2.27.2013

Don't Move! Surrender Rules for RPGs


In RPGs the situation that I've found the least satisfactory with any rules system I've used is where an NPC tries to stop the characters at gun point. This almost _never_ resolves in a manner that pleasingly emulates the sort of genre source material I'd like it to.

What I'm considering is the following sub-system:

* The target and adjacent allies must not have made an attack or chosen to defend the previous round (eg. Surprised, Helping injured ally etc)
* The attacker's action is to call for surrender (Freeze! etc) and can not move or make any other action including an attack
* A call for surrender can target a close group of adjacent targets (Nobody move! etc)
* IF the attacker's maximum weapon damage adjusted by Charisma bonus is higher than the target's hit points adjusted by their Wisdom bonus, the target is subdued and can take no actions as long as the attacker does not take an action other than continuing to keep them subdued.
* The attacker can make subdued targets move ahead of them at their walking speed (assuming the target can move that fast)

The only way a character can be a bad ass and try to run or grab their attacker's weapon is if they had MORE hit points + wisdom but voluntarily "surrendered".

Any comments or suggestions for things to add?

9.26.2012

Bene Gesserit for B/X D&D

This is the 3rd version of a Bene Gesserit class I've posted, with each version becoming progressively more streamlined. This uses the excellent suggestion by Talysman to use the Cleric's turning mechanics for things other than turning undead. In this case we'll use it for "The Voice".

Bene Gesserit Sisterhood
Cleric Sub-Class

The Bene Gesserit are an exclusive sisterhood whose members train their bodies and minds through years of physical and mental conditioning to obtain superhuman powers and abilities that can seem magical to outsiders. Sometimes called "witches" due to their secretive nature and misunderstood powers, the Bene Gesserit are loyal only to themselves. However, to attain their goals and avoid outside interference, they often screen themselves with the illusion of being loyal to other groups or individuals.

Unarmed Attacks: d6 damage
Unarmored AC Adjustment: +3 [-3]

Cleric Spells
Can only cast spells that affect the character directly.

Cleric Turning
Affects humans instead of undead. A "T" means the character can Tell the target to perform one action. A "D" means the character Dominates the target for as long as they concentrate and take no other actions.

Special Weapon
Gom Jabbar - No Damage, Save vs Poison

Like the previous version for Swords & Wizardry you could modify how often some of the spells could be cast if you like, but I appreciate how straightforward the write-up for this version is.

7.29.2012

Alternate Point Buy Chargen for B/X and OSR D&D

I've previously written about non-random character creation for OD&D / Swords & Wizardry, but lately I've been thinking about running a B/X style game again via G+ Hangouts and wanted to have an option for creating characters without needing any dice rolling.

Similar to the option for S&W this system is based on keeping track of the ability score bonuses and penalties. Each character begins with 1 point which represents a +1 bonus or *13* in an ability score. All other ability scores have no modifier and are assumed to be a score of 11. For each ability score penalty point a character takes, they may take an additional bonus point as well. So if a character had an ability at 7 (-1 penalty) they could take an additional attribute at 13 (+1 bonus) or raise their 13 to a 16 (+2 bonus).

Here are the ability scores and their bonuses or penalties when using this non-random system for creating characters:

3 * -3
5 * -2
7 * -1
11 * 0
13 * +1
16 * +2
18 * +3

An example character using this system would be:

S 18, I 7, W 11, D 13, C 11, C 5

Update: Thanks Joe, my bad math is corrected. :)

3.30.2012

Split Classes in B/X D&D

If you've been following along with the recent posts I've done with new character classes for Basic/Expert D&D they were in part to fill in these gaps.
In B/X you have the Elf which is a Fighter/Magic-User, and Dwarves & Halflings which mix some Thief like abilities in with those of the Fighter. To this I've added the the Witch who is a kind of Cleric/Magic-User, and the Bard who is a mix of Magic-User and Thief. The Paladin & Anti-Paladin are Cleric/Fighters and finally the Monks & Assassins are Cleric/Thieves.

Each of the 4 main classes (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief) can be combined with any of the other 3 by choosing one of the specialized classes.

Monks and Assassins for Basic D&D

Most of the classes in classic D&D fit into a Tolkien-esque sort of campaign world, which in turn is largely based on northern european history and folklore. However over the years there have been a few character class options that suggest a campaign world with a more eastern flavour.

The Monk class was based on fighting monastic orders such as the Shaolin Temple, a Buddhist monastery in Henan province, China.  This style of Monk (or Nun if a female character) is quite different from the western religious orders who did not focus on physical training and hand-to-hand fighting techniques. While I like that the Monk offers more diversity in the implied setting, the implementation was messy. Lots of special abilities that are easy to forget, and special rules for advancement.

Similar to this was the Assassin class which was actually based on militant Islamic "monks" in Persia during the middle-ages. While the Shaolin Monks would dress in a manner making them easy to recognize the Ḥashshāshīn would travel in disguise and infiltrate neighbouring communities and rival kingdoms. They would then be able to eliminate key figures who might seek to move against their order.

In our continuing series of streamlined classes for Basic D&D I'm going to treat the Monks and Assassins as variants of each other, since they both represent eastern orders with fortified monasteries.

These classes are both based on the Cleric and are treated as such except as noted below. Due to the fantasy nature of the game they, like the Cleric, have been given fantastic abilities representing the folklore about them, rather than the historical truth of their orders.

Monk (Assassin)
Cleric Sub Class
Note: Bracketed text applies to Assassins

Restrictions
Must be Lawful (Chaotic)
Minimum Wisdom score of 9 (Minimum Charisma score of 9)
May not wear any armour
Monks may not use weapons (Assassins may use Any Weapons)
Can not Turn Undead

Special Abilities
+2 AC unless surprised
Unarmed attacks do d4 Damage; add an extra d4 at levels 5, 9, 13, 17
Move Silently, Climb Sheer Surfaces, Hide in Shadows as Thief of same level
Immunity to Fear, Charm, ESP, Magical Sleep
Monks can Save vs Petrification to deflect/doge any missile attack
(Assassins gain +4 to hit, x2 damage, when striking unnoticed from behind)

Spell Lists
Monks do not need to memorize spells ahead of time; their spells can only affect the Monk
1st - Cure Light Wounds, Resist Cold
2nd - Bless, Resist Fire
3rd - Cure Disease, Striking
4th - Cure Serious Wounds, Neutralize Poison
5th - Commune

Assassins do not need to memorize spells ahead of time.
1st - Cause Light Wounds, Darkness
2nd - Blight, Silence 15' Radius
3rd - Disease, Striking
4th - Cause Serious Wounds

3.27.2012

The Bard for Basic D&D

I think there's perhaps no other class with as long a history in D&D that gets quite as much scorn as the Bard. Now some players certainly like the Bard and I think there are things about the class that are good: more focused on social situations, negotiation, mysterious knowledge, and a jack of all trades approach that makes it a good character choice when the game isn't hyper-focused around one part of the game (eg. Combat). At the same time there's a lot wrong with the Bard in D&D.

In AD&D the Bard was a convoluted mess, and the designers seemed to recognize this and put it in the Appendixes as optional material. Go to level X in one class, change to another class, go to level X, change again etc. Honestly I don't know how many people actually levelled up a Bard in this manner compared to the number that were just created for one-shot high level adventures.

From the outset and into editions where Bards were playable from 1st level they were presented as characters that would sing and play musical instruments in battle. Now, I know musicians would accompany an army onto the field, but in a small skirmish situation a character dancing about playing their flute while unspeakable monstrosities tore into their small band of allies seems absurd. And it's this absurdity that makes other players dislike the Bard. Unless you are playing a light hearted "silly" game the presence of Sir Robin's Minstrels can be disruptive to the tone of the game. Bards playing flutes, mandolins, reciting poetry, or even dancing... it makes no difference. Being a Jack-of-all-Trades is one thing, but making the Bard's contribution look ridiculous is just too much.

Here then, in the spirit of the Paladin and Anti-Paladin is a re-imagined Bard for OSR games.
Bard
Magic-User Sub Class

Restrictions
May wear Leather armour.
Can use any type of weapon.

Special Abilities
Hear Noise as Thief of same level
Hide in Shadows as Thief of same level
Learn additional language at levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 13
Identify Magic Items as Thief of same level using "Remove Traps"

Cast spells as Magic-User of 1/2 level starting at 2nd level.

Bard Experience Points
Gains 0 XP from Enemies of Same Alignment
Gains 1/2 XP of a Monster when encountered for the first time (once per each type of monster). The Bard also gets the normal amount of XP if the monster is defeated.
In a similar manner to how the Witch mixes the Cleric and Magic-User, and the Paladin mixes the Fighter and Cleric, the Bard mixes some of the abilities of the Magic-User and Thief. Instead of a comical minstrel/jester type character the Bard is a travelling storyteller or perhaps a playwright. A player may wish them to have a musical instrument but that is unnecessary and certainly not something the character would play during the midst of battle. Our new Bard's focus is on exploration and discovery. They have a knowledge of languages and lore that can reveal the secrets of magic items.

Bards may adventure for many reasons, but seeing fantastic and monstrous creatures is the stuff epic stories are made of and they draw experience from their encounters - even if the things they discover are best to be left well enough alone.