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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Of Dwarves and Hobbits and Weird Fantasy

I've been thinking quite a bit the past few days about Dwarves and Halflings in LotFP's Weird Fantasy Ruleset. Deluxe rules or Grindhouse Edition, it doesn't matter which... these class races are hosed.

D&D is an offensive game. He that brings the most damage to the table tends to win.

Dwarves will average one extra hit point per level over a fighter. By level 9 that's 9 extra hit points, at the cost of +9 to THAC0, or whatever the kids call it these days. The Dwarf can't hit for shit, but he might be able to take an extra blow. Maybe. Oh, and he can press and do something else too. The Elf can do the same, and can cast spells.

Halflings are even more hosed. 1 less hit point on average then a fighter will gain each level, but he saves great. So, zero offensive value, moderate "Polish Minesweeper" value. Or just use a specialist, as the spec will actually brings useful skills to the table (and possible backstab damage too).

When James says he play tested these rules, and moved his game from BFRP to WF, I can't see how he had anyone playing a Dwarf or a Halfling at the time. Which is irksome, as I've been enjoying my read thru of the rules, even more so this time around then with the Deluxe Edition (which was good too, but this trip has been even better).


edit: can't comment on my own blog... i love blogger... here is my comment -

stuart, let me put it another way:

Fighters bring combat ability to the table

Clerics, MUs and Elves bring magic to the table

Specialists bring a boatload of useful skills to the table

Dwarves bring an extra HP per level

Halflings bring better saves then the other classes.

I'm not talking optimizing, I'm talking about bringing something to the party. The party is more then the individuals, that I know. But if you aren't helping the party, you are a hinderance.

Fighting, magic and skills vs HP and saves.

I know halflings were an afterthought (James said so when Deluxe was released). As for Dwarves...

brian:

k, read that wrong. yes, extra HP is nice, but next to worthless if you can't hit. Which is why you are house ruling some combat adds as he gains level.

now, if you gave the halfling half the skill points of the specialist, that might balance out too ;)

7 comments:

  1. When James says he play tested these rules, and moved his game from BFRP to WF, I can't see how he had anyone playing a Dwarf or a Halfling at the time.

    Not everyone cares about having a combat encounter optimized character.

    D&D is an offensive game. He that brings the most damage to the table tends to win.

    It depends on the game.

    Ripley: "These people are here to protect you. They're soldiers."
    Newt: "It won't make any difference."

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  2. While both the Dwarf and Halfling do lack offensive umph in LotFP, I think your analysis might be a tad off:

    1) Dwarves: Are going to average about +2 HP per level more than a fighter. +1 hp per level from the large die type (d10 vs d8). The +1 Con modifier (not +1 Con score) will also generate +1 per level. By level 9, that's about 18 hp ... a little more staying power.

    2) Halflings: The +1 Dex modifier also provides +1 for ranged weapons. The Halfing is the only class that gets that +1 Dex modifier. Their AC is likewise bumped by +2 (+1 from the Dex modifier bump, and the additional +1 to AC when not surprised).

    For my house game, I also plan to roll out a +1 to dwarf hit bonus at levels 3, 6, and 9.

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  3. frickin blogger deleted code on its own. sigh. least i can comment now ;)

    see edit above in post for my first 2 comments

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  4. Yes, obviously I agree re: dwarf needing a little boost to hit (for my tastes). I'm likely to go with a +1 at 4th and 9th level for the elf as well. The existing combat options allowance for dwarves and elves also opens options to hit opponents.

    But not receiving a hit bonus doesn't equal to never hitting. My experience is that that extra staying power gives a nudge / allowance to the dwarf rolling a successful hit. Everyone has bad rolls (and vice versa) - I do think staying power helps.

    Another option might be to let the dwarf access additional damage as level escalates - that would give them a damage niche.

    If I thought ACs in my LotFP campaign would really escalate, I'd be more concerned. There, the lack of to hit might more readily translate into just never hitting as levels get higher.

    I didn't option the halfling cause, well, I don't like 'em or often use them. ;) I have considerably more elf and dwarf biased players.

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  5. I'm not talking optimizing, I'm talking about bringing something to the party. The party is more then the individuals, that I know. But if you aren't helping the party, you are a hinderance.

    It's not like the Dwarf isn't helping - just not (possibly) as optimal a character choice as you might prefer. Like I said previously optimization isn't for everyone. We have a player in our current game with an effectively non-combatant character. :)

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  6. Oddly I've been slowly coming around to seeing them as less than hosed. I missed the CON and DEX mods on my first readings too, and coupled with the improved saves, the dwarf and halfling do seem better than I thought at first.

    Also, I noticed a fairly explicit admonishment in the Ref book to keep monster ACs in the 12-18 range like characters' ACs, which makes the lack of to-hit bonuses a little less problematic.

    I would still probably want to give dwarves a to-hit bonus (less than the fighter's but *something*) and give the halfing the same or a skill point each level.

    James has mentioned that advancement is very slow in his games (he said it would take years to get to 6th or 7th level) so the lack of improvement would probably be less noticeable.

    The dwarf's slight edge in HP really doesn't amount to all that much, despite what I keep seeing apologists say about 'staying power' though.

    The comments at LOTFP (which James neither endorsed nor contradicted) suggest that the dwarf is supposed to be a 'tank' with better staying power than other classes. If that is the intention, it is not quite realized but it does make the class a little more coherent. Likewise I think James suggested halflings are supposed to be the class that survives by not being seen/avoiding foes, which does not sound all that exciting to play but again makes it a little more coherent.

    It's frustrating to have to 'read between the lines' to figure out what the niches of these classes are, though. And it really raises the question of what are fighters for if the game is really supposed to be about avoiding combat.

    As my brother put it, "why use D&D as a base for this game if it is not about killing monsters, gaining levels, and the stuff D&D seems designed for? Why not use the BRP (Chaosium's old Basic RP system as seen in Coc etc.) or something like that without levels?"

    Because the game seems to say that characters are unlikely to gain many levels anyway.

    It's almost as if the whole game is almost a self-referential exercise -- the "weird tale" involves setting up some situation and throing in a twist that completely unhinges our expectations and assumptions...and the LotFP game does exactly that, making us think it is sort of a retro-clone D&D but it turns out to be a low-powered, low-fantasy, low-magic game of investigation more akin to CoC than D&D.

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  7. I am of the opinion that Raggi is not all that interested in balance. In fact, I am not sure he takes players into consideration at all.

    Once I read about a session he ran. He indicated that he wrote the adventure with six or so players in mind. Last minute cancellations meant that only three or so could make it. He seemed very proud of himself that he refused to modify the adventure, stating that it wasn't his job to make things fair.

    James reminds me of the sneering killer DMs from junior high who got their jollies by boasting that no character in their campaign had ever advanced beyond second level.

    I am sure he is a very intelligent man and perhaps decent in real life, but his online persona and juvenile attempts at edgy, "adults only game products" leaves me cold.

    And now it is time for barbecue.

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