Sunday 21 November 2010

Labyrinth Lord combat sequence variant

In my hopefully coming-soon Labyrinth Lord game I'm planning on using a simplified weapon damage system, whereby all one-handed weapons deal 1d6 damage and all two-handed weapons deal 1d8 damage. This gives characters the choice of whether to use a shield and gain extra AC or to use a two-handed weapon and gain extra damage. One additional point I had in mind to differentiate weapons was that weapons with a longer reach would get to attack first (a goblin with a spear vs a Magic-User with a dagger, for example). I think that's a pretty nice idea, but the only trouble with it is the way the standard combat sequence works - one side resolves all its actions, before the other side resolves its.

So I've been thinking about a variant system, which would enable long-reach weapons to get the advantage. Here's the sequence I've come up with:

1. General intentions are declared - spells to be cast, weapons used to attack, other actions. Labyrinth Lord rolls morale, if applicable.
2. Each side rolls 1d6 for initiative, ties are re-rolled.
3. The side with initiative moves.
4. Attacks and actions are resolved in order of weapon reach, with initiative resolving equal reach. *
5. The side which lost initiative moves.

* This means that generally missile attacks (including ranged spells) go first as they have the longest reach, followed by melee attacks and finally unarmed attacks and touch spells. However in the situation where someone making a ranged attack is being attacked in melee, the melee attack would be resolved first (because at hand-to-hand range the missile weapon effectively has no reach).

One thing I really like about this system is that it makes it so that even with initiative, running up to attack someone who's brandishing a polearm when you've only got a shortsword is a dangerous business!

Can anyone see any flaws though? When toying with fundamental systems like this I'm always concerned I might be breaking something important without realising!

Thursday 18 November 2010

Labyrinth Lord - running soon! (without Clerics?)

Just a very quick post to mark my delightment (new word) at the openness of two of the players in my Savage Worlds campaign to the prospect of me running Labyrinth Lord. I had the books lying around last night, we talked about it, and I was very pleasantly surprised that they'd be into playing it, probably as a one-shot at first, just to try it out. So, now my thoughts can turn more seriously to what sort of game I'd run, what house rules, and of course... a dungeon :)

I've been thinking vaguely of a campaign set in a large decadent city, perhaps with some kind of "undervaults" (obviously leading into countless miles of caverns and dungeons), and perhaps some kind of weird connection with dreaming or planar gateways. In the classic vein, the PCs would be thieves & treasure hunters (XP for gold!) - many adventures to be had that way! On that note I've been very unsure of the role of Clerics - who are marked by their abilities as clearly Lawful, and not the roguish amoral type at all. I wonder how a D&D campaign would run without Clerics... Healing potions could be made more readily and cheaply available I suppose, and I've thought that scrolls of undead turning might be quite cool. Those items, along with holy water, could be purchased from Clerics, without needing any preachy do-gooders coming along on dubious adventures and then insisting that the treasure is donated to a monastery.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Random NPC traits tables

For some time I've been wanting to create some random tables to help with quick & easy generation of NPCs, specifically for potential hirelings which PCs might encounter. My first stab at this was, inspired by the NPC personality tables in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, to create a whole array of tables for determining everything about a character's apppearance - ranging from height and build, to hair style and colour, to dress. I had a lot of fun doing this, but after demonstrating the system to my girlfriend it soon became clear that it wasn't really very practical to use. (She asked me how I'd spent my evening, and I told her I'd been making up tables of random facial hair styles - I like making fun of the absurdity of this hobby!) So I gave her a quick demonstration, rolling on each of the tables to see what kind of character came out. After a string of 'average' results, her comment was "that's a pretty boring guy". A point well made! Of course my instinct had been to make kind of 'realistic' tables, mostly based on 3d6 rolls, with the middle values representing the average and the extreme values more unusual characteristics (very tall, very thin, very strong, etc) - using the bell curve as it was intended. But, as my quick demonstration pointed out, what's the sense in rolling on 15 tables if most of the results come out average (which they generally will)?

I then realised that what I actually wanted was a table or two just containing the interesting bits - just the extreme values of the original tables. So here's the results - two d100 tables, one for physical traits, one for personality traits. I've found that a couple of rolls on each table can really quickly generate some pretty evocative springboards for NPC descriptions - exactly what one needs in the situation where three 'fighters' reply to a PC's advert for henchmen. The tables are designed for Savage Worlds, and refer to the Edges and Hindrances of that system, but really they're pretty generic. You can download the PDF here: NPC Traits.

(Note: I didn't mention it in the PDF, but the physical traits table is clearly aimed at male characters - it's full of beards and hairy chests! The intention was that such results would be rerolled for (most) female characters.)

Any comments / thoughts / suggestions are most welcome!

Friday 12 November 2010

Labyrinth Lord house rules

Much as I'm enjoying my currently running Savage Worlds fantasy campaign, I don't think I'll ever really get D&D out of my system, and still find myself musing about running a D&D campaign again at some point. Since getting the Labyrinth Lord books I've been increasingly inspired to run a game using those rules, which are very close to the game I played as a kid. But of course, as is almost always the case with D&D, there are "just a few things I'd do differently". So here are my current thoughts on the eternal and noble matter of D&D house rules... ;)

The main modifications I'd make would be to the classes, partly to eradicate the weapon and armour restrictions, and partly to give the different spell-casting classes a bit more flavour and differentiation.


  1. I'd allow Clerics to use any weapon, as befits crusaders, followers of gods of war and the like. Depending on the nature of the campaign, certain deities may place restrictions on certain weapons, or may strongly encourage the use of others.
  2. The flipside is that Clerics only gain magical 'pluses' with weapons which were specifically consecrated to their own deity when created.

  1. Thieves can already use any weapon in Labyrinth Lord, so no change there. I would however limit them to doing at most 1d8 damage. I just don't like the idea of Thieves carrying two-handed swords around!
  2. Thieves would only gain magical 'pluses' from daggers.
  3. I'd make the provision for Thieves to wear any kind of armour - at a price. Wearing studded leather would result in all thieving skills being reduced by one level, and scale or chain mail by six levels. Armour heavier than chain would prevent all use of thief skills. The option's there at least...


  1. Magic-users can use any weapon, but, in the same way as Thieves, they cannot do more than 1d8 damage, and do not gain magical pluses from any weapon except daggers.
  2. Again similarly to Thieves, Magic-users would be allowed to wear armour at the expense of their spellcasting abilities. Wearing leather armour would reduce a Magic-user's spellcasting ability by one level, studded leather by two, and scale or chain mail by five. Armour heavier than chain mail completely prevents spellcasting.
  3. I'd probably allow Magic-users to cast minor 'cantrip' type spells freely, just to give low-level MUs a slight boost and to make them feel more magical.

Dwarf & Halfling
  1. The only change I'd make to Dwarves and Halflings is that I'd allow them to keep earning XP and increasing in level beyond their normal limit (XP charts to be decided). BUT the only thing they'd gain from each level increase above the usual maximum would be hit points.

  1. Like the other demi-humans, I'd allow Elves to carry on gaining levels above 10, but only their hit points would increase.
  2. I've never been that keen on the idea of Elves as wizards (or Fighter / Magic-users in AD&D terminology). I just somehow can't imagine them carrying big tomes around and studying ancient scrolls - that seems very much the preserve of the Magic-user class. I'm more into the idea of Elves as naturally magical, so to that end I'd make a few modifications to the way they use magic. Firstly I'd make the spell progression chart double up as not only spells castable per day, but also as an Elf's known spells. So a first level Elf knows one 1st level spell, which he or she can use once a day. The whole idea of spellbooks and finding new spells is done away with for Elves. When they gain a level, they just learn a new spell. Likewise, they don't need to do anything to memorize spells, the ability to cast spells simply returns after a good night's sleep.
  3. To further differentiate Elves from Magic-users, I'd even give them a completely different spell list - the Druid spell list from the LL Advanced Edition Companion. This would really cement their role as being innately magical, and tied to the forces of nature. Spells like Faerie fire, Obscuring mist, Plant growth, Passplant - those are totally what a self-respecting demi-fey would be using!
  4. Despite their change in spellcasting niche, Elves would still be able to use 'wizardly' magic items, with the exception of scrolls.

All the business with limiting which weapons the different classes can get magical bonuses from is partly a bit of 'niche protection' for the Fighter (only mighty heroes can wield the true power of legendary swords), and partly as a counter-balance to the eradication of class weapon limitations. I think it also makes a lot of sense as a parallel to certain other magic items like wands and rods being only usable by Clerics or Magic-users. It's worth noting that a magical weapon would still count as magical for the purposes of attacking foes which can only be hit by magical weapons, it just wouldn't provide any attack or damage bonuses when used by a character of the 'wrong' class.

As for shields, I think I'd say that Thieves and Magic-users can use them if they want to, but gain no AC bonus (including magical bonuses) from doing so.

One final rule I'd pull in (roughly from AD&D) would be a Strength-based adjustment to carrying capacity. Str 3 = -30lbs carrying capacity, and a maximum of 80lbs, Str 4 - 5 = - 20lbs capacity, max 120lbs, Str 6 - 8 = -10lbs, Str 13 - 15 = +10lbs, Str 16 - 17 = +20lbs, Str 18 = +40lbs. This would further discourage weak characters from wearing heavy armour and carrying large weapons, while still leaving the possibility there for a Thief or Magic-user who happened to have a decent Strength.

Friday 5 November 2010

Age of Chaos - Session 10

One of the things I'm especially enjoying about this campaign so far is the very different pace of various sessions. The previous two, for example, were very combat / exploration heavy - in the classic dungeon crawling style, more or less. Last night's session, on the other hand, was a complete contrast - it consisted entirely of roleplaying and hardly a die was rolled. It was essentially an 'R&R' session for the PCs, but this allowed the story to really develop, opening up a lot of new possibilities.


Barur - Dwarven noble
Darian - Crowd-fearing Bard
Arthanius Lex - Servant of Arg (god of storms), witch-hunter, accompanied by his faithful hound Bane

Upon returning to Keet in the night, after their largely victorious siege on the bugbear-riddled manor at Ballan, the PCs made their way straight to the village temple to deposit the body of Barur's ex-henchman Barath in the hands of the high gods. They found the temple occupied, and the Seid (the village temple warden) engaged in a funeral ritual for the two guards who had died earlier that day, also in the raid on the manor. They spoke with the Seid for a time, before leaving Barath's body with him to consecrate before burial the next day.

Returning to the Grinwold's Eaves the party found the inn surprisingly busy. A number of the village guards were gathered there and were drinking and simultaneously celebrating the victory at Ballan and mourning the death of two of their fellows. Olm, the only survivor of the three guards who accompanied the PCs to Ballan that morning, was the hero and the centre of attention, and was drunkenly telling and re-telling the story of the battle. The PCs joined the guards in the evening of drinking and recounting, and planned to travel to Aglong, the nearest larger town, the next day.

In the morning they attended the simple and unassuming burial of the three deceased, and then set off on the road to Aglong, arriving at dusk. Passing through a gate in the wall, they were surrounded by the bustle of the town. Barur was happy to be back in a larger settlement, after having spent most of the last few weeks in the tiny village of Keet, but Darian started to feel a little unnerved at the crowds. The party decided to split for a time, as Barur and Darian headed to an inn and Arthanius went to visit the head of his Order, who was based in the temple of Arg in Aglong. They agreed to meet later on at the Serpent & Eagle inn, where Barur had stayed previously and could recommend as a reputable and reasonably priced establishment.

Making his way through the streets of the town, Arthanius came to the temple of Arg, a large square stone building in the centre of the town, decorated with rows of columns and the crossed hammers of the god of storms. Entering, he gave a brief prayer at the feet of the statue of the god, and passed through a corridor at the rear of the temple and into a courtyard where the priests' quarters were found. His superior, a tall, elderly, battle-worn man named Meerax Eld, received him, and the two talked for some time. Arthanius reported what he had discovered of the ruined village of Ballan, and of the disappearance of the necromancer in Keet, and they discussed the possibility of Ballan being reclaimed from Chaos. This was hoped to be possible, with the aid of the priests of Hraal (god of protection & warding), but there had been very few instances of the realms of Chaos being pushed back in this Age, in fact quite the opposite. Nonetheless the Eld deemed the ruined village worthy of further investigation, and agreed to try to enlist the aid of some further members of Arthanius' Order to make a kind of scouting / clearing party. He also suggested that the Lady Esmelna, the granddaughter of the baron of Ballan, and heiress to the manor and village, should be consulted, at least out of courtesy, before any further excursions to Ballan were made. Arthanius took his leave and made his way back to the south gate and to the inn to meet his companions.

Meanwhile, Barur and Darian had found the Serpent & Eagle incredibly loud and crowded, much to Barur's delight and Darian's chagrin. In fact it was all the bard could do to enter the place and go up to the bar to drink the mug of beer which Barur had bought for him. It is becoming clear that Darian has some kind of problem with large crowds. As they sat at the bar, Barur was surprised to hear someone addressing him from behind in the Mountain tongue, the native language of Dwarves and various other mountain-dwelling races. Turning around he was delighted to see one of his kinsmen, a fellow Dwarf, smiling up at him. Dwarves in this Age are a somewhat rare race, their dominions having been wholly overrun by Chaos, and a huge majority of their number slain in the wars with Goblins. So the two were pleased to meet, and began talking excitedly in their tongue, leaving poor Darian to suffer alone in the noise and bustle of the inn. The Dwarf, whose name was Nenn, invited them to join him and his travelling companions, who were seated at a table in a corner. Much as an evening with four Dwarves did not strike Darian as his ideal pastime, the idea of a corner appealed. Once they were all settled, the four Dwarves began recounting tales of their people. They were considerate enough to translate the stories, as best they could, into the Kargeen tongue, for the benefit of Darian.

At about this time Arthanius entered the Serpent & Eagle, and made his way through the crowds to the table with the Dwarves. There they discussed their plans, and waxed heroic with their vision of reclaiming Ballan for Order, and then beginning to explore the City of Iron, the ruined Dwarven city in the nearby mountains. The three Dwarves - Nenn, Dak and Embed, who had been travelling companions for some time, were greatly inspired by this talk of glory, and agreed to join the party in Keet in the next week or so, after having finished some business they had elsewhere. The two humans went to bed early, leaving the four Dwarves to drink and reminisce together.

The morning brought thick snow and a cold but bright day. The party spent the day wandering the streets of Aglong, visiting various markets and shops, selling treasure and buying equipment. Barur took the painting, which he'd cut from its frame in the manor house at Ballan, to an antiquities dealer, where it was identified as being a portrait of the ex-baron. The proprietor also surmised that the orb and the quill which the baron was portrayed as holding were perhaps magical, as he was known to have possessed magical gifts from the wizard Elleg. Barur, being in possession of the feather, was intrigued at this suggestion, and attempted to find out if any wizards lived in Aglong, who might be able to identify the item, but to no avail. The antiques dealer also mentioned Lady Esmelna, who might be able to shed more light on the history of the manor, and would no doubt be pleased to see the painting of her grandfather, even though it was now in an awful and worthless condition.

Arthanius used the time to stock up on useful equipment like torches, oil and a lantern - not planning to be caught out below ground with only a single guttering torch again. He also purchased a second animal companion - a large black dog trained as a guard. The dog was called "Will", which the witch-hunter found somewhat too mundane for his taste, and began considering a renaming.

The session ended there, with the PCs intending to visit the Lady Esmelna, and Arthanius planning to return to his superior in the evening to see if any aid could be provided.