Tuesday, March 8, 2011

HEROic D&D -- Part 2

Dancing around Classes
HERO is kind of a counter-class RPG in terms of philosophy, making it counter to D&D which pretty much defines the core mechanics of your character. The problem with that kind of approach is revealed here by OSR blogger jrients and his work on the Thief class:

"According to page B22 everybody has a 1 in 6 chance of finding a trap, except for dwarves who get 2 in 6. Labyrinth Lord has the same language. But starting B/X thieves only have a 10% chance to find traps, with the LL version getting a mighty 14% at first level. Page 13 of my Labyrinth Lord rulebook specifies that thieves only get one chance to find any given trap. That would make them actually worse at finding traps than everyone else in the party."

Leading me to two inescapable conclusions:
(1) I'll eventually have to compare all the starting packages/templates to determine just how balanced these classes are to each other in HERO terms;
(2) I need to address the tensions between the Basic D&D design philosophy and the HERO design philosophy soon.

Revisiting the "To Hit" table and "Armor Class"
I wasn't happy with my prior handling for several reasons:

1. while I do want fighters (and other fight-y character classes) to be better at combat, it seems to run counter to the feel of Basic D&D to give a bonus right away. How to handle it?

Weapon Familiarities comes to mind as a possible solution. Taking a cue from 3E, Fighters have most of the Weapon Familiarities, other fight-y related classes have less, and Magic-Users are stuck with the Everyman equivalents.

2. Armor Class is essentially reflects Armor in the Basic D&D rules. It's on the table and the equipment charts. The rules mention improvements to one's AC based on Dex briefly, though not as often as the shield. Armor Class is about armor, therefore it's different from the "Dex adjustment" to AC.

HEROic D&D's biggest departure therefore at this point is how it handles this. No Armor Class, just DCV based on Dex (and perhaps some levels).

I can see I'm going to have to define my hybrid design philosophy soon, but first some real work.

Other Characteristics: PD and ED
Keep 'em at default or allow slight tweaking for race and character concept. I doesn't impact my impending headache with handling damage because most weapons are killing attacks and ignore PD and ED.

There may be a problem down the line with non-edged weapons, but not everything can be a killing attack.

Punch it in the nose, man.
Other Characteristics: SPD
Keep at base! At higher levels (if we look at the Expert Set and the D&D Cyclopedia) you get more than one attack per round, but that's later.

Other Characteristics: Saving Throws
Are saving throws a characteristic / ability? Well, they seem to be one.

But they may not be in HERO terms. If we look at 3E, we see that the various saving throws have been reduced to three saves, all based on one's ability scores, and racial/class bonuses. If we look at Castles & Crusades, we see that concept extended to ALL abilities -- each ability gets an associated saving throw. Furthermore, not all spells and special abilities are impacted by saving throws.

Therefore, in HEROic D&D, spells, spell-like abilities, and other effects that you would avoid or mitigate with a saving throw can be addressed with a characteristic roll.

Example 1 -- the Sleep spell. In Basic D&D, there's no save listed. So it's purchased (don't ask me the costs, I'm not yet there -- don't stress me out, man) with no associated limitation like "doesn't work against someone who makes a successful EGO roll +1/2".

Example 2 -- Wands, Rods, and Staves. Theoretically avoidable by 'dodging' the beam, and can be bought with a "doesn't work against someone who makes a successful DEX roll +1/2".

In the end, though, it seems to disappear into the background given the options open to a HERO ruleset. Many of these saving throws were rules abstractions whose purposes were unknown to me. I think I only found out about the "avoiding the beam of the Wands, Rods, and Staves" element by reading Dragon Magazine's Sage Advice, and possibly some other passage in the old AD&D manual. Which STILL doesn't make sense given that some wands cast Area Effect spells, so how does THAT work?

Okay, to sum up: Saving Throws are essentially a limitation that can be put onto certain types of spells, special abilities, and so on... and can be resolved by pre-defining characteristic rolls to general groups of spells, special abilities, and so on.

Other Characteristics: REC and END
The usefulness of REC for recovering from unconsciousness remains, but the END stat is a bit problematic given that it adds a lot of book keeping. Will keep both in as is for now, since there may be implications when we get to spells.

Or not.

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

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