Archive for the ‘BX’ Category

B/X Changelist

To date I’ve run my game using as a source book some modified versions of Labyrinth Lord.  I made the effort to actually create physical books which has been well received.  The idea with these books was that if I needed to make further changes to the text, they would be easy to update (they have re-openable bindings).

However, the more I’ve worked with it the more I notice most of my changes are in reverting SRD-isms from LL back to the original B/X.  Also, I worry that while having completely custom books for home campaigns are awesome, they may be a put-off at conventions (vs. a “known system”).

So I sat down and tried to create a short document of all the house rules and changes from B/X that I want to use in my campaigns.  It was sometimes hard to pull out stuff that’s clearly contradictory to the text vs. a common ruling I use for something that’s simply not mentioned in the text.  There’s a gray area there, and I want to leave the door open for Finch’s “rulings not rules” concept.  That is, I want to be able to change my mind on the fly based on the situation, and it’s easier to do that when the area you’re talking about is simply not covered by the book at all.

So here’s the result, what I’m calling my B/X Changelist.  I’ve managed to whittle it down to 3 pages by being very concise in my language and preferring formulas to charts, especially where XP progression is concerned.  Please feel free to take a look and send me any feedback you may have.  I’d especially like to hear from anyone who knows B/X, has played in one of my games, or best of all both.  I’m sure I’ve missed a few things, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some bits of it need rewording or further explanation.

Download the B/X Changelist.

B/X vs. Labyrinth Lord: Weapons

More and more I discover little oddities in Labyrinth Lord that differ from B/X D&D in a troubling way.  I’m getting down to minor details now, but they still rub me the wrong way enough that I’m contemplating switching to just straight B/X with a list of house rules rather than continue trying to support LL.  My latest qualm: the weapon list.  Here’s a quick comparison I wrote with the changes highlighted:

Labyrinth Lord Damage BX BX Damage (if different)
Axe, battle* d8 Battle Axe*
Axe, hand d6 Hand Axe
Club d4 Club
Crossbow, heavy d8
Crossbow, light d6 Crossbow
Dagger d4 Dagger
Dagger, silver d4 Silver dagger
Dart d4
Flail d6
Flail, heavy* d8
Hammer, light d4
Hammer, war* d6 War Hammer
Javelin d6 Javelin d4
Lance d6 Lance
Longbow d8 Long Bow d6
Mace d6 Mace
Morningstar* d6
Pick, heavy* d8
Pick, light d6
Pole Arm* d10 Pole Arm*
Quarterstaff* d6 Staff* d4
Scimitar d8
Shortbow d6 Short Bow
Sling d4 Sling
Spear d6 Spear
Sword, long d8 Sword (normal)
Sword, bastard** d8/2d4
Sword, short d6 Short Sword
Sword, two-handed d10 Two-handed Sword*
Trident d6

* = Two Handed

Most of the weapons that Labyrinth Lord adds I could do without.  Really, when is the last time you saw a player character running around with a trident or a heavy pick?  Why on earth differentiate between heavy and light pick at all?  And since when is a war hammer two handed?  I don’t mind the addition of flail and morningstar, but I also don’t mind just saying that they’re the same as a mace and leave it at that.  I suppose the heavy flail does add a two-handed cleric option that deals d8 damage.  I also kind of like the simplicity of three kind of swords: normal, short, and two-handed.  Do I really need a bastard sword and a scimitar?

I understand the addition of the dart and quarterstaff (though granted the Expert rules add Staff, at least they have the sense to drop it to a d4 damage) — to give some more options to magic-users.  Not that the text ever says as much, we’re left to interpret that from the statement that they can “only use light weapons such as a dagger”.  I kind of prefer the heavier restriction of daggers only.  I imagine magic-users get no training with weapons at all, thus grab for the most simple and primal weapon – a knife.  I don’t mind the image of the old greybeard wizard leaning on his magic staff, nor even using the staff to call for magical powers, but when he starts whirling it about like a ninja to crack skulls is where you start to lose me.

Anyway, this is all minor quibbles to be sure, but it’s yet another area in the text that I want to revert to pure B/X, as I already did for armor, XP progression, and spells.  I’m really starting to wonder: is it worth retaining the LL link at all?


Expanded B/X Encumbrance Chart

That was easier than expected. Below is the table I came up with.  Data in black all came straight out of the Moldvay basic book.  Data in red was extrapolated from data in Moldvay Basic plus values in Labyrinth Lord.  In most cases this was simply taking the LL values and expressing them in Moldvay’s coins (easy, as it’s given that 10 coins weighs a pound).  In other cases I had to use some creative invention.  Mostly this is around weapons with ammunition.  Moldvay lists these separately for cost, but lumps them together for encumbrance.  I wanted to figure out what 1 arrow/quarrel weighs using LL, but retain the correct totals when combining the numbers presented in Moldvay.  Also I slightly reduced the weight of iron spikes as listed by LL so they would divide into a weight per spike better.

Anyway, here’s the table:

Item Cost in gp Weight Damage Range

Battle Axe (two-handed) 7 50 1d8
Hand Axe 4 30 1d6 10/20/30
Crossbow 30 35
Case of 30 quarrels 10 15 1d6
Long Bow 40 30
Short Bow 25 20
Quiver of 20 arrows 5 10 1d6
1 Silver-tipped arrow 5 0.5 1d6
Normal Dagger 3 10 1d4
Silver Dagger 30 10 1d4
Short Sword 7 30 1d6
Sword (normal) 10 60 1d8
Two-handed Sword 15 150 1d10
Mace* 5 30 1d6
Club* 3 50 1d4
Pole Arm (two handed) 7 150 1d10
Sling* 2 0
30 Sling Stones 0 10 1d4
Spear 3 30 1d6 20/40/60
War Hammer* 5 30 1d6

Chain Mail Armor 40 400

Leather Armor 20 200

Plate Mail Armor 60 500

Shield 10 100

Backpack 5 20

Flask of Oil 2 15
Hammer (small) 2 20

Holy Symbol 25 10

Holy Water (1 vial) 25 10
Iron Spikes (12) 1 72 (6 each)

Lantern 10 30

Iron Rations (1 week) 15 10

Standard Rations (1 week) 5 10

Rope (50′ length) 1 100

Small Sack 1 5

Large Sack 2 5

Thieves’ Tools 25 10

Tinder Box (flint & steel) 3 0

Torches (6) 1 60 (10 each) 1d4
Water/Wine Skin 1 40

Wine (1 quart) 1 5

Wolfsbane (1 bunch) 10 0

Wooden Pole (10′ long) 1 80

Encumberance in B/X

I have emerged from house selling related projects to briefly think about gaming.  In fact, I’m off to TotalCon this weekend, which will be a nice respite to thinking about moving.  While preparing for that convention, I started creating some characters using only the Moldvay basic book.  I was curious how by-the-book I could make such a character without resorting to Labyrinth Lord.  The point where it broke down for me was encumberance.

Purchasing equipment in general is pretty painful using the original book.  To start off, the important data about individual items is located on three different pages.  First, we get to see the prices on page B12, but no other stats are listed there.  The actual weight values and encumbrance chart shows up on page B20.  If you’re using the optional variable damage rules, or want to know the ranges of missile weapons, well then you’ve got to flip on to page B27.  Ugh.

Let’s flip directly to B20 though and look specifically at encumbrance.  This is probably the most complex part of your character in Basic D&D.  I also kind of think it’s a pretty important part of the game.  Assuming you buy into Matt Finch‘s declaration that “managing resources is at the game’s very heart“, figuring out how much gear you can carry in and how much loot you can carry out is one of the most important pieces of data on your character sheet.  Indirectly though it’s also extremely important how fast the party moves, as this will dictate the rate of consumption of other resources  such as how far into the dungeon the party can go before the torches run out and how many wandering monsters will be encountered on the way.

The rules on B20 start out pretty straight forward.  There’s a nice chart showing movement rates based on weight carried, which by the way is not impacted at all by any other stat.  If anything, your Magic-Users are the real mules in the party, as they’re not already weighed down by heavy armor.  The units are cleverly in coins, which makes it pretty easy to know how much room for treasure you have left.  However, when we look at the actual weight of individual items, that’s where it falls apart.

First off, a couple things are grouped together.  For example, the chart tells us a crossbow and 30 quarrels weighs 50 coins.  So what’s the weight when I only have 10 quarrels left?  Surely less, but how much less.  The worst though is that after we see the weights of various weapons and armor, we get this entry:

Misc. equipement and provisions:

(including rope, spikes, sacks, wineskin, rations, etc.)        80 coins

Wow, how’s that for a generalization?  In fact, nothing in the “Equipment” chart on page B12 is given an individual weight.  It seems clear to me that the designers are just hand-waving the entire category.  If you buy any additional equipment, then it weights 80, regardless of how much.  One torch?  80 coins.  3 months of rations, 6 lanterns, and 2 10′ poles?  80 coins.  Yikes.

My problem is that I rather like the simplified equipment list in B/X.  Labyrinth Lord includes a lot of extra junk from later editions, like differentiating a light and heavy crossbow, adding goofy weapons like darts, and heck having different kinds of swords (B/X has only short, “normal”, and two-handed).  I’m half tempted to use LL as a reference to figure out the weights of all the misc. equipment in B/X and create an expanded encumbrance chart.  Maybe while I’m at it I could condense all the stats (cost, weight, and damage) into one chart.  Hmm, sounds like I have a project on my hands.

Spell Interruption By the Book

My poll on Spell Interruption pointed almost unanimously to the option of declaring spells first, then rolling initiative.  Turns out, though, that this actually exactly as it’s written in B/X.  Here are a couple quotes to prove it:

INITIATIVE: To determine initiative, each side rolls 1d6 (the DM rolls for the monsters).  The side with the higher roll may move first and attack first in combat for that round. … If combat occurs, the side with the initiative always strikes first in that round.  Both sides should roll for initiative each round.

Moldvay, p. B23

That’s not surprising, I always knew it was group initiative.  However, it’s kind of funny to note the emphasis on rolling each round — the book even places the word each in italics.  To round it out, some fine folks over at Dragon’s Foot pointed this one out to me:

The caster must inform the DM that a spell is being cast and which spell will be cast before the initiative dice are rolled.  If the caster loses the initiative and takes damage or fails a saving throw, the spell is interrupted and lost.

Cook and Marsh, p. X11

Yup, it’s right there in the Expert book.  Declare spells up front, then roll initiative for each round.  Thus each round one side has a 50/50 shot at interrupting spells cast by the other side.  Isn’t it funny how most of the issues I struggle with in this game could be easily solved by just sitting down and re-reading the original rule books a little more carefully?

B/X Character Sheets

I made these B/X character sheets a while back.  I only used them briefly, I found having separate sheets by class too irksome for rolling up characters quickly on the fly.  I imagine they’d be nice though if you had any reason to believe your character wasn’t going to die very soon.

Anyway, they are nice as pure B/X character sheets.  Clearly they were based on the original character sheet found in the Moldvay text.  They’re fillable PDFs, with specialized areas based on class:  spell lists for magic-users and clerics, thief skills for thieves, turning chart for clerics, and extra inventory space for fighter types.  Also, they conveniently have the encumbrance chart next to the equipment list, which I find extremely useful at the table.

Take note that it appears as two pages, though each page is 5.5″ x 8.5″, meaning they print best side-by-side on a single piece of paper.  Just tell your PDF viewer to print two pages per page and it should work.

Download here.

EDIT: Just noticed there is one minor deviation from pure B/X: the inclusion of a “Base Attack Bonus” box instead of a standard combat matrix.  This is because I like to use Delta’s Target 20 system for attack rolls.  I suggest you check it out.

2nd EDIT: As requested, here are the scribus files.

Money Conversion

BigFella mentioned in his recent re-cap of our latest sessions my “money conversion thing”, which made me realize I never posted about this one.  So I figured I would.  It’s pretty easy and short.

There’s been a fair bit of discussion recently over at Dragon’s Foot about silver based economies.  Delta also posted about his own thoughts on the topic.  I guess it’s no surprise that I started pondering the issue myself.

Now, there’s two things I don’t like about the standard D&D money system.  First, the huge numbers.  Even at lower levels (I’m talking levels 1-3 here), the treasure is coming in by the hundreds of coins.  Anything less than 100 gp really isn’t all that much money.  Second, the useless copper pieces.  Almost nothing costs less than a silver piece, and in general most adventurers agree that copper pieces aren’t worth the weight to carry them.

I solved both problems in our game by simply eliminating the platinum piece, and elevating the worth of everything else ten-fold.  What was once a platinum piece is now a gold piece, what was once a gold piece is now a silver piece, and what was once a silver piece is now a copper pieces.  The silver piece is now the standard coin, and the one that nets XP for the players (1 sp = 1 xp).  All the costs in the book are cut by one tenth.  The old copper pieces just fall off the end, and in a very few cases some very cheap items that cost less than 1 sp in the old system have increased in cost to 1 cp in the new system.

With silver as the base unit, copper pieces at 1/10th of that are actually still kind of worth while.  Gold pieces are suddenly very valuable, and I find it amusing to quote things in gp prices, where I would have never quoted prices in pp.  For example, in my new system a suit of chainmail now costs 4 gp.  (It’s 40 gp in B/X).  I could have just translated it to silver (40 sp), but I find it much more satisfying to have most costs in amounts of less than 10.  Also, the electrum piece, which I left at half a gold piece (or 5 sp), actually seems like a useful coin now.  What used to cost 25 gp could now cost 25 sp, or 5 ep.

Anyway, obviously nothing has really changed as all money and costs have changed by the same amount.  Just the scale changed, and the new scale is one I find much friendlier to deal with.

I Can Just Barely See You

I made a shocking discovery last night about the spell Clairvoyance that’s got me sitting here with a pile of player handbooks at my desk (OD&D v1, Moldvay Expert, 1e PHB, 2e PHB, 3e PHB, and 3.5 PHB).  But first, some background.

I gave up on new editions of D&D when 3.5 came out. I know it’s in vogue to rant about 4e, but for me 3.5 was the breaking point. My problem is what I perceive as the board-gamification of D&D that perhaps started in 3e but really became apparent in 3.5, and my primary example of this is the spell clairvoyance.

In 3e, clairvoyance has an unlimited range.  It allows you to see “a place familiar to you or an obvious one (such as behind a door, around a corner, or in a grove of trees).”  While the spell could be used in your standard dungeon crawl to see what monster is behind the next door, that seems a fairly mundane use of a 3rd level spell.  This spell always felt to me like a real story or plot driving spell.  This is how you spy on your enemies, find out if your patrons are secretly treacherous, etc.

In 3.5, the description doesn’t change much, but the range is reduced from “unlimited” to 400′ + 40’/level.  With that minor detail, suddenly the plot implications are gone.  The spell has been reduced to simply looking behind the next door at what monster is there, and I’m sure players quickly pass on it in favor of another fireball.  Bah.

Only, it looks like this isn’t as new a development as I had originally thought.  I was reading the description of this same spell in the Moldvay/Cook Expert book, and lo and behold the range is a scant 60′, even shorter than 3.5.  What’s more, the description specifically mentions that it allows the caster to “see an area through the eyes of any single creature in it” and “is blocked by two feet of rock or a thin coating of lead.”  So now not only is the range very short, but there’s got to be an actual creature to cast it on and it’s blocked by thick walls.  This is a very different spell from the one I’m used to.  When did it change?

In OD&D, it’s very similar to the Moldvay/Cook version.  Actually all it does is refer to the ESP spell but with a visual component, but ESP mentions a 6″ range and being blocked by stone/lead, which seems likely where that came from.  It’s the 1e PHB where suddenly the range becomes unlimited and the spell looks like the plot tool I remember it as.  It remains this way in 2e and 3e, the versions of the game I probably have played the most, so I suppose that explains why I remember it that way.

I stand by my complaints about 3.5 and 4e.  However, I think I’m going to have to house rule in the 1e version of this spell to my B/X games.  Man, I hope this isn’t my first step towards becoming a 1e guy.  All those tables… 🙂