Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets

With the recent passing of another of D&D’s industry giants, Mr. Bob Bledsaw (pictured to the left), I felt it was high time I jotted down this review I had promised last week.

I’ve had some time to digest much of the information contained within the Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets (RRS) PDF I recently purchased. I will focus on those sections I think I will gain the most use out of.

City Based Guides, p. 1-11. Some interesting tables and guides here, but I have to question the usefulness of a lot of this information. Nevertheless, simply reading these pages would probably generate some nice ideas for happenings in an urban environment.

Exchange Rates Table, p. 12. A quick reference for various coin values. I like this little table, and although so far there are but two coins extant in my campaign, Silver and Gold, per the OD&D guides, I will be adding rarer coins on the lower levels of Ulin Uthor. I won’t use Iron or Copper as treasure. Copper does exist, but as nothing more than loose change or peasant type wages.

Gem Types Table, p. 12. I love this table and accompanying information. Now, all of the Gems in Solstice suddenly have some identifiable type, rather than a simple GP value. Also of great interest is the 1in20 chance that per 10 Gem trove, one of those found will be an Unusual Gem. Unusual Gems possess some hidden enchantment.

Characteristics Use, p. 13. This might be one of the earliest treatments of character ability use for determining success or failure. This is a good, simple guide for referee’s to determine a general success rate for certain actions a player desires to undertake. I like the way prime requisites play into this guide, as well. While I normally prefer a simple d6 roll for such tasks (ala the OD&D Open Doors, Find Secret Doors, Surprise guidelines, etc) I can certainly see myself using this simple guide for my games.

Shock Recovery, p. 13. Nice rules ideas for damage and wounds upon player characters. I already have a house rule for negative life totals in Solstice, and what they mean as far as whether a character is dead or unconscious, but the first idea, the actual Shock Recovery system, is perfect for my games. The Shock Recovery idea adds to the abstract melee approach for OD&D, and I will be altering this method slightly to account for abstract hit points which can be recovered more easily/faster. After all, a Fighting Man with 25 hit points and a Fighting Man with 7 hit points are cut from the same cloth as far as any actual amount of tissue damage they can sustain before dying. Those extra hit points gained from experience, in abstract terms, are a measure of the higher level Fighting Man’s ability to parry/block/avoid melee damage, and in my opinion should not be considered actual tissue damage. More on this theory later.

Poison, p. 15. Oh Poison, how I love thee. Simply a great guide to Poison. While I admittedly *just* made the transition to Save or Die for poisons (I used to always give poisons a hit die range, with save for half or no damage in past campaigns), I do believe I will be incorporating this page into Solstice. It provides a guide for various types of ‘brewed’ poison, as well as the effects of monster inflicted poisons. These effects include onset time, damage per round and poison duration, effects upon different sized victims, and distillation costs. Definitely an excellent reference.

Time Required Table, p. 17. This is a simple table showing the approximate time required for the characters to perform mundane tasks while delving in the dungeon. I tend to think of delving actions in terms of whether they require one Turn, or not. This allows me to measure exploration time in Turns, and keeps things on an even keel for time measurement. That said, I’ll be using this table as a reference at times. It’s a nice little table showing suggested times for performing such tasks as breaking out of webs, or ‘Get out & blow horn’. You can’t imagine how often I’ll be using that one, as I have a few players who really enjoy tooting their own horns.

The Wizard’s Guide, p. 19. This is great for handling those situations, while possibly rare, that a MU character wishes to spend some time and coin on making magic items. I certainly won’t allow a MU character to make a Dagger, +4 in Solstice, but still a very useful set of tables.

Sink or Swim, p. 21. Finally, some usable OD&D ‘water as a hazard’ information. I like this a lot. I have a feeling my players won’t enjoy trying to shed their Plate Mail before drowning, though. I do believe there is an error, which I will fix. To quote, ‘Players can hold their breathe (sic) the same number of turns as their Wisdom score.’ Not quite! Turns will be substituted with something a bit more realistic. Even Rounds would be too long, in my opinion. Something like WIS: 3-7: 2 rounds, 8-11: 3 rounds, 12-15: 4 rounds, 16+: 5 rounds. Why Wisdom, and not Constitution? Well, remember that Wise Guys are very familiar with the whole concrete shoes scenario. Anyway, I like this guide, including the ‘2in6 chance of ‘Surprize’ (sic) negating the possibility of holding one’s breath. Watery pits now don’t require a paragraph in my dungeon descriptions to handle sinking and drowning! Sorry, gang.

The OD&D Ref Sheets, p. 23-34. These babies are just nice, neat collected tables of pretty much exactly what a referee running an OD&D game needs in order to not have to fumble through the LBB. They are duplicated and designed to be removed from the original RRS book, in order that a referee might have these handy sheets at his fingertips during play sessions. Also included is the Chainmail ‘Man to Man Melee Table’. I’m still trying to figure out a good way to incorporate Chainmail rules into Solstice. More on this topic at another time.

Wishes and Limited Wishes, p. 36. A decent page long guide for handling Wishes and Limited Wishes. I like this guide because it really hews close to what I think was the original OD&D intent for the power level of Wishes. I’m not so sure I would use the guide as presented, but nevertheless it is excellent food for thought.

Morale Table, p.37. A nice handy table detailing NPC/Hireling Morale in important situations. Includes a nifty Panic Random Action Table. Yeah, Charisma is a valuable ability if these rules are followed. Speaking of which, I’m a bit surprised that character abilities aren’t addressed at all in the RSS.

Campaign and World Tables, p. 38-50. Some very well thought out and detailed tables to be used for various aspects of campaign games, including Caves and Lairs, Searching, Ruins, Terrain, Movement, as well as Flora and Fauna. I would consider using these for overland, hex type exploration by the characters in the wilderness.

Simply put, the RRS is a publication crammed with useful tables and guides. The bulk of the gaming information is very situational, though…but I suppose that’s kind of the point. The RRS covers many situations which deserve some loose, fast rules, that might not have been given in OD&D. In other words, the RRS is a nice reference tool for referees, and I will certainly be using it not only for quick and simple resolution during game sessions, but also, as mentioned, as a way to get the creative juices flowing.

I heartily recommend this collection of tables to any OD&D referee, with the caveat that it’s highly situational usefulness is understood.

R.I.P. Mr. Bledsaw, your gaming legacy lives on, even now, some 30 years later.

~Sham, Delinquent DM

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