Tag Archives: OD&D

Spells Without Levels: Psychomancy

These spells are inspired by charm person, read languages, sleep, and feeblemind. See spells without levels for more information about this project.


Hostile creatures become neutral, neutral creatures become friendly, and friendly creatures become infatuated. Friendly creatures will be open to serving the sorcerer, given some basic incentive, and infatuated creatures require no incentive. Affects a number of HD worth of creatures equal to sorcerer level.


The meaning of obscured or indecipherable communications is laid bare. This spell may be used to understand the words of any language or read the true intent of a cyphered missive. Even spirit or animal speech, such as the groaning of clouds or the howling of wolves, may sometimes disclose their secrets.


By standing completely still with eyes closed in concentration, the sorcerer may enter the body of another within sight, gaining access to any of their senses, and dictate the subject’s physical actions (a saving throw applies, but does not end the spell, and the sorcerer may attempt command again in following rounds, against the same subject or another). Subjects of this spell may resist any given dictated action by taking a die of damage. Such manipulation is awkward (a minor penalty applies), and lends a marionette-like quality to the movements and demeanor of the subject so controlled.

Dust of the Sandman

Sparkling dust conjured from the land of dreams blankets a small melee, and all within must save versus magic or fall asleep.

Plasmic Manipulation

The sorcerer examines the mind of another for spells or other plasmic entities and may choose one of the following options: 1) steal one spell for later casting 2) implant (and thus lose) a spell into the target’s consciousness 3) free any number of plasmic entities from the target’s mind (in effect voiding prepared spells). The target of this spell is permitted a saving throw (use of a spell shield provides a +2 saving throw bonus rather than entirely preventing the effect), and if that saving throw is a natural 20 the target may instead raid the mind of the spell’s originator, with recourse to the same three options.

Redon - Closed Eyes (source)

Redon – Closed Eyes (source)


Spells Without Levels: Translocation

These spells are inspired by water breathing, teleport, locate object, and dimension door. See spells without levels for more information about this project. The last sentence of portal needs more work, but I think the idea should be clear.

Breath Transmittal

A number of creatures equal to the sorcerer’s level need not draw breath to sustain life for the duration of this spell. Instead, the sorcerer inscribes a breath sigil, and the atmosphere around the sigil is magically transferred to the lungs of the creatures selected during the casting of the spell.


A number of persons up to the sorcerer’s level are transported to the location of the sorcerer’s sigil of return. Carried and worn possessions are conveyed as well, though there is a 50% that any awkward or cumbersome object is left behind. The sigil of return must be scribed under the gaze of the sun and is destroyed if moved from its place of inscription.


Nonliving items marked with the sorcerer’s recall sigil are transported to the sorcerers current location. A number of significant items per level (following encumbrance guidelines) may be recalled.


The sorcerer places a portal sigil on two doors and by the casting of this spell connects them so that they become the same door as long as the sigils endure. A traveller stepping into one steps out of the other, with directionality of travel governed by the facing of the sigil (travellers enter toward the sigil and exit from it). This spell only works on doors of established essence, and is permanent, but closing the door after it has been opened from the sigil side destroys the enchantment and the sigils.

Altdorfer - Design of a portal (source)

Altdorfer – Design of a portal technology (source)


Spells Without Levels: Spiritualism

These spells were inspired by ESP, clairaudience, clairvoyance, mirror image, anti-magic shell, dispel magic, knock, detect magic, invisibility, and massmorph. Second sight has been presented before, but the version here is simpler. See spells without levels for more information about this project.

Astral Projection

The sorcerer’s spirit is liberated and may venture safely from the body up to 10 feet per level (which remains in stasis while the spirit is absent). The spirit is ethereal (and thus invisible to most mortal creatures), and may pass through a thickness of rock equal to level in feet, but is barred by lead or magical wards. While ethereal, the sorcerer may reach into the brains of others to raid surface thoughts, though targets of a higher level than the sorcerer are permitted a saving throw.


A sorcerer may use another person or thing as a relay for spells. The sorcerer’s conduit sigil must be placed on the conduit. As long as the sigil remains, the sorcerer may meditate and perceive the surroundings of the sigil.

Ethereal Boundary

The sorcerer is surrounded by a field that disrupts magic and is ethereally opaque and impassable. This barrier blocks any magical effect, both entering or leaving, though a saving throw is required to successfully block spells cast by a more powerful sorcerer. A number of people equal to the sorcerer’s level may be sheltered within the barrier.


Hekaphages are ethereal creatures which feed on magic and can consume enchantments and curses. A saving throw applies if the sorcerer level is less than the enchantment level. There is a chance in 6 equal to the level of the enchantment that the magic drained is sufficient to cause the hekaphage to manifest in the material world, though it will be fat and sated with the magic it has consumed.

Plasmic Key

All closed doors and secured entrances have a plasmic lock in addition to any material latches. Opening the plasmic lock voids any material fastening, but requires the fabrication of a plasmic key, which is consumed (if material) by the plasmic lock when used. The key for a particular plasmic lock is 1) a weapon that has been blooded in anger, 2) a freshly severed finger, 3) a debt to an angelic being, 4) a song enthusiastically sung, 5) the sacrifice of a sinner’s life, or 6) a randomly determined possession (significant in terms of encumbrance).

Second Sight

To the second sight, sorcerers radiate the presence of their prepared spells and enchanted items crackle with energy or leak glittering seepage. Specific enchantments reveal aspects of their nature visually. This spell reveals invisible and ethereal creatures and things.


The sorcerer becomes invisible to mortal creatures but appears as a blazing beacon to those with the second sight and many natural denizens of the spirit world. While shrouded, a sorcerer exists partially in both worlds, and may be harmed in either. Willing spirit creatures may be brought into the material world with the sorcerer when the spell ends.

Reality Shift

Anything within a perfect sphere of radius 10′ per sorcerer level may be shifted entirely into the spirit world, thus becoming invisible, insubstantial, and ethereal (unwilling conscious targets are permitted a saving throw). The sorcerer must remain within the boundaries of the enchantment, and nothing may leave for the duration of the spell (though the sorcerer may permit other entities entrance by whim). Paradoxically, the gaping absence does not affect the material world in any other way (for example, bridges will continue to stand if their supports are shifted).

Redon - Reflection (source)

Redon – Reflection (source)


Spells Without Levels: Necromancy

These spells were inspired by phantasmal forces, animate dead, death spell, magic jar, and reincarnation. See spells without levels for more information about this project.


A number of wicked poltergeists equal to the sorcerer’s level are summoned to haunt a place, person, or group of people (there is a 50% chance the haunting persists after the spell ends, and the sorcerer only retains influence while the spell is active). While alone the poltergeists will do their best to harass and torment their chosen targets, or all living creatures other than the sorcerer if no specific victim was indicated. Though the poltergeists cannot talk and are insubstantial, the sorcerer can direct them to laugh insanely, become visible as ghostly menaces with varying forms, howl discordantly, and cause telekinetic mischief (including the hurling of heavy or sharp objects that may cause real damage, though the referee should decide exactly what the poltergeists do).


Command or animate a number of HD worth of undead up to the sorcerer’s level (undead HD must match HD as they were in life), which is also the maximum HD worth of undead that a sorcerer may control at once (a saving throw applies for previously existing undead, and if the undead are under the control of another entity, that entity’s saving throw should be used). The newly risen dead are wide eyed, hopeful, eager to serve, and often overenthusiastic, if not particularly creative, in carrying out directives. When the spell ends, the undead minions 1) turn on the sorcerer in anger, 2) become catatonic, 3) collapse into mundane corpses, 4) dissolve into superheated ash or toxic slime, 5) travel to the land of the dead by opening a gate (which remains), or 6) become permanent minions (though they still count against the maximum number of controllable undead).

Death Ray

Kill one creature of HD less than or equal to the sorcerer’s level (if cast against targets above this HD threshold, the spell is not expended). A saving throw applies, though even if successful the target takes two dice of damage. There is a possibility that any creature slain by this spell will rise, either immediately or in the future, dedicated in undeath to vengeance against the sorcerer (chance again as per the creature’s save versus magic).

Soul Transfer

The sorcerer’s soul is placed in a talisman such as a pendant or article of clothing, leaving the original body behind in stasis. While in the talisman, the sorcerer’s consciousness remains active and aware of events nearby, and may possess any body that comes in contact with the talisman, though a save is permitted if the possession is resisted. If this new body is slain while occupied by the sorcerer’s soul, a saving throw is required for the sorcerer’s soul to return to the talisman and avoid becoming trapped in the spirit world.


Prepared canopic jars and paraphernalia must be available, and a freshly slain person’s organs harvested during the casting of this spell. Using the properly prepared remains, a ritual of three days and three nights may then be performed that slowly gathers a new body around the soul still contained in the brains and viscera. This new body should be determined using random encounter tables.

Edit: renamed the slay spell death ray.

Redon - Cauldron of the Sorceress (source)

Redon – Cauldron of the Sorceress (source)


Spells Without Levels: Elementalism

These spells were inspired by fly, fireball, lightning bolt, protection from normal missiles, pass-wall, lower water, part water, move earth, and control weather. See spells without levels for more information about this project.

Chariot of Air

A tumult of air elementals, prismatic and cacophonous, bears the sorcerer aloft and in any direction desired. Buffeted this way and that, no subtle action may be taken or communication attempted over the roar and incoherent babbling of the winds. Despite the many voices they have stolen, these creatures communicate by caresses and only madly wail in confusion if not in contact with the sorcerer.


The sorcerer gains complete control over a fire, and may cause it to grow, shrink, or otherwise change. The fire may be detonated (causing 1d6 damage per sorcerer level to all nearby), though this ends the spell.


Awaken the greater spirit of a hill or other stone prominence. It will obey basic commands, but is usually very slow, and is aversive to areas of great corruption. There is a 1 in 6 chance that the shift will be immediate and accompanied by an earthquake.

Seduce Waters

Divested of all equipment and clothing, the sorcerer bathes in a water, such as a river, lake, or pool (but not sea or ocean, as those old gods are wicked beyond measure) and in so doing communes with the spirit of the water. The water spirit will obey basic commands (though sometimes in fickle ways), and thus may be parted, lowered, or otherwise modified. Spirits often have requests of sorcerers, given how they are during most of their existence hemmed in by rock and sky.

The Spell of Subterranean Gullets

All tunnels, pits, and lacunae are the mouths, throats, and visceral spaces of the greater earth god Maxilor. The sorcerer may command the instantaneous opening of such a void in stone or rock, either horizontally (as a tunnel) or vertically (as a pit) to a depth of 10 feet per sorcerer level. The stone slowly returns to its former configuration, and will have closed completely (crushing any within) by the end of the spell.


The sorcerer may command the weather, though only in generalities such as summoning powerful winds, occluding the sun with dark storm clouds, or causing a downpour. Invariably any weather modifications will result in threefold retribution as the skies become enraged by mortal interference and reassert dominance in days to come. Stormspeech is most commonly used for speeding ships on placid seas, as the seafaring sorcerer will likely be far away from the rebalancing when it comes.

Trapped Lightning

First a trap, such as a bottle or copper rod, must be prepared and then set out under an open sky in a cosmically enticing manner, which will draw the lightning. By speaking the words of the spell, the trapped lightning may be discharged, doing 1d6 damage per sorcerer level to all in the path of the bolt or radius of the discharge (which can be bound again immediately if another trap has been laid in the correct location), though beware that being doused with water will free and disperse the lightning prior to use. When used as a melee weapon by the sorcerer, an undischarged lightning rod will knock back human-sized targets and deal one die of damage if a saving throw versus magic is failed.

Wind Barrier

Swirling winds deflect small missiles such as arrows or spears. The spell moves with the sorcerer, and may shelter a number of people equal to the sorcerer’s level. Outgoing missiles are hindered as well.

Roerich - Spell-words (source)

Roerich – Spell-words (source)


Spells Without Levels: Diabolism

These spells were inspired by hold person, protection from evil, geas, invisible stalker, light, cloudkill, contact higher plane, and conjure elemental. An element of Death Frost Doom informed covenant. I might give sorcerers that start with conjure the true name of a 1 HD minor demon. See spells without levels for more information about this project. Some spells make use of sigils. A sorcerer may only ever have one sigil of a given type active at a time and the creation of a new sigil causes any previous sigils of the same type to vanish.


Summon invisible, extra-dimensional chains. A number of hit dice worth of creatures equal to the sorcerer’s level may be bound, and saving throws apply. Bindings may be set as traps by laying a binding sigil.

Circle of Protection

Supernatural creatures of HD less than or equal to the sorcerer’s level may not cross or disturb the circle boundary. A number of people equal to the sorcerer’s level may shelter within the circle. The circle must be drawn prior to casting, is immobile, and lasts until the circle is broken.


Magically seal a bargain between the sorcerer and a counterparty by awarding temporary control of both souls to a devil. Free assent is required, but may be compelled by factors external to the magic (such as a dagger to the throat). Demonic malady rewards temporary deviation, and ignoring the covenant completely allows the devil to take permanent possession, which causes death (and eternal torment).

Demonic Assassin

Conjure forth a demon and negotiate terms (part of payment is always the soul of the target). The sorcerer’s sigil must be set upon a possession of the target. The demon will then hunt the possessor of the object the sigil is set upon until the possessor is slain.


Conjure a hovering insubstantial spirit of radiance that does not shed heat, does not require air, is not doused by water, and may be maintained with concentration. A number of gleams equal to level may be summoned and the illumination of each is similar to torchlight. Gleams may be directed to bedevil enemies, which will cause temporary blindness (if a saving throw is failed) as long as the spirit remains engaged.


Summon the poisonous atmosphere of hell. Determine effect randomly: 1) save or die if breathed 2) one die of acid damage per round and vulnerable objects must save 3) burning blindness permanent until treated with salves and poultices 4) uncontrollable retching which imposes a -4 penalty and prevents complex actions such as spell casting 5) one die of cold damage per round and any killed in the miasma rise as uncontrollable ice revenants 6) the stench of chaos requires all within to save or go berserk, attacking randomly any within reach. The miasma follows the wind, but otherwise seeks to descend back to its place of origin.


Query a creature from another dimension. If a particular true name is known, it may be intoned during the casting of this spell, and the named creature will answer, otherwise determine the entity randomly (such as from a table of demon lords). Answers are not guaranteed to be truthful, and entities will usually attempt to further their own interests.


Call a creature from another dimension. If a particular true name is known, it may be intoned during the casting of this spell, and the named creature will come, but the veil may also be rent without care for what will emerge (determine entity randomly, either by rolling 1d20 for HD and making up the other details or by using a table of creatures from other dimensions). Sorcerers may control any conjured entity of hit dice less than or equal to the sorcerer’s level with concentration, but otherwise the standard reaction roll and negotiation procedures apply.

Solomko - Fortune-telling (source)

Solomko – Fortune-telling (source)


Spells without levels

Roerich - Magician (source)

Roerich – Magician (source)

Rather than rate spells by level and make some spells only available to high level sorcerers, spells could be level agnostic. Two important properties are required for a level agnostic spell. First, power and spell consequences need to be modulated so that basic game challenges are not circumvented. That is, all spells need to be appropriate for beginning characters. Second, spell capabilities must scale to some degree with sorcerer level so that they remain relevant throughout the game. This approach provides several benefits, such as the possibility of playing many different kinds of sorcerer from the beginning of a campaign (no waiting for 9th level magic-users getting raise dead in order to be a “real” necromancer), and puts more potentially campaign altering tools in the hands of players immediately (though such alteration often comes with consequences).

Lamentations of the Flame Princess has taken a similar approach with some spells, such as the first level summon spell, and A Spell to Grant One’s Heart’s Desire (basically, a first level variation of wish) from Better Than Any Man (available as pay-what-you-want). These spells were definitely an inspiration.

There may be some drawbacks to this approach to spell design as well, and I am certainly not claiming that this model is better for all campaigns. For example, there is something to be said for aspirational spells as motivation. Further, dividing spells into levels introduces complexity gradually. That said, random determination of spells can help mitigate information overload, and hopefully other adventure motivation will be available.

Following this logic, I have created a new set of level agnostic spells inspired by the original list in Men & Magic. Each spell description is restricted to three sentences. If backwards compatibility is desired, all spells could be treated as first level. If replacing all magic with level agnostic spells, rather than the standard spell progression, a sorcerer could have a number of spell slots equal to level, with bonus spells slots perhaps awarded for characters with an exceptional intelligence. Spells that persist over time last 1 turn per sorcerer level. Some spells make use of sigils. A sorcerer may only ever have one sigil of a given type active at a time and the creation of a new sigil causes any previous sigils of the same type to vanish.

The categories that seemed to arise naturally in this process were diabolism, elementalism, psychomancy, necromancy, spiritualism, translocation, and vivimancy. (There are a few spells that I’m still not sure about, which might potentially give rise to more categories.) Each of these categories will be presented in an upcoming post.

Degree of success as damage

Men & Magic, page 19


A simple house rule idea that just occurred to me, for D&D and similar games: damage from a successful attack = 1 + attack roll degree of success. The 1 is necessary so that some damage is still done when the attack roll succeeds exactly (otherwise, you are essentially applying a -1 penalty to the attack roll).

Some benefits:

  • One roll rather than two.
  • Makes clear the true nature of the attack roll (expected damage is the important thing).
  • Higher level fighters do increasing damage in a pleasing way.
  • The attack roll has many seeming degrees of success.

Expected damage numbers are provided below, for fighters of levels 1, 4, 7, and 10 against ACs of 9 and 2 using ATTACK MATRIX 1 from Men & Magic, page 19 (B/X uses identical numbers other than for zero level people; see the Expert Rules page X26). These numbers are averaged over all die possibilities, including misses, and so are expected damage per round. Comparisons with expected numbers from weapons dealing 1d6 (average: 3.5) damage are provided in parentheses.

Fighter Level Damage Versus AC 9 Damage Versus AC 2
1  3.3 (1.925)  0.5 (0.7)
4  4.55 (2.275)  1.05 (1.05)
7  6.8 (2.8)  3.3 (1.925)
10  8.55 (3.15)  4.55 (2.275)

You will see that in general, this shifts the damage potential up for most situations (all, in fact, other than first level versus AC 2, at least of those data points shown in the table). ACs 9 and 2 were chosen because they encompasses the full OD&D range from unarmored to plate & shield. Results are independent of other bonuses, which will just raise or lower the expected numbers for all schemes. I imagine the numbers would remain somewhat similar if using a simplification such as hit dice as attack bonus. The same numbers obtain for the other classes, though the level ranges are different (a 9th level cleric hits as a 7th level fighter, for example).

The expected values are close enough that this adjustment will obviously not break the game, though it might shift the dynamics slightly. One could also cap damage at 6 for slightly more restrained damage results (just for comparison, with that modification numbers versus AC 9 become: 2.55, 3.15, 4.05, 4.65 for levels 1, 4, 7, 10 respectively and have a much smaller standard deviation).

The spreadsheets that I used to calculate these numbers can be found here:

House rules

Necropraxis House Rules PDF

Necropraxis House Rules PDF (click to download)

I have finally compiled my most frequently used house rules into a PDF. Click on the thumbnail image to download the PDF.

Some notable changes (probably only of interest to my immediate players):

  • Save to retain spells for magic-users is no longer active, mostly because we always forget to do it in practice. I still like the idea, though LS has informed me that adopting this rule in his own game has seemed to have made a particular magic-user PC dominant.
  • Scrolls now require only 1 week to craft, irrespective of the spell level (GP costs are unchanged). What this means in practice: players can make one scroll as a downtime action.
  • I managed to restrain myself and only sneak in one new house rule in the process of writing this document, which is sustaining spells (to replace traditional durations). This is from my recent work on magic for JRPG Basic.

Not currently present, but likely in some future update:

  • Poison rules. I still haven’t figured out a method that I am happy with, mostly because I would like something that makes thieves better at using poison than other classes. 
  • Attack progressions. I’m currently using this attack ranks system, but I’ve come to feel that it is a bit cumbersome and the starting probabilities are maybe too generous. Possibilities that I have been considering: use the MEN ATTACKING table exactly as presented on page 19 of Men & Magic, but give fighters an additional flat +1 to hit, or switch to using hit dice as attack bonus (I floated this idea once, but the reaction from players was not enthusiastic).

Following are the house rules in HTML for easy reference, in both quick and detailed forms.


  • Death & Dying: save or die at 0 HP, success means unconsciousness.
  • Encumbrance: carry 1 significant item per point of strength, -1 cumulative penalty per extra item.
  • Two-Handed Swords: damage is 2d6, take highest result.
  • Dual Wielding: +1 to attack.
  • Burning Oil: 1 round to prep, ranged attack, 1d6 fire damage per round (save ends).
  • Falling: 1d6 damage per 10 feet fallen, save for half damage, save or die if falling more than 50 feet.
  • Suffocating & Drowning: 3 failed constitution checks followed by save or die every round thereafter.
  • Healing & Recovery: re-roll all hit dice at the start of every session.
  • Spell Duration: one non-instantaneous spell may be maintained indefinitely.


Death & Dying

When reduced to 0 HP, make a saving throw. Success indicates unconsciousness, failure indicates death. Unconscious characters may be revived after combat with 1 HP.

Healing & Recovery

After spending time to recuperate in town, re-roll all hit dice. This will generally be done at the start of each session. This rule was inspired by Empire of the Petal Throne.

Melee Weapons

Weapons do 1d6 damage by default. Two-handed swords deal higher damage on average (roll 2d6 and take the highest result), but require both hands to use and so prevent the use of a shield. Dual-wielding two single-handed weapons is also an option, and provides +1 to the attack roll. Rules for two-handed swords and dual-wielding were borrowed from Philotomy (http://www.grey-elf.com/philotomy.pdf).

Burning Oil

Burning oil does 1d6 fire damage and requires the target to make a saving throw. On success, the fire goes out and will do no more damage. On failure, the fire keeps burning and will do another 1d6 damage (and require another saving throw) during the following round (repeat this procedure every round until the fire is extinguished). In addition to the per-round saving throw, a burning creature may opt to spend their turn trying to put out the fire (this grants an additional saving throw). Flasks of oil may be lit beforehand and then thrown (this takes two actions, one for prep and one for throwing) or thrown unlit and then ignited by a separate action (such as a thrown torch), requiring a second attack roll. In either case, the two actions may be taken by separate characters if situationally appropriate. A natural attack roll of 1 indicates that the attacker has fumbled and doused themselves in oil instead (if this oil is already burning, follow standard procedure as outlined above). A flask of oil is significant for encumbrance purposes.

Spell Duration

Any spell that is not instantaneous may be sustained indefinitely. Only one such spell may be sustained, and if another spell with duration is cast, the previously sustained spell ends. Sustained spells also end if the caster becomes unconscious.


Magic-users of any level may scribe scrolls. 100 GP per spell level and one week of work are required. Scrolls of spells that are level higher than can be prepared may be scribed, assuming that the magic-user has access to a spell book with the spell in question. For example, a first level magic-user can create a scroll of fireball (a third level spell) for 300 GP in one week. A scroll is significant for encumbrance purposes. The crafting rule was inspired by Holmes Basic.


Adventurers may carry a number of significant items equal to their strength score. For each item beyond this limit, there is a cumulative penalty to all physical rolls (attack rolls, saving throws, and so forth). For example, a character with a strength of 9 may carry 9 items without penalty, but if that same character carries 12 items, there will be a penalty of 3 (12 items – 9 strength = 3) applied to physical rolls. Significant items include things like a sword, a scroll, a potion, a quiver of arrows, a coil of rope, or a book. Insignificant items include things like a coin, a sack, a ring, or a fishhook; a pouch of up to 100 insignificant items may be carried without using an encumbrance slot. The only special case is armor, which takes up one encumbrance slot per category (light = 1, medium = 2, heavy = 3). This rule was inspired by LS (http://www.paperspencils.com/2012/03/18/making-encumbrance-work/).


1d6 damage per 10 feet fallen, up to 5d6. Save for half damage. Additionally, if falling more than 50 feet, a save versus death must be made to avoid instant death.


Every round during which a character is unable to breathe (such as when under water), a constitution check is required. Three failures means breath can no longer be held, and the character’s lungs are exposed to the environment. For example, this might mean that gas is inhaled. If underwater, this means that the character is drowning, and every round thereafter a save versus death must be made. Failure means the character has drowned and is dead.


1 XP is gained for each GP of treasure spent. This is the only way to gain XP.

Spell Interpretations

Continual Light (cleric 3)

Each magic-user or cleric may have only one continual light spell active at a time, but continual light otherwise bypasses the normal spell duration rules (that is, another spell with non-instantaneous duration may be sustained along with the continual light).

Raise Dead (cleric 5)

A raised character must make a survival check (using the percentage as determined by constitution score). Failure means the character is not raised, and can never be raised. If the check is successful, the character is restored to life but also loses a point of constitution permanently. Further, life and death are not to be trifled with, and there will almost certainly be some other consequence to tampering with the order of things.

Sleep (magic-user 1)

A saving throw applies.

Weapons Revisited

Update: I recommend using the slightly simpler approach to this same basic idea described in the Weapons Quick Reference post.

Image by Piranesi (source)
Image by Piranesi (source)

I started work compiling various blog posts into a Vaults of Pahvelorn Player’s Guide, and the very first thing I decided to look at was my old weapon properties post. This is one of those topics that I think would really benefit from the accessibility of being included in a player’s document, because despite being designed mostly as bonuses, in play we still often forget many of the weapon features. One of my ongoing personal design goals is to make weapon choice just as interesting as spell choice, without relying primarily on variable damage dice (which promotes an overly numerical approach that I find lacks interesting trade-offs).

Of course, rather than just copying the old rules into the document and moving on, I immediately start to significantly revise them. Since I wrote the original version, I have been exposed to Apocalypse World and Dungeon World, which both take approaches to weaponry that have influenced me substantially. I think weapon tags are a wonderfully efficient way to remember the various features, and while yes you need to read the definitions once, it seems like once you know that dangerous-1 means backfire on a natural roll of 1, you are unlikely to ever need to look that up again. I think this version below is much improved over the original, and many of the rules have also been simplified (for example, riposte just automatically deals damage to attackers that miss and roll poorly rather than requiring another attack roll).

Weapon damage is 1d6 by default. Some weapons have additional benefits, as described below.

Axemelee, damage: re-roll 1, shield-smasher
Daggermelee, quickdraw, throwable, range-2, concealable, grapple
Macemelee, penetrating-2
Swordmelee, quickdraw, riposte
Two-handed swordmelee, two-handed, damage: 2d6 take highest
Pole armmelee, two-handed, interposing, damage: 2d6 take highest, reach, awkward-2
Quarterstaffmelee, two-handed, parry (melee)
Spearmelee, throwable, range-3, interposing, reach
Javelinmelee, throwable, range-5
Shieldarmor-1, parry (missile), damage: 1d3
Bowmissile, two-handed, range-7, reload-0
Crossbowmissile, two-handed, penetrating-2, range-6, reload-1
Slingconcealable, missile, insignificant, missile, range-4, reload-0, versatile ammo
Oilbombdangerous-1, flaming, immolating, penetrating-2, range-1, reload-1, unreliable-3
Powderbombarea, damage: 2d6 take highest, dangerous-1, flaming, range-1, unreliable-3
Areano attack roll, all enemies in area of effect take damage, save for half
Armor-N+N armor class
Awkward-N-N attack if not used at reach
Concealableeasy to hide in standard clothing (will not be noticed without a search)
Damagedamage inflicted is modified as stated
Dangerous-Nbackfires (damages wielder) on natural rolls of N or less
Flamingdeals fire damage and flammable targets must save or be lit up
Grapplefuture attacks auto-hit if a dexterity/strength contest is won
Immolatingsave or ignite, continuing damage, additional save per round
Insignificantdoes not count as an item for encumbrance purposes
Interposingmelee enemies must save to attack wielder, and on failure take damage
Meleemay only be used when engaged in melee (essentially, range-0)
Missilerequires ammunition
Parry (type)save to deflect one attack per round that hits (limited to type, if given)
Penetrating-N+N attack versus targets with armor
Range-Nweapons of higher range afford a free attack round as enemy closes
Reload-Ntakes N rounds to reload (reload-0 fires every round)
Ripostedeal damage if enemy misses and rolls 5 or less
Shield-smasherdefender with shield must save or have their shield destroyed
Two-handedrequires both hands to use effectively
Quickdrawmay ready and attack in the same round
Unreliable-Ndoes not function on rolls of N or less (overridden by dangerous)
Versatile ammomay use any small hard object (coin, rock) as ammo

Further Notes

  • “Mace” includes warhammer and military pick.
  • Wielding two weapons (where one is not a shield) grants +1 to the attack roll (credit to Philotomy).
  • A flask of oil may be used to coat a weapon and then ignited to give a metal weapon the flaming property (likewise, arrows). This is a reload-1 type operation. On attack rolls of 5 or less, the fire goes out. Such flaming weapons will also go out after one exploration turn (or after combat).
  • Target of a grapple may spend an action to attempt to free themselves (this is another dexterity/strength contest).
  • Ranges: bomb < dagger < spear < sling < javelin < crossbow < bow
  • Ranges are not measures, but are only used in relative comparisons.
  • Shooting or throwing into melee: determine target randomly.
  • Crushing/bludgeoning damage is sometimes important (skeletons, living statues, and so forth), but I decided that this is probably clear enough contextually, and thus doesn’t require a property (Google Plus discussion). I may change my mind on this, though.
  • A strength/dexterity contest means: both contestants roll either a strength or dexterity check (their choice). This is a less than or equal to d20 check, and the one that makes it by the most wins the contest (ties go to the defender).
  • I kind of want to add a great axe and maul (two-handed varieties of the axe and mace), but that would probably necessitate giving the two-handed sword an added benefit, and I haven’t been able to think of anything that I like.

Thanks to Robert G. on Google Plus for suggesting the property name interposing.

For ease of future reference: G+ threads on flaming oil: here and here (and Philotomy).