Monday, September 23, 2013

D&D—without the D&Disms

One of the nice things about a really nice, robust, well-developed rule set like D&D 3.5 is that you've gone well beyond the "basic" options and have all kinds of other things in print (this is even more true when adding in third party supplements, but even without that, it's still remarkable.)  The same claim could be made for a rule-set like Pathfinder, or probably 4e too.  One curious option that this allows is that you can play D&D that doesn't feel anything like D&D in most respects, by eliminating availability of some of the really basic options and replacing them with other options that are out there instead.

Why would you want to do this?  For variety, of course, in my opinion.  For me, it's a bit more than that, since I'm not really a fan of a lot of the basic D&Disms, but even if you ignore me and my little tantrums over here about things I don't like, I think it's not unusual for many players to want to do something different.  I've found that with my group, for instance, while there's one or two guys who are always up to play the elvish wizard or dwarven fighter or whatever other D&D cliche you can come up with, most of us are looking to do something a little bit different, and we highly value the variety inherent in a system like 3.5, where you can dig well beyond the core rulebooks to get something quite a bit different than a basic elf or dwarf, or your basic wizard or cleric or whatever classes.  But an entire game that specifically disallows some of those iconics, and only allows non-iconic, "oddball" options?  Can it work?

Absolutely.  In fact, one of my most successful D&D games ever specifically operated on that premise.  If I were to do something like this again, here's what I would probably do.
  • Halfling, half-elf, elf, dwarf and gnome races are completely disallowed.  Can't use 'em.  From the "basic" list, that still leaves you the human and the half-orc.
  • What other races would I allow?  Well, if you've got half-orcs, why not full orcs too?  Hobgoblins and goblins can be in (although probably require a bit of tweaking for balance) and all of the genasi and other planetouched races--although, again, I'd prefer a variant of LA +0 rather than LA +1.
  • The Eberron races--you can use them.  This includes the shifter, the kalashtar, the war-forged and the changeling.
  • There are also some LA+0 Expanded Psionics Handbook races that I like--the xeph, elan, and dromite and maenad, in particular.
  • Any class with a spellcasting progression is disallowed.  From the basic list, that means that you can only pick the fighter, the rogue, the barbarian and the monk.  Feel free to use archetypes (adapted from Pathfinder) to further customize your class.  There are also a number of options in print to turn the ranger into a spell-less class, or you can use a full-blown alt.ranger (as well as an alt. anything else that has a spellcasting progression, although I'm struggling to imagine an alt.wizard or alt.cleric that is worth taking which doesn't have spellcasting or other supernatural abilities.)
  • The psionics classes, from Expanded Psionics Handbook and Complete Psion can be used.  Other classes, such as the swashbuckler from Complete Warrior or the ninja from Complete Adventurer and others of that kind of pedigree are also good--assuming that there's no spellcasting progression. 
  • Obviously, the point I'm making is that psionics replaces magic entirely in this game--both divine and arcane.  And if you're going to do that, might as well revise the race list while you're at it.
  • Although not directly related to that premise, I'd have one or two other house-rules as well--the Defense bonus option would be turned on, Action Points would be utilized (including an additional use of action points where you can use one as a Healing Surge, i.e., it replicates the effect of a potion of CLW when you spend one.
  • Guns.  Black powder guns, probably the rules from Freeport, as replicated here would be the best alternative, but there's lots of other alternatives in print--Iron Kingdoms, d20 Past, Pathfinder, the DMG, etc.
  • Also, I hate alignment.  I never use it in any game if I can help it, but I would also specifically disallow it as a major focus here.  If you take an alignment, it'll basically never come up as relevant.  If you don't even assign one, that's fine too.

1 comment:

Joshua Dyal said...

For the planetouched, I think making the ability score modifiers a net 0 would do the trick. The other racial abilties aren't that big a deal. For hobgoblins, on the other hand, there really aren't any good racial abilities except the net positive ability score modifiers. I honestly think hobgoblins are fine as is without the LA+1 that WotC gave them. Goblins, on the other hand, are a bit crocked even at LA +1. I think they need an extra feat to compensate.