• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

[Let's Read] The Rules Cyclopedia

JoeNotCharles

Registered User
Validated User
The main query your work here is raising for me is: If someone's interested in this period of D&D gaming, are they better off with the original BECMI rules or the Rules Compendium? It's unclear to me whether some of the contradictions and discrepancies you're uncovering would make more contextual sense in the original BECMI, or if it requires a more nuanced understanding of the developmental history of the rules.
In my opinion, the BECM boxed sets are much superior to the Rules Compendium. (Never liked the "I" boxed set - which was pretty much ignored by the RC anyway.) They have better art, better atmosphere, and there are a few random minor things that didn't make it into the RC. The only thing the RC has going for it is organization, with everything being in one book - you don't have to check which boxed set a particular monster or spell is in, and you don't have to remember to go to the Companion Set for the War Machine rules but the Master Set for the Siege Machine. But on the other hand, the progression of rules added from Basic Set through Master Set makes it clear just how important each rule was intended to be (with a lot of the Master Set rules honestly feeling like afterthoughts - they were running out of stuff to add after the Companion!) in a way that just sticking "optional" on top of the sidebar doesn't.

Maybe it's just nostalgia, but the Basic set's presentation of dungeon adventuring, followed by the Expert set's expansion of those concepts into wilderness adventuring, really emphasizes the themes of this version of D&D, which is lost in the RC which puts all those concepts together.

EDIT: really, though, "this period" of D&D gaming is a little misleading: the focus of the Basic D&D line changed quite a bit over the years. The BECM sets were aimed at each supporting a specific style of play, with adventures giving examples of those playstyles: Basic was dungeon crawls (the prototypical example being B4 - The Lost City; B2 - Keep on the Borderlands is often cited but really it was written for original D&D and retrofitted onto Basic D&D, which shows how compatible they were), Expert was sandbox wilderness exploration (X1 - The Isle of Dread), Companion was domain rulership and the clash of armies (CM1 - Test of the Warlords), and Master was, well, kind of confused. But after they'd all been out for a while, authors naturally started to blur the lines between the different playstyles, starting with "transitional adventures" which were explicitly supposed to introduce characters from one set to the concepts from another (B10 - Night's Dark Terror, a wilderness hexcrawl for Basic level characters; X10 - Red Arrow, Black Shield, a clash of armies for Expert level characters) and then introducing the Gazetteer products, which were very in-depth looks at the setting which has been sketched out only briefly in the earlier adventures, and which ended up with a very different focus than the earlier products. Starting with the Gazetteers there was a lot more concern with telling stories than with the structure of adventures (which is common to the AD&D 2E adventures and setting products too - and to the 90's in RPG's in general) so the Gazetteers had lots of suggested NPC's and challenges that didn't match up to what was covered in the individual BECM boxed sets. For example an adventure for starting characters might involve a wilderness journey with low-level threats - nothing wrong with that, except that now you can't just pick up the Basic Set and that adventure, it's assumed you know what's in the Expert Set too. Or it might involve solving a mystery at a noble's manor - again, a perfectly fine adventure seed for a low-level character, but details from the Companion set tended to leak into the setting of such adventures so even though they're for low-level characters they're not "pure" Basic Set adventures anymore. And at the same time, a lot of the details of the setting and adventures changed in miscellaneous ways to the extent that the Gazetteer era really feels quite different from the BECM era. And the RC was specifically sold to support the Gazetteers, which strongly assumed that you had all the rules and setting elements (monsters, treasures, concepts of outer planes and Immortals, details of the demihuman clans) from all the sets, and mixed and matched them freely.

So saying I prefer the BECM sets to the RC is really saying that, in hindsight, I prefer the BECM style of adventures and setting support to the Gazetteer style, which was pretty similar to the AD&D 2E style. The BECM style is more unique and evocative.
 
Last edited:

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
Thanks, JoeNotCharles, that really explains a lot more about why the Rules Cyclopedia has the tone it does.

Next (p124) comes ‘Siege Accounting and Costs’. The table gives ammunition costs per week for each siege weapon: these come out of ‘the dominion treasury’ and are considered part cash, part services. The cost of a week’s ammunition for each siege engine needs to be met each week. Ammunition for catapults and trebuchets may be gathered. The defender may gather rocks thrown by the attacker. ‘The attacker must first reveal the total number of artillery pieces that fired in the previous week.’ (The book already stated that all artillery must be declared when used if not before but, whatever, reveal it again.) The defender can gather a quarter of that number in weeks’ ammunition for their catapults and trebuchets. The defender (p125) may also demolish stone buildings and use the stones for ammunition: ‘Each stone building yields a number of units (weeks’ worth) of ammunition equal to its BR value. However, the BR bonus for the building must be immediately deducted from the defender’s original total.’ (Looking ahead, I find the relevant listings on p137: it would have been nice to mention that somewhere in the siege machine chapter.) The attacker may gather three quarters of the ammunition used if bombarding, half if harassing or a quarter if assaulting but this assumes all troops are gathering ammo. (The ammunition used by the defender? By the attacker? By both?) Gathering ammo means troops do not get rid of fatigue but do not suffer any additional fatigue (unless they do from the war machine combat results table, I suppose). If troops are allowed to rest, half the above amounts of ammo may be gathered. (So what happens if troops rest? Does each level of fatigue last a week as declared above? What if they don’t rest? Does that mean each level of fatigue lasts indefinitely? This really could have done with being less vague.) Leaving a siege weapon unused for a week means you conserve its ammo but you can’t apply its BR bonus. The book then tells me to ‘consider 6 units of light catapult ammunition as equal to 5 units of heavy catapult ammunition, or 4 units of trebuchet ammunition.’ (But the same paragraph just told me to tot it all up and use the aggregate figure for gathering. Do I do that or not?)

Divide mercenary monthly pay rates by four to get weekly pay rates: cash must either be kept at the siege site or delivered regularly in order to keep the mercenaries paid. (I can’t help thinking both of those options would lead to complications. Nothing is said about bartering with mercenaries or paying them in kind — how would a mercenary like permanent haste or permanent protection from normal missiles, or even a voucher for reincarnation, instead of a few weeks’ pay? You could even run accounts so that the mercenaries have an amount of credit with your magist equal to the pay they should have received.) The book says that mercenaries cannot make change and must be paid in exact amounts, and advises against paying a large advance to mercenary companies as being suddenly flush leads to poor discipline and loss of morale.

One standard ration feeds one ‘person’ for one week and goes off after one week; one iron ration feeds one ‘person’ for one week and goes off after eight weeks. (Nothing is said about purify food and water, nor is anything said about different species having different dietary needs: I assume my dragon will need more than one ration a week.) Buying food regularly in bulk allows savings to the tune of half the costs listed in Chapter Four — the book says ordinary adventuring parties can’t avail themselves of these savings. There follows a paragraph about create food which explains that create water means the food is the limiting factor and that clerics must create food every day because the food so created spoils after one day (and again, in a discussion of clerical magic supplying food, nothing is said about purify food and water). There is an accompanying table which, bizarrely, asserts that create food provides enough food per casting for thirty-six ‘men’ per level of the cleric above Nine when the spell write up on p37 stated that it creates enough food for twelve ‘men and their mounts’ per level of the cleric above Seven. (So the table is rubbish, or the spell write up is rubbish. The book [p125] does go on to say that ‘horses and other mounts of similar size require double normal (human) rations’, but that assumption doesn’t reconcile the two unless every entry on the men-fed-per-spell column of the chart on p125 is supposed to be out by exactly seventy-two. Anyway.) Underfeeding soldiers causes fatigue — moderate after one week, serious after two weeks and loss of half of battle rating after three weeks — loss of morale to the tune of two points a week and — if the soldiers aren’t being fed at all — desertion or mutiny after 1d3 days. Horse-sized mounts eat double human rations (and I’m really not sure whether the implication here is that you can just mark off two human rations for each horse each week or not) and will suffer the same penalties for underfeeding as humans, although the book is silent on what the effect of fresh troops riding fatigued horses might be. Rather than deserting or rebelling after 1d3 days, mounts run away, turn on ‘their owners’ or just die after 1d6+3 days. Each player must deduct all rations used at the beginning of the week and penalties for underfeeding apply as soon as the full numbers of rations aren’t used. ‘Rations are not deducted for troops supplied by clerics.’ (But, again, there is no mention of using stone to flesh to feed your army on the rocks the enemy artillery has thrown at them, eating the horses, or even cannibalism, which was apparently not uncommon in ancient sieges: Deuteronomy 28:53-57, for instance.)

Next are special squads: this is evidently where parties of player characters come in. A special squad is a small group of people with special skills, often including magic, which are deployed for special purposes: typically, reconnaissance, sabotage of particular pieces of enemy equipment and/or commando raids to capture or kill chosen individuals. Special squads are put together ahead of the siege and are neither declared to the opponent nor considered by the war/siege machine rules: they ‘must be PCs or named NPCs’ (so I suppose the obstacle to just saying you’ve got a special squad would be the necessity of having your leader actually recruit them in the usual way as they would a party for exploring a dungeon) and their activities are played out using the ordinary D&D rules between the week-long siege machine turns.

Siege equipment may be constructed at the siege site, under the supervision of a siege engineer, each one of whom may supervise four constructions at a time, or an artillerist, each one of whom may supervise two constructions at a time; the metal components, tools and so on needed cost one tenth of the listed price of the siege equipment. There also needs to be a ready supply of wood: if there’s a ‘forest resource’ within five miles, ten soldiers can fetch enough wood each day to make five hits’ worth of a piece of siege equipment (at which rate it would take two days to gather the wood for a ballista, just over a fortnight — two siege turns — for a belfry, and ten days for a battering ram, which is essentially a log), if it’s five to ten miles away it will take twice as long to fetch the wood, ten to fifteen means three times as long and so on. (Woodform is not mentioned.) Wood may be cannibalised from buildings: a wooden building, including beams and so on, will yield enough wood for one hit of siege equipment per five feet of wall length and stone buildings ‘with wooden roofs’ yield five hits’ worth of wood per building. (I know it’s a trivial and irrelevant point but I’m pretty sure wood is used for other things than roofing in stone buildings: for instance, a building can have stone walls and a thatch or slate roof and still have wooden doors, floors, beams and rafters.) Once the materials are available, ‘any supervised but untrained person’ can put together half a hit’s worth of siege equipment per day. The maximum number of workers that can co-operate on one piece of equipment is half the total hits of the piece (meaning that, if you have unlimited troops and materials available, it will take exactly four days to build any one piece of siege equipment). Ballista ammunition can only be crafted by an armourer.

More next time!
 

Davies

Registered User
Validated User
Nothing is said about bartering with mercenaries or paying them in kind — how would a mercenary like permanent haste or permanent protection from normal missiles, or even a voucher for reincarnation, instead of a few weeks’ pay?
Probably not, you can't spend that on booze, gambling or hired companionship.
 

JoeNotCharles

Registered User
Validated User
ISTR that there's a table showing the amount you pay to get a specialist to cast this kind of spell for you. So you could use this to figure out how much a service like that is worth if you want to trade.

It might have just been how much it costs to hire a sage in general for a week, though, not a cost for individual spells.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
Probably not, you can't spend that on booze, gambling or hired companionship.
We are talking about a city under siege, here, not Las Vegas.

After a siege machine siege (p126), damage to the fortification is calculated in the following way: roll damage for each siege weapon in use (by the attacker, I can only assume) at the end of the siege — so you would roll 1d12+13 for each trebuchet and 1d6+8 for each battering ram — add the damage rolls together, multiply the total by the number of weeks the siege lasted and subtract 1d100 (the book specifies that the defender rolls the dice). The result is the number of hits the fortification loses. If the fortification has no more hits than the number to be lost, the whole thing is reduced to rubble. Otherwise, reduce ‘the wall’s hit points’ by up to three quarters then, if there is damage still to be done, go through the following structures in order, removing a fifth of the hits from each, then go around again, taking another fifth of the wall’s original hits first, as long as there is still damage unaccounted for:
  1. gatehouses, gates and drawbridges
  2. normal buildings
  3. towers
  4. barbicans
  5. keeps
If the attacker wants to concentrate their, er, attacks against a chosen part of the fortification, they may not use more than three hundred soldiers and four siege engines per hundred feet of frontage. The defender gets the full BR bonus from the section of fortification being singled out, plus any towers within two hundred feet, and adds a quarter of the BR bonuses from other parts of the fortification.

The chapter ends by saying that, if powerful magic is involved, a siege may be short circuited very quickly and those sorts of situations should be played out using the ordinary D&D rules and noting in closing that costs should be rigidly enforced because ‘[c]ost’ was the biggest ‘obstacle to siege warfare’ historically (nothing is said about the anachronism of large, standing armies, the historical reluctance of soldiers to enter battle when it looked a bit dicey, or any of that).

And that’s it for mass combat. The next chapter is about experience and high-level characters, so that should have a bit more meat conceptually and (I sincerely hope) fewer, fiddly, narrowly applied rules. (On reflection, I’m actually very impressed with the mass combat rules, especially the way they seem designed to allow either theatre-of-the-mind-type play or use of large-scale strategic maps and movement. The rules mostly seem reasonable and they give a very high level of detail without resorting to measuring angles and distances or leaning on player skill. Having said that, the difference in level of detail between the war machine and the siege machine is a bit alarming. And. It’s very frustrating how the whole mass combat chapter seems to be built on assumptions about the setting — that it’s a faux-high-medieval-Europe, low-magic game — that aren’t shared by the rest of the book. Nothing is said, for instance, about dwarf strongholds being underground, or elf strongholds being in trees or behind waterfalls, let alone the idea that elf strongholds have all the woodland creatures as allies, as mentioned in the class write ups. I think I’ve probably said enough already about the failure of the mass combat rules to consider the impact of any but a tiny handful of spells but I’m also sure half an hour leafing through the spell write ups would produce a lot more objections to how these rules treat magic. Which is a real pity. These mass combat rules seem — and I do mean ‘seem’, I’m not trying them out any time soon — very well designed to do what they do, it’s just that what they do seems very narrowly focused and irrelevant to what some other parts of the book are describing as core parts of the game.)

More next time!

Spoiler: Show

  1. A cleric may not deny access to their stronghold to clerics from their order (p16, second column). So a party could gain access to an otherwise-impregnable clerical stronghold either by impersonating clerics of the order or in the company of (a) genuine cleric(s) of the order. Perhaps the interior is just another dungeon to loot or perhaps they are on a mission from the order (because the stronghold-owning cleric is a renegade) or from enemies of the order.
  2. A paladin must assist anyone who asks for help, excluding evil and without delaying important missions too much (p18, first column). So a party could delay an enemy paladin with fake and/or engineered requests for help; but for how long and what would the paladin do if and when they realise? A party could also accompany a paladin to offer assistance on their behalf in order to avoid delay; but how to satisfy the paladin that the assistance is up to their standards while avoiding delay?
  3. An avenger may persuade monsters to become hirelings (p18, third column). So a party could encounter an avenger who is ridding grateful villages of monsters not by killing them but by recruiting them. Is the avenger helping or is the cure worse than the disease? If the party cannot face the avenger (and their monster hirelings!) can they find the next monster recruit and kill it? Or convince it not to be persuaded by the avenger somehow?
  4. An independent wizard may construct a dungeon and allow monsters to come and inhabit it (p20, second column). So a dungeon of the usual sort could be the property of a high-level magic-user who is using it for research and/or to keep in touch with certain monster types. A party could be sent into the dungeon by the owner to retrieve something or someone inadvertently lost or trapped inside. Perhaps the monsters infesting the dungeon have a totally different attitude to a party employed by the owner as opposed to opportunistic dungeon looting adventurers. Or maybe an abandoned wizard’s tower is said to contain information which would make the associated dungeon much easier to loot. Does it really or is it just as bad as the dungeon (only different)?
  5. A Name level elf stronghold gains the friendship of all normal woodland animals within five miles (p26, first column). So an adventure involving a Name level elf could be about ordinary woodland animals and their problems: an elf might ask a party to help squirrels gather nuts for a particularly harsh predicted winter, drive a hostile bear (or is it a bear?) away from the local bears who are scared of it, help the local stag get over his chronic shyness around does, or something. Seems like that could be a fun change of pace.
  6. A mystic must keep their oath on pain of losing levels (p29, second column). So, if a mystic were tricked or forced into swearing to do (or not do) something, they would be bound to keep their oath, especially if not Lawful. A party could manoeuvre a powerful mystic into swearing to do something they need done. More realistically, a mystic who has foolishly or inadvertantly sworn to do something (‘When I swore to find and return the gemstone, I did not realise the person I was swearing it to was not actually the rightful owner,’) could be an interesting opponent, especially if the situation means the party have to defeat the mystic but are reluctant to kill them.
  7. Clerics have spells which make use of corpses and skeletons (speak with the dead, p36, second column and animate dead, p36, third column). So it would be in clerics’ interest if they were allowed to keep dead bodies instead of disposing of them. A party could encounter a clerical stronghold which is stockpiling corpses — more than usual, even. Are the clerics up to no good or are they using the corpses for a good cause? Is their cause good enough to outweigh the families’ qualms, if any? Or a party could encounter a cleric who refuses to raise someone from the dead so that they can keep the corpse and speak with the dead to benefit from the dead character’s knowledge and wisdom. The party could even be sent to retrieve the corpse. What if the cleric animates it to prevent the character from being raised? And how will the party transport a corpse back to their patron?
  8. A magic-user or elf can make a back up copy of their spell book a lot faster and cheaper than they can reconstruct a lost spell book (p44, second column). So a back up spell book could be an item of treasure worth breaking into a high-level magic-user’s home to steal. In fact, a high-level magic-user could conceivably make a back up spell book, or mock one up, to use as bait to lure someone into a dungeon. How do non-magic-users tell the difference between a genuine spell book and a dummy? What if they can’t (until it’s too late)? Maybe the answer is to sell the ‘spell book’ on to someone else who can’t tell the difference.
  9. The spell Summon Object requires objects to be prepared with ‘a special powder’ that costs 1,000gp per object treated and has no effect other than making that spell usable with the object (p56, first column). So how can a magic-user tell the real powder from a fake? Perhaps they make their own powder and the cost is for difficult-to-fake ingredients but they might still be tempted to buy pre-made powder. A party could either acquire some dubious powder — as part of a treasure trove — or deliberately fake the powder to defraud a Level Fifteen or higher magic-user. A high level magic user with a grudge might be too powerful an opponent but what if they were Lawful and didn’t want to destroy the party, just teach them a lesson?
  10. Clone may be used to make simulacra of any monsters but their alignment always matches the caster’s and they always speak the caster’s languages (p56, second column). So a dungeon could be populated with monsters between fifty and ninety per cent of full strength and all of the same alignment and with a shared language or languages. They might all have the same alignment and language as (some of) the party and react well to them. Or they might just really get on well with each other. Either way, it would be a definite change of pace from a dungeon eco-system where monsters avoid or prey on each other.
  11. Create any monster allows a magic-user to create a monster with three or more asterisks after its hit dice number only if they have studied one, alive or dead, for at least an hour (p59, first column). So, a party could be tasked with escorting a high level magic-user to the home of such a monster to study it, either covertly or after gaining its permission. If it were a rare enough monster for many magic-users to wish to study it, it might even move to a more convenient location and charge a standard fee for an hour’s study: would the locals be content with that arrangement or would they demand the monster be destroyed? Could the party help negotiate a truce, like Francis of Assisi with the wolf of Gubbio?
  12. A surprise attack on a military camp requires that all guards, pickets and magical protections be neutralised without raising the alarm (p120, third column). So an adventure involving taking out the guards and sentries around a camp could be a nice change of pace: they’d need to be one-shotted in one way or another, either with magic, weapon mastery with blackjacks and bolas or unarmed combat — or massive hit point damage from sneak attacks. Traps might also feature, of course, but they’d be improvised affairs like the stuff the ewoks rig up in Return of the Jedi or Dutch makes in Predator.
  13. Special squads are used during sieges, especially for reconnaissance, sabotage and kidnap and assassination (p125, second column). So a party might be hired as a special squad: they might even be caught in a castle or city when a besieging army arrives or caught in the countryside by an army marching to lay siege to a castle and have very little choice. Unless they’re high enough level to be undetectable to the enemy army, reconnaissance is unlikely but they might be sent to sabotage something or kidnap or kill someone. How do they do it? Do they do it? Or do they make common cause with the army they’ve been sent against? If so, do the enemy officers believe them? Do they send them back to work as double agents?
 
Last edited:

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
On to Chapter 10: Experience (p127). ‘A character’s experience point total determines his experience level.’ And higher level characters are more capable, so increasing experience point totals is important. There are five ‘normal’ ways for a character to get experience points:
  1. role playing well
  2. achieving party goals
  3. defeating monsters and opponents
  4. getting treasure
  5. performing exceptional actions.
When a player role plays well, their character should receive one twentieth of the difference between the experience points needed for the current level and the total needed for the next level. (In other words, getting this award twenty times should be all you need to level up.) A character should not receive this award more than once a session. Role playing well can occur in several ways:
  • Acting according to the character’s alignment and/or personality when it causes complications. (The book actually says it’s when ‘it’s much simpler, more convenient and more profitable’ not to, but I hope the writers are thinking of dramatic setbacks due to character flaws rather than a chaotic thief stealing from the other player characters.)
  • Heroic risk and/or self-sacrifice — the book notes that self-sacrifice implies the character actually (risking) suffering meaningfully, not entering a combat they are sure to win or dying when the player knows they can easily be raised or whatever.
  • Miscellaneous: this includes impressing the DM, livening up the game and/or making it more memorable, by emoting, making a speech in character or whatever.
When the party achieves a goal, the characters should receive a number of experience points equal to all the experience values of all the monsters they defeated to achieve the goal.

When the party defeats (a) monster(s), the total experience value of the monster(s) should be divided equally between all the characters involved in their defeat, including any who have died in the process. If the party fought ‘valiantly’ but did not defeat the monster(s), they should receive a quarter of the experience value of the monster(s). If the monster(s) have no listed experience value, it should be calculated as follows:
  1. Take the monster’s hit dice number and the number of asterisks next to it — there should be one asterisk for each ‘significant’ magical ability it has. If the monster is a character, consider their level as hit dice and consider them to have an asterisk for each combat ability a magic item gives them and an asterisk for every two levels of spells they have memorised.
  2. Look up the hit dice and the bonus per asterisk on the ‘Experience Points for Monsters’ table on p128. (The table is difficult to describe, since it has rows for <1 hit die, 1 hit die, 1+, 2, 2+ and so on, and the progression is not straightforward. The base experience value of a monster with one hit die is 10, with a bonus of 3 per asterisk. The base experience value for a monster with ten hit dice is 1,000, with a bonus of 750 per asterisk, and the base experience value for a monster with more than twenty hit dice is 2,500, with a bonus of 2,000 per asterisk, adding 250 to the base and the bonus for every hit die over twenty-one and considering any number over twenty with a + to be the next number up.)
There follows a section headed ‘Asterisks and Special Abilities’ which goes over what has just been explained again, noting that ‘significant’ (ie asterisk-worthy) monster abilities must be usable in melee and not the sort of thing the monster would use ‘for basic survival’: the example given is a flying creature with good manoeuvrability — not asterisk-worthy — and a swoop attack — asterisk-worthy. Spell-like attack powers (p128) are asterisk-worthy but other spell-like powers aren’t. But ‘certain exceptional defenses’ may be.

The next section is about how the DM should modify experience values, such as discounting a high-level magic-user's spells if the party catch them by surprise and defeat them before they can cast a spell, or adding or subtracting asterisk-bonuses if a monster has or lacks particular special defences with respect to the party’s attacks (a gargoyle’s immunity to normal weapons, which may be irrelevant to a party with loads of magic weapons, is the example given).

When a character finds and keeps or finds and sells treasure, they should receive an experience point for each gold piece’s worth they end up with (nothing is said about the mystic, who — according to the class write up — only gets experience from treasure they donate to the needy and must donate a tenth of their treasure to their cloister, so I’m going to assume at this point that the cloister does not count as needy for experience purposes). Three types of treasure give experience points: treasure taken from defeated monsters and opponents; treasure given as a reward or payment for doing something dangerous; and treasure gained by thieves through pick-pocketing and other thievery. Only money and valuables obtained in a dangerous and/or difficult way can give experience. If a character gains a magic item in an experience-point-appropriate way and wishes to sell it, the DM should calculate the cost of making the magic item using the procedures in Chapter Sixteen: the item will sell for at least double that amount but the character will gain no more than a tenth of the cost of manufacture in experience points. (So, practically, you’d be better off having someone steal your magic item and sell it, going after them to get it back, defeating them in a fight and taking the money they sold it for, than selling the magic item yourself.)

When a character performs an exceptional action, they should receive a twentieth of the difference between the experience points needed for their current level and the total needed for the next level. An exceptional action is basically defined as the character doing something the DM didn’t think they could or in a clever way the DM didn’t think of. Two ‘common types of exceptional action’ are saving allies and exceptional use of skills. Saving allies means preventing harm to them which the DM had anticipated: the example given is a party being surprised by a nest of vampires and one player bluffing the vampires into letting the party go and meeting them later at an agreed place. Exceptional use of skills (p129) refers to class abilities: the example given is a thief, not just using their remove traps ability, because that wouldn’t qualify, but using it heroically at the risk of their life and succeeding.

The book states that characters should level up, on average, about once every five adventures, because that’s the sweet spot between levelling up too fast, which is boring, and too slow, which is frustrating, with the caveat that if your sessions are short or your party is full of slow-levelling classes levelling up may be a bit slower, and you may wish to hand out more experience points if you only play once a month or whatever. No character may ever go up more than one level per adventure and, if a character gains enough experience points to go up more than one level at one time, any experience points over the amount needed to gain one level and be just short of the next are lost. The book advises that, if characters are levelling up every adventure, the DM is probably awarding too many experience points and it may well be due to too much treasure.

The DM should, apparently, always supervise the player rolling ‘the die’ for their new hit points* and should be aware of the maximum hits possible by class and level. (This makes it sound like the reason for that awareness is to detect players who are falsifying their characters’ hit points.) There are two tables and everything, with no surprises, but they do handily demonstrate how the twenty-dice limit on spell damage is bizarrely inadequate. (A Level Thirty-Six magic-user — maximum hits: ninety — missing their save can easily die from a 20d6 damage spell: I wonder why magic-users don’t get additional spell damage resistance like the demi-humans do, when the book explicitly called out one-shotting high level magic-users as a problem with not using the spell damage cap.) The book notes that a top-level halfling can have half a top-level fighter’s maximum hits, a top-level dwarf can have as many hits as a top-level cleric and an elf’s maximum hits are about the same as a magic-user’s. (I assume this is an apologia for the hit dice limits on demi-humans in the form of a comparison with what you might achieve, hits-wise, with a human character. Interestingly, the mystic, with maximum hits between cleric and thief, is not called out here. I would have thought a comparison of average hits at the top level would be more revealing of what the level caps actually mean, though.)

More next time!

*So you do keep the existing total and just roll one additional hit die, then.
 
Last edited:

JoeNotCharles

Registered User
Validated User
You'll find the mystic ignored in a lot of sections like that because it was first added in the Master set so was never really a core part of the game - one of those afterthoughts I mentioned.
 

Gemini476

Registered User
Validated User
The Mystic wasn't really added in the Master's set, either - the Mystic was added as a monster with some suggestions for making them into a character class (most of which didn't make it into the RC, I think), and was only made a proper player class in the Rules Cyclopedia.

Which makes it a bit complicated when Allston goes on to just copy-paste over things from the various booklets that don't include the Mystic or ballistae or whatever.


As a side note, the Thug appeared alongside the Mystic as a sort of "assassin" - it didn't make the leap into RC character class, though, probably for the same reasons that the then-current second edition of AD&D got rid of the Assassin. It's still in the RC as the "Headsman (and Thug)" monster, however.

Those "classes" are also both pretty weird since they break away from all other human character classes by having a level limit and getting hit dice in excess of 9 - they're made more like monsters than classes, really, which makes sense since, well, that's what they were.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
You'll find the mystic ignored in a lot of sections like that because it was first added in the Master set so was never really a core part of the game - one of those afterthoughts I mentioned.
The Mystic wasn't really added in the Master's set, either - the Mystic was added as a monster with some suggestions for making them into a character class (most of which didn't make it into the RC, I think), and was only made a proper player class in the Rules Cyclopedia.
That's been mentioned above. But the Rules Cyclopedia came out in the nineties and the mystic is basically the same character class as the AD&D monk, isn't it? It seems weirdly slack for a class which has been in play in another version of the game for, what, fourteen years or more to be treated as such an afterthought.
 
Last edited:

NPCDave

Registered User
Validated User
The Game Wizards column in Dragon Magazine #177 gives a two page spread on the Rules Cyclopedia and was written by Steven Schend. Much later in Dragon Magazine #315 Bruce Heard gave Schend credit for "putting together the Rules Cyclopedia."

Reading that Game Wizards column it explains the decision was made to compile and compress all the varied D&D rules from the BECM sets plus the best of the variant and new rules from the D&D Gazeteer line. Aaron Allston compiled and put together all of that. But Schend then says that the manuscript Allston turned over was too large to fit into the book they were going to publish. So more development, editing and cuts happened until they got to the final result. Schend mentions his office copies of the four BECM box sets were almost destroyed from overuse by the time the project was finished.
 
Top Bottom