Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Notes on OD&D - Part 12

Continuing my journey through OD&D with notes, analysis and commentary...

Men & Magic

p19 - 20 - Analysis 

I'd like to take a quick look again at what we just covered in Part 11 because I think it's often a good thing to get out the old microscope and see what devils are hiding in the details. Don't you? So lets take a peek under the hood.

Looking at the Men vs Men Attack Matrix I think we should notice, perhaps not instantly, but after a few moments of staring, that there is yet another odd and inexplicable (for me), and slightly obscure, jumping around in the numbers involved here.

Here's the Chart broken down with a slightly higher level of detail (which in and of itself revealed nothing anomalous in the spread of levels, in other words each levels set is even at 3 levels without variance).

Nothing to see here, ... except ... hmmm... what's this? Lets look at the spread of the values between the levels grouping for second.

The lines look even, but I notice there is a slight variance in there. Lets try from another angle.

Still not quite clear enough but you can if you look, notice there is a jump in the difference between the levels groupings in there. Notably between the 2nd and 3rd grouping, and again between the 5th and 6th grouping. Hm. Lets look at it this way:

Aha! There it is. Quite clear now. The differences jump. Between 1-3 and 4-6 the difference is 2. But between 4-6 and 7-9 it's 3. Then it goes back to 2 for the next two level groups, and then returns to 3 for the last set. Whyyyy? Why they do that to me? I don't know. Why not keep it even? An even jump for all levels of either 2 or 3? Well for one thing, since they wanted to go from 17 to 5, and that value doesn't iron out evenly, it may be simply that this was the best fit for the spread they wanted. And yes, it's a bit erratic, but gets the spread they wanted. But why that spread? Why not go from 17 to 4? Or 18 to 5? Or something like that in order to get the spread even so there's no jumping between the level groups? I don't know. I'm curious enough to toy around with this and see what happens. Hold on.

This is what the chart would look like if they had chosen an even spread, starting at 18 and going to 3. Obviously at the lower end where the negative values start coming into play probably presented the designers with a problem. (Note that all values below 1 get converted to 1 in the actual chart). So instead of having 1 starting at Chain & Shield, we would find 1 starting at Leather & Shield. This was probably simply unacceptable to Gygax and Arneson on the grounds that the game would then become too lopsided with a tendency to eliminate the distinctions required between the lower armor classes when encountering higher level attackers. In other words it means that 11th Level Fighting-Men would always hit when encountering opponents in no armor. In the original chart, however, 11th Level Fighting-Men need a 3 or better to hit the same non-armored character. I"m not sure how vastly different the game would play out were they to have used this chart instead of the original, but I'm wondering if it wouldn't have made that great a difference in the game. And if not, I would have preferred, once again, a smooth and even progression, rather than a jagged one. But, as I've noticed along the way, jagged edges in the numbers seems to be part and parcel of the OD&D rules. Why? Maybe they just liked jagged lines. That could very well be, and I'm going to suggest that we not fault them for it. While not mathematically balanced, it may very well be that the jagged lines created satisfying bumps and valleys in the numerics of the game, and that the players liked when they got a bump, disliked when they hit a valley, and this feature was something of a delight for Gygax and Arneson as it created more emotional content related to the mechanics. "Woah, yeah! This level I get a bump of 3! Sweeet!"

On the other hand, putting on my programmer's hat again, I'm going to come out and say it. BLEH. I don't like the hills and the vales in the numerics of the game. It makes everything ad hoc, and so you can't create a formula to generate the charts. You have to create tables in the database and manually enter the values. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. Don't like.

But that's the programmer in me talking. Feel free to ignore him.

Ok so now I want to take a quick look at the Monsters Attacking chart. And this is where they really make the programmer in me cry. Wahhhh.

First off they switched from using Levels to Monster Hit Dice. That alone would suck enough (programmer talk), but what really gets my goat is the spread. Maybe I don't understand this chart (very likely, actually). But what it looks like is the spreads go as follows:

Dice Up to 1 (how can you have dice less than one, btw?)
1 + 1
2 - 3
3 - 4 (wait. hold on. what? Why isn't this 4 - 5? How do I know if the monster is 3 dice which to use?)
4 - 6
6 - 8
9 - 10 (wait. hold on again. WTF?? now it goes from 9?! Holy mackerel! What the hell? *sob*)
11 & 1 (again the 'normal' jump! At this point I can only stare blankly and blink slowly, slack jawed and drooling.)

Okaaaay. That was weird. But lets ignore it! Hah! Why? Because I don't get it. I'm obviously missing something. Clearly I don't know how this chart gets used. And so I can't understand why the numbers are staggering. If I had to use these rules out of the box without help, at this point I would be stuck. I would simply tell my players, "Ok when the monsters come, the universe is going to get very confused while you fight them. Sometimes it will think they are hitting you at one level, sometimes at the next level, except at certain levels where then the universe will be sure of itself again. Ok? Great. Here come the trolls. Good luck."

And again that whiny programmer in me is all like "omg omg omg" and stuff. Lets ignore him. He can go sit with Mr. Spock and they can shake their heads in dismay together over there.

Before I finish, though, I want to look at the spreads and see what that pans out to be as well. I'm going to guess there will be something like the same anomalies as we found in the Men Attacking Chart, but as you know, I like to pick at this stuff with a fine tooth microscope, just to be absolutely sure.

Another (programmer) insanity inducing thing about the Monster Attacking chart is that the spreads are not even either. Sometimes the spread is 1 level, sometimes 2 levels, and other times 3 levels. The programmer in me ran off shrieking, so we don't have to worry about him for the moment.

Lets take a look at the charts.

Ok so there we have it.  The anomalous patterns, as predicted.  It's ok.  I'm used to it now.  And there may well be good game-reasons for it.  Programmer-me has stopped shrieking and is over in the corner sulking, but I sent Dr. McCoy with Spock to help the poor guy out.  He'll be fine.  But I suspect he won't take the job of programming this system for anything less than 200k / year with plenty of benefits and lots of vacation time (to de-stress).

Alrighty then, I think that covers it for today.   So far so good.  I'm gaining a much better understanding of OD&D, and I do hope this is helping others to do so as well.  A lot of you who are reading this, of course, already know OD&D backwards and forwards and much better than I do, so please continue to pipe in with your corrections and comments.  It's very helpful to me.   Thanks!
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