13 September 2012

Christian Clerics (part 2)

Obligatory excuse for not posting more frequently: real life. [1] I can't apologise: things have been going really well, and I'm blessed with good fortune.

But back in Barael's Europe, where demons and warlords and spiders carry the day, things have gone stagnant. Let's (try to) get back on track.

In Cleric Part 1, I laid the groundwork for the Christian Cleric in Barael's Europe, but spent most of the post explaining the mechanical differences between Orthodox and Arian varieties. That bit should have been its own topic, but hey, we live in disorganised times.

To clarify, then, here is the meat of the Cleric class, in perhaps a more familiar format:


Clerics are Christians devoted to spreading Christ's teachings, protecting the faithful, and serving the Lord. Provided they uphold their faith (i.e., are of Lawful alignment), Clerics can perform miracles in the form of clerical spells. While Clerics are part of the church hierarchy, they are not priests--rather, they are servants of the Church, given adventuring missions by their ordained superiors.
Prime Requisite: WIS (+5% XP with WIS 13+)
Hit Dice: 1d6 (+1hp/level after 9th)
Armour: Any
Weapons: Club, Hammer, Mace (all); Flail, Short Sword, Sling (Arian)
Alignment: Lawful
Base XP: 1,500

Class Abilities

Brackets contain skill point costs; ignore if you are not using the optional Class Skills rules

Convert [1pt]: Clerics may appeal to sentient beings with a religious proclamation relevant to the current situation and delivered by the player. This forces a reaction roll, modified by the difference between the Cleric’s level and the subject’s Hit Die (e.g., a 4th-level Cleric converting a 1HD orc gains +3). If the subject can understand the Cleric, it responds as indicated by the reaction result for the duration of the encounter (conversion is permanent if the reaction roll is 12 or more).

Saving Throw Bonus [0pt]: Clerics gain a +2 bonus on saving throws vs. Paralysis or Poison.

Divine Spells [1pt/spell level]: Clerics receive miraculous powers from a devout acceptance of Christian Trinity (God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost). Full faith in God and service to His law are all that the Cleric requires to cast divine spells. Orthodox Clerics have full access to the clericial spell list; Arian Clerics cannot cast spells higher than 3rd-level and must cast them as rituals (i.e., casting time of 1 turn/spell level or cast on consecrated ground).

Politics [1pt; Arian Clerics only]: Arianism enjoys the support of many Western power-brokers in Barael's Europe, as the heresy supports their application of rulership through social stratification. As a result, Arian Clerics gain a +1 bonus to reaction rolls with political leaders. If a given reaction roll results in 12 or more, the leader will act as a political patron (GM discretion as to what exactly this involves--certainly favouritism, but not unconditionally so and definitely not to the point of self-sacrifice).

Career Paths

At 4th-level, the Cleric may select a career path (unless otherwise noted, Class Abilities above are unchanged):

Crusaders are members of Christian fighting orders who use force of arms to further God's work: protecting the faithful, recovering lost holy lands and relics, and conversion (or punishment) of the heathen.

Restrictions: Upon selection of this path, the Cleric's prime attribute shifts to Charisma. Like other Clerics, they remain dedicated to God and retain access to miracles, though they are limited to 2nd-level spells.

Special Abilities: Crusaders may use swords and lances if their order allows them. They also project an aura of confidence on the battlefield which manifests as a combat bonus equal to their level, which may be split amongst to-hit, damage, or saving throw rolls of multiple allies within 1" per level each round (e.g., a 5th-level crusader could provide a +3 to-hit bonus, and a +1 damage bonus to each of 2 allies in a single round). Finally, the crusader's CHA adjustment is added to enemy morale rolls.

Prophets are itinerant Christian pilgrims. They do not believe in conversion through force, and instead seek willing adherents through religious teachings and miracles.

Restrictions: Because of their wandering, prophets do not establish permanent strongholds or churches. Their outlook precludes wearing armour, and they fight only in self-defence.

Special Abilities: Prophets may cast their level in protection, divination, and healing spell levels each day at no cost (e.g., a 4th-level prophet gains 4 levels per day of protection, divination, and healing spells). Further, prophets add their CHA adjustment to conversion attempts.

Next up, Fighters.
Listening to: Peter Gabriel, So


  1. And isn't it always? I'm not sure why I feel obligated to explain my lack of time spent engaged in a voluntary, not-for-profit hobby. Maybe just to let you all know that my infrequent posting isn't because of something you did ... I'm just sensitive that way.

14 May 2012


I'd like to bring the Cityographer Kickstarter to your attention.

This is an Inkwell Ideas project, brought to you by Joe Wetzel, who created (among other things) Hexographer, Dungeonographer, the Coat of Arms Design Studio, and the Dungeomorph Dice.

Cityographer Kickstarter
Cityographer Kickstarter
Cityographer generates random settlement maps based on inputs you provide (tech level, population size, proximity to water). It also generates floorplans for buildings, as well as what those buildings are and who's inside.

Now, Cityographer needs support--about $6,000 in the next 31 days. I don't normally hawk Kickstarters, but this is about my needs, so I want to see this kick-started right in the pants. Let's review:
  • It creates random city maps
  • It tells you what the buildings on those maps are
  • It's by Joe Wetzel, who provide amazing support and upgrades for his software
This is within the grasp of us all: 200 gaming disciples pledging $30 each could see this through. Are there 200 folks out there who would like a program to create, populate, and map random cities for their RPG settings? Does Vecna have a problem driving stick-shift? You bet.

If you like Hexographer, I urge you to give Cityographer some consideration. Where else are you going to get a random settlement generator that's feature-rich, works on any computer, is customisable, and won't require 15 credit hours to figure out how to use?

08 May 2012

Hail Mary Mechanic

Adventurers love a tight spot and sometimes need to pull out all the stops. Call it a Hail Mary or a do-or-die effort. Conan at the end of "Red Nails," Indiana Jones being chased by a rolling boulder, Hoops McCain replacing the halyard in "One Crazy Summer." I've played around with such a mechanic in Chimera, but working on a super-secret S&W project,[1] I offer this:

The Clutch Situation
When a character has to dig deep, here's what he can do:

Pick any die (d4, d6, d8, whatever) and roll it. If the result is less than the character's level, the action succeeds; otherwise the action fails. The action could be anything that the PC wants to do: a skill roll, find secret doors roll, surprise attempt, attack roll, reaction roll, saving throw--anything.

Regardless of success or failure, once a player declares a Clutch Situation, the die used is "locked." This means two things: (1) that die cannot be modified--every time that die is rolled (for whatever reason), the result is face value, and (2) that die cannot be used for another Clutch Situation.

The only way to "unlock" the die is to roll the character's level or higher next time the die is used. Once the die is unlocked, modifiers apply again and the die is used normally. But--important point--the PC could have multiple locked dice if he declared more than one Clutch Situation. This seems to be a throttle on abuse by players trying to game the system.

Here's the trick: the optimal die to use is the smallest die whose highest result is equal to or greater than the character's level. So while a high-level character in a Clutch Situation could use a small die to ensure success, if the die can't roll higher than his level, it remains locked.[2]

For example, Ernar the Barbarian is 5th level, and he's gotta hit that white ape. Instead of an attack die, he declares a Clutch Situation. Now, if he rolls a 1d4, he's guaranteed success--any result is less than his current level of 5. However, for the rest of the session, that d4 is locked because he'll never roll higher than 4 on it. If he's smart, Ernar will roll a 1d6--there's a 4/6 chance that he'll succeed, but he also has a 2/6 chance of rolling his level or higher next time it's used, thus unlocking it and allowing modifiers.


  1. So secret, in fact, that not even Matt Finch knows about it. Shhhhhhhh!
  2. I haven't decided if carrying this restriction over from session to session is a dick GM move or not.

29 April 2012

Christian Clerics (part 1)

In Barael's Europe, Christian clerics come in two flavours: Arian and Orthodox. Originally, I balked at making distinctions, partly because both were Lawful, but mostly because I don't know enough about Christian history to portray such distinctions confidently. Then I realised historic accuracy is already going to take a few lumps in a setting that includes magic swords, ice trolls, and dragons.

That said, I want to lay a Christian foundation that permeates the setting, noting important distinctions through mechanics, all without offending religious convictions held by my readers. I think the best approach is to start with basics and fill in details as they're revealed to me. I agree to do my best if y'all agree to be patient with me.

Christian Cleric

Mechanically, we'll start with the Cleric class as outlined in the S&W Core:
Prime Attribute: Wisdom (+5% XP for WIS 13+)
Hit Die: 1d6 per level (+1hp/lvl after 9th)
Armour: Any
Weapons: Mace, hammer, flail, club
Base XP: 1,500
Christian Clerics have the following basic abilities, starting at 1st-level:

Convert:[1] Clerics may appeal to sentient beings with a religious proclamation relevant to the current situation and delivered by the player. This forces a reaction roll, modified by the difference between the Cleric’s level and the subject’s Hit Die (e.g., a 4th-level Cleric converting a 1HD orc gains +3). If the subject can understand the Cleric, it responds as indicated by the reaction result for the duration of the encounter (conversion is permanent if the reaction roll is 12 or more).

Saving Throw Bonus: Clerics gain a +2 bonus on saving throws vs. Paralysis or Poison.

Divine Spells: Clerics receive miraculous powers from a devout acceptance of Christian Trinity (God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost). Full faith in God and service to His law are all that the Cleric requires to cast divine spells.

Orthodox vs. Heretical Christianity

Orthodox Clerics gain full access to the Clerical spell list. This is due to their understanding of the Trinity and the attendant belief that salvation is possible only when each member of the Godhead is witnessed in equal measure. FrDave provides a wonderful explanation of this arrangement when he relates how Athanasius likens the Trinity to a flowing fountain: the Father is the fountain, the Son is the water that flows from it, and the Holy Spirit is the draught that quenches our thirst for grace. No part of this triumvirate can function out of balance, and therefore salvation cannot be attained when one part is given more significance than the others.

Thus, full participation in the Trinity occurs only when each facet is afforded equal emphasis. If this approach provides complete access to the Clerical spell list, then it follows that unequal emphasis provides limited access. At a high level, this logic could be applied to any of the many Christian heresies (i.e., any non-orthodox view in which salvation is possible through unbalanced participation in the Trinity).

Arianism is one such heresy, and it holds that Christ the Son was created by God the Father. In other words, God the man is separate from God the creator. This stresses the Son's role in salvation over that of the Father's. Athanasius would disagree that salvation could be attained through Christ alone: the fountain does not create the water, though it does make it accessible; we must go to the fountain before we can drink.

Yet Arians are Christians, and they do participate in the Trinity, though not with balance. In game terms, I'm allowing Arian Clerics to cast spells, but with the following limitations:
  • Maximum spell level is third, and
  • Spells are cast as rituals, which I'm saying requires either 1 turn/spell level spent in preparation or casting on consecrated ground.
This arrangement accomplishes a few things I want to reflect in the campaign: First, Christianity--no matter what the stripe--is Lawful, in recognition of God who created order out of nothing. Second, it decouples spell-casting ability from salvation. In other words, all Christian Clerics can cast divine magic, but being able to do so doesn't necessarily require that the Cleric has the doctrine figured out. Third, it puts mechanical emphasis on how belief affects spell-casting. Orthodox clerics receive their spells directly from the Holy Spirit, and those spells are available when the caster wants. The Arians (and, indeed, any other Christian heresy I want to introduce) have to rely on ritual magic, and so spells are granted on more conditional terms. 

Final Words

One question that does come up: given the spell-casting limitations, why would anyone play an Arian Cleric?

Maybe because the character comes from an Arian Christian country. Or maybe because Orthodox Clerics are saddled with some restriction that I haven't figured out yet.

Not sure if this is the right direction, and before I go further, I'd love for the comments to be filled with your thoughts as to why this is brilliant or blasphemous.

Next Up, Christian Clerics (part 2)
Listening To: Donald Fagen, Morph the Cat
  1. This replaces the traditional Banish Undead ability, which I'm reflecting as the spell Control Undead.

08 March 2012

Character Class Overview

Classes in Barael's Europe take one of five flavours: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Thief, or Normal Man. I'm going to provide an overview here, which may seem like unfocused thoughts, but I assure you—clarity is nigh, and I'll be following up with class-specific posts to explain the details.

Initial Thoughts

First off, you should know that none of the classes exists exactly as it appears in the S&W Core. This is in large part a result of setting specifics. You can't have a Christian campaign without talking about what it really means to be a cleric, and that's naturally going to impact class description and certain game mechanics.

Second, I had been thinking of "sub-classes," like the ranger (Fighter), the scout (Thief), the astrologer (Magic-user), and others. Initially, I checked the S&W Complete rulebook, which contains certain of these specialists. However, they didn't really fit well—as described—into the campaign I envisioned, plus there were gaps that S&W Complete didn't fill.

Career Paths

My solution is to create "career paths" by taking a page from FrDave's Old School equivalent of prestige classes. The primary advantage is not having to create whole new classes, XP tables, spell matrices, etc. Simply take an existing class, bolt on specialised abilities, balance with some restrictions, and you have your sub-class. Level progression, hit dice, saves, and level limits remain intact—everything else is a matter of what feels right.

I want to stress this last bit. My natural inclination is to figure out some point value for each new ability and disadvantage, apply them so that they zero out, and declare that I have created a "balanced" sub-class. But I don't think that's the right approach.

Both Brendan and Reese correctly point out that a given prestige class really only makes sense when it's attached to a particular setting. That's not only true in terms of which sub-classes the setting supports, but also what those sub-classes can do. In other words, class should be defined by the setting, not the rulebook. If I used some point-value system to balance my career paths, it'd be the same as me telling you how to define a Druid or an Assassin in your campaign.

Instead, I'll just share my thoughts, and you can decide if it's too beaucoup for your campaign (or, just maybe, not enough beaucoup).

Something else about career paths that I should make clear: They aren't available during character generation. Again, I'm taking FrDave's suggestion and stating that PCs don't choose a career path until reaching 4th-level. I like the notion that levels 1-3 represent "apprenticeship" for the fledgling character. In setting-specific terms, ascending to 4th-level is the equivalent of attaining journeyman rank, and thus possessing sufficient "general" knowledge of one's field to specialise in one aspect of it. In game terms, this makes it easier to roll up new characters, because you're not bogging down char-gen with a lot of "prestige class" details.


Pretty much all human, all the time, at least as PCs go. Which brings up two caveats:
  1. Demi-humans may show up, but as monsters, and in the Norse Mythology style. So you might encounter dwarfs who turn themselves into a pike and hide out in deep pools, or elves in the light, dark, and swart variety (which may be dwarfs as well, depending on the translation?).
  2. There may be human variants that can mimic demi-human abilities (e.g., a dwarf's find stone traps or an elf's find secret doors). I won't necessarily map demi-human abilities to human sub-races, but there will be specialised mannish folk.
I'm prepared to omit halflings—I just can't find a place for them yet (though that could change if anyone can point out a period reference to a realm inhabited by little folk). Gnomes, I hasten to say, are right out.

Next Up, Christian Clerics
Listening To: Orange Goblin, Frequencies From Planet Ten

01 March 2012

Unfocused Thoughts on Religion

While I like to present organised and cogent statements, I find them time-consuming and difficult. Consequently, I save that kind of energy for my day job, and anyway figure they're less important to gamers, who largely decide to go where their imaginations lead them.

In planning out The Bastard's Blade, It seems to me that the fundamental aspect of the campaign is religion. Or rather, the influence religious belief has on the setting's peoples and how it motivates their behaviour. With that starting point, here are some unfocused thoughts on religion in Barael's Europe: [1]
  • Christianity represents Law, civilisation, and order. 
  • Though historically significant, the specific differences between Arian and Trinitarian Christianity are likely to be glossed over in the campaign. I anticipate that efforts to distinguish the two as separate flavours of Law will be confusing (or, more accurately, that I won't do a good job of explaining the difference).
  • That said, I can still represent the conflict between East and West: As the last man standing, the East Roman Empire sees itself as the "true" Christian authority, unspoilt (as it is) by the barbarian influence that toppled the West. Meanwhile, the Christian states in the West struggle to recover from Rome's fall, and some doctrinal details are bound to suffer for the greater good: You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.
  • Paganism represents Neutrality and teaches self-reliance for the benefit of the community.
  • I'm thinking specifically of Germanic Paganism, and I'm applying a broad brush to include any non-Christian state. [2] In the interest of simplicity, I'll probably include about 6-10 deities, but without distinguishing between the Germanic, Norse, or Anglo-Saxon aspects of each.
  • For now, I'm not touching Celtic Paganism. As the Celts begin converting to Christianity in the 5th century, I think it makes sense to depict Celtic culture as a mix of western Christians and Germanic pagans (via the Anglo-Saxons). I'm picking nits, but I think it's good enough for government work. If I want druids, I'll flaunt historical accuracy and make them cultists who worship demon lords.
  • Who, by the way, represents Chaos and the rise of the individual to attain power over others. The roster includes Baal, Pazuzu, Dagon, Demogorgon, and perhaps a few others drawn from Babylonian, Mesopotamian, or Phoenician myth.
  • Numerous cults venerate the demon lords (or aspects thereof); each focuses on different aspects—destruction, sadism, power, spider-worship, father-raping, essentially any value that promotes self at the expense of others. Or, perhaps more accurately, cultists are evil folks who worship demons to rationalise their depravity by associating it with a higher power.
  • The demon lords are responsible for The Darkness, a pervasive evil force that covers all the white areas of the Shepherd Map. The Darkness spreads slowly west, subverting nature along the way. This is my rationale for monsters and arcane magic (and, by extension, non-clerical magic items).
  • While all demon lords believe in spreading evil, they don't always agree on how to go about it. Thus, there are shifting demon alliances as they play politics and curry favour. Like, I'm sure Pazuzu would love to sink his talons into the Eastern Pope, but the other demon lords might have different mischief on their to-do lists, and struggles for priority amongst the demons occur as a result.
  • All this brings up some spell-caster stuff: Christian clerics are Lawful, Pagan clerics are Neutral (and have access to reversible cleric spells). Demon lords have no clerics, but they are the source of arcane power, so all magic-users are Chaotic demon worshipers who pay for spells with their souls.
  • In this light, I see Christian clerics from the west getting along with Germanic pagan clerics (after all, the pagan isn't a demon worshiper, and who knows—he might stand conversion?). At least they can probably work together in the same party. The same can't be said for clerics and magic-users—no cleric will be happy about hanging with a demon supplicant.
Next Up, Character class overview
Listening To: The Police, Synchronicity
  1. Thanks to Evan for endorsing this format—turns out that it's pretty useful. Credit where credit is due.
  2. Emphasis on "state;" this excludes barbarian territories.

25 February 2012

20 Answers for Brendan

Brendan over at Untimately posted 20 questions about rules you use in your campaign. Good timing. Here's how things work in The Bastard's Blade:
  1. Ability scores generation method?
    3d6 in order. My S&W house rules rely a lot on attribute scores, so people gots to roll with the die.
  2. How are death and dying handled?
    Minions, henchmen, and goblinoid rabble are on their way out at zero hp (but might stay long enough to whisper something important). For PCs and big bads, zero hp means you roll on the Hit Location table.
  3. What about raising the dead?
    Yeah, a raise dead spell will work, but the character just isn't the same. Better to get him resurrection to avoid nasty side effects, though clerics aren't gonna raise just anybody.
  4. How are replacement PCs handled?
    Roll 'em up, and the GM needs to figure out an artful way to bring them into the story.
  5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
    Moldvay-based group initiative. Something like this.
  6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
    Criticals, yes; working on fumbles. Here's the gist.
  7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
    Yeah - a save vs. a head crit.
  8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
    You can, and it's embarrassing. When you fire into melee, you have to roll a critical to hit your intended target. Otherwise, it's a sheepish "Sorry pal," then you watch your character's back.
  9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
    As the renowned bard Kys Regor advises, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away, know when to run."
  10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
    Yes, except they drain CON. I hate recalculating level-based stuff.
  11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
    Sure, but not in and of itself. You have to be low on hit points before a failed save kills a PC.
  12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
    Fairly. Characters have a limited amount of storage space. Something based on the Chimera RPG encumbrance experience.
  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?
    An d20 advancement roll whenever you earn your base XP amount (i.e., the XP required for 2nd level). If the d20 result is greater than your current level, you level up. When you do, you get hit points, save bonus, and to-hit increases instantly. Any class-based ability or spells, though, require 1d4 weeks of training. But there are rules for what your character gets up to in-between adventures...
  14. What do I get experience for?
    Dispatching foes, figuring out my tricks and puzzles, spending coin, and taking outrageous risks.
  15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
    Description of a reasonable plan, but a good die roll forces the GM to give you clues to work with. Same for removing traps, finding secret doors, diplomacy, hiring red shirts, and figuring out of you're being lied to.
  16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
    By all means, load up on retainers. Morale based on the character's CHA, and henchmen check after each adventure, plus whenever they're asked to do something crazy-stupid. During a fight, henchmen ignore morale checks as long as their master is doing alright.
  17. How do I identify magic items?
    Gandalf-style research if you're smart. Trial and error if you're in a hurry or don't mind getting possessed or having your soul sucked out by any one of several eager demon lords. Clerical magic items are another matter—they just tase you if you're a non-believer.
  18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
    Yes, but just potions. You can buy armour and weapons of quality, which grant non-magical pluses. And every now and then, you might pick up a magic tchotchke from a merchant who doesn't realise what he's selling.
  19. Can I create magic items? When and how?
    Yes, but it's a home brew system that requires its own post. The "when" is whenever you think you can hack it (because failure hurts). The "how" basically requires a skill roll, spell-casting, and a bit of your essence.
  20. What about splitting the party?
    You can do it, but the cranky GM in me tends to punish the PCs because it's a pain in my butt.

23 February 2012

Worlds of Hurt

More confessions: I'm not, nor have I ever been, a fan of hit points. While I agree that they’re an easy way to gauge combat stamina and track damage, they fail me on two counts:
  1. You can’t do one-shot kills—when a foe has more than 1 HD, you usually need multiple hits to bring him down, and
  2. You can’t simulate performance degradation—meaning you’re just as effective at 1hp as you are at 50hp
Yet, it's hard to beat hit points for convenience and familiarity. I mean, everybody knows what a hit point is, and pretty much every OSR resource is going to use them. So here’s a possible solution to the two issues above, with the added benefit of being able to use existing S&W stats without modification. [1]

We'll start by keeping hit dice and hit points. When an attack hits, roll damage normally and subtract from the target's hit point total. However, when an attack is a critical hit (see below) or when a combatant reaches zero hit points, the defender rolls on the Hit Location table to see what happens. [2]

Critical Hits

A critical hit occurs when an unmodified attack roll result falls within the attacker’s critical range, which is 20 minus his class-based to-hit bonus. For example, a 4th-level fighter with a to-hit bonus of +2 has a critical range of 18-20. Thus, if his d20 attack roll shows a natural 18, 19, or 20, and the attack succeeds, it’s a critical hit. A monster's critical range is calculated the same way (though tops out at a critical range of 5-20).

Hit Locations

When a critical hit is rolled or a target is reduced to zero hit points, [3] roll on the Hit Location table (use a lame 1d6 or use these super-bitchin' dice):
1d6  LOC.      MIN. DMG (1)    NORMAL DMG (2) MAX. DMG (3)
1    Lf Arm    Armour (4)      STR -1         Lost limb (5)
2    Rt Arm    Weapon (6)      DEX -1         Lost limb (5)
3    Lf Leg    Knockback 10'   -1 to Move     Lost limb (5)
4    Rt Leg    -1 to AC        -20# to Carry  Lost limb (5)
5    Torso     Knock down (7)  Stunned (8)    Shot to the Heart (9)
6    Head (10) Stunned (8)     Knocked out    Head shot (11)
1.  Use if the damage roll is a natural "1." Penalties last until
    treated (i.e., 2-7 hp worth of healing).
2.  Use if the damage roll is between "1" and the maximum die
    value. Save or effects are permanent. 
3.  Use if the damage roll is the maximum die value.
4.  Reduce armour (or shield) protection by -1 (destroyed if
    reduced to zero).
5.  Save to convert into a bleeder (death from blood loss in 1
    turn/level unless given 4-14 hp worth of healing); if save
    fails, limb is gone, but no further damage.
6.  Reduce weapon's damage die by one step (e.g., 1d6 becomes 1d4);
    weapon broken less than 1d4 damage.
7.  Requires a full action to get back on your feet.
8.  Stunned combatants are -1 to all rolls, AC, and Move.
9.  Death in 1 round per level or HD unless given 4-14 hp worth
    of healing.
10. If wearing a helmet, save to treat as next lowest crit
11. Decapitation, throat slit, or weapon embedded in skull type of 
    thing. Unless the victim was caught by surprise or somehow
    unable to act, he gets one immediate retaliatory strike at
    -4 before falling in a crumpled heap.
Option: Instead of modifying the to-hit or damage rolls, reflect weapon proficiency by modifying the hit location roll. More on this later, but you're now on notice that it's coming.

Using this table, you'll quickly discover that it's hard to kill things, though combatants do get messed up. As a result, reserve this table for PCs, Big Bads, and "Boss" NPCs. For fodder, henchmen, and minions, just consider them gone when they reach zero hit points.

Soooo... the table. Too much? I like the idea of different results based the amount of damage rolled, but I think the entries can stand some improvement. That said, feel free to suggest said improvements in the comments section.

UPDATE (2/25/12): Edits resulting from playtesting: now all Max Damage crits are potentially life-threatening. Other results got shifted to the left, and I incorporated saves to make things more heinous interesting.

Next Up, Unfocused thoughts on religion, Evan-style
Listening To: Tears for Fears, Sowing the Seeds of Love
  1. Based on the optional damage location system for Chimera RPG: http://www.welshpiper.com/hit-locations/; the zero hit point limit was inspired by Robert Fisher (http://web.fisher.cx/robert/infogami/Classic_D&D_injury_table).
  2. Traps, spells, falling, and other sources of damage won't inflict a critical hit, but they can reduce a target to zero hit points, so the system applies to anything that inflicts damage. This also allows you to deduct hit points for intangibles such as fatigue, disease,substance abuse, prolonged exposure to the elements, and going off on adventures without twinkies and beef jerky.
  3. A character at zero hit points is still active and able to fight. However, he does so at whatever penalty is imposed by the Hit Location table, and if he's hit again, he has to make another Hit Location roll.

19 February 2012

Revised S&W Combat To-hit Table

First off, it's been awhile, so thanks for being patient. Last time, I promised that I'd write about Germanic Kingdoms, but I need to work on some campaign foundations before drilling down into specifics.

Second, and onto the topic at hand, a confession: I'm an ascending armour class guy. I've never liked descending armour class. Not even once. It makes no sense to me in a game where "plusses" mean good things, and the fact that a shield +1 actually reduces AC is just all sorts of counter-intuitive.

There. I said it. If you want to take me to task for it, feel free to post in the comments section, but I'm telling you right now that you're gonna have to piss nickels before descending AC makes sense to me.

I mention all this because I like that Swords & Wizardry (4th printing) gives you the option of choosing which flavour of AC you want to use, and the way it presents AAC makes rolling to-hit very easy and potentially chartless and fast.

But I am noticing some... opportunities for my OCD to take charge in the area of to-hit bonuses by class. What strikes me is that the progression (1) is non-linear, (2) doesn't differentiate class enough for me, and (3) seems too powerful at higher levels.

Here are some working assumptions about how classes fight:
  • Fighters get the best to-hit bonuses, ever. Because they're fighters. S&W reflects this, though the non-linear progression doesn't "feel" right to me.
  • By contrast, thieves and magic-users are the worst at fighting, though I'd like to differentiate them and give thieves a bit of an edge.
  • Clerics, as fighting crusaders, should be somewhere in between. But given their spell use and undead banishing, I suggest that they should be farther behind fighters than the Core Rules advises.
Taking these factors into account, I submit the following:

"To-hit" Bonuses by Class
LevelCleric FighterMagic-userThiefMonster
< 1+0+0+0+0+0

In summary, fighters get the best to-hit progression: +1 every 2 levels. Clerics are second, with +1 every 4 levels (i.e., they're half as good when it comes to smiting). Thieves are slightly worse, getting +1 every 5 levels; magic-users fall behind that, also gaining +1 every 5 levels, but unlike the other classes, they start at +0.

These values are almost universally lower at all levels than suggested in S&W, but I feel better about the standard progression. One thing you'll note is that clerics and thieves are closely matched at lower levels. I rationalise this by assuming the thief's physical acumen does for him what the cleric's limited martial training does for the cleric. However, at higher levels, the disparity is more pronounced because the thief's combat practice is less disciplined (and probably deprecated in favour of more intense study of all things stealthy).

Next Up, Critical Hits and Hit Locations
Listening To: Talking Heads, Remain in Light