Recently I have been running an OED campaign for my Sunday night group as a stop-gap between runs of our normal Demon Wars games. The players are very savvy roleplayers and have a history of playing 1st edition AD&D. As a result they have found every little gap and rough edge in OED that is not quite how I run the game. Thus today I sat down and made a copy of the OED player’s guide and started modifying it.
My system for running old school D&D games has evolved over the years. I started out using Labyrinth Lord, and eventually switched back to straight BX plus some house rules, and the finally just gave in and converted to OED. This last change was largely due to playing with a lot of the same players as Dan, and repeatedly trying to answer the question of “how are your games different?” The fact is that Dan started with OD&D and I started with B/X, and then we both started house ruling stuff and landed on games that were incredibly similar. Since Dan does a metric ton more analysis (driven by very thorough computer-based simulations) I finally decided that I should just get on board and offer those players a little consistency.
Well, it turns out I may have glossed over a lot of the finer points, and it doesn’t help that Dan continues to add and modify his own rules and I may have failed to keep up. That said, I didn’t want to just follow Dan’s lead blindly, as there are definitely some things I don’t agree with. So looking at the OED player’s guide, here’s all the things I do just a little bit differently:
Dwarves – Dan gives dwarves a +4 AC vs giants, which felt a bit generous to me. I also like to give the +4 saving throw modifier to poison as well as magic. Interesting – I looked up the origin of the dwarf vs. giant AC bonus, here’s what OD&D actually says. I guess we’ve both diverged from the original quite a bit.
Because of their relatively small size, clumsy monsters like Ogres, Giants and the like will have a difficult time hitting Dwarves, so score only one half the usual hit points when a hit is scored.
Abilities – I don’t muck about with Dan’s fancy system for increased ability scores. This made it’s way into the OED player’s guide as giving starting characters one stat at 2d6+6 instead of 3d6. Instead, I’ve always made my players roll straight down the line, and then allow one swap for a little customization.
Hit Points – Dan gives new players a re-roll on a 1 or 2 on the first hit-die roll. I just give them max value on their first hit die roll. Note, I apply this only to their primary class, which means an elf player’s decision to be a Fighter/Wizard vs. a Wizard/Fighter has significant impact right away (in addition to the multi-class level-cap I use, see below.)
Equipment / Encumbrance – While we use the same scale of money and same value for starting money, I don’t use Dan’s stone-based encumbrance rules. I have a lot of trouble with the 1/3 and 1/6 values. Plus, I did my own research a while back comparing LL to BX and was happy with the output. Here’s my official equipment list which includes weight for use with the standard BX movement chart. It was noted recently by my players that armor in my list is cheaper than what Dan has. I’m surprised Dan has put plate armor out of reach for starting fighter characters – I think plate armor at 1st level is big advantage for starting out as a fighter.
Ability Modifiers: Huh, Dan gives Int modifier adjustments to finding secret doors and traps? I never noticed that before. Personally, I use Int a lot for learning spells which we’ll see later. The modifier I use only for starting languages. Pluses gives the character extra languages, -1 means the character is illiterate, and -2 means the character has a very limited vocabulary.
Spells – I do spell learning slightly differently from Dan: Dan gives d20 + level + Int mod >= 20, while I use d20 + Int – Spell Level >= 20. I think mine makes learning spells early on much easier – Dan’s system gives a 1st level Wizard with average Int a scant 10% to learn new spells while mine comes out closer to 50%. I also like that mine does not scale with level, and in fact makes higher level spells harder for anyone to learn and therefore more rare. Also for starting spells I make the player roll for all 1st level spells while it looks like Dan just gives the player all of them. I like making my players roll as it makes for some interesting differences between starting out 1st level wizards.
Weapons – I’m not a fan of Dan’s weapon matrix. It introduces some distinctions not present in my own equipment list, such as separate pikes from polearms, and adding flails. The added modifiers for weapon type vs. armor type is also far too fiddly for me – I never used this in AD&D and I’m not going to use it in OD&D. Also, I like that in my list the large weapons restricted from use by hobbits/dwarfs is just two weapons (2-handed sword and polearm), and conveniently are the only weapons that do d10 damage.
Multi-classing – I think Dan’s requirement of 16 in a prime req is too restrictive – I bring that down to 13. Also, I add level caps to additional classes – 8th level for your 2nd class and 4th for your 3rd class. I like that this means non-primary wizards will never reach the most powerful spells, and third tier wizards won’t even hit fireball territory. It also meshes well with fighter feats and thief ability bumps. It means multiclass characters will simply never be quite as good at their second or third classes as their single classed counterparts.
I think that about sums it up. It may sound like I’m pretty critical of OED, but really I see all the above differences as very minor style choices. Dan has done great work with the OED and I really enjoy using it. I just got tired with the current group of telling them “oh no, don’t use that, here’s how I do it.” Better to just have a customized hand-out than to have to have errata to my sheet of errata.
So having gone through all this, here is my doctored version of the OED player’s guide, which I’ve set to version 1.04a.