Saturday, December 22, 2018

Retro Rundown #1: Chainmail

"I am waiting for you, Vizzini. You told me to go back to the beginning. So I have. This is where I am, and this is where I’ll stay. I will not be moved."
—Inigo Montoya

I. Introduction and Welcome

Welcome, one and all, to the first installment in my new blog series, the "Retro Rundown," wherein I'm going to read and analyze… pretty much everything old and D&D.

It struck me yesterday that if I'm going to stand up and declare myself a post-Old-School-Renaissance old-school gamer, it would be helpful to figure out what that means.

Like what Eddie Izzard said about Queen Elizabeth I and the Church of England:
The Protestant faith was different. That started, um, uh, well, probably around a similar time, but that was about Martin Luther, this German guy who pinned a note on a church door saying, “Hang on a minute!” But in German, so, “Ein Minuten, bitte! Ich habe einen kleinen Problemo avec dieser Religiones.” (He was from everywhere.) So yeah. So, and, uh, so the Protestant faith was sort of tacked, you know, on by Queen Elizabeth I a bit later. “Oh, principles! Thank God! We’ve got some principles.”
It's good to have some principles. Formulating them can be tricky, though. There's a lot of nonsense floating around, particularly within the OSR. It's no secret that I despise the Finch Primer and the whole notion of "rulings, not rules." It's just so incredibly, wrongheadedly ahistorical—or so my intuition tells me. Maybe I'll discover otherwise by actually going back to the texts.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Aloha 'Oe to the OSR

I know, I know. Overly provocative title. I'll explain below.

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I have three concurrent gaming-related projects going on in my life right now. Surprise, surprise, it's the same three as ever.

1) Dungeons & Dragons. Despite losing a few weekends here and there to school and holidays (including this upcoming weekend, naturally), my Saturday D&D campaign has continued to be fairly steady and consistently enjoyable. The player roster has changed as players come and go, but we're only just now reaching the one year mark, and still no player has surpassed 6th level, and still they continue their slow crawl through the Barrowmaze. (They've explored maybe 20% of it, tops.) 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Hit Dice, Reloaded

In my last post, I described a somewhat radical house rule for hit points—one that I would inevitably become leery about actually implementing, once I'd thought through the many implications of how it would change player behavior.

At the same time, though, I'd also been pondering the best method for rolling up old-fashioned, static hit points. And I think I've settled on a system I can live with.

Just rolling them straight always has the potential to cripple a character. If a fighter rolls a couple of 1s, 2s, or 3s on gaining his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th experience levels, that's an unrecoverable handicap. So some form of re-rolling is a must if one demands that dice be rolled (and I do). Re-rolling all the hit dice at each level is a pretty good way of keeping the characters just above average; but there also has to be some recourse if the re-roll is low (characters should always gain at least one hit point with a new level). So, taking all that into account, the ideal method would have to be:

• Max hit points at first level (bog standard house rule)
• At levels 2 through 9, when a character gains a level, their hit points go up by +1 (clerics, thieves, and magic-users) or +2 (fighters). Then they re-roll a number of hit dice equal to their new level (adjusting each for Constitution, as normal), and they keep this roll if it's greater than the old, just-incremented hit point total.

I wrote a bit of code to test this method out, and it seems to produce results that put characters where I want them to be, while still being variable. 9th level characters wind up with hp totals ranging from a couple of points below average, to upwards of ten points above (for very lucky fighters), with the smaller hit dice being proportionally less swingy (to be expected).