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I used to always create pre-gen characters for my con games, but I think one of the real charms of old school systems is how easy and quick it is to create your own character. That said, you don't always want to run a con game with a bunch of level one characters (in fact, I think the sweet spot is somewhere around levels 2-5, but that's probably an issue of personal preference). However, I think starting characters out at a specific level breaks the character class balance.

Wait, the character classes were balanced? Yeah, they were, but the balance wasn't what powers you had access to, but how you advanced. Specifically, classes were balanced by use of level caps and XP cost per level. Since I rarely play as high level as the caps, that issue rarely comes up, but I think the XP per level is huge. Players in a campaign may shy away from the elf with his steep XP chart, while when playing a con game where everyone is the same level, why would you ever choose magic user over elf?

Here's my solution. In your con game, give a starting XP value rather than a starting level. Almost always this averages out to most players starting at the same levels, but thieves are a level higher and elves a level lower. I suppose you could just say 'You can make a 3rd level elf, a 5th level thief, or a 4th level anything else.' Somehow though, I feel just a bit more justified saying 'Make a character with 10,000 XP.'

In Labyrinth Lord, it's pretty easy to pick the amount. Just figure out what you want for the baseline level, and look up how much XP it costs for a Magic User to enter that level. Set that as the XP. For example, if you set the XP to 160,001 (required amount for an 8th level Magic User), your elves will still only be level 7, your thieves level 9, and everyone else is level 8.

Hmm, in retrospect perhaps it would be easier on the players if I just told them the base level and said elves get -1 and thieves +1.
November 6th, 2009 - 12:47 pm | Comments (1) | PERMALINK

Ascending vs. Descending AC
In the past I've mentioned I prefer an Ascending AC system. My personal favorite part of the system I've been using is that the equation for the GM is simply:

d20 + Monster's HD >= Player's AC

I happen to really like the fact that the AC is on the right hand side of the equation, meaning I as GM don't have to memorize or write down the player's ACs, which I'm often too lazy to do. However, I noticed recently when playing I think I actually prefer the descending system.

Part of this may be simply that my brain is hard-wired from years of playing to think about AC in a range of 0-10 (and sometimes negatives) where lower is better. However, from a usability side, I just like having the little chart on my character sheet. No THAC0, no math, I just look up the number I rolled on the d20 on the little chart on my character sheet and shout out the AC I hit. Maybe if I'm lucky and have some kind of bonus, (bless spell, magic sword, etc.) I'll just add the bonus to my roll mentally before looking at the chart.

In comparison, when I make my players use the ascending AC system, I modify the character sheet to show a 'Base Attack Bonus'. I found players routinely forgot to include this value when fighting, so I then added section for currently equipped weapons, giving boxes similar to the 3e character sheet to show out all the math so players know where everything is coming from. +2 base attack, +1 sword, +2 for strength, +1 for bless... The character sheet gets busier, and the player is even more confused where he's supposed to look for stuff.

Oy, the problem isn't the difficulty of the math, it's the number of variables we have to remember. Fact is, we never remember this crap in play. Instead, we roll the dice and shout 'I hit AC 5!' Then our buddy the cleric says 'don't forget, I cast bless on you earlier.' 'Oh yeah, AC 4!'

Now I'm wondering if I can't manipulate the math to make it easier for me as GM to play with descending ACs so players can have their little charts. I mean, obviously I could write out charts for ascending ACs, but as long as we're using charts, there's something very appealing about having one less house rule. When possible, I do prefer to go by the book.

I think I'll have to go back and re-read Delta's Target 20 system. Maybe that will help.
November 6th, 2009 - 01:34 pm | Comments (0) | PERMALINK

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