Sunday, 19 December 2010

B/X Indiana Jones

In my last post I said that "in my opinion Indiana Jones fits the D&D thief archetype better than he does the fighter".
Reflecting on this over the last couple of days I present B/X Indiana Jones, Master Thief.
Almost certainly I won't have created the B/X Indiana you would have, he is too iconic for any hope of that but my goal was primarily to explore B/X through reflecting on Indiana not the other way around. 
Ability scores for legendary characters are difficult to assign. I could have just simply given him 18 for everything but that's untrue even in the film series, lacks any intellectual gain for me and frankly is boring. I could have rolled and rolled until I found something I liked, in fact I did this 4d6 take the best 3, a few times, and quickly gave it up. Finally I settled on this challenge, Indiana has ability scores of: 13,14,15,16,17,18; to be assigned as I saw fit. You are welcome to tell me how you would have assigned the scores, or characterised Indiana Jones into B/X, differently.

Indiana Jones
14th Level Master Thief
Str     13                   
Int      15
Wis    17
Dex    16
Con    18
Cha    14
Hit Points 68
AC (4)vs melee, (2) vs missile weapons
Leather Flight Jacket gives the equivalent of leather armor (AC7)
Fedora (hat)
Acts as a +1 ring of protection (+1 AC, +1 all saving throws)
Additional +2AC vs missile weapons
Returning: Indiana's magical hat will always find some way to return to him within 6 turns
Whip +2, (as per Rules Cyclopedia page 66: may be used to cause damage (1-2) or have a special effect, the victim must save vs death ray or become entangled, slowed or delayed, depending on the victim's hit dice and consulting the special effects Table 3 on page 80).
Additionally Indiana can use his whip to perform acrobatics or feats of daring-do using his climb sheer surfaces thief skill (99% at Level 14, modified by the DM for the complexity of what Indiana is attempting)
Negative Characteristics
Indiana has a profound fear of snakes. If he encounters a snake he must save vs Rods, Staves, or Spells, failure means he must flee as per the 1st level cleric spell Cause Fear
Notes - Here I attempt to justify all my choices.
Why a thief?

Look at this picture, what else is he?

This is Indy about to fail his pick pockets / sleight of hand roll.

Yeah he fights, but he doesn't win by pure brawn. He's not stacked like this opponent fighter. He uses dexterity and luck more than strength, traits of a thief.

Look at him



Indy is a thief.

Why Level 14
It's just the best you can be in B/X.
Ability Scores
The exact numbers are really irrelevant, the key is the order I chose. Which I am sure is very debatable.
From least to most:

Str < Cha < Int < Dex < Wis < Con
Strength, as stated above Indy does not win fights by pure brawn. I know it's controversial but I think all his other attributes are higher
Charisma, he always gets a lady.

Not forgetting this student.

Intelligence, he is a professor. Some might think he needs to be smarter but 15 intelligence is very smart on a 3-18 scale.
Dexterity, with the stunts Indy does, and the way he avoids ever being shot, he has a very high dexterity.
Wisdom, this will be controversial. 
From my recent meanderings on Intelligence and Wisdom I quoted Gary Gygax defining the ability score of wisdom in AD&D as, "For game purposes wisdom ability subsumes the categories of willpower, judgment, wile, enlightenment, and intuitiveness."   
Willpower is a very important aspect of this as can be seen in my Wisdom Retrospective, where from editions after Holmes, Wisdom gives a saving throw bonus to certain magical attacks, making the 'will' aspect of wisdom very prominent. Indeed, only in AD&D where clerics get bonus spells from having high wisdom, is there any other in game mechanic for wisdom apart from wisdom as will, benefiting saving throws. For a new take on the intuition / divine guidance of wisdom see this recent post of mine.
The trouble we have is that when we think of wisdom we think of being wise, not of being wilful.
We think of Yoda, not Indiana lurching from one disaster to the next. Though, nine hundred years old, may be a matter of will as well as Yoda species genetics.
Yet, will is clearly a D&D aspect of the ability score wisdom. This isn't as strange as it seems. Charisma is both physical attractiveness and/or force of personality. To quote Gary page 15 DMG, "Many persons have the sad misconception that charisma is merely physical attractiveness." It is possible to be physically attractive but still have a low charisma. Why then should it not be possible to be unwise but very wilful. Or at least not particularly wise but very wilful.
In a recent debate posed by A Paladin in the City regarding who would win if two strength 13 fighters arm-wrestle, Alexis (The Tao of D&D) in his customary style said, "the one who wanted to win." A Paladin in the City asked, which game mechanic encapsulates this? My answer would be, the one with the higher wisdom (will).
Is Indiana wilful? I say a definite yes! He never ever gives up. That is one of his defining characteristics and why I gave him wisdom (will) as his second most high ability score.
Constitution, Indy takes a beating and then he takes another. Bloody and bruised he comes out in the end. He has a high constitution, no question. And I give it 18.
Hit Points

With 18 constitution he gets 27 (3*9 levels). With 5 levels above name level a B/X thief gets 2 HP/level = 10 hit points. 9d4 hitpoints, I rolled a few times using the App Dicenomicon, until I rolled 29. I liked that but the total number became 66, felt like the wrong number for Indiana, though whip in Rules Cyclopedia is on page 66. I found out that Harrison Ford is 68 and for no other reason but that I was looking for a logical reason to move from 66 hit points, I settled on Indiana Jones has 68 hit points.               

I know there are no leather fighter jackets in fantasy D&D. I called his jacket leather armor. I could have made it very magical giving him a really low AC but B/X doesn't need super hyped items or ability scores. Also Indy gets hit in melee fights a lot, it's his high hit points that saves him.
His fedora hat, his most iconic item, therefore his most powerful. A bonus to AC, since I didn't give him one with his armor felt appropriate here. And the bonus to saving throw I am sure he needs and uses regularly! The additional +2AC for missile weapons? Do you know how often bullets, darts and arrows fly at Indy, how often do they hit? Magical returning hat, if I didn't see it happening time after time in the movies, I would never have believed it.
Whip +2. Hardly B/X but there is no whip in B/X. Using cyclopedia was admittedly a cop out and if I really had whips in my campaign I would design a simpler game mechanic. Linking his whip acrobatic manoeuvres to his climb sheer walls thief ability, seemed to encourage his feats of daring-do, giving him a high chance of success, which is what we observe in the films. He doesn't often land flat on his face when using his whip.
His fear of snakes, I was happy enough to use the cause fear spell mechanic already in the rules but had trouble settling on which saving throw it should be made against. Originally I thought save vs paralysis but failing against paralysis and then running away as fast as you can didn't feel right. Save vs Rods, Staves, or Spells, at least conjures the image of snakes as rods or snake staves.
What about guns you ask? I thought about referring to JB's B/X Guns Postings or else giving Indy a crossbow or hand crossbow (too drow like) but in the end decided to drop the whole concept of a missile weapon, his revolver is not one of his defining characteristics as far as I am concerned.


I leave you with this image. Raiders came out in 1981. How much did the opening scenes of Raiders influence our D&D campaigns? It still is, just ask James Raggi, it features in one of his modules.  

I hope you enjoyed, Indiana Jones a B/X Master Thief. 

PS If any wise blogger, that is wisdom as being wise not as in wilful, knows how to stop large empty spaces appearing in my posting, please let me know. It doesn't look like this in the draft, prior to Publish Post.

Image web locations in order of appearance:


  1. Thank you for posting this - this is a great translation of Indiana Jones!

    For your postings - Blogger's editor sucks, but the large blank spaces are filled with 'span' and 'line break' tags.

    These can often be removed by going into the Editor and clicking the 'HTML' tab. This will show you the HTML source code. The large empty spaces will appear like this (substituting brackets for the greater-than or less-than characters):
    [span style=xxxx][/span][br /]

    If, in the HTML view, you see a lot of 'span' tags without any actual content in them, those can probably be removed.

    I had similar problems over at LotGD - you might find that (particularly for large posts), you're better off doing the following:
    (1) keying in the content as a plain text file without any formatting
    (2) make a new blank post in 'HTML' mode
    (3) copy and paste your plain text content into the editor and save it.
    (4) switch over to 'rich text' mode in the Editor to put in additional formatting and images, etc.

    Indy as a master thief... awesome. Thanks again.

  2. If you use tables in your post remove every hard return within the table to avoid the blank spaces... ie tables need to appear in the html editor as a single line. I type them clearly in notepad (one line for each html element) and when done I go through and delete breaks until it is a single line. Then I copy and paste it into my post.

  3. Well statted! I agree that Indy's CON should be highest and STR lowest, but I might have ordered them:

    Str < Dex < Cha < Int < Wis < Con

    or maybe:

    Str < Dex < Int < Cha < Wis < Con

    The point being, while I find your argument for high DEX compelling, CHA seems pretty important as well, since Indy is quite charming and has many loyal followers (incl. Sallah, Marcus, Short Round, and even Marion to some extent).

    Thanks for this!

  4. @ scottz and @rainswept: thanks for the blogging advice. I wish there was an easier solution but I feared there was not.

    @ Carter Soles: glad you enjoyed B/X Indy. I won't disagree with your suggestions for Indy's stats. The fun is in making the decision. I hope you agree that through Indy we can learn about B/X.

  5. This was a great read - I would tend to agree with Carter Soles on the Charisma side of things - I would have pegged it at 16.

    Strength is about right though - and Constitution is spot on. :)

    Thanks for sharing Jovial Priest...

  6. Totally agree that Indy is the "modern" equivalent of the B/X thief. A better comparison for a "pulp-Era" fighter (better than Rambo anyway) would be Brendan Frasier's character in The Mummy. THAT guy is a fighting man; Jones is a skill monkey (though as you point out, he IS high level and has fairly good ability scores).

  7. I'm not entirely sure Indy would have any stats over 15. Remember, 18 is the human maximum. Is Indy the healthiest / most physically durable person in the world? I think that shirtless Russian who got propeller'd has a higher STR and CON than Indy.

    I think Indy's benefit comes from high level. Again, I'm not sure I'd put him at anything like 14th level (14 times a Normal Man). Remember he often gets ganged up on and captured. I'd say Indy is a 5th to 8th level Thief with stats of 12-15.

    I like how you set him up, I'd just halve the level and give -3 to his stats.