Blast From the Past: Modular?

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A long time ago (1995) TSR released the Players Option books. To this day they are widely derided on the grognard sites but perhaps they would have been better off being called the DMs Options books. They were.


Skills and Powers
Combat and Tactics
Spells and Magic
High Level Campaigns (DM option book).


Several of the ideas added to these books were later incorporated into 3rd ed. The epic spell casting system in 3rd ed had its origins in Spells and Magic (true dweomers) and Skills and Powers had a form of skill points (character points) that were used in 3rd ed and Combat and Tactics had rules for grid based combat. The main problem they had was that if you let them into the game as written it was very easy to break the game. Parts of them were actually decent enough and I will use the Cleric as an example of modularity. Put simple skills and powers let you build your own cleric. Every cleric got this for free,


d8 hit dice.
cleric weapons and armor
priest spell casting
cleric xp table
priest saving throws
priest weapon and non weapon proficiency.


You received 125 character points to build your priest with. Back then priests did not have a unified spell list although clerics did have a fixed amount of spheres they could cast from. Combat sphere had spells like flame strike, healing sphere had cure spells, plant sphere had entangle etc. Clerics and Druids had different spheres and specialty priests once again had different ones as well along with weapons, armor and granted powers etc. Major access was spells of level 1-7, minor access was spells of level 1-3.


Anyway some basic builds showing how this could be abused.


Cleric (Wizard)
8 wizard schools 120 character points (15 points per school)
Minor access healing.


This gave you all the wizard spells, and you could cast in armor, did not require a spell book, you leveled faster and you got bonus spells for high wisdom- wizards did not get bonus spells for high intelligence. And you could also cast some healing spells. 30 points could get you alteration and evocation (the best schools as a general rule) and then the other 90 points could be spent on priest spheres.


Cleric (A better fighter).
d10 hit dice (10 points)
warrior priest (10 points) warrior strength and con advantages.
favored weapon. Deities favored weapon including edged weapons (5 points)
Weapon specialization (15 points)
That is 40-/125 points spent. With the 85 points left over one could buy priest spheres and wizards spells. I want to throw some fireballs.
Wizard School: Evocation (15 points) 70 points left over.


Major spheres
Animal (10)
Healing (10)
Necromantic (10)
Sun (5)
Weather (5)
Plant (10)
Protection (10)


Turn Undead (10)


125 points spent.


My character can now cast Druid spells, functions almost as well as a fighter, can heal, raise dead and throw fireballs while wearing any armor and using longswords or whatever. And I can turn undead. And this is one reason why this book is considered bad. It is not actually a bad tool for DMs to use to create NPCs and specialty priests hence my earlier comment about these books being better named as DM options. I'm not that much of a fan of options in the core books, not that worried what they put in a splat but maybe some heartache could have been avoided in 3rd and 4th ed if they ignored the splats that were baked into the core of those books.


Put simply would people want a book (module lol) that lets you build your own classes similar to Skills and Powers or the 2nd ed DMG? This approach would not be universally popular and could be abused like my examples but some people might like that sort of thing. The execution in these books may have been off but IDK about the concept.

 Apologies for the ramble but not everyopne here is familiar with AD&D so I put in a basic Skills and Powers 101. 





 
Put simply would people want a book (module lol) that lets you build your own classes similar to Skills and Powers or the 2nd ed DMG?

A googolplex times yes. This (they also did another point buy version for Wizards and Clerics in Player's Option: Spells and Magic and an unpublished write up for Psionicists can be found online) is precisely the kind of truly modular point buy system D&D Next should be based on. I would pay blood, sweat, tears and money for this kind of mechanic.
or you could play gurps.
Sure, why not? It's something i'd tinker with
or you could play gurps.

Been there. Done that. Will likely do it again. GURPS doesn't have the same nebulous feel that D&D does. I have yet to find another system that has the same je ne sais quoi. If I did, I'd likely leave D&D for it.
or you could play gurps.

This sentiment can damn near get me frothing at the mouth. I hate GURPS, but I would love to see a skills and powers remake for D&D (with a better attempt at preventing abuse). I dislike the entire concept of the "core four classes", but I love playiing D&D despite of, not because of, their existance.

GURPS and Rolemaster both provide huge levels of customizability, but neither are "D&D" to me. Making a module for "create-your-own X" does not intrinsically hurt the game, since it is optional.

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those books came out at the end of 2nds run and were  not used much as they were not part of organized rpga play. also many people thought the changes were not in the spirit of 1st or 2nd.
or you could play gurps.

This sentiment can damn near get me frothing at the mouth. I hate GURPS, but I would love to see a skills and powers remake for D&D (with a better attempt at preventing abuse). I dislike the entire concept of the "core four classes", but I love playiing D&D despite of, not because of, their existance.

GURPS and Rolemaster both provide huge levels of customizability, but neither are "D&D" to me. Making a module for "create-your-own X" does not intrinsically hurt the game, since it is optional.



I didn't like Skills & Powers.  It was way too easy to break, particularly when Dragon Magazine articles were added in.

However, I did like the -idea- of Skills & Powers.

I'm with you Mithrus...I'd like to see a better-designed rehash as a supplement book.

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

those books came out at the end of 2nds run and were  not used much as they were not part of organized rpga play. also many people thought the changes were not in the spirit of 1st or 2nd.



that's why their a good example of how moduals should be done right ?

Somthing that you can fully ignore if it does not apeal to you, and can embrace if it does.

those books came out at the end of 2nds run and were  not used much as they were not part of organized rpga play. also many people thought the changes were not in the spirit of 1st or 2nd.



that's why their a good example of how moduals should be done right ?

Somthing that you can fully ignore if it does not apeal to you, and can embrace if it does.





not if they totaly break a game, which was very common. mearls has already stated 5th edition will not have the rule bloat of other editions so while they may have adventures and campaign settings published there will not be many add on books to suppliment the core rule books. that was covered by him like 4 months ago on this site.
 Back in the day I did try out a no holds barred Skills and Powers game. Once. 

 The book is not that bad for the DM as one can ise a 3.0ish skill system and if you tweak classes a bit the race and class parts are not bad- for the DM.

 
I never liked the Charps in skills and powers.  I don't like build your own class systems or skill based systems.  I like class based systems with feats to customize a little.  I don't like most feats that just modifiers to things.  I did like the channeler variant for spellcasting.  It was very cool in my opinion.  Several of the optional spellcasting methods were well thought out.
those books came out at the end of 2nds run and were  not used much as they were not part of organized rpga play. also many people thought the changes were not in the spirit of 1st or 2nd.



that's why their a good example of how moduals should be done right ?

Somthing that you can fully ignore if it does not apeal to you, and can embrace if it does.





not if they totaly break a game, which was very common. mearls has already stated 5th edition will not have the rule bloat of other editions so while they may have adventures and campaign settings published there will not be many add on books to suppliment the core rule books. that was covered by him like 4 months ago on this site.



But combat and tactics and spells and magic existing did not stop you from playing ADnD 2nd the way you where used to and ignore those books.
So they could only break your game if you decided to use them in the first place, and that was titaly optional.

Wat i was trying to say was that they made a very good seperation between the core game and the moduals with those books.
 


I remember finding Player's Options pretty interesting when it came out, but I only played them for a while before dropping. The books have interesting "alternatives" to many AD&D rules, but unfortunatelly they just tossed a whole bunch of random ideas in the 3 books instead of making something more solid as a whole. Their idea was more or less like the Unearthed Arcana, offering lots of random rules for players to add how many they liked in their game.

But... most of the rules didn't fit well in a regular AD&D game, and could make characters a lot more powerful than usual, messing with the AD&D game deeply.

If they had made Player's Options into a pseudo-edition (a 2.5, perhaps?) to be used all together as a whole set of rules, and had scaled everything in the 3 books accordingly, I think it could have made an interesting game. An alternate-D&D if you like.

 
The example the OP gave is why I don't personally like these sorts of systems....it's hard to anticipate, and thus balance, all the combinations players will come up with, and it totally encourages powergaming.

I realize that some people like the idea and that is totally valid.  Not saying one is right and one is wrong, just that an "a la carte" character system doesn't appeal to me much.  It sort of feels like using cheat codes in a video game...sure, you can maximize your power and pwn everything, but it gets old. 
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mearls has already stated 5th edition will not have the rule bloat of other editions .



 I wouldn't buy a word of that.
those books came out at the end of 2nds run and were  not used much as they were not part of organized rpga play. also many people thought the changes were not in the spirit of 1st or 2nd.



You do realize that those playing in the organized play/RPGA stuff - then or now - constitute only a tiny tiny fraction of the actual #s playing the game.  They should not be catered to, or used as a metric.  

I think the 1st part of your statement has alot more to do with any lack of use.  They came near the end of 2e.  At a point where a great # of people just weren't buying more books   
The real problem with the "Option" line is that they obviously weren't playtested very well.
mearls has already stated 5th edition will not have the rule bloat of other editions so while they may have adventures and campaign settings published there will not be many add on books to suppliment the core rule books. that was covered by him like 4 months ago on this site.



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This is why, a too modular pick as you wish system is too much...


I liked skills and powers. Spells and magic too. But as other´s said: it was only used as player´s options once, but then rather as DM´s options to add a different skill system and a different spell system (the spellpoint vancian system-which I really liked).


I do like their stated approach of making subclasses packages. I hate systems where you can pick everything... it is too easily abusable and too fiddly for my tastes...

The real problem with the "Option" line is that they obviously weren't playtested very well.



Yeah it had some nice concepts, but it wasn't playtested much. The player's option cleric was specifically a travesty.

The skills and powers line wasn't a bad idea, but they were locked in the existing system.

The number of points per class were determined class by class, and casters having the highest number of class features, they were better served. Cleric being the ultimate hybrid class, this point system was abusable to death.

The system could have been good if it hasn't been a game patch on an incoherent system.