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

Friday, December 14, 2018

Black Dogs zine - issue number 7

Less than a month ago it was an adventure, The Village and the Witch...
Now it's a new issue of my fanzine, the Black Dogs - issue number 7.
(Don't get used to this, it has been a coincidence and I expect 2019 to be different, with a much slower publishing rate)

It has been a year of publishing the Black Dogs, and although there are a few things that I would like to have done differently (read: better), I am quite proud of the result. I also would love to go back to the previous issues and fix a few things, improve some others, etc., but life always gets in the way. Perhaps in 2019...

Issue VII contains: creatures that are not elves, some words about dwarfs, quick-start adventuring gear, an adventure in Balthergar and some swamp monsters.

Download and POD on Drivethrurpg:

Print on Lulu:

This product is an independent production by Daimon Games and is not affiliated with Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a registered trademark owned by James Edward Raggi IV.

Thursday, December 13, 2018


In the second article about getting XP, we mentioned Carousing.
Basically, it allows characters to gain XP by wasting their money (in a fixed or variable amount) on vice and celebrations after an adventure. It is typically a downtime activity, and often leads to entertaining misadventures and complications. In fact, the best part about carousing house-rules is not the rule(s) itself, but the one or more random tables of possible complications.

Carousing has become a fashionable system to award XP to characters. In most cases, carousing may have rules that either:
- Grant additional XP
- Replace (at least in part) the treasure for XP rules

In the first case, as in JEFF RIENTS article below, Party like it's 999, carousing is used as an additional source of XP. Your character brings home 1,000 coins (gold, silver, whatever your standard is...) and gains 1,000 XP for the purpose of leveling-up.
If that money is spent regularly (i.e. to buy equipment, set aside to buy a piece of land or a headquarter for the party later on, spent on bribes or in the normal upkeep costs of retainers, etc.), that's all. One thousand coins, one thousand Experience Points.
The obvious design drive behind this sort of rule, is that money spent wisely brings regular XP.
Money spent carousing, though, is "wasted" but charming - so if you spend your treasure carousing like any respectable adventurer would do, you gain extra XP. It's again encouraging players to make a choice so that they get additional XP.

Carousing is good, of course. It helps to give some depth to the characters, to show their flaws, their spirit... it spices up downtime and offers a chance for other adventures, to meet new NPCs, and so on. It makes the characters feel alive between adventures. It is, as said above, a reasonable thing for adventurers to do...
Moreover, it may keep the characters broke or nearly so, or anyway avoid or delay the moment where they have so much money that they don't know what to do with it... Accumulating wealth for the sake of getting XP is not so funny... wasting it in meaningful, entertaining carousing which gives you a great story to tell about the adventures' weekend? It's great!

Party like it's 999
[...] Under my draft Labyrinth Lord house rules players can opt to earn some extra XPs by carousing. At the beginning of a session if a PC is hanging around Ye Olde Village Inne with nothing better to do, they can roll 1d6 and spend 100gp times the roll on liquor and/or lechery. The character gains experience equal to the gold spent. The d6 x 100 standard applies to villages only. A PC could travel to a town or city and debauch much more efficiently. Towns are worth d8 x 150 gp/xp and cities d10 x 200. The city of Hautville is worth d12 x 250 owing to its extreme wickedness. [...]
If the die roll is equal to or less than the character’s level, the result is a rousing good time and no harm done. Rolling above the character’s level indicates things got out of hand one way or another and the poor sucker must roll d20 and consult the chart below. If a character cannot afford the carousing they have rolled, they also must consult the chart and they only gain XP equal to half their money [...]
Carousing Mishaps
1) Make a fool of yourself in public. Gain no XP. Roll Charisma check or gain reputation in this town as a drunken lout.
2) Involved in random brawl. Roll Strength check or start adventure d3 hit points short.
3) Minor misunderstanding with local authorities. Roll Charisma check. Success indicates a fine of 2d6 x 25gp. Failure or (inability to pay fine) indicates d6 days in the pokey.
4) Romantic entanglement. Roll Wisdom check to avoid nuptials. Otherwise 1-3 scorned lover, 4-6 angered parents.
5) Gambling losses. Roll the dice as if you caroused again to see how much you lose. (No additional XP for the second carousing roll.) [...]

A more drastic approach is to say that treasure counts for nothing unless it is wasted on carousing. In his article, Well, I was a wee bit tipsy and... Extended Carousing-Mishaps, our ZAK SABBATH does just that.
See this? "Normally, PCs will only get x.p. for monsters"

[...] Normally, PCs will only get x.p. for monsters. However, once they get to a Big City, they may trade g.p. for x.p. by blowing it on various forms of strong drink.
Exchange rate is 1 to 1 and must be exchanged in chunks of at least 100 g.p. per PC. Resulting X.p. is divided evenly among the players.
However, for every (total # of PCs) x 100 x.p. exchanged, one member of the party (the party may choose who) must carouse excessively.
The excessive carouser must then roll d20 on the Modified Carousing Mishaps Table below. [...]
Complex results are resolved at the beginning of the next session:
1-As original chart .
2-Random pub brawl. Whole party faces number of brawlers = # of PCs. Resolve as normal combat but overcarousing PC is at -2 for being drunk.
3-As original.
4-Wake up in bed with someone... roll on subtable below.
5-Gambling losses. Gain o x.p.. [...]
Wake Up In Bed/Smitten Subtable (d12)
1. Succubus
2. Dead albino elf
3. Apparently normal attractive member of orientation-appropriate gender
4. Randomly determined other PC (neither remembers anything)
5. S/he's ugly. You're married.
6. (Roll again on this table.) You're married. [...]

In another articles, we can find additional random tables, divided for example by topics, such as Philanthropy, Drinking/Orgies, Study/Research, and Gourmandising, etc. or rules with a focus on characters deciding how they spend money on carousing:
On Cities, Part III, by Courtney Campbell
- Carousing and other ways to go mad, by Gieljan de Vries
Downtime Activities + Carousing Table, by Arnold K.
Party Like You Mean It: A Gathoxian Carousing Table by Jesse Goldshear
- Bacchanalia - Enhanced Carousing Tables by Aleksi Nikula (link to Gdocs since there is no blog post about this)
- d30 - DRINKING, CAROUSING AND GENERAL MERRYMAKING by Shane Ward (added January 2019)

So, when it comes to carousing, if you want to adopt any of the systems presented or you want to design your own rules, consider these notes:
- Is carousing the source of additional XP, or is it the only way to convert treasure into XP?
- Is it based on a random, or partially random amount? Can it introduce debt?
- What do you want to insert in the random table for carousing?
- Do you roll every time, or only in certain instances (i.e. a failed save, or too much money spent)? Do you want to introduce variables to this roll (i.e. based on the amount spent or based on success/failure cases)?

A thought, now, on the original gold-for-XP design... If we look at the original XP rule of 1 coin equal 1 XP, we notice that carousing adds a layer of complexity... or more than one layer if we start to consider random amounts, debts, multiple tables, rolls to save, etc.
What is it better? The simplicity of 1 gp for 1 XP, or carousing rules and random tables?
Well, in a sense we could say that carousing adds complexity, but gives you also a lot of flavor and opportunities, so if you're looking for a very simple and straightforward game, 1 gp for 1 XP is ok, but carousing seems like a very good option if you can manage its overload.

On the other hand, someone could argue that a good GM does everything that carousing do, without the need of formal house-rules. A GM could keep the standard 1 gp for 1 XP rule and then:
- Enforce the payment of upkeep costs and perhaps just add a certain (even variable) amount to spend for the characters (which takes care of reducing the accumulated treasure and perhaps introduces debt)
- Roleplay not just the dungeon, but also the downtime. A skilled GM could introduce anything that is on a carousing random table, and more, as complications, and could do it with all the flexibility that a random table cannot have (i.e. present opportunities with NPCs, romance, complications, etc. which are tailored to the specific character or perfect for the situation)

In a sense, I now have the feeling that having rules for carousing would be good, especially if you're planning on long-term play. The upside of having interesting actions occurring in downtime, the fun and opportunities of random tables, are worth the price of additional complexity. And while a good GM could come up with better events perfectly suited for your characters, and obtain the same results without the need to tie this to the XP system, all the carousing material remains a valid source of inspiration.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Gaining XP (number 3), by class

See part one here.
See part two here.

Look at the images below; they are cut from the XP sheets of Shadis and were posted by Greg Gorgonmilk. I didn't know about the game before I saw these, but look how they are focused in driving players to play their characters in a certain way.

- Treasure: 50% for clerics (but double if it's a religious artifact)
- Killing: 50% for clerics (normal if the enemy is of opposite alignment)

- Treasure: 50% for magic-users (normal if it's a magical treasure, but must be investigated)
- Killing: 50% for magic-users (normal if the enemy has special abilities, double if magical)

- Killing: 50% for thieves (normal if the enemy is not killed but negotiated past)
- Treasure: 50% for thieves (normal if treasure did not involve killing or force, double if stolen)

- Killing: 100%(?) for fighters (not clear if this is normal, 100%, determined by the GM)
- Treasure: 100% for fighters (double if treasure is armor or weapons etc.)
- Points for leading the party through danger (pushing the "leader" role)

So with all the other design notes about the XP rewards, we could add this: different XP reward according to the character's class.
There is one way to put it, which is to reduce the XP for those actions considered to be not perfectly aligned with the character's class (i.e. a thief is discouraged from killing monsters - 50% XP - but instead encouraged to find other treasures, perhaps unguarded - for a full 100% XP) and another way to increase the points when the actions fit the archetype of the class (i.e. for the thief is better to steal treasures - for 200% XP, double).

I didn't know Shadis but actually I found in other games a similar approach (i.e. I am thinking of several modern indie games which encourage players to hit "keys" or use their character's abilities to gain XP). So when I worked on the Black Dogs 'zine and made my own XP system, I used something similar...
There is the traditional silver-for-XP (for treasures and rewards) and HD-for-XP (for killing or defeating enemies), but there are additional sources of XP, as by the image below.
They are not divided by class, but of course different classes would pursue certain goals more easily than others.

Something more, though, still from the Black Dogs, that I haven't seen formalized as such in other games: give XP for actions done by the players which mirror those of the characters.
(I am sure someone can post a link with someone else using this or something similar as an house-rule 10 years earlier than me... there is "nothing new" in the OSR... but I still like that I came up with this on my own, independently.)
In the Black Dogs the characters fight monsters and explore the wilderness, and I guess if that fantasy world was real, there would be some accumulated knowledge about how to fight monsters, about how to overcome certain obstacles, and there would be maps, and there would be tales of previous members of the company of the Black Dogs (think of the Black Company annuals, yes).
And when I think back at my time playing RPGs when I was just a kid or just a little older, I remember drawing and writing a lot, and enjoying the feeling of having multiple notebooks full of ideas, stories, characters, monsters, maps...
So, this is actually to encourage players to get their hands dirty with ink.

Basically, players are encouraged to make maps, drawings, and write reports (diaries), with a 100 XP reward per session. Anyone working on that material to polish them up and make beautiful maps, drawings or writings, gets another 200 XP.
So a map could be worth 300, for example: 100 for mapping during game night, and 200 for polishing it up at home, between sessions.
Note that there is a reward for physical, not digital products.
This also encourages players to keep in touch with their fantasy world even when some time passes between sessions... Having a map to re-draw, an illustration to polish, some pages of a diary or report to edit or copy in a nice calligraphy, is a great way to reduce real-life stress and to earn XP!

You don't need the full Black Dogs 'zine to introduce these XP rules in your game. Just the images above are sufficient. But if you want to support the Black Dogs 'zine and me, the XP rules are in issue number 4:

So, design notes:
- different XP reward according to the character's class
- XP for hirelings or leadership
- XP for HP loss or wounds
- XP for critics
- XP for searching, discovering, curiosity, for facing dangers
- XP for players' actions: maps, drawings, writings (with bonus for physical products, not digital)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Gaining XP (number 2)

See part one, here.

Where Jeff Rients was not suggesting to replace gold for XP with exploration for XP, Gieljan de Vries does so in the article linked below. The change is drastic: treasures (and killings) do not count for level-up. Only special items do (physical trophies [...] stuff with a story attached).

eXPloration - XP is selling a story about a thing
by Gieljan de Vries
[...] This post is about making all XP gains about discovering sites and information, and bringing back trophies of your adventures.
- XP is tied to physical trophies of your adventures: the stuff with a story attached. There can be extra treasure without an XP value which is still worth money.
- You convert these trophies into money and XP by selling them to interested parties. Ask if you know any likely buyers or suggest shady contacts of your own.
- Bigger sites can involve multiple items to carry all the XP home. If the DM hasn't prepped specific items, feel free to suggest mementoes you could take with you.
- Each coin of silver earned via trophies gives you 1 XP. This assumes a silver-based economy - adjust to taste. [...]
- Just in case this needs to be said: no XP for killing random opponents or for just bringing home a haul of coins and gems. [...]
- Carousing is still a thing. I don't want it to overshadow the main XP sources, so will probably tweak the gains a bit. If the regular rate is 1 XP per silver, maybe have carousing give 1 XP per 5 silver. [...]

Oh well, Gieljan de Vries changed his mind towards the end of the article. Carousing is still a thing. But keeping XP tied only and exclusively to trophies (treasures in the sense of special, rare or unique items) is definitely interesting.

Another article about exploring to get XP - see how it reinforces the idea that killing and looting are not the only ways to play OSR games.
(Remember that we said that what you give XP for, will be what players will do?)

Meeting interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture... and NOT killing them
by Zzarchov
[...] Some examples listed in Piecemeal are:
- Uncommon Locations 50xp (ie, a border fort deep in the woods)
- Rarely Visited 400xp (ie, a far off mountain monastery)
- Unseen for Years 1000xp (ie, a far off kingdom across the sea)
- Unseen for Generations 2000xp (ie, the same kingdom if the sea is infested with sea monsters)
- Of Questionable Veracity 5000xp (ie, uncovering Troy or Machu Picchu)
- Fabled Locations 10,000xp (ie, finding El Dorado or Shangri-La)
- Mythic Locations 50,000xp (ie, finding the Garden of Eden or Noah's Ark)
These are just rough guidelines if you have your own unique XP awards for various locations. [...]

Also the next two linked articles are again from Zzarchov: the first goes back to the idea that the way XP is awarded will influence the style of your game. In this example, to encourage players to capture enemies instead of killing them (a prisoner is more valuable than a corpse), Zzarchov suggests to give more XP for capturing an opponent than for driving them away or killing them.

Murder gets boring
by Zzarchov
This one deals with the problem of wholesale slaughter of your enemies. In this particular post I'll deal with murdering opposing villains, the big villain or at least the stalwart dark lieutenant. Many GM's are frustrated that they cannot have a recurring villain because PC's will not stop until they murder them. [...]
Piecemeal deals with this in the following manner. When you drive off (force to flee, abandon plans or the like) or kill a villain, your party gets experience points equal to 10% of the villain's experience point total. If you can capture an enemy villain you gain experience points equal to 25% of the villain's experience point total, even if you later execute the villain after a "fair" trial (or sacrifice on a dark altar if your evil) [...]
This creates an incentive to not ALWAYS murder, without making it mandatory. While taking prisoners is more valuable it is also more dangerous. [...]

The last article goes back to the root of changing the way you award XP if indeed you desire a slightly different style of play, or want to introduce more variety. Zzarchov recognizes that most games do not support "high fantasy adventures" (and several, explicitly so). But if you want something other than looting dungeons, you need to change the way XP is awarded... or change the way levels are gained.
This is indeed a slightly different take on the subject: instead of telling you to reach milestones and giving a level every milestone, Zzarchov puts a sort of level cap, or better yet, a level requirement. For example, killing nameless orcs is meaningless at a certain point; if you want to level-up past your limit, you need to slay a dragon or something similar.

Adventuring should be the best option mechanically
by Zzarchov
This is a broad flaw, a lot of games that support "high adventure" really don't. The most effective route to achieving your personal goals and ambitions is to not go out and adventure. [...]
1.) Keypoints (or milestones) part of the XP system is that merely gaining XP won't let you exceed level caps. To get beyond certain levels ( Zero, Five, Ten and Fifteen) you need to accomplish feats of certain worth. No matter how many orcs you slay, you won't get past level five until you do something that raises you from Local Hero to National Hero, such as slaying a dragon, overthrowing a corrupt barony, converting a province to ones faith, robbing the royal vault, etc. [...]

Design notes:
- gold for XP, traditional (low power adventurers trying to get rich)
- consider also silver for XP, treasure in silver, but prices in gold (characters are often broke)
- mission for XP
- survival (food? other? survival to horror? to monsters?) for XP
- Gain a level on a main achievement (a kill, an island)
- which brings us to explore for XP; XP granted for visiting specific places (or just for travel, I wouldn't drop the miles-per-XP of the good old MERP), for witnessing life-changing events, and so on...
- XP tied ONLY and exclusively to trophies (special, rare or unique items); no XP for killings and no XP for coins and gems

Additional thoughts:
- Your kills are your level
- Your inventory is your level
- XP for kills: what about giving XP the first time you kill a certain monster (i.e. a goblin), but only the first time? This will make players keep a note of their "first kills", which is great (I am sure this is not my idea, I must have read it somewhere...)
- XP for capturing: give more XP for a captured enemy than for a dead one
- Level caps or limitations; you cannot get past level 5, 10, 15 etc. unless you achieve something very special (which could also be translated in doing something which grants you a really popular status in-game)

Next, let's talk about gaining XP differently depending on your character's class.
Will continue here.