Tuesday, December 26, 2017

D&D 2018: How I Wish I Could Roll

I finally have a bit of vacation between semesters.  No work and no school between Christmas and New Years, and it's glorious.  I'm sure once it sinks in, I'll find myself pulled in five different directions trying to decide which writing projects I want to catch up on.  But for the moment, I find myself just thinking about D&D.

Not Engines & Empires or Retro Phaze, none of my own clones or OSR games or adventures that I have in the works.  Just D&D.  I haven't properly run a role-playing campaign of any sort in several months now, and I'm seriously missing it.  I also know that for at least the next four or five months, I probably won't have the time to start up a new campaign, not with both a comp exam and a GRE on the horizon.

So all I can do is dream, and I keep on dreaming of running a more-or-less plain vanilla, straight-up, by-the-book D&D campaign, with no steampunk or other sci-fi weirdness added in.  None of my own alterations to the lore or any of my usual peccadilloes and affectations.  Something classic: knights, castles, dragons, all that jazz.  Something that leans into the traditional mix of Tolkien, Gygax, and proper medieval fantasy.

…Of course, for me, "by-the-book" would never be quite that.  I'm now so used to handling attack rolls and saving throws with a "roll low to succeed" mechanic that I don't think I could do it any other way.  And I sure as hell have no desire to go back to three or five saving throw categories when just the one will do.

But this insatiable yearning that I'm feeling (which still, after a number of days, has not abated) has gotten me wondering: what is the bare minimum I would need to do to run something quite close to recognizable, rules-as-written D&D?  Something that the groggiest grognard would have no quibble with if he were to sit down at my table and roll up a character, no questions asked?

In other words, what about D&D can I simply no longer abide, and what can I still stomach?  And this is what I came up with: I call it Dungeons & Dragons 2018, the absolute minimum set of changes I have to make to OD&D to make the game playable in accordance with my present-day sensibilities.  Take a look, and comment below!

And, hey, since I've got three weeks to wait until my copy of Barrowmaze Complete arrives in the mail (hey, it was on sale, and now I have Christmas money!), maybe-just-maybe I'll get to take these rules for a test-drive in the near future after all…


  1. From your description, this is going to be like a christmas present to me.
    Then I've just clicked, read the first lines:
    "no thieves or clerics to be found here"
    and I think: "I don't know if this is good or bad, but this guy and me are in the same gaming phase right now"

    1. That line was admittedly a little tongue-in-cheek, especially regarding clerics. They're still *there*, just refluffed.

      But thieves truly have been removed, their percentile skills replaced by a simple ad hoc skill system, and the assumption is that all of that good old-school trap-finding and secret-searching is to be played out the proper way, with the players poking at the walls and so forth!

  2. I feel your pain on this, John.
    I think I've DM'ed exactly three times in the year 2017, and I haven't played in any capacity in over four months. Assembling a gaming group has become so tiresome and tedious, and so often yields little return for the investment, that I've pretty much just given up the hobby.

    On the bare minimum front, I think my sweet spot is the little red/blue Basic/Expert duo, though with thieves changed to operate on a skill system more reminiscent of Lamentations. (I also am now apparently incapable of running RAW without some kind of minor change at least)

    Finally, I'm with you on the sudden craving for "default" D&D. Perhaps I've tried so many weird and nuanced settings and campaigns that "vanilla D&D" has become almost like a frontier again.

    1. >"vanilla D&D" has become almost like a frontier again.

      Exactly that.

      Another factor might be that getting into "Beyond the Wall" led me to seek out some high fantasy for inspiration - "Wizard of Earthsea", "Chronicles of Prydain", the Belgariad. I'm getting back into high fantasy as a genre, after reading pulp for so long as old-school inspiration. It's kind of nice to rediscover what happened after Terry Brook started "Tolkien imitation" as a whole thing.

    2. Holy crap, I forgot about the Belgariad entirely. I used to read those in junior high in the early/mid 90's. Eddings definitely informed my D&D back then. Funny, I know I read them, but suddenly I have difficulty remembering what they were about - lots of disjointed details, but not really the narrative of the story.

      I never did read Wizard of Earthsea, and I've always considered that kind of a gap in my "stuff I should have read" list. I do have a copy I picked up from HPB a couple years ago... maybe one day I'll actually get around to reading it.

      I almost typed that with a straight face.