Why I prefer d6 (1-in-6) checks over 3d6 or d20

I prefer 1-in-6 chance checks, sometimes modified by your attributes: a +1 STR would translate to a 2-in-6 chance, while a negative means it’s impossible for you, or else you must roll 2d6 and only succeed if both dice come up 1. If you’re benevolent, let them roll without a penalty.

Why? Because some of the actions are not inherently difficult or easy depending on your own physical or mental traits. The difficulty of finding a trap is about the same for everyone regardless of their stats; high intelligence doesn’t necessarily make you better at finding traps, so INT 10 and INT 18 and INT 6 have the same 1-in-6 chance of finding the trap.

Yes, sure, some have an easier time doing so, but it’s certainly due more to experience and knowledge than to intrinsic intelligence values, or simply due to good luck (i.e., chance). And this is where the flexibility of OSR comes in: Can you give me a good reason why, on this occasion, your character should have a better chance of finding a trap? Maybe you have already found another trap in the same area, you are using some useful tool, or you remember reading or hearing stories about this place. For this time, you have a chance of 2-in-6 or even 3-in-6.

A base chance of 1-in-6 gives a 16 or 17 percent chance, which neither is too high nor too low. It’s unlikely but possible, as it should be. See, a group of 3 characters will have a 50-50 chance of success if all 3 make the roll, which I allow if it makes sense, but sometimes only one person can roll. If it was easy, then what would be the point? Just tell the story and avoid rolls. Decide the result by only speaking and move on (which sometimes might be the right way to do it).

However, if an action becomes harder or easier due to a character’s innate traits, then their range of success is modified by their attributes (as explained on the first paragraph). Why not roll 3d6 in those cases, since those traits are based on a 3d6 roll? Because I firmly stand that we shouldn’t make a different rule when your traits alter the result than when they don’t. Let’s use the same system for both cases, when your stats are relevant and when they are not. (Later I talk against D20 system using the same rule but it’s not a contradiction; here we use the same rule for tests, D20 uses the same rule for everything).

1d20 is basically the same as 3d6, albeit more elegant; in both cases you roll under your traits, so it only makes sense when the difficulty depends on your stats and not on the action itself, which means we should not use these (pro tip: use whatever you like, I’m just saying.)

Games like Into the Odd rely on d20 rolls under your traits; it’s ugly but at least the game is quick and easy. ItO is based on quick and easy. In that sense, this is the right choice.

Other games, such as DCC, call for a d20 roll against a difficulty set by the referee, and a high score is needed. Depending on the game and circumstances, the result can be modified positively or negatively by the character’s attributes or the tools used. It is the same principle as the 1d6 system, but in the 1d6 system it is very easy to modify without having to think whether this action is of a standard difficulty, or higher, or lower. And if we take into account that the standard difficulty is 10, it is actually very easy to succeed in about half of the attempts, and if more than two characters can roll, success is almost guaranteed, although in the case of DCC, if you are not trained in an occupation or profession related to the task, you don’t roll 1d20 but 1d10 instead. It makes sense but it adds more complexity.

In the d20 system (where this last mechanic comes from) all the rules are the same, so finding traps, climbing, attacking an enemy or seducing an NPC, don’t feel like different actions to the player.

Making monsters for OSR games

Creating a monster for any OSR system is the easiest thing in the world, you don’t even need a detailed guide or deep rules, just fill out this form:

AC: ___
HD: ___
hp: ___
MV: ___
#ATT: ___
DMG: ___
ML: ___
SPECIAL: ___

When creating a monster, don’t stick to the rules of character creation, monsters can, and indeed should, break the rules.

Let’s have a closer look.

Armor Class (AC)

Assume that the AC is 12 when a character wears no armor, 14 when wearing leather armor, 16 when wearing chain mail, and 18 when wearing full armor. Some games use descending AC, where the better the armor, the lower the number. See this table of equivalences.

Monsters usually don’t wear armor, unless you consider orcs and goblins to be monsters, in which case the real monster is you. So what we must do is think about how easy or difficult it is to hit a monster, and we can use these values to guide us, but we must not follow them to the letter, that is to say that you can give an AC of less than 12 or more than 18 if you consider it should be so, just keep in mind that a 10 or less might be trivial, and a 20 or more, might be impossible.

Hit Dice (HD)

In addition to armor, HD helps us define how durable a monster is: the higher its HD value, the more hit points it will have, so you need more successful attacks to kill it.

HD also determines how powerful a monster is and how easy it is for it to make its attacks. Although each system calculates the attack bonuses of monsters according to their HD differently, all these systems are similar. Let’s say that each HD translates into a bonus equal to its value; thus, a monster with 5 HD gets a +5 to its attack roll.

Hit Points (hp)

The standard method is to roll a number of d8 equal to HD, so 5 HD translates into 5d8, and the result of that roll is the monster’s hp, but we’re not gonna be making that roll every time a monster appears, so we’d better use the average value.

This value is obtained by multiplying the number of HD 4 or 5 times. Thus, our 5 HD monster would have on average between 20 and 25 hp.

Depending on the role of the monster in the adventure where you want to use it, you can reduce or increase this number.

An ordinary monster might have 1 or 2 hp per HD, but if the monster is the main enemy, consider giving it 6, 7 or even 8 points per HD (in our example, between 30 and 40 hp).

Keep in mind that the stronger and tougher it is, the more likely it is to cause a TPK. Consider alternate ways to cause it damage if the players are smart, such as luring it into traps, shooting it from a safe area, or something similar.

Movement (MV)

As a base, use standard human movement, which is 120 feet per exploration turn (10 minutes), 40 feet per combat round, and 120 feet per combat round when running but taking no other action.

How fast or slow is your monster? Equal to a human, half the speed of a human, twice the speed of a human?

To keep it simple: Standard, half, double, or more than human; in feet this translates to:

  • 120′ (40′)
  • 60′ (20′)
  • 240′ (80′)
  • 180′ (60′)

Accuracy is irrelevant, the important thing is to know if the monster is going to catch us if we try to run away or how long it would take us to catch it if we want to recover the gold ring that our partner who has been eaten by the monster was wearing on his finger.

These values correspond to the speed of the monster on the ground, some creatures may have another mode of movement with a different speed, for example flight. We write it down like this:

  • MOV: 120′ (40′), flight 240′ (80′)

That is, on the ground it moves with the same speed as a person, but when flying it’s twice as fast.

Number of Attacks (#ATT)

You don’t need to complicate things, as a general rule all monsters can perform only one attack per round.

But some monsters must break the rules, right? A radioactive octopus can maybe hit with 8 of its tentacles each round, in which case you’ll write down this:

  • #ATT: 8

If it can squirt radioactive ink, but can only do one of the two types of attack per round, you write it down like this:

  • #ATT: 8 or 1

On the other hand, if it can attack with tentacles and ink in the same round, you write it down like this:

  • #ATT: 8 and 1

If you want it to have other attacks, follow the same principle, but write down all the ones it can do during the same round one after the other, and then the ones it cannot. Following the example, if our octopus can launch a mental discharge, but to do so he must concentrate and not do any other action, it should be written down like this:

  • #ATT: 8 and 1, or 1

Damage (DMG)

To decide how much damage each attack does, compare the attacks with common weapons. Depending on the type of weapon, the damage may be 1d4, 1d6, 1d8 or 1d10 (although some systems may include other values).

  • d4: Knive, club, cane
  • d6: Short sword, hand axe
  • d8: Standard sword, battle axe, mace
  • d10: Two-handed sword, great axe, maul

Let’s say each tentacle hits like a whip, how much damage does a whip do? 1d3 damage.

The ink does no harm, but it can blind an enemy.

Mental discharge can cause 1d8 damage due to the strong emotional charge it represents.

Assuming that our octopus can strike with the tentacles and throw the ink in the same round, but the mental discharge can only be done separately, we would write it like this:

  • #ATT: 8 and 1, or 1
  • DMG: 8 tentacles 1d3 and Special, or 1 psycho blast 1d8

Note that we write down each type of attack followed by the damage; this can be used to eliminate the line for the number of attacks per round, but it is advisable to leave it for clarity.

In a moment we will explain “special”.

Morale (ML)

The morale value is a number between 2 and 12. When you need to know if an enemy surrenders or tries to flee, or if it continues to fight during an encounter (usually when it has suffered more or less considerable damage or its party has suffered many casualties), you make a morale check, rolling 2d6. If the result is equal to or less than the monster’s ML, it keeps fighting; if the result is higher, the creature tries to flee (or surrenders, if your monster is an orc or goblin).

It’s impossible to get more than 12, so a ML of 12 means that the creature may fail this roll, is unaware and will fight to the death, or has lost all interest in its own well-being.

To understand it clearly, morale means “will to fight”. Passing the morale test means that the will to fight is still intact, failing means that it has lost its will.

Special

All information that cannot be abstracted with a simple numerical value or that requires further explanation is placed here.

In the case of our octopus, the ink jet does not cause quantifiable damage (a numerical value) but has the possibility of blinding the target. Can this attack be dodged, does the octopus roll its attack die, or how does it work mechanically?

This is one possibility:

  • Special: The octopus squirts a blast of ink at a target; the player must make a saving throw vs. breath weapons to prevent the ink from touching her eyes. If she fails, she can’t act for 1d3 rounds until the ink effect ends, or a single round if she can wash her face and eyes immediately.

This is another:

  • Special: The octopus squirts a blast of ink making a normal attack roll against a target, if successful, the target can’t act 1d3 rounds until the ink effect ends, or a single round if she can wash her face and eyes immediately.

Both methods are equally valid, in some cases one may be easier or more difficult to avoid, but don’t worry about that, choose the one you consider more natural, you can even have two identical monsters with the only difference that one uses the first method and the other uses the second.

Now it’s time to show off our finished creation.

Psychopus

An octopus the size of a horse. Its color varies according to its mood (make a reaction roll; the more hostile, the more purple; the friendlier, the whiter).

AC: 11
HD: 5
hp: 20
MV: 60′ (20′), water 240′ (80′)
#ATT: 8 or 1 or 1
DMG: 8 tentacles 1d3 or Special or 1 psycho blast 1d8
ML: 9
SPECIAL: The octopus squirts a blast of ink at a target; the player must make a saving throw vs. breath weapons to prevent the ink from touching her eyes. If she fails, she can’t act for 1d3 rounds until the ink effect ends, or a single round if she can wash her face and eyes immediately.

Note how I wrote the damage. My monster can only make one type of attack per round, either tentacle lash, or ink, or blast.

Final words

Making monsters for your games should be quick and easy, not a chore. It can feel arbitrary, but once you get the hang of it, you can make a monster in less than a minute and it won’t be totally random. Spend a couple more minutes and you can make a reasonably interesting monsters that fits well in your game. Make a bunch and it will become second nature in no time. Need some inspiration?

OST

While I was writing this, I was listening to this playlist.

Opposed rolls in old school games

If two characters want to compete to know who wins a bras de fer competition, or if they are engaged in a game of cards or chess, or any other situation where there cannot really, or should, be a draw, both roll 1d6 and add their most appropriate ability modifier (strength for a arm wrestling, wisdom for domino, charisma for a duel of looks, agility for throwing darts, constitution to endure without breathing, intelligence to solve an equation, etc.)

If there is a tie, another roll is made until there is a winner.

Sometimes it is a good idea to put some tension into these competitions. In those cases, the winner will be the first to achieve 3, 5, 10 or even more victories, for example in a long desert marathon or to determine who finds more decorated stegosaurus eggs at the Volcano Festival.

duel of looks

Running away mechanics

These are some quick, easy and no-nonsense rules for running away that would work for most games.

If you are not engaged in combat, running away is automatic. You can be pursued, though.

If you are engaged in combat, in your next action you can run away. If your action takes place before your foe’s (in initiative order), you escape; if your action takes place after your foe’s, he can go after you.

If you are pursued, both roll 1d6, a roll of 1 or 2 adds a point. The first who get 3 points, wins (you escape or he catches you). In a draw, both roll and the lowest result wins.

If a chase doesn’t add enything to the fun, running away is automatic.

If you want to resolve a chase quickly, both roll and the lowest result wins in just one roll. In a draw, the player wins (or roll again if you prefer).

Avoid paranoia-driven dungeoneering

When players become too paranoid and start exploring the dungeon methodically, it’s sometimes fun, but when this behavior becomes too constant, specially when there’s no sensible reason to be extremely cautious (not all dungeons are tombs of horrors and grinding gears after all). Here are some ideas that could solve this situation.

The party

Set a timer

The mission must be completed under a certain number of turns, otherwise something happens and the players know it: when it’s 2 minutes to midnight the sect of evil orcs will kill the unborn in the womb to summon The Hand That Threaten Doom, the crazy wizard eats his pet bat and spread disease, the PC’s clothes and weapons turn to rags and scrap, the PC’s carriage turns into a pumpkin at midnight, the artifact only appears for a few minutes after sunset with a waxing moon before it returns to its dimension of origin, &c.

Something wicked comes

This is mostly arbitrary, but if the party spends more than two turns in the same room, a special random encounter check is rolled. If the d6 comes up 1 or 2, this special monsters or ghostly NPCs or something, appears, causing a drawback: “You are under arrest”, “You smell tasty”, “It smells funny, please make a saving throw versus poison; if you fail, you fall asleep”; falling asleep is too boring, though. Maybe this gas contains some mutagen agent which modifies the PC’s DNA, causing a mutation. Don’t abuse this or it becomes more boring than the alternative.

Rival party

Describe a few areas showing traces of another party of adventurers in the same dungeon. “It’s clear this party is not being methodical, but reckless, they really want to get to the treasure sooner than you. What are you gonna do?” The rival party works better if you introduce it, or its leader, beforehand, without specifying what its role in the campaign will be.

Rival Party

You’re not supposed to explore every inch

This works better in a wizard tower or a more linear dungeon, but with a lot of dedication, it can be used in almost any dungeon (but perhaps it’s not worth it). After a period of time, some parts of the dungeon are permanently blocked. For instance, water springs from the bottom of the tower, and you can only explore one or two rooms on each floor before it becomes impossible to explore another and have to go to the next floor; or opening a door permanently seals another, but make sure sealing a room won’t prevent the party to further explore the dungeon or move to the next level; multiple stairs, stairs in hallways, and teleportation pods are helpful.

Make traps reasonable and obvious

Traps should only be put in a room, door or item when it makes sense. Corridors full of traps induce paranoid behavior and should be avoided (unless, of course, it’s a special dungeon of traps or something). I have an ambivalent feeling for visible, obvious traps, I usually prefer classic, hidden traps, but telegraphed traps are useful when you really need to set a faster pace. If your players spend more time searching for traps than doing anything else, maybe obvious traps are for you.

Don’t measure time, measure turns instead

I quote what I wrote in Hidden Shrine of Setebos: “One turn equals a few minutes, maybe ten but that’s not important. Most standard actions take one turn. You don’t have to measure time rigorously. Ignore time, focus on turns.” This means that 6 actions add one hour, it doesn’t matter if six characters take one action each at the same time, in the same room, each one still adds one turn, total six turns or one hour, not because they spent one hour in the room, but because time is fictitious and malleable, which meants that after (6 x 8) 48 actions (specially actions that demand a roll), 8 hours have passed. Let’s just assume there is a lot of dead time between turns and separate actions. I hope it makes sense; in my head it does but it’s not easy to explain.

Overland Travel Time for OSR games

Time

Combat encounters are measured in 6-second rounds (or 10 seconds in some games). Dungeon exploration is measured in 10-minute turns. All that is common knowledge. What I propose here is that overland travel should be measured in 8-hour watches. So, one day of travel is composed of three watches.

Watch Time

Assuming a regular terrain, a party of adventurers can travel 13 km (8 mi) in a watch, or 39 km (24 mi) in 3 watches (24 hours), but this space and time equivalence is an abstraction, since it’s not impossible to continuously march during 24 hours (continuous march.) In reality the total travel time in a day is 8 hours of discontinuous march, as well as 8 hours of sleep and 8 hours of diverse activities (food, rest, hunting, setting up camps, cleaning weapons, repairing equipment, exploring the terrain, surrounding impassable areas, preparing spells, &c.), all of them discontinuously distributed between 3 watches, or 24 hours.

Usually, watches are counted as complete even if only a fraction is considered. For example, if traveling from Townton to Citypolis takes between 16 and 24 hours, we can say that the travel takes 3 watches (up to 8 hours is one watch, more than 8 and up to 16 hours are two watches, more than 16 and up to 24 hours are three watches). Exact time is not important. Travelers will reach their destination at any time during the third watch.

If you need, if you really need to know the exact time, and I mean REALLY, you can use one of the following options. Otherwise, be pragmatic and stick to what’s been said above (it’s funnier!):

Easy Option: Roll a d8. A result of 1 means that travelers arrive during the first hour of the watch; a 2, during the second hour, &c.

Difficult Option: Use math. Take into account that 1 hour equals 1.6 km (1 mi) of discontinuous march, or 4.8 km (3 mi) of continuous march. If the distance was 45 km (28 mi), the travel would have lasted more than 3 watches (3×13 = 39, 39<45) but less than 4 watches (13×4 = 52, 52>45). Subtract the distance per full day (39) from the total distance (45): 45-39 = 6 (in miles, 28-24 = 4) and calculate how many hours or watches you need to travel the remaining fraction (6 km, 4 mi). In this example, we can travel the remaining 6 km in just over one hour without stopping. We don’t use discontinuous march speed because the fourth travel watch corresponds to the first watch of the second day. As the adventurers have just started the day, there’s no point in stopping to rest when the destination is in sight. If the arrival was during the second or third watches, or the destinations is not visible or otherwise unknown to the travelers, it would be reasonable to use discontinuous march speed, that is, rest, eat, &c. The fraction of 6 km, at a rate of 1.6 km per hour, would take 3 hours and 45 minutes to travel.

Actions in a Watch

The referee can roll random encounters or special events from 1 to 3 times per watch (adjusted to their campaign world’s necessities or preferred style.) Time during non-combat encounters is best kept in abstract, not affecting the 8-hour period, unless it becomes a really long encounter, like going into a dungeon or visiting a town, since the adventurers will spend a long time there. “Long time” also being an abstraction, anything from several hours to several days.

Food and Rations

Eating Rations: At least once per day. To keep things simple, each day, during the first watch, everyone in the party has to take one ration. Those who don’t will get a penalization of -1 to all rolls up to one watch after they eat. The next day, if again they don’t eat, this penalty increases to -2, and they lose 2 points of Constitution. The third day, this penalty increases to -3, and another 2 points of Constitution are lost. These detrimental effects continue to progress until the victim takes a ration and perhaps takes a rest (for a full watch other than their 8 hours of sleep, for a full day including sleep, or whatever makes sense.)

Food and Water: Bookkeeping is boring. Don’t separate water and food. Instead, keep rations abstracted as a combination of water and food (fruit and vegs, carbs and starches, dairy, protein, sugars and fats, water; it’s all included in tour rations.)

Scavenging: For each day of travel, one player (and only one player) rolls a d6. In a 1, the party found and collected enough food and water to make 1d6 rations. This activity is done during travel, so it doesn’t hinder advance. If a character has points in Bushcraft*, roll that instead, reduced in half, rounded down (1 to 3 points equal 1-in-6 chance; 4 and 5 points are 2-in-6 chance; 6 points are 3-in-6 chance.)

Forage and Hunting: During the first watch of any day of travel, one player rolls a d6. In a 1 or 2, the party successfully found enough food and water to produce 1d6 rations. If this activity is engaged in, traveling is not possible for the day, and an extra wandering monsters or random encounters check is done while the group is hunting or foraging. If a character has points in Bushcraft*, roll that instead, without penalty.

*LotFP skill system. You can easily adapt this to other systems, just be consistent.

Download as PDF.

It’s a Trap! To Roll or Not To Roll?

I just read that on r/osr and it made me think.

How to deactivate or avoid a trap without making a roll? Is it possible? Of course it is, let’s look at some examples:

Referee: To one side of the road there are bushes with wild berries. They look delicious.
Player A: I approach and start collecting blackberries.
Referee: A snake bites you. You are dead.
Player A: Oh, come on!
Player B: With a ten foot pole I examine the bushes for any dangers.
Referee: When lifting the pole, a snake has curled into it.
Player B: I throw the pole like a javelin and collect berries.

Referee: There’s some haze but you can see the bridge well.
Player A: I advance to the other side.
Referee: You fall and die.
Player A: What?
Player B: I advance slowly so as not to slip.
Referee: You get to the other side without problems.

Referee: In front of you there is a door.
Player A: I open it.
Referee: You activate a trap. You feel the needle, but you are dead before your body hits the ground.
Player A: Fuck you!
Player B: I look at the lock for traps.
Referee: You don’t see anything.
Player B: I use my lockpicks to try to disarm the trap, if there is one.
Referee: You trigger the trap. You are dead.
Player B: Why? It’s not fair!
Referee: Okay, you disarmed it.
Player A: It’s not fair! You killed me, and you let him live!?

There it is. Traps without throwing dice. Lovely, ennit?

In the first two cases, success is automatic if players take some precautions, but then failure is also automatic if they do not. Is it unfair? No. No, it’s not. It’s not unfair but it might seem so and people’s feelings might get hurt. Adjudication made sense in both cases, but from the players’ perspective, it can seem arbitrary.

In the third case it’s more difficult to adjudicate success or failure by just following the fiction, since suspecting that there is a trap and trying to deactivate it, is no guarantee that it will be deactivated. Both success and failure feel arbitrary, unfair, and even like cheating. A referee’s job should be easier.

That’s why baby jesus invented dice rolls

When players fail after making a dice roll, they won’t (usually) blame the referee or believe that their failure is an injustice, but a product of chance—although in reality it is not (only) chance: A failure isn’t the fault of a bad roll but of a bad decision. You can always choose not to cross the bridge, not to collect berries, not to open the door, doing something else instead, and return later, when you have made preparations, purchased potions, or whatever.

If we follow the rules of the game (as we are supposed to), Mr. Player A will have the opportunity to make a Save versus Poison to avoid dying from the snake bite, and a Save versus Paralysis to avoid falling into the abyss. And both players will have the opportunity to disarm the lock trap with a successful Tinkering roll (or equivalent), and to avoid damage if this roll is failed, making a Save versus Poison; they could even have a bonus to the first roll if they have tools (such as Player B).

Last words

Sometimes you really have to throw dice to discover or disarm a trap (like the proverbial poisonous needle in a door lock), and to avoid damage (or dying) if the first roll was failed.

Other times the trap is evident (such as the slippery bridge) and it only requires one roll to avoid its effect, and success can be automatic (at the referee’s discretion) if appropriate measures are taken (such as walking slowly, wearing mountaineering boots, &c).

Finally, at times the trap is discovered and deactivated by performing a specific action (such as the snake between the bushes with a pole), and would only require a roll to avoid the effect if activated.

A little advertising

Get a good book of traps! It’s a collection of a bunch books written by Steve Crompton and others, published by Flying Buffalo back in the 80s and 90s, reprinted here by Goodman Games. The first is also an affiliated link, so I might earn a few silver coins if many of you buy the PDF (which I will use to buy more RPG books).

1d10 things you find when you walk the line between good and evil and open a door without caution

In LotFP it’s pretty common to find weird shit. I bring you 1d10 things you find when you walk the line between good and evil and open a door without caution. You know, when you didn’t search for traps and the like.

Roll 1d10

  1. Alien Sex Fiend
  2. Mine’s Full of Maggots
  3. Instant Karma Sutra
  4. Ignore The Machine
  5. Wild Women
  6. Black Rabbit
  7. Eat! Eat! Eat!
  8. Breakdown And Cry
  9. Here Cum Germs
  10. B – B – Bone Boogie

Descriptions

Alien Sex Fiend

Armour: 12
Hit Dice: 4
Movement: 120′ (40′)
Attacks: Eye Beam or Warp Speech
Damage: d8 or d4 Int
Morale: 9

Like a Cousin Itt formed of toxic green dildos, going bald. It’s black and resembles a bowler hat.

Eye Beam: Shoots pink rays through the (concealed) eyes for a d8 damage.

Warp Speech: It emits a warped sounds that harms your mind, dealing d4 Int temporary damage. You recover one point per day you don’t engage in adventuring activities, plus an additional point if in complete isolation.

Mine’s Full of Maggots

The door opens to a mine’s gallery full of maggots. Save vs death or die buried under tons of maggots.

Instant Karma Sutra

Yes, your are fucked… save or die.

You activated a trap. A sharp pointy stick comes from the ground below you, penetrating your soft skin, intestines, lungs and, finally, brain. Unless you succeed the saving throw, of course.

Ignore The Machine

You hear a robotic voice telling you forbidden things. Save vs magic device to ignore it. Fail and you’ll be mentally irradiated and suffer a mutation. Roll d4:

  1. Take your lowest ability, substitute it with your Int. If Int was your lowest, then reduce it in one point.
  2. Your pores constantly suppurate a wild green fiendish liquid. When you make a melee attack and hit your enemy, he must save vs poison or take an additional damage of d4. Whoever has physical contact with you suffers the same damage.
  3. Information overload! Gain Int 18. Also, you no longer care any more. About nothing! You are the true neutral, you break allegiance to either Chaos or Law, you fucking nihilist. You are still controlled by the same player, but won’t pursue evil or good goals per evil’s or good’s sake. You will only just because, because dying and living is the same, you might as well act, it really helps to break the monotony.
  4. Oops! Wrong planet. You suddenly remember you are not human. What you actually are, it’s up to your referee, but it will be something nasty and alien and super cool.

Wild Women

When the next encounter escalates into violent conflict, all the women in the party go wild, receiving a +2 to their attacks and an extra Hit Die for the duration of the encounter.

Black Rabbit

An obsidian earring in the shape of an stylized moon and rabbit. The wearer gets a +1 to their Dex-related rolls, and a +1 AC penalty.

Eat! Eat! Eat!

A savage, zombie-like hunger fills you. You buddies look tasty, by the way. Attack! And eat them.

Breakdown And Cry

Save vs paralysis or, during your next combat you will remember something you don’t want to talk about, then breakdown and cry, losing d4 rounds.

Here Cum Germs

You breathe in a gas cloud. Save vs poison or contract a disease. Starting the next day, after making an attack you must save vs poison or lose 1d3 rounds due to cough (if you have a shield, during this time it doesn’t provide its armor bonus). This effect persists for d4 + 2 days.

B – B – Bone Boogie

Armour: 14
Hit Dice: Special (see below)
Movement: 120′ (40′)
Attacks: Weapon
Damage: Per weapon
Morale: 8
Architecture: 5 in 6

Looks like a regular skeleton, but it speaks with a stuttering, rattling voice. It’s actually intelligent, more NPC than monster. If one player character has recently died, this guy can be a good replacement.

Hit Dice: As you see fit, specially as a replacement character, in which case, ask the player to roll a new character, then only reskin it as a stuttering skeleton with natural armor of 14 (as Leather) and starting Architecture skill of 5. Remove any racial skills and features (like surprise for elves or Bushcraft for halflings).

Inspiration: Alien Sex Fiend

Artwork: Alien Sex Fiend, Toonclips

Grapple rules?

Grapple rules are silly. They don’t work. Or not too well, anyway. They are complicated and unnecessarily so. But the game, at least most games based on B/X D&D, include a mechanics that would emulate grappling in an easy way: Saving Throw versus Paralyzation.

So instead of trying to make sense of those obscure and complex rules, do the following:

  1. The character who tries to grapple doesn’t roll, it’s the victim who makes a roll: a saving throw versus Paralyzation. If the ST is successful, the grapple doesn’t occur. But if it occurs, the victim loses their own action for that round (if he hadn’t used it yet.)
  2. Every round after the first, on their respective actions, the attacker can deal damage (1 hp if only applying strength; more if it’s a vampire or has sharp fangs or claws), and the victim can try to break the grapple with a new saving throw (maybe with a cumulative penalty of -1).

Old-School Saving Throws Are Rad!

Old-School saving throws tell you against what you are defending; the “how” is left to your imagination.

Like everything in these games, saving throws are a mechanism and not a narrative; the player rolls the dice and the player or referee interprets the result (success or failure) according to the context, or he can ignore the interpretation and it doesn’t matter, the game moves on.

For example, an attack roll doesn’t represent the same in all cases; if successful, it can represent different forms of attack and defense made in a round: thrust, feint, riposte, swing, parry … The important thing is that the dice tell you if you succeed or not, whereas the form of the attack (the “how”) is irrelevant. It’s up to the players to describe it or ignore it and move on with the adventure.

The same applies to saving throws.

While, since 3e, the saving throws tell you the “how” (a reflex save meaning that the character throws himself aside to dodge an attack, a fortitude save meaning the character receives the attack but resists it as would a boxer being punched, a willpower save meaning … well, who knows what the hell it means, that your soul is hard as steel, perhaps?*), old-school saving throws are a mechanic to represent what you are defending against and what are your chances of success, leaving you the responsibility to describe the way your character does it (a responsibility, however, completely negligible).

Thus, we have the 5 categories of old school saving rolls, specifically Basic/Expert Sets (B/X, BECMI), and most OSR retrcolcones, like Labyrinth Lord and Old-School Essentials:

  • Death Ray or Posion
  • Magic Wands
  • Paralysis or Turn to Stone
  • Dragon Breath
  • Rods, Staves or Spells

And these are the categories of AD&D 1e:

  • Paralyzation, Poison or Death Magic
  • Petrification or Polymorph
  • Rod, Staff or Wand
  • Breath Weapon
  • Spell

And, just for fun, those of LotFP:

  • Paralyzation
  • Poison
  • Breath Weapon
  • Magical Device
  • Magic

Although the categories vary from one version to another, the mechanics are identical: you make a saving throw when you are in imminent danger. In normal combat, if an enemy attacks you with his sword, your AC protects you, which not only represents your armor, but also your ability to defend in combat.

But in the face of other dangers, such as a dragon that throws you fire, a basilisk that looks you in the eye, ingesting poison or being the target of a spell (or magic wand), your AC (defense capability plus armor, remember?) does not come into play, but you still have a chance, even if it is small, to avoid damage.

Save Versus Something

Save versus Poison. The adventurer probably did nothing to avoid dying poisoned, the roll is passively successful, the reason he didn’t die can be anything from the poison having no effect or the creature failing to inject it to the adventurer being immune to this specific poison, even divine intervention, or maybe those luminous mushroomes he ate that morning neutralized all toxins.

In 3e, this saving throw would be a fortitude save, and in 5e, a constitution save (which come to be the same, actually). This can only be interpreted in one way: the poison didn’t kill the adventurer due to a powerful immune system.

Of course, the old-school allows this same interpretation, but not only this; it gives you the freedom to interpret the numbers as you see fit.**

Save versus Spells. A damn magic-user attacks you with a fireball. To avoid damage (or, well, half the damage), in 3e or 5e you must make a reflex or dexterity save, meaning that you dodge the fireball (the spell’s description makes this interpretation unlikely, though), but in the old-school we really don’t know how you do it other thank making a save versus Spells (i.e. we only know the mechanic, but we are not offered a narrative interpretation***); maybe the agile thief jumps to the side, yes, but think about that heavy fighter with full armor, can he really dodge? Most likely his armor protects him, but if the idea of a hot metal armor not causing severe damage bothers you, then you can say that he used his sword to deflect the explosion, or he punched the ball of fire like those Dragon Ball fighters do all the time.

Now imagine that you are on a cliff, there is no space to dodge without falling from a great height (and no doubt die), but anyway you make a successful saving throw. Did you dodge the attack? I don’t think so. In the case of a magic-user or an elf, it’s easy to imagine that they know a mystical handsign that works to counter or deflect a spell, reducing (or denying when appropriate) its effectiveness.

The thief and halfling are lucky and that strange, outer, chaotic force known as luck interferes with the spell, reducing its effectiveness. A cleric is protected by his faith (which is another form of magic, or anti-magic if you consider magic as something unholy). The fighter, like the dwarf, relies more on his instinct, his strength, his ability, and in general “sheer defiance”, all of these tangible or demonstrable things, not abstract, philosophical things like magic, and that confidence makes them face magic with disdain, reducing its effectiveness.


* It doesn’t matter, the game moves on.

** Of course you can interpret 3e and 5e saves in any way you see fit.

*** To be honest, 1e offers both a narrative option (“Defensive Adjustment refers to the penalty or bonus applicable to a character’s saving throws against certain forms of attack [such as fire ball, lightning bolts, etc.] due to dodging ability.” PHB, p. 11) and the old-school option (“If some further rationale is needed to explain saving throws versus magic, here is one way of looking at it … A character under magical attack is in a stress situation, and his or her own will force reacts instinctively to protect the character by slightly altering the effects of the magical assault … So a character manages to avoid the full blast of the fireball, or averts his or her gaze from the basilisk or medusa, or the poisonous stinger of the giant scorpion misses or fails somehow to inject its venom. Whatever the rationale, the character is saved to go on.” DMG, p. 81)