Dragon Magazine: Player Advice Collection (Part 6 of 6)

These are my reading notes of various Dragon Magazine articles. Learn more about the collection here.

This time the topic are Procedures.

Credit where credit is due: Elaborating upon the experience-point rules

Author: Katharine Kerr Issue: Dragon Magazine #95 Rating: ★★★★☆

Katherine gives a solid analysis of AD&D's experience system, pointing out how it doesn't work so well for non-violent solutions, wilderness exploration, and domain play.

She goes on to propose a way to think, or framework, for figuring out how to award experience points for situations not covered by the rules (i.e. for treasure and for monsters killed).

Here are the headlines of the procedure for determining the experience points awards of scenarios in general:

  1. Make sure that the material for the adventure is indeed one single scenario.
  2. Define the major goal of the scenario.
  3. Determine the opposition to the goal.
  4. Personify the opposition if necessary as a single “monster.”
  5. Use the table in the DMG to determine the actual point award for the personified opposition.
  6. Determine bonuses, if any.
  7. Keep in mind the “measure of challenge” rule in the DMG.

Although I don't quite agree with her examples, this article is worth reading for the analysis of the AD&D experience point system:

I strongly urge DMs to remember the abstract nature of the AD&D game's experience-point system. They should stay firmly within it by awarding points only for major goals that require the use of many PC skills to achieve. Although it's tempting to give point awards for specific actions, such awards really do run counter to the spirit of the game. While creativity is the most important thing a DM needs for good gaming, a sound and consistent system of rules runs a close second.

Yes, I'll include the article in the final collection.

New charts, using the 5% principle

Author: Lenard Lakofka and Gary Gygax Issue: Dragon Magazine #80 Rating: ★★★★★

Smoothing before the smoothing was popular? This is one of those articles I love reading Dragon Magazine for. Short, to the point, gameable, and full of tables.

It basically reworks AD&D attack and saving throw tables to improve by 5% between each level instead of staggered improvement every couple of levels.

As a bonus we also get a revised table for awarding experience points for monsters.

The tables are a bit visually messy (might also be due to scanning artefacts), but this is very much worth reading, especially if you play AD&D or OSRIC.

Yes, this article will be included in the final collection.

You've always got a chance: Using ability scores to determine success or failure

Author: Katherine Kerr Issue: Dragon Magazine #68 Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Katherine's advice can be boiled down to: multiply the ability score with 5 to get the basic skill percentage, break the disputed action steps, and then determine which skill or skills will be used in each step. Assess situational modifiers, but keep it simple and limit to range from -10% to +10%. A good reminder is given repeatedly: this is a game, keep it quick, keep it fair, and be firm.

Although brief (two pages), this article could've been a single paragraph. I also cannot get over the fact that she translates d20 into d00 and then ends up only working with increments of 5. You know, as on d20. Don't do that.

When the rations run out: Characters don't live on hit points alone

Author: Paul Hancock Issue: Dragon Magazine #107 Rating: ★★★★★

Wonderful. Warms my heart. Two pages. Clear mechanics. No beating around the bush. Mandatory if you are running sandbox game where players might run out of rations.

Wounds and weeds: Plants that can help keep characters alive

Author: Kevin J. Anderson Issue: Dragon Magazine #82 Rating: ★★★★★

Twelve plants player characters can use to alleviate their pains. Simple mechanics for gathering and identifying are offered, followed by description of each plant covering: scientific name, other names, appearance, location, uses, game effect, and precautions.

The plants are: aaron's rod, adder's tongue, birthwort, comfrey, garlic, henbane, herb true-love, juniper berry, marsh-mallow, st.-john's-wort, sphagnum moss, and woundwort. The are not overpowered (usually ranging from d2 to d3 for most of then, often temporary), and are nicely illustrated and well described. A bit verbose, but nothing that can't be fixed.

An article worthy of including in the final collection.

Good Hits & Bad Misses

Author: Carl Parlagreco Issue: Dragon Magazine #39 Rating: ★★★★★

The best article on critical hits and bad misses that I've read.

You roll d20 as usual for attack roll and d00 to determine if it will be critical or fumble:

Let's say that a level 1 Fighter attacks a monster with AC7. He rolls 18 on d20. He needs to roll 12 to hit AC7. Therefore 18-12=6% probability to score a critical. If d00 shows 6 or below, he gets to roll on critical hit chart.

Now, imagine that he rolled a 4 on d20. 12-4=8% probability that he fumbled. If d00 shows 8 or below, he will have to roll on the fumble chart.

I like this approach because it scales with the PC level, unlike for example flat 5% of having natural 20 and 1 on d20 being a critical or fumble.

Great two-page article very worth including in the final collection.

Magic resistance: What it is, how it works

Author: Penny Petticord, et al, Issue: Dragon Magazine #79 Rating: ★★★★★

Great complement to a single paragraph explanation of “magic resistance” in the AD&D Monster Manual. Worth reading if you play AD&D or OSRIC.

A Hero's Reward: The hero-point system for the AD&D game

Author: Leonard Carpenter Issue: Dragon Magazine #118 Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Good idea, horrible execution.

Good idea: adventurers can earn “hero points” by performing heroic deeds.

Horrible execution: maximum hero points are determined by the level; they replenish daily; 1 point can be traded for one +1/-1 die modifier, up to five times on a single die; NPCs also get it.

Sure, Leonard advises that hero points could be awarded on a weekly, monthly, or some other, longer time scale. But this to me feels like a power-gamers wet dream. Imagine a name level character having a daily +9 to distribute as they wish? And on top of that the judge must consider all the NPCs and their hero point pool...

No thanks.

The fighting circle: Gladiatorial combat in the AD&D game

Author: Dan Salas Issue: Dragon Magazine #118 Rating: ★★★★★

A solid article offering rules for running gladiator schools and games. Base rules are for the “classical Roman” setting, with “medieval” and “oriental” getting additional rule modifications.

Dan covers types of fighters that can become gladiators, how to run training school (costs, buying gladiators, etc), classical gladiatorial styles (retiarius, thrace, dimachare, secutor, mirmillo, samnite, hoplomache), training procedures, how do the arenas work like, combat (opponent selection, quick combat resolution system, rules of the game), battle variations (blind combat, mounted combat, blind mounted combat, bridge combat, mass battles, and sea battles) and chariot races.

We get thirteen random tables to help determine everything from gladiator's background and style to their equipment and final fate.

Nine pages that read fast, have a lot of mechanics and game procedures, with well explained rules modifications. I felt like I could set up an arena in my game right after reading the article.

This article will make it in the final collection.

High Seas: Ships, fore and aft, in fantasy gaming

Author: Margaret Foy Issue: Dragon Magazine #116 Rating: ★★★★★

Wow, just wow.

I know very little about ships, and I found this article by Margaret just great. It opens by explaining various nautical terms and parts of the ship in plain English. Then it explains all the ship personnel as well as their roles.

Next up are different types of ships and their functions. We get everything from 5th century galleys to mid-19th century ships-of-the-line. Later on Margaret offers very helpful advice on which ship types would fit which time periods in the various game settings (e.g. antiquity, medieval, and so on).

This article is chock full of very helpful illustrations and diagram. They really help understand and visualise different ships types and their main features.

That is the first six pages. Next eight pages is all about game mechanics, procedures, and statistics. We get the following tables:

Even if you don't plan to use statistics and various procedures herein, it is worth reading just to better understand ships, how they were operated, and naval warfare.

Yes, this article will be included in the final collection.

Same dice, different odds: Divided rolls add variety and uncertainty

Author: David G. Weeks Issue: Dragon Magazine #94 Rating: ★★★★☆

Very cool article offering a way to create an asymmetrical curve using dice. When rolling a single die (e.g. d20) we have a uniform probability distribution, and when rolling multiples of a same die (e.g. 3d6) we get a normal probability distribution (i.e. a bell curve).

Now, if we use a divided die roll (e.g. d20/d4) we get an asymmetrical probability distribution. When we divided higher die with a lower die we get left skewed distribution, i.e. most probable outcome is going to be on the left side:

Click here to play on anydice.com yourself.

This is an elegant mechanic to give magical weapons in order to make them a bit different from regular +1 bonus.

I don't remember why I included this article in the Player Advice collection since it is more suited for Judges than players. Either way, I'll included it in the final Judge Advice collection.

#Resource #DragonMagazine

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