Saturday, 21 December 2013

OSR By Night. Campaign ideas

While taking a little break to deal with work and life, I wanted to give you a few ideas for campaign styles you could use in an OSR By Night campaign.

Victorian era vampire hunters.
Military team attacked by werewolves in Afghanistan.
Surviving a zombie outbreak.
Elite unit containing paranormal threats.
Preventing a cult from awakening the great old ones.
Soviet agents trying to contain a paranormal experiment gone wrong.
Race to prevent the nazi's from finding Thor's hammer.
Fight the shadow war between the government and the alien infiltrators.
Find evidence on the supernatural and publish it, while avoiding The Man.
A race to find an ancient artefact before a rival treasure hunter does.

And many more.
There's a wealth of books, tv shows, movies and video games that deal with these types of topics. Don't be afraid to borrow, steal or even mix things up.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Panic and sanity

While more relevant to OSR By Night, this could be applied to a more horror styled fantasy game as well.
These rules are intended to mainly affect the current situation, and are less gruesome than the effects in some popular horror role playing games.

When facing an encounter that is particularly horrifying, mind bending or otherworldly, whether a monster, a god or a particularly surreal location, you can make a Panic And Sanity check.

This is handled as a saving throw against spells. Class bonuses that apply to all saving throws, or to saves against mental attack specifically will apply, but magical items generally do not, unless the GM determines the specific item should.

Racial bonuses do not apply, unless, again, the GM determines they should.

Depending on the monsters level, three different effects may occur:

If the monster encountered is higher level/hit dice than the character, a save is required, to prevent panic for 1D6 rounds. While panicked, the character may take very simple, instinctive actions, such as firing a weapon blindly, running away, hiding or remaining motionless.

A companion may try to shake the character "out of it". This takes a round, and permits another saving throw to be attempted.

If the monster is 4 levels above the character, two saving throws must be taken. Both dice can be rolled at the same time.
If one of the saves succeeds, the character goes into a panic, as described above.

If both should fail, the character has a nervous breakdown. This is treated as a perpetual state of panic, though a saving throw is permitted to get 1D6 rounds of rational action before having to save again.

Nervous breakdowns take 1D6 days to recover from, where no monsters are encountered.

Darkest horror:
If a monster is 8 levels above the character or more, three saving throws must be made.
Passing 2 will inflict panic, as described above.
If only 1 save is passed, the character is subject to a nervous breakdown as above.
Should all 3 saving throws fail, the character goes mad. A mad character will act based on a warped logic, determined by the GM, though the players input should be taken into account.
In most cases, they will become ineffectual and can generally not use any skills, though they'll fight to defend themselves if needed.

Madness permits a 1D6 roll every week, with a roll of 1 letting the character recover.

OSR By Night. The Tech

When you need someone who understands machines, appreciates equipment and knows how to get a technical task done, you bring along a Tech.

Techs may use single handed melee weapons and basic firearms. They suffer a -1 attack penalty when using other, heavier or more complex weapons. 


Fix it up - Techs can repair damaged or broken equipment. The chance of repairing smaller items (hand held or carried equipment) is 40% plus Intelligence, Dexterity and Experience Level.
The GM will determine what spare parts are needed. Repairs are usually pretty quick (10 minutes or so).

Larger items, such as a vehicle component or equipment installed in a building will take about an hour, and has a base chance of 20% plus Intelligence, Dexterity and Experience Level.

It's custom! - Portable and carried equipment may be customized. This will not affect combat or skill chances, however it may permit combination equipment, hidden features and similar gadgeteering.
This generally takes about an hour and will require access to tools and spare parts, except for very basic jobs.

The chance of success is 30% plus Intelligence, Wisdom and Experience Level.

A failed attempt may be attempted again in 3 days. A successful attempt requires at least 7 days to refresh the Tech's creativity.

Improvised weaponry - A tech with access to a pile of debris, scrap metal or similar garbage can improvise 1D3 melee weapons. They will only hold up to one or two battles, but will act as a functional, one handed melee weapon during that time.

Just happened to have one - During an adventure, a tech may coincidentally turn out to have a small item in their pocket or backpack. The item must be small enough to carry in a pocket, it must not be a purpose-built weapon and it must be relatively simple and cheap.

The tech may use this ability up to 3 times per adventure. Uses are refreshed when the tech has time to spend either at home or at a location where the character can reasonably stock up on trinkets.

Note that the tech has no special ability to hide or conceal items from search or confiscation. This ability purely reflects that tech's tend to have all sorts of useful bits in their pockets, without having to write them all down.

Labour of love - Each tech may designate one weapon that has been in their possession for a long time as a "labour of love". This weapon receives a +1 bonus to attack rolls, but only when used by the tech.
It takes a month to grant this status to a new weapon, and only if the previous weapon has been lost.

It's gonna blow! - Tech's receive a +1 bonus to all saving throws related to explosions, gas and fires.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

OSR By Night. "The Others". Monsters and aliens

This is just a quick post as to how "monsters" are handled in OSR By Night.

The creatures of your game world can be divided into two broad categories:
"The Normal" and "The Others".

The Normal is basically the mass of humanity, animals and so on.
These follow all the normal rules you'd expect in an OSR game.
Notably they obey the following rules:

They are subject to morale scores.
They roll 1D6 per level for hit points.
They never inflict panic and sanity checks.

The Others is anything that does not exist in the real world: Undead, ancient monsters, lovecraftian horrors, alien infiltrators and so forth.
They obey the following rules:

They do not have morale scores, though they may be subject to other factors influencing their behaviour.
They roll 1D8 per level for hit points.
They are treated as "large" creatures for unarmed combat purposes.
They may inflict panic and sanity checks if their hit dice exceeds the experience level of the characters.

I ran into an elder god. Now what?
When first encountering "the others" unexpectedly, there is a chance the creature will basically ignore the puny humans, unless they draw attention to themselves.

This only occurs if the Others have more hit dice than the highest experience level. Roll 1D12. If the score is equal or under the difference in hit dice/levels, the monster will simply proceed with whatever it was doing (look for worthier prey, build the gateway to its home dimension or trample cities).

This of course assumes the characters don't draw attention to themselves and seek some sort of cover to hide behind.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

OSR By Night. The Scholar.

The dusty old university professor, the internet book worm that devours information, the manic obsessive that have been cataloguing and gathering information on every paranormal sighting in the past 50 years, these are all Scholars.

It should go without saying that this is a pulp fiction scholar, rather than a serious "realistic" class.

Hurting people is the job of someone else. Scholars suffer a -1 penalty to hit, when using single handed melee weapons or handguns. All bigger weapons will suffer a -3 penalty to hit. 


I know that! - Scholars are fountains of knowledge practical and esoteric. When needing information relating to history, archaeology, natural sciences or similar academia, the Scholar has a basic chance of 50% plus Intelligence, Wisdom and Experience Level of recalling the information needed.

I studied that on my travels - Scholars begin the game familiar with 3 additional languages and may add another at every third level of experience (3, 6, 9 and so forth)

Clarify of mind - When subjected to mental intrusions, manipulations or control, the scholar receives a +2 bonus to any saving throws. If no save is normally permitted, the scholar receives one at a -1 penalty.

I'm not mad! - If a scholar fails a sanity check, the character may still take rational actions for 1D6 rounds, before panic reactions kick in.

Obscure facts -  When encountering mysterious creatures, artifacts or items, the Scholar has a percentage chance equal to their level of experience plus Intelligence to have an insight. This will give the character information about the creatures origin, weaknesses, intentions or attack patterns.
The GM can decide what information to provide, but it should be useful or interesting.

OSR By Night - The Leader

A group can benefit from someone who understands the arts of motivating others, whether through charisma, careful study of psychology or simple bravado.

Note that the leader may not necessarily be the person making the decisions. The class refers more to the ability to inspire and motivate.

Leaders may use handguns, simple rifles as well as melee weapons without penalty.
Heavy weapons impose a -2 attack penalty.


The last mile - Each day, the leader can inspire battle worn comrades to push on. This permits the leader to heal up to 2 x Experience Level in lost hit points. The healing may be distributed over multiple characters and events, but the total in one day cannot exceed 2 x Experience Level.

Move! Move! Move! - Once per hour, the leader may push another character to succeed. This lets them add either a +2 to an ability score, +2 to a saving throw, +10% to a percentile roll or +2 to an attack roll.

Persuasion - When interacting with Non Player Characters, Leaders may influence the character to their favour. The chance of success is 30% plus Charisma, Intelligence, Wisdom and Experience Level.
This will generally not turn a hostile character friendly, but could turn them neutral, or make a neutral character friendly.

Natural leader - Leaders may have 2 additional henchmen over and beyond that permitted by their Charisma score, and all followers led by them receive a +1 bonus to all morale checks.

Stand firm - If henchmen are overcome by fear, the Leader may attempt a Charisma check. If it succeeds, the henchmen will not abandon the leader, instead remaining near and fighting defensively.
They will not act in an aggressive manner however.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

OSR By Night. The modern rogue.

Thieves, cat burglars and other shifty characters all fall into the Rogue class. If you need stuff done on the quiet, this is who you go to.

Rogues are skilled in single handed melee weapons, hand guns and other light firearms. They suffer a -2 penalty to hit with any other weapons.
The exception is a rogue firing a rifle, from an unobserved, prepared position. In such circumstances ("sniping"), no penalty applies.

Roguery - Rogues may attempt various tasks of pilfering and device manipulation such as lock picking. This is resolved as a percentile roll. The chance is 50% plus the Dexterity score and Experience Level of the rogue.

Fast talking - Rogues may attempt to fast talk a non player character. This comes down to rattling off information and excuses very rapidly, seeking to confuse and dazzle the recipient, usually to get past them or make good an escape. This won't help with a character that is ready to attack but can avoid or at least delay most dangerous situations.
The chance of success, as a percentile, is 30% plus the rogue's Charisma, Wisdom and Experience Levels.

Shank! - While a proper rogue avoids physical altercations, sometimes the situation is unavoidable. A rogue that attacks an unsuspecting or unprepared target receives a +2 bonus to attack, and a +2 bonus to damage.
This does not require the rogue to be unseen, but the attack has to be unexpected.

Streetwise - The streets are natural territory for rogues. To find a generic, useful non player character or location, the rogue has a percentile chance equal to 20+Intelligence+Wisdom+Experience Level.

Agility - Rogue's can accomplish most acts of climbing, sneaking and squeezing through tight spots, with the same chance as their chance at the Roguery skill.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

OSR By Night. The Brawler class

Characters who are primarily there to hurt people are brawlers. Whether a professional boxer, a hardened street fighter or a federal agent that strikes first and looks for evidence later, the brawler can be an essential asset to the adventuring party.

Fighting is of course what the brawler is all about. As such, brawlers may use any weapons they come across in their travels, though highly unfamiliar devices will require an hour of training (and spare ammunition if applicable) to avoid a -1 penalty to hit, due to lack of practice.

Talking with your fists - Brawlers are proficient at hand to hand combat. They receive a +1 bonus to all melee attack rolls, and may reroll any 1's rolled, when rolling damage or shock points for melee attacks.

Grit your teeth - Brawlers receive a +1 hit point bonus on every even level of experience (2, 4, 6 and so forth). Additionally, saving throws against poisons, diseases and exhaustion are taken with a +1 bonus.

Hauling ammo - Shooting people needs ammunition. Brawlers may carry 10% additional items without encumbrance penalties.

Not quite done - If reduced to 0, -1 or -2 hit points, the brawler immediately receives a free attack against a target in range, before succumbing to their injuries. If a blow reduces the brawler to less than -2 hit points in one blow, the massive damage prevents this skill from triggering.

Bull strength - Brawlers may attempt feats of strength or endurance that would be beyond a lesser character. Their chance of doing this is a percentage equal to the brawlers Strength, Constitution and Experience Level added together.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

OSR By Night. Punching guys in the face.

This is written for By Night, but is applicable to regular OSR games as well.

Fisticuffs are commonplace in pulp stories, and many modern day characters may find themselves in a situation where they are not armed, but having to defend themselves.

Rather than hit point damage, unarmed attacks primarily inflict "shock". Base shock is 1D4, modified by strength bonus. Each point of shock gives a 10% chance of the target being stunned, dazed or otherwise incapacitated.

While still active, a character may spend a round inactive. This permits them to roll a Constitution check. On a success, 1 point of shock is shaken off.

Incapacitated characters generally come to in 2D6 rounds.

Large creatures:
Creatures that are larger and tougher than humans, such as a bear or shark, cannot be incapacitated under normal circumstances by un-armed attacks. Instead, each point shock gives a 5% chance of driving the creature away for 1D6 rounds. 

OSR By Night. The Investigator. Tier 1 class.

The Investigator is one of the basic Tier 1 classes that is applicable to a wide range of campaigns.

Whether a professional, such as a journalist, or simply an amateur with a knack for sleuthing and discovering information, the Investigator tries to uncover the truth about what is going on.

Digging around dark corners and damp ruins can be hazardous for your health, so Investigators tend to be skilled with most simple weapons, such as basic firearms and one handed melee weapons. To use military weapons, explosives or two handed weapons would cause a -2 penalty to attack rolls.

Eye for detail - If taking a round to scan a scene, the Investigator has a 2 in 6 chance of noticing if anything is hidden, concealed or otherwise out of the ordinary in the location. This does not tell the player what exactly is there, simply that something does not feel quite right.

Just a shadow - Investigators can follow a person while remaining undetected. This is resolved as a percentage roll. The basic chance is 50% plus the Investigators Dexterity score, plus their Experience level.
On a failed roll, the character must choose between losing the trail or being spotted.

He's up to something - When receiving information from a non player character, the Investigators player may roll 1D6. On a roll of 1, the DM will inform the player whether the information is true or false, to the best knowledge of the NPC in question.

Researching a mark - If digging through news papers, library books and similar to find information pertaining to a person, event or location, the Investigator may locate 1 piece of information per level of experience. It generally takes 1 day for each piece of information, and the Investigator must have access to relevant sources for the information in question.

Would you mind answering some questions - When interviewing or interrogating a person, roll 1D20. If the Investigator rolls equal or under their Charisma score, they will receive one clue. 
A clue is any piece of information that is not already known. Generally a clue would be a connection between the character in question and another character, a location, an item or an event.

The clue may be significant or it may be trivial. That a character is NOT connected to a certain event, location or other character is a valid clue, though when determining which clue to give, give priority to connections rather than a lack of such in most cases.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Goblin frenzy. DM rule.

A quickie for any OSR fantasy game. Goblinoid creatures can be cowardly and craven when cornered but they also often have a reputation for blind rage and berserk frenzies.

If you want to represent this in your games, here is a simple rule for you:

Any "goblin" creature (goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, others as determined by the GM) that is reduced to exactly 0 hit points (in other words, the killing blow is exactly equal to the creatures remaining hit points) will set the creature into goblin frenzy.

While frenzied, the creature will attack with a +2 bonus to attack rolls, and +1 bonus to damage. It will ignore any morale effects and will shrug off any mental spell effects directed at it (including charms, sleep and similar).

The monster will make a free attack immediately at a target in melee range, and will then attack on it's normal turns. If using individually rolled initiative, the berserker attacks at a +1 bonus.

Any additional damage will kill the frenzied creature for good.

OSR By Night. Building the basic character.

Before we introduce classes unique to By Night, we have to look at the basic building blocks of a character.

Characters can belong to one of three "tiers".
Tier 1 characters are plain normal humans. They may well be exceptional in their background. A vampire hunter, a battle hardened veteran soldier and a scientist specializing in theoretical physics are all interesting roles to play, but they're fundamentally human.

Tier 2 characters are those touched or influenced by "the other". Whether they've studied ancient magical rituals, received alien implants or are the result of a super soldier program, they sit on the line between human and other.

The third tier is the "other". Werewolves, alien infiltrators and those infused with the power of a dark god.

The GM will of course have to determine what tiers are permitted, as well as what character types. Talk it out with the players.

What if the paranormal investigators have a werewolf friend? What if one of the group is an alien hybrid?
Don't be afraid to go with something you didn't anticipate, but don't be afraid to draw lines either, if it will make for a better campaign.

Ability scores:

While ability scores can be rolled as the GM finds most appropriate, the default method is determined by your tier.
Tier 1 characters are rolled with 3D6 for each ability score, rolling each score in order.
For a character at Tier 2, roll as above, but generate three sets of ability scores, and select which set you will use.
Tier 3 characters roll their ability scores on 4D6, dropping the lowest die for each score. Scores are still rolled in order, but two scores may be swapped.

Alignments are handled very simply By Night. Most humans will be Neutral. Often this simply stems from a lack of understanding of the world. While individual humans may be "good" or "evil" based on a particular set of moral values, this does not change their basic alignment.

Lawful alignment in By Night is considered to be an active determination to preserve the world as we know it, and push back "the others".
In contact, a Chaotic alignment indicates a desire to destroy or radically alter our world, usually putting it under influence of "the others".

To serve as an example, let's look at a few characters:
A vampire hunter who have sworn to wipe out the undead, wherever they lurk and hide would likely be Lawful.
Another vampire hunter who is simply trying to protect their home town from the undead threat may will be Neutral. While they oppose "the others", they do so on a conditional or situational basis.

A cultist wanting to awaken the elder gods to destroy the world is of course Chaotic, but the scientist wanting to merge humanity with the alien overlords would be too, as he seeks to reform things in a non-human way.

Note that these very specifically are not "good" or "evil" in the conventional sense. A vampire hunter may have no remorse using innocents as bait, while a cultist may seek to enlighten humanity by merging us with the alien lifeforms.

The base class:
While each character class will have unique skills and traits, there are some fundamentals that apply to everyone:

Hit points, unless indicated otherwise are determined as 1D6 per level of experience. After 9th level, a fixed 2 hit points is earned per level.

Experience levels, attack rolls and saving throws are all resolved using the Fighter tables, for whichever OSR or classic fantasy game you are using as a base for By Night.

Monday, 18 November 2013

OSR By Night. Fighting the things that go bump in the night

Tonight, we will take a look at some basic expansions to facilitate OSR combat in a modern setting. This mainly means firearms.

In general, a basic hand gun or simple hunting rifle will inflict the basic 1D6 damage.
Military grade weaponry, like high calibre military rifles will inflict +1 damage.

Weapons capable for burst fire may target 2 opponents near each other (up to say 2 meters apart), rolling to hit against each target individually.

Firing a burst against a single target permits a reroll of a failed attack roll, but no additional damage.
Against larger than man sized targets, resolve 2 individual attacks.

Grenades and similar explosives (like a stick of dynamite) inflict 2D6 damage with a saving throw versus Breath weapon for half damage.

The monsters in the night:

Monsters can generally be divided into several categories regarding how they react to damage.

Mortal monsters will take damage and die, like any other character. While they may be resilient (in the form of armour class, hit points or saving throws), they are ultimately mortal.

Resilient monsters are often from other realities or otherwise beyond normal physics. They only suffer the minimum possible damage from any attack. Simply assume that every damage die scores a 1 automatically, unless a 20 is scored on the attack roll.

Impervious monsters cannot be harmed by mundane weapons. Magic or special implements must be employed to bring them down, if possible at all.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

OSR By Night. Preliminary notes

OSR  By Night is an "Urban Fantasy".

What exactly does this entail?

It can be any of a number of things: Pulp adventurers unearthing things man was not meant to know. Alien infiltrators. Werewolves battling the undead in the streets of New York. Covert government agents fighting the zombie threat.

A mix of any number of novels and tv shows dealing with the supernatural and paranormal in the modern world, all powered by the OSR.

This will be a series of articles that will eventually (and hopefully) become a fully fledged game. It was consist of rules notes, a ton of character classes (I do love them), and various other talk.

It will be fairly "agnostic" in a lot of ways. My assumption is that you use something pretty close to "0 edition/Original" OSR rules. Modify as needed if you don't.
Likewise, I am assuming that weapon damage and hit points are both based on 1D6.

To get your feet wet, you can of course simply use things "as is". Start a game with fighters and thieves, arm them with modern gadgetry, and put them out in the world. Maybe they have to defend a building from a zombie horde, or maybe there's a flesh eating ghoul pack underneath the city streets.

Virtually any OSR compatible monster can be used "as is", or with slight tweaks to provide a threat in a By Night game. Need pre-historic degenerate human cave dwellers? Adopt the stats for hobgoblins or gnolls. A creeping horror, escaped from a genetics lab? Use the bugbear stats.

The same goes for any magic the players may be faced with.

For now, treat weapons as just doing 1D6. Equip the players fairly lightly. Handguns or an old hunting shotgun. Use combat and saving throws as normal, OSR style.
Saves vs Spells can also be applied against alien mind control and similar.

Tomorrow, we will take a look at weapons, combat and making things dead in the urban fantasy world.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

In defense of gunpowder

Gunpowder weapons are almost more incendiary (pun rather intended) than alignment discussions, when it comes to OSR games.

There's quite a few arguments against them, as well as some general points of discussion, and I'd like to go over a few of them, from my perspective.

1: They feel wrong

This is more or less the "Lord of the rings" defense, and you know? I got nothing to say against that. RPGs are about feeling more than anything else, and if a certain item breaks that feeling for you, that's fine.

2: They are too powerful

This seems somewhat odd to me. Most OSR games are filled with vorpal swords and lightning wands. However, it can be argued  that those are limited to only certain character types.

But if we examine this from a mechanical perspective, most rules for gunpowder weapons make them high damage but very slow reloading and low accuracy. Compared to a long bow, it does not really compare well. In AD&D terms, 2 shots at 1D8 damage versus 1 shot at 1D10 is a pretty easy choice.

Of course in a "all weapons does 1D6" system, there's not really much advantage either way.

It can be argued that a gun powder weapon would have great armour penetration, but crossbows already fill this role, and no one is arguing for their removal.

3: Everyone would use them

When firearms advance enough in technology, they'd supplant most other weapons. This is a fair concern, but it is somewhat omitting that D&D has always encouraged this. Long swords and long bows have always been the primary weapons of the game, in AD&D in any event, due to high damage and multiple shots (for the bow).

Replacing one weapon everyone picks, with another everyone picks is not really a detriment to the game (and using D6 damage for all weapons is a better solution to this issue in any event)

4: Very long reload times

It's often tempting to make firearms take 3 rounds or more to reload. Now, this obviously depends on the length of the combat round, but if using the old school 1 minute rounds, a musket could be loaded and fired twice easily in that time frame.
Of course, this is a problem with other ranged weapons as well. A trained archer can do a lot more than 2 arrows in a minute, so maybe the conversation should be entirely different. The problem here is that a realistic ratio of archery to crossbow to musketry attacks would make bows even more dominating than they are already

5: They explode!
I'm not sure if this came from old Warhammer games, but there's a common tendency to have firearms explode on failure rolls. While early gun powder weapons could indeed misfire in a manner of ways, most of those results would be more likely to destroy or jam the weapon than kill the firer.

Of course, bows and crossbows can suffer malfunctions as well, as can melee weapons. How many battles have your hero used the same sword to hack away at all sorts of armoured opponents, alien horrors and acid blooded fiends?

6: They are not medieval
This makes no sense at all. D&D's technology tree spans a very long time. In a game with plate armour and the bewildering variety of polearms, you'd see gun powder weapons appear as well. Most D&D games have no problem with paper, books, glass, time keeping mechanisms and a ton of other things.
Firearms start becoming common in the 1400's, which for most people is definitely medieval.
Of course, if you are deliberately setting the game in an earlier iron age / viking / roman setting, no guns, but then a lot of other things would have to go as well.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

World history table

It's been pretty quiet here, since I've been neckdeep in trying to write Metal Rogue. A game revolving around random tables is hard work, as it turns out.

Here's an excerpt that is totally useful in any OSR game though

World history:
Whether using the Uncharted Lands setting, or a world that is completely new, you may want to establish a history to the world. You don't need to go too in-depth with year by year events, but you'll want to know a general outline of what happened to shape the world. For this reason, we offer a table of Past Events that you can use to flesh out the setting.
Roll up 4-6 events to establish a timeline. The events are pretty broad, and very open to interpretation.
The result you get is the dominant events of that age of history, what it is remembered for today. People may speak of it, it'll have influenced the landscape, social customs or attitudes, it may feature in figures of speech or architecture. Use the details to build up your world.
It is often advantageous to narrate what one event means, before rolling the next. This can easily be done as a group, giving the players a shared sense of investment in the game world.

World past events:
1-4 War
5-8 Age of prosperity
9-12 Cataclysm
13-16 Empire
17-21 Exploration
22-25 Monsters
26-29 Migration
30-35 Golden age
36-40 Arrivals
41-44 Gods among men
45-48 Realignment of land mass
49-52 Invasion
52-56 Barbarism
57-60 Enlightenment
61-64 Trade
65-68 Uprisings
69-72 Encounters
73-76 The dark
77-80 Rebirth
81-84 Prophet
85-88 Great builders
89-92 Rifts in reality
93-96 Power struggles

97-100 Rationality

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Exiled below. A campaign idea

The world above is a place of shining light and harmony. Not much good for you though. For your crimes, whether petty theft or insurrection, you were exiled into the depths. Stripped of your possessions, and sent through the magical gate, you are now in an unknown world below.

This is basically a variation of the "underdark" concept, of the underworld ecology, with the entire campaign taking place in the dungeon. Assuming large enough caves, you can still have "cities" of refugees, underground dwellers and so forth, and they'll still form factions and struggle with each other.

A lot of interesting things that must be addressed:

Are there large scale manufacturing abilities? If so where? Underground mines for iron? If not, good quality equipment will be a rarity and you can enforce a level of scavenging that might make for an interesting campaign.
Maybe the only source of new steel weapons is the orcs? What do the heroes do now?

Where does food come from? Cave fungus? Are there underground animals to hunt? Without reliable farming (or magic), how will a population group support themselves?

What are the effects of long time exposure to the underdark? Maybe those who've been in exile for years slowly get magical abilities? (1 in 6 chance every year of getting a random level 1 spell as an innate ability once a day)

Did the exiles band together or spread out? How do they view newcomers into their realms? Are anyone trying to return to the surface?

How did other dwellers in the depths react to the growing incursion of humans (and demihumans)?

Saturday, 4 May 2013

[Not quite OSR] Some thoughts on not having stats

I have a bunch of notes and ideas for something that will eventually become a coherent game. It won't be a retro-clone specifically, but it'll cover some of the same ideas of rulership and domain play that OSR touches upon, as well as some of the same adventure feel probably. we'll see.

One of the ideas I have been throwing around is a game where you do not have ability scores as such.
The game assumes that everyone is perfectly average in most areas. If you are not, you'll have a specific character trait that shows the specific way you are not average.
A woodsman who is fairly strong might manifest that as an increased carrying capacity. Or it could be a bonus to melee damage. Or maybe he can pick up and hurl an opponent. Maybe its more than one item.

A character that is "intelligent" may have exceptional problem solving abilities, or an excellent eye for details or any of a number of other things.

When creating the character, rather than rolling up numerical values, you'd select a handful of traits that make up your character, and reflect the specific ways he or she is above (or below) average in the world. Two strong characters may not apply their strength in the same way.

Obviously, you'd need a pretty healthy list of traits, and they'd probably be arranged by "ability". So you'd have a list of Strength abilities for example. This would mainly just drive character generation and make it easier to pick things out that work for your specific character type. Of course, there'd be a random option as well.

So an example "ranger" type might have the following:
Persistence (+10% travel distance daily)
Keen eyes (missile range +10%, automatic roll to spot concealed enemies)
Loner (-10% to social rolls, +1 to combat initiative)

Character relationship generator

If you are busy setting up a campaign area, such as a city, you'll have a bunch of characters, some major and some minor.
If you want to go a step further, particularly if urban intrigue and faction struggle is going to be a focus of your game, you can use these charts to generate how they relate to each other.

1: Violent hatred
2: Loathing
3: Plotting
4: Severe dislike
5: Mild dislike
6: Uninterested
7: Distant
8: Ambivalent
9: Business like
10: Friendly
11: Brotherly
12: Devoted

Depending on the character's relations in the campaign, this may suggest some interesting setups. What if the two most powerful characters in a faction loathe each other?
What if there's a friendship between characters that should be enemies?
Have fun with the outcomes and see where it takes you.

If you wish, once you have established one characters relationship to another, you can roll 1D6 to see if the other character reciprocates:
1-2: 1D3 steps worse
3-4: Same
5-6: 1D3 steps better

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Unusual trade goods

Adventurers just reached a new town or village, and want to know what the worthwhile local goods are. Turns out, we have a chart for that!

This can be rolled on to determine what sort of goods the town is known for, with a (slight) lean towards things adventurers might find useful. The DM may determine whether these things have a mechanical benefit. If nothing else springs to mind, any time an item would normally break or spoil, give it a 2 in 6 chance of surviving.

A village or hamlet may have one item on the list, while a larger city could have 2-4 depending on size.

1: Food
2: Ale
3: Rope
4: Horses
5: Travelling clothes
6: Boots
7: Mirrors
8: Tools
9: Thieves gear
10: Paper
11: Lamp oil
12: Arrows
13: Travelling equipment
14: Cakes
15: Jewelry
16: Spices
17: Poetry
18: Trained small animals
19: Herbs
20: Drugs

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

No way back. Foraging in the dungeon

Recently, while playing the excellent Dungeon Crawl roguelike, a thought occured to me:

Let's say the characters have no way back. Maybe they teleported here, maybe they were exiled here, maybe it's all a cosmic game, for whatever reason, once they step into the dungeon, they are there to make it through or die trying.

Below lies countless levels of underground hell, and they must survive through it all.

What sort of changes would be needed:

Obviously training rules would have to go out. When you have enough experience, you level up, learning "as you go" from the harsh environment.

Food and water becomes important. Suitable clerics can of course create this through magic, but we must examine other options as well.

Various lichen and similar underground plants may be edible. Unless there is a reason for such not to grow, any character may search for vegetation, finding a rations worth of cave growths on a 1 in 6 roll. A benign DM may state that searching for anything (traps, doors) will also permit a roll for plants.

These growths are unappealing but fundamentally edible (they form some nutrition for quite a few dungeon inhabitants). With every such ration eaten however, roll 1D6. A roll of 1 indicates the character becomes ill, suffering a -1 penalty to all attack rolls and saving throws. After every 8 hours, a saving throw against poison is made to see if the character shakes it off.
While sick, eating more cave plants will only induce severe nausea.

Keep track whenever a character rolls a 6 on the sickness roll. After 3 instances of rolling a 6, the character is now immune to the sickness.

We've covered turning slain monsters into monster burgers before.

When intelligent creatures are encountered, the DM should factor in the chance of them having edible rations.
If random rolls are desired, an intelligent opponent has a 2 in 6 chance of having 1D3 cave plant rations and a 2 in 6 chance of having 1D3 edible rations.

Of course, a dark, damp environment is not a good place for food to stay unspoiled. Every day, give a 1 in 6 chance for each ration to spoil.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Random herbs

Nature is full of interesting things with healing or other properties, and fantasy nature especially so.

If you need some herbs for a region, you can use these tables to generate them. A temperate region with solid plant growth may have 2-3 useful herbs available naturally. These will generally be fairly cheap. Herbs that have to be imported will be far more expensive, depending on availability of safe travel.
Foraging takes a day and a 1 in 6 roll (or a very difficult skill check in your system of choice) in most cases.

1: Root
2: Berry
3: Leaves
4: Petals
5: Liquid
6: Nuts

1: Healing (1D6 HP)
2: Recover memorized spell (level 1-2)
3: Ignore one night loss of sleep
4: Count as a full days food and water
5: Recover from injury 20% faster
6: Additional saving throw against mental influence
7: Additional saving throw against poison or paralysis
8: Additional saving throw against polymorph, petrify or death

1-2: Instant
3-4: 1 round
5-6: 1D6 rounds
7-8: 2D6 rounds


Friday, 26 April 2013

A non hit point combat system, early draft

At the moment, this is mostly of interest to combat between humanoid combatants, but I wanted to put it down on paper tonight, since I may not get a chance to post tomorrow.

When a hit is scored, roll to determine the location hit:
1: Right leg
2: Left leg
3: Right arm
4: Left arm
5: Torso
6: Head

Also roll for the severity of the hit:
1: Scratch
2: Pain
3: Shock
4: Wound
5: Injury
6: Critical

A scratch fundamentally has no effect on the character, other than roughing him up a little.
Pain results in a -2 penalty on attacks and defense rolls (1D6 rounds to recover)
Shock means the location is out of action for 1 round. This causes a weapon to be dropped (arm), the character to fall (leg), a stun (torso) or knocked flat (head).
After recovering from the shock, the character is in pain for 1D3 rounds.
A wound inflicts significant damage, causing the character to be physically impaired. Each wound requires a Constitution test to continue fighting.
An injury generally incapacitates the location struck, and requires a Constitution test at half chance to continue fighting.
Critical damage will slay a character if struck to the head or torso, or cripple/destroy a limb.

After a fight, grab a handful of dice, 1 per wound, 3 per injury. If any 6's are rolled, the character is in serious condition and will need medical attention within a few hours.

At the moment, armour, weapons etc are not factored in. We'll get there!
What do you think? Nuts? Awesome? Let me know!

Random trivial dungeon loot

We've discussed unusual dungeon loot before but what if you need something altogether more mundane to spice up the caves?

Here's a table of mundane stuff to find in that treasure pile.

1: 3D6 feet of rope
2: 1D2 melee weapons
3: Suit of light armour
4: Shield
5: 3D6 projectiles
6: 1D6 rations of edible food
7: Wearable clothes
8: A book
9: 1D6 torches
10: a flask of oil
11: Set of thieves tools
12: Scrap metal
13: Cutlery
14: A map of somewhere well known
15: A letter to noone important
16: A few mining tools
17: A helmet
18: Some dice
19: Playing cards
20: Bags that used to hold something valuable

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Action&Event table, some examples

As a bonus post today, here are some examples of how to use the A&E table in actual play.

As a few examples of how this might work:

Action: Player is trying to persuade a city guard that "there's nothing to see".
Result: 47 (Barely succeed).
Outcome: The guard let's the character go, but if they see them again, they'll be taken in for vagrancy

Action: Follow the tracks of a monster in the woods
Result: 09 (complete failure)
Outcome: The monster is completely lost to the heroes. No matter how much they try, they can't follow the trail.

Action: Mix a compound of different alchemical preparations
Result: 28 (Failure to make process, change method)
Outcome: Something is missing in the recipe. The heroes must find a sage who can help them out, find an additional ingredient or conduct some tests (undoubtedly dangerous)

Action: Smithe a sword from a strange alloy that fell from the sky
Result: 60 (succeed with consequence)
Outcome: The sword is smithed, but the grip will only ever feel natural in the hands of the smith.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Action&Event table. A chart-based resolution mechanic.

I have long enjoyed chart-based resolution systems, such as those in Rolemaster, Mythic and others. While they may feel cumbersome at first, they provide a few advantages:

They reduce the amount of rules needed to remember, and they provide a wide range of possible outcomes, that would take complex mechanics or math to get otherwise.

OSR games are unique in that they tend not to have a resolution mechanic at all. Rather than having a universal system for resolving actions, each situation is often taken on it's own merits. Even then, many groups adopt their own unique ways of handling things, which is part of what makes the OSR so interesting.

The Action&Event table presented here is essentially a universal resolution mechanic. The player states what they are trying to achieve, you roll percentile dice and read the result. The results can and often will require significant interpretation, which can lead your game in entirely unexpected directions.
It is assumed that the action is reasonably achievable, and so the table does not factor in difficulty. If an action is particularly easy, don't bother getting out the dice for it. If something is insanely hard, the player should try to take steps to better his odd's, until the DM agrees that he qualifies for an Action&Event roll.

The DM should have an idea of possible consequences of a failed action.
It's worth noting that there are too many results on the table to make it easy to memorize. This is rather intentional.

1-2 Character suffers a permanent flaw
3-5 Complete disaster - Action fails in the worst possible way
6-9 Character fails completely at the task.
10-14 Action fails and the character suffers a consequence of failure
15-19 Action fails but character avoids consequences
20-24 Action fails due to an unforeseen circumstance
25-29 Failure to make progress. Character needs to change approach or make situation easier to retry
30-34 Failure to make progress. If time isn't a concern, can attempt it again
35-39 Unexpected event interrupts action
40-50 Action barely succeeds
51-65 Action succeeds with a consequence
66-90 Action succeeds as expected
91-95 Action succeeds, character makes unexpected discovery
96-98 Action succeeds perfectly
99-100 Character develops a new talent

Only one modification is made: If the character is judged to be good at the action, a result of "Failure to make progress" permits a second attempt to be made immediately, but the second roll stands.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Spells as abilities. Some examples

Continuing from the other days article on using spells as special abilities, I promised to provide some examples of what this might look like.

So, armed with my copy of "Basic Fantasy RPG" (But you can use pretty much any OSR game for this), here's some ways this could be used.

Note that what we are doing is using the broad spell effects as a starting base. So some of these examples may be further removed from the original spell than others. Do what you feel comfortable with.

A morale boosting speech by a chivalrous knight

Charm person
The persuasive (seductive?) abilities of a scoundrel swashbuckler

A dazzling attack of wit that leaves the target reeling and confused. (modify to hit only 1 target)

Create food
A woodmans ability to forage in the wild

Hold person
A wrestling move mastered by a bounty hunter (one target, and save is vs paralysis instead of spell)

Read languages
A scholar, well versed in arcane writings

The ancient crushing blow technique taught by followers of Thor.

These are just a few examples, many more could be created. Don't be afraid to tweak parameters of a spell to fit either. Change the targets, add conditions and so forth.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Putting it all together: OSRFix combat

To run combat "OSRFix" style, the following conventions are applied.
Note that this is not terribly specific to a certain rules set, and could be applicable to almost any OSR compatible game.

This is more or less a "snap shot" of how I like things to go, at this particular moment in time.

Rules in use:
Non rolled initiative
All weapons and most monster attacks inflict 1D6 damage. Powerful monster attacks are given as additional D6.
A damage roll of a 6 always inflicts an injury. Healing times can be determined using the recovery table.
An attack roll of 20 always hits, and inflicts a situational or brutal critical in addition to any hit point loss.
An attack roll of 1 always fails, and the character suffers a situational critical.
Characters reaching zero hit points can be "checked" by any character taking 1 round to do so. Roll on the "death" table. If not checked, the roll is made after 10 minutes (1 turn), for example if the character's body was abandoned.

Options depending on whim: 
Weapon vs Armour to hit modifiers when fighting humanoids.
When declaring actions, the player rolls 1D6. Roll of 6 gives a bonus snap action. Roll of 1 means character acts last but will get +2 to all defenses during the round.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

20 OSR urban fantasy plots

What is this? Urban Fantasy OSR? Things to come? Scattered ideas? Pipedream? Who knows!

1: An inherited mansion haunted by ghosts
2: A gang of werewolves in the decayed urban jungle
3: A prehistoric horror in a mine shaft
4: Ghouls stalking a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan
5: FBI agents investigating a cult of demon worshippers
6: A war between faeries in rural Scotland
7: Hackers uncover an alien infiltration conspiracy
8: A vampire controls a rival mob gang
9: Vampire hunters in the Soviet Union
10: Lizardmen in the subway tunnels
11: Police chasing an invisible man
12: A submarine found something in the deep that took over the crew
13: A pre-human tribe discovered in the Amazon
14: The God of Madness is waking up in the internet
15: Werewolf clans struggling for control during the Russian Civil War
16: Fascist zombie troopers in the battle for the Reich
17: A tome descriping the path to Atlantis
18: Street punks against insect men
19: Alien mimic in Napoleons France
20: Vengeful dead in the ruins of Dresden

Experience for puzzles and challenges

In a game relying less on monsters and treasure, you may need alternate methods of advancement. A simple solution is to just use the existing system in any event.

Treat each puzzle, trap or challenge as a monster for experience purposes. A simple puzzle may be a level 2 threat, while a devious one may be level 10.
A trap that can slow down the characters might be level 3, but additional defenses or tricks surrounding it (such as being hard to disarm) can increase the amount.

The same system can be used for accomplishing various quests and tasks, though here, a fixed XP award (equivalent to treasure) may be more appropriate, as in a non-combat oriented game, this will be the main source of experience.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

20 plots for Fantasy Europe

So you're in the middle of Europe, around the time of the crusades and holy wars. But..what does an aspiring OSR player actually /do/ there?

Here's a few ideas to get you started:

1: Lead a group of knights following the one true god, into heathen territory to kill an enemy leader
2: Ambush infidel knights as they maraud your homeland
3: A demon worshipping cult has been terrorizing the peasants, and are close to summoning a demon
4: Conflict between one true god-believers and those who follow the old ways
5: Strange travellers from the far east speak of an unspeakable horror awakening
6: A heretic group has assassinated a religious leader and the city is thrown into turmoil
7: The peasants are refusing to harvest until the "evil spirits" have been purged from their lands
8: After a battle, the scavengers uncover what seems to be an ancient temple
9: A prince went into the woods to hunt, and the elves took him
10: The few survivors of a battle come to their senses deep in troll country, and must settle their differences
11: During a visit to the far north, you find pre-human creatures lurking in the hills
12: A dying monk tells of a splinter of the one true cross... in enemy hands
13: Two opposing religious leaders are threatening to destroy the entire region with their fanatic wars
14: A fearsome shapeshifter has been spotted in the streets
15: Peasant uprising!
16: A new sect has sprung up, and the religious hierarchy is moving in to suppress them
17: A fugitive criminal has sought refuge in the caves underneath the city
18: The order of holy warriors has a heretic in their midst, who have been performing unholy rites
19: The sorcerer holds the peasant village as hypnotized slaves
20: The end of days is near, and the forces of law and chaos are arraying their troops

Friday, 19 April 2013

Spells as special abilities (Fantasy Europe and others)

In a campaign where magic is limited, you may want more variation in classes than the standard fighter and thief will provide. A deceptively simple way of handling this is through adapting spells as special abilities ("Techniques").

Each character elects 2 first level spells that he can utilize as a technique. Techniques are assumed to be non-magical in nature, instead representing unique, innate or trained abilities the character has managed to master.

Techniques are powered by Energy. A first level character has 2 points of Energy, effectively permitting each technique to be used once, or one technique to be used twice.

Energy is restored at a rate of 1 point per 4 hours of sleep or 8 hours of regular activity.

Characters receive an additional point of energy at levels 3,6,9, 12,15,18 and 20.

Characters acquire additional techniques at levels 4,8,12,16 and 20.

The energy cost of a technique is 1 energy per level. Spells that are strictly non-combat and have no outside effect (such as detect evil) can be reduced 1 level.
Spells can be of any source.

Any level dependent spell is cast at level 2 ability.

In game-play, techniques must be explained as non magical sources,and may have additional limitations based on their implementation. For example "Magic Missile" would represent a masterly archer or knife thrower, while "shield" would be a unique defensive maneuver. "Protection from evil" may be from a holy man's iron faith or a shaman's war paints.
Players and DM's should feel open to interpreting and extrapolating as the situation warrants.
Some spells may not be usable at all.

Example: My character is a witch hunter, who hunts down heretics and their demonic allies. I pick "cure light wounds" and "detect magic", renaming them into "first aid" and "sense of the otherworld".

In discussing with my DM, we agree that using the first aid ability takes a few rounds to perform, so it's not usable in a battle. Sensing the otherworld works in a general area around the character, roughly one room indoors and will pick out magic (including monsters in Fantasy Europe)

Example: Two heroes both elect "fireball" as a technique. The first hero is a tinkerer type, and rationalizes the ability as a chemical compound that can be hurled. The second is a viking who rationalizes it as a berserk rage, allowing him to strike every enemy in a melee.

Creative and cool? Crazy and broken? Let me know what you think, and if you can test this in a game.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Brutal Critical Hits

We have previously discussed various critical hit systems. This table presented here differs mainly in being longer (A D20 table) and focusing more on "painful" criticals, inflicting lasting damage.
The table is focused on outcomes over descriptions. While gory criticals can be fun, they also suffer from being fairly specific and often human centric. With a results based critical table, the group can narrate injuries as they find most appropriate.
This style of criticals are well suited to a more "brutal" game with very fast combat, or for more "low fantasy" settings such as Fantasy Europe or Urban Pulp.

When criticals are inflicted is up to the gaming group. Tradition is a natural 20, though particularly bloody minded players may use any modified roll of 20+

Injuries must heal, you can use this table.

1: Dazed
-2 to hit and unable to cast spells for 1D4 rounds
2: Must parry
Unable to attack, but incoming attacks -2 for 1D4 rounds
3: Delayed
Acts last for 1D4 rounds
4: Knocked down
Takes 1 round to recover. Until then +2 to be hit, and -2 to attack.
5: Stunned
Unable to act for 1D4 rounds
6: Knocked out
Unable to act for 3D6 rounds
7: Off balance
Enemy gets additional attack immediately
8: Armour damaged
Shield is destroyed. If no shield worn, armour is damaged (+1 to hit). No armour +1D6 damage
9: Weapon damaged
Weapon -1 to hit. At -3, weapon is destroyed
10: Bleeding
Lose 1 HP per round. Takes a round and a 2 in 6 roll to bandage
11: Movement penalty
Movement reduced to half speed
12: Attack penalty
-1D4 to attacks until healed
13: Extra damage
Roll 1D6 extra damage. All damage dice roll again if max on the die is scored.
14: Demoralized
Must retreat and leave fight
15: Injured
Random limb unusable until healed
16: Severe injury
Random ability scored by 1 until healed
17: Maimed
Random ability score reduced by 1 permanently
18: Incapacitated
Hit points reduced to 0. Must heal.
19: Critical injury
Out of action. Will die without medical attention in 1D6 hours
20: Slain
Killed outright.

S&W appreciation day: Tactical combat options

Today is Swords&Wizardry appreciation day!

In addition to playing some we are happy to provide you a few additional options for combat.
While one of the beautiful things about S&W and OD&D is that combat is very vague and open to interpretation, sometimes players will want to do something pretty specific.

Any of these options could be used to spice up a combat situation. DM's may elect to use them routinely, sparingly for unique situations or for certain characters as they feel most appropriate. They are intended to be flavourful rather than concerned with exact positioning. The primary intention is to provide more choices in a battle.
For this reason, they are not restricted by character class or level, as these decisions are best left to the DM.

Shield wall
While a full blown shield wall is rarely possible in a dungeon, two characters standing shoulder to shoulder can still benefit each other. Both characters must be using at least a medium sized shield. Only one of the pair may perform an attack, the other character foregoes his action. However, each of the pair receives the protective non-magical bonus of both shields (typically a +2 bonus to armour class).
Magical bonuses only apply to the wielder of the magical shield.

Take the blow
A character may elect to shield a friend with his body. The player should announce this before initiative is rolled. The enemy must attack the shielding character instead of the shielded, however, they receive a +2 bonus to their attack rolls.

Seize initiative
If a natural 20 is rolled, and the blow kills, incapacitates or defeats the target, the character has “seized the initiative”. This earns a +1 bonus to the groups initiative roll next round. This is cumulative, which can come up in larger battles.

Shocking blow
On a natural roll of 20, in addition to dealing normal combat damage, the opponent is shocked, forcing him on the defensive in the following turn. A shocked combatant loses one attack in the following round, though they may elect which attack is lost.

Survey battlefield
Any character may take a turn to survey the battlefield. On the following turn, on any situation that would require attacks to be targeted randomly, the character may select his target.
Note that surveying can also give information about reinforcements arriving and similar

The character must be in arms reach of a combatant that has failed a morale test. By spending their turn, the character may allow the morale test to be retaken. 

These options should be taken as suggestions of what can be done, rather than a definitive check list. As players attempt different maneuvers and tricks, more can be added to the list. Be creative!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Campaign location generator

These tables can be used once you have a reasonable map of the immediate game area, but want to populate it with interesting locations.
In campaign terms a "location" is an area that has something interesting about it.

The initial location is always a "home base" such as a village, border keep or town.

Divide your map up in a number of roughly equal-sized areas, and roll on the below tables for each of them.
How many areas you draw depends mainly on how big and long-spanning a campaign you want to play in.

Note that these are basically just keywords for the region. Just because you don't roll any dungeons, doesn't mean there aren't dungeons. It just means they're not generally known, are hard to locate or are insignificant in relevance to other factors.

If the characters are given a task or subquest, there is a 3 in 6 chance, it will be in a location other than the one the character or faction is in.
A quest will always take place in another location.

Type of adventure location in area:
1: Cave complex (1-2 levels)
2: Dungeon (3-5 levels)
3: Dungeon (6-10 levels)
4: Dungeon (11-20 levels)
5: Village
6: Town
7: City
8: Trading post
9: Mine
10: Natural resource
11: Ruined city
12: Fortress
13: Ruined fortress
14: Magical area
15: Monster infestation
16: Unexplored
17: Wilderness
18: Holy ground
19: Wasteland
20: Unnatural region

If you want a particularly rich or busy map, give each area a 2 in 6 chance of having a second location.

Monday, 15 April 2013

City Guard generators

As requested by Alfons Holzli

Most cities will have some sort of guard or watch protecting the place, keeping monsters at bay and ensuring ruffians don't get out of hand. The tables below can be used to determine the details of the city guard.
You can use as many or as few of these tables as you feel is needed.

Guard numerical strength: (relative to population size)
1: Very few guards
2: Few guards
3: Normal guard strength
4: Strong guard strength
5: Everyone is in militia
6: Few guards but can call on reinforcements

Guard training and quality:
1: Rabble
2: Untrained militia
3: Limited training
4: Well trained
5: Battle hardened
6: Ex-adventurers

Guard equipment:
1: Cudgels and staves
2: Spears and shields
3: Hand weapons and mail
4: as above plus crossbows
5: as above plus light cavalry
6: as above plus Heavy cavalry

Guard integrity:
1: Corrupt
2: Cowardly
3: Criminal
4: Disinterested
5: Vigilant
6: Heroic

Friday, 12 April 2013

Shock and Horror

As a bit of preview for what will hopefully be an urban fantasy/Pulp horror OSR game, here are some simple rules for handling shock and horror in your games.

They could also be applied to a more horror-based fantasy game, and would even be appropriate for a fantasy europe game as well

Events that surprise, startle or otherwise dazzle the character may result in shock. This is a common reaction to encounters with monsters, or even frightening natural phenomenon. This is handled as a saving throw against Paralysis. Failure indicates the character fails to act this round. If the character is directly attacked, he recovers for next round, otherwise saving throws are repeated each round until the character recovers.
Another character may take an action to “shake them out of it”, permitting an extra saving throw to be taken.

Particularly terrible and mind bending horrors and alien creatures can send the mind reeling. In such situations, the character must take a saving throw against Spells. Failure will send the character into an unreasoning panic. The player may elect to have the character flee the encounter, collapse in a catatonic stupor or attack in berserk rage.
In any event, the character is completely out of the players control, and will not act rationally, unless the encounter has ended.

Note that monsters will generally ignore characters suffering from horror, unless the character goes berserk.

Characters subject to horror can be rallied, but at great difficulty. This takes another characters action, and succeeds 1-in-6 times. A rallied characters spends 1 round to regain their composure, before being able to act normally.

New ability scores

Two new ability scores to consider in your OSR games.

Characters with an awareness score of 14 or better may add 1 to their chances of locating traps, doors, hearing noise and similar tasks. For example if the task would normally succeed on a D6 roll of 1-2, it will now succeed on a 1-3.
Characters with an awareness of 16 or better are only surprised on a roll of 1, though the rest of the party may be surprised normally.

Particularly strong willed characters may shake off mental intrusions. Any charm, hypnosis, confusion, insanity or suggestion may be shaken off unless the source was divine in power. The percentage chance is the willpower score itself. One attempt is made immediately, and another attempt can be made daily.  

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Encounter tables for dungeon returns, Mark II

Due to the popularity of this table and the fact that it had numerous options for improvement, I have decided to repost a longer version.

This table can be consulted when the adventurers return to a previously explored dungeon level, and can be checked for any encounter the adventurers had.

If any monsters survived:

1: Encounter remains unchanged
2: Creatures have moved to another nearby area
3: Creatures have moved to faraway area
4: Creatures have allied with other creatures
5: Creatures have gained reinforcements.
6: Creatures have improved defenses.
7: Creatures are weaker now
8: Creatures have hidden any treasures
9: Creatures have new leader (for intelligent creatures)
10: Creatures have left the dungeon completely

If the monsters were destroyed, give a 2 in 6 chance of scavengers being present.
If no scavengers are present, give a 1 in 6 chance of a new monster group having moved into the location.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Encounter change tables for dungeon returns

The adventurers left the dungeon to recoup, and now they are back. But what happened while they were gone? You can use the following encounter change tables to shake things up a bit.

You can use this for encounters that the characters had, but left unfinished.

1: Encounter remains unchanged
2: Creatures have moved to another nearby area
3: Creatures have moved to faraway area
4: Creatures have allied with other creatures
5: Creatures have gained reinforcements.
6: Creatures have improved defenses.

You could easily elaborate far more on a table like this, and I may do a longer version later on. For now, this will do fine for a quickie.

Note, this table has been replaced with an updated version here

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Overcoming the enemy: The Resistance campaign

Taking a step away from the dungeon and into the city, a very satisfying campaign to play is a campaign where the heroes are struggling to overcome some sort of opposing force through interaction with the setting.
Examples might include overthrowing an evil ruler, defeating a cult to a god of destruction, abolishing slavery in the empire or any of a million other causes that the characters can get entangled in.

While a campaign like that does not require additional rules, it can ease the DM's workload by having a structure in the background. It can also help open up the campaign to the players ideas, rather than leading it down a predetermined track of plot points.

When setting up "the threat" in the campaign, you need to establish how many levels of resistance the threat can present. This will basically determine how long the campaign will be, and how tough the enemy is to overcome overall.
A minor threat may have 1-2 resistance, while an epic enemy that could take a lifespan to defeat could easily qualify for 5-6 resistance.

At the beginning of the campaign, the DM rolls a D6 for each point of resistance and records the rolls.
When the characters decide to undertake an action that will weaken the threat, the DM selects one of his remaining threat dice.
Once the objective is achieved, the players roll a D6, and if they score higher than the threat die selected, the die is eliminated. This permanently reduces the resistance of the threat, which should be reflected in the setting.
As an example, when fighting to overthrow the evil king, the players undertake a quest to clear a nearby dungeon, so that the villagers will join the rebellion. If the players roll is above the threat die, then they've stepped closer to achieving their main goal.
In this case, the villagers might form an army, or start guerilla activities against the evil kings soldiers.

If the roll is equal to the threat die, that particular threat die is reduced by 1, but remains in the campaign. This represents the enemy being weakened slightly but not significantly.
The villagers may begin sabotaging mail routes and supply routes, but they aren't able to directly challenge the villains power base.

If the players roll is under the threat die, then the enemy remains stalwart. In the campaign, this usually means that the enemy makes counter moves.
The villagers rise up, but this leads to more soldiers in the streets, hangings and martial law.

If the players performed a particularly dramatic task, they may get two dice rolls from that particular task. These tasks should be fairly momentous, and infrequent.

When the final point of resistance has been overcome, the ground has been paved for the final confrontation. This should generally involve something pretty dramatic, whether it's storming the villains castle, or leading the free man of the Valley to sign the documents of freedom and solidarity.

A few notes and pointers:
Give plenty of adventure locations and let the players get stuck in. Let them determine how they'll go about overcoming the threat, and go from there. You can throw up some obvious solutions, but let them be creative.

If the resistance has not been reduced to zero, the threat cannot be eliminated. Be creative with this. If the heroes go in and kill the evil king, that's certainly worth a roll to reduce resistance, but maybe he has an evil son, maybe it was a clone, maybe he comes back as a lich. Be creative.

A few examples of do-it-yourself races

Mostly with an eye towards OD&D style games where you can leave the rules a bit more abstract:

Cave orcs:
Excellent sense of smell (can track 40% of time)
Resistant to poisons (+2 to saving throws)
Can eat rotten food.

Can be fighting men (orcs) and thieves.

Lizard men:
Scaly skin (count as leather armour)
Can claw for same damage as a dagger
Excellent swimmer

Can be fighting men, thieves or cleric (shaman)

Intelligent wolves:
Fast movement
Can track 60% of the time.
Bite for same damage as a spear

Can be rangers, druids and fighting men.

Kal-Ang Rockmen:
Resistant to blunt weapon damage (half damage)
Very slow (half speed movement)
Immune to fire and poisons

Northern horse tribe culture:
+1 to hit with bows
Stealthy in natural surroundings
Can forage for food while travelling

Monday, 8 April 2013

Do it yourself races

A captured orc joins the party and rather than become a traitor, he sticks around and becomes a henchman.
A player wants to play a role of humanoid wolfmen he came up with.
Someone is reincarnated into a kobold and wants to continue to play the character.

While I have an idea to present a list of "racial traits" to help make these things easier (and to help pave the way for random race generation!), the enterprising DM need not fear or reject these situations.

Think about the situation and simply assign 3 or so abilities to the race. Elves are stealthy, can cast spells in magic armour and see in the dark, for example.
Pick only things that are significant, interesting or very obvious. The wolfman probably has a keen sense of smell and a warm fur coat, while kobolds can squeeze into tight spots and are immune to digested toxins in your world.

Classes are probably self explanatory but don't be too limiting. If all else fails, most everyone can be fighting men or thieves. Set level limits where you feel they make sense. If you believe in the "old school" nature of level limits, custom races should probably be slightly low, but that's for the individual DM to decide.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Occupation table

If you need a random occupation for a character, this table will sort you out.
Note that there are plenty of such tables out there, and many are far more specific. If you want a table that goes into very specific details, you can use one of those, such as those in the Warhammer roleplaying game or the Dungeon Crawl Classics game.

This table is aimed at being slightly more generic and open to interpretation. It is perfectly suited for use when randomly generating a new adventure location or home base for the characters.
Note that this table is not weighted at all, giving an equal chance of each result. This reflects that out of the thousands of people in a metropolis, the relevant, interesting and important people could be any of the below, regardless of the relative rarity of that type of person.

1: Soldier, guard, man at arms
2: Menial worker, labourer
3: Craftsman, builder
4: Scribe, translator
5: Doctor, apothecary
6: Hunter, woodsman
7: Teacher, instructor
8: Administrator, official
9: Rogue, scoundrel
10: Beggar, impoverished
11: Servant, aide
12: Farmer, herder
13: Agitator, activist
14: Inventor, Engineer
15: Artist, poet
16: Drifter, vagabond
17: Explorer, scout
18: Merchant, trader
19: Priest, clergy
20: Roll again but result is only a cover identity.

If the character in question is not worthy of "player status", assume they have pretty much average stats, and a random alignment.
If a character is somewhat important, randomly determine one ability score where they are considered to be "good" (usually counting as a 14 in the relevant ability, enough to get a small bonus).

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Random lair contents

Most OSR games come with decent guidelines for determining treasure, valuables and magical items, but what about "other" things?

Here's a quick table with random things that could show up in a monster lair. I've leaned towards things that might be interesting, in a campaign and plot sense, rather than "2D6 bones and a painting of a dog".
Some of these results may seem odd for certain monsters. Give it some thought before rejecting an option. Maybe a really unexpected and clever explanation might reveal itself. If not, toss it out and go with something else.

How many rolls you make are up to you. A "normal" monster encounter might have 1 item, while a tribe of humanoids might warrant 2-4.
Likewise the exact amount of a given result is up to the DM. 1D3 might be suitable for a smaller encounter, and 1D6 or 2D4 for larger situations. Use your best judgement.

1: Captives, may have information
2: Captives, suitable henchmen or player character replacements
3: Finely crafted weapons (double value or roll here )
4: Finely crafted armour (double value or roll here )
5: Maps of local area
6: World map with unknown location indicated
7: Collection of keys (20% chance of fitting any given door)
8: Letters indicating connection to random faction in the campaign world
9: Holy icon of ancient religion
10: Strange fungus (effects like random magical potion when digested)
11: Letters from previous victims (may indicate sub plot generated here )
12: Stash of adventuring equipment
13: Large stash of ordinary weapons and armour
14: Edible food supplies
15: Captives, useless but may give reward
16: Unusually large amount of treasure (roll twice for all categories)
17: Letters indicating bigger plot (invasion, infiltration etc)
18: Healing herbs and plants (examples here )
19: Entrance to secret room or cave
20: Entrance to secret dungeon complex

Friday, 5 April 2013

Loremaster. A LL compatible class

Lore master: (magic user)
Prime requisite: INT
Hit dice: D4
Advances as: Thief
Attacks as: Magic user
Saves as: Magic user
Weapons permitted: Staff, dagger
Armour permitted: none
Magical items permitted: Those permitted to all classes, plus scrolls.

Well, you see, these runes clearly indicates that the temple was built during the reign of the God of Eternal Torment. I would probably not open that sarcophagus”

The lore master is a man of knowledge and an intense, burning need to learn more about the world. While not comfortable in the rough and tumble of melee, they can be quite invaluable afterwards.

Read languages: Lore masters may decipher foreign or ancient languages 25% of the time. Test the first time the language is encountered, and if successful, the character may add it to his character sheet. Languages that have been encountered but are unknown may be acquired later (5% chance whenever a level of experience is gained)

I read it in a book: When examining a magical item, may identify the item with a % roll. Chance is Intelligence score plus experience level.

I didn't just study biology: Lore masters may cast spells from magic user scrolls, provided a magic user of the same level would have been able to cast the spell. Failure chance is 10%, in which case the spell simply fizzles.

Lore best forgotten: When encountered an unknown monster, on a D6 roll of 1-2, the lore master can determine one ability, immunity or vulnerability of the monster.

No one ever died from reading: Lore masters are completely immune to negative effects of written magical items, such as manuals or cursed scrolls. 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Minor healing methods

For a low magic game, or one where healing is not routinely available, you may want to institute alternate methods of recovery for use during the adventure. A few examples are given here. Note that these are generally quite minor in effect, for more of a low-magic feel.

I've estimated costs for a campaign where money is somewhat limited in supply. For a more affluent game, costs could easily be doubled.
The DM can estimate chances to forage for ingredients in the wild.

Healing salve - 1 GP
A salve that can be applied to a cut, burn or bruise to speed up recovery and dull the pain.
This will store a single hit point and can be applied once per injury suffered.

Healing herbs - 5 GP
Rare herbal concoctions that accelerate recovery significantly. Individual treatments may be eaten, smeared, boiled into tea or otherwise applied, depending on the exact herb used.
Recovers 2 hit points and can be used repeatedly, but it cannot be applied during a battle.

Stout brew - 2 GP
A foul tasting brew that will bring anyone back on their feet. This will restore a character from any stun or unconsciousness, and will also recover 1 HP. Drinking more than one swig in a day will make the character uncontrollably ill.

Herbal antidotes - 10 GP
Rare anti-toxic herbal preparations. If taken before exposure to poison, they give a +2 bonus to saving throws for half an hour (3 turns).
If a character has already succumbed to the poison, it is likely too late, but taking a dose will give a 15% chance of reviving the character if applied within 10 minutes

Oil of recovery - 10 GP
Plant oils that can speed up recovery times. Each dose will reduce recovery time of an injury or physical condition by 12 hours (half a day)

Ideas? Feel free to add them in!