How many pages do you need to run a game?
I remember having a camping expedition that required hiking into the Sierras and back in to a small lake. I was DMing 1e and I made myself some traveling rules.
Though I doubt you could tell it from my room, or my life, I seem to have some kind of efficiency fetish; I like things doing more with less.
That's one of the reasons I loved the randomizing chart in the back of the Lone Wolf gamebooks. It was a grid filled randomly with numbers from 1-10 and the idea was that you would close your eyes and pick one out with a pencil. No dice needed! Perfect for mountain D&D. So I preceded to make similar charts for all the die types. A fact which much amused ze Bulette and Marcus on our recent trip. ( Just wait, one day you'll lose a die down a gully and you'll see! haha).
You can see me d4 diceless randomizer in the pic below. I don't think we ever really used them; seem to recall the players bringing their own dice.
Anyway, on my recent trip I was surprised at how little I really needed to play my slightly tweaked version of Swords & Wizardry. And I want to push in that direction, streamlining and eliminating what I don't need.
Before you answer the question of how many pages you'd need let's make two qualifications 1) you haven't memorized anything through sheer dog-headed persistence. I mean I'm sure there are grognards out there that have all of 1e's charts memorized. But let's limit it to what a newbie DM on their first or second session might remember. And 2) lets assume that play will involve consistent levels. In other words if it isn't a starting party, at least everyone will all be near the same level.
Okay, it took me forever to remember the AC of leather armor, so I'm going to want a list of armor classes. I also don't remember all the weapon stats including ranges and rates of fire, so I want that. And . . . not much else.
See, I know that 1-2 level characters have the same chance to hit, and they have the same chance to save. (If you really have something odd, discrepancies can be written on the character sheets.)
How about monsters though? Oh, this is what surprised me with how easy it was. A monster gets a to hit bonus equal to its HD. So a 2 HD creature adds +2 when it rolls to hit. Its challenge level, barring special powers like paralyze, is its HD. How many experience points are they worth? A 1HD creature has 15xp and it doubles every HD after that. So if you remember 15 and can multiply by two, you're good to go. How much treasure should a monster have? The core rule book recommends 2-3x xp which you just figured out. Are you seeing a pattern here? If you know a monsters HD you know all you need to know.
Well, except maybe attack damage, movement rates and saving throws. If you're familiar with S&W you may notice I tweaked the saves in the chart below to follow a linear progression. I know this is probably breaking some powerful hoodoo that protects high level monsters from mighty adventurers, but right now it doesn't seem important enough to make me need to lug around a rule book just to jump a 3HD creature's save by 2 instead of 1.
Super elegant, but that leaves us with attack damage and movement rates. So I might want a creature reference sheet with some exemplary monsters. If I need a monster that I haven't prepared in advance and not on the sheet, I'm confident I can extrapolate. Something like this:
What else? How about spells? You'll most likely only need to know the spells your players can use. In a beginning campaign first level spells will go a long way. Most of them are self explanatory. You might just need a list of names with notes for those that need it- maybe a digest-sized page.
You might even tweak the spells to make them easier to remember. The one spell that always had me digging out the rule book is sleep. Here is the chart I would consult:
And here is my house rule tweak:
Does that mess things up? I doubt it. It only shifts the curve for creatures of 1 HD or less, and not by much. And the benefit is that I'll never need to look it up again.
What else? I don't need them but I'd probably want all my spurs to help improv. Hireling Traits, Spell Like Effects, Outdoor Encounters, etc. That adds a few pages but provides me with a ton of support and possibilities.
One page dungeon with encounter tables and maybe some rumors.
- Starting Equipment
- Armor Class/Weapons Stats
- Cleric Spells/Magic-user Spells
- Creature Reference Sheet/Custom Monsters
- Hireling Traits/Spell-like Effect
- Outdoor Encounter/Minor Malevolent Effect
- Dungeon map/encounter tables/rumors
You might be able to make a mid-level pack/high-level pack with spells and monsters for those level ranges and take whichever one you needed for a particular party.
I have images of laminated plastic pages and DMing while floating in the Salton Sea, or from under a waterfall! Buwhahahah.
What do you think? I'm guessing some of you must have crafted your own traveling D&D kits.