Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nooo. Not THAC0

So I tossed out the idea of running a PbP to my gaming buddies a couple weeks ago. Something to fill up the 13 or so days between our regular play sessions. Originally I had an idea of what I was going to do but as I started to plan it out and looked through some of my resources I decided on something a bit different.

Anywho, I planned to run it with the Pathfinder rules. With no battle mat nor miniatures, combat was going to be somewhat subjective to my whims as DM. Rognar suggested that I might look into something more rules lite like Labyrinth Lord or any of the other first edition clones.

I like free so I downloaded a copy of Labyrinth Lord and looked through it. It was very much like my much beloved Red and Blue boxed sets from so long ago. With a bit of work I could run the PbP with these rules.

Now the point of this post is that possibly changing the rules has got me thinking how it would change the game. The initial plot hook wouldn't change. Since the path to the "dungeon" was going to be largely role playing based, I don't see this part changing much either. The biggest change I can see is some of the cool encounters I had been dreaming up. With no grapple rules, one of my custom beasties won't be nearly as scary (although I think I can still make it work). With no skill rules, I am going to have put more thought into how the PCs can overcome certain obstacles that they are almost assuredly going to encounter.

I don't think the NPCs will change drastically. Sure the stat blocks would have little in common but since I haven't created any of them yet no loss there.

It would be interesting to run a 1st edition game. It has probably almost 20 years since I have. Who knows, with fewer rules and systems to deal with it might even improve the PbP experience.

I have just realized that THAC0 is a second edition term but the mechanic would still work in first edition so I am leaving the post title alone.


A Paladin In Citadel said...

I'm personally torn between the Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry rule-sets, for an old-school campaign I want to get off the ground in early 2010. While I really like LL, my concern is that the higher ability bonuses encourage stat-creep.

As for THAC0 ... well, it's maligned reputation is not wholly deserved, but in the dustbin of gaming history it must remain.

I played a summer campaign using LL, and being unfettered from skills was liberating for me and the players. We, as a group, had to figure out if a particular player could do something, based on their expressed background, and their attempts to role-play the situation, which was actually a lot of fun.

Rognar said...

I actually remember thinking THAC0 was a godsend at the time. I was DMing a lot when AD&D 2e came out and I absolutely hated combat matrices. It seems a bit clunky now, but for many of us back in the late 80s, it seemed very innovative.

Rognar said...

I've been thinking about the lack of a skill system and how it would effect the game. Paladin is right that role-playing can take the place of skills, but in a PbP game, there would be problems. Just interrogating a prisoner could take half an hour or more depending on the typing speed of player and DM.

Then it occurs to me that you don't really have to give up skills at all. We know how skilled the average cleric is at Diplomacy or the average theif is at Bluff. Those sorts of skills can be inserted as house rules. You would still role-play the important interactions, but the eevryday interactions like bluffing your way past a guard or negotiating with a merchant could be handled with a dice roll.

Dirk R. said...

THACO was not a Second Edition term. The first mention of THAC0 comes in the 1e DMG in the reference chart given for monsters. Later (but still during 1e times) it was used in the stat blocks of monsters in modules.

Back then it was not meant to be used as part of a formula (THACO-AC = to hit roll) but as a shortcut for DMs to build the combat matrix without having to look it up.

When clever gamers (or someone inside TSR) discovered that with just the THACO they didn't need to rebuild the matrix it was made a rule.