OSR Survey: Trolly Troll’s Top Ten Troll Questions for Your Game.

Got five posts in the queue, but I’m moving cities over the next few days. In the meantime, I’ll do another quizzy thingy, which I got from this dude. Hey, content, amirite?
On to the quiz!

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?
Yes and no. I do use racial classes, but I prefer to do cultural classes instead of race-classes if I can (see the Tribal class I wrote up for LotFP a while back). If you want to be an Elf who trained exclusively as a Fighter, it’s fine by me; Slap a Chaotic alignment on there and you’re pretty much done.

(2). Do demi-humans have souls?
Soul, animating spirit, what’s the difference on a mechanical level? Philosophy is a question best left to the players. That said, there are some pretty heavily classical Catholic and Aristotelian underpinnings in most of the worlds I write. So.. Maybe? Elves could very well be demons lovingly shoved into a carefully-prepared Mandrake plant, for all we know, or Dwarves autogenerated when statues are left in the Deep.
…damnit, now I have more things to work into the world.

(3). Ascending or descending armor class?
Descending/THAC0. It’s easier and faster for my old-school wargamer head to compute on the fly. Mathematically, either approach is equally easy and valid, and it’s exceptionally easy to convert, so I don’t get butthurt about anyone’s preferences.

(4). Demi-human level limits?
Never been an issue in one of my games – either the game didn’t last long enough or the character died too soon for it to be an issue. That said, I’ve always thought the whole thing a stupid mechanical patch to justify a DM’s story conceit (id est, why do Humans run pretty much everything?)

(5). Should thief be a class?
Fuck yeah. Or rather, Specialist should. But Paladins shouldn’t – that’s what a Cleric already is. I do “Priests”/White Mages very similarly to druids, only generally with a few more restrictions. Also, staying a miracle-worker requires a dedication to others that most players aren’t willing to accept, when the path of the Church-Militant is so much easier and more.. well, fun, for many.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?
Yup. You can also write a background, and I’ll give you some basic skills based on it. The ones on the character sheet are life-and-death shit, not what you do around the house. You want to be an expert appraiser of pottery with an unhealthy fondness for knots? By all fuckin’ means. Hell, some games – usually the really quick-and-dirty ones – I allow players to interject with a (cue Chekhov) “I can do thet!”. You just have to tell me why and how. It’s an easy way to get players to develop the character more at the table, and it helps define them more than sifting through a 50-page “skill” section.
Also, if you have a skill, it’s assumed to be at a professional level. That means you can accomplish routine things without rolling.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?
It depends. See, the fighters usually have less raw power, but they also don’t occasionally explode into masses of writhing, fornicating batrachia either. Well, not unless the wizard really fucks up. The Winds of Magic have a bad habit of slapping down the arrogant, but they tend to be pretty precise most of the time. Also, wizards get a LOT of shit from the peasantry, where a Fighter can usually be a lot more local-hero material. If it helps, think Jayne/Zoe (Fighters) versus Inara (Yes, she’s a Specialist, but she gets treated a lot like a wizard. Incredibly dangerous Guild and vicious local prejudice included).

(8). Do you use alignment languages?
No, although Latin/Greek, Draconic, and Elvish are very frequently spoken by Lawful men of letters, unknowing cultists/Lemurians, and the Fae (respectively). Large cultural groups that interact regularly in a cooperative way – who, incidentally, often share an alignment for some reason – will usually have some kind of lingua franca. But the linguist in me just can’t quite tolerate the idea that all Chaotic creatures instantly speak the Language of the Fiends as soon as they bargain off their souls.

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc…)?
XP for gold, XP as a carrot for good behavior and smart play. Objective-based XP makes for shitty dungeons, because of the choices you wind up having to make with it.
On the one hand, if you want to be fair it can force you to design bite-sizer one-shots, or otherwise set it up so that every convenient “chunk” of the adventure has sufficient challenges for everyone to get the “necessary” XP. But then the players have to go to exactly the right spots to get what they “need”; this philosophy leads to railroading. Plus, the players will inevitably go off the rails, and then you have XP imbalance anyway.
Secondly, it encourages competitive gameplay and punishes players for not doing the perfect Five Man Band (Wizard, Fighter, Thief, Cleric, and a Token Minority). Fuck that. I want 5 Fighters to be able to go in and walk out with the same XP as the “balanced party”, if they play and roll just as well.
Then, if you don’t give a fuck about fairness, you wind up screwing over players in a way they feel is high-handed and arbitrary (and rightly so). Losing XP because they had to ditch gold to flee the orcs is one thing. Being 3 levels behind because the party isn’t finding traps and running heist missions is bullshit.
…also, this question assumes that the role of the Thief is disarming traps. With Specialist, that’s far from a fucking given.

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E DD, Next ?
(I consider 3e to still be an inheritor of AD&D)
Of what’s presented, Holmes.
ODD and 1e are both complete, nearly unrunnable clusterfucks, 2e pushes Moral Panic bullshit. 3e is detailed to the point of meaninglessness, and suffers severely from the same splatbook explosion as latter-era 2e. 4e.. I’m just gonna shut up on that one.
I prefer Holmes to M&M mostly because I like his writing style and gaming philosophy.

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?
I prefer individual XP for its elegance, but frankly it doesn’t make any damned difference for the first few levels of play. Think about it: 5000 XP, and you’ve got a L2 Wizard, Cleric, and Fighter, or a L3 Thief. Wooo. Add less than another grand to that and it really doesn’t change the party dynamic. Also, I find having varied character levels makes the players engage more. They have to make a whole different set of resource decisions when the party’s guide across the Lemurian Plains is a level 1 Specialist with a crossbow and the leader is a level 3 Mage, compared to a time when the leader’s a L3 Fighter and they’re uninvited in Elf territory with only a L1 Cleric.
Back, you filthy heathens. BACK I SAY.Peter Cushing image provided by Hammer Films, no challenge, no authorization, yadda yadda.

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