It’s been cold and snowy here in Denver. To be honest this kind of weather makes my spirits get low. The only cure is to think happy thoughts, make yourself smile, and talk gaming - It really does work.
Perhaps one of the greatest issues with OD&D and perhaps even AD&D is the problem of a bad roll for hit points.
i.e. Your 18 strength fighter just rolled a one for their hit points.
So what do you do now?
I know both kinds of referees, the by the rules what you roll is what you get ref, as well as the lets fudge that a little bit so you stand a better chance of not dying type. Neither is really doing the players a favor on HP and to be honest the 1 HP PC is still something worth having players run just so they can experience being very cautious at first level. Yet, it can be a a real hassle in the long run.
Also, here is an odd thought about the rules from the early days.
I recall my first read through on D&D and wondering if hit points were a fixed quantity once rolled, or if players would re-roll hit points before every adventure. It was not very clear how to handle them!
Hit points aren’t meant to represent an actual physical property related to how hearty you are. They are an abstraction. Gary Gygax wrote a bit on that in this image I saved from an online post I spotted. Thus even Gygax is saying they are more like a combo of skill and luck in avoiding dying through adversity.
I really like what Gary said about his perspective on RPGs and how D&D handled mechanics when it was first created. Although this blog post relates to the part on hit points, so much of this page is pure gold that I have to show the entire image.
Having players re-roll bad rolls is the age old cure and yet it feels a bit arbitrary thus I propose a more systematic approach. I feel that any modification to the early editions has to stay within the scope of how the original rules were written. This variant is designed so it remains within the format of simple rules that enhance play without over burdening the game with too many details.
The entire design of D&D is predicated on die roll averages. I go into that really in depth in some of my older posts on understanding how D&D works.
Ok, let’s get ‘Average’ but leave in a little bit of player NERF and BUFF for the sake of having players be more likely to survive.
What if hit die rolls are modified based on attributes? That seems reasonable, yet which attribute should it be and no matter what attribute we use there is the chance of a player having a 3 in that column, so that is still not so great.
I propose using the character’s prime ability score, or scores, for classes with more than one. And then I suggest we modify this by the character's constitution score.
When I say modify, I really mean one should use averages.
Thus a fighter would get Str + Con and this would be divided by 2 to get a modified roll.
OD&D breaks things down into Low, Average, and High for ability scores. This really points to other considerations about the design, but that is a whole other can of worms I won’t go into right now.
The tally of the Prime Ability and Constitution gives a nice number one can use to modify the hit points die roll with. Now we can use this low, medium, high to modify the rolls for HP like so:
-If the Average of Prime and Constitution is 8 or less, the die roll is un-modified.
-If the Average is medium or rather 9 to 14, then any hit point die roll of 1 or 2 is treated as 3 and all others rolls are read as they fall. (If you are doing Greyhawk style d8 hit dice anything 3 and lower is treated as 4.)
-If the Average of Prime and Constitution is 15 or greater, anything rolled less than 4 is treated as four. (Greyhawk and later versions with d8 it is a 5)
Doing this kind of hit die roll modification will shift hit points up, but will not create an incidence of a higher quantity of high rolls. It just means the lows are more likely to be shifted toward a mid range. Also, some PCs will tend to get higher hit point Tallies based on their attributes.
That's all I have for today. Make sure to pop by the Kickstarter, if you haven't purchased a book already, as it is rapidly coming to the final deadline.
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Something to consider in your Blackmoor world setting are the different orders which exert influence and force, whether as an alliance or loyalty to a greater power, be it a religion or a realm, or simply some kind of deeply held belief.
Of course the most known factions are The Red Wizard Coven who worship the nameless deity and are known for their underground temples that are covered in meander chalk drawings and their ally, the being known simply as, The Egg of Coot.
On the side of good there are two prominent organizations also. The Order of the Dragon in Blackmoor and The Hunters in the Deep of Vestfold, known as Fastness Fold in my own campaign. These are forces that work for the Baron and the Earl. The two organizations are like the CIA and MI6. Each works for their own ruler, yet, they are also known to work together in their endless fight against the various other enemy states of Blackmoor.
The Order of the Dragon is an elite military unit. They will not break under pressure as they are battle hardened troops of the greatest ranks. They are also known to have some assassins as spies that work for them. And they have paid watchers who gather information for them from all over the world of Blackmoor.
The Hunters in the Deep are a secretive society of assassin spies. They do the behind the scenes dirty work for the Earl. Yet, a lot of what they do is to simply gather information on the goings on around the world of Blackmoor.
Neither will spy in the other’s realm or on the other group. They do sometimes send agents on missions in each other’s realms as a collaborative venture.
The Order of the Dragon is a known group as they can be seen around Blackmoor in their white tunics with red dragon heraldry. Yet, what is not known is their other mission of protecting the realm through either force, or intrigue. Perhaps a modern comparison is the Special Forces which most nations have and are called on to perform clandestine military missions. The leader of the Order of the Dragon is known as the Great Svenni. He is an old experienced warrior, loyal to the barony.
The Hunters in the Deep are only known via whispered rumors. They do not parade around in uniform. They are everywhere and nowhere. It is rumored their leader is a person who goes by the name of Lavender.
These two groups are very useful for creating interesting scenarios for your own campaign, be it Blackmoor, or your own creation.
In many cases they work indirectly, and those who work with them will be operating as agents of agents in vast networks. Indoctrination to either group is a long process of gradually being accepted within the group through challenges and the accomplishment of difficult tasks that require the building of deep trust. Both groups also have secret hand gestures and symbols that are used as codes to recognize other agents. The Order of the Dragon uses imagery having to do with dragons and the Deep Hunters use images of octopus.
The two groups are in a constant struggle against incursions by agents of The Red Wizard Coven and The Egg of Coot. Often the goal is merely to place counter spies within the other organizations in order to keep tabs on what their nefarious plans are. Just recently, the Egg's agents managed to create an alliance with the Thieves Guild of Fastness Fold. This led to the siege of the city with an uncursion out of Tonisborg Dungeon through the old gate in order to break the city defenses. Luckily the Deep Hunters had agents in place and were able to find out about the plans for the raid out of the dungeon.
The house group of players took part in the defense of the old gate. Chris was having a fiery night with the dice and every turn he was cleaving multiple orcs in half and pressing the attack. Eventually the attackers broke morale and Chris led the counter-charge across the bridge to the island, with the city guard following his lead while chanting 'Gate Crusher.'
Chris has earned a reputation and a title as a fearsome champion of the realm. It can only be expected The Deep Hunters will be knocking on the Gate Crusher's door some time soon as brave adventurers are hard to come by and of great use to the organization.
New players will always enjoy a good romp through a dungeon and it is hard to get them to want to do much more than that. Yet, if you consider that the forces for evil are always colluding to undermine the order and balance of good, then there are a lot of small missions that a party of adventurers can be hired to go on by either of these organizations. In many cases these adventures can begin in a town or city and go to the wilderness or even back to the dungeon.
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