Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It Came from EPT

Among old schoolers, there's a lot of love for Empire of the Petal Throne and not primarily for its exotic world of Tékumel. Rather, it's because EPT is a terrific early example of how gamers were using and modifying OD&D to serve their own purposes. Readers already familiar with OD&D will immediately recognize lots of rules EPT shares in common with the LBBs, right down to the three possible classes available, but it's not those rules that make the game so remarkable. It's where Barker, who was already an experienced wargamer, warped and twisted Gygax and Arneson's game to create something he felt (at the time) better reflected the imaginary world in which he wanted to set his fantasy adventures.

A good case in point is EPT's combat rules, which are, in many ways, quite similar to OD&D's alternative combat system. Under both sets of rules, weapons (generally -- EPT adds a few wrinkles here too) deal 1D6 points of damage per hit. However, Barkers included the following table, where a great disparity between the attacker's level and the opponent's hit dice translate into an increase in the amount of damage dealt in a single blow.

Attacker's Level

Opponent's Hit Dice

1

1+1

2-3

4-5

6-7

8-9

10-11

12+

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

3

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

4

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

5

2

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

6

3

2

2

1

1

1

1

1

7

3

3

2

2

1

1

1

1

8

4

3

3

2

2

1

1

1

9

4

4

3

3

2

2

1

1

10

5

4

4

3

3

2

2

1


Thus, a 5th level attacker who engages a 1 hit die opponent deals not 1D6 but 2D6 points of damage. Just as intriguingly, damage dealt in this fashion above and beyond the hit points of the opponent are transferred to other nearby creatures of the same type. So, for example, if the same 5th level attacker deals 10 points of damage to a creature with only 6 hit points, the superfluous 4 points of damage are applied to another nearby creature of the same type.

It's a very clever little table and one that adds some depth and, dare I say it, realism, to OD&D-style combat without adding too much complexity to it. I've been tempted on more than a few occasions to swipe it for use in my Dwimmermount campaign, but, so far, I've not had the opportunity to do so. Maybe when I start that Empire of the Petal Throne campaign I regularly think about ...

16 comments:

  1. I was just reading this the other night wondering why nobody ever talks about all the great rules twists in EPT. The skill and spell learning rules are pretty interesting too...

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  2. You could easily remove all the Tekumel information (but you'd have to seriously revise the spells), and extract a wonderful old school RPG from EPT that culd form the skeleton for any number of other fantastic settings...like some of those other worlds that got dropped into pocket universes around the same time...

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  3. Interesting. And you can use the same table for different classes by changing the die type: mere mortals and magic-users use a d4, clerics, thieves, and elves use d6, and dwarves and fighting men use d8.

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  4. Trollsmyth,

    I neglected to mention that the rules in EPT already specific that the table only works as-is for warriors. Priests are treated as warriors of one level lower than their actual level, while magicians are treated as two levels lower.

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  5. That does seem cool. It would help fighters stay relevant after they've nurtured the MUs in the group up to significant level. Is there a corresponding effect for monsters? I don't know if that would be a good or a bad thing.

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  6. "...where a great disparity between the attacker's level and the opponent's hit dice translate into an increase in the amount of damage dealt in a single blow."

    There's a bit more to the story. At the upper levels, you get a boost even if the opponent is the same level or even higher than you. (e.g.: 9HD vs. 9, 10HD vs. 10 or 11 all give 2d6).

    I might say if you turned this around and called it the increased number of attacks I'd like it distinctly more than the D&D "number of attacks vs. 1HD as per your level" rule -- in that it's a smoother, non-catastrophic drop-off. Is it specified anywhere if this table replaces the D&D rule? Or in addition?

    Formula for this table is close to AHD/2 - OHD/4 (rounded down, minimum 1).

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  7. re:hero vs w1: in addition to dealing 2d6, a hero is going to attack FOUR times (due to the "fighting men against goons" rule), as per example in the manual (i'm talking about the 1986?-7? purple cover reprint of the 1975 edition).

    Anyway, it's a smart little table. I've been thinking of adding it to our house rules document for a while.

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  8. We actually used a rule similar to what you are proposing, Delta, in our long-running B/X campaign. Ultimately we abandoned it because of the complexity involved in fights against, say, 1 Troll, 1 Ogre, and 6 Goblins.

    Nowadays we use Arneson's chop-til-you-drop rule, giving an additional attack every time you drop an enemy.

    Either way, there's a definite need for a mechanism to enhance the killing power of high level fighters in B/X. As written, a 10th level fighter can find himself doing 1d6 per round against 1 Gnoll... the same he did at 1st level. It just doesn't scale well.

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  9. Of course, my own solution was in the last issue of Fight On: a simplified Feats system where every 4 levels you pick from any of the classic suggestions, (a) chop-til-you-drop, (b) multiple attacks, (c) extraordinary strength, (d) weapon specialization, etc.

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  10. Your feats system was the final straw for us, hah! We just added feats to our B/X game...

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  11. Of course, this must be balanced against EPT's attack table, which awarded another +3 to hit every third level. I never could figure out why it wasn't just +1 every level. Or the XP table, which increased the number of XP needed per level just like D&D's, but then also stipulated that at higher levels, you had to throw away some increasing percentage of XPs earned. Since everyone at, say, 5th level took the same penalty 50% penalty on earned XP, why not just double the number of XP needed to reach level 6 on the XP table? There were still many lessons to learn ...

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. "... and not primarily for its exotic world of Tékumel."

    Where is the love for neglected, ignored Tékumel?

    WHEEEEEERE!?!? (Sob)

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  14. Where is the love for neglected, ignored Tékumel?

    There's a lot of love for it on many old school blogs, as well as Fin's OD&D Discussion Forum. But Tékumel is definitely an acquired taste and always has been. I doubt that's ever likely to change.

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  15. I assume you all know that there are EPT minis available in 25mm these days? Eureka Miniatures makes them. No, I am not connected with Eureka in any financial way, but I do think they are really lovely figs.

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  16. I'm a Kurdu in the Tekumel Club.

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