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!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Alternate thief skills

Thief characters have a range of skills available to them, but they could easily be swapped out for others, allowing the thief to customize his play experience, or the specific type of thief.

Whether this is selected by the player or the DM, skills are swapped out on a 1 for 1 basis. The new skill will follow the chances and progression of the previous.
Generally, replacement skills are not subject to racial or ability modifications but groups may elect to use the modifications for the closest existing skill.

Example replacement skills include:

Shadowing (the ability to follow someone undetected, and without losing them in a crowd)
Forgery (creating false or duplicate documents)
Acrobatics (various acts of tumbling and jumping)
Contortions (squeezing through narrow spots or reach hard to get things)
Disguise (mask your own appearance or copy that of a certain type of person)
Escape artist (escape any sort of bonds or confinement)
Evasion (if not making attacks, may roll to dodge incoming physical attacks)
Mimicry (may copy and imitate specific voices or sounds)
Tracking (may follow tracks and foot prints)

You could add countless more to the list, and there's no inherent harm in letting the player come up with a few on their own either.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Examples: 3 random home cultures

We have three characters in our party:

Thorgrim the Fighter, Assil the Dwarf and Ilnor the Hobbit.

We will generate a home culture for each of them, using the generator found here

For Thorgrim, we get the home culture attributes of:
Assigned family structure, Law by consensus, labour economy and communist politics. Religion is hero based
Sounds like a pretty planned society, maybe centered around warrior heroes. Children are placed in families where the soiety has a need currently, with some families focusing on raising soldiers and others on various types of labourers.
Coming from such a background, Thorgrim is a product of being raised to be a warrior. He has a strong communal instinct and tends to view the success of the adventuring party as integral to his own satisfaction.
Thorgrim's player selects a Lawful alignment. To reflect his upbringing, the DM decides to give him a free suit of plate armour to start the game, as a gift from his "parents".
He'll also be able to grant his henchmen +1 to morale.

For Assil, we roll: TIght knit family, Limited law, Pantheon, tribute based economy and feudal politics.
Assil's player decides to view this as your typical feudal medieval society, except it's a dwarven one. Dwarven knights riding ponies serve their lords, with frequent raids on nearby cultures to extract wealth from them. He decides that Assil is an outcast from that, who was sent out in the world by his family after an incident with a nobles son.
The player elects a Chaotic alignment, Assil is a "young" dwarf and rebelling against his family structures. The DM gives him the ability to open locks like a first level thief, even though dwarves don't normally have this ability.

For our brave hobbit, we get: Random family structure, limited laws, Celestial religion, tribute based economy and council politics. Sounds like a fairly laid back culture of medieval hippies for the most part. People drift in and out of relationships with "family" being more or less who you happen to live with at that particular moment. Many hobbits drift away and go explore the world, guiding by their gods, the stars, always visible to them above their heads.
Despite their relaxed ways, the hobbits have also managed to secure many outside lands through trade, deception or in a few cases, displays of force and subsist mainly on rents paid by those occupying the lands. this has earned them somewhat of a bad reputation amongst humans.

A neutral alignment seem fine here, and the DM gives him 100 starting gold extra. The character also receives the ability to cook particularly well (doubling the people that can be fed from any rations) to represent his carefree lifestyle

Leave comments, make your own examples with the charts and let me know if you want examples like this. If you liked it,  don't forget to "+1"

Humanoid wilderness encounter tables

Your party has encountered a group of humanoids in the wilderness. But why are they there?
If you want help or some unpredictability, these tables are for you!
Note that these tend to indicate a larger group of humanoids, compared to a small, wandering monster grouping (for such, you can use this table. )
If you have determined that an encounter will occur, and that it is an intelligent, humanoid type, you can use the roll on this table to guide the numbers appearing)

1: Travelling group, camped
2: Mining or construction crew
3: War party
4: Remnants of a battle
5: Camp site, fortified
6: Camp site, temporary
7: Hunting party
8: Battle in progress (1: rival tribe, 2: humanoids, 3: demihumans 4: monster, 5-6: humans)
9: Village, ramshackle
10: Village, captured
11: Village, entrenched
12: Fortification
13: Nomadic group
14: Renegades from own leader
15: Ambush
16: Slavers
17: Carrying loot
18: Raiding party
19: In-fighting
20: Warlord and guards

Monday, 1 April 2013

Monster elite tables

Need to spice up a combat encounter? Include a few monster elites.

This is intended mainly for groups of intelligent but otherwise ordinary enemies, such as orcs, gnolls and so forth. It can also be applied to humans and demihumans as well.
Simply designate a few of the encountered enemies as "elites" and roll or select below:
(Needless to say elites should carry better weaponry and equipment than their regular counterparts)

1: Brawler. +1 Hit Die, and inflicts +1 melee damage
2: Sharpshooter. +2 to hit with missile weapon
3: Motivator. While alive, group is +2 to morale (D20) or +1 (2D6)
4: Tank. +2 armour class and saving throws
5: Quick. +25% movement speed and strikes first
6: Rapid fire. Missile fire at double rate
7: Burly. All hit dice below a 5 is treated as a 5.
8: Unusual ability. Can cast a level 1 spell
9: Master fighter. Attack twice in melee
10: Berserker. +3 melee damage.

Unique monsters

For today just a few hints from various sources, namely how to make monsters more unique.
This is really advice gathered from a few different products so view this more as a list of tips than a burst of originality.

1: Don't tell the players the name of the monster, unless it's an in-setting name (the bull demons of the old temple, rather than minotaurs)

2: Change descriptions around (describing gnolls as hideous cavemen f.x.)

3: Swap abilities or add them (take a gorgon but make its breath poisonous instead of petrifying)

4: Make monsters unique and don't reuse them. If you have a group of them, they only belong to one villain or one location (lizardmen being a remnant race that evolution abandoned, the last tribe hiding in the Desolate Swamps)

5: Strictly avoid any type of "lore" abilities in the game. Actual, concrete information about monsters should always refer to one specific creature.

6: Avoid cannon-fodder monsters. If you have orcs, determine why they exist, where and how (even in the lord of the rings, orcs lurk only in certain, specific areas). Alternatively, swap them out for evil humans (you can keep the stats and even behaviours. Hobgoblins are militant invaders, while goblins are scavengers and raiders).

7: If the group does encounter a group of monsters (say, the wraiths that inhabit the tomb of Gazhkar), throw in a few "boss" types with more hit dice, different abilities or superior abilities.

What tricks have you used for monsters?