Monday, October 25, 2010

D&D: Back to Basics

So I have spent a lot of time (and money it seems) on "Basic" D&D recently.  I now have every version of "Basic D&D" that has ever been made.  That's a lot of rules for characters 1st-3rd level.


I REALLY should be doing something with these rules.

I started out with Holmes Basic, moved to Moldvay/Cook and then AD&D.  I never played Mentzer Basic (or any of the BECMI rules) though I now have that boxed set as well and the Rule Cyclopedia.

And this doesn't even scratch the surface of the Retro-Clones.

Of course my kids and I want to play 4e.  I am in a Pathfinder game, I am running a 3.x game, I played the hell out of 1st and 2nd Ed.  It is getting (or has gotten) insane.

So to help me figure this out I am bouncing some ideas here.

My friend Jason Vey has pointed out (and rightly so) that in 4E the characters already start out as heroes.  There is no growth from a normal, mundane person to powerful hero;  ie like Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter or Bilbo Baggins.  This is an important observation.  There is a powerful archetype at work here. So powerful in fact it has it's own name, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Look over the builds I have done for some classic D&D icons ([1][2][3][4]) despite my attempts to "normalize" these characters there is one glaring truth.  For low level characters they are awfully powerful.

Compare that all to this post.
JB makes a good point in here that Normal people are supposed to be weaker.  In Basic D&D a normal person has 1-4 hp (as do Magic-Users) so any weapon that does 1d6 has a pretty good chance of killing them outright, and there is still as chance it will kill any demi-human, cleric or thief too.

Now it depends on what I want my game to "be".  Is this a tale of normal people that become heroes?  Or potential heroes that rise up to a greater challenge?  There is a lot to be said about that farm kid learning to be a hero.  But also the biggest gripe I have about playing those early days of D&D is that characters are often too damn weak.

Take the Wizard/Magic-User for example.  Here we have someone that supposedly has been to magic school.  They have learned spell theory, occult knowledge, and all they know is one spell?
Really?  We don't make archers take just one arrow, so why do this?  Plus outside of XP bonuses the Prime Requisites has little meaning in day to day play in Basic.  AD&D improves this a bit.

So I had this idea.

I am going to figure out the make up of the party.  I am letting my players play two characters each, with the caveat that these two have some past history.

Then I was going to run these characters through one of the D&D Basic sets to build up their powers to what you see in D&D4.  So run them levels 1 through 3 and then move on.

So far my oldest son wants to play a Dragonborn Paladin and a Dragonborn Sorcerer and they are brothers.  My youngest wants to play a ranger and a bard, both are 1/2 elf.  Ok.  Problems already.  These classes or races are not even covered in the D&D basic rules.
I suppose I could go very simple and basically use "Dwarf" as a dragonborn and elf as a half-elf; tweaking as needed.

The idea has some appeal to me, but I am not just the only one playing here.

My kids, whose game this is for, could care less about Basic D&D or anything else Old School.  They like and want to play D&D4.

So despite a lot of good games now in my possession, and a lot of good ideas  I am sticking with the new game.  I'll go with the philosophy that while some heroes are made, others are born to greatness and their challenges need to match up to them.  Plus, just because someone has a lot of "kewl powerz" doesn't mean they know what to do with them.
Maybe I'll pull some "Basic" ideas out every so often.

Or maybe I'll just get a separate Basic D&D game going.

1 comment:

Gaming Ronin said...

I started off with this same quandary. But Oe is a tough sell when none of your players ever even played 1E like I did. They feel basic is just too basic.

I found the sweet spot though. I'm now running C&C. Using older modules. Its based on d20/ogl so its compatible that way. And close enough to older editions that converting is easy.

Its great because I'm using books from almost every edition of D&D/AD&D and im doing it old school in feel and focus.

I'm even using optional rules for talents(feats) and skills. I'm just keeping them to a minimum. And one player is playing a 4E like warden.