Monthly Archives: November 2012

Magic, Evil, and Chaos

Image derived from Wikipedia

I greatly favor the treatment of magic, chaos, and evil as all being different words for the same thing. Thus, protection from evil works on demons, elves, undead, and… sufficiently high level magic-users. Magic-users should become more inherently chaotic as they gain levels, until a sufficiently high level magic-user is essentially an alien being (despite having human form).

Previously, I came up with magical affinity, which is good but insufficiently compatible with the traditional game (and maybe too complicated anyways). So here is another way to do it. The chance that a magic-user is chaotic for the purposes of a given situation is N in 6, where N is the magic-users spell competency (that is, the highest level of spells that the magic-user can prepare). I like this because the chance goes from minimal for low-level magic-users to certain for high level magic-users. Level / 2 round up would also work (or level / 2 round down, if you don’t want first level magic-users to have any chance of registering on the chaos meter).
This is better than an inverse saving throw versus magic (success = treat as chaotic), which is something I also considered, because it never gets to 100%. Further, an inverse saving throw is not straightforward to explain.

This is also the chance that a given magic-user will turn as a demon (of hit dice equivalent to the magic-user’s level) for clerics that have the power to turn demons.

2d6 Fantasy Game

All task resolution uses this table, mutatis mutandis as appropriate:

Magic
2d6 Result
2 Catastrophe
3-5 Miscast
6-8 Delayed success
9-11 Immediate success
12 Puissant success
The rules are:
    • Intelligence and wisdom replaced by “magic” stat
    • 3d6 in order: str, dex, con, mag, cha
    • B/X stat mods (-3 to +3)
    • Melee attack = 2d6 + str mod – enemy armor
    • Ranged attack = 2d6 + dex mod – enemy armor
    • Armor = light (1), medium (2), heavy (3)
    • Magic check = 2d6 + mag mod – spell level – armor
    • Max number of prepared spells = mag mod
    • Sneak = 2d6 + dex mod – situational penalty (0 to 3) – armor
    • Experience dice (exp) = level
    • Experience dice can be added to any roll
    • Experience dice can also be used to soak damage
    • Taking damage = 2d6 + con mod – damage (roll on damage table)
    • Experience dice can only be used once each per session
    • Weapon damage is 1d6
    • Carry strength number of items before accumulating penalties to all rolls
    • Armor encumbers by value (e.g., heavy = 3)
    • All other reasonable items just count as one item
    • Monster hit dice = experience dice, or just run with HP as normal
    • Monster attack bonus = HD / 2 (or make up str, dex, con mods)
    • Saving throws are 2d6 + ability mod checks
    • Starting gear = basic clothing + 1d6 items
    • Spells are an item for starting purposes
    Anyone can fight, cast spells, sneak, whatever, based on their ability scores. No mag mod? No spells. Tough luck. Maybe you can find a way to raise your magic score during play.

    There are no hit points, but the default single experience die that a character gets at first level functions much like a hit die, though you can also use it to bolster an attack roll or do extra damage if you are feeling lucky.

    • Combat: 2 fumble, 3-5 miss, 6-8 glancing blow, 9-11 hit, 12 critical
    • Damage: 2 eviscerated, 3-5 slain, 6-8 dying, 9-11 unconscious, 12 stunned
    • Glancing blows do no damage, but grant some minor advantage
    • Dying: roll another “damage” con save per round; 6+ is still dying
    • Dying characters lose one random ability score point if they survive
    • Stunned characters recover after one combat turn

    Experience required by level:

    1. 0
    2. 1000
    3. 2000
    4. 4000
    5. 8000
    6. 16000
    7. etc
    Optional advancement rule: +1 to the ability score of your choice upon gaining a level.
    I think I just reinvented either Apocalypse World or Chainmail, but I can’t tell which.

    The mechanics of the save versus death might need some tweaks, but I’m pretty happy with everything else.

    Edit: “hit” table renamed to “damage” (suggestion from Jack).
    Edit: armor penalizes sneaking and magic (also from Jack).
    Edit: taking damage roll is penalized by the amount of damage taken (Jack).

    Also, Jack put his own spin on the system by shifting a few things around, adding a light career system, and including a list of spells derived from the Sorcery! books. If you like this, you should check that out that too.

    Hero Weapons

    Image from Dark Classics

    The weapons most receptive to enchantments are those wielded by great fighters. Unlike some weapons of power, hero weapons are often plain to the eye, deriving their power from the experiences and events surrounding their use. Hero weapons are most commonly swords, but may also be other types of weapon.

    Advancing a hero weapon works like magical research. Attaining level 1 is as researching a first level spell, attaining level 2 is as researching a second level spell, etc. Sometimes expenses required involve reforging parts of the weapon and sometimes they are used entirely for the components required in the enchantment process. Upon gaining a level, the weapon gains a rank in an attribute (see list below).

    Attributes may be rolled for or chosen. If chosen, they should have some connection to the character’s exploits. For example, if the sword was used to slay a medusa, petrifying might be appropriate. When advancing the weapon past first level, the same attribute may always be taken (this is encouraged, for thematic consistency). However, that said, effects may be mixed and matched, within reason (according to good taste and referee ruling). No more than one elemental effect may be chosen per weapon.

    In most cases, a magic user with ability to cast spells of level greater than the sword must assist with the enchantment process (though occasionally simply defeating a powerful magical enemy may be enough to embue a weapon with power). The weapon level may not be higher than the fighter’s attack rank (or level / 2 if not using attack ranks). Max weapon level is 6, as with spells.

    The powers of enchanted weapons only manifest to those with attack rank greater than or equal to the sword level. Sometimes, a weapon of power will even curse an unworthy character that dares to attempt to use it.

    A bond develops between the sword and its wielder as its power increases. This doesn’t mean that no other character can use it (assuming the user has sufficient attack rank to be worthy of the weapon), but it does mean that the hero will always be able to find the sword if lost, though exactly what is required to do so varies based on the sword and situation. Perhaps the warrior will see a vision of a lost weapon in a dream.

    No matter the attributes, hero weapons are considered magical for purposes of hitting monsters with immunities. The level of the weapon can be used in place of the plus value required to hit (so a level 2 weapon can hit monsters that might otherwise only be vulnerable to enchanted weapons of +2 or greater).

    Ranged hero weapons impart their attributes to ammunition fired (when appropriate, or re-roll).

    Attributes

    1. Telekinetic. Weapon need not be held to be used, and may be used at reach (10′ per level of telekinetic attribute). Can also be used to trigger things at a distance, much like a 10′ pole. Weapon may be called to hand telekinetically at any distance (assuming there are no physical barriers). If thrown, the weapon returns automatically.
    2. Summoning. No matter where the weapon is, it can be caused to appear out of thin air. This process takes one turn and require concentration or some special process (decide on details).
    3. Protean. Weapon may change form as desired by master (only to other melee weapon types).
    4. Fire. Weapon will become wreathed in flame at the will of the wielder. +1 damage per level of fire attribute and all damage inflicted is considered fire-typed. Can be used to ignite flammable materials. Illuminates as a candle when ignited (magical fire is paler than torch-fire) — 5′ radius.
    5. Lightning. Weapon will crackle with electricity at the will of the wielder. +1 damage per level of lightning attribute, and all damage inflicted is considered to be electricity-typed. Serves as lightning rod (save to absorb damage from lightning attacks; this may be used a number of times per combat turn per level of lightning attribute).
    6. Frost. Manifests freezing aura at will. +1 damage per level of frost attribute, and all damage inflicted is considered cold-typed. Plunging weapon into water will freeze solid one approximately 10′ x 10′ area per level of frost attribute per turn of water to 1′ depth.
    7. Spell-thief. Weapon will steal prepared spells (up to spell level of spell-thief attribute, determine which spell randomly) from a spell-casting enemy on a successful hit. Stolen spells may be stored in the blade and cast by the wielder when desired. A number of spells equal to spell-thief attribute level may be stored. Magic-users that lose a prepared spell to a spell-thief weapon must save versus magic or go insane.
    8. Necromantic. Any living enemy of hit dice not greater than the necromantic attribute level slain by the weapon rises from death to serve the wielder. This process takes one turn. A number of creatures equal to the attribute level may be controlled (but note that further creatures slain will continue to rise, and will likely be hostile).
    9. Poisonous. A hit against a creature of hit dice not greater than the poisonous attribute level must save versus poison or die in agony. Creatures with hit dice greater than the attribute level must save versus poison or take an extra die of poison damage.
    10. Doom. Living creatures hit are cursed. Every following combat turn the curse does damage equal to the level of the doom attribute. The curse may be lifted with remove curse.
    11. Spirit-blade. Weapon exists simultaneously in another dimension and may attack the soul of enemies directly. The victim may save versus magic to resist the damage (no attack roll is required assuming that enemy is within melee range). Characters with less attack ranks that the overall weapon level cannot even grasp it physically (hands just pass through it). Soul damage is one die +1 point per level of the spirit-blade attribute.
    12. Energy. Weapon may attack at range using a ray of energy. No attack roll; enemy gets a save versus death ray to avoid (at penalty equal to level of energy attribute). On an odd damage die roll, the energy is temporarily exhausted (but will recharge after a turn while not in use). The ranged energy attack does not propagate effects from other attributes. The energy blast does one die of damage +1 point per level of energy attribute.
    13. Bane. Weapon does an extra die of damage per level of bane attribute against a certain kind of foe. Wielder can never be surprised by this type of enemy (decide how warning is manifested — perhaps a glow, or an audible whisper).
    14. Warding. An effect similar to protection form evil may be called forth. The warding is cancelled if the wielder attacks. The aura may be extended to effect a number of nearby companions equal to the level of the warding attribute.
    15. Alacrity. Wielder may always attack prior to initiative rolls (but can still be surprised). The weapon is so quick that it may be used to cut mundane missiles out of the air (save versus wands). The anti-missile ability may be used a number of times equal to the alacrity attribute level per combat turn in addition to the standard attack.
    16. Anti-magic. As a reaction, wielder may save versus spell once per combat turn to counter a spell (of level no higher than anti-magic attribute level).
    17. Paralytic. Those of hit dice not more than the paralytic attribute level hit must save versus paralysis or be paralyzed. If they make the save, they act last for the rest of the combat rather than following the initiative die. Just touching the blade to the skin of an enemy is enough to trigger the paralysis, and no save is allowed as long as contact is maintained. Enemies of higher hit dice must save or be slowed as described above.
    18. Petrifying. Creatures with hit dice less than or equal to the petrifying attribute level must save versus paralysis when struck by the weapon or be permanently turned to stone.
    19. Vampiric. Wielder gains one HP for every die of damage successfully dealt against living enemies of HD less than or equal to the level of the vampiric attribute. Wielder may be corrupted by long use.
    20. Terrifying. Living enemies with HD less than or equal to the terrifying attribute level must immediately make a morale check when presented with the bare weapon. Further, such enemies must save versus terror if struck or flee.
    21. Fortifying. Re-roll any HD that comes up less than or equal to the level of the fortifying trait (this probably only makes sense in my game where hit dice are re-rolled per session — maybe +1 HP per level of fortifying per hit die in other games).
    22. Whirlwind. Attacks may affect one opponent per level of whirlwind attribute as long as all opponents are adjacent to the wielder. This ability is not multiple attacks; only one attack and damage roll are required, they just potentially affect more than one enemy.
    23. Inspiring. In martial situations (e.g., recruiting retainers, intimidation, combat), +1 to reaction rolls, retainer morale checks, and charisma checks per level of inspiring attribute.
    24. Multiplicity. For each level of the multiplicity attribute, there is a copy of the magic weapon (but as one level lower). These lesser copies may be used by the fighter’s retainers or servants and are inert to all others (including other PCs, who have autonomy with regard to the fighter).
    For example, a level 4 sword might be terrifying-2 and fire-2, meaning that it does +2 fire damage when ignited and also causes enemies of 2 HD or less to make morale checks immediately and save versus terror when struck. Such a sword functions as +4 for purposes of hitting monsters that can only be damaged by magic weapons.

    Carousing and Friends

    Image from Wikipedia

    It has recently occurred to me that I have been running carousing incorrectly. In my game, XP has so far only been awarded from spending GP on a 1 to 1 basis, so if you spend 100 GP on carousing you get 100 XP (and maybe some adventure hooks and/or complications). So far so good. The problem comes when you can spend money on other things that have an independent benefit. Suddenly the upside to carousing doesn’t look so good in comparison to the other options (and this has been borne out by observed player choices).

    In a discussion on Google Plus, it seems that most people run carousing so that you get initial XP for recovering treasure and then more XP from spending it on carousing (which is obvious, now that I think about it). In other words, carousing is an XP multiplier, at the cost of potential complications. Thus the structure of carousing is actually more like 1 GP = 2 XP. So from now on that is what I will do.

    In addition to carousing, there are several other activities for spending GP and reaping XP that are structurally similar (get a bigger payoff, but also risk complications if a saving throw is failed). The options are:

    Each of these activities has some potential minor payoff if the saving throw is passed. Successfully rendering judgment might improve the reputation of a cleric and make it more likely that NPCs will seek assistance from the cleric in the future. There might be a positive reaction bonus from the NPCs that participate in carousing. Magic-users might be able to identify some aspects of a mysterious enchanted item. Fencing hot property or finding someone to buy controlled substances from (like poison) might be the outcome of successful streetwise. None of these side effects are guaranteed though. The major benefit of carousing and friends is as an XP multiplier: 1 GP = 2 XP.

    In the most recent version of carousing on Jeff’s blog, the saving throw required to carouse without incident is poison. That makes sense, as one is trying to resist the effects of partying hard. A save versus spells might work for magic-user experimentation, but there is no appropriate save for either judgment or streetwise. These are both social activities, so a charisma check might be logical, but structurally the check should be about experience (and thus level), not inherent talent. Given that poison is generally the most favorable saving throw, the solution I have come up with is to have any of these multiplier activities require an abstract saving throw. The player may just use the most favorable save available (this preserves the numbers for carousing while extending the same chances to the other three multiplier activities).

    Thus, in all four cases, the procedure is as follows. Roll 1d6 and multiply by 100 GP for the cost. Then, take twice that in XP. Make a saving throw (use most favorable). Upon failure, roll on the appropriate complications chart. No more than one such activity may be attempted per week of downtime, though other activities (such as working on a scroll or training retainers) may be pursued during the same week.

    Optional rule: characters may attempt an off-class activity, but it does not function as a multiplier (that is, the activity results in 1 XP for 1 GP). I’m really not sure about this, to be honest, but I kind of like the idea that a fighter can steal a peek at a grimoire and attempt to puzzle through some of the spells at great risk. It could even have some interesting game consequences (we have to identify this magic item, but there are no magic-users or sages available). I’m not sure that any player would ever take up this option, though. Also, I think other classes should be able to carouse, but I don’t like the idea of always sharing the fighter’s toys. So freedom for anyone to do anything but with lesser payoff seems like a decent option.

    I need to write up complications tables for judgment and streetwise. Success tables for all four might be fun too.

    Retainer Advancement

    Varlet or Squire carrying a Halberd from Wikipedia

    To date, I have used the traditional “retainers get half a share of XP” rules. These work relatively well in providing a cost to taking retainers along. However, they were designed originally for games where XP is awarded (presumably at the end of each excursion) for killing monsters and recovering treasure. That’s not the way I do it though, as I award XP when GP is spent.

    This can theoretically lead to some odd situations. For example, what if you take retainer A along on delve 1 (during which 236 GP treasure is recovered), retainer B along on delve 2 (during which 781 GP treasure is recovered), and then spend 500 GP on brewing a potion? How is XP divided between the PC and two retainers? Even if the math is clear (which it is not), it would still be tedious. I admit that this problem has not actually arisen, but the inelegance of the rule bothers me nonetheless. As does the strangely arbitrary “zero level characters get a class after 100 XP” Moldvay rule — which seems to apply to NPCs, but not PCs (since first level PCs begin with 0 XP).

    I would like to reframe advancing retainers as a clear expense so that the only question a player needs to ask after a session is: how to I spend my treasure? In addition to that simplification, my goals are as follows:

    1. Encourage the use of at least one retainer (for promotion upon potential PC death)
    2. Support cross-class retainers (e.g., magic-users with fighter warders)
    3. Fighters should gain some benefits to support the martial leader archetype

    The rule is very simple:

    For every 2 GP spent in training, a retainer gains one XP. The PC in question also gains 2 XP, following standard treasure for XP rules. More than one retainer may be trained, though GP must still be spent for each independently. For example, training 2 retainers at once requires 4 GP to grant both retainers 1 XP. Fighter retainers trained by a fighter PC gain a +2 morale bonus during combat situations as long as the fighter PC is conscious, alive, and present.
    The money so spent goes towards training facilities, archery ranges, laboratory equipment, paying local experts for advice and instruction, wooden swords, locks to disassemble, repairs, and so forth. Assuming that PCs own some sort of shelter, this paraphernalia will accumulate (lending the appearance of a training yard, dojo, laboratory, or shrine to the area in question).
    I thought about requiring 4 GP per retainer XP gained for retainers of class different than the PC’s class, but I decided against it provisionally because 1) I don’t want players to become locked into playing only one class and 2) even though it “makes sense” that a character can train others of their own class more effectively, I think the same-class bonus is probably better represented by things like apprentice assistance (for magic-users) and morale bonuses (for fighters). Also, I like that the retainer advancement rules are not very long, and unambiguous.

    I worried briefly that these new rules would not discourage taking along lots of zero level retainers, as they would not consume any XP unless trained. The traditional XP tax does not actually discourage taking along zero level retainers if they die, as XP is only divided between survivors. So even in the old rules, there must be some other reason to not use too many retainers. That cost is increased recruitment costs because of bad reputation, up to not being able to recruit new retainers at all. Also, there is the retainer limit based on charisma, which I may end up adjusting downward to discourage retainer armies (just because they are cumbersome to run during play).

    For reference, the Moldvay Basic rules are (page B22):

    DIVIDING XP Treasure is divided by the party, but the DM handles all the XP awards. At the end of an adventure, the DM totals the XP from all treasures recovered plus all monsters defeated and then divides the total by the number of surviving characters (both player characters and NPCs) in the party. EXAMPLE A party of 7 (5 player characters and 2 NPCs) goes on an adventure but only 6 come back alive. They killed monsters for a total of 800 XP and also collected 5800 gp in treasure, for a total of 6600 XP Each character receives 1100 XP at the end of the adventure (The DM may give each NPC 1/2 normal experience — 550 XP in this case — since the NPCs were “directed” and thus benefit less from the adventure).

    This modification to the retainer XP progression rules was first proposed on Google Plus.

    War Dog Class

    Mabari War Hound in Dragon Age: Origins (personal photo)

    War dogs are included in my list of starting retainers. By default, they function as normal humans (1 HD, 1d6 damage) that are cheaper to maintain, don’t consume XP, and have slightly different morale dynamics. However, I think (and my players agree) that it would be fun to have loyal war dogs advance in power just like retainers, to support their usefulness beyond the first few levels.

    • XP progression as fighter
    • Hit dice as thief
    • Attack ranks as cleric
    • Save as fighter
    • Natural AC as light armor (leather, AC 7)
    • Fearless regarding mundane creatures of large size or less
    • Subject to morale checks for supernatural or sorcerous creatures
    • Canine senses (as per hear noise for thief of equivalent level)
    • Post-combat HP recovery (see below)
    Dogs can be loyal retainers, but unlike humans their capacity to understand commands and carry out complex tactics is limited. By default, they have three potential actions: attack, defend, and stay. Further commands or tricks may be added per level. When commanded to defend, a war dog will not attack, but may save versus wands to intercept an enemy attacking their master in melee. They may require a saving throw to avoid chasing very tempting things, such as squirrels. Ability scores need not be rolled.

    If allowed to gnaw the bones of dead enemies or given a treat after combat, war dogs can recover up to 1d6 HP (no more than was lost in the previous combat). Treats are generally things like large dried bones and are encumbering. Gnawing bones or treats takes one turn.

    Light barding (AC bonus of 1) may be purchased. Medium (AC bonus of 2) barding may be equipped, but the dog takes a -1 encumbrance penalty to all tasks and may carry no other items without further penalty. Dogs without barding may be equipped with saddlebags, which allow the carrying of 5 encumbering items before penalties begin to accrue (-1 per significant item). Heavy barding (AC bonus of 3) functions similarly, but with encumbrance penalties of -3. Barding cost as per standard light, medium, and heavy armor. The ironclad ability (described below) allows the dog to wear medium barding and carry up to 5 items (if also wearing saddlebags) without penalty. Dogs in heavy barding may carry no extra items, even if ironclad-trained.
    War dog commands and abilities, roll or pick per level (including level 1):

    1. Fearless: no morale check required versus supernatural enemies
    2. Retriever: understands most common objects, and will fetch them
    3. Link-pup: knows how to carry a torch or lantern
    4. Porter: will happily pull a small cart or sledge full of loot (no move penalty)
    5. Canine missile: charge command (10′ required, 30′ range, +1 damage)
    6. Worry: hit implies vicelike bite, auto damage following rounds (as grab)
    7. Frisbee: save versus wands to snatch mundane missiles out of the air
    8. Mage-hound: can smell sorcery, including enchantment
    9. Hunter: flawlessly track one kind of creature & warn of proximity
    10. Dwarf-hound: can smell gold and gems
    11. Ironclad: may wear medium (+2) or heavy (+3) barding without penalty
    12. Serpent-hunter: immune to all poison
    Mage-hound, dwarf-hound, and serpent-hunter require special training if not chosen at first level, and may not be untrained.

    War dogs may have no more than 6 abilities at any one time, though they may be retrained at the cost of 1d6 * 100 GP (following standard retainer advancement training rules).

    See also:

    Brewing Potions

    The Love Potion (from Wikipedia)

    Magic-users (and, to a limited extent, clerics) can brew potions. The same game systems also apply to creating poison (for thieves) and incendiaries (for fighters). These items have no special use requirements, though some classes are better at creating them than others. For example, anyone can imbibe a potion of gaseous form brewed by a magic-user or coat a weapon with poison created by a thief.

    To brew a potion, a recipe is required. Every recipe specifies one or more special components that are required, in addition to mundane ingredients and procedures. There may be more than one recipe for the same potion (each making use of different special components). Recipes can be discovered in play much like scrolls or purchased from specialists such as apothecaries (who tend not to share the secrets of their livelihood) or sages (who often charge ungodly prices).

    Potion recipes have a level, just like spells. In order to brew a potion from the recipe, the character in question must be able to cast spells of the equivalent level. Potion components cost 500 GP and one week per level (so a second level potion would cost 1000 GP of ingredients and require two weeks of work). Like magic research, brewing potions may be done during downtime punctuated by adventuring, as long as too much time (by referee ruling) does not pass. Characters do not need to spend money separately to establish a laboratory. It is assumed that as items are created, the character naturally accumulates the paraphernalia required, and this is abstracted into the cost of ingredients.

    Fighters and thieves should use the magic-user spell progression to determine if a given character is skilled and knowledgeable enough to create a particular item. Costs are identical (500 GP for level 1 poison, etc). The only significant difference is that each “brew” of poison results in 1d6 doses (unless otherwise specified in the recipe). Different poisons may also have different application methods (also by recipe), so one poison may be contact, one poison may be injected (i.e., for coating a weapon), another poison may end up being a beaker full of gas that may be hurled like a grenade. Mutatis mutandis for fighters. In addition to incendiaries, fighters can create (or oversee the creation of) siege engines and siege works. Schematics for these work exactly as other recipes, and are rated similarly by level.

    Note that though the ability to brew potions is available to characters of any level (given appropriate class), the costs involved (along with the fact that spending GP results in XP) means that characters that craft several items (be they scrolls, potions, or something else) will naturally end up becoming higher level, with no other constraints required.

    Optional rule: cross-class brewing. One kind of class may create the type of recipe items appropriate to another class (assuming a recipe and special components are available), but the the costs are doubled due to unfamiliarity and the crafting is only successful on a d20 roll less than or equal to the intelligence score. Upon failure, the components are not wasted, but another week must be spent (and another check made) until either the brewing is successful or the task is abandoned. In any case, the spent GP results in XP (learning from failure!).

    I’m thinking that maybe each class should begin with one basic first level recipe (love potion, healing potion, minor firebomb, and minor poison, perhaps).

    (In Hexagram, provisionally, the ability to brew potions comes with the alchemy trait, the ability to brew poison comes from the assassination trait, and the ability to craft incendiaries or do siege-work comes with the ranged combat and melee combat traits, respectively.)

    Finery and Social Class

    Image from Wikipedia

    How people react to a character in a social situation depends heavily on how that character is dressed. Is the garb appropriate for the occasion? Does it signify similar station to that of the interlocutor? Does it show respect, or perhaps arrogance?

    There are six levels of finery (seven including impoverished).

    • Impoverished (0 GP). Scavenged rags.
    • Poor (10 GP). Worn but functional.
    • Respectable (100 GP). Tradesperson.
    • Prosperous (500 GP). Official or dandy.
    • Wealthy (1000 GP). Rich merchant.
    • Noble (5000 GP). Aristocrat or hierophant.
    • Kingly (10000+ GP). The garb of emperors.

    The primary benefit to wearing expensive clothes is a reaction modifier, based on your finery relative to that of any interlocutor. For example, if you are wearing poor clothes, and interacting with someone garbed in prosperous finery, the reaction roll will be at -2 (due to the two steps of difference). If you are outfitted in finery equal to your interlocutor, there are no modifiers to the social reaction role. If you are wearing clothes of a higher station, there is a bonus, but capped at +2 (the penalty is not similarly limited, however; impoverished clothing imposes a -6 reaction roll penalty when talking to a king).

    Adventuring in the underworld or wilderness will quickly ruin clothes of value higher than poor unless supernatural measures are taken (some wizards are exceptionally vain and prefer impractical clothing to show their power, much the way nobles do to show their wealth). Well-crafted clothing meant to stand up the elements can be had for 50 – 100 GP, but marks one out as an explorer or scout. Fashion dictates that particularly valuable clothing must be altered and replaced with some frequency (exact replacement schedule is a function of location and referee ruling). The finery of one place may not be appropriate in another place (assume one category less, though this is also subject to situational rulings).

    Ceremonial armor is also available for the prices listed above, and may be made functional as well as elaborate if desired (double the cost, you must find a master armorer, and repair costs will be high). If well maintained, standard light armor is automatically treated as poor clothing, while standard medium and heavy armor is considered respectable. However, if armor is worn in an inappropriate situation (an audience with a lord where you are not that lord’s general or mercenary, for example), it is considered to impose an additional penalty (probably -2).

    First level characters and retainers begin with the equivalent of poor clothing. I don’t expect that concerns about status and clothing would come up that often for low level adventurers, but I think this nicely encapsulates social dynamics, is another way to engage the world, and could make a difference in a diplomacy-heavy domain game. This system also leverages the 2d6 reaction roll, which is my favorite RPG social resolution system.

    Ghost Traps

    Sapphire image from Wikipedia

    Ghost traps are items (most commonly gems) that have been enchanted to serve as prisons for spirits and incorporeal undead. Clerics of any level may create ghost traps with hit dice capacity no greater than their level. Ghost traps may contain no more than one spirit, even if the trapped spirit has hit dice less than the capacity of the trap. When occupied, a miniature version of the spirit can be seen leering within the gem, seemingly contorted and tormented.

    To create a ghost trap, a cleric must have a gem of value equal to the desired hit dice capacity multiplied by 100 GP. For example, a 3 HD ghost trap requires a 300 GP gem. In addition, hit dice capacity * 100 GP must be spent on ritual components, and the whole process takes 1 week. There are some situations described below where a ghost trap is destroyed. In these cases, the gem crumbles to ash.

    To use a ghost-trap, it must be strongly presented within 10′ of the spirit (this is a standard combat action). If the spirit fails its saving throw versus magic, it is imprisoned in the gem. A trap may also be thrown, but if the spirit makes its saving throw, there is a 1 in 6 chance that the gem will be destroyed when it hits the ground. Turned spirits do not get a saving throw and may be automatically imprisoned. All classes may use ghost traps, though clerics may set them as traps that will trigger when spirits draw near. An attempt to trap a spirit more powerful than the capacity of a given trap will automatically fail, and there is a 1 in 6 chance that the trap will be destroyed.

    Trapped spirits may be released at any time, though they will generally be quite unhappy about having been imprisoned (-2 reaction). Releasing a spirit has a 1 in 6 chance of destroying the trap (otherwise it may be used again). Trapped spirits may speak telepathically with anyone touching the gem directly, will generally beseech any holder for freedom, and may promise all sorts of rewards (probably all lies). This contact is one-way, however, and it is impossible to communicate with a trapped spirit without using magic (see the magic-user ritual below).

    Though only clerics can create ghost traps, many magic-users prize occupied ghost traps, as they believe that they are valuable currency in the land of the dead, and can also be used in arcane researches. Magic-users can also conduct rituals to communicate with trapped spirits. This requires 1d6 * 100 GP worth of components, and requires a saving throw versus spells. On a saving throw roll of 1, the spirit is released (or some other suitable magical mishap occurs). If the magic-user succeeds on the saving throw, the spirit will answer 1d6 yes/no questions to the best of its ability, and will be unable to lie.

    (Though I know about Skyrim soul gems, the inspiration here is more Ghostbusters.)

    (In Hexagram, the ability to create ghost traps comes with the banishment trait.)

    Lamentations of the Monk

    Quick sketch by Gus L. during play

    Yesterday I ran a high-level (8 + 1d4) LotFP adventure play test. One of my players wanted to play a monk-type character that specialized in unarmed combat. To support that, I bolted on some of the AD&D monk powers to the LotFP fighter, and specified that the attack bonus would only be available with unarmed strikes.

    These are the capabilities that the 10th level monk-fighter ended up with:

    • 2d6 + 1 open hand damage
    • 2 attacks per round
    • Self-heal 1/day 1d4 + 4 HP (takes one turn)
    • Wuxia jump (10′ vertical)
    • Saving throw to punch mundane missiles out of the air

    The 2 attacks + high damage might seem like a lot in a LotFP context (and it is), but striking something with your hand opens you up to certain dangers that I would certainly run with (for example, punching something with acidic skin).

    It worked out well, and I would use it again. Possible changes and additions:

    • Improve the self-heal, to 1d4 + level available from level 1.
    • Wuxia jump would also probably be 10′ + 1′ per level.
    • An ability for running up walls patterned after the specialist’s climb skill.
    • Rather than make two attacks, the monk could attempt a single stunning strike which would paralyze a humanoid target on a failed saving throw (recovery on 1 in 6, checked per round).

    I gave no AC bonus and would not change that. Monks can wear armor if they want to, with appropriate penalties. The unarmed strike damage would be lower at the beginning and progress with level.

    Postscript: rolling for appearance randomly is fantastic. The player opted to do that and the character ended up as: Mature Male, Immaculate, Obese. How many PCs do you often see like that?