Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Doors in B/X

We finally managed to get together for a few hours of Basic D&D! It was my first time running or playing Basic. So let me relay my impressions:

Basic moves quickly. In a few hours of play, we had created characters, cooked a meal (IRL) and explored a good ways into a dungeon comprised of fairly complicated geomorphs.(we got through two of these squares and into a third before our luck ran out)
Perhaps this is because Basic stresses careful tracking of in game time and provides instructions for running the game on a turn by turn basis.
I've heard people comparing older editions of D&D to a boardgame, or saying that it is more like a boardgame. This is actually pretty apt. Turns are fairly structured and in this way are similar to the phases and turns that most boardgames are run by. I think this particular structure makes for sessions where a lot gets managed fairly quickly.
It reminds me of sessions of 3E, where even outside of combat, I went around the table on a round by round basis and things moved fluently.

And speaking of combat, it was as deadly as expected and advertised.
The session ended with two players very suddenly slain by gnomes. The lone surviving halfling  frantically retraced his steps out of the dungeon and added "the vengeful" to his name.

This came up on an image search for "Total Party Kill." This image makes me think that the party maybe had it coming. Another part realizes that this is basically what my friends look like. 

Combat moves and the tides turn very quickly. The extremely simplified approach to initiative, and the fragility of characters lends to this. There is no need to mess with criticals or fumbles when a decent damage roll means rolling a new character.
I think it also has a lot to do with the simplicity of the characters themselves. Without a mess of spells, feats and skills to confuse the player, characters take very simple, punchy actions and their rounds are quickly resolve. And yet the application of teamwork and tactics did not suffer for this.

I used to say that if you have 5 encounters prepared to run, then you have enough for a night of gaming. But in Basic, you should probably prepare way more since things move pretty fast.

One thing that did bog down gameplay though was the doors.

Roll 1-2 on a d6 or fuck you.

On Basic p. 21, it says that doors in a dungeon are usually locked or stuck. Stuck doors must be forced open by rolling on a d6.
What is the purpose of this rule?
Presumably, forcing a door would make a noise, alerting nearby monsters. So as soon as a door is forced open, any creatures in the next room will be alerted. But they might still be surprised if the party immediately attacks? 
But suppose the party fails to force the door. Even if they pile up to force it (not sure how to handle this) they might fail to open the door.
Well fuck. I kind of need them to be able to get through this door so they can explore the rest of the damn dungeon. So I said they could just wreck the door, but it would make a lot of noise.
And that's what I settled on. Forcing the door is less noisy and allows for surprise. Wrecking the door will ring the dinner bell.
If anybody has any ideas on managing door in B/X, please comment.

Even stranger, it goes on to say that these stuck doors open automatically for monsters. What?
I guess this must be one of those rules written for the sake of gameplay rather than consistency or realism. There seems to be a lot of that in Basic.


  1. That's the way I would do it....you can make a roll and, if successful, still manage surprise and no wandering checks. Otherwise it takes a turn to wreck the door. No surprise and a wandering check.

    As to the monsters - there was another book I was reading the other day that handled it the same way as B/X (if I remember what it was I will let ya know.) But the idea it gave was that the doors in a dungeon are well known by its inhabitants. So they know on the door to the chapel you need to press down while pushing in or it jams while the adventurer is just jamming that all up every time.

    1. Good clarification.
      I was just entitling nearby monsters to a be aware that something is up. But a wandering monster check is probably a more efficient way to handle it.

  2. Your interpretation makes sense. I typically do things the same way; if the party is able to force open the door in a single try, the enemies on the other side have a chance of being surprised. (This works well for me, since one of the party members is a halfling with a natural 17 Strength.) Stealth is out of the question unless there's a thief to quietly pick the lock.

    1. I hope the halfling lasts to continue his usefulness.
      I also hope I didn't just jynx him.