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; 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 a good number of deviations, and some of them have great impact on the game as it will play out.
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”.
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 — and variable weapon damage too.
- 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, and that every fourth level.
- Fourthly, in simplifying the advancement in combat skills by making it a linear, or quasi-linear rise in different speeds.
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:
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.
Delta’s game has a silver standard, and it shortens turns to 1 minute instead of 10, so movement during exploration is faster by an incredible degree.
“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”.
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. Choosing to learn languages randomly is a very peculiar way of doing things…. but:
Original Edition Delta is very open about its design decisions, which are listed and explained in the footnotes. Background: “Delta” runs a blog on http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/ , where the author delves into tricky rules questions regularly and with great authority. So every deviation in the Delta Rules can be assumed to have serious grounding in research and math.
Math…. one of the issues that sometimes throw players for a loop and get discussed a lot is the so called “Target 20” mechanic, basically a roll for a target number of 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/
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.