Let’s Read: Greyhawk Adventures (Part 12)

Well here we are at last, the final entry in my Let’s Read series for the Greyhawk Adventures hardcover book. It’s certainly taken a while to get here, but I hope the trip’s been worth it.

We close the series with what is perhaps the weakest section of the entire book, and the one I believe got the least use; zero-level characters.

These rules are unique to the book, and have nothing to do with Len Lakofka’s attempt to deal with pre-1st level characters way back in Dragon #51.

Rather than experience points, 0-level characters have something called Aptitude Points, which start anywhere from 91-110, and everyone starts with 3’s in each ability score, and 3 h.p. The AP are then used to raise those attributes at a rate of 8 per week (spend 2 AP and your strength can go from 3 to 5, for instance). Demi-humans need to reach their racial minimums first, before they can start raising other stats.

The downsides of this system are instantly seen. Presumably everyone in the world is a weakling, a moron, is clumsy, and couldn’t convince a beggar to accept a copper piece. It also replaces rolled stats with a point-buy system, which I think would be something of a revolution in terms of gameplay that isn’t exactly called out.

Here, characters don’t have an alignment to start with; they develop an alignment over time, with the DM keeping track of each character’s behavior with a 1-20 based point system.

Class abilities are learned and practiced across class lines, and can be learned by spending “study points”. So if you want to try turning undead, you’d learn the skill for a cost of 4 study points. If you want to cast a 1st level spell, you could learn how at a cost of 6 study points. Some more advanced skills need a payment of Aptitude Points as well.

Or you could “trust to luck” and just try it, with a 55% chance of failure of some sort, and a 45% chance of success of differing varieties. The same system is used for proficiencies (weapon and non-weapon) and learning languages as well.

When the 0-level characters learn all of the skills of a particular class, they become a 1st level member of that class, and have a chance to retain some of the other class skills they’ve learned along the way. But there’s no real way to expand or improve those powers later on, so it’s not exactly like a skill system, but a weird hybrid.

Personally, I don’t know of anyone who ever used this more than once (we tried it, hated it, and dropped it almost immediately). It’s a sort of tedious version of Traveler’s character creation, which builds up experiences prior to play, but in this version those experiences have to be actually played out before one can even get to 1st level.

Plus, there’s nothing that particularly ties this to the Greyhawk setting at all. It’s just sort of lumped in at the end because there wasn’t anyplace else for it. Unfortunately this is flyover country, and these pages would have been better spent on other things.

And that’s it. The whole book, from start to finish. Some great parts, some okay parts, some not so okay parts, and some completely forgettable parts. I hope you’ve been inspired over the course of this series to check out this often-forgotten book. Thanks for taking the journey with me; I promise the next one won’t take so long.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

2 thoughts on “Let’s Read: Greyhawk Adventures (Part 12)

  1. Well done! Of the many inspiring Greyhawk publications out there, this is the least IMO. A real bitsa, as it would be known over here. It really feels like what it is, something thrown out in between 1E and 2E, and needs to be really dug to get the treasure!

  2. Well done Joseph! I love GHA because it has so many hidden gems. Sure things like level zero are forgettable, but the bulk of the book is invaluable to a DM that's why I always have it at arms length.

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