Thursday, March 4, 2010

OD&D+ Damage & Theory

If you've followed my blog for any time, you know that nowadays I play an OD&D game with about half of Sup-I (Greyhawk) added in, plus some streamlining and scaling house rules of my own.

Let's talk about that second part. I think a lot of the motivations behind the Greyhawk supplement were really good, but the actual executions were pretty flipped-out. (And of course much of that material became the hallmarks of AD&D, so same goes for that.)

Consider what I take from Greyhawk: I use Thieves, but maintain just 3 classes (deleting clerics). I expand ability modifiers, but in a simpler fashion than Sup-I's tables (no mod in 9-12, +/-1 per 3 points up/down). I use the new class hit dice, but without changing monster hit dice (still d6's). I use variant weapon damage, but slice out the column that distinguishes values for "Larger Opponents".

I think that's pretty obvious stuff, it's just bits and pieces of what you can find in the original books already. You might see the pattern: I like some reasonable variations (ability modifiers, class hit dice, weapon damage), but I like them to be in just a very small handful of categories (to the extent that I can remember them without any book lookups). It gives some nice "visual interest" as my artist friends say. Also: I like all this stuff to be on a single, whole-die basis -- I wouldn't allow any weapons that do d4+1 or 2d6 damage, for example; too much mental clutter even from that.

So what comes next? Looking at Sup-I, the next thing in the book is the addition of Attacks & Damage by Monster Type. Again, great idea -- the single-d6 for nearly everyone and everything in the LBBs was indeed... I'll say chalky. Pretty dry. So some variation and mechanical interest is warranted.

But holy god, look at all the complication that pops up (if you don't have OD&D, then it's just all the same attacks & damage figures you see in the AD&D MM). So many attacks, variations, "by weapon type"s, wide numerical ranges that you have to puzzle back into some kinds of actual dice to roll. I think that was, again, a bridge too far.

So what I did some time ago -- I feel that it's obvious but haven't seen it presented elsewhere -- is to go through the OD&D monster roster and just jot down some variations in attacks and damage dice. The key is that all monster damage is in units of d6. So I inserted into my table just two new single-digit numbers, one for "attacks" and one for "damage" (meaning "number of d6's to roll for damage"). I kept one eye on the general sensibilities of the Sup-I additions, but also kept everything scaled according to the LBB system (i.e., maintaining the exceptional cases of ogres doing d6+2, giants/elementals/et. al. doing 2d6, epic sea monsters doing 3 or 4d6). As DM, I never have to fiddle for different kinds of oddball dice -- I'm always reaching for my d6's, and it's just a question of how many.

Halfway between the LBBs and Sup-I mechanics seems to work very well for me. I'm following the motivation of Sup-I but not the Byzantine execution. And d6's rule for the DM!

My version of the OD&D monster reference table, with attacks & damage dice inserted: http://www.superdan.net/download/OED-Monsters.pdf

9 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Here, give this book's monster listing a look-see:

    http://www.lulu.com/content/e-book/elegia-%5bebook%5d/8282153

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  3. A good synthesis. Streamlined, balanced, simple and quick. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Good riddance to those clerics!

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  5. > I never have to fiddle for different kinds of oddball dice -- I'm always reaching for my d6's

    Ah man, oddball dice where made for D&D!

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  6. Balanced and easy to use, nice one !

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  7. This is very nice. I am tempted to use it myself, but I fear I may have become addicted to using all the polyhedrals. :)

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  8. I like the d6-based damage. So much that I'm toying with the idea of converting all B/X/LL monsters over to a single attack with Xd6 or Xd6+X damage.

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  9. Also: I like all this stuff to be on a single, whole-die basis -- I wouldn't allow any weapons that do d4+1 or 2d6 damage, for example; too much mental clutter even from that.

    I prefer a single die basis as well, though my reasoning is different. Basically, I feel that any non-magical physical attack should always have a possibility of grazing a foe for 1 point. Only a magical weapon should be able to to do a minimum of more than one point. Using direct damage mods or multiple dice defeats this.

    (How does one handle strength mods to damage, if one is so inclined, you ask? Well, incrementing the damage die to the next highest one is an approach - for example, a sword might do d10 rather than d8 in the hands of higher strength combatant. There are other approaches, as well.)

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