Sample Character for BX3e

I’ll be posting the character classes, along with the rules for character creation, soon but wanted to show you what a finished character looked like.

Here’s a iconic character, Morgan Ironwolf, created using my Frankenstein monster rules.

Coins in BX3E

Before posting character class revisions for my “modern take” on Moldvay’s B/X D&D rules, I wanted to post about coins’ weight and the value of each coin in relation to other coins.

Based on the description given in Moldvay’s Basic and Expert rules, “all coins are about equal in size and weight. Each coin is about the size and weight of an American half-dollar piece.” With a weight of .4 oz each, that means 40 coins weigh about 1 pound. For ease of calculating encumbrance, I’m going to make coins 20% smaller, approximately the size and weight of an American quarter, so that 50 coins weigh 1 pound.

The conversion rate between different types of coins will remain unchanged:

10 copper pieces (cp) = 1 silver piece

10 silver pieces (sp) = 1 gold piece

2 electrum pieces (ep) = 1 gold piece

5 gold pieces (gp) = 1 platinum piece (pp)

100 cp = 10 sp = 2 ep = 1 gp = 1/5 pp

Character Class Overview (for BX3E)

So I’ve decided to use the shorthand title of BX3E for my modern take on Moldvay’s Basic and Expert rules. Looking over those rules, I’ve seen that the Basic rules, for levels 1-3, and Expert rules, for levels 4-14, were eventually going to be followed by a set of Companion rules. These rules would have allowed for characters to range from levels 1 through 36, exactly like Frank Mentzer’s subsequent BECMI ruleset. Unfortunately, Tom Moldvay never released his Companion Rules, and the BECMI rules soon followed. For the record, I have nothing against the BECMI rules… my preference just runs toward the B/X boxed sets.

Mulling this over, I’ve decided to take a different tack than the Old School Essentials retroclone, which maintains the 14 level limits of the Expert rules, or Mentzer’s BECMI rules, which brought characters to 36th level (and beyond). Instead, I opted to design the game for characters of level 1 through 20. Having never played beyond 13th level in any iteration of D&D, I’m not entirely comfortable with trying to flesh out rules for characters above 20th level. Besides, I could always try to revise the rules at a later date in order to incorporate those rules, if I ever get around to actually playing BX3E.

Also, I’ve decided to standardize character advancement by using the same XP Progression Table for all classes and by allowing all classes to attain level 20. Hopefully I’m able to balance the classes in way that isn’t too off-putting for old school gamers, or that adds needless complexity to the rules.

Character Class Overview

Most D&D characters will be humans. A human may be a cleric, fighter, magic-user, or thief. Humans are the most widespread of all races. The human traits of curiosity, courage, and resourcefulness have helped them to adapt, survive, and prosper everywhere they have gone.

Some players may wish to have demi-human characters (elves, dwarves, or halflings). Each type of demi-human is a class in itself. The demi­human races are cousin species to humans. Each character class is further explained hereafter.

The character class tables that follow give the official name of each level in each character class or profession. They also give the type and number of Hit Dice used to determine the Hit Points for each class.

Descriptions of special abilities for each class follow each character class table. The tables are arranged in alphabetical order, by class.

The following chart shows the number of Experience Point (XP) needed for characters to advance in level in any of the listed character classes.

LevelExperience Points LevelExperience Points
10 11450,000
22,500 12600,000
35,000 13800,000
410,000 141,000,000
520,000 151,250,000
640,000 161,500,000
780,000 171,750,000
8150,000 182,000,000
9240,000 192,250,000
10360,000 202,500,000

Back to Basic (Dungeons & Dragons)

In trying to come up with a modern take on classic, Moldvay, Dungeons & Dragons, I’m going to use the old Basic and Expert rules from 1981 as my guide.

The goal is to keep the rules for characters and DMs, including monster and treasure listings, to under 150 pages. I know you’re probably thinking, “that doesn’t sound very rules-light or basic to me,” but the combined rules for Moldvay’s rules come to over 120 pages and I want to add some simple rules for skill use to the mix.

The rules, like their predecessor, will only cover character levels 1-14 and will only include the following classes: Cleric, Dwarf, Elf, Fighter, Halfling, Magic-User, and Thief. Alignment will be limited to Chaotic, Neutral, and Lawful.

Should be an interesting project, especially since I haven’t really played Basic D&D since the early 1980s!

Back to gaming (finally)… and, hopefully, a new D&D project.

While Covid has put a damper (to say the least) on my gaming over the past year, the last few months have seen a return to gaming through use of both Zoom and Roll20.

One group, currently playing GURPS via Zoom, picked up in November, after leaving off in-person gaming last spring. The other, which plays a Barbarians of Lemuria game via Roll20, started up a few weeks ago after the pandemic put an end to us gathering in my basement last March.

So, now that I’m back to gaming again, I’m hoping to start working on a Basic D&D version of AD&D 3rd Edition. As someone who hasn’t played a ton of Basic D&D, and who prefers Moldvay Basic over every other iteration, I hope to do the system justice while keeping the rules both brief and intuitive. I’ll be adding materials as I work on the system, which will be based (of course) on AD&D 3rd Edition.

AD&D3 Rule Changes (aka Fixing the Thief)

assassin

Now that I’ve finally managed to get a good gaming group together, we’ve been able to give the rules a decent test-drive over the past few months.

From what we’ve seen in game-play,  1st and 2nd level AD&D3 characters are more resilient than their 1st and 2nd edition counterparts.  Spellcasters, as intended, have more flexibility with spellcasting.  At the same time, classic adventures can be easily converted and are still a challenge for low-leveled groups.

At the same time, we’ve also seen some class-balance issues when it comes to the Thief.  As presented in the rules, the Thief class seems mostly on par with its earlier counterparts.  At the same time, when measured against other AD&D3 classes, it definitely was in need of some added oomph.

The following rule changes to Thief (and Assassin) class abilities should fix this imbalance without adding complexity:

Backstab (Assassins and Thieves)
Thieves are opportunistic attackers, striking vulnerable foes more effectively than others. When making a melee or ranged attack against an opponent’s rear facing, or when making a melee attack against a flanked foe, thieves gain a +2 bonus to their attack and damage rolls. This bonus to attack and damage rolls increases by 1 point (to a maximum of +5) at thief levels 6, 11, and 16.

A thief may only Backstab creatures that have a discernible anatomy. The thief must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot. They may only Backstab with weapons listed on the thief weapon proficiency list. If making ranged Backstab attacks, they must be within close range for the weapon used.

Sneak Attack (Thieves)
A thief normally avoids face-to-face combat if possible, preferring instead to use stealth or guile to catch an opponent unaware or off-guard.

If a thief successfully strikes a surprised opponent, the first attack deals twice the usual Backstab damage (4 points of Backstab damage at levels 1-5, 6 points of Backstab damage at levels 6-10, etc.)

Sneak Attacks, unlike normal Backstab attacks, need not be made against flanked foes or a foes’ rear facing. The other requirements for Backstabbing opponents still apply.

Flank Attacks (Page 68 PHB and DMG)
Attacks made against a defender by flanking foes are called flanking attacks. Flanking attacks against a defender are made with a +1 bonus to the attack roll. Thieves and assassins making flank attacks against opponents gain an additional, Backstab, bonus. See Opponents and Facing on page 65 for details on flanking attacks in combat.

Rear Attacks (Page 68 PHB and DMG)
Opponents attacking a defender’s rear facing gain a +2 bonus to their attack roll. Thieves and assassins making rear attacks against opponents gain an additional, Backstab, bonus. See Opponents and Facing on page 65 for details on making rear attacks in combat.

A flanking attacker who is also making a rear attack does not gain both attack roll bonuses. Only the better, rear attack, bonus applies to its attack rolls (though its ally still gains a flanking bonus to its attack rolls).

Hello Old Friend!

Back in the 90s, during my AD&D 2nd edition days, my default campaign setting wasn’t Greyhawk but a cobbled together mish-mash of Tolkien, George RR Martin, and H.P. Lovecraft called Gaile.

Gaile’s western continent, Avandunil, served as home for my campaign but, once 3rd edition D&D rolled around, I decided to mix things up (and cut back on the blatant theft of place-names and campaign details from its sources) by changing the focus from Avandunil to eastern Gaile or Estegalle.

Since I’ve revamped my AD&D 3rd Edition rules and cleaned them up, I figured that I should dust off the old campaign setting, warts and all… and so I have.  Like Avandunil before it, Estegalle borrows a lot from Martin, Lovecraft, and Tolkien but also draws from varied real-world cultures; making it feel quite a bit like the Known World campaign setting for Basic D&D.

My slightly updated campaign notes for Estegalle are located at:

http://www.scruffygrognard.com/gaile.htm

estegallelo

 

Replacing the D20 with Multiple Dice in AD&D

These rules are adapted from the SRD variant rules so that they can be used with 3rd Edition AD&D.

dice

Metagame Analysis: The Bell Curve

In general, rolling either 3d6 or 2d10 leads to a grittier game, because there will be far fewer very good or very bad rolls.

Example:  When rolling 3d6 you can no longer roll 1, 2, 19 or 20, and most rolls will be clustered around the average of 10.5. With a d20, every result is equally likely; you have a 5% chance of rolling an 18 and a 5% chance of rolling a 10.

With 3d6, there’s only one possible combination of dice that results in an 18 (three sixes, obviously), but there are twenty-four combinations that result in a 10.

Players used to the thrill of rolling high and the agony of a natural 1 will get that feeling less often — but it may be more meaningful when it does happen. Good die rolls are a fundamental reward of the game, and it changes the character of the game when the rewards are somewhat stronger but less frequent.

Game balance shifts subtly when you use multiple dice instead of a single d20. Rolling multiple dice gives you more average rolls, which favors the stronger side in combat. In the AD&D game, that’s almost always the PCs. Many monsters, especially low-Hit Dice monsters encountered in groups, rely heavily on a lucky shot to damage PCs. When rolling multiple dice, those lucky shots are fewer and farther between. In a fair fight when everyone rolls a 10, the PCs should win almost every time. Using multiple dice means that results adhere more tightly to that average.

Another subtle change to the game is that rolling either 3d6 or 2d10 instead of 1d20 awards bonuses relatively more and the die roll relatively less, simply because the die roll is almost always within a few points of 10. A character’s ability score modifiers, proficiency and common ability bonuses, attack bonuses, and magical adjustments have a much bigger impact on success and failure than they do in the standard d20 rules.

The following charts illustrate the probabilities of each result when rolling a single d20, 3d6, or 2d10:

1d20 Results (Average Roll = 10.5)

Result (Percentage)

1 (5.00)

2 (5.00)

3  (5.00)

4  (5.00)

5  (5.00)

6  (5.00)

7  (5.00)

8  (5.00)

9  (5.00)

10  (5.00)

11  (5.00)

12  (5.00)

13  (5.00)

14  (5.00)

15  (5.00)

16  (5.00)

17  (5.00)

18  (5.00)

19  (5.00)

20  (5.00)

 

3d6 Results (Average Roll = 10.5)

Result (Percentage)

3 (0.46)

4 (1.39)

5 (2.78)

6 (4.63)

7  (6.94)

8 (9.72)

9  (11.57)

10 (12.50)

11 (12.50)

12 (11.57)

13 (9.72)

14 (6.94)

15 (4.63)

16 (2.78)

17 (1.39)

18 (0.46)

 

2d10 Results (Average Roll = 11.0)

Result  (Percentage)

2  (1.00)

3   (2.00)

4   (3.00)

5   (4.00)

6   (5.00)

7   (6.00)

8   (7.00)

9   (8.00)

10  (9.00)

11  (10.00)

12  (9.00)

13  (8.00)

14  (7.00)

15  (6.00)

16  (5.00)

17  (4.00)

18  (3.00)

19  (2.00)

20  (1.00)

Automatic Successes and Failures

Automatic successes and automatic failures occur as follows:

3d6:  Automatic successes occur on a natural 18 and automatic failures on a natural 3. Neither occurs as often as in standard d20 die roll (less than ½% of the time as opposed to 5% of the time).

2d10:  Automatic successes occur on a natural 20 and automatic failures on a natural 2. Neither occurs as often as in standard d20 die roll (less than 1% of the time as opposed to 5% of the time).

 

Critical Hits and Fumbles

The rules for automatic successes and failures given above could apply for attack rolls as well.  This, however, would make critical hits and fumbles rare in combat; and would undermine the effectiveness of magical weapons such as a dagger of venom or vorpal sword.

Rather than use the rules given for automatic successes and failures above, the following rules may be used so that both critical hits and fumbles factor into combat with greater frequency:

3d6:  Critical hits occur on a natural 16-18 and fumbles on a natural 3-5. Both would occur as often as in standard d20 die roll (4.63% of the time as opposed to 5% of the time).

2d10:  Critical hits occur on a natural 19-20 and fumbles on a natural 2-3. Neither occurs as often as in standard d20 die roll (3% of the time as opposed to 5% of the time).

 

PS:  These variant rules go out to my gaming buddies Steve and Mark… who both seem to be cursed when it comes to d20 task resolution!  😉

Fjarrstrand Revisited

Download Link:  The Fjarrstrand Sagas, Revised and Expanded

approaching_iceland

While I’m posting updated rules, I may as well post my expanded rules and setting info for the Fjarrstrand Sagas.  I first posted notes on this setting 2 years ago, along with this blurb:

With Ragnarok and the death of the gods, the world-tree, Yggdrasil, itself perished.  Following its collapse, the nine worlds were wracked with cataclysmic earthquakes, volcanoes, and hellish storms as the realms became intertwined.  

Midgard, as the primary battleground between the giants and gods, was rendered uninhabitable.  Driven by desperation, sailors tried to brave ocean voyages westward… seeking new lands beyond the storm-tossed and turbulent ocean.  Of those who set out, only a handful of Viking crews that set out from the British Isles and Iceland found the new land that came to be called The Distant Shore or Fjarrstrand.  Two of those crews returned to the ruins of Midgard in order to lead their people to the shelter of this new paradise.

Humans are relatively new to theses lands, having first sailed here from dying Midgard nearly 500 years ago.  As a new homeland to humanity, Fjarrstrand is a largely unexplored realm.  Humans live in small swaths of coastal and frontier lands that they have carved out for themselves, while always seeking to expand their holdings.

Fjarrstrand’s ocean is strewn with numerous islands and rocky outcroppings, and is home to various horrors that prey on the ocean’s bounty and on those who ply its waters.  In the ocean’s northeastern expanses, particularly in the area surrounding The Mistgate, thick fog blankets the water’s surface.  To the north and northwest, great mountain ranges and frozen wastelands teem with jotuns and other horrors.  The primeval forests of western Fjarrstrand are home to its native people, the alfar (elves) and other creatures of faerie who view these newcomers as unwelcome guests.

With the release of Everywhen, I’ve expanded the rules and added slightly more content (based upon my running the campaign with friends).  Enjoy!

fjarrstrand-lo-res

At last… The Monstrous Manual

I’ve recently updated both the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide (minor tweaks to the layout, correcting some of the ever-present typos, and adding a few more converted spells) for AD&D3.

The real time-sink of late has been my work on converting the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual for my AD&D3 rules.  It’s been something that I’ve meant to complete for the past 10 years because, without it, the rules really were not complete.

So, finally, it’s done (though I’m sure you’ll find plenty of typos within, as I’m terrible at self-editing).  Here, without further ado, is The Monstrous Manual.  Be warned that it’s a beast of a file; 400 pages long and over 100Mb in size.

Please send any comments, suggestions, or corrections my way.  Thanks!

Wight (1)