Archive for September, 2010

September 29, 2010

Red Box to d20: Halfling

I haven’t got much enthusiasm for the last two classes, but it feels like we’re on the home stretch, so let’s just power through the Halfling and then take a bit longer with the Thief, because he’s the only class is Basic that has Skills.

The Halfling’s saves are identical to the Dwarf, something I never noticed before–that’s how popular the Halfling is at RBV. One thing I did notice is that the Dwarf/Halfling saves are different in Basic and Expert D&D, which is just strange. I’ve been referring to the expanded charts in Expert so I can see where the first improvement is for a class (ie 4th level for Fighters), and the Dwarf/Halfling saves are significantly better. Here they are side-by-side (Basic/Expert):

Death Ray or Poison 10/8
Magic Wands 11/9
Paralysis or Turn to Stone 12/10
Dragon Breath 13/13
Rods, Staves or Spells 12/14

I’d love to know what the story was here. Did they decide that Dwarves needed more advantages? Is one a misprint? It’s weird. Anyway, I’ve been using the Expert saves until now, so I’ll keep ‘em. The Halfling:

BAB HD Fort Ref Will
+1  1d6 +6  +2  +4
+2  2d6 +6  +2  +4
+3  3d6 +6  +2  +4

This guy has the same xp as a Fighter: 2,000. He can’t use long bows or two-handed swords, so he’s no different than a Dwarf (although the wording is different, talking about weapons that are “cut down” to size). He can’t see in the dark, nor does he have d8 hit dice. But his saves are very good. Seems reasonable so far. What else?

He’s accurate with missile weapons, getting +1 to hit at all times. Call it Point Blank Shot, even though it’s quite a bit better than d20 with the lack of a range restriction. He gets +2 to AC against larger creatures, but I’m not going to mess around with size categories right now, so let’s call it a +2 Dodge bonus.

He gets a 16% bonus to initiative. Call it Improved Initiative, to make up for PBS. Their hiding ability is fearsome. Outdoors, it’s 90% and indoors it’s 33%.

Calculating a hide bonus is a little complicated, because the average adventurer has a 16% chance of hiding–never stated explicitly, but in general that’s the rule of thumb for Basic: when in doubt, roll a 1 on a d6. I’m going to keep DC 15 as the baseline, even though Goblins and Orcs have +2 and +1 to Spot, respectively. Why? I don’t know exactly. It seems like a reasonable compromise to handle the range of DCs the Halfling is likely to face from level 1-3. Adding to the trickiness is that the average d20 PC has a 30% chance of hiding with an unmodified d20 roll vs DC 15.

Probabilities are not my strong suit, so I asked some smarter nerds to weigh in. Here’s what one of them said:

A 15% chance of success corresponds to the smaller part of the area under the normal distribution curve about one standard deviation from mean. A 90% chance of success corresponds to the larger part of the area about 1.3 sd from mean. A 30% chance of success is about 0.5 sd, so I’d just up the halfling to 1.8, which yields a ~96% chance of success when hiding outdoors, and a 50% chance (0 sd) to hide in other conditions.
That’s assuming that skills follow some kind of normal distribution, and that returns on ‘investment’ in the skill tapers off, which is exactly how it doesn’t work in d20.

A 15% chance of success corresponds to the smaller part of the area under the normal distribution curve about one standard deviation from mean. A 90% chance of success corresponds to the larger part of the area about 1.3 sd from mean. A 30% chance of success is about 0.5 sd, so I’d just up the halfling to 1.8, which yields a ~96% chance of success when hiding outdoors, and a 50% chance (0 sd) to hide in other conditions.

That’s assuming that skills follow some kind of normal distribution, and that returns on ‘investment’ in the skill tapers off, which is exactly how it doesn’t work in d20.

The consensus was that +4 to hide indoors and +9 outdoors was a reasonable compromise, given the complexities in translating Basic’s percentile system to the d20 DC system.

So here’s how the abilities shake out:

Weapon Proficiencies: All (except long bows and two-handed swords)
Armor Proficiencies: All
Hide bonus: +4 (+9 outdoors)
Point Blank Shot, Improved Initiative, Dodge (+2 vs Larger than man-sized)

And that’s the Halfling. Next up is the weakest class in Basic, the poor, pitiful Thief.

September 28, 2010

Red Box to d20: Cleric

Next up is the Cleric, a class that I consider to be the best overall class in Basic D&D, despite what I said earlier about the Elf. The Cleric is nearly as good a fighter as the Fighter–he does slightly less damage and his ranged weapons suck–and he’s got the same hit points as an Elf. But instead of 4,000xp, he needs even less than the Fighter: only 1,500. And he can turn undead as well as cast cure light wounds once he makes 2nd level. Even though Elf is the most popular class at Red Box Vancouver, it’s no coincidence that of the three highest level PCs, two are Clerics.

In other words, the next time someone complains about the CoDzilla in 3.5e, tell them it’s part of a long tradition of divine ass-kicking. 

So the Cleric. Here are the saves, with the Fighter and M-U for comparison:
Death Ray or Poison (Fort) 11 (12, 13)
Magic Wands (Will) 12 (13, 14)
Paralysis or Turn to Stone (Fort) 14 (14, 13)
Dragon Breath (Ref) 16 (15, 16)
Rods, Staves or Spells (Will) 15 (16, 15)

These are surprising. Looks like the Cleric has one of the better Fort-type saves in the game ~12.5. Ref is not great, but no worse than the M-U, at 16. And versus magic, the Cleric is decent, ~13.5. Using DC 15 as our baseline:

BAB HD Fort Ref Will Spells
+1 1d6 +2 -1 +1 none
+1 2d6 +2 -1 +1 1 1st
+1 3d6 +2 -1 +1 2 1st

Clerics don’t get spells until they’ve “proven themselves” to their god by leveling.  We can revisit that when we look at spells. They can use all armor and all non-edged weapons (swords and arrows are specifically called out in the text as examples). And they can turn undead.

Armor Proficiency: All
Weapon Proficiency: Simple, Martial (non-edged).
Eschew Materials: Basic has no material components or focuses.

I gave the Cleric Martial weapons because the warhammer, a highly iconic cleric weapon after the mace, is a Martial weapon. That’s something I might change when I give the equipment list the d20 treatment.

As far as turning undead goes, I don’t see any reason why we can’t use the d20 version. It’s close enough to the Basic one, although because Charisma isn’t a prerequisite for the Basic cleric, we’ll use Wisdom as the operative stat.

Saves are still a little weird to me. Being no good at Ref works with the whole “heavily armored priest” archetype, but being better at Will saves than an M-U is strange to me. I think it’s the M-U that is weird, though. There’s an analysis of the Basic classes that shows that they’re all about as powerful as their relative xp costs… except for the M-U which has a very high xp cost to the amount of powers it has. Maybe the M-U saves were nerfed at some point for the same reason?

Next I guess I’ll tackle my two least favorite classes, the barely used Halfling and the nearly useless Thief.

September 27, 2010

Red Box to d20: Elf

Elf. The best class in Basic D&D. You can fight. You can cast Sleep. You can wear Plate Mail and use a Sword. D&D sure did love Elves back in the day. Admittedly, they need twice as many xp as a Fighter to level, but given that they combine the Fighter class with the M-U class, plus the Elvish abilities, the price tag seems actually pretty cheap (Fighter + M-U == 4,500).

So here we go. Everyone fights like our poor Fighter, so let’s jump right to saves. Fighter’s and M-U’s saves are in parenthesis for comparison:
Death Ray or Poison (Fort) 12 (12, 13)
Magic Wands (Will) 13 (13, 14)
Paralysis or Turn to Stone (Fort) 13 (14, 13)
Dragon Breath (Ref) 15 (15, 16)
Rods, Staves or Spells (Will) 15 (16, 15)

It looks an awful lot like the designers just took the better of the two classes’ saves and gave them to the Elf. Boy they had a hard-on for Elves. So let’s do the same thing. And we’ll split the difference with HD, just like Basic:

BAB HD Fort Ref Will Spells
+1 1d6 +2 +0 +0 1 1st
+1 2d6 +2 +0 +0 2 1st
+1 3d6 +2 +0 +0 2 1st, 1 2nd

Weapon Proficiency: Simple, Martial
Armor Proficiency: All
Eschew Materials (as M-U)
Darkvision (as Dwarf)
Search bonus: +3
Immunity: Ghoul Paralysis.

Elves can see in the dark like Dwarves, have a bonus when searching for secret doors similar to the Dwarves searching for traps, etc. They’re also immune to the paralysis of ghouls, which doesn’t have a d20 equivalent that I’m aware, but we’ll just make it a special feature.

And that’s the Elf. This is getting easier now that we have our base classes to work from. Next I’ll do the Cleric, which is easily the best class in D&D (some things never change, huh?) and I guess I’ll do the Halfling and Thief, which have to be the two worst classes in Basic D&D.

September 24, 2010

Red Box to d20: Magic-User

On to the Magic User. I’m a little anxious about this one, because I never play M-Us, so let me know if I miss anything.

The amazing thing about M-Us in Basic is that they fight as well as a Fighter from levels 1-3. Fighters really get a raw deal in Basic.

Their saves are:
DR/Poison (Fort) 13
M Wands (Will) 14
Para/Stone (Fort) 13
Dragon (Ref) 16
R, S, Spells (Will) 15

So Fort is 13, Ref 16 and Will 14.5. This surprised me. Magic Users are a little worse than fighters at dealing with Death Rays or Poison, but significantly better at resisting Paralysis and being Turned to Stone. That is just plain odd. They’re not as good at getting out of the way of Dragon Breath, which makes sense, and they’re good at resisting Spells… but no where near as good as a Dwarf. And only a little better (10%) than a Fighter. All in all, a real dog’s breakfast for Saves, and they don’t map very well to what you’d expect: sucks at Fort/Ref, good at Will.

Then again, M-Us have some serious disadvantages in Basic, so I won’t mess with saves just yet, but make a mental note to revisit this class again. So here’s the M-U:

BAB HD Fort Ref Will Spells
+1 1d4 +2 -1 +0 1 1st
+1 2d4 +2 -1 +0 2 1st
+1 2d4 +2 -1 +0 2 1st, 1 2nd

This class doesn’t feel right. +0 for Will saves just looks weird. And it has the same Fort save as our Fighter? Something ain’t right here. I’m wondering if I need to look more closely at my Magic == Will and Dragon Breath == Ref approximation. Come to think of it, I have no idea if a DC 15 Ref save is even remotely approximate to dragon breath in 3.5e. So before we go any further, let’s examine that.

A Basic Red Dragon is a 10 HD monster with average hit points of 45, which is also how much its breath weapon does. That puts it roughly equivalent to a Wyrmling or Very Young 3.5e Red Dragon. The DC for those categories: 15 and 18.

The DC 15 Ref save seems okay to me, as does the Dragon Breath to Ref save conversion. The Fort and Will values we ended up with are strange, but I’ll have to come back to that, when I do the Spell and Poison conversions.

M-Us can’t wear any armor or shields, and they can only fight with daggers. A lot of DMs allow them to use quarterstaffs or other small weapons, but by-the-book, they’re guys in a robe with a knife and a book.

Armor Proficiency: none.
Weapon proficiency: dagger.
Eschew Materials.

Basic (and I believe Expert) have no material components for spells. Basic has no rules for writing scrolls, copying spells into spellbooks, or making magic items. Expert D&D notes that M-Us can make scrolls and magic items when they hit “name” level, but that’s out of our scope. I’ll keep the Basic spell progression until I convert spells. I think we’re done.

A couple things I’ve noticed while doing this: the first is that the mere act of going through the Basic game makes me want to house rule it to make it more like the D&D I want to play. For example, I’d give the M-U proficiency with swords. Why? Because Gandalf, Elric and probably a bunch of other cool wizards had magic swords they liked to swing around. And it doesn’t really matter, because if you’re a Basic M-U in melee, you’re not going to be proficient with that sword for very long. :P

The other thing I notice is how much 3.5e captures D&D for me, at it’s core. The classes, the class features, the race features, the strengths and weaknesses: they feel right to me. All the supplemental material, feats, etc didn’t always feel like D&D, but the core game hits the sweet spot for me. A great example are those M-U saves up there. They look bizarre! M-Us should be good at dealing with spells (ie Will saves) and crap at everything else!

Booyah. Next up, the Elf. I’m feeling pretty good about him.

September 23, 2010

Red Box to d20: Dwarf

Next I’m going to tackle the Dwarf class. In Basic D&D, the Dwarf is pretty much a Fighter who doesn’t need torches and can find traps. In fact, in lots of ways you never want to be a Fighter if you can qualify for Dwarf (just like you never want to be a M-U if you can qualify for Elf).

By the book, Dwarves can use any armor and any weapon except for long bows and two-handed swords. They have infravision and are expert miners who can find slanting passages, traps, etc. They also have much better saves than the Fighter, whose values are in parentheses:

Death Ray or Poison (Fort) 8 (12)
Magic Wands (Will) 9 (13)
Paralysis or Turn to Stone (Fort) 10 (14)
Dragon Breath (Ref) 13 (15)
Rods, Staves or Spells (Will) 12 (16)

So Fort saves are his best at ~9, Ref saves are his worst at 13, Will saves are a decent ~10.5. We’re using DC 15 as our benchmark, so that would be a staggering +6/+2/+4. That’s about the same as a 9th level Paladin in 3.5e! Basic Dwarves are limited to 12th level, but holy criznut that’s bad ass. On the other hand, saves don’t come up quite as much in Basic as they do in 3.5e, because if it’s not on the chart PCs don’t save against it (or use a stat check, unlike 3.5e where Reflex is used more often for environmental hazards, etc. We’re probably going to have to adjust these saves later, but for now let ‘em stand.

BAB HD Fort Ref Will
+1 1d8 +6 +2 +4
+1 2d8 +6 +2 +4
+1 3d8 +6 +2 +4

For now, give the Dwarf proficiency with all armor and both simple and martial weapons minus the two weapons noted above, but I’m guessing that later we’ll nerf that a bit when we do the full Basic weapon and armor list. As for his racial abilities, d20 is interesting. I’d give him darkvision as is (I prefer darkvision to infravision for mechanical reasons anyway), and also give him a bonus when he’s searching for traps, sliding walls and all that Dwarven jazz. Since we don’t have skills, just stat checks, I think that works just fine, but in Basic his bonus is 16% better than normal, so I’ll give him a +3 when he searches.

In Basic D&D everyone has the same movement rate for simplicity (modified by encumbrance… we’ll tackle that later), so I’ll ignore the d20 movement rate for Dwarves (and Halflings, when we get there).

Armor Proficiency: All
Weapon Proficiency: Simple, Martial (except long bows and two-handed-swords)
Search bonus: +3
Darkvision 60′

I think it’s time to say BOOYAH! Damn, Dwarves rock. I never noticed how much better their saves were than… everyone.

One thing to start thinking about is xp. In Basic each class has it’s own xp chart, and the better classes (like Dwarves) need more to level. If we don’t do that for this conversion, then this class needs to have a few more limitations on it. Even if we do that, these saves are so good, and so much more useful in d20, that I’d be tempted to slap some limits on them. But right now we’re just trying to model Basic, and in Basic D&D the Dwarf is always, always a better choice than Fighter, even with needing an extra 200 to get to 2nd level. So far so good.

Next up: M-U, the base spellcasting class.

September 21, 2010

Red Box to d20: Fighter vs Goblin

Before going much further, I decided to compare our converted Fighter to the 3.5e Goblin as a sanity check, plus this means we have to dig into some armor and weapons as well, so it’ll pay off later.

The Basic D&D Goblin:
AC 6, HD 1-1, Move 20’/round, Saves: Normal Man, Atk: as HD, Damage 1d6.

Comparing him to the Goblin from the 3.5e SRD:
AC 15, HD 1d8+1, Speed 30, Saves: Fort/Ref/Will +3/+1/-1, Atk +2 (+3 Ranged), Damage 1d6.

So this sucks! On paper the d20 Goblin is better than our Fighter at fighting and saves. And he’s much, much better than the Goblin from Basic.

The AC is +2 better: Basic AC 6 is Leather Armor & Shield, which is +3 points of protection (Basic AC starts at 9), or a d20 AC 13.

Basic hit points average 4. d20 hit points average 5.

Movement is a wash: 20′ round is normal for a Fighter wearing metal armor in Basic D&D.

Saves are better than our Fighter by +1 net. But compared to the Normal Man in Basic, they’re leagues better. The Normal Man has the same saves as a Basic D&D Fighter (see my previous post) except at -2! The d20 equivalent is probably Fort/Ref/Will of +0/-2/-2. Even if we give our d20 Normal Man +0 across the board (like the NPC Commoner class), the d20 Goblin still comes out way ahead of his Basic counterpart.

The combat ability of a HD 1-1 monster in Basic is the same as a 1st level fighter. But the d20 Goblin has the fighting ability of the 4th level version of our Fighter: +2. And he’s even better at ranged attacks. His damage is the same, thankfully, but it’s looking like the 3.5e Goblin will mop the floor with our Fighter, even if the Fighter is wearing Platemail & Shield, standard load out for a low level Basic D&D guy.

Let’s find out.

Our Fighter needs a 12 to hit the Goblin’s AC 13. That means he’ll hit 45% of the time and do 1d8 points of damage with a longsword. The sword is the best weapon in Basic for a guy with a shield (and therefore the best weapon in Basic), and the damage is the same as the d20 longsword, so we’ll use it verbatim. Anyway, the longsword does an average of 4.5 hit points per strike. 45% of 4.5 = 2.025. Gob has an average of 5.5 hp, so 5.5/2.025 = 2.72 rounds.

Going the other way. Plate mail & Shield in Basic is +7 to AC. I’m a bit torn here. Obviously AC 17 isn’t right, because the scale is different when AC starts at 10. I’m tempted to just go with armor type and call it Half-Plate & Shield. But then is it a heavy shield or a light shield (AC 18 or 19, respectively)? I’m going with AC 18, though I can’t exactly explain why–other than there is only one kind of shield in Basic, and it gives a +1 bonus to AC. It’s not a perfect conversion. :)

So the Gob needs a 16 to hit the Fighter’s AC 18. That means he’ll hit 25% of the time and do 3.5 hp per strike, a measly 0.875. Our fighter has an average of 5.5 hit points at 1st level (Basic rules let you re-roll 1-2s for HD at 1st level). So 5.5/0.875 = 6.3 rounds.

This is fascinating to me! We’ve observed over the course of nearly 18 months of Basic D&D (see my sig) that superior armor and weapons is one of the main advantages that Basic PCs have over monsters that are invariably better fighters.

Let’s compare the Basic version of the Fighter vs Basic Gob. Gob hits the Fighter 20% for 3.5 hp = 0.7. 5.5/0.7 = 7.85 rounds. Fighter hits Gob .40*4.5 = 1.8. 5.5/1.8 = 3.06 rounds.

I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s the same ballpark, provided we use the d20 Armor values. Speaking of which, let’s do that for the other Basic armors: Leather and Chain.

Basic Leather and Chain give +2 and +4 to AC. The d20 versions give +2 and +5. Close enough for me, but if someone wants to run some numbers that’d be interesting.

Basic: d20
Leather: Leather +2
Chain: Chainmail +5
Plate Mail: Half-Plate +7
Shield: Light Shield +1

Right now I’m feeling pretty good about our conversion. For thoroughness sake, I should probably run some numbers for other iconic Basic monsters… but I’ve got work to do. 

Next post I’ll tackle the Dwarf. In the meantime, if someone could take a look at my calculations and make sure that I’m not doing it wrong, I’d appreciate it.

September 20, 2010

Red Box to d20 Conversion

I know, you’re wondering “How can cr0m, that paragon of Old School virtue and banner-waving Red Box champion speak SUCH HERESY! BURN THE WITCH!”

What can I say? A project like this is very near and dear to my heart. 3e D&D gave me hours and hours of fun, and the d20/OGL movement completely revitalized roleplaying games (not to mention allowing all my favorite retro-clones to exist). And then I ran across a thread on rpg.net about the same subject, that almost immediately veered off topic, but still got me interested to see if it could be done. So put down your pitchforks. Lower the torches. Let’s give this a shot.

It’s really easy to get bogged down in all the fiddly bits of the d20 system, so I’m going to work on something very limited in scope: porting Basic D&D to d20. I want to make something that could be used with monsters and treasures from the d20 SRD without any modifications (other than some omissions). Then, if I want to, I’ll add more levels, spells, tweaks, alignment systems, and all the other things that make it fun to hack any version of D&D.

Let’s start with the building block of the Basic D&D classes: the Fighter. And keep it simple by restricting our port to Basic D&D. In other words, levels 1-3.

So here’s the fighter for levels 1-3:

BAB HD
+1  1d8
+1  2d8
+1  3d8

Seriously, the Fighter doesn’t increase his fighting ability until level 4 in Basic D&D! 

On to saving throws. In Basic, the saves (and their d20 equivalents) are:
Death Ray or Poison (Fort) 12
Magic Wands (Varies) 13
Paralysis or Turn to Stone (Fort) 14
Dragon Breath (Ref) 15
Rods, Staves or Spells (Varies) 16

So basically Fighters are decent at Fort saves (~13), worse at Ref saves (15) and about the same at Magic saves (~14.5). If we decide that Magic == Will, no surprises here.


BAB HD  Fort Ref Will
+1  1d8 +2   +0  +0
+1  2d8 +2   +0  +0
+1  3d8 +2   +0  +0

So for a difficult save (DC 15), our fighter is going to fail a Ref/Will save about 25% of the time–which matches up pretty well with Basic’s chart. Ditto for Fort saves, where he needs a 13 or better. (It’s almost like 3rd Edition’s designers were working from an older edition…)

Do you need Feats to model Basic D&D? Not really, but might as well use the various Weapon/Armor Proficiency Feats.

Fighter gets Simple and Martial Weapons and all Armor/Shield Proficiencies. Since Basic D&D doesn’t have any skills, we just use Attribute checks. BOOYAH, we’re done.

I don’t know what I’d do next. I’m tempted to do the Dwarf, since he’s pretty similar to a Fighter but with some interesting special abilities, but it might be a better idea to port over a goblin and make sure that our Fighter operates pretty similarly to the Basic D&D version against a typical 1st level foe.

Stay tuned…

September 16, 2010

D&D: the game you love to hate

The Kiltedyaksman, who I collaborated with on a hireling generator for Classic D&D and who runs Red Box Niagara, posted a rant at his blog that generated a serious Dice Storm in the comments section. The rant was pretty much about having a major hate on for 4e D&D, especially what he sees as WotC co-opting current interest in older editions of D&D for it’s new Red Box.

I was tempted to weigh in, because as much as I respect the Kilted One, I don’t agree with him. And as much as I can understand why people like 4e, 3e or whatever edition of the world’s most popular roleplaying game, there was a lot of misinformed opinions about the older editions being thrown around by defenders of modern D&D. There were also a lot of common prejudices about 4e being thrown around by defenders of older editions. And plenty of willful ignorance on both sides.

But then it hit me–what’s interesting about the edition wars isn’t the wars themselves, it’s what it says about D&D.

D&D is like this weird rorschach blot of a game that people see all kinds of things in, and I think that’s why D&D persists. People don’t think, they know, that D&D is:

  • A game about killing monsters and taking their stuff
  • A game about exploring a mythic underworld in search of treasure
  • A game about improvised acting in a fantasy setting
  • A game about building the most combat capable characters money can buy
  • A perfect framework for playing a variety of homebrewed games

The same people also KNOW:

  • Modern D&D is too complicated
  • Modern D&D’s rules are more realistic than older versions
  • Modern D&D is too combat oriented
  • Modern D&D has more options and ideas, just like modern fantasy
  • Modern D&D is a callous attempt to squeeze gamers for money
  • Modern D&D is a miniatures game, not a roleplaying game
  • Modern D&D is a tabletop version of World of Warcraft
  • Modern D&D is a natural outgrowth of better game design
  • Modern D&D character building is totally unbalanced and broken
  • Modern D&D is well-balanced and provides more consistent gaming experiences
  • Modern D&D is designed by corporate lackeys looking to make a buck
  • Modern D&D is well-balanced and boring
  • Modern D&D has come a long way since the days of hobbyist designers
  • Modern D&D is a game about superheroes for munchkins
  • Modern D&D is a genre unto itself
  • Modern D&D is a video game
  • Modern D&D is capable of deep, meaningful story-telling
  • Modern D&D is a railroad

And they also KNOW:

  • Old D&D is a hodge-podge of rules and poorly designed systems
  • Old D&D is exactly like modern D&D, except more primitive
  • Old D&D completely unrealistic
  • Old D&D’s lack of rules is way more realistic than shoe-horning everything into the same unified mechanic
  • Old D&D is faithful to the fantasy genres that inspired it
  • Old D&D is for adults, not MMRPGers
  • Old D&D is a great game for kids
  • Old D&D is an arcade game
  • Old D&D is capable of deep, meaningful campaigns
  • Old D&D is a railroad
  • Old D&D is just like modern editions, only worse
  • Old D&D is totally unbalanced, unlike modern editions
  • Old D&D is totally unbalanced and that’s great!
  • Old D&D is all about random tables and makes no sense
  • Old D&D is all about random tables and endlessly surprising
  • Old D&D was designed by people who loved the game

And of course:

  • Old D&D is a great game, if you ignore its quirks and follow the spirit of D&D
  • Modern D&D is a great game, if you ignore the haters and follow the spirit of D&D

So why is that? One reason is that for the most part, this game is a Cargo Cult. We learn by playing with a particular group of 2-8 people. And then we play with another group of 2-8 people. And then we do it again with another group. How many groups have you had? I’ve been playing for about 30 years, and I guess I’ve had 5-6 distinct groups: my first group, my teenage group, a group I played with after 3e came out, and my Vancouver group (including RBV). Throw in some con games and the occasional short campaign with other people, and my sample set for what D&D is doesn’t even break 10 groups.

From now on, this is the only metric I’m going to judge editions of D&D: is it malleable enough that all those groups out there can play the game that they consider D&D? If not, we have a problem. If so, game on.

Cue discussion of whether [some edition] meets those standards. Cue flame war. Cue cr0m deleting this blog post.

September 15, 2010

Red Box DM thickets’ art show Oct 2-31

Our most popular Red Box DM, Toren Atkinson (thickets on the RBV forum/wiki), will be showing art from the past 14 years of his illustration career at The Wallflower on Main St. in Vancouver. The show opens Oct 2 at 8pm and runs until the end of the month.

Oh yes, there will be orcs. More details at Toren’s blog.

September 14, 2010

Red Box in The Escapist

The Escapist MagazineTavis Allison, one of the GMs at NYRB, has a piece in this issue of The Escapist where he talks about Red Box D&D, why it was popular, why it’s cool again, and all the Red Box groups, including RBV!

Check it out: Imagine Your Perfect Arcade Game.

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