Tuesday, December 01, 2009

For Zak S.

Mr. S asked a handful of questions over at his blog. I wrote up a response but blogger or my computer won't let me paste the answers into the "Comment" field, so they're going up here. (Computers sometimes make trolls very CRANKY!!! @|{ )

Chad: This would fly like a lead brick in my campaigns, but that's because my games are very thematic and verisimilitude is my highest good. But I've been in games where that would be cool and add to the wacky fun.

AC: Typically, what it means is that low-level PCs are hard to hit, but have glass jaws. It means they can take some risks, but once they start taking damage it's time to panic. I rather like that. It works well for my games.

Spells: Er, never have had this problem. Not sure what to tell you. The tables on how many spells a PC can cast in a given day seem pretty clear to me: a single first level spell when at level 1, two first level spells at class level 2, etc. There are bonus spells for clerics in older versions of AD&D.

If you're using 3rd edition, I think even magic-users, er, I mean wizards, get bonus spells they can cast for high intelligence.

As for how many spells you can know, for magic-users, that is based on intelligence, and always seemed fairly clear-cut to me, but I usually ignored it. If the PC found it, and rolled well enough to add it to their book, I let them have it.

Which version are you playing now? Maybe we can help you puzzle it out.

Hexcrawl: Yeah, I usually have a few notes about what's in each hex, though most hexes are empty other than their terrain. If a wandering monster roll turns up something interesting, I'll add it to my notes. But for the most part, I have maybe only one hex worthy of notes for every ten or twelve, I think. I make it fairly easy for the PCs to know which hexes are points of interest, and rather difficult to find out details about what, exactly is in those hexes. Rumors and local knowledge tend to be full of half-truths and misleading gossip. True info is available, but costs. Sometimes coin is enough, sometimes it requires a small quest to earn what you want to know.

Anachro-anarcho-anachrids: Hmmm... noted, and thanks. ;)

Vampires/Medusa: I think you did just fine. I routinely throw monsters at my players that they have no hope of defeating... in a fair fight. So my players don't fight fair. Figuring out how to defeat a foe is a lot more fun, to my way of thinking, than going toe-to-toe in a flurry of dice-tossing dueling spreadsheets. ;p

Monty Haul becomes an issue when the players can simply banish, disspel, eviscerate, decapitate, or otherwise discombobulate whatever stands in their way with little effort on their part. When the players can stop thinking and can expect to win just by tossing dice and modifiers at a problem, you're in Monty Haul territory.

Fear of Death: Yes! Yes-yes-yes-YES! Fear of death focuses the players, makes them be clever and sneaky, and just improves the game all around. Though I honestly think that death is kinda boring, especially when you consider all the other wonderful things you can do to the PCs, like curse them in imaginative ways, saddle them with quests, smear their reputations, transform them into cute, fluffy animals, etc...

Stick: Mostly, yes. Part of the problem is that some GMs will simply not let their players be awesome. They'll shoot down any good idea, ruin any plan, and rain on any moment of glory the players try to create. There's a fine line between challenging the players and being a dick.

That said, just about every plan has some flaw in it, and no plan survives contact with the enemy. Adjusting on the fly, overcoming unexpected obstacles, and sometimes narrowly escaping are lots of fun for the players and prevent combats from turning anti-climactic.


Anonymous said...

Hey thanks!

On spells--I run both AD&D (1e) and 3.5

Let's say I'm a level 1 Ad&D m.u.

I can cast one spell/day. I know that.

BUT--Do I only KNOW one spell?

Do I keep rolling ont he "chance to know" percentage until I reach the # of spells I'm supposed to know?

What about 3.5?

Alex Schroeder said...

In D&D 3.5 the rule is part of the spellbook description: "A wizard begins play with a spellbook containing all 0-level wizard spells (except those from her prohibited school or schools, if any; see School Specialization, below) plus three 1st-level spells of your choice. For each point of Intelligence bonus the wizard has, the spellbook holds one additional 1st-level spell of your choice. At each new wizard level, she gains two new spells of any spell level or levels that she can cast (based on her new wizard level) for her spellbook. At any time, a wizard can also add spells found in other wizards’ spellbooks to her own." [ref]

trollsmyth said...

Thanks, Alex. I've never played 3.5 so I don't think I could have answered that one quickly.

1e is quite a bit stingier. Magic-users begin with read magic, plus one each from the four columns of spells found on page 39 of the DMG, rolled randomly by the DM.

Beyond that, spells must be found, borrowed, bought, or stolen. When a magic-user gets their hands on a new spell, they must study it. You (or the player) rolls percentile dice, aiming to get equal to or lower than chance to know a spell based on intelligence (page 10).

Now here's where things get funky. The PHB seems to imply that either a) you roll for every spell in a level you can cast, and add them to your spellbook as you succeed (but then why bother with acquiring spells in the wild?) or b) you can only attempt to learn each spell once, and if you fail to master, say, Tenser's Floating Disk, you may never try again (though you are guaranteed at least a minimum of spells at each level, which may give you second chances if you were the victim of poor rolling).

I'm fairly certain that (b) is the intent, especially by the time the DMG hit the shelves, but I'm not a big fan. I ignore the minimum spells per level thing, and let the magic-user try again for each copy of the spell acquired. The can only try once per copy, however.

Clerics have access to every spell on the list, subject to the whims of their deity and the DM.

Does that clear things up for you?

Anonymous said...

So you're saying in AD&D there is NO maximum # of spells knowable. There's just that % chance?

But I'm right about it being confusing enough to have not figured it out for about 30 years, aren't I?

And thanks to Alex on the 3.5. I never found it since I was expecting it to be in a chart.

Alex Schroeder said...

Are you interested in Labyrinth Lord? If so, there you start the game with two first level spells and one second level spell (which you can't cast). And: "The Labyrinth Lord may allow these spell casters to consult a magic-user guild when they gain levels, and the guild will give them spells, determined randomly, so that the spell books contain the same number of spells the characters are able to cast. This practice might not be allowed, and instead characters may depend entirely on finding scroll spells to add to a spell book, or finding other spell books with new spells in them. Scroll spells of any level may be copied to a spell book, but the spell disappears from the scroll. Characters may also copy spells from one spell book to another, and this process does not erase spells from a book."

The option that you know exactly as many spells as you can cast in a given day is something I've seen elsewhere on the web as well. I sort of like it! I saw this mentioned on the Ode to Black Dougal site: B/X Magic-User Spellbooks. He claims it results in "a de facto specialist system." An interesting thought that I'd like to play with in a future campaign – but not quite the question Zak asked. :)

trollsmyth said...

Zak, sorry, the max spells per level is also on that table on page 10 of the PHB.

And yeah, you are completely justified in being confused. I never could make heads-or-tails of what was in the PHB, so I went with what the more clearly worded DMG said on the matter, and completely forgot about the confusing bits because this is something that often gets houseruled or ignored. Now that I know the history of their publication, I suspect rules were changed and tightened-up between their publications.