Random Wizard Questions

Because questionnaire lists are fun. Original question source here.

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no? Yes, but I also like the OD&D approach of separating race and class but limiting the classes that specific races can take, and the ACKS approach of creating a number of unique classes per race (for example, the elven spellsword and elven nightblade). Also, the race-classes work well for humans, too (just consider the elf to be the fighter-mage class, for example, or the halfling to be something like a scout).

(2). Do demi-humans have souls? Probably not. The real question here is most likely about how raise dead works. My current method requires a successful constitution-based roll (so there are no guarantees), and also results in a permanent stat decrease. I would probably require something different for elves, though elves have not been unlocked as a player class in Pahvelorn yet.

(3). Ascending or descending armor class? All the custom rule sets that I’m working on right now use ascending, but I can deal with either. In either case, care must be taken to avoid an arms race of bonus escalation (+5 swords versus +5 armor, and so forth).

(4). Demi-human level limits? I prefer overall level limits, like E6, but don’t mind demi-human level limits either. This post by Jeff is worth reading. Most games don’t last so long though, so I don’t have much practical experience here.

(5). Should thief be a class? Sure, though campaign seems to do thief skills differently. In my own games, I think thief skills work best when the cost of use in time is clear (due to random encounter checks) and I prefer to consider failure as “no progress” (with a much smaller chance of a critical failure) so that starting thieves aren’t quite so inept.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills? Generally no, though right now I’m pretty excited about the simple d6 skill system I put together for the JRPG Basic game, and I think this would work well in trad D&D too.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)? I don’t know; I haven’t seen this cause any problems in play. My preference is usually for low power play though. My understanding is that the whole “quadratic wizard” thing arose from experiences in high level optimized 3E play, which I have no experience with.

(8). Do you use alignment languages? No, but the idea would work well for the languages of heaven and hell (or the black speech of Mordor).

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc…)? XP for gold spent seems to have the benefit of objectivity and also (bonus) requires little work on the part of the referee.

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E ADD, Next? I think B/X (Moldvay Basic and Cook/Marsh Expert) is the tightest and most approachable. OD&D has a lot of hidden virtues, and in some ways has my favorite engine. It requires a lot of work to fill in the gaps though, which is both a benefit and a drawback. AD&D has some inspirational content (DMG demon generator, Fiend Folio), but as a whole is way too complex for me, and begins many negative trends, such as making ability scores too important (and thus making randomly generated characters less attractive to play). 3E had a lot of good ideas for streamlining game mechanics, but became too much about character optimization. High level characters also differ too much in power from low level characters (I prefer a more gradual power curve). 4E also introduced some innovations, but it homogenizes the classes too much in pursuit of balance, rests too much on numerical illusionism, and requires miniatures to get full use of the tactical depth available in the rules. 5E has some useful concepts like bounded accuracy, and interesting mechanics like advantage, but it remains to be seen what the final product will look like, and whether the modularity will support a game simple enough to appeal to me. My favorite D&D art is probably from Moldvay Basic, AD&D, and some parts of 2E.

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class? Either way. I’m tempted to just have everyone use the fighter progression, even in older games, because I don’t think it really matters.

6 thoughts on “Random Wizard Questions

  1. Dave Bapst

    A Tangent:
    So, you’ve previously mentioned the ‘unlocking’ aspect of Pavelhorn (and perhaps other proposed games). I’m curious if you have any more you could say on the subject of ‘unlocking’ as a game element. Do you think it has any serious effect on gameplay, i.e. do players feel incentive to go investigate something that seems likely to ‘unlock’ a new class or race? Or is unlocking too uncommon or unpredictable in the way you manage it for it to have a noticeable effect on gameplay decisions? Certainly in JRPGs, I know I feel a very strong incentive to go unlock a new type of magic or a new character, etc, as soon as the option becomes available. I’d be interested to hear more of your thoughts on this subject.

    (If you have talked about ‘unlocking’ before and I missed the blog post, mea culpa… and just point it out to me.)

    1. Brendan Post author


      I do think that it has an important impact on gameplay, even with the informal methods I’ve been using, which have basically been to make classes available after availability makes sense in the game world, such as when ratlings were discovered in Pahvelorn.


      It would probably be better to handle unlocking more transparently, and also to seed the setting with leads and hooks pointing toward opportunities for unlocking, just like other adventuring opportunities, so that players can pursue them on their own initiative. I have done this to some degree in Pahvelorn, but I probably have not been as explicit as I could have been, so far. This wouldn’t have been possible with ratlings though, as they were emergent and based on player action rather than being a planned part of the setting to begin with.

      1. Dave Bapst

        It would be interesting to see what this would look like if taken to an extreme: say a sandbox-type game where characters are extremely disposable, but where there are interesting new character options in any direction, such that the act of making new characters never gets really repetitive. The most exciting aspect about this is that if the same sandbox had two different groups wandering in it, the area they explore and alliances they make could lead to the groups having extremely different group make-ups after a decent number of sessions, giving an extremely concrete representation of the effect of player choice. Of course, such a game would be limited by a GM’s ability to seed the landscape with unlockable options (I would not personally find that difficult, though).

  2. Random Wizard

    I think I would dig race as a class more if it actually separated race from class and said 99% of elves are this class (spellsword), 99% of halflings are this class (scout). Splitting hairs, I know, but it “sits right” in my mind that way then the way it is presented in B/X.


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