Basic/Expert D&D House Rules from 1984 (PDF Version)

RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Donors have been able to download The Second Grimoire of Pharesm the Bright-Eyed for about a year. I just noticed that I have never really described what this download actually is. This 15 page dot-matrix printed document is a set of 1984 house rules for use with the Metzner Basic/Expert/companion Set D&D rules. The campaign was set in my Hidden Valley campaign world and was ran at a game store less than a mile from my house. The rules changes in this set of house rules are interesting and show where my thinking was, D&D rules-wise, in 1984.

The first half of the first page of The Second Grimoire of Pharesm the Bright-Eyed was a description of the campaign style designed to head off players who only wanted to hack-n-slack, only wanted to power-game, or expected the AD&D rules to be used. This was somewhat harsh because of previous bad experiences running open games at game stores: too many players tried to ruin games that weren’t ran the way they expected. There’s really not much of interest here. Fortunately, we move right into the rules changes.

Character creation required rolling for ten attributes as new attributes for Agility, Appearance, Aura, and Perception were introduced. Agility was speed and balance broken off from Dexterity. Appearance was a measure of how ugly or beautiful the character was. Aura was a measure of the character’s life force and magic resistance. Aura was reduced by dying and being raised. Undead level drains reduced Aura rather than character level. Perception was a measure of how aware the character was of the world around him. Character creation also required players to select goals and personality traits — instead of alignment. Players were also encouraged to select a Hidden Valley deity for their character to follow.

This was followed by a description of the new attributes and a table of modifiers by attribute. Next came Character classes, starting with a table listing the number of Adventure Points the various classes had to earn for each level (up to level 14). The standard BECMI classes of Cleric, Dwarf, Elf, Fighter, Halfling, Magic-User, and Thief were available. Several had modified rules, however. Clerics had to select a deity which affected the spells they could learn and if their character goals opposed their deity’s goal, they might have problems. Some special sub-classes (from The Dragon and White Dwarf) were available. Magic-users and Elves also had access to several subclasses from The Dragon and White Dwarf).

The next section made it clear that alignment was not used for characters and explained that intelligent monsters need not all be of their listed alignment. Instead of selecting an alignment, characters selected four personal goals (e.g. Wealth, Romance, Power over Others, Mystical Power, Welfare of Others, etc.) Playing to these goals could earn adventure points. Players also had to select three personality traits for their characters (e.g. True passion for alcoholic beverages, rare crude and rough manners, miserly, spendthrift, etc.) Characters who did not play their selected personality traits in the game did not earn adventure points as fast as those who did. This was followed by rules for languages which was mainly a list of languages Hidden Valley characters could learn.

The next section of The Second Grimoire of Pharesm the Bright-Eyed, Skills and Spells, was short. It discussed how the Companion Set’s weapon proficiency rules were used in the campaign, including their adventure point costs, and gave the Know Personality spell as a replacement for the standard Know Alignment spell.

The next section covered adventuring rules changes, this was mainly minor things like no caller, mapping, and dividing treasure (the book method was not recommended). The major change here was the use of adventure points instead of experience points. AP were given for how active the character was played and achieving character goals. This was multiplied first by a factor based on how well the character was played and then by a factor based on the adventure difficulty. This freed play from the need to kill things and take their stuff to advance. The adventure point system sounds somewhat complicated, but was easier in practice than tracking standard experience for monsters and treasure.

The Encounters and Combat section presented my monster reaction tables which took a bit more into account than the standard rolls. It also covered saving throws which were based on attributes with some, determined by character class, adjusted for level. Damage and healing were also briefly covered.

This completed the rules changes. There were about 7 pages of rules changes. The following pages gave information on major locations in the Hidden Valley and descriptions of the various deities — both good and evil — of the Hidden Valley (including features such as the weapons their clerics can use, their favored and disliked goals, and sometimes special spells their clerics can use). Of course there was the required for the era statement that these gods were not real.

Finally, there were three short appendixes. The first covered wealth and coins in the Hidden Valley — which used a silver standard instead of the gold standard in the D&D books. The second was an equipment list with “standard” Hidden Valley prices. The third explained the Hidden Valley calendar and listed a few major holidays.

To be honest, these house rules hold up very well. I probably would not use the extra attributes today nor replace all the saves with attribute-based saves, but most of the other changes either work well (adventure points) or help D&D fit the Hidden Valley better.

Special Note: A PDF copy of a scan of these rules is available to those who help pay our cancer related bills with a donation to the Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund. Donors also get copies of Grimoire Fanzine #1 (Spring 1978 issue), Grimoire Fanzine #2 (Summer 1979), Microlite74 Special Edition, and more.

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