Thursday, October 29, 2015

Notes on OD&D - Part 10

This morning I would like to continue with a look at the Hit Dice per class. Last night I ran an analysis in Excel that shows the relative values of Hit Dice per Level for each of the three main classes. What I did not do was calculate the cumulative totals per level. Today, out of curiosity, I decided to take a look. The results are interesting. Let's take a gander at what I found. Or think I found, at any rate. I won't consider this entirely validated until someone out there is kind enough to verify that I got the calculations right and that these numbers are indeed correct. But with that caveat aside, and on the expectation that my method was not flawed, lets see how things panned out for our three Classes.

Let start with the Minimum where every roll turns out to be to the player's great horror, a 1 on every roll:

Now lets look at the average, where the player rolls the average, to the player's resigned acceptance, which is 3.5 on each roll (average for 1d6 is 3.5). Note these numbers are of course not valid as no one can literally roll a 3.5, however it serves as a way to mark the average, and we will have to live with the decimal values. The important thing is to look at the relationships between the Fighting-Men, Magic-Users, and Clerics at any rate. Here's the results:

Lastly we will look at the Maximal values, where to the players astonished delight, they roll a 6 on every roll:

What stands out here is that the Magic-User in the end not only has the most Power in that they can cast 30 Spells (but not use weapons other than a dagger, nor wear armor) but the 16th Level Wizard also has the most cumulative Hit Points! Yes, indeed, that original comment that the Wizards turn out to be the most powerful is quite true. The Wizard has 71 for the max at 16th Level, as compared with 69 for the Fighting-Man at his max Level (10). But wait. We can not be too hasty. Remember, these rules are complicated, and they have lots of nooks and crannies.

We were just told on p18 "There is not theoretical limit to how high a character can progress." Thus, Fighting-Men are not limited at 10th Level at all. Only certain Races have those limits. So for Men the sky is the limit. I'm going to therefore extrapolate on the exiting chart (as is recommended on p11) and fill in the blanks for the Fighting-Man to level 16. I will add pluses as seems to fit within the pattern of the chart. Lets see what happens.

Here is the revised Hit Dice Advancement Chart:

Now lets look at our three charts again.




Notice, though, that how you set the values for the Pluses after 10th Level for the Fighters and Clerics does happen to make a big difference in the outcome. Here I set them minimally because the trend at the end of the original Fighting-Men chart (by 10th Level) trended downward, indicating that pluses thereafter should be minimized. Maybe. If I set them to something more in keeping with the overall concept that Fighting-Men are Tough Guys, I might be tempted to give them a +1 every level after 10th, with some extra heft when they get to 15th and 16th, which would reflect the original pattern a bit better. Here's the results:




So there we have it. As we can see, at equal Levels in fact Fighters stand at the top of the heap, as is just right and proper. Clerics and Magic-Uses are far closer to one another, and in fact they trade places along the way up the Levels ladder. Very interesting. Very interesting indeed.

Ok that's enough for today. I have other fish to fry!

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If you're interested in trying it out, please go to and create a free account for yourself. The rules book (PDF) is downloadable for free as well. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Notes on OD&D - Part 9

Onward with my notes, analysis and ruminations on OD&D...

Men & Magic
    • This page is a chart that shows several important bits of information for each of the three primary classes Fighting-Men, Magic-Users, and Clerics (on the next page).  It lists the Levels for each class and shows the Level Name (which, as discussed previously, appear to be monikers without much meaning other than as a name to peg the Level on), the Dice for Accumulative Hits, the Fighting Capability, and finally the number of Spells that can be learned at which Level per Level of advancement.
    • There isn't really that much to be said about this, other than perhaps to note that the advancements are not exactly even between Levels as some give a bigger jump in advancement than others.  For example, Accumulative Hit Dice for Fighting Men goes up as follows:
      • Veteran ... 1 + 1
      • Warrior ... 2
      • Swordsman ... 3
      • Hero ... 4
      • Swachbuckler ... 5 + 1
      • Myrmidon ... 6
      • Champion ... 7 + 1
      • Super Hero ... 8 + 2
      • Lord ... 9 + 3
      • Lord, 10rh Level ... 10 + 1
Why this progression was chosen is a mystery.  My only guess is that it may have tended to cause the Players to get especially excited about advancing to, lets say 5th Level, where they get that pretty neat +1.  They won't see that again until Champion.  And just beyond that is Super Hero were they get a +2.  On the other hand, I would imagine that Lord 10th Level might have felt like something of a let down, after that awesome +3 on achieving Lord.  So, it's hard to say. 
  • It is notable that Magic-Users at 16th Level will not have as many Hit Dice (9 + 2) as 9th Level Fighting-Men (9 + 3).  One might say that Fighting-Men are twice as hearty as Magic-Users. Of course this is to balance out the fact that Magic Users get to use Spells, which we know from the initial comments in the book can become the most powerful of all the characters at higher levels.  We are also told, in so many words, that the Magic-User's aim to ensure protection by the Fighting-Men until they can Level high enough to become really powerful.  
  • Magic-Users can learn 1 1st Level Spell at 1st Level
  • Clerics can not learn any Spells at 1st Level, and get 1 at 2nd Level
  • Magic-Users can get 5 of each Level of the six levels of Spell at their maximum Level (16th), which gives them a total of 30 Spells.  That's a goodly number.
  • Clerics on the other hand can only have 3 of each of the first 5 Levels of Spell at their maximum Level (10th), which gives them a total of 15 Spells, or half the number of the most powerful Magic-User.  On the other hand Clerics can fight with more weapons, and are better Fighters than Magic-Users can be (excepting Elvish ones).   
  • At 10th Level have Hit Dice of 7 + 2, whereas the Magic-User at 10th Level has Hit Dice of 7. That + 2 for Clerics, by the way, does not add up to 14 extra Hit Points.  That would be Hefty.  Instead we find out soon enough that the pluses only get added once, and not per die.  Ah well.
Ok, so now I want to see how this plays out for three cases. Average Hits per Class, Maximum Hits per Class,and Minimum Hits per Class.  Average rolls on 1d6 are 3.5.  Max is 6 and min, of course, is 1.  So lets see what this looks like.  First here's the spread by class for Hits and Pluses.

Now lets look at Average Hits Per Class

Now for Maximum (where every roll was a 6)

Now lets look at Minimum (where every roll is a 1)

Note: these charts are not showing the accumulated points per level.  They are showing the relative values per Class.  I'm curious to see what the cumulative points would look like, but I'm afraid it's a bit too late to get into that tonight.  I may take that up tomorrow and see what I can come up with.

As there isn't that much more to say on this page (it is only the chart), I'll move on.
  • p18 - Explanations for lements of the Chart
    • Experience Points
      • Experience Points are awarded to to "players" (as opposed to Player Characters, which I suspect is a typo) by the referee with appropriate bonuses or penalties for Prime Requisite Scores (as seen in the previous section on p11).
      • Defeating monsters in combat and collecting treasure awards "Experience".
      • The accumulation of Experience gradually moves the Characters upwards through their Levels.
      • Experience Gains are earned relative to their Level.  So a 8th Level Magic-User operating on the 5th dungeon level would earn 5/8 Experience. 
      • An example of Experience Calculation is given.  It is a bit convoluted. In fact, to be frank, it's a bit of a nightmare.  Let me see if I understand it.
        • 8th Level Magic-User operating on the 5th Level of the Dungeon
        • Gains 7000 Gold by defeating a troll (7th Level with 6 hit dice)
        • Since it is 7th Level the calculation is 7/8 rather than 5/8
        • Here's the Calculation as the book handles it:
          • 7000 G.P. + 700 (for killing the troll)
          • 7700 / 8 = 962.5 (divide by the Character Level, I guess)
          • 962.5 x 7 = 6037.5.
        • Note: I'm not sure why we multiplied by 7 at the end.  Maybe because the troll is 7th level.  I guess.
      • Experience is never awarded above a 1 to 1 basis.  So even if a Character kills a higher level monster he won't receive more experience than the treasure + the monster's kill value.
      • It is also recommended that no character receive more experience in one session than will suffice to raise them up one level.  
Comments:  The instructions are not entirely clear on how exactly to preform the calculation for experience gains, but picking over the example it seems that the formula would be:

Experience = ((Gold + Monster Kill Value) / Character Level) * Monster Level

Lets take a look at this more carefully.

Well, ok.  Looks like someone was not all that good at math, or someone was not all that good at proof reading.  Or both.  But 7 x 962.5 does not equal 6037.5... it equals 6737.5.  Ok no problem. Typos happen.  It's ok.  But what's really puzzling me is the convolution in the way this was calculated.  According to the description I would have thought the formula would have been this:

Experience = ((Gold + Monster Kill Value) * (Monster Level / Character Level)

What would that turn out to be? Ahhhh it is the same.  Ok.  So the two formulas produce the same number.  Fine. Fine.  Ok.  Spot check complete.  Seems legit (other than the typo).  Lets move on.
    • Levels
      • There is no theoretical limit to how high a character may progress.  
      • Um ... so there is no limit to Levels advancement, other than the limits listed for Hobbits (4th), Dwarves (6th Level Fighting-Man) and Elves (4th Level Fighting-Man, 8th Level Magic-User). In other words, Men are unlimited by the Level they can achieve, while all other races are limited.  Ok. Got it.  
      • When characters advance beyond the listed Levels (for example beyond Patriarch 10th Level for Clerics, then you just give it the next logical name ... Patriarch 20th Level, or what have you.  Ok, check.
    • Dice for Accumulative Hits (Hit Dice)
      • This indicates the number of dice rolled to determine the hit points for the character.  The pluses are merely the number of pips to add to the total of all the dice rolled, not to each die.  So you roll the dice, add all of them up, and then add whatever the bonus number is to that tally and that gives you the total.
      • Note: well, that certainly puts less umph behind those plusses!  Hehe.
    • Fighting Capacity
      • This is used in Conjunction with the Chainmail rules, and may be modified by the D&D rules in various places.  
      • An Alternate Combat system is also given in the D&D book "for those who prefer a different method".
Ok, that's about it for today.  For those who don't have the book and are curious as to what the chart actually looks like (I would be, I'm pretty sure), here are some photos...

I'm also including the paragraph that explains Experience Points so that you can validate my interpretation.

Ok and with that, having no further thoughts on this at the moment, I will call it a day.  I'm really finding this a rather fascinating exercise.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Notes on OD&D - Part 8

Ok, today I will continue on to page 15. Lets have a look.

Men & Magic
  • p15 - Weight which can be carried
    • Weight of a Man ... 1750
    • Load in Gold Pieces Equal to Light Foot Movement (12") ... 750
    • Load in Gold Pieces Equal to Heavy Foot Movement (9")... 1000
    • Load in Gold Pieces Equal to Armored Foot Movement (6") ... 1500
    • Leather Armor or Saddle ... 250
    • Chain-Type Armor ... 500
    • Plate Mail or Horse Armor ... 750
    • Helmet ... 50
    • Shield ... 150
    • Pole Arms, Halberd, Pike, Two-Handed Sword (each) ... 150
    • Morning Star, Flail, Battle Axe (each) ... 100
    • Sword, Mace, Hand Axe, Bow & Arrows (each) ... 50
    • Dagger ... 20
    • Miscellaneous equipment (rope, spikes, bags, etc.) ... 80
    • Maximum Load/Person at half normal movement ... 3000
Notice that the Loads in Gold Pieces section (bold) above indicates the limit of weight a character can carry before they have a movement adjustment equal to that of the type of character listed. So if your character was carrying 750 or less they could move 12", just like a Light Foot man. Again, this is another reminder that we are coming out of the game of Chainmail, and miniatures and their movement properties were defined by the kind of battle maps, or terrain tables even, that were part and parcel of the game at that point. While miniatures were not required, they were still a strongly determinant element within the game's design.
  • Example of Employing Encumbrance: A character equips himself with the following
    • Plate Armor ... 750
    • Helmet ... 50
    • Shield ... 150
    • Flail ... 100
    • Bow, Quiver & 20 Arrows ... 50
    • Dagger ... 20
    • Misc Equipment ... 80
    • Total ... 1200
  • "The character would move at the speed of an armored Footman (6" / turn) He could pick up an additional 300 Gold Pieces weight of treasure and incur no movement penalty. Weight over 1500 would incur the penalty of half-speed noted above, although equipment could be discarded in order to avoid the penalty."
I do not think these "weights" represent pounds, as it would be hard to justify a 20 pound dagger. I suspect that these should be called "Encumbrance Points" and include both the weight and the unwieldiness or bulkiness as factors in the final number. It also may not be entirely accurate. For example I have read that Chainmail is actually harder to wear long term than Plate Armor. This is because Plate Armor can be rigged up so that it uses harnesses to secure it to the waist and the shoulders thereby distributing the weight more evenly across the body, whereas Chainmail must rest with it's full weight on the shoulders. From what I've read on this topic, because of this, Chainmail took a heavier toll on endurance than Platemail, even though Platemail may have had a higher overall weight. Also, you can watch this youtube video online demonstrating the unexpected... one could actually be much more agile in Plate Armor than you might think. So I would say that it is likely that the weight ratings of Chainmail and Platemail might be reconsidered in this light. Of course it would help to see how these same feats of arms and mobility would be handled by someone in Chainmail. Ah... well as luck would have it someone did make this Chainmail Video wherein the point is made that Chainmail does not restrict your movement at all. On the other hand he doesn't address the question of the overall weight on the shoulders issue. At any rate, it's something worth considering if you really enjoy being completely picayune and anal about this sort of thing (ie - you want to try to make your world as realistic as you can), as I do.
  • Weight and Equivalents (list)
    • 1 coin (copper, silver, gold) ... 1
    • 1 small sack holds ... 50
    • 1 large sack or back pack holds ... 300
    • 1 scroll or piece of jewelry ... 20
    • 1 potion or wine skin ... 30
    • 1 Flagon or Chalice ... 50
    • 1 wand with case ... 100
    • 1 staff with case ... 300
    • 1 gem ... 1
I didn't know that wands came with cases, although I guess that makes sense as they can be fragile. But staff? Now that surprised me. Also, a scroll I would think would have more bulk than a piece of jewelry, but then again, if you think about it, jewelry is delicate, and you have to handle it carefully. Hence the unwieldiness ups the value of it's weight rating. Ok, makes sense.

Lets go on to the next page then.


Looking at these spreads way back in 1978 I found myself rather puzzled. Why do the values seem to erratically jump between levels for some classes and not others? And why do they go up less sometimes and more other times. At that point in time I wasn't really interested in analyzing D&D, but rather I was simply reviewing the three booklets to glean ideas for my own system. The first thing I decided was to make mine (Etlhos RPG) have even growth rates between Levels for all classes. Why? So that it would be easier to remember, easier to work with, and make more sense. One of my design goals was to reduce the number of charts, and this would be a step in that direction. After all, if the rate of change is the same for all classes between all levels then it could be calculated reasonably easily in my head. Especially if I simply doubled the value for each level.

Another question that comes to mind, is why, exactly, Elves and Dwarves were limited to specific Level caps. The answer, undoubtedly, is to balance their other advantages. After all, they get Languages, and have other abilities that make them better than mere Men in some ways, and so the Levels cap was probably a way to help prevent every player from constantly picking only Elves or Dwarves. On the other hand there might have been other ways to balance those abilities out. Perhaps with deficits, or limitations imposed by their class. Such as, possibly, Elves do not like to go into Dungeons, and Dwarves do not like to go into the Wilderness. Or some such. In other words the balancing could have occurred along the same lines as the abilities that necessitated the balancing to being with. Which would, of course, have made for a more balanced mechanics in regards to the rules, I think. 

As you can tell, I'm kind of a fan of keeping the rules as simple, plain and straightforward as possible, and so I have a tendency to want to avoid rules caveats like this. But again, and I will say this repeatedly... we can not judge a rule by itself, but only in context of the total blend and how all the rules work together to form the game experience. It may well be that when played, these, and all the other rules, blended together perfectly. I am pretty sure that they did, in fact, as the game became so popular so quickly it would be hard to believe that had been possible had the rules been so poorly designed as to create a lousy game experience. Either they blended together exceptionally well in total, or ... people were so new to the concept of the thing, and so in love with that concept, that pretty much everyone involved was willing to overlook a few minor rules issues and pretty much put the quibblers in their place... as would be just right and proper, naturally. I'll go to my place shortly, don't worry. 

And so for now, since I'm in analysis mode, lets carry forward and take a closer look at what these values turn out to look like in terms of the differences between levels as a percent of change, shall we?

Ok, now lets chart this.

Right. Ok. So now we can see more clearly the weirdness. Notice that Fighting-Men stays steady for every Level going up an even 200% ... until 6th Level when it dips to a 188% increase. Um... why is that? Notice that of all the classes only Clerics go above 200%, such that at 4th Level the increase is 108%. Why is that? And of course we can now plainly see that Magic-Users are all over the place, but never go above the 200% change. Um ... why is that?

I honestly have no idea if there ever was an adequate answer to this question, other than, we thought it seemed about right at the time. Yet from this I think we can see pretty plainly that OD&D has some odd systemic weirdness that pretty much everyone kind of ignores or sweeps under the run in one way or another. I'm not sure how many people try to rationalize it by suggesting things like "In my world the 4th Level Fighting-Man is strengthened by the Lunar Cycle and so it is easier for them to go up that Level", or some such. For me, the answer was to change the sequences so that they go up evenly by 200% for every level for every class. To distinguish classes I simply made the Experience Bases different. That seemed to suffice and simplify things for me. I wonder, sometimes (but not often) how OD&D might have progressed had they simply chosen to keep the rate of growth at a steady 200% per level. I'm pretty sure that the tradition of Leveling Weirdness continued on from Edition to Edition. And here we are at the root of the matter. Or are we?

Lets take a quick look at Chainmail and see if there's a comparison to be made... nope. There seems to be no concept of Leveling in the Chainmail rules. So yes, then in that case, I think we have found the root of the matter here on page 16 of Men & Magic. Leveling Weirdness begins here.

What I'm really curious about is why these selections were made by Gygax and Arneson. It's a bit odd, and I'm straining my brain wondering why they didn't just keep it at an even doubling per level. They must have had a reason! I think. Perhaps it was in some way tied to their concept of the World and the Levels, and they reasoned that going from Champion to Super Hero was for whatever reason just that much easier than other Levels. Hmmm... I can only imagine that there must have been some reason along those lines. Either that or they were just sort of horrible at math (no, I'm sure that's not it). Or maybe they thought that making the Levels change amounts uneven was more fun in some way. I wonder if anyone can pipe in with an answer to this conundrum. It certainly strikes me as passing strange, and always has. I'd love to know what the rationale might have been.

Lastly on page 16 we have the iconic Barbarian drawing! I've always loved this drawing. It's one of my favorite in the whole series.

Ok that's it for today. I hope people don't take offense at my analysis and criticisms, by the way. Really, I'm not out to prove that OD&D was poorly designed. I don't think it was at all. In fact I think it was likely designed to be an amazing game, and completely revolutionary for it's time. But still, there are certain klunks in the system that puzzle me deeply, and I'd like to look them over, ponder, and see if I can come to an understanding of not only the Hows of the game by the Whys as well.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Notes on OD&D - Part 7

Onward the journey through OD&D, with commentary ...

To return to another topic related to pricing in OD&D, I raised some questions regarding the Equipment and Prices list on page 14.  It seems to me that these prices were made up whole cloth out of thin air by Gygax and Arenson, and were not meant to reflect anything like real-world prices in a medieval setting.  For one thing, six torches should not cost 1 Gold piece.  That's just crazy talk.

I asked +Kasimir Urbanski  the author of Dark Albion, about it, and his conclusion was much the same as mine.  Here is what he had to say...
"the price list in the equipment chapter in Dark Albion is based on actual records of cost in the medieval period (15th century, wherever possible). If you compared the two, you'd see they look nothing at all like the price lists in d&d, which clearly began from someone (Gygax, I guess) just trying to figure out in his head what things 'ought' to cost. "
I further asked him if he would mind if I published here the price list(s) from Dark Albion, and he was kind enough to agree to it as well.  So here we go.  A far more accurate picture of prices from the medieval era...
"The three standard coins of the realm at this time are the copper penny (which is actually approximately one-third silver), the silver shilling (which is in fact about one-tenth copper) and the gold pound."   - Dark Albion, p. 135

p = penny
sh = shilling
L = pound

10 p = 1 sh
20 sh = 1 L

Here's the costs / salaries / prices lists from Dark Albion...


Armor and Weapons

Missile Weapons




Wages 2
Of course, none of this is all that pertinent in so far as OD&D was not really trying to be realistic in terms of prices of items.  However, had they tried, they might have made some adjustments to the original pricing lists, and had that happened I would imagine that quite a few squabbles might have been avoided around the gaming table over time, ...perhaps. On the other hand, I'm not sure how particular people have been about exact prices for items in OD&D.  It could well be that no one (or hardly anyone) ever noticed that 6 torches really shouldn't cost a Gold piece.

Rationalizing the money system in OD&D has always been a kind of quixotic pet peeve of mine.   I always thought that the lower end items such as torches, rope and so on were far too expensive at 1 Gold.

Just out of curiosity I want to do a quick spot check.  Not that this is all that important, but I'm curious.  Lets take rope as it is listed in both Dark Albion and OD&D.

OD&D 50' rope = 1 Gold Piece
Dark Albion 50' rope = 10 pennies = 1 Shilling = 1/20th Pound ("L")

So rope in OD&D was 20 times more expensive than actual medieval rope.  Does it matter?  Of course not!  But if you want to be a little more accurate, you can charge a Silver Piece for 50' of rope. Just saying.  Ok, I think that's enough on this topic.  Tomorrow I plan to continue on to Men & Magic page 15.  Sorry for the two days of interlude, but at least one of those topics (not this one) is germane to the playing of OD&D.  This topic, well, might just help in case you want to consider adjusting the price lists for your OD&D game.  On the other hand, I'm not at all sure how much doing so might actually unbalance the game.  It's possible that the OD&D Price Lists are calibrated in such a way as to have an important impact on the game's flow of monies and capabilities.  It's just that, to be honest, I doubt it.  I think they just had one currency at the time, which was Gold Pieces, and anything that cost less than one gold was summarily given the price of 1 Gold, no matter how ruthless and unfair the merchants were who got away with it for so long.  Maybe a class action lawsuit for 30 years of OD&D on behalf of all of our Characters is in order.  We been cheeeeted!  ... or not.  :)

Lets take a quick look at Long Bow to compare another item.

OD&D Long Bow = 40 Gold Pieces
Dark Albion Long Bow = 1 L

Eh?  WTF?  Long Bows have been marked up by 40 times!?  Those greedy bastard Merchants!? Who knew?!

How about leather armor?

OD&D Leather Armor = 15 Gold Pieces
Dark Albion Leather Armor = 5 Shillings

WTF?!??  Wow!   5 Shillings is 1/4 a Pound.  So 15 Gold Pieces is 60 times the actual cost! (Please feel free to check my math here ... I'm a bit brain fatigued at the moment, but I think that's right)... Ok, people, those Merchants have been raking us over the coals for 30 years now!  My Character Abdominopolis is going to see about leveling a class action lawsuit against OD&D Merchants for 30 years worth of price gouging! Whose with me?!

Ah, well... ok ok... I got myself a little excited there.  Never mind the lawsuit.  But it does seem, by my little spot check, that the OD&D prices are about 40 times higher than what actual prices were in the real medieval world.  Maybe the costs are due to the effect of actual magic and clericy on the economy somehow?  Hmmm... hmmm.... hmmm... .could be.   Anyway, do stay tuned for page 15, coming soon.

Edit:  Ok, after further research and investigation I found out a couple of things of interest.  1) Dark Albion fudged the coin denominations in order to make it work more favorably as a game, as opposed to keeping it close to historical accuracy.  So while the price list in Dark Albion is likely accurate in terms of how many Pennies, Shillings and Pounds things cost, what's not accurate is the actual coinage.  As it turns out, in the medieval era, there were no Shilling or Pound coins (until Henry II c. 1489 AD).  A Shilling was actually a pile of 20 pennies.  And a pound was a pile of 240 pennies.  There were no coins that represented a shilling or a pound.  And there was no Gold Piece.  Later on there were, after Henry II, but not before.  Also, the Gold Piece was called a Sovereign, and it was the largest and most valuable coin in England up to that time.  The Sovereign has a nominal value of 1 pound of sterling silver, and the weight was 7.98 grams (0.2814862 ounces) of 22 carat gold. Thus, if we want to include Gold Pieces in our Worlds and expect it to have a relatively accurate medieval value, we would say that .28 ounces of gold is equal in value to 20 Shillings, or 240 silver pennies.  I have yet to work out how this would reflect on actual prices, but I'm willing to go with Dark Albion's price list, and simply take into account that the only coins that were actually available were pennies.  At least until 1489 AD.  I think.  Still researching. Complicated stuff.  Moreso than I guessed.  Which is why, maybe, Gygax and Arneson cut to the chase and just made stuff up.  Whether it made cents or not.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Notes on OD&D - Part 6

Continued reflections on the original Three Booklets of D&D ...

To return for a moment to something I passed over a bit too briefly I think in Parts 2 and 3, or rather now that I've had time to kind of mull things over and go back and take another look from my newly broadened understanding... something interesting occurs to me.

On page 7 of Men & Magic we find out that Dwarves can speak several languages.  These are the languages of Gnomes, Kobolds, Goblins, as well as "Common" and their Alignment tongue. Likewise Elves can speak the languages of Orcs, Hobgoblins, and Gnolls in addition to their own (Elvish) and "Common" and Alignment tongue.  

Dwarves and Gnomes are listed in the Race Alignment table as "Dwarve/Gnome"  ... that's interesting.  It is as though they are so tightly linked as to be nearly synonymous at this point in the game's development.  Moreover, we find the following combinations:

Dwarve/Gnomes = Law or Neutral
  - Speak Gnome, Kobold and Goblin Languages
Elves = Law or Neutral
  - Speak Orc, Hobgoblin and Gnoll Languages

Orcs = Neutral or Chaos

Goblins/Kobolds = Chaos (only)
Hobgoblins/Gnolls = Chaos (only)

A couple of things stand out.  One, I would have thought Goblins would get paired with Hobgoblins over Kobolds.  Two, Hobgoblins get paired with Gnolls, but I would have thought Gnolls would have been paired with Trolls, rather than Hobgoblins.  

Furthermore, I think it very notable that Dwarves and Elves are both Law or Neutral, but the Monster Languages they happen to know are Chaos.  I'm not sure what the Story Rationale for that would be, other than, perhaps, that it's a good idea to know your enemy's languages.  Notice also that Orcs can be either Neutral or Chaos. 

But there's a more important consideration that comes to mind, and it has to do with how the game is played and what it's overall design is purposed for.  And that is military style wargames, I believe.   So, how does this play out?

We know that Languages are important, and I've speculated based on the language rules earlier suggesting that the reason they're important is because they allow one to form Alliances. However this comes at the (potentially significant) risk that speaking the wrong language to a newly met and unknown race might invoke an immediate fight.  In particular if one tries to speak the Alignment Tongue to make the communication, and the newly met race happens to be of the opposing Alignment then the rule is that they will "attack immediately". Risky business, especially if the party happens to already be bloodied from a previous encounter and is trying to return to a safe haven at the time.  

Men have no special Language advantages, unless they have a high Intelligence, or Wisdom, in which case they can learn the languages of various monsters (and I should note quite a few of them too).  But Intelligence and Wisdom do not confer the ability to learn an opposing Alignment Language.   It's a bit confusing, but lets track this with an example.

We have a low level party with players who are new to the game and only know a few monster races so far.  They have, lets say, five Neutral Fighting-Men only, and they've chosen to be aligned to the Law faction.  They're bloodied and trying to get home when they happen to encounter some Goblins.   At this point they can't speak the Goblin Language, and they don't know that the Goblin's Alignment happens to be Chaos.  They may try to speak to the Goblins in the only way they know how ... using their Alignment Tongue, and so they take their chances.  Since the tongue of Law is the opposition to Chaos the Goblins immediately attack.  Game over TPK.

Lets try the same scenario again.  This time they have a Lawful Dwarven Fighter.  Aha.  Now they have someone who can speak Goblin.  Not only that but the Dwarve will know that the Goblins are Chaos.  Best to avoid this encounter if at all possible.  They go the other way, and the party survives.

Lets try this scenario again, but with another twist.  This time they don't encounter Goblins, but instead they encounter a band of Werewolves, another race they are encountering for the first time.  They happen to have a Dwarve who can speak, not Werewolf, but the Law Tongue.  The Dwarf, not knowing Werewolf, does not know what Alignment they are, but the party decides to take their chances and tries speaking to them in the Tongue of Law.  Voila!  Luck is with them and the Werewolves respond positively, being Lawful.  Now they manage to make a deal, and form an alliance based on Law Alignment.  Great.  Not only do they make it home alive, but they made some new friends.  Perhaps, even, the Werewolves have their own retainers and armies (which in the style of play that I think was prevalent at the time, they very likely would).  Their new friends now give them a bigger military force, and they stand a better chance of winning the game.   Remember, in military wargames like Blitzkrieg, unlike how we have come to play RPGs today, there was a definite winner and loser to the War.  I suspect that the concept carried over into Chainmail, and therefore into OD&D.  Again, not 100% sure, but these rules seem to imply that.  At least to my mind.   Further I suspect that it wasn't long before dungeoneering became the predominant modality of the game and the Land Battle aspect was mitigated and eventually abandoned.  We now play without any expectation of there being a "Winner", and we've come to think of the game as an ongoing story about the main Player Characters and their adventures in the World.

So I think I'm starting to get a sense of how these rules blend together to form a certain type and style of gaming.  One that is far closer to a traditional board-game / wargame like Blitzkrieg than I previously imagined.  Very interesting indeed.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Notes on OD&D - Part 5

Onward with my reading of OD&D.  Let's dig right in.  (Oh, and if you are reading these on your smart phone, try turning it sideways; it will be easier to read).

Men & Magic
  • p13 - Non-Player Characters continued
    • Capture of Non-Player Monsters
      • Morale dice can cause a man or intelligent monster to be subdued or enter the service the player characters, provided they can speak the same language.  They will not need morale checks "for a time", and such monsters are salable (more about this in Volume III).  
    • Loyalty of Non-Player Characters (Including Monsters)
      • Elves and Dwarves will serve with "relative loyalty" if they receive their pay regularly, and are treated reasonably. Bonuses will be expected for hazardous duty.  When first accepting such service the GM will roll to determine how loyal retainers are, taking into account Charisma and the amount of payment being offered. 3d6 are rolled.
      • The players are not to be informed of the loyalty score.
        • Loyalty Score   Morale
          • 3 or less = Will desert at first opportunity
          • 4-6 = -2 on morale dice
          • 7-8 = -1 on morale dice
          • 9-12 = Average on moral dice
          • 13-14 = +1 on moral dice
          • 15-18 = +2 on moral dice
          • 19 and above = Never need check morale
      • Moral for NPCs is checked when highly dangerous or unnerving situations arise, using the above table, or the reaction table from Chainmail.
      • Periodic checks should be made with bonuses and minuses based on length of service, rewards, and treatment. 
    • Relatives 
      • One relative can be designated by the Player for the Player Character's inheritance if the character should disappear without death being positively established for one game month (or whatever timespan the GM decides).
      • Should inheritance come into play a 10% tax must be paid on all goods and monies. 
      • The relative starts at the lowest level of the class he opts for, but gets the advantage of starting with whatever equipment and money has been inherited.  
      • Note:  I do not think this means that the relative can be played by the Player whose character has been lost, but rather acts as an NPC.  However, I can't quite be sure of that as the phraseology is a bit ambiguous on this point.  It may be that the relative is played by the player who lost their previous character.
      • If the original character should show up again, they can reclaim their inheritance (Referee's option as to the willingness of the relative to return the inheritance) , but pay another 10% tax on it to regain ownership.  The relative may be allowed to stay on as an NPC at the GM's discretion.  Such a relative would be at a lower loyalty (0 to -6) and potentially plot to regain possession of the inheritance.  
      • Characters without a relative will lose all their possessions should they dissappear and not return before the specified time period for that society / kingdom which is used to establish "death".
      • Overall, the Relatives rule is very interesting.  We have to assume that it served a purpose, but I'm not really sure what the purpose is.  If we think, again, in terms of a military wargame where armies are in play, and characters are more or less considered highly individualized "Pieces" on the board, then perhaps it makes sense that a "disappeared" character can still provide his team / army with men, money and equipment to continue the overall fight.  One wonders, in fact, what a "disappearence" actually entailed.  My guess is that the game was divided into two parts.  The wargame board game style with armies, and then more individualized games where the primary or most powerful characters went on dungeon adventures ... in which they might vanish and/or be captured.  If so then the "upper level" game could still go on, and this would lend continuity to the larger scale battle above ground.  This of course is just a hunch, and there is not evidence to indicate this is true in the book thus far.  However, at least it would make sense and explain why this rule exists and what it was intended for.
      • The selection of items is strictly up to the players.  
      • Costs are in Gold Pieces.
      • Players may buy and sell items to one another, in which case Gold and items will be transferred from one character to another.
  • p14 - Equipment List 
    • A general list of items, including weapons, armor and equipment follows along with the cost in Gold Pieces.  Some examples:
      • Dagger ... 3
      • Hand Axe... 3
      • Sword... 10
      • Morning Star... 6
      • Haliberd... 7
      • Two Handed Sword... 15
      • Long bow... 40
      • Quiver of 20 Arrows... 10
      • Draft Horse... 30
      • Light Horse... 40
      • Warhorse, Medium... 100
      • Warhorse, Heavy... 200
      • Cart... 100
      • Small Merchant Ship... 5000
      • Large Merchant Ship... 20000
      • Leather Armor... 15
      • Chain Mail... 30
      • Plate Mail... 50
      • Helmet... 10
      • Shield... 10
      • 6 Torches... 1
      • Lantern...10
      • Flask and Oil...2
      • Wooden Cross... 2
      • Silver Cross...25
      • Holy Water / Vial ... 25
      • Belladonna, bunch... 10
      • Iron Rations (for dungeon expedition) 1 person / 1 week ... 15
    • "Other items cost may be calculated by comparing to similar items listed above"
    • One might note that some of these prices seem rather askew in terms of actual value.  For example, I would have to seriously question how it's possible for leather armor to cost 15, and Plate Mail to only cost 50.  Or a Horse only cost 30, and a Heavy Warhorse 200.  But then again, I suppose that maybe it is simply my impression that one would find far greater disparity of prices in the medieval world than these.  It is possible, I'm sure, that the price disparities we find in the modern world would seem outrageous to our forebears, and that this list of relative prices would seem reasonable to them.  Hard to say.  But to my eye, some of the items on this list seem either too expensive or too cheap by far.  For example again, 6 torches costing 1 Gold Piece?  Gold?  Really?  That's a LOT of money for six torches, given that one ounce of gold has historically been valued as the price for a noble man's suit of cloths.   So it seems six torches would not be a valid relative value.
    • I have always found these equipment lists in OD&D to be magical for some reason.  Even to this day it reminds me of that magical feeling ... one of amazing magical potential for characters in a fantasy world.  I can't really explain this feeling, but it is definitely magical in nature and strongly associated to the Men & Magic booklet.
Ok, that's all I have time for today.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Notes on OD&D - Part 4

Continuing on with my reading of the original D&D booklets.  I'm up to Men & Magic, p11.  Please note - if you are reading this on a cell phone you may want to hold it sideways so that the bullet points sections don't squeeze the words too much. 

Men & Magic
  • p11 - Bonuses and Penalties to Advancement due to Abilities
    • Requisites scores are defined 
      • 3 - 8 Low
      • 9 - 12 Average
      • 13 - 18 High
    • Prime Requisite 15+ = Add 10% to Earned Experience
    • Prime Requisite 13-14 = Add 5% to Earned Experience
    • Prime Requisite 9 -12 = No Bonus
    • Prime Requisite 8 - 7  = Minus 10% to Earned Experience
    • Prime Requisite 6- = Minus 20% to Earned Experience
      • Note the imbalance here.  There is a much harsher penalty for low requisites than there is Bonus for high ones.  In fact it is double.  Given that this affects the character for the rest of the campaign, it is basically consigning low rollers (the GM, we should remember, rolls the dice) to the slow and agonizing Death-of-Faint-Praise, so to say.  
      • I'm not sure how much I like this rule from a design perspective, given that levels are also moderating growth by assigning different rates of advancement based on Class, which itself is affected by the Requisites.  So this seems like a redundant Bonus / Penalty system, and one that acts as a huge multiplier for the effect of poor rolling at the very start of the game.  
      • The other thing I'm not fond of is the extra complexity this rule introduces.  As a GM I want fewer charts and lookups, not more.  While it may well serve TSR's purposes to create an infinite number of charts (after all more charts means more Rules books, right?), but how well does it serve my interests as GM?  From the very beginning in 1978 when I looked over these rules I was immediately struck by the fact that the system seemed overly complex, and that the purpose was more so TSR could sell more rules books, and not really geared towards making my GMing easier or more efficient.  I never really understood why there were so many GMs later who were totally into the idea that more charts makes for a more interesting (ie - "crunchy") game, when I always wanted a simpler, easier, more efficient game.  Ah well, pet peeve territory here.  Take it as my personal preference.  At any rate as well, this was the reason that we GMs had in the days of yore created our own rules systems (aka - homebrew worlds).  
      • On the other hand, I should give it a chance.  The fact is that the combination of both the Levels Chart (number of experience points needed to level per class), and this Bonus and Penalties system may well have moderated advancement in a way that Gygax and Arneson really liked and felt was necessary for the balance of the game.  Remember, with a game of this complexity you can't really judge rules on an individual basis any more than you can judge the ingredients of a soup individually.  It is the blend that matters.
      • Still though - the imbalance in the Prime Requisite modifier to advancement seems a bit off kilter to me, just the same.
    • Constitution 15+ = +1 to each Hit Dice Roll
    • Constitution 13 - 14 = "Will withstand adversity" (heh... interesting)
    • Constitution 9 - 12 = 60% to 90% chance of surviving (?? wtf does that mean ??)
    • Constitution 8 - 7 = 40% to 50% chance of survival (???)
    • Constitution 6- = -1 from each Hit Dice roll 
      • Um ... wtf?  This chart is all over the place, isn't it?  I wonder what that rule means though... how do you use it?  Is the % chance of survival just kind of loosely informational?  Or are we supposed to roll at this point and see if the Character kinda dies in the cradle?  Hmmm... If so, then why have 6 or less simply give a -1 on each Hit Die roll?  So no, I don't think we use that information about the % chance of survival at all.  Must be just there for your ... um ... amusement, I guess.
      • I kind of see this section of the chart as an example of the obtuse mechanisms that lacked consistency.  A simpler clearer chart would simply have pluses and minuses.  Adding oddball informational percentages here is confusing, and kind of useless.  Not to mention, I can't imagine how in the world they could possibly know what the actual percents were, given the statistical complexity of the game overall.  Such probabilities could, I suspect, be calculated with accuracy by a Super Computer ... but not by Gygax and Arneson sitting in their basement.  Hell we didn't even have excel in those days.  Or computers at all, iirc.  I really doubt those percents are even close to valid.
    • Dexterity 12+ = Fire any missile at +1 (Attack Level)
    • Dexterity 9- = Fire any missile at -1 (Attack Level)
      • Another variant and this one is also a bit perplexing.  As noted Average score includes both 9 and 12, so why would Average get a + or a -?   Why is it not 13 gets +1 and 8 gets -1?   Also, why doesn't 18 get like a bigger bonus than a 12?  Why does a 3 get the same minus as a 9?  I'm suspecting there was a Wargame reason for this rule.  And I'm also guessing that in the Wargame context, it makes sense.  Just a guess, and I could be quite wrong about that.  
    • Minimum Score on any roll is a 1
    • "Note: Average scores are 9-12.  Units so indicated above may be used to increase prime requisite total insofar as this does not bring that cagegory below average, i.e. below a score of 9"
      • Um ... I don't understand what that last rule means, to be honest.  What?  No, I read it four times.  I totally don't understand what this rule does at this point.  Maybe it is explained in more detail later. 
  • p12 - Character Generation cont...
    • Languages
      • "Common" is the language known throughout the "Continent" and is spoken by most humans.
      • Monsters have their own languages, but 20% know Common.
      • Law, Chaos and Neutral also have their own Languages
      • While one can attempt to speak to creatures using the Alignment Language, if the creature is of an opposite Alignment to the one spoken they will know it and immediately attack.
      • For every Intelligence "factors" above 10 characters may learn 1 additional language
        • Um ... the use of the word "factors" here is a bit odd.  Factors, in math, implies something quite different than "points".  As in Factorials.  Or "Factors of 10".  I'm not sure, but I'm thinking they must mean "Points" here.
      • Magic User Spells and some items may also allow the speaking of other languages.
Languages are an obviously important mechanism at this point in the game's development.  I'm not quite sure why or how it played out, but I'm going to speculate.  Given the Wargame nature of OD&D, monsters were on the map in the same way that military counters were on the map in Blitzkrieg.  It seems expected that when you came in range of creatures you would do one of three things.  You'd engage in combat, or you would ally with them based on Alignment, or you would pass each other by.  Now at the outset players didn't know (unless they bought the rules) which monsters were of what Alignment.  They would therefore have to communicate with them to find out.  After all, they could potentially pick up allies if they were of the same alignment, increasing the size of their force and that could make a big difference in terms of winning the game.  Remember, the maps are pre-configured with monsters in known numbers at various locations on the map.  Think of it like a very sophisticated board game at this point.  At any rate, when a party encountered a monster for the first time (i.e. the players had no clue yet what alignment it might be) they could try to talk to it.  But under some circumstances, such as they're already wounded and trying to leave the dungeon, this would have entailed a certain amount of risk.  They might pick up a new ally who could possibly heal them, or help protect them on the way out - or they might be suddenly hurled into another combat - and all die.  All of which sounds like really fun stuff to me.  But, of course, having never seen Gygax and Arneson play, I'm left to speculate, but this is how I think it probably played out, and why I think the Languages rules were designed this way.  If anyone happens to know either way, I'd be curious to hear about it.
    •  Non-Player Characters
      • Player Characters are expected to "hire" NPCs.  "It is likely that player will be desirous of acquiring a regular entourage of various character types, monsters, and an army of some form".
        • Again strong evidence that the original D&D was a Wargame in which armies were in play.  Just like in Blitzkrieg or any other wargame of that period.
        • That said, most of the Wargames of that time were based on land battles, such as the Napoleonic Wars.  Very few, if any, were based on adventures in tunnels, caverns, and dungeons.  In fact combat tactics for dungeoneering are vastly different than that of land battles. This change in modalities suggests a couple of things to me.  It seems the game had not finished evolving from general Wargame to Adventure Party Game at this point.  My guess is that they played in both modalities.  Sometimes there were wilderness maps with perhaps a castle or some terrain like that, which would serve as a basis for land battles with armies (they do say that they expect armies of some form to be involved).  In other cases there are dungeon maps.  You can't, my friends, fit an army into a dungeon, for one thing.  Not to mention that even if you did, playing out a military style battle inside a dungeon is absolutely fraught with all kinds of problems from the General's point of view.  Archers?  Useless for the most part.  Calvary?  Nope.  So all you have are your infantry.  And Magic Users (and to some degree Clerics) who can act as a bizarre form of artillery.  If you are a General who is well versed in land battles, strategy and tactics, well, you're going to have to re-calibrate your brain completely for a dungeon-war.  It's totally different!
        • My guess is that what wound up happening pretty quickly is that small groups of adventurers delved the dungeons and left their armies at home when they did so.  And this, after a short time, became the mainstay of the game, and after some period of adjustment, the whole Land Battle aspect was basically abandoned.  
      • Only the lowest level character types can be hired. 
      • Messages can be sent to "Dwarfland" and "Elfland" to obtain hirelings of the appropriate roles (race and class) to what the players feel they need.  This has a cost in both money and time which is to be arbitrated by the Referee.
      • 100 Gold Pieces is the standard price for tempting hirelings into service.
        • Dwarves want gold
        • Elves and Magic Users want Magic Items
        • Clerics want "a house of worship"
      • Monsters can be "lured" into service if they are the same Alignment as the PCs, or they can be "Charmed" and ordered to serve.
      • Monsters includes Men found in dungeons.  In this way high level Characters can be "Charmed" into service, using a spell or Charisma.  
      • Some reward must be offered to monsters in service (not just sparing it's life)
      • A roll is made to determine if the monster "accepts" the offer.
        • Dice Roll  (2d6) is made
          • 2 = Monster Attacks!
          • 3-5 = Hostile reaction
          • 6-8 = Uncertain
          • 9-11 = Accepts the offer
          • 12 = Enthusiastic, Loyalty +3
          • "Uncertain" reaction leaves the door open to addtional rewards offers, but scores under 6 do not.
Ok that's as far as I'm going today.  Very neat!  I'm really enjoying this read through.  I should have done this years ago, obviously.  But then again, back in 1978 we had no InterWebz, and I could not have possibly shared this information with you.  And had I written down my notes in a three ring binder I can guarantee that by now it would have been lost, and so the effort would most certainly have been in vain, and I might not have bothered to attempt it again now.  So lets all just consider it fortuitous that I never really dug into the rules until a few days ago... ok?  hehe.  :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Notes on OD&D - Part 3

Continuing on with my exploration of the OD&D Rules.  

Men & Magic 
  • p9 - Character Alignment
    • Characters must not only take a role at the beginning of the game, but also "take a stance".  Stances are defined by Alignment, and three are given, Law, Neutral and Chaos. 
    • All monsters and creatures are grouped by Alignment.

    • Some Creatures appear in more than one Alignment.  Only Men appear in all three Alignments.
    • There is some rules confusion about Patriarchs.  Earlier in the rules we read "Clerics of 7th Level and greater are either "Law" or "Chaos", and there is a sharp distinction between them.  If a Patriarch recieving the above benefits changes sides, all the benefits will immediately be removed!"
      • 7th Level Cleric is a Lama
      • 8th Level Cleric is a Patriarch
      • Patriarch is listed in the Law column
      • Evil High Priest is listed in the Chaos column
      • The Levels Chart on p18 does not mention Evil High Priest
      • What we can conclude is that at 8th Level the Cleric will be either a Lawful Patriarch or a Chaotic Evil High Priest.
    • Note that Good and Evil are at this point are synonymous with Law and Chaos.
      • Law = Good
      • Chaos = Evil
    • The groupings suggests that each Alignment is a faction, whose individual creatures can be construed as a kind of military unit.  Remember, D&D originally was a Wargame that came directly out of, and is fused with, Chainmail. In my own view a great deal of clarity could have immediately been achieved had the OD&D rules specified that "Alignment" meant specifically "Alignment with a Faction", and that the "Law", "Neutral" and "Chaos" groups were defined as Factions instead of Alignments.  That would have made more intrinsic sense, and helped to avoid future problems in the definition and development of the concept of Alignment in D&D.  On the other hand, that would have required super-human foresight on the part of the designers.  We should remember, that the purpose of the Alignment system was to create factions for a military wargame, and the factions were in all likelihood thought of as Armies at first.  Military wargame style.
    • Double Entries - showing that certain roles can be neutral or one of the other two alignments.  They can even switch between neutral and aligned at the onset of combat.
      • An * next to the name indicates that the role is listed in both the Law and Neutral columns. 
      • An underline indicates that the role is listed in both the Neutral and Chaos columns.
    • We should note that Chainmail had the original Alignment Chart, which looks like this. We should note also that the neutral roles will divvy up in a fight between the other two factions according to a die roll, wherein on ties they remain neutral. Again, the emphasis here is on the Wargame, not the story, although we can readily imagine that story would most certainly be a natural consequence of this kind of game as compared to other wargames such as Blitzkrieg or Chess. D&D so lends itself to the telling of stories through the mechanism of the game, that eventually, for many people, it became its predominant and favorite aspect.

    • There is an absolutely wonderful write up on the history and consequences of D&D Alignment at Methods & Madness Blog here.
  • p10 - Abilities
    • Changing Character Class - changing Character class mid-game is possible but not recommended.
      • 16 or better is required in the prime requisite of the class to be changed to and the score must be "unmodified" (meaning what they originally rolled).
      • Magic Users can not become Clerics, and vice-versa.
    • Determination of Abilities
      • The Referee rolls 3d6 for each requisite of the Character (not the player), in order to help the player decide their role.  That the player does not roll is very interesting and strongly suggests that the Referee always rolls the dice, never the players.  I mean after all, at the point of creating their Character one would think this is the most logical place for the player to roll dice, if there is any place at all.  However, I'm not 100% sure about this yet, so I will let it ride, and just take a note on that here for future reference.
      • Requisites listed:
        • Strength
        • Intelligence
        • Wisdom
        • Constitution
        • Dexterity
        • Charisma
      • The Referee rolls 3d6 for each player character to determine their amount of starting Gold Pieces (dice score * 10).
      • The Player now selects their Character's role (Race and Class)
      • An example character "Xylarthen" is shown
        • Class: Magic User
        • Strength: 6
        • Intelligence: 11
        • Wisdom: 13
        • Constitution: 12
        • Dexterity: 9
        • Charisma: 8
        • Gold Pieces: 70
        • Experience: Nil
        • Notes: The Player opted for Magic User because of a preference for magic, but had he chosen Cleric he would have progressed faster (clerics require less experience to go up in levels).
      • Explanation of Abilities
        • Strength 
          • Prime Requisite for Fighters
          • Clerics can use Strength on a 3 for 1 basis in their Prime Requisite area (wisdom), for purposes of gaining experience only.  (at the moment I'm not sure what this rule actually means.  Hopefully it will be clarified later on).
          • Strength aids in opening traps and so on.
        • Intelligence
          • Prime Requisite for "magical types"
          • Both Fighters and Clerics can use it in their prime requisite areas (strength and wisdom respectively) on a 2 for 1 basis.
          • Affects refereees' decisions as to whether or not a certain action would be taken.  This is undoubtedly the starting point for a certain amount of consternation over the years between GMs and Players.  
          • Allows additional languages to be spoken
        • Wisdom
          • Prime Requisite for Clerics.
          • May be used on a 3 to 1 basis by fighters, and a 2 to 1 basis for Magic Users in their respective prime requisite areas. 
          • Acts much like intelligence.
        • Constitution
          • Combination of health and endurance
          • Influences the number of Hit Points of the Character
          • Resistance to Paralysis, being turned to stone, etc.
    • p11 - continued
        • Dexterity
          • Affects manual speed and conjuration
          • Sets missile ability 
          • Speed of actions such as firing first, getting off a spell, etc.
        • Charism
          • Combination of appearance, personality, and so forth
          • Determines how many hirelings of unusual nature a character can attract.
          • Affects loyalty
          • A chart is given showing Charisma Score, Maximum # of Hirelings, and Loyalty Base 
          • Charisma is also used to decide such things as whether or not a witch capturing a player (character) will turn him into a swine or keep him as a lover.  (Note:  they wrote player here, but I'm sure they must have meant Character ... yes?  Haha.)
          • Charisma will aid a character in attracting various monsters to his (or her, one presumes) service.
Ok that's all I have time for today.  Very interesting.  I may write up more comments on this a little later on, but for now this will do.   You might want to check back with this page in a day or two to see if I updated it.  I will in all likelihood have a few more thoughts to add but I do have to run now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Notes on OD&D - Part 2

Today I continue with my reading of the original three D&D Booklets by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. 

Men & Magic 
  • p5 - Scope
    • The scope is focused on medieval fantasy wargames, but they (Gygax & Arneson are assumed to both have had a hand in the writing) suggest that the scope can range to pretty much any time period from prehistoric to "the imagined future".  It is suggested to thoroughly explore the possibilities of the medieval fantasy setting before going on to other time periods.  Of course a thorough exploration of the medieval fantasy setting could take decades, but ...
    • They mention that miniatures are not necessary but add "eye-appeal" when using maps.  I think it is notable that at this juncture in the development of the game, stemming as it does from wargames which are played with counters on map paper (hex or grid), it is anticipated, and in fact a requirement, to use battle maps.  The quibble here is not about the use of battle maps, but whether or not miniatures should be used.  Alternatives offered are cardboard counters, or any other kind of unit counters.  This would correspond, most likely, to the kinds of unit counters found in wargames such as Blitzkreig (published 1969), which I believe were popular at the time. In other words, D&D was originally intended as a Battle Tactics game.
    • Age Level: 12 years and up.  Also notable is that the age starts at 12, whereas now I think the minimum age for players as dropped considerably under the influence of RPGs-as-Story-Games.  That change is significant as the expectation of Story Games (and I do not mean the Indie-Revolution definition of that phrase, to be clear, I simply mean RPGs that are intended to produce Stories, rather than Encounters for Combat) is that they tell charming, or at least interesting, stories of heroes and/or villains, usually with some Epic theme lurking about in the background.
    • Number of Players:  "At least one referee, and four to fifty players".  WOW.  The standard Referee to Player ratio is given as 1:20.  That's very interesting.  I don't know of many games that have more than six players.  Sometimes 10.  The absolute most I've ever tried to GM for was 35, and most GMs go ballistic when they hear that.  So it's very interesting to consider what those games with Gygax and Arneson must have been like.  Did they really ever have 50 players?  Or even more than 20?  I feel I must assume that they did.  Fascinating.
    • Recommended Equipment:  The 3 TSR Rules books, and another book listed as "Outdoor Survival".  The usual pairs of TSR D&D Dice: 2 4-sided, 2 8-sided, 4 to 20 pairs of 6-sided, 2 12-sided, and 2 20-sided.  That's up to 28 dice.  Sounds reasonable.  Inventing their own dice for the game was a brilliant marketing move for TSR. Chainmail Miniatures Rules is also listed. Again OD&D is a derivative of Chainmail, not a separate game at this point.  Other equipment include a 3 ring notebook for each player.  Graph paper (6 lines per inch), sheet protectors, 3 ring lined paper, drafting equipment and colored pencils, scratch paper and pencils, IMAGINATION, "1 Patient Referee", Players.  Hehe.  I love the sense of humor they slip in throughout the book.
    • Preparation for the Campaign
      • The Referee bears the entire burden, but if care and thought are used the rewards will be worth the effort.  True that.  And interesting to note - the Players are not expected to contribute to the creating of the World.  I wonder if Gygax and Arneson even considered the possibility.  Lots of games these days talk about "Shared World-Creating" where Players co-create the World with the GM.  This seems reasonable, but it may actually have been antithetical to the original D&D modality.  My guess is that Gygax and Arneson probably never even considered the possibility of Shared World Building with the Players at this juncture, though it is evident that Shared World Building among GMs was not only likely, but possibly preferred.  We have a hint of this in so far as Gygax wrote "Dave located a nice bog wherein to nest the wierd enclave of "Blackmoor", a spot between the "Great Kingdom" and the fearson "Egg of Coot"".  Arneson and Gygax ran separate Societies in two different cities (Lake Geneva and Minneapolis).  So Shared GMing World Creation seemed to be taken for granted at this point. Notice that Blackmoor is described as an "enclave" not a separate world. So Shared World Building goes back to the very beginning of D&D.  Interesting.
      • The GM should first create "a half dozen maps of his 'underworld', people them with monsters of various horrid aspect, distribute treasures accordingly, and note the location of the latter two on keys, each corresponding to the appropriate level".  The details of this procedure are to be discussed in more detail in "Underground &Wilderness Adventures".  Once completed the players can begin their adventures.
  • Characters - p6
    • Illustration: Sprites
    • Before they begin the players must decide what role they will play in the campaign.  The role encompasses both Race and Class.  So one might play a human fighter, or an Elven Wizard, and so on.
    • All Characters will work towards gaining Experience in order to advance in the game.
    • It is notable that the original Race and Class combinations are far more restrictive than what we're used to today.
      • Fighting Men - can be men, elves, dwarves or hobbits.
        • Can use all magical weaponry.
        • Have more Hit Dice 
        • Can use a very small number of non-weapon magical items
        • They can use no spells.
        • Top Levels 
          • Can build castles and become Barons.
          • They may make "Investments"
          • Income is 10 Gold / Inhabitant (serf?) / Game Year
      • Magic Users - can only be men or elves.
        • Perhaps the most powerful characters in the game at top levels
        • It is a long hard road to the top, and to begin with they are weak
        • Fighters are needed to protect them at lower levels
        • Can use all enchanted items, except for magical weapons and armor
        • May only arm themselves with daggers
        • May manufacture potions, scrolls, or anything magical, though at costs "commensurate with the value of the item" and game time required to enchant the thing.
        • A list of example items with monetary and time costs is provided.  There are seven items on the list, ending with X-Ray Vision Ring, costing 50,000 Gold Pieces and taking 1 year to produce.
        • "Research in magic can be conducted by magical types (Magic Users) at any level, but the level of the magic involved dictates the possibility of success" One assumes therefore that rolling of dice will be involved, but this is not stated here. 
        • Can create new spells, provided the spell is equal to or less than their current Level.
    • Characters (continued) p7
      • Illustration: Treasure Chest
      • Clerics - can only be men.
        •  Have advantages of both Fighting Men and Magic Users.
          • Can use magical armor and non-edged magical weapons
          • Can not use arrows (missile weapons)
          • Have their own "spells"
          • Can use more non-weapon magic items than Fighting Men (but not as many as Magic Users seems to be implied).
          • When Clerics reach the top level of Patriarch they may build a stronghold and gain double value for the money invested.
          • "Faithful" followers will come to such a castle, be fanatically loyal, and will serve at no cost.
            • 10 - 60 Heavy Calvary
            • 10 - 60 Horsed Cross-Bow men ("Turcopole" type)
            • 30 - 180 heavy foot(men).
          • Clerics at 7th Level or greater are either "Law" or "Chaos", and if they change sides then any benefits they accrued along the way are immediately forfeit.
          • Receive "Tithes" of 20 Gold Pieces / Inhabitant / Game Year
      • Races
        • Dwarves
          • Can only be Fighters
          • Can not progress higher than 6th Level
          • Advantages:
            • 1) Magical Resistance = +4 Levels to Saving Throws
            • 2) Only Characters that can use the +3 Warhammer
            • 3) Able to note slanting passages, traps, shifting walls and new construction in underground settings
            • 4) Speak the Languages of Gnomes, Kobolds, Goblins and "the other usual tongues".
    •  Characters (continued) p8
      • Illustration: Dwarf
      • Races continued ...
        • Elves
          • Can begin as either Fighting Men or Magic Users and freely switch between them from adventure to adventure but not during a given game session.
          • Can use weapons and spells.
          • Can use magical armor and still cast spells.
          • Can not progress beyond 4th Level Fighter (Hero)
          • Can not progress beyond 8th Level Magic User (Warlock)
          • Can note Secret and Hidden Doors
          • Gain advantages noted in Chainmail Rules Book when fighting certain fantastic creatures
          • Speak languages of Orcs, Hobgoblins, and Gnolls in addition to their own (Elvish) and "the other usual tongues".
        • Halflings
          • Can only be Fighting Men 
          • Can not progress beyond 4th Level (Hero)
          • Magic Resistance like Dwarves (+4 Levels to Saving Throw)
          • Have Deadly Accuracy with Missiles as detailed in the Chainmail Rule Book
        • Other Character Types
          • They note here that players could play virtually anything provided they begin weak and work their way up to the top.  Levels progression would be determined by the Referee.
Several interesting points are that there is a direct reliance on Chainmail as a source book for rules in OD&D.  Without Chainmail, in fact, you would be missing critical information regarding these classes.  Another saavy business move by TSR - one rules book will not do.  You must have both.

Another thing I notice is the kind of hodgepodge nature of these Race-Class rules.  No justification is given (and none, I expect was thought of) for the fact that Dwarves can speak Goblin, but Elves speak Hobgoblin, for example.  Another example is the Level Limits for Class and Race combinations.  Why can Halflings (note: they are not called Hobbits, and rumor has it that this is because they wanted to avoid possible infringement on Tolkien's work) not progress past 4th Level?  I am going to go out on a limb here at this point, and suggest that the rules as they are were in an early state of refinement by the time the three booklets were published in regards to mathematical analysis related to game balance.  The relationships between Race-Class combinations and Levels is a key and critical component of the design, as it is intended to "balance" the game so that advantages are balanced by disadvantages.   Yet these are complex relationships and getting the balance right would require a rigorous analysis that I'm almost 100% sure did not happen at this stage.  Instead, the balance was done with eyeball measurements, and a gut feeling that "this sounds about right".  When it comes to cooking that often is the case, and works well.  However, in a game where odds are calculated and dice are rolled, and those odds make a difference between life and death for characters in the game... such nuances of imbalance might impact the enjoyment of the thing.

One thing I will note is that from the days of old GM's cheated.  I have always maintained that the cheating was a necessity because the OD&D rules were not balanced, and so to get some semblance of "Fairness" into the game, the GM had to cheat the dice now and then.  Otherwise, things just went south far too quickly than most players were willing to accept - especially once the RPG-as-Story-Game came into play.  You couldn't run a long term campaign if the odds were stacked against you because you you wanted to play a Halfling, and the rest of the party advanced to 10th Level and you were stuck down at 4th.  You'd be far too likely to get killed.  So, I think, in a highly complex environment such as this, where it is hard enough to calculate the odds of success for any given encounter (let alone an entire dungeon level) ... cheating came into play pretty early on.  Except, that is, for a GM named Zubin.  He played strictly according to the OD&D rules.  His game was extremely hard to survive.  It took years for people to figure out how to survive a single game in his world.  They did manage it, eventually, but it was very very difficult, and you had to be super careful.  But for most GMs, cheating and rules-modficitions went hand in hand and homebreow rules systems proliferated wildly in the early years.

Something else that stands out to me is the mishmash of Race Class and Levels designations.  For example, a Magic User at 8th Level is called a Warlock.  At 10th the MU is called a Necromancer.  But, but, but ... a Necromancer, we all know this - is EVIL, and a practitioner of the Black Arts.  Gandalf was at least 10th... but he sure as heck wasn't, nor would ever be called a Necromancer!  So the naming conventions, my point being, got off to a rocky start.  And I think this caused a number of problems with the entire system, and caused the early years of RPGs to get on a track that led inevitably toward a certain level of confusion.  It was, I say, systemic confusion.  The problem was that Levels should not have been named that way to begin with.  Each of those designations probably implied a different Class.  For instance, a Necromancer is a type of Magic User that uses Black Magic.  A Warlock is a male Witch, which operates differently and has different spells than a Wizard. Again the same is true for Sorcerers, who operate differently than Necromancers or Warlocks. And so on.  The naming of the Levels for the Class with names that could well have themselves been Classes created conditions in which things were bound to go off the rails for at least some GMs at some point, and I think in terms of the design, it was a pretty critical, albeit non-obvious flaw.  There's actually a lot of minor "flaws" in the system that were of just this kind.  Yes, yes, of course this is my own opinion.  It was also the opinion, way back when, of the other GMs in my hometown, and it is one of the reasons why we all went on to create our own homebrew RPGs over the course of the next few years.  We LOVED the concept of RPGs as embodied by TSR's Dungeons & Dragons... but we were less enamored by the details of the rules as published.  We wanted to fix them.  And fix them we did.  At least to our own satisfaction. 

Ok that's enough for today.  I will continue on with my notes and comments tomorrow.