So I haven’t posted in a very long time. “Very long time” doesn’t even cut it anymore, this blog was dead. Frozen. I guess it’s safe to say I’m not a dedicated blogger, let’s agree on that. Also I’ll never talk about posting regularly again. That mission has failed.
Now that’s covered: I’m planning on running a small old school D&D campaign in the near future and I was assembling my own best version of Dungeons and Dragons for this purpose. There will be a wilderness hexmap to explore, scattered with treasures, dungeons and deathtraps. I want a somewhat believable campaign world, true struggle for survival and an overall dark undertone. Also I want the players to experience a sense of advancement, wonder and significance as to who their characters are beyond stats and equipment. This post is just my subjective version of the best possible OSR rules to achieve this with.
First of all, I chose a retroclone as a basis for the game and Lamentations of the Flame Princess was the obvious choice. The neat blend of old school rules-lightness, hardcore “realism” and grim weirdness fits my desired theme perfectly. I will also have the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game 3rd Edition rules at the game table, for some handy additional rulings, tables and whatnot (there are quite some useful rules for wilderness travel and special encounter situations in there, also treasure and encounter tables and traps and the like). Both of those games are available as free PDFs, by the way. Lastly, I house-rule the shit out of this bitch for taste. (Much of which is inspired by the Beyond the Wall RPG.)
LotFP has a 1d6 skill system. Many grognards would call that a new school feature, adding unneccessary die rolls and character skill over player skill elements. Personally, I enjoy a reasonable dose of character skill in my old school gaming, as it makes performing difficult tasks within the game world more meaningful and gives a foundation for mechanically relevant advancement of what a character is able to do, over the course of play. In addition to the LotFP standard skills, I add at least the skills “Lore” and “Medicine” both with a base 1 in 6 chance of success.
This is modified by intelligence, just like languages, and it is used to check wether a character knows a fact about the game world that is not common knowledge to him/her. The specialist can of course add points to this skill.
This is unmodified with a base 1 in 6 chance. It’s used to stop bleeding, clean wounds and the like. It’s neccessary to prevent characters of 0 hit points and lower from dying within a day (if no magical means of healing are employed). It’s neccessary to prevent infection after any injury that incorporated hit point loss. If an injured character has not gotten any medical attention, save against poison the next night (or after a full day), otherwise the wounds get infected. As long as the character is infected, he/she can not recover hit points and looses further 1d6 hit points every night he/she doesn’t save against poison. A successful save ends the infection. A successful medical treatment of a character with infected wounds grants him/her advantage (see below) on these saves. A professional retainer (such as the physician) succeeds automatically on either medicine check.
A pack with medicinal equipment is worth 1 sp per use (regardless of wether that use was successful or not).
I will possibly introduce some additional skill(s), if it appears to be reasonable to do so during play.
In addition to the skill system, I will make use of roll-under ability checks for any task that requires resolution and is neither an application of a skill, a save, nor an attack. I consider resolution by die to be required, whenever I’m in doubt about the outcome. Also, I scrap the “open doors” pseudo skill and handle such situations by roll-under strength instead. This means: Rolling a d20 and succeeding when at or lower than a task-specific ability score (ST, DEX, CON, INT, WIS or CHA). Other examples would be a difficult jump (DEX), performing a complex ritual (INT), lying convincingly (CHA) or sensing a motive (WIS). I will demand (or execute behind the screen) such rolls only, when determination of success by player skill or cirumstances remains inconclusive. (It so happens that this predicament arises quite often when I’m the referee.)
LotFP doesn’t add the CHA modifier on reaction rolls, being quite firm about the dominance of player over character skill. As I’m already allowing ability scores to determine the outcome of various actions, it is only consistent that I also add the CHA modifier to reaction rolls.
5th Edition Advantage/Disadvantage
This nice little feature of D&D 5e is a great addition to any GM’s toolset. Basically: If a situation is advantageous, roll 2 dice and use the better result, in the opposite case use the worse result. It also works well together with my following house rule, which is inspired by Fate aspects and 5th Edition status effects:
Traits and Afflictions
A trait is some descriptive statement about the character, like “acolyte of the cult of Kaan“, “former farm boy of the Valley” or “big city gutter rat“. It is supposed to give the character some quick and easy background and it grants him/her advantage (in the sense described above) on ability and reaction rolls whenver it’s reasonable that this trait would be helpful. In situtations where the trait matches a situation exceptionally well, the advantage may also be granted on saves, skill checks or even to-hit rolls. Each character starts the game with one trait of the players choice. The player may choose to specify the trait later on during the first game session, when he/she got to know his/her character better. Later on, on very rare and special occasions (like once or twice in a characters career at most), additional traits may be earned (maybe a character earns a title, a reputation, follows a certain vocation or develops a specific affinity). Traits should be rather specific and serve to better establish the role of a character within the game world.
Afflictions are basically the negative version of traits, leading to a disadvantage on corresponding ability rolls, reaction rolls, skill rolls, to-hit rolls, saves (all die rolls that reasonably correspond to the afflication, basically). Afflictions are long-term consequences of trauma. Whenever the characters hit points drop to 0 or below, he/she aquires an affliction that fits the event that caused the hit point loss. Examples would be “limp left leg“, “one-eyed” or “hideous disfigurement“. When witnessing insufferable horrors, a failed save against paralyzation may cause a mental affliction, like a specific phobia or “perpetual soliloquy“. Wether the affliction is possible to overcome or permanent should depend on the severity of the cause.
This last addition to the game is meant to dissolve the borders between the character classes somewhat. The reason is that I simply can not accept that one who casts spells should be forever unable to learn how to wield a sword properly, or that a soldier should never be able to become an expert climber, however hard he/she trains for it. Freedom for the characters to become whatever their players want them to is more important to me than clear distinction of roles in a dungeon. Therefore I allow some sort of dynamic multiclassing with fighters and specialists:
A character may choose to level up as a fighter or specialist instead of their regular class. This always means that HP and saving throws increase like your regular class, but all other advancements are replaced by either +1 on the attack bonus or +2 skill points. This means that for example a level 3 magic-user, who decides to level up to level 4 as a fighter, will subsequently have 1d4 + CON more HP, saving throws of a level 4 magic-user, an attack bonus of +2 and the spells per level of a level 3 magic-user, aswell as an effective caster level of 3. Or a level 5 figher, who chooses to level up to level 6 as a specialist, will then have an additional d8 + CON HP, fighter level 6 saving throws, 2 skill points and an attack bonus of +6 (like level 5 fighters). A character always has to have less of these multiclass level advancements total, than regular level advancements in its own class. Also specialists who multiclass as a fighter only get +1 skill point on their next level instead of +2.
I also wanted to replace the Vancian magic system with something less mechanical. Something more along the lines of magic that has a price. Magic that corrupts. I would love to use something along the lines of Beyond the Wall’s magic system + more danger, but I didn’t manage to come up with something satisfactory. So for now magic will remain as it is described in the LotFP Rules and Magic book, which is still the most flavourful and natural description and implementation of Vancian Magic I’ve seen so far.
All the artworks (besides the d20) are official LotFP artwork by Jason Rainville, who is pretty awesome.
the Gnarly McGnollface