Convalescing is not Awesome

After playing some more D&D with my friend Russell over the weekend (using the introductory dungeon from Basic D&D), what struck us is just how much time 1st level characters spend resting up to go back into the dungeon. The pace is basically: fight a monster, retreat into town to rest a week, go back in and fight another monster, rinse and repeat. When even the strongest party member (the fighter with 9 HP) can be reduced to 1 or 2 HP by a single blow, and the MU can cast 1 spell a day, not resting up completely after each battle is just asking for Total Party Kill. But even if you hand-wave getting out of the dungeon, resting, and coming back to the same room, it’s a real buzz-kill. At least in 3e, the cleric will have one or two Cure Light Wounds spells that will let the party press on, and after the first adventure the party casters can easily create several scrolls (basically a 1st level scroll costs 37.5 gp and 1 xp and takes one day to make).

To address this, I propose the following House Rules:

Binding Wounds
After any combat, you can take time to bind up the wounds of the injured, which involves cleaning them, sewing them up, applying bandages, etc. Binding a character’s wounds will restore up to 1 Hit Die (maximum roll on a die for that class including any con bonuses or penalties), not to exceed the character’s full HP. It requires 1 turn (10 minutes) per HP restored, and a First Aid Kit (cost 1 gp, bandages for 10 uses). If you don’t have a First Aid Kit, a the DM’s discretion you may improvise, but the DM may rule that it’s less effective (fewer than a full HD restored) or risks disease. You may not rebind already bound wounds to get even more HP back if you are down by more than 1 HD worth of Hit Points.
example: Forrest, a 2nd level thief with a +1 Con bonus has 7 HP. During a battle he takes 6 HP, leaving him with one. After the battle he can perform First Aid on himself and heal up 5 HP (4 for Thief HD +1 for Con), so that he’s back up to 6 HP. In a subsequent battle he takes another 2 HP, down to 4. When he binds his wounds after that battle, he can only get back the 2 he just took (putting him back at 6), not a full 5. If the DM finds it too much bookkeeping to track how many hits a character has taken in a battle (qualifying them for a full HD restored by Bind Wounds), he can wave this restriction, but if he finds the players abusing it (e.g. by seeking to take a single point of damage so they can get another HD back), he should rein them in.

If you’re using the optional Skill rules, Binding Wounds is subsumed under the Healing skill; just substitute Max Hit Die for 1d3 points healed (the penalty for a natural 20 still remains 1d3).

Spell Re-Memorization
At any point, a spell-caster (MU, Elf, or Cleric) may spend an hour to memorize (or meditate for) a single First Level spell, even if they’ve already cast all their daily First Level spells. If they haven’t already cast a First Level Spell, then one spell is forgotten to make room for the new one. Because of the complexity of spells higher than First Level, those can only be prepared when the spell-caster is fresh after eight hours of rest.

Basically, this is just providing an alternate way of accomplishing what first level characters have to do anyway, which is start each encounter fresh. It shouldn’t unbalance higher level characters, since by the time characters reach higher levels they’ll almost always have magical means of recuperating and/or extra spells in the form of wands, scrolls, and potions. In addition, at higher levels a single HD or one more 1st level spell is hardly anything. It also helps a bit with the “oops, I memorized the wrong spell, guess we’ll turtle until tomorrow” problem; it won’t change the course of a battle, and if the characters don’t have anyplace in the dungeon safe to hole up they run the risk of additional random monster encounters, but it should keep the game moving forward.

There’s certainly a possible draw-back that a party might choose to try and rest for an hour after each battle, even if they haven’t taken any damage, just so the spell-caster can get back a spell, but since they still have to deal with random encounters and that’s not so different from what they are tempted to do anyway, I think it won’t be that bad. And I see the spell-caster’s, particularly magic-users, being more ready to cast a spell and more able to take advantage of utility spells as a plus. A low-level MU would be crazy to memorize Analyze or Read Languages as one of his two or three spells for the day, but spell-casters have much more chance to shine (and pull their weight as something other than user-of-mu-only-devices) if you don’t make it a death-sentence to take full advantage of their spell lists.

What AD&D Character Am I?

I Am A: True Neutral Human Wizard (5th Level)

Ability Scores:

True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he’s not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard’s strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

I’m pretty puzzled by being True Neutral, actually. I would have expected Lawful Neutral, Neutral Good or even Lawful Good; I suspect the test conflates respect for authority and parents with respect for the law. By the detailed scores, it appears I was pretty close. And I only have one evil bone in my body (I know which question it was, too…. the one about if the elders in your family strongly disapprove of your actions, what do you do. Ignoring them wasn’t an option.)

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D&D House Rules

I’m going to call the Basic/Expert/etc line “D&D”, distinguishing it from O(riginal)D&D (the white box), and A(dvanced)D&D. D&D is therefor the game we played last Sunday.

Demihumans and character classes

Demihumans can choose to be a different character class, so you are allowed, e.g. Elven Fighters or Halfling Thieves, and are treated exactly as any human of that class (including for level maxima) but:

1) You still must meet all the racial minima to be of that race
2) You get none of the special abilities of your race, which are assumed to come from training that you’re neglecting in order to learn the abilities of your new class, except:
a) Dwarves and Elves retain their infra-vision
c) Halflings retain their Save vs. Death Ray/Poison, and Halfling Thieves retain their racial Hide abilities.

Sharing Spells
The D&D rules forbid Magic Users letting other magic users copy spells from their books, but don’t really explain it except as a cultural prohibition (nobody wants to risk their spell-book); to make this more concrete, copying a spell from a Magic User’s book into another book erases the spell, the same way copying a spell from a scroll uses up the scroll. Magic Users teach their apprentices spells by creating a scroll with the appropriate spell, which the apprentice can then copy into their spell book per the usual rules.

Labyrinth Lord

Since some of you expressed an interest last week in laying your hands on Basic D&D so you can kick it old skool with your own bad selves, I suggested that you take a look at Labyrinth Lord. While you can get (possibly even legal) PDF scans of Basic D&D from RPGNow, which is where I got what we were using, you’re paying $5 for a not-particularly crisp scan ($10 if you want Expert as well). Labyrinth Lord is essentially Basic & Expert D&D as one book, released under the OGL as a free download. The rules themselves are the same, near as I can tell (with a few fiddly exceptions like rolling 3d8*10 for starting money, and Clerics being able to take spells at Level 1). All the text has been rewritten with an eye towards making it available under the OGL without it being in any way encumbered with any TSR intellectual property that hasn’t been explicitly released by Wizards of the Coast under the OGL. As a practical matter, the rules appear to be interchangeable, with only the organization and some minor terminology changing (e.g. Save vs. Dragon Breath is now Save vs. Breath Attack).

update:By the way, if you do decide you want to buy a pdf from rpgnow, you should probably get the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, which is the same price as either of the other two ($5), but has all the rules that were published for all the boxes: Basic, Expert, Companion, and Masters. What it lacks (the long introductory solo adventure and beginner dungeons), you are unlikely to need.

In Honor Of Gary Gygax, 1938-2008

It was thanks to Gary Gygax that I have most of my current friends, so in his honor we played Basic D&D last night, kicking it truly old skool. The group rolled up the following party (3d6, in order):

Happy Brandybucke Halfling N (Paul)
S:12 I:6 W:10 D:16 C:12 CH:16 Lvl 1 HP3 AC2 Short Sword

Obediah Elf N (Dan)
S:17 I:10 W:10 D:11 C:8 CH:12 Lvl 1 HP5 AC4 Battle-Axe

Steve Magic-User N (Mike)
S:9 I:11 W:9 D:11 C:11 CH:11 Lvl 1 HP4 AC9

Cleric of Doom C (Wendy)
S:12 I:10 W:16 D:5 C:6 CH:14 Lvl 1 HP4 AC5 Mace

Joe Shakyhand C (Doug)
S:12 I:10 W:11 D:13 C:14 CH:14 Lvl 1 HP 2 AC9 Bow

As is traditional, the group met in an inn: The White Cow, in the town of Stonebridge. After inquiring as to the entertainment available in the viscinity (greased-pig wrestling, goat racing, drinking, dicing, and fornication), the party was approached by a loquacious local wanting to know if such a (relatively) heavily armed group was planning on trying to rescue the missing heiress, Lemunda the Lovely, rumored to have been kidnapped by bandits and worth a pretty penny in ransom. Local folk have speculated that the bandits that have been preying on the caravans that pass through town may be holed-up in the… dun Dun DUN! Haunted Keep, though opinion is that they’d be pretty crazy to do so since it’s well-known that the ruins are….dun Dun DUN! Haunted!

The group, recognizing a plot-hook when it hits them in the head (all except Mike who kept blathering something about “evidence”) agreed that they would go take a look, particularly when they found out that the keep was easy to find, being visible from the road through the hills to the South. In the morning they set out.

A fine mist descended as they approached the ruins, concealing their approach, and they beheld the ruins of a keep. Two towers and a gate-house between remained standing, the rest was a burnt-out over-grown rubble. After reconnoitering the vicinity, but seeing no signs of habitation, they decided to approach the West Tower entrance. Joe Shakeyhand found no traps, and heard nothing… not that he had much chance of either as a 1st level Thief, and so they entered. Spookily, the door didn’t creak when they opened it, indicating it had been recently oiled or at least well used. After a short corridor, there was another door, which they opened after the Thief did his stuff, and gained surprise on five bandits, standing around the room and arguing with each other.

Noticing that there was an alarm horn on the wall, the intrepid adventurers made good use of their surprise round. The Cleric of Doom charged into the room and crushed the skull of an unsuspecting bandit; and Obediah the Elf hacked another into two pieces with his mighty battle-axe. Happy Brandybucke missed, and Joe–after determining that there were no rules to prevent him from firing into melee past his companions crowding the door–let fly with an arrow and also missed.

In the first actual round, the party won the initiative, and dispatched another bandit, and on their action one of bandits ran to grab the alarm horn from the wall, while the other–cursing his luck that the morale check wouldn’t happen until the end of the turn–attempted to stab the Cleric of DOoooom… coming up with a roll that wouldn’t have succeeded even if she were naked as the day she was born. He then failed his morale check, and booked it down the corridor.

Once again the party won the initiative, and before the hapless bandit could draw a breath to sound the alarm, the party descended upon him like wolves. A quick mace to the skull followed by an arrow to the throat, and he breathed his last. The final bandit, running away down the corridor, had the misfortune to run straight into Steve’s dagger, and expired.

A search of the room revealed a pair of statues (noticed but unexamined as they charged in for battle) of a man and a woman, both rather buck-toothed, and three exits doors besides the one they came in, one on each wall. The party decided to take the large brass-bound horn, both as a precaution and as loot, and examined the remaining doors. The North door opened onto an East-West corridor, with an alcove on the far side and an open door, through which Joe glimpsed a goblin. Nothing was audible at the West door, but they heard laughter and jeering of three or four people through the East door, and proceeded through, happening on a group of three bandits engaged in tormenting a large (fist-sized) spider in a wooden cage. The fight was brief and bloody, as Obediah smote one so hard (getting 5 times the damage needed to dispatch him) that the DM ruled he got an attack on the guy standing right behind–who he also hit and dispatched instantly. A quick mace to the head followed by an angry Hobbit to the groin, and that was it for the bandits. That bandit had a gold earring, which the party pocketed. After some arguing with the cleric, she decided not to release the fist-sized spider.

At this point we decided to break for the night.

XP for the session: 10/bandit = 80 xp / 5 PCs = 16 xp each.
Treasure for the session: 1 brass-bound horn (10 gp), 1 gold earring (20 gp)