Friday, March 16, 2012

Open Friday: Oddities

In general, I'm not someone who craves absolute consistency in my game rules. In fact, I rather like it when there are rules that either defy expectations or don't make much immediate sense. A good example of this is the cleric's acquisition of spells in OD&D. According to the LBBs (as well as Swords & Wizardry, ACKS, and Labyrinth Lord Original Edition Characters), clerics don't get any spells at first level at all, but, at sixth level acquires both third and fourth-level spells for the first time. This is a quirky little rule that AD&D (and its successors) abandoned when it smoothed out some of the game's rough edges, but I've come to like it a great deal.

So, today's question is this: what odd little rules in your favorite RPG have you come to love and embrace wholeheartedly?

24 comments:

  1. I like the editions where Halflings don't start knowing their own language. BX is one of them and IIRC the halfling tongue is on the random language chart. Thus you can run into the rather embarrassing situation where an NPC hails your halfling in his native language and you have no idea what he's saying.

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    1. I love this rule, it reminds me of Ulysses by James Joyce.

      -- He's Human, Buck Mulligan said, and he thinks we ought to speak Hobbitish in Hobbiton.

      -- Sure we ought to, the old halfling said, and I'm ashamed I don't speak the language myself. I'm told it's a grand language by them that knows.

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  2. In a couple of recent games, web spells have caused some discussion and reaching for rulebooks. The PHB allows the webs to cover an area 40' by 20' by 10', in the Holmes rules it's just 10' by 10' by 20', and in Moldvay the webs only fill a 10' cube. In Labyrinth Lord there's no details of the area covered at all! I went for the Moldvay version and limited it to 10' cube. Still ideal for blocking a passageway, but very limited by comparison to the PHB version.

    Another one that springs to mind, is the seemingly mixed up movement rates for Skeletons and Zombies. In all my basic rules (including Labyrinth Lord) skeletons are given a move of 60' (20') and zombies 120' (40'). This is in spite of zombies being described as slow and always attacking last. The AD&D Monster Manual has them the right? way around though.

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  4. I seem to recall 1st edition WFRP having location based critical hits that didn't take into account what type of weapon you were using. This leads to possibility of beheading someone with a spear. Seemed strange, but we went with it. I ended up with a dwarf named "Grom the Beheader".

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    1. We used the sudden death critical table isten of the normál. It is abstract, quick and easy.

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  5. I am rather fond of the weapon mastery rules that were introduced in the Masters Set for BECMI in 1985. At the time, it was exciting to throw in a new sub system to the ongoing campaign and the weapon mastery rules could easily be dropped in by explaining that the player's characters had to seek out weapon masters for training. The rules can be a little quirky as the special effects you can accomplish are often times meant for human like opponents; such as entangling their feet with a bola.

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  6. I suppose someone could be beheaded with a spear by hacking at their neck with it. A grim thought!

    Quirky rules that I enjoy are when the spells utilise their own rules systems, such as Charm Person and similarly for magical items, such as the Vorpal Sword, because it makes them feel more removed from the round to round rule set of the familiar.

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  7. Speaking of decapitation in WFRP 1E, the rule that had the head flying off "2d6 feet in a random direction" became a favorite in my group.

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  8. The rules and game emchanics I have come to whole-heartedly embrace? Weapon versus armor chart in AD&D 1st Edition! Embraced absolutely. Rune Quest skill improvement system. Treasure type table from the back of the 1st edition Monster manual and the dungeon room stocking table from the Moldvay basic set red rule book!

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    1. The Weapon vs. Armor type chart in the 1e PHB is awesome if you take the time to figure out what armor class each monster should be for the purposes of that chart. I wish that Gygax had turned armor class into 2 different things: armor type and defensive bonus. Then using this sort of chart would have been much easier.

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    2. I use armor type that each humanoid monster is wearing, hence there are Goblin wolf riders wearing leather armor, Goblin infantry wearing Chain Mail and Shields, and the special Plate Mail wearing pole-arm carrying undead fighting Goblin quarantine squad, led by an intelligent King, of course. For the creatures that do not wear armor, animals and insects and such, I have a special "Natural AC" without the weapon modifier. Also, I use the Slashing, Piercing, crushing damage modifier from 2nd edition and apply that modifier to the players "to get hit" table. Management required intricate Exel tabulatin, but what it does is make "To Hit" truly customizable and makes charater development that much more interesting for fighters. Also, I defined fighter class by creating a list of non-weapon proficiencies available only to th fighter class. Actually each character xlas has ten such skills.

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  9. One of the oddities I was most pleasantly surprised by while re-reading Holmes is his version of the Magic Missile spell. Its language allows one to assume that the spell creates a missile that can then be launched at a later time, requiring a 'to hit' roll. I much prefer this understanding of the spell than any other iteration.

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    1. Yeah it has the same implication in Labyrinth Lord -- a duration of 1 turn. Not that I've ever seen it used this way...

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  10. Nope ... I like streamlined and consistent rules. That's why quasiclones like C&C suits me well.

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  11. I liked how in AD&D a magic-user gains a new spell level every two experience levels, until the 9th level - 12th level split. You got 5th level spells at 9th level, but you had to wait a whole "nother" level above 11th to get 6th level spells. I always thought this was what separated the dedicated, ground-breaking wizards from the ones who wanted mere proficiency at spellcasting. When you expected to get another spell level, you didn't. Would you continue on, seeking that elusive level of spells that you were supposed to gain access to, but didn't? Or would you just retire to your tower and be content with the power that "teleport" brings? It was a small thing, but it seemed to have some implications within the campaign world.

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  12. I keep the alignment languages. Even though they make little sense, I consider it a challenge to integrate them in whatever setting I'm playing right now. Not everything has to make perfect sense, and sometimes players come up with the craziest ideas using quirky rules.

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  13. It's hard to think up anything as prominent on my list of favorite rules that are often regarded as "quirky" as the B/X cleric spell progression.

    If I had to choose another, it'd probably be the elaborate tables for experience required to level. They differ from class to class and, for me at least, go a long way towards making each class feel like it takes a different amount of effort to improve.

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  14. The fact that clerics in D&D don't use edged weapons is my favourite. The rationalisation of this in my campaign led directly to the explicit creation of the Order of Mitra, an order of warrior-monastics who use bronze-headed maces cast in the shape of the fist of their warrior-saint as a sign of their piety. And the order and it's traditions grew entirely from that quirk.

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  15. "According to the LBBs (as well as Swords & Wizardry, ACKS, and Labyrinth Lord Original Edition Characters), clerics don't get any spells at first level at all, but, at sixth level acquires both third and fourth-level spells for the first time."

    I'll be damned. I never, ever noticed that.

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  16. The fact that the druid spell reincarnate and the magic-user spell reincarnation allow a player character to return as a creature not normally allowed in the rules is very appealing to me. On the rare occasion that a player character is reincarnated, I secretly hope for an offbeat result like badger (in the case of the druid spell) or troll (in the case of the magic-user spell).

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    1. Have you read Paul Kidd's Greyhawk books? I think you might enjoy them in this case. There are, however, quite gonzo. [Dungeons not so much being defeated as corrupted.]

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    2. Alas, no. The only RPG-based novels I've ever read are a few of the earliest BattleTech novels by Michael A. Stackpole.

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  17. I love the "no spells" at 1st level for clerics. It's perfect. I also have been using the expectation that at this level, the cleric is on a spiritual quest and doesn't even know the name of the god, or cult, that they will eventually belong to.

    I don't know if it counts, but I am also using the gambling system designed by the Judges Guild - which is in CSOTIO & RRS.

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