Thursday, May 5, 2011

More musings on AD&D saving categories

Since Daniel Boggs mentioned that the Saving Throw categories are actually in one of the manuscripts Dave sent to Gary, and the fact that it actually contains a category for lasers (I hadn't realized what I saw, when reading "death ray"), I guess it's not unlikely that Dave Arneson invented the concept. Still, why did he do it like he did?

In OD&D, there is a "Death Ray", or possibly "Death, Ray" category, and a "Stone". Those are gone in AD&D, and also "Rod, Staff or Wand" have been harmonized into one, in contrast to OD&D where "Staves & Spells" and "All Wands" are different. Some of these I find puzzling.

In AD&D it feels like the categories could be described as "Physical Transformation", "Transformation again", "Magic Items", "Area Effects" and "The rest". While The first two are slightly overlapping, it at least makes more sense than OD&D.

I have a heard time figuring out how anyone could have been thinking when staves are one category and wands another. Even if these once were stat checks, it's now impossible to see which stat covered which one. In the comments I got the suggestion that when a PC encounter he should probably save vs "Rock Slide" or something to that effect, and it will be up to the DM to base it off a sensible number. I wonder if the categories are different things Dave had encountered in his Blackmoor campaign, and had noted down numbers for?

Considering Arneson and his friends had been playing wargames, I think about how saves are used in the rules I know. Often you roll morale for your troops in the same way as you roll a save in D&D or T&T, to avoid something bad happening. Also, cohesion and acceptance of orders is some mechanics I've seen. I see here at least a small suggestion the idea could have come from that background. Still no hint on if there are any system to the categories.

There are two things that bug me about all this. I would like to know what kind of thinking lies behind the original edition of D&D, and how the idea of rpg evolved. Lost knowledge is so sad. The other thing is my thirst for symmetry, rationalizing and shaving off rough edges on rules to make them run smoothly not only from familiarity. Both these annoy me in this case.

Having been reminded that T&T actually reinvented the idea of basing "saves" of the stats I'm inclined to put it back into D&D like I think of it. It can't really stop me from turn and poke those saves a bit more, though.

11 comments:

  1. Well, in OD&D wands were MU only, while staves were a mixed bag: some MU only, some Cleric only, and some both. The save split may relate to that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Many moons ago, someone posted saving throw rules based on attributes. Wish I could find that.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Saving throws are definitely a wargame concept. I explained some reasons for their appeal here. If you could dig up the Civil War ironclad rules whence Arneson got the "Armor Class" and "Hit Points" concepts, you might find some more clues.

    As for the categories, those seem to be hazard-centered rather than character-centered, built around all the crazy things that could happen to a hero - including dodging laser zaps Buck Rogers-style.

    ReplyDelete
  4. CHAINMAIL had a few different saving throws in it. So for example to avoid a Basilisks petrification you had to get better than 7 on a 2d6. It may be that the sort of specific event/monster saving throws that show up in CHAINMAIL were the root of the categories in OD&D. Gygax and Arneson just took the Saving Throw situations the players faced most often and made them into a list. I don't think its a coincidence that Arneson had six categories, since if a situation came up that didn't quite fit all he had to do was roll a d6 to pick a category.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I recall in some Arneson interview, maybe wayback in the 80's ;) saves came about because players didn't like instant death. So Dave said, all right roll this dice to save yourself.

    I do like the idea of the Morale roll being an inspiration, very Squad Leader.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, in OD&D wands were MU only, while staves were a mixed bag: some MU only, some Cleric only, and some both. The save split may relate to that.

    Huh. I hadn't noticed that.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Roger post there, Roger! I'd love to dig up those ironclad rules, wouldn't we all? I guess they were probably a small set long forgotten.

    Good observation that saves are hazard-centered.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Gygax and Arneson just took the Saving Throw situations the players faced most often and made them into a list. I don't think its a coincidence that Arneson had six categories, since if a situation came up that didn't quite fit all he had to do was roll a d6 to pick a category.

    Makes lot of sense. :)

    While I'm looking to a system in the madness, maybe you are right that it's all just a list of some of the common things to pop up in the campaign...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Mike,

    Check out Dragons at Dawn. It actually uses a Morale systems, for PCs!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think staves were considered more powerful devices, so the save was higher. (an apprentice might pack a wand, but usually we only see magic staves in the hands of powerful wizards and high priests)

    In AD&D, this is sort of echoed by the fact staves have a higher default caster level than the wands.

    OD&D is a very warty system! Who knows what they were thinking with some of it. It has its own specific charm, though. Something endearing about those little books. They led to so much.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I guess they were. Odd combination of sometimes using power level and sometimes categories to make up the saves. It's warty, as you so aptly put it!

    ReplyDelete

Copyright 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 Andreas Davour. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Blogger.