Swords & Wizardry

Kilgore on March 2nd, 2012

This is something that’s been on my mind for a long, long time. Though I don’t actually intend to use it in our game, I wanted to write it up and get it out there for some feedback.

I think it’s no secret that a lot of folks have various issues with the cleric class. Despite the fact that my first-ever PC was a cleric (who killed a vampire in his first adventure) the class has never set real well with me for a number of reasons. First of all, I’m not particularly interested in the mythilogical religious aspects of the class; my games are generally fairly light on such things. Secondly, the real place for the class in the game seems sort of up in the air; some see clerics as medics while others see them as undead specialists. I’ve always looked at them as mystic warriors akin to Jedi Knights, but even that is a stretch, particularly considering the class’s weapons restrictions. Finally, I believe the experience point requirements for the class are outlandishly low given the cleric’s capabilities.

Several years back, helped by the lack of variable weapon damage in Swords & Wizardry White Box, I planned to remove the restriction on edged weapons and make clerics the mystic warriors I’d always envisioned them to be. Unfortunately, our S&W:WB game petered out and the opportunity was lost.

Now we’re playing 1e AD&D and not only is the cleric still a problem in my mind, it’s been compounded by the more-than-slightly redundant paladin. My second PC, for what it’s worth, was a paladin, but I’ve never really been a big fan of the class.

So I’ve pondered a solution that not only removes the redundancy but addresses what I dislike about the cleric: combine the two classes into one new class that mostly covers what the two original classes stand for. In a move to further distance the religious connections of the cleric class, I’ve decided to call the new class paladin. Besides, there is lot more historical precedent for the name than the standard cleric and it just sounds cooler.

Anyway, here is a draft of what I’ve come up with. I’ve written it up in 1e format and style as if it were in the PHB and I’ve left the religious aspects intact as I know most games make much more use of that sort of thing than ours does.

Paladin Variant - Free PDF - Lord Kilgore

Paladin Variant Draft - Free PDF
Click to Download

It retains much of what the original paladin has, and I hope it hits a good middle ground that will be potentially useful to some who dislike the cleric. My thinking is that, in most cases, anywhere it says “cleric” in the books should be read as “paladin,” with most of the weapons and items for fighters also available for this new class. (I’m sure that there are conflicts that I’ve not thought of and I’d appreciate anyone pointing them out.)

What I’m really uncertain about is the XP requirement scale, but any feedback will be very welcome. I’ve stuck with the standard paladin scale for now, with HD and most paladin abilities knocked down a bit but spell casting added at 3rd level. I think it’s probably in the right ballpark, anyway, but would not hesitate to tweak it if good reasons were given.

As I’ve said, we aren’t actually planning to run this class in our game; I’m trying hard to run a mostly-BtB AD&D game these days and though I’d love to incorporate this class, it just doesn’t fit in with what I’m after.

UPDATE: Due to conflicting file names, I think some people were getting only a link to the PDF and missing the blog post. I’ve fixed that now, and apologize for the confusion.

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Kilgore on February 7th, 2011

Readers have probably figured out that I am quite streaky when it comes to posting here, ripping off a post a day for stretches lasting weeks or even months, then going almost totally silent for periods just as long. That is no way to run a web site, and I apologize. I knew when I started this that I didn’t really have time for it, and I was right.

Anyway, my game playing, sadly, runs in the same sort of cycle. When other demands aren’t hogging all of the discretionary time (and then some), we usually make an effort to play more and, as a result, I end up creating all sorts of new material and posting some of it here.

Over the past few years, I’ve waffled on just what we’re going to play when we have time, and just how we’re going to play it. My initial plan to play Labyrinth Lord by the book and Swords & Wizardry White Box heavily house-ruled gave way to reality and the lack of time to play two different systems, let alone one that required a lot of tinkering. So we decided to go All Labyrinth Lord All the Time, with the idea that we’d incorporate a number of house rules and ideas that we had planned to use in our modified S&W White Box game.

My guess is that what happened to us happens to many gamers. Once we started tinkering, we couldn’t stop. A plan to make some adjustments led to the need to create modified rule outlines and accompanying tables, and once we crossed the line into creating our own material we failed our save vs. “houseruling.”

Our separate experiment with Five Color Magic resulting in a desire to incorporate this system into our game, and at that point, needing a fully-written player’s guide, we were looking at a totally separate system. Which is what I had been trying to avoid.

So here we are in 2011 and I am again looking at the options and wondering how to proceed.

Do we play a mostly-by-the-book Labyrinth Lord? If so, with or without the excellent Advanced Edition Companion? The advantage here is that it’s virtually 100% compatible with nearly everything else out there, including most OSR clone material and original TSR D&D material.

Do we play a heavily-modified Labyrinth Lord? If so, do we worry about our modifications breaking easy compatibility with standard LL? Giving thieves d6 hit dice or letting clerics use swords is no big deal. Re-organizing all spellcasters into five color-based classes or changing all monsters to use a one-roll lower-damage attack is. This is closer to what we want but not nearly so compatible.

Or do we play our homebrew Five Color Wizards & Warriors game, with two only two classes and five versions of each? We are 90% done with the rules guide, and we’re liking what we see. The problem, of course, is that no one else plays this game. The only ready material that exists is what we’ve written, and a lot of what I create won’t be terribly useful to blog readers, at least not as-is.

The freedom to create your own professional-looking material is a blessing and a curse. Back when the options to “publish” your own stuff was limited, my willingness to tinker was was limited to a few sheets of houserules that I’d photocopy. Things are so much better now that you can incorporate your changes directly into the text of the rules and print them up nicely, but that capability removes a reason to minimize your alterations.

What’s the best way? Whichever way gets you the game you want to play the most and gets the most use.

For us, that looks like our homebrew game.

We’ll always have the option to play another system, of course, but we’re going to throw our effort into this. Our playing has languished and that needs to change. I think our little creation gives us the best chance to do that, so that’s the plan.

What I post on the blog will probably remain fully-compatible with standard systems so as to be most useful to readers. I’m also left with the dilemma of how to proceed with the Forbidden Jungle. I’ve got a fair amount of work into it already and it’s looking pretty good (if I may say so myself), and I know that there are at least a few readers interested in seeing more FJ material. But how to make that material most accessible to those not playing my own little game? Not to mention the possibility of considering it for publication some day.

We’ll see.

UPDATE: I should add that the dilemma of “which game to play” is sometimes a contributing factor in our lack of playing. Without a clear direction, our effort has sometimes been splintered between things and we haven’t settled down and just done it. Time to do so.

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Kilgore on February 16th, 2010

The comments section on my recent post about the differences between racial abilities in 1e AD&D and the new Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion attracted the notice of Dan Proctor and he weighed in a number of topics, one of them the sheer number of games seeing the light of day now that the Old-School Renaissance seems to be in full swing:

I think the real concern people have but have a hard time putting into words is that it is hard to support every clone (ish) game that is coming out or will come out. Many many more will come out, I have no doubt. I think what people are feeling is “support fatigue.”

How many more of these should we high-five before we say screw it, who cares? That’s a legit question, and I don’t have an answer. Honesty I don’t think any of us should feel an obligation to support every new retro game that comes out…one might ask why support AEC instead of OSRIC. I’m not asking anyone to.

I was thrilled to have Dan leave this comment, as it addresses something I’ve been wanting to write about for some time.

In July I wrote:

I’m also wondering how many people actually play multiple systems. Is it uncommon? With so many retro-clones, spin-offs of retro-clones, and new games out there now, not to mention the originals, do many players utilize several of them? Or do most pick a single system and stick with it?

Personally, I cannot materially support (in terms of purchases) every old-school game out there. I cannot even support every one I think is particularly good. First, the financial commitment would be far greater than I can afford. There is a lot of product being released, much of it of very high quality. I cannot even justify the expense of Labyrinth Lord hardcovers at this time, even though LL is my choice of one game to rule them all. There are a few products I’ve purchased to show my solidarity with the creators, and there will be more in the future. But not very many. If I don’t think I’ll use it at the table, I probably won’t be spending any money on it.

But even more limited than my gold is is my time. I simply don’t have time to play all the games I would like to check out. The whole reason I chose to go All Labyrinth Lord All the Time was that I was having trouble getting anywhere on my proposed S&W White Box game. And it wasn’t a lack of interest, as I was (and still am) very intrigued by the power curve of White Box. But there is only so much time in the day and so many players to play, so I won’t be spreading my effort over a half-dozen cool games. Unfortunately, this means that some games I’d sure like to try, such as Ruins & Ronin and Mutant Future, probably won’t get a chance.

I think most players are in the same boat as I am. I’ve made my choice (at least for now) and others will have to make their own choices based on their own interests. Some will pick multiple games. Some will play one or two but buy material for many others. I don’t know which direction things will take, though it appears that there will be a small number “bigger” games and a large number of “smaller” ones.

I’d hate to see good games struggle because things are so diluted, but the market will have its say. Fortunately, the publishing options available mean that nothing has to permanently “die,” and I think that quality material will always be in demand.

If you write it well, they will play it.

UPDATE: From a comment:

Arguably, extra gaming time is better spent expanding a smaller game than grokking a bigger game. Add to that the ease with which publishers can nuance games with house variants and setting/genre tweaks, and yes, we’ll continue to see more titles than we can keep up with.

But I think you hit the nail on the head: the required number of games is as many as it takes to find one you like.

I don’t think that we’ll reach a state of truly “too many” old-school retro-clones and retro-spin-offs. Such a state would be similar to having “too much” beer or “too many” girlfriends.

But (and this is a big “but”) once one finds the right game, beer, or woman, the others usually sort of fade into the background.

UPDATE 2: Grognardia linked to yesterday’s post with Dan Proctor’s comments. That in itself is cool, but I encourage you to check out what James has to say on the subject.

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Kilgore on February 13th, 2010

I’ve been thinking about the hit point method explicitly stated in Swords & Wizardry White Box, the “re-roll all hit dice” method:

Hit points are re-rolled each time a Player Character advances in level—however, if the re-roll results in a character having fewer hit points for their new level than their previous level, ignore the re-roll and retain the prior amount.

This is obviously different than the “standard” method of simply rolling an HD and adding it to a PC’s previous total at each level advancement, but I’m thinking of using it in my Labyrinth Lord game. I’ve got a few posts on this topic planned for the next few days, but I lucked out when a discussion of this erupted on the Swords & Wizardry board. I encourage you to check it out, starting about here for the in-depth analysis and this thread for an excellent summary.

During the discussion, Random ran one million (!) simulations of the various totals at various levels and posted the results. Using his numbers, I put together a couple of charts to display the curves at 5th and 7th levels for fighters:

Hit Points Standard and Re-Rolled at 5th Level

Hit Points Standard and Re-Rolled at 5th Level

Hit Points Standard and Re-Rolled at 7th Level

Hit Points Standard and Re-Rolled at 7th Level

The number on the bottom is the hit point total, the number on the left is the number of times that result came up out of 1,000,000. Keep in mind that S&W WB uses d6 hit dice for fighters. Click the images for a better look.

As you can see, the re-roll method has a slightly sharper curve to the bell and tops out a little higher than the standard method, but not by a whole lot. Random’s simulations showed an average difference of less than 1.88 hit points at 10th level, something I don’t find significant enough to spend any time worrying about.

I like the idea that a “bad” HD roll, say a roll of 1 when advancing from 5th to 6th level, can be “made up” at the next level. The cost, of course, is the fact that hit points may not increase at all if earlier rolls were particularly good. As for narrowing the bell, drawing most characters toward the mean, I don’t see that as a problem, though those who are convinced they can beat the odds and get nearly max hit points each level won’t like it.

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Kilgore on January 11th, 2010

Brave Halfling Publishing has a few more boxed sets of Swords & Wizardry White Box available for order.

Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

When these are gone there will be no more until November.

Kilgore ordered his.

UPDATE: Alas, it appears that the extra run has also sold out. There are 25 sets in reserve for January 20th, the official release date.

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Kilgore on July 22nd, 2009
Labyrinth Lord comb-bound full-size and digest

Labyrinth Lord comb-bound full-size and digest

For some time now, my plan has been a two-pronged approach to fantasy gaming. Labyrinth Lord by the book with only a few house rules would be one side of the coin while a totally customized Swords & Wizardry White Box system would provide an outlet for for all sorts of ideas in a game with a simpler foundation and a lower power curve.

However, I’ve been struggling to find any time to spend on the White Box side of things. Heck, I’ve been struggling to find time to spend on any gaming lately. I made the decision some time back to put my Forbidden Jungle sandbox campaign into White Box, but as my work on that has languished Forbidden Jungle has ground to a halt. Looking into my immediate future, I don’t see much realistic chance to spend any amount of time on S&W in the coming two or three months. Considering that I had wanted to have kicked off Forbidden Jungle already, this is not acceptable.

Of late, I’ve been pondering the switch to All Labyrinth Lord All The Time. Despite a lot of coolness in the S&W White Box system and an awesome S&W community online, I’m having trouble justifying splitting my time and effort between two systems, particularly when one of them is going to require a significant amount of work before it’s what I want it to be, and the other is already up, running, and going great.

Since I’m pretty limited for time these days, there’s no real rush to make a final decision on anything immediately.

I’m also wondering how many people actually play multiple systems. Is it uncommon? With so many retro-clones, spin-offs of retro-clones, and new games out there now, not to mention the originals, do many players utilize several of them? Or do most pick a single system and stick with it?

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Kilgore on May 29th, 2009

A while back, Verhaden had a post up that began thus:

For a while, there has been a lot of talk on various forums and blogs about the usefulness of having a RPG system in booklet format. The discussion seems centered around utility and a certain rules-light-DIY philosophy, tinged only a bit by nostalgia and novelty. I can see the appeal of having books you can print out at home, keep in a small Munchkin-sized box, and store in your glove box or something for in-promtu gaming purposes. It sure as hell beats lugging around three 400 page hardback books.

Kilgore's WhiteBox

Kilgore's WhiteBox

I strongly prefer digest-sized booklets for game use. Yes, there’s certainly some nostalgia there (though I must admit mine is for the black LBBs of Traveller rather than the brown LBBs of OD&D), but I find them easier to use and keep behind the screen while playing.

And, come on, isn’t the nostalgia+utility factor one of the driving ones behind the “old-school renaissance”?

I’ve printed up my Labyrinth Lord PDF digest-sized and used comb binding. I’d prefer coil over comb but a comb punch is available at work. Either one lies nice and flat when open, even with higher page counts than anyone’s LBBs.

I’ve also used digest-sized comb-binding for my Swords & Wizardry White Box rules. My long term plan for S&W is to assemble myself a customized White Box book incorporating all of my house rules plus monsters from the Monster Book.

I print my booklets using Clickbook by BlueSquirrel. It’s got a lot of printing options and allows me to easily combine different formats into one booklet (or other size/style) as needed. It manages the two-sided printing, working with both duplex and standard printers to get your pages sorted and printed as needed. However, it is not free. At $50 it’s not a killer, but if it’s only going to be used a few times it’s probably tough to justify the expense.

A free option is BookletCreator.com. You select a PDF to upload and it sends you back a new PDF with the pages ordered for booklet printing. This leaves you to print the odd-numbered pages, get it back into your printer correctly, and print the even-half in reverse. Though I always seem to need at least two tries at this, the price (free) is right if only a few booklets are going to be printed. I ran up a couple of copies of Dungeonslayers as a test of the service and it worked great. (Just make sure to select “Letter” as your Result Sheet Size for digest booklets.)

[UPDATE: I also think there’s a booklet option in recent versions of Adobe Acrobat. I use Foxit, so I’m not sure about it or how it works.]

Another route for limited printing, of course, would be to go down to Staples or Kinkos and get it done there. It’s not free, but the price might be worth the saved hassle. Plus they’ve got a number of binding options available.

Bat, meanwhile, has a nifty little carrier that just begs for digest-sized booklets. I may have to look into something like that.

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AAC

Kilgore on May 21st, 2009

In our Swords & Wizardry White Box game, we’re using Ascending Armor Class [AAC] on a trial basis. I’ve declared that a minimum of ten sessions with AAC will be played before I listen to any feedback, and that after the tenth session I will decide how many more sessions will be played before a final decision about whether to continue using it is made.

Before I go any further, I must make a confession: When deciding between Swords & Wizardry (Core) and Labyrinth Lord, the requirement for AAC in S&W was a large part of the reason that I chose LL. I simply wanted nothing to do with AAC, as I considered the standard AC system to work perfectly well.

However, as I prepared for S&W White Box, after about a dozen sessions of LL, I decided that perhaps completely eliminating the combat tables would help me, as the game master, keep things flowing along a bit better. So I’m giving it a try.

Something else that’s swayed my opinion a bit is the reaction that pro-AAC players get from old-schoolers on the various message boards. So many old-schoolers almost sound like broken records with “you can do anything you want in old-school D&D“, “you can do anything you want in old-school D&D“, and “you can do anything you want in old-school D&D” over and over again whenever someone asks about rules or how to handle a particular situation.
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