Wednesday, March 2, 2011

HEROic D&D -- Part 1

I did a series of these on the HERO boards last year, and it fizzled out. Decided to re-post these and maybe get farther this year.

I think that a number conversions of D&D 3E and AD&D have already been done, and certainly portions of Fantasy HERO dealt with the D&D flavor of adventuring.

So why have I decided to start on a series of posts on a similar topic? The primary reason: my own amusement and interest. I half want to do a thought experiment along the lines of "Mazes & Minotaurs" and "X-plorers" which is re-creating the first RPG with a different twist.

For Mazes & Minotaurs, it was: "what if D&D had been inspired primarily by Greek myth instead of all those cool fantasy novels by Howard, Tolkien, Chalker, Vance, etc.?"

For "X-plorers", it was: "what if D&D had been primarily inspired by science fiction novels instead of fantasy novels?"

For me, my posited what if: "what if Basic D&D (the Moldvay one with the Erol Otus cover) had been built using the HERO System 6th Edition Toolkit?"

Let's get started shall we?

Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma. SIWDCC. The first set of Characteristics -- I mean Ability Scores -- I ever memorized. Seems to be very straightforward:

D&D Strength = HERO Str
D&D Intelligence = HERO Int
D&D Wisdom = HERO Ego (yeah, it doesn't mean the same thing, but if I use a time machine, jump forward in time to the D20/OGL era and sneak a look at 3E, we find out that the Will Save is based on this; besides, it'll make things uneven with a figured conversion this early)
D&D Constitution = HERO Con (ooh, may have problems later with damage, hit points, and dying)
D&D Charisma = HERO Pre

Simple right?

I think we'll keep the conversion 1 is to 1. Average values for D&D are 9 to 12, with bonuses and penalties starting at 13 and 8 respectively -- so it's arguably okay. Plus it keeps things simple this early.

Other Characteristics: OCV
Figuring out the OCV is essentially reverse engineering the "To Hit" table. But here's the funny thing when I look at the D&D Basic Set table matching armor class to character level and the equivalent "to-hit" roll on a d20: from 1st to 3rd level all PCs have exactly the same chance to hit a given Armor Class (AC).

Say what?

Fighters, Dwarves, Magic-Users, Halflings, Elves, Clerics, and Thieves all have the same chance to hit from 1st to 3rd level. If we use our time machine again to sneak a peak at the B/X D&D retro-clone Labyrinth Lord, we find that Fighters, Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings actually get to improve their attack rolls upon hitting third, while all other classes have to wait until 4th -- but all 1st level characters start off the same. (Sneaking a peek at what makes these other classes different, we find out that they get better hit points, get to use more weapons, get to wear better armor than other classes to "balance" things out.)

In essence, they all have the same OCV. And that's where the game designer's philosophy comes in and we start putting the toolkit to work.

Shouldn't a fighter inherently get a better chance to hit than a magic-user -- even if they are only first level? Yes. At least I think they should.

Given the toolkit nature of HERO, obviously you can create any type of character you want. But the point is to build "the first RPG" using the toolkit so I looking at the 'choose a starting template *cough* I mean class, and customize it approach'.

So let's give beginning Fighters, Dwarves, Elves, and Halfling characters a vague option to up their OCV by 1 or 2 for now and move on.

Other Characteristics: DCV
Crap. The abstract armor class system. The system that combines "to hit" resolution with "does the attack penetrate the armor".

*deep breath* Game philosophy argues that certain classes should be trained in avoiding getting hit. Other classes have the option of knowing how to block (wait, isn't that a basic combat maneuver?) Other classes just suck at combat and wait behind the fighters, doing what they do best.

So let's give beginning Fighters, Dwarves, Elves, and Halfling characters a vague option to up their DCV by 1 or 2 for now (potentially with some size modifiers for the halflings and dwarves to make the differences "feel" different while working the same mechanically) and move on.

Other Characteristics: Hit Points
Hit Points, you must become Body and Stun in HERO. In Basic D&D, you fight at full strength until you hit 0 hit points, at which point, you're dying. Oh wait, let's check the rules... here we are:

"Any creature reduced to 0 hit points (or less) is dead."

Man, old school is brutal.

You could house rule it, I guess. Or you could adopt a house rule I've seen: when your hit points = -1 x (Constitution) you're dead. Which -- using this dubious bit of logic -- would mean that a character's Body should be based on his HERO Constitution! It kinda makes sense: reduced constitution normally results in a penalty to hit points so I'll nod sagely and move on.

Stun. Which doesn't really exist in D&D, because in combat you're hopped up on adrenalin and ignore minor cuts and bruises, blows to the head which would stagger but not kill prize fighters, etc.

I sense I'm losing steam here so, quick temporary ruling:

If your character class has Hit Dice d4, then your Stun is 14/16.
If your character class has Hit Dice d6, then your Stun is 20.
If your character class has Hit Dice d8, then your Stun is 24/26.

And now I have to take a break and ruminate on the remaining HERO characteristics, figure out what do to about saving throws (ignore 'em?), and determine the implications of my initial thoughts on the damage of weapons in this milieu.


  1. Just curious, but when Fantasy Hero does fantasy as well as D&D does, why bother with a conversion. Bear in mind I'm not a big fan of either D&D or Fantasy Hero (and to be honest, I really don't think the Hero System does anything but the Superhero genre that well, but that's what it was originally designed for.

  2. Hi Underminer!

    I suppose that part of my logic back then (and to some extent now) is to convert various NPCs, PCs and monsters into HERO characters and then play straight using HERO rules.

    It's not REALLY a system re-creation, but two things:
    (1) primarily a way to rationalize in my head how these conversions would be done;
    (2) very secondarily, a way to explore how HERO deviated from the original ruleset -- as I think I've hinted at here by how I handled stats.


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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