"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why B/X Is My Favorite #9

9. Complete but small subsystems for adventuring in dungeons and the wilderness

The near-boardgame nature of B/X means that it has tiny subsystems that cover exploring dungeons and the wilderness. Many of these come directly from OD&D's The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures but are either more clearly written or more discrete.

Examples of these subsystems are:

Exploring Dungeons
1. Resting - After moving for 5 turns, you must rest for 1 turn. (B19)
2. Opening stuck doors (B21)
3. Finding secret doors (B21)
4. Listening at doors (B21)
5. The whole "Order of Events in One Game Turn" (B23)
6. Wandering Monsters (B53)

Exploring the Wilderness
1. The "Order of Events in One Game Day" (X23)
2. the Evasion Table (X23)
3. Foraging (X51)
4. Becoming Lost (X56)
5. Castle Encounters (X59)
6. Wilderness Encounters (X57)

Many of these subsystems may defeat verisimilitude (something I rarely if ever strive for in my games). Why are all of the doors in the dungeon stuck? Why did the patrol of medium horsemen chase us from the castle?

Because the rules say so or because I rolled it on a table.

Why do you have to pay $350 rent if you land on Park Place? Because the rules say so.

These rules/subsystems make the game very easy to run.

11 comments:

  1. I find it interesting that you not only make 'no bones about' being a pro-Gamist kind of guy, but that you really seem to celebrate the Gamist aspect. Its pretty foreign to my perspective, but it's neat reading it.

    I certainly see the game if I look for it, but I normally just see those as guidelines to help a novice or a Ref/GM 'stuck' for a procedure, etc.

    It's all good. :)

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  2. Thanks TS.
    To me it is just how I have always played B/X.

    Now if I was playing 2E it would be different even though the rules are so similar to nearly be the same game. There is just something about the way that the rules in B/X are structured or worded vs 2E that makes all the difference. To me, 2E is almost a "story game".

    Another example is Castles & Crusades. When playing C&C, for the most part I try to keep the mechanics in the background unless the mechanics can add to the encounter. For instance, in my last C&C campaign there was a chase scene through a swamp with exploding mushrooms and other crazy stuff. I abstracted the chase down to a 12 space track (almost like a savage worlds chase) and had cards done up that had various challenges on them. By bringing the mechanics to the fore, everyone knew how to "win", and they could make sensible choices but the system also allowed for the dramatics of the chase.

    Part of it might go back to the comment the other day that as you go farther back to the origins of D&D the closer you get to a wargame. I have internalized that B/X is a "game" where as Castles & Crusades is for "roleplaying" and Savage Worlds is somewhere in between.

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  3. Just another point - by not striving for verisimilitude doesn't mean that I don't try to paint a mental picture for the players. I still want my players to put themselves in the characters shoes, see what see in their mind's eye, etc.

    It is just that the physics of the world are heavy influenced by the game mechanics. Just like our world has gravity that is easily visible, the B/X world has dark forests where characters get lost on a 1 or 2 on a d6.

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  4. @ your 1st comment: 2E? You ARE full of surprises! :) I'll have to read back from blog-inception and see what other pearls you have hidden in the green slime and black pudding.

    @ your 2nd: lol -- I hear you, I'm just not on the same trail you are taking. :) I hope I roll a 3+ on the d6. ;)

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  5. This is all good stuff. I can't say enough that B/X is really just revised and clearly written OD&D. Sure, a few tweaks here and there but not too much.

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  6. OD&D needed some clarification, I've heard! :)

    I also find this post interesting. When I first read stuff like that, in Mentzer, I was also intrigued by the possibilities. It felt like there was an established procedure, a safe and tried method. I had been GM-ing for many years then, but still thought the flowchart style very helpful for imagining how to "work the game" and make it sing.

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  7. "It is just that the physics of the world are heavy influenced by the game mechanics. Just like our world has gravity that is easily visible, the B/X world has dark forests where characters get lost on a 1 or 2 on a d6."

    Very interesting points! I would have to say my gaming (using 2E) is quite the opposite; Game mechanics are heavily influenced by the physics/rules of my world, not the opposite. Then again I come from a long line of askers "Why?" who got told "Just because!" far too many times to be satisfied with that (and needless to say I HATE games like Monopoly, which I have played since I was a small child!) One of the reasons D&D is such a great game is that it encompases such radically different outlooks all under the same umbrella!

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  8. "needless to say I HATE games like Monopoly, which I have played since I was a small child!)"

    Whoops, which I HAVEN'T played since I was a small child. I hold a similar contempt for ANY roll the dice, move around in a circle/square type games besides Monopoly....

    Mike B.

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  9. "my gaming (using 2E) is quite the opposite"
    My gaming with 2E is quite the opposite as well. I find 2E and B/X to be very different games even though the rules are nearly the same.

    "One of the reasons D&D is such a great game is that it encompases such radically different outlooks all under the same umbrella!"

    I hear you!

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  10. I hear you.

    "It is just that the physics of the world are heavy influenced by the game mechanics. Just like our world has gravity that is easily visible, the B/X world has dark forests where characters get lost on a 1 or 2 on a d6."

    You've probably seen Philotomy's Mythic Underworld which expands on the above. Providing verisimilitudious veneer over gamist mechanics. So, people like me can get past the suspension of disbelief and have fun.

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  11. Oh yeah, I'm a big fan of Philotomy and his OD&D Musings and Robert Fisher's Thinking Out Loud about Classic D&D.

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