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.

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