My experience with putting together a two-page dungeon level last week has had an unintended side effect. Quite unexpectedly, I started to find myself captivated again by the simple beauty of the older editions. I used Labyrinth Lord to cook up Level 1A, but this retro-clone reminded me of why I fell in love with the game in the first place.
I suspect that part of the attraction I feel for the simpler form of the game comes from the character fatigue I’m still suffering from. Saturday evening was game night again for our group, and when I found myself faced with the decision of starting a new character from scratch or bringing in an older one, I decided to play the one that I had already rolled-up. My decision in this regard stemmed largely from having little desire to go through the whole 3.5 process of making a new character, especially one that would jump in the game at 4th level. I just wasn’t up to doing the build. It was much easier to upgrade the older character to make him more appropriate for established party level.
Whenever I flip through the Holmes, Moldvay/Cook, or Mentzer editions, or even its modern cousin, Labyrinth Lord, I always find myself thinking that this is the system that I should be running. While I love AD&D and all the wonky, creaky and baroque rules that accompany that edition of the game, sometimes the lure of the simple pleasure is too much to deny. Despite this siren song, there’ always one aspect of these rules that rises up to ruin my fun: Race as Class.
I’m fairly certain that I’m not the only one who feels this way. I just can’t get past the idea that every elf is a fighter/magic-user or that every dwarf is solely an axe-wielding warrior. For better or for worse, AD&D let that genie out of the bottle and there’s no putting it back. Knowing my own quirks as a player, I can’t help but project that people coming to play at my theoretical gaming table are going to feel the same way, and it will only be a matter of time before someone wants to play a devout dwarven cleric or a wizardly elf without all the melee nonsense.
I’m quite aware that this hang-up goes against my own cardinal rule of “Stop worrying and love the dungeon.” In theory, I should just be able to say, “Them’s the rules,” and press onward. But I’ll be first in line to admit that the rule of “Stop Worrying” is easier to apply to the dungeon itself than it is for those who venture into it.
I’ve been thinking rather hard on a way to move past this stumbling block, but answers are not readily forthcoming. I’ve little desire to try and recreate AD&D is D&D format – one of the faults I found with Mentzer as those series of rules progressed. But at the same time, I’d like to accommodate the desires of the players, hopefully without a lot of "away from the table" design work if possible.
I thought that I might have found the answer in an article in Dragon #109 called “Customized Classes”, which give a streamlined method of building D&D classes. With a little math, I thought that making a Dwarf Cleric – for lack of a better class name for the moment – with these rules might be the answer. Unfortunately, after looking over the method detailed in those rules, I find that the math doesn’t quite add up to match the established classes presented in the earlier editions of D&D. Since I possess a lack of aptitude in matter mathematical, I’m not sure how to go about rigging that method to generate results closer to the original classes as presented. I’ve given the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game rules a once over, and while that system is indeed closer to what I have in mind, I’m not quite sold on them right now. Another look might be in order, but I suspect that a solution that would appeal to my own aesthetics lies somewhere in between the two.
I wonder if anyone has any suggestions, anecdotes, or other advice to help me overcome this mental stumbling block?