Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Mongrel Game


New rule--we (and by "we" I mean everybody in the blogosphere, including you) are calling it Type ___ D&D from now on. As in, "Type 3.5 D&D" or "Type 4 D&D". This solves many philosophical problems, plus makes all the versions of the game sound like demons, which is good.


I can only live with a house full of Type 3.5 books so much longer. My rapidly levelling-up players have begun to creep around the Player's Handbook and ask unsettling questions like "What's a skill point"? I fear soon they will all want a level in Demonborne Fleshtoucher or some shit. Plus the original books look so much cooler lying around your house. I am soon to re-acquire the AD&D books.

Problem is, once you give someone a toy, you cannot take it away. So I have to stitch together a mongrel game of the old rules which I like, and the new rules which everybody here is used to.

So, Type Mongrel:

-You can be whatever class or race from whatever type D&D you want. Except, for obvious reasons, any kind of bard.

-Experience point awards and levelling-up will be as 3.5. No x.p. for traps.

-Beholders will appear to be spherical eye-ball monsters rather than the deformed product of a night of incautious passion between a bell pepper and the Kree Supreme Intelligence.

-To hit and AC will be as AD&D so I can use the chart.

-Hit points, damage, and ability-score bonuses will be as 3.5--except the base-attack bonus, which won't exist (melee and missile bonuses will).

-# of spells and class abilities will be as AD&D except what anybody's already got when we make the switch at the beginning of the game.

-Saves will be as 3.5 because come on AD&D. Wands, staves and rods?

-Thieves will have whatever skills (a "skill" was/is interpreted as the privilege of re-rolling a failed ability score check roll to do the relevant thing--that is if you have "climb" you can roll twice on your strength to climb a rope and use the best result) they had from 3.5 before the switch + normal AD&D pick locks, find traps, etc. chances. However, no new skills may be acquired after that unless you can make a really good case for it or are exceptionally attractive.

-No feats, skills are only for thieves.

-Barbarians can still Rage as in 3.5.

-Spells you already have remain as-is. As for new spells--if you can find it (in any type of D&D or any other game, for that matter) you can have it. Precise effects of non-AD&D spells may vary slightly from what's printed, according to DM fiat. A standard sleep spell will generally get a save. Anyone using anything from Eldritch Weirdness will be considered totally badass.

-You can use any weapon or armor you've already got, but unless you're a fighter you can't just pick up any old new weapon or armor once the switch happens and expect to be good at using-/moving in- it.

-Racial bonuses will be 3.5. Gnomes will be treated as dwarves, only midwestern. Dark elves will not get a level-modifier for purposes of calculating x.p. because I forgot and accidentally levelled Frankie up early and, hey, considering how new she is to all this and how she almost ket the party get TPK'd twice due to having forgotten her Drow's once-per-day abilities, I think it's ok to handicap her a bit.

-All monsters and other foes will be custom-built to fit Type Mongrel stats.

-The top halves of Mariliths will look like hot chicks--as in AD&D, but will appear to be capable of ordinary movement and locomotion, as in Type 3.5.

-If you want to take a level in something, as in 3.5, I say ok.

-If you want to try to kill a god rather than some Mickey-Mouse "aspect" of the god, be my guest, just remember its HP and damage will be 3.5 scaled.

If anybody reading this sees any major translation problem I haven't foreseen, please speak now before it blows up in my face.


squidman said...

I think you just became the Hunter S. Thompson of D&D...

crow said...

I'd really make sure the girls don't go digging into any 3.5-or gods forbid- 4.0 books. Otherwise, their next characters they may want to roll up will be a bunch of shadow dancer/assassin/ martial artists.

Indiana said...

It's your world, your campaign, your table, so you make the rules...Didn't Gary always just hope that players had fun and no rule should stand in the way of that?

I mean after all it's a "fantasy" game it doesn't have to make sense :-)

Adam Thornton said...

I would strongly recommend you look at Microlite20, or maybe Microlite74, which use a d20 mechanic but really strip the system down to its barest essence.

I dig them because all the rules fit in my head, and I just make shit up when my players want to do something, and say "rulings not rules," and everyone lets me get away with it.

And there's no Bad Touch Dragon Fondler Half Dwarves in it, which reminds me of When Third Edition Jumped The Shark: the Wildren, in the Planar Handbook: "Some instead mingle with the beasts they will one day become, creating new races that are perpetually half-animal, half-humanoid. Prominent among these are the wildren, beings descended from the union of partially transformed dwarf petitioners and celestial badgers."

Yep: if you're a really good dwarf, then when you die, you might get to fuck a badger. A celestial badger.

Zak S said...

ok, i'll take that


obviously--my question is more just is there any obvious mechanical area that i didn't cover--like if i used the ad&d "to hit" chart without converting to descending AC first, then that would be a fuck up and not funt o have to figure out in mid-game.

I've read microlite and have nothing against it, but there is absolutely no way I am going to throw a third system into this. Making up my own rules is easier and more fun. The only reason i'm not making up a whole game from scratch is to keep the game materials "legible" to the players.

Norman Harman said...

"Skill in X means you get to reroll failed ability check to do X."

I like this skill system better than any I've seen and I've been looking a lot lately. It doesn't imply others can't Hide/Sneak/Climb/Bellydance and yet gives nice bonus to the skilled. No fiddly bits, No math! which both speeds play and foils min-maxers. Not sure how I feel about there being no improvement as one gains experience.

> Except, for obvious reasons, any kind of bard.

I don't understand why some people don't understand that this is obvious.

myrystyr said...

"Except, for obvious reasons, any kind of bard"

What, not even the original version from Strategic Review/Best of the Dragon volume 1?

Or Lankhmar's barbarian version?

Man, you are harsh.

By the way, having run and played in games with 1E, 2E, 2.5E and 3E versions of the Barbarian, if I never see another Barbarian class it will be too soon.

Barking Alien said...

"the deformed product of a night of incautious passion between a bell pepper and the Kree Supreme Intelligence."

I laughed so hard when I read that I thought I was gonna pass out. You win a No-Prize my friend.

Now, I'm the last guy to recommend stuff when it comes to tweaking D&D (a game I hardly ever play) but if thieves get skills and wizards and clerics get spells, it seems to me that fighters get what they always get - jack. Maybe feats for fighters or something similar?

Matthew Slepin said...

Nothing bad jumps out at me. Mind you, it's not what I would want to play, but then I'm not playing

This situation of yours has really been getting me all theoretical lately; my last blog post was all from you:

Theoretically, I think that you should be taking stuff away from the players; the trick is to make it look like something else. Because that's what you are really doing. Stripping out rules opens up options.

But that is a counter-intuitive idea.

I like this skill system better than any I've seen and I've been looking a lot lately. ...Not sure how I feel about there being no improvement as one gains experience.

I've had the same reaction when this idea was suggested to me. It is dead-simple, but I'm wary of any mechanic that takes Level out of the equation.

Zak S said...

Norman and Matthew--
I tend to think of skills as being a totally irrelevant add-on in D&D, really, (except for thief abilities, which g up normally in ad&d), so I don't mind them not advancing too much. The only reason I even have them is because we started in 3.5

If I were doing a sci-fi or modern game, I'd go for "Skill points = # of re-rolls" system. I did the math on the % success curve it tends to create and it looks plausible.

haven't read the lankhmar or SR bards, so maybe i'm missing something, but the idea of a D&D class defined by the fact that it plays music seems fundamentally dumb to me. Just be a thief/fighter multiclass and be over it. You can have whatever job you want when you're not killing monsters.

As for the barbarian--it made KK want to play D&D, so it's good for something.

I knew at least one person would appreciate that joke.

Fighters get the ability to use whatever weapons or armor comes along. Plus fighters have better attack bonuses to begin with. Plus fighters are SUCH the default class for players that I don;t really feel like I need to incentivize being a fighter.

I totally get your point. But not all rules are equal--Rage is definitely something that the barbarian can do that nobody else could even try to do without that rule. It isn;t like "climb rope" or "negotiate". It's effectively a spell.

Rules should be few, but spells should be many.

Zak S said...

P.s. on skills--
having a skill = 1 reroll per level.'

happy now?

Barking Alien said...

"Plus fighters are SUCH the default class for players that I don;t really feel like I need to incentivize being a fighter."

While I understand this in the sense of "ease of play" and the general "most adventurers are fighters" rule of thumb, fighters in AD&D were voted the single most boring of the classes by my old groups (granted, we were much bigger Sci-Fi and Superhero fans than Fantasy ones).

I'm not necessarily advocating anything drastic but it would take alot more then being able to use any armor or weapon to intrigue most of the players I know. I mean, especially if you're going to have Paladins and Rangers, why would you go for a plain, vanilla fighter?

Just my opinion of course. I've never been a fan of the D&D fighter class. It lacks pizzazz and heroism to me.

myrystyr said...

Well, I've always seen the bard as defined by it's lore ability and twin role as political advisor and keeper of cultural knowledge, which is what it was in the Norse-Celtic (and maybe also Homeric) source material... Who wouldn't want to play a respected scholar with access to the movers and shakers of the land? As noted in the original class description, any misconception arises from the French juggler-jester-minstrel type.

Although, I will concede that having several talented and highly trained musicians in the family might give me a blind spot :)

As for the barbarian, while I'll agree it is an archetypal character, I've yet to see a version that works. Kind of like the monk.

Zak S said...


Matthew Slepin said...

Rage is definitely something that the barbarian can do that nobody else could even try to do without that rule. It isn;t like "climb rope" or "negotiate". It's effectively a spell.

Fair enough, although I could see anyone being able to exchange hitting power for defense as a tactic.

Zak S said...

True, but for my new players, I don;t want to give them a list of dozens of "possible tactics you could use". That confuses new players--so its exactly the opposite of what I like about rage.

Rage, as is, is good for the reasons I gave above. It leads directly to fun for certain players. There is no better defense of a rule than that.

Matthew Slepin said...

Oh, I'm agreeing with you. One cool power is awesome for new players.

Sandro_Necromancer said...

Maybe its just me, but that seems to strip too much of the game to be D&D... It reminds me of Defenders of Tokyo (don't ask, its a Brazilian system that's VERY simplified up to its 3rd Edition, as in, a character sheet can be as short as:
S(trength): 5
A(bility): 2
R(esistance): 4
A(rmor): 1
F(ire)P(ower): 0
that's it.)

Of all, I believe the biggest cut is Feats. Feats are fun. If you're worried about confusing new players just simplify them and only tell of a few feats. Like:

"Power Attack: -2 attack for +2 damage
Dodge: +1 AC
Spell Focus: +1 CD on spells
Weapon Focus: +1 Attack
Iron Will/Great Fortitude/Lightning Reflex: as is
Cleave: as is.
Combat casting: some advantage on however you handle casting in melee, like +2 AC for the opportunity attack."

And so on.

Zak S said...


everyone who plays 1st ed. would disagree with you.

it strips too much to be 3.5 D&d but i don;t care.

Sandro_Necromancer said...

Everyone is free to disagree with everyone else. I'm just saying that, in my case, I loved the idea of feats ever since I first experimented with them in Icewind Dale 2. If I was to alter the rules to caress new players, I don't think I'd be able to do away with feats, at most simplifying them.

It reminded me of Fallout and its perks/traits. It's a nice way to customize the characters in a rule-wise sense. My philosophy is that the rules are there to complement the roleplay, not get in the way.

Before 3E I always found there was very little to make one fighter different from that other one. Sure, one had strength 18/00 and the other "just" 16, but that only meant the other guy hit better. Mechanically, there was very little to tell them apart. And thanks to that I never liked playing with pre-3E warriors-types.

I'd go with Wizards or Clerics just because you could define the character depending on what kind of spell you used. A fireball wizard is mechanically very different from a hold person wizard or even a lightning bolt wizard.

In 3E I can stand to play a fighter, knowing that with the right prestige class and feats he can be either the military kind who sticks to formations and hold the line, the front-line killing machine, the focused one who concentrates on openings and make each hit count or the clever one that diverts the attention of his enemies. And they'll be mechanically different, not just a matter of how they act. When they act that way they'll get different results from the rules themselves.

Then it came 4E and every fighter was exactly the same thing again. Even with tons upon tons of feats and exploits and what-not the characters follow such a definite and inexorable progression that you don't even feel that much difference even between a figher and a rogue...