Monday, September 28, 2015

Rules to live by (or die trying)

As everyone continues to prepare for session #1, here are a couple good posts to reread (or just read, if you haven't read them before):

Players: What you need to know to play

The Importance of Finding Another Way (and AD&D Combat Math)

These are written more for new players, but if I did a decent job they really should benefit anyone. I also highly recommend A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming as a good AD&D mentality refresher.

On the topic of numbers and rules, one AD&D mechanic that always seems to get house-ruled is the critical hit. By the book, a natural 20 on an attack roll hits automatically. Many groups expand this to the attack automatically dealing double or max damage.

Over the years, I've developed a tendency to leave the critical hit rule alone. As unfun as it is for a player to roll a '1' for damage after scoring a natural 20 on the attack, the problem is that the mechanic tilts both ways. Player characters will generally be targeted by more attack rolls during a session than their enemies, and have much, much more to lose from erratic swings in damage. In the AD&D world, all lives are not created equal!

Hopefully, the frequency with which the players breathe a sigh of relief that we didn't change the critical hit rule will outweigh the times they bemoan it. Keep your tactics sound and the rolls will take care of themselves.

EDIT: Oops, I was wrong on this one. Sean pointed out to me that we did enforce max damage on natural 20s in Ravenloft, despite its potential to be detrimental to the party over the course of many battles. I'm OK with continuing that, in the name of the players' fun superseding the statistics. Anyway, it's far less swingy than extra dice or multipliers.

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