Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reading Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Part 3

Kinda bummed at the lack of comments yesterday.  I was hoping this'd generate a bit more discussion.  Anyway, here's part three.

CHARACTER AGE, AGING, DISEASE, AND DEATH

Character Age: Pretty standard fare for games of the 70's and 80's; tables for determining starting age for player characters, followed by age ranges for human and demihuman species (including subraces of elves and dwarves--this is somewhat intriguing since these subraces won't show up as PC types till Unearthed Arcana). Following the age category table, we see ability score modifications based on age. Again, the typical; as you get older you get weaker but wiser and more intelligent...which is amusing considering that we now know that IQ actually drops as we age, but I guess it represents experience and education.

Next we have the number of years added to a character's life for the casting of certain spells or imbibing of certain potions. Useful stuff...again, for players. Should've been in the PHB.

Disease: This section is, IMO, one of the most fun sections in the book. It's got a great rundown of how diseases of various types of infection, including virii, bacteria, and parasites, can be contracted and how they affect player characters.

It occurs to me as I'm reading here that there are not, as is popularly believed, a ton of different systems for handling all different situations in AD&D. There are two: there is a system based on rolling a die and attempting to hit a target number, as seen in combat, surprise, detection of secret doors, etc., and there is the percentile system. Every element in AD&D is handled via one of these two methods. We'll deal with the reason surprise is, at its core, handled with a d6 rather than a d20 later on, but the core resolution mechanic remains the same; roll a die and check the result against a probability, or roll percentile dice under a modified score.

In this case, disease infection is handled based on a percentile score, modified by such factors as whether the character is already infected with an ailment, what the environment and weather conditions are like, the character's age, etc. These factors are added to the base chance of infection and percentile dice rolled; if the result is under the modified chance of infection, the character contracts an ailment.

If the character contracts an ailment, another chart is consulted, from which the DM can choose an appropriate illness or roll randomly. Instead of a laundry list of real-world diseases and parasites, the chart lists infection types, such as blood, bone, brain, gastro-intestinal, etc. It's actually a fairly elegant way of dealing with the problem of the countless varieties of infection in the world.

Again, overall this is one of my favorite parts of the book, though I'm not sure how often it'll actually come into play. Still, it's quite comprehensive and very well thought-out. Where Gygax sometimes seems big on letting the DM wing it for himself, figuring things out as he goes along (such as with the Secondary Skills mentioned earlier), other times he loves to be quite detailed and comprehensive. It's uneven, but somehow charming in its quirkiness.

8 comments:

  1. I don't really have anything to say, but I'm enjoying reading.

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  2. Don't ever let the numbers bother you. Just write. That's the best thing about blogs. We can catch up later and nothing is wasted.

    First numbers went up because bad weather kept folks inside.

    Then it cleared for 15 minutes and everybody ran outside.

    Now the weather has us running in circles for survival.

    I watched my views plummet. My temp patching the roof and dealing with contractors, adjusters,etc leaving no time for working on my project or posting/commenting either. But I know it will level out and I get to catch up on all my favorite blogs :)

    And btw...good series...AD&D1e will always be my favorite D&D and it never gets enough love imo :)

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  3. Rolling disease chances may be as grimy and medieval as bucket toilets but didn't do much for my high school campaign. I think this is because random diseases are "lose your turn" spaces without very creative ways to avoid or manage them. I now reserve diseases for monster effects or if your characters do something real stupid, like sleep in the city street or wade through swamp water.

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  4. My favorite parts of the old DMG were the disease and the insanity sections. I remember reading them, going, how on EARTH could I find a way to incorporate these into an actual campaign? 8)

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  5. Agree with Badger King.

    The reason you had no comments from me on your last post, Jason, was because I just got around to reading it today! Too many damn good blogs and too little time.

    And I have found that disease and weather and such are unfortunately blamed on the DM. It's a peculiar pyschology at work. If the NPC Ufgar the Grim steals something from the party or wrongs them somehow, they blame the NPC and plot revenge. If a downpour catches them at the wrong time and ruins their provisions, they blame the Dungeon Master. Don't ask me why...

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  6. Plus weather and disease are such unwieldy things in general. Using a chart for them just makes them that much more unwieldy and difficult. I always felt that these definitely fell into the category of rules to discard. I often based the weather on whatever was happening outside and governed seasons etc that way. Simple but effective. And as for diseases - I agree with Badger King.

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  7. I know I'm late to this party, but I wanted to mention that I think you might have missed the point of the "Unnatural Aging" table. That's not years added to your life, but years added to your effective age. You cast wish and it ages you 3 years, cast a restoration spell and you become 2 years older. That's why Clerics charge 10,000+gp to cast it. While a haste spell or potion of speed gives you a serious melee advantage, almost a win button, is it worth a whole year of your life?

    That does lead one to ask what happens when someone casts a wish to be younger. Perhaps the spell ages the caster 3 years, then the wish makes him 1d12 years younger, like a potion of longevity. Actually, maybe it'd be better to make it 1d6-1 (min. 1) years younger, to make casting it over time a losing proposition (since each reduction averages 2.67 years, but each casting adds 3 years).

    Boy, do I ever overthink this stuff sometimes.

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  8. Nope, that's exactly how I read it. I think you misread me. :-P

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