Monday, February 16, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Men & Magic Part 2

After the classes and races we get to Alignment which is barely explained at all. It's defined as what 'stance' the character will take, and that's it. I take it as meaning that there is some sort of a cosmic struggle between Law and Chaos going on, and that alignment tells you what side of the struggle your character falls on.

The three alignments are Law, Neutrality and Chaos. As in Chainmail there is a list of what monsters belong with which alignment - and again there are no surprises here.

However, there is one line I've never picked up on before, just before the list: "Character types are limited as follows by this alignment". So it seems that Dwarves and Elves can only be Lawful or Neutral, and Hobbits must be Lawful. Men, as usual, can do whatever the hell they want.

Changing Class: Here we have the initial rules for what would eventually become dual-classing. It's 'not recommended' for Dwarves and Hobbits, and I can see why - they can only take one class! To change you must have a score of 16+ in the Prime Requisite of the new class. Clerics can't become Magic-Users, and vice-versa. This plays into the standard idea that M-Us and Clerics are antagonistic towards each other - perhaps M-Us theorise that divine magic is not divine at all, and simply the Clerics tapping the same ambient arcane energy that they do? Add in some guild antagonism between the two factions, and characters aren't allowed to switch from one guild to another. Voila - instant arbitrary restriction!

As usual, the actual rules don't tell you what to do once the character has changed class. I'm going to run it like AD&D dual-classing, where the PC can't use his old abilities until he reaches the same level he had been at on the old class.

Determination of Abilities: Now, about a third of the way into the booklet, we get to ability Scores. It's the usual six - Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, Dexterity, and Charisma. They're rolled using 3d6 in order, so you are likely to get some weaksauce characters by today's standards. But it gets even better, because by the book - THE REF ROLLS YOUR STATS FOR YOU! Man, that just cracks me up for some reason. I'm going to try and convince my group to roll with it, but the odds are slim to none... Oh, and the order of the stats might look odd to modern eyes, but it's the three Prime Requisites at the start, followed by the rest. The Abilities are followed up by a roll of 3d6x10 for starting Gold Pieces.

At this point we get our first sample character - Xylarthen the Magic-User. Now you wouldn't be caught dead playing an M-U with an Intelligence of 11 these days, but as you'll see stats weren't quite so important in OD&D. I'll be using Xylarthen as an NPC, one of the guild members that the PCs can hire if they want. Going with the line that he would have made a better cleric, I'll play him as a guy whose family are heavily religious and influential, who decided to flout tradition and become a magic-user.

Strength: This is the Prime Requisite for Fighting Men, which means that if it is high they will earn XP faster, and if it is low they get it slower. Other than that? Nada. The days of Strength being the most important stat for melee are some way into the future.

Intelligence: The Prime Requisite for Magic-Users. The referee can use a character's Intelligence to determine whether certain actions would be taken, but I'm not a fan of limiting a PCs actions based on their scores. It also gives a PC one extra language per point above 10.

Wisdom: The Prime Requisite for Clerics, and can limit a PCs actions much as Intelligence does.

Constitution: Health and endurance, basically. It helps determine how well a PC can survive adversities such as paralyzation and being turned to stone. A character with a score of 15+ gets +1 hit point per die. It ain't much, but those hp are precious in OD&D. A Con score of 6 or under will get you a -1 penalty.

The chart for 'withstanding adversity' is the original incarnation of the system shock roll, but you know what is totally hardcore about it? It applies to paralyzation! So the next time an OD&D character gets paralyzed by a ghoul, there's going to be a % chance that his heart was paralyzed as well...

Dexterity: It applies to both manual speed and conjuration, though there's nothing to back this up in the rules. I'm taking this to mean that the characters with the highest Dex go first in whatever phase the round is in (i.e. movement, missile fire, melee, etc.). Also, a Dex of 12+ gives you +1 to hit with missiles, and one under 9 gives you -1.

Charisma: This is a combination of appearance and personality, and it's mainly used to determine how many 'unusual' hirelings a character can have, and how loyal they are. Charisma is most often a dump stat in the games I've played, but I get the feeling that in a game full of hirelings and henchmen it will be vital.

Oh, and get this quote: "In addition the charisma score is usable to decide such things as whether or not a witch capturing a player will turn him into a swine or keep him enchanted as a lover." It will also aid in attracting monsters into service, and I'm really looking forward to PCs trying that out.

Stat Swapping: You can juggle your stats around a bit in OD&D if you want to, but only to increase your Prime Requisite. Clerics can sacrifice 3 points of Strength to gain 1 point of Wisdom. Fighting-Men and Clerics can drop 2 points of Intelligence to add to their respective Prime Requisites. Fighting Men can drop 3 points of Wisdom for 1 Strength, and Magic-Users can drop 2 Wisdom for 1 Intelligence. All of these gains are apparently just for purposes of gaining XP. This doesn't affect much now, but once Strength becomes the primary means of being awesome in combat, it will be vital to remember. Finally, no stat can be reduced below 9.

The six D&D stats are a godsend in terms of the project I'm attempting. No matter what version of the game you pick up, there they are. Not even the scorched earth tactics of 4e could destroy them.

Languages: There's a few lovely tidbits scattered here. There's a Common tongue known by most humans on the "continent" (in this case Oerik or the Flanaess or whatever the main World of Greyhawk is called). Every other creature which can speak has its own language, and 20% can speak common.

And then there are alignment languages, which have fallen out of favor since 3e appeared. Each character can speak his alignment tongue, but those of the opposite alignment, while not being able to understand, will recognize what it is and give you the old what-for. I kind of like them as languages passed directly down from the Gods themselves, a language of cults and secret rites. It's also a good way to find out if Lawful Jim is really who he says he is...

We can also infer a few things from the languages that Dwarves and Elves can automatically speak. Dwarves can speak Gnome, Goblin and Kobold - they are friendly with Gnomes, and they often war with Goblins and Kobolds, meaning all of these races share the same general environment. Elves speak Orc, Hobgoblin and Gnoll - again implying they have frequent contact with these races, most likely as enemies.

NPCs: This section deals with the hiring of guys who can aid your PCs, which I understand was a common practice in the old days. I'm going to push it heavily in the form of advice from various trustworthy characters, and I'm hoping my players go for it.

Only the lowest level characters can be hired, which I suppose is fair enough - once a guy hits 2nd level, he's already pretty special. The hirer needs to advertise in inns and taverns and by any other means necessary, which takes time and money as determined by the ref. There is mention here of "dwarf-land" and "elf-land", which are presumably where Dwarf and Elf characters come from - I'm stealing those as the human terms for those regions.

In general, it takes at least 100gp to tempt a human, dwarves are more interested in gold, magic-users and elves desire magic items, and Clerics desire a place of worship they can go to. All this tells me is that Elves and Magic-Users will NEVER be hired, because who wants to drop their magic items on some 1st level goon? Otherwise it conforms to the stereotypes, and in a project as broad as this one every stereotype helps.

Monsters and NPCs encountered in the dungeon can be tempted into a characters service if they are of the same alignment - a bribe is usually required here. There's a lovely Gygaxian chart to roll on, and that determines the monster's reaction, anything from instant attack to utter loyalty.

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