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.

So How Many Classes Do We Need?

I was reading Lamentations of the Flame Princess and working on my own home brew game and I thought, “Damn, just how many classes do we really need?”
We’ve got the basic four: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User and Thief. But how much do we need beyond that? I mean really. Isn’t a ranger just a fighter who knows how to live off the land? Isn’t a paladin just cleric with a really strong moral code and who is better at fighting? Isn’t a bard sort of a strange combination of all of the above? Isn’t an assassin a thief who is better at killing than trap finding?
Heck, with a decent mulitclassing system and an easy skill rules, I think you can get by with just four classes. Yeah, there can be a few more tweaks too. But I think you can get by with a minimal number of classes that each can be tweaked slightly to specialize and individualize the character.
So what do you think?

The Dagger of Logoalth

Forged in the blood of innocents. Dedicated to an ancient forgotten death god. This viscous artifact is prized by thieves and assassins. Anyone found possessing one in civilized areas is quickly executed. Any non-cult members who have a dagger are hunted down and killed.
The Dagger of Logoalth is considered to be magical. It’s more potent powers only activate against living targets. The dagger gets more dangerous with each hit.
First Hit: Normal Damage
Second Hit: Double Damage
Third Hit and beyond: Target Saves or Dies. If the attacker misses then he must save or die.
And sorry this post was a little late but real life came around and bit me in the ass.

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.

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

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