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Category Archives: Labyrinth Lord

[Circûmflex] Slaughtering Holy Cows

A person with no fighting skill has a 50/50 chance of hurting someone with no armor at all.

A person with one level of fighting skill has a 50/50 chance of hitting someone with minimal armor.

A person with ten levels of fighting skill has a 100% chance of hitting someone with no armor, and a 90% chance of hitting someone with minimal armor.

Scale up and down as needed.

You know, one of the things I loved about 3rd edition D&D, when I made the switch from AD&D 2nd edition, was how easy refereeing fights became. I never liked THAC0, and I found it a bothersome quirk of an otherwise easy to understand system.

In hindsight the problem was that I was introduced to RPGs through DSA, and there combat is done via attack rolls and defense rolls. It had problems of its own which made combats last way too long (a fight between people with low attack and high defense could take hours), but at least everyone intuitively grasped the concept.

And then 3rd edition came along and it all became easier. +1 AB vs. AC 1 was exactly 50%, what could be easier?

When I look at older editions of D&D this always has been the case. It has been hidden away under weird formulations and strangely formatted tables, but if one actually bothers to do the math you can reduce the whole combat section of D&D to 3rd edition’s formula of

d20 + Attack Bonus > 10 + Armor Class

The differences were in the details. And a lot of those details were brought over from other games.

Why exactly has early D&D armor class that gets better the lower it gets?

Well, it was like that in a Civil War naval game Dave Arneson played, and he brought it over into D&D.

Why did it start at 9, and not at 10?

Because all the characters the rules cared about were at least level 1, and had as much fighting prowess.

Speaking about fighting prowess: why did it take until 3rd edition to straighten out that?

Pre-3rd edition rules had weird quirks in there that might have been intentionally designed like that, but which ultimately didn’t matter.

In AD&D the fighter stays at +1 attack for two levels, then gains +1 at every further level.

In 3rd edition each level of fighter gains +1 on the character’s attack bonus.

In my opinion this makes the whole process more streamlined, because now the fighter becomes the baseline for combat progression. I actually am thinking of going even further and making the first level of clerics, wizards, and specialists into +0, to show that no, they really aren’t specialized in fighting. (which might be better, because I already increased their chance for multiple spells a day)

So here we go, the homebrew I am building will use attack bonuses and ascending armor.

Fighters now gain +1 per level, the others are slightly more useless in a fight.

[Circûmflex] Messing around with spellpoints in an OSR-style system


This last week I have been sick. With lots of time on my hands I have been working on a version of Labyrinth Lord that is more suited for playing on HârnWorld. By now the whole thing does not look much like Labyrinth Lord anymore. Although it still is pretty close to the mathematical values, and more of a homebrew than an actual new system. I call it Circûmflex, because if you know Hârn, which is like calling something D&D-connected Ampersand.

These posts will be basically meditations on why I decide to do certain things one way or another. Please feel free to comment, especially if you know more about the maths of games than I do (which is not hard).

In any case, one of the things I decided to overhaul was the magic system. I adore the Vancian magic system, I really do. But it just is not a good fit for the setting I intended this to be played in.

So I started to fiddle around with spell points a bit.

One idea that was floating around in various places was that one could just use the number of spells wizards gained per level, and give them a value of points per level, connected to the Fibonacci sequence. I liked that. It made lower level spells cheaper, while making more powerful spells more difficult to cast.

Piety and Mana

To use spells and invocations wizards and clerics use a pool of points each. For clerics this is called Piety, for wizards this is called Mana. Both are determined by the level of the character, modified by the modificator for Wisdom for Clerics, and the one for Intelligence for Shek-P’var.
Mechanically they work almost the same. A spell or invocation of a specific level has a cost in piety or mana. When it is invoked or cast it reduces the amount of points by the set amount. When the pool of points reaches 0 no further invocations or spells are possible until they are replenished.
If the last spell cast would bring the pool of points under 0 the cleric or shek-p’var has to Save against Spell. If this roll fails he/she might incur the displeasure of their deity (cleric), or the spell might misfire (according to GM’s fiat). In any case the cleric/shek-p’var will feel burned out and not be able to invoke/cast again until at least half the pool is replenished.
Piety and Mana points replenish at a rate of 1d8 per night of rest spent in prayer or meditation.

The cost of spells and invocations is determined by the level it has. At level 1 it costs 1 point, at level 2 it costs two points, at level 3 three points, at level 4 five points, etc.

Some notes on that:

  • I renamed spells for clerics to invocations. This is in line with the terminology in HarnMaster, even though in this case it does not make any difference ruleswise. Likewise I used the word Piety, which has an actual value in HM, to denote something completely different. The word Mana does not even appear in HM I think, but I am trying to dress Labyrinth Lord in the right guise, I don’t try to emulate the rules of HM.
  • Wizards are of course Shek-P’var in HârnWorld. Technically Shek’P’var are just the most common and widespread of wizards, and there are quite a few hints towards other traditions, but I will go with that right now.
  • The spellpoint management is actually inspired by older editions of Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye). I don’t know if newer editions still have it (5th edition just came out and I haven’t even seen a book of it yet…), but I felt it might fit the setting well if spells cannot be easily regained from day to day. Mana and Piety in this system replenish at about double the rate as hit points. Which means that spellcasters start pretty strong, but have to keep their resources in mind better.

Ah yes, about that last part…

This is the point when I decided to have a look at the amount of spell points available to my spellcasters. Now, I have to add here that in the previous version of my houserules I decided at one point that all the levels I really needed to think about was the ones up to level 12. In the last few years barely any of my players managed to reach even these lofty heights, and I mean the years since I started playing AD&D 2nd edition back in the 90s.

Funnily enough I noticed something interesting when I calculated the spellpoint equivalents to the usual Labyrinth Lord spell slots: if I calculate according to the Fibonacci sequence I mentioned earlier, with one 1st level spell as 1 point, and 1 6th level spell as 9 points, at level 12 I reached exactly 66.

If I would let that go on further the Quadratic Wizard effect would of course be in full effect. That was one of the things I found was easier to avoid with a soft level limit of 12. But even like that, this is pretty strong, isn’t it? Especially considering that I was already thinking of getting rid of spell books and memorization. Kind of strong for the nominally low-magic world Kethira.

On the other hand I was toying with another idea: why not give spellcasters a roll for their spell pool that is equivalent to their hp pool?

Well, ok, because people might hate not having a clear level progression, and because bad rolls happen (although I do have an idea to mitigate that) and because it would benefit some people but not others. But other than that?

I actually did see something similar in Das Schwarze Auge. True, there the system actually started with 25 or so “astral points” and leveling added to that, but DSA always was a bit of a slugfest with all those points. So lets say we start with a mana pool of 1d8 for shek-p’var, and 1d6 for clerics. This still might be too much actually. This would give an average of 4.5 points, plus Int-mod. At the top of the range this might mean a wizard could have 11 spells a day on first level. Hmm. Nope, not good.

Ok, lets go with 1d6 for both. this would give an average of 42 points, a minimum of 12, and a maximum of 108 spell points on level 12.

I gave the Shek-P’var a requirement of Int 9, so no negative modifiers should be possible. After all one needs to be at least able to read to study old musty tomes of arcane secrets. No Int 3 wizards in this system. Sorry.

Ok, a super-genius wizard who can spam 12 level 6 spells on level 12. A bit over the top, but doable. On the other hand even someone with the worst possible kind of luck and no modifiers should be able to blast off at least 12 spells at once.

In this case it actually might help that either of these wizards only get back a maximum of 8 points per day.

Luckily, there are some limitations for both clerics and wizards in this setting. Clerics only have access to a limited pool of spells. Some of the spells, sorry, invocations, might be downright useless from an dungeoneering point of view (which is okay, there aren’t that many straightforward dungeons in the setting anyway). There is not really a reason to invoke “Marriage” for example, except to replenish piety points. And where do you find a willing couple in the middle of the dungeon anyway?

Ah yes, that latter one is an actual invocation from HarnMaster Religion. There it of course makes a lot of sense. The clerics in HarnMaster are not only walking hp-fountains. In fact a lot of the gods don’t even have healing invocations. But doing some good work like baptising new adherents, and performing weddings for others, actually increases the piety for the priest. This would not actually have much sense with the usual Vancian magic, it does make more sense if clerics have to replenish their piety somehow.

Wizards actually have it a bit better, at least in higher levels. The Pvaristic system the setting has actually keeps wizards from having access to all the cool spells at once. A shek-p’var starts as a specialist in one of six convocations. This means he for example only has access to water-aspected spells. But shek-p’var can attune themselves to the other convocations the more experience they have. So over time they can gain access to all convocations. Or they just stay a specialist in their field. Whatever floats their boat.



[HarnWorld] Visitors (Session 1)

Screenshot at 2016-05-03 21:00:37So, I had my first session on Hârn two days ago.
We played my unholy mess of an OD&D/AD&D hack, and I decided to make character generation part of the game (the players were remembering who they were after waking up with amnesia). There was a mishap with interdimensional travel involved, which lead to a motley collection of characters waking up in a forest.
This was intentional. I wanted the characters to explore the world on their own, and I wanted test out how well I can run this rather sophisticated world.

Also all of us work, and I am the only one who enjoys reading all that background material.

The characters woke up at the edge of the Shâva Forest, just south of Trobridge, scattered together with some other interdimensional trash around something which might turn out to be an Earthmaster artifact (or might be completely unrelated).
I had a rather free-wheeling approach for character generation, and they were supposed to be from various other worlds, so I ended up with
* a ditzy apprentice wizard
* a soccer-playing Shaolin monk
* a rude ranger from “the woods, but not these woods”
* a sith from Tatooine (I used some Star Wars house rules I had for that)
* a stab-happy pirate with a fixation on swords

Hardly the characters you might think about when exploring Hârn, but well, it was supposed to be an introduction to the setting. (and we play OD&D, I would be surprised if more than half survived the next session)
The characters soon armed each other with the trash that was around (the ranger decided that a STOP-sign must be some kind of pole axe, the rest went with some more traditional things they found; two shields they found became important as barter material soon enough).

A short survey of the surrounding lands from the hillside they were on showed Lake Herâs and Trobridge to the north, but the pirate decided to go straight to the lake (because pirate needs water), while the others decided to look at the settlement first. The Tatooine native at this point was freaking out because flowers grew on what she was told was grass.
They already came to blows at this point, which made them ignore my remarks about the random encounter that approached them, until the bear was already behind them, hungry and ready to attack.

This was quite the disaster. The swordsman rolled nothing but failures, the magic-user put herself to sleep with a really bad roll, and the others managed to get a few tame hits in. The most successful was the monk who managed to stun the bear with a good blow long enough for everyone to run away downhill.

Soon enough they met a Chelni (horse-people) encampment, and decided against trying to pillage it. The Chelni were friendly, especially after the PCs offered to trade one of the shields they found for a very small amount of food.
During the subsequent celebration of the trade they encountered a deep rift in their cosmology, while most of the characters were convinced that the world was flat, two and their host knew that it was spherical. One can get a lot of roleplaying out of the fact that the primitive tribesman one encounters is better at astronomy than most PCs.

The arrival in Trobridge came soon afterwards. The innkeeper pointed them towards the Physician and the Apothecary to receive exposition (the physician turned out to be a Shek-Pvar journeyman) and a quest (Bring me… garlic! But watch out for that rabid bear!). They soon decided to go back to the place where they woke up, I think they might have thought I had this adventure planned out in that direction. The fools!

Before they couldleave again a bunch of local ruffians (Kurson’s guys) tried to extort some money out of what they thought were easy marks. This ended with three of the ruffians unconscious (a more successful use of the Sleep spell) but their leader still awake and alarmed (because “Witch! Witch!”).
Before reinforcements could arrive, but after he sounded the alarm, they tried to fast talk their way out of it by claiming they were all affected by the Sleeping Plague. This valorous attempt to save the situation was cut short when the ruffian was stabbed to death by the swordsman (“what the hell are you doing?”). Then they withdrew to the inn, whose owner was not happy about the fact that they made a mess out of a delicate situation. Luckily for them local wannabe-lord Kurson decided to be an ass about it all, and the innkeeper kept them inside, unwilling to have Kurson have any authority over his inn.
The next morning they overcame the guards Kurson had posted outside and went back to the woods.

– during Kurson’s brief siege of the inn the person who murdered the ruffian decided to offer to murder everyone in the inn for Kurson. This caused the force-sensitive Tatooinian to embrace the dark side

– Chelni horses are basically thin banthas, bears are rabid ewoks.

-fast talking someone works better if you don’t stab them in the stomach first

Lessons Learned:
I should have given some more limitationsof what characters to create. Maybe only Terrans would be better for a game like this. This would have given it a feeling closer to the John Carter novels, or maybe the beginning of Charles Stross’ Merchant Princes series. On the other hand this would most likely have hampered the fun they had with the characters they created. I received various messages about further character development the next day. So it seems like I got them interested. But now that they are going back to where they came from I guess I should at least provide them with a small dungeon. I noticed that some of my players were itching for more fights.

[Labyrinth Lord] Zombie Whale

Whale Zombie

Whale Zombie

Zombie Whale

No. Enc.: 1 (1d4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 60’ (30’)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 15 +3
Attacks: 1 (swallow or zombie powder)
Damage: 1d4+2 or special
Save: TH4
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: None

More often than not accidental spawns of dark magic these undead are found in the realms under the waves, but on occasion veer into beach areas. They mostly swim, but the can fly if movement on land is needed. (thought you escaped? Ha!)

Living beings killed by them have a 50% chance of raising as zombies within a week, if no appropriate countermeasures are taken. If successfully attacked by their zombie powder attack (a breath weapon dealing 2d8 damage) characters are infected with a zombie virus and will transform into a zombie within a week.

Okay, this one is silly. They show up on one beach in Final Fantasy IX and are wonderful to boost levels with some extra XP. But they still are flying zombie whales. I think I am going to use them for some seaside encounter with a very weird aquatic necromancer.

[Labyrinth Lord] The Unseen Shadow

I was going to use this in the PBEM game I was doing right now.

The Unseen Shadow
A strange phenomena appears to you as you investigate the workbench in the old forgotten dwarven smithy: situated in the middle of the large stone table, just over the edge, is a sword’s handle that by all means appears to be levitating in thin air, with a finger’s breadth of air between itself and the bench. As you investigate further it appears to be a whole longsword invisible to the eye, except for the handle and a barely noticeable disturbance of light where the blade should be.
The invisible blade is a weapon of duergar manufacture made as a tribute to the inhabitants to the castle above the dungeon. This one seems to have been forgotten or lost when the workmen of the smithy were driven off or killed. The blade is invisible (except via magic) and attacks as a +2 weapon. A small engraving in dwarven runes only traceable via touch proclaims this to be the “Unseen Shadow”.

This one is actually based, believe it or not, on a local legend from my home village. Or at least on something that claimed to be a local legend from my area.
I used to work in a cave that was situated right under a former castle/nowadays church, that had a genuine secret passage through parts of the cave.
We cave guides used to dig local history a lot (and all of us were kind of involved in it) and during one of my many exploits into the legends of the region I came upon an interesting book on local legends that claimed (in not even half a paragraph) that the existence of the secret passage (and the castle’s track record of failed sieges) was veiled by fabricated legends about a pact between the lords of the castle and the dwarves from under the hill. Obviously the dwarves gave the castle’s owners supplies and invisible swords.
That kind of stuck with me, mostly because it sounded so D&D to me, and because I grew up in the place and never had heard that story before, ever. I still think the author of that book might have totally fabricated the legend himself (not an unknown occurrence in local history) or heard it from someone with a very vivid imagination and some interest in old Germanic legends. Considering the cave was just 30km from Bayreuth, and with that from the place of the Wagner festival, I blame the influence of the Wagneranians.

[Labyrinth Lord] Chupacabra

No. Enc.: 1d6 (3d6+4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 40’ (20’)
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 5 +1
Attacks: 1 (claw 1d4+2, grapple)
Damage: 1d4+2 or special
Save: MU5
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: None
Small, elusive creatures that feed on the blood of mammals (hence goatsucker). Normally they life in small communities in warm woods and grasslands. They sneak into civilized areas at night (they are stealthy and have excellent low-light vision) and drain entire herds of farm animals in days; some have acquired a taste for humanoid blood as well. They generally are seen as half-intelligent: they are not tool users, but they show crafty tactics while hunting and hiding.
They prefer to attack enemies from behind, drain as much blood as possible, then try to flee to digest their meal.
They normally attack by grappling enemies from behind (additional +2 for grappling attacks), then sucking the blood out of their victims. Every round they are attached they can drain 1d4, up to 12 CON points

Converted from an old Dragon article for 3.5 (Dragon #343). I think they might be a bit hardcore.

[Labyrinth Lord] Viking

English: An illustration of Vikings on a boat.

English: An illustration of Vikings on a boat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Requirements: CON 9
Prime Requisite: STR
Hit Dice: 1d8
Maximum Level: 12

Vikings have a reputation to be great seamen, great drinkers, and often inclined to appropriate other’s property if it is not defended properly. Often a Viking ship is both trader and raider in one. They often test the waters first to see if the place they arrived in is defended, and will try to raid it if it isn’t.
They are proud and tall humans, more often than not blonde or redhaired (although their travels take them far and wide and bring back quite a lot of other blood). They value the sea and often will settle somewhere close to it.
However, they can use any weapon or armor, but they prefer axes, swords, and shields.

If professional skills are used they automatically gain the skill seafarer in addition to any other skill.

They have their own tongue, even though all of them are versed in the common tongue as well (as it is an important trade language). Because of their frequent interaction with them, Vikings often also speak dwarvish, gnome, and elvish.

Reaching 9th Level: When a viking reaches level 9, he has the option of creating a stronghold that will attract other vikings. Most of the vikings and their families will be of his own clan, but there always might be some others that settle around this new stranghold.

Viking Level Progression
Experience Level Hit Dice (1d8)
0 1 1
2,187 2 2
4,375 3 3
8,751 4 4
17,501 5 5
35,001 6 6
70,001 7 7
140,001 8 8
280,001 9 9
400,001 10 +3 hp only *
540,001 11 +6 hp only *

660,001 12 +9 hp only *

*Hit point modifiers from constitution are ignored

Yes, this has been based on the dwarf. The class is technically not really needed… but I had to remember the fun we had with DSA’s Thorwaler.

[Labyrinth Lord] Easy Multiclassing

The only game I found which handled multiclassing in an elegant and simple way was D&D 3.X. And I had my gripes with that as well, the least being that it demanded a complete rewrite of the system and it’s classes to be feasible.
That was… a bit over the top I guess. But well, the game was a success, and despite the bloat rather playable.
It doesn’t work with the older editions though. In the older editions we have the awful concepts of dualclassing and multiclassing, which both kind of work, but are so artificial I wish they wouldn’t. So this is my way of fixing the whole mess for my games. It’s not an easy system for the characters. It punishes people for focussing too much on one career path, but that is actually quite ok I guess. The more someone advances in a class, the harder it is to learn something new. At a certain point it becomes more feasible to just start over again.
Requirements: this should work with race-as-class classes as well, but of course the requirement here is that the character has to be the actual race to take up a race class.

Divergent Classes
Characters can gain levels in up to 2 other classes after they already started a character if they 1) fulfill the requirements and 2) pay XP amounting to the highest level threshold among all the classes. So a character gaining a level in a new class will have to pay XP as if he was gaining a new level in his original class.
The characters uses the best abilities, saving throws, spells, and attack rolls available to him.
[yes, that means if a level 10 fighter wants a level of thief he has to pay 480,000 XP for each level of thief until both his careers are the same level]

Example: William the Wizard is a level 5 magic-user. He travels through the wastelands with his companions, fights quite a bit with strange creatures, and in the evening he lets Fred the Fighter teach him some martial arts. When the time comes to gain a new level William’s player decides that William might need some fighting prowess if he is to survive the wilderness. So he gains a level of Fighter. If he decides to level up his Fighter levels instead of his levels as Magic-User he will continue to pay XP as if he was levelling as a Magic-User, until the cost of the next level of Fighter is higher than that.

Synchronous Classes
Characters whose levels of classes are the same may level both classes together after gaining enough XP for both classes.

Example: William the Wizard is now a Fighter and a Magic-User of level 5. He decides that this is exactly what he is, a fighting mage, and decides to pursue this path of advancement. It’s harder for him now (he has to gain experience for both his careers) but the benefits are larger (he can roll twice for hit points after levelling).

Dual Classing
Characters can change careers and level in another class for the normal cost of advancement from level 1 on. For this the lose all the benefits gained by their previous class (including saving rolls, spells, and hitpoints), as they now focus exclusively on the new class. They gain the old abilities again after they reach the level of their previous class with their new class. After this they can level according to the above rules.

Example: Fred the Fighter learned a lot during his time teaching William. After teaching him a long time he gained some appreciation for the arcane arts. So much actually that he decides to learn magic for himself. When they reach the next city he searches out the local wizard and becomes his apprentice for a while. After a few months the wizard has taught him everything he could teach him, and Fred goes forth, searching for new opportunities to get better in his new craft.

[Labyrinth Lord] Thief Skills for everyone!

A while back I was thinking about thief skills in D&D. According to the rules they are just for the Thief class, but how much sense does that make? Oh well, we are talking D&D, so it doesn’t have to make that much sense, but really, why should a normal hobbit not be able to sneak unheard around the troll lair?

Of course a lot of the basic abilities of the classes in D&D are not so much different from each other. The level 1 Fighter is a bit better in fighting and getting hurt. The Magic-User can do some parlour tricks. And the thief is a bit better than average in doing illicit things. So this one is more like guidelines for the times when the fighter in the group wants to sneak, or the cleric wants to sneak off to his date with the elf.

Thief Skills for everyone
Every character can perform thief skills as a level 0 human. Thieves are just a little bit better at these skills in the beginning, and improve this edge over time.
Pick Locks 10%
Find and Remove Traps 10%
Pick Pockets 10%
Move Silently 15%
Climb Walls 50%
Hide in Shadows 10%
Hear Noise 1 in 6

[Discworld] Other Deaths

Just some further details regarding Death:

Other Deaths

Sometimes different people can take on the role of Death when he is unavailable or otherwise busy. Technically this would not be needed, as he can be anywhere at any time, but it seems to bother him to have his mind in multiple places at the same time (e.g. there is a plague in a city, and he has to take care of an important death somewhere else). In these cases he sometimes uses proxies. He experimented with demons and humans so far, with varying grades of success. It might be that when he gives them part of his power, he also trades in some parts of their personality.

(Which coincidentally is the best explanation I ever heard why the Death of the early novels is so different from the later ones: he tried investing Scrofula with the Duty and became spiteful and meanspirited in exchange; later he tried to do the same with humans, but the whole thing went to the dogs during Mort; it also might explain why he seems more human lately: Susan has a small amount of his powers due to Discworld genetics, he might have taken on some of her virtues)