... now with 35% more arrogance!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

My Top 5 Fixes for OD&D

On the OD&D forums, there’s a thread asking for everyone’s “top five” fixes for OD&D. I answered there, but thought I should preserve the answers here for posterity. Most of my fixes involve more than one change, so I suppose some might consider that “cheating”.

Assuming we’re starting from the original three booklets as the base, I now make these changes before adding any supplemental material (from Greyhawk, for example.)
  1. Corrected d6-only hit dice progression. Fighters get 1d6 per level up to 10th. Magic-Users get 1d6 every other level. Clerics are in between (2 dice every 3 levels.) M-Us and Clerics get a “loaner” hit point on levels where they don’t get a hit die. “To Hit” chances are based on hit dice, sort of like a loose interpretation of Target 20.
  2. Situation Rolls. All the various probabilities for surprise, listening at doors, opening stuck doors, wandering monster rolls, and so on are regularized to 5+ on 1d6. Anytime I decide something could go wrong with an action or players have a slight chance of escaping a bad situation, I pretty much use that roll.
  3. Magic Scrolls. Only magic-users can make magic scrolls of any type, including cleric scrolls. Magic-users can use any scroll type, Clerics can use cleric magic scrolls, and anyone can use protection scrolls or curses. Magic-users can make scrolls at any level, as per Holmes Basic, but only of spells they know or research. Spells above 6th level can’t be memorized, only cast from scrolls.
  4. Clerics Without Spells. Clerics don’t memorize spells, but use the Turn Undead roll to pray for miracles. Use the reaction roll table as a replacement, 2d6 + 2 * (cleric level - spell level or undead hit dice). 9+ means spell is cast or undead is turned. The first time a cleric gets a 6-8 result, the spell asked for is cast, but never again for the rest of the adventure. On a 2, the cleric falls from grace and loses all powers. Praying at an appropriate shrine and otherwise fulfilling religious duties erases all penalties and starts over if a 9+ on the reaction roll is rolled. (The link is to the first post of many about using Clerics Without Spells, but these rules represent my current thinking.)
  5. Corrected Armor/Shields. Leather armor has no move penalty for fighters, -3 Move for everyone else. All metal armor halves base Move. Magic-Users (and some custom classes) halve Move again and must rest 2 turns out of every 6 when wearing metal armor because of fatigue. (I use this general fatigue rule elsewhere, too.) Shields shall be splintered, but only for fighters.
The hit dice fix was something I talked about back when I was doing the clone project/Liber Zero, but is kind of spread out across several posts. Situation rolls also showed up in that discussion, but long-time readers will recognize that 5+ on 1d6 roll as something I’ve used in many, many posts.

There are certainly other, lesser fixes, some of which are still in the midst of being tweaked. Some things I also add are background professions, special abilities of weapons that take effect when damage is 5+ or when a critical hit is rolled, changes to Read Magic and the way spells are learned.

Most of the changes to damage, combat, and ability scores from Greyhawk are ignored. Thieves are still being tweaked, but they get the same hit dice as Magic-Users. A lot of custom classes wind up being Thieves or Clerics with replacement abilities. New spells from the supplements might require reworking before I use them, but new monsters and magic items are generally OK.

Creative Commons license
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0

(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.


  1. The hit dice fix was something I talked about back when I was doing the clone project/Liber Zero

    Does this mean you are no longer working on Liber Zero? That would be sorely disappointing because of all the various clone projects in development over the years, this was the one I was most interested in.

    1. Liber Zero is in an odd place right now. When Delving Deeper came out, even though I had quibbles with some of its choices (and it took what I consider to be a wrong turn in later versions,) I felt there was less of an audience for another 0e clone, at least as an actual product. But I still think I will release a set of tables and skeletal rules at some point that will be usable as a 0e system stripped down to its fundamentals.

      In a certain sense, this might not even fit the description of a "clone project" anymore. And I'm not sure where it's going or when it will be ready. But it's certainly still there in the back of my mind.

    2. I would love to have a reference document similar to the Holmes Reference Sheets from Zenopus Archives. You've come up with some really useful ideas and to have them all gathered into one document (even if it isn't a complete game) would be a genuinely awesome and welcome addition to my library.

    3. I decided to address this in a post tomorrow, because I'd like your input and input from others looking forward to Liber Zero.

  2. These are all reasonable. Six good choices. I see no problems. I do it differently but not too much differently.

    Why can’t clerics write scrolls?

    1. Because the rules actually say that magic-users are the only ones who can create magic items, including scrolls. The inclusion of cleric scrolls without much comment introduced an ambiguity, and later editions gave clerics the ability to enchant clerical magic items, but I consider that a mistake. My "fix" clarifies that: cleric scrolls are usable by clerics, but aren't made by them or intended for them.

    2. I like that. How do magic-users make scroll for spell they can't access (only on the cleric lists)?

    3. PatrickW: Spell research, or learning it from another scroll. Unsure yet whether I'd allow them to prep the spell to cast, if it's not normally accessible.