The “It Only Takes 20” Challenge

This crazy idea just popped into my head late last night. Here’s your challenge. Take your favorite Tome of Terrible Monsters. Pick your 20 favorites of varying HD and then build a little sand box based campaign around that.
Sounds pretty easy. Let’s face we have tons of books with hundreds of monsters. You don’t need all of them, all of the time. A whole cohesive little playground can be built around just a few. Just play around with that and see what happens. Enjoy!

Sexy Alien Elves

I’ve grown weary of the standardized Tolkien style elves so I decided to do a little tweaking for own little home brew. I know that racial classes are a bit contentious. For my own purposes, they are an option for demi-human characters. And, of course, as with any home brew type thingie. Your mileage may vary. And, yes, I do have a soft spot for spontaneous casters from later editions.

Elves are the newest race to the world. Centuries ago, they appeared from nowhere. Scholars are unsure if they are refugees, exiles, colonists or the prelude to an invasion from another world. The elves either aren’t talking or don’t know the truth themselves. Despite their alien beauty, their relations with the other races is dubious at best.
Wood elves are generally not well regarded by elvish society. They are deviants who have gone native. They neither confirm nor deny the existence of any so called Dark Elves.

Classes: Fighting-man, Magic-user, Thief, Elf Racial Class

Racial Abilities:
Darkvision: Elves can see in the dark up to 60 feet.

Arcane Channeling: Elves may channel part of their arcane essence into their spells and attacks. When an elf attempts this he takes 1d4 damage. If the elf channels through a weapon, that weapon is considered magical and does additional damage equal to the damage he took. If the elf uses to empower a spell against a creature with Magical Resistance then the creature’s Magic Resistance is reduced by the amount of damage taken by the elf X 5%.

Arcane Resistance: Elves are beings of magic. Elves gain a +2 to save against Magic-User (arcane) spells.

Not Of This World: The elves have no connect to the gods of this world. As such they cannot become clerics. Additionally, they have a -2 penalty to save against clerical (divine) magic.

Alien Physiology: Because of their alien nature, elves have lessened resistance to worldly poisons and disease (-2 to Saving Throws).

Magical Affinity: On a successful Saving Throw, elves may detect magic as the spell.

Elf Racial Class:

Hit Die: d6/level
Saving Throw: As Magic-User
Attack Progression: As Thief
Spell Casting: Elves do not use spell books like a Magic-User. Their magic is an inherent ability so they do not to prepare spells nor can they research new spells. Elves may cast spells in leather or magical armor.
Spells/Day: As a Magic-User of ½ the elf’s level (always rounded down).
Spells Known: An elf knows a number of spells equal to the Spells/Day for the appropriate level. These spells are determined randomly from the Magic-User Spell list.
For Example: A 6th level elf would know two 1st level spells and one 2nd level spell. He can cast two 1st level spells and one 2nd level spell per day.

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.

Where I’m coming from on the OSR

Since this might the first some folks have noticed me I figured it would be time to do a little intro. I’ve been playing D&D since I first discovered that little White Box way back. I’ll put it this way. It was actually in print at the time. Over the years, I’ve messed with pretty much every edition as well as a ton of other RPG’s. And I’ve been blogging for a few years about RPG’s and other geeky stuff over at my other (The Geek Life Project)
I’ve kept up with most of the OSR blogs as wells later editions and Pathfinder but deep down I still yearned for those simple rules and crazy days. Guess, I was in the OSR closet for a while.
I’m not here to bash any edition or tell anybody you’re playing the wrong way. I just want to throw some stuff out there and see what happens. Some of it may be good and some of it might be utter shit. We shall see. And now in the words of many an immortal DM, “Just roll some dice and let’s kill some monsters.

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.

The Serpent Blade

At first glance the weapon appears to be a +1 short sword with a blade fashioned to appear as a venomous asp.  When any of the following conditions are met, the blade’s unique qualities activate.

1.  A successful attack with the Sneak Attack/Back Stab ability

2.  The attacker rolls maximum damage.

3.  A “critical” hit is rolled.

The blade of the weapon transforms into a venomous snake and burrows into the flesh of the victim.  The snake does 1d6 damage every round and the victim must make a save versus Poison (each round) or suffer an additional 2d6 of damage.  During this time the attacker will need to use another weapon since his blade is inside the victim. Once the victim dies or the snake is removed The Serpent Blade returns to normal.

Yeah, I just watched Conan.

Roll Dice. Kill Monsters. Take Their Stuff. And Have Fun!

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