Friday, January 11, 2019

Bonds (put characters together)

I admit that the first time I've read about bonds, it was in Dungeon World, a Powered by the Apocalypse game.
For those of you who don't know what that means, a PbtA game is a game based on the framework of Apocalypse World, by Vincent Baker... There would be a lot to say about PbtA games; some OSR people love PbtA too, others don't like them at all, for various reasons. I stand among those who love both OSR and PbtA games (although not all of them). But this is not the topic for this post.
This post is about bonds, and bonds are not a thing of PbtA games alone.

Bonds are all about creating some kind of relationship between characters. This is great because it gives your players some material for role-play, right from the start, like Traits or Backstories do... but in this case it also encourages players to interact one with the other, thanks to the bonds established between characters.
Note that this also helps to minimize the feeling of characters being "randomly" put together.
Bonds do not necessarily have to connect all characters to all other characters; not all bonds have to be "strong" or "positive" ones, but it's probably better not to have in your list somethink like "I've sworn an oath to kill character X because reasons".

The first post is a list of one hundred reasons for characters to be connected, such as characters being best friends or being siblings, or other reasons less obvious and more entertaining like robbing a temple together, were slaves, met in a prison and so on.

Give me a reason...or a hundred!
by JB
Download the list here
[...] when your players are all seated around the table, each rolls D% to determine the relationship of their character with the player sitting to their right. The player sitting to the left of the DM rolls for the player sitting to the right of the DM (unless the DM has some prominent NPC in the party, than he might check that as's not necessary since the DM usually creates reasons for NPCs to be around...I hope!).
By doing this, you should create at least two relationships, possibly more (if the guy to my left is my brother, and the gal to his left is my sister, than she's MY sister, too). That's enough to start the ball rolling...everyone else in the party is simply the proverbial "friend-of-a-friend" until you've developed a working relationship in-game. [...]

In this second post, Arnold K. offers also a suggestion (and a shorter list of bonds) to avoid forgetting to bring into play those bonds. By granting bonuses as long as you fulfill your role in the bond, you can make sure that players will keep those bonds in mind, and do their best to bring them into the game.
If you go with a list like this, perhaps a single character should have one or two of these bonds, but not more (they're a bit harder to keep track of, and may become too crunchy to deal with at the table, transforming role-playing into farming for bonuses).

Player-Player Bonds
So a lot of games establish player bonds during character creation.
"You once fought along side the person to your left."
"You have sworn to protect the person on your right."
Et cetera.  And that's a pretty cool idea.  But. . . it's possible for that sweet backstory to drop into the background.  Players and DMs might easily forget that Alice swore to protect Bob. 
Hopefully, if those bonds are represented mechanically, they'll be more in the forefront of everyone's mind.  For example, if two member of your adventuring party are ex-husband and ex-wife, they might share a Vendetta, and be paying very close attention to each other's turns, because the Vendetta ability triggers whenever the other person fumbles. [...]
Player-Player Bonds
1. Battle Brothers/Sisters - Years spent fighting together.
You each get +1 to hit as long as you attack the same target as your battle brother/sister simultaneously.
2. Destined Twins - You share everything.
Your HP is pooled and shared between the two of you.  Any negative physical effect that happens to one of you happens to the other, including death and or maiming.  (e.g. sympathetic limp if the other one loses a leg, nausea if the other one throws up, etc.)  This also works well for conjoined twin characters.
3. Favored Son or Daughter - You adventure alongside your offspring.
Your favored son or daughter must be lower level than you (and therefore, probably created after you).  They must also be the same race and class.  As long as you begin each session asking them "So what have we learned from all this?" they gain XP 10% faster, and whenever you assist them, you can double your bonuses you add to their attempt.

In this third link, by Jeremy Friesen, we have instead a random generator. The generator presents multiple columns and for each you should roll a d20. You could get bonds like:
"Character-A has much to teach me about always pushing for golden reputation" or such as:
"Character-B insulted me by the ridiculousness of knightly dreams"...
Not all are going to be perfect, but you can work your way around the table to improve it or adapt it to your needs.

Random Bonds Generator for Dungeon World
[...] Roll 1d20 for each of the four columns.
d20 Relation Action Modifier Subject
1 ________ has much to teach me about the ridiculousness of angered heirloom
2 ________ insulted me by always calling out knightly reputation
3 ________ misunderstands me about always pushing for golden dreams

Three links only, for Bonds, feel like not enough to me... So I am going to jump the fence over into the PbtA field (like the previous post), and present some material which could be used as an inspiration.
In a lot of PbTA games,  Bonds are written in playbooks, and playbooks (a character sheet which is also your "class", your archetype in the game) are available as a free download, even if you don't own the game. So you can check those playbooks and fish for inspiration in their bonds.
We will look at a few examples here, with the classic fantasy theme, from Dungeon World:

______________ is puny and foolish, but amuses me.
______________’s ways are strange and confusing.
______________ is always getting into trouble - I must protect them from themselves.
______________ shares my hunger for glory; the earth will tremble at our passing!

______________ has insulted my deity; I do not trust them.
______________ is a good and faithful person; I trust them implicitly.
______________ is in constant danger, I will keep them safe.
I am working on converting ______________ to my faith.

I stole something from ______________.
______________ has my back when things go wrong.
______________knows incriminating details about me.
______________ and I have a con running.

If you want to see more, you can check out this link - and you can download a pdf of all Dungeon World's Bonds from there (plus other alternatives):

Bonds represent the feelings, opinions, desires and shared history that make the player characters a party of adventurers and not just a random assortment of people.  Each bond is a simple statement that relates your character to a party member.  A few "fill in the blank" standard bonds are found in each core class playbook with the idea that you can create your own even during character creation and will gain new ones through play.
As a systems component , bonds are intended to facilitate building immediate backstory between two player characters.  They also reward XP by encouraging the player to resolve the bond by acting upon changes in circumstances to create narrative that makes it clear the bond- for better or worse- is gone and replaced with something else [...]

Design notes:
- Bonds help players to figure out how to role-play to each other at the start
- Bonds are good to keep the party united or to give reason for additional role-play
- Simple bonds are a few (such as family, love, a common past, a friendship)
- Long lists avoid repetition and allow a wider scope
- Short lists may be combined with mechanical advantages
- Dungeon World contains a lot of example bonds to use as inspiration

Friday, January 4, 2019


Something you don't do in OSR games, is to write a 3-pages backstory for your character even before char-gen. It goes without saying that it would be a waste of time when the character might die after a few minutes and when scores are totally random, so you might decide to steer towards a different kind of character than what you had in mind.
Actually, coming to the table, rolling dice, and only afterwards trying to guess who the f*** is this character that you're going to play with, seems like a healthier approach to me. And it is indeed what the OSR usually "prescribes".
Yet, there are times when you want something more than a name and a few scores and a backpack with torches, rope and weapons. We already discussed the option of using Traits, in this previous post of mine:

While Traits usually focus on how to role-play your character from the start, Backstories introduce something about what happened to the character before this moment, before the adventure began. A backstory might contain the reason for the character to be out on adventures, to have left their homeland, to be on the run, to be seeking treasure, or it might be a sad story, a terrible story, a funny story. Regardless, it says something about the past.
One should be careful when planning to use Backstories. Some are easy to adapt to every character (like almost every Trait). Others have heavier implications towards the character's background or have strong connections to the setting, and so on.
Also, I strongly advice against using backstories longer than two, three lines. Backstories should be easy to play with as Traits are.
They might have a little more potential, though, in the hands of an inventive GM, because they can serve as a focus for bringing important NPCs into the game and making the campaign feel more "personal" for the characters. But again: do not invest too much, even as the GM, on a backstory. Every character in the OSR may die before they get a chance to get their revenge against their arch-enemy.

And it goes without saying: Backstories should be about level 0 (zero) characters.
If we were discussing Careers (and we will...) instead of Backstories, we would be discussing about "Failed Careers" rather than of successful enterprises. Why would someone successful (with a few exceptions) want to go risk their lives in a dungeon?

The first page we bring you is a huge d500 table. It contains several examples, and can serve very well as an inspiration to build your own table. Note that Skerples suggests to roll multiple times (maybe twice) for each character. In its introduction, this post mentions rolling also on Bastionland, the Into The Odd website, which provides a list of failed Careers. We will discuss this in a post about Careers, which is definitely a related (overlapping) topic.

1d500 Backstories to Inflict on your Characters
by Skerples
This post brought to you by a whiskey so cheap it doesn't even have a website, and root beer.
Normally, you might start a D&D group in a tavern or a prison or a convent. You might connect characters by a lifepath system or a few shared events. Instead, consider rolling on the table below several times for each character before race, class, stats, etc. are determined. The results are life events, things that just happened, or reasons to go adventuring. The effect on your players will probably be a dismayed "WAT", but so it goes. 
Side Note: Consider rolling once or twice on this table, then on Bastionland's Failed Careers table.
1d500 Backstories and Events Stolen from The Toast
1d500 Backstory Inflicted
1 You spy on people through keyholes and get exactly what you deserve.
2 You have been rejected on your wedding night.
3 You get made fun of sometimes. It’s hurtful, and you’d do almost anything to teach your tormentors a lesson. Almost.
4 You have committed several murders, yet somehow you are also the sanest and most sympathetic person you know.
5 You have earned the personal ire of a Witch-king. This ends poorly for you, and everyone in your country.

6 Your love has been soiled, and the object symbolizing it tainted, quite tainted! [...]

Sometimes, you want something which might go a little over the edge. This is a good d100 table with some "mildly plausible background stories" (to quote the author), and others definitely less plausible.
The link below is if you want to see the table right away online. Afterwards, you'll find the link to the PDF that can be downloaded for free on RpgNow.

D100 Mildly Plausible Background Stories For Characters
Special thanks to 3 Toadstools Publishing –
1 Mentor was killed in an explosion
2 Father was beheaded
3 Sister kidnapped by Demon
4 Home town destroyed [...]
16 False prophet [...]
19 Teleported from a different world/time [...]
32 Remembers all past lives [...]
93 Deposed king [...]

Free PDF on RpgNow:

Another approach to backstories, is to roll nothing at the start, but add something as you level-up.
The next article by  has an example in this sense. James Young presents a system where every time you level-up you roll for a story and decide how the story ended, giving you a bonus or boon related to how the story ended... Note that instead of a static entry you get a choice, and the choice has a mechanical bonus attached.
It's a little more complex that a simple backstory which serves as a background, but since it is a process done at level-up, at least it's done on characters who already have at least achieved level 2 and it preserves a fast character generation process for level 1 characters.

1d100 Retroactive Backstory
by James Young
I've been working on this off and on for the past couple of months.
The basic idea is that every time you level up, you roll 1d100 on the Backstory table.
Each has a hopefully-inspirational fragment of backstory and two potential outcomes.
So if you roll a 1, the DM tells you "You got into a confrontation with a bully who was way tougher than you. Did you fight or flee?"
Now the trick here is that the other players at the table decide what your character must have done, based on how your character's been acting in the game thus far. Debate is allowed and encouraged, as is swapping examples of supporting evidence, in this case probably times you stood and fought versus times you turned and ran.
The others come to an agreement or vote or whatever, then you make up a story of what actually happened. Who was the bully? Why did you do what you did?
The story can be as detailed or as sparse as you want, no pressure. Most of my players tied it into their failed career in some way.
Finally you get told what your new ability is! Each outcome of each backstory has its own associated power. In this example, "fight" nets you a +1 to hit vs enemies who have more HD than you, and "flee" grants you a +1 to fleeing rolls.
Score! Now your character is hopefully encouraged to live up to their new backstory. [...]

A different way to deal with backstories, is to select backstories by topic. You may have a huge table mixing different backstories, or in this approach you could build different tables and let the players decide on which table to roll. The event(s) of the various backstories would still be random, but it would allow the players to decide which type of story they'd like in the past of their character.
For example, you could build lists with
- Birthrights
- Conflicts
- Criminal events
- Adventures
- Weird or other events
- Horror events
- Romance events

The above list is built by combining topics of the next two linked posts, by Canecorpus. Use the lists to inspire you for your own tables.

A fire-breathing were-mammoth destroys half the village while calling your name
by Canecorpus
[...] BIRTHRIGHT d10
1 – Slave/Exile
2 - Serf
3 – Lowborn Commoner
1 – The PC is accosted for brigandage. The PC is forced to wear iron boots for 1d4 years.
2 – The PC is accosted for begging in the presence of a noble. The PC is forced to wear a halter for 1d10 days and walk through the streets of his homeland.
3 – PC is accosted for piracy and transfer of illicit slaves. The PC is racked for 7 days and nights. The PC is 1 inch taller.
1 – Perfectly normal childhood. The PCs peers mock the child for his normalcy.
2 – Every morning the PC wakes up and finds a silver piece under their head, as well as a splitting headache.
3 – PC is ruthlessly hunted by Dwarven slave-traders for an unknown reason. The Dwarves have a very annoying war cry they scream when ever they see the PC, 'Vbblalalalbalalalalbala!' [...]

You spy your long time love laying eggs in the wilderness one evening
by Canecorpus
[...] HORROR EVENT d20
1 – Head stuck in a hole in ground for 1d8 days. Something licks your legs periodically during your entrapment.
2 – Deranged hermit pulling a cart with unidentified meat follows you around at night for 1d4 years
3 – Walking barnacles abscond 1d4 members of your family and are never seen again
1 – You have absolutely no romance in your adolescence and are mocked ceaselessly by your peers
2 – Desert raiders abscond you into slavery, forcing you act as a pleasure slave in the profane Ziggurats of the Man-Bull. You are released 1d4 years later. Gain a trade skill.
3 – The sexually frustrated Elf maids from the Village of Two Stars kidnap and fight with one another over mating rituals for 1d4 years. Still unresolved, you eventually escape. [...]

Design notes:
- Backstories at char-gen, perhaps tied to traits and/or careers
- Backstories with choices or different ending (chosen by the player? by other players?)
- Backstories at level-up, adding complexity and depth (also, in accord to what we've seen so far of the character), keeping char-gen as fast as possible
- Backstories with mechanical consequences (good, or bad ones!)
- Backstories divided by topics, giving players some choice before their random roll(s)

Monday, December 31, 2018

Blogging in 2018

When Google announced that they would shut down Gplus, I decided to move to a blog instead of MeWe or another social network.
I had over 1,200 contacts on Gplus, between various Indie RPGs groups and OSR groups. I was quite silent on Gplus save for occasional posts, but I had one or two very productive convesarions per month with various people. That social network allowed me to interact with a network of worldwide contacts and especially UK and US games - which was quite important since I live in Italy and I am definitely out of the loop when it comes to meeting people in person or going to conventions, or even gaming shops. So while I was not posting a lot, I was commenting more and reading even more, basically on a daily basis. I will miss that network when it will be gone.

But I do not intend to work to rebuild the whole thing over MeWe or another social network, or at least not in the very near future.
I started reading blogs - especially related to OSR games - and I started to write my own (this blog, in fact).

And to my surprise, I managed to keep up with a steady 1 post per week since October, and I plan to continue to go on like this in 2019.
It's not the same as Gplus. In fact, in 3 months there were 0 comments (so no "connections"), but a decent amount of readers (even if most of them are robots for sure).
Still, I find the blogging platform to be better than a social network. I love that what I write remains there for others to read for years to come, that I can discover new blogs and browse their archives, that I can search for content, tag mine, browse tags, etc.
This is how I want to read and write OSR in the coming future.
So no MeWe for me, thanks.

Below, is an index up to December 31st 2018 of what I published in the so called "OSR Bible" project. If you come by this blog just now, have fun reading.
And happy 2019!




XP and Levels



Thursday, December 27, 2018

d6 Saving Throws for LotFP

I love the simplicity of the Skills in LotFP which are presented graphically with a d6 with black and white pips. When improving your skill, you color one pip more and the roll is quite simple: roll with a d6 equal or under the score presented by the d6 drawn on your sheet.
Using something similar for Saving Throws is something that I was considering for a while, so here it is. This thing is long and boring, though, so here is the final rule.

Roll Saving Throws with a d6, as Skills. Roll equal or under for a successful Save.
Add one point to a Save score of your choice at level-up, up to level 13 (17 for Clerics). The highest score cannot be more than 2 points above the lowest.
The starting scores would be:

ParalyzePoisonBreathDeviceMagicUp to level
Cleric23232up to 17
Fighter23232up to 13
Magic-User33232up to 13
Specialist22222up to 13

For a cooler, stronger Specialist you may allow a progression up to level 17 (as the Cleric) or at least grant one or two points more at level 1 (player's choice).

Read more just if you're interested in the process of getting to the above rule.
Let's start by looking for the basic save chances compared with the d6 probabilities, and the d20 probabilities of regular Saving Throws.

d6 probabilities (roll equal or under):
pips prob.
1 16.7%
2 33.3%
3 50.0%
4 66.7%
5 83.3%
6 100.0%

d20 probabilities (roll equal or higher) with specific attention to scores close to the d6 probabilities (note that in some cases the d6 probability is close enough to two different d20 scores):
save prob. as d6
1 100.0% as 6 pips
2 95.0%
3 90.0%
4 85.0% as 5 pips
5 80.0% as 5 pips
6 75.0%
7 70.0%
8 65.0% as 4 pips
9 60.0%
10 55.0%
11 50.0% as 3 pips
12 45.0%
13 40.0%
14 35.0% as 2 pips
15 30.0% as 2 pips
16 25.0%
17 20.0%
18 15.0% as 1 pip
19 10.0%
20 5.0%

It is clear, comparing the two tables, that the d20 allows for more granularity in the percentage of success. With the d20 each increment counts as making 5% more likely your success in a Saving Throw, while with the d6 chances step up over 16,7% (somewhere between 3 and 4 points on a d20 scale).
This means that of course also the improvements at level-up should increase proportionally slower. Consider also that in the progression tables provided by LotFP, the Saving Throw scores increase not every level, but every four or so... and increments are not by one point only, but two, three, sometimes four points each time (thus favoring the implementation of the d6).

Below are the tables with the proposed d6 scores (roll equal or under), for the four human classes.
The column with (d6) are with the new scores. When in doubt, I tried to favor a little the lower levels, and less the higher levels (thus increasing a bit survivability at the start, and keeping the game dangerous at higher levels).
Also note that when the score reaches 6, the success is not granted. LotFP, for skills, requires that with a score of 6 you roll 2d6 and fail if both come up with a result of 6. In the tables, it is presented as 6*.

Level Paralyze Paralyze(d6) Poison Poison(d6) Breath Breath(d6) Device Device(d6) Magic Magic(d6)
1 14 (35%) 2 (33.3%) 11 (50%) 3 (50%) 16 (25%) 2 (33.3%) 12 (45%) 3 (50%) 15 (30%) 2 (33.3%)
5 12 (45%) 3 (50%) 9 (60%) 4 (66.7%) 14 (35%) 2 (33.3%) 10 (55%) 3 (50%) 12 (45%) 3 (50%)
9 10 (55%) 3 (50%) 7 (70%) 4 (66.7%) 12 (45%) 3 (50%) 8 (65%) 4 (66.7%) 9 (60%) 4 (66.7%)
13 8 (65%) 4 (66.7%) 3 (90%) 5 (83.7%) 8 (65%) 4 (66.7%) 4 (85%) 5 (83.7%) 6 (75%) 5 (83.7%)
17 6 (75%) 5 (83.7%) 2 (95%) 6* (94,7%) 6 (75%) 5 (83.7%) 4 (85%) 5 (83.7%) 5 (80%) 5 (83.7%)

Level Paralyze Paralyze(d6) Poison Poison(d6) Breath Breath(d6) Device Device(d6) Magic Magic(d6)
0* 16 (25%) 2 (33.3%) 16 (25%) 2 (33.3%) 16 (25%) 2 (33.3%) 15 (30%) 2 (33.3%) 18 (15%) 1 (16.7%)
1 14 (35%) 2 (33.3%) 12 (45%) 3 (50%) 15 (30%) 2 (33.3%) 13 (40%) 3 (50%) 16 (25%) 2 (33.3%)
4 12 (45%) 3 (50%) 10 (55%) 3 (50%) 13 (40%) 3 (50%) 11 (50%) 3 (50%) 14 (35%) 2 (33.3%)
7 10 (55%) 3 (50%) 8 (65%) 4 (66.7%) 9 (60%) 4 (66.7%) 9 (60%) 4 (66.7%) 12 (45%) 3 (50%)
10 8 (65%) 4 (66.7%) 6 (75%) 5 (83.7%) 7 (70%) 4 (66.7%) 7 (70%) 4 (66.7%) 10 (55%) 3 (50%)
13 6 (75%) 5 (83.7%) 4 (85%) 5 (83.7%) 5 (80%) 5 (83.7%) 5 (80%) 5 (83.7%) 8 (65%) 4 (66.7%)
0* NPCs only

Level Paralyze Paralyze(d6) Poison Poison(d6) Breath Breath(d6) Device Device(d6) Magic Magic(d6)
1 13 (40%) 3 (50%) 13 (40%) 3 (50%) 16 (25%) 2 (33.3%) 13 (40%) 3 (50%) 14 (35%) 2 (33.3%)
6 11 (50%) 3 (50%) 11 (50%) 3 (50%) 14 (35%) 2 (33.3%) 11 (50%) 3 (50%) 12 (45%) 3 (50%)
11 9 (60%) 4 (66.7%) 9 (60%) 4 (66.7%) 12 (45%) 3 (50%) 9 (60%) 4 (66.7%) 8 (65%) 4 (66.7%)
16 6 (75%) 5 (83.7%) 7 (70%) 4 (66.7%) 8 (65%) 4 (66.7%) 5 (80%) 5 (83.7%) 6 (75%) 5 (83.7%)
19 5 (80%) 5 (83.7%) 6 (75%) 5 (83.7%) 7 (70%) 4 (66.7%) 4 (85%) 5 (83.7%) 4 (85%) 5 (83.7%)

Level Paralyze Paralyze(d6) Poison Poison(d6) Breath Breath(d6) Device Device(d6) Magic Magic(d6)
1 14 (35%) 2 (33.3%) 16 (25%) 2 (33.3%) 15 (30%) 2 (33.3%) 14 (35%) 2 (33.3%) 14 (35%) 2 (33.3%)
5 11 (50%) 3 (50%) 12 (45%) 3 (50%) 14 (35%) 2 (33.3%) 13 (40%) 3 (50%) 12 (45%) 3 (50%)
9 9 (60%) 4 (66.7%) 10 (55%) 3 (50%) 12 (45%) 3 (50%) 11 (50%) 3 (50%) 10 (55%) 3 (50%)
13 7 (70%) 4 (66.7%) 8 (65%) 4 (66.7%) 10 (55%) 3 (50%) 9 (60%) 4 (66.7%) 8 (65%) 4 (66.7%)
17 5 (80%) 5 (83.7%) 6 (75%) 5 (83.7%) 8 (65%) 4 (66.7%) 7 (70%) 4 (66.7%) 6 (75%) 5 (83.7%)

For better use, here are the tables only with the d6 scores.

Level Paralyze(d6) Poison(d6) Breath(d6) Device(d6) Magic(d6)
1 2 (33.3%) 3 (50%) 2 (33.3%) 3 (50%) 2 (33.3%)
5 3 (50%) 4 (66.7%) 2 (33.3%) 3 (50%) 3 (50%)
9 3 (50%) 4 (66.7%) 3 (50%) 4 (66.7%) 4 (66.7%)
13 4 (66.7%) 5 (83.7%) 4 (66.7%) 5 (83.7%) 5 (83.7%)
17 5 (83.7%) 6* (94,7%) 5 (83.7%) 5 (83.7%) 5 (83.7%)

Level Paralyze(d6) Poison(d6) Breath(d6) Device(d6) Magic(d6)
0* 2 (33.3%) 2 (33.3%) 2 (33.3%) 2 (33.3%) 1 (16.7%)
1 2 (33.3%) 3 (50%) 2 (33.3%) 3 (50%) 2 (33.3%)
4 3 (50%) 3 (50%) 3 (50%) 3 (50%) 2 (33.3%)
7 3 (50%) 4 (66.7%) 4 (66.7%) 4 (66.7%) 3 (50%)
10 4 (66.7%) 5 (83.7%) 4 (66.7%) 4 (66.7%) 3 (50%)
13 5 (83.7%) 5 (83.7%) 5 (83.7%) 5 (83.7%) 4 (66.7%)
0* NPCs only

Level Paralyze(d6) Poison(d6) Breath(d6) Device(d6) Magic(d6)
1 3 (50%) 3 (50%) 2 (33.3%) 3 (50%) 2 (33.3%)
6 3 (50%) 3 (50%) 2 (33.3%) 3 (50%) 3 (50%)
11 4 (66.7%) 4 (66.7%) 3 (50%) 4 (66.7%) 4 (66.7%)
16 5 (83.7%) 4 (66.7%) 4 (66.7%) 5 (83.7%) 5 (83.7%)
19 5 (83.7%) 5 (83.7%) 4 (66.7%) 5 (83.7%) 5 (83.7%)

Level Paralyze(d6) Poison(d6) Breath(d6) Device(d6) Magic(d6)
1 2 (33.3%) 2 (33.3%) 2 (33.3%) 2 (33.3%) 2 (33.3%)
5 3 (50%) 3 (50%) 2 (33.3%) 3 (50%) 3 (50%)
9 4 (66.7%) 3 (50%) 3 (50%) 3 (50%) 3 (50%)
13 4 (66.7%) 4 (66.7%) 3 (50%) 4 (66.7%) 4 (66.7%)
17 5 (83.7%) 5 (83.7%) 4 (66.7%) 4 (66.7%) 5 (83.7%)

I am not a big fan of this sort of tables, so the next step would be to determine a starting line for each class, with Save scores at level 1, and assign a number of points to add every level (not every few levels like LotFP). This way, the player gets a little freedom in which score to increase, and gain a little more chances of surviving every level.
A Cleric for example starts with 2-3-2-3-2 and with 4 levels (1 to 5) gains 3 points, 1-1-0-0-1.

12 (33.3%)3 (50%)2 (33.3%)3 (50%)2 (33.3%)
53 (50%)4 (66.7%)2 (33.3%)3 (50%)3 (50%)

To favor lower levels, we could grant one point per level. To keep the balance, we could also rule that the highest Save score cannot be more than 2 points higher than the lowest. This would ensure a progression across all Saves.
If we compare what we have at the start and what we would have at the highest level presented by the original tables, we would get:
- Up to level 17, one point too much for the Cleric (I could live with that)
- Up to level 13, ok for the Fighter
- Up to level 19, too many points for the Magic-User. Either we accept this power-up, or we stop the MU at level 13 as the Fighter, which I prefer (not exact math, but having the same level helps you to memorize the rule. This makes the progression in Saves faster, though, but again I am ok with this)
- Up to level 17, three points too much for the Specialist. The temptation is to stop it at level 13 as Fighter and Magic-User, but I also like the idea of a Specialist who can survive better (as a Cleric) at higher levels

So the final rule would be this.
Roll Saving Throws with a d6, as Skills. Roll equal or under for a successful Save.
Add one point to a Save score of your choice at level-up, up to level 13 (17 for Clerics). The highest score cannot be more than 2 points above the lowest.
The starting scores would be:

Paralyze Poison Breath Device Magic Up to level
Cleric 2 3 2 3 2 up to 17
Fighter 2 3 2 3 2 up to 13
Magic-User 3 3 2 3 2 up to 13
Specialist 2 2 2 2 2 up to 13

For a cooler, stronger Specialist you may allow a progression up to level 17 (as the Cleric) or at least grant one or two points more at level 1 (player's choice).
I like this.

I was not the only one of course to come up with something similar, so here are a few links which I collected after I made my own rule:
- In Alternate Saving Throw by DeathKnight4044 there is a draft of a system connected to the level of the characters and of the opponent
- In Some Thoughts on Saving Throws by KYLYNSMALL there is a system similar to mine
- In Saving Throws as d6 Skills by Red Flanagan there is another system similar to mine, with a nicer layout and presentation and with slightly lower Save scores at low levels
- In A suggested alternate saving throw system to go along with LotFP by CaptainAhash Saving Throws are rolled with 2d6 (presenting the chances for success if both or either die are equal or lower than the save level
- In Skills revisited: Dice pools and the LotFP playtest rules by Dan Domme there is a short review of the new Saving Throws system presented by James Raggi in his playtest document for new rules for LotFP.

Alternate Saving Throw
by DeathKnight4044
[...] Thanks for all the replies everyone. This is mostly what im leaning towards at the moment:
- Saving throw is recorded along with all other skills at a base of 2 in 6 chance of success.
- A 13+ in a relevant attribute will increase this rank by 1
- At levels 3 and 6 the saving throws skill rank increases by 1. (so a 6th level character has a 4 in 6 saving throw)
- Saving vs an enemy or spell casters magic that is higher level/HD than you lowers your skill rank by 1. Saving vs an enemy or spell casters magic whos lower level/HD than you grants a +1 to your saving throw skill rank.  
- A 6 is always a fail [...]

Some Thoughts on Saving Throws
My house rule for saving throws integrates alongside this skill system. In the same way that the thief skills were taken from a table of automatic progression and their own distinct mechanic, it takes the saving throws off of preset tables and gives them the same level of player choice as the specialist has in its skills.
As of now, I suggest using the same “classic” saving throw categories (Paralyze, Poison, Breath, Device, and Magic), but simply starting each one at a 1 in 6 chance on a d6 of success. Maybe providing class based starting levels, such as starting fighters with a 2 in 6 chance of Poison and Breath saves, to reflect their greater resilience and reaction time. All classes would get a single “Save Point” per level that they could apply to any of the saving throws, moving from a 1 in 6 to a 2 in 6 chance for example. Specialists, on the other hand, would move from getting 2 Skill Points per level to 3 Skill Points per level. The Specialist can use these points on either skills or saving throws. This gives the opportunity, for example, for a specialist that is extremely resilient and dexterous rather than extremely skilled if most points are applied into saving throw categories. Or even a Specialist that is particularly weak in terms of saving throws but is extra skilled compared to others. [...]

A suggested alternate saving throw system to go along with LotFP
by CaptainAhash
[...] Roll 2 dice to save. If either are equal to or less than your save level, you succeed.
save level 0 (only snake eyes succeeds): 1/36 (2.8%)
save level 1: 11/36 (30.6%)
save level 2: 20/36 (55.6%) [...]
Roll 2 dice to save. Both must be equal to or less than your save level to succeed.
save level 0: automatic fail
save level 1: 1/36 (2.8%)
save level 2: 4/36 (11.1%) [...]

Skills revisited: Dice pools and the LotFP playtest rules
by Dan Domme
[...] Just a few days ago, I grabbed a copy of LotFP's Free RPG Day supplement for the year, Eldritch Cock.  It has a whole bunch of spells in it, but also what I think is the first unrestricted release of the LotFP playtest rules, a set of backwards-compatible rules changes for the game.
One of the coolest things, in my opinion, is the update of Saving Throws. They are now based on a d6 dice pool. Number of successes determines the result (2+ = full save, 1 = partial save, 0=fail). The only variable is, are you saving against a magical effect or not? I am a bit biased since I love dice pools inherently, but I think that this is a great improvement, at least on paper. Saving throws have always been a high hurdle to clear for lower-level characters. I want to see exactly how this plays out at the table.
Meanwhile, of all the great things in LotFP, the skill checks were the one thing that I never really liked. you have an n-in-6 chance, a single d6 roll. So (a) you want to roll low, and (b) you could end up with a 6-in-6 chance to do something if you buy enough of a single skill as a Specialist. [...]

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Traits for characters

Something which I found particularly interesting at char-gen, is the option to have one or more (but just a few) traits associated with the character.

It's true that in the spirit of the OSR, it is perfectly fine to start with a "blank" character, and see it emerge in play. This process of discovery of your own character is a part of the "exploration" contained in the classic OSR spirit.
You don't just discover what's in the dungeon and explore the surrounding wilderness; you don't just hexcrawl through the kingdom... in the process, you also discover "who" your character is (if they survive, of course). Depending on how your character will face certain situations or dangers, how it will react in front of failure or success, and depending on what will inspire you when role-playing, you may find yourself with a character who has proven to be smart or brave, cautious or avid, careless or clumsy, cold or ambitious or whatever.

On the other hand, I've seen too often characters who are "blank" at the start which simply develop in a cliché, in something (someone) too familiar, too simple, too flat. Having one or more character traits at the start, right from char-gen, can change that.
When your character has perhaps a positive and a negative trait from the start, you get something to role-play with. You don't get a blank sheet, but some constraints, and as we all know, constraints foster creativity. It is often easier and more satisfying to role-play a character with a couple or a few traits (not too many, so they don't become a burden)... you still get to decide what to do, of course, but you try to play with the cards that fate dealt you.
So try this, build a list of negative and positive traits, and assign a couple to every new character at the start of the game. See how it goes, see how they get to be played in the game - and why not? how they change adventure after adventure.

As for how to assign traits, I am of course a firm believer in random tables.
For example, these are snapshots taken from the Crying Blades.

If you look for some source of inspiration outside the usual OSR links, here are some for you:
638 Primary Personality Traits (lots of traits, divided in Positive, Neutral and Negative)
1,000 NPC Traits by Chad Samuels
100 NPC Personality Types by SHAM AKA DAVE
- d100 NPC Character Traits
A list of mannerisms for writers

The last link is especially interesting because it offers examples of how a character behaves in certain situations. The article focuses on a temporary conditions, such as:
Anger, frustration, apprehension: Hands clasped behind back
Boredom: Prolonged tilted head
These are not useful on their own, as traits, but may very well serve as inspiration for a typical character behavior.

Think of a newly generated fighter with average stats and regular gear. You start with an empty sheet and you will perhaps see the fighter's personality emerge over time.
Take the same fighter and give it (totally random): careful, broken nose, and the habit of walking around with the hands clasped behind his back.
I guess I could play with this; I could make something of this right away, in the first scenes of the first adventure. I guess even if the fighter died soon enough, perhaps a few months later we would still, sometimes, talk about that fighter I lost in the third room of the dungeon - yes, the one with the serious attitude and a broken nose, walking with the hands behind his back, muttering to himself half of the time...

Note also that if you search'll for random tables for traits, you'll most likely find more complete tables if searching for NPCs' traits rather than characters' traits. The only thing you need to do is to parse those tables, copy-paste what seems interesting to you, and build your own tables.
A classic is one positive and one negative trait, although (as you've seen above for the Crying Blades) I like to leave a bit of margin for players to pick up what they like better. Still, I don't present players with lists of tens or hundreds of traits asking them to pick one or two. Too many choices would lead to a long decision time, and I like better the idea of a random roll (perhaps mitigated by the option of selecting instead the entry right after or right before the number you rolled).

Something to remember is that those traits should inspire role-play, but have no mechanical rules associated with them. There are no bonuses or penalties (not to rolls in game, not to XP rewards).
The idea is that those traits simply describe a little of your character's personality and give you some guidelines on how to portray this new character.
Moreover, traits should not become something that burdens the player and forces them to role-play something they are not happy with... If a fighter comes up with a "coward" trait, the player could still want to role-play a brave and fierce character. Either change the trait from the start, or perhaps consider the option to role-play how your character, from coward becomes brave (if they survive long enough).

If you want to add a mechanical weight to those traits, though, consider for example the article below, with traits which come with some mechanical modifiers or abilities.
In fact, they are named as traits in the title of the post, but I consider them more like innate abilities or backgrounds. Yet, they're presented here as an example of adding something mechanical from the start to a character, to give it somehow more depth.
I guess it's clear already that I prefer narrative traits - and backgrounds - and I would leave such mechanical bonuses to abilities or similar... but this does not take away anything from the value of the post below (which I will reasonably re-link again when presenting innate abilities or skills or backgrounds).

Exceptional Traits for B/X (oh crap...)
by JB
[...] Disclaimer: Please be aware that I do not think any of this is necessary to enjoy B/X play. I believe the creative minded person can come up with their own interesting/unusual character within the confines of the seven fine character types and the Big Six ability scores. [...]
For each character roll once on the proper table at 1st level to determine the character’s exceptional trait. Dwarves and Halflings should roll on the Fighter Table; Elves may roll on either the Fighter or Magic-User Table (not both). DMs may allow characters to gain additional traits as a character advances in level [...]

Cleric (Roll D10)
1. Animal Friend
2. Apostate*
1. Animal Friend: Normal animals (not giant, prehistoric, or magical) are naturally disposed to the cleric (+2 all reaction rolls).
2. Apostate*: The cleric was originally a member of an opposite order and retains much forbidden knowledge; the cleric may freely cast normal or reversed spells regardless of alignment. [...]

Fighter (Roll D10)
1. Berserk
2. Dopplehander
1. Berserk: In melee combat the fighter may enter a frenzied state gaining a +1 to hit and damage rolls and immunity to fear effects. The fighter may not flee or evade combat once entering a berserk and is always fatigued afterwards.
2. Dopplehander: The fighter is adept at using two-handed melee weapons, gaining a +1 on damage rolls and +1 bonus to Armor Class. The fighter still attacks last and may not use a shield. [...]

Magic-User (Roll D10)
1. Conjurer
2. Elvish Blood*
1. Conjurer: The magic-user may perform simple illusions and sleight of hand tricks and may pick pockets as a thief of the same level.
2. Elvish Blood*: The magic-user has elvish blood in his or her ancestry and enjoys both the infravision and immunity to paralysis abilities of the elf class. The magic-user will generally be long-lived as well. [...]

Thief (Roll D10)
1. Acrobat
2. Cat Burglar
1. Acrobat: The thief is capable of many feats of agility and has a 50% chance of being able to somersault or back-flip behind an opponent in melee allowing a “backstab” attempt.
2. Cat Burglar: The thief has no fear of heights and may balance on thin ledges or tight ropes with the same chance as climbing sheer surfaces. If the thief falls while climbing, the player may make a second roll at half the normal chance in order to catch himself, preventing any damage. [...]

More to the point of narrative traits - yes, this is the last link - you can browse the post below on the enworld forum. I think in the end they play very similarly to those provided in the previous lists, but they are listed as Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws.
The presentation is a little more verbose; perhaps a bit harder to fit in a multiple-columns table but probably nice if your players need a bit more to work with, when they have to role-play. In fact these sentences give some specific direction at the expanse of brevity, but I find them even easier to role-play.

List of All Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds & Flaws
by Leugren
[...] Personality Traits
I idolize a particular hero of my faith and constantly refer to that person's deeds and example.
I can find common ground between the fiercest enemies, empathizing with them and always working toward peace.
I see omens in every event and action. The gods try to speak to us, we just need to listen.
Nothing can shake my optimistic attitude. [...]

Faith. I trust that my deity will guide my actions. I have faith that if I work hard, things will go well. (Lawful)
Tradition. The ancient traditions of worship and sacrifice must be preserved and upheld. (Lawful)
Charity. I always try to help those in need, no matter what the personal cost. (Good)
Change. We must help bring about the changes the gods are constantly working in the world. (Chaotic) [...]

I would die to recover an ancient artifact of my faith that was lost long ago.
I will someday get revenge on the corrupt temple hierarchy who branded me a heretic.
I owe me life to the priest who took me in when my parents died.
Everything I do is for the common people. [...]

I judge others harshly, and myself even more severely.
I put too much trust in those who wield power within my temple's hierarchy.
My piety sometimes leads me to blindly trust those that profess faith in my god.
I am inflexible in my thinking. [...]

So, some design notes for traits:
- Randomly assigned
- One or more tables (of course by setting/spirit of the game, but also by type of trait... at minimum positive/negative)
- Expand with mannerisms, for example
- From all the lists, take only what is clearly interesting... Don't use stuff which is too hard to role-play or may have only a very marginal appearance in play
- I would stay away from traits with mechanical effects, and leave mechanics to abilities/skills/talents
- Consider using also something a little more verbose, if your players need a bit of help in role-playing