Friday, July 10, 2015

More Thought Given to House Rules

For The Upcoming Campaign (which I'm beginning to tentatively call "Beyond Thunder River"), I've been thinking very carefully about the rules in the book and the rules I want to implement.  The way things are looking, player skill levels are going to vary wildly in this group, ranging from a guy who cut his teeth on Second Edition AD&D (and thus the only one of us with actual experience playing TSR products instead of WOTC or Paizo) to a guy who has never played RPGs before.

Because of this, I don't want the players to have to think about mechanics or memorize rules as much as possible.  I want to keep as much under the hood, or behind the screen, as possible so they can focus on just being their character for a couple hours.  I'm planning on not even giving them access to their class' "To Hit" charts - just tell me what you rolled and I'll tell you if you hit or not.  In fact, for the first time ever in a fantasy game I'm discouraging players from generating characters in advance - to keep everyone on the same page I'm going to have everybody roll up their characters at the same time at the same table.

And this got me thinking about house rules, and what I wanted to tweak in the Swords & Wizardry core rules to maximize this varied set of players' enjoyment of the game - a combination of ensuring that the new player isn't frustrated, the people used to D&D 3.x have something familiar in the midst of all this Old Schoolery, and that everyone has the opportunity to shine and feel useful and accomplished.  This is not to say I'm going to hold hands or make dungeons into cake-walks.  While this may not be Fantasy Fuckin' Vietnam, it may well be Fantasy Fuckin' Hadrian's Wall.

So to start, here are the house rules I feel pretty firmly set on:

  • No Halflings.  Available races are Human, Dwarf and Elf.  
  • Maximum hit points at first level.  No one wants to be the guy wandering around the Caves of Chaos with two hit points.  Everyone begins play with the maximum hit points they can get for their class and Constitution modifier.  
  • For ability scores, roll 4d6, drop the lowest, arrange to suit.  Your character is someone who has gone looking for money and goblin blood in a hole in the ground.  They're not wracked by tuberculosis, feeble-limbed or massively concussed (their sanity, however, may be in question).
  • Damage dice "explode."  You stab an orc with your dagger for 1d4 damage, and roll a 4.  Keep that 4, roll the die again, add the results to that original 4.  Did you roll a second 4? Sweet Jesus, keep rolling and adding until you stop getting 4s.  Total your damage and I'll tell you how massively you ruined that orc's day.  
  • Magic-Users can use light crossbows.  It's not rocket science to figure out how one works, especially for a class that relies so heavily on their intelligence.  Cast your one spell for the day at 1st level? No problem, unsling that crossbow and start sniping from behind that rock.  
  • Everyone gets a hat from the B/X Blackrazor Headgear chart.  Elves and Dwarves can opt to roll on either their racial or class matrix.  
And two I'm a little shakier on but leaning towards heavily:
  • No multi-classed demi-humans.  It just feels to me like more then I want to put on my players' plates for now.  Instead, Elves can be Magic-Users, Fighters or Thieves.  They cannot be Clerics because the gods have turned their backs on the Elvish race.  The Dwarves, meanwhile, can be Clerics, Fighters, or Thieves.  They cannot be Magic-Users because they lack the vocal structures to make the necessarily subtle tones of sorcery.  I'm not sure I see the campaign lasting long enough for level limits to become an issue, so I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.  
  • Magic-Users begin at 1st level with a spell-book containing all eight first level spells - it's a standard-issue text at the Academy.  

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