Friday, July 25, 2008

4 things I don't like...

...about Moldvay Basic D&D

Considering I've been doing some harping on 4th edition, I think in the interest of fairness I should take some time out to talk about the stuff I don't like in my favorite version of D&D. From time to time I've been known to claim that Moldvay Basic D&D combined with Cook/Marsh Expert D&D is the most perfect form of the game ever published. I will admit bias on this one, since this was the edition I started gaming with, but I still think you won't find a better version of D&D. However, there are maybe four rules in the game that bug me to a greater or lesser degree.

Oil & Holy Water

Variable weapon damage (you know, where swords do d8 and daggers do d4) is an optional rule under this version. My group always used it, but the default is that all weapons do d6, just like OD&D before the Greyhawk supplement. But then burning oil and holy water do d8 damage. Without the optional rule in play, that means a molotov is better than a two-handed sword. Admittedly, you don't have to carry a bunch of disposable flasks of sword around, but it still rubs me the wrong way. Oil is already extremely useful, it doesn't need to be the most damaging weapon available.

Two-handed Weapons

Two-handed weapons always lose initiative under Moldvay Basic. That strikes me as an unnecessary penalty when you must already forgo a shield. My thought nowadays is that the thing to do would be for two-handers to attack last on any round where initiative is a tie. That retains a bit of the intended effect without unduly harshing the polearm fans.

Points Swapping

The second column of page B6 gives some fairly unwieldy rules for ability points swapping at character generation. When we were kids we often played D&D Basic as a pick-up game and this is where group chargen got bogged down. In my experience that section slows down chargen just as much buying equipment (if not more) as each player tries to minmax their six 3d6 rolls into the best possible PC. Nowadays I'm a big proponent of stick with what you rolled, but I could also see another solution would be a handout that better explained how to turn your dice rolls into the character you want.


This one is the doozie for me. A third level Magic-User can 2 first and 1 second level spell a day. With me so far? Guess how many spells that Conjurer has in his or her spellbook? The correct answer is 3, one second level and two first level spells. No more spells are allowed. Spells may not be transcribed from scrolls to expand your spellbook and as far as I can tell a captured spellbook is worthless to an MU. This simplification makes writing up NPC magic-users and elves very simple. You list the spells they know and that list constitutes both what they have memorized and what is in their spellbook. But I can't stand it. I'm just too married to the Vancian ideal of a spellcaster, where two big deals for an M-U are Picking The Right Tool for the Job and Finding More Damn Spells.

So now I'm off to read up on how Labyrinth Lord handles each of these issues. Anybody else have any nitpicks with Moldvay/Cook? Or howzabout something that bugs the crap out of you in what is otherwise your favorite edition?