Monday 27 February 2012

Fight On! index of articles

Not sure why but I just felt inspired to create an index of all articles in Fight On! magazine, issues 1 to 13. I've done it as a public google doc, so please feel free to add value to it :) It would be especially nice if the "type" column was filled in, to make it easy to (for example) get a list of all the adventures, new classes or new spells in the magazines.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Deutsche Dungeons

I might enter this this year... The German One Page Dungeon Contest for Labyrinth Lord. Sounds like it'd be fun to scrawl slightly wacky non-native speaker German all over a dungeon map!

Saturday 25 February 2012

House rules - written in stone

Following some recent wrangling with house rules and character creation options, and a lot of discussion with the players in my campaign, I've come up with a finalised house rules / chargen document. I have had it both tattooed onto my face and carved into a huge stone altar from which I conduct my games.

It's been a long process, going from basic Labyrinth Lord plus some additional per-class character options plus quite a few house rules, to full-blown Advanced Labyrinth Lord, to the current state of moving back to basic(s) and gradually eliminating a lot of the house rules!

The character options (class specialisations, as I've called them) remain, as does the advanced concept of separate race & class. Aside from those points though, the house rules are very minimal.

It's a good feeling to have gone through that process and eventually come to a set of character creation rules which I'm happy with (and which hopefully the players are too, or can bear at least! ;).

For anyone who's interested, here's the final PDF: Character Creation in the Realm of old Aalia.

It also contains some encouraging OSR philosophy, in an attempt to explain the flavour of basic D&D.

Friday 24 February 2012

20 quick questions

Having been thinking quite a bit about house rules lately, I thought I'd answer Untimately's 20 Quick Questions as well...

  1. Ability scores generation method? 3d6 in order. I allow a single swap of class prime requisites (for example a character with STR 14 and INT 8 could have those two attributes swapped and become a magic-user). That means that CHA, CON and WIS (there's no clerics in my campaign) cannot be changed -- you get what you roll.
  2. How are death and dying handled? 0hp = dead. I do allow the use of a substance called "tonic" which, if used within a couple of rounds of a character reaching 0 or -1hp, can revive them. It costs 50gp a pop.
  3. What about raising the dead? Courtesy of your friendly local Temple of Orcus.
  4. How are replacement PCs handled? We've been starting new PCs recently at 5,000XP, which is a bit below what most PCs in the party have (they're mostly at the high end of 3rd level now, approaching 4th).
  5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else? Group, 1d6. We actually just switched from a freestyle combat procedure to the by-the-book Labyrinth Lord procedure, and we're all very much enjoying rolling those 1d6s!
  6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? Natural 20 = auto-hit, natural 1 = auto-miss. As DM I always add a bit of flavour as well... dropping or breaking weapons, hitting allies, pinning or stunning opponents, that sort of thing. I don't use any tables for it, just go with whatever comes to mind in the moment.
  7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? +1 AC. Unconventional, I know, but I thought it gives a good simple reason to buy and wear one!
  8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? Oh yes. PCs have famously been killed by this.
  9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? Running can definitely be wise at times. Not that the players in my games do it very often (or ever, if I come to think of it!).
  10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no? Yes, I like to keep undead scary. Only one character has got level drained in the campaign so far, and he didn't like it very much, haha.
  11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? Yes. Some poisons for sure.
  12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? Semi-strictly, I'd say. Sometimes I make a point of keeping track of torches burning out and so on, at other time (normally when there's more action) not. I'm a bit more of a stickler for encumbrance. I always at least roughly want to know someone's movement rate -- I'm not gonna let some plate-clad fighter run around as fast as an unencumbered magic-user!
  13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? No training (I see adventuring as training in itself). Magic-users don't gain new spells -- they have to find or buy them. No level gains in the middle of an adventure.
  14. What do I get experience for? Classic: defeating monsters (small amount) and gaining loot (large amount).
  15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? Either really. I prefer the former, but most of the players seem happier just to make a die roll. I draw the line at allowing a trap to be disarmed by a simple die roll -- descriptions will be required then. I'm not a huge placer of traps anyway.
  16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? Neither encouraged nor discouraged. No player has ever tried to hire a retainer.
  17. How do I identify magic items? With difficulty. The standard identify spell is available for a price at the wizards' guild -- though the results are pretty unreliable, and it's quite expensive. I have wondered about either house ruling the spell to make it more reliable or perhaps making up some other means of finding out about magic items, as I think it's pretty frustrating for players to find something they know is magical but not have a clue what it does.
  18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? Yes. Potions and scrolls are available for sale in the big city (where the campaign is set). Magical weapons and armour (only the basic +1 variety) are also available, but at fairly steep prices. Other items might occasionally be found for sale, but not as a matter of course.
  19. Can I create magic items? When and how? Definitely. Get to 9th level first, then we'll talk about it. Oh actually I do have the (Holmes-inspired) house rule that magic-users can make scrolls from 1st level, costing 150gp + one week of time per spell level. It's hardly been used, which I find interesting.
  20. What about splitting the party? Hm... I guess so. It's rarely been an issue. I wouldn't do anything to prevent it happening, but would certainly encourage the group to get together again before too long.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Multi-class vs mixed-class characters

As I mentioned recently, after starting purely with basic Labyrinth Lord, we've had several "Advanced" style multi-classed demi-human player characters created in my campaign in the last few months. I've been thinking about the introduction of these characters and how it's changed the game.

The main influence they've had, I feel, is an unfortunate one. Their ability to do two things well has tended to overwhelm the single-classed characters, with very little downside. A thief / magic-user is equally as capable as a normal thief and a normal magic-user. As they have to split their XP between two classes, multi-classed characters gain XP in each of their classes at half the normal rate. However, while a 50% reduction sounds like a big deal on paper, due to the exponential nature of the XP progression charts this effectively means the characters are only one level behind their single-classed companions. This in my experience makes little difference (a single spell per day for MUs, or a few percentile points for thieves, for example), and is more than made up for by the fact that they are all round so much more capable. This, in combination with demi-humans' substantial racial benefits, makes multi-classed demi-humans far and away more powerful than their single-classed human brethren, at the low to mid levels of play, at least.

So I've been thinking about why players might want to create multi-classed characters. Several reasons come to mind:
  1. To try something different. In a game with only three or four classes, allowing them to be combined in pairs greatly increases the number of possibilities.
  2. To play a character of mixed class.
  3. To counteract the level limits applied to demi-humans, by effectively slowing down the race towards the end point.
Today I want to address the second of these points -- the desire for a character that's "a bit of a thief, a bit of a wizard" or something like that. I think that players with such ideas in mind (the dabbling bard or magical assassin archetypes, for example) don't expect their character to be as good a wizard as a single-classed magic-user, or as good a thief as a single-classed thief. They simply want to have a mixture of abilities -- an option which is not presented by the strictly separated classes of standard D&D. Ignoring the odd dual-classing rules of AD&D, multi-classing is traditionally the primary way to create a character with mixed abilities.

I've been contemplating an alternative. Instead of giving a mixed-class character the complete abilities of two different classes, how about giving them half of the abilities of each of those classes? I think in essence this is actually more what players are imagining when creating mixed-class characters.

Of course what exactly constitutes half of a magic-user's, fighter's or thief's abilities is open to interpretation, and would depend very much on the rules set being used.

Here's an example of the kind of thing I'm thinking of, in terms of the standard Labyrinth Lord classes.

Mixed-Class Characters
Characters can choose two classes, and gain roughly half the abilities of each.

Mix-classed characters have the following characteristics in general, modified by the chosen classes:
  • XP progression: as magic-user
  • Hit Dice: d6
  • To hit rolls: as thief
  • Saving throws: best of two classes
  • Weapons & armour: as thief

Half a Magic-User
Cannot create magic items.
Can use magic-user specific magic items from 5th level.
Labyrinth Lord's call as to whether mixed-class magic-users can cast spells while wearing armour.
Use the following spell progression:

Level    1    2    3    4    5
1    1*    -    -    -    -
2    1    -    -    -    -
3    2    -    -    -    -   
4    2    -    -    -    -
5    2    1    -    -    -
6    2    2    -    -    -
7    2    2    -    -    -
8    2    2    1    -    -
9    2    2    2    -    -
10    2    2    2    -    -
11    3    2    2    -    -
12    3    2    2    -    -
13    3    2    2    1    -
14    3    2    2    1    -
15    3    3    2    1    -
16    3    3    2    1    -
17    3    3    2    2    -
18    3    3    2    2    -
19    3    3    3    2    -
20    3    3    3    2    1

* A 1st level half magic-user must make a successful INT check on 1d20 each day to learn a spell.

Half a Thief
Choose three of the following (advancement as normal thief):
  1. Pick locks & find / remove traps
  2. Pick pockets
  3. Backstab
  4. Climb walls
  5. Move silently & hide in shadows
  6. Hear noise
Half a Fighter
Can use all weapons.
Can use fighter specific magic items from 5th level.
Choose two of the following:
  1. d8 Hit Dice
  2. Fighter attack progression
  3. Use any armour
  4. Use a shield

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Fight On! hardcover compilations

Just spreading the word that issues 1-12 of Fight On! are available until Feb 23rd in the form of limited edition hardcover compilations, each book containing 4 issues.

Each book costs $39.99 / £25.83, and has over 400 pages, so that's pretty good value for money I reckon! They are, of course, stuffed with awesomeness.

There's also, conveniently, a Lulu code for 20% off: SWEETUK305 is the UK version, SWEET305 for the US.

Links to Lulu:

Issues 1-4

Issues 5-8

Issues 9-12

Sunday 19 February 2012

New vivimancer spell: Chimera

One of the players in my campaign has just rolled up a vivimancer character, and asked if they had any kind of summoning magic. Looking at the spell list for the class, we realised that that is actually a bit of a gap in its abilities, so I got to thinking about what sort of summoning magic they might have. Here's what I came up with.

(Image by Manticoress) 
Chimera I
Level: 4
Duration: 2 rounds, +1 round per level
Range: 30'

In the round this spell is cast, a formless, throbbing blob of flesh appears at the chosen location within range. Over the course of the next two rounds the blob grows, mutates and finally forms into a bizarre hybrid creature which will do the caster's bidding. The creature is genetically unstable, and will dissolve into a pool of protoplasm when the spell's duration expires.

The mutant creature has 2d4 HD, an armour class of 2d4, and a movement rate of 90' / 30'. Its form and abilities are determined by rolling a d12, d10, d8 and d6, and consulting the following tables.

Body (d12) 1. fungoid, 2. furry, 3. scaly, 4. blubbery, 5. mossy, 6. worm-like, 7. segmented, 8. insectoid, 9. transparent, 10. ribbed, 11. serpentine, 12. ooze-like.

Head (d10) 1. wolf, 2. bear, 3. bull, 4. lion, 5. rat, 6. frog, 7. lizard, 8. insect, 9. spider, 10. snake.

Head attacks (d8)
1 - 2. Bite or ram attack for 1d6 damage.
3. Gaping maw -- 1d6 damage bite, plus swallow attack on a natural 20.
4. Giant tongue -- may attack up to 10' with tongue, doing 1d4 damage. A successful attack indicates the target is dragged to the mouth on the next round and suffers a bite attack for 1d6 damage automatically, unless it can successfully attack the tongue before then.
5. Breath attack (fire, cold, gas) causing 2d6 damage. Can be used once.
6. Poisonous bite -- 1d4 damage plus save versus poison or suffer 2d6 additional damage.
7. Two heads, each with a bite or butt attack for 1d6 damage.
8. Three heads, each with a bite or butt attack for 1d6 damage.

Appendages (d6)
1. Two claws which can attack for 1d6 damage.
2. Many legs -- 120' / 40' movement rate.
3. Wings -- can fly.
4. Tentacles -- 1d6 tentacles which can each attack for 1d3 damage.
5. Suckers or grippers -- can climb walls.
6. Springing -- can make a jumping attack up to 30' distant, gaining +2 to hit.

Chimera II
Level: 6
Duration: 2 rounds, +1 round per level
Range: 30'

This spell works in a similar manner to the 4th level Chimera I, creating a blob of tissue from which mutant life will emerge. This enhanced version may either be used to create a single monster with 2d4 + 4 HD, or two identical 2d4 HD creatures.

Chimera III
Level: 8
Duration: 2 rounds, +1 round per level
Range: 30'

This spell works in a similar manner to the 4th level Chimera I, creating a blob of tissue from which mutant life will emerge. This enhanced version may either be used to create a single monster with 2d4 + 6 HD, or three identical 2d4 HD creatures.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

The sorry fate of Mr Slippums

Oh dear.

Following the death and hoped resurrection of Slippy, our longest standing PC, the players had several options, as discussed here.

A further option was discovered, actually at Slippy's player's suggestion: reincarnate. So they made a visit to the School of Biomorphology in S'raka (where a bunch of vivimancers hang out) and inquired if it was possible. And it was, for the bargain price of 3,000gp. They jumped at the offer (2,000gp less than what the Temple of Orcus were asking! what a bargain!).

So Cagliostro, the party's necromancer, cut off an ear of the deceased rat man (the vivimancers only needed a small sample of tissue to work from), and set about boiling down Slippy's corpse to produce a skeleton and a nice bar of soap.

Two weeks later, Slippy emerged from the regenerative vats... The reincarnation tables came into action, and... a female goblin archer was born! Slippy's player was, I got the feeling, none too pleased.

I gave him the option of re-rolling his hit points: 3d6. He took the risk and rolled 8, having previously had 11.

I also gave him the option of re-rolling his comeliness (an attribute which we semi-jokingly use). He again took the risk and rolled 6, having previously had a respectably dashing 12.

So, such is the sorry fate of Henry Slippums. He had the idea of saving up for another reincarnation, committing suicide in the regenerative vat and taking his chances with what might come out next time. I suggested that wish would have the power to turn him back into a rat man.

Edit: see here for an insider's report on the Slippums situation.

Monday 13 February 2012

UK OSR con?

After Newt at 101 games made the suggestion recently of a UK OSR convention, I've been thinking about it some more. Now, that's not to say that my thoughts have led to anything hugely insightful or progressive. They have mostly focussed on "how awesome would that be!?". I can't imagine ever going to one of the old-school cons in America, but I always think it must be such a great opportunity to meet lots of fellow old-school enthusiasts / bloggers, so would love to go to something like that in Europe.

My imaginary favourite special guests would be: James Raggi, Russ Nicholson, Steve Jackson, Ian Livingstone :) Fighting Fantasy games would be played :)

Saturday 11 February 2012

The tweaking DM

I was thinking the other day about how DMing seems to involve (at least) two quite different sets of skills. On the one hand are skills of imagination, expression and improvisation -- the "art" of DMing, if you will. On the other hand are skills of systems, rules and judgement -- the "science" of DMing.

Nowadays, my "sciencey" side tends to focus on the tweaking and re-working of core rules and house rules. The new classes I've been posting recently are a perfect example of the expression of that urge. I see something I'm not so keen on in the core rules, play around with tweaking it, and finally come up with my own variant (house rule). Or sometimes I come up with a new idea that just doesn't fit neatly in any of the existing mechanics.

Whatever the case, "tinkering" is, I believe, the phrase.

I've noticed that in my Labyrinth Lord campaign I've gone through a few eras in regard to the rules:
  1. We started off with just the basic LL rules (i.e. not using the AEC) + quite a few house rules tweaking various bits & pieces.
  2. Gradually stuff from the AEC was introduced. Separate race & class. Attribute modifiers due to race and age. Multi-classing. Secondary skills. (This phase was, interestingly, completely player-driven. They basically saw cool stuff in the AEC and asked if they could use it. I said yes.)
  3. After a while I began to pare back the house rules, seeing that some of them made no impact as they were never used, and that some of them were just tweaks for the sake of tweaking, and didn't really add anything to the game. The idea of playing as closely as possible to the core rules became very appealing, partly due to the fact that several of the players also have the rule books, so it makes sense to stick to what everyone has a printed copy of.
  4. Now I'm in a phase again where I'm getting itchy feet and creating new classes all over the place and thinking about radically different systems of clerical magic.
So, a real oscillation between periods of the rules being very static and periods of wild splurges of modification / addition can be seen.

Firstly: is it just me? I get the feeling a lot of DMs do this. Do any / many DMs not do this?

The main point I want to raise here though is: what is this all about?

I don't really have an answer to that question at the moment. Maybe it's just fun to play in the sub-world of game-mechanical creation? Partly, for sure -- I love that.

I think it's also connected to the process of imagining a world though. What kind of characters, monsters, magic and adventures exist in that world, and how do the rules of the game support / restrict that?

Anyone else out there got any thoughts on this matter? Either from the DM's or the player's perspective.

More classes! -- Assassin redux

As I recently wrote, I've always liked the idea of the assassin class, but never been that keen on the mechanics of the AD&D implementation. An idea presented by Carter the other day finally inspired me to do my own version of the class. The end result is more in line with the other basic LL classes, having much simpler mechanics and less baroque abilities than the AD&D / AEC version.

Requirements:       None
Prime Requisite:    STR, DEX
Hit Dice:                1d6
Maximum Level:    None
XP Progression:     1,500 for 2nd level

Assassins specialise in stealth, infiltration and silent killing. They can use any missile weapons, any one-handed melee weapons, and leather armour. Assassins are also able to use shields.

Assassins with a 13 in both prime requisites receive a 5% experience bonus. Those with a 16 in one or both prime requisites receive a 10% bonus. Assassins' saving throw and attack advancement is the same as standard thieves'.

Humans, dwarves, elves and halflings* may be assassins. Elvish and halfling assassins may advance to 10th level, while dwarfish assassins may advance to 8th level.

Like thieves, assassins are trained in the art of stealth, and can use the following skills with the same degree of success as a thief of the same level: hide in shadows, move silently, hear noise.

Assassins are also trained in techniques of swift and silent murder. When an assassin successfully attacks an opponent by surprise (either due to a surprise roll, or as a result of using his stealth skills), he inflicts extra damage equal to his own Hit Dice. For example, a 15th level assassin inflicts 9d6 + 12 hit points extra damage upon making a successful assassination attack. Assassination attacks may only be performed with short-bladed melee weapons (daggers, knives or short swords), and are only effective against targets with a perceptible weak-point, such as the heart, throat or brain of a humanoid. In situations where it is relevant, the Labyrinth Lord may require a successful move silently roll to effect a completely noiseless assassination.

Many assassins make use of various poisons, and have enough experience to avoid the risk of self-poisoning while dealing with these deadly substances.

Reaching 3rd level: An assassin's knowledge of harmful substances grants him a chance to be able to identify unknown poisons or drugs by their colour, consistency and odour. The chance of success depends on the character's level (see table below). Rare substances may incur a penalty to identification checks, at the Labyrinth Lord's discretion. Each attempt to identify a substance takes one turn. If the attempt fails the substance cannot be identified by that assassin until he has increased in level.

Reaching 5th level: As an aide to infiltration, assassins sometimes need to practice the art of disguise. While characters of any class may attempt to disguise themselves, from 5th level assassins gain an additional edge in avoiding detection. In situations where the Labyrinth Lord has determined that a disguise is ineffective, an assassin is able to make a hide in shadows check. If the check succeeds, the character is not noticed.

Reaching 8th level: Due to his highly honed awareness, an assassin of 8th level or higher may only be surprised on a roll of 1. He additionally gains a saving throw versus death against any backstab or assassination attempts against his person. A successful save indicates that the assassin takes only the base damage form the attack, not the additional dice.

Poison Identification Progression by Level: 3: 25, 4: 35, 5: 45, 6: 52, 7: 60, 8: 65, 9: 70, 10: 75, 11: 82, 12: 90, 13: 95, 14+: 99

* The suggested level limit for a halfling assassin is based on the rat-folk which have replaced halflings in my campaign. In standard LL, this class should probably not be available to chubby hobbitses.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

City building resources

I've recently been giving some more thought to the city in which the PCs in my campaign live. It's been a pretty vague entity up until now, but I'd like to start putting a bit more detail into it, and maybe run some more urban based adventures in and around the city.

So I've been on the look out for any good guides to city building.

Surprisingly, one popped up on the Wizards of the Coast website. It's D&D 3.5 oriented, but the meat of the document is system neutral. Seems like it'll be pretty useful. Check it out: Building a city.

Anyone else know of any good resources for city building? (I'm thinking along more "traditional" lines, rather than the "urban crawl" style of Vornheim.)

Monday 6 February 2012

Theorems & Thaumaturgy art sneak preview!

Slowly but surely artwork is coming in for the book, and it is starting to look so awesome I just couldn't resist showing off a couple of snippets! These are just extracts from the full images, as a little taster of how the book is shaping up.

Firstly, something necromantic.

And secondly something vivimantic.

Click both for a bit more detail.

(Both these extracts are from illustrations by the awesome Cadanse D. The book will also feature illustrations by Kelvin Green and Dylan Cromwell.)

Sunday 5 February 2012

More classes! -- Leader and Blade

I'm on a roll with these ideas for new classes! Here are two more... Firstly, a "team player" with CHA as its prime requisite: the leader. And secondly an agile (and potentially dashing and/or swashbuckling) swordsman: the blade.

As discussed yesterday, these two classes again come with no preconceived background or motives, but present a few different mechanical options which might be fun for players. One thing I especially like about the leader class is that it could be used equally for a bard, a paladin or a warlord, thus rolling several sub-classes into one. The question is: is the class too "4e"? I have tried to keep it palatable to old-school taste and in fitting with the other classes in Labyrinth Lord, but the name and some amount of inspiration came from 4th edition D&D (which I must confess I have played several times! Though I did not inhale ;).

Any feedback most welcome!

Requirements:       None
Prime Requisite:    CHA
Hit Dice:                1d6
Maximum Level:    None
XP Progression:     2,000 for 2nd level

Leaders are characters whose skills place them at the fore of battle, but who specialise not in skill at arms, but rather in the art of rallying their allies. They are able to use any weapons and armour, as the standard fighter.

Note that as CHA is the leader's prime requisite, characters of this class are able to raise their CHA at character creation by attribute point swapping – this is disallowed for other characters. Leaders' saving throw and attack advancement is the same as standard clerics'.

Humans, elves and dwarves may be leaders. Elvish leaders may advance to 10th level, and dwarfish leaders to 9th level.

While their personal ability in combat is not as strong as that of fighters, leaders have several special abilities which help their companions in battle.

Firstly, all allies within 30' of the leader gain a +2 bonus to saving throws against fear. Hirelings within the same area gain a +1 bonus to morale.

In situations where a battle is anticipated, a leader can spend one turn prior to its commencement rallying his allies' spirits. This grants all allies within 30' of the leader a +1 bonus to hit and +1 versus saving throws when combat begins. This bonus lasts for one round per level of the leader.

Similarly, after a battle a leader may spend one turn to regroup the morale of his companions, enabling up to one ally per level to regain 1d3 hit points. This ability may only affect each ally once per day.

Reaching 5th level: Upon reaching 5th level, a leader gains the ability to put fear into the hearts of enemies. This ability can only be used once per combat, and only in the round directly following a successful (i.e. damage dealing) attack on an enemy within 30' of the leader. The leader uses this opportunity to disarray the opponents, causing an immediate morale check to be rolled (the Labyrinth Lord should determine how many opponents may be demoralised, depending on the circumstances). The leader can perform no other actions during the round he uses this ability.

Reaching 9th level: At 9th level, a leader's actions can inspire great courage in his allies. Whenever a leader makes a successful attack in combat, all allies within 30' gain +1 to hit and damage in the following round.

Requirements:       DEX 9
Prime Requisite:    STR, DEX
Hit Dice:                1d8
Maximum Level:    None
XP Progression:     2,100 for 2nd level

Blades are warriors who specialise in making fast, dynamic attacks and displays of swordsmanship. They are able to use any weapons, and any armour up to chain mail. Due to lack of training, blades suffer -1 to attacks with all missile weapons except thrown daggers. Though blades are able to use shields, they seldom do, preferring to wield a dagger in their off-hand.

Blades with a 13 in both prime requisites receive a 5% experience bonus. Those with a 16 in one or both prime requisites receive a 10% bonus. Blades' saving throw and attack advancement is the same as standard fighters'.

Humans, elves and halflings may be blades. Elvish blades may advance to 10th level, and halfling blades to 8th level. *

Blades are experts at wielding two weapons – typically a long sword in one hand and a dagger or short sword in the other. Their expertise with two blades is as effective as a shield, granting them a +1 bonus to armour class.

Additionally, with a blade in each hand, they gain a +2 bonus when attempting to disarm opponents. (The Labyrinth Lord should use whatever system seems appropriate for dealing with attempts to disarm, an option which should be open to all characters – blades are simply more likely to succeed.)

Blades are also practised knife throwers, and gain a +1 bonus to hit when making missile attacks with knives or daggers.

Reaching 3rd level: By making a display of flashy swordsmanship, a blade of 3rd level or higher can gain a +2 bonus when attempting to intimidate opponents. This bonus should be applied to whatever roll the Labyrinth Lord deems appropriate for the situation – for example morale checks, reaction rolls, saving throws, etc. In any event, the display must last at least one full combat round.

Reaching 5th level: Upon reaching 5th level, when wielding a sword or dagger, a blade is able to make two attacks ever other round. This includes attacks with thrown daggers.

Reaching 7th level: At 7th level, a blade's skill at parrying grants him an additional +1 bonus to armour class if he forgoes all attacks and other actions during a combat round. This bonus increases to +2 at 12th level and +3 at 17th level.

Reaching 10th level and higher: Upon reaching 10th, 15th and 20th level, a blade gains an extra attack per round when wielding a sword or dagger. This includes attacks with thrown daggers.

* The suggested level limit for a halfling blade is based on the rat-folk which have replaced halflings in my campaign. In standard LL, this class should probably not be available to chubby hobbitses.

Saturday 4 February 2012

More classes! (?) -- Brute & Archer

Character classes, that old cornerstone of D&D... As a DM I've always been a "more is less" kinda guy, of the school of thought that who needs a ranger, paladin, cavalier and barbarian when you have the basic fighter. But something has been shifting... I've been thinking about what the players in my campaign might want, and the main thing I think players desire for their characters, in the context of an adventuring party, is for their character to be able to do something that no one else in the party can. And this something should be of a mechanical nature, that is, not purely a role-playing / behavioural difference.

So I've got to thinking about what additional classes I could allow. Thus far we've just had the classic four -- with cleric constantly teetering on the edge of being disallowed due to me as grumpy DM not liking it and claiming it doesn't fit with the setting. The obvious course of action would be allow some or all of the "advanced" classes from the Labyrinth Lord AEC, but I have problems with all of those classes.

The paladin, druid and ranger come with too strong a role-playing / background restriction, and cause problems of how they integrate with the rest of a party -- why exactly is this druid (who's supposed to be hanging around protecting balance in a grove somewhere) keeping the company of scoundrels and joining them on expeditions to steal treasure from dungeons?

The monk I just find too Asian -- which wouldn't be a problem if I was running an Asian-themed campaign ;).

As for the assassin, I like the idea of the class, but am not keen on some of the mechanics.

Oh and of course there's the illusionist -- I love the illusionist, and have amalgamated it into the magic-user (along with my necromancer and elementalist classes) as optional areas of specialisation.

So that's all of the AD&D classes struck off the list. What I want is some classes which provide some different abilities without any required background baggage. I've been brainstorming a few ideas, and have come up with a couple of fighter variants to start off with which I'm going to run by the players to see what they think. May I present, the brute and the archer.

Requirements:       STR 9, CON 9
Prime Requisite:    STR, CON
Hit Dice:                1d8
Maximum Level:    None
XP Progression:     2,200 for 2nd level

Brutes are warriors who rely on sheer physical power, rather than expertise with weapons and fighting techniques. Brutes are able to use all melee weapons, though favour two-handed weapons, and suffer a -1 penalty to hit when using a one-handed weapon. They are likewise not trained in the use of missile weapons, suffering -1 to hit with thrown weapons, and being unable to use bows, slings and crossbows. Brutes are able to wear any armour, but cannot use shields.

Brutes with a 13 in both prime requisites receive a 5% experience bonus. Those with a 16 in one or both prime requisites receive a 10% bonus. Brutes' saving throw and attack advancement is the same as standard fighters'.

Humans or dwarves may be brutes. Dwarfish brutes may advance to 9th level, and are permitted to use two-handed battle axes and war hammers.

Despite their weapon and armour restrictions, at 1st level brute characters gain several advantages over normal fighters.

Firstly they are able to increase either their STR or CON attribute by one point, to a maximum of 19.

Secondly, due to the force of their attacks, they add an additional 1d6 damage to any melee attack which succeeds with a natural roll of  20.

Finally, due to the vigour with which they fight, brutes are able to continue attacking even when their hit points go below 1. A brute can continue making melee attacks (and no other actions) until his hit points are reduced to the negative value of his experience level (for example, a 5th level brute can keep fighting until -5 hit points). At this point, or if no further opponents are nearby, the brute dies.

Reaching 3rd level: Upon reaching 3rd level, brutes gain the ability after making a successful melee attack, to make a second attack against another nearby foe.

Reaching 5th level: At 5th level a brute may again increase either his STR or CON by one point, to a maximum of 19.

Reaching 10th level: At 10th level a brute may again increase either his STR or CON by one point, to a maximum of 19.

Reaching 15th level, and higher: Like fighters, brutes gain an extra attack per round at 15th, 20th and 25th level.

Requirements:       DEX 9
Prime Requisite:    STR, DEX
Hit Dice:                1d6
Maximum Level:    None
XP Progression:    1,900 for 2nd level

Archers are warriors who devote their whole training to the mastery of the bow. They are able to use any missile weapons and all one-handed melee weapons, though suffer a -1 penalty to hit with the latter. Archers can use any armour up to chain mail, and are not trained in the use of a shield.

Archers with a 13 in both prime requisites receive a 5% experience bonus. Those with a 16 in one or both prime requisites receive a 10% bonus. Archers' saving throw and attack advancement is the same as standard fighters'.

Humans, elves and halflings may be archers. Elvish archers may advance to 12th level, and halfling archers to 7th level.

Archers gain several advantages over standard fighters.

Firstly they gain +1 to hit and damage when using a long or short bow.

Secondly, an archer with STR 13 or greater can purchase a specially commissioned composite bow to take advantage of his strength. Such a bow enables the archer to add his STR bonus to damage on a successful hit. The cost of these bows is shown below. They can only be used by archers.

Reaching 5th level: Upon reaching 5th level, archers gain the ability to make two attacks with their bow every other round.

Reaching 7th level: At 7th level an archer gains the ability to make precise and deadly shots when attacking by surprise. Any successful attack made with a bow upon a target who is unaware of the archer's presence (usually due to a surprise roll) has its damage multiplied by two.

Reaching 10th level: At 10th level an archer is able to make two attacks per round with his bow

Reaching 15th level: At 15th level an archer is able to make three attacks per round with his bow.

Archer Composite Bows
Shortbow (up to +1 damage bonus) -- costs 100gp
Shortbow (up to +2 damage bonus) -- costs 200gp
Shortbow (up to +3 damage bonus) -- costs 400gp
Longbow (up to +1 damage bonus) -- costs 150gp
Longbow (up to +2 damage bonus) -- costs 300gp
Longbow (up to +3 damage bonus) -- costs 600gp

Friday 3 February 2012

The death of Henry Slippums

My Labyrinth Lord campaign has been running for just over a year now. About half of that time I was running games every two weeks, and more recently we've gone to playing every week. Over the course of those games, many characters have come and gone. I'm not one to shield PCs from the brutality of old-school D&D. Of the characters who featured in the first session, only one has survived all that time -- Henry "Slippy" Slippums. Until two days ago that is.

The death of a PC is always a shocking moment, but even more so when the PC in question has been the only constant of the campaign from day one, and, indeed, the self-styled "boss" of the party.

Really the death was an un/lucky fluke. I rolled three natural 20s against him, giving whatever armour or precautions he'd taken no chance of helping him.

But whatever the cause, we now find ourselves in a very interesting position -- the first time in the history of the campaign where raise dead is seriously being discussed. As luck would have it, following a recent suggestion from Alex, I'd decided several days previously that Orcus is the main cosmic power to whom adventurers may turn when seeking to raise a dead companion.

So, on the spur of the moment I was presented with the task of deciding how that works. Visiting the temple of Orcus in S'raka, here are the choices the PCs were presented:
  1. Pay 5,000gp for the ritual.
  2. Pay 2,000gp and provide a bunch of live sacrifices to "butter up" the lord of the dead. A total of 17 humans or 32 "little people" were the figures recommended.
  3. Accept a group quest to return the favour.
The party's necromancer Cagliostro also offered up the option of re-animating Slippy as a zombie using animate dead.

This has presented a very interesting situation to the party, as they don't have 5,000gp between them, so cannot simply pay the lump sum. They could probably just about scrape it together if they sacrificed all the wealth they have, and sold Slippy's magic sword. This would leave them penniless, a state which they are not at all keen on.

The live sacrifices option has been discussed, either by buying slaves for the purpose (which is past the edge of taste & morality for some of the PCs), or venturing underground and capturing several dozen kobolds whom they encountered recently and have taken a (completely unwarranted, it must be said) disliking to. It sounds like this would be a rather amusing exercise in bad taste.

Interestingly, the least favourite option (apart from zombification, which only the necromancer is keen on) is the quest. As DM I am rather keen on this option, as it would give a nice excuse for some fun missions, but I suppose they don't trust the lord of the dead :)

It'll be fascinating to see what they end up deciding on. Slippy's player Yves is hoping they'll be overcome with loyalty to their "bold" "leader".