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[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.



[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] Psion


Requirements:        INT 16, CHA 10, WIS 10

Prime Requisite:    INT

Hit Dice:                  1d4

Maximum Level:    None

Sometimes called mind wizards, psionicists, or witchers, study the powers inherent in the mind of the human (or dwarven, or elfish, etc.) body. Psions are able to unlock an increasing number of more and more powerful powers as they advance in level. However, they are limited in their choice of weapons, as they are only able to use small weapons or the quarterstaff. They are unable to use shields or wear any kind of armor. In an adventuring group they should be protected.

A psion simply knows his powers; they are ingrained in his mind. He does not need to prepare them (in the way that some spellcasters prepare their spells) and they are only limited by his daily power points, though he should get a good night’s sleep each day to regain all his spent power points.

A psion begins play knowing three psion powers of his own choice. Each time he achieves a new level, he unlocks the knowledge of new powers.

Every psion must decide at 1st level which psionic discipline he will specialize in. Choosing a discipline provides a psion with access to the powers restricted to that discipline. However, choosing a discipline also means that the psion cannot learn powers that are restricted to other disciplines. He can’t even use such powers by employing psionic items.

Psions choose the powers known from the psion power list, or from the list of powers of their chosen discipline. They cannot choose powers from restricted discipline lists other than their own discipline list.

To learn or manifest a power, a psion must have an Intelligence score of at least 10 + the power’s level.

Psionic Disciplines

A discipline is one of six groupings of powers, each defined by a common theme. The six disciplines are clairsentience, metacreativity, psychokinesis, psychometabolism, psychoportation, and telepathy.


A psion who chooses clairsentience is known as a seer. Seers can learn precognitive powers to aid their comrades in combat, as well as powers that permit them to gather information in many different ways.


A psion specializing in metacreativity is known as a shaper. This discipline includes powers that draw ectoplasm or matter from the Astral Plane, creating semisolid and solid items such as armor, weapons, or animated constructs to do battle at the shaper’s command.


Psions who specialize in psychokinesis are known as kineticists. They are the masters of powers that manipulate and transform matter and energy. Kineticists can attack with devastating blasts of energy.


A psion who specializes in psychometabolism is known as an egoist. This discipline consists of powers that alter the psion’s psychobiology, or that of creatures near him. An egoist can both heal and transform himself into a fearsome fighter.


A psion who relies on psychoportation powers is known as a nomad. Nomads can wield powers that propel or displace objects in space or time.


A psion who chooses the discipline of telepathy is known as a telepath. He is the master of powers that allow mental contact and control of other sentient creatures. A telepath can deceive or destroy the minds of his enemies with ease.

Reaching 11th Level:  A psion  may build a school, often in a monastic setting, when he reaches level 11. He will then attract apprentice psions (1d6) of level 1.








P. Avail.

Max. PL

Hit Dice (1d4)























































+1 hp only *






+2 hp only *





+3 hp only *






+4 hp only *





+5 hp only *






+6 hp only *





+7 hp only *






+8 hp only *





+9 hp only *





+10 hp only *





+11 hp only *

*Hit point modifiers from constitution are ignored.

[Labyrinth Lord] Uruk Hai

Español: Un Uruk-hai a tamaño real (yo le lleg...

Uruk Hai

Requirements:      CON 13, DEX 10
Prime Requisite:    DEX
Hit Dice:              1d8
Maximum Level:    12

Uruk Hai resemble large, muscled humans, their bodies covered in coarse fur with red-brown or gray skin. Large males have tusks, and may have beards and male-pattern baldness. Uruk Hai eyes are dark brown or yellowish, and their teeth tend to be yellow. They are lean and tall, averaging six and a half feet in height and weighing around 200 pounds. Their muscles are designed more for agility than brute strength, and they have been described as having almost feline dexterity.

Move Silently: an Uruk Hai can Move Silently like a Thief of the same level

Darkvision: Uruk Hai can see in the dark up to 60 feet (18m).

Uruk Hai prefer blood-red garments with black-tinted leather. Their weapons are kept highly polished and in good repair. Many Uruk Hai sport tattoos, deep scars gouged and burnt into their flesh meant to display their tolerance for pain rather than for art’s sake. Some sport piercings for the same reason, often in places that hurt even to look at. Their hair is often braided with jewelry carved from the bones of slain enemies. Any other adornments worn are also meant to call attention to their endurance or battle prowess.

Reaching 9th Level:  Uruk Hai reachin level 9 have the option of setting up a fortress . An Uruk hai lord or Commander is always accompanied by 1d6 loyal bodyguards who will all be 3rd level. All Uruk Hai in the presence of their leader have a morale score of 9.




Hit Dice (1d8)






























+2 hp only *



+4 hp only *



+6 hp only *

Cherrypicking my own system

About a week ago I came across a post showing off one DM’s Dungeons & Dragons houserules.
Since then I have been working on my own. The idea was just too good to let it go. Why should I not create my own set, after all, how hard can it be?
Not very much it turns out. But it is kind of time consuming, and very, very enlightening.
It’s interesting to create ones own variation of the game. I always loved the comfort and quickness of D&D, so why not use that for me? Why stick to rules that I would change anyway.
So I took the text versions of the Labyrinth Lord books (both the core and the Advanced Edition Companion) and stripped out everything that was superfluos for the players. My idea with that was to create a book that the players could use as a reference during the game. Not unlike, say, a Players’ Handbook so to speak.
I noticed early that my goal of making a digest sized version would be not too easy though: I wanted to include the spells to give my players the whole host of things they needed on their side, but those made the book grow about double in size.
I went on nevertheless. Out went all the parts which are basically DM material, out went all the things that I didn’t like, in went houserules and clarifications and variations.
Some of those things that I am trying to do:
* The Encumbrance rules went out. Oh sure, sometimes they are important, but I rarely ever use them as they just lead to too much bookkeeping. I will just say something as a GM if the encumbrance becomes too large (oh, hey, that anvil could come in handy…)
* The Gnomes I am sitting on the fence about. I don’t really like them. So why keep them in my own system. I am thinking of making them available as an advance race though.
* The wonderful LL dual system of Race as class and Race/Class will be kept and melded together, although the Race/Class system is right now marked as optional. But I figured that Half-Elves and Half-Orcs don’t really make much sense as their own racial classes.
* Orcs. I took them from the Frightful Hobgoblin supplement and from an old issue of White Dwarf. I never knew why orcs should be a NPC race, so why not give them some chance?
* Goblins! Kobolds! Uruk Hai! Yeah, I love those.
* Hobbits are Hobbits! Although I gave variations for Dragonlance Kenders and T&T Black Hobbits just for the fun of it.
* Fighters get some variations like Barbarian or Duelist which they can choose on first level. Keeps me from having to add a separate Barbarian class as well. Also Fighters can become Superheroes at 8th level.
* The Necromancer as a PC class with separate spell list. Because why not. Also the question will come up.
* The White Apes from Realms of Crawling Chaos and a few Lovecraftian spells for the fun of it.
* Elves get a Woodelf variant that uses the Druid spell list. The description of the others might be more in line of Melniboneans instead.
* Runequest-like Ducks because Ducks are cool.
* Clerics have a Cultist variation for that particular kind of evil/chaotic cleric living in secrecy.
* My Cat, Neanderthal, and Shaman classes are showing up. The Cat class gets a makeover towards a puss-in-boots adventurer, the Shaman will be an option for most goblinoid races. I just still didn’t create any spell list for them.
* Character generation is 3d6 straight. Maybe 7x3d6, drop lowest if they ask nicely.
* The experience rules got revamped into something… different. Hopefully it will keep them from fighting everything they come across. Influences here are Merp, DSA, T&T, Arduin, White Dwarf, and a lot of the OSR Blogosphere.

What I want to include, maybe, but don’t know how yet:
* There is a fantastic jester class that is compatible. I am just unsure if it would fit my style of game, or make sense at all. Notably a similar Jester is a perpetual feature in DSA since it’s 1st edition, and there he often is seen a superfluous flavor class that barely gets any play.
* Similar with the Alchemist from an old Dragon issue. It’s enticing, but…
* Psionics: Oh I so want this. The problem is how. Right now the easiest options would be to either adapt the SRD Psionics into something compatible, or use Hack and Slash’s Psionics, which arguably are a bit complex.

[Dungeons & Dragons] Discworld Classes 4 – Spiritual

with religious researchers discovering more and more gods nearly every week somebody needs to take care of worshipping them. Priests are generally a bit underpowered in comparison to other classes, but they do great things in local communities, be it bringing together the youth and the old people of Sto Lat, celebrating the most wonderful sacrifices possible, or putting a stake through the local vampire’s heart.
In other words: the traditional cleric. As in D&D/AD&D rules, maybe some care should be taken to allow only appropriate spells, but I guess that could be the players job.

The Monks of Cool, whose tiny and exclusive monastery is hidden in a really cool and laid-back valley in the lower Ramtops, have a passing-out test for a novice. He is taken into a room full of all types of clothing and asked: Yo, my son, which of these is the most stylish thing to wear? And the correct answer is: Hey, whatever I select.

-Terry Pratchett; Lords and Ladies


standard monk, there seems to be a veritable amount of monasteries worshipping various principles in some distant locations, e.g. the Monks of History, the Listening Monks, and the Temple of Cool. One should try to adapt the character’s abilities to fit his order, but otherwise simply a D&D Mystic/AD&D Monk.

more interested in building newer and better stone circles than in nature, but still there, especially in Llamedos and on the Vortex Plains, but also in various other locales. Use AD&D druids or own variants.

Do I see a theme here? So far most of the classes do not even need any further twisting. I should create some spell lists with appropriate spell names for Magic Users and Clerics (I should call them priests though), but otherwise so far most things can be done by typical D&D classes. I am a bit unsure about the Paladin because it feels rather unDiscworld, and I think the Ranger might be missing. On the other hand there is no mention in the books of any sort of ranger class.

[Labyrinth Lord] Henchman

Henchman (NPC Class)

Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: DEX
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 6
Attack: As 0-level human
Saves: As Thief

Henchmen, the unsung heroes of the dungeon. When any more or less successful adventuring party goes into the dungeon they will in many cases take some hirelings, torchbearers, or other followers with them. Sometimes, but not always, these tagalongs actually start to learn something useful themselves. One can only be subjected to mortal danger, dangerous battles, or starvation through the usual catastrophic misplanning of dungeon expeditions so often before learning how to survive, somehow.

Henchmen (or: henchpersons, there are quite some lasses in that job as well) are not a PC class, but they can, at one point in their career, often when their former master has fallen to a ghastly trap or been eaten by a gruesome monster, be elevated to adventurer status. When henchmen are employed they are bound by contract and/or loyality to their employer. They cannot run away or deny any reasonable request. If they do this nevertheless they will not gain any experience points and cannot advance any further in this career. This is only elevated when their employer dies, is lost without chance of retrieval, or retires. They then either keep being a henchman and will try to be hired by another adventurer, or switch to another class that fits them better and start as a level 1 character in this class.
Henchmen can do no magic, can only use weapons that do no more than 1d6 damage, and can wear leather armour. They do have 2 skills though: Haul and Schlepp, measuring how proficient they are in carrying their employers’ loot, and Hide in Shadows, which often comes in handy when trying to avoid dangerous situations in dungeons. They are, after all, mostly there to carry stuff around.

Starting Level…Baseline Exp….Next Level
………2………….. 1500…………3

Level…Haul and Schlepp…Hide in Shadows

What. The.

White Dwarf #1 (1977) p.21

Sometimes I wonder how this hobby managed to survive nearly 40 years… So, this was the level of humour in 1977? (yeah, I wasn’t even alive back then, so?)

Very interesting: level 3 is a grafitti artist, and level 9 seems to be a bit harsh for such a weak joke.

It’s good that we have moved on from things like this. Well, most of us, anyway.

[Labyrinth Lord] Shaman


Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: INT
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: 8

Sometimes called druids (by people who don’t have a clue), witchers, ghostmen, or just wise men/women, shamans learn how to influence the spiritual world. It is not quite clear what sources they draw their powers from really, especially not to them, but their magic is a more primal, more raw understanding of the world beyond our senses. They oftensome of the most important members of their tribes, and their word often is the last, yet sometimes this can lead to conflicts with the real chieftain, who might not be happy to get told off by someone spending half their day in a cave or the woods.
They are limited in their choice of weapons, as they are only able to use their ritual clubs and staffs. They are unable to wear any kind of armour more heavy than thick fur or light leather, but can use shields. Shamans are weak at low levels, and when adventuring they should be well protected.

Shamans memorize their magic with rhymes and songs they get taught by their elders, every day they have to spend some time remembering the songs and rhymes that influence the spirit world and get themselves into the spirit for spiriting.

A shaman may occupy a ritual place, often a cave or other natural formation with specific magic properties, when he reaches level 6. He will then attract apprentices (1d4), who will range from level 1-3.

Shaman Level Progression
Experience Level Hit Dice (1d4)
0 1 1
2,501 2 2
5,001 3 3
10,001 4 4
20,001 5 5
40,001 6 6
80,001 7 7
160,001 8 8

Shaman Spell Progression

Spell Level

Level 1 2 3 4
1 1 – – –
2 2 – – –
3 2 1 – –
4 2 2 – –
5 2 2 1 –
6 2 2 2 –
7 3 2 2 1
8 3 3 2 2

[Labyrinth Lord] The Erudite Cat

Cat, Erudite
Requirements: DEX 12 STR: max 9
Prime Requisite: CHA
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: 10
Advance: As Thief
Attack: As Thief
Saves: As Thief

If there is one creature absolutely convinced it is superior to everyone else, it is the common cat. Most of them never see the need to learn another language than their own (or possess the ability to) but sometimes a Cat might be gifted with extraordinary talent and/or uncommon interest in the affairs of the big folks (other cats call these cats crazy).

Often a cat like this is adopted as a familiar by a magic user or other scholar. The cat of course will contest this view. In their eyes the human/sentient is graced by the cat’s willingness to live with them. And looking at the odd charms they bring with them it is hard to argue about that. In most cases, no matter how this actually is going, the life of humanoids and cats together is beneficial for both of them. The cat is provided shelter, social environment to lord over, and food, the humanoids are provided with an effective scourge of all those pests that would spoil their food. Also, at least when able to talk to humanoid beings, they can provide a very detached view of human society that might help spellcasters greatly in the understandiung of the world.
Cats do have their own magic, and while they never teach it to outsiders, one might even argue that they cannot teach it as it mostly is innate ability, they can provide interesting insights into the astral world at large.

They are of human intelligence and are sneaky and watchful creatures, having a highly organized society based on military service in wars with cats from other worlds such as Saturn and Uranus. They also wage war on the rat-like Zoogs of the Enchanted Woods near Ulthar, and others who would harm cats.

Cats can speak Cat, Common, and a few other languages the cat might have picked up somewhere
Cats Attributes are rolled the same way as a normal character, but they can only have a maximum Str score of 6 due to their small build.

Cats cannot wear armor or use any weapon except their natural teeth and claws (not that they ever would get the idea to do that anyway). They can attack three times per round, two claws and one bite, for 1d2 dmg + Str bonus per attack.

Cats are stealthy little creatures. They can use the Thief abilites Move Silently , Climb Walls , Hide in Shadows , and Hear Noise as a Thief of three levels higher than the Cat. (A second level Cat makes his rolls as if a fifth level Thief.)
The naturally stealthy cat also surprise foes 1-4 on a 1d6.

Because they are so small, cats have a lower armor class (-2) when attacked by creatures of human sized and larger.

And my series of whimsical creatures and classes for LL continues…