Archive for July 27th, 2011

27
Jul
11

Stuff to Do on Gygax’s Birthday

Today marks the birthday of E. Gary Gygax, and I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge some of those who are helping make it a memorable one.

The first and most important is you. Your gaming, your enthusiasm, your participation in our community all help keep Gary’s legacy alive. What you’re doing is great – but if you’d like to do a little extra today, here are some suggestions:

  • Leave a testimonial at the Gygax Memorial Fund. Reading these ones that are already there is fun and inspirational too! If while at their site you feel like making a contribution to the Memorial’s effort to build a statue of Gary in Lake Geneva, that’s great too – updates to the site caused the donation button to stop working for a while, but it’s fixed now.
  • Take the world’s hardest Gary Gygax quiz and use the HTML code to share your results! Paul Hughes, editor of the “Cheers, Gary” book produced by the Gygax Memorial, put together this cool test at blogofholding.com. I use the fact that it isn’t legible against the Mule’s black background to conceal the fact that, even using Google, I only got 90%.
  • Play in the Tower of Gygax, an annual event at Gen Con capably organized by Chris Hoffner and Tim Weisser. This year it’s in JW Marriott, room 303, table HQ – it starts Thursday at 8 am, runs late into every night, and is easy to drop into with generic event tickets. Save versus Death aptly describes it as:

 a commemoration of classic D&D as envisioned by Gygax and his contemporaries; a game of wonder and danger whose currency is imagination and improvisation.

  • Visit the Old School Renaissance Group at Gen Con booth #1541. There you’ll be able to pick up “Cheers, Gary”, a book of his correspondence on the EN World Q&A threads and meet Gail Gygax, who contributed an introduction, and also editor and fellow-introducer Paul Hughes who may have some eyeball-kicking posters as well. Sadly not attending the con are Josh Roby, who laid out the book and its cover, and Erol Otus who did the awesome illustration thereof.
  • Plan to attend GaryCon IV, which honors his inspiration the best possible way: four days of old school gaming from Thursday, March 22nd, through Sunday, March 25th, 2012, in the place where it all began: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I’ll see you there!

Other people I’d like to thank not named above are Memorial Fund board members Gail Gygax, Jody Mikkelsen, and Jim Ward;  Mike Shannon, the civil designer who has volunteered to draw up CAD plans for the Gygax memorial site, and JP Robson who will be constructing it; Memorial Fund accountant Mike Buttleman; Jason Hurst, the webmaster for http://www.gygaxmemorialfund.com and all-around great guy; and Adjua and Erin at McNally Jackson, and Kim at 360 Digital, who helped us get “Cheers, Gary” printed in time for Gen Con.

And the final thanks, of course, goes to Gary; without you none of this would be possible.

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27
Jul
11

OD&D provides chunky experience rewards

And now a return from the heady thoughts of domain- level campaigns and estimating the cost of the accountant-hirelings you need to manage your riches. Let’s go all the way back to the first level dungeon and wrestle with experience gain in OD&D. Is it too slow? For monthly games it can literally take years for a party to build to mid-levels.

I wondered what the rules-as-written allocation of experience might reveal or confirm about the rate of advancement in dungeons, hoping it would help me decide if slow advancement is a problem (for me) or not. The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures gives guidance on stocking a dungeon on pages 6 – 8. Here is a rough summary:

Thoughtfully place a few important treasures (magical items and large amounts of wealth) in out-of-the-way locations, with or without guardians and traps. Then randomly generate contents of remaining areas. 33% of rooms contain a monster, with half the monsters having treasure. Of the remaining empty spaces, 16% have treasure (likely guarded by a trap or trick).

Let us imagine a dungeon with 100 rooms on the first level. Of the 100 rooms,

  •  X contain non-random, DM-placed treasures and encounters
  • 55 are empty
  • 11 contain treasure
  • 16 contain monsters with no treasure
  • 17 contain monsters with treasure

Expected treasure for a first level encounter is 52 gp with additional 5% chance each for jewelry, gems, and magic [1]. The expected value of each gem is about 233 gp [2]. The expected value of each piece of jewelry is a whopping 3,410 gp [3]. The distribution of treasures should look something like this [4]:

  •  X “important” treasures
  • 1 or 2 treasures with gold and jewelry, expected value 12,005 gp each
  • 1 or 2 treasures with gold and gems, expected value 887 gp each
  • 25 treasures with gold, expected value 52 gp each

This is a key element of the by-the-book DNA shaping am exploration-based game. Your party only levels by finding hoards; you find hoards through exploration and discovering out-of-the-way areas.

The rules promote periods of slow experience gain characterized by exploration, mapping, and retreat, followed by a big payoff when you find the occasional hoard. If your character is not present during the big payoff, you lose out. If this is seen as a problem there are obvious workarounds: make the average treasure bigger and reduce the size of hoards. But consider how else that may effect the feel of the game and behavior of players.

[1] See pg. 7

[2] Ignoring the specified 1-in-6 chance for each gem to be in the next higher category, because.  I am using the gem and jewelry tables from Monsters & Treasure pp.39-40.

[3] Look! We found a Bracelet of Leveling!

[4] This distribution provides about 19,350 experience from treasure, about enough to level a party of 5 to second level (assuming a 50% death rate along the way and other lost exp). If we assume an additional 6,000 exp from monsters (17 encounters plus wandering monsters) the level offers about 25,000 before the DM’s specially-placed important treasures are counted. And this is a 100-room first level; a similar 50-room first level would provide 12,500, etc.




Past Adventures of the Mule

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