Old School Dungeons And Dragons

You all meet in an inn.

Edition

We're going to play D&D Basic/Expert, or B/X. They're two little booklets with essential rules. The first edition of Basic dates back to 1977.

However, we're going to use a modern revision of the B/X rules called Labyrinth Lord. Get it. It's free.

I'm aiming for a relatively simple system, so nearly all "optional rules" are out of the window.

B/X was REALLY barebones. That, on the other hand, means that we'll be twisting and bending the rules like they're silly putty. If you want anything custom, anything, just ask. Rules are there to be broken.

Character Creation

Character creation is 4d6 drop lowest, in order. You can reroll if you don't like, but I'd like to be present when you roll. After rolling you can lose 2 points from one stat and add 1 point to another stat (as long as it's not your highest stat). Useful if you're just missing that one extra point to get a modifier.

Classes are Cleric, Thief, Fighter, Magic User, Dwarf and Elf. Ask me to play a Halfling and I will END you.
If you want a "custom" class, just ask.

We are not going to use Prime Requisites bonus XP. This doesn't make INT and WIS for spellcasters useless, as there's "ritual magic" you can do outside of combat based on that stat, and generally if you're a spellcaster you'll have to rely on your casting stat fairly often even if it doesn't directly affect your spells. (lore, spell research, alchemy, and the likes)

Max HP at first level, and reroll all 1s on your hit die as you level.

Start with 3d6 x 10 GP.

If you're a cleric, you can pick an extra weapon to be skilled in, even a bladed one. When I say "cleric", don't think "healbot". think "Van Helsing / Solomon Kane / Crusader / Templar Knight".

If you're a magic user or elf, you start for free with a spellbook (weight 40cn) with (1 + intelligence modifier) first-level spells on it.

Everyone starts with 2 sets of common clothes (15cn when packed, no encumbrance when worn), for free.

I expect you to abide by encumbrance rules because it's actually pretty important. You will be travelling, you will be looting, you will be managing inventories and equipment lists. A bit of book-keeping will be necessary.

Your character can carry [200 + (Strength*10 + Constitution*10)]cn of stuff without being slowed down.
Normally you move 40 feet (12 meters) per round in a fight. If you carry more than your carry limit, this drops to 30 feet (9 meters). Overland, Exploration and other movement speeds drop accordingly.
If you carry more than TWICE your limit, you drop to 20 feet (6 meters) per round.
If you carry more than THREE TIMES your limit, you drop to 10 feet (3 meters) per round and can't fight.
More than FOUR times? You move at a crawl, dragging your backpack behind you.
More than FIVE times? You can't even move.

Rules and House Rules.

  • KISS Rule: We're not using Weapon Mastery rules. You know how to use all weapons in your class entry (except Magic Users, who can use staffs and slings). We're not using Skills either. Generally you'll be assumed to know what your class should know, so of course a fighter knows about tactics and siege warfare and of course a magic user knows about alchemy and so on.
  • Learning From Experience Rule: The penalty for using a weapon while untrained is a -2 on attack rolls. If you use a weapon you're untrained in for a while (training downtime and doing about 10 attacks in actual combat with that weapon) and spend some XP (1/10th of the XP you need to level up), you can become trained in that weapon.
  • Two Weapon Combat Rule: Fighters and Thieves can use two-weapons combat. It just means using two weapons, one per hand. Your second attack has a -4 to-hit, but you get two attacks. Of course, you can't use a shield or two-handed weapons while doing so. If you're a sword-and-board fighter, you can even treat your shield as a second weapon. You don't get the AC bonus from it for the round if you do, though. A shield inflicts 1d4 damage (1d6 if spiked).
  • Ritual Magic Rule: Clerics, Magic Users and Elves are still magical even once they've run out of spell. You don't have immediate magic at your disposal, but with prep time and appropriate components and descriptions you can try and cook up some utility rituals (think 4e's rituals, yes). They might fail or backfire, mind you. Rituals will be explained further down the page.
  • Hovering at Death's Door Rule: You die when you're at negative half your HP or -10 HP, whichever is smaller. So a level 1 wizard with 4 HP dies at -2. A level 36 fighter with 75 HP dies at -10. When you're at 0 or negative HP, you roll CON at the end of every round, and, if you fail, you bleed out 1 HP. Please don't cry if you die. It might happen. This is oldschool D&D, just roll a new character or promote a hireling to PC status.
  • (Not) Sleeping In Armor Rule: You can only sleep in no armor or leather. If you have heavier armor and are surprised during the night, you wake up in leather-equivalent armor (the padding you wear under chain mail or plate). If your armor is non-leather and magical, the leather underneath is not magical. If you DO sleep in full metal armor, you suffer -2 to all rolls if in chain mail and -4 if in plate armor. The penalties stay until you rest properly.
  • Shields Shall Be Splintered Rule: When you're hit in combat, if you're using a shield, you can declare that your shield soaks the damage and is destroyed. If you're struck by a spell or effect (with a physical component, so no parrying a Ray of Death with a shield) that calls for a saving throw, you can sacrifice your shield (regardless of its HP) to reroll the save (if failed). If you use a magical shield like this, it has a 50% (1-3 on 1d6) chance of breaking,and a magical shield can actually parry purely magical attacks (like Ray of Death) like this.
  • Improved Thief Skills rule: Your Dexterity modifier adds to Thief skills: a +1 is +5%, a +2 is +10%, and so on.
  • Adjusted Leveling: XP is slightly changed. Rules are detailed below.

XP and Advancement.

By core B/X or LL rules, advancement is a bit too slow, especially when running adventure modules.
In this game, advancement will follow these rules:

  • Blood For XP: XP gained for killing monsters as normal.
  • Gold For XP: XP gained for recovering treasure as normal.
  • Frontier Economy: Every GP spent by the party nets 1 XP.
  • Ales and Whores: If the GP spent (as per rule above) is "wasted", burned up in something of no practical use, it's worth 2 XPs instead.
  • Pushing Back The Night: Bonus XP is granted for exploration objectives, as the party finds and maps exotic locations. This is dependent on the "level" of the location found, so it scales (roughly) with character level.
  • Mission Accomplished: Bonus XP is granted for achieving clear objectives: killing monstrous leaders or significant creatures, retrieving specific sought-after items, rescuing prisoners, and the likes. This is dependent on the "level" of the challenge, so it scales (roughly) with character level.
  • Bring Your Friends: Hirelings don't get XP shares. They still advance at an equivalent pace, but bringing hirelings with you no longer penalizes your XP.

Equipment

You start with 2 sets of plain clothes (15cn each, 30 total, but clothes don't cause encumbrance when worn, only when packed) for free.

(Remember that armor DOES cause encumbrance when worn. If this causes you to be encumbered, don't panic: it's by design. Armor DOES slow you down. It's normal.)

Magic users can use daggers (both to throw and to stab), staffs and slings, and clerics are forbidden from using bladed weapons, with one single weapon as exception. Decide which one when creating the character.

A character with a staff or polearm can strike from the 2nd rank.

Just to be clear, 1cn is the encumbrance of one coin: 1/10th of a pound.

Rituals

A magic user, elf or cleric can cast "rituals". A ritual is a noncombat spell or equivalent effect. (For example, as a first-level wizard I can't imagine you'd ever want to waste a slot to memorize "read magic".)
If you're a magic user or elf, it must be a spell you have in your book, or similar. If you're a cleric, it must be in a spell level you have access to (or comparable).
You need pre-prepared components for each ritual, with an average price of 10 gp for first level rituals, 50 for second, 250 for third, 1250 for fourth and so on. You might be able to find these components around in the dungeon or other locations, though. (On a successful casting stat roll.)
These components always weight 5cn each.
A ritual takes 1 turn (60 rounds = 10 minutes) to complete and requires a successful casting stat roll. On a failure the components are wasted. On a serious failure (a natural 20), the ritual is botched and backfires dangerously.

You can try 3 rituals per day.

Setting

Mystara. No, you don't need to know anything about it. You can make shit up and I'll adjust it. No problem.

(And yes this means the Shadows over Mystara beat-em-up is totally a thing that happened.)

For reference:
Karameikos, Kingdom of Adventure
The Known World of Mystara
(In general Pandius has some serious cartography porn going on.)
Residents of Riverfork
Klaxon & The Alarms' Big Book of Rumors

Character Sheets

Please link your character sheets here.
Elf: Rarunr Sharashamasharash
Cleric: Sound As the Ice Cracks Swiftly
Magic-User: Mr. Fantabulous
Dwarf: Bob the Dwarf
Fighter: Darden Petrus Darius
Thief: Armark Lyshenko (KIA: Goblins, Cave of Chaos)
Dwarf: Halek Shortbeard
Fighter: Jacky
Thief: Azric Taret
Thief: Black-haired lady
Cleric: Mary Miller

Empty D&D B/X Character Sheet

DM Advice

Reading older editions of D&D I realized how they're based on much different assumptions than those we have nowadays. So, here's a short primer:

  • The big source of XP is nonmagical treasure. Monsters give very little XP compared to treasure, and with the house rule that you can blow cash to gain XP, this becomes even more important. This means that a fight with no prospect of treasure or reward is best avoided unless it has some grander objective behind. In short, think of playing D&D B/X less as a fantasy epic and more as a heist movie. You are treasure hunters first and monster killers a distant second.
  • Treasure can be pretty challenging to move. 1000gp have an encumbrance of 1000cn, which is a lot of cash but can be a serious problem to carry. Things get even worse when you find fat stacks of silver or copper coins. On the other hand, gems and jewelry are wonderfully portable.
  • Morale is surprisingly important. Morale is what wins or loses battles, and, since morale is rolled on 2d6, a +1 or a -1 is a fairly big deal. Finding ways to give your henchmen and man-at-arms morale bonuses while lowering your enemy's morale can be very effective.
  • You don't need a skill or a trait telling you "you can do X" to be able to do that. Everyone can try and move stealthily, the thief just has a special skill for it in case normal stealth fails. Et cetera. B/X is very heavy on "rulings" and very light on "rules". Try things.
  • You only get XP for doing things. There is no free xp for "showing up at a session". The game runs like a sandbox, so you will not be railroaded into a chain of events. Be proactive. Do things.
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