Relax, you're in good company.
Okay, you've officially entered the 'geek' section of my webpage. Below
are some musings on a few house rules I've thought up with in order to
make AD&D (2nd edition) more playable. There is also an on-line Monstrous
Compendium in the works, and if I do say so myself it kick ass. But,
I don't say so myself, I've got back-up! I've been learning PHP
and how to use the MySQL database to build database-driven pages. My fellow
work collegue who's been helping me learn this stuff wanted to see what
I was going to put in the database, and I rather embarrasingly showed
him the Monster Manual in the works. Turns out he no only knew what it
was I was doing, but told me he used to play a long while back (the guy
knew what an Aboleth was, for christ sake! major props man) and
told me how many people would start linking to this thing once it was
up and running. Since it's all in a database, he proceeded to tell me
all sorts of things we could do to it using PHP commands! You could put
in a search for all kinds of things, even multiple searches! Imagine running
a campaigne, rolling a random encounter, and then going to the database
to find out what kinds of Chaotic-Evil creatures live in Temperate Regions,
have 3 or more HitDice and have type-C treasure!
In the meantime, you can see what I've done so far in the
table below. I recently found somebody on the web who already put his
MM up on the web, but it's in HTML. The poor guy had to type ALL of that
stuff in there. Either that, or he stole it froma program or PDF or something.
Well, I'm going to be bogarting all his data to drop in my database. To
see HIS Monster Manual, which has WAY more monsters in it than mine does,
go to home.onego.ru/~adnd/pages/mm/
Below is a list of the Monsters currently available
on the database.
Mist, Crimson Death
Home Rules and Musings
Under the 2nd edition AD&D rules,
a character gets their initial HP according to the class that PC is
in (1d8 for fighters, 1d4 for mages, 1d6 for thieves, etc.). As the
PC advances through levels, the PC is given additional HP by adding
Hit Dice so that a PC of 14th level will have 14 Hit Dice. In this
system, a weak-assed little mage of sufficient level can sustain more
damage to his body than two ogres can! I don't care how sturdy someone
can get, that makes no sense at all. My system addresses these problems
and makes adventuring PCs more "real" in a sense, as well
as sturdier at beginning levels (when you really need more HPs!).
When creating a character with the new house rules, the HP are rolled based on the race, not the class. That way you don't have a gnomish fighter with 8HP and a half-orc mage with 2HP. Rolls are based off the description of the race in the Monstrous Compendium, with bonuses for good constitution. As the players progress thru levels, additional HP are given to the PC (adventuring is a good workout, so they get in better shape with each passing level) until they reach their race's maximum allowable Hit Points (plus any constitution bonuses). If a player wants (or needs) more HP than the Max, they'll have to be attained though magical or spiritual means.
I should also mention my ideas for AC here, since that is what really makes or breaks survival. Skilled warriors seasoned by years of combat stay alive by avoiding damage, not sustaining it. A player's AC should improve with each level in such a way to counteract the stunted HP accumulation above. So, it would act like a bonus to AC like the dexterity bonus does (instead of being too quick to hit, the PC just knows where to stand and how to avoid damage).
There was also something else about the
2nd edition AD&D setup that troubled me: you chose the classes of
a character from the start and were unable to change the class, ever.
You either had to start out having the stats to be multiclassed, or
if you were human, you could use the dual class switcheroo but had
to give up advancing in the previous class.
Well, through the course of adventuring, I've had several PCs that attain better stats (boosts in strength, wishes, etc.) but can do nothing with them (you've held the sacred relic of Aphrodite, blessing you with an 18 Charisma, but you still can't be a paladin unless you start from scratch.) And who wants to play the sole thief in a band of fighters with huge weapon specialization bonuses just because there is ONE locked door in all of the secret catacombs?
Have the capabilities of each class (weapon specialization, thieving, magical and clerical spell casting) available to all and limited to the PC not by class, but by Stats (they are anyway - you need certain stats to be an illusionist, bard, or paladin). For example, a fighter was always a little too dim to be a ranger, but one adventure he went on ended up having him blessed with a greater wisdom and intelligence, allowing him to learn some spells. Under the new setup, all spells are available to be learned by those with a certain amount of wisdom or intelligence (which the PC now has) and he can now begin allocating experience slots to learning the ones he wants to learn.
Having this type of flexibility allows adventurers to be more broadly based, not having to hinge on a single class player to continue (well, our cleric just died. Might as well stop since we can't get healed without him). Classes would still be used to describe a character, but it wont be a defining role, but rather a guideline (sure, he's a thief, but that invisibility spell is sooooo handy in a pinch. And that old Mage is a blast; it's a good thing he has the stats to learn that clerical healing spell too). Suddenly, we'd have people role-playing with characters and not stereotypes! Reserve the class structure for where the stereotypes actually come in handy, like for the DM in making NPCs.
I guess all of this stems from me always wanting to play a jack of all trades character (renaissance man), but it is nearly impossible under the old system to get the Stats for a paladin/bard/illusionist/druid on the very first try, even WITH me cheating.
How's it work in 2nd edition now? you get advanced abilities in your "class" abilities as you advance in levels AND you get proficiency slots to fill with whatever you like. So, if you have a thief character who goes on a series of adventures where he never uses any of his pick-pocketing skills and never sees an elf in his life, that character will instantly be better at pick-pocketing as he advances in level and can spontainiously speak elven if he uses a proficiency slot for it. Meanwhile, a mentally adept fighter goes on a quest with a bunch of Magi who can explain all they want for years on end to this adequately intelligent person how to cast spells, but nothing would come of it because as a fighter he's not ALLOWED to understand. So some character classes are given skills even though they never practice while others can try all they want but have nothing come of it because it's not permitted. Just make it ALL proficiency slots. Haw hard is that?
Well, my friend Seth pointed out that only skills that are practiced should improve with time. Example of the wrong way would be "Great. My barbarian, Grog, just leveled up I think I'll add those 2 foreign languages!" This is, as Seth put it, crap. This is close to my point, with an exception or two.
Exception 1: practicing in a life/death situation is a bad idea.
True, practice does make perfect and this is good for weapon usage for the most part. But, if your PCs can't swim and decide to learn in the middle of an adventure, chances are they'll meet a very quick death. For these kinds of skills, its important to realise that the PCs must learn them in between adventures, also known as 'down time', when the PCs don't have to worry about killing themselves. The DM just has to make sure to provide an environment during down time that allows them to gain these new proficiencies (its kinda hard to learn to swim if your in-between adventure location is in the middle of a desert).
Exception 2: with regards to ALLOWING Grog to learn languages, or other things he hasn't practiced at, this choice forces the player to actually *GASP* role-play!
"Hmm, would a barbarian bother to learn fairy-language? It would be very useful on this next adventure, but I think the other barbarians would laugh at him. Oh NO!, I'm thinking about how the character would react! I've actually started to role-play!?!? NOOO!!"
and so on.
Besides, even if they DO decide to have him learn two extra bizarre languages, the DM can still say "what the bleep are you thinking? no fairy in it's right mind would teach your lumbering, racist, ox of a PC how to clap their hands, much less their own language. Besides, your character's never even SEEN a bleepin fairy before. Forget it."
This is where most of the problematic stuff is in
2nd edition. Using the class destructuring above, where character
class is more of a guideline, all skills that were once innate class
abilities are now proficiencies and are gotten the same way as any
Spells are broken down quite easily in this method. Simply have a prerequisite of being able to read magic for 1st level spells (along with any Stat requirements to be a mage) and make a proficiency in 1st level spell a prerequisite to learning 2nd level spells, and so on down the line.
Say you have a thief who wants to learn how to cast an invisibility spell. He has a high intelligence (lets say 14) that allows him to be able to learn magic spells, so he uses up his two proficiency slots; one for reading magic, and one for 1st level spell-casting. But wait! Invisibility is a 2nd level spell. I guess he'll have to wait until he gets two more proficiency slots to cast that one.
Actually, the spell levels make better sense this way. If each level of spell requires the corresponding number of slots to get it (i.e. 1st level spells need 1 slot, 2nd level spells need 2, etc.) then with each passing level, if your character is investing his time solely in magic, the PC will advance at a much quicker pace at the start, allowing for a more effective Mage in beginning levels.
For example, suppose a PC gets three Proficiency Slots (PS) every level, he uses 1 for reading magic, 1 for 1st level spells, and 1 towards 2nd level. Next level (2nd) he uses 1 more for 2nd level and 2 towards 3rd. Next level (3rd) he uses 1 more to get 3rd and 2 towards 4th. The next level (4th) he uses 2 to get 4th and 1 towards 5th. At the next level (5th), he uses all 3 towards 5th, but is still short 1 PS. At 6th, he uses 1 more to get 5th level spells and puts the other 2 PS towards 6th level spells, which he won't get until he's at 8th level.
Learning a foreign language, as anyone can tell you, is a serious bitch.
I don't like at all how 2nd edition handles it. It seems so easy in
the game to just pick up whatever dialect you want, and all of them
are exactly the same difficulty? Utter bull. I can't imagine that the
eloquant poetry of the high elves takes the same amount of effort to
learn as it is to figure out what orders some goblin is shouting down
a hallway. Not to mention that there is a big difference between knowing
a language and being able to speak it fluently, if at all. AD&D
clumps all of this into one proficiency slot so either you have absolutely
no clue as to what the other is saying OR... you understand every word
they said and can respond back in their own language flawlessly. This
is similar to saying that pig-latin is as easy to learn, or as hard
to learn, as Japanese (INCLUDING the written form, of which there are 3 alphabets).
There are many different stages to learning a language; diction (look,
a Grizzly Bare!), pronunciation (hallow, how are you?), sentance structure
(important it very is), inflection (I don't want YOUR apple), grammer
(me and her be friends), spelling (krap!), alphabet (abcdelormpq.. f..
where was I?), slang (you mangy Scots git!), and cultural references
(doh!). Not all languages have these problems; Abborigoniese has no
written counterpart, while Japanese has three separate alphabets, the
letter "A" has half a dozen pronunciations in English
but just one in Spanish.
Needless to say this can get extrordinarily complex, so if you plan
to use what I'm going to suggest below, just don't take it too far.
Realize that some languages will use the same alphabet,
the same sentance structure, and even the same shared words; just like
all languages spoken in the real world. For example, English is a serious
mish-mash of a basically germanic dialect with many borrowed words from
French (thanks Norman) using a Latin alphabet; So a simple English sentance
"This is good beer" translated into German sounds close enough
to English that someone who has never spoken German could understand
the gist of it, "Das ist guten beer", but the same phrase
in Spanish is not nearly as intuitive, "Esta es cervesa buena".
Decide beforehand what languages in your
world are going to be refined, basic, written, related and so forth
in a way logical to your campaign. If a character can read and speak
Dwarven fluently, chances are she'll be able to understand Gnomish writing
to some degree, but have trouble with hearing it since they speak at
such a fast pace. So, say you have a typical campaign world filled with
the standard demi-human races. In your world, elves were secluded from
the world, men and halflings lived together, and the dwarves and gnomes
fought endlessly with the goblin races. The elves will have a language
unrelated to any other, so learning it won't help you with others, but
halfling isn't so hard, once you get past the accent. As for Dwarvish,
the constant contact with the goblins allows you to recognise some borrowed
words the goblins are using down the hallway, something about a prisoner
and red hair.
Here's what I have in mind: create three to five families of dialects
(like we in the modern world have; i.e. romantic, germanic, slavic,
mandarin..) Decide which of the races are going to relate and put them
in the groups (the sun-dwellers: elf, human, faerie, nyraid - the diggers:
dwarf, halfling, gnome - the unclean: orc, goblin, bugbear). Now the
base breakdown would be three proficiency slots to be fully fluent in
that language; one for common words, sentance structure and common phrases
like "where is the tavern?", two slots for rudimentary sentances
and tenses (past, present, future) and a third for fluency in the language.
The more refined the language, the more layers you should add to illustrate
it's difficulty (or less for primitive ones like orcish). So, if a PC
learns Dwarven (3 slots), that PC has working knowledge of the languages
related to it (halfling and gnome at 1 slot).
Actually, to make it a little more realistic (and useful) I've arranged
my dialects into sub-groups with them related by proximity; Dwarven
- Gnomish - halfling. This way, if a PC puts 3 slots into Dwarven, they
automatically have 2 slots filled for Gnomish and 1 slot for halfling.
This method I think will greatly enhance
the ability to use the more primitive languages, better illustrating
the types of things an adventurer will actually use the skills for during
a campaign. For instance, if an adventurer learnes orcish (2 slots),
he can understand for the most part goblin, hob-goblin, gnoll, kobold
and a host of others you choose to have related to orcish without having
to spend your proficiency slots on them. An adventurer is more likely
to use these languages to get an idea of the things said, not to translate
verbatim, so the PC need only spend 2 or 3 slots in order to be able
to use 7 or 8 languages well enough for adventuring use.