When in Doubt, Don’t Tinker

Much thought and reflection and research has led me to back away from the ledge. I wrote about my history and current reasons for wanting to tinker with the 1981 Basic/Expert D&D rules as written, particularly the class balance and the suboptimal race-as-class approach. But every approach leads to a desire, justification, and need to overhaul ALL the classes. And while I still feel that all the classes could benefit from a bit of overhaul, that is just a step I don’t relish taking. I’ve made great efforts to stick to by the book and am just going to resolve to Just Play The Game.

This newfound (for the 743rd time) intent to stop changing so much so much of the time also includes the clerical turning rules. For over a year now, I’ve been using a B/X-ified version of the approach that DH Boggs has proposed as a method more true to the original implementation of clerical turning of the undead. While I like the approach, it hasn’t played very well in my game and in my desire to remain as close to BTB as I can, I am reverting to the turning rules as written.

For the curious, I am resolving the typical B/X uncertainty thusly: A cleric can turn undead one time per encounter/combat. 2d6 hit dice (minimum one monster) are affected and they immediately turn and retreat from the cleric similarly to a failed morale check or a cause fear spell. They remain turned for AT LEAST the duration of the encounter/combat, and will tend to return to the area in about a turn or so.

I will continue to define dwarves as “fighter-class dwarves,” halflings as “fighter-class halflings,” and elves as “multi-classed fighter/magic-user elves” despite not currently permitting any other class options for the demihuman races. I remain uncertain how to approach this, so for the time being my approach is “don’t tinker.”

My years of playing have taught me that so many of the rules I perceived as “broken” or “stupid” are, in fact, pretty good ways to handle things, and that the people who created the game and revised it as time went on actually knew what they were doing. It is a difficult thing for a tinkerer like me to accept, especially when the rules themselves permit and “the oldschool way” encourages tinkering. But the rules are often not as contradictory or illogical as we assume, even if we don’t always see the sense of their ways or understand the reasons why their compromises are reasonable.

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2 Responses to When in Doubt, Don’t Tinker

  1. Fr. Dave says:

    I, too, am a natural Tinkerer. I also have to agree with this axiom. The longer I play this game, the greater appreciation I have for the older rules with all their idiosyncrasies. On paper, they don’t look pretty (or even make sense), but I am always surprised how well they work in practice (that is, if we have the humility to give them a go).

    • Kilgore says:

      It’s hard to let go of the “I know better” and/or the “game X did it better” mentality. Not that tinkering is inherently bad, but I know that many things I used to tinker with because they were “hopelessly broken” actually are just fine, and it’s my tinkering that messed things up.

      I’m still really struggling with clerical spell progression in B/X, but I’m letting that sit since it’s not actually an issue for any characters right now.

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