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Crazy Idea #1: Lunch Hour Play
I've had a bunch of crazy ideas about Basic D&D recently. I figured I'd doll them out into individual posts. Here's #1:

My coworker Brian keeps seeing me reading my old BX books and got interested/nostalgic about it. He wanted to roll up a character, so I printed him a character sheet. Now he really wants to play. Problem is, he has a young kid and lives in NH, so he can't really spare big chunks of time in the evening or on weekends. He proposed we try playing over some lunch hours.

At first I was dubious, I can't imagine how much D&D play you can cram into 1 hour. But then I got curious about it, and told Brian if he could gather a party of other coworkers willing to try, I'd run a couple sessions. I've not promised anything more than a couple trial sessions, but I suppose there's the chance this grows into something bigger than that.

If he had asked for a more modern run of the mill RPG, I probably wouldn't have done it. But he's actually eating up every old school philosophy I mention to him, and in particular he remembers playing this exact edition of the game and really wants to give it another go. And I think BX is an excellent choice to fit the time constraint. One thing I remember from the last time I ran it was how fast combats went.

I think I will run this one very sandbox, perhaps using what we came up with from the Rumormill experiment as a starting point. I don't know if I'll actually try to use that tool in play (though I am considering it), but I do want to try only growing the world incrementally, one step ahead of the party.

Good lord, that sounds like I've already convinced myself to run a campaign. I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's see how the first couple sessions go, there's always the chance that 1 hour really isn't enough time.
June 18th, 2009 - 08:32 am | Comments (0) | PERMALINK

Crazy Idea #2: Turn Counting
One thing I thought was kind of cool the last time I ran BX was counting turns. The book is pretty explicit about how turns run, so I decided purely as an experiment to keep careful track of turns. I kept a tally behind the screen, using the list of what takes a turn straight out of the rules. I enforced the rule that the party must rest one out of every 6 turns.

At the end, I found it very interesting how long the party had actually spent down in the dungeon. The idea of resting part-way through the dungeon probably would've never come up, as it was they had spent more than a full day down there. I probably should have forced them to rest for the night towards the end there.

I don't think it was very evident to the party how much time was passing. I was curious if they had been more aware if they would have tried to better regulate their use of time. Perhaps the resting one of six turns is a subtle way of making the party aware of the passage of time. It's like a little notification each time a game-hour passes. In reality though, I think it was mostly perceived as silly and mood breaking.

This got me thinking of getting some kind of turn counting device to have on the table that everyone could see. I ran through a dozen odd ideas before coming back to the most obvious: dice.

First off, if I want to remove the resting 1 of 6 turns (which I do), I have two choices. I could just blatantly ignore the rule, which gives the party some bonus activity time. Or, I could increase the duration of a turn so there's only 5 turns per hour (12 minute turns instead of 10). I kind of like that, as increments of 5 are easier to handle than increments of 6.

If I next break up the day into three five hour sections (morning, afternoon, night), and exclude one hour of each section for a meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner), then each section is precisely 20 turns. That leaves 9 hours for sleep in the day, which is perhaps a bit much, but if you consider time to set and break camp it seems reasonable.

I have this huge 20-sided die, about the size of a tennis ball, which would be perfect for keeping count of turns. In fact, I'm told by my Magic-playing friends that it's actually a wound counter for that game. You can tell because unlike a normal d20 where any two opposite faces tally to 21 (eg. the 1 is opposite the 20, 2 opposite 19, etc.), on this die each number is directly adjacent to the numbers incrementally above and below it. This makes it very easy to turn the die one fact to increase/decrease the number displayed by 1. If I were really crazy (which I may be), I might get two more of these dice of different colors so I could have one for each section of the day.

My only concern is that perhaps the resting 1 of every 6 turns is actually meant to simulate things like meals. In which case, I'm shorting my players 3 hours each game day. Also, I haven't fully researched what the impact would be of increasing the duration of a single turn from 10 minutes to 12 minutes. I'm sure at least there are some spell durations which would be affected. On the other hand, since durations of other activities are measured in number of turns, it may be a wash.

I'll have to muse on this. Perhaps do some research into what else is counted in turns, and maybe see if there isn't any other mechanical time counting device that might be better suited to the task. Though honestly, the idea of counting turns on a giant d20 strikes just the right chord with me.
June 18th, 2009 - 08:52 am | Comments (0) | PERMALINK

Crazy Idea #3: Critical Hits
Darn it, the interwebs swallowed this post, and now I have to re-write it. What a paint. Anyway, here's the last of this mini-series:

One of the things I really like about the Warhammer RPG is its rules for critical hits. I'm not talking about something special when you roll a natural 20 (Warhammer is percentile based anyway). This is Warhammer's standard death mechanic. Basically, it works like this:

When you reach 0 hp (or wounds in Warhammer), you don't immediately die. Instead you roll on the critical hits chart, based on how far below 0 you should have gone, and the location of the hit. The effects range from minor effects like being stunned or dropping your weapon to dismemberment and death. The chances of the latter go up based on the amount of extra damage beyond 0 you take.

I really like this idea, and would like to float it to D&D. It leads to some very tense moments when the character gets lucky and only takes a minor effect. Then he's got to decide if he wants to press his luck and stay in combat and possibly suffer a really nasty critical on the next hit, or if it's time to cut and run. Also, I really like the idea that reaching 0 hp doesn't necessarily mean full death, but could leave your character permanently scarred or maimed.

So I did some hunting, and found this critical hit system that was actually written for D&D and has a fairly old-school mentality to it. While the author uses these charts only for natuarl 20's (and even then only 5% of the time), I'm thinking of going straight to these charts whenever a character reaches 0 instead of just declaring out-right death. It might take some balancing, but I'd like to reach the sweat spot where managing to go below 0 once is survivable but unpleasant or could kill you, while a second time is very likely to kill you. Maybe that's as simple saying that a second roll on the chart always results in death.

Anyway, it bears some experimenting. I may try this in our lunch hour games coming up, since that game is alreaedy an experiment of sorts.
June 18th, 2009 - 10:06 am | Comments (1) | PERMALINK

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