Category Archives: Home Brew Hacks

Just some house rules that I made up.

Making 5E More Dangerous

When I was doing my initial brainstorming about running The Blight, I did a lot of thinking about how to make 5E more deadly and grimmer. But my players decided that they wanted to do Swords & Wizardry so I’m cool with that. But I still had these ideas. so I figured what the heck share them.
I wanted to do something that fit within the existing rules and didn’t screw around too much with everything else. For lack of better terms, I came up with two ideas. Let’s call them strategic and tactical.
For strategic, I’m thinking long term effects of game play over the campaign and this one is pretty simple. Slow down character progression. Keep the characters at lower levels longer. I’m thinking about twice as long. This keeps those low-level threats still threats even longer. And the higher level ones be even more dangerous. Simple.
Then for the tactical side. This for something that actually effects the characters as they are adventuring. I didn’t want to mess with long and short rests. Heck. Let those stay the way they are. There’s a lot of class abilities that are tied to those and I didn’t want to mess with all that. I didn’t want to nerf the healing abilities because there are so damned many. So I started thinking and flipping through the Players Handbook for ideas. Then it struck me. Exhaustion. And here’s what I come up with.
For each failed Death Save, the character takes one level of Exhaustion.
Sure a character can get all their HP back but they ain’t going to feeling that great. This becomes really dangerous when you break it down and the following isn’t stuff I’m making up. It’s right there in the PHB. At 6 levels of Exhaustion, the character dies. For levels 1 to 5, the character has more and more penalties as their combat capabilities are reduced. A Long Rest recovers one level of Exhaustion. A Cleric can “heal” one level of Exhaustion with Greater Restoration (A fifth level spell).
And that’s it.

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YARC: Skills Part 2

Previously, I gave a little overview of how I want to do skills for Yarc and now it’s time to get down to brass tacks.
The overall mechanic is roughly skills as save. I won’t be using the character’s regular Saving Throw but instead it will be it’s own check. Roll a d20 equal to or greater than then you succeed. It’s that simple. Here’s the break down.
Skill Check
Level 1; Skill Check:18
Levels 2-3; Skill Check: 17
Levels 4-5; Skill Check: 16
Levels 6-7; Skill Check: 15
Levels 8-9; Skill Check: 14
Level 10; Skill Check: 13

First, why stop at Level 10? Well, it’s a nice round number plus lower level adventuring seem more fun than the really high level stuff. Characters can be heroic without being super heroes. Of course, the Skill Check will modified by a range of “skills” and further modified by race and class (but more on those modifiers as I do the races and classes). I’ve tried to limit the number down to it’s most basic based on what I’ve seen practically all character try to do. Each skill has rating. To determine this, average the ability score modifiers on the abilities noted for each skill. OK why average? I answered that in a previous post. Also, skills should be very broad. And here’s the list:
Appeal (CON & CHA): Seduction, Dancing, Performing
Athletics (STR & DEX): Climbing, Jumping, Acrobatics, Swimming, and Grappling.
Banter (INT & CHA): Fast talking, haggling, diplomacy.
Craft (WIS & DEX): Building things, hands on DIY type stuff and healing.
Instinct (WIS & CHA): Detecting secret doors, avoiding surprise, searching, detecting lies.
Tinker (INT & DEX): Locks & Traps and anything mechanical.
Skullduggery (DEX & CHA): Picking pockets, Disguise, Sleight of Hand
Stealth (DEX): Moving quietly, blending into the crowd. (The exception to the two ability scores rule.)
Survival (CON & WIS): Tracking. foraging, and so on.
Wits (INT & WIS): General knowledge, Education, Lore
There it is 10 skills to cover most situations and like I said races and classes will get additional modifiers but more on that when I start writing those up.

Skills in YARC: Part 1

Yes, I’m still playing catch up but that’s now what this post is about. It’s about skills. So let’s get down to it.
First, let’s hit the big one. Skills aren’t Old School! Well, I’d say a huge number of skills aren’t old school and a skill roll isn’t the answer to everything. I’d also say that if you include non-D&D games in the old school category then you’ve got Runequest and Traveler. Both with skills. So in my mind skills are OK. Just don’t make them too important and have take a moment to decide when to roll ’em and when not too.
So yes, I am going to do some sort of skill system for YARC but I’ve got a bunch of ideas bouncing around inside my head so I’m using this post to throw ideas out there and see what happens. So here’s the systems that have caught my fancy.
x in D6: It’s simple and easy. I believe the basic concept is pulled from the old “Open Doors” and “Find Secret Doors”. Lamentations of the Flame Princess, White Box: Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game, and Swords & Wizardry Light uses it. My only problem is that it’s not very granular and there’s very little room for improvement as a character progresses. I’ve used the system before and threw in my own house rule to adjust difficulty by die type. So average tests are x in d6, but it’s very difficult it might be x in d10.
%: Hey Thief skills are already percentile based then why not make the rest of the skills based on that as well. It worked to Runequest/Basic Roleplaying. A more accurate example than the Thief skills is in the Rules Cyclopedia and look at the Mystic’s (aka Monk) Acrobatics ability. It’s (3 x Dex Score)+2% per level. While it is much more granular than the above x in d6, it’s almost too much.
Saves as Skills: I think this originated over here and was adapted to Crypts & Things (which I love). Since YARC is built on the Swords & Wizardry framework. This is a no brainer. And the one I’m most likely to use.
So there are my thoughts. I know you’re probably wondering what exactly are the skills? Well, that’ll be in Part II as bring the skill system together.

Stat Bonuses for YARC

So yes, YARC is Swords & Wizardry at its core and most of the changes are the player facing ones. And here’s another. Last time I talked about roll stats. This time it’s about what those numbers mean. First, I don’t mind modifiers and second I prefer a simpler unified bonus table. Trust me it will make sense later. I want some penalty for lower stats but to the point that it’s punishing. It basically makes sense to those who have been around the block a time or two. Strength is for Hit and Damage; Dexterity, AC; Constitution, HP; Intelligence, Additional Languages; Wisdom, Spell Saves; Charisma, Social Reactions.

Score Modifier
3 -2
4 to 7 -1
8 to 12 0
13 to 16 +1
17 +2
18 +3

Yes, one chart to rule them all. Yes I know it’s simple but that’s what it’s about. Rules should be simple and keep the action going rather than min-maxing the crap out of characters and encounters. And yes I am planning something special for the fighter. Crap I’ve written enough about them and you’ve probably already seen that.

More Thoughts on The Blight

Yes, I know I didn’t get any blog posts done last week and I was hardly around on social media. Things were busy but I wasn’t idle on the gaming front. I almost have Back Alleys done for Dark Streets and Darker Secrets, I did some more brainstorming on YARC, and the whole reason for this post more mulling on The Blight.
Right now, I mostly messing around with the gods and Gods of Castorhage and thinking of how to make the various game systems. So I figured what the heck, throw out to masses and see what happens. Of all the games I have at my disposal I’ve narrowed it down to these (in no particular order).
1. Swords & Wizardry: It’s easy to do NPC’s. It’s flexible. It’s readily available in PDF form and the players can buy the book if they want. And there’s already a ready made version of it by Frog God Games.
2. Fifth Edition: It’s the elephant in the room. The players are already familiar with it and they already have their own books. It’d be a little tougher to run improved NPC’s off the cuff. The PC’s do have a lot more umph than in the other systems so make it a little grittier will take some house ruling.
3. Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar: Why? Well, DCC is cool and I should have my physical copies from the Kickstarter soon. The players are already familiar with it. The Blight is a city-based campaign so in my mind’s eye, it would make a good fit using the DCC: Lankhmar rules. Yes, I know no clerics and I would have house rule the partrons. So more prep type work on the DM’s part. I’m also aware of how crazy the magic can get. The players are already familiar with DCC and some have the books already.
4. Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Well, you can go weird and gritty without thinking about LOTFP. The players should be able to pick it up quickly. The art-free version is still available. It won’t take much to convert the Swords & Wizardry version over to LOTFP.
5. Something else? Oh. There’s plenty of other games out there. But the above are really my main choices.
So here’s a poll. Leave a comment. Let me know what you think.

Black Magic & Haywire

So even more rants on New Bay City and Dark Streets & Darker Secrets. This week I want talk about Black Magic and Haywire. Both of these are standard tropes. How many times have read/heard something like vile arcane rituals? How about the characters are running away from the monster and the car doesn’t start? Both of those are examples. It’s not secret that I’m a fan of the Dresden Files and both of these things figure prominently in the books.
Now, Black Magic doesn’t need too much of tweak. There’s already plenty of Gifts that cause automatic Corruption or Sanity loss. However, (just based on my own interpretation) a few more should have that caveat. Namely, Cannibalize and Transfer Life. Of course, there may be more but that should be based on the Concept being used for the Character and for the Gift.
Now on to Haywire. Yes, this plays big into the Dresden Files. I also remember from Pacesetter Games’ Creature Feature. So I’m approaching this two ways. First, Gifted Characters that don’t have the Haywire Gift. It’s just a form backlash. Screw up a spell and trash everybody’s cell phone, laptop. or whatever high tech device happens to be around. And there’s the actual gift.
Haywire
This gift disrupts the use of high tech devices within medium range for PL turns. Maybe resisted with a successful Luck check.

Pretty simple actually and I’ve got a few more random thoughts to throw out there. So this campaign might be postponed a bit. We do an alternating GM thing in our group. One GM one week, then the other the next. It works and helps reduce GM burnout. But one thing we do is avoid very similar campaigns. That’s so the players don’t get confused about what’s going on and keeps the games and genres fresh. So he’s wanting to run Scion. And folks are pretty excited about it. So this may get postponed a bit. But that doesn’t mean my ideas will. So stay tuned for more. And it just may mean I start blogging about my brainstorming for another campaign.

Averaging is Your Friend

This is something I’ve done in my other old school games successfully. There aren’t any skills so to speak and most folks go with roll something versus an ability score. But in the past I’ve always what I felt was the best mechanic available. One good stat made a character great at a whole family of things. So I’ve gone to averaging.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the games put out by Old Skull Publishing and I’m working on a nice little review of Dark Streets and Darker Secrets, a campaign for it, and some other little goodies. The point of this is that I’m going to be adding that this to my game.
Like I said, instead of making checks against one stat, make a check against the average of two. I’ve thrown these checks into a few broad categories.
Athletics (Strength and Dexterity) or (Physique and Agility: Climbing, Acrobatics, Jumping and all that stuff.
Craft: (Intelligence and Dexterity) or (Agility and Intellect): This is for doing stuff with your hands. Skinning an animal, hot wiring a car, even first Aid.
Wits: (Intelligence and Wisdom) or (Intellect and Will): This isn’t about knowing stuff rote. It’s about understanding information and being able to parse that information.
And, of course< there are more options but use as you will. And you don't even have to add this to character sheets. It's just make check against and list them. My players already know what I mean.
And it works. It makes more than one stat important to preform an action. So min maxing is not your friend. It's easy. And generally works well with the existing system.
Like any rules hack, your mileage may vary. Remember the most important thing isn't the rules your using but the fun you're having.