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Appraising ADVANCED D&D - Part 1 (Ability Scores)

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It's time. A detailed and opinionated appraisal of the best, or possible second best, version of Dungeons & Dragons ever made. I mean of course Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition. There are many things to love about the Classic D&D line (B/X, BECMI, Cyclopedia). Its streamlined, narrow and intuitive numbers. Its focused presentation. The way it knows, better than any other version of D&D, what it wants to be and then just executes that vision. Its superb chassis that makes it as good for running as-is, as it does for extensive houseruling. It is thus perhaps a tad ironic that many of the things there are to love about Advanced  Dungeons & Dragons are diametrically opposed to the reasons for loving Classic D&D. Extolling the virtues of Classic D&D often end up as an implicit critique of AD&D. And many of the reasons for playing AD&D are a stark rejection of the virtues of Classic D&D. Nonetheless, I want to be understood here. When I

Mystara / Known World Review

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I've been anticipating reviewing "Mystara" as perhaps the most difficult of the setting reviews.  Unlike most settings, it never really had a dedicated setting book. As the default setting for the "non-advanced" Classic D&D line, it grew from a couple of pages in the Expert Set published in 1981 up and ended as an AD&D in 1995. It is, perhaps moreso than any other setting, a product of organic development which grew and changed radically over the course of its different release cycles.  Unlike the ham-fisted attempts at development and expansion in other settings (Forgotten Realms with its Time of Troubles, Maztika and Kara-Tur getting tacked on to the edges with cheap glue and then destroyed for 4e altogether stand out), this somehow worked out well for Mystara. Perhaps because it is so non-premeditated and basically a collection of different authors having good ideas they wanted to throw at a setting and a setting that is very receptive to such tre

D&D taught me English

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I was flipping through the my copy of the AD&D 2e Player's handbook and noticed something I had forgotten was there - My own scribblings in the equipment charts, translating most of the entries to Danish. It brought back memories of when and how I got into AD&D. I was about nine years old and wanted to graduate to what I perceived to be the holy grail of roleplaying. Except, I wouldn't start english classes in school for another year and the cover of the book even said "for ages 10 and up".  I was an active reader for my age though and knew some basic english by osmosis, simply from hanging out with my older siblings who were taught it, and connecting Danish sub-titles to spoken English on tv. So that year for those summer holidays in our summer house, my primary reading consisted of the Player's Handbook and a big fat dictionary. And whenever I came across a word I couldn't pick up from context, I'd look it up (I still remember sitting in that sof

Ailments for the Poor Fighter

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I discussed the poverty of options for the poor fighter recently. And concluded that extra attacks seems to be the go-to solution for giving the fighter something extra. I think it's a poor solution. For one, I think breaking the action economy is generally undesirable. It makes it the impact of a lot of other bennies exponential, it slows down combat and adds tactical decision-points that mostly don't really add anything to the combat experience, other than the fighter being better than he was. I also think it is a bad fit for the low resolution of the D&D combat round. A round is already 6-60 seconds long (depending on edition) and we are supposed to understand that the attack roll and subsequent damage roll is the sum of a rally of blows exchanged. So how does extra attack fit into this? It seems to me a high-resolution manoeuvre retrofitted into a low-resolution attack sequence. As I see it, extra damage is a mechanic that plays much better into this abstraction. Four E

The Fighter Across All Editions of TSR D&D

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Ok, it's time to get back to elf-games. And why not look at the class that is simultaneously the most beloved and under-appreciated class in the history of D&D? I was going to include assessments of WotC fighters too, but honestly, they end up being so different, and embedded into different systems, that it's like comparing apples and oranges. I would still like to look at the 3e fighter, as that has at least a little continuity with TSR D&D but I think that's for a different post on why feats aren't so bad after all and have a place in all versions of D&D... Moving ON , let's dig in: OD&D : Fighting-Men, as they are called. They get d6 hit die like everyone else, but they start at HD 1+1 and gain more HD as they level than clerics or magic-users (at level 10, the fighter has 10+1, cleric 7+2 and and magic-user 7). They have no armor or weapon restrictions. For weapons, this only matters in regards to which weapons are typically magical (swords, figh

The Difficult-to-Believe Case of Zak Smith's Innocence

I honestly did not imagine myself to be writing a piece like this on this blog. But I feel morally obligated to do so, given that I previously wrote a piece based on the firm assumption of his guilt . Yesterday,  Jeff Rients shared a link to an article based on an upcoming research paper  by Dr. Clio Weisman. I'd encourage anyone who has, or has had, some interest in the OSR community and/or held some sort of opinion on the case of Zak Smith, to read it after reading this one. tl;dr - The article is about the utterly bizarre lying, harassing and slandering behaviour that has somehow become prevalent in certain sectors of the Rennaisance-Formerly-Known-as-OSR. And Zak Smith sat at the heart of it, as its principal recipient. Dr. Weisman thus chose him as her case study.  Long story short, Dr. Weisman lays out a meticulous and researched case that shows Smith to be targeted by OSR trolls for many years with a series of slanderous harassment campaigns, and also to be the victim of who

Streamlined Mechanics aren't all they are made out to be

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I'll tell you what I instinctively disliked the first time I opened the 3e Player's Handbook:  Priest spell levels going all the way up to 9th level.  Now, the reasons for this change seem fairly obvious to my mind. It streamlines spell progression for priests and wizards and makes it easier to gauge power level of a priest vs wizard spell.  But are those actually good  reasons? Is streamlining in and of itself a positive? Perhaps being able to gauge power level is useful, but tangentially so if so. How often do you need to compare a priest spell to a wizard spell and determine how powerful they are compared to each other?  As for streamlining spell progression between wizards and priests - This may seem useful as it makes progression transparently equal (getting rid of different XP tables was another move to ensure everybody progressed at the same pace. An alleged virtue I would question the virtue of), but it belies a point that is central to the argument of this blog post: H

New Design

 That is all.