Monday, March 22, 2010

Its Never About Itself

In a flash of brilliance it came to me. Old school is never about itself. Its not about what it can do for you its about what you can do with it. Fair, balanced or even logical are not things to worry about in the OSR. If its fun then DO IT. That revleation was provided to me from on high by St James of the Grognardia order. And I take as my gospel. I was reading his post about watching Star Wars with his seven year old son. In it he makes the observation that "Star Wars is the only one of the series that simply tells a story rather than telling a story about Star Wars." Somehow through cosmic quirk of fate I thought "Its not about itself." I actually stood up and shouted "Its not about itself!". Ok maybe I didn't shout but I was standing when the idea hit me. D&D much like Star Wars started with one thing but grew in size and detail with each new addition to the original. Some like the new stuff some don't. But like the Star Wars universe, current D&D seems more about itself than haveing fun with the concept. Early D&D was about simply playing and not about what was or wasn't D&D. The current edition goes to great lengths to define itself. Three Players Handbooks? Two Dungeonmaster Guides? All of this stuff goes to further defineing the rules not the game.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Shield's +1 AC bonus a relic of Chainmail

Its no secret that before Dungeons&Dragons there was Chainmail. D&D took shape from the fantasy rules in the back of that booklet. The combat rules in Chainmail are based on 2D6 and the alternative combat rules in D&D are based on D20. Chainmail fantasy combat was weapon vs armour combination rolling on 2D6. In many examples the addition of a shield increased the number to roll for a hit by one. In Men and Magic the alternative combat rules use a straight D20 vs armour to hit without including the weapon type. This time the shield grants a flat bonus of 1 across the board. But the two systems are not really similar. The bell curve of the 2D6 makes a +1 bonus worth a different amount in percent depending on where on the curve it lay. The odds of rolling a 7 or better on 2D6 are 58%. The odds of rolling 8 or better are 42%. A 16% difference for a plus one bonus. But the odds of rolling 10 or better are 17%, adding that +1 bonus for a roll of 11 or better changes the odds to 8% for a difference only 9%. Clearly its better to have a bonus in the middle of the curve than the ends. If you average it out to say a 15% bonus it still is better than the lowly 5% you get with the D20 roll. The shield has been short changed in the conversion from Chainmail to D&D. I might adopt the idea of three types of shields; small bucklers +1AC, the classic knight's heater +2AC, the large body shield +3AC. The standard +1 is simpler but has always seemed lacking. My alternative goes well I think to correct something that wasn't exactly wrong rather a relic of an earlier rule system.

Friday, March 5, 2010

To Hit Rolls Really Arn't, the legacy of roleplaying's wargaming roots

I was reading Knights & Knaves Alehouse forum posts about how Arrows Contradict Abstract Combat . Why do bow shots seem to be at odds with D&D combat? Hand to hand combat in the game is often described as a series of fients, manuevers and counter attacks. So many blows would be struck but maybe only one would be a "telling blow" with a chance of wounding an oppoent. But with missile combat you only get one arrow. But what if missile combat was the same as hand to hand? So now you are letting lose a torrent of arrows in the hopes that one will strike true? That still doesn't seem right. I think the problem is the idea of hitting or missing in combat. In Melee your chance of wounding a target is based on its Armour Class. So you have already hit the target, you just have to penetrate the armour. Missile combat should be the same. You have hit the target with an arrow and maybe it gets through their armour. I am willing to go with that. Ok so know where did the idea that you don't roll to hit or miss come from? That an attack is not hit or miss? Chainmail, thats right Chainmail. The Chainmail rules are for bodies or groups of combatants fighting one another. The melee rules for D&D were created from the Chainmail mass combat rules. Some things make more sense when keeping in mind a large group combat. Like your defence against damage is based solely on your AC. Your skill at fighting never comes into it at all. That makes sense for a large group (were know each members skill level would be to combersome). And of course hit points work better for large group than just one person. The rules were scaled down for single combat. There are a lot of assumtions made for combat in D&D. Arrow shots are a trade off; limited ammo for safety from counterattack. So I don't think they contradict abstract combat. Hit points don't work well either but they are part of the rules. I think by changing the way we look at combat in D&D things can be made sense of. The ideal model of melee combat in D&D is two opponents bashing away on each other slowly wearing each other down. And thats how I will describe it to my players.