Wizards & Warriors

Kilgore on March 9th, 2011

I’ve never been a huge fan of the multiple attacks per round rule for fighters against weak creatures (1HD or less than 1HD, depending on edition), and am thinking of replacing them with a multi-attack rule similar to what the DC Heroes RPG did:

Multi-Attack Rules from Mayfair's DC Heores RPG (First Edition)

Multi-Attack Rules from Mayfair's DC Heores RPG (First Edition)
The Batman takes on a gang

Clearly, the idea that one character could attack up to 125 enemies per round, regardless of level, seems a bit excessive unless you’re Superman, so the details would be different. But the base concept of “the more you attack at once, the harder it is to hit” and “one to-hit and one damage roll per group of targets, damage applied to each individual in the group if the to-hit is successful” would be fine, I think.

Maybe something along the lines of:

  • Attacker may attack as many targets within range as he wants
  • -2* modifier to to-hit roll for every target after the first
  • Use AC of the best target as the AC that needs to be hit
  • One to-hit roll applies to all named targets–all are hit or all are missed
  • If the attack hits, roll damage once and apply that damage to each target

At first glance, I don’t see any gaping holes in this. It would be open to any attacker, but due to the negative modifier and the use of the best opposing AC it would still mean in practice that usually only more powerful fighter types (with better to-hit numbers) would be using it against weaker opponents (with poorer ACs).

This seems a better way (assuming it works) for a tough to plow his way through a horde of goblins, for instance. And it would take less time to resolve, which would speed battles a bit and would not leave other players waiting for the fighter to finish all of his to-hit and damage rolls.

Of course, this would work both ways. Now that troll can take on a party much more effectively. Or a tyrannosaur might be able to get a band of orcs, finally. Not sure about special attacks, though. Would a ghoul either paralyze everyone or no one?

I imagine that there are other similar systems, or systems that try to do similar things, out there. But I can’t think of one off the top of my head. Maybe something from Chainmail?

My intention is to use this with our Wizards & Warriors homebrew, but I don’t see why it (or something quite similar) wouldn’t work with standard oldschool games.

Anyone got any suggestions? For either this take or a pointer to an alternative?

* This had originally been -1 but that wasn’t enough.

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Kilgore on March 8th, 2011

Here are the stages our homebrew game (now called Wizards & Warriors) has gone through in the past year:

  1. Tweaked Labyrinth Lord game
  2. Heavily house ruled Labyrinth Lord game
  3. Modified Labyrinth Lord game with new write-ups for monsters and spells
  4. New game based on Labyrinth Lord/B/X with a lot of OD&D influence on presentation
  5. New game based on Labyrinth Lord/B/X/OD&D but with 5 Color magic
  6. New humans-only game based on LL/B/X/OD&D but with 5 Colors for everything
  7. New 5 Colors game that sort of resembles LL/B/X/OD&D with a fair amount of classic Traveller influence

It was this seventh stage that freed us from the shackles of trying to pretend it was still just a modified version of D&D. Yes, the play will still resemble oldschool D&D, but the rules are not going to be constrained by attempts to “remain true” mechanically. I think the oldschool D&D spirit will still be there, and I even suspect that someone listening in on a session might not quite realize that we aren’t playing early 1980s D&D.

Either way, late last week I decided I was sick of always WORKING ON a new game and decided it was time to PLAY a new game.

So over the weekend my kids and I got in a short session of a new campaign, and here is what I’m using for our initial setting:

L1: The Secret of Bone Hill

L1: The Secret of Bone Hill

I’ve already made a lot of headway converting NPCs and monsters to our new system (and have worked out more details of that system while doing so) and am looking forward to getting more done.

My current plan is to use the Restenford area as a sort of base for a sandbox-type setting, with a number of other oldschool D&D modules placed here and there, along with some one-page dungeons and a number of my own creations. For instance, up the road from Restenford is a keep, and beyond the keep are what the locals call the Borderlands. Also, rumors of a certain ghostly tower can be heard whispered in the dark corners of the Dying Minotaur Inn, and tales from those who have ventured into the Borderlands tell of an ancient ruined city inhabited by….well, the PCs haven’t heard those rumors quite yet.

Why not the Forbidden Jungle? Well, to be honest, I’m having trouble convincing my current players (mostly my own family) that it’s a fun place to adventure. I’m now wondering if I should work on developing the Forbidden Jungle using Labyrinth Lord (+/- AEC). We’ll see about that, as well.

I do plan to incorporate at least parts of the other stuff developed for the L series into the campaign at some point, but we’ll have to see what effect the players have on the area before deciding exactly how and when.

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Kilgore on March 2nd, 2011

As we’re codifying the combat rules for Wizards & Warriors, I’m tempted to give a slight twist to the old high-roll-on-1d6-wins scheme. We’re going to keep high roll on 1d6 wins, but instead of whichever side rolls best that round getting the initiative, it’s going to be a bit tougher for the momentum to shift the other way.

A house rule we’ve used for years is that, except in the first round, ties in initiative rolls mean the last round’s winner maintains the initiative. (In the first round it means ‘simultaneous.’) The idea is that the side with the advantage tends to keep that advantage unless really pressed.

I’m going to take the concept of momentum a but further and try a system where, if the side that lost initiative the previous round has the better roll in the current round, the initiative shifts to “simultaneous” rather than to the previous round’s loser. After a round of simultaneous initiative, the side which rolls higher takes the momentum. That means a side that was behind needs two rounds to get ahead.

There would be three possible states:

<—–Party initiative—–> <—–Initiative tied—–> <—–Monsters initiative—–>

The state could not shift more than one spot on that line per round.

Tied rolls will continue to mean “repeat previous round,” except that now that could often mean “simultaneous.”

While some will no doubt complain that this means a party that’s screwed will continue to be screwed, I think it may actually make things a bit easier to plan actions. We require declaring action before the initiative roll. Should the wizard try to cast a spell? Well, he’ll have a better chance of knowing whether it’s worth a try or if he should just grip his dagger and hope that they can get the upper hand for a moment to give him more time. Just like in a real fight, he’d maybe have a sense of how things are going and be able to make a decision rather than deciding and simply hoping the die roll goes well.

Any thoughts? Has anyone else tried this?

UPDATE: I forgot to include the fact that if one side surprises the other, the surprising side will be considered to “have the momentum” in the first full round of combat if it comes to blows.

I think this all might do a lot toward making things a little better without mucking with the base system too much.

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Kilgore on February 19th, 2011

Our Roll to Advance alternative experience and leveling system uses a die roll for variability. This adds a bit of unpredictability into a system that would otherwise have characters automatically leveling up after X sessions at a certain level. We chose the d20 for our standard system incorporating all the advanced classes and races because the small difference (5%) between each result on the die and larger target numbers allowed for more differentiation between classes and races. We experimented a little with the d12, and though I suspect that this might be the sweet spot compromise, but we settled on the d20.

We wanted to roughly approximate the relative progression speed of the original games (though we did substantially adjust the cleric), and we wanted to maintain noticeable, if minor, differences between various race-class combinations. For example, we wanted the ranger to be slightly slower to advance than the fighter, while the magic-user was to be slower still. Meanwhile, racial modifiers were also present, with the dwarf having a slower advancement rate than the halfling, but being quicker than the elf. And it wasn’t only the starting target numbers we looked at (17 for fighter, 18 for ranger, and 19 for magic-user), but the rate of increase. For instance, the druid and illusionist both begin with an 18 as their target number to advance to second level; however, while their numbers are very similar, the illusionist slowly becomes a little tougher to advance as the levels increase. The magic-user, on the other hand, starts with a 1st-level target number only one higher than either, but the rate of increase is slightly larger than even the illusionist. With a d20 and larger target numbers, these sorts of differences were relatively easy to work in, and I think we did a fairly decent job of mimicking the original scheme.

However, the d20 variability does create a good chance of widely-spaced levels between characters who have played the same number of session, particularly at lower levels. At higher levels, where the target numbers are much larger, this variability tends to disappear as the number of sessions played begins to matter much more than the result of the die roll. However, how many of us really spend a lot of time gaming at higher levels? I know that we don’t. In fact, most of our gaming over the past few years has been in the levels 1-3 range, and I consider levels 4-7 to be the range that gives the most bang for the buck, so to speak. I’ve spent relatively little time gaming at name level (9th) or above.

Another consideration for us personally is the fact that our Wizards & Warriors homebrew game has only two classes and one race. The need for small but noticeable differentiations between multiple races and a wide range of classes just doesn’t exist. Our original plan was to stick with the d20, but additional thought has led me to think we’d be better off with a smaller die and smaller target numbers to cut down on the odds of wide gaps between character levels within the same party. It’s bad enough to roll badly during a combat while everyone else at the table is tearing through the enemy; it would be far more disheartening to roll badly a few sessions in a row and find that your 1st-level character is now running around with a bunch of third and fourth level characters. My initial thought was to go with the d12, but a post over at of Pedantry and further reflection and experimentation has led us to choose the d6. Besides, an oldschool rule of thumb should be “when in doubt, roll 1d6.”

So here is our current plan for Roll to Advance in our two-class homebrew game, presented as an example of how the Roll to Advance can be quickly and easily adapted to whatever sort of game or style you want to play.

Lord Kilgore's D6 Roll to Advance

For instance, we’ve decided that, though we firmly believe PCs should start at 1st level, we don’t necessarily want to spend a long string of sessions with them stuck at 1st and 2nd level; rather, we’d like to see them advance rather quickly through the first few levels, slowing down once they reach 4th (hero) level to maximize the amount of playing time in the “most bang for the buck” zone. So characters have a 50% chance of advancing to 2nd level after just one session (counting the XP they will earn for that session) and a warrior could theoretically advance after each of his first three sessions if he rolled sixes at second and third level.

A note about the uneven-looking progressions: We started with nice even rates for each class and a nice relationship between the rates for the two classes. But running them through a 52-session simulator didn’t give us the results we really wanted. After first unsuccessfully trying a massage the nice even rates into different nice even rates that got us what we wanted, we gave up and began tweaking each number at each level for each class independently. I had cooked up a spreadsheet to show us actual session-by-session results and could look at lots of simulations by quickly refreshing the sheet and watching where advances were likely to occur and how the two classes compared to each other. We kept playing with the numbers until the simulated results looked like we wanted them to and didn’t bother worrying that they aren’t really very “smooth.”

Basically, you can subtract six from each target number to see the absolute minimum number of sessions that will need to be spent at each level before advancing. A warrior who always rolled a six would reach 8th level after his 48th session, or nearly a year of weekly play. A wizard who always rolled a one would reach 6th level after 49 sessions. So with even the most extreme difference possible, the results seem (to me, anyway) to be perfectly reasonable. My simulations show that a typical result after 52 sessions of play will be a warrior well into 7th level (getting close to 8th) and a wizard that has just advanced to 7th level and has a lot of adventuring to do before he gets close to advancing again. The two will have spent most of the time at equal level or with the warrior one level ahead. Once in a while the wizard will be two levels behind the warrior, and in a few instances early on the wizard may even be a level ahead of the warrior.

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Kilgore on February 8th, 2011

First, I must say that I’m surprised (and flattered) that a number of readers are actually interested in seeing our five color Wizards & Warriors homebrew. I also want to thank those who have sent words of encouragement. I was so pleased that I rushed off to Staples and had a few copies of what we’re calling our Beta edition printed up. Right now it’s 41 pages and mostly complete, leaving room for several pages of appendices with lots of random tables in our planned 48-page complete game guide.

We’re planning on getting in some serious playing with this revision, and hopefully those plans come to pass.

As an example of what I’m talking about when I say I’m worried about compatibility with “normal” versions of the game, while also claiming that our game isn’t really all that different, I’m showing our Treasure Class table (You can click for a closer look):

Lord Kilgore's Wizards & Warriors Treasure Class Table

Lord Kilgore's Wizards & Warriors Treasure Class Table

Now, it looks more or less pretty much like a standard treasure table from any of the standard versions of the game. And it should, as it used the Hoard Class table in Labyrinth Lord as its basis. But a few things are different, the first of which might be the lack of an electrum piece column. There isn’t one, as our game uses only copper, silver, and gold as standard coins, with platinum also available. It’s not that electrum pieces don’t exist, but they aren’t considered standard enough to include in a standard treasure table.

The next thing that probably jumps out is the fact that the lair treasures are listed in hundreds of coins instead of thousands. This is partly because I’m a stingy DM but mostly because our game, which uses a version of the Roll to Advance experience system, doesn’t need piles of treasure in order to get characters the XP they need to advance in level. Experience is gained by adventuring (period) and the treasure recovered while doing so does not have a meta-game value. Also, it should be noted that equipment prices are (mostly) unchanged, so that 10gp sword is a noticeable investment and each copper is worth stooping to pick up. No more leaving the ogre treasure behind because “it’s only silver.” We also adjusted the value of gems and jewelry down significantly.

I’ll admit that we don’t have a lot of play in with this, so it probably needs a bit of adjusting.

Finally, we’ve adjusted all of the d% rolls into d20 rolls and the number of magic items has been changed to a die roll instead of a fixed number. Though some adjustment of probabilities and quantities was done, overall I think the results are fairly similar to the original.

So, while it has a number of major changes that make it stand apart from the standard treasure tables, it isn’t unrecognizable and it isn’t impossible to use. In fact, by simply multiplying the coin totals by ten and using a standard table for gem and jewelry values, it could be used as-is.

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