Now that I’ve gotten a few bits done, it’s time to talk about races and classes because with old school games you can’t talk about one without talking about the other. Since the first go around for YARC is going to be The Blight. characters may seem a bit under powered compared to your standard character. The Blight is grim and gritty so that’s why I’m going in that direction. And this is the point where inspirations from other editions and variants of Swords & Wizardry kick in.
I did an episode last year on Playing It Wrong about job versus class. To put it simply, just because it’s a character’s job that doesn’t mean that it’s their class. The big one is usually the assassin. I supposed technically any class can be an assassin but it takes somebody special to be an Assassin. The whole idea is if it’s a class is just a fighter who can track. Well, that’s not a Ranger. So the classes need have some distinct abilities that make them special.
Here’s the tentative list of classes:
Fighter: The most standard and yet IMHO boring class.
Cleric: Yes there will specialty priests.
Thief: Cat burglar or smiling con artist. I suppose later editions got it a little better by calling them Rogues.
Magic-User: Magic is supposed to be mysterious and interesting. Once IHMO even the original edition make them sort of video gamey. Cast the spell and boom. But things still need to be simple at the game table.
Assassin: Good at killing a single target. But still different than a Fighter or Rogue.
Druid: Hmmm. I don’t have any inspiration yet to tweak them.
Paladin: This isn’t you daddy’s prince charming noble knight. These guys are religious zealots hunting down the unclean and heretical.
Sorcerer/Warlock: Oh just check out Dice Roll Zine No. 2. That’s my primary inspiration.
I know. I always do a Bard and Barbarian. I think most of those class abilities can be easily wrapped into other classes. What about Monks? Once again I just don’t think they fit this setting. And lastly because I know someone out there is thinking it, what about Race as Class. I would say that I like both. It all depends on the campaign. If I’m emphasizing old-school play then I’ll do race as class. If there are only a few races then sure. But in this case there’s lots of possibilities for The Blight. So no race as class but races will be limited on their choices. I haven’t even gotten close finalizing that list but it will include the usual suspects as well as a few familiar faces plus a take on the one’s presented in the Swords & Wizardry version and just maybe a race or two that just captures my imagination. But more on that later when I get to races.
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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.
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.
If you’ve been following the blog then you know I’ve ranting about two possible campaigns. First, there was New Bay City using Dark Streets & Darker Secrets. It’s a modern horror/urban fantasy setting that I’ve run before just with different systems. And then there’s my sudden love affair with The Blight. Well, just follow the link. I put forth both to the gaming the group. They decided they wanted The Blight. And for system? Well, just like the survey I recently posted, they decided to try Swords & Wizardry. By coincidence, I’m also working on my YARC (Yet Another Retroclone) project which is basically house ruled Swords & Wizardry. So there will be a bunch of house rules.
With all that being said, I just can’t leave things alone plus like many GM’s I like to put my own spin on things. I base this on what I like and what I think the players will like. So I’m going to put a few little tweaks to make it a little more fun for us at the table and easier to use for me since the book is nearly 900 pages. Most of the changes are going to be player facing. By that I mean opening up some classes and races that aren’t normally an option. So stay tuned for all that. While the work begins now, it’ll be a couple of months. They’ve got a couple more adventures to survive in the Labyrinth Lord game.
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.
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.
4 to 7 -1
8 to 12 0
13 to 16 +1
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.
I do bounce around between projects. I’m working on a little supplement for Dark Streets & Darker Secrets, a monster book for Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells, an adventure for Swords & Wizardry, a system neutral GM Aid, and all the stuff that goes on her at the blog and on the podcast. So what the why not one more thing?
I don’t remember where but someone was talking about their own house rules and fantasy heart breaker and that got me thinking about YARC. Since it’s been a few years, let’s start from the beginning. YARC stands for Yet Another Retro Clone. It isn’t ground breaking in my mind. It’s just me taking the best bits from across the retroclones and adding a bit of my own spin to some things. So with any home brew idea, you have to start somewhere. Well, I have to admit that of all the clones, my favorite is Swords & Wizardry. It’s easy to convert any of old school stuff into. I’ve used it behind the screen as an easy way to do NPC’s for Labyrinth Lord and 5E. So yep it’s handy. So that’s it in a nutshell.
So where’s the best place to start? Rolling them stats, of course. There’s tons of methods and I’ve played around with bunch that popped into my head but this one has stuck. And it came from running Dungeon Crawl Classics and was something that I totally made up on the fly. The players like it, it’s easy and keeps pretty much with the old school philosophy. I call it 3d6 Hi-Lo.
Step One: Roll 3d6 in order twice.
Step Two: For three of the attribute scores the player may choose the higher. But for the other three scores the player has to take the lower of the the two. Here’s an example:
Let’s say we want to make cleric so the first choice is easy.
Since clerics get in combat a lot, we’ll want a good strength.
Now it’s a little tougher. What do you want to suck at? Maybe a cleric should have an average charisma. It might help convert folks. But that means average dexterity, constitution and he won’t be that bright. We decide that this cleric will one of war and have his deeds rather than his words speak for his god. And that will leave us with this stat block:
And that’s it. So just like so many things on the blog (like the crazy city idea I’m working on), I’ll post more as the inspiration hits. Keep those dice a rollin'[.
Clerics have always bugged me a little. Mainly, how they get their spells. The cleric prays or does whatever the divine wants and then comes up with a list of things for the day. That just doesn’t make much sense in my little mind. Aren’t clerics also supposed to be the miracle workers? So here’s my little variation on how clerics get spells making them a little more spontaneous. So the cleric gets decide what is needed by the situation rather than guessing at the beginning of the adventuring day.
First, clerics must pray or perform whatever ritual of faith as determined by their god. This grants them access to spells but does not commit them to “memory”.
When clerics cast spells, it takes one round of prayer/spell level to cast the spell. This is any spell that the cleric is able to normally cast. The cleric may expend higher level “spell slots to speed up the casting by one per spell slot level difference but cannot reduce the casting time to less than one round. For example, if a cleric casts a third level spell but burns a fifth level spell slot then the casting time would be reduced to one round.
A cleric may prepare one spell as a contingency spell that would require only one round to cast. This, of course, must still be of a level that the cleric could cast and counts towards the cleric’s daily spell allotment.
Finally, Lamentations of the Flame Princess gets it right. Turn Undead should be a spell.