Saturday, May 21, 2011

Reading Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Part 13

This rather expansive section gets into a lot of really neat detail and systems regarding adventuring in both mundane (outdoor land and dungeon) and unusual (underwater and aerial) environs. Some of the stuff in here, modern game designers could learn something from reading.

Adventures in the Outdoors: This bit largely discusses establishing your campaign setting. It includes a brief mention of creating your party's base of operations and a nearby dungeon in which to begin. It then goes on to suggest that a detailed map of the surrounding area is essential to maintaining cohesiveness in your game, and provides a quick explanation of how to use a hex grid to measure scale. It also, naturally, recommends the World of Greyhawk campaign setting for those without the time to design a world of their own.

Land Adventures: The first thing we get herein is the famous (or infamous, depending on your gaming philosophy) wandering encounter tables, broken down by terrain type, time of day, and base chance of encounter. Here we see the first clear example of why different dice are using when making checks; Gygax's system is designed around probability, not die type. Thus, a hostile monster encounter in a population dense area doesn't have a target on a 20-sided die, rather, it has a 1 in 20 chance of occurring. Likewise, in a wilderness area such hostile monsters pose a greater threat, and so the chance is 1 in 10. Naturally, rolling a d20 and d10 respectively are the most straightforward means of interpreting this issue, but percentile dice could just as easily be used, checking against a 5% and 10% chance, respectively. Indeed, more of AD&D first edition than I remembered is in fact based around a percentile system. It makes me somewhat curious what it would take to convert the standard combat rules to d%.

But I'll get to that later, when we talk about the unarmed combat and grappling rules.

Following the chances, we're given procedures for making checks, determining encounter distance, and confrontation. This may sound humorous, but I would LOVE to play this game with an eidetic DM who'd read the book through and memorized every word and chart of it. I bet it'd be a blast. For most of us, though, a lot of these minutiae disappeared into the mire of "unneeded detail," and were replaced with the more intuitive Ability Check rules that would later appear in Oriental Adventures and the Dungeoneer's and Wilderness Survival Guides (more on those down the line).

Next we get into Movement. The first thing it says (to my eternal mute rage) is "movement rates have been given elsewhere."

Yeah. If you're smart enough to have taken all the offhanded mentions and bits and pieces of information dropped at various odd places and put them together to realize that a human in leather or padded armor moves at 12", everyone else moves at 9". And indoors or underground that means 120 feet or 90 feet, respectively, but outdoors that means 360 feet and 270 feet, respectively.

Okay, that's probably not the last time you'll hear that rant, but it's done for now.

Next we have rules for parties becoming lost, and how to adjudicate such situations. Fun stuff, but I think most GMs and DMs will agree that if a party gets lost, it's likely because it was planned as part of the story and the DM will have something worked up for that already. But if you're looking for a way to stretch out a session or want to shake things up a bit, these rules could be great fun. Again, we have the chance of becoming lost expressed in probability, which is most easily done on a single d10, but could as easily be checked on percentile dice. Following this, we are given the direction and degrees off course the party has wandered.

Finally, we get procedures for a party realizing they have wandered off-course, which could result in becoming hopelessly lost with enough bad die rolls. Again, if you're looking to just extend a session, buy yourself time, or inject a bit of excitement, lots of fun. Otherwise, probably not something that you'll use too much.

Finally, we get rules for rest and forced movement. The rules stipulate that daily travel rates take into account the necessary rest periods, and that if the party wishes to push themselves further, additional rest will be required to recover properly. A brief chart is given that breaks down the additional rest needed per extra 10% of maximum distance traveled.

In typical old-school Gygaxian fashion, pushing animals in this manner has a percentage chance of them just dropping dead, and players lose ability score points or hit dice (not hit points, mind you; hit dice) for pushing themselves. Man, first edition was gloriously brutal. Very much unlike today's, "it's near-impossible to kill a character" games, death was a constant threat in AD&D and, I suspect, one that made successful adventures far more rewarding than they are in modern incarnations of game, wherein it's just expected your characters are going to triumph over adversity.

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