So,
we’ve talked a few times about the “protection point” system used in pre
D&D Blackmoor. Aside from historical
curiosity, though, the question may be, “what is the utility of exploring this
set of procedures further?”. In other
words, is there any advantage to using a point buy method to stock a dungeon
verses the monsters by dungeon level matrix tables of OD&D, AD&D and
various clones?
Well,
all those monsters by dungeon level tables do work as intended; that is, they
produce dungeons that get progressively tougher as they go down. The problem is that the variety of monsters
is severely limited. By the tables, you
can’t put a mining colony of 2HD dwarves on level 10 or a troll on level 1, for
example, without leaving the table. Some
folks are fine with that and stock their dungeons as they please, only using
the tables to “fill in” spots not otherwise predetermined. However common it may be, this kind of seatofthepants
dungeon design defeats the whole purpose of the tables in the first place,
which is to produce an underground environment consistent with the growth in
player character levels and possessions.
There’s
also the issue of monster numbers. For
the monster by dungeon level matrix tables to really work properly, the number
of monsters in most encounters should be left undetermined until the party
arrives, at which time the DM is supposed to match the number of monsters in
the encounter to the strength of the party.
Some DM’s may not want this extra work.
A point buy system, on the other hand, has
neither of these issues. Dungeons get
progressively tougher as they should, because rooms in deeper levels get more
points and so you can “buy” bigger and badder monsters, but the numbers in each
encounter are determined by the number of points. In a given location, you may have enough
points to buy 1 dragon or 500 dwarves, and that could be true on any level.
The
point buy method has the advantage of freedom of choice.
Arneson’s
Protection Point method is the prototype point buy approach, of course, but one
can’t simply copy “Arneson’s way” because a close look at the FFC shows just
how much experimentation he was doing and how many different ways he actually
employed.
But
lets start with what he tells us in the “Magic” Protectin Points section of the
FFC:
“The
number of Protection Points to be found in any given room..” (page 30, 1980 print)
Level

Points
x 1d10

1

5

2

15

3

15

4

25

5

35

6

40

7+

50

Once a room/area has been determined to
be occupied, the number of Protection Points for the room are determined by
rolling a 1d10 and multiplying the result times the number in the appropriate
column, for the level. So for example, to get the Protection Points for a level
2 room, it would be 1d10 x 15, giving a range of anywhere from 15 to 150.
He also
tells us there is a 1/6 chance that the room will have a stronger or weaker
creature – which must mean a 1/6 chance a room will have either more or less
points to buy with, because he then says he sometimes rerolled points or placed
a weakened version of a creature in a room if that is the creature he really
wanted and points were insufficient.
Okay, so that is the theoretical method Arneson explains to us. However, lets go through all the stocking lists found in the FFC and see what he actually
did back in the day:
Location

Point range

Dice to generate

Level 7

150500

1d10x50 (per
table)

Level 8

20150 (with 5s)

1d10x15

Level 9

15150 (with 5s)

1d10x15

Level 10

15900

1d10x15 (chance
of additional x 1d6)

Level Tunnel

10130

3d6x10

Glendower all
Levels

10 180

3d6x10

Loch Gloomen

90190

1d20x10

Loch Gloomen

310370

??

“Dice
to Generate” is my best guess at the dice used, considering all the available
information. Notice that level 7 is the
only level that conforms to Arneson’s suggested table. There are a number of indications that the stocking
lists given for the various levels of Blackmoor dungeon were done at various
times, and indicate changes in rules and methods. Perhaps counterintuitively, the tunnels
appear to be the oldest, while level 7 appears the youngest.
So
throughout the FFC we see Arneson using at least 3 or 4 methods:
1). The
graduated table with more points as levels get deeper
2).
1d10x15 for all levels, +/ 1d6 (multiplied or divided) 16.7% of rooms.
3).
3d6x10 for all levels
4).
1d20x10 for all levels
Note
also there is at least one level which appears rather clearly to show the 1/6^{th}
greater or weaker principle he mentioned.
Level 10 has a room stocked with 60 ogres. That’s 900 Protection points and requires two
high rolls; first a 10 on a 1d10x15 yielding 150 points, second a 6 on a 1d6,
yielding 900 points when multiplied together.
Other instances seem to be divisions, (such as the 20 points on level 8)
leaving me to believe that when a “1/6^{th}” chance arose, half of the
time he divided the rooms points by 1d6, and half the time he multiplied them.
One
could easily write a multipage essay on all this but it’s not my purpose
here. Rather I just want to point out that
there are various methods in play and argue that none of them are entirely
satisfactory for D&D.
Foremost
lets concentrate our interests on the first method – Arneson’s table. It is apparently his final word on the matter
and it is the only one that’s clearly graduated with dungeon depth. Notice how many points one gets on level
7. 150500 points per room, plus
wildcards of up to 900 points  that is a hell of a lot of powerful monsters. Some have commented that Arneson’s Temple of
the Frog is too tough with it’s barracks of several hundred 0 level soldiers,
apparently with out ever having looked closely at the older levels of Blackmoor
dungeon. TotF is a cakewalk by
comparison.
It’s
not time to throw the baby out with the bathwater though.
Arneson’s
table is fine to use for shallow, tough dungeons, faced by high level
characters. Maybe that’s what he was
going for in 1977, given the kinds of characters people were coming up
with. But for anyone thinking of making
the classic campaign megadungeon suitable for characters of all levels, use of
Arneson’s table will give you a lot of TPK’s.
Another
way to approach the point buy system for D&D is to go back to the old saw
that the average monster on any given level should have the same HD as the
number of the level. The average hit
points per hit die in OD&D are 3.5.
Average hit points, you may recall from previous posts, are the point
cost of any given monster. So, it then
becomes a simple formula: Level x 3.5 = average points. We can then set the range of points by assuming
monsters of HD number equal to the dungeon level will range in numbers appearing
relative to equally powerful adventuring groups, in other words a party of
level 4 adventurers will typically encounter a party of 4HD monsters and both
will range in size from about 1 to ten persons (average 5). So
level x 3.5 x 1d10 = point range of a room.
Location

Point range

Dice to generate

1

3.535

2d20

2

770

1d10x7

3

10.5105

1d10x11

4

14140

1d10x14

5

17.5175

1d10x18

6

21210

1d10x21

7

24.5245

1d10x25

8

28280

1d10x28

9

31.5315

1d10x32

10

35350

1d10x35

11

38.5385

1d10x39

12

42420

1d10x42

Okay
folks, so there is your new and improved Protection Point table. Using this table will create a dungeon that
averages 1 HD greater per level just as it is “supposed” to. Optionally, one could include Dave Arneosn’s
1/6^{th} variation. After points
are determined for a room, roll a d6. If
a 6 results, roll a 50/50 chance (or flip a coin) for a stronger or weaker encounter. Roll a 1d6 again. Multiply the result if the encounter is
stronger, or divide the result if the encounter is weaker, to the protection
points originally rolled for the room.
The result will be the actual points.
Example, a level 3 room has 100 points, but a d6 roll indicates a 6 and
a coin flip indicates divide. Another d6
roll comes up as 4. So 100/4=25 points
in the room.
For fun,
I looked again at Dave Megarry’s Dungeon of Pasha Cada. Megarry spent a great deal of time trying to
make each level of his dungeon a greater challenge than the one before without
being too deadly. Megarry developed his
dungeon game no later than 1972 – so it is obviously one of the earliest
attempts at a “balanced” adventure. The
dungeon expects only a party of 1 adventurer, so to get a comparable point
range to the previous tables all one has to do is multiply by 1d10. The point range on the table below is the
cost of the weakest and strongest monsters on each of Megarry’s dungeon levels.
Dave
Megarry’s Dungeon! (1975)
Location

Point range

Possible Dice to
generate

X10

Level 1

1.5  4

1d4

1540

Level 2

414

2d6+2

40140

Level 3

717.5

3d6

70175

Level 4

735

6d6

70350

Level 5

735

6d6

70350

Level 6

2838.5

1d12+27

280385

So this
table starts off very similarly to the table I presented above but gets a
little tougher as it goes so that by 6^{th} level it sits roughly
halfway in monster strength between the table I offered and Arneson’s overpowered table
from the FFC. It would be a good model
to follow for a 6 level or less dungeon, where the idea is that it gets quite
tough in the second half.
Enjoy.