Thursday, November 20, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 10

Being a series of articles in which the author reads the indelible words of Gygax and Arneson as presented the Original Collector's Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, published by Tactical Studies Rules. Beginning with Men & Magic, and concluding with The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, the author will consider those earliest passages, adding elucidations and interpretations along the way for your consideration.

Men & Magic
NPC’s, EQUIPMENT, EXPERIENCE TABLES, CLASS STATISTICS

Pages 12-18 are fairly self-explanatory, in regard to the above categories. I would like to cover the following subcategories on page 18 and 19.

“Experience Points: As characters meet monsters in mortal combat and defeat them, and when they obtain various forms of treasure (money, gems, jewelry, magical items, etc.), they gain “experience”.”
Experience earned through the acquisition of monetary and magical treasure. It’s the goal of adventurers far and wide. True power is achieved through wealth, and the fantasy world should reflect this in some shape. I’d like to note that avoiding, parleying with and outsmarting monsters is never as tricky in original D&D; if such maneuvers lead to unguarded or ‘unearned’ treasures, the reward for acquiring these is still just as lucrative in regards to experience earned. I also have been giving thought to the notion of only awarding the experience for monetary treasure once the riches are actually spent; be it on wine, women, gambling, tithing, donations, alms, rare material components, age-old tomes of knowledge or stolen scrolls of forbidden rites. There’s always something an adventurer can blow his wealth on to keep the campaign interesting…but I digress. Experience for treasure is, to me, an inherent facet of adventuring and realizing the fruits of ones labor.

“Gains in experience points will be relative; thus an 8th level Magic-User operating on the 5th dungeon level would be awarded 5/8 experience.”
This passage goes on to explain the relative risk/reward balance for purposes of determining the ratio of earned experience when considering a character’s level and the obstacles he or she has overcome. This is one aspect of D&D that I have never utilized. First of all, the experience tables have a built-in model of depreciating returns. Secondly, in the example given, an 8th level Magic-User operating alone on the 5th level of a dungeon will be suitably challenged to warrant full experience. Lastly, I find this added level of math to be too cumbersome. I’ve recently instituted awarding experience for defeating monsters ‘on-the-fly’; to be shared by all surviving participants immediately after melee. I can understand the intent of the authors, that ‘sandbagging’ on the part of the adventurers should be penalized. That being said, I feel that the players are normally seeking out enough reward to be willing to face obstacles which are ‘just challenging enough’ in order to maximize experience and potential rewards.

“Experience points are never awarded above a 1 for 1 basis, so even if a character defeats a higher level monster he will not receive experience points above the total of treasure combined with the monster’s kill value.”
If I were compelled to implement the earlier mentioned risk/reward balance, I cannot see why a bonus of some sort would not be similarly provided in this circumstance. I think the experience system is one that has seen a very high level of ‘house ruling’ in D&D’s various editions. Based on this entire Experience Points passage one can understand why. It just seems too cumbersome for my taste. Nevertheless, I wanted to point out these passages as I indeed find it interesting to see how the original rules were expressed here.

“Dice for Accumulative Hits (Hit Dice): This indicates the number of dice which are rolled to determine how many hit points a character can take.”
This was a rule that eluded me until I took the time to delve into the collective knowledge of the contributors at Finarvyn’s OD&D forum. You see, I was so used to the AD&D rules that I simply could not sort out how the numbers jived from level to level for the character classes. In AD&D, one simply looked at the new level, and rolled the (in most cases) single die indicated, adding that result to the characters ongoing hit point pool.

“…A Super Hero gets 8 dice +2; they are rolled and score 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6/totals 26 +2 = 28, 28 being the number of points of damage the character could sustain before death. Whether sustaining accumulative hits will otherwise affect a character is left to the discretion of the referee.”
Perhaps if I had continued reading, and actually considered this example based on the Fighting-Man’s table and Hit Dice progression, it would have been clear that Hits are re-rolled upon gaining each new level. Or are they? While the example does indeed spell out that there is no Hit Point carry-over, or pool, from level to level, it does not explicitly state that the Hit Dice are rolled upon gaining a new level, and then not again until another level is gained. Perhaps the Hit Dice are rolled at the beginning of each adventure; with the dawn of each day; or at the start of each melee. The rules are not clear on this matter. I prefer to use ‘rolled upon gaining a new level’, along with the house rule that the character’s hit point total may never decrease regardless of this Hit Dice roll, and will increase by at least one with each new level. I believe this was a rule borrowed from Empire of the Petal Throne. That said, I kind of like the idea of rolling Hit Dice before each adventure, but I doubt many players would enjoy that one. The last sentence in the above quote mystifies me a bit. I assume the meaning is that further bodily damage, be it through a single massive, killing attack, or through continued damage even after death, is possible, with the results to be 'left to the discretion of the referee'. Falling 120 feet, sustaining 48 damage from dragon breath, meeting one's end in a crushing pit trap, etc. are all ways that might cause the referee to insist that more than simply being slain has resulted. Perhaps the character is beyond recovery of any sort.

“Spells & Levels: The number in each column opposite each applicable character indicates the number of spells of each level that can be used (remembered during a single adventure) by that character.”
Clearly, then, if an adventure lasts for multiple days, meaning that the spell caster is ‘in the field’ and not studying his spell books in his tower library or temple halls, he or she may not change the spells he has chosen.

“A spell used once may not be re-used in the same day.”
This means that multiple ‘copies’ of the same spell may not be memorized between adventures. Each spell may only be used once per day, from among the group of spells that the spell caster has chosen for that particular adventure.

Nowhere in Men & Magic does it say that spell casters are required to study their spell books during an adventure. It simply states that spells are chosen between adventures, committed to memory without duplication, and are able to be utilized once per day each. Yeah, I missed this initially as well, assuming that the magic system was closer to the AD&D one with which I was familiar.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

12 comments:

Geoffrey said...

"Whether sustaining accumulative hits will otherwise affect a character is left to the discretion of the referee.”

I understand that to mean stuff like having a broken arm (thus making to hit rolls at a penalty), having a broken leg (unable to walk), getting knocked unconscious, or whatever.

Wayne Rossi said...

I agree wholeheartedly on the "roll hit points at each level" concept. It's what I use in my games, and it's got a definite positive effect, in that characters are never "stuck" with a particularly low roll (say you roll a 1 on your first level HP). That said, as far as I know, it was never really played this way in Gygax's own games, where it was interpreted AD&D-fashion.

David said...

This means that multiple ‘copies’ of the same spell may not be memorized between adventures. Each spell may only be used once per day, from among the group of spells that the spell caster has chosen for that particular adventure.

Whaaaaat? My mind just exploded. I kinda assumed it was 3e style; go ahead and change spells every day. Though to be honest, I think I prefer the mutability of changing spells, as well as having multiples of the same spell stored. Otherwise, after about two combats, you are down to spells like "Feather Fall", and your wizard has to either just stand there, or go in and start stabbing with a dagger.

Anyway, more neat looks at the old books.

Syrsuro said...

"That said, I kind of like the idea of rolling Hit Dice before each adventure, but I doubt many players would enjoy that one."

We always played with this rule (back in the day). In fact we continued to play with this rule on into AD&D1E when it came out.

Some DMs modified this rule so that you rolled, not at the start of the adventure, but when you first took damage during the adventure.

I still have nostalgic feelings towards rolling hit points each adventure (or at the very least each level) and if for some reason I ever DMed one of the earlier editions I would most likely again use that rule.

Carl

Matthew James Stanham said...

This means that multiple ‘copies’ of the same spell may not be memorized between adventures. Each spell may only be used once per day, from among the group of spells that the spell caster has chosen for that particular adventure.

I don't think so. I think it is just a way of saying, "a character cannot use the same spell memorised once a second time." The same language appears in the AD&D PHB, if I recall correctly.

Whether sustaining accumulative hits will otherwise affect a character is left to the discretion of the referee.

I agree with Geoffrey with regard to this. It is analogous to the AD&D rule that a flying creature loses the power of flight after losing half of their hit points.

vraymond said...

"Secondly, in the example given, an 8th level Magic-User operating alone on the 5th level of a dungeon will be suitably challenged to warrant full experience."

You're making an assumption here that the example is for a single character on that dungeon level - this isn't warranted. If anything, like other examples, it assumes the character in the context of the overall game. So if that 8th level MU was with two 5th level fighting men, then they would get full experience, and he'd get 5/8ths.

"Lastly, I find this added level of math to be too cumbersome."

I can understand that, but I played in at least two campaigns back in the day that did precisely that. It meant that everybody was advancing at slightly or sometimes very divergent rates, but that also kept players from making assumptions about stuff without checking with one another.

"Whether sustaining accumulative hits will otherwise affect a character is left to the discretion of the referee.”

Missed that one first time around - I know many a game that assumed PCs fought at full strength until hitting zero HP. Hmmm! Thank you!

Sham aka Dave said...

Geoffrey: As I said, this bit mystified me. Thanks for enlightening me! This is essentially, then, an allusion to the referee having the option of utilizing a more 'realistic' or complex damage system to reflect accumulative hits during the course of the game, i.e. tissue damage, shock, bone breakage, etc. Cool!

Wayne: Yes, I've heard this as well, but based on the FM progression, for example, how does one go from 1+1 HD at 1st, to 2 HD at 2nd? Unless you are re-rolling, or letting the 'plusses' cary over.

David: This whole topic has debatable interpretations, from the purpose of spell books, to multiple copies of one spell, to what can be memorized. It's good to share this because it allows me to read other people's interpretations as well.

Syrsuro: I like the 'before each adventure method'. In my opinion, more dice is normally more fun.

Matthew: It seems unnecessary to even state this if that is the case, after all the class table tells you exactly how many spell 'slots' the character has. As you will see through this series, I am guilty of perhaps reading too much into sentences such as this. The 1e PHB does make a distinction in regard to this issue, though.

In regard to accumulative hits, I too agree with Geoffrey now that he enlightened me.

Victor: It might read that way, but I was not making the assumption. What I was clarifying is that if indeed an 8th level M-U WAS alone, I don't feel such a penalty would be warranted.I don't like the heavy handed nature of the rule (then again, when alone that M-U is not dividing experience amongst fellow adventurers, so maybe my solo example doesn't hold water, as noted).

I know many a game that assumed PCs fought at full strength until hitting zero HP.

Yes, I agree that it is noteworthy, and thank you all for enlightening me as to the intent. It would allow a referee to add house rules for, say, fighting or moving while injured, maimed or at death's door, for example. The notion being that the combat rules, as presented, assume the character is at full-strength.

Cool stuff.

Sham aka Dave said...

To add

These are great comments. I am in no way an authority on the rules, and as noted I am guilty of glossing over things, making assumptions, reading TOO much into a passage, or totally missing the trees for the forest in this series. Your comments certainly help me consider and rethink a lot as I continue to read the volumes.

Again, thanks!

Sham aka Dave said...

Matthew: Now hat I re-read that passage, I was the one making an assumption. Specifically, that the rules had already stated that the tables showed how many spells could be used in a day, for a given level of spell caster. It does not, and in fact that is the first mention of how often the memorized spells may be used. Once per day. This refers to spell 'slots' and not spells themselves.

I stand corrected, and thanks for pointing this out!

Matthew James Stanham said...

No problem. I only really thought to mention it because the language is so similar to that used in AD&D. Indeed, at one time I thought it might be possible that duplication of spells was not allowed in AD&D.

Robert Fisher said...

The scaling of XP to the level of each PC thing... This is one of those rules—they occur in each edition—that I’ve always taken as, “Ignore unless necessary.” Such rules were devised when some player was abusing other rules. Gary put them in there to assist you when one of your players did the same thing. “Oh...well...you know...by the book...” As long as the standard rule isn’t being abused at your table, just ignore these kind of details.

Although, that’s totally my interpretation. An impression gotten through talk about the origins of some of these rules and descriptions about how Greyhawk was actually played.

On the HD thing: Gary said that they abandoned the progressions in the book almost immediately. Each PC got a full d6 hp/level. Until the varying HD-type per class was introduced. This, I think, helps explain why Tenser was known for wading into melee as if he were a FM instead of an MU.

Of course I understand that, for the purposes of this exercise, what’s written is the issue rather than what Gary did.

Sham aka Dave said...

I have to agree, and sometimes find these clunky, likely reactionary rules (or "foils") interesting in a quirky fashion. That's not the case with the scaling XP rules here. I don't like 'em.

I find this interesting:

Gary said that they abandoned the progressions in the book almost immediately. Each PC got a full d6 hp/level.

I never knew this until now. Thanks for sharing that...provides more food for thought.

I've maintained for a while that the best part of this as yet unfinished series has been the reader comments, so kudos to you for adding to them.