In a recent episode of my podcast I discussed the upcoming CSI Greater Lunden LOTFP Midderlands game that I’m going to be running (starting in July). To help give my players a grounding in the setting and hopefully get the creative juices flowing I created a handout for them:Continue reading “CSI Greater Lunden Player Handout”
In this episode of the podcast I discuss what I’ve been up to recently and the upcoming Midderlands game I’m going to be starting in July:
Title Music Shinigami by XTaKeRuX:
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We’ve recently wrapped up season one of our Lamentations of the Flame Princess Midderlands Campaign, as of the time of writing we’ve already started season two, which has seen the timeline move forward by ten years and a switch to the For Coin & Blood rule set.
Season One charts the rise and fall of the Locke Adventuring Company,
During their adventures they made allies among the people of Porthcrawl, enemies of many fierce creatures, many friends were lost along the way, but they never stopped striving to push forward against adversity in the spirit of their deceased namesake Edwin Locke.
Over twenty sessions chart the rise and fall of the Locke Adventuring Company, these are all available to watch on Youtube or Twitch.
Twitch PlaylistWatch Rose of Westhaven – Season 1 from RedDiceDiaries on www.twitch.tv
Disclaimer: This post and the mechanics within are based around the rules for aging that appear in LotFP, I’ve not tested it with other OSR systems, but I believe it would work with some minor tweaking.
This post talks about an alternative I’ve started using for level-draining creatures in my game and why I chose to do so.
What’s the problem with level-drain?
So you might ask me why I don’t just use level-draining creature as is, there are a number of potential issues with it IMO:
- All the hard work of attaining levels can be removed with a few unlucky dice rolls.
- Depending on the creature it can slay even very touch PCs extremely quickly.
- It can create a party imbalance if only a few of the characters get level-drained.
You could say that these things are what make level-draining creatures so scary, and that threatening the player’s precious XP and levels is sure to put the fear of God into them, and there is certainly an argument to be made in that regard, however for me I think that there’s already a threat to players XP and levels, it’s called death and occurs with enough regularity in a lot of OSR games that you don’t need a quick-acting, super death in the form of level-drainers.
An Alternate Suggestion
Noah Stevens got in touch with me on Facebook (thanks Noah) to say “I don’t know. The argument that SuperDeath is too harsh seems to me to be sort of flat when Resurrection and Reincarnation abound” and that “a couple of years here n there are nothing.”
Certainly a valid viewpoint and I can understand how the easy available of resurrection would lessen the impact of level-drain, however to the best of my knowledge such magic is not commonly availabe in LotFP (although I understand that the commonality of it varies depending on the OSR system in question), regardless I tend not to allow it at all in my own games. Without delving into the subject–which could be a series of blog articles on it’s own–I believe it lessens risk and therefore sense of achievement when the PCs triumph.
The exact amount of ‘aging’ that a PC gets from being hit by this version of Level Drain is a very good point, and i’ll admit that I’ve erred on the side of caution starting with 2D6 years, I am considering upping this to 5+2D10 years in future.
So what can we replace it with?
Well before we can replace it, I think we need to ask ourselves a couple of very important questons:
What does Level Drain represent?
The D&D3.5 SRD describes level drain attacks as “sapping a living opponent’s vital energy”, the very name of the ability (sometimes also known as Energy Drain) paints a picture of a foul monster literally drained the vitality and life out of an opponent, reducing them to a withered lifeless husk.
What is the purpose of Level Drain in game?
I think Level Drain serves a few useful purposes in OSR-style games (and probably modern D&D as well):
1. It frightens the players and places their characters in peril.
2. It ramps up the threat, circumventing the often lengthy process of whittling down HP.
3. It creates a vampiric feel to the creature they are attacking (especially since it’s often undead possessing this ability).
My replacement version
This was a problem I faced recently when prepping for my Rose of Westhaven campaign (which is run using LotFP in the Midderlands setting), my PCs are exploring a large underground cavern system with a river flowing through it, attempting to locate the source of water pollution causing trouble for the Town of Blymouth (for those not in the know, the Middlerlands is a twisted, green-tinged version of the United Kingdom, I highly recommend you check it out here). As I was creating the dungeon I placed the undead remnants of an ancient Goman (the Midderlands thinly veiled version of Romans) battalion in there, lead by Caius Veridius a Wight.
I’ve built up a small stock of OSR books now, so finding Wight stats wasn’t difficult, but they all seemed to involve Energy/Level Drain and–like I said earlier–I have a few issues with it, apart from that though I really like the creature and the concept of it. As I was leafing through my LotFP corebook looking for some inspiration, I stumbled across the aging system in Lamentations.
The way aging works in Lamentations is that when your character reaches a certain age you have to make a Saving Throw verses Poison at regular intervals (determined by your species), if the roll is failed then you lose a point off a random stat:
|Elf||Elves don’t age||Elves don’t age||Elves don’t age||Elves don’t age|
The rules also specify that anyone aged by magical means has to make all Saving Throws that would have need to be made if the aging had occurred naturally immediately, with any ability score penalties also being applied immediately.
This seems like a great way of representing Energy Drain to meet, what better way to represent the life-force being leeched out of you than by reducing a strong, burly warrior to a decrepit, aging husk in the space of a few moments. Not really having clear guidelines on how to pitch this I decided to have the Wight age a character by 2D6 years when they hit, in addition to the normal damage, although–in hindsight–since most characters tend to start in their prime and humans don’t even start making rolls until they hit 40, I may up this a little in the future.
Another cool thing that came out of this during the session was that the players tried to bar a door against the Wight, and I decided that–since the Wight could age things–that it would use it’s abilities to rot the wooden door and pursue them, it also gave me some cool visuals for the lair with everything rusting and in a state of decay.
One thing that a player brought up–and that I hadn’t considered–is what is the maxium age of the various species in the game, I couldn’t find any real guidelines for this in LotFP (save that Elves are immortal) so I searched around the internet and found maxium age figures on the 3.5SRD), which suggested the following.
|Species||Maximum Age (in years)|
|Elves||Do not age and are effectively immortal.|
My First Thoughts
Okay, so you may or may not be aware–based on whether or not you’ve read Eldritch Cock James Edward Raggi IV’s FreeRPG supplement for Lamentations of the Flame Princess–that there is a second edition of LotFP in the works for some date in the distant future. The Eldritch Cock supplement features two pages of playtest rules that are currently under consideration for inclusion in a 2E of my current favourite OSR system.
Readers are invited to submit their feedback so I thought that I’d put mine into a blog article.
Aims of the New Rules
According to the document the aims of the new rules are as follows:
…keep things fresh and accentuate how LotFP is different from other superficially similar games without creating an edition war.
The process of play should remain the same…
Backwards compatability is a must…
The six perennial D&D attributes are still there and, essentially, the player rolls 3D6 for each ability in turn and receives modifiers based on their score as per the standard LotFP and other OSR-style games. The idea seems to be that each Ability Score should have more of an impact on the game than previously.
How Much do we Need Ability Scores to Affect the Game?
It’s no great secret that in many OSR games your stats only have a very minor effect on the game, perhaps boosting your attack modifier a little, maybe giving you the odd additional Hit Point here and there or–if you’re using a system like LotFP that incorporates skills–perhaps giving you the odd skill boost. I’ve never really seen this as a problem in OSR games because many of the games focus on the “rulings over rules” style that is often discussed in this style of gaming.
For those of you not familiar with it, “rulings over rules” refers to an ethos of not having a specific rule for every possible situation but having a simple flexible set of rules that are almost purposefully vague in some areas, allowing the common-sense of the GM and their group to prevail when it comes to interpreting how to adjudicate situations.
So how do the new rules give a bit more bite to Attribute Scores?
- Charisma: Determines the number of D6 that you roll for your magical based Saving Throws (there only seem to be two types of Saving Throw in the new ruleset, magical and non-magical), the better your score, the more D6s you roll. When you make a Saving Throw, you roll your dice and count how many 6s you’ve rolled, if you get one 6 then you have achieved a partially successful save, if you get two or more 6s then you have made your Save successful. No 6s is a failure.
- Constitution: Determines the dice type that you roll for Hit Points, that’s right, your HP is no longer based on your class but on an Attribute, ranging from D4s up to D12s (if you’re lucky enough to have a CON of 17-18).
- Dexterity: This Attribute determines what dice type you roll for Initiative.
- Intelligence: Determines how many Skill Points you begin with. Although the focus of LotFP’s simple skill system has always been the Specialist Class, with everyone else having low or limited ranks in the various game skills, in these new rules your non-Specialist character at least gets a few points to spread around between the various skills.
- Strength: Determines how many items equal 1 Encumbrance Point. The way encumbrance works in LotFP is that a certain number of items equals an encumbrance point, you work out how many encumbrance points you are carrying and this affects your movement and abilities in certain situations. Previously this number was set, in the new rules however, the higher your Strength score, the more items you will be able to carry.
- Wisdom: Works in a similar way to Charisma but for the purposes of non-magical Saving Throws.
I quite like the idea of the Attribute Scores having more of an impact on the game, especially when–as seems to be the case here–they do so without adding a great deal of unnecessary complexity to the game. Rolling a different dice or calculating encumbrance in a slightly different way doesn’t (in my opinion) add additional complexity, nor can I see how it would slow down the game much.
Character Classes & Gaining Levels
Only the following classes exist in the new rules:
- Specialist (this is the LotFP version of the Thief Class, sort of…)
That’s right, only three classes, the Cleric and the three demihuman classes (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) have been axed in the new edition, the demihumans because apprently “this aint Tolkien” and the Cleric because “the existence of divine power defines the cosmology of an individual campaign that is best left to the Referee, not a game publisher”. These two viewpoints seem a bit of a contradiction in terms, on one hand telling you that the game definitely does not involve demihumans and putting a stern foot down, whilst on the other hand saying that it doesn’t want to impose it’s viewpoint, allowing the GM the freedom to do or do not as they see fit.
Perhaps this is the author representing the fundamental differences between everything having a Lawful plan which all things must bend towards and the churning, bubbling froth of chaos that tears down walls and allows ultimate freedom (to paraphrase the alignment descriptions from the LotFP corebook), but it must be remembered that these are only potential playtest rules. Although I remember hearing ages ago (before ever reading Eldritch Cock) that Raggi wanted to get rid of Clerics at some point and his opinion on demihumans is well known so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the author is sharpening his axe for them as well.
I suspect that this is going to divide the audience somewhat, I certainly know that–preparing for the game I’m planning to start soon–when I put it to the players they were quite keen to keep the demihumans and the Clerics. I can certainly see why this is the case, although their exclusion wouldn’t bother me terribly, they have been part of D&D and OSR games for many, many years. That said, it’s not terribly difficult to house-rule those classes to work in the new rules, I suspect the only difficulty–assuming you’re concerned with it–is that the demihumans (particularly the Elves) tended to be balanced by requiring more XP to level-up. In the new system it takes a flat 2,500XP to reach second level and double the xp required for each subsequent level.
Fighters get to roll their HP dice twice and pick the highest results at first level where the others get to roll once, giving the Fighter clear advantage when it comes to potential HP totals at first level, which makes sense. When characters advance in level they roll their new number of Hit Dice and–if the total is higher than their existing number of Hit Points–they up their total to the new number, otherwise it remains the same. I’ve encountered this rule before in the OSR sci-fi game Star Without Number written by Kevin Crawford and am a huge fan of it, since the number of dice you roll increases with each level the tendency is for your total HP to creep steadily up, however it isn’t guaranteed at each level and slows down the onset of superhero syndrome, where the PCs have enough HP to shrug injuries that would fell lesser men.
Essentially in the game there are now four categories of combat bonus:
Fighters gain +2 in each of these categories at first level and +1 in each category per level, whereas other character classes get +1 in Firearms and +1 in one of the other categories (chosen randomly); the higher combat proficiency of the Fighter Class makes sense, however the emphasis on Firearms for the other classes is a little confusing and may hint at a great involvement for firearms in this edition. Previously they were jammed at the back as an appendix, I love these rules to bits and wouldn’t run LotFP without using blackpowder firearms, but I’m guessing that these rules are going to be bought more centre-stage in the 2E of LotFP.
Like a lot of rules in this, and other, OSR systems there are a lot of random elements in this (rolling your Attributes, randomly determining where attack bonuses go, etc), some people may love this, others no so much. Again though it’s not difficult to allow people to jiggle their Attribute scores around and allow them to pick which attack category they get a bonus in.
Guarding is an interesting idea and replaces the Parry rules from the current edition of LotFP, essentially when a person chooses to Guard, they gain an AC bonus equal to their level plus their Guard rating. I like this, it’s nice and simple and gives all the Classes a way to fight defensively if they want to; however the second paragraph talks about choosing to Guard out of Initiative order and only getting half the level rounded up, plus their Guard rating, this seems unnecessary and I’m not sure it would add a lot to a game. Personally I’m not a fan of Initiative interrupts since I think that they make combats lengthier and clunkier, but it’s not exactly difficult to omit this bit.
Holding an Action
These rules allow a character to hold an action until an enemy takes a particular action then interrupt (with various penalties). As you can see above, I’m not a fan of turn interrupts, but I’d be interested to see if and how this actually works in a combat.
All weapons now do D8 damage, armour counts double against Minor and Small Weapons and half against Great Weapons and Polearms. This is interesting and seems to jibe in well with the existing weapon categories, sticking closely to the 2E rule-set’s guideline of “reverse compatibility”, although I’m not sure how it would work on Ranged Weapons and Firearms since they are not currently grouped into the same abstract categories.
In my own upcoming game I’ve chosen to ignore this rule and stick with the 1E weapon damages and rules.
The next section of the playtest rules focusses on LotFP’s simple skill system; previously Skill tests were determined by rolling a D6 and trying to get equal to or below your score, in the playtest rules you roll a D6, add your skill rank and are attempting to score a 6 or above to be successful. Each skill starts at a +0 bonus with characters receiving a +3 and a +2 bonus allocated randomly to two skills. Characters get bonus skill points (or lose them) based on their Intelligence score, Specialists get four +1s to allocate to skills of their choice and a further +2 points at every level thereafter.
There are also some additional Skills added:
- Leadership: This skill allows you to modifer hireling morale checks, a successful Skill Check providing a +2 bonus to a morale check and a failed roll giving a -2 penalty.
- Luck: Grants the player a number of re-rolls equal to their ranks in the skill per session.
- Medicine: Allows you to double the effects of healing naturally, although a failed roll on the seriously injured can result in serious consequences. Personally I find this a bit limp, I’d just have a successful roll heal D4 + the ranks in the skill or something similar, but I can see why the author doesn’t want this to become a super-skill that negates the danger of taking damage.
- Seamanship: There’s very little description to this skill beyond that it is going to be some sort of Bushcraft on the High Seas style skill, there are going to be some forthcoming rules related to this and I wouldn’t be surprised to sea them take a more central role given the authors obvious fondness for naval exploits (we can see this with how much coverage they get in the original LotFP rulebook).
This section was a little confusing, we’ve already been told that the number of dice rolled for Magic and Non-Magic Saving Throws are adjudicated by various Attribute Scores, given that the difficulty of Saving Throws is no longer based on rolling above a number but on how many 6s you roll, it seems as though their isn’t much point in the current Saving Throw classes, you really only need two (Magic and Non-Magic). Some parts of the playtest rules seem to imply this, whilst others make reference to the previous Saving Throw categories from 1E LotFP, so I’m not sure where the author is going with this, however I suspect it’ll get straightened out in the future.
So, what do I think?
I think that the rules are very interesting, some (like the Attribute, Skill and Combat Rules) I’m a big fan of, whereas others (such as Holding an Action and Weapon Damage) I’m not so fond of. For my own upcoming game we’ve made a few tweaks and ignored the Weapon Damage rules, I’ve produced a small character generation guidebook incorporating the new rules that we’re going to be using and look forward to trying them out.
In this podcast episode, Lloyd, Dennis, Mathew and myself discuss some of the potential issues and pitfalls surrounding getting a new campaign off the ground.
You can find the uncut version here:Watch Podcast Live & Uncut: Getting a Camaign Started from RedDiceDiaries on www.twitch.tv
The edited (audio only) version is also available on Anchor:
Shinigami by XTaKeRuX:
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The edited version of our recent podcast recording “Over-production in RPGs” is now available on Anchor, I’m joined by Johannes Paavola, Mathew Bryan, Andre Martinez and Dennis Bach.
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Shinigami by XTaKeRuX:
Used under creative commons licence:
In the latest episode of the podcast I answer some voicemail messages about previous installments and muse on an idea I’ve been considering for my Rose of Westhaven campaign:
Music on Podcast Title
Shinigami by XTaKeRuX:
Used under creative commons licence:
Rules for dealing with black market trading in LOTFP and other OSR games.
Trading and buying equipment is often something that gets glossed over in RPGs, and quite rightly so in my opinion since doing a bit of shopping doesn’t really compare to the heroic (and not so heroic) deeds that PCs engage in during the rest of their adventuring career. I’ve done it myself recently in my own campaign game, the players rocked up to the City of Blymouth to buy some gear and–wanting to get on with the rest of the adventure–I pretty much said “Yeah, if you can see it on the equipment list then you can buy it at city prices.”
It did get me thinking though, one of the things I’d half had in mind for Blymouth (since the high taxes that Duke Salt imposes on the citizens was mentioned in the Midderlands Expanded book) was that there would be a thriving black market economy. But how best to represent this without every shopping trip turning into a mission on it’s own?
I also wanted the black market expedition to have an element of both randomness and player-choice in it. With that in mind I’ve put together the following set of rules for Black-marketeering:
Stages of Black-Marketeering
In order to gain access and trade on the black market the PCs must go through the following stages (each of which is covered in more detail later in the article):
- Locating a black-market vendor.
- Purchasing the item/assessing it’s quality.
Locating a Black Market Vendor
In order to use the black market, the PCs must first make contact with it; if they have already had dealings with a named contact in the current settlement and are on good terms with them then they can do this automatically.
If the PCs do not have a named contact they are on good-terms with then they must make a Charisma check to locate an appropriate vendor, the player-character’s Sleight of Hand score is added to their Charisma for the purposes of this check (to represent familiarity with the underworld).
For example: Michael Childs is a suave thief with a Charisma of 15 and a Sleight of Hand score of 3-in-6; when making his roll to contact the black market he counts as having a Charisma score of 18.
If the player succeeds on the roll then they locate a black market vendor without any problems, if they fail then something has gone wrong; roll 1D6 on the following table to find out what.
|1-2||The PCs are spotted by the watch and are approached by a group of town-guard, if they can't talk their way out of it then the PCs will be fined 1D6x50SP. If they cannot–or refuse–to pay the fine then the guards will attempt to apprehend them and throw them in debtors prison.|
|3-4||The PCs locate a vendor, but he is actually a thug with some of his fellows lurking nearby, as they are discussing purchases a group of footpads attempt to disable and rob the PCs.|
|5-6||The PCs fail to find a black market vendor because they are distracted by another event (roll on the random encounter chart for this area).|
Purchasing the Item/Assessing It’s Quality
If the PCs manage to track down a black-market vendor then they are able to locate the item/s they are seeking to purchase, however such vendors are not like more reputable tradesmen, their wares are a jumble of broken, salvaged and cobbled together items.
When purchasing from a black-market vendor the player may choose to take a discount of 10, 20 or 30 percent from the cost of their purchase. Once they have decided on their discount, roll a 1D6 to determine whether or not the item is 100% functional, the chance of this being the case is listed below.
|Discount Taken||Chance of Something wrong with Item|
Please note: This roll must be made for each item purchased.
If there is something wrong with the item that has been purchased, roll on the table below to determine what exactly is amiss with it and consult the table below:
|1||The first time the item is used it falls to pieces immediately afterwards.||The first time the item is used it falls to pieces immediately afterwards.||The first time the item is used it falls to pieces immediately afterwards.||The first time the item is used it falls to pieces immediately afterwards.|
|2-3||The weapon does only half damage.||The armour provides 1 less AC bonus than it should.||The magic item has only half charges or provides 1 less bonus.||The item is evidence in a crime and is being sought by the authorities.|
|4-5||The weapon does only a quarter damage.||The armour provides 2 less AC bonus than it should.||The magic item has only a quarter the charges or provides 2 less bonus.||The item is sought by a powerful villain who will stop at nothing to recover it.|
|6||The item is cursed (as determined by the GM).||The item is cursed (as determined by the GM).||The item is cursed (as determined by the GM).||The item is cursed (as determined by the GM).|
In this episode, Johannes Paavola, Lloyd Gyan and myself talk about combat in RPGs, it’s role, the dynamics of combat and the dreaded topic of dice-fudging.
Music on Podcast Title
Shinigami by XTaKeRuX:
Used under creative commons licence:
You can find the live & uncut version of this recording on Twitch:Watch Podcast Live & Uncut from RedDiceDiaries on www.twitch.tv