Oct 22, 2018

Changes to the d20 mechanic to fit the Moldvay Basic style

This is Part 1 of an ongoing series - the introduction and table of contents can be found here.

In order to bend the D&D Third Edition rules into the tiny box that holds my re-imagined Moldvay Basic, the biggest change is probably going to be to the core d20 mechanic. There will be other changes, but this one will affect the way attacks, skill checks, and saving throws are handled so it's probably the most important.

For the solution, I propose this set of AC/DC (for Armor Class/Difficulty Class) tables. Will they work? I have no idea. The idea is to provide one table for characters and their associated NPCs, and another for "monsters" (which is the game definition of any NPC not under the control of the players).

Here's the table for the Characters to use:
CharacterAC / DC
Normal Man11121314151617181920202020
4th +08091011121314151617181920

Any time a character or one of their NPCs makes an attack, needs to make a save, or to do something that you deem requires a roll, you consult this table and look up the appropriate number along the top to find the result. One could adjust the table to cover AC 10-20, or expand it higher if you want high level DCs -- I based this table straight off the Moldvay Character Attacks table on page B27. It's not groundbreaking, but remember that all characters use this table, regardless of class. Later on I will talk about using feats or class abilities to modify this, but this is the core combat/save/skill check engine.

Now, for monsters, it's going to be more involved. Even though we're limiting characters to only two stages of advancement (or three if you count their NPCs) Monsters can have 17 hit dice or more. Of course, if you want a really gritty game with lots of rolling you can use the Character AC/DC table, but let's look at how the Monster AC/DC table looks:
Monster'sAC \ DC
Hit Dice11121314151617181920212223
Up to 110111213141516171819202020
1+ to 209101112131415161718192020
2+ to 308091011121314151617181920
3+ to 407080910111213141516171819
4+ to 506070809101112131415161718
5+ to 605060708091011121314151617
6+ to 704050607080910111213141516
7+ to 903040506070809101112131415
9+ to 1102030405060708091011121314
11+ to 1302020304050607080910111213
13+ to 1502020203040506070809101112
15+ to 1702020202030405060708091011
17+ or more02020202020304050607080910

No surprises here, though I never noticed the 2-HD bump beginning with monsters who had 7+ HD. I suppose if you wanted to have an "overpowered" Basic-style game you could use this table for characters, but I rather like the fact that a 10th level Fighter is going to be significantly outmatched in terms of to-hit capability when compared to a 10 HD monster.

Now, I am assuming with this system that we will use the standard 3E trio of saves - Fortitude, Reflex, and Will, along with the character bonuses to those saves based on level and a target DC. Maybe you prefer the increased granularity of the old save system, and/or you prefer to not have your character's saves increase, beyond a +2 bump at 4th level, and you don't want to use DCs? Let's see how an adapted Saving Throw table might look:
DC for Type of Attack
CharacterDeath RayMagicParalysis orDragonRods,
Classor PoisonWandsTurn to StoneBreathStaves, or Spells
Normal Man1415161717
The asterisks next to the Dwarf/Halfling and Elf entries are if you are aiming for a race-as-class style game.

This table should be pretty straightforward - the number is the DC that the character will need to meet or exceed in order to save against the particular hazard. Just be sure to use the correct level (1-3, or 4+) if you use this. It doesn't exactly line up with the old table (you would just use the number above as the target rather than the DC if you wanted that) found on B26, but it still reflects the variety of saves for each class and improves with the jump at 4th level. If you just use the old table as-is, characters of level 4+ gain a +2 bonus to their saving throw rolls.

I will talk more about classes in a later installment, but clearly most of the 13 classes in the Third Edition player's handbook aren't directly represented above. One question about using the five-fold saves above is whether it would be better to consolidate the classes, a'la Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (i.e., Fighters, Paladins, and Rangers all use the Fighter entry), or to expand them. For me, I'll just use the 3E-style saves but I thought it would be interesting to look at the old system and think how to adapt a newer system to use the old saves.

That's it for this installment - In my next installment I'll look at characters - races, classes, abilities, and so forth.

Oct 21, 2018

Basic 3E - Merging the 1981 Red Book and 2000 Third Edition

This all started because I had a strange idea that resulted from a conversation with someone - what would it be like to play a game using only Moldvay Basic -  not by capping the character levels at 3, but instead capping the spells, saves, and attack progressions to what's printed in the 1981 version of the Basic rules. Moldvay Basic has information on Cleric and Magic-User/Elf spell slots and Hit Dice to 6th level (though listed as for NPCs), as well as the attack matrix and save adjustments for characters level 4+.
The articles in this series won't be so much about clear-cut rules, but mainly my musing on how to go about bringing this idea of a Basic-style game and merging it with the parts of the Third Edition rules that I like. Hopefully this will mean that someone who likes the basic conceit but uses a different edition (revised 3E, Pathfinder, or whatever) can use these as a springboard to develop their own.
The way I envision the outline of this series is as follows (I will update this post with the link and title when the appropriate article has been posted):

My hope is by the end of the series I'll have a working system that I can coalesce into a document no larger than the size of the 1981 Basic book - 64 US Letter or A4 sized pages. Fingers crossed!