Originally, in this post, I explained a small modification to the known AC system used in D&D up to advanced second edition. My goal was to reintroduce something that was lost when the game migrated from wargaming to RPG, but then, as a final afterthought, I made some calculations and discovered that, well, my changes made little (although not insignificant) difference. Preceding a post with a disclaimer like “what you are going to read may not be as useful as it seems” is probably not the best hook, but I still believe there are a few interesting bits here and I may also have unwillingly solved an ancient argument about AC vs. damage reduction that sometimes still rises from its grave (spoiler: there is surprisingly little difference in the long run unless you make a completely different system from scratch.) Besides, I’m a believer in the idea of publishing negative results, even if they are not as eye-catching as positive ones.
I wrote this post yesterday, but for some reason, the auto-save function isn’t working, which means I had to write it – again.
Long story short, this is the second part of a well-received post I wrote a long time ago about how to interpret Hit Points in D&D (or similar games) in light of the literature that inspired it. The basic idea was that Hit Points shouldn’t be understood as an absolute value, at least if you want to “visualize” or describe what is happening when character lose hit points. By the way, this is not an esoteric interpretation because even the gamey 3.5 edition acknowledges that:
It took 20 years to make (and probably a few aneurysms)!
Always bet on the ‘Thal.
You are playing some old skool D&D with your friends and decide that you want to play a magic-user. The DM tells you that level 1 magic-users can only cast one spell per day and, to add injury to the insult, “your starting spells are chosen at random.“
You start sweating profusely, but being a hardcore masochist, you accept the ruling and allow Eris, Princess of Chaos and Dice-Rolling, to decide that your magic-user knows three spells (plus Read Magic) of astounding power: Detect Magic, Light, and Magic Missile. Unfortunately, your DM is an ass and does not even know that Light can be used to blind enemies, and, to make things worse, he also uses some weird rule for Magic Missile (1d6+1 of damage, but an attack roll is needed.) In practical terms, that means the destructive power of your character is similar to being able to shoot a single arrow each day. 10 years at the Magic University for this?!
From the classic White Dwarf magazine #1 (June/July 1977,) page 21 as the image shows, back when it was an RPG magazine dedicated mostly to D&D (and Traveller.)
There is something missing in the big conversation about the current and future state of sff. Well, I’m sure there are many things, but I will focus on one.
Some of the people I read and follow claim that what is needed is to go back to the more pulpish roots of the genre, with AD&D’ Appendix N (not exactly pulp, but still, close enough) being a great starting point to know more about those now-forgotten or ignored classics. Some even read the editorials and interviews from old magazines to better understand the cultural zeitgeist of that era. Now, Appendix N may very well be a fundamental document of a bygone age, but it’s not like its author (Gary Gygax) died, struck down by a malignant curse in the prime of his life, just after penning his sacred doctrine.
I stumbled upon this post at DYVERS about that modernist and recurrent issue of “complex morality” in games. I had actually written a huge blog post about the issue, dealing with its relation to original 0&1 D&D edition and how people don’t know how to play anymore, the lack of imagination and sadistic superego of today’s players, the pernicious effect of video game simplifications and post third-edition obsession with numbers in RPGs, how many people don’t seem to know what roleplay actually means or how you play morality (or immorality,) and how all of that ties to contemporary popular culture controversies and their guilt-inducing shenanigans. But then I reread the whole thing and… not even I understood what I had written. Therefore, here you have the tl.dr. version which is even better: