Monday, November 26, 2018

Alignment Distributions

What should the alignment distribution for men in the OD&D game look like? I tend to have a bias towards Anderson's original presentation of the Law vs. Chaos alignment system in Three Hearts and Three Lions;
"In any case, humans were the chief agents on earth of Law, though most of them were so only unconsciously and some, witches and warlocks and evildoers, had sold out to Chaos. A few nonhuman beings also stood for Law. Ranged against them was almost the whole Middle World, which seemed to include realms like Faeries, Trollheim, and the Giants...
This seems to nicely fit the model of a Chainmail-style wargame, in which the game is basically Men versus Monsters, as typified by the Law and Chaos alignments. However, this isn't actually how alignments are identified in Chainmail or OD&D. Specifically: Alignments for men are entirely undefined in Chainmail, and in OD&D, men appear in all 3 categories (per Vol-1 p. 9: Law, Neutrality, and Chaos).

So what happens when I need to roll a random NPC, such as a merchant, guard, or potential hireling? Previously I've been using a uniform distribution, i.e., 1-2: Lawful, 3-4: Neutral, 5-6: Chaotic. However, in my recent campaign games something has felt off about that: for example, too many Chaotic-types for them to really get away without notice. Compare to the DMG chart (p. 100) which likewise gives a near-uniform distribution: on d10, 1 pip for each of the 9 AD&D alignments, and 1 extra pip for "neutral".

So what I've recently switched to is a quasi-normal distribution, in which the majority of men are Neutral, and only the exceptional outlier has some ethical commitment, thus: 1: Lawful, 2-5: Neutral, 6: Chaotic. This seems to give a better flavor to my background campaign. Most men are merely self-interested, mercenary, and incurious; as seen, for example, in a Vancian or Leiberian work. The Lawful and Chaotic types are more rare and surprising (and the Chaotic one thus easier to hide themselves unexpected and unrecognized). Now that I look at it closely, this can even be interpreted as compatible with Anderson's view, with regards to the clause, "most of them were so [Lawful] only unconsciously"(which tends to fade in my recollection compared to the other parts).

So this "normal alignment" distribution feels about right for Men in my campaign these days.

Open question: What about other PC/NPC types? Dwarves are Lawful in Chainmail, Lawful/Neutral in OD&D. Elves are Neutral in CM, Lawful/Neutral in OD&D. Halflings are simply Lawful in both. Does this imply some different variable distribution should be used for these types? At the moment I'm using the same distribution as for Men, for simplicity and the general idea that any adventuring NPCs of these races are equally likely to be exceptional. Other thoughts?

Bonus side note on PC alignment: Many recent editions have general restrictions on PCs taking evil/chaotic alignments, for which I understand the motivation (e.g., disruptive party behavior). For some time in my OED house rules I've had the dictum, "New characters should list either Lawful or Neutral (if Chaotic, secretly inform the DM)". Without giving away the exact number, I'll say that the number of players who have taken me up on this is: very small. Especially for new/casual players, the extra step needed to document a Chaotic alignment itself seems to reduce the number, without a rule explicitly forbidding it. This is a nice counter to the AD&D-style convention that Chaotic means "independent free spirit", as opposed to our OD&D usage here, taken to mean "committed to the fiery destruction of all civilization".

Monday, November 19, 2018

OER Dungeon Maker by Arts & Adventure

Here's a cool tool -- the OER Dungeon Maker spreadsheet by Arts & Adventure Academy. This builds on several pieces of research/work we've done here on this blog, such as the revised OED Monster Level Tables, Monster Challenge Matrix, and Monster Number Appearing dungeon recommendations. Just fill in the dungeon level of interest in the highlighted first column, and it automatically populates a dungeon with monsters, traps, tricks, treasure, and more. Spectacular!

This was original posted to the OD&D Discussion forums by user rustic313; thanks so much for the work and drawing our attention to it. That section OD&D Discussions require a user login to view; also highly recommended. For your convenience, I've also linked it below. Fight on!