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Offline Jack Daniel

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Wrote Up Some House Rules
« on: December 26, 2017, 05:10:15 PM »
Yeah, yeah, I know—it's the DM's equivalent of "let me tell you about my character!"

But… I haven't done this in a really long while.  I mean, not since 2008.  A decade. 

And I'm doing something that I don't normally do here: I'm trying to create a set of house rules that evokes that special "classic D&D vibe" (Middle Earth meets Greyhawk meets the Rules Cyclopedia) while still keeping all the stats low and manageable and the characters from getting too powerful.

I've been listening to Save or Die for many months now, and I'm up to episode 80 or so at the moment—the episode that had Greg Gillespie on finally inspired me to pull the trigger on Barrowmaze Complete, and I'm hoping to use these house rules to run it.  (I could use some advice for those who bother to take a look on how I ought to handle turning undead.)

Anyhoo: here it is, I call it "Dungeons & Dragons 2018"!

Offline DMMike

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Re: Wrote Up Some House Rules
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2017, 07:37:16 PM »
Yeah, yeah, I know—it's the DM's equivalent of "let me tell you about my character!"
Huh...I never thought of it that way, but you are right!


But… I haven't done this in a really long while.  I mean, not since 2008.  A decade. 

And I'm doing something that I don't normally do here: I'm trying to create a set of house rules that evokes that special "classic D&D vibe" (Middle Earth meets Greyhawk meets the Rules Cyclopedia) while still keeping all the stats low and manageable and the characters from getting too powerful.

I've been listening to Save or Die for many months now, and I'm up to episode 80 or so at the moment—the episode that had Greg Gillespie on finally inspired me to pull the trigger on Barrowmaze Complete, and I'm hoping to use these house rules to run it.  (I could use some advice for those who bother to take a look on how I ought to handle turning undead.)

Anyhoo: here it is, I call it "Dungeons & Dragons 2018"!

Downloaded and I'll comment after I give it a quick read. Thanks for listening!

DM (Good at ruling houses) Mike
The Save for Half Podcast: Old School RPGs Reviewed
http://www.saveforhalf.com

Victorious: Steampunk Adventure in the Age of SuperMankind
http://www.victoriousrpg.com

Offline Jack Daniel

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Re: Wrote Up Some House Rules
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2017, 08:44:52 PM »
Cool—thanks, Mike!  (Loving the podcasts, btw, although I've only listed to the C&C episode of "Save for Half" so far.)

Offline DMMike

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Re: Wrote Up Some House Rules
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2017, 08:59:29 AM »
Ok, here's my opinions after an initial read-through:


*  Ouch! Those wound levels start sounding like they're good for the PCs but getting rid of them will be hell at low levels.

* All 1d6? Well, except for that d8. You state "except for fighters, half orcs, etc."; what's the damage when they hit? (Re: explained later)

* I Like the take on cantrips being based on pre-memorized spells. Also Cure spells harming undead.

* Hm. I don't know about the attribute bonus limited to the prime req. My gut says its too limiting to PCs, but you're going for a certain flavor here that such a rule would emphasize. Gotta chew on it.

* I like the attribute penalty for demi-humans to change stats. A subtle advantage to humans.

* Of course, if you've listened to pre-eps130 episodes of Save or Die you know I'm all about Sec. Skills!

* Aha! A use for the d12!

* I guess this Monk will work, but I'm not a big fan of the class. :)

* I always liked the Bardic Legend Lore ability where s/he can act as a Identify MU spell. Makes them more useful. Also like how they're the only ones to get extra languages.

* Not a fan of the Bardic "shift" ability (a la 4E Warlock), but it should work.

* I like how the Sorcerer is very Howard-esque!

* I do like the idea of the spell being a minor spirit, locked in the mind of the caster and trying to get out. A different view of the D&D Vancian magic system.

* Ug. Gnomes. Oh well, I suppose its inevitable. (Aha! discover later that they are really Halflings. I approve!)

* "Conan the Orc"??? :lol:

 
DM (Good at being opinionated) Mike
The Save for Half Podcast: Old School RPGs Reviewed
http://www.saveforhalf.com

Victorious: Steampunk Adventure in the Age of SuperMankind
http://www.victoriousrpg.com

Offline Vile

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Re: Wrote Up Some House Rules
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2017, 09:44:27 AM »
  • What! No thieves? Why, I'd sooner give up fighters. Good call getting rid of clerics, nobody likes those guys.
  • It seems you are nerfing missile weapons even more than they are already, which I guess is in keeping with your S&S vibe (not so much Tolkien, though, who had a healthy respect for bows).
  • Are your cure spells touch-ranged? Is it possible to cast touch spells in melee? If not, they will be of limited utility against the undead.
  • I personally don't like monks, bards, or druids (I don't really see them fitting into medieval fantasy well, either - bards and monks give me an iron age Celtic vibe, and while I love Bruce Lee I won't have his ilk in my pseudo-medieval fantasy. My monks tend to be bookish, spell-casting types.
  • I like the d6-d12-d20 progression (popular in some skirmish war games I have played). However, I'm not sure I like the big breaks in advancement created by the d6. Not too keen on secondary skills, really - if at all, I prefer a more general thing like background or profession.
  • I see you have an archer - but you have weakened ranged weapons. Why this class, then?
  • Amour I like - full plate is a big improvement over plate-and-mail (or whatever platemail is supposed to be).
  • Just an aside, I've never had an issue with demi-humans in an old-school game - very few players seem attracted to them on the whole.
  • Interesting take on the orc, where did that come from? I tend to see hobgoblins like that, though not too heavy on the barbaric side.
  • Why call halflings gnomes?
That's it! Bed-time for me. :)

Offline Jack Daniel

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Re: Wrote Up Some House Rules
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2017, 10:28:09 AM »
Thanks for the commentary, all!

*  Ouch! Those wound levels start sounding like they're good for the PCs but getting rid of them will be hell at low levels.
* All 1d6? Well, except for that d8. You state "except for fighters, half orcs, etc."; what's the damage when they hit? (Re: explained later)
* Hm. I don't know about the attribute bonus limited to the prime req. My gut says its too limiting to PCs, but you're going for a certain flavor here that such a rule would emphasize. Gotta chew on it.
* Of course, if you've listened to pre-eps130 episodes of Save or Die you know I'm all about Sec. Skills!

My "death and dying" rules have served me well for many a year!  And they are indeed a pain for low-level characters to shrug off—but most players are happy to have the chance of death at 0 hp be 11% rather than 100%.

RE: weapon damage, having one-handed weapons dealing 1d6 damage and two-handed weapons dealing 1d8 was actually inspired by the weapon damage table in Greyhawk, which has some rather different damage ratings compared to the way things eventually turned out in Mentzer and the RC, or AD&D.

The idea to have only prime requisites confer ability bonuses, incidentally, was inspired by a similar source: word 'round the web says that when Gary Gygax ran his own OD&D games later in his life, the only bonuses for high ability scores were a +1 for a score of 13 or greater, with the bonus being specific to your class (e.g. only fighters with STR 13+ got a +1 to hit and damage, that sort of thing).

RE: skills, I've heard you rag on non-weapon proficiencies (and their close cousin, RC/Gaz skills) plenty-a-time, but I don't recall having heard anyone on the show address secondary skills!  I love them too and hope the topic comes up soon (somewhere between eps 80 and 130)!  (Incidentally—my own beef with proficiencies isn't that they're too limiting; it's that having them doesn't do anything if you use d20 ability checks for routine actions too.  Bob the fighter has a Tracking proficiency and Joe the fighter doesn't—when Bob the fighter wants to track some footprints, the DM adjudicates it by calling for a Wisdom check; and when Joe wants to follow some different footprints, the DM adjudicates it… by calling for a Wisdom check!  Pointless!)

  • What! No thieves? Why, I'd sooner give up fighters. Good call getting rid of clerics, nobody likes those guys.
  • It seems you are nerfing missile weapons even more than they are already, which I guess is in keeping with your S&S vibe (not so much Tolkien, though, who had a healthy respect for bows).
  • Are your cure spells touch-ranged? Is it possible to cast touch spells in melee? If not, they will be of limited utility against the undead.
  • I personally don't like monks, bards, or druids (I don't really see them fitting into medieval fantasy well, either - bards and monks give me an iron age Celtic vibe, and while I love Bruce Lee I won't have his ilk in my pseudo-medieval fantasy. My monks tend to be bookish, spell-casting types.
  • I like the d6-d12-d20 progression (popular in some skirmish war games I have played). However, I'm not sure I like the big breaks in advancement created by the d6. Not too keen on secondary skills, really - if at all, I prefer a more general thing like background or profession.
  • <snip>
  • Just an aside, I've never had an issue with demi-humans in an old-school game - very few players seem attracted to them on the whole.
  • Interesting take on the orc, where did that come from? I tend to see hobgoblins like that, though not too heavy on the barbaric side.
  • Why call halflings gnomes?

• No thieves as a class.  Anyone can take a thief-like profession as their secondary skill.  I tend to divide thieves into different specialties: burglar (good at sneaking, safe-cracking, and roof-running), grifter (pick-pocketing and smooth-talking), and fence (appraisal, forgery, haggling, and other matters of guild bureaucracy).
• I'm not sure what you mean by nerfing missile weapons, except for my having eliminated the rather fiddly and annoying +1 bonus to hit at close range.  At least for archers, I think that their blanket +2 to hit with missiles more than makes up for that!  And note that my range numbers extend considerably: a bow isn't 70'/140'/210' in my game, it's 70'/210'/630'!  (Although I would only allow a long-range shot out-of-doors, when there is no ceiling to block the arc of the arrow!)
• RE: cure and undead, it's a flavor thing mostly.  Very handy for a druid or bard whacking away at the undead with a staff of healing, though.  1d6 damage from the staff blow itself, and once per individual target you can discharge the healing effect for an extra 2d4 from cure light wounds!
• Early medieval is still medieval!  And frankly Tolkien gives me an Iron Age Celtic cum Saxon vibe far more than the high Gothic of the late Middle Ages.
• Secondary skills are background professions!  :D
• I have the opposite problem with most players: they want to play non-humans by default, and it tends to turn my table into an elfy-dwarfy "alien zoo" rather than the human-centric setting I prefer, if I don't implement a drastic counter-measure.
• Orcs: inspired by the Warcraft and Elder Scrolls versions; that's pretty much it.  If one thinks of goblins and hobgoblins as Tolkien orcs and uruks, and my orky-orcs as the green skinned barbarians-and-shamans variety, I can have them both in my setting, but on opposite sides. :)
• Tolkien has hobbits but no gnomes. Therefore my D&D games shall have gnomes but gno hobbits.



BIG OL' EDIT: So after thinking about turning undead some more, I've made a revision that weakens it a bit from the way I had it previously, but I think I'm pretty satisfied now.  The text now reads:

Quote
Turning Undead: Druids, as priests of nature, typically revile the undead, for they are lifeless and abominable mockeries.  All druids therefore have the ability to “turn” the undead—which is to say, to frighten and demoralize them.  As often as he likes, a druid may spend a round presenting a symbol of authority (like a staff) or sanctity (like mistletoe) and command in a clear and booming voice for the undead to be gone; all undead within 60’ that witness this command must immediately roll a saving throw (penalized at −1 per three full levels of the druid: −1 at 3rd level, −2 at 6th level, etc.) or else become −5 to morale for the rest of the encounter.  (NB, any undead that make their save are immune to turning for the rest of the encounter.)  Undead are usually morale 11 or 12 and thus unlikely to flee a combat; but undead that fall victim to the turning see their morale fall to 6 or 7 and so become apt to break ranks and flee.

If the druid has five or more levels than the undead have hit dice (e.g. skeletons to a 6th level druid, zombies and ghouls to a 7th level druid, etc.), the undead are turned automatically—and if they fail the saving throw, they flee at once as if terrified by magical fear, unwilling to return and fight for at least one turn per level of the druid.  Terrified undead will still fight ferociously if cornered—but a Chaotic druid may be able to cow such undead into surrendering by uttering words in the Chaotic tongue.  Any undead thus made to yield will follow a Chaotic druid as if charmed, for one turn per druid level.

My thinking in implementing a change like this was: I've never liked the turn undead mechanic as written.  Why have special mechanics and a big honking table when the game already has a mechanic for resisting a supernatural effect (saving throws) and a mechanic for deciding when monsters flee (morale)?  Why not just streamline by folding the turning of undead into these already extant mechanics?  Of course, there's a good reason why it works the way it does in the book: clerics can only turn so many hit dice worth of undead with one shot.  I've eliminated that limit here—but I've also made it so that turning isn't usually an immediate effect, but rather something that happens during the battle, once it comes time for the DM to check morale.  Only very weak undead relative to the turning druid flee right away (and I've nixed the whole "destroying undead utterly" thing, which I've never, ever liked), and even then they might yet both make their save and pass a morale check and keep fighting.  Even skeletons are at least a potential threat at any level.

That said, Chaotic druids (usually NPCs anyway) can still charm undead into following them—by speaking to undead in their alignment tongue!  (I've never used that before!)  Parleying with intelligent undead, or whispering to unintelligent undead as if they were animals, in what is effectively D&D's equivalent of the Black Speech of Mordor, seems to me a fine way for an evil priest to turn cornered, terrified, vicious zombies into semi-loyal but still terrified and vicious minions for an hour or two.  Kind of fun (and kind of dangerous).

So… Barrowmaze.  Looking at the PDF and how it says turning works within the barrows and dungeons, it seems like my best bet for adapting its location-specific turning mechanic would be a simple saving throw bonus: all undead encountered within the Barrowmaze are +2 to save vs. being turned, +1 per attempt a specific druid has already made that day (viz. +2 for the druid's first attempt, +3 on the second, +4 on the third, etc.).  Seems easy enough.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2017, 03:46:03 PM by Jack Daniel »

Offline Jack Daniel

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Re: Wrote Up Some House Rules
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2017, 02:09:01 PM »
* Hm. I don't know about the attribute bonus limited to the prime req. My gut says its too limiting to PCs, but you're going for a certain flavor here that such a rule would emphasize. Gotta chew on it.

I've been thinking more about this and I'm kind of torn now.  On the one hand, I really really like the idea of most scores not mattering to most characters of most classes—it helps to take the "numbers" out of the "role-playing game".  And I'm also partial to the rather flavorful notion that only a character of the right class has the training required to properly leverage raw talent into great ability.  It's so very old-school.

On the other hand, my players will doubtlessly balk at the idea of not having even the potential for mods from most of their stats.  So maybe I ought to mirror bottom half of my ability table, and say that a score of 16 to 18 confers a +1 bonus for everybody regardless of class or prime requisites?  It probably won't make much impact to be honest (if anyone rolls a 16+, that score is going wind up being their prime requisite without a doubt!), so maybe I shouldn't be wringing my hands over it so much.

Anyway, my players are on board, Barrowmaze commences this Saturday!  (I'm very excited!)  I've downgraded the Duchy of Aerik to a Barony so that I can slap it down on the blank spot on the map of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, northeast of Specularum and southeast of Threshold and the Kelvin Barony.  (I've also never set a game in Mystara/The Known World—super excited for this!)

Offline DMMike

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Re: Wrote Up Some House Rules
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2017, 03:45:15 PM »
* Hm. I don't know about the attribute bonus limited to the prime req. My gut says its too limiting to PCs, but you're going for a certain flavor here that such a rule would emphasize. Gotta chew on it.

I've been thinking more about this and I'm kind of torn now.  On the one hand, I really really like the idea of most scores not mattering to most characters of most classes—it helps to take the "numbers" out of the "role-playing game".  And I'm also partial to the rather flavorful notion that only a character of the right class has the training required to properly leverage raw talent into great ability.  It's so very old-school.

On the other hand, my players will doubtlessly balk at the idea of not having even the potential for mods from most of their stats.  So maybe I ought to mirror bottom half of my ability table, and say that a score of 16 to 18 confers a +1 bonus for everybody regardless of class or prime requisites?  It probably won't make much impact to be honest (if anyone rolls a 16+, that score is going wind up being their prime requisite without a doubt!), so maybe I shouldn't be wringing my hands over it so much.

Anyway, my players are on board, Barrowmaze commences this Saturday!  (I'm very excited!)  I've downgraded the Duchy of Aerik to a Barony so that I can slap it down on the blank spot on the map of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, northeast of Specularum and southeast of Threshold and the Kelvin Barony.  (I've also never set a game in Mystara/The Known World—super excited for this!)

Post your game somewhere, I'd like to read about how this set of HR's work in-game. IMO, the only 16+ getting a bonus is a good idea and probably the best compromise you can get with the attribute system and the OD&D feel you're striving for. :)

DM (Good at meeting halfway) Mike
The Save for Half Podcast: Old School RPGs Reviewed
http://www.saveforhalf.com

Victorious: Steampunk Adventure in the Age of SuperMankind
http://www.victoriousrpg.com

Offline Jack Daniel

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Re: Wrote Up Some House Rules
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2017, 05:53:09 PM »
Post your game somewhere, I'd like to read about how this set of HR's work in-game. IMO, the only 16+ getting a bonus is a good idea and probably the best compromise you can get with the attribute system and the OD&D feel you're striving for. :)

I shall have to do so.

The first of my players has rolled up a couple of characters, a monk to begin with and a wood elf for a backup.  So far, I like the looks of things.  The stat mods getting a +1 at 16 for non-primes look just fine, and the stat adjustments being 2-for-1 to raise a human's single prime vs. 3-for-1 to raise either of a demi-human's primes worked out exactly as I'd hoped.  It's pretty nifty.