I rely heavily on d6 ability checks in my games. I like them because I can adjust the number of dice rolled to reflect the difficulty of a check, yet the rolls still maintain a bell-curved probability (SEE HERE for my previous description of this approach).
To be honest with you, I don't recall where I first heard about this method, but I think I initially read about it in an online forum a long time ago. At conventions I've seen a few other people use the method, but it doesn't seem to be common. Chris Kutalik mentioned that Rob Kuntz uses this method in his games, which got me to wondering how long this method has been around.
Well, now I know the answer is at least 34 years. I was browsing through some issues of the 70s U.K. fanzine Underworld Oracle the other night and I noticed in the first issue, from 1977, that there is a 3d6 Intelligence check described. Specifically, it is called for as a defense against a PC viewing an Apparition. I also recall seeing similar checks in later issues of UO as well.
Great! So d6 ability checks officially get the Old School Stamp of Approval and I won't have to worry about tearing up my OSR membership card anymore. Whew...
Here's the evidence:
1977 was also the year that Metagaming released the Melee microgame designed by Steve Jackson. Attack rolls were 3d6 vs. DX, with actions like Dodge and Parry adding dice to an opponent's roll. The follow-up magic microgame, Wizard, added 3d6 vs. IQ roll to disbelieve illusions, but that didn't appear until '79, so Underworld Oracle beat the more famous Fantasy Trip system to the punch on that one.ReplyDelete
Yep, we use this in our Red Box game to great effect. In my experience, the drama really comes around 3d6 and 4d6 checks - 5d6 is unreachable for most attributes, and 2d6 is often a gimme (unless your player is terribly deficient in that regard - great yuks abound when a 2d6 is failed).ReplyDelete
Cool, I first heard about it from this and greg gorgonmilk's blog. It's been a mainstay of any game I run regardless of system. I even gutted out pathfinder's skill system and combat maneuvers replacing it with ability scores along with the combined ability checks(d12s vs. the sum of 2 ability scores) the latter which I found here.ReplyDelete
Ok, this is crazy. I've been toying with basically the same method for a few months. I wrote about it here: http://reverend-dak.blogspot.com/2011/07/quick-and-dirty-ability-checks-d-house.htmlReplyDelete
Considering that I never read Underworld Oracle, and that I've only been following OSR for a few months, I actually came up with the idea on my own.
I picked this system up from ChicagoWiz and use the same thing in my Swords & Wizardry and Rules Cyclopedia D&D games. You've explained it very neatly in your linked post, however. I'm stealing that - thanks!ReplyDelete
I use ability checks often for 0D&D games.... It's quick, resolution is quick, and the game keeps moving right alongReplyDelete
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The AD&D group I have been playing in for the last year uses these ability checks (3d6, 4d6 etc) to good effect. We have three rotating DMs, and each has used them. We even use a Perception score (average of Int + Wis).ReplyDelete
I wouldn't be surprised if they were mentioned in an earlier issue of Alarums & Excursions.
Cyclopeatron: Please let me know if you come across any mentions of Holmes Basic in UO. The 1st issue of UO was from July/Aug 77, Holmes Basic came out just after that (~Sep), though it prob took a bit of time to cross the sea.
Philotomy uses a 4d6 check in our OD&D game, too. I think a lot of the old school objection to attribute checks is centered on using INT or WIS checks to bypass thinking by the actual player, not about the general concept of the attribute check. I definitely prefer using a roll of multiple d6 rather than the 2e d20 roll, though, because it matches better with the bell curve of rolling the actual ability scores.ReplyDelete
Hush... what with 3d6 Ability Checks, THAC0 (here & http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=49510&p=1071951#p1071951 ), etc., you'll be saying that RPGs started in the UK next. ;)ReplyDelete
*adds note for reference/passers-by that UO was inspired by Jaquays' Dungeoneer and pretty much set the tone for the main thrust of UK RPG 'zines over the following decade and more*ReplyDelete
(no comment that that might've had a generally positive influence on the quality of those as a whole :)
There is a spell in the 1E PHB (fools gold) which uses a saving throw vs intelligence, basically an ability check.ReplyDelete