Posts Tagged With: 2e

Fight! (1e)

I was kind of struggling for a title for a post about initiative.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away – some of us dropped that gawd-awful initiative system from 1E and went to a d10 system – but not the almost as bad stupid one from 2E. So when I started up running AD&D again I went back to “good version” – and I actually tweaked it again because I thought about it fixed a couple of problems in the continual drive towards “simpler and more evocative” – and I have some serious thanks for KB, who contributed some of the rules for two-weapon fighting from games he’s played previously.

Here it is, in all of it’s simplicity – NOTE: There are four “phases” of a combat round: Declaration, Pre-Rounds, The (Main) Round, and Post-Rounds and characters all roll individually – monsters I tend to roll in easy to figure out groups and only try to keep track of special NPC’s (leaders, spellcasters, etc) individually.

  • Declaration: Players must declare attacks, spellcasting, movement, modes of attack, parrying, other actions, etc. and then roll Initiative.
  • Pre-Rounds: This is a for the “faster than fast” – Specialized Archers Opportunity Attacks, Weapons of Quickness, the first attack for creatures under a Haste spell, etc. These attacks or actions are simultaneous.
  • The (Main) Round: This is a time frame of one minute made up of 10 segments of 6 seconds apiece. All normal combat and spell-casting occurs during this phase, and Initiative is rolled to determine when actions occur. Other actions, unless determined by the DM, occurring on or start occurring on rolled Initiative. In the event of simultaneous Initiatives, another d10 is rolled (no modifiers) and lowest roll goes first – a tie results in truly simultaneous actions.
  • Post-Rounds: This is the time frame, when “slow” things occur. Some of unwieldy Great Weapons attack in Post-rounds, some Zombies attack in Post-Rounds, people trying to move and attack without charging into combat tend to attack in Post-Rounds. These acts or attacks are simultaneous.

For Movement:

Any character may move one of four ways:

  1. Charge into physical combat with a target with a Full Move on their Initiative (1d10, modified for Dexterity)
  2. Take a Half-Move and attack as normal in Post-Rounds.
  3. Take up to a Full Move on their Initiative but they may not engage with any target voluntarily.
  4. May take a Quarter-Move, Opportunity move by sacrificing an attack.
    • Example 1: Dexterity 16 (-1 Initiative): The character decides to Charge into combat, the players rolls a 2 on the d10, so the character charges and attacks on Segment 1 after a Full Move.
    • Example 2: Dexterity 18 (-3 Initiative): The character is Invisible and decides to try and sneak around the target for an even more effective Backstab attack. The player rolls a 5, and takes a Half-Move on Segment 2, and then is allowed an attack in Post-Rounds.

For Psionics:

Psionic Attacks and Defences occur during the (Main) Phase, only a single attack may be made unless the character wishes to “trance out” in which case they may attack every segment (as long as Psionic Attack Strength lasts). Attacks on tranced characters may attempt for surprise with a bonus of +6 to the roll.

Psionic Minor Disciplines, Major Sciences, and Grand Arts take effect in Pre-Rounds – unless contingent upon other effects (e.g. Energy Control).

For Melee and Missile Combat:

If using a single weapon, roll 1d10, use the standard Initiative modifiers for Dexterity (and anything else), but modify down, towards 1. You cannot modify to go before 1. All attacks occur in that segment.

    • Example: Dexterity 18 (-3 to Initiative). Players rolls a 7 on the d10, that character attacks in Segment 4.

If using dual weapons, roll a 1d6 for the primary weapon, and use the standard Initiative modifiers for Dexterity (and anything else), but again modifying down towards 1 (and again, you are unable to modify below 1). Then roll a 1d4 and add it initiative for the primary weapon – that is the Initiative for the secondary weapon. All attacks for each weapon occur in the segment in which it attacks.

    • Example: Dexterity 17 (-2 to Initiative). Player rolls a 4 on the d6, the primary weapon attacks in Segment 2. The character rolls a 1 on the d4 and the secondary weapon attacks on Segment 3.

For Spellcasters:

Subtract the casting time (in segments) of the Spell from 10. Roll 1d10 and modify as if  in Melee combat. If the resulting number is lower, the spell-casting starts in that segment – otherwise the spell goes off at the end of segment ten and starts in the original segment.. If damaged during spell-casting the spell is ruined, it is lost if a saving throw vs. spell is failed.

    • Example: Dexterity 12 (no modifier). The spellcaster is casting a 3 segment spell, and the player rolls a 5 on the d10. Since a 5 is lower than a (10-3) 7, the spellcaster starts casting in Segment 5, and the spell goes off at the end of Segment 7.

All in all, a pretty simple and unified system.

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Modules I’d like to run…

So, at this point I have run the party through two “introductory modules” – Scourge of the Howling Horde and then Keep on the Borderlands and I pretty much set up a clear lead in to Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde. But I’ve been looking at the rest of the stuff sitting on my shelf and deciding what I’d like to run as well – understanding that there is usually some extra adventure in and around linking the modules up in a reasonable manner.

No brainers:

  • The Slaver Modules (A1-A4, though A4 is never a certainty)
  • Ravenloft (I6, and possibly the sequel, House of Gryphon Hill, I10)
  • Castle Amber (X2)
  • In Search of the Unknown (B1)
  • Castle of the Silver Princess (B3)
  • The Giant Modules – though tweaked for my world (G1-G3)
  • The Secret of Bone Hill (L1) and Assassins Knot (L2)
  • Tomb of Horrors (S1) and Return to the Tomb of Horrors (the Boxed set)
  • White Plume Mountain (S2)
  • Lost Caverns of Tsojancth (S4)
  • Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (WG4)
  • The Ruins of Undermountain(Both I & II)
  • The Ruins of Myth Drannor
  • The Ghost Tower of Inverness (C2)

If I can figure out how to:

  • The Desert of Desolation series (I3-15)
  • Isle of Dread (X1)
  • Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan (C1)
  • The Witchblade Trilogy (by Privateer Press)
  • Death’s Reach (E1 for 4E)
  • Keep on the Shadowfell (H1 for 4E)
  • Hellgate Keep
  • The Wyrmskull Throne

I also have a pile of Kenzer and Company modules that look like they’d be fun, and I keep eyeballing the Pathfinder modules as well because they look like they could be mined for a great fun also. I kind of make a habit of picking modules for the cheap if I find them at used bookstores or the like – rarely do I not findsomethinguseful in them… Similarly I have a handful of the “official” 3E and 3.5E monules that clearly look like they’d be a gas to play – even if they are balanced a bit funky at times.

Now, I might be able to pull a couple of these off via members of the group having to split off and “solo adventure” (which may in fact mean that the group actually gets to create new characters to go and help the “solo” adventurer in their quest) – Frater Gregor is a rather excellent example of this given that he’s a disgraced paladin at the moment. He’s certainly going to need to go and do something to regain his status – and something like B3 would be perfect. Similarly, the rogues and the mages might decide that plundering the Tomb of Horrors would be worth the effort while the Society of Light folks decide that this is not even worth discussing.

That is actually the major problem that is developing for the party, the group has two real power groups that have significantly different goals in life – the very good Society of Light folks and the rather mercenary Rogues. Everybody still gets along, but there has been the odd bit of tension here and there – and Frater Nikolai is certainly very, very focused on “doing good”. He’s also a noble, so the whole idea of “making money” is a bit beneath him in many ways, he doesn’t begrudge the others that desire (it’s only natural of course) but his concerns aren’t quite so tawdry…



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“Yes, and…” instead of “No, but…”

So, when I did my House Rules when starting up with the Barrow Downs game I decided that I needed to do something with Non-Weapon Proficiences (aka Skills) – I think I made a mistake. Now I essentially liked how Oriental Adventures introduced NWP’s into the game. It really made sense given the setting, and I even looked at the additions from the Survival Guides with a certain level of good humor.

These days, and even then, it was increasingly hard to think of a game without skills of some sort – I was used to games that were heavily skill-focused (Traveller, Cyberpunk 2020 for example) and that has certainly been the increasing trend of the industry. It is certainly the direction that 3E went in…

So I went in and tweaked the heck out of the NWP lists from the existing 1E books and a couple of Dragon articles and came up with a decent list that pretty much covered all the bases. Even decided to use the multiple d6 method for doing Skill and Stat checks that someone on the Internet suggested – I honestly can’t remember who it was.

But in any case I’ve now been kind of playing with that for a couple of months now and I’m not liking it. How many years did I play AD&D with no such system in place? There really isn’t any need, I’m certainly not really using it now save in vague and awkward ways when there is some sort of weird question as to what a character should be able to do but doesn’t have the NWP for it. And there are never enough NWP’s to start off with and you never get enough fast enough.

I used to base what a character would do on a four things – First, whatever their class is. Second, whatever Secondary Skill they rolled up. Then, what social class they were, and finally whatever culture/race they were. If we look at those four (or five if you count race separately) things then you will likely have a pretty unique set of things a character can do – plus adding in whatever sort of idiosyncratic thing a player might want their character to be interested in.

And just giving characters new skills or abilities was always a nice way to reward them with something other than a +X Doo-Hickie.

Other folks have talked about how the progression of D&D has been to protect players from bad DM’s by the institution and codification of rules to cover all of the things that used to be under the aegis of the DM. The more I’ve looked at various rule sets (including things like LOTFP: WFRP – of which I now own the Grindhouse Edition and am very happy with) with both a more critical and a more reflective eye, the more I think that is correct.

Here’s the deal, I am pretty confident in saying that I am not a bad GM. At my best, I had a regular gaming group of about ten people, at my worst I have always been able to muster two or three up, and even now I have seven people showing up to my house to play and two people Skyping in – and I’m pretty confident that if I wanted a couple more players I could get them with a minimum of effort.

So why am I trying to protect my players? What am I trying to protect them from? Me?

That’s nonsense. Why run a game that cramps my style and cramps the style of my players?

There are so many things that are actually broken about the OD&D and AD&D systems (Encumbrance anyone? or Initiative? Hell, even Surprise?) that I am kind of embarrassed that I even spent the energy on this. It is certainly a viable way to work a game system – it’s not a very D&D way to run a game system. Old School was “Yes, and” – the presumption was that unless it was something that was specific to another class you had a chance to do it, “Yes, and let’s see how well you do” instead of the “No, but” version of later editions. In these rules the assumption was that if it wasn’t written on your character sheet the answer was “No, but you can learn how at a later level”.

I don’t like playing “No, but” – I like my AD&D games to be heroic and four-colour (heck, I like most of my games to be like that) and “No, but” doesn’t really allow that until high levels (if ever). I suppose that this is what 4E was designed to address from what I can glean looking it over – but it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with D&D other than the name.

So, I guess I’m dropping the idea of anything more than Secondary Skills – and that’s pretty much a Middle and Lower Class thing. Nobles get all sorts of education, they don’t a Secondary Skill as well…


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Reconstructionism v. Romanticism

This is how I think about part of the “Simulationist” debate that rears it’s head now-and-again through the OSR blogosphere…

On the one hand you have Reconstructionism (stolen from Neo-Pagan circles), where the goal is try to simulate and reconstruct, as closely as possible, the “real world” – on an extrapolated real world based on “real principles” and a minimum of handwavium. So, in game terms, this means that games like Harn are very high on the scale. Working your way down from there, in roughly descending adherence to the value of “real world simulation”, you have games like Traveller 2300 then Traveller, Delta Green then Call of cthulhu, Cyberpunk 2020, and Pendragon. In miniatures games this would be the catalog from Ground Zero Games (Dirtside, Star Grunt, Full Thrust). In novels, you could see Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels as being relatively Reconstructionist rather than Romantic, as is George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones novels. The ERB’s John Carter of Mars novels have a strong Reconstructionist tone to them whereas his Tarzan novels are a bit less so and probably swerve into Romanticism – assuming that John Carter isn’t already there.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have Romanticism, where the goal is to create or evoke a fantastic existence rather than simulate reality. In increasing Romanticism in terms of D&D, we have OD&D and 2E (2E did it very badly IMO), then BXCMI and 1E (still relatively low on the scale), then 3E and 3.5, and then 4E at the further end of the scale. But in other games, in ascending order of Romanticism, we have… GURPS or Victoriana, Runequest, Stormbringer/Elric, Rolemaster, Talislanta, and then perhaps something like Exalted. In miniatures games this is the world of Games Workshop. In novels this would be Storm Constantine’s Wreathu novels and probably anything by Ed Greenwood or David Eddings. Discworld is very Romantic…

Neither is better or worse than the other, they’re just different. It’s kind of interesting to note that most of the games I play are pretty Reconstructionist in nature. My “Pulp Cuthulhu” game swings over to Romantic nature because of the house rules – and my 1E game similarly spikes up the Romanticism because of the make-up of the multiverse. So, where a game sits is a combination of the game engine and design, but also the individual game world/campaign.


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New Kids in Town… Session #7

So Sunday was gaming, and it was kind of an odd day to say the least. Two players were out because of other commitments, one players was gone for a funeral, and one player just didn’t show – and on top of that two players had to introduce new characters because they’d lost thier old ones in the last session.

This brought about some interesting role-playing, given who did show up, as well as some great discussions about historical accuracy vs. fantastic reconstruction vs. Gygaxian naturalism. It also moved into the discussions of how any decent campaign has to extrapolate out certain things just in order to make sense of world in which both castles as defensive fortifications nominally exist along side of things like Rock to Mud spells…

In any case, I decided that the party had made it to Seraph Keep and since most of the players that had missed had characters who would be advancing and training (or maybe not, but that’s what I thought) I would have the new PC’s meet the one of the old PC’s and NPC’s (the Gnomish IL/THF and the Dwarven FTR/THF respectively). In this process we discovered that Gryphon (the dwarf) evidently comes from a dwarven kingdom near the sea because there was a definite “Guido-ish” personality and Jersey-parodied accent that came through. All he needs is the wife-beater and a pack of smokes to complete the image. But the new characters (both Rangers) joined up, and they even decided to scout out the road a little bit to see if they could locate the goblin-infested Caves of Chaos that they kept hearing rumors about. They didn’t find it, but they manage to gather though the day some interesting rumors…

Like the fact that there were evidently more than one goblin tribe involved. This was something that the rangers didn’t like to hear since that implied someother force involved – goblins don’t play well with each other. They’d also heard that there were many traps and the like near the entrances, along with the notion that the caves were located near the road to north, within a couple of days journey to the north. The dwarf noted that the the now missing Mage had heard tell of an old mages complex somehwere in the area as well that he’d been looking for.

The time frame and the lay-over has also allowed the party to train and do experience – and things are going pretty well. We now have:

Frater Nikolai – LG Human Cleric 3 (Fighter 1) – The de facto leader of the group.
Brother Illya – LG High Man Warrior-Monk 2 (Psionicist 1) – His right-hand man.
Mika (formerly Mikus) – CN Human Thief 4 – Still adjusting to the sex-change.
Vesna – TN Human Mage 3 – Sitting on top of Kyril’s spell books.
Taloth Darkbane – CG Human Archer-Ranger 2 – New guy in group.
Artan Conner – NG Human Ranger 1 – The other new guy in the group.
Arvid – NG Human Ranger 1 – Pretty quiet and rather risk-averse.
Ketzl Silvermoraine- CN Gnomish Illusionist/Thief 2/1 – Instigator but generally nice guy.
Greyleaf – CN Half-Elf Sorcerer/Thief 1/1 – Mysterious new guy.
Gryphon (NPC) – CN Dwarven Fighter/Thief 2/3 (Psychic) – Plays hard, drinks hard, hits hard…
Astrin (NPC) – LN Grey Elf Duelist/Diabolist/Bounty-Hunter 2/4/3 (Psychic) – Quiet, deadly, beautiful.

Plus next week we’ll like have returning because the players are visiting for the weekend:
Smjor – LN Human Barbarian 2
Jezebel – NG Half-Elf Ranger/Druid 2/2

Tier – NG Grey Elf Fighter/Mage 2/2 (Psychic) – He’s in the Shadowlands, prepping to enter the great Arena of Khazan (ok, more likely a little feeder arena, but that doesn’t sound so impressive)
Kyril (NPC) – TN High Man Mage 3 (Witch 1) (Psychic) – More on him later.

All in all, this looks like it will be a pretty interesting “exploration” of the Caves of Chaos…

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I owe a post about the last game session but… (1e)

…I’ve been thinking about Skeletons and Zombies.

Probably because of the Ghouls from the last game session, and my Ghouls are far more inspired and drawn from Lovecraft than from AD&D… 😉

But I always thought that basic Skeletons and Zombies were kind of… off… and looking at them again (as compared to the versions for my HomeBrew) I have to say that I have the same opinion. My vision of Skeletons is rather Ray Harryhausen-esque, lightning-fast and deadly. So years ago I made the decision that they had two strikes per round, but also did damage by weapon type and had AC based on the armor worn (usually with a bit of penalty due to rot and damage). I think the “always do 1d6 damage” was a hold-over from OD&D that makes little sense in a world of mutiple damage dice for weapons. It’s fine for thier claw or bite attack, but a weapon is a weapon.

Zombies were better, and I didn’t really change them all that much – the big difference is that I always thought it made sense that they had the chance to cause disease when striking somebody like a Giant Rat. I never went so far as to make them Romero-esque zombies that passed on a zombie plague (that was a different creature entirely), but I always figured being clawed or bitten by a rotting flesh and bone is pretty nasty.

But what I was thinking about was Skeleton and Zombie animals. I know (or seem to remember) that there are rules for these in the Monster Manual II, but I’m kind of wondering what I would come up with that let’s me just turn around and apply it to and normal creature and come out with the monster in question.

So (Demi)Human(oid) Skeletons are 1HD, a normal human is 1d6HP, so Monster Skeletons are 1 and 1/3 the normal HD or HP range of the creature in question. If a normal human punches for 1d2 HP (generous, but reasonable I think for these purposes and based on a 1st level Monk) and a Skeleton does 1d6 then Monster Skeletons do roughly 3x damage dice when attacking – plus they get double normal attacks. A normal Human is AC10, and a Skeleton is AC7, so we’ll give Monster Skeletons the same 3 point AC shift.

Zombies are 2HD, which would suggest that Monster Zombies are 2 and 2/3 the normal HD or HP range of the creature in question when measured against a (Demi)Human(oid) standard HP. Looking at damage, they would 4x the damage dice (often rounded to nearest die or so). They still attack last, in Post-Rounds, and get half normal Movement because Zombies only have 6″ Move compared to the normal 12″ human move. Zombies are AC8, so Monster Zombies get the 2 point AC shift.

I think it is also reasonable to suggest that Animate Dead animates 1HD per level, not just 1 Skeleton or Zombie per level of the spell caster. This means that Zombies are harder to call up, but I’m ok with that. Of course, it also suggests that the Clerical Turn Undead table could or should be modified to key to HD instead of creature type (didn’t 2E do that?)


Skeleton (Black) Bear: HD4+4, AC4, Move12″, #Attacks: 6 (Clawx2/Clawx2/Bitex2 – 1d8+1/1d8+1/3d6), Special Attack: Trample as Bear (for 4d4), Special Defences: 1/2 Damage from Sharp/Edged Weapons, Immune to Sleep, Charm, Cold/Frost and Hold. Special Vulnerabilities: Can be Turned/Rebuked, Holy Water causes 2-8 points of damage per vial.

Damage for the trample was reduced because a skeleton simply doesn’t have the mass of an actual bear.

Zombie Lion: HD13, AC4, Move6″, #Attacks: 3 (Claw/Claw/Bite – 2d8/2d8/4d10), Special Attack: Automatic Rake with Hind Claws (3d8/3d8) after two hits with Claws, Can Leap up to 10′, Special Defences: Immune to Sleep, Charm, Cold/Frost and Hold. Special Vulnerabilities: Can be Turned/Rebuked, Holy Water causes 2-8 points of damage per vial.

Leap was reduced because of zombification, and AC was simplified.

Yup, this seems pretty simple – and means that really nasty zombies and skeletons are going to be limited in number for the most part simply due to the difficulty in controlling them.


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Spellbooks and Starting Spells (1e)

So, while I had only an NPC mage (ok, plus my son playing another mage, but he’s easy to talk into stuff) I could ignore or handwave at a certain amount of the game mechanics involved with mages and spellbooks. Now for elves I had long ago noted that they didn’t use “spellbooks” but instead had spinning crystals that they would gaze into that acted in all other ways as a spell book, just with somewhat increased capacity. Now I have a second player with a normal old human mage and it becomes a bit more problematic to handwave things away.

…All about the reasonable use of the absolute power of the DM… Players like consistency, and so do I…

So, in canon AD&D (1E) a mage starts out with four (4) spells. Read Magic, and one each of offensive, defensive, and utilitarian spells. By 2E this had changed to 3d4 beginning spells, and in both editions a mage gained a new spell with each new level. Anything else needed to begged, bought, stolen, recovered, or researched. This always seemed to be crazy-low to me, so I had instituted a rule, long ago, that stated that mages started with a certain number of spells of each level (about ten 1st level, a decreasing from there) – considering them “basic knowledge” along the lines of the “Universal Spells” that independent of any school restrictions from 2E. When a mage made it to the new level, they just automatically learned those spells as “part of the territory.” But I also then removed the idea of them learning new spells with each level because they had a large dump with each new spell level gained.

I wanted my mages to be mages, and that is hard enough in AD&D at low levels. I’ve fixed that with my Power stat, plus my Cantrip rules. But I’m unhappy with either the canon 1E or 2E rules for starting spells, I’m also a bit uneasy with my old homebrew rules because the more I think about it now, the more I like the idea that mages are constantly researching magic in such a way that with each level gained they learn a new spell. This meant that there were lots of redundant spells in many mage’s spellbooks, and it meant that they those spellbooks would fill up fast – and that carrying a travelling spellbook made sense as soon as you could afford one (plus figure out where to keep you regular one). I have no problems with mages having to carry lots of tomes around, or having to spend lots of money, so how do I want to handle this?

I looked around at some of my favorite games and realized that I really like Call of Cthulhu, the way they handle Mythos tomes has always worked well. But I still like the idea of spellbooks and mages having to write and research spells – something that you just cant really do in Call of Cthulhu. There is an old Dragon magazine article that was filled with lists of books for use with spell research that I loved making players accumulate if they wanted to do spell research with any chance of success, what if I did something like that?

So I realized that I can split the difference. What if those “Universal Spells” (whatever I decide that they are) come from the standard “textbooks” of magic – while most other spells are found in the personal grimoires of the mage – that’s the real juice that mages are hoping to steal or liberate from each other, or find in an old tome someplace. Sure, cribbing from Call of Cthulhu there are undoubtedly various editions of the “standard textbooks” with extra stuff in them, or with marginalia that add a spell or two, but for the most part these standard books simply help with basic spell research, have some basic spells, and then the mages has a copy of their spellbook, plus a book of cantrips – perhaps starting off the game with three weighty tomes that they have to lug around and keep safe. Plus, I can break out those “Universal Spells” into successive volumes of magic for each new spell level so that if a mage wants the “freebies” he actually has to go out and get ahold of the “textbook” in some way. Now, most adventuring mages are going to liberate a copy from some other mage in the process of “adventuring” – but the chance always exists to simply purchase a copy of some rare, obscure edition that has something slightly different in it.

That kind of feels like a mage doesn’t it?


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But about those Thieves…

I have to say that one of the things I liked about 2E was the rules for Thieves that allowed them to allocate points for thier abilities. That is an great example of giving players a quite reasonable ability to focus more on some abilities and less on others, as they choose, and as fits their conception of the character.

But “Read Languages”? That never made sense to me at all. It always seemed to be the odd ability out. I was reading on some OSR blog someplace that they just gave that ability to Magic-Users and the utter reasonable logic of that is something that I wish I had thought of. I’ll probably do that in my upcoming campaign.

I was always of mixed minds regarding the Thief-Acrobat, on the one hand it was very, very cool. On the other hand, it never made any sense to me or anyone else I played with that it was something you “converted to” (remember this is pre-Prestige classes!). This made even less sense when you looked at the progression table of the special abilities and saw that they had basically the same number of levels as the abilities of the basic Thief class. I, and expect others, always sort of suspected that it was *supposed* to be it’s own character class but nobody could (for some reason) figure out how to make the mix of basic Thief abilities work with the Thief-Acrobat abilities in an organic fashion. It strikes me that the point-allocation system is the way to make that work, if I can figure out a “points = X” for the non-percentage based abilities like Pole-Vaulting, etc.

I also always regret that the Montebank class never saw light – sort of. I think in some ways that is what the 2E Bard was. Which is really too bad, because it was the nerfing of the Bard that really turned me off of 2E (that plus the Drizzting of the Ranger, and the switch from Demon and Devil to Fiends and whatnot). I know I had my own version of the Mountebank that I worked up years ago, but I have no idea if I still have it squirreled away. I may have to re-create it. It was sort of a combination of Thief and Alchemist or Hedge Wizard, and while I still like those essential elements I think I’d simplify it a bit now from what I can recall I had done. It was too fiddly with more spells and less abilities, and now I’d do it with more abilities and less or no spells – probably just cantrips actually.

We really did see Backstab in a very different light. Again, we used “real world knowledge” to extrapolate how this ability worked. And we decided that Backstab worked because Thieves used their knowledge of anatomy to strike to vital areas along with nasty little tricks like twisting blades, etc. that no honorable warrior would use. As a result, what was important was two things: Surprise (rather than a “rear attack”, in order to get past the instinctive defences that anyone uses to protect their vitals, and a knowledge of the anatomy of the creature in question. So while everyone started out with the basic knowledge of the common demihuman and humanoid races, anything else required vivisection and study. So it both broadened out the Thief’s ability (only needing a surprise attack with any weapon, melee or missile) but at the same time limiting it (nobody was Backstabbing dragons or Mind Flayers without doing it the hard way the first time). This lead to a couple of great mini-adventures when we’d stumble across something in the middle-of-nowhere and kill it, then all the thieves would insist on sticking around for a couple of days to study it before it rotted – and then the party was a target sitting on top of a rotting body, at a battle site, and all the locals would start coming around to see what was up. I can’t for the life of me remember if we let Thieves Backstab undead. I can’t remember that we couldn’t, but logic sort of suggests that that would be one of the “benefits” of being undead (not having any vital organs obviously). As I stretch my mind back I think it was allowed, just on the idea that corporeal undead could be Backstabbed because the physical form could be damaged badly in some way as to make them less effective or otherwise just disrupted badly.

But in general? Thieves were cool and always a popular class – I don’t see that changing.



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Two-Weapon Combat (1e)

So a recent post over at Grognardia got me thinking about the old set of debates on two-weapon combat and how that works in AD&D. So, there is the Grey Mouser in the old Deities and Demigods who used two weapons (Cat’s Claw and Scalpel, IIRC, in the grand tradition of named weapons for hero’s) and then there is the bit in the DMG that equated using dual weapons as being a function of Dexterity rather than skill (or rather, that the skill was subsumed within the hit matrixes of the character).

To be truthful, this never made any sense to us. Now the group I DMed for and the group I played with all had a pretty heavy contingent of folks who studied the martial arts, or fencing, or were combat vets, or some combination thereof – so our take on many things was often grounded from a solid “real-world” perspective. Our opinion was that dual-weapon wielding was almost entirely a function of skill and training rather than Dexterity – which already provided plenty of benefits as it was.

So if you wanted to be able to use a Longsword and a Dagger together in combat, you had to use a weapon proficiency to do so. The nomenclature went something like this:

Weapon Proficiencies: Longsword, Dagger, TW: Longsword/Dagger, Crossbow

Or if you were specialized in one of those:

Weapon Proficiencies: Longsword (Spec), Dagger, TW: Longsword/Dagger

We allowed anyone to dual-weapon train, though Fighter-types were pretty much the only folks who did, with the odd Thief or Assassin choosing dual-dagger, or dagger/shortsword. This rule pretty much seemed to keep the ability to dual-wield in check, because a character who was not trained to do so would incur not just their non-weapon proficiency but then also the penalties as assigned in the DMG.

Combat-wise it was pretty simple – this would double the number of attacks that a character had. Fighters who had multiple attacks per round would simply double this and “simplify” – so a fighter getting 3/2 attacks, would not get two attacks on one round and four the next, instead the fighter would get three attacks every round, alternating which weapon they attacked twice with. Similarly, when parrying, a character could choose to parry an attack with each weapon (using two of their attacks) and subtract the combined “to-hit bonus” for each weapon from the attacker’s roll.

Character-class-wise, there were another couple of ripples when you ignore the DMG rules. To preserve the flavor of Duelists, we just declared that characters were assumed to have “blanket” training in dual-weapon training for whatever style of dueling weapons the character operated out of (fencers with Rapiers, Smallswords, Daggers, Main Gauche, etc.; “Tyrsfarian Knifefighters” with daggers and shortswords; etc), that Gladiators while being trained in how to use all weapons had to spend proficiencies on leaning to dual-wield like everyone else, and that Monks were trained to dual-wield any reasonable weapon they had proficiency with by virtue of their superior and very specific training and skill.

None of this seemed to unbalance the game because people were either reasonable, or because they took the ruling of the DM as final and with good graces. So I remember an old character of mine with 18/76 Strength who dual-wielded a Shortsword and a Longsword, nobody questioned that after I brought up things like double Chinese Broadsword as a martial arts form – there was a paladin who wielded twin longswords that we all winced at a bit, but he had like an 18/9+ Strength and a 17 or 18 Dexterity IIRC and he actually took that proficiency as a high enough level character that we really didn’t care. The ability of one melee character to deal damage in this manner still didn’t even come close to the mages or the monsters we tended to fight. The damage he could deal out (even under a Haste spell, even doubled Haste spells) was limited by his reach and one good Fireball or Lightning Bolt was generally viewed (truthfully) as more useful…

Hmmm… That brings to mind a whole potential post about combat tactics in AD&D that I may need to write.


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RPGs and TT Gaming

That’s “Role-Playing Game” and “Table Top” in case you were wondering…

I’ve been a big gamer for years, 32 or so actually, and I’ve started this blog to talk about that – but it is a bit in media res so just read along and you’ll figure things out as I do…

The Victoriana game is still going strong; everybody is enjoying themselves and I’ve kind of worked out the bugs I see in the conceptual world that the canon setting posits. So, instead of dwarves and not-elves and whatnot constantly coexisting with humanity, I’ve changed the history to say that post 30-Years War, Faerie started to colonize the largely depopulated Europe and that the supernatural races have always existed in and around the corners of the world. Makes for a slightly different feel of the game – plus I’ve restored certain events in history (such as the US Civil War) and come up with explanations for why the Crimean War still seems to be ongoing.

The really big news in RPG-land here at the homestead is that I’ve started exploring 1E again – 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.  I stopped playing (either as DM or player) AD&D some time before my son (who is now a teenager) was born.  I think I basically stopped DMing it around the time of my first marriage and stopped playing at some point in the following 3-4 years.

The thought experiment at the moment is to see how I can frame my campaign world in 1E terms without resorting to the Frankenstein’s monster of official rules and house rules my campaign had become by time I stopped playing AD&D.

There are certainly a handful of house rules to be used, and that was the beauty of 1E – the system was loose enough to allow that and Dragon magazine certainly had a plenty of extra options to allow it.

But instead of adding in extra spell-casting rules from a half-a-dozen extra systems (to my recollection, I was using Rolesmaster, CoC, Runequest, and PRPG in addition to the basic system of AD&D rulebooks), I’m looking at doing things simply with extra character classes from that era of Dragon and White Dwarf (and elsewhere, if deemed valuable). I’m rejecting the abomination that was 2E (I hate “kits”), let alone the significant change that was 3E or 3.5E.

So, there’s a chance that I’ll be using the space here to talk about some of this process as I try to piece together what worked from 15+ years ago and rebuild a new OD&D campaign still set in my long-running campaign setting. At this point, we just passed the 32-year mark for me playing RPGs, so that puts my fantasy setting at 25+ years, with several multi-year sandbox campaigns set within it.

Take care!


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