Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I - Greyhawk Part 3

ALTERNATE HIT DICE: This section introduces the different hit dice types for each class. It's a much easier system to use than the one presented in OD&D - characters roll one die for each level they attain until they hit name level, and after that they get a small fixed amount per level. Fighters roll an 8-sided die, Magic-Users and Thieves a 4-sided, and Clerics a 6-sided. My explanation? While training gets more consistent and Fighting Men are better able to resist damage, Magic-Users are being subjected to more rigorous magical studies and no longer have as much time for physical activities and combat training.

Also, I was previously using a system whereby the players would reroll their hit point totals at the start of each session. Once these rules come into play, they'll be keeping the same totals from game to game.

Monsters also get a boost here, going from 6-sided hit dice to 8-sided. Looks like they're getting more use to raids by adventurers as well.

CLASS TABLES: There's not much to note here, just the spell progressions for Magic-Users and Clerics for the new spell levels above 6th, as well as the table for Thieves. Their Chainmail attack progression look to be close to that of Clerics. As for their Thief abilities, they run on a percentile system with the percentages determined by level (aside from Hear Noise, which works on 1d6 like for other classes, with Thieves getting a bonus).

Dwarf, Elf and Hobbit thieves get bonuses to some of their thief abilities. Dwarves are good with traps, locks and hiding. Elves are good at hiding and picking pockets. And Hobbits are naturals, with bonuses across the board. Although, the +1 to Hear Noise may actually be a penalty, as the bonuses in the table above are expressed as negatives. So while a hobbit thief is better at listening than a non-thief, he's not as good as a Dwarf or an Elf.

Rolling above the percentage noted for a thief ability results in failure, and once you've failed you can't try again in that particular situation. Also, characters being pick-pocketed might detect it, with the chance being higher as they gain levels.

EXPERIENCE POINTS: There's a new system for awarding experience points, as Gary has decided that the old one (that of giving 100XP per monster hit dice) was "ridiculous". Now there's a chart with much more modest awards for monster hit dice, with bonuses to be added if the monster has a special ability. Powerful special abilities like petrification are given double the bonus. Otherwise it's the same, with 1xp per gold piece, meaning that now much more of a character's advancement will come from treasure rather than killing monsters. It's a positive change, I feel.

My justification? The first crop of PCs were truly exploring the unknown, as I'm going to set things up so that they're the first adventurers in Greyhawk for a good long while. Once the campaign has progressed a little, new characters will already have heard stories and know more of the abilities of the monsters, so they don't gain as much experience from fighting them.

Also, NPCs now get a half-share of the XP. They don't get a full share, because they're under the direction of another, but it's better than the zero share they were getting before.

COMBAT: We begin with a note that Thieves have the combat progression of Clerics, and the saving throws of Magic-Users. Not such a bad combination, actually.

WEAPON TYPE VS. ARMOR: The Chainmail system already had such modifiers factored in, and this table is drawn from there. Basically, it's a big chart of all the weapons in the game, with modifiers that show how effective they are against different types of armor.

This is the sort of rule that I find to be more trouble than it is worth. It's just too much hassle to remember these things. Thankfully it only comes into play against humanoid monsters. The upside is a bit of increased realism (i.e. a guy with a dagger will have a hard time penetrating plate mail), and also that it encourages variety in weapon choices, which gives the Fighter another advantage. I will introduce it eventually, but if it bugs me too much I'm going to drop it.

There's a part at the end that I like, though - a little chart that shows what bonuses you get for attacking someone who is on the ground. The result is that a guy in plate mail is a sitting duck once he's fallen over. I'm up for any rule that makes players think twice about buying the heaviest armour.

WEAPON DAMAGE: To go with the new hit point system, we also now get damage dice based on the weapon used - swords do 1d8, maces 1d6, daggers 1d4, etc. Also included is a column for damage against creatures of larger than man-size - some weapons do less, and some do more. I've never much seen the point of this rule, but players sure do love breaking out that d12 for the sword.

In addition, some weapons (such as the battle axe and morning star) now require a minimum amount of space to each side to wield - making them a little awkward in a dungeon setting. It's also noted that pole arms and pikes aren't generally usable in dungeons, which is going to upset the pole arm freak in my party. He might actually have to get within melee range of something.

Again, this will be another piece of training introduced by the Adventurers Guild. They are able to teach the players to use some weapons more effectively, and also to minimize wounds from others (i.e. the ones whose damage die becomes lower with this sytem). Monsters learn quickly through observation, so after the players have been into the dungeon with this system once, the monsters will adopt it also.

MAGIC ARMOR AND SHIELDS: In OD&D magic armor subtracted its bonus from the attacker's roll, and shields only came into effect if their bonus was higher than that of the armor. Now the bonuses adjust the player's armor class, and the shield and armor bonuses stack - Armor Class totals of below zero are now possible. This is the system used in AD&D, and it's a lot easier to remember than that in OD&D.

But the following sentence is baffling to me - "attacks from the right and/or rear consider armor only when two or more opponents attack". For the life of me I can't see the logic or intent here. If the sentence was in reference to shields it might make sense, but armor? I might have to house-rule this, as much as I am loathe to do so in this project.

Anyway, what this new system means for the campaign is that someone has unlocked the secret techniques of using magic armour and shield together, and passed the information on. The Guild gets it, and thus so do the players. I might have the information on a scroll or book that the PCs can find in Greyhawk, or perhaps I'll have some NPCs find it.

MONSTER DAMAGE: Just as players get damage by weapon type, monsters are learning how to use their natural weapons more effectively as well. Some now get multiple attacks per round, and there are a lot that have their damage output increased significantly. The Cloud Giant, for instance, has gone from doing 3-18 damage to doing 6-36. The largest Sea Monsters do 5-50, this being the deadliest attack in the game thus far. And just as with some weapons, there are some monsters whose attacks grow weaker - the PCs will have learned by this point to minimise these attacks.

Tomorrow I go through the Magic-User spells - all the way up to 9th level!


  1. I think it's got to mean shields, and that you only lose the shield bonus for being attacked from the right or rear if there's at least one other attacker to keep you from just turning around to interpose the shield.

  2. That would make sense, but it's the exact opposite of what is actually stated.

  3. The subtleties of the legal mind are equal to the emergency. The thing is really quite simple; the insertion of a single word will do it. Let it stand that "attacks from the right and/or rear consider armor adjustments only when two or more opponents attack" and there you are, out of your difficulty at once!

    Riffs on Iolanthe aside, once you consider Shield to be part of AC it almost makes sense...

  4. In the interests of keeping it as 'by-the-book' as possible, I have come up with an absurd yet plausible working here.

    I may interpret the line thus: Basically, if a guy attacks you from the rear or the side you don't have a shield (and he's attacking by himself) he is able to carefully aim a blow that bypasses all armor. He can't do it if there are two attackers, because they put each other off.

    So there - by the book, and it kinda-sorta makes D&D sense.

  5. Far too late for your needs, but I think I understand what this line was trying to say. It's just badly worded.

    The natural interpretation of:

    "attacks from the right and/or rear consider armor only when two or more opponents attack"

    is to read "only" as modifiying the following phrase, "when two or more opponents attack". In other words, a single opponent gets to ignore armor when attacking from these directions. This is where you're running into trouble, since that's a rather crazy idea, though apparently it's the interpretation you chose.

    I think what was actually intended was for "only" to modify "armor". Thus, by "armor only", they meant "armor without shield". In other words, when you are attacked by multiple attackers, and one is coming from the right or rear, that attacker gets to ignore your shield, because in this situation your shield is committed to fending off the other opponents.

    Basically, the sentence badly needed to be rewritten for clarity.

  6. Mr. Howell, I like your style. You've hit on a solution that is not only by-the-book, but that also makes decent real-world sense. I salute you!

    Also, it's pretty safe to say that nearly every book Gary Gygax ever wrote needed to be rewritten for clarity.