Yearly Archives: 2012

Short Blogging Hiatus

So, I have this important test on Jan 12th which I need to do at least decently on for grad school admittance. Thus, I’m probably going to drop off G+ and blogging for a while, but I’m not disappearing. Working on RPG stuff is just too tempting compared to studying this deadly boring high school math crap that you need to be able to do with lightning speed for this particular test.

I should be back posting again after January 12th.

Spellblade Class

Cropped image from Dark Classics

I was recently browsing the Pathfinder Ultimate Magic book. Inspired by the magus class, I decided to create a magic-user that primarily delivered spells through a weapon. The result is this class, which should be useable with OD&D, B/X, and various simulacra.

Spellblades use magic to enhance their attacks. In fact, they may only cast spells through their weapon during combat, which they use as a magical focus. Spells must be prepared beforehand, just as for a magic-user. This preparation involves complicated weapon forms that partake of arcane geometries.

Class details:

  • Attack as cleric
  • Hit dice as cleric
  • Armor competency: medium/chain
  • Weapons as fighter
  • Level advancement as fighter
  • Saving throws as fighter
  • Spell progression as elf or magic-user spells (to 5th spell level)
  • Missile attacks as zero level human
All “strike” spells may only be cast as part of an attack. Standard melee attack and casting are all part of one action for a spellblade. Single target strikes are not expended on a miss, but area-effect strikes are. If no save is specified, then effects occur on a hit. All “stance” spells last for the duration of one combat, and may be cast as part of any attack. Any area effects from stance spells are centered on the caster and move with her. No more than one stance may be active at a given time. In general, all spell durations last no longer than one exploration turn (for example, servitors raised by reanimating strike crumble to dust after combat). Spellblades must deliver their spells via melee weapons. There are legends of other traditions, such as spellarrows, but these are unsubstantiated. If true, spellarrows would certainly have a different set of spells.
First level spellblades begin with three spells, and gain one new spell per level. All such spells are determined randomly (re-roll duplicates). Spellblades cannot use scrolls or create magic items. As magics, rather than heroics, are the primary virtues of the spellblade, their weapons are not good candidates for enchantment. Additional spells may be learned only from other spellblades or found in ancient manuals during the course of adventure. Learning a new spell takes one week per spell level, and if taught rarely comes without cost (1000 GP per level of technique is a reasonable guideline).
The major limitation of the spellblade compared to the standard magic-user, other than the lack of utility spells, is the requirement to be in the thick of the battle, as spells are cast using melee attacks. Even ranged spells, such as lightning strike, require a proximate melee target. If such is not available, the spell energy will rebound to the spellblade, causing a backfire. Stances may be used outside of combat, but require the spellblade to go through an arcane weapon form to manifest the effect, which lasts no longer than 10 minutes.

Spells are as follows:

First level
  1. Burning fan strike (all within 15′ cone save or take 1d6 fire damage)
  2. Corrosive strike (+1d6 acid damage)
  3. Nod strike (target must save versus magic or fall into enchanted slumber)
  4. Arcane strike (+1d6 on attack roll, strike considered as a magic weapon)
  5. Abjuration stance (as protection from evil)
  6. Shielding stance (+4 AC, may terminate to absorb 1 offensive damage spell)
  7. Defensive stance (next 1d6+1 damage during current combat is cancelled)
  8. Obfuscating stance (raise an obscuring fog, 10′ radius per level)
Second level
  1. Paralytic strike (humanoid target paralyzed)
  2. Blinding strike (target is blinded for 10 minutes per level of spellblade)
  3. Vampiric strike (+1d6 damage vs. living, recover same HP, target weakened)
  4. Searing strike (+1d6 damage, set alight if flammable, save ends fire damage) 
  5. Ward stance (2d6 damage resistance versus specified element, roll per attack)
  6. Strengthening stance (+1 to melee damage from great strength)
  7. True seeing stance (see the true form of creatures, including those invisible)
  8. Mirror image stance (1d3 decoys, determine target of hits against caster randomly)
Third level
  1. Flaming strike (1d6 fire damage/level, max 10d6, 20′ radius, caster is epicenter)
  2. Lightning strike (1d6 lightning damage/level, max 10d6, 120′ straight line)
  3. Disenchanting strike (as dispel magic)
  4. Freezing strike (+1d6 cold damage per round, immobile encased in ice, save ends)
  5. Cloud stance (flight)
  6. Neptune stance (water breathing and free movement underwater)
  7. Whirlwind stance (normal missiles are flung away by swirling winds)
  8. Counter stance (save versus magic to counter any spell; this ends the stance)
Fourth level
  1. Terror strike (all within 15′ cone save or flee)
  2. Blizzard strike (1d6 cold damage/level, max 10d6, 30′ cone)
  3. Ethereal strike (+1d6 damage, avoids armor, hits insubstantial creatures)
  4. Wasting strike (1d6 damage first round, 2d6 second, 3d6 third, etc)
  5. Fire shield stance (attackers must save or take 1d6 fire damage)
  6. Greater abjuration stance (as protection from evil, 10′ radius)
  7. Repulsion stance (attacking caster in melee: save or be flung 1d6 * 10′ back)
  8. Morning stance (daylight 60′ radius, undead take 1d6 damage per round)
Fifth level
  1. Reanimating strike (if target dies, it will animate to serve caster, same HD zombie)
  2. Death strike (against the living, save or die)
  3. Dispelling strike (save versus magic or banish/destroy demon/undead)
  4. Mind-kill strike (save versus magic or consciousness destroyed)
  5. Anti-magic stance (magic does not function within 10′ of caster)
  6. Power of the heavens stance (as control weather)
  7. Reciprocal stance (attackers take similar damage when damaging the caster)
  8. Aspect of beyond stance (all within 30′ save or go insane)
Many spells were inspired by the d20 SRD spells by level reference. Some spell effects may need to be adjusted after play testing. Some effects should probably only work against humanoid enemies (use common sense; I wanted the spell descriptions to be concise).

Deferred Hit Points

One of the concepts that I have found resonating with me from the 2d6 fantasy game is the idea of the experience die. The experience die is kind of like a hit die, except that you spend it to cancel damage when you get hit rather than roll it at the beginning to see how many hit points you get. In my first conception, an experience die could also be used as a sort of wild card fate point that you could add to any other roll (though note that the outcome of this use is not certain in the way that the use of a fate point is). For now I would just like to consider the idea of deferring hit dice.

What if we were to bolt this concept onto D&D? How would that work? Characters would have no hit points, they would just have hit dice. Every time a character took damage, they would spend some hit dice to cancel out that damage, continuing to spend the dice until either all the damage was cancelled or all the hit dice were exhausted. All hit dice being exhausted is much like being reduced to zero or less HP. The character would be automatically knocked unconscious at that point, and would need to roll a save versus death to test for survival.

This does make hit dice slightly less valuable in a mathematical sense, as “extra” HP per die (compared to a given hit) is wasted. For example, if a character is hit for 2 damage, experience dice must be spent to avoid rolling a saving throw. Assume the character is first level (and thus has only one experience die). If the player rolls a 2 or higher, all the damage is cancelled. If, say, a 5 is rolled though, the die is still fully spent, and the next hit taken will automatically cause either unconsciousness or death (depending on the saving throw result). Perhaps allowing experience dice to not be consumed if a six is rolled would be an interesting variant.

What do you think? Hate it or love it? I confess that I am rather taken with the idea, as it allows characters to benefit from advancement while maintaining the tension of taking damage right up to the point of final resolution (a character with six hit dice could potentially roll six ones and be mortally threatened by 1d6 damage, if the damage die came up 6).

Edit: how would healing work? Maybe by restoring spent hit dice. So cure light wounds would restore one hit die.

Experiments in Dungeon Keying

A villa in the Vaults of Pahvelorn

Evan has a post up about the level of detail used for megadungeon keys. This is something I’ve been playing with a lot recently as well.

This map should probably look rather familiar to my players, as it is the first villa within the cavernous area beyond the upper eastern door. The state of these rooms has moved on, and I think they have found all of the architectural features, so it should be relatively spoiler-free.

The vertical layout is probably not clear from the map. Rooms 2 and 3 are “standard” underground chambers, whereas rooms 6 through 14 make up a villa which is part of a buried city in a cavern. The floor of rooms 2 and 3 are at about the same level (a bit higher) as the roof of the villa. Area 15 is an alley. The “W” in room 3 is an open window looking down over the subterranen boulevard (20′ drop).

This was the original key.

  1. Empty. Roof: connects to room 2 by a hole blocked by a shelf. Looking down into area 98.
  2. Entry chamber. Mosaics of prosperous farms. Statue in the center. Warrior in breastplate, arms outstretched. Hand missing. East and west doors are wizard locked. Restoring the appropriate hand unlocks the door. Lutratar has possession of the hands.
  3. Sitting room. Both doors wizard locked. See area 7. Pounding can be heard within. 2 beastlings have been imprisoned within as punishment for disobedience (they were badly created). He has left them here until he has a chance to correct them somehow. “Sustenance” runes keep them alive.
  4. Model of gardens on a table. Miniature rivers filled with mercury. Small figurines to scale.
  5. Courtyard. Dry fountain. Empty earthen vessels. 10 giant rats.
  6. Benches. The ruins of a large table.
  7. 5 grimlings. AC7, HD 1/2. Axe, mace, morning star, curved sword, dagger. Each has a well carved children’s toy, worth 1d6 GP.
  8. Was once a library of scrolls. Several scraps remain, along with racks along the wall. If the NE racks are examined a seam in the wall can be seen. The treasure room is beyond: on a table is a brass jar (600 SP) and unlocked steel box (40 GP).
  9. Both doors wizard locked. See area 7. Empty shelves.

Why did I put the info about the roof in the entry for room 6? Hell if I know.

I think I improvised a bit of minor loot to room 14, because I’m pretty sure the PCs found something in there but I don’t have anything on this key. Either that or there was a note somewhere else that I’m missing right now.

Both my mapping style and my keying style has changed significantly over the course of my experience running Pahvelorn, but I still thought it would be interesting to share this.

An XP System

Level image from Wikipedia

XP required by level:

  1. 0
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 4
  5. 8
  6. 16
  7. etc
What do you get XP for?

  • Recovering “a treasure”
  • Defeating “a monster”
  • Accomplishing “a deed”
All completed tasks award 1 XP to each surviving party member.
What defines a treasure, monster, or deed? Simple: rumors. For example, a treasure or monster of renown is so because of common regard or common fear, not because of some essence (this is how value works in the real world, too).

Before the game starts, a rumor table could be populated with one or two of each type. The types of goals that the players pursue should be an indicator for what they are interested in (weight future rumors in that direction). The rumor table itself could be as diegetic or extradiegetic as desired (it could literally be a list of quests, or it could be communicated more diegetically via NPC conversations).

Does this mean that PCs get no XP for something like stumbling upon a treasure that they have not heard about before? Not really. Since the referee is completely in control of placement, she should have a master list or a method of randomly determining whether something constitutes a treasure of worth. The master list may or may not be completely exposed to the players. So it is perhaps possible to find a treasure prior to its rumor (in this case, you can assume character knowledge: “this looks to be the fabled blah of whatever”). This is structurally no less impartial than the traditional GP and HD XP value scheme.

Some nice properties of this system:
  • Players decide what the game is about through action (super agency!)
  • No GP value calculations
  • Exponential requirements = slowing advancement + continued incentive
  • Ease of prep: rumors are tied to experience awards
  • Engagement with setting through rumors rather than the more meta XP
Possible issue: as “cannon fodder” enemies are not considered monsters, this system probably lends itself best to a game more focused on hazards with big threats and rewards punctuating the environment rather than many rooms with 1dN orcs (or whatever). This is how I like to play anyways, so I don’t consider it an issue, but I did wan’t to acknowledge it. Further, there is the danger that monsters considered “powerful” for low level characters will turn into the equivalent of cannon fodder later. One could either make peace with the idea of relative threat (not my favorite approach) or attempt to maintain a more limited power curve (which is my preferred solution).

How does this work with retainers? The player must divide XP between PCs and retainers, and retainers must always remain lower level than PCs. Thus, a player with a second level PC and a first level retainer must advance the PC to level three before the retainer may be advanced to level two. This maintains the “XP sponge” drawback of retainers while still providing the benefits of using retainers and not compromising the elegance of the unitary reward.

See this post on the LOZAS levelling system for part of the inspiration behind “the monster” as unit of measurement (though here the advancement is nonlinear).

Tales of the Scarecrow

Image from LotFP Blog

The most recent mini-release (8 pages long) from Lamentations of the Flame Princess is Tales of the Scarecrow. It is not really a module, even in the old site-based module sense. Instead, it is a collection of several loosely connected game elements which can be used as a small scenario (perhaps a random encounter) or as a grab bag of game elements. It consists of:

  • A monster/hazard
  • A location associated with the monster
  • Some NPCs for the location
  • 3 magic items
In this way, it is similar to The Magnificent Joop van Ooms. Discussion and some potential spoilers follow the period tower. Overall, my verdict is that some of the specifics could have been stronger from a game design perspective, but the atmosphere was good and I got some ideas from it.

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The ambiance of the location is wonderful: a perfect circle of surprisingly verdant corn no matter the season, with a mysterious farmhouse in the center. The whole thing is, as you might suspect, a trap. It is a rather difficult trap to escape once caught, but not impossible. The creature that underlies the whole thing is suitably creepy and creative; I particularly like the side view diagram. The NPCs (2 of which are already dead and 1 of which is dying) are not particularly interesting; they are adventurers that have been previously trapped, and function more as a way to explain the presence of treasure (and treasure is certainly necessary to justify the danger of the scenario).

As a referee, I greatly enjoy the interplay between clues and traps, and would have liked to see more clues included in the scenario part of the module. As is, it is not bad, but it does require somewhat arbitrary experimentation to figure out the trick to escape (of course, players may be able to devise their own solution as well). If I ran this, I would slightly modify Richard Fox so that he fits into the solution to the hazard. Without such a modification, I think this scenario might be a bit too difficult for low level characters and a bit to easy for high level characters (flight, for example, would totally defeat the trap).

What about the 3 magic items? The sword is cool in conception, but I don’t care for the mechanics because they require the referee to potentially keep track certain results between sessions (too much bookkeeping). The dynamics of the thing are interesting though; it has a fixed chance of harming anything that is rather higher than would normally be the case, but it has an even greater chance of not actually attacking the right target.

In addition to the sword, there are two magic books. The first one is a grimoire (“Malleus Deus”) that contains magic-user versions of cleric spells in addition to the ability to rob clerics of the ability to cast the cleric versions of those same spells. I dig the diabolist description. Some replacement names for the cleric spells from LotFP would have been appreciated though so that players wouldn’t know that they were about to cast a re-skinned version of cure light wounds (or whatever) without some thought though.

The second book is weirder, in a game mechanics sense. It is a bit of collaborative storytelling masquerading as a magic item. Basically, players are incentivized with XP to come up with the weirdest and most dangerous explanation for the titular scarecrow, and then that is the way it is. This seems to contradict the previous explanation of the scarecrow earlier in the scenario, so I can only assume that the book is magical and characters are somehow using it to change reality, but this is not spelled out. Really, this is just an extradiegetic excuse to engage in some storygaming. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I know it won’t be to many people’s tastes. I like the random XP bonus chart though, and that might be fun to use (say, after every adventure) as a sort of “survival bonus” totally independent of this particular scarecrow book. Too many games don’t last into the mid or high levels, but just jacking up XP rewards is also unsatisfying.

(I got a PDF copy of this because I supported the crowd-funding campaign for the hardcover LotFP Rules & Magic book. I’m not sure when it will be available for general purchase.)

2d6 Vancian Variant

That 2d6 fantasy game began as a variant spell casting system for plain old D&D. As much as I like that complete system, I still think a 2d6 variant for the standard magic-user would be useful. Jeff has already done the heavy lifting, but here is some further discussion and systematization.

The traditional game differentiates between magic-user class level and spell level (to the consternation of many a beginning player). For example, magic-users can’t cast second level spells until they are third level. The highest level spell is almost generalizable to magic-user class level divided by two and rounded up (but not quite, because sixth level spells can’t be prepared until twelfth level). For the purposes of this post though, we can rationalize this to make up a new stat “magic bonus” which is magic-user class level / 2, rounded up. Call it M.

The rules:

  • Magic-users can prepare up to M spells (doesn’t matter the spell level)
  • Casting a spell of level L in armor A: 2d6 +M -L -A
  • Spell is lost (must be re-prepared in controlled circumstances) on 5-
  • Spell is retained after being cast on 6+

For adjudicating the various levels of success, consider the following guidelines. For catastrophe (2 or less), some effect should occur that is approximately as negative to the caster (or positive to the caster’s enemies) as would have occurred had the spell gone off as expected. A backfire (doing full damage to the caster) or the summoning of a hostile creature rather than an ally are classic examples. Miscasts (3-5) should lead to some minor inconvenience that is thematically consistent while achieving none of the intended goal. Delayed success (6-8) may also be interpreted as immediate but reduced. Immediate success (9-11) is casting as normal, with no adjustments. And finally, puissant success (12 or higher) could have extra duration or maximum damage. I don’t think tables of exact results are needed for impartiality; a player should know the level of danger by inverting the potential benefit.

The following is a table showing the chance of 6+ (delayed success or higher), by magic bonus (which is a proxy for class level) and spell level (which is a proxy for magic difficulty). The first column (with the plusses) is the bonus, the first row (with the minuses) is attempted spell level. Thus, for example, a character with a +4 magic bonus (magic-users of level 7 or higher), has a 58% chance (6+ on 2d6, +4 from the magic bonus and -5 from the spell level) to be able to cast a fifth level spell with partial success (full success, consulting the magic table above, requires a 9+). All percentages are rounded, and taken from anydice.com (click on the “at least” button).

Chance of 6+ (required for partial success)
Magic Bonus -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6
+1
72
58
42
28
17
8
+2
83
72
58
42
28
17
+3
92
83
72
58
42
28
+4
97
92
83
72
58
42
+5
100
97
92
83
72
58
+6
100
100
97
92
83
72


This system has the following benefits, in my opinion. No stupidly large number of spell slots to fill for higher level magic-users. Vance’s spell casters were not able to cram more than a few spells into their consciousnesses. Also, it allows lower level magic-users to cast higher level spells with a decreased chance of success even more elegantly than some previous Vancian variants I’ve experimented with. The magic bonus M along with the fivefold casting result chart replaces the original spell slot chart. The armor penalty to casting obviates the need for armor restriction in a finer grained way that other “arcane failure” systems I have seen (light armor makes a character function as if she were 2 levels lower, medium armor 4 levels lower, and heavy armor 6 levels lower).

Those who have been paying attention may notice some similarities with the DCC RPG wizard system. That also uses a relatively smaller number of spells, though more than I have here (up to 16 at level 10). It uses a d20 roll to cast, with caster level as bonus, and a difficulty class of 10 + (2 * spell level). This is nice, but I prefer 2d6 because it makes (for example) the difference in difficulty between a second and third level spell greater than the difference between a first and second level spell. Also, the crit and fumble chances with 2d6 are 1 in 36 (about 3%, assuming balanced modifiers), and they scale up nonlinearly with difficulty.

A minor point: that multiplier of 2 in the casting difficulty class formula for DCC RPG is an indicator of a system kluge. The two parts of the system (class level and spell level) don’t really fit together. The same thing is true of my 2d6 formulation as well, but at least you only see it once per level up (when you potentially recalculate the magic bonus), rather than on every casting check. Further, as casting spells is really all the magic-user gets better at, there’s no real reason not to just change the experience progression so that level 6 is equivalent to the old level 11 or 12. Thus, one might have an experience progression of 0, 5k, 20k, 50k, 100k, 300k. Then magic bonus, class level, and spell level are all on the same scale.

If you’re playing B/X (or a system with comparable intelligence modifiers) feel free to add the intelligence bonus to the magic bonus for purposes of the number of spells that can be prepared (but probably not to the actual casting check, as that would be very powerful). If you want magic to be a bit harder, have the magic bonus increase in steps of 3 levels rather than 2 (that is, level / 3 round up). For extra fortifying play, consider letting starting magic users randomly determine the level of starting spells in addition to the spells themselves (probably good to let them start with at least a few first level spells though). Or might I suggest a grimoire system?

Here are a few more charts of probabilities, to illustrate the dynamics of the system.

Chance of 9+ (required for standard success)
Magic Bonus -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6
+1
28
17
8
3
0
0
+2
42
28
17
8
3
0
+3
58
42
28
17
8
3
+4
72
58
42
28
17
8
+5
83
72
58
42
28
17
+6
92
83
72
58
42
28


Chance of 2- (catastrophe)
Magic Bonus -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6
+1
3
8
17
28
42
58
+2
0
3
8
17
28
42
+3
0
0
3
8
17
28
+4
0
0
0
3
8
17
+5
0
0
0
0
3
8
+6
0
0
0
0
0
3

Were Creatures

Following is my contribution to Santicore 2012.

THE SANTICORE REQUEST:

A really playable write-up for a Were-man race that includes stats, rules on how and under what circumstances a player shifts to and from were-form with subsequent table if the Santicore deems it appropriate.


Image from here

There are those that walk among us, cursed by the moon. Some are demons incarnate, some consider their curse a gift, and some are worshipped as fickle gods. These were-creatures are infused with the savage essence of an animal (or perhaps that essence is there in all people, and is only awakened by the curse). Weres will always be a manifestation of the most feared local animal, whether this is a wolf, bear, tiger, crocodile, or something else. Sometimes they will be hunted like monsters.

The essence of a were-creature is savage power chained to loss of control. As weres grow more experienced their bestial strength becomes more powerful and they gain more control over when and how the beast will manifest.

In addition to class level, a were character should maintain a separate “were level” stat. For characters born with the curse, “were level” is identical to class level, though it tops out at six. Were level represents the degree of control over the beast inside, and also the power of the lunar curse. Characters that are cursed later in their career begin at were level 1 and gain a were level whenever they gain a class level. For example, if a character is cursed at level 3, that character will be were level 4 when they are class level 6. For the rest of this document, W should be read as were level. Tables of potential backgrounds and animal abilities are included below for inspirational purposes.

TABLE I: WERE-CREATURE BACKGROUND

  1. Punishment for engaging in the sin of wrath
  2. Drank from a pool reflecting moonlight polluted with the blood of three innocents
  3. Sired by a parent that committed a great savagery
  4. Possessed by an animal spirit
  5. Created as a servitor to a now dead sorcerer
  6. God of a savage tribe that was wiped out by something
  7. Beast of the dark wood, awakened by love now lost
  8. Birthed by the nightmare of a mad psychoactive child
  9. Once a beast hunter, but was defeated by a demon and woke up cursed
  10. Magical mishap: an apprentice magic-user tried to create a potion of bestial strength but the procedure backfired

TABLE II: WERE-ANIMALS

  1. crocodile (+1 extra AC, viselike bite)
  2. wolf (+1 to checks that benefit from smell)
  3. bear (strength)
  4. owl (flying, +1 to operating in darkness by low-light vision)
  5. leopard (powerful leaps)
  6. spider (save or take d6 extra poison damage)
  7. hawk (flying, +1 to checks that benefit from sight)
  8. lion (fearsome roar forces morale check)
  9. bat (flying, +1 to operating in darkness by echolocation)
  10. cheetah (+1 speed category)

Image from Wikipedia

Flying creature weres gain the ability to glide short distances at were-level 3 and fly awkwardly (half the speed of an unencumbered man) at were-level 6. If your totem animal is not on the above list, invent a special ability that makes sense.

Weres have the following abilities and drawbacks:

  1. Savage transformation
  2. The call of the moon
  3. Preternatural defenses
  4. Claws and teeth
  5. Fighting for survival
  6. Pure animality
  7. Bestial empathy
  8. Loss of control

Savage transformation. Weres may attempt to shift into beast form at will. This has a W in 6 chance of success (so a character of were level 2 has a 2 in 6 chance of successfully transforming). The beast form is a hybrid creature, which ranges from almost completely human at W = 1 to almost completely bestial at W = 6. When in beast form, the character may not retreat from combat. Once finished, the were may not transform again until the next moon rise. Clothing and equipment do not transform along with the were. Clothing or armor has a W in 6 chance of being destroyed by the transformation unless it is very loose. This does no damage to the were character, however.

The call of the moon. Every night with a full moon, the character will turn into beast form. If desired, this transformation can be resisted, with a W in 6 chace. They will hunt prey overnight in whatever way is most direct; this may include hunting innocent people (though not companions). Roll on TABLE III: COMPLICATIONS below for the outcome.

Preternatural defenses. When in beast form, the were gains an AC bonus equal to W and damage reduction against mundane weapons equal to W. Silver weapons bypass this defense (and do damage as normal).

Claws and teeth. In beast form, the were grows claws, fangs, or other natural weapons. A successful attack does d6 + W damage. On either a damage roll of 6 or a natural 20 attack roll, the attack is especially brutal and messy. Use critical hits as appropriate to your campaign, or if more abstraction is preferred, inflict a -2 penalty ongoing to all victim rolls until the victim recovers.

Fighting for survival. The beast does not give in easily. If reduced to 0 HP in human form, roll d6. On a roll of W or less, the character will automatically shift to beast form and gain W temporary HP.

Pure animality. At were level 6, the beast form may be a perfect simulacrum of the natural animal if desired, though it will be larger.

Bestial empathy. Reaction rolls with animals of the were type gain a bonus of +W. Reaction rolls with animals that are natural prey of the were type have a penalty of -W. This modifier applies in human form as well. For example, sheep will always likely be skittish around a were-wolf.

Loss of control. Any mind effect (charm, fear, etc) forces an immediate involuntary transformation. This may be resisted with a W in 6 chance.

For 6 in 6 chances, roll two dice. If both dice come up 6, the check is a failure.

TABLE III: COMPLICATIONS

  1. Killed a person of importance, and there were witnesses
  2. Killed a person of importance, no witnesses
  3. 1d6 * 50 GP worth of livestock slain and/or devoured, with witnesses
  4. 1d6 * 50 GP worth of livestock slain and/or devoured, no witnesses
  5. Injured somehow, covered in blood, 1/2 move rate for following adventure
  6. Imprisoned by mundane authorities, the victim lived
  7. Trapped by a wizard, released under a geas
  8. Transformation witnessed by a powerful or influential NPC
  9. Transformation witnessed by an NPC of average import
  10. Killed someone and is now haunted by the shade of the victim

Desiderata

Cropped image by Gus L. from here

I’ve recently been playing a fighter in an ASE game. He’s kind of a demobilized army ranger type crossed with a roman legionnaire. The game is great, run by Gus L. over at Dungeon of Signs. One thing very notable about the ASE setting is its “almost anything goes” approach to equipment, consistent with the general gonzo mood.

For example, pages 33 to 38 in ASE1 consist of a “Post-Apocalyptic Equipment” section which contains gems like:

  • Lighter; 25 GP
  • Gas mask; 1500 GP
  • Large pistol; 750 GP; 1d6 damage; +1 to hit within 15′
  • Shotgun, sawed off, 2 barrel; 4000 GP; 1d8/1d12 ; +3 to hit within 5′
  • Grenade; 400 GP; 1d8 damage within 10′, 1d4 damage within 20′
  • Laser rifle; 9000 GP; 1d8+2 light damage; +1 to hit within 300′
  • Manifold long sword; 6000 GP; 1d8+2 damage; +2 to hit
These are, in game terms, basically re-skinned magic weapons. For example, the manifold long sword is really just a sword +2. I’ve always disliked the magic item shop approach of many later editions, but I love the ASE price lists, and I’m trying to figure out why.

Playing a fighter, I like the fact that I can look over these gear lists and see something to work towards. By the time I have managed to accumulate the 6000 GP for a manifold long sword, my character will probably be 4th or 5th level (assuming he lives that long). Being mostly technological, they don’t really impinge on the strangeness or wonder of enchanted items. This seems to be yet one more way that post apocalyptic settings work well with the nature of D&D. Adding a bit of technology means that magic items don’t have to fill the role of technology within the setting, while still giving non-magical characters something to look forward to.

Shield Saves

Image from Wikipedia

I would like to experiment with an “active defense” option for shield use. Here is the proposal.

Shields provide the following benefits.

  • +1 AC
  • 1 shield parry per round
  • +4 to saves versus appropriate area effects
All of the benefits only apply when a shield user has freedom of movement during combat (so not against traps).
At the beginning of a combat round, characters must decide which enemy they will primarily direct their shield against. The shield parry is a reaction, and may be used against a successful hit by that enemy. Fighters use their most favorable saving throw, other classes use their least favorable saving throw. Note also the ability of axes to destroy shields.
Use of a shield save requires a full action for characters without armor skill (e.g., zero level humans and magic-users). In other words, a “full defense” type of action will allow the use of a shield saving throw even for a non-combatant class character.
Appropriate area attacks would include dragon breath and fireballs, but not, for example, cloudkill.
Hopefully, this will not prove cumbersome (an attack in addition to a save versus poison does not seem cumbersome, so I don’t see how this will be much different, though I suppose getting hit happens more frequently than getting hit and poisoned). In any case, figuring things like this out is what testing is for.

I think this rule would also work with my recent 2d6 fantasy game, without the +1 AC bonus (since the numeric armor scale is less extensive), and with only +1 to saving throws versus area effects.