D&D General Lethality, AD&D, and 5e: Looking Back at the Deadliest Edition

nevin

Hero
In OD&D, Halflings could not be raised if you strictly followed RAW. Raise Dead in Men & Magic reads: "Raise Dead: The Cleric simply points his finger, utters the incantation, and the dead person is raised. This spell works with men, elves, and dwarves only. [...]"

Given that Halflings were... not great... however, I wonder how many tables were that strict about it.

I don't see any correction or alteration in Greyhawk.
never saw that rule enforced. In every game I ever played even with the boxed sets a few friends wanted to try halflings were just short people . Never even noticed the lack of halflings in that. I'd bet that was a mistake but who knows there were some wierd rules that only made sense to the persons that made them.
 

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Hussar

Legend
looks back at the last few pages...

So, uh, how is the 4e discussion going? You know we have forum tags for that!

@Mannahnin - Regarding the availability of resurrection and raise dead, while I find this an interesting question, I am going to "call" your question and "raise" you an additional concern.

I often reference the rule in AD&D about half-orcs and elves- specifically, that they cannot be brought back from the dead through those methods (absent a Rod of Resurrection, which works for ... um ... reasons). I have often wondered how common that rule was enforced in other campaigns; based on what I've observed others saying, it would seem that this is one of the most unused rules in AD&D, outside of people (such as myself) who always recognized that elves are soulless automatons with dead eyes and a scourge upon the land.

So question 1- did anyone else see this rule enforced?

And question 2! Reincarnation was an available spell (Druid 7, MU 6). How common was the use of this spell on PCs instead of raise dead or resurrection in your AD&D campaigns, and why?

We actually did follow the rules for raise dead. But that was mostly because elves had so many advantages anyway, we felt it was a balance thing.

And I cannot recall a single instance of reincarnation being used. Raise was pretty common. Additionally Wish was most commonly kept in the back pocket for that as well.

One of the few wishes you could make that was never monkey pawed.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I've commented before that if you want simplicity and coherence, exception-based design is not your friend.
I disagree, in that a system that uses different discrete subsystems for different things can still be simple and coherent provided those discrete subsystems are (and this is the challenging bit) kept simple and coherent within themselves.

Unified mechanics tend to become incoherent IMO when they're asked to do things better suited to a subsystem or a different mechanic, or when they provide too much or (much more often) too little granularity.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I disagree, in that a system that uses different discrete subsystems for different things can still be simple and coherent provided those discrete subsystems are (and this is the challenging bit) kept simple and coherent within themselves.

The D&D spell system seems to say to the contrary. Its never been simple or coherent. In fact I'll go as far as to say it is one of the most difficult spell systems to parse I've ever seen.

Unified mechanics tend to become incoherent IMO when they're asked to do things better suited to a subsystem or a different mechanic, or when they provide too much or (much more often) too little granularity.

I might agree with the latter, but I'm not sold the former is at all true. There might be a limit as to how far down you can unify and have it work, but a small number of systemic approaches is far better than every one being a special case as D&D has tended toward.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
The D&D spell system seems to say to the contrary. Its never been simple or coherent. In fact I'll go as far as to say it is one of the most difficult spell systems to parse I've ever seen.



I might agree with the latter, but I'm not sold the former is at all true. There might be a limit as to how far down you can unify and have it work, but a small number of systemic approaches is far better than every one being a special case as D&D has tended toward.
Unfortunately, the approaches tend to be hegemonic. If you solve a few things with distinct mechanics, there is a great temptation to try to solve everything with distinct mechanics, which is a near-guaranteed recipe for bloated, ridiculous mess. Likewise, if you work to unify many of the mechanics, it can be tempting for both symmetry and accessibility to try to unify as many mechanics as you can. Simpler rules almost always require that you reduce the number of exceptions that have to get special treatment--and isn't that just another way of saying bespoke subsystems? A rule with 17 exceptions is hardly a "rule" at all.

Overall, in a context where unified vs bespoke mechanics tend to drive one or the other out, I find the flaws of unified mechanics to be much milder and easier to paper over than the flaws of bespoke ones. Because the whole point of bespoke mechanics is that they are unique and distinct--meaning each and every problem is unique and distinct. It becomes harder to diagnose the problems, and when you do, each needs a bespoke solution. Maybe a better way to say it is: It is hard to create a rule that seems to work all the time and which has no exceptions. It is easy--trivial!--to make new exceptions to an existing universal rule.

IMO, the obvious best result would be something where the default is unified mechanics (because those are much easier for players to understand and employ, but much harder to create), and then add a select few bespoke mechanics, only as needed, when the cost of learning is worth the gains from custom-tailored stuff. The bespoke bits would require extra special testing, beyond even what regular mechanics would require. But that overall structure would seem to marry the benefits while mitigating the conflicts.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Unfortunately, the approaches tend to be hegemonic. If you solve a few things with distinct mechanics, there is a great temptation to try to solve everything with distinct mechanics, which is a near-guaranteed recipe for bloated, ridiculous mess. Likewise, if you work to unify many of the mechanics, it can be tempting for both symmetry and accessibility to try to unify as many mechanics as you can. Simpler rules almost always require that you reduce the number of exceptions that have to get special treatment--and isn't that just another way of saying bespoke subsystems? A rule with 17 exceptions is hardly a "rule" at all.

You're not entirely wrong, but I'll point out Runequest got by with, fundamentally, three resolution systems for decades (with the extensions for one of them present in combat, but combat is at least almost always full-featured compared to the general systems in a game). I can also think of other game systems that didn't limit themselves to a single system, but kept the number deliberately low and had fairly strong siloing about what kind of things went with what (Aftermath! comes to mind). I'm sure if I stepped back I could think of more modern examples if I took the time.


Overall, in a context where unified vs bespoke mechanics tend to drive one or the other out, I find the flaws of unified mechanics to be much milder and easier to paper over than the flaws of bespoke ones. Because the whole point of bespoke mechanics is that they are unique and distinct--meaning each and every problem is unique and distinct. It becomes harder to diagnose the problems, and when you do, each needs a bespoke solution. Maybe a better way to say it is: It is hard to create a rule that seems to work all the time and which has no exceptions. It is easy--trivial!--to make new exceptions to an existing universal rule.

The usual objection I see about unified systems, particularly in paranormal systems is they don't provide enough color and look-and-feel distinction. I don't see it, but I've seen the objection enough to know its real for some people. Some of the others seem, honestly, more nonsensical to me, but I try to assume they make sense to the people presenting them.

IMO, the obvious best result would be something where the default is unified mechanics (because those are much easier for players to understand and employ, but much harder to create), and then add a select few bespoke mechanics, only as needed, when the cost of learning is worth the gains from custom-tailored stuff. The bespoke bits would require extra special testing, beyond even what regular mechanics would require. But that overall structure would seem to marry the benefits while mitigating the conflicts.

See my comment about combat above. Combat in unified systems isn't usually radically different from the core mechanic, but it usually has elements and extensions other parts of the system lack.
 

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