Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wait. What?

So people continue to be miffed that only Fighters advance in combat ability. That choir seems to be growing.

My reaction is "What difference do they think that would make?"

Let's look at some things.

Death Frost Doom

No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides
The Grinding Gear
Hammers of the God
Tower of the Stargazer
Weird New World
A Stranger Storm

The listed adventures are how I run things when I have my shit together.

Which of those adventures would substantially change if we all just decided that one or more classes just automatically hit every time they tried to strike in combat?

I say none.

Yes, some segments of the adventures would of course become easier, but fighting isn't everything - or the main thing. I would argue that success in all of those adventures comes down to player skill, not character stats or abilities.

I think players overconcerned with combat optimization (for lack of a better term) are in deep trouble anyway.

The next adventure you see from me will be a mid-level adventure, and if your party doesn't have any of the "suboptimal" demi-humans, your Specialist better be picking up the slack - or you're fucked, don't care how badass your party is.


  1. Jim, I disagree with you on many things. This is not one of them.

    Don't budge

  2. For the way I play, I agree.

    Furthermore, “to hit” is only half the attack story. (Damage being the other half.) Actually, small changes in “to hit” are less than half the story. And attacks are only half (or less) of the combat story. (AC and hp being the other half.) Throw spells and tactical thinking into the mix, and “to hit” just isn’t that important. The biggest factor in D&D combat (other than player choices) has always been hp anyway.

    And for the third argument: God’s not going to change the laws of nature for us. Instead, we learn to work in the world we’re given. Same for PCs. This is a tweak rather than a game breaker, so roll with it.


  3. Fighters being the only ones who get better at fighting works fine for me. For folks that don't want to play with that game/campaign model there are a lot of different games to choose out there.

    No reason to pander or bend to a different style, if you do what's the f'n point?

  4. Are you saying the game is really meant to be run using your modules, or at least in your DMing style, only? With little or no combat? (which is not what the tutorial depicts but whatever) Because if so, that is going to make this:
    a lot less likely for a lot of people. But as long as the assumption is that your game involves very little combat, and the real rewards will come from avoiding fighting, you win, I am wrong.

    For me (and my players) it's not about "optimizing" characters or being badasses, (or not *just* about being badasses), it's about seeing your character get a little better at the things that the class is supposed to "do." The drawing for the 'dwarf', for example, suggests dwarves might be combatants (as do Tolkien, which I uunderstood to be an influence on the game along with the others). If were to play a dwarf, I guess I'd expect to get a little better at fighting (and not just at taking damage) as I gain levels. Or if I were palying a halfling I might hope to get better hiding as I gain levels.

    For the record, though, I have just been saying it's something I'd houserule, not "Raggi is doing bad wrong fun."

    Does it really bother you that some people don't get what you're doing? If so, how about: explain it in terms that address (rather than belittle) the concerns raised? For example, you could have said:

    "The reason dwarves only gain HD, saving throws, and a little bit of Architecture as they gain levels is...."

    The impression I have is that skills are mostly reserved to Specialists and attack bonuses are reserved to Fighters because of some kind of 'niche protection' for those classes. True or false? Are there then 'niches' for dwarves and halflings? What are they?

    I totally get why people play 'suboptimal' characters and have done so myself in some games. Is the reason to play a dwarf or halfling just the extra challenge of not being very good at anything that requires dice rolling?

    Also, does the fighter's increasing attack bonus really not help him/make no difference? Why bother giving it to Fighters then?

    These questions are not me being sarcastic. I really want to understand what you are saying here.

  5. While I have yet to play LotFP I have to say I like the idea of the Fighter being the only one who gets better at hitting because it sets them apart from the others.

    In 3.X the Fighter was great for the first few levels but by level 10 is frantically getting left in the dust by creatures with too high of AC and then Spell Resistance, special abilities, etc all creating this thing that the fighter needs TONS of magical items/weapons (the dreaded +1 sword) to hit.

    Each of your classes, from what I've read, has a niche that they fill and rely on (as you've stated) player skill and creativity to overcome an obstacle and not just mechanical bonuses.

  6. As someone who does increase the to-hit values of non-fighter classes, I submit that part of it comes down to the sort of game you want to run. As Jim notes, the published LotFP adventures don't change substantially if non-fighters gain attack bonuses.

    As a counterpoint, I would look at something like the example of play dungeoncrawl in the LotFP tutorial book (or is it rules & magic?). In those heavy-combat (and repeated, prolonged combat) circumstances, it would seem like gameplay would certainly shift if, say, clerics and specialists had increased chances to hit.

    The game aesthetic and playstyle that LotFP is geared towards makes sense with fighters as the only ones advancing in combat ability. But if the playstyle is shifted a bit, then hey, it's nice to give the players that little extra fillip.

    In other words - LotFP is fine as is, but refs who want to change things can go ahead and add in AB advancement as per OSRIC or something.

  7. I really like that only Fighters get bonuses to hit because it gives good "niche protection."

    By the same token, I don't like the demi-human classes because they offer little in the way of niches at all.

  8. Giving the player classes one thing to excel at was a great design choice, it brings out the whole "you need all those unbalanced classes to balance" old school D&D theme more than in the original even.

  9. For me, it comes down to planning ahead and running a LOTFP campaign from the ground up; modules written for other systems (especially AD&D 1E) scale the armor classes for higher level monsters in expectation of increased to-hit rolls across the board.

    A campaign with normalized AC as the default assumption should work fine with rules as is, and the new demi-human class skills give them something to increase besides HP and Saves. I'm liking the grind-box changes.

  10. >>Does it really bother you that some people don't get what you're doing?

    hmm, a bit. This isn't my attempt to be "D&D done right!" It's not Labyrinth Lord warmed over with a fresh coat of paint and a box. There's no point to it if that's all it is, so it does irk me a bit when people treat it that way.

    yah, same roots, but it veers off to the left on purpose. (I thought this post said it well, I feel this person "got" it)

    >>Also, does the fighter's increasing attack bonus really not help him/make no difference? Why bother giving it to Fighters then?

    Because that is their entire thing. Sometimes there are battles, and the Fighter should be far and away the best in those situations.

    As far as demi-human niches... the halfling is the "stays out of trouble" character. Totally passive but to me it makes no sense to give the halfling any sort of combat advantages. The Elf is the "multiclass" of the bunch.

    The dwarf really is a bit odd out as it does seem to have the same niche as the fighter, so it's not as straighforward. Changing it all around so a dwarf isn't what's understood to be a dwarf doesn't make sense, neither does dropping it entirely just because it doesn't fit a neat space like the other classes - that would be the design tail wagging the game dog.

    The dwarf has several advantages over the fighter. That greater hit die is combined with the +1 Con mod so it's a bit more than it appears on the chart. Better saving throws which aren't a small thing when Save or Die exists. The Architecture skill's usefulness will depend on the Ref's inclusion of adventure bits that allow it to be utilized.

    Whether those advantages make up for the lack of AB advancement (and the advanced combat options are meaningful if you're not constantly escalating ACs, btw) is up to the individual. Don't see them as hopelessly broken myself.

    As for the tone of the post, the times to be sheepish or contrite (typos, when my cartography ends up in print, etc)... and then there are times when I did things on purpose, I don't think I did wrong, yet something has to be addressed, so full steam ahead.

  11. Write your game the way you see fit and the heck with the critics.

    That being said its trivial for me to house rule the thing to my needs which I will.

    So yes (and keep on mind I only have the free original version in PDF) in your game, specialists don't get better in combat and fighters don't get better at skills. In my game they do.

    And thats the way it should be.

  12. Houseruling is encouraged. Hell, the game I'm playing in now doesn't run by rules-as-written.

    However, I do see a difference between "houseruling because I prefer x approach," "houseruling because I don't like x," and "houseruling x because it doesn't work as written."

    If I see comments giving the impression of the third instance pop up in a few places (and I admit that the line between the second and third bits can be quite fuzzy), I think it's my responsibility to either go "oh crap, they're right," and apologize and offer a suggestions for a fix (the "official line"), or reaffirm what was done in the first place.

  13. It is a defining feature of the LofTP system for each class to become better at the one thing which differentiates it from all the others. For the fighter, this is fighting.

    Tactically speaking, given the low hit points of magic-users and clerics, is it wise to send them into melee with critters that require a higher to hit bonus than they begin the game with? Seems like a perfect recipe for doom and tpk.

    The dwarf class plays the role of a shield for soaking up damage whilst the fighters and magic wielders occupy themselves with bringing the enemy down. Allowing the dwarf to hit bonus to progress would almost certainly overpower them whilst undermining the utility of the fighter. This would make the dwarf the defacto melee choice for all comers, rather than the, ahem, tankish class that they are.

    The most disturbing house rules that I have seen developed so far attempt to restore the multiple hits/attacks of fighters as they progress upwards in level. This is appropriate in campaigns where hordes of kobolds are common foes, though a sweeping blows rule would accomplish about the same thing in a more interesting manner, but is not in the least against more bizare solo weird monsters.

  14. I read this post as saying - the rules are fine for playing LotFP modules and the way James likes to play. Some people want to play other with a different emphasis - with loads more combat maybe - well, maybe this isn't the game for that. Simple really.

  15. I brought up a concern with fighters a few days ago. My concern was focused on not allowing ANY advancement at all, ever, for other classes. I look at a player who wants to cast magic and swing a sword. He is not looking to be a bad ass, but he certainly does not want to be denied the hope to one day get better.

    I am fine with character niches/roles - I like 4e. I am not sure telling players you can never ever improve is what a GM should say.

    That was my only concern and not one that would hold me back from purchasing the game. Nor do I fault Mr. Raggi for his design decision.

    As I asked before.

    What do players want? What makes them happy or puts them off?

    Do gamers really want well defined/unique roles or something a bit more organic - something akin to Rolemaster in its take on class and skill.

  16. It's not a frequency of combat issue, but a power curve issue.

    LotFP characters accumulate power more slowly than characters in similar games, and this is intentional to keep the characters more grounded and part of, rather than lording over, a setting as a campaign progresses.

  17. The greater the frequency of combat the more it highlights the differentiated curves by class. In a game with less emphasis on combat this isn't as much of a issue. LotFP seems much more about the specialist, saves and skills than the fighter and combat. Much more about player skill. It's not a problem if you're playing LotFP for what it is. If you're expecting a combat-balanced party at higher levels forget it.

  18. I've been thinking about this issue quite a bit lately. I can't say that I've concluded that I need to "fix" dwarves, they seem quite playable when one takes the whole environment of the game into consideration. But one thing does bug me. Why do dwarves need more experience to level than fighters? Is mechanical balance simply not a design concern, do you see dwarves as better than fighters, or is it because they needed more to level in Mentzer?

  19. I find the Dwarf to be the odd case. I think the Elf and Halfling have acceptable niches that make sense. In particular, the Elf is now a compromise rather than a way to have it all.

    I, personally, would give the Dwarf a reduced combat progression (say +1 per 3 full levels). The he is tough warrior and the fighter is the offensive warrior.

    Or I'd find another Dwarf cultural niche to exploit. They are craftsmen and merchants, aren't they? Maybe that could be developed.

  20. This topic touches on another issue that I have tended to notice as I read forums, blogs, and various reviews concerning both the deluxe and grindhouse editions that bears mention.

    Most of the writers seem to be basing their comments and house rules assumptions upon a read through of the rules that is generally unsupported by any play sessions.

    I believe that many of subtleties and changes from 0ed or B/X that are made in LotFP make the most sense when taken in their entirety as a complete system.

    The scaling of advancement, the silver currency base, the general high cost of the top-tier adventuring gear, and the scarcity of magic items, all conspire to formulate a very different game experience than what most old schoolers are used to. Characters end up being something outside of the typical D&D definition.

  21. "Most of the writers seem to be basing their comments and house rules assumptions upon a read through of the rules that is generally unsupported by any play sessions."

    After 30 years of experience running TSR era D&D, I'd feel pretty confident about expressing my opinion. Like me, those folks probably know what they want in a game, as well.

  22. FWIW, this really is a non-issue from my pov. If I were basing my game on LotFP, I'd morph it into whatever I saw fit, regardless. My little blog widget says I'm running LL, but that's only about 70% true.

  23. I love the non scaling armour class, I love the no multiple attacks a round and I love the no bonus to damage and have no problem with only fighters going up in attack bonus. I argued against Elves, Halflings and Dwarves going up at all with my group.

    But I find the Dwarf to be a big let down? Why? They have no control over using their strengths.
    In combat they are no more effective with the weapon than the magic user. Sure they have heaps of Hps but as the enemy isn't compelled to attack them all I can really see this meaning is they are the last in the party standing because they are the last any one would bother to attack. The exact same thing goes with Saving Throws in combat. As they are likely to be the best to save who would bother to targeting them?
    I like to play my NPC's intelligently. Maybe creatures with only animal intelligence might choose to attack randomly but those with any intelligence are going to have some general appreciation of their opponents.

    Outside of combat the saving throws are great but usually if you are in a position where you have to make saves then you have stuffed up and smart play should be able to avoid the save being necessary.
    Architecture is a nice little bonus but nothing a specialist couldn't pick up pretty easily if it kept coming up.
    This on top of needing the third highest number of xp to go up a level.
    I firmly place the blame for my disappointment on Mr Raggi! The fluff text and art for the Dwarf really grab me, but if you don't have enough players to cover all the base classes already and with the Dwarf having nothing 'special' that it can do then it is really is a sub optimal choice.
    My 2 silvers.

    Aaron C

  24. Well, I'd guess hat your audience probably uses the game not just to play your modules but also to play their own, and that their own modules differ in style a bit from yours.

    Personally I'm kind of in the middle: I'd give the original bonuses to the non-human classes, but not to any of the human ones - they simply don't seem worth playing otherwise.

    Especially the elf - I don't see anything wrong with them being good at two things, especially given that they have the worst advancement rates of any class. And if LotFP's angle is that every class improves at what it's does, well, since OD&D the elfs 'thing' has always been the fact that it does two things. The fact that they do two things is always what made them unique, and I see nothing wrong with retaining this if the goal is to reinforce each classes specialties.

    Of course, I'd be equally happy just omitting the demihuman classes as core classes - perhaps keep them in the book but relegate them to a conversion appendix at the back.

  25. Having teethed on the red box, played for a long time, forced myself to completely unlearn playstyles in order to really "get" thoroughly different games, and then rediscovered some of my early loves, I'm very happy with what you've done with LotFP. And having read Grindhouse Edition from the top of one cover to the back of the third, I completely appreciate what you've done with all of the classes, and can't wait to teach this game to some unassuming folk who've never RPed. Next Sunday, wish me luck ;)

  26. For anybody who's still interested in this, I've come up with a house-rule that I think might satisfy most people who think that all classes should get higher attack bonuses as they go up in level:

    Leave Fighters the same: Attack Bonus = Level+1

    Dwarfs & Halflings (who otherwise improve only in hit points and saving throws as they go up in level): Attack Bonus = Level/2 Round Up

    Clerics, Elves, Magic-Users & Specialists (who already improve in many other ways as they go up in level): Attack Bonus = Level/3 Round Up

    What do you think?

  27. Or, for those who want each class to be different:

    Fighter Attack Bonus = Level+1

    Dwarf Attack Bonus = Level/2 Round Up

    Elf Attack Bonus = Level/3 Round Up

    Halfling Attack Bonus = Level/4 Round Up

    Specialist Attack Bonus = Level/5 Round Up

    Cleric Attack Bonus = Level/6 Round Up

    Magic-User Attack Bonus = Level/7 Round Up