Saturday, December 26, 2009

More on Gambling and Auctions

Earlier I wrote about an idea for using gambling mechanics as a sub-system within the game. I still think this idea has merit; clearly gambling games hold our attention, as they are widely popular. I also like the idea of different subsystems to resolve different tasks.

Upon further thought I'm not exactly sure I'm implementing it in the right way. When you gamble in poker, in general you place your bet based on how strong you think your hand is relative to every other player's hand. Obviously there are strategies which deviate from this such as manipulating the pot odds which makes the game interesting, but that's the general rule.

What I am trying to do at the moment, however, is find a free market, interactive and exciting method for determining how "costly" a commodity (success at a task) should be. Bear in mind that "cost" could be a finite amount of resources (X Healing Surges, Y Spells, Z Gold Pieces, whatever) or a percentage chance of expending resources (X% chance to die, Y% chance to lose healing surges, etc).

One traditional method is an auction. Basically, in an auction, you take an item for which a general cost is known and allow the purchasers to decide its value. Just looking at Wikipedia, there are a wide variety of auction techniques out there.

One major problem I can see right away with using auctions is collusion. Unless you're playing a game like Agon that pits players against each other, in general, the players will want to collude to get the best possible "price" for their "item" (success at the skill check), because usually their goals overlap.

I see a few ways to beat collusion:
- Offer the players incentives to compete against each other. Agon does this rather well with its emphasis on individual glory over group goals. It doesn't matter if the whole team makes it from Athens to Marathon; what does matter is who makes it first. This gets closer to creating a true market.
- Allow the DM or NPCs to bid on the task as well (which denies the players success if they are unwilling to match the bid). This however gets us back to the issues of requiring the DM to arbitrarily come up with the "costs" for items.
- Use a Dutch Auction. Dutch Auctions are less vulnerable to collusion. However, I think you'd still have to include one of the former methods too; just using a dutch auction alone will not be enough to solve the issues.
- Use a silent auction. This reduces the information available to the players and thus they will need to wager more to ensure winning, especially if one of the first two methods is in play.

So, in short, I think a Silent Dutch auction combined with either NPC/DM bidding (easiest to implement, theoretically) and intra-party competition would be the ticket.

Here's an example of play using some 4E terminology in italics (but feel free to substitute resources from your favorite game:

DM: "Ok, you come across a chasm with boiling lava running through it. The first one across will win an Action Point for their daring and pluck. Bids will be in increments of Healing Surges, with a maximum bid of six surges and a minimum of zero.

Additionally, I'll roll 1d6-3; anyone who bids less than this secret reserve will lose their nerve and fail to make the crossing, and be stuck on the former side for a turn while they hem and haw and get their nerve back up. And of course, every turn in this dungeon requires a wandering monster check..."

All the players then think about what is at stake and how much they value winning that Action Point. They all notate how many surges they are willing to spend, perhaps by secretly setting up a six-sided die in front of them. When all the "bids" are uncovered the one who is willing to bid the most will be the "winner" who gets across the chasm first. The party may well be split if some players fail to meet the secret reserve price; to guarantee getting everyone across, all will have to bid at least 3 surges.

Great Success: The winner of the auction who bids the most. They pay their bid, cross the chasm, and win the action point.
Success: Anyone who bids more than the reserve but does not bid the most. They cross the chasm.
Failure: Anyone who fails to meet the reserve. They fail to cross the chasm and waste a turn to boot.

As a twist, you could work skills into it in several ways. Perhaps skilled characters automatically get a +1 or +2 bonus added to their bid if they can explain how their skill is relevant.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gambling for Skill Checks

One issue I've been thinking about recently is skill checks. One problem with them is that the difficulty class (to use a nasty 3.5 word -- others might refer to it as the "odds of success") is essentially arbitrary. In 1E, the DM must decide if a save is at a penalty or a bonus. In 3.5, they must set a DC. In White Wolf, they need to decide if there is a dice pool bonus or penalty, and how many successes need to be accrued for an extended task. In 4E, there are at least "suggested" DCs for Easy/Med/hard tasks, but the DM must still decide what level the task is and whether its E/M/H. In C&C, the DM must decide what "level" the task is.

All of these methods are at best arbitrary and at worst highly judgment dependent. They can also cause consistency problems; if the DM makes an off-the-cuff ruling on DC every time, then eventually some inconsistent results will occur ("Last time we tried to make that leap, it was DC 15, why is it DC 20 this time?"). If the game includes a long table of modifiers or preset DCs then it becomes impossible to memorize and quite hurky.

I was brainstorming some possible solutions and an idea jumped into my nugget while driving to work. Why not create an "economy" around skill checks? Instead of a command-and-control centralized planning system where the DM sets all "costs" (DCs), why not a "free market" model where the players can barter on what the true cost of an action is? One model for that is a gambling model. For example, in a round of poker, each player estimates how much their hand is worth in relation to the pot.

One problem with this model is that the players may generally have an incentive to gang up against the DM; all members of the party probably want to succeed and the adversarial DM wants them to fail. So the system must either strengthen the hand/influence of the DM (i.e., different amounts of pull or influence), impose transaction costs, or both.

Here's an example of how such a system could work.

* A player wants to leap across a chasm.
* The DM decides whether its worth opposing or not. If the DM decides there should be a risk of failure or an expenditure of resources, then he will oppose it. If he decides there is not, then he just allows the action to succeed, no check required. This step should reduce frivolous checks.
* If the DM decides its worth opposing, he "antes up." He puts some resource into the pot that everyone at the table values. For example, this could be action points (usable by NPCs if in the hands of the DM or by the PCs in the hands of the players), "plot points" (again, usable by both sides), healing surges, gold coins, whatever.
* The player then decides if they are willing to ante up to match the DM's wager. If not, then they do not succeed (nothing ventured, nothing gained). If they meet the ante, then the gods rake the pot and then the mini-game begins.

Raking the Pot: The "Gods" or "Fate" should take a cut from the pot. These chips should effectively leave the game (although groups could allow them to re-enter the game in certain circumstances, such as the common house rule in monopoly allowing people who land on "Free Parking" to take the "kitty" of previously paid fines). This incurs a transaction cost and discourages frivolous skill competitions which waste everyone's time.

One could use a variety of models for the minigame -- poker, dice games, etc. Let's go with a simple variation on "klondike," a poker like dice game.

*Throw a total of five dice. In traditional klondike, the order of dice is 1 (highest), 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (worst).
*Score "hands" of dice to determine the winner. From best to worst:
* Five-of-a-kind
* Four-of-a-kind
* Full House (Three-of-a-kind and a pair)
* Three-of-a-kind
* Two pairs
* One pair

* For a quick and simple skill check, you could just play a quick version of Klondike as above. The player and the DM roll 5 dice and see who the winner is. As a wrinkle, highly skilled characters could roll more dice and take their favorite 5, or reroll some dice.

The winner gets to take the pot, but either way the action succeeds. Note that its up to the DM to set the risk of the action by anteing up at the start.

* For an important skill check, the process should be more involved. Either stud poker (such as 7-card stuck) or community card (Texas Hold 'Em style) would make good models. These include multiple rounds of betting and allows for more strategy. Here's a procedure using a variant on Omaha Hold 'Em (similar to Texas Hold 'em) rules.

- Ante up
- Each player rolls 2 dice as their "hole" cards. If skilled, roll 3. If highly skilled, roll 4. These should be kept secret if possible.
- Bet
- Set up community pot by rolling three dice ("the flop")... Anyone can use these dice; they are shared.
- Bet
- Add one more die to the community pot ("the turn")
- Bet
- Add a final fifth die to the community pot ("the river")
- Bet
- Rake the pot
- Score hands and determine winner. Players must use exactly TWO dice from their private "hole" dice and exactly THREE dice from the public community dice. The winner gets the pot. The action always succeeds; we are just determining how much the cost is.

Here's a wrinkle: Say additional players want to help with the skill check. They should be allowed to ante in and play the mini-game as normal. However, for each additional player, the DM gets to add one die to their private hole. This, plus the rake of the pot, should limit unlikely to succeed "aid another" attempts. This also creates competitive motivations within the party, as its a winner-take-all system.

I'm sure this needs some refining, but I think it could be quite interesting.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Failure and Checks

Today DW and I watched Return of the King. Towards the end of the movie, Sam the Hobbit cries, "I can't carry it [the McGuffin Ring of Power], but I can carry you!" He then hefts Frodo the Hobbit and staggers up a steep climb, while laden with both of their gear to boot and barefoot.

If this was modeled in D&D, I'd imagine it'd go down in one of three ways:

1) ENC Bookkeeping. The DM would say, "Hey, you can't carry all that. Add up what you're carrying." They'd then see if gear needed to be dropped to get to maximum encumbrance.

2) STR check. The DM could call for some sort of check. Perhaps a bend bars/open doors roll or save (in 1E), or some sort of skill check in later editions (climb with a penalty, for example). Generally, failure indicates that the task is not performed.

3) DM Fiat. The DM just handwaves it and allows it to happen, perhaps making some sort of ruling on the fly ("You take 1d6 damage, or you take this penalty to AC, etc...").

I want to zero in on case #2 here. The problem with most traditional checks is that there is either success or failure. If the check succeeds, then the action succeeds too. If the check fails, then there is absolute failure. This probably leads many DMs to go to case #1 (obnoxious bookkeeping but no arbitrariness) or case #3 (arbitrary rulings that seem to fit but can cause consistency problems in the long run). Additionally, I think it leads many players to play conservatively. For example, how many will attempt a daring leap over a pool of lava if there is an 85% of success and a 15% of instant death?

What is needed is an additional level. Say checks could result in Total Success (~1/3 of the time), Partial Success (2/3 of the time), or Failure (very rare, save to upgrade to Partial Success). The consequences for partial success should be painful but manageable. In this system, the skill check doesn't determine if you can do it; the skill check determines how costly it is.

Let's take our climbing Mt Doom example again. Say the DM could call for a STR check. If the check is succesful (about a 1/3 chance) then the task is performed with no adverse consequences. If the check fails (about 2/3) then the action succeeds but there is a cost: perhaps Sam takes some damage or loses a healing surge or something. If the check is a dramatic or total failure (say, they roll a 1), then Sam suffers the Partial Success negative consequences AND must save to avoid a dire fate (like slipping into a pool of lava). As a twist, you could allow the player to abandon their action which means that they don't succeed at all in order to automatically pass the save.

I like this because it says Yes! to the players. If the player of the spindly wizard wants to heroically haul the hulking dwarf in plate mail out of the battle, or the player of the retarded half-orc wants to match wits with a cunning lawyer to get the deed to his castle, you don't have to consult ENC rules or say that success is impossible. Instead, you let the player succeed at what they want to do and use the rules to determine the negative consequences. The player gets what they want... But not for free.

Definitely something to flesh out further.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"I feel better!" -- Full up on HP

One thing that has longed bugged me about D&D style attrition based HP systems is the relative ease at which it is to get to full-up status. I.E., it bugs me that characters go from the brink of death to hale and hearty very quickly. Of course, players always want to be at 100%. It maximizes stamina in combat and odds of success. However, making such top-off healing easy does much to remove the gritty wearing of a long day, and it removes strategic choices from the players.

In 1E, clerics get enough bonus spells even at level 1 that taking a day or two off from adventuring is enough to slap Cure Light Wounds (CLW) onto everyone (a 5 hour break should be enough to rest and memorize up 3 x CLWs...) and get everyone topped off. It is rough only if you have very limited downtime, which causes problems for low level parties in many ways in any event.

In addition, once you hit level 7, scrolls of CLW start to proliferate like toilet paper. Potions are soon to follow. This problem is even worse in 3.5, where the Infamous Wand of Cure Light Wounds (or Lesser Vigor) is the FIRST item any party pools money to buy. 50 charges for 750 GP -- a bargain to ensure that everyone is topped off!

This problem is mitigated in OD&D as level 1 clerics have no spells. Plus, its mitigated by the lack of bonus cure spells. That brings its own issues though in that more downtime is basically mandated.

In 4E, healing surges are often anticlimactic. After a fight, folks do some math, cross off the healing surges, and are magically at 75-100% again. There is a little bit of a choice if above 75% but below 100%; do you "waste" some of the spilled over HP from a surge or risk being at less than 100%? Other than that, there's no real thought involved. Once people are out of surges, the day is over. It only gets exciting once at least some members of the party get very low on surges and start entering fights at <100%.

Here's a few ideas I have to make it a bit harder to be "topped off."


Several systems have a HP model where some damage is physical and some is only metaphysical. For example, in a hypotehtical example, say a fighter has HP equal to their CON score + vigor points equal to 1d10 x level. Vigor points are easy to restore but HP are hard and slow. Damage comes off the vigor points first. Thus, after a bruising near-death experience, the fighter can top off their vigor points but will still bear the scars of the physical wounds for some time.

In 4E, you could do this by saying that healing surges may only be spent to bring you up to your bloodied value, AND letting a player burn surges to gain temp HP equal to their surge value (perhaps in some ratio -- say, burn 3 surges, gain temp HP equal to 2 surges that persist until used up but do not stack). Only with daily magic powers or consumables can you recover HP above your bloodied value.


You could also increase the "cost" to heal up the top 10-50% of a character's HP pool. For example, maybe once you get above a certain cutoff, every HP healed "costs" 2 HP of healing. So, if you're trying to top off, that Cure Light Wounds spell that would have healed 8 HP only heals 4 HP. This could also be done with random chance to decrease granularity. Perhaps a healing spell only takes hold if you roll equal to or under the current HP status on a D100 (so if you are at 80% HP, 80% of healing spells used on you fail).

Am I the only one that is bugged by this? Anyways, just some brainstorming.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Encumbrance Consequences

I've been thinking about ENC. On one hand, encumbrance must have consequences if its to be worth tracking. On the other hand, if the consequences are crippling then it will basically preclude a choice -- carrying too much stuff is so painful that nobody will ever carry too much.

I wanted to look at ENC consequences in various systems and see how they are applied. For now I'm looking at D&D based games. It would be of value to check out other systems but for now this will suffice.


Load in Gold Pieces Equal to Light Foot Movement (12") -- 750
Load in Gold Pieces Equal to Heavy Foot Movement (9") -- 1000
Load in Gold Pieces Equal to Armd. Foot Movement (6") -- 1500

From what I can see, its just a speed penalty.


The rules are a bit complicated and spread across several sections. However, this is what I run with.


Weight (GP)*

Armor Type*


Game Mechanics

Normal Gear


12” – Subject can run quickly



Fairly Bulky (Chain mail, studded leather, Field Plate, etc.)

9” – Subject can make a lumbering run

No bonuses to reaction in surprise situations or to initiative
(ex. from high dexterity)

Very Heavy


Bulky (Plate Mail, Splint Mail, etc.)

6” – Subject can trot for short distances

-3 penalty on initiative rolls



3” – No trotting possible

No charging possible;

Automatically lose initiative vs. non-encumbered foes;

-3 penalty on surprise reaction rolls;
-2 penalty to AC



0” – No movement possible

Considered to be “held”

*Use the least favorable category. A character in the normal gear category for carried equipment wearing plate mail is considered to be in the Very Heavy load category.


S&W has a section on page 11 labeled ENC, but there don't seem to be more defined rules.

Microlite 74

Encumbrance (Optional)
"Characters can carry twelve (plus STR bonus) items in addition to armour, primary weapon, and possibly a shield; six items can be readily available dangling from a belt or slung over the shoulders, but everything else goes into the backpack. Small collections of things (10 flasks, 20 arrows, 50 gems, 100 gold pieces) count as a single item."

Labyrinth Lord

Carrying Capacity and Encumbrance
This is an optional rule, and is used if the Labyrinth Lord wants to make sure characters carry more realistic weights. It is important to keep track of how much weight characters are carrying, because they can only haul so much treasure from a labyrinth, and if they are heavily weighed down they cannot move as fast. Encumbrance is measured in pounds, and is calculated based on adding the weights of all significant items carried, including weapons and armor. The maximum any character can carry is 160 pounds. Character speed will be affected based on encumbrance. Refer to the Movement and Encumbrance Table.

There is then a table that compares weights to movement rates with no other effects.


In 3.5, encumbrance is based on a table related to STR. There are three categories, light/medium/heavy load. Per the SRD: "maximum Dexterity bonus to AC, armor check penalty, speed, and running speed."


Medium and Heavy armor has speed limitations built in. It also tends to impose reasonable penalties on agility skill checks. Carrying a heavy load makes you slowed, which lets you move 2 squares/round -- fairly crippling.


The most common penalty is a limitation to speed. AD&D has the most complicated rules, which also affects surprise and initiative.

I'd say that the penalties are crippling in 4E (Slowed = sucks), AD&D (worst categories only -- AC penalty is bad news), and microlite 74 (its just banned to carry more).

Otherwise, the limits have consequences that are generally livable. 3.5 and 4E are somewhat bad with penalties to skills, but many characters won't care. Otherwise its generally just a speed limitation, except for 1E, where high-DEX characters start to lose benefits.

This leads me to conclude that the OD&D model is a good one for a game. Later versions may be more realistic -- yes, its harder to jump a pit or dodge a blow if heavily laden -- but if the consequences get too bad then its rare for adventurers to push the limits, so why have the rule at all? You might as well just go the Microlite version then and say, "You can't bust enc, just because." AD&D rules work well but they are very complicated.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Magic - Syntax and The Spell Tree

This is an update to my very nebulous verb-noun spell system. As a quick refresher, I am thinking of a Verb + Noun system where players combine elements to creatively generate spells.


The nouns will consist of the elements: Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Aether (White), and Chaos (Black). Possibly "Rustica" as well. This matches up quite nicely as you can see with my languages. Proficiency with nouns will be relatively fixed and determined by languages known, race, etc.

Verbs will consist of the spell tree described below; basically, "Abjure," "Divine," or "Conjure."

Spell sentence syntax is typically I + Verb + Noun (Direct Object). Additional nouns can be added to a sentence at the cost of increasing the difficulty of spell casting, and nouns are Declined as in Latin. The available declensions are as follows:
  • Accusative (Direct Object): This is the standard case used most of the time. In this case, the noun is used as the direct object of the sentence; i.e., the element acted upon by the mage. "I conjure fire."
  • Ablative (By Means Of): In this case, the noun is used to express how something is done. For example, "I conjure Aether by Means of Fire!" would allow one to use a large fire as a tool to conjure aether. This might be useful for a mage highly skilled at Fire magic but not so good at influencing Aether.
  • Dative (Indirect Object): This indicates what the direct object is acting on; that is, a specific target. It is used to target spells. "I conjure fire to air!" would be used to sling
  • a fireball specifically at an air-creature like the fey without affecting anything else.


Verbs are arranged into a tree with basic, simple, and advanced branches. This is similar to weapons. A magic-user will have access to all three levels. A partial caster such as an archetypal cleric might have access to only the simple branches. Finally, most characters should have access to the basic verbs.

The basic schools are Conjurations, Divinations, and Abjurations. There is a rock/paper/scissors relationship: Divinations > Abjurations > Conjurations > Divinations. Divinations are needed to exploit the cracks in a complex ward; abjurations can shield from conjurations; solid conjurations will demolish a divination.

The number of verbs that can be simultaneusly "carried" is dependent on INT, just as the number of weapons that can be carried is based on STR. I'm thinking something like 2 +/- INT modifier.

Basic verbs are very general. They have the power to influence a possible and likely event without a high degree of control. For example, "Conjure Water" is very vague and general. If in a desert it could lead to the soon fortuitous locating of an oasis. They are handy as they are so general but limited because its hard to predict their effects. It can be hard to separate basic verb usage from fate or luck.

Simple verbs are more specific. They have the power to cause even unlikely events to occur. For example, "Summon Water" might be used to call forth a merfolk; sure, its unlikely to find a merfolk in the desert, but its possible even if unlikely. The caster has significantly more control but they are perhaps more limited in usage.

Advanced verbs are extremely specific. They have the power to cause impossible events to occur. For example, "Blast Water" could call forth a damaging blast of frigid ice to attack foes even in the midst of a desert. As you can see below I'm not quite sure what all the advanced verbs will be.

  • Conjure
    • Evoke
      • Blast
      • ADV
    • Summon
      • ADV
      • ADV
  • Divine
    • Know
      • ADV
      • ADV
    • Communicate
      • ADV
      • ADV
  • Abjure
    • Ward
      • ADV
      • ADV
    • Dispel
      • ADV
      • ADV

Additionally, there are two other "side" schools. They have no advantage against any other school and thus are "outside" the rock/paper/scissors school. They have no advanced verbs; they only have basic and simple verbs, albeit verbs that are more potent than usual; Basic words have power to do the improbable, and simple words the power to do the impossible. Access to them can only be gained by foregoing knowledge of any simple or advanced words in the traditional schools.

This allows tricksters or shapeshifters to be easily built. The two side schools are Transmutation and Beguiling.

  • Transmute
    • Alter
    • Shapeshift
  • Beguile
    • Charm
    • Elude (illusions)

Anyways, this is the rough outline of things to come. Just wanted to get something "on paper."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

1E - Weapon Specialization

This DF thread made me think about weapon spec for the first time in awhile. The general contention of WS fans is that fighters need a boost to keep up with their peers in effectiveness, so we need to give them bonuses to hit and damage and extra attacks.


I contend that fighters are first and foremost the primary leaders of the party. They have the cash and the spare time (OOC) to hire and manage followers. Even a first level fighter can use his starting cash to recruit a few men-at-arms. Fighters tend to be the first ones to start up strongholds and receive the best benefits for doing so. Sure, a fighter side-by-side with, say, a cleric is not a favorable comparison. The cleric gets equivalent armor, similar THAC0, access to shields and good weapons vs. heavily armed foes, and spells to boot! The only thing the poor fighter gets is access to good ranged weapons and swords (better magic, and better damage vs. large creatures). However, give that fighter an entourage and things look a lot different. Same thing for comparisons with rangers or paladins.

If the campaign does not allow for hirelings/henchmen, or the DM is prejudiced against red-shirts (making them exorbiantly expensive and so troublesome as to be effectively unusable) then yes, fighters will be significantly underpowered. Additionally, if reasonably high ability scores are unavailable, fighters will be weak -- one of their major class benefits is 18/xx extraordinary STR and the extra HP from 17+ CON. If you are playing largely BTB then these issue will not be present.


Let's accept that we need to boost fighters as a given, despite the reasoning above. The problem with WS is that it denies fighters valid tactical choices.

Without WS, a fighter can make important tactical choices. For example, if he's proficient in the spear, mace, long sword, and longbow, he needs to decide whether he wants reach/hurled/anti-charge capabilities (spear), armor penetration (mace), good damage vs. large critters (sword), or ranged (bow) capabilities. Every encounter is an important choice, and the weapon selection may change from round to round in an encounter based on the situation and opponent.

If he gets +1 to hit/+2 damage with the longsword, then the mace ceases being a viable option; the long sword is strictly better in just about every situation. The spear also loses much of its luster; after all, +1 to hit 1d8 + 2 damage is strictly better than 2d6 double damage vs. charge, even! The only time the spear is a valid choice is if he needs reach or a hurled option (pretty situational). Pretty much the only choice the fighter's player makes now is, "Do I use my ranged option (bow) or my melee option (sword)? Or, do I want to Choose to Suck by using a sub-optimal choice (anything else)?"

Additionally, there is the risk that the player will select specialization in a seriously sub-optimal weapon like the crossbow or club. This gives the player a major chance to suck that will drastically impact their effectiveness compared to someone who specializes in, say, the long sword or long bow or dual-wielding specialized hand axes or something. I don't like giving people the choice to suck, as it punishes newbies who don't understand all the implications of their choices as well as roleplayers who are trying to make fun choices and don't care about the mechanical implications.

Thus, my argument that any "fix" to the fighter class' overall power should NOT affect just a single weapon. It removes one of the fighter's few choices. If you need to fix the fighter he probably doesn't have hirelings to command and control. He doesn't have any spells. So the only thing he DOES have is weapon selection. Don't take even that away from him.


Fighters are likely to need a boost if (A) they don't have followers and (B) they don't have 18/xx STR or 17+ CON. The tactical effect of these factors is to give them higher damage per round (high STR, or lots of hirelings all piling in at once), greater endurance (more HP, or a henchman cleric to provide healing/buffs, or hirelings to take hits and then retreat after soaking damage), or greater versatility (the specialized features provided by hirelings/henchmen).

Thus, I would create a fighter variant. Here's a rough hack. This variant is intended ONLY for single-classed fighters. No dual-class or multiclassing is possible. As you will see, this basically creates VERY mild multiclasses anyways to give the fighter additional choices and/or durability/burst damage.

PROHIBITIONS: The variant fighter selects from the following prohibitions at character creation. At DM's option, additional prohibitions may be taken later.
- No extraordinary strength (+1). The fighter loses their entitlement to extraordinary strength. Even if their STR is later raised to 18 by magic or aging, they do not gain the extraordinary strength roll.
- No extraordinary con (+1). The fighter loses the bonus HP gained by 17+ CON. Even if their CON is later raised to 17+ by magic or aging, they do not gain the bonus HP.
- Follower Restrictions (+1; prereq - CHA 9 or higher). The fighter may not employ followers more than 1 alignment place seperate from themselves. Moreover, the number of henchmen they can have is restricted by level as follows: Lvl 1-4 (0), Lvl 5-8 (1), Lvl 9-12 (2), Lvl 13+ (3). Any hirelings or retainers take a -50% morale modifier.
- Lone Wolf (+2; prereq - CHA 9 or higher). This may not be taken with Follower Restrictions; only one or the other may be taken. Any followers must be exactly the same alignment as the fighter. The fighter may not employ any hirelings or henchmen until level 4. At level 5, 1 fighter henchman or non-combat retainers may be hired. At level 9, a second fighter henchman may be hired. if establishing a stronghold, 1/2 the normal followers are attracted.

Count up the total above. For example, a fighter who selects Lone Wolf, no EX STR, and no EX CON gains +4 points. A fighter who only selects no EX CON gains +1. At level 1, and each time a weapon proficiency is gained, the fighter may spend a benefit point on one of the following perks.

Hedge Magician (Prereq: 13 INT). The fighter has mastered some simple magic tricks. Roll twice on the DMG's list of Utility and Defensive spells for new Magic-Users. The player may then select one spell from each list to learn. These spells can be cast at any time and no memorization is required. After casting one of their spells, the Fighter must make a save vs. Spell; if the fighter has 15+ INT, a +1 bonus is gained, if the fighter has 18+ INT, a +2 bonus is gained. No other bonuses can be gained to this save. If succesful, then the fighter may continue to cast. If the save is failed, then any additional castings inflict 2d10 damage. It takes 4+ hours of rest, just like a MU, to recover spell capability after a failed save.

Moreover, the fighter may read magical scrolls as a thief.

The fighter's effective caster level is equal to 1/2 his fighter level.

- This Perk may be taken multiple times. Each time it is taken, roll twice on the defensive and utility spell lists again and select another spell from each list. The fighter may fail one extra save before accruing damage. For example, a fighter who takes this perk three times will know 6 spells (3 defensive and 3 utility). He can cast freely until he has failed three spell saves; then he he will begin to take damage for each additional casting.

Devoted Warrior (Prereq: 13 WIS). The fighter has gained some minor clerical abilities. Each day, the fighter may pray for and memorize two level I clerical spells. These spells may be spontaneusly cast as often as desired, but after each casting, the character must roll a save vs. RSW applying a bonus (if applicable) for high wisdom; no other bonuses apply. Once failed, no more casting is possible. The effective caster level is 1/2 fighter level.

Once reaching level 4, the character may also Turn Undead as a cleric of their level -3, but must immediately roll the above save as if casting a spell. Failure indicates no more spell casting or Undead Turning is possible that day.

If this perk is taken additional times spell capability improves as follows:
Twice: Select 4 / Fail 2 saves
Thrice: Select 5 / Fail 3 saves. Level II spells may now be selected by swapping out three Level I slots. The save is made at -4.
Four Times: Select 6 / Fail 4 saves

Inspiring Warrior (Prereq: CHA 12). Each day, fighter may use the Bard's Inspire Courage ability once for each time they take this perk. Each usage lasts for a turn. Alternatively, the character may make a legend lore check; their effective level is equal to a bard's. Each time this perk is taken, the ability may be used one extra time per day.

Nature's Ally (Prereq: CHA 12 & WIS 12). The fighter may gain an animal companion as a druid using the Animal Friendship spell; the animal may have 1 HD for every 1 HD the fighter gains. Additionally, they may select 2 level I druid spells/day. Either spell may be freely cast but the fighter must roll a save vs. Spell afterwards, with a modifier for high wisdom (and no other modifiers allowed). Failure indicates no further spells may be cast that day. Caster level is equal to 1/2 character level.

If this perk is taken additional times spell capability improves as follows:
Twice: Select 3 / Fail 2 saves
Thrice: Select 4 / Fail 3 saves. Level II spells may now be selected by swapping out three Level I slots. The save is made at -4.
Four Times: Select 5 / Fail 4 saves

This perk may not be selected if "Devoted Warrior" has already been taken.

Nimble Fingers (Prereq: DEX 12). The fighter may perform Pick Pockets, Open Locks, and Remove Traps functions as a thief of their level -3. If this perk is taken again, they may hide in shadows and climb walls as well. These skills may be limited by worn armor. Each time this perk is taken, the fighter gains +1 to AC against attacks on their rear AC provoked by hastily leaving a melee combat.

Durable Warrior (Prereq: CON 12). Each day, the fighter may take 1 turn to recover 1d6 x level HP. Alternatively, they may take 1 combat round to recover 1 x level HP. If this perk is taken multiple times, then they may use this self healing one extra time per day.

Brutal Warrior (Prereq: STR 12). Each day, the fighter may add 1d6 x 1/2 level damage to a succesful melee hit. This extra damage is added after the roll-to hit (so it is never wasted on a miss). 1d4 x 1/2 level may be added to a ranged attack. Alternatively, the fighter may reroll a bend bars or open doors check or any other check related to STR. If this perk is taken multiple times, this extra damage (or reroll) may be used one extra time per day.

Raging Warrior (Prereq: STR 12 & CON 12). The fighter may choose to go into a rage. This rage incurs a -4 AC and saving throw penalty, but the fighter deals +4 damage on hits with melee or hurled weapons. The fighter also gains reduces all damage taken from attacks by 1 and gains +3" to speed. The rage lasts for 1 turn. If this perk is taken multiple times, this rage may be used one additional time per day each time.

Ascetic Warrior (Prereq: STR 12, CON 12, WIS 12). The fighter gains all the benefits of a level 1 monk including unarmed strike damage, unarmored AC, unarmored movement speed, etc. Each additional time this perk is taken the fighter gains the benefits of a monk of one level higher.

Versatile Warrior. The fighter gains proficiency in an extra allowed weapon. They also gain an additional secondary skill. Finally, they may learn one extra language.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Another description of critical skills for a knight.

  1. Be a brilliant horseman; be able to pick things off the ground, know and perform all the gaits and have full control over his mount...which would be a stallion.
  2. Be good at swimming and diving; swimming proficiently enough that he can manoeuvre in water
  3. Be good at archery (bows and crossbows) and later on firearms. A common myth is that knights disdained such things in warfare, but the Septem Probitates explicitly mentions that these may be used against Princes and Dukes.
  4. Be fast at climbing ladders, both wooden and rope.
  5. Be honourable in the tournament. This mostly refers to tilting or in modern parlance, jousting. A knight was expected both to good at this as well as very honest.
  6. The part that most people expect: good at wrestling and fighting, but also included in this virtue is to excel at the long jump (beat others) and with using either leg.
  7. The last virtue is mostly about social interaction.
    • He needs to know how to serve at the table. In particular this meant to carve and serve meat for the ladies and know all the other table etiquette which was pretty exhaustive; they had very strict rules which will probably come as a surprise to many, and
    • He needs to know how to dance. This doesn't mean the bump and grind of today's so-called dancing either, and
    • He needs to know how to play boardgames which is those days mainly meant chess, draughts and tables (backgammon), and
    • And the caveat of anything else that is proper.
Stolen from here:

AD&D Spells -- Level I MU

Here is my assessment of level I MU spells. First, Nazim's poll results. There were about 108 voters on this poll. For 9/10 folks to think something rocks, it needs to have more than 97 votes. For fewer than 1/10 to think its ever useful, then it needs to have 11 votes or less. To be in the top 20%, it needs 86+ votes. I've highlighted those extremes in blue and red respectively for you below.

10 Best Level I MU Spells. According to you.
Affect Normal Fires (Alteration) 1% 1% [ 6 ]
Alarm (Evocation) 0% 0% [ 2 ]
Armor (Conjuration) 5% 5% [ 52 ] x
Burning Hands (Alteration) 2% 2% [ 25 ]
Charm Person (Enchantment/Charm) 8% 8% [ 88 ] x
Comprehend Languages (Alteration) 3% 3% [ 28 ]
Uncomprehensible Languages (Alteratio) 0% 0% [ 0 ]
Dancing Lights (Alteration) 0% 0% [ 4 ]
Detect Magic (Divination) 6% 6% [ 69 ]
Enlarge (Alteration) 3% 3% [ 30 ]
Shrink (Alteration) 2% 2% [ 17 ]
Erase (Alteration) 0% 0% [ 0 ]
Feather Fall (Alteration) 5% 5% [ 53 ] x
Find Familiar (Conjuration/Summoning) 3% 3% [ 32 ] x
Firewater (Alteration) 0% 0% [ 1 ]
Friends (Enchantment/Charm) 0% 0% [ 4 ]
Grease (Evocation) 2% 2% [ 23 ] x
Hold Portal (Alteration) 1% 1% [ 15 ]
Identify (Divination) 4% 4% [ 47 ]
Jump (Alteration) 0% 0% [ 2 ]
Light (Alteration) 4% 4% [ 40 ]
Magic Missile 8% 8% [ 89 ] x
Melt (Alteration) 0% 0% [ 1 ]
Mending (Alteration) 1% 1% [ 9 ]
Message (Alteration) 0% 0% [ 2 ]
Mount (Conjuration/Summoning) 1% 1% [ 8 ] x
Nystuls' Magic Aura (Illusion/Phantasm) 0% 0% [ 2 ]
Precipitation (Alteration) 0% 0% [ 1 ]
Protection From Evil (Abjuration) 5% 5% [ 51 ] x
Protectino From Good (Abjuration) 0% 0% [ 1 ]
Push (Conjuration/Summoning) 0% 0% [ 3 ]
Read Magic 5% 5% [ 56 ]
Unreadable Magic (Divination) 0% 0% [ 0 ]
Run (Enchantment) 0% 0% [ 2 ]
Shield (Evocation) 6% 6% [ 65 ]
Shocking Grasp (Alteration) 1% 1% [ 13 ]
Sleep 10% 10% [ 105 ] x
Spider Climb (Alteration) 3% 3% [ 33 ]
Taunt (Enchantment) 0% 0% [ 3 ]
Tensers' Floating Disc (Evocation) 2% 2% [ 20 ]
Unseen Servant (Conjuration/Summoning) 6% 6% [ 65 ] x
Ventriloquism (Illusion/Phantasm) 0% 0% [ 4 ]
Wizard Mark (Alteration) 0% 0% [ 1 ]
Write (Evocation) 1% 1% [ 14 ]
You may select up to 10 options

Total votes : 1086

This quick numerical analysis suggests the following categories.

Armor (Conjuration)
Burning Hands
Comprehend Languages -- Suggest making underpowered
Detect Magic
Find Familiar
Hold Portal
Pro Evil
Read Magic -- Suggest making underpowered
Shocking Grasp
Spider Climb
Tenser's Floating Disk
Unseen Servant

Charm Person
Magic Missile

Affect Normal Fires
Uncomprehensible Languages
Dancing Lights
Mount --
Suggest making standard powered
Nystul's Magic Aura
Pro Good
Unreadable Magic
Wizard Mark

My first problem is that there are too many spells. There's a lot of crap there I think and its hard to remember.

In any event, I think the top three picks are good candidates for over poweredness. Magic Missile is a staple for mid and higher level characters, who often fill their slots with nothing but magic missile to be gatling guns. Sleep is a nuke. Charm Person is often spammed. I'd slap a material component on them.

There are a lot of underpowered spells. I would move read magic and comprehend languages down to underpowered to pair them up with their weak reversals (or vice versa). I would move Mount up to the standard power because I find it to be very versatile and handy. I think you'd be safe making all those Underpowered spells level 0 cantrips, however.