Friday, 13 May 2011

Help with some philosophical rules questions for the Old School Adventure Guide

This question is of relevance to all who wish to collaborate on the Old School Adventure Guide

Question 1: "Should character level lead to an increase in ability in certain actions or should species and ability scores determine ability in a certain action, independent of level?"

As an example, I'm thinking particularly about such things as breath holding time, and broad jumping distance here. The rules I have outlined previously suggest that level matters.

Breath holding time in rounds = Constitution + level

Broad Jumping distance = Level + Strength bonus + Dexterity Bonus + 2d6

One could easily design rules that might be independent of level:

Breath holding time in rounds (minutes) = Constitution / 3 (rounded up) as the Dungeoneer's survival guide does.


Broad Jumping distance = 4 (dwarf) + Strength bonus + Dexterity Bonus + 2d6
Broad Jumping distance = 6 (human) + Strength bonus + Dexterity Bonus + 2d6

This is important as well for rules design because, once level is added, the tendency by necessity is that a level 1 character often has ability in that action less than a modern human, but at high level they are likely to exceed a modern human.

To answer question 1, I think we must first answer Question 2.

Question 2: Are we creating rules for heroic fantasy or rules for the simulation of a world that obeys Earth laws as close as possible, within an imagined fantasy setting?

I was watching SG-U episode 3 (it's ok, nothing as good as BSG), and the characters venture onto a desert planet. 6 hours later they are dying of dehydration and exhaustion. 6 hours? (Reminds me of the South Park episode where they all go cannibal after only 1 hour without food and eat someone who wonder if they are diabetic.)

Good drama demanded in SG-U, they start suffering on the desert planet soon, within hours, not days later as might be more realistic.

So when creating travel rules, and weather systems, for the Adventure Guide, I know some would feel that the chance of a tornado or blizzard can't be for example, 01 on d%. Since that would mean there is a tornado every 100 days and that is not realistic.

Or Cook expert: sailing rules 2d6 on a 12: Gale, 80% chance of galley sinking. That's 2.2% chance of gale and sinking every journey: the Roman navy would be sunk in a year!

If your players head out into a heavy storm what's their chance of being struck by lightning?
Real 1: 250000
Or are you going to just say double 1 on 2d6?

It is my belief that I am playing a game not a simulation. One still needs laws and rules in a game, that allows player choice and the player's ability to weigh risk, but if my odds of encountering adventure are as close to my normal life chances of encountering some adventure, I don't see myself or my players being very entertained.

In my world, ships sink, frequently and lightning strikes twice, often.

Question 3: What about in your world, what about the the Old School Adventure Guide?


  1. My take is that if your game contains levels it's non-naturalistic. The wonder and horror of D&D is that it charts a progression from shlub-hood to as far toward godhood as you want to go. It's good for setting up wuxia or Mahabharat or Clash of the Titans or James Bond type adventures but woeful for anything that's supposed to simulate our own world. You want realworld simulation? I don't know where you go. Even GURPS is avowedly "cinematic."

    So Q2: heroic. Q1: level affects everything you model in the game. Q3: I haven't run D&D in years because other games simulated the worlds I was interested in better. If I'm gonna run D&D it's because that system provides something (like a player culture) that I want to use.

  2. Well, as in most things, I’m a moderate. ^_^

    1. I have no problem with either way.

    2. I’m not sure that either extreme is ideal.

    3. I tend to shoot for a middle ground between the real world and pure fantasy in my own worlds. The “realistic” part is there to make the players feel more comfortable and to make the fantastic parts feel more fantastic. It also helps them to have a framework to judge their character’s chances. The fantastic elements are there to make the players feel (among other things) uncomfortable and to be interesting. Furthermore, the farther characters travel from “home base”, the more fantastical the world may become.