It's been a long time...

...since I last wrote anything in this blog. I had (and still have) a blast focussing on another passion - Ancient Domains Of Mystery (ADOM). Nonetheless The Fantasy Game keeps popping to the forefront of my mind while dabbling with the planned RPG rules for ADOM and the impending release of D&D 5th edition also resparked my interested in old school gaming.

I have started rereading many of my older posts and in some cases I'm no longer sure I agree with my initial design decisions, namely:

  • to use the original class names. I have started to hate "fighting-men" (where does it leave woman?) and will user "fighters" instead. "Magic-users" IMHO as a name also is too unwieldy and will be replaced by "wizards". Clerics will remain.
  • to use nothing but d6. These days I no longer feel that a simple reproduction of an older game has enough merit, particularly with WotC even rereleasing the old White Box set. If I had been faster with TFG a orderly reproduction with some redesigns might have been enough, nowadays I feel more compelled trying to meld the very original designs with some more streamlined designs. And rolling d20 for speed is one of the things that by now seems more reasonable to me.
  • to be totally freeform and omitting any kind of skill system. These days I'm more than ever convinced that having but three classes (fighters, wizards, clerics) is the right way to go (especially leaving out thieves). But I'd like to be able to provide a trivial rule for specializations - and thus something akin to "choose one skill per level" is more what I think about right now... skills being anything from Tracking over Carpentry to Hiding in Shadows. Additionally some subset of everyman skills (climbing, swimming, riding, ...) would be selectable in the beginning. All skill checks would rely on attributes (something like full attribute, if you know the skill, half attribute if you don't but it's a common skill and zero chance of success if you don't have a skill that requires learning). Skill lists still would be freeform. I just feel that this addition allows for much greater customization of characters and completely gets rid of the need of more and more classes - something usually reviled by initial OSR releases but then trumped by later releases and their formidable successes (take e.g. Labyrinth Lord and the splendid Advanced Edition Companion).
  • to keep races as classes. Another thing that started to irk me once I began rolling a few characters. I want to have the separation as it allows for more interesting character concepts and I never understood why there were no clerics with dwarves, elves or halflings. So class and race will be separated in the Fantasy Game. There is another idea I'm fiddling with related to this: Basically I want initial hit dice to be determined by class and race, finally providing a very clea solution to "zero level characters". Example: Just imagine a basic human (1 hit die). He decides to pick up the trade of "Fighter" (which will add 1d+2 to his hit dice). So the basic first level human fighter will have 2d+2 hit dice. Now take a first level human wizard. The first wizard level will add nothing to hit dice, so our sample wizard begins with 1d hit dice. And now for the fun part: Take an orc (1 hit die). If the orc is specially trained (e.g. the black guard of the orc king) and picks up a fighter level, he now has 2d+2 hit dice. Similar for an ogre, untrained: 4d+1 hit dice, trained as (e.g.) a third level fighter: 7d+7 hit dice (adding 3d+6 for third level fighter). This suddenly trivializes picking other races as player races as you basically can omit racial descriptions for players and just select a suitable 1 hit die race from the monster manual (and if you lose a character in a group averaging fourth level, you might consider negotiating to play an ogre, if your GM will allow it).
  • to clean up the combat systems. The chaos invoked by three different combat systems really explains the origin of Tunnels & Trolls. And I wouldn't want so much chaos and special cases. Instead hit dice will be the main driver behind combat with the follow basic idea: (a) Every being has a minimum of one attack. You can attack as many hit dice in monsters per round as you have hit dice. A 6d+12 fighter thus could attack 6 hit dice of monsters (e.g. six ores, 2 orcs and an ogre, 3 gnolls or whatever combination has a maximum of 6 hit dice). Some monsters will receive extra attacks (e.g. a five-headed hydra might have 5 hit dice and +5 attacks per round, meaning that they first determine their number of attacks by hit dice [e.g. they can attack five basic humans or orcs] and then add another 5 attacks - woe to a village attacked by a hydra). Damage will remain fixed at 1d6 for most beings. Your hit-bonus is equal to your hit dice (e.g. a sixth level fighter gets a +7 bonus - +1 for being a one hit die human and +6 for the hit dice of the fighter class). I'm still pondering whether to move armor class up by one (yes, I'm going to use ascending armor class - no need to follow a more complicated tradition here) so that 11 is the basic unarmored armor class or just wave the 5% difference this will cause.
So much for now... this probably will move The Fantasy Game away a bit from being a pure OD&D reproduction but the need for that seems to have lessened in the past months.

To design a better and leaner D&D Next seems to be intellectually more interesting - especially in basing it on nothing but OD&D :-) Even the Ryth Chronicles close their final document (#10) with the comment that OD&D seemed to be too limiting. So if OD&D had outlived its usefulness in 1977 for some strong supporters, that's ample reason to try to be better.

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