Sunday, January 19, 2014

2nd Edition House Rules

Well, this feels familiar.

Back in high school, I spent a lot of bloody time writing and revising and re-revising my house rules for our old 2e campaigns.  Of course, those original house rules documents are long vanished now, discarded as pointless once 3rd edition came along and made them altogether irrelevant.  So... now I need some new house rules, to make 2nd edition's rules conform to my present-day sensibilities without actually impairing the feel of what makes 2e unique.

Ability Scores and Saving Throws

So let's start with the obvious ones: ability score tables and five saving throws.  Gone.  I see no reason to use AD&D's ability modifiers when D&D's will work just fine.  Of course, the AD&D game lets stats scale up to 25, so the table for all scores would look something like this:

1-3 ... -3
4-5 ... -2
6-8 ... -1
9-12 ... 0
13-15 ... +1
16-17 ... +2
18-20 ... +3
21-24 ... +4
25 ... +5

Pretty simple.  As for saving throws, I'll just have all characters make all saves using a single save column, the one with median numbers (which in AD&D is the Rod/Staff/Wand save).  

Regarding scores themselves, STR modifies melee hit and damage, and also ranged damage with hurled weapons or special bows.  DEX modifies ranged to-hit and AC.  (Further, I'll probably let ranged attackers add their DEX mod to missile damage with fired missile weapons, and even with hurled weapons if the DEX mod is better than the STR mod... but, I'll be ditching AD&D's "rate of fire" for missile weapons, sticking instead with D&D's simple one attack per round.  But more on this in a moment.)  CON modifies hit points, of course.  And as for INT, WIS, and CHA... well, I won't be using proficiencies, and it's unlikely that retainers or henchmen are going to be a factor in this campaign, so I want all three of these stats to somehow affect the characters' saving throws.  I've decided that the simplest thing to do here is to have whichever mental ability modifier among INT, WIS, and CHA is in the middle, neither highest nor lowest, be the one that counts as a modifier to all saving throws.  That is, if a character has (say) INT 8 (-1), WIS 12 (0), and CHA 15 (+1), the character's WIS mod of 0 applies to all saving throws.

Experience and Treasure

I'll probably just go ahead and award XP for treasure, like in 1e.  1 gp = 1 xp is pretty simple and easy... but I've never liked using the gold standard in any version of D&D.  I like gold and silver to be rare as hell... and I like to put equipment prices on a copper standard.  So it's probable that I'll actually wind up making 1 cp = 1 xp, and employing 1:25 ratio for each coin type (1 gold coin = 25 silver coins, and 1 silver coin = 25 copper coins).  Also, since we don't have to care much about the relative sizes of coins, only their weights, it's convenient for the sake of speedy gameplay to make all of the coins of different types have uniform weights.  The easiest figure for me to track (and something not too terribly far off from historical reality) is to peg the figure at 1,000 coins to a weight of one stone (i.e. about 70 coins to the pound).  This results in a very reasonable (and quite historically consistent) coin weight of about 4 pennyweight (6.3 grams or 0.22 ounces).

Weapons and Attacks

So, I've discovered that I really, really like 2e's attack roll progression.  It's simple, elegant, and balanced.  The only change I'm apt to make here is for characters with multiple attacks, like high-level Warriors.  Nobody wants to keep track of that extra "half attack" (meaning, an attack made every other round at the end of that round's initiative count).  This is the infamous 7th to 12th level fighter's "3/2" attacks, three attacks per two rounds.  Instead, I think the best way to simplify this annoyance is to make the half attack usable every round, but have it cause half damage.  The effect is the same, but now you don't need to keep track of what round it is or how many rounds you've been attacking.

Along similar lines, two-weapon fighting can be simplified by nixing the attack penalties and having characters (other than rangers) who fight with two weapons attack twice for half damage in either hand.  That's not much of an offensive benefit, to be sure, but then, two-weapon fighting is historically a defensive style.  Thus, the benefit of a second weapon is really this: when you carry two weapons but only attack with one, the off-hand weapon grants you a +1 shield bonus to AC vs melee attacks that round.  (By comparison, a buckler will grant +1 to AC vs both melee and missile attacks, and a proper shield will further add +1 to saving throws vs area damage like fireballs, exploding grenades, and dragon's breath.  And, of course, shields like these can always double as improvised bashing-weapons, so this actually serves to make things more realistic and more consistent!)

Now, for missile attacks I'm going to drop the rates of fire for most of them and simply have fighter level be the sole determining factor in how many arrows or bullets you can fire in a round, pretty much like it is in basic D&D.

The "larger than man sized" damage die is a pointless complication that can simply vanish into the ether.

Skills and Proficiencies

No weapon proficiencies.  Like basic D&D, your class has a list of weapons; you can use any of them without penalty.  No non-weapon proficiencies; characters have one or two secondary skills (and can learn as many more as they want to by spending time and money "in game") which have the mechanical effect of granting a +4 bonus on any related ability checks.  It's "keep it simple, stupid" to the extreme in this department.

Fighters can still specialize in one weapon, a choice they can make at any time from 1st level onward, and whenever the fighter reaches 9th level, this weapon specialization (+1 to hit, +2 to damage, +1/2 an attack per round) becomes weapon mastery (+3 to hit and damage, +1 extra attack per round).  I'll probably do what I usually do with thieves, folding their "thieving skills" into the general system of secondary skills that anyone can learn, and instead giving the thief class a particular aptitude for ranged combat and critical hits.

Character Classes

One of the characters in this campaign is psionic.  The other is a mechanic who builds robots and airships.  That means I need to include psionicists and technologists.  The 2e psionics rules just plain suck all the way through.  2e doesn't even have any rules for technology.  So I've had to back-convert the rules for these classes from 3.0.  Luckily, the original 3.0 Psionics Handbook is a pretty easy conversion.  As near as I can tell, the technologist from EN Publishing's "The Fantastic Science" is pretty similar, and also easy enough to convert on the fly.  So I'll be including those, along with the ordinary way that I tend to run D&D classes:
- Fighters. They have weapon specialization, eventually weapon mastery.
- Paladins and rangers.  By the book.
- Thieves. Strip out the thieving skills as special class abilities, since anyone can learn them; but make sure thieves can still take more secondary skills than other classes, so it's really easy to build a thief good at thieving.  Add ranged combat bonuses.  Make backstab into more of a general critical hit/vital area/sneak attack ability.  Ninjas are altered similarly.  Bards don't need much changing.
- Nix the druid.  The cleric just has access to all spheres of divine magic, plus a granted power like turning undead or whatever's appropriate to the character's mythos.
- Wizards by the book.
- Monks, I'll probably just go with the Scarlet Brotherhood version.  But I might decide on a clerical or psionic version instead.
I'll also need to include the berserker and runecaster classes from the Viking Campaign sourcebook to fit another of this game's characters specifically.

...And there you have it.  A stripped down 2e that should run pretty smoothly---maybe not the well-oiled engine that is basic D&D, but close enough to function almost as well; and quirky enough that the character of the rules trumps any thought of perfecting them.

But we'll find out next weekend whether a bunch of players can handle the sudden added complexity of dealing with the spell and power repertoires of 8th-level casters.

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