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Of late I have extolled the virtues of earlier editions of Dungeons and Dragons.

This has delighted our gnome-in-chief, especially, who like many other gamers, is rediscovering what Old School gaming is about.

And it served as a touchstone for those like me, who have more gray hairs than experience points (my current photo on this site indicating the contrary).

But it also vindicated those folks who never stopped using the Chainmail, Basic, Expert or AD&D rules sets and find now that the creators and designers of the next iteration of the game are trying to appeal to their sensibilities.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t call out something of a more recent vintage, something that has been my security blanket since it was published.

Contained within the 2000 Dungeon Master’s Guide are 12 magical pages. In my mind, they are the best 12 pages ever produced for D&D. And not just for Third Edition and its many d20 progeny (Wheel of Time, Arcana Evolved, Iron Heroes, Pathfinder, et al). If your game uses hit points, armor class and a bonus to attack, the charts on these dozen pages can prove handy, if not indispensable.

Of what do I speak? The NPC Statistics section contained within Chapter 2 of that DMG.

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Here we have random generators for creating NPCs of every class, alignment and the staples among fantasy races. There are more tables for generating the stats for an NPC of every class for 20 levels. There are lists of potions, scrolls and gear, suggestions for weapons, magical and mundane. And best of all, every skill and feat has already been selected.

That last reason is what makes it superior to the charts in the 3.5 DMG, which assumed the GM would want to select those feats for herself. That was a poor assumption, for two reasons. First, feats and skills often affect the other math in the charts. And two, while I may want to swap out a feat here or there to customize an NPC, by golly, I don’t want to have to figure out a whole feat tree for a character who is 10th level and above.

Most of all, this is essentially a bestiary for humanoid races.

Need orcs or bugbears that scale up with the PCs? Yeah, we got ‘em right here.

Need to know what potions that elf monk from the Forest of Nye was carrying in her satchel? The answer’s on Page 52.

Does your party need an aasimar paladin babysitter to escort them through a section of the Temple of All-Consumption? Race adjustments begin on Page 57.

Best of all, there is mostly a universal feel to the selection of equipment and weapons for each character class. I’ve seen it said that this is a weakness of the charts, this sameness, that every fighter you face will be the same. Perhaps. But I happen to see this as a strength. Certainly, it only takes one tweak on your side of the screen to make a particular NPC distinct to those on the other side of the screen.

Besides, the uniqueness of the play experience comes from the quality of the adventure you are presenting, not from the statistics of a particular NPC.

Moreover, the universal approach expands the charts’ use beyond this particular edition. In the broadest sense, the math works. You can drop these NPCs in other games — I’ve had particular success with Basic/Expert and Wheel of Time, but there’s no reason they won’t work in others, as well.

Even if all you’re using is the flavor of the NPC, these charts can prove useful. In a system light game, maybe it’s enough to know that the ranger who stepped out from behind that tree carries a composite longbow and a quiver full of magically enhanced arrows, or that he can call an obsidian steed with a magical figurine he has tucked into his belt.

Coupled with a random generator of random NPC personality traits or appearance (or, if you are so blessed, with a copy of Masks: 1000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game), then you have the tools you need to flesh out the next GM-run character.

Now that I’ve shared my 12 Magical Pages, what portion of a given rulebook is essential for your game. Let’s share and discuss them in the comments below.

 

About  Troy E. Taylor

Troy's happiest when up to his elbows in plaster molds and craft paint, creating terrain and detailing minis for his home game. A career journalist and Werecabbages freelancer, he also claims mastery of his kettle grill, from which he serves up pizza to his wife and three children.



12 Responses to Troy’s Crock Pot: Twelve Pages I Can’t Live Without

  1. That is once more an example of the huge levels of work, I don’t put in when creating NPCs. But it still works for me.

    http://shortymonster.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/cutting-corners-not-quality/

  2. I’m sorry, but I don’t follow your point. For a statistics-heavy game, all you are doing with these entries is reading from a single line of text for the NPC of your choice. That hardly feels ” prep-heavy.” And if you are in a stats- light game, the entry contains equipment
    Choices that can serve you well. Either way, the beauty of this section of the rulebook is its utility for many different games beyond just D&D 3rd edition. Short of improvising all your GM characters as you go, I don’t see how this aide falls into the time-consuming prep category.

  3. @Troy E. Taylor – It was more meant as a comment towards the prep that went into creating the twelve pages of tables, using them after all the work’s been done is right up my alley :)

  4. OK. Well that’s what I paid the $19.99 for back in 2000. :) On the second-hand book market, this edition of the Dmg can be had for $5 or less — which is a real bargain.

  5. Can we cheat a little on page count? I ran an awesome Burning Wheel game this past semester and I’m now infatuated with the system. In Burning Wheel Gold my magical pages are pages 24-39. Page 39 is only half a page. These 15 pages contain all the basics for the game and spell out almost everything* you would do in most of the game. The more complex stuff is beyond, but you can introduce that slowly in the game. I love that I can tell someone to read 15 pages and they know how to play the game.

    *It leaves out dice mechanics, but that is very fast to instruct players in.

  6. @Razjah – I think that’s wonderful. Of course, page counts can differ. But if that section is a great way to convey the sense of your game to your players — saving you time to devote to other aspects of play — I think that is awesome.

  7. Kurt "Telas" Schneider

    The biggest improvement or advancement in game design over the years is the compact and efficient manner in which games are now written.

    AD&D had rules (occasionally conflicting rules) all over the place. Most games nowadays have a core section that covers 80-90% of what you’re going to be doing, with lists of feats, abilities, spells, items, etc. that modify that core section. Learning the game and consulting the rules are both much easier.

  8. Walt Ciechanowski

    I don’t know if this counts but the 1st edition of Champions (I think) had 6 PC outlines (3 female, 3 male) that I hand-copied hundreds of times to design costumes for my heroes and villains in every superhero RPG I played.

    HERO Machine serves that purpose now, although my designs were more varied using the Champions method.

  9. @Walt Ciechanowski – That sounds so cool! I bet they didn’t survive, but still …

  10. Walt Ciechanowski

    Unfortunately, no. I’m sure they’re decaying somewhere in my parents’ crawlspace.

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