Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Investigator. LL compatible class

Investigator (Thief)
Prime requisite: INT
Hit dice: D4
Advances as: Thief
Attacks as: Thief
Saves as: Thief
Weapons permitted: As thief
Armour permitted: Leather
Magical items permitted: Any permitted to thieves

There was only really one conclusion to be drawn, and it had been obvious all along. He reached for the scroll to write down his findings about the church of the Evening Star, and their cult activities.

More at home in the city than in the dungeon, the investigator is an expert in the human mind, and in finding and combining clues to draw conclusions from them.

Empathy: Investigators must develop a keen sense of other people and their patterns. They may detect alignment as per the spell once per day, increasing to twice at level 5, and three at level 10.

Determine motives: If a henchman or hireling has secret motivations, or is a spy or traitor, the DM should roll a D6 every day. On a 1, the investigator has stumbled across something that indicates this to him. The exact nature will not be known, but the investigator will know whether it's hostile, neutral or benign.

Sometimes you have to do it yourself: Investigators may move silent and hide in shadows as a thief of the same character level. If they are stalking or shadowing a target for surveillance they may add +10% to their chance of success.

Keen eye for detail: Their skills extend to dungeon pursuits as well. Due to having a good eye for small details, an investigator can detect traps, hidden doors and listen for noise, succeeding on a D6 roll of 1-3.

You can't fool me: Whenever an NPC tells a lie or omits the truth, the DM should secretly roll a D6. On a 1-2, the investigator will suspect he is being misled though he won't know the details.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

What's for lunch? Eating monsters

A common trait in "rogue-like" RPG's is eating the corpses of monsters you find in the dungeon. If you play a "dungeon world" type of game, the characters may not be able to trek up to the surface to buy food at convenient intervals. Of course, the cleric can often keep them supplied, but what if you don't have one?

Well, you just killed all those lizardmen, right?

If a player wants to make hamburgers out of a slain enemy, roll on the following table the first time that particular type of monster is attempted eaten:

1: Poisoned! 3D6 damage, save vs Poison for half
2: Violently ill! 1D6 damage.
3-4: No nutritional value
5-6: Count as half a ration
7-9: Count as a full ration
10: Count as two rations

Large (horse sized or so) creatures will produce double the rations if edible.
Monster rations tend not to store well, and in the dungeon environment will have a 1 in 6 chance every day of spoiling. Spoiled food makes the eater violently ill as above.

Monsters that cause unpleasant effects when touched are generally not recommended to eat.

Lawful characters (good in games using a good/evil axis on alignment) generally feel revulsion when eating the flesh of a humanoid. On a 1-2 roll on 1D6, they'll absolutely refuse to ever eat that type of meat again.
Neutrals must test if they are attempting to eat humanoid flesh while still having regular rations.

Extra dimensional creatures have a 1 in 6 chance of producing the same effect as a random magical potion. This effect is determined randomly every time a corpse is attempted eaten.

Any given creature that is edible and nutritional has a 1 in 6 chance of being particularly tasty. This permits unspoiled rations to be sold for 2D6 gold pieces each. If either D6 rolls a 6, add the score and roll again.

How much survival is needed in your campaign? Leave a comment!

Capabilities and heroic actions. An OSR skill system

At level 1, each player selects 3 capabilities for their character. These can be selected fairly broadly and can be:

Particular talents (Awareness, Faith, Alcohol tolerance, Reactions)
Professions or occupations (Blacksmith, Scribe, Veterinarian)
Skill sets (Stealth, Gem cutting, Gambling)

Players should feel free to find interesting and unique capabilities for their characters. In groups where low level play is particularly lethal and high-risk, the DM may prefer to select one capability for each of the first three levels.

A capability represents an area where your character is generally able to function as a professional. For example, a blacksmith capability can produce metal goods with suitable equipment, an awareness capability lets you find concealed but not hidden items in an area being searched and a stealthy character could avoid casual observation or detection.

For routine and every-day tasks that fall within the capability, no dice roll is generally made. The character is assumed to know what they are doing.

When push comes to shove, the player may attempt a "heroic" action. Generally, heroic actions succeed on a 1 in 6 chance. Examples of a heroic roll include a blacksmith forging an item particularly resilient to damage, finding a carefully hidden door or trap, sneaking past a guard while carrying a bag of loot and so forth.

The DM is the final arbiter of what can be done with a heroic roll, but generally you should err on the side of cool. If a player is attempting to cause some sort of effect, see 1st level spells for the sort of thing that'd generally be reasonable.

Every 3 levels of experience, the player may either add another capability, or raise the "heroic" chance of an existing ability by 1.

Demi humans receive 1 extra capability when they reach their maximum permitted character level.

Thoughts? Feedback? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

"Fantasy Europe" Alignments

I have always been a fan of the three point alignment system, and luckily it is imminently well suited to Fantasy Europe.

As with so much other OSR stuff, this takes inspiration from various discussions in the past, across the interwebs.

Fantasy Europe is a time of change, and of upheavals. The followers of the one true god wage war in the holy lands against the heathens. The defenders of the faith battle the invading infidels. The followers of the old faiths bide their time, and try to survive in the corners of civilization.

It is impossible to discuss a vaguely historical setting without discussing religion as well. Some players will be fine with this, while others may be uncomfortable at the idea of real life religions, or passing judgement on such. I don't subscribe to any religious belief, but I think gaming is more important than controversy. As such, I will use "one true god" for europeans, and "defenders of the faith" for middle eastern beliefs. These terms are intended to be "in setting" descriptors used by adherents of their respective faiths. A DM who wishes to avoid social conflict in his game can abstract a fair bit of religious belief without causing undue damage to the setting.

Lawful in this setting tends to signify civilization and the rising monotheistic faiths. It's the spread of doctrine, law and the hierarchy of society.
Lawful characters may follow the one true god, they may be defender of the faith, or they may even be heretics following some variant doctrine. They all, however, tend to feel connected to a larger society than their own, whether their ultimate loyalties is to church, ruler or nation (itself a relatively recent concept).
Lawful alignment then is an indication of world view, and not inherently "good" (though most would consider themselves such).

Chaotics are then those who oppose the structures of Law. This may stem from a rejection of authority, adherence to the darker powers that lurk in the world or a staunch rejection of faith altogether. It's important to note then that chaotics are not always "evil". They have motivations just as heartfelt as any knights templar. A chaotic alignment however requires more thought, since the player needs to determine what world views the character holds.
Regardless of their origin, those who actively oppose the encroachment of Law will tend to attract the attention of the powers that oppose it.

Neutrals are the old faith and the slowly forgotten ways. At the edges of civilization lies a bewildering array of old cults and beliefs, still upheld by stalwarts, sometimes out of the publics gaze. Many neutrals tend to hold naturalistic or even animist views of the world. Some seek a balance between old and new, while others reject the alien influence of light and dark.

There's no inherent need for all the characters in a group to hold the same alignment, but of course interesting problems can arise. A single neutral in a group of lawfuls may live dangerously, or she may simply be viewed as a dependable companion with curious beliefs.

Alignment languages then take on an actual meaning, in that they represent religious trappings and concepts, rather than a language as such. Two lawful characters would recognize each others rituals and be able to communicate basic concepts to each other, even if they do not share a language. Likewise, a neutral would recognize the rituals for what they are, even though he would not understand the significance of them.

Other uses for saving throws

In the quest to find ways of handling things, we often forget things that are already on the character sheet.
Over the years, I've become a rather big fan of the saving throws for all sorts of things. They have the advantage that they already factor in level and character class, which ability scores do not, and they are an existing mechanic that is consistent across all editions.

A few alternative uses for the different saving throws:

Poison and Death:
I like using this as the "toughness" save. Use it for things like intoxication, drugs and disease

Paralysis and Polymorph:
Useful for "body shock" situations. If an effect involves some sort of alteration or manipulation of the body, this is a good fit.

Use this as a dodge save, when jumping out of the way is a viable option.

Breath weapon:
Area of effect attacks like explosions

The willpower save, for resisting mental attacks and manipulations.

Monday, 25 February 2013

"Fantasy Europe" - Non-heroic OSR part 1

An update was made to this post on 2/26

A particular area of interest for me has been "Fantasy Europe". Basically Europe around the Viking era or early crusades, but with a fantasy flavour. There's elves in the woods, a true holy man can call up miracles and there might be a troll under the bridge.

The entire thing will be more based around human struggles, though there'll be plentiful encounters with the magical and supernatural. In part, it's a "lower power" type of setting, with more of a human focus. In a way, it's an attempt to capture some of the feel of games like Runequest, but with familiar OSR mechanics.

As a kick-off article, we're going to talk about scaling OSR down to earth, and disprove the idea that an OSR game cannot feel "realistic", whatever that means nowadays.

The first place to look is hit points. One of the first and simplest places to make the game feel more "gritty" and make the monsters scarier is to reduce the amount of hit points. Nothing needs to be changed at level 1 of course, but characters only receive 2 additional hit points per level of experience. I'd start everyone at max hit points for level 1 in return.

As has been suggested, if you use normal character classes, rather than +2 per level, use the "Above name level" hit point gain for the character class instead.

This means that even as other capabilities increase (and they'd increase somewhat faster than in a normal OSR game), survival skill becomes more a question of putting yourself in an optimal situation.

As the game will revolve more around human conflicts, the lack of hit point inflation is less an issue as well. When a true monster like a troll or demon is encountered, things just got real, and the players should be scared.

Due to the low hit point totals, I'd use D6 weapon damage, and use a critical hit system that is less severe or revolving around no extra HP damage, such as the "narrative critical hits" presented on the blog earlier.

There'll be some fairly radically different ideas on how to handle other aspects of character advancement (including OSR with no classes), but we'll cover those in an upcoming blog post.
Or if nobody thinks it's cool, we won't cover it at all! Comments welcome

Magic malfunctions

One of the more interesting things in the Warhammer RPG is that magic can be rather unpredictable, making it very interesting.

Here's a simple attempt at "crits and fumbles" for magic in OSR games. Comment away if you think its great or stupid.

Whenever a spell is cast, roll a D6. A roll of 2-5 indicates everything works as expected (or not, depending on saving throws).

A roll of 1 means something unfortunate occurred. Roll below:

1: The spell simply fizzles, and is lost
2: Randomly determine another spell in memory that is cast instead at the original target
3: The spell strikes the wrong target (helpful spell targets an enemy f.x.)
4: The spell has the opposite effect (a fireball heals, while invisibility draws attention to you)
5: Spell works but the caster takes 1D6 damage.
6: Spell works but the caster loses a random other spell from memory as well

A roll of 6 means something excellent has happen. Roll below:

1: Any saving throws are at -2
2: Durations and areas of effect are increased by 50%
3: Spell remains in memory
4: Magical energies heal the caster 1D6 hit points
5: Spell is cast super quick, and the caster may still take another, non casting action this round.
6: Spell is permanent! A fireball might create a permanent ball of flame, while an enchantment never goes away

What's your take on magic and reliability? Both as a player and as a DM? Leave a comment.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Tinkerer. LL compatible class

Tinkerer: (Thief)
Prime requisite: INT
Hit dice: D6 at level 1. D4 thereafter
Advances as: Thief
Attacks as: Thief
Saves as: Thief
Weapons permitted: Dagger, crossbow, staff, short sword
Armour permitted: Leather.
Magical items permitted: Any permitted to fighters or thieves.

Nothing is as wondrous as the magical trinkets and gadgets you can find in the deep dungeons. Finding out what they do, how they activate and how to use them, it's all such fascinating work. Now, why does this wand have scorch marks?

The tinkerer specializes in magical items as well as mechanical constructs. He is sometimes more at home with contraptions than with people but most adventurers know better than to get in his way when he is working.

Trap sense: Tinkerers tend to stick their heads into dangerous places. If they trigger a trap, they may take a saving throw against Death to dodge or otherwise avoid the effects. Note that this does not prevent the trap from affecting others nearby.

Let me see that: A tinkerer has a 10% chance of identifying any magical item upon inspecting it, without triggering any curses. This goes up 5% per level of experience.

Talk to it like a child: Tinkerers can open locks and other barring mechanisms with the same chance as a thief of the same level. They may also apply this ability to magically locked or barred doors or locks.

Just need to know what to look for: Tinkerers can find hidden mechanisms (including doors) on a D6 roll of 1-4. This takes a full turn of searching.

Bad feeling: If a tinkerer equips a cursed item, he gets a D6 roll instantly. On a 1-2, he can throw the item away before the curse kicks in. 

Would you like to see more classes like this? Think any of the abilities are broken? Leave a comment and let me know.

Narrative injuries

An idea a friend of mine suggested to me was to have a "rolemaster" style critical hit system for OD&D, but to leave out the rules parts, except as the DM rules based on specific situations.

You can apply these any time a player takes a "heavy hit". The DM must decide what constitutes a heavy hit. It could be natural 20's, max damage rolls, hits that reduce the character to their last few hit points, or other ideas.

Roll a D20. Apply rules as you see fit, and as needed, if you feel they are needed. If you want to just use it for roleplay purposes, then you're all set as well

1: Light injuries to arm
2: Light injuries to leg
3: Severe pain when moving
4: Intense agony for short period
5: Dazed and confused
6: Hard to maintain balance
7: Persistent bleeding
8: Will have minor scars
9: Will ache in bad weather
10: Will have dramatic scars
11: Arm severely injured
12: Leg severely injured
13: Shaky and uncertain
14: Looks worse than it is
15: Facial scar
16: Hand injured
17: Cowed
18: Panicked
19: Surge of adrenaline
20: Berserk rage

Like this or do you use a different critical system? Let me know what you do.

Non-rolled initiative

This is another idea I came across on a forum, and which got stuck in my head long after reading it. If you are reading this, and you happen to be the person who came up with it, leave a comment and I'll add your name here.

The idea was to basically stop rolling for initiative in most cases. Here's how that might work:

The DM has an idea of what each monster will do, and the players declare their actions as normal.
After that, the DM basically adjudicates the order things happen in, with as few rolls as needed. Some considerations to make:

Characters with ready missile weapons (either already loaded, or the launcher in hand and ammunition fairly ready) would generally be able to attack before other things occur.
Spell casting can occur when the DM feels it's appropriate, and how he generally feels about spells. I tend towards feeling that spell casting takes up most of the combat round, with spells taking effect after any "quick actions".

Characters moving around and battling in melee likely won't need initiative rolls in most cases either, unless exact positioning is important. Let attacks occur simultaneously. If a "round" is multiple blows, its entirely possible that combatants could injure each other, or even kill each other (the fighter strikes down the orc, only to succumb to his wounds).

Where movement is involved, rather than making it all or nothing (as with initiative rolls), have characters meet at the halfway point (effectively prorating the movement) or similar.

In cases, where it's important whether this or that action occurs first, a simple D6 roll can be used (high rolls favour heroes, low rolls favour monsters) but try to avoid that as much as possible.
The first few times you try this, it'll be awkward and a bit slow, but once you get the hang of it, it'll fly and you likely never even notice that you're missing the dice throws.

Do you have a non-standard way of handling turn sequencing and initiative? Let us know in the comments

Saturday, 23 February 2013

XP for spending gold, not for stealing it

This originated from an ancient issue of Dragon magazine, but it's easily applicable to any OSR game. Rather than awarding experience points for the acquisition of gold, experience is only awarded for money "wasted".

Money can be wasted in a number of ways: Magical "research", donations to the church or the poor, an epic bar crawl or any other nonsense.

In short, anything that suits the character but does not earn the character any other in-game benefit. Thus money spent on hirelings, buying items, spell casting etc does not qualify.

Characters may burn money on training and magical research to earn XP, but only if it is "background training". In other words, actual training to reach the next level, or to add a spell to my book does not count.

This helps funnel money out of the campaign, and also helps make players have a few more decisions to make.

Try it out and let me know how it goes!

How to handle thief skills?

Thief skills sometimes gives players and DM's some heartburn because the question inevitably arises: What if another character wants to sneak or climb?

The way I have generally handled these is to examine whether the task could be done by any person or not.

A short, easy climb or sneaking past a sleeping ogre while not wearing metal armour are both "everyman" tasks. In this case, set whatever chance of success you feel is appropriate and let the players roll.
The thief gets the benefit that he can test against his thief skill first, and if he succeeds on that, he can ignore most restrictions that would apply to other characters (he can sneak faster or while carrying his adventuring gear, he'll scale the wall quicker and without rope etc).
Should he fail, he can fall back on the same chance you gave the remaining characters, but now he is bound by their restrictions as well.

If the task is so difficult a normal man couldn't do it, then the thief can roll against his ability, and all is well. In such a case, a failed roll represents a failure in the action of course.

I tend to treat thief skills as somewhat mystical though not magical. A thief can climb a little bit better than a real life person, he can sneak a little quieter than a real life person and so forth. It helps emphasize the class and make it stand out more.

How do you handle thieves in your games? Drop a comment and let us know!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Quick and dirty hit locations

Mostly, OSR combat is pretty abstract, and that's perfectly fine, but every now and again we want a bit more detail or drama. So I introduce "Ivan's super simple hit location table":

1 Left Leg
2 Right Leg
3 Left Arm
4 Right Arm
5 Body
6 Head

No special rules or particularly for hitting a certain location. Just something quick if you really want to know where something hit randomly.
It's kept simple to make it easy to remember. Of course it's more likely to land hits in the extremities, but that may be reasonably realistic for a melee in any event.

As an alternative, for games using 1D6 for damage, the damage roll could also be read as the location. Hence, hits doing 5-6 damage are always vitals hits (whether they inflicted damage or bounced off the armour).

On a related note, if you want to play up the abstract nature of hit points, the key is how you describe combat. Try this: Any hit inflicting in the lower half of the damage range (1-3 on a D6) is a "threat". You were knocked about, the blow glanced off the helmet, you parried but it sent you staggering and so forth.
Any hit in the upper half (4-6 on a D6) are actual injuries, ranging from life threatening wounds (on a level 1 character) to gashes and broken ribs (on a higher level character).

For bonus points, try it without the players knowing their hit point totals.

Don't be afraid to leave comments, particularly if you've done experiments with how to treat hit points in your campaigns.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Commoner class

Another double-feature, while I am getting people lured in :)

This is written with Labyrinth Lord type of play in mind.

Commoner (Fighter)
Prime requisite: CON
Hit dice: D8
Advances as: Fighter
Attacks as: Fighter
Saves as: Fighter
Weapons permitted: Dagger, staff, spear, clubs and maces, sling
Armour permitted: Leather. Upon reaching level 5 may use chain mail and shields.
Magical items permitted: Any permitted to fighters

Your folks back home should see you now. Sure, you aren't a great hero, but you've seen things like old man Higgins used to talk about, when people gave him a few coppers.

It's not unusual for a farm hand or stable boy to end up in an adventurers retinue. Sometimes they learn the craft of fighting or thieving, or find they had magical reserves they never suspected. Others never become quite so glamorous, but they find themselves becoming the foundation of many an adventuring group nevertheless.

Resilient: A life of backbreaking labour has made you hard. Commoners receive 1 extra hit point at every even level (2, 4, 6, 8 etc.) In addition, Commoners will receive a +1 saving throw bonus against Death, Poison and any type of disease.

Common sense: Sometimes a lack of appreciation for the finer things in life can keep you grounded. Receive +2 to saving throws against charm, hypnosis and any other mental intrusions.

Cooking: Someone has to cook the food. If a commoner cooks the party's food, each ration will count as 1.2 rations consumed, allowing the group to save food. The commoner must spend 30 minutes (3 turns) preparing the food and must have access to a fire.

Not a trained warrior: Commoners can brawl just fine, but tend to lack the finer tactical skills of a true man at arms. For this reason, special combat options that are available to fighters are not usable by a commoner.

Just another commoner: If in a crowd, a commoner has a 25% chance of avoiding notice, if he attempts to simply fit in. This goes up to 35% if the commoner carries no weapons

Feedback quite welcome!


Some people are luckier than others.

When the character is created, the DM secretly rolls 1D6 to establish their luck. Add 1 point if the character is lower level than the rest of the party.

When a character suffers a significant negative effect, such as death, loss of something valuable etc, the player may test his luck.
The player rolls 1D6, and if the score is equal or under the secret luck score, he avoids the effect through some miraculous manner: Petrifying gas merely knocks the hero out, a killing blow knocks him unconscious and so forth.

However, this reduces the players Luck score by 1 point.

Luck is replenished only when levelling up, which adds 1 point of luck to the pool.

Got any ideas or feedback for using Luck? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Character motivations

Thursday post comes a bit early since I may not have time after work tomorrow. So depending on timezones, you may be getting 2 posts tonight and none tomorrow.

Today, we have character motivations. Whether you want to spice up a player character, or generate additional NPC information, you can use the below tables.

First, generate what the feeling is:
1 Love
2 Admiration
3 Hatred
4 Disdain
5 Pride
6 Shame
7 Lust
8 Abstinence
9 Curiosity
10 Fear

Second, generate the subject of the feeling:
1 Romantic
2 Wealth
3 Reputation
4 Power
5 Influence
6 Food and drink
7 Faith
8 Cause
9 Friendship
10 Immortality

Lastly, generate the intensity of the feeling:
1 Life goal
2 Overwhelming
3 Strong
4 Dedicated
5 Philosophical
6 Inclination
7 Convenient
8 Forced
9 Indoctrinated
10 Expected

If you use these and generate any interesting or unusual characters and NPC's for your games, please leave a comment

Welcome to your daily OSR fix

This blog will ultimately be a place for me to post random bits I think up for "OSR" games. OSR here being the Old School Renaissance/Revolution/Resistance/Revival.
Most of this material will be "agnostic" and could be plugged into any OSR game or any TSR era D&D game. Obviously some pieces will work better in certain places than others.

Some thing will be completely original, while others will be inspired by what I see other's do.

Anything posted to this blog is completely "open" content and you are free to use it as you see fit, including in other OSR products and games. At some point, I will likely compile many of these things into a more polished product, possibly for PDF sale.

Starting out, here is a simple option for combat, to get beyond the "die at 0 HP".

When a player character reaches 0 hit points, they are "down". This can result in a few different things, and is rolled on the following table:

1-2 Dead
3-4 Seriously injured
5-6 Knocked out
7-8 Stunned and dazed

Exact rules effects are up to the DM, but an injured character needs to rest for a while (probably the same as after being raised from death) unless they receive significant magical healing.
A knocked out character is out cold for at least the rest of the battle, and should be pretty shaky afterwards.
A stun sends the character reeling, either incapacitating them for a short while or incurring a penalty over a longer time period.

One option is to roll the characters hit die instead. (for games where hit dice go up to D10, you may wish to add a 9-10 step titled "adrenaline rush"

For advanced edition players who tend to want more detailed rules, treat "seriously injured" as needing a weeks rest. Knocked out requires an hour of rest. Stunned needs a turns rest.