A thought occurs…

Divisions in the OSR on what is Old School, what is the “Right Way” to play, and what editions are best are not merely intellectual bones upon which we gamers can chew.  It is a serious deal, along the lines of religious convictions and the schisms of Christendom.  Though to the outsider they may all believe the same things, in fact those profoundly minute details are what stir up the fieriest passions and rousing the rancor of those who ‘believe wrong’.  This struck me when someone in the OSR referred to a particular edition, despite its flaws, as being an ‘inspired’ work.  Now, there are lots of known flaws in the King James translation of the bible, but it is still considered to be an ‘inspired’ work, and all flaws can be overlooked due to the inherent divinity of that edition of the work.  Now, interestingly enough, the edition to which this blogger referred was not even the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  Much like how the King James Version was not even the first English Bible (it was just the most ‘inspired’).

So why the edition wars?  For the same reason there are schismatics in the church and heresies among believers.  At one point, one grabs hold of a touchstone ideal and makes it the core of his being, central to his faith.  But what if that ideal was misintroduced marginalia or if the Orthodoxy simply disregards that atom upon which a number of people have based their faith?  People attacking or disregarding that item are not merely assailing an idea, but are perceived as attacking the core of an individual’s faith!  Because it is a matter of faith, it is a question beyond reason.  And THAT is why edition wars exist.  It has nothing to do with which rule set is actually better or whether an edition was ‘commercialized’ or ‘old school’; it has everything to do with what ideas make individuals feel the most safe, comfortable and happy with who they are as gamers, and challenges to those ideas represent challenges to their happiness, faith and nature!

St Augustine tries to convince the  D&Donatists that the game has evolved beyond the Gygaxian Orthodoxy.

St Augustine tries to convince the D&Donatists that the game has evolved beyond the Gygaxian Orthodoxy.

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More Troll Questions from Random Wizard

Random Wizard is doing another Top 10 Troll questions. Honestly, these don’t seem near as Trolly as the last ones, but I figured I’d go ahead and do them anyway.

(1). Should energy drain take away one level of experience points from the character? Yes or No? If no, what should level drain do?

It really depends. At low levels, level drain doesn’t seem as bad (even though getting hit a few times with it will drop you to level 0 and you turn undead), but at higher levels, the high amounts of XP needed for leveling makes this a bit more punishing. In the system I cooked up awhile back but never finished (like so much in my life), level drain hit for a fixed amount of XP that varied depending on the power of the undead.

(2). Should the oil used in lanterns do significant damage (more than 1 hp in damage) if thrown on an opponent and set on fire? Yes or No? If yes, how much damage should it do?

1d4 burn damage per round. It corresponds to what you see in movies, at least.

(3). Should poison give a save or die roll, with a fail rolled indicating instant death? Yes or No? If no, how should game mechanics relating to poison work?

I have mixed feelings about save or die with poisons. Most poisons are slow acting. I think a fail should incapacitate the victim after a few rounds, during which an antidote, if any, may be administered.

(4). Do characters die when they reach 0 hit points? Yes or No? If no, then at what point is a character dead?

0 is dead. Anything under 0 is dead and mangled.

(5). Does the primary spell mechanic for a magic user consist of a “memorize and forget system” (aka Vancian)? Yes or No? If no, what alternative do you use?

For human magic users, yes. Elves function more like sorcerers, since magic is in their nature. They can’t learn magic from a book, but are randomly able to select their spells. They can ‘lock’ in these spells or choose to ‘forget’ them and replace them with another.

(6). Should all weapons do 1d6 damage or should different weapons have varying dice (1d4, 1d8, etc…) for damage?

I like varying damage, but definitely think that what is there in the tables needs to be adjusted. Sure, daggers get to be 1d4, but that the bs D&D longsword is the only one handed weapon that gets 1d8 damage is stupid. Spears are better and should be at least as good mechanically.

(7). Should a character that has a high ability score in their prime requisite receive an experience point bonus? Yes or No?

No. If you ask me, the opposite should be true. People who have it easy and can just waltz through life grow more slowly than those who have to try harder.

(8). Should a character with an strength of 18 constitution get a +3 bonus to hit points, or a +2 bonus to hit points, or a +1 bonus to hit points or no bonus to hit points? And should other ability scores grant similar bonuses to other game mechanics?

Strength is strength, con is con. I do believe, though, that Charisma and Comeliness should be separate stats. One can be charismatic but ugly and vice versa. If it’s not its own stat, it can be average of Strength and Con.

(9). Should a character have 1 unified saving throw number, or 3 saving throw types based on ability scores (reflex, fortitude, will), or 5 types based on potential game effects (magic wand, poison attacks)? or something else?

I like the 5 type saving throw system, but I like throws against individual skills even better. The latter gives some flexibility: do you try to muscle your way out of your bindings (STR) or do you try to wriggle free (DEX)? The 5 types are a lot easier to manage and factor in leveling up. But you get a lot of weird things falling into the categories. “Oh, crap, a rock is falling on my head, time to save against dragon’s breath!”

(10). Should a cleric get (A) 1 spell at 1st level (B) no spells at 1st level (C) more than 1 spell at 1st level?

I like the idea of the 0 spell acolyte. They’ve not yet been fully initiated into the mysteries of their faith. It also answers the question about why a cleric would adventure. I’d read once (sorry, if I remembered where, I would link it) that Clerics, as healers, would be too valuable to communities for those communities to allow them to go adventuring. Well, a spellless level 1 acolyte isn’t going to have that value, and is therefore expendable to the church. He could be out adventuring ‘on mission’ to earn his way into the holy mysteries of his order.

Top 10 Troll Questions (from Random Wizard)

Questions posed here: http://randomwizard.blogspot.com/2013/07/top-ten-troll-questions-for-your-game.html

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?
Yes, but they can have different professions.

(2). Do demi-humans have souls?

Yeah.

(3). Ascending or descending armor class?

Descending AC.

(4). Demi-human level limits?

Yeah, but only if you’re playing B/X and things cap out at level 14, when everyone should be kings and queens anyway.

(5). Should thief be a class?

Yeah, but maybe re-tooled as a ‘Specialist’ or ‘Professional’ type class, with more flexibility into where skill improvement is.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?

This kind of goes into the ‘professions’ thing.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?

It always depends on the situation. I did have a wizard once who could take even the best fighters in a fist fight.

(8). Do you use alignment languages?

Alignment laguages are stupid.

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc…)?

If thieves disarm traps, they usually get gold, so… Fighter gets gold from killing monster, thief gets gold from trapped chest, and XP averages out.

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E ADD, Next ?

B/X.