Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rules Philosophising, Part I

In this series of posts, I plan on warbling forth regarding various and sundry elements of the rules of A/D&D.

Though done to near death by many thousands of others, I can, no doubt, provide a startling level of illumination and clarity to the many facets I plan on babbling about. After all, my insight is matched only by my brevity and simple vocabulary.

Today's topic is the attribute bonus. Not those applied to the attribute, but those derived from it (i.e.: the to hit and damage modifier gained from a high strength score). Perusing the earliest versions of this great game, we can see that attribute bonuses are a tad thin on the ground. A high prime requisite would provide a bonus to earned experience points, a high constitution a minimal bonus to hit points, high dexterity an equally microscopic bonus to hit with missles, and our old and dear friend charisma determined the amount and loyalty of hirelings and whether or not a witch, upon capturing the PC, would turn him into a swine, or keep him enchanted as a lover. Not, perhaps, always vital to know, but something that should have been retained if only to prevent the concept of 'charisma is the dump stat'.

Flipping forward a half dozen odd years, to the Moldvay Basic set, we find a plethora of bonuses, many of them quite substantial. The PC's prime requisite still gives a bonus to earned experience points, but now virtually all attributes provide some other perk to the character. Whether it be additional languages, bonuses to hit, bonuses to saving throws, what-have-you. And these are no mere +1, but +1, +2, and +3! Only poor, abused, charisma is left in the cold, with only the amount and loyalty of retainers and a 'reaction modifier' left to it. And the words of old are gone, leaving us fearfully aware of a probable porcine fate.

AD&D's attribute bonuses are of much the same nature as the Moldvay rules, a tad higher in some cases, with better bells and whistles (save, once more, shivering and arthritic charisma) and the desire for higher and higher attributes (and their accompanying bonuses) was well founded at this point. Second edition, with the addition of the "Skills and Powers" books, fed the desire, enabling players to 'split' attributes, concentrating on the 'half' of the statistic that provided better bonuses (or, at least, so I saw).

And in the Third Edition bonuses are enshrined, not as mild perks, the rewards of good fortune with the dice, but as a needed part of how good a character is in her class (especially in regards to the spell-casting classes). Gone is the bonus to earned experience points (though given Third's advancement scheme, this makes no difference), but the remains are titantic in their importance to a PCs success. (Witness thus the abundance of "stat raisers" and such items.) Charisma, it must be said, is given a slight boost, but only for certain "builds", for most it remains even less useful than before as henchmen/hirelings/retainers seem excised from the rules (replaced by the feat-generated cohort).

So, where then, does this leave us?

I am, I fear, unsure. I would like to recapture the spirit, it seems, of the original rules and ratchet down the power of and perceived need for bonuses, but I am uncertain as to how to best go about this task.

A multiplicity of options will eventually be posted here.

Until then,

Good gaming.

1 comment:

Clintaur said...

Ok posting at two in the morning bad idea for spelling. Not like my spelling needed help to be worse. No editing so a repost.

This is all true. One thing that caused this, was making a standard and holding to it. With this they had to use the basic bonus to all things. This left little room to do things in. Also wanting the game to be more group oriented, rather then the single game that sometimes happened, back in the days. Two friends get together, one makes a character and hires a bunch of nobodies to delve into a dark cave.

The stats become more powerful due to making them directly effect the class. Depending on class and stat. Cast more with harder DC's or hit harder or just plain do every skill that’s needed better. What ever the case all classes had certain stats that made them just better. Nice to have a Wizard with a 16 better then a 15, but this also led to the person desiring the 18 more and more.

It is a nice idea however lends itself to be seen as a system is to be worked and not enjoyed. Why make a fighter with an 18 Chr and 15 strength? Concepts one thing, but that’s just silly. Back in the day you might need those extra henchmen or like having everyone like you.

Another quibble is reaction table. When did they get tossed out? Now you have princess swooning to Krogar the half-orc barbarian who just rested off the acid damage that did over half his hp. No magic.

Like the Doctor said to me tonight. If there is not a number telling me what super human is, then how do I know I am close to it? 1st had 19. So a 18/00 was the best human. Now you have a 20 yes you are as strong as an ogre, but not as strong as the strongest man on the planet (if using 20 levels there might be someone with a 23 out there). This is not about comparing to other players, but how do you compare to the NPC's? Are you a hero? Do you have something that defines you above the norm? If every NPC with a name you face has better stats then you, then are you not just some guy good enough to do the job? I think we all want to feel heroic and 3rd+ is not giving off that feeling anymore. At least when you get the system fully learned.