Tuesday, 15 September 2015

OSR Rogue Class: Part 1

Periodically, in my musings on D&D, I feel the need to create a new thief / rogue class, often mixing in elements of other rogue types such as assassins, acrobats, and bards. Well, the stars have aligned just right, and the following has been bouncing around in my head.

Rogue Class
Instead of a fixed set of skills advancing at a predetermined rate (like the standard thief class), the character has an expanding set of largely non-advancing skills. A 1st level rogue knows four of the skills below (player's choice). One more skill is learned at each level increase. From 5th level, the character may choose from the list of advanced skills (those marked with an asterisk). Learning an advanced skill requires that the rogue first learn the associated normal skill (e.g. move silently requires move quietly).

Pick pockets: requires a successful DEX check. The victim may save versus spells to notice the attempt.

Sleight of hand: used to surreptitiously manipulate items, perform tricks of legerdemain, delicately extract or swap out objects from pressure plates, etc. A DEX check is required for success.

Mimic voice: general accents can be mimicked with ease. To convincingly mimic an individual, you must listen to them speaking for at least ten minutes. If there is any uncertainty, listeners may make a saving throw versus spells to detect the ruse.

Move quietly: when lightly encumbered, you can sneak quietly. (Other characters may attempt to sneak, but without guaranteed success.) In an environment with no ambient noise to mask your movement, an attentive listener may notice you -- save versus wands.

Move silently *: when lightly encumbered, you can sneak absolutely silently.

Back stab: when attacking a humanoid victim who is unaware of your presence, you get a +4 bonus to attack with a dagger. If the attack succeeds, the precision of your strike inflicts extra damage: 1d4 + your level.

Sniper: works the same as back stab (above), but for fired missile weapons (bows, crossbows).

Garrote: when attacking a humanoid victim who is unaware of your presence, you can attempt to strangle them with a garrote or similar weapon. Make an attack roll. If the attack succeeds, you have the garrote in place, causing 1d4 damage. Each subsequent round, the victim suffers 1d4 damage and must save versus paralysis or fall unconscious (if you garrote an unconscious victim for one more round, they die). While conscious, the victim may fight back with their fists, small weapons, or by wrestling. All such attacks are at -2, but success indicates they've broken free of your garrote (in addition to normal damage, etc.).

Black jack: when attacking a humanoid victim who is unaware of your presence and who is not wearing a helmet, you can attempt to knock them out with a cosh, black jack, or similar implement. Make an attack roll. If it succeeds, the victim suffers 1d4 damage and must save versus paralysis. Failure indicates that they're knocked unconscious.

Tight rope walking: expert balance allows you to easily walk or dash across narrow beams. With a DEX check, you can walk across right ropes or beams of less than 6 inches width.

Blind fighting: training in the unusual art of fighting while blindfolded reduces the penalty to attacks against foes whom you cannot see. Instead of the usual -4 penalty, you only suffer -2 when making melee attacks.

Climb rock faces: when lightly encumbered, you can climb rough rock faces with a successful DEX check. You can climb easier surfaces without a check.

Climb rough walls *: your climbing skills are so advanced that you can scale sheer surfaces with only minimal handholds such as the cracks between stone blocks. This requires a DEX check. You can climb easier surfaces without a check.

Find hidden mechanisms: your chance of detecting secret doors or mechanical traps when searching is increased by 1 in 6. (Note that you may be able to find such mechanisms without a roll by describing to the referee exactly how you search.)

Pick locks: with decent lock picks and a turn of work, you can attempt to open locks without the appropriate key. A DEX roll is required. You may retry, if you fail.

Disable small mechanical traps: with a set of thieves' tools and a turn off work, you can attempt to bypass or disable small mechanical traps such as those found on locks. A DEX roll is required. If you fail, save versus wands to avoid setting the trap off. You may retry.

Decipher foreign text: with an INT check, you can figure out the gist of a text written in foreign languages which are related to a language you know.

Decipher obscure text *: as above, but applies to ancient or obscure languages, at the referee's discretion.

Read magic: you can decipher arcane inscriptions, including those on magic-user scrolls or in spell books. There is a 1 in 6 chance of your understanding being inaccurate. This skill does not allow you to cast spells.

Activate magic scrolls *: you can cast spells from magic-user scrolls with a 90% chance of success.

Detect magic: with a turn of concentration, you have a 2 in 6 chance of detecting the presence of magic in a 10' area or on a specific object. You may retry.

Hear noise: your chance of hearing noises when listening at doors is increased by 1 in 6.

Coming In Part 2
More skills...

Mimic behaviour
Hide in shadows *
Escape bonds
Identify common poisons
Identify rare poisons *
(...and anything else that comes to my mind in the meantime)

Thursday, 20 August 2015

AD&D 2nd Edition Proficiencies List

The release of the AD&D 2e players handbook in PDF the other day has got me thinking about that edition of the game -- the one I've played the most of, after Basic / Expert.

I'm not sure if it'll come to anything, but I'm seriously considering running some 2e games, with a few small house rule tweaks. One such tweak is that I'd eliminate the non-weapon proficiency groups which limited the selection of proficiencies by the character's class. To that end, I wanted to create a master list of all the proficiencies in the PHB.

Here's a rough PDF of it.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

New Elementalist Spell: Skyland

As I've been working on the revised Theorems & Thaumaturgy, I've needed to fill in a few gaps here and there in the spell lists. Some new spells have thus crept their way into the revised book :) Here's one, for the elementalist. (You may notice the extended "stat block" -- all of the spells in the revised edition have these extra details, as appropriate.)

Level: 8
Duration: Permanent
Range: 0
Casting Time: 1 hour
Elements: Air, Earth
Schools: Enchantment
The ground beneath the elementalist's feet rumbles, grinds, and, at the end of the hour-long ritual, cracks and rends as a rough hemisphere of earth and stone separates from the surrounding matter and ascends into the sky. The size of the hemisphere depends on the elementalist's experience level: a 40' diameter area at 15th level, increasing in overall breadth by 20' per level above 15th  (a 20th level elementalist may thus levitate a 140' diameter hemisphere). (It may, at the Labyrinth Lord's discretion, be possible to further increase the size of the skyland by augmenting the ritual with sacrifices of precious substances or magical items of great value.)

Once untethered, the rocky hemisphere floats at a height of 150' above the surface of the earth. Casting this spell underground has no effect and, even when aboveground, the presence of any form of building in the affected area prevents the enchantment from taking hold. Buildings may, however, be constructed freely upon the surface of the hemisphere once it is afloat.

An elementalist of 7th level or greater who stands atop a skyland may command it to move through the air. This requires the summoning of an air elemental of 8 or more Hit Dice, which is magically bound into the floating hemisphere for a period of 24 hours. During this time, by concentrating, the summoner may cause the skyland to move in any direction (including vertically) at a rate of 110' per turn (3 miles per day). It requires one full turn of concentration to cause the skyland to stop or to change course. After 24 hours have passed, the bound air elemental escapes and the skyland stops moving.
While moving through the air, the floating hemisphere emits an ominous droning sound which may be heard from half a mile distant.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

New Zine: Wormskin

Greg Gorgonmilk and I have been dreaming for some time of a mythic, monster-haunted forest known as Dolmenwood. We've considered various forms of publication but have now settled on a piecemeal exposition of the locales, inhabitants, magic, and mysteries of the setting in the form of a zine.

It shall be known as Wormskin.

The first issue is in production now and should be ready for an August release. Tentative contents:
  • Grimalkin race-class and monster description.
  • Ditto for moss dwarfs. (Who have been discussed in brief on one previous occasion.)
  • The mysteries of the Yrthstone, one of the many powerful standing stones in the wood.
  • Random tables for fungal foraging.

Here's the gorgeous cover that Greg has created...

Available soon as PDF and print-on-demand, A5 softcover!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised: Introductory Guidelines

Well, the "maybe" I postulated a few weeks back has become a "definitely". In fact, an almost-finished-draft "definitely".

My main goals with this revised edition are firstly to reformat the book as A5 (my preferred format nowadays) and secondly to improve the thematic consistency and usability of the content. One thing in particular that I wanted to improve over the original edition of Theorems & Thaumaturgy were the guidelines for integrating all the new spells and classes into campaigns. To that end, I've written several pages of ideas and optional rules which will, hopefully, really help clarify the different approaches which are possible and their pros and cons.

Here's the complete text of that section, as it stands. If anyone has any feedback, please feel free to comment! (The formatting below is a bit odd... The cut & paste from the document apparently didn't work that well.)

Using This Book

You Now Have in Your Possession Over 200 New Spells

This is a book, primarily, full of spells. Hopefully, after having a browse, you'll feel inspired to start using all this new material in your campaign, but how to go about this? That depends primarily on whether you're starting a new campaign or already running one. Below are some guidelines for each of those situations.

If you want to integrate this material in an existing campaign, the two most obvious approaches are:
  • Introduce one or more of the new classes (elementalist, necromancer, vivimancer) as members of a school of wizardry from a region which the players haven't explored. These wizards may be directly encountered by the player characters (as friendly, neutral, or antagonistic NPCs) or may be spoken of in rumours or adventure hooks. Once the new classes are known to exist in the setting, they become available as an option for any future player characters that are created.
  • An alternative way to use this book is simply as a resource for new spells. If you want to follow this approach, simply ignore the classes and their spell lists and make all of the new spells available for use by standard magic-users (or druids, clerics, illusionists – as you wish). New spells can easily be introduced by putting scrolls or spell books in the hands of player characters: as gifts from mentors, as rewards for missions accomplished, or discovered in the treasure hoards of defeated enemies.
For Labyrinth Lords who are starting a new campaign, two further options are available:
  • The new classes in this book may simply be added to the roster of choices available to players when creating their characters at the start of the campaign.
  • When preparing for a campaign, it is also worth considering that an excellent way of imparting a specific and novel flavour to the milieu is to alter or restrict the classes of adventurer which exist (and thus the classes from which the players may choose when creating their characters). A very interesting potential, then, is to imagine a world where standard spell-casting classes do not exist, being replaced by one or more of the classes from this book. A world where vivimancers are the only type of arcane practitioner, for example, takes on a very different tone and has very different possibilities than a world dominated by the standard fireball-slinging mage. Or, perhaps, the wizards of a certain kingdom may all be known to be necromancers, while the neighbouring land only allows the practice of imperially sanctioned elemental magic. This kind of approach can really breathe new life into the game.

The Elementalist, Necromancer, and Vivimancer Classes

Each of these three new classes is presented in its own section. However, no mechanical details (e.g. saving throw or to-hit charts, prime requisites, lists of allowed armaments, etc.) are specified. It is assumed that these classes perform and advance in exactly the same manner as the standard magic-user class, with the one (albeit major) difference being the replaced spell list.

A Note on Spell References

In the spell lists for the new classes, the symbols (C), (D), (I), and (MU) are used to denote spells drawn from the standard cleric, druid, illusionist, and magic-user lists, respectively.

Specialist Wizards in the Campaign

The basic Labyrinth Lord rules describe a single type of arcane magic, usable by magic-users and elves. The Advanced Edition Companion and other books, such as this, add further, more specialised wizardly classes: illusionists, elementalists, necromancers, etc. In campaigns with multiple different types of arcane spell-caster (i.e. wizards), it pays to give some thought to how they inter-relate, both in terms of their place in the society of the imagined world and in terms of how the classes interact with each other on a mechanical level. This section discusses some issues around the latter point; the society of your campaign world is in your hands alone!

Casting Spells From Other Spell Lists

It is important that the Labyrinth Lord consider to what degree characters of the different wizardly classes are able to use spells from the other spell lists. Traditionally, in Advanced era games, the two types of arcane spell-caster – illusionists and magic-users – practised entirely different kinds of magic and, apart from a few areas of overlap, were unable to cast spells from each other's list.
Characters of each of the classes presented in this book are designed to be competent adventurers in their own right, with a different balance of strengths and weaknesses when compared to classical magic-users. They are able to stand on their own and do not require access the standard magic-user spell list. Some Labyrinth Lords may, however, prefer there to be less strict boundaries between the different types of wizard, with some possibility of casting spells from each other's spell lists. If this is allowed, it will clearly increase the power of each class to a significant degree, as they will gain access to a broader selection of spells and types of magic. Some possible approaches in this direction, listed in ascending order of permissiveness, are described below. Whatever is decided, this should always be a two-way decision – standard magic-users must be treated in the same manner as all other types of wizard.
Fallible scroll-use: All types of wizard may cast scrolls of spells from other spells lists (for example, a magic-user may cast an illusionist scroll). They are unable to learn these “foreign” spells but have sufficient arcane knowledge to be able to activate magic encoded on scrolls. When casting such “off-list” spells from scrolls, there is a 10% chance of failure per level of the spell being cast. Failure indicates that the scroll is wasted or (if the Labyrinth Lord wishes) causes some kind of backfire. In this way, low-level spells may be cast fairly reliably but high-level spells will remain the sole province of the appropriate specialist.
Reliable scroll-use: Off-list scrolls may be cast without risk of failure. This allows the boundaries between the different types of specialist wizard to be blurred slightly, but only in the (presumably somewhat special) situation when magical scrolls are acquired as treasure.
Limited learning: In addition to allowing foreign spells to be cast from scrolls (either with or without a risk of failure), another possibility is to allow wizards to also learn a smattering of them – one per level of spells which can be cast. (For example, a 7th level wizard may cast spells of up to 4th level. Using these rules, she could thus learn four spells from specialist areas not covered by her standard spell list.) This system allows wizards to diversify their spell repertoire and have a few tricks up their sleeve, while maintaining the clear separation between the different types of specialist.
Reduced chance to learn: This is an option for games where the advanced “chance to learn spell” rules are used. Wizards may cast foreign spells from scrolls (as above, with or without a risk of failure) and may also attempt to learn an unlimited number of off-list spells, but with a reduced chance of success. A penalty (-25%, for example) is applied to the chance to learn foreign spells. The Labyrinth Lord may also stipulate the additional requirement of a period of research (one week per spell level, perhaps at a cost of 250gp per week). Under this system, it is likely that wizards will end up having a significant number of off-list spells in their spell books, as their careers progress. This is the most flexible system before the boundaries between different wizardly classes are collapsed completely.

Placing Spells in Treasure Hoards

It is assumed that all classes of wizard acquire new spells in the same means as the standard magic-user: by finding spell books or scrolls in treasure hoards. Ideally, then, the number of spells discovered which can be cast by each type of wizard should be (roughly) balanced. When it is determined that a treasure hoard contains scrolls of magic-user spells, it is desirable that spells usable by specialist wizards also be (at least some of the time) present.
One way of handling this is to multiply the number of spells present in the hoard (as indicated by the treasure tables) by the total number of wizardly classes in the campaign, then to give each spell an equal (random) chance of being taken from the list of each class. For example, in a campaign with magic-users, elementalists, and illusionists, the number of spells found in a hoard would be multiplied by three and each spell would have a 1 in 3 chance of being taken from the standard magic-user list, a 1 in 3 chance of coming from the illusionist list, and a 1 in 3 chance of being from the elementalist list. The Labyrinth Lord ensures, in this way, that the balance of spells available to characters of different spell-using classes remains fair and consistent.
Note that, as some spells are shared between the different classes, these guidelines will, in fact, slightly increase the number of spells available. It is also worth bearing in mind that, even if an adventuring party discover scrolls of spells that they cannot cast themselves, such scrolls still have value and may be sold to or bartered with NPCs who can put them to use.

Spell Acquisition

This section contains optional guidelines for Labyrinth Lords on the subject of how wizardly characters may gain access to and learn new spells.
For games in the vein of the traditional Basic rules, the following guidelines may be used:
  • Wizards begin the game knowing read magic, one randomly selected spell from the appropriate class spell list, and one spell of the player's choice.
  • The number of spells a wizard can know (i.e. record in his spell book) is limited to no more than double the number that he can memorize. For example, a 5th level magic-user can memorize two 1st level, two 2nd level, and one 3rd level spell. Such a character could have at most four 1st level, four 2nd level, and two 3rd level spells in his spell book.
  • Upon gaining an experience level, if the wizard does not already have spells available to learn (e.g. from scrolls or captured spell books), he automatically acquires knowledge of one new spell, selected randomly from a level of the player's choosing.
Design Note: In the original Basic rules, magic-users and elves were limited to knowing one single spell at 1st level – not even read magic was “free”! – and could never record more spells in their spell books than the number they could memorize each day. Personally, while I find this system charming in its simplicity, I feel it is too restrictive and use the system described above in my own games. Other groups may, however, prefer to stick with the original rules.
Advanced era games are more generous with the number of spells known and may use the following guidelines:
  • Wizards begin the game knowing read magic, two randomly selected spells from the appropriate class spell list, and two spells of the player's choice.
  • The number of spells a wizard can know (i.e. record in his spell book) is limited by the character's INT (see the AEC).
  • Upon gaining an experience level, if the wizard does not already have spells available to learn (e.g. from scrolls or captured spell books), he automatically acquires knowledge of one new spell, selected randomly from a level of the player's choosing. This spell must be learnt according to the normal rules for spell learning, again dependent on the character's INT.

Monday, 20 July 2015

LL/5e Mashup: Bard Songs

In my previous post about the Rogue class and its various sub-classes, I didn't go into any detail as to what spells exactly are usable by the magic-using sub-classes, the bard and the arcane trickster.

Here's the list of songs available to bards. I'm keeping things limited to the spells that are available in the LL Advanced Edition Companion, initially.

Bard Magic
Bard songs take one turn to have magical effect. Bards do not need to memorise songs -- they can play any magical song they know at any time, subject to the limited number of songs per level per day.

Bard songs which produce an effect with a duration need not be physically played or sung for longer than the one turn casting time. Once the spell takes effect, the bard may stop playing. The song instead lingers in the bard's mind until its duration expires. During this time, if the bard plays any other magical song, the maintained spell is cancelled. Songs with permanent duration do not have this requirement.

Songs which have the effect of enchanting another person must be audible to the target in order for the magic to take hold.

Bard Spell List

First level
Charm person
Protection from evil
Remove fear

Second Level
Arcane lock
Continual light
Cure light wounds
Phantasmal force
Snake charm

Third Level
Protection from evil, 10' radius
Purify food and drink
Tiny hut

Fourth Level
Arcane eye
Charm monster
Create food and water
Cure serious wounds
Enchant arms
Implant emotion

Sunday, 19 July 2015

LL/5e Mashup: The Warrior Class

Following on from the write-up of my rough ideas for a 5e-inspired Rogue class for Labyrinth Lord, here are my thoughts on a Warrior class. (I'm following the 2e class groups here, a concept which I always found appealing -- so the classes will be: Warrior, Rogue, Priest, Wizard.)

Proficiencies: all armour, shields, simple weapons, martial weapons, 2 of: Acrobatics, Awareness, Climbing, Survival, Swimming.

1st level:
Fighting Style: Choose one of the following fighting styles:
  • Archery: +1 to attacks with missile weapons.
  • Defence: +1 AC bonus when wearing armour.
  • Duelling: +1 to attacks and damage rolls when wielding only a one-handed melee weapon.
  • Heavy Weapon Fighting: When wielding a heavy, two-handed weapon, re-roll damage dice which come up 1. (You may only re-roll once per attack and must keep the second roll.)
  • Protection: When wielding a shield, you can grant a +2 AC bonus to a single character within 5' of you.
  • Two-Weapon Fighting: (The exact effect of this fighting style depends on the rules for two-weapon fighting, which I've not decided on yet.)
2nd level:
Warrior Archetype: Choose an archetype.

6th level:
Extra Attack: You can make two attack rolls on your turn.

11th level:
Extra Attack: You can make three attack rolls on your turn.

20th level:
Extra Attack: You can make four attack rolls on your turn.

Warrior Archetypes

2nd level:
Improved Critical: An attack roll of 19 or 20 is a critical hit.

4th level:
Indomitable: Once per day, you can re-roll a failed saving throw.

10th level:
Fighting Style: Choose a second fighting style.

Arcane Champion
2nd level:
Spell-Casting: Limited spell list. Slow progression, up to 4th level spells. Number of spells known is strictly limited.

4th level:
Weapon Bond: With a one hour ritual, you can bond up to two weapons to yourself. A bonded weapon can be summoned instantly to your hand from anywhere on the same plane of existence.

10th level:
War Magic: You can make a single attack and cast a spell in the same round.

2nd level:
Favoured Enemy: Choose a monster type (dragons, goblinoids, giants, animals, etc) or a profession (cultists, witches, outlaws, etc). You gain a +1 bonus to Search checks to track or Lore checks to recall knowledge about your chosen enemy.

4th level:
Extra Proficiencies: Gain proficiency with Awareness and Stealth.

10th level:
Second Favoured Enemy: Choose another type of favoured enemy.
Expert Slayer: Gain +1 to hit and damage against your favoured enemies. Gain a +2 bonus to saving throws and AC against their attacks.

Beast Master
2nd level:
Animal Companion: A normal animal becomes your faithful companion. You may purchase the animal or find it in the wild. In combat, you can give the animal verbal commands. If your companion dies, you may find another beast to replace it after a week.

4th level:
Extra Proficiencies: Gain proficiency with Awareness and Nature.

10th level:
Bestial Fury: Your animal companion may make one extra attack each round.

I'm planning a berserker warrior sub-class, but haven't come up with any mechanics that I like yet. I'm not that keen on the 5e barbarian berserker, with the "resource management rage" mechanic. I don't see berserk fury as something that has to be scrupulously managed.

If anyone has any ideas for a berserker sub-class that'd fit with the system above, please suggest!

Wot No Paladins?
Yeah... I don't believe in paladins. I've never really understood how they're different from clerics.