The Best In Old School Roleplaying

The Best In Old School Roleplaying
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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Simple Dice Mechanics for Reaction Rolls in OD&D and Swords & Wizardry

Reaction rolls are something that many modern games have gotten rid of, or are at least ignored by most Referees of said games. There may be some encounters in which reaction rolls could be ignored, especially those crucial to the adventure, after all, the dragon guarding her hoard shouldn't looked favorably upon adventurers coming to take it from her! Still, for lesser encounters, and random encounters, reaction rolls are a boon to the Referee, and can add interesting twists to the adventure.
 
 
OD&D and later Swords & Wizardry Complete give us this rule for reaction rolls:
 
 
"...the Referee may roll 2d6 to determine whether the monsters will attack if they surprise the adventurers. On a roll of 2-6, the monsters will be hostile and attack; on a roll of 7-9, the monsters will withhold judgment and wait to see if the adventurers are hostile; on a roll of 10-12, the monsters will have a positive initial reaction to seeing the adventurers, and might even be convinced to offer some help – if they are well paid, of course!"
 
That's OK...
 
Looking at a later edition, Moldvay gives us this option:
 
Reaction Roll Table (2d6+Charisma modifier)
RollResultExplanation
2 or lessImmediate AttackThe monsters are so offended that they attack immediately.
3-7UnfavorableThe monsters do not like the player characters, and will attack if they may reasonably do so.
8-11FavorableThe monsters will consider letting the player characters live if they choose to parley; it does not necessarily mean that the monsters like the player characters.
12 or moreVery favorableThe monsters (or perhaps only the monster leader) do, in fact, like the player characters; this does not mean that the monsters will just hand over their treasure, but it does indicate that they may choose to cooperate with the player characters in mutually beneficial ways.

 
Both have merit. I think we can do a good job at using the best of both rules while making the rule simpler and more simulationist at the same time. In fact, I need to track my source, but I'm pretty sure that Uncle Gary gave us another method. See, the above rule for OD&D might have never been used at his table. Again, I need to check the source, but I believe it was in the 1E DMG that Gygax stated that he had a poker die with all four card suits on it. The heart was marked on one side, diamonds on two, clubs on two and a spade on one. According to memory in the DMG Gary said that he used this die for reaction rolls. The heart was very favorable, the diamonds we somewhat favorable, the clubs were cautious/suspicious and the spade was hostile. This is the basis that I use for my reaction rolls. I use a Gamescience "averaging die," which is a d6 marked 2, 3, 3, 4, 4 and 5. It is essentially the same thing as the die that Gary is talking about. That said, it's not like you need the novelty of either of these dice to get the same sort of results out of a normal d6. So, without further ado, here is my method as slightly altered from Gary's.
 
Ruling on Reactions
 
Reaction Check, roll 1d6.
 
Roll                Result                 Explanation                                                               
 
    1               Hostile                   Creature is hostile toward the PCS and attacks         
                                                   The creature(s) is suspicious or untrusting of the
    2/3  Unfavorable/Suspicious  PCs, it will take little to provoke it.                           
                                                   The creatures trust, or have reason to trust or like 
    4/5    Favorable/Trusting        the PCs. They could be cautious but are favorable    
 
    6    Very Favorable/Friendly  The creature(s) is very favorable and willing to help
 
 It's clean. It's simple. It simulates real possibilities. It's also scalable based upon the environment. It is very easy to knock of one extreme or the other and scale thing back. Take this variant as an example.

Recent Wild Fires Cause Food To Be Scarce; Animal/Monster Reactions:
 
Roll                Result                 Explanation                                                               
 
    1/2               Hostile                   Creature is hostile toward the PCS and attacks      
                                                     The creature(s) is suspicious or untrusting of the
  3/4/5  Unfavorable/Suspicious   PCs, it will take little to provoke it.                         
                                                   The creatures trust, or have reason to trust or like 
     6      Favorable/Trusting        the PCs. They could be cautious but are favorable   



PC Attempts To Affect Reactions:

PCs can attempt to alter the reactions of creatures they encounter. The PCs can attempt to move influence the creature's reaction either in their favor, or provoke the creature toward hostility, if they believe this to be a smart idea! This is done with a Charisma attribute check. This can be done using any rule that the Referee chooses for attribute checks. If the check is successful the creature makes a saving throw. A failed save results in the creature's temperament moves in the intended direction by one number. If the save is failed by a large margin, the Referee may deem that it's temperament moves more than one number. Of course, the referee may deem that the creature receives a bonus to their saving throw, depending upon conditions. If, on the other hand the PC fails the attribute check by a large margin, the Referee may move the creature's reaction in the opposite direction.