Friday, February 26, 2010

Holmes YX

My gaming group has been playing OD&D for the past year. The experience has been fun, but not as cohesive as I desire. As a DM I've 'smoothed out' more wrinkles this year than I care to admit. I understand that is part of the job, but for once I'd like the system to match and work with my conceptions. The campaign is currently undergoing a transformation from sword & sorcery into science fantasy due in no small part to the current play testing effort. As such, this is the best possible time for me to revisit system choice.

Even though OD&D is rules light compared to later editions, it still has too much stuff that I don't want and not enough stuff that I do want. As a group, we're all familiar with classic D&D, so the replacement system must remain in that vein. However, the mechanics need to be light and cohesive. I love AD&D, but it's got way too many knobs. I am not partial to Moldvay/Cook, and anything after 1982 is a non-starter. That leaves Holmes.

I have fond memories of Holmes Basic. It's what I started with back in 1977. It's like comfortable shoes. Make no mistake, however. This choice was not made out of misplaced feelings of nostalgia. I needed a cohesive, light base from which to remix, and Holmes provided that in spades. After looking at all the Holmes expansions out there (Meepo's and Delve's, among others) I decided that I'd rather have a go at it myself. While there was nothing specifically wrong with any of the expansions I looked at, none won me over. In the end, it was simply a matter of personal taste.

Four months later, Holmes YX is nearing completion. Calling this an expansion is somewhat of a misnomer. What I really did was apply Microsoft's Embrace & Extend strategy (leaving out the bit about extermination). The end result is neither Holmes Basic nor OD&D. It's really a bastard, mutant creation of my own devising—but it's still D&D. I am not trying to appeal to anyone. This is my set of rules and it is shamelessly geared towards the variety of science fantasy gaming that I am interested in. Its utility lies in the fact that it is mated at the hip/brain with the new World of Yezmyr.

Following are some highlights of the system. There's probably something in here to piss off just about everyone in this insular community of ours. In no particular order:
  • Only humans exist, but there are six types for variety. (Well okay, Chitinous Men aren't really humans.)
  • I ditched the Wisdom attribute.
  • I added the Radiation Resistance attribute from Metamorphosis Alpha.
  • I'm using attribute bonuses as per Supplement I.
  • Magic-Users and Clerics have been transformed into Sorcerers.
  • I'm keeping Fighting-Men, but ditching Thieves, Paladins, etc.
  • Progression has been expanded to a soft limit of 14th level for both classes. (I'm looking back to OD&D 3LBB and Supplement I for guidance.)
  • The character creation section has been reorganized.
  • I merged in some supplementary material from the various editions of B1 In Search of the Unknown.
  • I'm using the threefold alignment system.
  • Undead cannot be turned.
  • Initiative is based on a d10 roll, the result indicating which 6-second segment your attack occurs in.
  • All weapons strike once per round.
  • I'm using variable weapon damage as per Supplement I.
  • Sorcerers have greatly expanded spell lists.
  • Magic missiles don't require a roll "to hit."
  • I am including some monsters from OD&D (specifically from M&T and Supplement I).
  • I am including some of the "new monsters" from The Strategic Review.
  • I am including random Demon generation from The Dragon, but with a number of refinements.
  • I am including details on the Carnivorous Ape, Giant Beetle, Groaning Spirit, Hell Hound, Giant Leech, Lich, Lion, Brown Mold, Yellow Mold, Ogre Mage, Rot Grub, Giant Scorpion, Violet Fungi, Yeti, Wind Walker, and varieties of Wolves from the Monster Manual.
  • I created over 50 new monsters specific to the World of Yezmyr.
  • I left out countless "traditional" monsters that I felt were either boring, played out, or simply didn't fit the new world as conceptualized.
  • Dragons are all Eastern-style.
  • I replaced the toned down dragon subdual rules with the original subdual rules from OD&D.
  • I am including most of the new magical items from The Strategic Review.
  • I am including some (but not all) of the magic items from OD&D (cherry-picked from the 3LBB and supplements).
  • I added the tables for creating artifacts from EW, but no artifacts themselves—I'll create those later.
  • I jettisoned Vancian magic, opting for spell point mechanics instead.
  • I replaced the muddled psionic rules from Eldritch Wizardry with rules from Classic Traveller.
  • I am using the disease rules from Supplement II along with a handful of diseases unique to the World of Yezmyr.
  • I am using mutation rules inspired by Planet Algol, although greatly expanded.
  • I am using a fusion of radiation rules from Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World, 1st ed.
  • I am using weapon types and damage from AD&D, 1st ed., along with strength and dexterity requirements from Planet Algol.
So there you have it. HOLMES YX. Fighting-Men and Sorcerers. 147 spells. 185 monsters. Weird gods, spaceships, and radiation. It's D&D. No, it's Metamorphosis Alpha. No, it's Traveller. No. It's all of those, combined. Sounds good to me. Carry on!

For those of you wondering, I am not releasing this. This rules compilation is a walking copyright violation. In any case, the world does not need yet another D&D clone. We've got umpteen too many of those already. This is quite simply my science fantasy D&D remix. It's weird, streamlined, and compatible with Classic Traveller FTW!

8 comments:

Al said...

"I created over 50 new monsters specific to the World of Yezmyr."

You could share this part, right? :)

Yesmar said...

They will see the light of day, Al, rest assured.

NetherWerks said...

I like how you did this--very much the way 'old school' used to be done back in the day when it was fresh and new.

Sure, this is a major violation of copyright, as-is, but you could take the mess you've stitched together and revise it thoroughly enough after running it for a while to convert it into a new system. You can't copyright rolling dice against a number, etc. So, don't sell yourself short.

That said...what I would dearly like to see instead of yet another retro-clone-revised-cadaver-game-thing would be a collection of various discrete mechanics that a user could select much like how one gets apps for their phone, only picking and choosing specific game mechanics from a master selection and developing a game tailored to the specific requirements and vision of the DM/group/story. that would be cool, and your blog-post points out just how one approach to such a thing might sort-of work...very interesting...

David Macauley said...

For those of you wondering, I am not releasing this.

You mongrel, get us all worked up and excited, then dash our hopes. :)

The further down this post I read, the more excited I got. Oh well, I'll still look forward to any previews you'll give us. Sounds like a great project.

Yesmar said...

Don't worry, David. Something is brewing...

Blair said...

I'm going to echo David's comment, "You get us all hot and bothered and than say we can't see it!"

David Macauley said...

Ah yes Blair, but look at Yesmar's comment above...now I've gone from "hot and bothered" to wonderfully intrigued. :)

myrystyr said...

Traveller is now OGL too, y'know..