Saturday, September 27, 2014

D&D Rules Comparison 11

Magic Items
(as with monsters I will not be detailing differences in specific item lists or the items themselves)

Magic items are identified by testing or by a high level magic user.

The spell Detect Magic, will not identify an item.  D&D74 is unclear on this point.

Only the Dungeon Master should ever know how many charges a magic item has.  The dungeon master must keep track of them.  (p27)

Weapons with a + or – factor affect both to hit rolls and damage rolls unless otherwise specified.  In D&D74 the effect is usually applied to the to hit roll only.

No two potions ever smell or taste the same – even potions of the same kind.
Potions are stored in glass bottles.
The entire potion must be drunk to work. (Hinted at in D&D74)
Sipping a potion reveals its’ properties. (In D&D74 a magic user is needed to identify)
Sipping poison results in being poisoned.

Drinking a potion while the effects of another potion are active results in debilitating sickness for three turns and cancels the effect of both potions.   Potions having no duration, such as healing, are excepted.

Discussion:  Ruling out that only the DM should know the charges of an item is an interesting idea.  That means that the referee will have to track them, but it will inevitably result in the rather fun situation of the fireball wand that suddenly doesn't work on the hoard of charging orcs.  heh.

Meh on the +/- weapon rules.  Having some weapons that only affect the to hit roll allows more variety in the game.

Potions - the glass bottle rule is kinda cool.  It makes potions fragile and it is reminiscent of the alchemical magic of Blackmoor and Twin cities gaming.  I like the rule, but the idea that they all taste differently seems odd, since taste is one way to identify potions.

The rule that the entire potion must be drunk is  a non-starter for me, but may work for other referees.  Potions with multiple doses was characteristic of Blackmoor (presumably 2d6).  For example, in Supptlement II TOTF (page 37), the potion of growth has 12 doses.

I like that ii is made clear that even a sip of poison will kill.  It makes tasting potions a game of roulette.

The idea that drinking multiple potions will make you sick works okay and importantly fills a gap in the rules.  Personally I prefer to rule they turn to poisonous yellow mist in the body.  Yellow mist, (essentially mustard gas) originated in the Blackmoor campaign when John Snider's wizard left unattended the potions (spells) he was making and they boiled over or whatever and mixed.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

D&D Rules Comparison 10


Treasure table for lair treasures expanded to letter O (D&D74 stops at I).  A second table for individual treasures (types J-V) added.

“Lairs” are where adventurers “normally” find treasure. (p102).  Lair treasures represent lairs “full” of monsters and should be reduced to reflect smaller monster populations.  Note there is no restriction of treasure types to “outdoor” lairs as there seems to be in D&D74.

Some minor changes in types A-I in the table – mostly it’s the same.  Type A simplified.

Gems and Jewelry given separate columns and Gems are “Magical Gems”.  The “magical” appears to be a mistake however because no mention of magical properties is made in the Gem generation subtable.  In fact it seems the word is misplaced from the last column which has simply "items" instead of magical items.

Average Values of the treasure types given (p103)

Treasure Generation Tables
The methods on these tables are generally similar to most of their counterparts in D&D74, however the specific details are quite different and too numerous to list without in effect reproducing the whole section.  They are however, identical to the same tables prepared for the 1983 (Mentzer) edition of Dungeons & Dragons. 

Gems – when multiple gems are generated they may be combined into a single gem of the combined value.  Examples of types, i.e. “ruby” are assigned to each value range.  Jewelry has similar examples.

Discussion: The treasure type tables of D&D have an interesting story to tell all on their own, ranging from the D&D draft through AD&D 1st edition.  Despite the various iterations, only the values of types A and especially B change very significantly.  The other treasure types do vary a bit, but not enough for players to ever notice the difference.

Adding individual treasure types doesn't help the game much in my opinion.  In OD&D74 individual treasure carried upon the person is usually a matter of a few coins or personal items, something for the referee to vary as needed, not something to be consistently rolled for on a table.  For the few monsters who carry more significant treasures with them as they travel the needed info is provided in the monsters description. 

One thing that's nice is having the treasure types average values.  That's helpful when designing adventures.

As for the D&D94 treasure generation tables, the percentage chance of getting any particular kind of item is pretty much the same as in OD&D74 - which is quite important - and there is not a whole lot of practical difference in method from OD&D74.  What is different is the overall items themselves, and so to use the D&D94 treasure generation tables requires use of D&D94 magic items, which could be an advantage or out of the question, depending on the campaign. 

The rules regarding gems may be of some use to an OD&D referee.  At times it may be useful to multiple combine gems into a single gem of greater value and likewise, some groups might appreciate knowing the value or type of gem by color and description. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

D&D Rules Comparison 9

Monster Rules
(note: I won’t be comparing the monster lists or details of individual monsters.  Monsters are characters, not game mechanics and may be expected to vary greatly.)

Monsters usually have infravision. 

Monsters are given a size rating (S, M, L) following their HD.

Monster level equals its’ Hit Dice plus “bonus stars”.  Bonus stars are asterisks added to a monster description.  One bonus star is added for each special ability (poison, for example) a monster possesses.
Unlike D&D74 “+” or “-“ are ignored for level consideration so that a 2+1 HD monster is considered 2nd level, not 3rd.

Number Appearing lists a number of monsters found in a typical encounter.  D&D74 has no such statistic, but does have a lair population range not found in D&D 1994.  Both games advise adjusting monster numbers by dungeon level. 

Monster XP value listed in description.

Special Attacks
D&D 1994 defines the special attack forms possessed by some monsters:

Blindness causes -4 to attack rolls for victim, and a +4 for attackers.  Movement is 1/3rd unless led, then it is 2/3rds. 

Invisible opponent – treat as if making a blind attack.

Charm – charmed characters make no decisions of their own and cannot cast spells.

Energy Drain – reduced to midpoint of previous level.  Monsters loose 1 hd. 

Paralysis- attacks on paralyzed beings automatically hit.  Cure light wounds will remove it.


The size rating for monsters might be a handy thing in some instances but most of the time it is a no brainer.  It would be worth using in some special circumstances, but otherwise its an extraneous stat. 

The method of employing asterisks plus hit dice to determine the level of a monster does seem to be a superior way of gageing monster strength to the use of hit dice alone.  The method actually effectively codifies something  Gary Gygax wrote in the D&D FAQ from 1975 " For purposes of experience determination the level, of the monster is equivalent to its hit dice, and additional abilities add to the level in this case." but "The referee’s judgement must be used to determine such matters."  Clarifying this rule through the asterisk method is very useful.

I find the "Number Appearing" statistic of D&D74 to be much more flexible and simply better in play.  D&D94, in a tradition going back to Moldvay D&D, presents number appearing as a specific and usually tight range (2-8 for example) to be used in each encounter.  OD&D's statistic on the other hand. is a population range for the lair.  The OD&D statistic allows the referee the freedom to pick exact numbers for any given encounter, which could be much more or many fewer than the D&D94 procedure calls for. 

D&D94's clarifications of special attack forms, on the other hand is very useful.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

D&D Rules Comparison 8

Missile range given a +1 for short and -1 for long.  D&D74 instead reduces target Armor Class by 1 at medium and 2 at short range.
Thrown objects are treated as missiles.  No rule for thrown objects exists in D&D74.
Rules for cover:  (D&D74 has none) Apply a -1 penalty to hit for each quarter of the target’s body protected, or -2 if the cover is impenetrable.  A penalty total of -5 or greater means no attack possible.  The character so thoroughly protected behind cover can’t attack either.

Oil and Water
Holy water causes 1d8 damage to vulnerable creatures.
Oil, when thrown on a target can only be set afire by a successful attack roll.  The procedure requires two attack rolls – one to hit and douse the target and one to lite. P44.
Oil burns for 10 rounds.  Burning oil causes 1d8 damage per round.

Saving Throws
Saving throws are made with a d20 (D&D74 does not specify)
For spell effects, saving throw success results in ½ damage if damage is a normal effect, otherwise the character escapes the effect. (p45)


1d4 hit points are recovered by resting each day.

Discussion:  The most noticeable ommision from D&D74's missile rules, in my opinion, are rules for dealing with cover, since in dungeon and room environments it is common to try to seek shelter behind objects.  The cover rules for D&D94 are good ones, and will smoothly integtrate with OD&D.

The oil and holy water rules and saving throw rules are likewise welcome clarifications and additions.

As for healing, 1d4 gives the characters a bit more of a break than the 1 per day of OD&D.  It's pretty much a matter of campaign flavor and preference how daily healing is handled.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

D&D Rules Comparison 7

Encounter distance indoors changed from 20-80 feet to 20-60 feet.
Surprise can occur anywhere within the encounter distance. (D&D74 – only if an encounter occurs within 30 feet.)

Initiative determined by rolling 1d6 per side. P37

Monsters assigned a moral score.

Combat movement specified as 1/3 normal movement.
Combat withdrawal – 5 feet per round.
Combat retreat/rout (at a run) allows opportunity for opponent to attack from behind. 
Monsters who pass a morale check will pursue retreating PC’s 25% of the time. (p40)

Hit and Damage
A natural 20 always hits.
Damage is variable by weapon type – not all d6.
Bare handed damage is 1d4. (p51)
Attack Modifier table:
Attacking from behind
+2 bonus to hit
Attacker Can’t see target
-4 penalty to hit
Larger than man sized monster attacking a Halfling 
-1 penalty to hit
Target exhausted
+2 bonus to hit
Attacker exhausted
-2 penalty to hit
Target behind cover
-1 to -4 to missile fire to hit


Surprise: nothing good about these changes.  The original rules were better and made more sense.

Initiative: Okay.  Although the 3lbb's have no initiative mechanic, the 1d6 roll is found in CHAINMAIL., and is also mentioned in the FAQ from '75.

Morale:  having a set morale score for each monster is a convenience, but it is not necessary.  Usually an OD&D referee will usethe reaction table as a kind of morale indicator allowing that any group of monsters, regardless of type might be particularly brave or shaky.

Movement: D&D94's movement at 1/3 normal movement is based on the notion of a 10 second round - which isn't established until the Holmes edition of the rules.  It could be applied to an OD&D game if the referee also wished to use 10 second rounds instead of the usual 1 minute combat round.  The same may be said of the withdrawal rule.  That is an interesting and potentially useful rule.  If the same rule were to be applied to a one minute round, the distance of a fighting withdrawal would be 30 feet.

Allowing a free attack on an opponent is a common house rule in OD&D.  It's a good rule.

The 25% chase rule is quite low by OD&D standards, where most monster are expected to give chase.  

Hit and Damage:
I like the crit hit on a d20, but that ought to be optional.  Likewise with variable weapon damage; take it or leave it as you please.

Bare handed damage at 1d4 is way to high.  Two punches would kill the average human.

The table of modifiers deal with things left unspoken in OD&D and so could be adopeted in whole or in part, if desired.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

D&D Rules Comparison 6

Torchlight specified as 30’ for 6 turns
Lamplight specified as  lasting 24 turns (4hrs).

Dungeon Rules
Monsters can “hear noise” on a roll of 1 or 2
Spiking a door takes 1 round to complete.
Doors forced open on a roll of 5 or 6 instead of 1 or 2.  Same odds though.
Failure of first attempt to open a door negates any chance of surprising any monsters on the other side.
Doors may be burned or destroyed in 1d4 turns.
Locked doors cannot be forced.

Monsters can’t open locked doors without a key.(p35)

Discussion:  These rules mostly cover dungeon adventuring aspects left vague in D&D74.  It's the sort of thing referee's can make up on the spot, but it is nice to have them spelled out here.

The only fly in the ointment is the "Locked doors cannot be forced" rule.  Of course they can be forced, if the players find a way.  I'm sure this rule is a clumsy way of encouraging the thief class.

Friday, September 12, 2014

D&D Rules Comparison 5

Reaction Table: is modeled on D&D74 hireling reaction table but with the “roll again” info added:
Dice Score
Monster attacks
Monster Growls: roll again in one round at -4
Monster cautious: roll again in one round
Monster friendly: roll again in one round at +4
Monster friendly

Experience Points
XP per monster follows Greyhawk values
Total XP earned in an adventure is divided by # in party (shared experience).

Coins of weight one can carry for encumbrance values reduced by a few hundred coins.

Map rules given for moving figures on gridded dungeon maps at 5’per square including sideways and diagonally.  Two characters cannot occupy the same square,  and cannot move past a square occupied by an unfriendly creature. (p34)

Suggests players rotate mapping duty “so everyone gets a chance”.

Discussion: Of encumbrance their is not much to note; experience points are interesting in that a careful reading of D&D74 and knowing the historical context reveals the surprise that XP were originally thought of as being individually earned, not shared.  It is an interesting, and somewhat competitive way to play D&D, and is well known to players of Empire of the Petal Throne.

The grid based mapping rules are of little use for an OD&D game, but the suggestion to rotate mapping duties might work for some groups.

Of the four topics discussed above, the reaction table of D&D94 is the most interesting and potentially useful. Although it is closely modeled on the D&D74 hireling reaction table, it adds a "roll again in one round" feature that is really intriguing and useful.    I think this is a unique feature of D&D94 and one I like a lot.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

D&D Rules Comparison 4

Race Abilities
Elves find secret doors on a roll of 1-2 only (reduced from the 1-4 of D&D74).
Dwarf and elf characters have infravision.
Dwarves no longer gain a combat advantage against larger than man sized "clumsy monsters"  as they do in D&D74 (Monsters & Treasures p 16).
Halflings can hide in shadows on a d6 roll of 1 or 2. 
Halflings receive a +2 combat advantage against larger than man sized. 
Halfling accuracy with missile weapons specified at +1. 
Halflings get some oddball +1 if only Halflings are attacking.

Selling Items
Player Characters may sell personal items for half the cost listed on the equipment list. (p30)
Magical weapons will sell for their mundane cost x d%.
Magic items such as potions and scrolls sell for 1d20 x d%.

Armor Class:
Negative numbers acknowledged.  D&D74 mentions no AC better than 2.

Saving Throws

Monsters “save as” nearest class equivalent for saving throws.  D&D74 makes no mention of saving throws for monsters.

Discussion: Inrfravision for dwarves seems entirely sensible, but for elves I'd say it is more of a take it or leave it thing.  These kind of details are probably best left to the individual campaign.

Gimping the dwarf, by taking away their combat advantage (1/2 damage) against the attacks of giants and ogres is a much bigger deal.  Likely, it was an oversight that this rule was dropped from D&D.  The detail is given in the monster entry for dwarves, not in the character race description in D&D74.

Curiously, D&D94 grants Halflings a combat advantage against the very creatures who formerly 
had such a hard time with dwarves.  Better, I think, to choose a single combat advantage (either the halfling +2 or the dwarven 1/2 damage) and apply it to both dwarves and halflings.

The mechanics for Halflings hiding in shadows and their accuracy with missile weapons merely clarify things left vague in D&D74, so that's a good set of rules to bring in to an OD&D game, but the +1 for halfling only combat seems really useless.

There are no rules for selling items in D&D74, and this is a curious omission given that selling items is one way to get experience points via the gold value.  The rules given in D&D94 for personal items would work well in an OD&D game.  The rules for selling magic items and potions might be okay too for a quick sale, but the market value of magic items should usually be greater than their cost to manufacture.

Negative AC - personally, I think the game is better without it.  First class armor (AC1) really should be the best their is and delving into negative numbers invites confusion.  Any other modifiers can be applied to the "to hit" number, if needed, for the same effect.

Lastly, monster saving throws are well established from at least 1975, but it does help the players if you choose to not allow them.

Monday, September 8, 2014

D&D Rules Comparison 3

Fighter uses D8.  Hit Dice drop “+1”, but otherwise identical.

Clerics have 5 Hit Dice at 5th level instead of 4+1.
Clerics must meditate for one hour to “learn” their spells.   These are divinely given.
Clerics of any alignment may turn undead.
Unlike D&D74, clerics of chaotic alignment do not normally cast reverse spells, and can’t reverse a cleric spell at will.
A cleric may keep turning undead each round until a failure occurs at which point no more attempts to turn undead may be made “during the same battle”. (p15)  D&D74 is vague on these points.

To cast spells, MU’s must be free to speak and gesture and not be occupied with other activities.
It takes an hour of study to learn (memorize) a single spell (page 16).  The place of study must be quiet and peaceful.  However, page 26 says it takes one hour total for the MU or Cleric to learn (memorize) all their spells.
MU’s may copy spells from scrolls into their spell book if the spell is of a level they can learn.  The copied spell still disappears from the scroll.
Magic users use a d4 for hit dice.  Progression per level completely different at 1 die per level.

The numbers of 1st level spells an MU may have is reduced, by 1 at 3rd, 2 at 4th and 2 at 5th.

Discussion:  So these changes from OD&D to the mechanics of the classes are generally bunk.  Seriously.  I see a number of things which narrow or redifine the class in a manner that does not improve the game and often complicates it.

The rule regarding turn undead is okay, depending on how you play turn undead.  More useful here is the "one hour to learn your spells" rule.  It's simple and workable.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

D&D Rules Comparison 2

Ability Scores:

Simplified score  adjustment rules: 
            For every 2 points deducted from other scores, 1 point may be added to a prime requisite.  Only the prime requisite may be improved.  Constitution and charisma may not be altered.  Dexterity can not be lowered.  No score can be lowered below 9.

Intelligence: number of additional languages known reduced from 8 to 3 and penalty given for low scores as follows:
Difficulty speaking
Simple writing skill
Normal verbal and literacy skill
One additional language
Two additional languages
Three additional languages

All the ability bonus/penalties follow this uniform pattern.
No Adjustment

Strength open doors bonus increased from maximum of +2 in D&D74. 
Strength bonus/penalty added to both attack and damage.

Wisdom provides a saving throw benefit or penalty for all “magic based” saving throws.

Dexterity missile bonus/penalty changed from +1 (13-18) or -1 (3-8). 
Dexterity armor class bonus/penalty added.

 Constitution HP bonus/penalty increased from D&D74’s  +1 (15-18) or -1 (3-6)

Charisma instead of affecting the loyalty and maximum number of hireling as does D&D74, the Charisma score in D&D94 serves as an adjustment factor on the reaction table.

Discussion:  The simplified ability score adjustment mechanic seems like a reasonable and useful change .  I also like most of the ideas regarding what high or low ability scores affect, with the exception of intelligence.  The idea that intelligence determines literacy does not strike me as a good one.  The dexterity bonus to Armor Class is also one that is probably best not taken.

The main issue though is the amounts of the adjustment and that is certainly one of the details OD&Ders point to as a problem in later games.  The idea of a single table of bonuses and penalties is, I think, laudable and a good design feature but, +2 and +3!! bonuses is clearly over the top.  Who wouldn't want a +3 in everything, and who wouldn't feel cheated if they had only "normal" scores?   

Instead, a simple +1 or -1 is much more in line with the philosophy of OD&D and there are already two models to choose from - the Constitution bonus for scores of 15-18 or the Dexterity bonus for scores of 13-18.  We might keep the areas each score affects but alter the table along the broader lines of the Dexterity bonus of OD&D, as follows:


Saturday, September 6, 2014

D&D Rules Comparison 1

This begins a new series of posts.  The purpose here is to document revisions to rules between the first and last TSR versions of rulebooks of the Dungeons & Dragons game, defined here as the “woodgrain box” edition published in 1974 and the “blackbox” edition published in 1994.  Only material actually present in the 1994 edition will be discussed.  Other than the occasional comment, I won’t make any attempt to look at what has been left out of the 1994 rules – only what was put in.  Unlike the original set, the 1994 rulset was introductory in nature, only going thru the first 5 levels. 
Nevertheless, it may be valuable to have a look at topics covered in both sets and see where things were changed for the last published edition, no doubt with the intention of improvement.  Changes may have been made anywhere along the line of numerous editions in between these two, and while it might be sometimes interesting to know what edition ushered in what change, that’s not my purpose here.
The intention here is practical, not exhaustive so I’m not attempting a scientific analysis of minutia, nor am I certain I’ve caught every instance, though I’ve made some effort to note the important things.  Caveat emptor.

In this article D&D94 refers to the booklet developed and edited by Doug Stewart; D&D74 refers to the first publication of the game written by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.  For the curious,  I consulted the 2nd printing of the 1974 rules which is believed to be identical to the first.  Regarding the 1994 edition, a second edition of this book was produced in 1996 but the text is apparently identical.  The 1994 text incorporates the text from the rulebook and the “dragon cards” of the 1991 edition and whether there is any actual rule or method differences between these editions is unknown to me.  It is clear however that despite the fact that the 1994 edition clearly follows the text of the Rules Cyclopedia in many places to the point of incorporating whole sentences, there are a number of rule changes between the RC and Blackbox along with a small amount of added information that is not present in any previous edition.

Following some posts I will add commentary regarding ideas I think may work well as house rules for OD&D.  Here goes:

“d” and “d%” used throughout D&D 1994
NPC – defined as classed beings
Monsters – defined beings without a class
“THAC0” (to hit armor class 0) method presented as an option. (p46)

Additional Classes: 

Elf, Dwarf, and Hobbit also recast as Classes.  These classes are well familiar facets of “basic” D&D So no need to delve into those details here.

DHB Comments:  D&D 1994's terminology is useful and I like it. :)  Not so much the race as class thing.