Equipment slots

I use the LotFP encumbrance system; I like it’s blend of doing away with math but retaining a bit of complexity as compared to the very bare-bones systems of “carry STR items”. For my current campaign, this strikes a good balance.

I have made one addition to it, though; the “item slots”. As some players start to outfit their characters with scrolls, potions, weird bombs, poison-covered undead ferrets or green slime jars, things can get a bit out of hand. It makes sense to track at least on a rudimentary level where all this stuff actually is, and how readily available it is.

SLOT SPACE ACCESS
Belt 4 Immediate
Back 1 1 rd
Pockets (cloak) 1 Immediate
Pack/satchel 10 D3 rds
Sack (in hands) 10 D3 rds

The back slot may hold an Oversized item. Such items must otherwise be held in the hands. All other Slots hold only Standard Items. Armor adds encumbrance as normal. Any worn items, including armor, is listed separately, and apart from armor they do not encumber the character. In addition to this, any character of course has two “hand slots”, but I find tracking this goes too far into fiddly territory for me. A character with a Great Weapon is assumed to old it over her shoulder, otherwise the hands are most often kept as free as possible to allow for easy movement and manipulation. I’ve changed the rules as we went along to include “stacking” of certain items; for example flasks such as potions, oil or holy water stack two in a slot, iron rations and torches stack three.

This imposes some interesting limits on the characters; they really can’t carry an unlimited amount of items around, especially oversized ones. Pretty soon they will be carrying around their loot in filled sacks, carrying chests between them and running into all sorts of fun.

Tracking this is pretty easy, the players use different methods (and I’m not too particular about it, as long as they keep track). Letters next to the relevant items (Be or Ba etc) works, as does making little sections in the equipment list.

Lindrain, a Windfare Dale adventure

I’ve been too busy to write anything for a long time, but I finally managed to finish a short interlude adventure and location description for my campaign; Lindrain Fortress.

This module describes an old elven ruin, currently inhabited by a gang of bandits called the “Blackfeet” which have featured heavily in my campaign so far. It is also the site of a hidden outpost of the fallen Elven Empire, with several very deadly traps and a portal to the fabled Teliandrin where the three fallen High Elven Houses once dwelled. The portal could really lead anywhere, though… into the belly of a megadungeon, to another planet or campaign setting perhaps (Carcosa springs to mind). Thus, I decided to put the adventure out here; it could be a nice start if you want to run a campaign where the characters are transported far from home for some reason.

This adventure really lacks hooks, but I doubt anyone who wants to use it will have trouble supplying their own. It should be said that I have provided no leads in the location for how to access the underground areas; in my own game, the players have already found this information elsewhere and will be heading here primarily to find the portal. They have already found one elven Spell Gem (out of the three needed) for the portal, and they have scried out the location of the ruin, but they have also enlisted the aid of an elven ambassador who knows the pass phrase and is backing their attempts to find the necessary keys. The presence of the Blackfeet is what will surprise them. Other possibilities might be to have the bandits possess information on the portal, but either be too afraid to use it or perhaps awaiting some sort of magical assistance after having lost one or more men to the traps below.

The adventure includes an Elven Spell Gem; you can read more about those here on the blog.

The maps for the adventure were made by the incomparable Dyson Logos. You can download the adventure here, or in the Library.

Foulest Waters

Finally…

I’ve spent a lot of time fidgeting with this adventure, but at last i feel it is at least ready enough for showing it here and hoping I get some good feedback (or constructive criticism, or just a beat-down). It’s a free product, so use it and abuse it however you like. Rip out the bits you like if you want, or twist it to suit your needs. If you are in the mood to give me some input on what you liked and didn’t like, things that you feel should be added or taken away, then please feel free to contact me or leave a comment here! But, of course, all that is optional.

For some things referenced in the adventure, such as the Anmunak (wildmen) and my takes on attribute checks and other things, some of my other blog posts here and the material in the Library might be useful, but generally speaking all these things are very easy to replace with whatever interpretation you  prefer yourself. I also use the “silver standard”, for those who might wonder.

The adventure can be downloaded here or in the Library.

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Have a sip!

I love potions. I love all one-use magic items, and I dole them out a lot more than I do magical weapons or armor. Why? Because they don’t give a flat, everlasting “bump” to the players’ power level which they soon get used to and bored with, and they encourage thinking and resource management.

Recently, my players asked me to create some rules for making an attempt to identify a potion “on the fly” by using the classical method of simply sampling it. I’ve allowed this in earlier campaigns, but never really codified how it should work, and it was about time!

Basically, the rules allow a character to identify the general purpose of the potion, but at the risk of “suffering” its effects (whether good or bad) or ruining it somehow. I based it on the premise that a potion is a rather disgusting mix och unsavory and unhealthy ingredients that somehow have a magical effect when taken as a whole. Thus, if you accidentally swallow the Eye of Newt swimming in there, you’ve not only made yourself sick, but also turned the remaining potion into nothing but a very disgusting stew…

Sipping a Potion

Potions fall somewhere between mundane items and the more advanced magical items; they usually have a single purpose, and their activation is very simple. Thus, they can be identified “in the field”, especially by someone skilled in the magical arts. The safest method is, still, to take the potion to an Alchemist or other skilled NPC.

To identify a potion in the field, a character must be willing to take a sip from the flask. This carries some risks, but grants the character a roll for the Lore skill to successfully identify the basic effect of the potion, with the amount of details judged by the GM. For a Potion of Flying, the GM might simply say, “you sense that this potion would grant some sort of flight”. The determination of the exact nature and duration of that flight would need an examination by an Alchemist, or that a character is willing to quaff the potion. A bonus of +1 for Deeper Knowledge should be given for this roll to Magic-User characters, but not Elves.

Sipping a potion is a simple action, requiring only one round. There are risks associated with sipping potions, however. If the die rolled for the Lore skill check turns up a 6, the player must make another roll on the table below (note that this might also be a successful identification attempt in some rare circumstances).

D6

Result

1 You Sipped Too Much! The potion takes effect in its entirety upon the sipping character immediately, and is used up.
2-3 You Ruined It! Something in this particular sip was crucial for the function of the potion, and now the entire flask is ruined without any effect.
4-5 Dilution! The potion will now only have half its usual effect. This affects rolled amounts, duration and most other things, susceptible to the DM’s interpretation. If the effect of the potion is very binary, a simple 50 % chance of it taking effect when drunk can instead be used.
6 Barf! This potion was not an appetizing drink to begin with (few potions are, even healing ones), and this particular sip was especially unhealthy. If the potion was dangerous or cursed (such as a poison), you suffer its full effects with a -2 to any Saving Throw. If it was not deadly, you still become violently ill and are stunned for D3 Turns.

Class revision

During the past year, I’ve really begun to settle into the LotFP ruleset, and I’m feeling very comfortable with it. Both me and my players absolutely love the clean and simple D6 skill system; it simplifies and focuses things and shifts some of the focus away from abilities and bonuses.

I have, however, revised the classes slightly. These are really no major changes, but they incorporate the following broad strokes:

  • Saving Throws improve incrementally; this means they will be somewhat better at most levels beyond first as compared to the normal system, but I find the slight increase in survivability doesn’t unbalance things and it means most levels mean some sort of advancement for most classes.
  • Classes beyond the Specialist receive skill points; a more considerable change. I first implemented this mostly at the request of my players, but I’ve since come to really appreciate it. My new Lore skill, for example, comes in really handy in some of my house rules for experimenting with magical items and now there’s a way for other classes than a specialist to improve it by a point or two. Non-specialists get very few skill points, however, and they are forced to select where to place them based on a list of class skills, whereas the specialist still has access to each and every skill like before.
  • Dwarves and elves may trade in their skill points for increased attack bonus. This lets them improve slightly at combat as they level, although they will max out at +4 (elf) or +5 (dwarf) and then only at level 20.

You can find the details on the revision of each class in this document or in the Library.

New Skills

Adding some skills to the list in LotFP seems to be a popular choice, especially for broadening the scope of the Specialist class. I’ve made some changes myself; I’ve removed one skill, and replaced it with three new ones as well as a loose guideline for adding a secondary skill.

I’ve also made a class revision, which I will present in more detail later, and a part of this revision means that classes other than the specialist get a few skill points as the level (though they have to choose where to spend them based on a restricted class list, while the specialist is still able to increase all skills). These new skills are an attempt to both make specialists able to fill more roles, and to present a couple of skills that can be interesting for other classes.

 

First, the skill that had to go:

Open Doors is, to me, not a skill but a test of strength. You can apply strength bonus to the test, get help and use suitable tools, but I don’t agree with the fact that you can actually spend skill points to learn how to do this better; the task just feels too basic.

Now, for the three new ones:

Lore governs the characters knowledge of most learned subjects, and presents a way for me to introduce some background information into the game. It supplies a lot of flavor, but players can also use it in a number of mechanically relevant ways; it can be used to make rough “identifications” of magical items in the field, such as sipping a potion and testing a weapon. Nothing like an Identify spell, of course, but at least some basics.

Medicine lets a character perform some basic first aid in the field, as well as function as a physician to improve the recovery of fellow characters during downtime.

Riding is for those characters who want their horse (or steed) to be more than a mode of transportation; fighting on horseback, mainly, or riding something other than a horse.

Lastly, characters can take a secondary skill to encompass most anything they want. These are mostly for flavor, however, and must obey two simple rules; they cannot overlap with any of the existing skills, and they must have a narrower scope. Blacksmithing is an excellent secondary skill, “perception” is not.

I’ve created more in-depth rules for these skills, including a closer definition of how and when they are used as well as some lists with situational modifiers – you can find them in this PDF or in the Library.

Occam’s Greatsword

I have many good things to say about Lamentations of the Flame Princess (as I’m sure is evident from ny blog), but there is one very simple mechanism in particular for balancing out classes that I think is not only good but a stroke of genius. In LotFP, fighters are the only class to get an incremental bonus to hit as they level.

Why is this so smart? Well, it is the elegance that does it. Many systems have tried to fix the perceived problem that fighters are a boring class without an edge. The attempts do have some merit, but all solutions I’ve encountered are not to my taste or fit very poorly into the general OSR “feel”.

Let’s have a look at three common solutions, all of which have been used in other iterations of the D&D ruleset.

  • Feats and Powers are one way to make fighters more diverse; give them their own superpowers! Apart from making both combat and character generation more complicated and balancing even harder, these also limit all other characters. After all, if there are special powers to accomplish all kinds of tactics and moves, why should those without these powers be allowed to attempt these feats?
  • Weapon specialization is perhaps my least favorite solution, especially combined with a weapon list which favors certain weapons mechanics-wise. It only serves to make fighters even more clones of each other, and keep them as such through the levels.
  • Weapon and armor restrictions also feel very crude to me, and seem to be the wrong approach to the problem. These are tools; warriors should be experts in their use, not simply get some sort of union-brokered exclusivity.

In comparison, increasing the base To Hit score for fighters relative to other classes gives them a clear edge in combat, which improves over time as other classes gain other powers. It also meshes perfectly with OSR mechanics, where tactics, rulings and improvisation are important; no matter what, rolls to hit opponents are almost always going to be made in a fight. In addition, this rule will also work well with most other house rules and adjustments.

The balancing of the four basic classes is excellent in LotFP overall, mostly because they are kept so clean and simple. Admittedly, in my slight class revision (which I will post details on here, eventually), I have given dwarves and elves the option of gaining a couple of points of To Hit bonus, but this is limited to roughly +1 per 4 levels at the cost of the only skill points they get to develop other abilities and mainly meant to give these characters some slight flavor.

Tower of the Stargazer

stargazer_coverAfter running my players through a short introductory adventure I’d written myself in order to set the scene of the Windfare Dale setting, I presented them with a numer of “hooks” when they returned to town. The tale of a master thief passing through the town recently and local legends about a lightning-stricken tower off in the wilderness seemed to do the trick, so off they went to the Tower of the Stargazer.

First, a warning; this review / play report contains a few spoilers.

Let me start by saying my group had a terrific time in this tower; they all liked the adventure very much and I was also pleased with our sessions (they spent two entire four-hour sessions on this adventure). The adventure has a good setup, a nice atmosphere and feels easily adaptable to almost any setting and campaign style.

The PDF looks good enough, the formatting is a bit dated but the text is well written. The only real suggestion I would make if the adventure ever got an update would be to structure the presentations of the more complicated chambers in a better way; an initial presentation of the whole room, its contents and what is immediately apparent about them followed by another structured list describing each section or component in more detail. Some room descriptions run many pages, and even though I prepared thoroughly I found myself needing to pause the action a couple of times to just get my bearings and make sure I wasn’t making a mistake. My advice to the GM would be to not only read this adventure beforehand, but also compose some notes or mark critical passages with a colored pen.

It was my intention to try to run this adventure almost completely “by the book”, but I did make a couple of changes. Nothing major, but a few encounters and problems just didn’t feel right for my group of players. All in all, the central locations and interactions went unchanged.

The tower is indeed suitably lethal; in our group, three characters met their end in the tower, all of them in suitably grisly and/or comical ways. An unfortunate rogue died from a classical poison needle trap on a locked chest. Sweeter still was how his friend the dwarf was so frustrated with this he started hewing at the chest with his axe; a chest containing nothing but a demon trapped in a glass jar, which was promptly released and treated to some dwarf burger. Also, one character fell prey to the best set-up trap/bait in the adventure, managing to get himself sent into the void and eaten alive by space flora…

To sum up, I think this adventure is a very good introduction to OSR gaming (and at just over €2 for the PDF at the moment, an utter steal). The setting for this adventure is very static, without random encounters,no real time constraints and reactive encounters; for later adventures, I’d say this was a weak point, but for an introduction it is excellent. If the players manage to find all treasure in the adventure, they may very well advance to second level even if they were absolute beginners beforehand – this might not be to everyone’s taste, so have a look at the treasure at the end of the adventure and make sure it fits into your “XP economy”.

That Terminal Breath

How many gaming groups out there are bold enough to let all creatures, monsters and PCs alike, die at 0 HP? Not many, I’d guess – most OSR systems also seem to incorporate some sort of rule for negative Hit Points, or at least present a number of common rules variants for this.

For my own game, as usual we started with the LotFP rules:

When hit points reach 0, the character becomes unable to take any action, and in most cases falls completely unconscious. The character becomes mortally wounded at –3 hit points and will die in d10 minutes. No healing, magical or otherwise, can prevent death at this point. Death is instantaneous at -4hp.

For later sessions, I’ve expanded this rule slightly; I do think these kinds of games should be deadly and I didn’t want to take the edge of suffering damage, but I also like the idea of mortally wounded characters surviving to fight another day – almost intact.

The current House Rule for my group is as follows:

As per the normal rules, a character reduced to 0 Hit Points or below falls unconscious and cannot be revived until after the combat. A character that falls below -2 Hit Points has been mortally wounded; he/she stands little chance of surviving, and must follow the steps below.

  • The character will bleed and lose 1 extra Hit Point at the end of each Combat Round following the one where he/she fell below -2 Hit Points.
  • If the character is healed up to -2 Hit Points or above by any means, a Save vs Poison must be made immediately in order to survive the shock to the system; failure means the character dies.
  • If this Save vs Poison is successful, the character will still suffer some sort of traumatizing and permanent injury; determine an ability score randomly by rolling a D6, and permanently lower that ability by D3.
  • If the character reaches -10 Hit Points or below, all hope for him/her is lost.

These special circumstances only apply when a character has fallen due to Hit Point loss. Poison, magical effects and similar things causing instant Death are exempt from these rules.

The permanent injury suffered should of course be given a suitable description. My suggestion is to leave this up to the player, subject to the GMs approval. Lost Charisma might indicate horrible scarring or slurred speech, a drop in Intelligence a brain injury, lost Strength perhaps a twisted arm not healed quite right.

Note that the Save vs Poison used in this case is the one most suitable in LotFP; for other systems, I’d recommend either some sort of Body/Toughness Save or the classic Save vs Death.

Delving in the Dale

I’ve decided to start this unassuming blog about my OSR escapades mostly for myself; I enjoy writing, and I find that it helps me focus my thoughts. An archive of thoughts, ramblings and house rules is also always fun to have, and should it prove an interesting read for anyone else… well, no harm done!

About a year ago, I found a copy of Lamentations of the Flame Princess sitting on a shelf in one of the local gaming stores in my native Stockholm. Having spent a lot of time playing both editions of AD&D as well as some D&D growing up, I had something of a shock when I picked it up and started reading – is it still OK to play this way? I’m sure many readers are familiar with the wave of nostalgia that washed over me.

Needless to say, I bought that copy and went home to read it. Mr Raggi’s narrative is a very fun read, although I’m glad it wasn’t my first time around or it might have felt a bit overwhelmed. Things were, however, still the way I remembered them. I downloaded a number of other “Retro Clones”, among them Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry and Dungeon Crawl Classics, but with time it turned out I had struck gold the first time around.

After a bit of planning I had my starting point; a “gaming world” described with nothing more than a hex map and a short description of some of its major religions, and a slightly more detailed description of a place called Windfare Dale. I was ready to try out this crazy old-school on my players – a group of complete rookies in the RPG world as well as veterans of many game systems but newcomers to classic Dungeon Delving!