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[Circûmflex] Going Berserk

olav_trygvasons_saga_-_uvaeret_hjoerungavaag_-_g-_muntheWell. At first berserkers were just a fighter variant in the draft.

I decided to cut down the classes to the four core classes, but I wanted some variety. After all clerics in Venarive have 10 or more choices that should play differently, wizards have at least 6 convocations, and the specialist… well, that class is basically built to be modified. Yes, I made the thief into the specialist. I think it fits better in a setting that actually takes care to note how many clothiers are in a city.

And of course the fighter is kind of boring otherwise. Oh, sure, a fighter can be basically every fighting hero ever, but it might help to point out what can be done with them.

So varieties it is. There is a more tribal Barbarian Warrior (if you know Harn you might know that this might be necessary), there is a Gladiator (because Agrikans dig their spectacles), and I was thinking about making knights and rangers into further sub-varieties. And then there is the berserker.

It really needs to be there.

Harn, like many fantasy worlds, has fjords. And fjords, for some reason I do not quite understand, contract vikings with alarming regularity.

Of course it is better explained than in other places, after all CGI published Ivinia, their version of fantasy Scandinavia soon after the first edition of HarnWorld, although it is quite odd that all the place names in Kethira seem to made up from fantasy languages, but Ivinian names show Germanic elements…

But anyway. Low fantasy middle age style game. I so totally need berserkers.

After getting some inspiration from various places I came up with this:

Berserker: can enter berserker rage at will during combat. If dealt damage in combat and not in berserker rage, must save against spell or enter rage.

Well, ok, this was longer originally.

But that comes from my realisation that berserker rage might be useful for other effects as well. Some of the invocations for different gods I am converting from Harnmaster cause berserker rage. So right now it is under the heading “Adventuring”.

Berserker Rage: Berserkers can enter this state at will. Some potions, spells and invocations can also cause people to enter this state.
While in this state the berserker has +2 to hit and damage with melee weapons or unarmed, but also -2 to AC. The berserker ignores all non-fatal injuries until after rage subsides or the injury turns fatal, whatever comes first. Berserker rage only ends when no further attack is possible within 1 combat round, or if Save vs. Spell is successful. Afterwards, the character is exhausted, taking a -2 penalty to all actions until rested for at least 1 hour, in addition to the effect of all wounds.

That is… a bit more complicated as a rule than what I was going for. On the other hand this is one of those situations that might come up.

Still, I hope that it will actually be a nice effect in game. It should give this choice for players: yes, you can enter that super state that makes you better at fighting, but people also can hurt you better, and you can’t necessarily stop fighting when you want to.

Note that the rules does not specify what attack is not supposed to be possible, just that none need to be possible.

The injury that is mentioned in the rules is a variation on the Death and Dismemberment chart that was popular a while ago. But I should get to that at a later point.

[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

snowwhite20

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.

Highlights:
– 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.

The Wilderlands are a strange place

Ready Ref Sheets, page 49:

Somehow Anchovies are fruits in the Wilderlands

Ready Ref Sheets, pg. 49

By the way, apples show up only as rare crab apples and as the unique Golden Apple. This means that in any given hex you have a 1/400 chance of finding coffee or rubber, but only a 1/8000 chance of finding sour apples. And a 1/16000 chance of finding a non-sour apple that gives immortality.

Have I mentioned I love the old JG stuff?

Day 1: I had to do it all by myself godamnit!

With the 40th birthday of D&D happening there have been a lot of blogposts about that lately. d20 Dark Ages called for a blog hop (whatever that is) celebrating the whole thing. And guess what? I finally caught one of these multi-blog-questionnaire thingies before the whole thing was half over already. Weird.

What started AD&D for me

What started AD&D for me

Day 1: First person who introduced you to D&D? Which edition? Your first Character?
Hmm… I got into RPGs over the German entry drug Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye). Which I had to find out about all by myself. DSA back then was basically available pretty much everywhere because it was published by one of the biggest game publishers in Germany, so that is where most German gamers got their beginning. This also means that some of the standard trappings of D&D never really made it to Germany until way later: miniatures for example were barely in use when I started, only 3rd edition brought this aspect of the game into focus. Most people playing with miniatures were into Warhammer, if interested at all, and GW miniatures were the only thing one could get for a long time.

Although… there was HeroQuest as well. I had that, as did many other guys my age. But even though I knew that the games were similar we had this understanding that DSA was HeroQuest for adults, and that it didn’t need miniatures to play it.

Anyway, D&D was something that was mentioned in a PC gaming magazine which ran a special on Fantasy and RPGs, but that was way after I already had the starter set for DSA. A while later I bought a German-language Starter Set for AD&D 2nd edition. I had introduced some people to RPGs before, but my regular players were rather enamoured with a system closer to the computer games they were playing (I think it was Diablo back then) so we switched to AD&D.

The first character I myself played (instead of just made and never used) was a Chaotic Good Fighter/Cleric.

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[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.

About what happened last session

Illustration of a goblin

Illustration of a goblin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

* the thief lies dying on the ground after an attack, slowly bleeding out, the goblin cleric was just hit with a critical and lost his ear. What is the most reasonable thing to do? Heal the ear first of course! Stupid human weakling is  not as important as a good goblin ear.

* they have cornered the wererat and his minions who have taken over the dwarven cave and killed all it’s inhabitants. What do they do? Parley of course. So they get another job: bring us one of the bouncing bears from the surrounding forests because we are hungry.

The end result: the orcish warrior now has a nemesis in a purple gummi bear who swore to avenge his brother. And I just wanted this to be a bit of comic relief.

* I dropped a deck of many things on them, and what does the thief do? Draw five. How bad did it end for him? Well, he is more dexterous now, more experienced, and got a treasure map and a magic weapon. So the goblin cleric tries the same. He lost all his experience but gained a bit more wisdom.

[Tools] Old School Tool

Now that is something nice I came across today when looking through the categories at Sourceforge (I was looking for a task managing tool that could sync with Google Tasks, I ended up in the Games section…): a Java based  GM screen tool for AD&D or OSRIC (although it can be adapted for 2e and 3e). Java-based means it will run pretty much on every system that has Java on it, and GM Screen tool means it is supposed to replace the usual paper one with some additional functionality.

Even better it is actually quite customizable, with all the tables in the program being changeable and extensible as far as I have seen. So if I wanted, for example, to use the whole thing for my campaign and I had specific armour for my campaign that was not in the OSRIC book, I could add it easily via the main window to have it accessible in the GM screen window during actual play.

That GM screen window is actually what this is about: the window can be used as a convenient GM screen that allows to look up stuff and calculate things on the fly. The combat and save tables can be found in there, as can the magic item tables, and the latter ones can generate treasures on the fly. Neat. I might think about using this during my next game.

What the whole program is not is a replacement for actual rules, or for a real campaign planner. This program is only there to help during the game. Considering that I already have been using my notebook as a DM screen I think this program might make the whole thing a bit easier.

[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.