Monday, June 28, 2010

D&D Basic Set part 3

Today I'm looking at a number of different topics, from equipment to alignment to languages. There's not a lot here that is different from OD&D, but I'm going to go through and point out the minor differences anyway.

I'll kick off with a quick look at the equipment list in the Basic Set. There are only a few small differences from the one in OD&D. Spears have raised in price from 1 gold piece to 2 gold pieces for some reason. It seems arbitrary, but who knows what Holmes was thinking. My in-game explanation will be that spears are going out of use in civilised lands, so not as many are being manufactured. Hence, those that are for sale cost a touch more.

The merchant ships and galleys are gone, but those things were all worth thousands of gold pieces, well beyond the scope of the low-level characters covered by these rules. Belladonna has been removed, again for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Traditionally it's a herb said to ward against werewolves, but I guess you could say the same about wolvesbane, which has been kept. I guess that it's become very rare by this point of my campaign. The sole addition to the list is the Tinder Box, which is such a vital piece of equipment that it mystifies me that it wasn't in OD&D. The sudden appearance of tinder boxes seems hard to reconcile, unless I say that they have only just been invented, but that seems very unlikely. It's more probable that they came standard with any purchase of a light source, up until now, when shopkeeps start charging for them.

The section on character creation continues, with a brief description of the classes not detailed in this set, some notes on handling characters with very poor stats, a bit recommending that each player controls a single character, and some more on what happens when a PC dies. They've kept the rules for relatives inheriting a dead PCs stuff, which I'm very happy to see. But otherwise there's nothing here that hasn't been covered before.

Some guidelines for hiring NPCs follow, and these are almost identical to those in OD&D. The only change is a concrete way for determining how much it costs to advertise to hire such an NPC – 1d6 x 100 gold pieces, which seems a bit rich considering that you are limited to hiring 1st level characters. I can't even fathom where that money goes, unless you have to buy some sort of a license to hire people.

Alignment comes next, and this is a complete departure from the OD&D system. Instead, Holmes is using the later one detailed by Gary in The Strategic Review #6. It's not quite the nine-alignment system of AD&D, but it's more complicated than the Law-Neutrality-Chaos found in OD&D. The Basic Set has five alignments: Lawful Good, Lawful Evil, Neutral, Chaotic Good and Chaotic Evil. Chaotic characters are described as unpredictable, and Lawfuls as having a strict code of behaviour. We're definitely out of the realm of alignment just determining what side you're on the grand cosmic struggle, and into the period where it defines your character's basic behaviour and moral code.

We finish up with a section on Language, and this is seriously taken almost word for word from OD&D. The only change is to expand alignment languages to cover the new categories.

So, not much of interest today, I have to say. But that's what comes of going in depth for a compilation of stuff I've already gone in-depth on. Not every day can be a winner, I'm afraid, but I soldier on regardless.


  1. I like the rationale of the tinder box's introduction being that shopkeepers are just greedy bastards. No doubt an amusing adventure scenario could come of it - remember all that flint that used to just be lying around, it used to be dirt cheap but now it's so rare and expensive, where'd it go??

    I do not like the 5 alignment system, and it looks to be the most depressing system ever devised for D&D. The simple, murky, beautiful law/neutrality/chaos of OD&D was much more inspired, and Gygax must have had a reason to avoid going for good and evil archetypes from the beginning. Probably as the game became more popular, it also needed to be more concrete, which is a sad thing.

    I really wish I'd been exposed to OD&D first and then progressed from there, much as your campaign world is proposed. The early energy seems to dampen bit by bit as the rules gets more refined, more defined. So far, the only thing I have an objection to in this version of the basic set is the alignment system. But from here on out it seems things can only get less inspired.

  2. I'm not a big fan of the alignment system either. It's a sort of weird half-way point between the simplicity of OD&D and the hyper-complexity of AD&D. That Gygax published it first in The Dragon is telling, as is the fact that it was greatly expanded when the Player's Handbook came out.

    I know what you mean about that early magic, at least so far as the rules go, but I feel that the inspiration shifts to other areas. In early AD&D it's in the modules, and once 2e hits it goes into the settings.

  3. Point taken. Though 2E didn't impress me at all, I was in love with Ravenloft (theoretically, at least; it never quite worked like I wanted it to as a game). The question of alignment will always be trouble, but I see you're tackling it in another post.

  4. I started gaming in the late 80s, so in many ways 2e was the dominant force in my formative years. While I can see now the areas it was deficient in, at the time I loved it. And I still think it has a lot to recommend it.