Friday, April 30, 2010

The Tentative Product List

This list is very tentative and it depends on how well I can get my personal stuff in order. Prices and sizes are not set in uhh, stone.

Product #1 (for Pathfinder)

FSPFC #1 Swordmage

A new core class combining fighter and wizard. A less complex and (IMNSHO) more fun alternative to the Eldritch Knight that blasts out the door at level one.

Product #2 (for Old School)

FSOS#1 Class Options for Old School

This is themed for Labyrinth Lord and B/X but could be used easily enough with any of the old school type games. It includes a comprehensive background system, my "lens system for classes, a bunch of new race/classes, a smattering of house rules and a set of snowflake rules to add cool and simple backgrounds traits. I am guessing this will be about 64 pages when its done.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

An Old School Iconic Drozdt Black Shield

This time a non human, a Dwarf Axe for Hire. Like a Human Fighter a Dwarf gets Weapon Styles. For the curious I am told Drozdt is a Slavonic name though its used as a last name in real life.

Drozdt Black Shield

Str 16
Int 10
Wis 10
Dex 10
Con 16
Cha 10

Fighter 6
Hit Points 52
AC -3
Combat Styles: Shield Master, Weapon Master (Axe) Weapo Grandmaster (Axe)

Five feet of bald hatchet faced dwarf with mean piggy little eyes and an almost shamefully short black beard

Class Lens
Axe for Hire

Clan Dwarf


Special Abilities
Defensive -1 to AC

Special Equipment
Battle Axe +1
Admant Shield +3

Its Now a One Man Show

Alas its true. My partner has has some personal matters come up and is unable to continue at Five Stone. Effective immediately I have accepted his resignation.

What this means practically is a slightly slower turn around time (I have the artistic and layout skills of a wombat wearing cement shoes) and a cancellation of a couple of items that remain his IP.

Have no fear though, we will persevere and in teh immortal words of Brian Hoosel "More XP for Me" well money but you know what I mean.

An Old School Iconic: Adam Baron of Varick

I don't recall seeing many Old School iconics stated up which is something I am going to have to remedy. They will be stated up in labyrinth Lord but should be easily used with any of the old schools systems with only a tiny bit of work. Also note that unlike my Pathfinder Iconics, these guys do use my general house rules which you will see later.

Adam Baron Varick

Str 13
Int 14
Wis 9
Dex 13
Con 10
Charisma 16

Fighter 10
Hit Points 64 (I use a D10 for Fighter HP and HD to 10. For more standard LL subtract 14)
AC -2
Combat Styles (from here) Shield Master, Weapon Master Longsword, Weapon Grandmaster Longsword, Unarmed
Stronghold Castle Varick

Handsome and Slender Shan Male with Black Eyes and Argent Hair. Adam has an easy sly smile and an acquisitive look about him.

Class Lens
Ex Solider

Cityborn to Crafters


Alignment -- Neutral

Special Abilities (2)
Alert +4 to rolls to spot anything
Lucky +1 to all D20 rolls as per luckstone

Special Items
Longsword "Fortunes Friend +1" Luck Blade 2 Wishes sentient INT8 detects gems and metals 60' range.
Chainmail +2
Gorgons Fist Buckler +2 Buckler if missed by 4 or less attacker the blow has hit the shield and the attacker must saves vs spells or be slowed for 1d6 rounds as the spell.

Monday, April 26, 2010

trimming the cruft OS/2 Streamline

Just a heads up on a few ideas I am playing with, in particular a modification of my 2e house rules
OS/2 Warp that I am going to call OS/2 Streamline

What I have so far is

#1 eliminating multi-classing in favor of a small handful of custom classes.

#2 allowing any class to take any proficiency at normal cost.

#3 eliminating kits

#4 Very little players option stuff

#5 trimming subsystems and options bloat.

If anyone has a suggestion they think will serve well, let me know.

In defense of 2e

I saw an anti 2e rant here on the Gentlemen Gamers excellent blog. As 2e was "My D&D" the one I have had the most fun playing over the years I have to defend it.

To each of his points.

#1 Loss of classes.

The only classes that was really dropped was the Assassin, which came back not once but twice (1st in the Complete Thieves Handbook and later as the Assassin of the Scarlet Brotherhood) and the horrbily unblanced Cavalier and Barbarians which also returned in several forms .

Personally vis a vis the Assassin class I could have cared less they dropped as in my opinion the class simply was lackluster and had no specific role in the game As far as the Illusionist, the specialty mage was not quite as flavorful but it did the job just fine.

While Gentlemen Gamer did not mention the Half Orc per se, I suspect that its loss was something that annoyed both us. It just wasn't a real spoiler and again, it returned too.

#2 The idea of the specialty priest and the specialty wizard were and are good ones, the flaw lies in consolidating the spell-lists.

Well I have to disagree. The rules were simpler,easier to understand and just as playable. The specialty priests were actually more interesting than their 1e counterparts. The specialist mage was just fine and yeah sure some of the thunder was stolen by the generalists (no more Alter Reality for instance) the loss was minor compared to the gain in ease of play and rules coherence.

#3 In short, where others see a "simplified", "cleaned up", version of AD&D, I see a waste of squandered possibilities and horrid implementation.

While I would have enjoyed some more of the Gygaxian Weirdness (like the lost Mountebank class) too I frankly don't see what lost. The 2e rules simply were better thought out and maintained basically the same play feel. They were good enough ...

#4 The Code of Ethics

I have to grant him this point with a caveat. Oe was written by and for middle aged men (Gary was 36 when it was published , as old as many of us old schoolers are now ) and 1e was assumed to be college or older game . What TSR discovered though is that it was kids who were often playing it. I started at 11 with Holmes (which had nothing much offensive) and this was quite common .

And unlike the college kids who had their own money, guess who paid the bills. Yep,you gussed it Mom and Dad. TSR probably figured if a code of ethics would placate the wobblers and make more sales this was the right thing for a corporation to do.And yes I agree that some of the flavor was lost (2e was kind of bland) well we players could simply make things up.

As I figure it 2e took AD&D into the bigger world and provided millions of players with a really fun game which is all that any game could hope to do.

And while GG may have hated the system I had some of the best gaming of my life in the late 80's and late 90's and so I say, long live 2e.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Remembering a Couple of Old House Rules

From the 1e and 2e days. We used these with some success over the years and while I might choose a different method now both worked just fine.

#1 Perception as a stat. This was rolled with the standard 4d6 method and called upon whenever a roll to spot something was needed. It was never well integrated into the surprise or secret door rules alas.

#2 Dex bonus to hit with weapons. This was our early version of 3rd editions "weapon finesse" . We allowed the missile attack adjustment to applied to hand weapons as well. This rules was simple, added a bit of punch to Thieves and Illusionists and was in general pretty popular. I still use it in OS/2 Warp my 2e House Rules.

Doing Away with Multi-Classing in 2e

I've never been very fond of the 2nd edition multi-classing system. Its clumsy, awkward and gives mediocre results as far as game balance and playability is concerned. Worse still is the "dual class" system which, well I have no nice words for it.

However when I was skimming through my books I realized that the system itself offered me not one but two better ways to do this, both B/X style.

On page 32 of the revised DMG there is a little known and less used system, rather similar to the one for B/X (in Dragon #109) that allows custom character classes. The system gets mentioned only one time more, in the form of an illusion slinging thief in the Complete Thieves Handbook.

With a little effort (its slightly incomplete) it could easily be used to make custom classes of any stripe. Instead of Elf Fighter/Wizard it makes a lot more sense to bash the two together, B/X style , stir in some kit flavor and appropriate abilities as needed and make say a Blade Singer class. Do this for each race , you will do away with need for the race kits (many of which simply suck) and add flavor and balance the game. For smaller changes (say a fighter with move silent and hide in shadows) simply tacking in an XP cost is also viable. You can extrapolate a fair cost from the tables with a little work.

Another option is of course to use Skills and Powers. If you happen to have a bunch of old Dragons from that period or the CD rom collection that came out, there are tons and tons of add ons. Its enough to turn AD&D2e into a defacto point buy system

Let me caution you though. While its not too hard to make any class with this system,Despite the name Players Option its better, to reserve the use of the book for yourself.
Using those rules there are a great many ways to make unbalanced characters that take away other players fun.

If you try (or tried) this let me know how it worked.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Recycled from Greyhawk Grognard Skill Systems

This was in reply to excellent post on Classes as Skill Bundles

As I see it, the skill problem actually started with the 'thieves skill" class ability subsystem system being grafted onto what is essentially a "skill-less system" I've discussed my dislike for this class here so I won't repeat myself but thats my story and I am sticking to it.

I think the trick to resolving the skill issue is to see skills are two separate categories.

The 1st is adventuring tasks -- stuff like climbing, sneaking up on people, swimming. Some of these are covered by subsystems such as surprise others are just a judgment call and alas some are covered by thief "skills" aka class abilities

The second group are "things that the character knows" -- usually these end up as proficiencies or secondary skills or sometimes class abilities. Ugh.

What I do is basically guess what a character can do based either on an existing system (roll for surprise) or based on an attribute roll with a penalty for things outside the characters expertise. How I categorize is thus..

#1 Basic Tasks any Adventurer should know how to do. Everyone rolls full here

#2 Stuff from the background

#3 Stuff from the class and its lens, The lens here being "what kind of fighter/mage/whatever they character is.

For example, a sample party might consist of Sidrian Elf Crafter turned Wizard, Ankora Second Story Man (well woman in her case class fighter ) Bazi Pit Fighter (class fighter of course) and a Seymi Earth Witch (Cleric with custom spell list) and a Vor Bard (class fighter)

Any task that is an related to those keywords is rolled at full, other tasks at a penalty

Adventuring task are rolled against the subsystem in the book.

If some kind of thief class is needed, it ought to get bonus points applied to adventuring task rolls (instead of surprise on a 1 or 2 on a d6, they surprise on a 1,2, or 3 and so on)

This is maybe too coherent for D&D but its playable pretty easily and works well with race as class too.

For Earthday Another Iconic Oletana Sanji: The Guardian

In honor of Earth Day, another iconic sans picture, a druid of course, Oletana Sanji.

As with the previous iconic, Melkar K'Treva, the stats are treated as (best 3 of 4d6) rolls and any magic items that she can create were bought at half price. As Oletana is an iconic she also has the standard two traits. Other than those changes she is standard Pathfinder.

Oletana Sanji

Half Elven Female, Early 20's with a slender build straw colored hair, a pretty face and a knowing smile.

Str 14
Int 12
Wis 16/18
Dex 14
Con 14
Cha 12

Half Elf
Alignment LN

Race Abilities
Low Light Vision
Elven Blood
Multi Talented (Fighter/Druid)
Elven Immunities (Magic Sleep +2 vs Enchantment)
Keen Sense (+2 Perception)
Adaptability (Skill Focus, Survival)

Deft Dodger
Blade of Mercy

Survival 16
Climb 8
Craft (Wood) 9
Craft (Bowyer) 9
Knowledge Nature 8
Ride 8
Spellcraft 7
Knowledge Geography 8
Handle Animal 11
Swim 8
Fly 7
Stealth 5/10
Diplomacy 5
Sense Motive 7
Heal 8
Profession Herbalist 8

Hit Points 66
AC 24 Flat Footed 22 Touch 12

1 WP Longbow
3 Endurance
5 Scribe Scroll
7 Boon Companion
9 Die Hard

Class Abilities
Nature Bond (Animal Domain)
Nature Sense (+2 to Knowledge Nature and Survival)
Wild Empathy (+10)
Woodland Stride
Trackless Step
Resist Natures Lure
Wild Shape (3x)
Venom Immunity
Speak With Animals 12 rounds per day
Animal Companion

Usual Spell List (including domain spells)

L0 Know Direction, Mending, Purify Food Drink, Guidance
L1 Calm Animals, Magic Fang , Detect Animals, Faerie Fire, Speak with Animals
L2 Hold Animals, Tree Shape Summon Swarm Chill Metal Fog Cloud
L3 Dominate Animal Speak with Plants, Spike Growth, Snare
L4 Summon Natures Ally, Spike Stones, Scrying
L5 Beast Shape Animal Growth

Animal Companion (Seng) A Wolf

Size Large; Speed 50 ft.; AC 27 (+10 natural armor, +1 leather shadowed); Attack bite (1d8+7 plus trip); Ability Scores Str 24, Dex 16, Con 19, Int 4, Wis 12, Cha 6; Special Qualities Scent.Evasion, Link, Share Spell, Devotion, Multi Attack. 4 bonus tricks Stealth +10 HP 85

Standard magic Items
leaf armor +2
darkwood buckler +2
Ring of Protection +2
Elven Cloak of Resistance +3
Amulet of Natures Guard Armor +2 natural armor, +2 to Wisdom
Scimitar +1
10 Sleep arrows
10 arrows +1 cold iron
10 arrows +1 silver
Seng's Armor (large leather armor for wolf +1)

Thinking About: My Old House Ruled 3.5 Skills System for Pathfinder

And no folks, you won't see any of our products using it. We strive (with very few exceptions) to be 100% Pathfinder compliant.

In my original 3.5 game I gave everyone 2 extra skill points per level, so say an INT10 not Human Fighter got 16 at 1st and 4 each level after. Since I used various background skills, this allowed characters to be broadly skilled in a couple of areas w/o going overboard.

My players seemed to like the rule and other than one, basically adopted it for their games too.

Why I am thinking something like this might go well with Pathfinder is that despite having more condensed skills and in some cases an extra skill point, Pathfinder characters especially the 2 per level classes seem under skilled to me. This is exasperated by the fact that if traits are used many characters have one or more extra class skills too. There just aren't enough points to feel right.

I can see the design is meant to allow skills to be dolled out at each level and if skills are taken at a level up, they can be jumped into faster than in 3.5.

As an example, said Fighter gets 3 extra skill points at his level up (not Human, INT 10, preferred class) he can either take an extra class skill at (points+3) or put (points) into a new skill.

Not bad, but the problem comes about when we note the fighter has at least 10 class skills (and craft and profession can be applied to several skills) in addition to any gained from traits. This leaves him still points starved for games where "stuff outside the dungeon" matters.

My solution here is to simply give everyone an extra 2 base skill points, a Fighter is 4, a Rogue is 10 and so on.

What do you folks think of that idea?

Happy Earth Day!

Like the subject says

Happy Earth Day everyone!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shifting Initiative

As promised in my last post, my "shifting initiative" house rule. I made this rule way back in the 1e days (when I was like 13). In my current opinion its not a very good rule as it substitutes weapons speed for weapon length, however its quick and playable.

Melee combat is divided into 2 range bands, long and close.

At the beginning of the combat roll 1d10 for initiative adding weapon speed factor and dex bonus. The larger roll wins. However if the winner has a smaller weapon speed factor, he may opt move to close .
Thereafter initiative is rolled by rolling 1d10 adding weapon speed factor and subtracting defense. The smaller number goes first.
If the weapon with the higher speed factor wins he may elect to move to long range in which case combat functions as in the 1st round.
In a surprise or backstab situation the attacker may choose the range band on the 1st round.

#3 Old School Rules I Don't Use, Weapon Speed Factors

Now to be honest I have played with weapon speed factors with a shifting initiative engagement system (I'll post that later) but they never quite clicked for me.

Over the years as I learned more about swordplay I also found the rules really didn't make sense or fit the D&D combat system very well so I dropped them.

I haven't missed them since.

#2 Old School Rules I Don't Use, Weapon vs Armor.

Weapon vs Armor.

Its a perfectly sensible rule and its even somewhat realistic, if thats of any matter but in my really slows down play and is a poor fit for the highly abstract D&D combat system.

The AD&D 1e version was especially complex and not well thought out (little was known about weapons then) and since I never used it there, I never saw any use in using it in 2e either.

#1 Old School Rules I Don't Use: Maximum # of Spells Known

Why? Because the rule serves no real use in the game thats why. Besides as a DM I already control what spells are in the game. A hard cap serves no purpose that simply saying "No, you can't have that spell, how about you make something that does X instead" won't already do.

Now I know some DM's who do not count spells created by the magic user against that limit. Thats not a bad rule but I think % to learn, a rule I do use ,covers that nicely. Can't learn fireball? No problem. Create your own version.

Also a lot of the games that I run have lists and list of extra spells, from Dragon, from the web or just from my own brain.I figure if I don't put a limit on how many spells they can know they might take a chance in something a little less ordinary once in a while and that means for fun for all.

A Taxonomy of D&D

Dungeons and Dragons has had a very complicated history over the nearly two decades or so its been around.This taxonomy is meant to be a shorthand to clarify which version of D&D is which, Its uses the nomenclature developed with 3rd edition, which some of you are not going to like but it should be fairly precise. It also includes some of the retro-clones, the major ones that I am familiar with at least just in case any readers are not familiar with them.

If you have a D&D clone that I have forgotten don't feel slighted, feel free to post it or drop me an E-Mail at "this sites name @ Google" and I'll be happy to amend

The List

0e 3 little brown books

Swords and Wizardry White Box the 0e Retro-Clone and entirely excellent.

0.5e 3 little brown books + the expansions

Swords and Wizardry The 0.5e Retro-Clone

Spell Craft and Swordplay -- This is a .alt Retro-Clone of 0e focused more around Chainmail. Its included mainly because its a decently well known game and I love his work on Buffy. Plus he seems to be a hoopy frood who knows where his towel is.

1.0-- AD&D w/o Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures or the Survival Guides. No proficiencies

1.25 AD&D with Unearthed Arcana

1.5e AD&D with Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures or the Survival Guides and proficiencies

-- the AD&D Retro Clone, In a way its the grand daddy of all of them and more or less started the movement.

Holmes That Blue Book where I started.

Holmes (expanded) -- This includes some of the recent fan expansions

B/X Basic and Expert set regardless of printing

BECMI Basic, Expert, Companion, Masters, Immortals. Some players drop I for BECM as well

Cyclopedia -- pretty much the same as BECM. This version is as widely popular as B/X

Labyrinth Lord
-- The Basic D&D Retro-Clone. Its not quite exactly like any of the above but it captures the flavor pretty well and is exceptionally well written and supported.

OSR Generic "Old School." material broadly compatible with most of the above. Our old school material is of this type.

Basic Fantasy -- An old school styled game but not really a retro clone. Its pretty compatible with most of the above (its OSR on that sense) and I like it, so I've included it.

2.0 Second Edition AD&D sans the "Completes"

2.5 Second Edition AD&D with the "Completes"

2.75 Second Edition AD&D with the "options"

3.0 Third Edition

3.25 Third Edition with the "class books"

3.5 All of 3.5 including the "class books"

3.75 3.5 with the late books, especially Book of Nine Swords

3X -- A middly mash of 3.5 and OGL stuff the way most people play the game at home.

3.5 OGL
- The Open Game License material for 3.5

3x OGL Pretty much any 3.5 or Pathfinder open material used together. We do a little of that here

-- The Current Successor to 3.5. We primarily support this "new school" game

Trailblazer -- Bad Axe Games "rules patch" for 3.5 sort to a 3.6 but referred to by name to avoid confusion.

4e -- The most current version.

Friday, April 16, 2010

3rd Confession: 5 Reasons I Don't Much Like Prestige Classes

My reasons?

1st With one exception I'll get too later, I dislike the "must be planned from first level" effect that so many of these have.

2nd They create too much unfun optimization.

3rd In a way they are a legacy of the Players Handbook Only era and do not mesh very well with new classes or with the extended feat progression of Pathfinder. They are IMO mostly redundant.

4th There are hundreds upon hundreds that people might want to use and it requires a lot of effort to filter the bloat for bad designs, effort that I think could be used elsewhere to make the game more fun.

5th Most of these including some old favorites like the Arcane Trickster and the Arcane Archer and the Fighter/Mage are better served with core classes, core class combos or core class variants. In the rare case that a core class variant doesn't work a feat will often do the job fine. Instead of Rogue of the Flashing Blade prestige class it makes a lot more sense to take that allows both Swashbuckler and Rogue abilities to progress a little. You can even give the feat the same flavor so you lose pretty much nothing doing this.

4th While flavorful, I do not much like the way they mesh with levels. They kind of create level inflation, a mid tier knight instead of being 6th level ends up around say 11th after seemingly needing to \ 5 levels of some prestige class. It makes more sense to me to allow the Knightly Order's Special Ability to be either a feat or a substitution level.

Now as I mentioned before there are a few prestige classes I do like in certain types of games.

My favorite is the Mystic Theurge as the idea of magic being mostly incompatible across arcane, divine and other types appeals to me. Even the planning aspect is kind of interesting to me.

In my Sword and Sorcery game where casters have been limited to Black Mage (uses all Arcane Spells) and White Mage (uses most Divine Spells) the Mystic Theurge makes for a great Grey Mage class. Its a long hard road to master both the magic of light and dark ...

And yes gentle readers, you'll see those rules someday soon. But until then, stay tooned and good gaming.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Confession 2: I Play Story Games Sometimes

The great little spoof of Fight On (here) on Akratic Wizardry got me to thinking about how much fun I've had playing story games.

No they aren't old school, far more than that they are Ancient Regime and I suspect something like them has been played since the dawn of language probably as a teaching tool.

"OK Og, now you pretend you see Mammoth what you do?"

What I like about these games is they are best suited when the game you expect has little to no potentially lethal conflict. Most RPG's are basically driven around this kind of conflict, treasure hunting and exploration with a does of "role play" thrown in. This is natural and understandable as they evolved from a set of miniatures rules. And its fun.

However most games contain a lot of unnecessary elements for type of thing .

In such a situation you really don't need , complex rules for weapons, armor, treasure lists, monster manuals etc . While you certainly can use them for it they really aren't the best choice for games like my own unpublished Ramble which could be described as

"One strange day exploring a city on foot, kind of a little Adventurers in Baby Sitting meets Up with a dose of Garfield. " or for other concepts like the oddly brilliant Nicotine Girls where you play quote

teenage, lower-income girls looking for happiness.

For games like that, you use the appropriate rules set (or just freeform it). The key is to pick the rules that best serve you and to not serve the rules.

Now of late I find my tastes running to Old School and some New School. I miss the action and excited of a nice game of D&D, of killing critters, exploring ruins and looting, leveling up and just havening fun.

So don't you folks worry we haven't gone Indy.While we may publish Ramble someday (as a freebie) 5 Stone will be supporting new school (Pathfinder) and Old School and giving you stuff you can really use, just like always.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Product Query: Character Companion

I have a question for all my readers. Who here would be interested in a Character Options Companion?

What I am thinking here is a product for "old school" in general with a focus on Labyrinth Lord but usable with Swords and Wizardry, B/X and other games.

It would be composed of an extended background table, a discussion of what each class should know how to do, a simplified (very simplified) skill system based on attribute rolls , an optional "snowflake" table of special abilities (rather like a saner version of the infamous Arduin tables) and the meat of the matter, several dozen new character classes designed to mesh with the others.
These classes ought to be balanced and flavorful while being easily plugged into most any campaign

I figure it ought to be about 64 pages or so.

So what say y'all. Any interest ?

So What About the Rogue?

The Pathfinder Rogue class is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. I like that class as it serves a distinct niche in the game, that of skill and special ability focused character.

Also 3x/Pathfinder were built from the ground up around a coherent skill system, roll 1d20 add skill beat difficult. While d20 might be a random for my taste, it is perfectly workable and fun.

The Pathfinder Rogue is especially good and maybe better than the Fighter in many respects. All in All the rogue class does what it needs to do pretty well and that alas cannot be said about its ancestor the thief class.

Confession: I Hate the Thief Class in Old School Games

Why, you might ask. Actually its simple.

The thief class grafts a ersatz "whiff" prone skill system into the game that works against the core concepts of the game. These concepts namely that 1st level guys are highly capable already and that level is a measure of relative combat and magic power not skill are an important part of the designs intent.

Most of the versions of D&D up to second either ignored skills or used some variant of the "stat roll" such as a proficiency system to resolve conflicts.

This meant a 1st level character could have as much as a 90% chance of success in many common tasks. Even adventuring tasks such as surprise or hear noise often had a 33% percent or more chance of success

Contrast the thief skills, class abilities really, all those except for climb were far less generous.

Labyrinth Lord thieves are quite pathetic at less than 20% in many abilities. For a core ability this stinks. Less than 1 time in 5 you will make your roll.On top of that progress is fairly glacial, abilities never getting much above 50% till the class hits middle levels.

In 2nd edition, which is fairly generous amounts started around 30% and went up from there. Its not as bad but its still a kludge.

In fact think this grafted on nature occurred to the designers late in the life of 2nd edition as there was an attempt during the Ravenloft 2e years to make some of the abilities into proficiencies. I can't comment much on how that played but it is telling.

I am now coming around to the idea that thief ought to be a background trait rather than a class. Instead of taking thief as a class, a person could say roll against dex to pick a pocket if they had an appropriate background.

This also has a nice side effect for pulpier games. If you re-skin the cleric as a white mage, it leads to some interesting concepts.

One could have a "fighter" with a high dex whose background is "cat burglar" , a magic user who was a grave robber and a "cleric" (now white mage) who is a tomb raider and has mastered some spells to aid in his career.

Each would be a kind of thief with different abilities but none of them would be a thief class

The only real flaw I can see is with existing subsystems for surprise and hearing noise. These would need a way by which they could go up as the character leveled. If that could be remedied the thief class could be done away with nicely.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Essence of OSR

I don't know how much analysis has been done on the OSR, probably a lot more than we'll ever need. Trollsmyth does a nice piece here for example .

This urge is easy to understand, we gamers love detailed tables . I mean we make tables of everything from equipment to lifepaths to random prostitute encounters.

Heck we even computerize tables . You can even roll a random harlot here if you like. Just for kicks

The thing is, its the whole OSR is really simple. Its about getting back to basics.

And yeah there is some rules vs judgment rebellion too, I know I know but honestly you can play any game OSR style. Even 4.0 or 3.5 which have detailed rigorous rules sets.

All it takes is Fun, Friends and Imagination. Just get the buds together, roll some dice, use your imagination and try to be fair and consistent. Thats it. Now you are OSR.

Friday, April 9, 2010

An Iconic: Melkar K'Treva

Every game company has its iconic characters. Here is, sans art, one of mine. Melkar K'Treva.

Melkar K'Treva is the character I am most requested to bring into games either as the player or as the DM. I've used him in 2e, Rolemaster Standard System , GURPS, 3x and of course Pathfinder in every level from 8 to 16. He is always some kind of magic user whatever the system. Presented here he is a l13 Sorcerer using Pathfinder.

Note here the stats are treated as (best 3 of 4d6) rolls and any magic items that he can create were bought at half price. As Melkar is an iconic he also has the standard two traits Other than those changes he is pretty standard Pathfinder.

Melkar K'Treva

Human male,mid to late 30's average height, slender and muscular like a dancer dark hair cut short with coal black eyes. Almost unremarkable features except for a certain intensity and crafters hands.

Str 12
Int 14
Wis 12
Dex 14
Con 14
Cha 20/24

Arcane Bloodline
Alignment N

Craft-Mage 5% reduction in cost to make magic items
Desperate Focus

Skills (70)
Knowledge History 10
Bluff 10
Craft 10
Fly 9
Knowledge Arcana 12
Intimidate 10
Spellcraft 10
Appraise 9
Sense Motive 5
Stealth 5
Perception 5
Knowledge Local 5
Knowledge Dungeoneering 5
Knowledge Planes 5
Knowledge Engineering 5
Acrobatics 5
Swim 5
Climb 5
Ride 5

Hit Points 88
AC 26 flatfooted 24 touch 23

H Nimble Moves
1 Combat Casting
3 Silent Spell
5 Craft Wondrous Item
7 Empower Spell
9 Maximize Spell
11 Spell Penetration
13 Quicken Spell
B6 Improved Initiative
B13 Still Spell

Class Abilities
Bloodline Arcana
Arcane Bond (Black Rod)
Metamagic Adept 3x day

Spells Known
L0 9 detect magic, detect poison, mage hand, resistance , ray of frost, mending, message, open/close, prestidigitation

L1 5 magic missile, expeditious retreat , mage armor , shield, feather fall
L2 5 glitterdust, alter self., detect thoughts, levitate , locate object
L3 4 iceball, hold person, haste, lightning bolt
L4 4 wall of ice, black tentacles, ice storm, fear
L5 3 break enchantment , teleport, force wall
L6 3 explode foe greater dispel globe of invulnerability

Bonus Spells Known
Dispel Magic
Dimension Door
Overland Flight
True Seeing
Fire Shield
Analyze Dweomer

The Black Rod
This artifact combines can be used as a light mace and combines the effects of a staff of power with a staff of magi. Unlike these items it does report the current level of charges.

dagger +1 flaming
long knife + flaming (as dagger but cutting damage)
Bracers AC+6
Melkar's Almost Ultimate Boots: combines boots of teleportation, levitation and haste
Eye of Orm combines adds +3 to charisma and natural armor
Cloak of Resistance +4 4k
Necklace Iceball Missiles type 5 (as Necklace of Fireballs)
Ring of deflection +3
Ring of Sustenance
Handy Haversack with lots of mundane gear

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How Many Orcs can a Fighter Chop if a Fighter Could Chop Orcs Chop Chop

One of the most interesting facets to compare about editions is how the high level fighter as relates to the world around them.

In earlier variations of D&D a high level fighter while scary was was still recognizable as human instead of a second string member of the Justice League.

Let me explain

Assuming Max at Level 1 , Greyhawk Average Hit points and a 16 Con such a fighter in B/X or LL has has around 78 A 2e fighter would have around 88 hit points and a Pathfinder Fighter has around 121

In each case Orc still has about 6hp.

One on one the difference is small, the orc has no chance. However the big differences here come in fighting multiple foes,

For B/X or LL guy a gang of orcs is scary, say a troop of 20. LL guy will get aced around Orc 17,

late 2e guy will be able to drop around 80 (he can kill 5 per round)

and 3x guy assuming similar “Orcish wave” tactics and decent feats even against the nastier Pathfinder orcs can get near to 200!

Even at super high levels LL guy can only manage another 5 or 6, while 2e guy gets another 25 or 30.

Whats even more “whoa!” is that Pathfinder guy in addition to being able to handle an extra hundred or so he can extend this combat ability to much bigger nasties and is able to cleave his way through things like bugbears and even ogres.

At "near max" level 19 in Pathfinder with decent magic items, no reasonable amount of orcs are actually a threat as even when they hit only 1 time in 20, most of the attacks bounce of the DR 8 (Adamantium Full Plate!)

Now don't get me wrong here, this is not a criticism of 3x or Pathfinder there is a place for both style of gaming in my book, its why we support Pathfinder and Labyrinth Lord alike. Both are a heck of a lot of fun.

What it comes down to is making sure you select the right game for your group and most importantly, having fun.

What Abilities Should an Old School Fighter Have

Its a trickier question than it seems.

The obvious things access to the all weapons and armor and having the best combat abilities.

To my mind the best published fighters are the Late 2e one and the Pathfinder one (with only slight moods)

The Late 2e fighter got

Access to Weapon Specialization
Usually had a Style Specialization (a few slots here were awesome)
Multiple attacks
Good saves especially at high level
and by the time players options came out doubled attacks vs 1hd or less monsters

The Pathfinder fighter can be seen in all its glory here and it is bar none my favorite of all the D20 fighters.

If you want a "great fighter thats still just a regular guy" You won't go wrong with the Labyrinth Lord fighter. Its solid and playable but even at high level still just an ordinary guy.

If used with Fighters with Flair and a good set of background rules, you get a very nice fighter that is quick to roll up, down to earth but still fun and easy to play.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

House Rules (LL) Bucklers

Probably my biggest complaint with the shield rules in LL and the other old school derived games is the general worthlessness of shields and bucklers.

A shield grants a measly 5% to AC which fails to show just how effective the item really is. A good shield is a torso sized defense thats mobile and has both offensive and defensive capabilities. Its such a good defense it is still in use today as a riot control tool (vs hth and thrown weapons) and as a ballistic shield vs firearms.

The question remains then, how to fix it without screwing the system up. Well fixing shields is pretty difficult (although I like this rule at Trollsmyth) but I do have some ideas on a fix for the buckler.

The buckler was THE preeminent defensive tool from about 1100 to 1600 or so, half a millennium (source) , almost as long as the gun has been #1 on offense. This is a matter of weight and convenience and the fact the weapon was simply handy to use.

To make the buckler more interesting w/o cluttering up the rules here are suggestions

#1 Fighters, Thieves and Clerics all get proficiency

#2 Treat it as an off hand weapon. Anyone proficient with it can strike with the buckler instead of a primary weapon at no penalty for 1d4 damage. This can come in handy when someone is disarmed or faces some nasty critter that say only takes damage from blunt weapons.

#3 A buckler user always gains +1 (plus any magic bonus) to AC and said magic bonus does count when used to strike a target just as if it was a a weapon.

#4 If using "Fighters with Flair" from Arkratic Wizardy or Knockspell #1 a buckler may be used with shield master or swashbuckler style but not both simultaneously This actually does a nice job of allowing the buckler to function much as it does historically and is an added bonus for those who like verisimilitude

And Now There Are Five

Five Old School magazines that is



Fight On!


and Oubliette .

Of these the only ones I have experience with are OD&DITIES, which has the 1st twelve issues free at Alderson's Tower or Dragonsfoot and,
both of which were very good highly recommended and best of all, absolutely free.

What amazes me more than anything about the OSR is the shear creativity of its member base. We are as a small group putting out support material in numbers that would have made TSR back in the old 1e days green with envy.

Partially this is of course the technology of today ,publishing is much easier and has a lower cost of entry, but the rest of it is us. We have the attitude, the creativity and the sense of wonder, just as much, maybe more than we did back then.

Of in case anyone wonders why I am so behind. All my Ka-Ching$ are called for.

When that lets up, I'll play catch up...

Monday, April 5, 2010

In Praise of Race as Class Addendum, 2e and 3x

Interestingly this idea resurfaced in 2e as a set optional rules in the DMG as well as a fleshed out example in the complete thieves handbook. Of course like the systems before it, it required some care on the part of the DM.

For those of who liked the Players Option stuff, the rules there were a variant as well. I found them a bit unbalanced and they just felt wrong but they weren't exactly bad rules by my measure.

3x multi classing is pretty different but it to ran into similar problem both with high level adjustment races and with certain multi class combinations fighter/caster and rogue/caster in particular.

I've seen this idea reapplied (in my opinion poorly) in Savage Species for races and in 3rd party products such as Second Look: Arcane Trickster and in some alternate classes in Green Ronin's Advanced Players Manual

Using these "multi class" classes and "races as classes" instead of prestige classes deals away with the old "start you planning at level 1" issue that plagues 3x. Throw in a few flavorful variants and you have a really good set up that has all the bells and whistles 3x offers with a heap less complexity in character generation.

In Praise of Race as Class

It took me a long time to come around to how good the the B/X-Lab Lord idea of race as class actually is.

The thing I think that always held me back is that thee is only one class for each race, Halfling, Dwarf, Elf and while fine its dull as dishwater and can lead to very little variety.

While later editions separated race and class this lead to the miserable excuses for a multi classing systems and all sorts of class limits on races. In other words, more complexity for little gain.

Whats needed to make that system zing are multiple races as classes.

Instead of just Halfling, how about Halfling , Halfling Thornwalker (a ranger kinda thing) Halfling Guardian, Halfling Herbalist Halfling Bounder and so?

Break the racial abilities down into points using the ODDites system (issue #7 here) , Dragon 109 or the one on Bree Yark and then graft on what abilities its class should have.

This gives you simplicity and flavor all at once and makes D&D into a kind of best of point buy with all that flexibility but in the hands of the DM to reduce the potential for min-max abuse and class level.

This can also easily solve the multi class dilemma. Want a Fighter/Magic User?. Fine here is the class XP table for the abilities that this class should have in my campaign. It keeps chargen just as fast as B/X while opening up a lot of new options.

The idea of course is hardly new, having first appeared as the Crabaugh method in Dragon #109 and of course we saw some aspects of this in the B/X Gazetteers with the Forester and Rake classes.

Still used carefully it solves a lot of problems and adds a lot of fun.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sorry for the slow posts

I've been hard at work on some cool projects for y'all . Some of them will be free and others will be for sale eventually .

I think you folks like them.