Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Rolemaster-esque Critical Tables, or, "No more hit points"

There was something very diagetic about the MERP critical tables. Sometimes they did something lame like, "Blow to the leg, +5 hits," but sometimes they were like "Solid blow to the chest. Ribs crushed. Lungs collapse. Will die in 6 rounds." The critical tables sidestep the hit point attrition. Sometimes they'd blast your kneecaps out, or puncture your eye (unless you were lucky enough to be wearing a helm), or whatever. No fiddling with hit points--just "this happens now."

I think MERP can absolutely be lumped into the category of "combat as a fail state." Way more than giving your starting magic-user 4 HP. 

Anyway, here's a subsystem for D&D-like games to ignore HP. Each wound sucks, unless you have armor. 

I Have No HP (And I Must Scream)

After you successfully hit a target, don't roll damage. Instead, roll a d20 and consult the appropriate wound table. 

The d20 pops. If you roll a 20, roll again and add the result. 

If you roll a critical success on your attack roll, add +10 to your wound roll.

Rolls of 40+ are treated as 40. Rolls of 1 or less are treated as 1. (I imagine all sorts of damage bonuses or penalties can be applied to the wound roll.)

If you are struck, you can choose to sacrifice a piece of armor you are wearing for -10 to the wound roll. This must be done before the wound roll is made.

Bleeding Rules: Several wounds cause bleeding. If you are bleeding, you spend your action to a) make a Wisdom check to bandage yourself or b) use an herbal poultice to stop the bleeding automatically. If you take any action other than "sitting and trying to stymie the bleeding," you must make a Constitution check at the beginning of your action. Take a penalty to your check equal to the number of open bleeding wounds you have. If you fail, you are stunned and lose your action. If you fail three times, you fall unconscious from blood loss. You can bind your friend's wounds, too, of course.

Then, through the black smoke, he spotted the huge shadow of his ...

Here are the tables. Open them up for that Google Spreadsheet goodness. 

The counter fulcrum to this is that the healing/recovery system needs to be equally diagenic. There needs to be long lists of tables of herbs that "heal lung damage" or "are good for sprained muscles." In a pinch, rest 1 week to recover from most of these effects.


I spent probably too long rewriting MERP criticals into this format. I think this is, like, an "okay" pass, but would probably really be messy at the table. Too much stuff to track. I have -2 to all actions, -1 to AC, and if I run I'll start bleeding? Ugh how much writing do I want players to do? (Answer: Almost none.) 

Anyway, I just thought I'd throw the idea out there to see what stuck. Would you use this at your table? How would you make HP and wounds more "diagenic"? How could we finally kill HP once and for all?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Classic Fantasy Races for the GLoG

I'm a goddamn sucker for classic fantasy and this post is for my basic bitch predilections.

One of the things I like so much about the GLoG is its class system. It has a nice sweet spot for "defining character traits" and "no character building 1-20 synergy bullshit."

Another thing I like are race-as-class. Most people run GLoG as having races providing one, small optional weird perk. Like, you can be a slugman and climb up walls on a trail of slime, or whatever. But that lacks the essential good juju of race-as-class.

The idea of having races as classes being optional tickles me. You can be a dwarf cleric if you want by taking cleric levels, and just "also be a dwarf." But with the GLoG, you can mix and match. Dwarf A, B and Cleric A, B would be pretty cool.

Here are five GLoG classes that exemplify classic fantasy races. You can't mix and match unless you're a half-race. If you don't at least have the A level of your race, you're perceived as a racial outcast and misfit.

From Dungeon Meshi, different race options


Humans are not as hardy as the immortal elves, being given to sickness and age. Nor are they as crafty as the underfolk, being slow to develop the crafts of alchemy and lore of natural philosophy. Yet mankind has one gift that surpasses every other: war.

Mankind is built for war. The crafts they have learned from dwarves and elves have been turned ingeniously to this purpose. They breed and maturely quickly to resupply their cities with men and women lost to hardship. They are fierce, doughty, and brave. Using their arts of war, mankind has conquered much of the Wide World. They are the conquering kings, proud and terrible.

Every human template grants 1 Mastery and +1 HP.

Starting Equipment: an heirloom tool, a one-handed weapon, a mundane pet: a cat, a dog, a horse, a goat, a rat, a chicken, whatever
Bonus Language: The Common Tongue is one of the human's cleverest inventions: a magical language that can always be understood by other speaking peoples. 
Not everybody can speak Common, just understand it. It freaks certain things out to hear it spoken ("How do I understand you? Are you in my brain? Get out!"). 

A - Master of Horses
B - Tall, Hateful
C - Communal
D - Proud

Master of Horses 
You grew up around animals and can handle them pretty well. When trained, they do incredibly improbable things.

Essentially, you can treat trained animals you keep and feed as henchmen. If it's like a war dog or war horse, they can fight beside you like a low-level fighter. 

Unless something very, very unfortunate happens, this ability ensures your favorite pet will survive even when knocked out of the fight. 

You gain either a +1 to your Strength or Constitution stat, to a maximum of 9.

Humans use one dice step higher when rolling damage: d3 -> d4 -> d6 -> d8, etc. For most weapons, this will be a d8.

Your Mastery points give a +2 bonus per point spent, instead of +1. 

A remote uncle dies and leaves you a great inheritance; the local lord notices your rising fame and bribes you; whatever happens, you gain a minor noble title. Name your new noble house, select heraldry and house words. 

When you fight under your own banner or wear your own heraldry, you gain +1 Attack and Defense. 

Hirelings now have a starting Loyalty of 10 instead of 6.

Anybody sworn to your service may choose to fill one of their empty Save slots with one of your Saves. Tales of your near demise are very popular, and everybody benefits from your experience. 


A dwarf is an obsessive creature. He loves to create. When he discovers what craft most interests him, he dedicates himself completely to it. His hours are spent perfecting his craft, innovating in his craft, critiquing examples of his craft, and tearing it all down so he can start again and do it right this time. Really, drinking is the only thing that keeps a dwarf steady. It evens him out, mellows him down, lets his mind work on problems that aren't exclusively about his craftwork.

All this obsessiveness pays off. Dwarf-craft is both practical and beautiful. It is highly sought after, which makes them rich. This is important for dwarves, who know the purpose of life: construct your tomb, because that's where you're going to spend the rest of eternity. Woe to the dwarf whose ghost goes into the afterlife bored. 

Every dwarf template grants 1 inventory slot. This slot is inside the dwarf's beard. Nobody can find it unless they shave the dwarf. 

Starting equipment: mattock, tinker's kit, half-filled book of grudges
Bonus language: Iglishmek - The dwarves teach Iglishmek to no one. It cannot be translated by someone who does not know it. It is altogether secret. It cannot be decoded. Comprehend Language spells fail. 

A - Goldnose, Crafty
B - Handy if Not Handsome, Stout
C - Obsessive
D - Stubborn

You can smell gold, jewels, gems, silver--minerals and crystals of value. If you stand at a crossroads and sniff, the GM will tell you which direction has the most treasure. If you sniff in an empty room, the GM will tell you if you smell the faint odor of potentially buried treasure. 

You can identify works of craft: you have a good idea of who created it, its origins, its purposes, its powers, and its curses.

Handy if Not Handsome
As long as you have basic tools you can make significant repairs to a single object overnight. If a shield has been sundered or spear shaken, you can repair them with a single night of work. You don't even need sleep when you work: your obsession is refreshing.

You gain either a +1 bonus to your Constitution or Wisdom stat, to a maximum of 9.

Once in his life, a dwarf descends into a hole and comes out with his life's work: some magic item of excellent craft. 

During downtime, you can declare that you are using this ability. Work with your GM to design an appropriate magic item that exemplifies your "life story." You can only create one magic item in this way, ever. 

You get so stubborn even spells stop affecting you. You are now a magic null zone. Magic of any kind, both good and bad, cannot work on you. Shaving your beard cancels this ability.


Elves are at home in the wilds of the world. They are renowned for their wood-craft, and can move silently when stalking through the forest, disturbing neither twig nor leaf. They are also renowned for their great beauty, being called the fairest of all people. Many mortals hold them in awe. At times they are merry, and take great delight in dances and parties, which they will hold in the middle of forests, enwrapped in multi-colored lights. Other times, they are grim as aged kings. They keep their own laws, which are ancient and unknown to mortal men. Their ways are strange. In truth, the Elves are like a force of nature – they embody the gentle spring rain, the summer’s thunderstorm, the calm of autumn and the bleakness of winter.

Each elf template grants a +2 bonus to Stealth while in the wilderness. 

Starting equipment: a musical instrument, a phial of luminous starlight, hunting bow
Bonus language: Osanwe Kenta - If two speakers of this language stare at each other in the eyes, they can communicate by mind speech. You cannot lie in the psychic speech of Osanwe Kenta.

A - Star Eyed, Immortal
B - Glamorous, Enchanted
C - Wood-weird, +1 Magic Dice
D - Uncanny, +1 Magic Dice

Star Eyed
Elves treat starlight as sunlight. If they can see the stars, they can see as well as they can during the day. This doesn't help in dark, underground dungeons, but is helpful in the wilderness.

Each elf keeps a tree as a home. If the elf dies, the tree dies, and vice versa. As long as this tree is alive, the elf will not die from old age. 

Practically, this means that elves cannot be magically aged. They do not suffer either mundane or magical disease. If severely wounded, the elf never looks gross. His scars look cool and beautiful.

You gain either a +1 bonus to your Dexterity or Intelligence stat, to a maximum of 9.

Elves cast spells by singing. One spell is called their "heartspell." The heartspell is drawn from the elementalist wizard list. Elves derive their "type" from their heartspell, e.g., mist elves cast feather fall, dark elves cast light, etc. 

Elves may wear elfy robes and gain 1 Magic Dice with which to cast this spell. If they do not have Magic Dice from robes or wizard levels, they may always cast their heartspell by taking 1d6 damage. The value of the damage dice is treated as the spell's [value], if relevant.

Each great forest, tall mountain, and deep lake has a spell hidden in it. If you spend the night sleeping in a new, significant, natural location, you can learn this hidden spell. Make an Intelligence check. If you succeed, the GM will give you of a new elementalist spell appropriate to the place of power. You'll have to travel to different biomes to learn the whole breadth of the elementalist's spell list.

You permanently gain the effects of the spell Wizard's Vision, without any attribute loss. You call this spell "Elf Vision," and claim that wizards stole it from your people--that's why it drives them insane to use.


Gnomes are what becomes of the children that elves steal. When elves get a wild hair to raise a child (elves  don't procreate normally), they sneak into human lands and steal a baby. In their place they leave a changeling--a log of alder wood or a goblin wrapped in a glamour of a human child. The glamour never lasts very long. Then they take the human baby back to Elfland and turn it into a gnome.

A gnome has the blessing of immortality but not agelessness. A gnome grows old but never dies. They never grow much larger than human children, but soon grow liver spots, long beards, bee-sting noses, yellowed nails, hunched backs. Eventually, they might grow into trees. 

By the time this happens, their elven "parents" have long since lost interest. 

Each gnome template grants +1 skill slot.  

Starting equipment: hallucinogenic mushrooms (1 dose), lantern, 30' length of scarves tied together (as silk rope), nine-pound hammer

A - Clever Eared, Tongue of Beast and Birds
B - Gnarled, Wise 
C - Foresighted
D - Deep Memory

Clever Eared
You hear would-be ambushers moments before they attack. When surprised, you have a 3-in-6 chance to act anyway.

Tongue of Beast and Birds
Gnomes make study of the languages of animals. When encountering a new type of natural animal, you can make an Intelligence check to see if they have studied that animal's tongue. Different beast languages are somewhat narrow: Mouse and Rat languages are different, for example (but perhaps in the same language family). Keep a list of all the animals you can speak to. Animal languages take up a skill slot.

You gain either a +1 bonus to your Intelligence or Wisdom stat, to a maximum of 9.

When you sleep at night, you may ask the GM one question of something in the akashic record.

Once per day, you can ask the GM: "If I do X, will Y happen?". The GM will honestly answer "yes," "no," or "maybe."

Deep Memory
When you ask a question using Wise, you can immediately ask a follow-up question after the GM has given you an answer. 


Halflings are a peaceable people, good-natured, and inclined to be friendly. When dwarves make stuff, it's the halflings who turn that stuff into gold. Of course, they take a little commission for their trouble. This is generally agreed upon to be a good relationship, because dwarves and humans don't always see eye to eye. Besides, dwarves would rather be making.

Halflings also fill in the gaps in domestic work. Dwarves might not notice that their workshops fill up with old scraps, empty oil cans, and soot, but the halflings certainly do. Halflings like the finer things in life. They like things to be clean, put together, and respectable. Therefore, if something needs cleaning, fixing, mending, and put-right, halflings often do that job themselves.

If halflings have one failing, it’s their love of their comforts. Few people like eating as much as halflings enjoy their auntie's mushroom pie. Few people like drinking as much as halflings enjoy the pint of bitter from the Bird and Baby Tavern. Few people like smoking as much as halflings enjoy a pipe full of Old Toby from the summer harvest of '45. 

Each halfling template grants a +1 bonus to Save rolls.

Starting equipment: cooking gear, walking staff, pipe and pipeweed
Bonus language: Halfling Argot - Whatever the local language is, halflings speak a clever little variant of it. The argot is designed to sound like normal conversation from an outside, but is full of hidden meaning, rhyming words, and ironies that are apparent only to those fluent in halfling argot. "By mercy, two birds went flying over my head in the blue of this summer's morning," might actually mean "Say, do you want to rob that stupid looking human over there? Very good, let's use the lost violin grift."

A - Gourmand, Love of Comfort
B - Jolly, Small
C - Common Sense (critical dodge threshhold goes up)
D - Damned Little Buggers

You have exceptional taste. With just a tiny taste of food, you can tell what the ingredients are (e.g., if there's a little extra poison in there). This lets you backwards engineer most potions.

Love of Comfort
Whenever you gain a drunkenness point, you can heal 1d4 HP. You can do this a number of times equal to the number of your halfling templates until you sleep it off.

When you encounter a creature for the first time, you have a 3-in-6 chance to change their Disposition to "Curious" or "Friendly." People just seem to like you.

You gain either a +1 bonus to your Dexterity or Charisma stat, to a maximum of 9.

Common Sense
You critically succeed dodge attempts on an 18, 19, or 20. This lets you make an attack or combat maneuver in retribution.

Damned Little Buggers
Whenever a larger enemy misses you with a melee attack, you may force them to make another melee attack against a target within range. It's possible to make enemies hit themselves with this ability.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Thief's Knacks

Ostensibly this is still an "OSR"y blog so here's some OSRish content.

Some people have problems with the thief.
a) Wait, so, what do I need to roll if I'm a fighter and I'm trying to pick a pocket? Can I just...not do it?
b) OK so I am a thief and I am picking a pocket holy shit I only have 20% to succeed? I kind of suck.
c) Hang on, so the wizard can just cast Knock, and then turn Invisible? OK, let the damn wizard break in and steal the teapot, then.

Some people have proposed generous rule interpretations that let you play the thief "straight" and fix some of these perceived problems. 

Some people have translated the percentile table to a d20 table, to resolve the multiple type of resolution mechanics in the game.

Personally, I really like Lamentation's d6 Skill Rolls and how the Specialist gains points in it. It's my favorite base rule set for mostly this reason.

Here is ANOTHER thing to do with thieves thiefs.

The Caffeinated Symposium: Book Review--LANKHMAR: TALES OF FAFHRD ...
Lookin' good, boys

Thief Knacks

A village witch once told me that a thief was actually a very, very specialized sorcerer. The missionary from O told me that actually thiefs tapped into their psi powers. The Beggar's Guild told me that the Thief's Guild was actually a cult, and whispered of forbidden rites of ancestor worship and the terrifying grave of deified guild masters deep in the vaults of Thief House.

Whatever the truth, all thiefs have seven supernatural abilities. Some can use them more frequently than others.

Anybody can sneak. The thief makes the Sign of Silence and stills the air around him.

Anybody can climb a wall. The thief uses the Invocation of the Spider and runs to the top of the Tower of the White Elephant.

Basically, whenever you're trying to do something by mundane means, use your rule set's resolution mechanics. A Xd6 roll, an attribute test, whatever.

A thief can choose to use one of their knacks instead. They can use each of their seven knacks once per day. When a knack is used, roll on the thief's percentile skill table. On a success, the knack is refreshed and may be used again. On a failure, the knack is gone until the next time the sun crosses the horizon.

(Yes, that means that thiefs can use their knacks once during the day, and then again during the night.)

Here are the knacks. They have boring names. Thiefs who use them understand that naming things with flair to be one of their primary duties.

Climb Sheer Surfaces
You can climb a sheer surface like a spider. This knack lasts as long as you're continuously ascending; a thief can climb the Tower of Babel using this knack. However, you cannot stop moving or the knack will end.

Find and Disarm Trap
When you use this knack, you can ask the GM if one particular thing is trapped. If it is, the GM will tell you what the trap is, what its triggers are, and what you need to do in the fiction to disarm it. Disarming traps in this way almost never require a roll.

Hear Noise
When you use this knack, point your finger towards something. You can hear perfectly what you're pointing towards.

  • If your fingers are pressed against a door, you can hear what's being discussed in the next room. 
  • If you point towards an area with hiding enemies, you can tell how many lie in ambush by hearing their hearts beating. 
  • If you point at someone you can see, even if they're miles away, you can hear them as clearly as if you were standing next to them. 
Hide in Shadow
You can step into your own shadow. While in your shadow, you're practically invisible. The only things that can hurt you are magic weapons or spells that target ethereal creatures. However, you can't move or interact with your environment while in your shadow. 

Move Silently
You can utterly still the area around you as long as you hold your breath. Nothing within 10' of you makes any noise. You can smash through a window. You can gank a husband and not worry about his screams waking up his wife, lying in bed beside him. You can pat the wildly barking dog on the head. It's all good. 

Pick Locks
You make a secret knock--like the Fonz on a jukebox. A locked or magically sealed door/chest/shackles instantly pops open. Even barred or stuck doors pop open. 

Pick Pockets
The GM tells you everything that the person is carrying. You've opened their inventory. Select one thing. It's now in your inventory. Nobody notices until it makes sense for them to do so.