Tag Archives: WCotFP

War Cry of the Flame Princess: Wilderness Travel

I wasn’t happy with all the rambling from my previous post, so here it is again in a more coherent and focused form.

Wilderness travel is one of the things I always wanted to include as a major element of my campaigns but the rules as written in either B/X or LotFP require too much on the spot calculation and conversion of movement speeds in different terrains that I just can’t handle at the table with my ADD when the players are talking about what they are going to do next at the same time. Adding the attack bonus to a d20 roll and subtracting hit points I can manage, but doing divisions and fractions while paying attention to conversations just ends up with me getting brain locked. All my homebrew systems and my choice of LotFP as the system I am using have been done as means to compensate for my impairment in this regard. Making game mechanics more accessible for people with neural impairments is something I’ve never seen anything written about and might be worth dedicating a post or two to in the future.
Last year I already tried my hand at coming up with a simpler and faster solution, but it’s still based on the underlying assumptions of a hexcrawl with way more precision and granularity than I need for Sword & Sorcery adventures. But a great idea for something much better comes once again from Angry-sensei, who just has some kind of gift for making methods that are practical to use instead of being best suited to programm a computer with. There are two big things of beauty in his proposal. The first one is that it doesn’t require a map with precise measurements or any degree of accuracy. In addition to being quite a lot of work for GMs, the current design standard for maps is basically satelite photography which is something that wouldn’t be available to people within most fantasy world but in my own experience also create a sense of the world being fully explored and tamed. Which is the complete opposite you’d want in a mythic bronze age Sword & Sorcery world. Tolkien’s hand drawn map for The Lord of the Rings is what I consider the ideal form of fantasy map. It’s a tool for navigation that provides an idea of the general layout of the lands but also has a level of abstraction that inspires the viewer to wonder what marvelous places might be hidden in all those blank spots that noboy alive has ever set foot in. The second great thing about it is that it works without any calculations and requires only looking up a single number in a simple table. This post is an adaptation of this concept to the rules of LotFP with some tables for actual use in play.

Travel Times and Distances

When a party makes an overland journey, the first step is deciding on the path they want to foollow from their starting point to their destination. The GM then makes a quick rough measurement on the map (which can be as sketchy as you want) or makes a judgement call how long this path is in miles. At the start of each day, the GM decides which type of terrain the party will mostly be travelling through on that day. Knowing the encumbrance rating of the slowest character or pack animal in the party, the GM simply looks up on the following table how many miles the party covers on that day.

Terrain Unencumbered Lightly Encumbered Heavily Encumbered Severely Encumbered
Road 24 miles 18 miles 12 miles 6 miles
Heath/Moor/Plains 16 miles 12 miles 8 miles 4 miles
Desert/Forest/Hills 12 miles 9 miles 6 miles 3 miles
Jungle/Mountains/Swamp 8 miles 6 miles 4 miles 2 miles

Soldiers throughout history have been marching at about 3 miles per hour on good roads, so with 8 hours of marching you get 24 miles per day. While those soldiers would have been encumbered by gear, they also wouldn’t be travelling through untamed wilderness, so I think this table makes a decent enough approximation of plausible travel speeds.

Mounts

Contrary to movies and books, horses do not cover greater distances in a day than a human can. While they can run much faster at short distances, humans (and dogs) are the world’s best endurance runners and can keep on walking with much less need for rest than other animals. The distances covered by humans and horses are about the same. The big important difference is that horses can carry a lot more weight than humans and are much less slowed down by the same loads. Riding and pack animals should have the same movement rates as humanoids but with double or tripple the carrying capacity of an average person for calculating encumbrance,

Water Travel

17 different types of ship with different sailing and rowing speeds, 5 classes of quality, and 9 degrees of weather conditions is a bit more than needed when dealing with travel at this level of abstraction. I reduced it all down to this simple table.

Type Favorable Conditions Average Conditions Unfavorable Conditions
Canoe 24 miles 18 miles 12 miles
River Boat 80 miles 60 miles 40 miles
Sailing Ship, Slow 120 miles 90 miles 60 miles
Sailing Ship, Fast 160 miles 120 miles 80 miles

I’ve done some researching of my own about the speeds of (admitedly modern) sailing ships and the numbers in the Expert rules and LotFP seem to be way off. These numbers for distance travelled in a day are much closer to what you could actually expect from real ships. For canoes the distance is given fr 8 hours, as for marching, but for the others the distance is for a span of 24 hours since they are powered by wind and people can take turns with steering while the others rest. For canoes and river boats favorable and unfavorable conditions means going downstream or upstream. Average conditions would be on lakes. For sailing ships these apply to the weather and the wind in particular. Whether they are favorable or unfavorable can be determined with a simple roll of a d6, with a roll of a 1 or a 6 indicating that less or more distance has been covered that day. On the seas travel distances can vary greatly, but this is a good enough approximation for a game.

Wilderness Encounters

Another suggestion by Angry that I also take pretty much as is is rolling for wilderness encounters by rolling a number of d6 bases on how how much monster traffic is present in an area the party is travelling through on a given day. For every die that rolls a 1 there will be an encounter sometime during the day. At what time during the day and in what terrains these encounters will take place is up to the GM to decide. I got curious and calculated the odds for wilderness encounters with this method:

#d6 Threat Level No Encounters 1 Encounter 2 Encounters 3 Encounters
1 Settled or desolate 83% 17%
2 Wilderness 69% 28% 3%
3 Hostile Wilderness 58% 35% 7% 1%
4 Hostile Patrols 48% 39% 12% 2%

They are not actually as high as I expected. Not having any encounters at all still remains the most likely outcome by a good margin and even at higher threat levels the chance to have multiple encountes in a single day is very low. As Angry explains it in a much more elaborate way, this is actually a pretty nice addition to the regular wilderness encounter rules. It raises the number of factors players have to consider when picking a route to three: “How long would we be at risk at encuntering monsters in that area?”, “How dangerous are the monsters we might encounter in that area?”, and now also “How many monsters are in that area?” Go through the swamp that is choking with giant spiders or risk the shortcut over the mountains where almost all creatures have been killed by a dragon?

I  very much encourage using the rules for foraging and starvation. Carrying a large amount of rations means the party wil be slowed down but make consistent progress each day. Not packing enough rations for the whole journey (to make room for treasure for example) means that the party is travelling lighter and at a faster speed. While finding enough food in the wilderness is relatively easy with a trained specialist or a scout, the time it takes is highly unpredictable and can cause the party to actually make even less progress in a day. It’s a nice layer of added uncertainty that the players can consider in their planning for wilderness journeys.

Since more than a single encounter per day is very unlikely even in the more crowded regions, the encounter tables should be stocked in a way that there is real danger for the party. If the players have no reason to expect the possibility of a character dying or the party getting captured then they also have no incentive to hurry up, making the whole exercise of wilderness encounters moot.

Encounter Distances

If an encounter happens, use this table to determine the distance as which surprise rolls are being made by both sides.

Terrain Distance
Forest/Jungle 2d6 x 10 yards
Desert/Hills/Swamp 3d6 x 10 yards
Heath/Moor/Mountains/Plains 4d6 x 10 yards
Lake/Sea 4d6 x 10 yards

When travelling on rivers, use the row for the surrounding terrain. The distance for encounters on sea or lakes are for encounters with monsters. Ships can be seen from much larger distances.

War Cry of the Flame Princess: Hit Points and permanent injuries

Like many people, I am not a big fan of having PCs be perfectly fine with 1 hp remaining and instantly dead when they are at 0 hp.

My approach to hit points is to not regard them as wound points but as stamina points. A succesful hit means that the target suffers minor scratches and bruises that interfere with its ability to succesfully deflect or dodge attacks and avoid serious injury. When a character runs out of hit points the extortion becomes too high and he slips, suffering a serious wound. It’s an abstraction like any way you can think of hit points, but I think it’s the best approach to have the fiction of the adventure match the rules of the game.

But the bigger challenge is how to handle the situation of a PC being reduced to 0 hp. I have a big dislike of the complex dice rolling and multiple modifiers of third edition and AD&D and I certainly don’t want to go through anything like the trouble of multiple successive rolls to stabilize and recover while having negative hit points. A much simpler approach is this:

When an attack deals more damage to a character than he has hit points left, the remaining points of damage are compared to his Constitution score. If the points of damage in excess of the current hit points is greater than the Constitution score, the character is dead. If not, the character is only unconscious for 10 minutes and permanently loses 2 points of Constitution. This loss of Constitution represents a lasting injury that neither surgery nor magic will ever fully reverse. While unconscious at 0 hp, any further damage will automatically kill the character. A character who regains consciousness is unable to fight or do other tiring activities until brought to 1 hp or more through resting or magic.

There are no saving throws or Constitution checks. Death and permanent injury are always automatic. In my past campaigns characters running out of hit points was always very rare already. Adding a significant chance to negate the effects only makes it even more unlikely that something bad will happen to a character. (Though running Sword & Sorcery dungeon crawls will probably increase casualties in my next campaign a lot.) I had considered to randomly determine whether the ability loss affects Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, or Intelligence, but with hit points already representing the ability to continue fighting I don’t think it’s necessary.

I like this solution since it’s both somewhat realistic in regard to actual battle injuries, and it also matches the habit of many Sword & Sorcery heroes to be left for dead with grievous wounds. As in Yojimbo or A Fistful of Dollars, being almost dead is nothing that a week of rest can’t heal, even if it leaves a lasting mark. With a Constitution score of 2d6+6, this gives a character about three to seven opportunities to cheat death before being too crippled to continue, though it might be worth considering retirement much earlier than that. It’s a lot more forgiving than the standard rules for death, but it’s still something that players really will want to avoid.

War Cry of the Flame Princess: The Witch (spell point class)

My post from earlier this week about using Lamentations of the Flame Princess for a Sword & Sorcery campaign received some interest, so why not expanding it into a series? Probably the biggest change I’ve made to the rules is a complete overhaul of the magic-user class. I am not a fan of the spell slot and preparation system of D&D. Of the three big flaws I see in the game, it’s the one I don’t like the most. (Negative AC is easily fixed and Alignment can simply be ignorred.) Spell slots just don’t mesh with any kind of fantasy fiction except for the Dying Earth novels. It just doesn’t feel right to me. 3rd Editions sorcerer class was a decent first attempt to adress this, but oddly enough the best magic system I’ve ever seen in D&D is the revised 3rd edition psionics system. The edition with the biggest design flaws and the previously most clunky sub-system. The Witch class is the magic-user class from LotFP converted to spell points and with a revised spell list. In my Ancient Lands campaign it’s the only spellcasting class that covers both witches and shamans, as well as sorcerers who have access to a few unique spells.

The Witch

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Everything else is just as the magic-user class. This table assumes that 5th level is the highest level of spells that characters can possibly learn or cast. For campaigns in which higher level spells are available it can easily be expanded. This spell point conversion uses the exact same spells as usual without any modification to them. The only thing that changes is the way in which spells are learned and limited to uses per day.

Level Hit Points Attack Spells Known Spell Points Max. Level
1st 4 +1 3 3 1st
2nd +1d4 +1 +2 7 1st
3rd +1d4 +1 +2 12 2nd
4th +1d4 +1 +2 18 2nd
5th +1d4 +1 +2 25 3rd
6th +1d4 +1 +2 33 3rd
7th +1d4 +1 +2 42 4th
8th +1d4 +1 +2 52 4th
9th +1d4 +1 +2 63 5th
10th+ +1/level +1 +2/level +12/level 5th

Learning Spells

A first level witch begins the game knowing three spells of first level. Which each additional level the character learns two new spells that can be of any level that is available, as per the column “Max. Level”. At third level, a witch can learn two new spells that can either be of first or second level. At fifth level the new spells may be of first, second, or third level, and so on.

Casting Spells

Spells are not prepared. A witch can cast any spell that has been learned at any time, but has to spend spell points when doing so. How many spell points a witch has is indicated by the colum “Spell Points”. The character’s Intelligence modifier is added to this number at first level (but not at each additional level the character gains later.) The number of spell points that are used is equal to the character level at which the spell becomes available.

Spell Level Spell Point Cost
1st 1
2nd 3
3rd 5
4th 7
5th 9

Witches are highly flexible in chosing their spells and could either cast a smaller number of higher level spells or a large number of lower level spells. Learning a wide variety of lower level spells can be advantageous over always learning spells of the highest possible level as they consume a much lower number of spell points. In return for this increased flexibility in casting spells, witches don’t have the ability to switch out the spells they know between adventures. Witches can only learn new spells when gaining a new level and these spells can not be changed later.

The only way to get access to additional spells is through relics.

Relics

Relics are magic items that allow a witch to gain access to additional spells beyond those the character has learned. Relics are body parts of supernatural creatures or legendary witches and sorcerers who retain some of their former owners magical power. Each relic contains usually one spell and a witch holding or wearing the item can cast this spell just as if it were one of the spells the witch has learned. The witch has to spend spell points to cast the spell, just as with all regular spells, but gains a bonus of +1 to +3 to the spellcaster level to determine its effects, depending on the relic. Even if the witch already knowns the spell granted by the relic, the increased spellcaster level still applies.

Spriggan’s Claw

Spell: Plant Growth
Spellcaster Level: +1

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War Cry of the Flame Princess: Ability Scores and Character Levels

1474423181OSR games, particularly in the Weird OSR scene that Joseph Manola lined out so well here, predominantly focus on low power, low magic adventures in whichopponents are either normal guys or extremely deadly eldritch horrors. While it’s a style that I find very appealing, my greatest love is still Sword & Sorcery. Particularly Conan and Kane, but also Hyperborea, The Witcher, and of course Star Wars. The uselessness of Stormtroopers aside, at least when they are deliberately letting the heroes escape or fight against ewoks, they are all works in which the protagonists are at the very top of what humans can be, but not outright superhuman. And while they have to be cautious, they are always on the offense.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess is my favorite RPG system by a good margin, but it does retain the inherent squishiness of the D&D Basic rules. Which is by design, but I think not fitting so well for Sword & Sorcery. Starting at higher levels is an option, but I always find that unsatisfying and it also means that new wizard players start the game with a considerably wider range of spells from the outset. (Which might sound appealing to some, but my spellpoint conversion already increased the number of spells.)

An in my opinion neater solution is to roll 2d6+6 for ability scores and also let the players assign the six numbers as they see fit for their chosen character class. 2d6+6 considerably shifts the average up and makes 8 the lowest score possible. But since modifiers in B/X are relatively small and don’t increase linearly, the result is that characters will on average have a combined total of +4. A +2 here and two +1s there isn’t hugely imbalancing, but with the ability to assign the scores to abilities freely (and getting maximum hit points at first level) this allows players to make considerably sturdier characters than rolling 3d6 in order. A fist level fighter with 10 hp or a +4 to hit is entirely doable.

The other method I am using is to firmly stick to the paradigm that any NPC who isn’t an outstanding combatant is a level 0 character, and to use a bestiary of entirely custom made creatures. The high end for regular monsters tapers off around 10 HD and I am using relatively smal numbers of special abilities each. In the fiction of the world this makes even 4th level characters already members of the top tier of people who roam the world and who are able to confront gods, demons, giants, and dragons. Maybe not one of those 13 HD behemoths, but certainly one of the smaller 7 HD ones.

War Cry of the Flame Princess: The Scout

I retroactively added this post to the WCotFP series.

Earlier this year many people have been writing about the cleric class being an oddity unique to Dungeons & Dragons that doesn’t really fit in most other fantasy settings and seems rather inappropriate. Priests in other fictional worlds never really look and behave like that, and especially in the early edition a great amount of spells are taken from biblical miracles. There seems to be some move to not use the cleric class and instead represent priests and shamans through alternate spell lists for the magic-user class. I am fully behind that.

That leaves you with the now very well established scheme of warrior, mage, and rogue, which you’ll find almost everywhere in fantasy gaming. And I have to say, I also don’t like rogues.

han-lando

Scoundrels on the other hand are a completely different story.

The thief class for D&D was a later addition that didn’t exist yet in the first release of the game but was added very soon after. And in hindsight this move made many people angry and was seen as a move in the wrong direction. But the effect that the introduction of the thief meant that fighters and mages no longer had any reason to try to deal with traps or scout ahead because now there was someone who was always much better at it then them is not my main problem with the archetype. The original thief class had a clear identity but soon people wanted the thief to be good at fighting as well which lead us to the current form of the rogue. And rogues don’t really know what they want to be. The thief aspect has largely vanished and instead we have a fast fighter with light armor, who does huge damage with special attacks, or could be an archer. That takes away almost everything the fighter had left except for heavy armor. In a campaign with knights that’s not necesaarily a problem, but when you play in a setting that doesn’t have heavy armor or huge weapons, what is left? This was one of the reasons that made me pick Lamentations of the Flame Princess as my current system of choice, as its specialist class is meant to be neither great at fighting, nor required to be a thief.

But still, I am not fully happy with that. For my Old World that is full of barbarian warriors and made for adventures mostly set in the wilderness, the specialist seems a bit too flimsy to represent a hardened adventurer and the fighter too simple to represent the more skilled and sneaky hunters. On Dragons Gonna Drag, Justin presented the idea of merging the fighter and specialist classes together. But I really like classes and am already down to only three of them, so my idea is to do something similar but opposite.

drow_xendrik

One of the greatest idea I’ve seen for the warrior, mage, rogue archetypes is in Star Wars Saga Edition which has the soldier, scout, scoundrel, and noble classes as a spectrum of different approaches to fighting character and skilled characters. Neither the scoundrel nor the noble are exactly thieves, and the scout is something different than just a fighter/thief. And so I decided to come up with some kind of scout class that represents a more sneaky kind of warrior than the fighter.

One idea I’e seen a while back is that the halfling class would make a pretty good base for a Basic ranger. And while looking around for some more ideas I discovered that this is pretty much exactly what Adventurer Conqueror King did with the explorer class. It’s pretty much the B/X halfling with a different name. That’s also what I ended up doing.

Level Hit Points Attack Bushcraft Stealth
1st 6 +1 3 in 6 2 in 6
2nd +1d6 +1 3 in 6 2 in 6
3rd +1d6 +2 3 in 6 2 in 6
4th +1d6 +2 4 in 6 3 in 6
5th +1d6 +3 4 in 6 3 in 6
6th +1d6 +3 4 in 6 3 in 6
7th +1d6 +4 5 in 6 4 in 6
8th +1d6 +4 5 in 6 4 in 6
9th +1d6 +5 5 in 6 4 in 6
10th+ +2/level +5 6 in 6 5 in 6

Creating a scout class for LotFP turned out to be pretty quick and painless. The basic frame is once again the halfling class with the addition of an attack bonus half that of the fighter (other classes im LotFP always remain at +1) and the saving throws taken from the dwarf class (which covers a wider range of levels) and reduced by 2. Since it’s a scout class, the Bushcraft skill of the halfling is retained, but it also gains the Stealth skill with a chance of 1 lower than Bushcraft and not the flat 5 in 6 chance in wilderness environments that halflings have. A scout also can make a sneak attack for double damage with no option to increase like a specialist does.

And there you pretty much have it. I am considering giving also a 2 in 6 chance for Search and Climb, as it would fit the theme, but right now I am somewhat uncertain whether that might be a bit too much. Compared to the fighter the higher saves should even out with the lower hit points, which leaves all the skills compensated only by the reduced bonus to attack. But overall I am very happy with the class and it really took only about an hour to make, including research.

War Cry of the Flame Princess: Encumbrance and Treasure

I retroactively added this post to the WCotFP series.

I am not usually someone who does any kind of accounting for fun, so dealing with treasure and equipment generally is done very quick and simple in my campaigns.

The encumbrance system is almost taken directly from the one created by LS at Papers and Pencils, which I really like. (Yes, when you post mechanics on your website, sometimes there will actually be people using it.) The treasure system is my own creation, as far as I can recall. It’s a slight variant of the one I came up with for tying character advancement to loot in Barbarians of Lemuria.

Encumbrance

Encumbrance works very simple. All items have a weight of either 1, or 2, or none. Characters can carry a number of items equal to their Strength score with no penalty. They can carry a number of items equal to twice their Strength score while being lightly encumbred, and up to three times their Strength score while being heavily encumbred.

Characters who are lightly encumbred have their movement speed reduced by one category and have all the penalties for wearing medium armor. (Limits to using certain skills and spell point cost for casting spells.)

Characters who are heavily encumbred have their movement speed reduced by two categories and have all the penalties for wearing heavy armor.

If an object is so large and heavy that it would take both hands to hold and carry, it counts as two normal items and has a weight of 2. Objects lighter than a dagger are not counted towards encumbrance. It’s left to the GM to decide when a larger number of smaller objects counts as one item. A pound or half a kilo of stuff probably is a good limit.

As they are likely to come up often, a quiver with 12 arrows, food for one day, and water for one day should all be treated as having a weight of 1 each, regardless of how they are stored.

To track encumbrance, a good idea is to have an inventory list in which all the rows are numbered. You can then mark at which row the limits for light encumbrance, heavy encumbrance, and maximal load are reached, based on your character’s Strength. For items with weights greater than 1, simply cross out the line below it. When you get over any of those limits, you simply see it immediately as the list passes over the marked lines.

Treasure

The standard unit of wealth is “1 treasure”. A treasure could be many things, but generaly has a weight and a value of 1. A small bag of silver coins being the standard example. But it could also be jewelry, gemstones, golden cups, or whatever. For special occasions you can also have special treasures which weigh nothing or have a value greater than 1. The huge diamond from the crown of the high priest may easily have a value of 5 or 10, while a gold ring with a saphire might have a weight of none. But these are not usually found lying around in ruins or in the pockets of bandits.

There are no price lists. As long as you have at least one treasure with you, you can get whatever weapons, shields, food, rooms, and other small expanses you want. If you have no treasure with you, you’re broke and have to either get some valuables somewhere or get creative in acquiring equipment and supplies. Greater expanses usually cost 1 treasure. It could be a mount, a lavish feast, a cart, or other mundane but expensive things. Armor is more expensive and costs 1 treasure per point of Armor Class bonus (an AC +4 armor would cost 4 treasures).

Magic potions also generally cost 1 treasure each and are probably one of the most common expenses. More powerful magic items don’t come with a fixed price. They are almost always given as rewards, taken from defeated enemies, or stolen from treasure vaults.

War Cry of the Flame Princess: Poison

I retroactively added this post to the WCotFP series.

I am really not a fan of poison that instantly kills a character dead on a single failed saving throw, but I neither can say that I am very fond of the various mechanics from d20 games to deal with poison.

snakeAnd completely out of the blue I suddenly had this idea for how one could possible handle poison in OSR games (and probably a wide range of others as well). It’s so simple that I am most likely not the first to come up with it, but that actually makes it a good argument for and not against it.

When a creature gets hit by a poisonous attack, it needs to make a saving throw against poison or take X amount of damage. At the begining of its turn, a poisoned creature has to make another saving throw or take another X points of damage. Once it successfully makes a saving throw against the poison, it takes no damag and the poison ends.

The strength of the poison is entirely defined by the amount of damage it deals. The difficulty of the saving throw is always the same (no penalty to the saving throw against very strong poisons) and the duration of the poison is always as long as it takes to make a successful safe. So you only need to remember the amount of damage done by the poison and nothing else. You don’t even have to take count of how long the poison has already been acting. Poisons that deal higher amount of damage are more difficult to survive simply by the fact that you might run out of hit points before you even get the opportunity to make a third or fourth attempt at shaking it off. Even if you survive, a high damage poison still leaves you a lot more crippled than one that deals little damage. And if you’re already injured and unable to take much more punishment, even a relatively weak poison might still kill you.

Since saving throws against poison in B/X are usually save or die, the chance to succeed are pretty good, even for 1st level wizards. The chance that you take damage three or four times before making the save are very low at any level and at high level getting damaged even twice won’t be very common. So because of that, the amount of damage dealt by the poison has to be pretty high. I think a good rule of thumb might be that the poison should deal at least as much damage as the primary bit or claw attacks of the creature. In case of a small creature that relies primarily on its poison, it should be even considerably higher than that. I wouldn’t even bother with anything under 1d6. The highest number I use with my monsters is 3d6 for wyverns, and that’s because I am always very generous towards players when it comes to poison. If you want really nasty ones, you could easily go up to 4d8 and beyond.