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Friday, March 2, 2012

20 Questions, Part I: Characters

Lots of people have been putting up lists of their house rules, based on these 20 questions posed by Brendan on the Untimately blog. I wasn't going to participate, originally, even though I do need to get together some kind of house rules handout for my group. But then I realized I haven't had much else to post about lately, so I might as well go for it. In the interest of keeping it from being a dry list, though, I'm going to break the questions up into sections and add an explanation of my answers. And, as it turns out, the questions do separate pretty clearly into sections: Questions 1-4 are about character creation/replacement, 5-8 are about combat, 9-11 are about threats, 12-14 are about bookkeeping, and 15-20 are miscellaneous (with a block of magic item questions in the middle.)

Part I deals with how to create characters, when you will be forced to replace them, and how replacements will be integrated into the party.

1. Ability scores generation method?
    3d6 in order
2. How are death and dying handled?
    Damage => hp = death in 1 turn, in most cases.
3. What about raising the dead?
    If you can find someone who can do it. Survival check to see how intact the body is.
4. How are replacement PCs handled?
    Can take over hireling mid-adventure, otherwise join party at town.

There's not much to say about the ability scores, other than to emphasize that low scores are not bad scores, when talking to someone new to OD&D. Damage requires more explanation: I prefer to add up damage instead of subtract from hp. The upshot of this is that once the total damage is equal to hp, the character is dying; excess damage is ignored. For standard death in combat, "dying" means death in 1 turn unless some action is taken: a coup de grace by an enemy or first aid or magic from an ally. Some attacks (beheading) count as an immediate coup de grace, while others (psychic attacks) don't cause death, but some other effect, like a coma.

I've mentioned before that I have a much sparser distribution of high-level types in the world of the 9 and 30 Kingdoms, so the problem with raising the dead is finding someone able to do it. Players should expect to lose some characters forever. I do plan on using a "survival check", basically a system shock roll, to see if the body is intact enough to raise from the dead, but failure doesn't mean permanent death; it means permanent death until steps are taken to correct the problem. I do not dock Con points for resurrection.

I'm not that fussy about how a replacement PC joins the party. If the PCs trust the new person immediately, merely because the players know the new character is a player character, that's up to them.


  1. I should have added something about how first level hit points is handled, because that is another common place for house rules. Robert Fisher suggested that addition.

  2. @Brendan: It would be helpful for others. As it so happens, I don't use a house rule for 1st level hp; you get 1 hit die + Con modifier, exactly as written.