wriggle room. If you decide to arm your orcs with crude but ultra-heavy two-handed swords or lochaber axes (halberds), go ahead and give them +1 on damage rolls (equivalent to d8). If they have managed to arm themselves with better human or dwarven weapons, again give them a note for +1 damage.

On the flip side, consider the smaller OD&D monster types. In my game, halflings take a one-die reduction in damage for weapons cut down to their scale. Presumably I should really do the same for the smaller goblins and kobolds. If I did that, I'd have two die steps down (one for size, one for crudity) resulting in d4 damage by the PC rules (which, parenthetically, matches the variant damage they get in Supplement I). I think I'll just go ahead and give them -1 damage from their d6 (basically equivalent to d4), and again be able to use the d6 for everything in sight; in fact, it sort of provides a nice symmetry for the larger ogres getting d6+2. Ah.


  1. Well, that and the opportunity to come up with clever blog titles.

    Have you been reading Legend of the Flame Princess?

  2. Delta,

    I just wrote an entry on D6 damage mechanics here:

    More oriented towards PCs, of course, but I agree with your desire to "keep it simple" and use the D6 for as much as is possible.