Category Archives: Home Brew Hacks

Just some house rules that I made up.

A Quick & Easy Way To Make Freaky Monsters

Just a little idea that popped in my head to easily twist monsters and just maybe throw something weird at the players.
Step One: Pick a random encounter table, roll on it. Get Monster A
Step Two: Pick another or same random encounter table. Get Monster B.
Step 3: Cross Monster A with Monster B.
It doesn’t have to make sense but just make it interesting and weird.

Vornheim Meet Your Fate

If you haven’t gotten your grubby little hands on a copy of a href=”http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_reviews.php?products_id=91110″Vornheim/a then what are you waiting for? It’s the best city building supplement out there.
But this isn’t just about Vornheim, it’s also about a href=”http://www.faterpg.com/”FATE/a. Yes, I know FATE is not en OSR game. It’s story based game that places a lot of narrative control in the players’ hands. But I’m one of those folks who enjoy tweaking and twisting game rules and concepts. In this case I’m talking about a href=”http://www.faterpg.com/dl/df/citycreation.html”city creation/a for FATE as seen in the Dresden Files RPG. The basic concept is that players and the GM sit around and build the city in a collaborative brainstorming session. You use the Aspects and Themes Threats from FATE (just short descriptive phrases) to describe sections or districts within a city. You also assign an NPC who is the “Face” of that area. The Face is basically the primary character who represents that area of the city from a narrative standpoint. So when you’re done, you have a nice tidy pile of notes describing your city. These concepts are pretty simple and can easily be used with the tools from Vornheim. You don’t have to populate each and every house in a city. The city map doesn’t need to look like a mega-dungeon. (Unless you’re really into that sort of thing). The GM could quickly scribble a small village on 3 x 5 index card in matter of minutes.
You don’t even have to do it collaboratively. The GM can just sit down create the city on his own. You don’t even need to use the FATE game mechanics. Just use the Aspects as springboards for adventure ideas and descriptions. You don’t even have to limit yourself to a city. Hell, you could design a nice little sandbox type area for the characters to explore.
The thing is that it’s OK to grab up any tool you can get your hands on that’s makes your job as GM easier and the game fun for the players.

A Simple Crit & Fumble System

Everybody loves nifty crits and fumbles. Admit you know you do. I was brainstorming the other for some other ideas. I mean charts are neat and all but sometimes it can be drag to look something up. The Crit and Fumble Decks from Paizo are pretty damned cool. We’ve used them a lot in our Pathfinder games. But I had this crazy little idea to something simple and quick so here you go.
On a Crit: The defender chooses to take double damage or have his shield destroyed (Magical shields can just be knocked away.) or have his armor damaged (Reduces it’s effectiveness by half, rounded down)
On a Fumble: The attacker chooses to lose his weapon or break his weapon or the defender gets a free immediate attack against him.
Of course, the GM will have to do some judgement calls in particular situations. That’s why there’s that little mantra: “Rulings, Not Rules.”

A Little Twist on Saving Throws

Two of my favorite cousins of the world’s most popular fantasy role playing gamer are Swords & Wizardry and Castles & Crusades. And the neatest thing are the Saving Throws.
Swords & Wizardry boils it down to its most simple. One Save to rule them all. Modified by class, race and level. You get better at resisting things as the character progresses in levels.
Castles & Crusades almost takes the opposite approach and one similar to 3.X games. Ability modifiers added to racial, class and level bonuses against ever increasing difficulty levels. The joy of this is that every ability has a Saving Throw tied to it. To put it mildly, a dump stat can kill you.
The problem I see with the 3.x model is that you end up with ever increasing bonuses but you’re rolling against every increasing target numbers. You can sit down and crunch the numbers but it basically boils down to bigger numbers with roughly the same chance of success. It almost seems pointless. In older iterations, characters get better at resisting various hazards. Extremely powerful opponents can reduce the chance for a character to resist.
So here I am attempting to take these two seemingly opposite ideas and kit bash them into one system without messing too much with the underlying system.
First a simple ability modifier. Ability scores higher than 13 grant a character a +1 bonus. Ability scores lower than 8 cause characters to have a -1 penalty. You can use a different scale of modifiers but for this I’m attempting to do it with as little change to Swords & Wizardry as possible. If you opt to use a different scale for ability modifiers (say +3 or +4 for the very top end of 18 like in 3.x/Pathfinder) then you should adjust the racial and class based bonuses. I’d say adjust them down by half rounded up. But YMMV on this.
Second, what does each ability mean and what kind of saves should go with it:
Strength: Grappling, Constriction, Crushing
Dexterity: Traps, Area Effect Spells
Constitution: Poison and Disease
Intelligence: Illusions, Arcane Magic
Wisdom: Confusion, Divine Magic
Charisma: Fear, Charm
Of course, in case you’ve been living under a rock, they are playing around with a similar set up for DND Next. And like so many things this is a work in progress. Nothing is ever written in stone.

Clerics Have Always Bugged Me

Yeah, it’s time I make this confession. Every since I’ve started playing the mechanics behind clerics have struck me as wrong. I can fully get behind the concept of the armored warrior-priest that’s no problem. It’s the spell casting that gets me.
Here’s how it works out in my crazy little mind. Cleric prays, “Oh mighty Crom, Today I want to heal my friends three times. I want bless them in combat and I want your divine protection.”
“OK, you got it.”
How I think it should go.
“Oh mighty Crom. Today I want to heal my friends three..”
“What? You dare call my name and ask for my aid to heal those weaklings! Be gone, worm!”
Basically, it comes down to this. The cleric wakes up and asks his god for a shopping list of spells and the god delivers no matter what. When domains were added that gave clerics a few more defined powers on their faith but they still have pretty much the same shopping list of spells. I’ve seen players make spell choices based on their character which is good and fine but still doesn’t quite fit into my little world view. So here you go. Clerical spell casting re-imagined for Swords & Wizardry.

Gods & Spells: The cleric spell list is broken done by god. Spells are designated as Canonical (Spells that reinforce or are aligned with the god’s philosophy/domain/portfolio.), Neutral (Spells that neither oppose or support the god’s goals), Heretical (Spells that go against the god’s goals). If a game master doesn’t want to spend the time breaking down the spells. He should clearly define what each god’s agenda. Also, the Turn Undead ability should be converted to a first level spell.

Spells per day: Unchanged.

Spell Casting & Preparation: Clerics do not prepare spells. As the need for divine aid arises, the cleric calls upon the divine favor of his deity. The cleric rolls a Saving Throw modified by the spell type (Canonical: +3, Neutral: Unmodified, Heretical: -3). If the Saving Throw is successful then the spell is cast. On a failure, the spell is not cast but it still counts against the cleric’s daily allocation of spells. In the event, the cleric attempts to cast a spell that is contrary to his god and rolls a Natural 1 then there may be additional consequences for calling forth such heretical power.

Magical Research Mishap Chart

Magic Research should be interesting and just a tad dangerous. Whatever system you use for magical research is up to you. These little charts are for when things go wrong. Very wrong.

Which chart to use: Roll 1d20 + the researcher’s level. If the roll is over 15 then roll on Chart 2.

Collateral Damage: Whenever there is a magical mishap then there will collateral damage to the magical laboratory. The damage equals 1d10 X 1000 gold pieces in addition to any other damage. If the mishap effect is from Chart 2 then value of the damage is doubled.

Continue reading Magical Research Mishap Chart

Simplified Combat Maneuvers

One of the things that makes combat more interesting is when characters do something besides stand there toe to toe until somebody runs out of Hit Points. I’ve bee playing Pathfinder a lot in the past years. Heck, our group has playing is since the open beta test. I still remember how everyone loved the new Combat Maneuver mechanics but they were still tied to Feats and still way too crunchy.

James over at Dreams of Mythic Fantasy came up with a really cool idea to use Saving Throws as the mechanic for Combat Maneuvers. This would work great in a Swords & Wizardry game. And I may just have to play around with his idea a bit more.

By mere coincidence, I’ve been thinking about the same thing for retro-games. I wanted something quick, easy, flexible and embraced the “rulings not rules” philosophy. Once again, I looked to Lamentations of the Flame Princess for some inspiration and it’s simple X in d6 skill system. Here’s the neat part, the DM can just count on his fingers.

Declaration: The player describes what the character is attempting to do.

The Base Chance: 2 in 6 (for fighters), 1 in 6 (for other classes)

Who is better at fighting? If the character attempting the maneuver is then +1. If the defender is then -1. If they are equally skilled then 0.

Who has the better score? Select which Abilities (for both the active and defending characters) best suit the combat maneuver described. This will usually be Strength or Dexterity but creative players will find a way to use other Abilities. If the character attempting the maneuver has a higher score then +1. If the defender then -1. If they are equal then 0.

Situational Modifiers: Each would be a +/-1 depending. This could be anything else that affects the chances of the character successfully performing the Combat Maneuver. Difficulty, lighting, terrain, size difference, weapons and so forth. Just let common sense be your guide.

Now, you’ve got an X in d6 chance for the character to perform the maneuver. Handle it just like you would a skill check in Lamentations.

The Outcome: Since this system is meant it inspire the players to be imaginative in combat, there’s pretty much no way to effectively spell out if a character does X then Y happens. Just let common sense and the Rule of Cool be your guide.