Original Edition Delta

Original Dungeons & Dragons, or ODnD, has various clones or houseruled re-imaginings. One of those is Original Edition Delta, which has a very good reputation (at least as I could observe in several independent cases) and openly calls itself “houserules”, but, in general basis, follows the Original DnD very closely; even the spells are hardly distinguishable from the original, just adding various spells, like Magic Missile and Shield at level 1. Re-rolling HP at 1 or 2 is usually optional, here it is the norm.

But of course, there are deviations, and some of them have great impact on the game as it will play out.

Stronger attributes

The attributes are mostly rolled with 3d6, but every player can choose one core attribute where the roll is 2d6+6. A boost that is even stronger than “roll 4 drop the lowest” – but only for one chosen attribute.
A character built at levels 4 to 7 sees his or her exceptional characteristics even more pronounced with two boosted attributes.
From level 8 onwards, one core attribute gets boosted with 2d4+10, a minimum result of 12, and three boosted attributes.
They call it “survivorship bias”.

More Deviations

However, Original Edition Delta really veers off from the original in various, and sometimes very important, details.

  • Firstly, in variable Hit Dice á la B/X.
  • Secondly, in eliminating the Cleric in favour of the Thief. So the Magic User is the only type of caster. A rather popular idea these days, but as I understand it Delta was among the leaders of the pack to “turn on the cleric”, so to speak.
  • Thirdly, fighters get “feats”, special knacks that boost them further.
  • Fourthly, in simplifying the advancement in combat skills by making it a linear, or quasi-linear rise in different speeds.

How so?
Fighters get a +1 to hit at every level, Thieves get a +2 every 3 levels, and Magic Users +1 every 2 levels. So at level 6, the fighter has +6, the Thief has +4, and the magic user +3. The standard way of ODnD would see the fighter rise by 2 at Level 4 and by 3 more at L7. The Cleric and Thief would rise at L5 and L9. The MU would rise at L6 and L11. So in contrast to Delta they would remain much less efficient killers for much longer, all of them.

We see that Delta values fighting prowess in a character, which is also exemplified in the feats, where a fighter can learn to become a berserk and to fight from horseback, etc. Steel and strength feel more important here than hiding, sneaking, and running away.

Speaking of strength:

Encumbrance

In general, early and basic Dungeons & Dragons has a weird relationship with encumbrance in that the weight a character can carried is totally unrelated to the character’s strength score. A STR 18 hulk has the same encumbrance limits a sickly STR 3 weakling would bring to the table.

Delta measures weight in stone instead of coins and ties it to STR. Whoever carries his own STR score in stone is encumbered

“Any mundane item”

Remember the fact that magic users cannot wield swords and cannot wear armor?
Well, that is not actually in the rules.
Careful reading of the Original Dungeons & Dragons rules of 1974 shows that the prohibition of armor for wizards only relates to magical armor. Mundane armor is never even mentioned. The same is true for the other restrictions. Whenever something is not permitted, it explicitly mentions “magical”.

The Delta rules pick that loose thread up, and spin a ball out of it. “Characters can take any mundane item, encumbrance permitting”. In other words: Hello, spear-wielding magic user in chainmail – as long as neither spear nor mail are enchanted.

Was this what Gygax and Arneson actually envisioned when they wrote down the little brown books and specifically typed “magical armor”?
I do not believe so. I expect with reasonably strong conviction that it was obvious for them after a long career in wargaming, fantasy-reading, and general nerdery, that a wizard wears a robe, not a gambeson. But they did not write it so. And the Delta rules swoop in and claim the prize.

(written in error. in fact, the player’s rules state clearly that the magic user wears no armor, dagger only. I overlooked that. Thanks Joshua Macy for picking it up.)

Language learning

In Original Edition Delta, intelligent characters don’t already know more languages, they learn them. They add new, randomly chosen languages with every level-up, until they hit the INT-determined maximum.

Transparency

Original Edition Delta is very open about its design decisions, which are listed and explained in the footnotes.

Target 20

They call their slightly different way of counting dice results “Target 20”. Basically it is d20 + Level + modifiers to beat 20.
It is for all intents and purposes the same as with “normal rolling” to beat an AC, because THAC0 for ODnD (even though ODnD did not use the term THAC0) is 19, and 19 + Level 1 is 20, just like the target number of Target 20. In other words, it is just another way of calculating the very same thing that Descending AC and Ascending AC are trying to get at.

You can find the rules here http://www.oedgames.com/

Mass Combat

Despite the excellent performance of “Throw me a 6” I am still always on the lookout for Mass Combat systems that are more native to the roleplaying experience, or more immersive. Therefore I was happy to see that Original Edition Delta offers a “Book of War”, which is modelled after the basic Chainmail “engine”, but tries to iron out the kinks.

The Foreword even gives voice to what I myself am seeking:
I’ve always yearned for a mass-combat game that, on a statistical basis, faithfully replicates the results of classic D&D combat. In other words, I wanted a system that could quickly resolve combat between several hundred bandits or orcs, and know that the result was (probabilistically speaking) the same as if we’d played out individual D&D combat for the whole.

Yes, that pretty much sums up what I am seeking. So my interest for this Book of War is greater than for the actual RPG Delta-rules.

So I shall go ahead and playtest the Delta Book of War soon.

2 thoughts on “Original Edition Delta

  1. I think you skipped a bit in the Player’s Rules in Original Edition Delta (v1.06): “Wizards: Use no armor, dagger only” I guess technically a wizard starting a higher level using the equipment rules in the Judges could take non-magical armor to sell or trade, but they can’t wear it.

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