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Sunday, October 17, 2010


I wanted to take a step back to Men & Magic to look at this overlooked mechanic:
Constitution 13 or 14:                      Will withstand adversity
Constitution of 9 - 12: 60% to 90% chance of surviving
Constitution 8 or 7: 40% to 50% chance of survival
It looks somewhat like the ancestor of the system shock roll. This seems to be born out by the sketchy description of Constitution on the previous page:
Constitution is a combination of health and endurance. It will influence such things as the number of hits which can be taken and how well the character can withstand being paralyzed, turned to stone, etc.
The problem, of course, is that these two excerpts are all that is said about "withstanding adversity". There are no explanations on how to decide which number in the 60 to 90% or 40 to 50% ranges to use, although it's easy to assume that every point of Constitution equals +10% chance of survival. But there has to be an element of house-ruling, here, because the rules don't say when to use the rule, whether to check only once, or what else counts as adversity.

You could use this as the basis of a "death's door" house rule, for example: if a dying character is aided within 1 turn, a successful "withstand adversity" roll returns the character to 1 hp and a weakened state. Or you could use this for overwhelming damage, like falling off a 100-foot cliff: in addition to rolling for damage, the victim must also survive a "withstand adversity" roll or be killed.

It would be easy to add either a Target 20 or other resolution roll as a Withstand Adversity roll. For Target 20, add double Con - 5 to the roll, but don't add character class levels, as for other saves. For a different approach that doesn't require a formula, roll 2d6: if the roll is greater than or equal to Con, the victim is killed (or suffers some other devastating effect.) I'm leaning towards the latter for possible inclusion in the clone, because it's simpler, but it breaks a pattern in how rolls are made by making one "save" 2d6-based instead of d20-based.

Anyone else have thoughts on this subject?


  1. I assign the chance of survival in 10% increments across the ability range indicated, which I think is suggested by the neatly corresponding ranges of the ability scores and the chances of success.

    I judge "withstanding adversity" as withstanding "being paralyzed, turned to stone, etc." The "etc." is the tough call, so I just assume it implicates the sort of things that require a System Shock roll in AD&D 1e, or things that are particularly traumatic. Pretty much a judgment call.

    Paralysis is awfully nasty under this system.

  2. So, do you require an adversity (system shock) roll every time a character is paralyzed, with death as a consequence of failure? Or do you only require it for characters paralyzed for a lengthy time period? Similarly, do you require a roll immediately after a character is petrified, after the character is returned to normal, or both (as I've heard some GMs do?)

  3. If a character is paralyzed by Ghouls, I require it at the end of the time period at which they normally would have woken up. This gives time for a potential Cure Light Wounds, which I allow to remove paralysis (as in B/X). If they remain paralyzed for the entire time period and fail their Constitution roll, then death is the consequence.

    This isn't quite so bad in 3LB OD&D as in later editions, as Ghouls have only one attack, and Turning is unlimited and very effective.

    (Hold Person is still a charm spell in 3LB OD&D rather than a paralysis effect, and I don't think I've ever given out a Paralysis Wand in that system.)

    I haven't yet had a character petrified in OD&D, but I'd only require it when they're returned to flesh, possibly modified by damage to their "statue" form. As far as I'm concerned, it's moot until they're turned back.

    I don't use Resurrection in OD&D, but Raise Dead requires a roll upon being raised.

    These are just my approaches ... I don't often argue over OD&D ambiguities, as I think differing approaches are part of the fun. :)

  4. Those are pretty much the same rulings I'd make, except for the bit about Raise Dead. However, I might require an adversity roll for a body prior to casting Raise Dead. More on that in the next post, since it's more clearly a house rule.