Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Siren Lure of BECMI

♪ We will fix it /
We will simplify /
We'll divest the game of cruft ♫

Perhaps inevitably, the version of D&D I'll now be using is for the Vaults game is still going to be a horrible kludge. It'll be largely Labyrinth Lord read through the filter of Mentzer and the Rules Cyclopedia, with some elements from C&C, the SRD, my beloved Tome Series, and sundry internet lootings thrown in to taste. Think of it as Mentzer midweek leftovers curry.

I'm going to try and keep things to an almost Microlite74 or OED simplicity initially, but hopefully I'll be able to add back in some personal favourite elements as our collective comfort levels with this bizarre new world of (non-3E) strangeness increase.

What's coming from where:
  • Most mechanics from LL - Nice and simple. Simple is good.
  • Amityville Mike's skill-less skill system - 'Tis teh shiny.
  • C&C-style BAB and ascending AC - "More is better" is just more intuitive.
  • 3E three save (F/R/W) schema - I never 'got' the reasoning behind the five save system.
  • Unified level advancement rate (3E/Berin style), with traditional training costs and times.
Classes will be left per LL initially, although I'll be using Amityville Mike's advanced classes (all the fun of classes, but with that great Mentzer-ish taste) later on.

The whole weapon proficiencies/weapon mastery system will probably get kicked into touch. I'm inclined to replace the whole morass with re-jigged Tome scaling feats for fighters - pick one feat as a class ability at 1, 3, 6, 9, etc.

Funnily enough, there's a character sheet that suits what I want almost perfectly: Goodman Games fine Dungeon Crawl Classics sheet (pdf link).

Given the scads of additional time freed up I might be able to make some more progress on my How It Should Be system for Alchemy, Crafting and skill use in 3E. The more I look at it in the light of old school wisdom, the more apparent quick-and-simple fixes for that baroque monstrosity of a game become...

edit: hardcopy of Labyrinth Lord on order. The old school whirlpool is sucking me in! Don't send help. :)

"It was not a new terror that thus affected me, but the dawn of a more exciting hope. This hope arose partly from memory, and partly from present observation."
-- E.A.Poe, "Into the Maelstrom"


  1. Sounds interesting. What is the "Tome Series"?

  2. @blizack: the Tome Series was Keith and Frank's (quixotic) attempt to make 3E into something that didn't (by the RAW) degenerate into sheer lunacy beyond 10th level. It was by turns hilarious, infuriating and thought-provoking.

    "With great powers come laser eyebeams."

  3. As a diehard Moldvay/Cook fan, I've think of the entire "CMI" section of BECMI as cruft, along with much of the other stuff. :)

    In all seriousness, I still think of 10th - 14th level as the top of the heap for characters because of my exposure to both B/X before the Companion existed, and AD&D with its implications that 9th - 11th level is when you probably retire to a nice stretch of wilderness and let the young guns have at it. Even in AD&D, you could do everything anyone could possibly do by 15th - 18th level.

    I honestly can't remember ever having placed a character above 14th level anywhere in any of my own settings, or ever having run one or known anyone who developed one from 1st level. So most of BECMI was simply superfluous to me. Also, Otus/Willingham > Elmore/Easley. ;)

  4. @Scott: You're probably wholly right on -CMI being a bit over-much for regular dungeon-crawl play.

    IIRC even the BECMI/AD&D conversion section of the Rules Cyclopedia suggested 1:1 level equivalence up to 12th level, then that you divide -CMI levels above 12 by 3 (effectively: "Disregard anything above 12th level; we were totally high at the time" ;) ).

    Yes, Otus was da man, but you can't quote Easley against BECMI. The man only had one artistic mode: 'portraits of the gout-ridden'. And he kept on inflicting it on us all the way through 2E. :(


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