Sunday, June 26, 2011

DCC Typo and Basic D&D Attribute Checks

So I was looking over the Dungeon Crawl Classics beta rules again, and also rereading the DCC Free RPG Day Adventure Starter, when I noticed the typo shown above in the Adventure Starter. Yes, it says "Mentzner" when it should read "Mentzer." To their credit, this typo doesn't exist in the DCC beta rules. I just thought I'd point it out, especially in light of my recent declaration of Mentzer's D&D being my non-Advanced D&D version of choice.

Anyway, I've been looking at sources like DCC and other game systems, as well as the blogosphere of course, for ideas for  house rules pertaining to attribute checks. Now, before you all start commenting about how OD&D is about player skill and not character skill, and thus there is really no need for attribute checks, I only want a simple mechanic I can use in those instances where I feel that character skill would exceed player skill.

Plus, I've always felt that the D&D attributes should do something other than provide you with bonuses if you have a 13 or above. I've often thought that they were pretty useless, just sitting there, these numbers that don't really have any practical use. Unlike systems like Savage Worlds (where attributes are the dice you roll to perform tasks) or Dragon Age, where you roll 3d6 as in D&D but you only record the bonus the die roll result provides (so if you roll an 18 for your Strength, you have a bonus of 4 to add to Strength attribute checks...the bonus is what you record on your character sheet).

I've seen people espouse a xd6 check mechanic for D&D, and there's the d20 method. I was thinking of going with d20 and sometimes subtracting character level from the die roll if deemed appropriate.

So, my question to you is: what attribute check mechanic do you use for OD&D, if any, and please let me know the meat of your "system" and in what instances you use it. Looking forward to hearing from you all!


  1. Attribute checks seem to be fairly common, among the old school crowd. It all really just depends. I like to experiment a lot.

    If there's an obscure bit of local history and a question of whether or not the PC knows it, then an int attribute check on 2d12 will probably be used.

    If it's an obscure bit of arcane lore, the MU can make a saving throw, to see if he knows. Class related usually = tied to level for me, thus the use of a save.

  2. I'd love to comment, but I don't (and sadly, never have), played OD&D. I started with Moldvay.

    We didn't use attribute checks until some of the later AD&D tomes came out (name, if I recall correctly, Oriental Adventures and those Survival Guide books, that had tons of non-weapon proficiencies). I had a DM who emulated some of the NWPs with attribute checks if a character wanted to try to use the NWP but hadn't selected it for his character. It was a basic d20 roll, and you rolled under your ability score for success.

    As a side note, I've thought that, at a certain point, "official" D&D (the brand-name game) will eventually switch to what you describe as the Dragon Age system of ability checks - where you only list your bonus to the ability in question, rather than the actual score. Given the way that the "d20 System" sort of changed how abilities worked, it's kind of pointless to list that you have an 18 strength any more. You only need to know "+4." I guess the only real reason you'd need to know what the actual score is, any more, is because it only increases as even numbers, so if you had an 18 Strength and gained a +1 to it, your total bonus would still only be +4. However, I suspect over time that some game designer will change that so that both odd and even numbers factor into some kind of numerical bonus. That, combined with point-buys, will probably do away with "roll 3d6."

    That'll be a sad day, IMO.

    Sorry if I went off-topic there! And... I guess I ended up commenting after all! :)

  3. Hey James and Martin! Thanks for chiming in. Martin, I'm interested in playing some Mentzer, which came after Moldvay's version of the game. So your input would be perfect!

  4. In my old school game I don't usenability checks. Whenever possible I try to use "Yes and"—just allow things to happen and improvise something cool. If I think something then player is trying to do is lame, I try to think of a failure that would be cool and entertaining. If I can think of something I'll ask them to roll a d6. "evens are good" or "you succeed on a one or two" or something like that, "and if you fail, this is what happens…"

    I've started taking this approach with thief skills, too. Usually there is no need to roll.