Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another "New School" myth

Wouldn't you know it, just when I start talking about what I consider to be misconceptions about modern versions of D&D within the "old school" community, the Grand Poobah of that community, James Maliszewski of Grognardia, starts talking ability scores and what role they should play in D&D. I have never played the original game called D&D. In fact, I have never even seen a copy in person (although I've heard there is a complete set in the special collections of the Miskatonic University library). So imagine my surprise to learn that once upon a time, Str meant nothing in the game. That's right, if Conan the Barbarian and Wesley Crusher both whacked you with a sword in OD&D, the result would be the same. Now, JM has some issues with OD&D and ability scores (though oddly not with the aforementioned), but he doesn't want ability score benefits to dominate level benefits as he apparently believes to be the case with newer editions of D&D. I will concede, this was the case to some extent with AD&D, although I don't personally take issue with fighters having exceptional strength benefits other classes don't. Still, this discrimination has been addressed to a significant degree in 3.5/Pathfinder, both through the use of multiclassing and feats. For example, you have a wizard and you want him to be a passable swordsman. Obviously, he won't be on par with a dedicated fighter of similar level, but that doesn't mean he can't hold his own against a few orcs. He can take a level of fighter. It costs him a bit in terms of casting ability, but he gains proficiency with a whole slew of weapons. Maybe he's not very strong, but maybe he has a high Dex. Ok, take the weapon finesse feat and use a light weapon such as a short sword or rapier. Voila! Now he can use his Dex bonus instead of this Str bonus on attack rolls. Of course, I haven't even touched on the spells the wizard has at his disposal to improve his combat prowess, such as bull's strength, cat's grace, heroism, haste and rage. With so many options, there is virtually no character concept that can't be accommodated using the 3.5/Pathfinder ruleset.

-Rognar-

11 comments:

A Paladin In Citadel said...

I'm confused. If Strength isn't important to Fighters in 3.5 or 4e, why do players assign high scores to that stat?

I'm not up on my Pathfinder or 4e, but I presumed there was some "in-game" mechanical benefit to doing so for the martial classes.

If a mechanical benefit from a high Strength is not a feature of PF or 4e, I would like to be set straight!

A Paladin In Citadel said...

If you are interested in seeing the old D&D books, I do have a copy of the original greyhawk supplement (sadly my original three books and other supplements were sold years ago)

Rognar said...

No, Strength is important, but you can get around it if you want to. Also, it doesn't dominate the game. A fighter, for example, gains a +1 to his base attack bonus for each level and a +1 to attack and damage for each 2 points of Str above 10. So, a 1st level fighter with Str of 16 has the same attack bonus as a 4th level fighter with Str 10. However, with the added hit points and feats, the 4th level fighter would likely have little trouble defeating the 1st level fighter. Were I to guess, I would say the Str bonus would make the 1st level fighter a match for a 2nd level fighter or maybe a 3rd with good rolls.

Rognar said...

The original Greyhawk supplement, you must keep locked under glass, do you? Yeah, I'd love to see it sometime.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

I'm regularly down at The Sentry Box, checking out the recent releases and pestering Don to bring in more OSR products for me to buy.

Perhaps we can cross paths at some point.

Rognar said...

Do you typically drop in on the weekends? I like to go on my lunch hour if things aren't too busy at work. The new Star Wars rpg book is coming out next week, so I'll probably be heading down to buy it.

Obiri said...

My biggest issue in 3.5/Pathfinder is the requirement to specialize - especially in skills. Its not a big deal at low levels and even in the mid levels as long as you have a high related attribute score and lucky dice you are ok but once you get up into end game (15+), skill DC checks are 40+. Unless you've put a point into that skill every level and have a few other bonuses you have no hope of ever making that check.

By the time you reach level 8 or so, if you are not trained in a skill, you don't have much chance of making the skill check designed for someone of your level.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

My office is way over in the NE, so I very rarely make it down to TSB on a weekday. Sometimes on a friday night, most often its saturday or sunday.

Rognar said...

O, I think that is a valid criticism, although in most cases, it is a function of adventure design, rather than game design. For example, why should the DC for a diplomacy check to gain the confidence of a local constable be any higher at 15th level than it is at 5th level. On the other hand, the lock on the king's treasure room should certainly be extremely difficult and beyond the skills of all but the highest level rogues.

Rognar said...

Hey P-in-C, we are starting our Labyrinth Lord PbP game very soon. I don't know all the details (Obiri will be DM), but it will take place on the space made available for such things at paizo.com. We need a 4th player, so if you're interested, we'd be happy to have you aboard. D-bane is the only real role-player among us (a frustrated thespian, I think), so your old-school contribution would be welcome.

You should be aware of a couple things. We use a point-buy system to generate ability scores (just can't abide the fickleness of the dice on something so important). Also, we will be starting at 9th level. If either of these conditions are gamebreakers for you, I fully understand.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Neither are game-breakers. I'll have to pass (for now) not because i'm not interested (I am), but because i'm gone for 10 days on business starting mid-next week, and I have 4 major work projects between now and Christmas.

I was considering starting a sandbox game up in 2010. But i'd be happy to participate in someone's campaign, or have you and D-bane as collaborators on shared DM duties.