Saturday, May 17, 2014

Things You Learn from Running 3 Versions of D&D at Once

So, I've had this odd notion for a while: All version of D&D from 2nd Edition backwards (including retro-clones) are completely compatible. All you have to do is make sure the AC on all fronts is either ascending or descending.

Well, I put the idea to the test.

For my own and the players' convenience, we noted everything in THAC0; we're from a mostly 2nd Ed. background so it made sense for us. (With O&D and B/X style stuff, take the 0 line in the combat table, call that THAC0, and game on. For Lamentations of the Flame Princess [LotFP], Assume a starting point of 20 and subtract the BAB, this number is your THAC0 [Not a fighter? THAC0 of 19].)

But aren't 2nd Ed. characters more powerful? Not really. They can certainly be optimized in a number of ways (weapon specialization, custom thief skills w/ race & stat bonuses), but it comes at a price: THAC0 starts at 20 for 2e characters (as opposed to 19 for OD&D+B/X), 2e AC starts at 10 (9 for OD&D+B/X), and that optimization actually limits the characters. For example, loose the weapons you're proficient, and you're looking at some pretty significant penalties. 2e characters can be thought of as focused adventurers, while OD&D+B/X characters are more generalized.

(I don't know 1e well enough to say much about it, honestly.)

I actually ran a game of this monstrosity (Swords and Wizardry, 2nd ed., and LotFP). It worked just fine. (Technically the LotFP character was an unused back-up PC, but I did do a lot of x-in-6 skill rolls.) It taught me a few things, too.

Lessons Learned:

  • I really need to stop making things harder on myself. While far from an impossible task, keeping three rule-sets in mind while DMing was an unnecessary strain on the ol' brain box. It only served to keep me less in the moment. I know my assumption was correct now, but it wasn't really worth enjoying the game a little less.
  • At this point in my very adult life, I just plainly like LotFP and S&W better than 2e. They're simple, easy to modify, and fun. (I'm still going to defend thac0 on /r/DnD because I think it's neither stupid, complex, nor a bad design. [ And apparently I'm a masochist.] However, when I DM it's probably gonna be for LotFP and/or S&W. I will likely include most 2e spells and some 2e concepts (stat checks for instance), though.)
  • One of my favorite parts of the game and my strengths as a DM/GM is NPC - PC interaction. Even when I'm playtesting something, I need to include a more of that.
  • If there is an random shortcut that makes an adventure end sooner, the PCs gun for it, with oddly unerring aim. Even when nothing suggests that they should take said path.
  • Children at/near the gaming table are a distracting, but not an unplayable, circumstance.
  • Logistical challenges are less fun at the end of the night.
  • Always do pregens for one shots. It just works better.
The point is, I like pretending to be goblins and random hillbillies*. Woo Dungeons and Dragons! Hail Satan! Also, always be learning or whatever.

*Don't even get me started on goblin hillbillies. Best. NPCs. Ever.