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Brendan’s 20 questions

February 24, 2012

Brendan over at Untimately has come up with a useful list of 20 quick questions regarding rules and rulings in your D&D game. Here are my responses, based on our current Stonehell on the Borderlands campaign. I recently posted some of our house rules, so I’ve just cut and pasted a couple of these answers. If you experience déjà vu, that’ll be why.

1. Ability scores generation method?
3d6 in order, then you can swap any two of the first four if you feel you must.

2. How are death and dying handled?
Like this.

3. What about raising the dead?
Fine, if you can find someone to do it (no one at the Keep can) and you can afford it.

4. How are replacement PCs handled?
Roll up your new guy, give him a name, equip him, and roll for a hat. You are 1st level. You’ll find the party at the Cup & Cudgel (the name of the tavern at the Keep, rolled on the table for that sort of thing in Vornheim). If they don’t come back there soon, you’ll meet them somewhere in Stonehell at the next vaguely believable opportunity.

5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
Ah, here’s a thing. We started off using standard d6 group initiative, as per Moldvay. But since there are only three players, we’ve recently experimented with individual initiative. To keep things simple, all your retainers go when you do.

Suppose three PCs with two retainers apiece encounter five goblins and two bugbears. Roll for initiative! The thief rolls a 4 but his Dex is 14 so the roll is modified to a 5. The elf rolls a 2. The fighter rolls a 6. The DM rolls a d6 for the goblins (4) and another for the bugbears (2). So, the fighter goes first. But he’s wielding a two-handed sword, the silly man, so in fact he goes last, but his retainers get to attack now. Then the thief and his retainers, then the goblins, then the elf and his retainers and the bugbears all at the same time. And finally the fighter with his big blade.

So far it’s working out just fine. It gives high-Dex PCs a boost and it means everyone gets to roll their own dice, thereby avoiding recriminations when the designated initiative-roller gets a 1.

6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
A natural 20 is a critical hit and does maximum damage for the weapon or attack form employed. A natural 1 is a fumble to be interpreted by the DM as circumstances suggest, usually resulting in the character or monster spending a round or two regaining balance, retrieving a lost weapon, or whatever. It’s the roleplaying equivalent of “missing a turn”.

7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
No. One of the best things about B/X is nobody gives a toss about the benefits of wearing a helmet. Who says you even have a helmet anyway? You have random headgear which is likely to be much snazzier. Or maybe you have a bird-beaked helmet with antlers … even if you’re a magic-user. Roll that d8!

8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
You can and Sod’s law says you will. Remember the cleric’s in the fray. Do you still want to try? OK then, make the roll.

9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
*Snort* Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! “Kill everything”! Ha ha ha ha! Oh dear, that’s a good one!

10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?

11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?

12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
I keep a strict record of time passing by ticking off each turn on a sheet I’ve made for the purpose. Resources such as light sources, rations, retainers’ wages, etc., are tracked quite carefully. Encumbrance is a bit more vague; I tend to use Moldvay’s simplified system: unarmoured 120’/leather armoured 90’/metal armoured 60′, with “carrying a significant amount of equipment and/or treasure” shifting you towards the slower end of the movement spectrum.

13. What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
You only get XP when you make it back alive to the nearest outpost of civilisation (in this case, the Keep), so it’s only possible to gain a level then. You don’t need training. Because no one is training you, you don’t get new spells automatically. You have to find them on scrolls or in grimoires and try to learn them.

14. What do I get experience for?
Looting dungeons. Slaying dragons. (Oh, and a piddling amount for other monsters too.)

15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
Aye, all of that. The basic mechanic is this: you tell me where or what you’re examining, then I make a Search roll and tell you whether you’ve found anything. See here for my Search rule, if you’re interested.

16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
Retainers are pretty much essential, especially in a small party. Morale works by the book (Moldvay) although sometimes I forget to check retainers’ morale between sessions.

17. How do I identify magic items?
Trial and error, unless you can afford to pay a sage.

18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
From whom do you propose to purchase these things? You’re at the Keep on the Borderlands, famous for many things but not for its Magic Item Cash & Carry. If you want to buy “genuine lucky amulets” from the kobolds in Stonehell, go right ahead.

19. Can I create magic items? When and how?
Yeah, whatever. Maybe right now you should just concentrate on making it to 2nd level.

20. What about splitting the party?
Do you think that’s wise?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2012 12:36 am

    9. That’s a pretty good answer. 🙂

    12. Is your resource tracking sheet something you have posted? If not, I would be interested in seeing it.

    18. “Magic Item Cash & Carry” is totally going to be a stall hidden in some town’s market now.

    19. In Holmes, magic-users can scribe scrolls at first level. Just saying.

    • February 25, 2012 8:42 am

      Hey, thanks for taking the time to reply. Those were fun questions to answer, and reading other people’s responses has been fascinating – and food for thought while I’m working on my next project.

      12. My tracking sheet is just glorified graph paper, really, with a week of game time divided into days, hours, and turns. I use it primarily for keeping track of lanterns and torches, but also the duration of potions, spell effects, and such like. Also, it’s nice to know when the party emerges from the dungeon whether it’s daylight or dark outside. The number of sheets I’ve used tells me what time of year it is. For example, it’s been two months in game time since the players began adventuring in Stonehell on the Borderlands. This gives me a handle on the pace of events and changes within the megadungeon, and also enables me to describe the passing seasons and have “realistic” weather outdoors. (I use a simple 2d6 roll for weather checks. Low rolls are inclement for the time of year, while high rolls are – well, why are you going underground on such a beautiful day?)

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