RSV Character Creation: The Hero

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: ,

 I think going through the rules of the Richard Snider Variant individually may be less instructive than working through them functionally, so we are going to start with making characters and consider how the rules were intended to be employed.
As mentioned in the previous post there are but two character classes in the RSV, following the convention in Blackmoor, CHAINMAIL and MIDGUARD.  

We'll start with the "Hero" class, and discuss the more complex Wizard class in another post.

On page 5 of the RSV under "Things to Roll for in Making a Hero or Super-Hero:

Strength, Health, Intelligence, Leadership, Horsemanship, Sailing, Flying, normal (melee) combat skill, archery skill. Roll two dice for each.

So these are what we would now call "Ability Scores".  Persons familiar with Arneson & Snider's Adventures in Fantasy, and Megarry's character sheets will immediately note the similarities.  In fact, we can say the RSV is intermediate between these two.  Below is a table showing our various early examples in chronological order:


Spanish Royalty
Gaylord sheet
Megarry sheet
R. Snider
D&D
Adventures in Fantasy






Brains
Brains
Brains
Intelligence
Intelligence
Intelligence
Looks
Looks
Looks

Charisma
Charisma

Credibility




Sex
Sex
Sex



Health
Health
Health
Health
Constitution
Health
Stamina

Strength
Strength
Strength
Strength
Strength
Guts
Courage
Courage




Cunning


Wisdom





Dexterity
Dexterity

Horesmanship
Riding/
Horsemanship
Horsemanship

Horsemanship

Woodsmanship
Woodcraft


Forester/Hunter

Leadership
Leadership
Leadership



Flying
Flying
Flying



Seamanship
Sailing
Sailing

Sailor


Throwing





Loyalty



Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous





So we can see here that Snider is pairing down Arneson's list (and is ignorant of Gygax's version).  In particular Richard drops the personal characteristics of Looks, Sex, and Courage.

He also "appears" (air quotes) to have added a new stat: Normal Combat ability.  I'm hedging on that, because all Richard may be doing is adding something to the character matrix that Arneson used for some time but kept himself, away from his players.

My reason for thinking so is because we've seen "combat" as an ability score before.  It is one of three repeatedly mentioned in the FFC Magic Swords section -  STRENGTH, COMBAT, INTELLIGENCE. (FFC 77:64)  The swords from Arneson's magic sword cards, retyped in the FFC as a list, have these three characteristics listed together as shown, with an increase bonus to each stat provided by the particular sword.
   
These magic sword cards are one of the earliest developments in the game and must date to sometime not far removed from the earliest character sheets like Pete Gaylords'.  Arneson tells us he created them "Prior to setting up Blackmoor" (FFC 77:64)by which we presume he means Blackmoor dungeon.

In any case, we see that the "Normal Combat" statistic in the RSV seemed to function identically to the other ability scores, just as "combat" in the FFC swords, seemed to function in the same manner as Intelligence and Strength.

Next comes:

Weapon Specialization (Hero 3 die, Superhero 4 die).

That brief statement brings up a lot of questions.  That could mean:

1) The hero gets 3d6 weapons to specialize in, the Superhero 4d6
2) The H/S gets a single "Specialization" score of 3d6 or 4d6
3) The H/S gets to roll 3d6 or 4d6 to determine hits every time they use a weapon they have specialized in.
4) The H/S gets to roll 3d6 or 4d6 to generate an ability score for each weapon they have specialized in.
5) The H/S gets to roll 3d6 or 4d6 to determine damage for hits with a weapon they have specialized in.

In a moment, we will see a step that will help us determine which of these 5 is most likely intended, but for now, next on our list is to roll for:

Life energy level: hero rolls one die. On a roll of 1-3, has the option to either keep his first roll or reroll with two dice. Super-hero rolls two dice, on a roll of 1-2 (on either die) has the option of either keeping the first roll or rolling over with three dice. Any time the option is taken, the first roll is thrown out (whether the second roll is higher or not).         

That's a shocker for long time D&Ders.  It's not clear what source, if any, has inspired this Life Energy Level stat.  Quiet possibly, Richard may be riffing off of Outdoor Survival, although there the term "Life Level" is never coupled with the word "energy".  

What is clear, is that unlike the use of the term Life Energy Level in D&D, Richard is not using it as a synonym for Experience Level, but as a separate statistic.  It is also worth noting that this is new terminology as far as Blackmoor material goes.

Next we roll for: 

Magic resistance ability: hero rolls one die and on roll of one has option to keep first roll or roll over with two die.  Superhero rolls three die.
                                                                       
That's the last stat we roll for and this completes the paragraph on making Heroes and Superheroes on page 5.  Interestingly however, some crucial information is placed on other pages.  

On page 4, we are told:

How to Figure How Many Hits a Hero Or Super-Hero Can Take:
(Strength + Health + Intelligence + Combat Skill + Life Energy Level + Magic Resistance Ability + Highest Weapon Specialization) divided by five.

Note "Highest Weapon Specialization", that means the WS is not a single score or a list of weapons, or a hit or damage roll.  Choice 4, then - the H/S gets to roll 3d6 or 4d6 to generate an ability score for each weapon they have specialized in - is the likely one.

Lastly, we need to generate a Saving Throw number:

"A die roll of 1 indicates the following saving throws:

Wizard 7
Super-hero 8

A die roll of 2 or 3, indicates the following saving throws:

Wizard 5  
Super-hero 7  
Hero 9

All other creatures of appropriate type

To make a Saving Throw roll 2 dice; equal or above succeeds."

So, using the above information, lets make a sheet and create a Hero character for the RSV:


Example Hero

Name    Rico                         Type  Hero

Life Energy Level              6                                             Experience Point Total   0

Hit Points             12                                                           Magic Resistance     5

Saving Throw     9                                                              Shekels
                                                                                               
                                                                                               
Trait
Score


Strength
11
Health
12
Intelligence
5
Leadership
6
Horsemanship
10
Sailing
8
Flying
3


Normal Combat
7
Archery
8
Weapon Specialization - Short Sword
12
Weapon Specialization - mace
10
Weapon Specialization - lance
14
Weapon Specialization







Spell Failure in Blackmoor

Author: DHBoggs /

Magic in early Blackmoor has often attracted interest, in part because it appears to have been so different from the "Vancian" system Gygax adopted for D&D.  When Arneson developed the magical component of his Blackmoor campaign he had little to go on in terms of source material.  The first edition CHAINMAIL booklet did list a handful of battlefield spells, but not much else.

In his write up in the FFC titled "Original Blackmoor Magic", Arenson supplies a good general description of the methods he devised, but few of the specific details the curious gamer might wish for.  However, by pulling in information from other Blackmoor sources, we can cobble together a more complete picture.

In particular, one aspect that has drawn some attention and has attracted a number of fans over the years is the idea of spell failure.

Arneson wrote: "...there was always a chance of failure in spells (unless they were practiced)"  FFC77:74

Presumably "they" means the spells, though it could mean the wizard, which might be more sensible, since it is unlikely Arneson or anyone else would want to keep track of how many times a wizard cast a particular spell in order to maintain some threshold of being "practised" with it.  Given that Arneson also tells us "...to progress to a new level, one first learned the spells... there was no automatic progression, rather it was a slow step by step, spell by spell progression." FFC77:74, we can read that to mean mastering a spell level to the point of no failure meant you were "practised" with those spells.

We know from other sources - the Corner of the Table Newsletter in particular - that wizards also had "levels".  The highest level we know of being 12, in the case of a 12th level sorceress mentioned in the after action report of the July 1972 battle of Lake Gloomin.

We also know that spell failure varied among casters.  The description of the Gin of Salik tells us "His magic spells are among the most potent in the world with no chance of them failing..." FFC77:20

For the 7th level Ran of Ah Foo: "He also has a spell workshop that turns out one Level I spell a week and one Level II spell a month with one level III spell a year.  These are portable but not reusable with only a 15% failure rate."  FFC77:19

And finally, the bumbling Egg of Coot, who sells spells with a "30% chance of failure per level of spell, i.e. III = 50%, II = 40%, etc."  FFC77:18

A last bit of information to consider is the number of spell levels themselves.  The highest spell level appears to be level IV, because of the Gin's spells we are told. "All of which are level IV, at a rate of one every two months..." FFC77:20

Thus we have some numbers to play around with here.  Correlation does not equal causation, but the above certainly suggest, as we might expect, that as a wizard advanced in level their rate of failure declined, so let's go with that and see where it leads.  We can start with the Egg and assume he (or whoever makes his spells) is a Wizard of unknown level producing spells of levels I through IV.

The failure pattern at this level x is:

Spell level I,  30%
Spell level II  40%
Spell level III 50%
Spell level IV 60%

If the Ran is really level 7 and has a 15% fail rate, the the pattern above would seem to change in 5% increments.  The text implies all of his spells fail at 15%, so perhaps there is a change of the rules between these two examples, but if we presume this rate applies to Ran's best spells (level 3), we get this:  

Spell level I,  5%
Spell level II  10%
Spell level III 15%
Spell level IV 20%

However, if we go back to the Eggs failure rate, and improve in 5% increments from the worst it could represent (1st level wizard), we get a table like this:


Wizard Level
I Spell
II Spell
III Spell
IV Spell
1
30
40
50
60
2
25
35
45
55
3
20
30
40
50
4
15
25
35
45
5

20
30
40
6

15
25
35
7


20
30
8


15
25
9



20
10



15
11



10
12



5

We're told the Ran is 7th level but the 5% table based on the Egg's failure rate tells us that a 7th level wizard should have a 20% failure rate at level 7 and a 15% failure rate at level 8.  So either the Ran is 5% better than he should be, or the Egg is 5% worse.  The latter seems a lot more plausible.  So let's recast the table assuming Ran has a "standard" failure rate.


Wizard Level
I Spell
II Spell
III Spell
IV Spell
1
25
35
45
55
2
20
30
40
50
3
15
25
35
45
4
10
20
30
40
5
5
15
25
35
6
0
10
20
30
7
0
5
15
25
8
0
0
10
20
9
0
0
5
15
10
0
0
0
10
11
0
0
0
5
12
0
0
0
0

There's a couple more reasons to prefer this second table, first, because it benefits players slightly, and secondly because it zero's out at level 12, which is the highest level we know of as mentioned earlier, and we know in at least the case of the Gin of Salik, it is possible to be at a level so high your spells do not fail.

To apply this table to D&D spells, the Referee should change only the range of spell level, and I would recommend that only for the last 2 columns so that "III spell" becomes Spell level 3 &4, and IV Spell becomes spell levels 5 & 6.

What exactly happens when a spell fails is up to you.

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