Thursday, May 30, 2013

Old World Backgrounds for LotFP

In my earlier go-round with this notion of setting LotFP in the Old world I concocted some rudimentary ideas for implementing a modified form of the backgrounds/careers. Yesterday I came up with a different way. This post will cover backgrounds.

The general concept is that the character's life has had three broadly-defined "phases". Their background, which predisposed them to a certain career path. This is randomly determined, since none of us choose where we are born or how we are raised. Secondly is the character's first career, chosen by the player, from a list based upon the background. Finally, is the adventuring class, again, chosen by the player.


Roll randomly (d12) for background, based on race:

Background Human Dwarf Elf Halfling
Warrior 1-3 1-4 1-3 1-2
Ranger 4-6 5-6 4-6 3-6
Rogue 7-9 7-9 7-8 7-10
Academic 10-12 10-12 9-12 11-12

Description and Benefits

The player selects two benefits from the options listed.

Leads to careers that focus on combat, whether melee or missile.
+1 attack bonus with melee weapon
+1 damage with melee weapon
+1 attack bonus with missile weapon
+1 damage with missile weapon

Background as some sort of woodsman.
+1 attack bonus with missile weapon
+1 Bushcraft
+1 Stealth
+1 Searching

Tomb robbers, charlatans, and outright thieves.
+1 Stealth
+1 Tinkering
+1 Finding Traps
+1 Searching 

A background leading to careers that are cerebral in nature or require special knowledge.
+1 Languages
+1 Craft (Specific)
+1 Lore (Specific)
+1 Entertain
Craft, Lore, and Entertain are three new, fairly self-explanatory skills.

Next post will go into the careers, and (hopefully, ADD permitting) I'll close out with Advancements.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Resurrecting an Old (World) Idea

I posted some stuff a while back about setting Lamentations of the Flame Princess in the WFRP Old World. I have been thumbing through LotFP the last couple of days and that idea has resurfaced in my rather shallow mind. There are a few reasons why I think this is a good match and I just wanted to share as many as time permits.

First off, I want to make it known that this is not a perfect marriage. The Old world does have the iconic and so-called "evil races", goblins and skaven most notably. It is also littered with undead. I know this may be a blasphemy against the spirit of LotFP, but I don't see a problem with this. As long as the goblins and skaven are portrayed as "citizens of the world" (so to speak) and not as targets for player aggression, I don't see a problem. There are elves and dwarves, after all, so the inclusion of entire species of non-human societies is not without precedent, rules-wise.

What I do like so much about this notion is that it plays perfectly into Mr. Raggi's assertions in the Referee's Book that the setting be pseudo-historical and weirdly familiar. the Old World has that in spades. The human-centric lands, known simply as "The Empire", is a fantastic homage to the Holy Roman Empire, complete with Germanic names. Oh, yes, and black powder weapons.

Even better, this Empire is blanketed in deep, mysterious, and oh-so-dangerous forests. The civilisation (the proper British spelling) of the Empire exists primarily along the highways and river-ways. No sane person strays very far past the eaves of the forests. The Empire is also bounded by stark and forbidding mountains to the south and east, and dangerous seas to the west and north. Any and all manner of threats may issue forth from these primordial places, and the populace perceives these threats, real and imagined, constantly. The strange and macabre lurk in the shadows of the forest trees and among the mountain slopes, just out of sight, but always near enough to snatch a goat. Or small child.

LotFP encourages the use of unique creatures, each designed individually by the Referee. The Old World supports this seamlessly with its concept of Chaos. The forces of Chaos and Law are constantly at war. Chaos is destructive, unpredictable, and ultimately corrupting. Its very nature is to pervert and destroy the totality of Order that the forces of Law strive to achieve. Those who dally with Chaos or succumb to its allure and offers of power, often find themselves the subject of mutations, ranging from mild and unnoticable to outright hideous. Some are known collectively as Beastmen. They are all unique in appearance and powers. There are also agents of Chaos and Chaos cultists. Most of these appear quite normal and move about in society in normal fashion. By night they hold secret meetings, offer terrible sacrifices, and receive blasphemous "gifts" from their twisted masters.

This just scratches the surface of how LotFP and the Old World complement each other, but my time grows short. Perhaps I'll delve a little deeper in future posts. For now, I'll leave you with a map of The Empire.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Random Thoughts

I have several small ideas fluttering around, none of which warrants its own post. However, taken as a whole . . . they are still pretty inconsequential, let's be honest. So, this is one of my "notes to self" posts.

Swords & Wizardry Complete (SWC)

I came up with the Ranger for DD, and started thinking about some more conversions of classes from the supplements. There were some I was willing to drop in pretty much whole, from certain sources. I am happy enough with the Paladin from SWC, as far as Paladins go, so I pulled that out and  . . . well, now I'm sucked into SWC.

I have loved Swords & Wizardry since I first laid eyes on it. Even when I have fixated on the things I don't like about it, I still love the game. SWC is so gonzo to me. It really harkens back to the late 70's, when all the supplements were out, we had Strategic Review, and The Dragon first took flight. There was a crazy mix of ideas, some were brilliant, some not so much. Some were out-right horse shit. They all drove the game in crazy new directions, though. It was like building a soap-box racer. Then deciding it would be great fun to rig a lawn mower engine to it. A cup holder and better seat was next. Then, finally, somebody gets the idea to put wings on the damn thing.

SWC somehow captures that gonzo, free-wheeling, anything goes spirit of those times. Yet, it doesn't implode. Let's face it, not all of those crazy ideas (even the brilliant ones) really worked. Some of them worked great, until they were asked to work with some of the other crazy ideas, then they became an unholy mess. Not so in SWC. It isn't perfect (I'm still less than thrilled that the Fighter's class ability is completely dependent on high stat rolls), but it is easily house ruled.


I think there is a problem with the Delving Deeper Thief. It starts off too competent. All of the thief skills succeed 67% of the time. A lot of grumbling is done about the "Greyhawk" thief being almost irrelevant at low levels, and I suppose this alleviates that. I really liked it at first, then it hit me. There is no sense of accomplishment when playing a DD thief. Even with the option of improving his skills, something is lost when you go from succeeding almost all the time to succeeding virtually all the time. Sure, it sucks to have a 10% chance to pick a  lock at 1st level. Yet, there is a growing sense of achievement that comes with earning that 67% chance of doing something, rather than having it handed to you.

Not to mention the old argument about the class being self-justifying, anyway. What could be more self-justifying than making certain activities the purview of a specific class, then setting it up so that characters of that class begin the game with such a high degree of competence?

Ascending Armor Class

When I am in an old school mind-set, nothing rankles me more than AAC. Logically, I know it makes sense. It is easy to use, and it obviates big to-hit charts. This came up for me as I'm sitting here this morning contemplating making a referee screen for SWC. There are three rather large to-hit tables for characters and one for monsters. It would take up quite a bit of space just for those. If I embrace AAC, it would only take up a few lines. Plus it has the advantage of tweaking the bonuses slightly to further differentiate classes' fighting abilities. It still disrupts my old school groove, though.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

DD Ranger

Ok, here's a first draft of a Ranger for Delving Deeper. I based it on the Thief, which I like a lot. Without further ado . . .

Same HD, XP, and attacks as Fighter
No shields
Only Leather or Chain armor (Chain imposes a -1 penalty to certain skill rolls)
No scaling damage bonus (one of my house rules)

Skills @d6 3+
All function only in natural environments.

  • Tracking (includes hiding ranger's own tracks)
  • Navigation
  • Survival (Finding water, suitable shelter site/materials, fire making)
  • Foraging (Hunting, edible plants)
  • Herbal Healing (as Lay on Hands IF access to herbs)
  • Stalking (hiding and Moving Silently)

Favored Terrain
All Rangers perform best in terrain they are most familiar with. The terrains correspond to those found in the Wilderness Encounter tables (pages 19 and 24 of the Referee's Guide). They are Swamp, Woods, Plains, Crags, Desert, Arctic, and Jungle. Personally, I don't think Town is appropriate, though Necropolis might be, for some sort of undead-stalking ranger.

The ranger benefits from operating in his favored terrain as follows:

  • Rolls d8 for skill rolls, still needing 3+
  • Damage +1 every odd-numbered level vs creatures listed under favored terrain in encounter table (does not include PC races)
  • Knowledgeable about creatures inhabiting favored terrain (per encounter table), also includes natural flora and fauna
  • Only Surprised on rolls of 6
Given reasonable exposure to new terrain types (which may include experience with similar terrain at the Referee's discretion), the ranger may add a new terrain to his list of favored terrains at levels 3, 6, 9, and 12. Alternatively, the ranger may elect to improve his skills in an already mastered favored terrain. In that case he may move "up" a die type. 
So, for example, a ranger whose favored terrain is Woods gains 3rd level. The only other terrain the character has adventured in has been Desert, and he has no intention of returning. The player elects instead to improve his skills in Woods and will now roll d10 (still needing 3+). 
Note that this only improves the abilities listed under Skills, the Damage and Surprise rolls remain unchanged.

That's it. It's a pretty rough write-up, I know, and it is entirely possible I've missed some things. Please let me know if you notice anything I left out or unclear, along with any other thoughts/comments.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Stars Without Number

I'm late to the game (as usual) with this title. Better late then never, especially in the case. I have to admit that as much as I enjoy classic gaming in general and OD&D in particular, I was very leery of this game. Something about the idea of using the OD&D engine left me a little skeptical. There aren't very many class-and-level sci-fi games. It seemed to me that shoe-horning a sci-fi theme into an OD&D mechanic wouldn't really satisfy.

I was wrong. Kevin Crawford, the game's designer, explained that he decided to use the tried-and-true OD&D engine because it is so ubiquitous. Everybody that games knows what HPs are and how AC works, whether you like the systems or not. It isn't fully OD&D. It uses the Target20 method to-hit, and 2d6 for skill rolls. The Big Six stats are there in all their 3d6 glory. The bonuses range from -2 to +2. There are three classes, each with their own hit dice and experience table. All very familiar and comfortable. Which is the point: they are so ingrained in most gamers that these systems fade into the background without any effort.

The games greatest strength, aside from its prolific and talented designer, is its support for sandbox play. There are tables for randomly determining the barest details of alien worlds, such as atmosphere, size, biosphere, etc. There are also some tables that I'm not accustomed to seeing. There are extensive rules for generating Factions, and their operation. One of my favorite ideas here, though, are the guidelines for World Tags. These are just a simple sentence or two intended to almost immediately evoke something interesting about the world.

I've always enjoyed randomly determining star sectors and the rules for such are one of the make-or-break points in a sci-fi game for me. The problem I've always had, though, is coming up with unique worlds circling the randomly determined star systems. After a few solar systems I start running out of fresh ideas. These tags should definitely help with that. With these it will be easy to custom design key worlds in the sector and use the random tables for the rest.

There are complete rules for starship design and combat. There is also a supplement Skyward Steel covering naval architecture and warfare in greater detail. It isn't free, as are the rest of the things the links below point to. The pdf is only $9.99, though, and it is tightly focused on its topic, so it is definitely worth it if your campaign will feature naval themes.

All in all, this is a very good sci-fi RPG. There are many elements I haven't even mentioned, but by now there are many fine reviews. Besides which the pdf is free. If you're looking for a good sci-fi game that supports free-wheeling sandbox play, look no further.

SWN Free Edition
Everything you need. Period.

Infinite Stars
Formerly a free e-zine, now a blog. It covers more than just Stars Without Number.

Online Sector Generator
Generates a sector map, world index, NPCs, Corps, Politics, Religions, and Aliens. All with a single click of the mouse (ok, two clicks if you want to change the seed).

Mandate Archives
These free mini-supplements (about 8 pages in length) offer a very focused look at a specific campaign feature. They can be used as-is or tweaked to fit your individual campaign sector. The link points to one of the Archives, but links to the rest of them are found on that page.

Skyward Steel
Advanced rules for stellar naval operations and ship design.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Barebones Fantasy

So, the D&D Next playtest didn't happen, and doesn't appear too likely. Naturally, my attention turned to something else.

 A few weeks ago I got Barebones Fantasy from Drivethru RPG. I printed it out and had it spiral bound at Office Depot. (That's the second time I've mentioned them in the last two posts. I promise, I don't work there or own stock. There's just a gamer that works the print center and knows how to do digest and booklet print orders, so he's my go-to for these things.) This isn't intended as a review, rather just my collected thoughts on the game.

I like the game quite a lot. I have to admit, for some reason it rubbed me the wrong way when I first read it. I had been reading a lot of praise for it before my purchase, and for some reason I just couldn't see what all the hubbub was about once I finally read it. That happens with me a lot, but typically when it does I put the item down and come back to it later. Sometimes I develop an appreciation and sometimes my initial opinion bears out. This was a former circumstance and upon revisiting the game I saw what all the hubbub was about.

One of things that can turn my attention away from a so-called "lite" game is characterization and character development. Some games start out with a decent amount of characterization options, but as the game progresses, development options are limited and eventually characters either plateau or start stepping on each others' toes as advancement avenues reach their ends. Not so here. There are multiple advancement strategies for players to explore with their characters, and they are not necessarily easy to achieve. Neither are they so difficult as to cause characters to feel stagnant.

The game uses a broad class-as-skill concept, similar to Warrior, Rogue, Mage. The class/skills are Cleric, Enchanter, Leader, Scholar, Scout, Thief, and Warrior. They are pretty self-explanatory and cover what you would expect. Since they are skills, the need for multiclassing rules is completely obviated. In that way, the game is like Barbarians of Lemuria, in that a character can have levels in several iconic skills. It would be quite easy to stat up Conan in this system.

Magic is pretty cool, with a very short spell list that still manages to cover more ground than many spell lists five times its size. Spell are very basic, almost like templates, that the caster can do multiple things with. Spells also scale with caster's skill level, so each spell is almost like three or more spells based on that fact alone.

There is also a setting touched on briefly in the main book, and further fleshed out in its own supplement. Keranak Kingdoms is a barebones sort of campaign setting, done in self-professed "broad strokes". The map scale is quite large which means it is very easy to stake a portion of the map for personal development and not worry too much about being encroached on by future releases.

The game is well-supported, both by the community and DwD studios. They have recently released a supplement of playable races that looks very good.

DwD also has released several adventures, some included in the Drivethru purchases.

As an aside, DwD, the publishers of BBF,  are the guys behind the revival of Star Frontiers and the production of Star Frontiersman, the e-zine for SF. Both SF  and the e-zine are free downloads. They can be found here.

So, there you have it. Keep up the great work DwD.