Thursday, June 20, 2013

Old School Forgotten Realms NPC's

While as power creep expanded out of control in the the Forgotten Realms, the NPC's in the original grey boxed set are actually not that powerful by AD&D standards.

I took down the class and level of all the NPC's listed in the grey boxed set and this is what I came up with:

Summary of Notable NPC's (70 total listed) from the Realms:

     Class           Level    
 Bard   : 2        Min.   : 1.0 
 Cleric : 9        1st Qu.: 6.0 
 Druid  : 3        Median : 7.5 
 Fighter:16      Mean   : 8.8 
 Ranger : 6      3rd Qu.:11.0 
 Thief  : 4         Max.   :27.0 
 Wizard :30

The average NPC is around 8-9 level, the notable NPC list is dominated by Wizards and Fighters!  I lumped paladins in with clerics, so that list is inflated some due to that fact.  Visually you can see how the list is broken out here:

Looking at the overall distribution of Notable NPC levels:

Most of the notable NPC's are between 4-11th level.  This would mean that the majority of folks living in the realms are probably commen "men" or at most 1-2 level fighters.  The people in this list are stand outs. 

In my game I'm not really planning on using any specific NPC's from the books, just as inspiration and guidance for my own version of the realms.  For my current game employing Swords and Wizardry Whitebox I'm going to scale the average NPC level back even further, probably dropping the average level for "Notable" NPC's to around 5th level and removing all the 20+ characters.

Here are the same NPC statistics broken out by class:

One of the things I noticed from this list, is that high level clerics are rare.  This means in order to find somebody to raise dead, you are going to have to travel, and then probably prove your worthiness by gold or deed to obtain the spell (at least until the party cleric can cast the spell).  I also think there should be some kind of permanent penalty for dying so I will probably make each raise dead lower your constitution score by 1 and maybe make the player roll under their Con on a d20 to actually be raised.  That will limit the number of raise dead attempts in any game.  I don't want death to have absolutely no bite.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ware the Metagamers

I was reading through one of my forgotten realms books, I can't for the life of me remember which one, and Ed Greenwood had written, something like..."I know it seems impossible, but I've heard that adventurers have been known to read!"  He was giving DM's the advice of "change it up" - vary the contents of the adventure, the HD of the creatures, change your traps up, give monsters them a new special ability from time to time without warning... all of these things bring back the feeling of not knowing what is going to happen.  That feeling is much more common when you are new to the game, not a player of 20-30 years.

It made me think about my personal pet peeve against obvious use of metagaming.  My pet peeve is one of the reasons I always hated "Detect Good" "Detect Evil"... I wanted my games to be a little more shades of grey and a little less black and white.  You use wits and role playing to determine who the villain is, not Detect Good/Evil on the entire village!  I banished the "combat machine" ability from my new Swords and Wizardry game because I don't want to tell my players, "yeah, you can't use that ability on Lizard Men, they happen to be 2 HD creatures..."  It takes you right out of the role play environment and into a board game.

Don't get me wrong, some amount of Metagaming is going to happen, it is human nature and might even be good for the game itself.  However, I really don't like setting the game up from the start for an overabundance of it.

So I started thinking about a couple of the creature statistics in this addition of the game, Dragons for example.  In S&W whitebox, dragons are given fixed HP and fixed damage breath weapon.  Well, any seasoned player of a few adventures, or an avid reader, is going to know exactly how many HP a given dragon will have just by how many it dealt when it used its breath weapon.  I can tell you that I will be giving dragons a much more variable HD range, and actually roll the dice to generate HP.  I'll also give them a breath weapon dice pool and roll those too.  We are playing over skype so I'm mostly using an online dice roller anyway, so rolling 10d6 takes just about as long as 1d6.  In fact, maybe soon I should post a custom stat block for dragons up here.  I like adding in things like tail slap attacks, wing attacks, etc...  

While I'm at it, there will be the random firebreathing Bugbear, the random troll that can handle sunlight, but has allergies, etc... The beauty of Swords and Wizardry, is it should allow for more adaptation without "breaking" anything.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Turning Undead in the White Box rules

One of my players made a cleric of Moradin in my Whitebox FR game.  So I was reading the Turn Undead ability.  Woah... no range described, "all creatures of the type are turned" etc... so a single 4th level cleric could turn an entire army of skeletons to dust without a roll...  I'm not sure I like that.

I'm not sure why the saving throw system wasn't used for turning undead (I wonder if there is a historical context for this table that I'm not aware of, dating back to Chainmail...).

If you used the saving throw system, the cleric would use the turn undead ability and then the undead critter would get a saving throw to resist the ability,  Higher Undead/Demons would automatically be harder to turn.  You could give a penalty to the save equal to the clerics level/2 and if the save is missed by 10 the creature immediately turns to dust.  I'd give it a range of 100 ft, so:

Turn Undead (Lawful Cleric Ability)

When using Turn Undead, a lawful cleric channels the might of their god, sending penetrating waves of power toward the undead foe, within 100 ft.  All undead in the range must make a saving throw or flee the cleric, the undead get a penalty to this saving throw equal to the (cleric's level)/2, round down.  If trapped, or otherwise unable to flee, the DM may rule that the undead may attack.  If the saving throw is missed by 10 or more, the undead is destroyed in whatever way the DM describes (turn to dust, explode into buckets of ectoplasm, etc...)

To further limit this powerful ability a DM may rule that it may only be used 1 time per level of the cleric per day.

I think this balances the power of the ability in a way that will work for my game.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Whitebox House Rules Part 6: Char Gen and Adventuring Mods

Stat generation: Roll 4d6 drop lowest in order.  Then switch any two stats.  Human PC’s get to add +1 to any stat.

1st level HP:  roll twice for HP at first level and take the best roll.

Combat Time:  a round is assumed to be approximately 10 seconds.  There are 60 rounds in a turn (10 minutes).  A battle is assumed to last ~ 1turn counting “clean up” and resting.


A character with move 12 can move 120’/turn in a dungeon (moving slow, mapping), they can move 1/3 their normal turn based move in feet per round in combat (40’/round), and 120’/round if running.  This equates to 4ft/second hustle/ walking rate, and 12’/second if running.  The GM will determine overland movement rates depending on road conditions, weather, and the PC move rate.
Missile Weapons:

Due to the shortened combat round, characters with bows can fire at 1/round.  Light crossbows can fire at 1 missle everytwo rounds.  Heavy crossbows can fire 1 missile every three rounds.  Higher level archery fighter specialists have been known to achieve faster rates of fire.


Characters do not die when they reach 0 HP.  Instead they go unconscious at 0HP.  If a character takes a hit sending them to negative HP, they begin losing 1 HP per round.  Characters die when they reach -5HP or -1HP/level whichever is greater.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Whitebox House Rules Part 5: Thieves

I wasn't even sure if I should add this class, I'm still not sure... since I'm allowing fighters to specialize I thought about keeping all the rules behind this class a secret to my players and have a specialized fighter "kit" called the "second story man" or the "bandit" or the "thief".  I was thinking that they could choose to wear light armor, focus on stealth over brawn, without the skill list to go with it.  If I do decide to use an actual Thief class, this is how I would do it:

Thief: humans/half-elves (10th), halflings (8th), dwarf (6th)

Exp, hit dice, and combat abilities as cleric.  Dex of 15 or higher = +5% exp.  Dwarves and halflings suffer a -10% experience penalty (which can be partially off set by high dexterity).

Thieves only wear leather armor or lighter and use light weapons and short bows, and light x-bows.  +1 to saving throws vs. traps.

Back Stab:  if a thief sneaks up on an opponent, they get the normal attack bonus  against an unaware opponent.  If they hit, they gain x2 damage.  At 5th level they get x3 damage and at 8th level x4 damage.

Challenge Resolution System:  handled by rolling 1d6, roll of 6 always fails, all characters (fighters, elves, dwarves, etc… can perform these, but thieves get a better chance)

Normal Class Skill
Thief Starting Skill
Find Traps (secret doors)
Remove Traps
Move Silently/Sneak
Hide in Shadows
Open Locks
Hear Noise
Climb Walls
NA (use equipment)
Pick Pockets

Dwarves automatically get 4/6 chance at finding/removing underground traps.
Elves automatically get 4/6 chance at noticing secret doors.
Halflings automatically get a 4/6 chance at sneak, and hide in shadows.

At each level a thief can improve one skill by a single rank.  The same skill cannot be increased two times in a row.

*The Core concept of using all d6's to resolve thief skills is a combination of earlier posts of mine, here, and here, combined with the "Delver's Delve" article by David Bowman p3 of Fight On Winter issue 2009.  The "normal" class skill is a suggestion of how to resolve the action but I'm planning to think about this.  I've always appreciated the theory behind not having a thief class.  Since none of my players have decided to play a thief yet... I'm keeping this one fluid, and will rely on situational rulings not rules for now...  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Whitebox House Rules Part 4: The Wizard


Again, wizards are pretty much as written in the core rules.  However, wizards of the realms will each have a special ability.  This ability isn’t very powerful but helps at lower levels and in roleplaying the wizard.  It is the raw core of the wizard’s ability and shows how their magic manifested in their youth:

1.     Eye of the Enchanter:  by locking eyes with the weak willed they get +1 skill attempt at intimidation and influence.  The GM determines who is weak willed.  Opponents get -1 to saves from this type of wizard’s charm magic.
2.     Beast Friend: these wizards have a familiar – a small animal bonded to them from youth.  They can communicate with the animal at its level and the creature will try to help them.  They tend to have good results with animal magic.
3.     Kinetic Wizard: these wizards have a minor telekinetic ability, they can slowly move objects under ½ lb within 10 ft of their bodies with their minds.  This can not be used to do damage, or pull a weapon from an opponents grasp.  It could slowly move a key, or small item off a tray, etc…
4.     Diviner:  this wizard has the power of visions, in a manner agreed upon by player and DM.  The player should never have more than 1 per week, and they may exact a toll on the player’s physicality.  The GM decides what is seen and how it relates to the current story.
5.     Enchanter:  this type of wizard can sense magic in items, and if handled has a chance at automatically determining their magic.  Later on in their career, they have bonuses with using identification magic, enchanting items, etc…
6.     Hedge Mage/Witch:  using strange recipes of herbs, rituals, etc… this type of wizard can perform small tasks.  Ease the pain of birth, reduce fever, help plants grow, etc… this type of wizard is beloved by the common folk.

There are many other possibilities, elemental wizards, rain mage (dances and makes it rain!), necromancer vision (I see dead people), and others, discuss with GM any ideas you might have.