The State of HD&D Address

Over the past few years March has been a busy month for me, and 2009 is looking to be no exception. In four short weeks the fifth annual Roleplaying Retreat begins; preparation for that marathon event will consume the time I would otherwise have spent writing this blog. While the blog is unlikely to be completely devoid of new content during March, I think it’s fair to say that most of the major new posts will have to wait until after the Retreat in April.

In order to set the scene for this potential hiatus in blog activity, I thought now would be a good opportunity to look back on the last three months of HD&D. I’d like to take stock of what we have achieved, opine what we have left to do and see how closely we are keeping to the original timetable I outlined back in December. There are also a couple of new ideas I’ve had in the past few weeks that I wanted to run past you.

Where are we now?

Progress over the last few months has been quite encouraging. There’s certainly been a lot more discussion than I hoped. Which is, of course, a good thing. Much of the posts up until now have been concerned with creating the general rules and conventions that will drive HD&D. We’re coming to the end of that process. Expect to see more specific work on races, classes, talents and feats over the next few months.

The date we are currently working toward is 1 September 2009. By this date I want rules for all everything that is necessary to move the game forward (combat, magic, healing, hit points and so on), I want a selection of character classes (at least Fighter, Wizard, Rogue and Cleric) and a selection of character races (most of the ten already stated).

I think that we’re on course to do that. What’s coming up on the blog? See the bottom of this post.

Design Calls

The Design Call for races is the first of many such appeals for direct help that I’m going to be making over the next few months. At present Steve is tackling half-elves and INdran is trying his hand at the half-orc. If anyone else wants to jump in and take on the halfling or the gnome then please be my guest.

I’m going to ask for help with more races, character classes, magic items, spells and monsters. So please make yourselves available during the summer.

Polls

The polls are the best way for me to gauge your mood and opinions. Of course, asking the right question is a bit tricky. At the moment there are six polls running on the site. I’m going to keep them running for the foreseeable future, so if you haven’t voted please do. Just so you know, I don’t vote in any of the polls on this site.

Here is the current state of play with them:

How should ability scores modify defences in HD&D?
13 responses:

  • Choose from two ability scores: 2 (15%)
  • Only use one ability score: 11 (85%)

This goes against my original argument, but you’ve convinced me. One ability score for each saving throw: Constitution for Fortitude, Dexterity for Reflex and Wisdom for Will.

How should we apply racial modifiers to ability scores for non-human PCs?
18 responses:

  • +2 to two prescribed: 9 (50%)
  • +2 to any two: 2 (11 %)
  • +2 to one prescribed, then any other one: 7 (39%)

This is a polarising result. My original preference is at 50%, but that still means that half of you think it’s a bad idea. Despite the age of this poll, there’s been an extra vote cast on it in the last few days so please vote if you haven’t already. I’m looking for a popular mandate here.

Should we keep the bloodied condition in HD&D?
11 responses:

  • Yes: 10 (91%)
  • No: 1 (9%)

I was an advocte of this initially, but now I’m in two minds. By forcing the GM to declare a creature is bloodied you effectively announcing “this is the middle of combat”. This might not be in the player’s best interest if the GM wants to discreetly reduce the number of hit points the bad guy has in mid-melee. Not something that occurred to me at the time.

Should armour defend against energy attacks?
20 responses:

  • Yes: 6 (30%)
  • No: 14 (70%)

The discussion regarding this was heated, but the vote seems far less polarised. It does seem that the majority of you want to keep your energy damage and weapon damage separate entities. I could also add that if 20 of you can vote in one poll, then 20 of you could vote in all the polls, but that would be cherlish.

Should HD&D use saving throws as well as static defences?
11 responses:

  • Yes: 10 (91%)
  • No: 1 (9%)

A clear winner here. I’m glad to see that, I really think that saving throws will improve the flow of the game.

What determines the attack roll for Supernatural Attacks in HD&D?
7 responses:

  • Specific Skill: 0 (0%)
  • One catch-all skill: 5 (71%)
  • Half the character’s level: 2 (29%)

Once more against my recommendation. You are a contrary lot. There’s few votes here, but it does look as though “Supernatural Attack” is a winner. I’ll have to think on this.

Should we adopt the above list of Weapon Skills
7 responses:

  • Yes: 3 (43%)
  • No: 4 (57%)

The Nos have it in this one so far, but it’s a small return of votes at the moment. I would also like to ask those of you who voted “No” to let me know why you voted no. That is assuming it wasn’t just Neil voting No four times.

New Ideas

Here are three additional thoughts for HD&D. They amend many of the things I have already said about the hybrid game. Feel free to let me know what you think.

Even Shorter Combats

Right from the beginning, I said that assuming you were fighting a foe of the same level, then you should have a 50% chance of hitting them with each blow. Each successful hit would inflict about a quarter of the foe’s hit points so four successful hits, or eight rounds, would be required to put that foe down. Casting my mind back to combat in third edition, and more recently to my 4e experiences, I’m now of the opinion that eight rounds is just too long for combat. Therefore I’m going to reduce it. Instead of eight rounds, I want the average combat to last six rounds instead.

This can be achieved by giving characters a greater chance to hit, by reducing hit points, or by increasing the damage the character inflicts. Personally, I think that the latter is the easiest to implement. It is also quite helpful, as the proto-fighters I’ve created for HD&D have been inflicted far too much damage.

Therefore, each successful hit reduces the hit points of an average target by one third. This is the new Average Damage Table based upon this change in the rules. Obviously all the things I said in the post on Hit Points and Damage still applies.

Level

Average Hit Points

Average Damage

1

23

8

2

27

9

3

33

11

4

37

12

5

43

14

6

47

16

7

53

18

8

57

19

9

63

21

10

67

22

11

78

26

12

82

27

13

88

29

14

92

31

15

98

33

16

102

34

17

108

36

18

112

37

19

118

39

20

122

41

21

132

44

22

136

45

23

142

47

24

146

49

25

152

51

26

156

52

27

162

54

28

166

55

29

172

57

30

176

59

Capping Ability Scores

Back in December, I published an article on calculating Ability Scores for HD&D. I am still committed to a point-buy system for stats, and I want players to be able to voluntarily lower ability scores below 10. However, I don’t want get characters crippled in one area just so they can have godlike scores in others. I also don’t want races to get pigeon-holed into certain roles. Fourth edition is particularly bad for this. If you want to play a ranger in 4e you need a very good reason not to play an elf – they are just so good at being rangers. It’s the same for genasi and swordmages, eladrin and wizards, tieflings and warlocks. Each race’s ability score bonuses direct players to a certain class.

Assuming we have +2 to two prescribed abilities in HD&D (and it is only an assumption as the results from the poll are thusfar rather foggy) we are in danger of falling into the same trap. I have introduced a couple of things into the game to mitigate this: Firstly, defences and saving throws only key off one ability score and not the best of two. This makes it far more difficult to ‘hide’ poor stats behind good ones. Secondly, character classes are normally built around less stats. Often you are able to boil a class down to one ability score that he really needs. My third option is to cap starting ability scores to 18.

This is something that was done in second edition. It doesn’t matter what bonus you had to your ability scores, as a starting character you were limited to no more than 18 in any ability score. Powerful races (the sort of races that carried a level adjustment in third edition) would be exceptions, but you bog-standard garden variety player character would be guillotined at 18. I think this would encourage the building of more rounded characters. Thoughts on this?

The Twenty Level Game

I am seriously considering turning HD&D into a twenty level game instead of the thirty level game that it currently is. I am driven largely by logisitics. By thirtieth level a HD&D character has 21 talents and 18 feats. That is a lot of different abilities. Perhaps too many for the time we have given ourselves. We have to invent or adapt all these talents and feats after all. To give player’s a meaningful choice each class should really have at least forty talents to choose from. Do we have time for that?

Levels 21 and above are epic levels (just as they are in third edition). We ground the game in the same frame of reference that we have now. It might make it easier, and would give HD&D a greater sense of continuity from third edition. Of course, it isn’t all good news.

Spellcasting requires ten talents. By twentieth level a spellcaster would only have fourteen talents. That’s about 70% of all talents on spellcasting, if the spellcaster wanted to get access to ninth level spells before epic levels. Is this a problem? It doesn’t give clerics much room for their granted powers does it?

But then, maybe we shouldn’t expect all characters to have access to ninth level spells in the non-epic levels. In second edition, clerics of that level only had access to seventh level spells. Do we take that approach in HD&D?

Anyway – have a think. I’m convinced that combats need to be shortened to six rounds. I’m less convinced of my other two ideas.

Things to Come

So that’s a summary of where we are. These are the posts I’m going to be making to the blog over the next few months, and the order in which I’m likely to make them. There are no dates attached to this list, but I would hope to have the whole thing wrapped up by July.

  • Cavalcade of Skills (the third post on the skills system)
  • Master list of all skills (including favoured skills for all classes)
  • Master table of all weapons
  • Combat
  • Character Classes and Multiclassing
  • Wounds and Healing
  • General Feats
  • Design Call: Feats
  • The Fighter
  • Magic
  • The Rogue
  • Spells
  • Design Call: Spells
  • The Wizard
  • The Cleric
  • Design Call: Character Classes
  • Monsters
  • Design Call: Monsters

Which I think (by and large) should cover most of the Dungeons and Dragons system. Playtesting starts in September.

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2 thoughts on “The State of HD&D Address

  1. Just wanted to make a quick comment on this:

    >> By forcing the GM to declare a creature is bloodied you effectively
    >> announcing “this is the middle of combat”.

    Only if it is a solo monster :) If you have one monster per player, or even more, then telling that one particular monster is now below half doesn’t really give that much information on the combat as a whole.

    -hvg3

    • Yes, that’s true – but it’s the solo monsters that are usually the problem. I like the option to be able to tweak things on the fly to make it easier or harder for the players (in the interests of a more enjoyable encounter, of course!) It’s much harder to do that if all the players know how many hit points the bad guy has got.

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