Sunday, 4 May 2014

Repost: Heroic achievements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments always welcome!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Are OSR gamers conservative?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know.

Thursday, 1 May 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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