Saturday, March 14, 2009

To Rule, or Not to Rule?

I posted a simplified run-down of the skills house-rules I'm working on over at the OD&D Discussion Board. The responses have been interesting, ranging from interest to kindly picking apart my rules (which is what I was looking for, in truth), to one fellow who seems to be objecting to having any kind of system for adjudicating skills at all.

And I'm certainly not objecting to his preference for no rules when it comes to handling non-combat and non-magic skills. The game can certainly be played without a secondary skills system, as most of us back in the 80s managed quite nicely. However, there does seem to be a segment in the grognard camp (and I'm not basing that on this one encounter, but on a few dozen hours reading boards, blogs, and websites) that rallies to the cry of "Rulings, not rules!" and objects to anyone attempting to house-rule in a semi-stable skills system.

As I pointed out in my reply, one might as well complain that OD&D's insistence on quantifying armor class and hit points "constrains original thinking" in combat. Why not have the players describe exactly how their characters execute every blow and let the referee ad hoc the odds of hitting and parrying on the fly? Answer: Because then it becomes the referee against the players instead of the referee adjudicating the rules.

I'm trying to hit a middle-ground here, giving the players something stable that they can judge their characters' abilities by, just as they can see how strong, how smart, how good a swordsman, or how powerful a magic-user their character is. Of course, I'm under no illusions that my solution here is perfect, and we'll have to see how it actually withstands play, but I don't think it violates the spirit of OD&D or is too complicated to use.

We'll have to see how it handles in actual play, of course.

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