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Modernizing BECMI/Rulescyclopedia

Dirk Radhammer

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Banned
A lot of threads here seem to be about regressing post-TSR D&D rules (3rd and 4th edition) to an earlier state in D&D's development. What I mean here is starting with a more modern iteration of D&D and whittling it down until the game resembles an earlier version.

I wonder, if we couldn't do it the other way, by modernizing BECMI/Rulescyclopedia.

3rd edition was developed using AD&D as a base, and most of the rules conventions sprang from that. What if we were to pretend for a moment that the evolutions of the D&D never happened and that 3rd edition was developed using Basic D&D as a foundation instead. Would feats and skill ranks ever been part of the game? Exploits, Spells and Prayers? What would the game look like?

Okay...so I have a vested interest. My ideal game would pretty much be RCD&D using a more modern and streamlined base system. Still, I think it's a worthwhile thought exercise.
 

Christopher V. Brady

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Banned
I think the best way to start would be by unifying the system. Over or under, doesn't matter, but as long as everything is one way. Also, you don't need feats, what you need are class abilities that are fun and unique (In the way to reinforce the niche of said class) without going too far. Unifying the XP chart is also an idea...
 

Lord Crimson

Prophet of Darkness
Validated User
A lot of threads here seem to be about regressing post-TSR D&D rules (3rd and 4th edition) to an earlier state in D&D's development. What I mean here is starting with a more modern iteration of D&D and whittling it down until the game resembles an earlier version.

I wonder, if we couldn't do it the other way, by modernizing BECMI/Rulescyclopedia.
Well, to be honest, the reason for doing it the other way was because of the OSR. 3rd ed was open. So starting with 3rd and whittling down was the best way to justify what was going on - rather than risk that WotC wouldn't try to test the whole "mechanics can't be copyrighted" thing in court for cloning non-OSR works.

3rd edition was developed using AD&D as a base, and most of the rules conventions sprang from that. What if we were to pretend for a moment that the evolutions of the D&D never happened and that 3rd edition was developed using Basic D&D as a foundation instead. Would feats and skill ranks ever been part of the game? Exploits, Spells and Prayers? What would the game look like?
Skills were an updated response to Non-Weapon Proficiencies (which had been an optional part of AD&D since the 1st ed Survival Guides). They were also becoming a part of RC/BECMI D&D through the expansions represented by the Gazetteer supplements.

So I'd guess that a skill system (which was a huge part of every other game that wasn't D&D) was probably inevitable. And I'd be happy to see one.

Feats? No idea. They weren't part of previous editions of D&D either, really, though maybe they were wrangled out of the Skill&Powers stuff (I never owned or read those). So that would make it more an AD&D thing that probably wouldn't have existed if 3rd ed was based off of D&D instead of AD&D.

All that said, it sounds like what you're asking for is mostly what Blacky did with his Dark Dungeons clone. I'd recommend taking a look at that, if you haven't already.

I think the best way to start would be by unifying the system. Over or under, doesn't matter, but as long as everything is one way. Also, you don't need feats, what you need are class abilities that are fun and unique (In the way to reinforce the niche of said class) without going too far. Unifying the XP chart is also an idea...
I think unifying the XP chart is actually a bad idea. The variant XP table element is seen by many (including me) as the last refuge for balancing a flavorful but otherwise-too-powerful class.

I do think unifying/normalizing skills in relation to the Thief abilities would be a good idea. And basing all of that on a D20 roll isn't a bad idea, in my mind. And since combat is a roll-over mechanic, it would make more sense to maintain that - but then we get into DCs.

And I'm not so sure I like the way those started going (i.e. up and up and up).

Base Attack Bonus and Ascending ACs are a given, as far as I'm concerned. And, while it should give an option for race-as-class, I'd be more in favor of differentiating race and class and either creating melded-classes (fighter/mage) or working out a better multiclass system than AD&D or 3.x has.
 
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Gentleman Highwayman

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Validated User
I don't know if 3e was based on AD&D, in fact I'm pretty sure it wasn't. I'm sure a paternity test would probably show Role Master (& Monte Cook) as its real parent.

But, if I were to do what you asked, I'd start with Dark Dungeons a RC-clone and start standardizing on d20 + modifiers, roll high. I'd simplify and favour playability over "realism". I'd drop an action dice mechanic, but more like Spycraft than d20M/4e. Heck I might just drop in Drama Points from Buffy or dynamic editing. Something narrative , but fun and useful that could break up the monotony of die rolling. Simple skill system that was intentionally vague a la old school. Add cultures which may include races and downplay racial classes. I'd just unify the mechanics and nudge it in a more modern direction.

Of course you could just take the SRD and dump feats, simplify combat to a page, eject half the spells and call it modern D&D.

I have to admit ever new version of D&D seems to head in a direct I like, but then the actual play leaves me meh, so...

Iain.
 

Dirk Radhammer

New member
Banned
Unification is good. I've heard pretty compelling criticisms about roll-under mechanics, not to mentiont he fact that it's a bit counter-intuitive.

I like roll vs. target number systems, but I don't think that the TN's need stretch into the stratosphere to account for higher-level characters with high skill bonuses. What if you were to set the highest TN at the edge of the randomizer and count down? So in the case of D&D, the highest skill DC would be 20, and higher bonuses simply made it more likely that your roll would hit that number. In addition, maybe a higher level of proficiency in a skill unlocked more things that you could use the skill for.

On the subject of feats, I don't think they are strictly necessary. I do think that some mechanical customization is important, but I don't think that infinite points of articulation are needed for characters. I think that you have enough customization when you have a party of 4 characters of the same race and class, with little ability overlap.

You could simply have a talent system, wherein casters pick a new spell at each level, whereas noncaster classes pick things that give them new options in specific areas. Or, you could give classes something like 2nd edition kits, but with better design.

As for combat, I find myself wondering what the problem was with 1st editions method of attack resolution? I think that THAC0 was an unnecessarily clunky way of doing things, but I don't think there was a problem with the 1st edition attack matrix. You could update the attack matrix to include damage bonuses or something to add degrees of success into the mix, and keep combat narrative, whereas 3rd edition was simulation-heavy and 4th is highly tactical.
 
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Dirk Radhammer

New member
Banned
But, if I were to do what you asked, I'd start with Dark Dungeons a RC-clone and start standardizing on d20 + modifiers, roll high. I'd simplify and favour playability over "realism". I'd drop an action dice mechanic, but more like Spycraft than d20M/4e. Heck I might just drop in Drama Points from Buffy or dynamic editing. Something narrative , but fun and useful that could break up the monotony of die rolling. Simple skill system that was intentionally vague a la old school. Add cultures which may include races and downplay racial classes. I'd just unify the mechanics and nudge it in a more modern direction.

Of course you could just take the SRD and dump feats, simplify combat to a page, eject half the spells and call it modern D&D.
Iain.
People have already done that with the SRD, and have done a good job. My idea is to work up from BECMI, rather than working down from 3rd or 4th edition.

Dark Dungeons is a good place to start though.
 

Lars Dangly

Registered User
Validated User
The major mechanics shifts I've included in my adaptations of BD&D include:
(1) Single experience table, with a flatter progression
(2) you never bother keeping track of your stats as 3-18 numbers, since they never get used in that form anyway. You generate your modifier for each stat.
(3) All skills/abilities are resolved with a d20 roll, and have a chance of success close to: level + stat bonus + d20 roll; must get a 15 or over to succeed.
(4) Weapon use is just another skill; level + stat bonus + d20 roll vs. the target's AC (which runs up from ~10, not down from 10). Fighters are special only in that they have a large number of skilled weapons and can learn any of them; other classes have no skilled weapons, or can only become skilled in light weapons, or some other limitation like this.
(5) When you level up you pick one of: gain a stat modifier point; gain a new skill/ability from your class list (with certain limitations on availability); or gain a +2 bonus for an existing skill/ability (one time only; a sort of 'mastery'). This way, members of the same class might drift appart significantly as levels pass - one becomes a superheroic stat brute; another is a sort of weapon master; another is a jack of all trades; etc.

There are other modest additions, subtractions and changes, but these are the biggies.
 

Lars Dangly

Registered User
Validated User
The principle reason why I made these specific changes was not that I thought they were particularly rational or succesful models of action. I don't care that much about that sort of thing. I did them because they removed a huge amount of tables, rules, etc. that clog up the game for no particular reason.
 

timbannock

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RPGnet Member
Validated User
Although I like Castles & Crusades, sing its praises plenty, and play the hell out of it now, I can't help but think that some of what you guys are talking about is what I wanted C&C to do, but it didn't.

Unified XP table, take out the 3-18 and just use the bonues/penalty, add in some more "meat" to the traps/puzzles/exploration component of the game (i.e Skill Challenges, kinda?), and have a simple, flexible way of doing domain management and mass combat (of which the mass combat appears to exist in Fields of Battle)...those types of things would have been great. Maybe use the more modern descriptors and conditions to unify some stuff with magic.

C&C took a giant leap in the direction I wanted, but fell just short enough for me to have to put some work into house rules (on my blog), and I'm still short a few of those ideas.

Anyway, I think the reason some people (you guys, specifically...maybe?) would love to see this sort of thing is that a lot of the OSR or d20 derived games didn't go far enough with the "re-imagining" part and/or the "based on old school" part. In other words, they either played it safe by staying pretty close to the SRD, or they tried to stray from the SRD only in terms of emulating a specific mechanical feel or era of D&D...and thus always fell short on some fundamental part that some of us want them to take the extra mile.

I think it'd be cool to see a game who's core elements stem from the SRD, but are re-jiggered from the ground up in some ways:

1. unified xp, as mentioned
2. no 3-18 stats, just + or -
3. skill challenge-esque system, but specifically geared toward puzzles, traps and exploration, so that those have just as much "meat" as combat does
4. no feats or skills, or at least very few of them...instead, consider more of a stunt-like system like the famous DMG pg 42 from D&D 4e
5. conditions are unified, and form the basis of "special effects" for spells (combat spells, anyway) aside from damage, of course
6. descriptors or "named" bonuses/penalties, to prevent stacking and uber silliness
7. mass combat rules that are specific enough to handle a fantasy system, but don't necessarily require a specific size of minis or whatever (so legos, D&D minis, GI Joe action figures, and whatever else works just as well)
8. multi-classing rules per C&C PHB 4th printing, because they are great ;-)

I'm probably missing something else in there, but I think if you combined those mechanical guidelines with the sense of wonder and the feel of RC D&D, you'd have a great adventure game that can handle low, medium, or high magic, small parties to massive warbands, and not just be a grid-focused combat game. I really feel like the lack of "meat" on things like puzzles and exploration is where most D&D games and D&D heartbreakers fall short. Everyone's like "this is what I don't like about D&D's mechanics, so I will change them to this" instead of "what could we do just as well as D&D combat/systems, but that D&D doesn't really address as well as it could?"
 
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