Friday, February 26, 2016

A Game of d6's and d20's

A delightful tidbit from D&D Classics Product Historian Shannon Appelcline on the recently re-released digital version of OD&D -- regarding the very early days when the game was in development but not yet released:
At some point, someone (perhaps Dave Wesely, perhaps Gary Gygax) found a twenty-sided dice supplier in the US: Creative Publications of California. However they sold their dice in packs of five, including a d4, a d6, a d8, a d12, and a d20. Notably missing was the d10, which didn't appear until Gen Con XIII (1980). There was one problem with Creative Publications' dice: D&D only needed the d6 and the d20. TSR decided to use the full sets to avoid having to sort out the other polyhedrons when they sold them. As a result, OD&D added some rules for using the other dice — particularly in the number appearing charts for monsters. Nonetheless, they were pretty scant.

This makes so much sense: OD&D definitely has the flavor of a game that is barely a few inches away from just needing d6's and d20's. And frankly: I want that game. So incredibly elegant! (Recall: My monster hit dice and damage are still all d6's; to date players have never noticed any difference, and its so much easier to manage as the DM).


18 comments:

  1. Maybe, but I was first introduced to AD&D and d8 for monsters is in my DNA. Not saying your wrong, though. Also I love d12.

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    1. That was my era and introduction too, but making the switch in the last few years to d6's feels so much better.

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  2. I mostly like using d6's for anything I need because it has a decent, but not overlarge spread.

    That, and its the only tiny die type I have, so I don't need a whole table to roll a dozen of 'em.

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  3. The d10 always was the odd man out. That's what it gets for not being a Platonic Solid like the cool kids.

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    1. The original 20 siders were double D10s, marked 0-9 twice. We would ink the numbers two different colors and declare which one was high when rolling (i.e. add ten to the roll).

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    2. Yep! And that's the way I like it - so much so that when I decided to get new dice to replace the ones given to me in the late 1970's from a neighbor of mine I made it a point to get the same type and (I think) even manufacturer...

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  4. Delving Deeper uses only the D20 and 3d6s.

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  5. I had come to a similar conclusion after reviewing the OD&D rules, though I had no idea there was a backstory behind it - thanks for passing on this tidbit. Personally, though, I prefer all of the dice types, as it gives a much wider array of number generating tools in the kit, as it were (heck, had they existed BitD, I'd have added in the more recent d14 and d16, as well!). Personally I find having, say, a d6+1 for a hit die to be far more confusing then just making it a d8 and calling it a day.
    Curiously, I have given thought to what D&D might have been like if it had evolved more from Chainmail, and used a d12 for a to-hit die rather than going to the d20, which would be more directly compatible with the original Chainmail man to man table. The d20 and d% would then be mostly used by the DM for rolling up treasure, etc., while the d4, d6, d8, "d10", and d12 would be the more routine play dice for to hit, damage, saving rolls, etc.

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    1. For what it's worth, I don't mind the players having more detail and all the different dice in use on the table (variable damage, etc.). Nor am I bothered by variant dice for encounter-creation time stuff. But during live game sessions the only thing I deal with behind the screen are d6's and d20's.

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  6. At the last count I have about 140 d6's in my dice bag, but only three d8's. Guess which ones I'd rather be rolling for monsters (or any other purposes) when GMing!

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    1. That is a major part of my feeling, too.

      And to extend it: I have a friend who has this clever method of rolling the hit dice for monsters and just leaving the dice up as a record of their hit points (turning down the dice as they take damage; even leaving them visible to players). That worked nicely when the monsters were all 1 or 2HD, but he's running out of d8's to make it feasible at higher levels.

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    2. I do that too! It's a wonderfully intuitive way of dealing with enemy HP (when you have enough dice). Even better if you have groups of coloured dice.

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    3. It's such a great idea. And I'd never heard of it anywhere before.

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  7. It's funny how many times I start writing a D&D knockoff and find I'm only using 6s and 20s and need to make a concerted effort to get the other dice involved. So nuts.

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    1. Whenever I try writing an alternative system it either devolves into d20-only with fixed damage, or into d6-only and it becomes GURPS.

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  8. The German RPG I started with in the early 1980s used only d6 and d20. Here's a (partial) English translation of the original rules: http://www.apolitical.info/webgame/eye/ No clerics neither! :-)

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    1. Ooooh that's nice. Default pricing in silver pieces, too. Lot of stuff to like there!

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