Tuesday, September 10, 2013
1 Character, 13 Systems - Part 3: Swords & Wizardry
I described my character, Korsanian, in a previous post here.
13th Age is kind of a mash-up of D&D versions, so let's go back to the roots and look at him in an early D&D system. I don't have any of my original D&D books anymore, so we'll have to go with a retro-clone. Let's try the Swords & Wizardry system:
Books Used: Swords & Wizardry core rules
Approximate time to create: 45 min
Korsanian Vambrae - Elf, Magic-User (level 1)
Str 9 open doors 1-2, carry mod +5 lbs
Dex 10 missile to-hit +0, armor class +0
Con 10 HP mod +0, raise dead survival 75%
Int 14 languages +4, max spell level 7th, learn spell 65%, min/max spells per level 5/8
Cha 11 max # of special hirelings 4
Base Move: 12
XP needed for next level: 2,500 (+5% earned for Int 13+)
Saving Throws (d20):
Death Rays & Poison 13+
Turned to Stone 13+
Dragon's Breath 16+
Spells & Staffs 15+
Racial Abilities: Darkvision 60', Detect Secret Doors 1-4(d6) searching or 1(d6) not searching, cannot be paralyzed by ghouls
Racial Class Limits: max level 8 Magic-user and max 5th level spells
Magic-user Class Abilities: No armor or shields, Weapons- dagger, staff, darts only, d4 Hit Die
Weapons: THAC0- 19+ (on d20, subtract target's AC from number needed)
Staff (2H) 1d6 damage 10 lbs
Dagger 1d4 damage 2 lbs
15 Darts 1d3 damage
Armor: none (AC 9)
Gear: Backpack, Bedroll, 10 Candles, Flint & Steel, Lantern (hooded), Oil (5 pints), Rations (5 days), 50' Hemp Rope, Waterskin
Spells /day: 1st level- 1
1st (5 of 8 known)- Hold Portal, Light, Read Magic, Shield, Sleep
Well, as I expected this is quite a change from 13th Age. I failed the learn spell roll to get Detect Magic, which was the only 1st level spell that was in the character concept. Dispel Magic is a 3rd level spell, which needs a 5th level Magic-User. This is one of the things I hated about the original D&D, demihuman level limits. They are a totally artificial limit that makes no sense whatsoever when you think about them. I could see denying a class based on race, say that dwarves are so resistant to magic that they cannot become MUs or elves never lie so they can't become Thieves, a whole lot easier than level limits. Even the demihuman as class was a better mechanic. That race limit means the Int bonus for 7th level spells is wasted since the elf race limits to only 5th. Quite annoying to not be able to do something in the rules (conversely being able to do more than the rules is not so bad). With only 1 spell for the whole day, and looking over the spells I learned (by that 65% chance roll), I have no idea what the hell to bother memorizing. Hold Portal might be useful in a limited circumstance, Light is kinda useless with all the candles and the lantern he's carrying, Read Magic is just a stupid thing to have as a spell- it makes that whole chicken-and-egg question, Shield is a little useful, Sleep is the only mostly useful spell. Also, my original attribute roll had Str 9 Dex 12 Con 10 Wis 11 Cha 14 - a dexterous talker and not at all the character I wanted to play. Being able to swap your stats was a pretty common rule (don't remember if-house or in-game) so I mixed them up here. And I guess you could stat the faelynx as a hireling to represent his animal companion.
The thing about a class-based system is that it's a stereotype. It's a "common" set of abilities in the view of the designer. If you want to play within that stereotype, great, no problem. If you have a character idea that's outside that box, well, things go sideways. For me there is no comparison between this and 13th Age, I would play 13th Age instead. Even though 13th Age was not an exact match for the idea I had, it came pretty close. Another noteworthy thing is role-playing details. You'll notice this character has nothing at all about the character on the sheet. Contrast to 13th Age with the "one unique thing" and backgrounds and icon relationships. I will say that at least low strength does not limit damage, so this guy hits better without spells.
As a basic, beginning system this works. But I honestly don't know how I would even house rule something like the character I want to play. The old school D&D works a whole lot better when you start without any preconceived notions, just let the dice fall and start riffing off what they give you. You can actually make some pretty cool characters that way, through that 'emergent gameplay' sort of effect, whereas having a fixed or rigid character concept will usually hinder more than help - so I'll admit this little experiment was not playing to the strength of the system. Also note that it took me about 45 minutes to make this character. I'm an old hand at building characters, but I didn't know the book and didn't remember all the rules, so it still took a decent amount of time.