28 April 2015

If It Ain't Broke

The original 1974 boxed set edition of Dungeons & Dragons (OD&D), in my opinion, begs to be tinkered with. Yes--I know I ended a sentence with a preposition but, since we're all adults here, I just let it all hang out. At any rate, sometimes the need to tinker can overwhelm the simplicity of the rules. Take combat, a common sticking point for a lot of folks. As characters gain in level a lot of the areas gamers feel get overlooked are actually abstracted into the rules.

For example, let us examine the 2 advantages of of higher level player-characters: hit points and better "to hit" numbers in combat. Greater numbers of hit points reflects a lot of factors in a general way as opposed to specific and often complicated sub-rules sets referees tack on. More hit points means a player can stay in the fight longer, outlasting lower level opponents. Anyone trained in the various combat arts can testify winning a fight is often a factor of outlasting your opponent as opposed to landing that perfect kayo. But it could also be considered to reflect a better use of armor (and shield, if applicable), fending off damage that might otherwise place the character hors de combat. 

In like manner, better "to hit" scores abstract increased ability to deal damage, obviously reflecting an increase in skill. Further, hitting more often and finishing an opponent more quickly is also a bonus, in a manner of speaking, to hit points. You don't have to heal or rest-and-restore hit points you've never lost in the first place.

As written, combat reflects reality fairly well. A better equipped and more experienced fighter will defeat a lesser opponent most, but not all, the time. The greater the disparity between the opponents the less likely the weaker shall overcome the stronger. But, there's always a chance. I once had a first-level thief character hold off 5 goblins for several combat rounds until help could arrive. He killed 3 of his enemy and survived the fight, though just barely. 

I'll always agree with the referees right to change whatever rulings he sees fit. But, as Gary advised in an article of the The Dragon long ago, make certain you've played the rules as written and understand why they work as they do before making a lot of changes.

And please, don't open posts about your spectacular rules variant with "my group and I have considered the rules regarding [XYZ] and found them to be stupid and idiotic." Yes, I've seen that very statement made. You've just insulted the myriad players who like that rule the way it is. Geeks being what they are they'll rush to defend rule [XYZ], likely using language similar to yours, and ... voilĂ  ... instant flame war! You've also given us a peek at how close-minded you are. Believe me, nobody looks at a statement like that and thinks to themselves how smart you must be. We know the rules work just fine because we've used them, some of us for decades. Even if we ourselves have changed them to address the specific needs of our campaign.

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