Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Classic D&D Character Record Sheet from another Dimension

Imagine a world - an alternate universe, really - where Gygax and Arneson decided to go with a completely different set of terms to describe their game.  In an infinite array of  possible dimensions, this is not only a probable version, but one that definitely exists somewhere out there. I kid you not. Behold (more words after the pictures):

Some minor details got lost in the transfer, but please, compare
(open in a new window to get an even closer look ...).

One more time for single viewing pleasure.*
This is of course (but not only!) about that post I wrote on Monday how charisma might better be replaced by something else (here). It resulted in some very interesting discussions and there was way more feedback than I would have thought possible for something I wrote. An interesting experience. There also were some people on g+ who wouldn't see a benefit in changing charisma, as the term does what it is supposed to do. With this, I can't agree. To question a rule helps to understand it. To understand a rule opens it to change, to evolution even. Anyway, I thought instead of arguing my case any further, I'd rather demonstrate what I meant. That's why I threw this little thought experiment together.

I worked mostly with synonyms or abstract variations of the original words. Some I really like, some are just for the sake of change.** Saves stay the same, because it would be a good description in any dimension ... The rules are not changed, just how things are labeled is different (but still means more or less the same). And that's, as far as semantics go, rather cosmetic. The effect, on the other hand, is immense. You can play D&D with this sheet, no problem. It would sound very different, though.

See for yourself how words alone, even if they mean the same, change a game without changing any rules. 

For what it's worth, I had a blast making it. Any merit beyond that is for the reader to decide ...


* Those are .png for now. If someone has use for a pdf of this thing, I will provide that too.

** I'm actually quite happy with the results. "Traits" and "Runes" are the only two I'm not really satisfied with and "Worth" instead of  "Charisma" was questioned by the girlfriend. But that's a Community quote. You can't go wrong with a Community quote ... [EDIT: Which was exactly what I did, I quoted wrong. Using "Value" instead of  "Worth" would have been the right quote (reference to the pilot of the show, for those interested). And thanks to Timrod, Commander in Chief of the Cave of the Dice Chucker blog, for making me go and look, instead of trusting my poor old brain (sorry, man, I was so sure I remembered it correctly).]

13 comments:

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    1. Thanks, Adam! I'm thinking about doing a X-mas version next :)

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  2. I was gonna' play it cool and stay out of the fray on this one--don't want to seem too eager and all that--but then you mentioned the Community quote. As a 27th degree Community enthusiast, I'm ashamed to say that I'm unfamiliar with this quote. Please fill the gaps in my knowledge: what is the actual quote?

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    1. Well, I thought that in the beginning of the very first episode Jeff tells Abed something like "Now I know what your worth is!" and Abed returns the favor at the end of the pilot. Now with you asking, I double-checked, saw the first episode again and found out they used "Value" not "Worth". So yeah, I fucked that quote up. Sorry about that. I will edit in the post. And value would have been the better word, too ... Damn.

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    2. Ah yes, I remember that scene, though I certainly wouldn't call you out for misquoting. I couldn't tell you offhand whether they said worth, value or whatever the German equivalent is; I'm just happy to see a Community reference. What do you think the odds are they squeeze in one last D&D episode in the next season?

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    3. Glad you see it that way. As for the next season, I hope they do and I, for one, think they got better in depicting the game from episode to episode (I thought that suicide angle was a bit stretched ...). I read in an interview that the guys at NBC had hated the original episode and the second D&D episode had been more something of a "Fuck you!" in that direction. So it wasn't product placement for the wizards (which is a relieve) and makes it much more possible that they'll do another one, right? I also hope they're not done after the 6th season and that Donald Glover decides to come back after all. It might happen ...

      By the way, do you know why in both episodes the DM/Abed is doing all the rolls? Saw the same thing in The big Bang Theory and I always wondered where this originated.

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    4. I think Abed handling all the dice rolling chores--and instantaneously conveying their results-- allows for a better dramatic effect. Watching a lot of people roll dice would probably overload viewers on what is already an esoteric topic. Also, it allows the players freedom of movement. Consider, in the 2nd D&D episode, the final confrontation between the 2 parties; all the players are standing up facing their adversaries and acting out their actions rather than sitting at a table rolling dice and conferring with tables or character sheets. It kinda' makes me wanna play that way.

      I actually don't mind that Donald Glover is gone. Not that I dislike him in any way--though I valued Pierce's presence in the study room than Troy's-- but I do like that people are moving on, and the writers are taking on the challenge of re-working the show around new dynamics.

      On that note, Shirley won't be back for Season 6 and neither will replacement-Old Guy Buzz Hickey.

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  3. Ethos rather than AL is good, that introduces some possibilities that could kinda overlap with the 5e backgrounds, but push beyond them in a way that's more oriented towards future action without nailing down specific goals or being as generic as traditional alignments. I'm thinking things like: freedom fighter, simple farmer, loyal subject of the crown, wererat lover, in league with satan, would all be good Ethos.

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    1. Very nice. Not that I intended to use this beyond being a thought experiment, but what you wrote shows exactly what this is about: giving an old idea a new spin and see what pops up. It's not that I'm saying Alignment should be changed to Ethos (one shouldn't try this on the internet, it tends to get the attention of evil forces ...), but more like a what-if sort of thing and it's nice to see someone going along with and getting something out of it. Cool. And I agree that an angle like this could make alignments somewhat more relevant in play.

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  4. This looks like something somebody would pull to avoid getting sued by TSR back in the day while trying to make their own D&D knockoff.

    "Oh no, it's not 'advanced' Dungeons & Dragons, it's 'ALTERNATE Dungeons & Dragons."

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    1. Yeah, you're right. Didn't occur to me, but isn't this where Arduin, Runequest, Tekumel and so many other started? Change some terms, throw some house rules into the mix and ready you are (I think I really saw "edge" used somewhere instead of "bonus", but can't remember where exactly).

      The funny thing is that I got exactly this kind of flak (like I proposed some sort of knockoff) on g+ the last few days (on a smaller scale, of course). Mostly it's something like "Those terms can't be/shouldn't be/don't need to be changed!" or "Nerve could never substitute something like Constitution ...". It's kind of scary how protective people can be about those things.

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  5. I was working on a game wherein the player could pick their own descriptive "attribute terms" because I feel that the word used matters if not to the system but to the player. Strong and Brawny are two words that are similar but invoke different images. Charisma and Worth, man different things and to a player might make the difference between a character they can get behind or one that is just another block of stats.
    I like your approach! Rip it up and re-build when ever possible , it's the only way to evolve.

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    1. Thanks, Mark! That's exactly the idea I wanted to get across. It changes the game without changing the rules, because words do matter and choosing the right words might just have a positive effect on the game.

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