Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Things Adventurers Do

When thinking of uses for Body/Heart/Agility (or Mind) style derived attributes, I think of Things Adventurers Do. Here's a few that pop to mind:

Opening Doors
Feats of Strength
Core Combat Role: Resisting Damage

Sneaking around
Core Combat Role: Initiative Checks

Care and Feeding of Hirelings: Morale checks / loyalty checks
Uncovering deception
Impressing others
Core Combat Role: ???

I'd love to come up with a list of 2-3 things for each attribute that are done commonly in the dungeon or other adventuring settings.

My thought is that using my core mechanic (D6 dice pool, trying for TN 5 or better), you get one die for each relevant prime, +1 die for setting something as your "focus;" focus can be changed. Equipment might modify some of them (armor penalties, perhaps, for Agility checks?). So, a Swashbuckler (DEX & CON) would get 2d6 pools towards Opening Doors or Sneaking Around. He could move his focus to anything he wanted, so he could be super-sneaky, or put it in "Uncovering Deception" if he was scouting ahead, etc.

I'm also trying to come up with one core combat check for each of the derived attributes. Body is easy; use a Toughness Check. This makes Warriors the best at taking hits; Skalds and Swashbucklers are fairly durable, as are Swordmages & Paladins; everyone else is not so good at taking hits.

Agility is also easy; use for Initiative. This is a bit odd, with Wizards being the best at going first, but that works well enough for me, especially if many of their most potent spells will require multiple rounds to weave. Swashbucklers, Monks, Swordmages, and Beguilers are fast too. Everyone else is not so good at winning initiative.

Heart is hard. I'm having a tough time coming up with something that is used every encounter by every character. Hireling stuff only applies to a subset of characters, so a Rally check isn't really applicable. Perhaps a "Rally" check that can be used on yourself, to trigger a "second wind" or other restorative effect?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Big Time

I just discovered a link to this blog from Wikipedia:

"It has been suggested that Wayfarers is a 're-imagining' of D&D, wherein the game evolved towards a class-less, level-less approach like GORE.[8]"

It has been suggested, indeed. :)

Well, interesting to see that someone's reading this!

Command and Control

Command and Control (C2) is one of the fundamental issues for any fighting force of any size at any level of combat, whether it be tactical, operational, or strategic. A leader needs to be able to communicate the mission and/or tasks clearly to his subordinates, and they need to understand and comply with the directions.

All of these tasks are not simple. Even a well-oiled group of experts like a professional sports team or elite military unit occasionally have hiccups with C2. Less expert folks will often have C2 problems. History is replete of units that advanced when they should have withdrawn, that hunkered down in their foxholes when they needed to move forward, or that retreated without orders.

D&D has lacked a good way to model being out of C2, even though many wargames represent this. This leads to one of three approaches. Either the DM is harsh and forbids the unordered character/unit to do anything ("They just stand there"), in which case players endeavor to leave complicated instructions at all times; or the DM decides what it will do; or as in 4E, the character uses their own actions to decide what it will do.

I submit that there needs to be a way to quickly, impartially, and randomly determine unit actions when out of command. Ideally, this mechanic could be common with the Morale rules and even spells like Confusion that result in a loss of C2.

The random check needs to factor in several key variables.
- Morale of the unit (How willing is it to stand and fight?)
- Intellect/training of the unit (how advanced are its tactics?)

The first factor is pretty easy. For example, you could create a simple table for 2d6 rolls:
<2 : Routed; Unit flees, -1 on all future morale checks this encounter; possible HEART condition track damage
3-5: Wavering; unit withdraws towards safety
6-8: Uncertain.
6: Unit holds in place and defends itself (total defense)
7: Unit holds in place and attacks if already in melee, or uses missiles
8: Unit holds in place and attacks if already in melee, or uses missiles
9-11: Compliance. Unit aggressively attacks
> 12: Fanatical compliance. Unit impetuously charges nearest foe and attempts heroics

The other factor, training or intellect, is harder. You can just leave it vague, to DM discretion. A dumb unit that aggressively attacks (say, an animal) might just move after the nearest thing; a smart unit might pick out the most significant threat. A dumb unit that withdraws towards safety might just move towards its liege; a smart one might realize that safety really means getting across the bridge or heading to the rear or whatever.

Also, this chart assumes that morale is only a factor in tactical ground based combat. But, its a start.

So, a typical procedure might be:

- Character issues order. This takes up some sort of action or has a chance of ending a character's turn.
- Make a command check: Roll 1d6 (add an extra D6 to the pool if you have CHA prime and maybe another one for WIS prime). If any one die says "5" then you succeed at issuing an order to units within 4 +/- CHA MOD hexes. If the any one die says "6" you succeed at issuing an order to double that radius. If you get boxcars then you succeed at issuing orders to treble that radius.
- Check for compliance. On its turn, each commanded critter rolls 2d6+Liege's CHA Mod and checks on the table above. If In Command, they get +2 on the check and compliance means they follow the order, uncertain means they hesitate or do not fully understand. If Out of Command due to a failed command check (or range), they just roll on the table with no modifier and follow the table's general guidelines.


Sgt Bill commands two men-at-arms. He orders them to charge a nearby orc. The first man-at-arms is adjacent to Bill, and the other one is 6 hexes distant. Bill only has +1 CHA for an effective command radius of 5 hexes, so he needs to roll a 5 on his command check to order around the first man-at-arms and a 6 to order the second one. Bill rolls a command check and gets a 5.

On the first man-at-arm's turn, he rolls 2d6+1 (Bill's CHA mod)+2 (in command). Getting a 10, he complies with Bill's order and charges. The second man-at-arms is out of command thus goes on autopilot. He rolls 2d6 and gets a 7. This man-at-arms might hurl a spear if he has one but otherwise stands fast and is uncertain.

Or, if you want to cut some dice rolling out of it, you could just say that units which are In Command (i.e., have confirmed receipt of specific orders and are under direct supervision of a leader) don't even roll 2d6 to see if they comply. They just do, unless they're forced to check morale for some other reason. I like this as its less dice rolling.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Swashbucklers, Wizards, and Monks - Ability Scores, Armor, and Class

I've been thinking lately about armor, ability scores, class, and how they should all interact. The deft martial arts artist ("monk") or nimble rogue ("swashbuckler") are strong enough archetypes, I think.

All of my DEX-based archetypes should be in light or no armor. Also, I am not sure if I want light or no armor to be a viable choice for STR or CHA types. I am leaning towards "yes," because otherwise you create a Choice to Suck. Say someone envisions their Barbarian (a STR & CON type) as wearing just leather hides rather than plate mail. Or, a Priest (CHA & WIS) doesn't have sufficient STR to carry Chain Mail. Should they be strictly worse than a counterpart in superior armor?

In previous editions of D&D, heavier armor tends to be strictly better. The only limitation of plate mail in OD&D or S&W is pretty much cost (negligible for PCs) and slower movement speed. I think most players trade higher AC for slower move every time. Even in AD&D, where leather can give better chances to surprise foes, its rarely chosen over Chain or Plate, except for a set of pajamas to sleep in. Even in 3.5, the goal is to achieve the highest AC; that's usually reserved for high-dex types in mithral breastplates, but for low-dex types, you're looking at full plate.

It may be realistic for chain to provide vastly superior protection to leather but I don't think that makes for good game choices. A continuous static benefit that comes up nearly every round of combat (i.e., an AC bonus) is going to be worth a lot to most players, so making light armor worthwhile is tough.

I see two potential implementations.

The 4E route is to give all classes pretty much the same ACs. 4E lets you either use (A) heavy armor + masterwork or (B) light armor + DEX + masterwork. Heavy Armor masterwork scales up by 3 per tier. Light armor DEX + masterwork scales up by 3 per tier. So, basically, the only factor is are you in shitty heavy armor (Chainmail) or good heavy armor (plate)? There's about a 10-20% spread in defenses, which keeps things pretty comparable.


Another route is to differentiate the different armors so that they are all pretty much equal. You could do this with "Basic," "Simple," and "Advanced" armors set up in a tree; Advanced Armors are strictly better than Basic ones, and but within each class, they're all mechanically equal.

This set up might look like this:

Light - Cloth Gambeson
Medium - Brigandine
Heavy - Scale

Light - Leather
Medium - Ring Mail
Heavy - Half Plate

Light - Studded Leather
Medium - Chain
Heavy - Plate

One problem with this system is that I think its hard to come up with another three Advanced Armors, which is the entire point of having the tree in the first place. Don't present a choice to the player if its not interesting.

Another problem is Treasure. With this system, someone who is proficient in Advanced Armor is a fool to wear Ring Mail instead of Chain Mail. So, if the DM includes Ring Mail as a special treasure, that player will not be interested. That makes it hard to hand out random treasure and keep it interesting; characters will tend to be so specialized that they can only viably use a handful of different types of equipment. In contrast, if the DM can include "Medium Armor" as a treasure (whether that be chain or ring or brigadine), several players may be interested, which keeps things interesting.

So, I think its best to just go back to one tier of armor split into three types; what those types are exactly might be are based on the time period of the campaign. A DM can include inferior, obsolete armor (with a 5% penalty in effectiveness) as loot if he wants it to be ignored or used for hirelings, or a rare piece of superior advanced armor (that gives perhaps a 5% bonus).

NONE - Cloaks/Robes
LIGHT - Gambeson, Leather
MEDIUM - Brigandine, Ring, Chain
HEAVY - Scale, Plate

So, if the DM's campaign is set in the late medieval milleu, then most heavy armor will be plate mail. Scale Mail, being obsolete and strictly inferior, really shouldn't be a viable choice; if a player specifically asks about it, he could be allowed to obtain some at a good price but it will be inferior to the standard of the day, Plate.

A campaign set in Roman times, however, might have Lorica Plumata. Late medieval armors were probably superior to Roman armor. But, in game terms, they're equal. What matters is how effective the armor is relative to the milleu.

Access to Armor

STR-based types should have a predisposition towards using heavy armor, like plate mail. That fits the archetypes for Fighters, Paladins, and even maybe Swordmages. My ENC rules handle this quite nicely; you'll need to have at least above average STR to even consider wearing plate mail without penalty. Likely only folks with 16+ STR will be in plate mail without penalty.

CON based folks wear more armor than INT or WIS types as well; I see a Swashbuckler in light (maybe even medium) armor, whereas a Wizard and Monk will be in No Armor. A Skald is likely to be in medium armor, whereas a beguiler is probably in Light armor. Alternatively, you could say that INT based folks wear less armor, as do DEX based folks. INT & DEX based folks (i.e. Wizards) really don't like armor!

So, you could give a unique bonus to high-dex and int types if they stay in light armors. I don't think I want to go with a straight AC bonus from DEX, though, like 3.5 does; that means folks with 18 DEX are strictly better in a very significant way than those with 13 DEX.

For example, I could see Monks benefiting from mystic tattoos only so long as they are in no armor; Swashbucklers might lose mobility advantages in plate mail; wizards might have less potent spells in armor. Slapping a penalty on ("you lose X if you choose Y option") makes it very obvious that you shouldn't do something, as opposed to the absence of a bonus. And I like making choices easy for players.

Effectiveness of Armor

Leather should only suck more than Chain if you want Swashbucklers to be less durable in combat than Fighters. Swashbucklers already likely have fewer HP, so if they get socked with worse AC too then it gets really ugly for them. So, I am inclined to keep the armors pretty close in effectiveness.

To Be Continued...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Star Wars VI

Yesterday I watched Return of the Jedi. I don't think its as strong as A New Hope (or even Empire Strikes Back, although I've never been a bit ESB fan -- other than the Hoth scenes), but its good enough.

I definitely had a few moments when a "frisson" (perfect word!) ran through me. Yeah, I'm a dork.

When Luke unleashes his rage and drives Vader back with uncontrolled blows.
Yoda's Death Speech.
Luke standing in front of the funeral pyre on Endor; his stance is striking.
The A-Wing Pilot crashing into the bridge of the Super Star Destroyer.

And I'm sure there were a few more. A solid movie. I am sad about the dated-looking action scenes (especially the chases), the dragging plot (its 30 minutes too long), Ewoks, and Carrie Fisher being stoned out of her gourd just when Leia starts to become an independent awesome character. Oh yeah, and Stupid Surly Teenager Anakin and the obnoxious Enya-style remix at the end of the "updated" version. That part blows.

I know this is disappointing for a Mefloquin Monday but yeah, I spent it geeking out some on Star Wars quotes and humming the Star Wars theme.

The New Paladin

No gaming news today; this is a quote I enjoy from Col Grossman, author of "On Combat" and "On Killing."

Have you ever wondered why police officers wear a shield on their left side? This is a direct, intentional, overt reference to the knights of old. There really were knights. They woke up every day and donned armor. They hung a weapon on their hip and a shield on their left side. And they went forth and did good deeds and administered justice in the land.

Gunpowder defeated armor, and the knights went away.

Today, for the first time in centuries, in both the military and law enforcement communities, we have warriors who don armor every day, take up their shields, strap on their weapons, and go forth to do good deeds.

If that is not a knight, if that is not a paladin, a new order of chivalry, then you tell me what is.

The knights of old are somewhat mythical, but these new knights are real and are embodying the spirit of the ancient model of the knight paladin, the champion of the weak and the oppressed, dedicated to righteousness and justice.

One US military leader (whom I have promised to keep anonymous) wrote these words as he witnessed his soldiers engage in great acts of valor:

"Dear God, where do we get such men? What loving God has provided, that each generation, afresh, there should arise new giants in the land. Were we to go but a single generation without such men, we should surely be both doomed and damned."

Think about it. If we went without a single generation without men (and women) who are willing to go out every day and confront evil, then within the span of that generation we should surely be both damned and doomed.

We could go for a generation without doctors, and it would get ugly if you were injured or sick, but civilization would continue. We could go for a generation without engineers and mechanics, and things would break down, but civilization would survive. We could even go for a generation without teachers. The next generation would have to play "catch up ball," and it would be hard, but civilization as we know it would still survive.

If, however, we went "but a single generation" without the warriors who are willing to confront human aggression every day, then within the span of that generation we would truly be "both damned and doomed."

So, "where do we get such men" and, may I add, women? We build them. We train them. We nurture them. There can be no more important or noble endeavor for a civilization. They are the warrior clan, the fellowship of arms.

Do not limit, my brothers and sisters, the role of the warrior. I had the privilege of being the co-keynote speaker with a Nobel Peace Prize recipient in an international peace conference. There I proposed the term peace warrior to refer to those in every profession, with and without guns, who are dedicated to moving our world forward towards peace. This term has been in use for a long time, and today it is widely accepted. It includes the Red Cross, the non-governmental organizations in a war zone, the probation and parole officers, the doctors and EMTs, the firefighters, the social workers, and even the clergy. Whether it is the passengers of Flight 93 over battling terrorists with their bare hands over the skies of Pennsylvania, a Red cross worker in Africa, a Green Beret in Afghanistan, or a police officer walking the streets of LA, they are all peace warriors...

George Washington warned us that, "He who would have peace, must prepare for war." This means that there must be warriors. Good Warriors. Paladins. Peace warriors who must study and master combat, as the firefighter would study and master fire.

"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it." - Thucydides

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Classes & Races

I just had an idea about races and how to integrate them with the 9-class structure I described earlier.

Give each race two "primary" attributes. For example, elves are traditionally INT & DEX (although one could make a case for elves being WIS & DEX, especially Tolkien Elves). Every elvish character must have at least one of those scores as their one of their two primary.

If you want, you can even give elves +3 to INT & DEX, but that'd be optional (and I'd feel a need to give humans a similar bonus). So it might better to just requires elves to have a minimum of 9 in each score (i.e., if you have 7 DEX you can't play an elf). That also helps with the "funneling" of character based on rolling dice.

So, with intelligent and dexterous elves, an elf would have a choice of five different classes:



INT-Spell Matrix





Eldritch Knights










Dwarves, another fantasy staple, are definitely STR prime -- they make stout front-line warriors, always. I think you could make a good argument for wither CON or WIS secondary. So dwarves would look like one of the following:



INT-Spell Matrix





Eldritch Knights










Or, could could just say that dwarves must be STR prime, restricting them to three viable class choices (Warriors, Eldritch Knights aka Runecasters or something, and Paladins).

Each race might have a few things that affect derived statistics (speed, encumbrance, languages spoken, etc) independent of ability scores or unique special abilities. Humans could be balanced out by either an ability score bonus (+3 to prime attributes or something) or some other generic benefit.

Anyways, I think its a viable way to easily integrate race into my options here, especially in a way that funnels choice based on the random scores rolled.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The 5 Minute Adventuring Day

Just a thought...

One of the adjusments of 4E was to break special abilities into things that can be used always (basic), nearly all the time (at-will), every encounter (encounter), every other encounter (magic items), and every extended rest/sleep (daily).

One interesting house rule I've seen says that you can only benefit from an extended rest if you have hit two milestones. That is, about 4-5 encounters. This seems like a reasonable enough house rule for balancing encounters out and nicely puts the "5 minute day" (i.e., where a party goes nova, nukes one encounter with all their resources, and then goes back to bed) to rest for good.

I think it could work fine with clerical powers, flavor wise. The gods only grant you a boon every so often on your quest. You want more miracles? Go smack around some heathen idols! This would shift divine types into being the most resource-management intensive, because magic-users could still get their mojo back after a five minute adventuring day.

I still want there to be some differentiation between a short 5-10 minute rest and a long sleep, though. It has some nice flavor to let folks recover some of their mojo when they hole up for a few hours. After all, how else can you rationalize barricading doors against zombie hordes or hiding out and resting after suffering grievous wounds?

I've thought a bit and come up with this period-of-rest-time mechanic.

Pause - 1-3 round's rest (combat rounds, useful for Recharge type mechanics)
Short Rest - A "turn" (5-10 minutes)
Milestone - 2-3 encounters
Extended Rest - A night's sleep (~6-8 hours)
Quest 0r Adventure - Around 3-4 milestones

Extended rests could restore only limited benefits, for example, perhaps a few healing surges, UNLESS you have hit at least 1-2 milestones or UNLESS you "hit the stack" (c.f. Amagi Games). Hitting the stack adds a token to a pot that the GM can spend to make complications occur. So, sure, you get your night's sleep, but find that rivals have taken advantage of the time to race ahead to the next dungeon level and plunder the treasure room you were going for! You'd need a table of "costs" for tokens but that'd be easy enough to come up with.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Abilities: What to use for derived statistics?

Now that I've thought some about what I think ability scores should look like, its time to generate derived statistics.

I have four thoughts on this already.
4+/-MOD: This creates a nice spread of possible results from 1 to 7 (rule of 7, baby) which works great for things like ENC. Good for either Allowable Choices (such as what kind of gear to pack) or for Operational Endurance (such as healing surges).
1+/-MOD: This creates a spread from 0 to 4 (most likely 1 to 3) that is appropriate either for Really Big Effects (the Rule of 3 -- if you can do it more than three times, its not cool anymore). It also means that folks who have a score below 9 (i.e., they are below average) can't attempt it at all because they have 0. I think this might be good for things that have a sub-system tied to them, because that way, if you dump it, you're basically saying, "I don't want to have to deal with this sub-system at all, except maybe at higher levels." Its also good for things you want to de-emphasize (for example, if you don't like henchmen, then use 1+/-MOD). Hrm -- sounds like a good candidate for magic (Rule of 3 + subsystem). Also good for Allowable Choices or perhaps Operational Endurance.
Primary Ability: I've already mentioned that Quantitative Effectiveness (odds of success) should be based on what your Primary Abilities are, not your exact scores.
Ability Tracks: In addition, I've thought about taking derived statistics one further. You may recall my Ability Tracks (Body/Agility/Heart -- range from +2 to -3, with 0 being the baseline; replaces status conditions). Each Primary Ability in a pair can move you up one step on the track. So, a STR/CON primary ability character would be BODY +2, AGILITY +0, HEART +0. A STR/INT primary would be BODY +1, AGILITY +1, HEART +0. This is good for things that should be generalized or could involve an interaction of multiple ability scores. For example, resisting physical damage could be tied to BODY, making STR/CON prime folks best at it, STR or CON prime folks decent, and folks with neither STR nor CON prime kind of suck at taking hits.

I've also started to divvy up the ability scores.

CON / INT / WIS - I think of these as defining sub-systems or classes. CON for the burly types that take hits all day, INT for the magic-ky types, and WIS for the divine types. So, it might make sense to use these either for Operational Endurance (4+/-MOD) 0r Sub-System Access (1+/-MOD).
STR / DEX / CHA - These seem to work better for effecting choices allowed. Higher STR = higher ENC limits = more choices for arms & armor. Higher CHA = more henchmen = more choices for whom to hire in your entourage.


Here's some good gouge I don't want to lose track of.

VARIANCE for XdN: X*(N^2-1)/12

67%/95% rule (when CLT applies)...
That is, 67% of results fall within a Z-score of 1. 95% of results fall within a Z-score of 2.

Max 18
Min 3
Mean 12.2446
Std Dev 2.8468

But what does it mean? Simply put, if you roll 4d6 drop lowest, you are most likely to roll a 12. Additionally, there is a ? 68% chance that you’ll roll within one standard deviation of the mean, or [9,15]. The chances that you’ll get any given roll are in the table below:
Roll Probability Frequency ? Odds
3 0.000772 1 1 in 1,295
4 0.003086 4 1 in 324
5 0.007716 10 1 in 130
6 0.016204 21 1 in 62
7 0.029321 38 1 in 34
8 0.047840 62 1 in 21
9 0.070216 91 1 in 14
10 0.094136 122 1 in 11
11 0.114198 148 1 in 9
12 0.128858 167 1 in 8
13 0.132716 172 1 in 8
14 0.123457 160 1 in 8
15 0.101080 131 1 in 10
16 0.072531 94 1 in 14
17 0.041667 54 1 in 24
18 0.016204 21 1 in 62

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reading for Diplomacy Players

I highly recommend "Anticipating Surprise" by Cynthia Grabo. I just devoured it for one of my master's classes and found it to be a quick, easy, and useful read. It formalized and clarified a lot of concepts that I'm familiar with both from my professional, educational (especially the poli sci side -- game theory, I'm looking at you!), and personal (diplomacy, gaming) experience.

Many ideas that I had inklings of but was afraid to acknowledge were confirmed ("A few smart people in a room are often better at predicting something bad will happen than many, many uninformed people going for consensus will be"), and confirmed others that I was quite sure of ("Most people will be hesitant to predict that conflict is coming because conflict is the universal human phobia"). Brownie points if you know who I stole the last half of that parenthetical from, too.

For gamers, I think its of some value. The savvy dungeon master will get some use out of reading it so that he can craft scenarios that really stretch his player's analytical capabilities. For Diplomacy players it really shines. The scenarios described in Grabo's work apply equally to Diplomacy players as they do for statesmen. If I ever find myself teaching strategic analysis (as I might someday, in a quaint town in the American SW that I know H-- loves) I think I may have my students play Diplomacy because I can think of no better way to illustrate some of the points than through that game.

Ability Scores

Here are a few quick thoughts on ability scores.

I want to be able to allow folks to generate ability scores randomly and I want them to be able to not have to fall back on house rules like "you need 2 x 15 to have a viable character." If the ability scores are too important, then you either tend to get a Darwinian "survival of the fittest," where those with 8 CON are killed off by anemic goblins (or syphilis from a poor roll on the AD&D Harlot table), or you get the aforementioned house rules to ensure that everyone is on an equal footing. This is why, largely, I think 3.5 went to point buy. If a character is going to be around for awhile then you need to ensure that they will be relatively balanced.

I like random ability scores for a few reasons. First, they're fun to generate. You never know what will come out. Second, they tend to "funnel" choices very quickly. If you have a player who doesn't know what they want to play, you can have them roll scores and see what happens. "Oh, look -- a 16 in STR. That'd make a great fighter!" Third, they prevent uniformity. Not every fighter looks the same with random scores. Fourth, they're quick to generate. No hours poring over stats; just roll and go!

I see a few viable tools in the toolbox for evening this out.

1) Ability scores increase the number of options, not the character's effectiveness or odds of success in carrying out those options.

For example. AD&D gives a bonus to hit and damage for high STR. This means that characters with high STR are better in combat than those without. Period.

However, INT works differently. INT gives a different number of languages known, so high INT characters know more languages than low INT ones. However, high INT characters are not any better at speaking Elvish or Common than a low INT character.

CHA works both ways. On one hand, high CHA characters are strictly better because they have bonuses to morale and loyalty. On the other hand, they also increase the number of options (i.e., the number of employees).

I think its bad to let random chance determine whether you're an awesome fighter or a sucky fighter (AD&D: +1 to hit / +3 damage for 18/01 STR vs. +0 to hit / +0 damage for 15 STR). Then you get a need to let everyone get on the same playing field. It also introduces the Choice to Suck. Bob wants to play a brainy swordsman so he puts a high score in INT instead of STR, not realizing that he's screwed himself. Ooops.

I think its far better to allow ability scores to drive tactical options and/or operational effectiveness, not tactical odds of success. By that I mean that two characters with 5 STR and 15 STR should be equally good at hitting people with sticks; the guy with 15 STR should just have more choices in how he does it. By operational effectiveness, I mean that the score could contribute to the ability of a character to sustain themselves through multiple challenges/encounters, but not necessarily in one fight. So, a character with high CON might have more reserve points or healing surges, but not more HP than someone with low CON. They are more operationally effective but are both on the same tactical playing field.

This has a nice side effect of (A) letting higher level characters undertake longer operations (days), and (B) giving higher level characters more options but in a manageable way (that fighter can now carry an extra stone of equipment, so he has a new choice for gear; the magic-user can speak a new language, etc).

2) Allow ability scores to increase, but let the poor catch up to the wealthy.

By this I mean letting characters with poor abilities catch up to those with strong abilities. For example, you could let folks roll 3d6 (or 1d20) every time they level up. If its higher than a given ability score (they need to pick before they roll) then they get +1 to that score. Obviously, trying to increase your 17 to an 18 is unlikely. But bumping an 11 to a 12 is quite possible.

In this way, you can allow random rolling for starting characters and know that by the mid-levels, things will have evened out some. It can lead to some boring characters that don't have any "dump" stats, though. I like dump stats, because you know most (good) fighters will be strong and have high CON; what differentiates them is whether they're stupid (INT dump), smelly (CHA dump), clumsy (DEX), or foolish (WIS). Or maybe all of the above.

This also has a nice side benefit of allowing the DM to occasionally drain ability scores without screwing over players too hard. If someone got a STR penalty because of a brush with a shadow, they will eventually recover to an appropriate score.

ADDENDUM: How about this... Roll 1d20. If its a prime ability for your class, roll 1d20+3. This ensures that in the long run, the prime abilities will end up one standard deviation above the norm. It also helps with the Dump Stat issue by making it harder to choose between bumping your 12 in a prime ability score and the 7 you have in something else. Intead of being a wide spread in the odds its only a few points now. I also like using 1d20 instead of D6s; if you use D6s, then players are FOOLISH to use their roll on anything other than a low to middling score.

DOUBLE ADDENDUM: You could allow (force?) folks to designate one ability score as a "weakness." Any roll to improve it would be 1d20-3 or even -6. Thus, keeping the dump stat alive and well. That dump stat will end up being one standard deviation below the norm.

With both addendums in play, I'd expect to see scores end up around here by the end game:
16, 16, 13, 10, 10, 8.

3) Soften the impact of the raw numbers.

By using the -3 to +3 modifier system, you soften the impact of the 3-18. Since the ends of the spectrum are pretty rare, you basically limit standard results from -2 to +2. That's a much narrower spread than 6-15 is.

4) Build quantitative bonuses into something else that isn't random.

For example, I considered letting folks use STR to add "to hit" to any weapon, DEX to be used for "light" weapons (rapiers, daggers, etc), and WIS or CHA to be used with "simple weapons" (maces, spears, etc). This would be in lieu of a proficiency system, the idea being that fighters can use any weapon well, swashbucklers will tend towards rapiers and such, and clerics can still smite the heathens with their maces.

The problem with this is that it violates rule #1 -- a fighter with 18 STR (+3) is strictly better than one with 13 STR (+1). Also, it leads to a mild numbers wank fest. By that I mean that you're basically giving everyone +1 or +2 to hit with a certain kind of weapon (and you're probably giving all the monsters +1 or +2 to AC), so its a wash. So why not just tell them that they can only use that kind of weapon, give them +0 to hit with it and -2 to hit with everything else, and adjust monster defenses accordingly? Its less math for everyone and gets the same point across.

The wank fest gets worse if you allow ability scores to increase, because now the player who doesn't pump their "to hit" score as much as you think they should falls further and further behind the power curve (4E has this problem). Don't give folks the choice to suck.

So, if you want fighters to be better at hitting stuff, just say "fighters get +1 to hit everything." If you want mid-level characters to be better at hitting stuff, then say, "when you hit level 5, everyone gets +1 to hit." Remember, we're talking about making randomly generated stats viable here, so its not a strategic choice between pumping STR for damage at the expense of CON for durability -- we're talking about getting lucky or not lucky.

Here's a sample Ability Score system that might address all those concerns:

1. Roll! Roll 3d6 in order for each ability score.
2. Primary Scores. Designate two ability scores as Primary scores. There are two rules here: They must be at least a 9 and they must match up with a class (if using the Base 3 classes only, then at least one must match with a class). Son, one from CON/INT/WIS and one from STR/DEX/CHA.
DM's OPTION: Allow players to swap any two ability scores or arrange scores to taste. This ensures that everyone gets the primaries that they want.
3. Flawed Scores. Designate one ability as a Flaw. You may drop your Flawed Ability by 3 points to add 1 point to both of your Primary abilities. You may not drop your flawed score below 5 in this way.
DM's OPTION: Players may designate another two ability scores as Flawed in order to raise a third ability score to be a Primary. In order to raise ability scores now, the player must drop TWO flawed scores by three each to give +1 to all three primaries.
4. Increases. Every other time you gain a level, roll 3d6 for each ability score (4d6 for your Primary scores; 2d6 for your Weak score). If the number showing on the dice is greater than your current score, increase that Ability Score by one.
DM's OPTION: Every even level gained, roll for CON, INT, and WIS. Every odd level gained roll for STR, DEX, and CHA.
5. Derived Statistics. Each ability score has a derived statistic associated with it. It is usually determined by 4 +/- MOD or perhaps 1 +/- MOD.
6. Chances of Success. You receive +2 or perhaps +3 on a D20 and +1 on a D6 when attempting a task linked to a Primary Score. You receive -2 or -3 on a D20 and -1 on a D6 when using your Flawed score. This applies to saving throws, to-hit rolls, etc.

Example "build:"

Joe rolls 3d6 in order and gets the following:
STR 14, CON 9, DEX 7, INT 8, WIS 15, CHA 11

He wants to play a fighter, so he designates STR and CON as his prime scores. He debates about where to place his Weak score and ultimately decides on INT. He drops INT by 3 to a score of "5" and adds +1 to his STR.

When he gains his second level, this fighter will roll 4d6 for CON, 2d6 for INT, and 3d6 for WIS. Any score on the dice higher than his current scores will result in a +1 increase.

This fighter is good at physical challenges like breaking open stuck doors or wrestling. He's bad at math and foreign languages.


I just ran the numbers on the two systems (3d6/2d6/4d6 vs. 1d20/1d20-3/1d20+3) in Excel and these are the summary findings.

As one might expect, the methods using multiple D6s act very strongly to bring up scores below the average (10.5/7/13). Once this average is reached, they slow down growth significantly compared to the D20.

Average Stat: If you start with 10.5 (strictly average), these are the number of rolls required to get to 13 (a +1 modifier):
1d20: A hair under 6
3d6: A hair under 8

After 10 rolls, 1d20 will get you to a final score of 14.5. 3d6 will get you to 13.481.

Low Stat: If you start with a 5 (lowest score), these are the number of rolls required to get to 9 (-0):
1d20-3: Just under 8
2d6: Just under 9

After 10 rolls, 1d20-3 will get you to a final score of 10 and 2d6 will get you to 9.279. 2d6 is better than 1d20 until you reach the average (7) around roll 3 or 4, at which time the 1d20-3 becomes the better bet for advancement.

What does it mean?

If the intent is to bring low scores up to at least the average, using multiple D6 is better. If the goal is to increase scores which are already at least average, then using 1d20+/-3 is better.

Also, assuming that a player has three "average" stats (10.5), it is more likely than not that one of them will be increased to 13 (gaining them a +1 bonus) after 2-3 sets of rolls. So, you need to let folks roll at least two or three times on the same set of three ability scores before the player will actually see significant improvement.

This also has slow and measured effects. You'd get more dramatic effects by rolling 3d6+3 (0r 4d6) for the middle scores and 2d6+3 (or 3d6) for the low scores. That'd be appropriate for a high powered campaign.

All in all, the methods are pretty equivalent, with the D20 based methods producing slightly higher scores and the multiple D6 methods ensuring that low scores are brought up quickly.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dragonsfoot AD&D Boards

I really like Dragonsfoot. It is the clearinghouse for OOP players of all types. While not as Grognardish as K&K Alehouse or crunchy as some other boards, I think most would agree that DF has established itself as the common ground meeting place for OOP gaming. They've also got some great downloadable resources, although most are getting a little dated. I think its clear that I'm a DF supporter, given that I have been a member since 03 and am one of the top 100 most prolific posters there.

But of late, I've gotten quite weary of the 1E board, my old hangout. I'm getting a bit frustrated with the constant repetition of topics. How many times can you discuss how surprise works? How many times can you squabble over how to adjudicate ENC or armor or initiative or any of the complex/confusing rules in AD&D?

I have answered most of those questions for myself in a comprehensive errata document. I've done a lot of thought, research, and discussion with other knowledgeable gamers and think I've learned both the BTB method and my preferred method for dealing with just about every issue in the game. So there's really not much I'm going to get out of a discussion on how to do initiative or how Surprise works. I mean, seriously, DM Prata's ADDICT project should have put the lid on how to run stuff BTB years ago, but those questions keep coming up.

Frankly I am finding it all a bit tiresome. I don't want to be rude or curt, but I find myself being tempted to just say, "No, you're wrong. Running it like that is stupid because of A, B, and C. This is the BTB way, this is how I run it, and this is why." And let that be my final word. But, even that is tiresome (how many times do you want to explain your position on any given topic?), so I find myself being tempted to just leave a curt, "You're wrong, this is the better way to do it, here's a link to ADDICT (or whatever other resource)" most of the time.

AD&D is a lot of fun, and I've played a lot of it. It was my first system and I still remember the mystique of looking through all the classes in the PHB and the monsters in the MM. Its also a complicated and fundamentally flawed game in some ways. I'd still be able to have fun running or playing in an AD&D game.

But, I don't think I have the patience for the DF AD&D forum anymore. I think I'll be spending more of my time in the Classic, Workshop, and Simalacrum threads in the future. I just don't see the point in rehashing the same material over and over, or of trying to convince people that my way is better. DF (unlike other gaming boards out there -- I'm looking at you, Gleemax/Enworld) actually has an easy to use Search function. So if someone hasn't done any research, its just out of laziness. Sure, their way might be flawed, and I can point out why, but if (A) they're having fun and (B) they don't care enough to research one of the many resources out there for more info, who am I to stop them?

Sorry for the negativity, but I figured it'd be better to get this off my chest here than actually, well, at DF ;).

Sunday, April 12, 2009



Interesting in messing around with my rules? Submit a request to join.


CLASS: The Fighting Men

Back here I discussed an overview of the three classes.

I'd like to elaborate a bit on the fighting man. First off, the basic mechanic used by the Fighting Man is the D20. Additionally, he uses Standard D6 Checks, like almost everyone else will, for utility checks and other misc tasks.

His prime requisite is CON. One important feature of CON will be one's "Reserve Points" (to use the OGL 3.5 SRD term). Basically, there are HP that power your own healing, a la 4E healing surges. Rather than relying on every party having a Heal-Bot, healing will be in the hands of the injured.

Reserve Points Quick Look
  • Each Reserve Point allow you to improve one toughness level of injury (So, it will bring you from Disabled to Bloodied, or Bloodied to Hale). If Toughness levels are not being used, it allows you to recover 1/3 of your maximum HP.
  • You will have 4 +/- CON modifier Reserve Points. Thus, because Fighting Men must have 9 CON, they will have at least 4, probably 5, and sometimes even 6 or 7 Reserve Points.
  • These are the number of Reserve Points you need to spend to get back to full-up "Hale" status after being wounded: Bloodied (1), Disabled (2), Dying (3). So, as you can see, a Fighting Man will be able to get really beat up possibly 2-3 times/day before he runs out of points.
  • You will be able to recover all of your reserve points by resting. Additionally, every few encounters you may get an extra reserve point.

Ok, pressing on. Similar to the schools of magic, there will be Schools of Swordsmanship. The primary three will be oriented in a triangle with R-P-S type superiority again.


Additionally, there needs to be some addressing of Ranged Combat Techniques, so we'll introduce a Marksman category. That will be seperate from the RPS system.

TECHNIQUES: Each school will have three levels of technique. Basic techniques will be open to all characters. Simple techniques will be open to characters that have a prime associated with that technique -- so, a DEX-based monk will have some facility with the Italian School's simple techniques. Fighting Men can use Simple Techniques from any school because they all have the CON prime. Advanced Techniques are open only to fighting men with an appropriate Primary Ability Score (school of study). So, only Swashbucklers become masters of Italian technique, only Skalds master the English school, and only Warriors master the Germanic way of swordsmanship.

USING TECHNIQUES: After using a Simple or Advanced Technique, a character can only use a Basic technique. At the start of each round, roll a D6. On a 5 or a 6, you have recharged and can use another technique.

OPTIONAL RULE: Allow Fighting Men to select which school they shall become masters in, independent of their primary Ability Score. This is best done through Role Play, where the student must meet a master, apply for training, etc. Thus, a Skald might take up the German tradition, or a Swashbuckler the English.

Acquisition of Advanced Techniques: A fighting man begins play knowing one advanced technique from his chosen school. Each tier of play, he may learn an additional advanced technique from his school. Whenever he gains a level, he may swap out any advanced technique he knows for a new one.

The German School: The German school focuses on offense using strong, simple attacks. Germans gain a bonus to hit against individuals parrying because their hews are good at breaking guards, which makes them effective against the English. In addition to Fighting Men, Eldritch Knights and Paladins can usually use the Simple Techniques of this school.

Basic - Strike Blow (A simple attack using STR to hit)
Simple - Drei Wunder (three wounders -- On a hit, deal 1 Body track penalty to enemy)
Advanced - Zornhau: 'wrath-hew' (Accept penalty to defenses to deal powerful blow)
Advanced - Krumphau: 'crooked-hew' (Cleave; drop enemy and immediately attack another)
Advanced - Zwerchau: 'horizontal-hew' (Accept penalty to hit to deal powerful blow)
Advanced - Schielhau: 'squinting-hew' (If Marked, you are no longer marked. Attack, and target is marked by you.)
Advanced - Scheitelhau: 'part-hew' (Charge)
Simple - The German Guard (Gain defensive bonus and Mark enemy a la 4E)

The Italian School: The Italian school focuses on controlling the initiative (tempo) and spacing (measure) of the fight. Whenever, they use a Simple or Advanced technique, Italians can roll an Agility check at the start of every turn to break a German's Mark. In addition to Fighting Men, Wizards and Monks can usually use the Simple Techniques of this school.

Basic - Disengage (Fall back fighting; move one space without an OA)
Simple - Passo straordinario (Lunge; increase your melee reach by one space for this attack)
Advanced - Gaining the Measure (Make an Agility Check. Move this many hexes without an OA. You must end the move next to the foe you are currently engaging.)
Advanced - Breaking the Measure (Withdraw from melee at full speed without an OA)
Simple - Control Tempo (On a hit, deal 1 Agility track penalty to enemy)
Advanced - Contratempo (Sacrifice initiative, but gain accurate riposte attack)
Advanced - Mezzotempo (Large initiative bonus, but deal half damage)

The English School: The English school takes a utilitarian, straightforward, and flexible approach to combat, emphasizing practical defenses. The English gain a bonus on OAs, which makes them effective against Italian skirmishers who rely on mobility. In addition to Fighting Men, Beguilers and Priests can usually use the Simple Techniques of this school.

Basic - Parry (Total defense)
Simple - Guarded Attack (Make attack at penalty to hit; gain defensive bonuses)
Advanced - The Tumbling Chase (used vs. disengaging foe; take OA at penalty and move up to your speed to follow foe, ignoring OAs yourself)
Advanced - Riposte (1/2 total defense; if enemy attacks and misses, make counterattack)
Advanced - The Dragon's Tail (a slashing blow, useful vs. lightly armored foes)
Simple - Valiant Strike (Make attack; if hit, all NPCs within command radius may make a morale check to rally with bonus equal to your CHA mod)
Advanced - Words Answered with Words (Spend your round to parlay during an encounter; if the enemy has a negative reaction and attacks you, gain benefit)
Advanced - Disheartening Strike (On hit, Enemy takes -1 Heart)


Most campaigns feature the Company of Masters. This is a swordsman's guild that regulates the teaching of martial arts, to ensure quality instruction as well as traditional relationships (and income) are maintained throughout the Lawful realm. The ranks within the guild are that of Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost, and Master. Four Senior Masters oversee all functions of the guild.

To rise in rank, participants must have sufficient combat experience, time in the guild, and participate successfully in a Prize Playing. Prize Playing tournaments are organized by one of the Senior Masters and feature non-lethal sparring before the public and assembled guildsmen; almost always, the entrant is promoted to the next rank, but this serves as a public test of skill and a demonstration of martial capability and endurance.

Recharge and Cooldown

I was rereading some AD&D rules and came across the nugget about fighters being allowed to charge but once per turn (i.e., 10 rounds).

On one hand, I hate this. Its one more duration to track -- "Bob charged on round 3... Its now round 8? no, 9! So he has a few more rounds to wait before his turn comes up."

On the other hand, its great because it gives the player a tactical choice to make. Do I expend this valuable resource (being able to get extra movement, an extra attack, and bonuses to hit) now, or do I wait for a more opportune moment? Also, it rations use of a strictly better ability. Most of the time, charging is strictly better than just closing to melee, so having a limit forces you to choose wisely.

Luckily, there's an easy way around my objection. 4E implemented it and its similar to my recent kick for reducing complicated things to probabilistic dice rolls. Use a recharge roll.

So, in the case of our fighter, we'd have him roll 1d10 every round after charging. On a "1," his charge is ready to use again -- he's "re"charged (cue cymbal crash).

Why not use this for all sorts of mechanics? For example, you could have a fighter roll a D6 with a 5 or higher showing "recharging" after they use a maneuver of any type (rationing abilities that are supposed to be used every few rounds). You could have a cleric roll at the start of every encounter to see if their Divine Favor has recharged (rationing abilities that are only supposed to be used every few encounters). At the extreme, you could have them roll every quest or milestone (rationing abilities that are only to be used a few times per level).

You can have a simple system with two levels:

Or you can have a more complicated system, where usage drops you down on the track and recharging moves you up:

This is also perfect for linking with my one-handed fighting style (vice TWF, THF, or Sword & Board). One handed fighters could get to roll +1d6 on recharge rolls and retain the more favorable, making them able to perform stunts more often (every 2 rounds instead of every 3, if you stick with TN5).

If you want to reduce the frequency of stunts, then use TN 6: This means 1d6 folks will get a stunt every 6 rounds or so and 2d6 folks will 3-4 rounds.

One nice thing about this is that it prevents Stunt-Spam. This is evident in 4E; monsters usually unload all their most potent abilities in the first 2-3 rounds of the fight, and PCs usually do the same. The goal is to kick the other side in the junk as hard and as fast as possible and push things into a mopping up scenario. You see a basic form of it in 1E, when players open up with a charge, spell, or other consumable resource. This makes most fights pretty anticlimactic.

By using the recarge mechanic, even long fights are interesting because your options are continually expanding and contracting. Additionally, it makes it much easier to plan for balanced game design. One concern with "per encounter" powers is that they suck if your DM prefers long encounters and are very powerful with shorter ones. Same thing with daily powers -- Vancian magic is very powerful if you can spooge everything in a 15 minute adventuring day, but if the day is very long, then it becomes less potent.

This mechanic lets the designer say, "Well, I want the player to be able to use this once per three encounters," rather than saying, "Well, they can use it once per day and I'll mention in the DM notes that a day should be 3 encounters long most of the time."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

ADnD Errata: Humanoid Strength Ratings

Reference: http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9556&p=152931&hilit=+strength#p152931

Following is a pretty detailed analysis of a wide variety of creatures and the damage they do by the MM and by Weapon + Str. You will find that nearly every creature does an equivalent amount of damage whichever way you roll it. For weapon type, I used the favored racial weapon (if given) or the one in the picture of the creature (for giants).

The exceptions are Cloud Giants and Storm Giants which both do too little damage when you use the weapon technique. This could be due to using standard weapons damage values, instead of giving them "bigger" weapons which do, say, 1-12 damage

Bugbears do a bit less than they should if you use the MM values; they should probably roll the reccomended MM 2d4 then score a bonus point of damage to set them apart from Gnolls which are a bit weaker but also roll 2d4.

All of the demihumans are dead on except for elves, who score a bit of extra damage using the MM values. This could simply be to abstract out the addition of "leveller" 2nd and 3rd level elves who should do more damage, but its kind of a pain to have to detail the entire band if you're just doing a random encounter. It could also be a typo.

In conclusion I think it is safe to say that whether you use the MM values or the Weapon + STR technique, you'll get very equivalent results in any case.


Hill Giant
Average Strength: 19
MM: 2d8 for an average of 9
Club & STR: 1d6 + 7 for an average of 10.5

Stone Giant
Average Strength: 20
MM: 3d6 for an average of 10.5
Club & STR: 1d6 + 8 for an average of 11.5

Frost Giant
Average Strength: 21
MM: 4d6 for an average of 14
Battle Axe & STR: 1d8 + 9 for an average of 13.5

Fire Giant
Average Strength: 22
MM: 5d6 for an average of 17.5
Two Handed Sword & STR: 1d10 + 10 for an average of 15.5

Cloud Giant
Average Strength: 23
MM: 6d6 for an average of 20.5
Big Weapon & STR: 1d10 + 11 for an average of 16.5

Storm Giant
Average Strength: 24
MM: 7d6 for an average of 24
Big Weapon & STR: 1d10 + 12 for an average of 17.5


Average Strength: 9
MM: 1d4 for an average of 2.5
Club & STR: 1d6 - 1 for an average of 2.5

Average Strength: 10
MM: 1d6 for an average of 3.5
Spear & STR: 1d6 + 0 for an average of 3.5

Average Strength: 12
MM: 1d8 for an average of 4.5
Polearm & STR: 2d4 + 0 for an average of 5

Average Strength: 15
MM: 1d8 for an average of 4.5
Polearm & STR: 1d10 + 0 for an average of 5.5

Average Strength: 16
MM: 2d4 for an average of 5
Club & STR: 1d6 + 1 for an average of 4.5

Average Strength: 17
MM: 2d4 for an average of 5
Sword & STR: 1d8 + 2 for an average of 6.5

Average Strength: 18
MM: 1d10 for an average of 5.5
Spear & STR: 1d6 + 2 for an average of 5.5


Average Strength: 10
MM: 1d6 for an average of 3.5
Club & STR: 1d6 + 0 for an average of 3.5

Average Strength: 14
MM: 1d8 for an average of 4.5
Hand Axe & STR: 1d6 + 1 for an average of 4.5

Average Strength: 12
MM: 1d10 for an average of 5.5
Spear & STR: 1d6 + 0 for an average of 3.5

Average Strength: 8
MM: 1d6 for an average of 3.5
Spear & STR: 1d6 + 0 for an average of 3.5

WOUNDS VI: A sample TN 7 fight

One of my readers pointed out to me that TN 7 fights seem suicidal. And indeed -- they are, to some degree. A level 2 character that has faced down a hill giant will get splattered most of the time. I want to see how such an encounter might play out, though.

So, we have four heroes facing a tier +2 challenge (say, a Giant). We'll assume that there are really no tactics involved -- they're just hacking away at each other with their most effective blows, which have about a 50-70% chance of connecting. So let's just say its a 2/3 chance to connect. The giant will try and take out one hero at a time and then move on.

Hero A is a 1-die pool hero for resisting wounds. B has 2 dice, C has 3 dice, and D has 4 dice.


The giant swings at Hero A. If he connects (2/3), he forces the hero to make a save (0%) to pass. HERO A -1 Health Level (HL).

The heroes swing back at the giant. They have a 2/3 chance to hit, and if they do, the Giant needs to make a TN 3 save. Its only 3 because they're such lower level. He gets two dice because he's a tough mofo. That means that each attack has a 12% * 2/3 = 8% to knock one of the giant's health levels off.
HERO A: -.08
HERO B: -.08
HERO C: -.08
HERO D: -.08

We end round 1 with HERO A -2/3 of a HL, GIANT -0.32 HL.

ROUND 2: Repeat. HERO A is bloodied, down -1 and 1/3 HLs. The giant is now down -0.64 HLs.

ROUND 3: Repeat. HERO A is possibly disabled, down -6/3 HLs. The giant is most likely bloodied, though (-0.96).

ROUND 4: Repeat. HERO A is almost certainly disabled, on the verge of a KO, down -8/3 HLs. The giant is almost certianly bloodied (-1.28).

ROUND 5: Repeat. HERO A is probably out. He's down -10/3, which KOs him (-10/3 = -3.33). Let's say he gets in a parting shot, though, so the giant is -1.60 HLs now. From now on, only three heroes are fighting the giant, so he'll only lose 0.24 HLs each round.

ROUND 6: The giant moves on to smash HERO B now. Hero B is more resilient; if the giant connects (2/3 chance), then he'll lose a HL 97% of the time instead of 100% of the time. So, each swing from the giant removes 0.65 HLs. We end the round with HERO A KOd, HERO B at -0.65, and the GIANT at -1.84 HLs.

ROUND 7: Repeat. HERO B is likely bloodied at -1.3 and the giant is probably disabled at -2.08.

ROUND 8: Repeat. HERO B is flirting with being disabled at -1.95. The giant is seriously injured at -2.32 HLs.

ROUND 9: Repeat. HERO B is almost KOd, at -2.6. The giant is hurting too, at -2.56.

ROUND 10: Repeat. HERO B is likely KOd, at -3.25. He gets in his parting shot though and the giant is at -2.8 HLs.

ROUND 11: The giant now moves on to HERO C. HERO C is yet more resilient, and if he his hit (2/3 chance), he will lose a health level only 92.6% of the time; so every swing from the giant costs him 0.62 HLs. The heroes meanwhile are only inflicting -0.16 on the giant.

By the end of the round, HERO C is at -0.62, and the giant is just about KOd at -2.96.

ROUND 12: The giant takes one more swing! HERO C is dropped to -1.24, and then the two heroes polish off the fearsome giant.

HERO C: Bloodied
HERO D: Untouched

This seems grindsome, and it is to some degree intentional (it removes the whiff, whiff, splat of straight HP based combat). However, there are two important factors missing here:
1) Disabled characters will be less effective, i.e., more likely to miss. That means less dice rolling for potential wounds. It also means that characters are more likely to break off or back down.
2) Morale. Most creatures would check morale when they become disabled. That means the Giant might have fled or surrendered in Round 7, not Round 12. The PCs might have checked morale too and fled or used consumables to stay in the fight!

ADDENDUM: How would this have played out in AD&D?

In this case we have a party of level 2 characters facing a hill giant. Let's say 2 x fighters, a cleric, and a magic-user.

HERO A: Magic-User (HP 5, AC 8 from Dex or Spell)
HERO B: Fighter with chain mail and two-handed sword, 18/01 STR, 16 CON (HP 15, AC 5)
HERO C: Cleric with mace, chain mail, and shield (HP 9, AC 4)
HERO D: Fighter with long sword and shield and plate mail, 18/01 STR, 16 CON (HP 15, AC 2)
HILL GIANT: AC 4, HD 8+1, HP 37
I'm using the optional THAC0 rule that gives our fighters +1 at level 2.

ROUND 1: The giant -- as any good monster -- tries to kill the pointy-hat first. He chucks a rock which does 7.65 HP damage (0.85 * 9). The mage is splattered, but likely not before he unleashes his spell, magic missile for 3.5 HP to the giant. HERO B deals 4.725 (0.35 * 13.5) HP. HERO C deals 0.875 (0.25 * 3.5), and HERO D deals 3.325 (0.35 x 9.5).

Tally: HERO A squished, Giant - 12.425

ROUND 2: The giant turns his attention to HERO B, the next squishiest but highest damage producing character. He deals 6.3 HP (0.7 x 9) to the Fighter. Heroes B, C, and D then repeat their performance of the last round.

Tally: HERO B -6.3, Giant - 21.35

ROUND 3: Repeat. HERO B - 12.6, Giant - 30.275

Round 4: Repeat. HERO C - SLAIN. GIANT - SLAIN.

Final Tally:
HERO A: Squished
HERO B: Squished
HERO C: Untouched
HERO D: Untouched
GIANT: Slain

Running this with a 9 HD giant like a fire giant might be closer. Of interest, the final outcome was about the same. What was different was the speed of resolution. This took only 4 rounds instead of 12. Much of that is because AD&D characters are eggshells. That is, the giant either misses or it kills them outright in one or two hits.

ADDENDUM 2: How would this have played out in S&W WB?

HERO A: Magic-User (HP 4.5, AC 10)
HERO B: Fighter with chain mail and two-handed sword (house rule -- gives +2 damage) (HP 7, AC 14)
HERO C: Cleric with mace, chain mail, and shield (HP 7, AC 15)
HERO D: Fighter with long sword and shield and plate mail (HP 7, AC 17)
HILL GIANT: AC 15, HD 8+2, HP 30

ROUND 1: The giant goes for the pointy-hat. He deals 6.65 (0.95 * 7) HP to the wizard, squishing him instantly. The wizard gets off a Pro Chaos spell for HERO B. HEROES B, C, and D lay into the giant. B deals 1.925 (0.35 * 5.5), C deals 1.05 (0.3 * 3.5), and D deals 1.225 (0.35 * 3.5), dropping the Giant by -4.2 HP.

ROUND 2: The giant starts in our HERO B, now. He deals 4.9 (0.7 * 7). The three heroes drop the GIANT to -8.4.

ROUND 3: The giant kills off HERO B. The three heroes drop the giant to -12.6.

ROUND 4: The giant now starts in on HERO C, the cleric. He deals 4.9 (0.7 * 7). The two remaining heroes deal 2.275, dropping the giant to -14.875.

ROUND 5: The giant finishes off the cleric, and he is dropped himself to -17.15

ROUND 6: The remaining fighter gulps, steels himself, and continues his attack. The giant deals 4.2 HP (0.6 * 7), and the fighter dishes out another 1.225, bringing the giant down to 18.3775.

ROUND 7: The giant smushes the fighter, but not before the hero gets in one last blow, bringing the giant down to -19.6.


HERO A, B, C, & D: Smushed
GIANT 10/30 HP

Intesting. This, to me, points to the necessity of giving fighters some sort of bonus to hit and/or damage (whether it be their STR bonus or something) in OD&D if you want to maintain parity with other editions.

WOUNDS V: Durability Categories

I whipped up this chart to explain some thoughts I had about wound mechanics when I was jogging today. This chart represents the relationship between what in D&D we term as "AC" and "HP."

AC: Broadly interpreted, this is the chance to be struck. If you have a high or strong AC, you are not likely to be struck. If you have a low or weak AC, it is very likely that incoming attacks will connect.
HP: This is your durability or how many hits you can take. This either could be an absolute number in a traditional D&D sense or a percentage chance to lose a wound level.

By varying those two factors, you can control the overall durability of a character. Note that both factors are relative to the opposition.











The TANK has high AC and high HP. He is unlikely to be struck and even if he is struck he can take many blows. This is good for personal survivability, but it can be bad because enemies tend to ignore tanks unless they have a very good reason not to. In too many 1E games, the fighter who is supposed to protect the others is just ignored because he is too hard to kill. Mid level fighters are Tanks because they tend to have excellent defenses and HP pools.

The BARBARIAN has poor AC and many HP. He is easy to hit but can eat a lot of punishment. High level fighters can become Barbarians because the monster's chances of hitting increase faster than the fighter's defenses do. Monsters with multiple attacks are particularly effective against barbarians (claw/claw/bite, for example).

The EGGSHELL has strong AC like a tank but no HP to back it up. Hence, once something penetrates the shell, things get messy really quick. Eggshells can lead to swingy combats. Low level OD&D fighters are Eggshells because they are tough to hit in the first place but can still be one-shotted. Highly buffed clerics can also be eggshells; their defenses are supernaturally high but they still have limited HP.

The SQUISHY is in a bad place. Squishies have weak AC and poor HP. They are likely to die quickly if attacked. Magic Users are traditionally Squishy.

So, interestingly, OD&D fighters go through a life cycle of almost all the types. They begin their careers as Eggshells. They then transition into Tanks in the "sweet spot" mid-game. Finally, towards the end, they become barbarians because their defenses don't scale adequetely with level.


Are some of the types better than others from a design standpoint? I think so. I think the Eggshell is a poor design for a PC. Eggshells lead to swingy combats where the character quickly goes from "just fine" to "bleeding out." Usually, only bigger monsters have a chance to penetrate the eggshell's defenses, but bigger monsters also tend to do more damage which is likely to one-shot the eggshell. The Squishy is in a bad place too, but at least the Squishy knows that he/she is not melee capable and steers clear of danger whenver possible.

Others must agree with me. For example, Gary gave his players extra HD in OD&D games at low levels to get past the Eggshell phase quickly. I think its a common house rule to give characters their level 2 HD at first level or to give them a HP kicker of some sorts. This was implicit in 4E's design philosophy and Hackmaster features it as well.