In my last post I mentioned playing OD&D using Dan Collins’ Original Edition Delta plus some house rules that I swiped from DCC because I feel they’re essential. Commenter tipsta asks which ones and why.
- Luck replaces Wisdom. Clerics don’t exist as a class (as per OED), which makes Wisdom a dead stat except for things that I really don’t favor rolling for (“insight checks” as modern editions would have it). Replace it with Luck and everything is golden.
- Allowing players to spend Luck from their very limited supply gives them some say in what rolls are really, really important to them, and somewhat mitigates the fact (mentioned before on this blog) that streaks of unlucky rolls can make a competent character seem like a yutz because every time we see them perform we see them fail.
- Rolling against Luck or having things that hit a random party member hit whoever has the lowest Luck is a dead simple mechanic that covers a lot of things that come up during adventures that need some kind of decision procedure, and adds flavor.
- Rolling the Body Roll under Luck after a combat to see if your character thought dead miraculously survived, but permanently reduce Con by 1.
It’s a great rule for making D&D a tiny bit less lethal. OED has a roughly equivalent Save vs. Death at 0 HP, and white box had a %chance to survive (survive what? It never said) attached to high Con scores. 5e’s Death Checks are maybe more tense, but they’re not self-limiting the way Rolling the Body is: eventually if they keep rolling your body you’re going to run out of Con.
- Halfling Luck. Halflings get to spend luck on other people’s rolls or themselves and recover level in Luck per day. When Halflings spend luck they get 2 points for every point spent (Halfling Thieves rolling luck dice instead, as normal).
Differentiates them more from Elves and Dwarves, in a way that really feels like the source material.
- Mighty Deeds for Fighters. Fighters can attempt a Mighty Deed of Arms by declaring what kind of combat stunt or maneuver they’re attempting (such as knocking a foe down or back, blinding them, disarming them, tumbling between their legs, etc.) They forgo their normal Attack Bonus based on level and roll a Deed Die which gets used as the bonus instead; in addition if the deed die shows 3+ and the attack hit the DM rules on how effective the maneuver was based on how much it exceeds 3. E.g. A blinding attack that rolls a 3 on the Deed Die might get blood in their eyes and give them a -2 next round, while a 7+ might force them to Save vs. Paralysis or be blinded permanently.
Gary Gygax, with his “fast and furious” one-minute combat rounds didn’t see any need for anything more than the DM adjudicating attempts to do combat stunts like knock somebody down, blind them with your torch, or what-have-you, while later editions piled on rules and maneuvers for special cases. The Deed Die solves all that with a universal mechanic for off-the-wall stunts that still leaves enough room for DM interpretation to keep it from becoming some kind of story-game narrative push. I also allow non-Fighters to use a Deed Die, but theirs is always a d6 with success on a 6, instead of the Fighter’s growing Deed Die with success on a 3+.
- Luck Die for Thieves. As per DCC Thieves cans add their Luck Die to any of their rolls by spending a point of Luck, which they recover 1 point per level per night.
Thieves skills suck, and always have. Except for climbing, all of their signature skills start at around a 1 in 6 chance to succeed rising all the way to a 3 in 4 chance at 9th level. Even if you interpret it Philotomy-style as being an extraordinary ability (anybody can hide, thieves can hide in shadows!) for most of the Thief’s career they are going to fail at most things they attempt. OED makes rolling to fail not require looking up anything on a chart, but doesn’t change the probabilities (which, admittedly, is kind of the point of how Dan derived the rules). As soon as you add Luck Dice and Luck regeneration to Thieves they probably *can* succeed in the clutch, when lives or fortunes are on the line… but only a few times a day. In a game where a first level Wizard can have an encounter-winning spell like Sleep once a day at first level, being able to probably guarantee success roughly as often for picking a lock or moving silently is only fair.
- Re-Casting Spent Spells Through Spellburn. Same as DCC rules, it’s a point of Spellburn (a point off of either Con, Str, or Dex) per level of spell… plus to succeed they’ll have to roll a check d20+Int Bonus+Caster Level-Spell Level against Target 20. The Spellburn has to be done each time you want to cast a spell you’ve already use up for the day. Attribute points recover at the same rate as Hit Points, which in OED is level per week of rest and relaxation in comfortable surroundings.
The single thing that players have complained most about in all the time I’ve been playing D&D, going all the way back to 1975, is the limited number of spells per day at low levels. A couple of times per day, the wizard gets to be a wizard, the rest of the time he can cower behind everybody and toss daggers. This is one of the first things that used to get replaced with some sort of spell-point system with many fewer spells known but some pool of points limiting how many times they can be cast, or in modern editions “cantrips” that are roughly equivalent to throwing a dagger but can be cast infinitely. The thing is I like the strategic aspect of the Magic User having to decide which spells to equip each day; I think it adds a lot to the game. I also think that encouraging players to use a variety of spells, rather than to save all their spell points/slots to cast their single best spell (usually Sleep at low levels) is an important consideration. Keeping the Vancian casting limits, but including the DCC “out” that you’re never completely out of spells as a wizard as long as you’re prepared to sacrifice something valuable gives you the best of both worlds.
- Dwarves can smell gold, and Elves are allergic to iron.
The RP aspects of both of these are just too much fun to do without.