Friday, 30 September 2016

Valiant Fantasy - Skill Checks

The Skill Check is used when a character wishes to accomplish something that is not otherwise covered by a rule.

Examples may include scouting ahead, hunting for food, picking a lock or researching an ancient text.

Skill Checks should be used when there is some risk, challenge or threat.
If the characters are in no danger, have no time limits and face no consequences of failure, their intended action succeeds.

Likewise, tasks that aren't particularly important to the story or a character goal can often just be allowed to work without a Skill Check.

A Skill Check can be handled in one of three ways:

Option 1 - Dice
The player may roll dice to bypass the Skill Check.

For each Ability Score, the character will have a Skill Check value equal to the score minus 3.
For example, if my Constitution is a 13, my Skill Check value is 10.
These values should be recorded on the character sheet, rather than calculated during play.

Any applicable bonuses are added to the Skill Check value when testing.

"Difficulty" modifiers may be applied at the GM's discretion but the GM is encouraged to only do so in exceptional or dramatic circumstances.

Roll 3D6. If the roll is equal or lower than the Skill Check value, the character has bypassed the Check.

Failure will incur any appropriate consequences.

Option 2 - Roleplay
If the player can convincingly explain how they will solve a situation, then the GM may permit them to bypass the Skill Check without rolling.

Examples may include outlining how the character disarms a trap or narrating a conversation with a Non Player Character.

The GM may either approve or deny the Check outright or if unconvinced or uncertain may let the player attempt a dice roll to pass with a +3 bonus.

Option 3 - Struggle
The player may offer up a negative consequence.
If the GM approves, the character suffers the consequence but bypasses the Skill Check.
For example, if bluffing your way past a guard, you may offer that the guard lets you go but will become suspicious and pursue in a few minutes.

Unless the GM judges the consequence to be uninteresting or too trivial, this will bypass the Check.

Unless exceptional circumstances exist, a given encounter, scene, location or situation should not demand more than 3 Skill Checks.

Once that limit has been reached, further complications in the same encounter, scene or location should either succeed or fail automatically based on the GM's decision.

This rule is intended to keep the game moving and ensure that you only Check when significant and interesting things are at stake.
Don't roll dice for trivial problems.

If you consistently bump up against this limit, it may be a good indication that you are gate-keeping too many things behind Skill Checks.

You may opt to not use this rule during your initial plays of the game.

Valiant Fantasy - Allies

Every hero needs someone they can rely upon.

If using the Ally system, each player character will begin play with an Ally.
In a more low-key campaign, Ally acquisition can be delayed until level 2 at the GM's decision.

An Ally is a close friend that will adventure with you and generally try to help you out.
Allies are NOT Henchmen or Hirelings and are not created as fully fledged characters.
(This chapter references Skill Checks, this is an ability score check taken on 3D6 instead of the customary D20)

Ally functions:
Each Ally is associated with a particular ability score and will have a single Ally skill.

When the Ally is present and able to assist, they will lend their skill to the player character they are associated with.
Whenever the character must attempt a Skill Check, they may add a +1 bonus if the Skill check is using the ability score the Ally is associated with.

My thief friend is a Dexterity character.
If I try to make any Dexterity based Skill Check with her around, I can increase my effective Dexterity score by 1 points.
Sample Ally skills
Combat +1 attack bonus in hand to hand combat.
Sixth sense +1 bonus to saving throws.
Alertness - +1 to Detection rolls.
Survival - When hitting 0 HP, death clock starts one higher.
Archery - +2 hit bonus when making ranged attacks.
Mobility - Increase combat movement by 10%.
Scouting - +1 to Search rolls.
Wilderness - Reduce travel times by 10%.
Crafting - Reduce crafting times by 20%.

Ally acquisition
A character may add a second Ally at experience levels 4 and 8. 
Allies of the same character cannot have the same skill but may be associated with the same Ability Score if desired.

Allies in play
Allies are considered to be part of the scene.
If the party is in combat or subject to a threat, Allies are assumed to be engaged as well but no dice are rolled.
Their fate is generally dependent on the player character.

Allies are not affected by attacks, magical effects or traps that target the player characters:
Assume that the Ally is wounded, roughed up or exhausted but is able to keep up with the player characters as needed.

A threat, trap or hazard may specifically target an Ally, causing them to be incapacitated until the group can rest at a safe location with ample food and drink.
If the entire group is affected by a trap or hazard, one Ally will be incapacitated in any appropriate manner.

Allies do not take independent actions that require any dice roll.
If making a skill check using the Ally bonus, the player may narrate that the Ally is performing the action in their place, but they cannot perform further actions that result from the Skill Check.

I make a Dexterity Skill Check using my Thief.
I explain that she sneaks forward to spy on the band of orcs.

If she is spotted, the GM may narrate her slipping away under the cover of night.
Alternatively, if the failure would have resulted in the player character being injured (for example by an ambush from orc archers), the thief could be captured or they might be injured and incapacitated, stumbling back into our camp with an arrow in her arm.

Non dice actions
Allies can perform general actions that don't require significant rolls as and when needed.
For example, an Ally could stand guard at a location, travel to deliver a message or fetch help, help carry loot and other straight-forward actions. 

Allies are generally the province of the player in question.
Some players will enjoy a significant amount of roleplaying, devising complex personalities while others will prefer to keep the Ally in the background much of the time.

Beginner groups
For less experienced groups, playing 2 (or more) characters can be confusing and complicated.
If so, delay the use of the Ally rule or omit it from a particular campaign altogether.

The ultimate sacrifice
With the GM's approval, an Ally may sacrifice themselves to help a character.
This allows a player character to avoid a grim fate, fatal combat blow, trap or similar but results in the death of the Ally.

This will raise the Burden of the player character by 1.

Replacing Allies
A slain or absent Ally is replaced upon reaching the next level of experience (or concluding the next adventure if at level 9)
When achieving a new level of experience (or concluding an adventure at level 9), one Ally may be exchanged if the GM permits.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Valiant Fantasy - The Lure

When the hour is dark and hope is nearly lost, heroes have one option left:
The Lure.

A player may ask the GM for a Lure at any time and a GM may offer one at any time.

If accepted, the player receives one of the following bonuses:

*An attack strikes automatically and will inflict the maximum damage possible on the dice.

*A saving throw succeeds automatically and any negative effects (damage, penalties, duration) from a successful save will be cut in half.

*A Skill Check is bypassed.

Lures may be requested and offered after the dice have been rolled.

For each Lure accepted, the GM will note one Mishap for the character.

At any time in the campaign, the GM may "use up" a Mishap to do one of the following:

*Cause a successful attack roll, Skill Check or saving throw to fail.

*Add an unpleasant "reveal" or coincidence to a scene or encounter.

*Cause an Ally to be unavailable while in a particular location or encounter.

The party is ambushed by goblins. The GM uses a Lure mid-way through the fight that one of the goblins is Urzuk the Ravager, arch-nemesis of one of the heroes.

Moments to shine, moments to fail:
Mishaps cannot occur to a character during the same scene or encounter they obtained a Lure.

Time heals all wounds:
Over time, reckless behaviour tends to fade into memory.
If no Mishaps were triggered for a given player in a gaming session, erase one Mishap marker at the end of the session.

Don't rush in:
New groups may prefer to play without Lure's initially, while getting used to the new classes and races.
The Lure system adds a sort of barter system to the game mechanics, which will make the players more active in the storytelling.
Some GM's may prefer not to use such mechanics.

Valiant Fantasy - Character creation

Scroll down to see the two previous posts.

Generating characters will require a bit of a more generous dice method than the typical 3D6, as our characters are expected to be the finer specimens of their particular species.

Ability scores
When rolling your ability scores, roll 3D6, but count all 1's as 2's instead.
For example a roll of 1, 3, 4 would give a score of 9, while a 1, 5, 6 would be a 13.

This means the lowest possible starting ability score is a 6.

Scores will use the B/X bonus system, meaning a 6-8 is a -1 penalty, 9-12 has no modifier, 13-15 is +1, 16-17 is +2 and 18 is +3.

Pick an edge
Each player may select an Edge for their character
This allows you to select one ability score where your modifier is raised by 1.
Do not modify your actual ability score, it remains the same.

For example, if you apply your Edge to a score of 10, you'd receive a +1 bonus but still have a 10.
Edges can bring a score to a potential +4 with GM permission.
For a lower-key game, Edges can only be used to gain a maximum of +3.

Hit Points
Starting at level 1, you will have 10 hit points, plus any bonuses from your Constitution modifier and character class.

Advancing to level 5 lets you raise your lowest Ability score by a single point.

At level 9, your character has fully come into their own: You may raise your then-lowest Ability score by a single point and assign a second Edge (which may not be in the score you picked at character creation).

If multiple scores are equally low, the player may choose.

My scores are ST 12, DE 14 (+1), CO 11, IN 8 (-1), WI 15 (+1), CH 14 (+1) at creation.

I put my Edge into Strength, giving me a 12 +1 score.

At level 5, my Intelligence of 8 will improve to a 9, removing my penalty.

At level 9, it will improve again to a 10, and I opt to also put an Edge in Dexterity, making it 14 +2.

Hit point improvement
Each level of experience gained will raise total Hit Points by 4, plus any class and race bonuses that the character is entitled to. 

Level cap
Characters reach their final level at 9.
There are no further experience levels.

As a result, non-human characters are not capped at particular experience level limits. Any character may progress to level 9. 

Hero alignments can be either Loyal, Focused or Survivor.

Loyal characters will do what they can do to support the group.
Focused characters are determined to achieve their objectives and being efficient.
Survivors are concerned with the well-being of themselves and their group.

A hero can be either Kind, Pragmatic or Ruthless.
Kind characters will try to minimize harm.
Pragmatic characters will try to avoid extremes.
Ruthless characters will do whatever is needed.

A typical healer might be a Kind Survivor while a character with a single-minded devotion might have a Ruthless Focus.

Valiant Fantasy - Goals.

This will eventually take shape into a fully fledged game. For now, just thinking out loud.

Initial thoughts were here

What is Valiant Fantasy? (or what is it going to be, in any event).
We shall abbreviate this as VF.

*A way to play games inspired heavily by "classic high fantasy".
This strongly takes its origins in "Lord of the Rings" and "Three Hearts and Three Lions".
It also includes things such as the David Edding "Eleniad" series and you might argue even classic "fantastic literature" such as King Arthur and Robin Hood.

*The default mode of play is the Quest.
The heroes set out to achieve a goal or objective, whether one given to them or one they have decided themselves.
Quests may involve dungeon crawling of course, but the assumption is that there's a reason to go beyond loot.

*Characters are heroic but firmly within the range of mortal achievement.
"Random death" is less common.

*The game will assume that the characters are indeed heroes aiming to do some measure of good in the world, though they will often be flawed and faced with their own shortfalls.

*Be a bit more story and character-driven than typical OSR campaigning, without being a "narrative" indie-style game.

*Power corrupts. You are no exception.

*The rules must be as approachable as possible.
This will mean they will rely as heavily as possible on existing conventions, to make them function as similar to games like Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry as possible.

*The game is aimed to be broadly compatible with other OSR material, again for ease of use.
As such, the bestiary will look very familiar but tweaked to fit within the rules.

What is Valiant Fantasy not?

*It is not going to have a baked-in setting, though it will have an implied one (similar to how OAD&D implies Greyhawk)

*While aimed at what could be considered "wholesome" gaming, it is not a political statement on the morality of typical gaming campaigns or some such.

*It is also not a commentary on, criticism of or correction to the "hardcore gaming" approach many OSR games take (high chances of character stuff, low life expectancy etc.) even though it will be avoiding many such conventions.

(in other words, put down the pitchforks, Stormbringer 1st edition is one of my favourite games of all time)

*It is not intended to be ground-breaking design. Instead, it is intentionally derivative, intended to work within the general sphere of OSR gaming.

What will it look like?

*Low cost, print-friendly PDF, limited artwork most likely unless there's significant interest.

*It'll be aimed at experienced gamers, so it will focus on game rules and "crunch" rather than GM'ing or player advice.

*Intended to be self-contained and usable on it's own as a "complete" game (meaning all game rules required and a selection of critters and treasures)

Saturday, 24 September 2016

"Valiant Fantasy". LOTR OSR?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay so:

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

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

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

NO direct damage spells. Sorry guys.

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

XP requirements reduced to those of a fighter.

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

Remain mostly as is.

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

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

Monks and Assassins:
Gone. Sorry.


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

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

Monsters of level 6+ inflict 4 markers.

Level drain:
Level drain attacks do the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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