Thursday, November 15, 2012

What's Working Well - Playtest Report

This past weekend was 5th session of using Gold and Glory Swords & Wizardry based house-rules. Along with a few one-shots I've got enough play testing to share a few things that are working well. These house rules are quite divergent from stock D&D. But, to me at least, they feel right in play. Streamlining crap I don't find fun and providing grim, gritty feeling without being just "you die".

Death, Dismemberment, and Constitution

Everyone (should) know about Death & Dismemberment.

When an adventurer has no more hit points, damage is subtracted from Constitution and a Death and Dismemberment Table roll is made. Possibly, producing real wounds such as broken bones, guts hanging out, severed limbs, and death. If Constitution reaches 0, adventurer is dead. This is in place of any Constitution modifier to hit points.

With unlucky roll, adventurers may die or receive mortal wound when out of hit points. On the other hand it is quite possible that they are just knocked out, only stunned, or not hurt at all. This stretches out the distance between "things are looking bad" and "Total Party Kill". In past campaigns player's often didn't run away until after 1st or 2nd character death (and by then it was often too late). Now, it's pretty obvious when people start rolling on D&D that the shit has hit the fan.

Not knowing exactly "how much life" adventurers have left (any Death & Dismemberment roll could their last) increases player tension and feeling of real risk when choosing or being forced to "push on". Monsters, hirelings, etc. are dead at 0hp. Henchmen and maybe important villains will probably use this system (hasn't come up yet).

Healing Constitution damage or stopping a fatal wound from being fatal are the primary uses of magical healing. Hit points can't be recovered by "normal" magic. Instead...

Rolling Hit Dice for Healing

At various times; after good rest (i.e. in a town), after downing swig of booze (1/day), after gaining a level; each adventurer rolls their current hit dice and uses that total as their new hit points (if greater than current hit points). This is in place of any hit point recovery or healing rules.

There is only "current hit points". No need to track or remember "total", "max", etc. No waiting days to heal 1 or 2 or adventurer's level, or CON bonus or some other shit hp per day. Less whining about how gimped their character is cause they rolled '1' for hp. Although, now rolling high is not the same booyah! moment. Over extended period of downtime (rolling each day of rest) hit points will tend towards maximum. Giving benefit to resting up before big delve.

This has just worked. Nice pacing of action. Little more forgiving but still deadly. Very curious to see how it pans out at higher levels. (party just hit 2nd lvl last session).

This maintains (my imagined) purpose for hit points. That is, a limit on how long adventurers can be "out mucking about in the dugeon" depending on how well they "manage" this resource. But eliminates / reduces boring wait to heal downtime / lame cleric serial healing everybody. The 1/day booze provides "insurance" vs unlucky guy getting clobbered first encounter and bugging everyone to go back and rest.

Dex as AC

Using ascending AC; naked is 10, hvy armor(best commonly available) is 16.

Instead of providing modifier to armor class, adventurer's Dexterity score is their "natural" armor class. Their effective AC is greater of their Dexterity or the AC of worn armor.

The advantage of wearing armor is that it protects against critical (nat 20's). And in theory, but I forget this, Dexterity AC is only effective vs mêlée (can't dodge a bullet*). But really, 3d6 in order, means high Dexterity is appropriately rare. So, most adventurers need armor. I'm more than fine having the occasional 16+ Dex character be awesomer.

* Not sure I care.  Rules exceptions are rarely worth it. One thing I've learned to totally let go of is using mechanics to emulate realism. Instead emulate style / atmosphere. In the case of Dex is AC, it is bikini chain mail, panther reflexed loin-cloth wearing barbarian, swashbuckling buccaneer etc.

Shields only Splinter

Shields do not modify AC. Their primary use is to absorb damage via Shields Shall Be Splintered. Although, this hasn't come up yet in play they do provide significant (20% small, 40% large, 80% tower) cover vs missile fire.

[The last two work to compress the "power curve". Slowing power creep is one reason I'm using Swords and Wizardry these days. Also, no changing AC; if surprised, behind, using two-hand weapon this round, etc. Really no modifiers, nothing to calculate. AC is either the armor you are wearing or your Dexterity, bam, done.]

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