Saturday, 24 September 2016

"Valiant Fantasy". LOTR OSR?

Been on a big Lord of the Rings kick lately so here are some very open-ended thoughts on an OSR clone inspired by the sensibilities of the LOTR books and films and related items (like Three hearts and three lions).

It's not intended to be explicitly Middle Earth and is probably broken, its just a quick draft.

The core engine would be something very similar to the Labyrinth Lord "Advanced edition" which is basically BX stats with AD&D classes.

Everything assumes that campaigns tend to end around level 8-9.

Elves, Dwarves and Halflings stay.
Half-orcs are orcs that have turned against their masters and can potentially pass for human at a distance.

Level limits are gone (due to the low level cap anyways).

For now, the GM handles all questions of who can play what race.
Humans get a +1 bonus to all saving throws.

I'd throw out Gnomes and replace Half-elves with something closer to the MERP Dunedain/Rolemaster "High Man".

Okay so:

Gain the OD&D "sweep" ability against 1 HD enemies (1 attack per level).

Match AD&D 1st edition but add Orcs to the favoured enemy list.
Spell-casting ability kicks in 2 levels earlier and represents ranger "tricks" and "talents" rather than actual magic.
No memorization but uses per day are still limited.
NO healing and NO direct damage spells.

Stay but lose all spell-casting.
Focus on being a Knight type of character.

NO direct damage spells. Sorry guys.

Mages have a Willpower pool equal to the average of Wisdom and Charisma.
Casting a spell uses 1 willpower point per spell level.
Once used up, the Mage becomes subject to a negative personality trait chosen by the player at creation and any further magic use will drain hit points.

XP requirements reduced to those of a fighter.

Becomes Priests. Gain Hit Points similar to a Thief in your parent rules system (so D6 if using AD&D).
Spells require half an hour of ritual per spell level to cast.

Remain mostly as is.

Becomes Scouts. Gain same Hit Dice as Clerics.
Dungeon-related abilities work in wilderness instead.
Pick pockets gone. Lock picking becomes Path finding.
Gain +1 missile shot per round at all levels where backstab damage increases.
Backstab attack bonus (but not damage) applies to missile fire from concealment.

Use 2nd edition AD&D bard or, ideally, the 1st edition illusion-oriented variant from Dragon Magazine.
NO direct damage spells.
Maybe delay magic use by 1 or 2 experience levels.
"Spells" are actually the effect of lore/tales and charm, not magical as such.

Monks and Assassins:
Gone. Sorry.


A nights rest restores 1 HP per experience level. A harrowed night without rest restores 1 HP.

If struck by poison, put 3 Poison markers on character sheet.
Each poison blow while already poisoned adds +1 marker.
When its your round, roll a save for each marker.
Each succcess removes a marker, each failure costs 1 hit point.

Monsters of level 6+ inflict 4 markers.

Level drain:
Level drain attacks do the following:

Inflict +1 damage per level of drain in the normal rules.
Inflict 1 point of Burden per level of drain in the normal rules.

Characters accumulate Burden when in the presence of evil magic, struck by level-draining creatures or when a decision incurs a loss on a friend or ally.

One point of Burden is shed after each gaming session. A great success in the story may also shed a point.

A player failing a saving throw or attack may ask for a Lure.
IF the GM offers it, the saving throw succeeds (and any resulting damage or effect durations are halved). An attack will succeed at maximum damage.
Track the number of Lures.

At any later time, the GM may spend a point of Lure to force a character to roll two dice for a saving throw, taking the worse roll, or roll two attacks for a monster applying damage for both.
Alternatively, the GM may spend a point of Lure to add a complication to a successful roll.
"Yes, you climb the wall, but a piece of equipment falls from your belt, alerting the guards that something is afoot".

When reduced to zero hit points, your character is Dying.

Add 1 Burden immediately.
At the end of each round until treated with first aid, roll a D6 for every point of Burden with a 6 causing an additional point of Burden to be added.

Once treated, your character must make the above roll once per day.

If Burden reaches 10, your character has perished. There is no resurrection and no raise dead.

Once receiving proper care in a friendly environment, with a dedicated caretaker, remove one Burden per week. After one week ,you are able to adventure again.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Dragoon. LL compatible class.

Another class today, also inspired by Final Fantasy. 
For the historically minded, yes, Dragoons are a form of cavalry. I kept the name to match the video game class.

This is intended for Labyrinth Lord/BX and compatible games. Modify as appropriate.

Prime requisite: DEX
Hit dice: As Fighter
Advances as: Fighter
Attacks as: Fighter
Saves as: Fighter
Weapons permitted: Single handed melee weapons using D4 and D6 for damage. Any polearm.
Armour permitted: All.
Magical items permitted: Any permitted to fighters and any utilizing lightning.

Zerian eyed the flying beast. Soaring over the party, scaly wings flapping in the wind, this was what her order trained for.
She leapt.

The Dragoon is an old order, dedicated to gods of lightning and wind. 
In ancient times, when monsters ruled the sky, the order rose to take back the sky and help forge the claim of man.

These warriors specialize in fighting aerial opponents.

Bolt strike:
When using a polearm and charging, Dragoons may leap towards the target. 
This leap negates any armour class penalties or damage increases that normally applies to enemy attacks against a charging character, ensures the Dragoon strikes first and increases damage by +1D6.

Only one bolt-strike can be done per battle and the Dragoon must begin the combat at least 20 feet from the enemy and have at least 10 feet of overhead space.

Affinity of storms:
When using any weapon, device or magical item that deals lightning or wind damage, any damage die that rolls a 1 is counted and rolled again.

Punish the defiant:
When battling any flying monster (defined as any non-natural animal), dragoons receive a +2 bonus to hit, +1 bonus to damage and may ignore all penalties due to uncertain or unsafe footing, balance or movement.

Fighting skills:
Dragoons use all Fighter combat options present in your rules. 
Any abilities or bonuses that are level dependent will be delayed by 1 level.

Upon reaching level 9, a Dragoon that establishes a fortress or keep on a mountain will attract 2D6 followers which will be Fighters, Paladins or other Dragoons. 
They will be level 1 with a level 3 Fighter leading them.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Freelancer. A LL compatible class

Long long time no see. Well, here you go.

Inspired by Final Fantasy 3, a new character class to try out.


Prime requisite: CHA
Hit dice: D6
Advances as: Thief
Attacks as: Fighter
Saves as: Thief
Weapons permitted: Any weapon that has a maximum damage total of 8.
Armour permitted: Leather, Chain, Shield
Magical items permitted: Any permitted to fighters or thieves.

Crawling through dank caves and decrepit labyrinths has taught you a wide range of skills.
Some adventurers insist on purity of purpose and the benefits of specialization but you'd rather have practical survival today than theoretical benefits tomorrow.

A light touch:
Starting at level 3, Freelancers receive the abilities of a thief 2 levels below their current level of experience.
Exceptions are Backstab (which they never acquire) and Lockpicking (which they receive at level 1, at their normal skill level).

A swift blow:
Freelancers make all attack rolls as if they were fighters, however they do not gain access to any Fighter specific combat options or skills.

If a rules option available to every character grants an increased bonus to a Fighter, the Freelancer does receive the increased benefit or bonus.

And a wave of the hand:
On even-numbered levels of experience (2, 4, 6 and so on), the Freelancer may select any one Magic User or Cleric first level spell.

The spell may be cast once per day. Freelancers do not keep a traditional spell-book and do not require memorization. 
They recover their spells as long as they receive at least 6 hours rest at night.

They cannot learn duplicates of the same spell. If a spell is reversible, each version is considered a separate, distinct spell.

Money troubles:
Nobody Freelances because they are independently wealthy.
At the end of each adventure, any money not spent or donated to a worthy NPC cause is reduced by 10% due to general frivolities and waste. 

Coming up in the world:
Freelancers may take hirelings and henchmen as any other character.
They may construct a castle or mansion at normal cost. Doing so at level 9 will attract 1D6 young level 2 Freelancers to act as followers. 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Repost: Heroic achievements

Today's post is a repost since I have a pretty busy schedule lined up today.

What follows is an extremely simple system for "stunts" in OSR games.

This is very similar to the "heroic abilities" system I have previously presented here and the two can be used together or individually.

Any time a character uses a class related ability, he may attempt to be heroic. This succeeds on a 1 in 6 chance.

For spell casters, this permits the character to get some sort of additional benefit. Examples might include unusual spell parameters (such as an oblong fireball blast), increased range or duration, a small penalty to saving throws (-2 versus a simple target might be reasonable), increased accuracy and precision or similar benefits.Another option may be to permit the caster to retain the spell in memory.
Note that if the roll isn't heroic, the spell must still be cast, though it could be aborted part way through the casting. In this case, the spell is still lost.

A heroic use of a thief skill would permit a particularly death-defying act to be carried out. Note that since the heroic chance is almost always going to be lower than the actual thief skill, a heroic roll will probably negate the need for testing the thief's regular skill chance. Note however, that if the thief is not heroic, he is still committed to the action, unless it's lengthy enough to abort part way.
Examples of thief heroics include scaling an almost completely sheer and featureless wall, picking a magical lock or disarming a trap so complex no mundane thief could do it.

Warrior types (and based on DM decision, other characters) may attempt stunts in combat. Examples can include pushing, disarming, changing position during a fight, inflict a critical hit and similar.

Characters with ability scores of 14 and above may also attempt heroic achievements for those ability scores. Examples include a superhuman feat of strength, memorizing a long text (intelligence) or feats of acrobatics for dexterity.

The system can be extended to other features as well, and is ultimately up to the DM to adjudicate. The chance of success is intentional kept low, to keep this from dominating the game.
I deliberately shied away from assigning a "failure" aspect. On a roll other than a 1, the heroic attempt simply does not work. Alternatively, you could make it a gamble by assigning "something bad" on a roll of 6.

Comments always welcome!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Are OSR gamers conservative?

There's a general feeling in some of the larger RPG community that OSR and retro D&D gamers are "conservatives", stuck in the past. (And I should clarify that I don't mean conservative in a political sense, I've met OSR gamers that are conservatives, libertarians, progressives, anarchists and socialists)

However, using the entirely unscientific method of looking at my own blog and what posts get the most +'s on Google, I am not so sure that's the case.
Both the "EXTREME OSR" post and the Spell Stealer class did very well in that regard.

I think one of the driving factors of OSR gaming is less a desire to do the same thing over and over, and more a desire to do new things without starting from scratch every time.

One of the benefits of OSR style gaming is that almost anyone that sits down to play has some basic idea of how it all works. D20 high to hit and save, hit points when you level up and so forth.

You can usually run down the differences in a pretty short time. "okay, so only fighters improve attack rolls, wizards roll on this table to cast spells, and the halflings are nazi's" and you're pretty much set to go.
What really matters is the adventure.

So I am curious: What is the most extreme and "radical" OSR game out there, in terms of new ideas and drastically different assumptions? How far can the style be pushed? How far do you want it to be pushed?

Is a game about space marines transported back in time more interesting than yet another dungeon crawl?

Let me know.

Thursday, 1 May 2014


Being a teenager in the 90's, I remember when everything was EXTREME. So with that in mind, here's a few somewhat light hearted suggestions for making your OSR and retro D&D games EXTREME. Use with caution (or with characters that aren't meant for a long, serious campaign).

All damage dice "explode" if they roll the highest possible number on the die. When exploding, count the score, then roll the die again and add that. Keep going until no dice score the maximum. This applies to all sources of damage.

For example, if a character falls off a tower and takes 3D6 damage, the dice might come up 3,5 and 6. Roll the 6 again and score a 4. Total damage: 18 points.

All attacks cleave. If any attack kills it's target, the character immediately gets a free attack against another target. For missile fire, the new target must be in roughly the same direction of fire while melee targets must be within 10 feet.

If the new target is also killed, another attack is triggered.

Magic causes chain reactions. If a character is slain by a spell, another opponent within 10 feet will take 1D6 damage. This can trigger multiple times and targets killed by the chain reactions will trigger chain reactions themselves.
If no enemies are within 10 feet, the chain reactions will target friendly characters as well.

Any character scoring a natural 20 on an attack roll or saving throw, or a 1-5 on a thief skill, immediately recovers 1 hit point per level of experience (Confidence Boost).
This can bring the character over their normal maximum hit points, in which case excess points wear off at a rate of 1 per day.

Any character scoring a natural 1 on an attack roll, saving throw or a 96-100 on a thief skill immediately loses 1 hit point per level of experience (loss of confidence or embarrassing fumble).

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Rolling in the open or behind the screen?

Conventional wisdom in roleplaying games is that the GM should always roll behind the screen. This way you can conceal information from the players about how easy or hard a time the enemy is having at hitting them and so forth.

It also goes that by concealing the rolls, you can fudge them easier if you need.

Over time, I have generally come down on the no-fudging side of things. I am fine with GM fiat deciding a situation. If you don't want the party to die from a trap they happened to stumble into on their way back, that's fine.

But in that case, simply don't have the trap trigger or just declare a few points of damage. Enough to make a point, not enough to kill anybody.

Some will argue that by still rolling the dice, you preserve the feeling of uncertainty but I am almost willing to guarantee that your players very quickly figure out if they are likely to die or not.

A few years back, I adopted a practice of simply rolling all my dice where the players can see them. Occasionally if a die rolls too far away, I'll even let one of the players report what it rolled, rather than looking at it myself.

I find that it creates far more tension in the game as they'll watch that accursed D20 roll across the table, and they know whether they scraped by with a bit of luck or if the monster was just having bad dice that day. It all adds to the fun and enjoyment of the game in my opinion.

Most notably, it also means they know you didn't fudge anything. The trick is, you still have plenty of scope to adjust difficulty on the fly.
Encounter is going too easy? Add in a few reinforcements, give the orc leader a magic potion or just beef up the next fight a little.

Looks like the heroes are getting trounced a bit early? Do a morale check for the monsters or have a third party show up and interfere with the encounter. Good opportunity for more chaos or more adventure opportunities.
Suddenly a rampaging owl bear crashes into the rear ranks of the hobgoblins. The heroes take the opportunity to disengage from a losing battle but now they have to contend with the owlbear later.

Do you roll in plain view or in secret? Share your practices and experiences in the comments.