Wednesday, April 22, 2015

B/X Trollery Continued

See this post for some background on how easy it is to be "peer-pressured" in the OSR. So here's part two, again inspired by Alex Schroeder's answers, again to questions that Random Wizard originated as part of an evil scheme to take over the Trolls of the world.

Should energy drain take away one level of experience points from the character? Yes or No? If no, what should level drain do? I've actually never run into this. I guess I don't play enough D&D? I've had characters turn into werewolves and eat the rest of the party, I've had characters die while riding into town to start their adventuring career, I've had all kinds of bad stuff happen to characters in my games. But not this. So I'll put on my "player hat" for a second and say that I hate energy drain. Not because of the loss of level and XP mind you, but because of the book-keeping horror it entails. I'd rather just fail a save and have the character die instead! Wanted to try playing a halfling bard anyway...

Should the oil used in lanterns do significant damage (more than 1 hp in damage) if thrown on an opponent and set on fire? Yes or No? If yes, how much damage should it do? I realize that for all kinds of somewhat scientific reasons, lamp oil should not be the cause of an inferno that sets entire dungeons on fire. But it's sometimes fun to set shit on fire (in game mind you!) and I've had my share of laughs with players fumbling attack rolls and dropping the darn things on their own party instead. Good times! The B/X standard of d8 damage may be a bit excessive, but I'd probably stick with it just for the heck of it. Also holy water does d8 to undead, so at least it's consistent with that. BTW, many monsters can toss those things right back at you if you fail to hit...

Should poison give a save or die roll, with a fail rolled indicating instant death? Yes or No? If no, how should game mechanics relating to poison work? I think that should depend entirely on the poison, don't you? There are different kinds after all, at least in my worlds. The real question trolly-troll hid here is "Should there be save-or-die rolls at all?" so I'll go with that instead. Sure, there should be "save-or-die" rolls, at least every now and then, at least for certain very powerful monsters, at least for (some) climactic encounters. Those saving throws on your character sheet get better for a reason: They measure how much work you've put into your character so far and how sad it would be to lose that character. It's a perfectly fair setup and you sat down to play the game. Now roll up another character! That said, I am not opposed at all to converting "save-or-die" things written into a module to something completely different if it suits me better. There's little point in tricking noobs with yellow mold spores for example. They just don't know, so they'll have their first character die on entering that room without really having a say in the matter. Not fun at all. So I'd replace that with a huge coughing fit that attracts monsters, maybe some minuses for 6 turns, etc. Oh, also important: If you use "save-or-die" stuff on player characters, be fair and allow them to use it on your favorite villain as well.

Do characters die when they reach 0 hit points? Yes or No? If no, then at what point is a character dead? The house rule from my "Expedition to the Borderlands" open-table game is pretty representative of what I usually do: "Characters are unconscious at 0 hit points and dead at their negative constitution score. Serious injury (negative hit points) can have permanent effects such as scarring, broken bones, missing limbs, etc." I don't specify a particular table, and usually I don't do evil things like letting the player roll for their character's new disability. Maybe I should? After all there's an entire blog dedicated to this stuff! (As a side-note, I am not too fond of critical hits. Most players aren't either once their character has been on the receiving end of a Stone Giant who crits his thrown rock.)

Does the primary spell mechanic for a magic user consist of a "memorize and forget system" (aka Vancian)? Yes or No? If no, what alternative do you use? Yes. In my "home game" however, I am giving wizards a permanent "detect magic" and priests a permanent "detect evil" as it were. I'd roll it, like finding secret doors or something, but those things wouldn't be spells. They are silly as spells. (Also here's a cursed sword for the fighter-types who keep complaining about that "one-shot" wizard in the party.)

Should all weapons do 1d6 damage or should different weapons have varying dice (1d4, 1d8, etc...) for damage? I know I'll get at least one "but you're double-dipping" comment for this, but anyway. Let me quote another house rule from my open-table game (which I just noticed I had never posted to our G+ group, something I'll have to remedy): "Damage is primarily class-based: Fighters do d8, Clerics do d6, Thieves and Wizards do d4. Light weapons (dagger, sling, etc.) get -1, heavy weapons (two-handed sword, pole arm, crossbow, etc.) get +1 to damage." The "home game" would differ on a few details (I give Thieves d6 hit-dice so they'd do d6 damage), but overall the system would be the same.

Should a character that has a high ability score in their prime requisite receive an experience point bonus? Yes or No? Depends. If I run B/X straight then there's an XP bonus. In my "home game" there wouldn't be.

Should a character with an constitution of 18 get a +3 bonus to hit points, or a +2 bonus to hit points, or a +1 bonus to hit points or no bonus to hit points? And should other ability scores grant similar bonuses to other game mechanics? Depends again. I am so fickle! "Moldvay knows best." is what Alex says and for B/X RAW I agree. The "home game" is again a special snowflake because I use standard deviations (strictly speaking 2.9581 but I round up to 3) from the "average 9-12 range" as the measure for bonuses: 13-15 is +1, 16-18 is +2, and the same on the other end.

Should a character have 1 unified saving throw number, or 3 saving throw types based on ability scores (reflex, fortitude, will), or 5 types based on potential game effects (magic wand, poison attacks)? or something else? Finally one of these questions really gets to me. Of course the B/X answer is easy, just roll with the five classic saves and we're good. I've looked at saving throws in different editions and various clones before, trying to figure out what I really like. But those posts didn't help in the end because I'd still really like a simpler approach (or better rationales for the existing numbers). As per usual, Daniel Collins has a good answer. But I am still hopelessly undecided.

Should a cleric get (A) 1 spell at 1st level  (B) no spells at 1st level (C) more than 1 spell at 1st level? Straight B/X for the open-table game, although all characters start at level 2 in that one so it's not something that bothers people. Priests in the "home game" would use the same progression as wizards, the one I first suggested here and later compared across various systems. (Back when I still had clerics, they would have used a slower progression to compensate for their "martial" aspects. Alas that's now taken care off by my strange approach to multi-classing.)

And done?


  1. All these identical thoughts and choices run through my brain all day every day and varied solutions apply to my 4.5 B/X games I run per week. Good stuff & thank you for posting. I look forward to going through all the links you've provided