Sunday, April 10, 2011

Alternate OD&D Fighting Man

Here is a Fighter I've been working on for some time. It is currently oriented towards a Swords & Wizardy power level -- and I'll use that nomenclature -- although it could be easily modified for AD&D.

The Fighting Man (Alternate)
XP: As stock Fighting Man with 10% XP penalty.
Hit Dice: As stock Cleric.
Saves: As stock Fighting Man.
Technique: Technique measures the sophistication of a fighting man's "bag of tricks." In general, new players (i.e., beginners) should start with low technique scores. Advanced players should begin with moderate to high Technique. There are thus two ways to handle this attribute.
  • Technique as a Derivative of Wisdom (w/ Advanced Group): Utilize the fighter's Wisdom score for Technique. Convert the 3-18 WIS score to a modifier per the following conversions: 0-1 (1), 3-5 (2), 6-8 (3), 9-12 (4), 13-15 (5), 16-18 (6), 19-21 (7). Using this option, the DM should consider allowing Wisdom scores to be increased over the course of the campaign or supplying items which increase the derived Technique attribute as player skill improves.
  • Technique as a function of Level (w/ Basic Group): Utilize the fighter's level divided by two +1 to determine the Technique score. For example, Level 1-2 (1), 3-4 (2), 5-6 (3), 7-8 (4), 9-10 (5), 11-12 (6), 13-14 (7), etc. If the campaign will progress to higher levels (for example, ~20) then use intervals of three levels to spread out progression so that technique tops out around 7.

Reserve: At the start of each major adventure or quest, place one entire side of a chess set (i.e. all white or all black pieces) into a bag or pool and shuffle them. These pieces are known as the "reserve." When the reserve is gone, it is gone, so a player must be careful to ration their pieces throughout the adventure.
Draw Hand: At the start of the quest, the player randomly draws a number of pieces equal to their technique score from their reserve into their "hand." Special: For each henchman in the fighter's employ, reduce the initial hand size by one.
Put Pieces into Play: Players may put pieces into play out of their hand in three ways. First, they may use them to hire retainers. Second, they may deploy them to provide static benefits.
Recruit: Throughout an adventure, players have an opportunity to draw new pieces from their pool into their hand. Whenever a milestone is reached, the player rolls 1d6. If the die roll is greater than or equal to their Technique score, then they may draw a new piece from their reserve into their hand. A milestone should occur approximately six times per Adventure/Major Quest. The GM may also allow a recruitment roll to occur after appropriate rest has occurred. The size of the hand may not exceed the Technique score (i.e. it is beneficial to use pieces regularly); if the hand is too large to draw a new piece, the player may see what they drew and put a piece in their hand back into the Reserve (i.e., swap them).
The Graveyard: Once a piece is in the graveyard, it is out of play for the adventure. It cannot be put back into the reserve until the next quest. Note that pawns can be promoted into any piece, but it may take time.

Benefits of Pieces

Hiring Retainers: First, players may expend pieces from their hand in order to hire a retainer. In order to do this, play the piece directly onto the board and expend a salary in silver pieces equal to the below formula:
Level ^ 2 per Day (Hazard Pay) or per Week (Garrison Pay)

The new retainer has a 1 in 6 chance of showing up each combat round (dice until they arrive if it is relevant). They will be appropriate to the setting. In the underdark, they might be an escaped slave or defecting foe. In a village, it might be a militiaman. In any event, the combat statistics will generally adhere to those below.
  • PAWN (Light Infantry): Pawns are light foot troops representing lightly armed and armored militia, peltasts and other such expendable rabble. Still, even an inexperienced militiaman can show promise and be promoted.

    HP: 1 (always; a passed save that normally results in 1/2 damage results in no damage to a pawn). Save: As fighter -4. To Hit: As fighter -4. Damage: Level/3 + 1 (ranged, short range hurled weapons only), Level/3 + 1d6 (melee). AC: 13 + 1/3 Level. Move: 12"/4 spaces. Special: Promotion, Sacrifice, Formation, and Fodder.

    Promotion (Special): Each time a Milestone occurs, there is a 1 in six chance that a Pawn may be promoted to another piece.
    Formation (Special): Pawns gain +1 to hit, +1 saves, and +1 AC for each adjacent Pawn. This stacks with multiple pawns.
    Fodder (Special): Cost 1/2 normal wages to recruit.
    Sacrifice (Special): At any time, sacrifice a Pawn. Another piece regains 1d6 HP per three levels.

  • BISHOP (Archer): Bishops represent missile troops such as archers, crossbowman, slingers, and so on.

    HP: 1/level. Save: As fighter -2. To Hit: As fighter -2. Damage: Level/3 + 1d6 (ranged, medium range projectiles), Level/3 (melee). AC: 13 + 1/3 Level. Move: 9"/4 spaces. Special: Select either Fodder, Longbowman, Crossbowman, or Provide Arms.

    Fodder (Special): Cost 1/2 normal wages to recruit. Represents slingers with non-specialized arms.
    Longbowman (Special): Use long range projectiles instead of medium.
    Crossbowman (Special): +2 to hit vs. armored targets.
    Provide Arms (Special): Sacrifice the Bishop. Another piece on the board gains a ranged attack equal to the base Bishop.

  • KNIGHT (Light Horse): Knights represent light horsemen, or, if dismounted, light skirmishers.

    HP: 2/level. Save: As fighter -2. To Hit: As fighter -2. Damage: Level/3 (ranged, short range projectiles), Level/3 + 1d6 (melee). AC: 13 + 1/3 Level. Move: 24"/8 spaces (outdoors), 12"/4 spaces (indoors), +2 AC vs. Opportunity Attacks. Special: Provide Mount, Charge.

    Provide Mount (Sacrifice): Sacrifice the Knight. Another piece on the board gains the Knight's movement rate and AC bonus vs. Opportunity Attacks.
    Charge: The Knight charges, gaining +1d6 damage on a single melee attacks. This power may only be used once.

  • Rook (Shield Bearer): Rooks represent heavily armored, slow moving troops that protect others. Equipped with only light weapons, they wear chain and bear heavy shields.

    HP: 2/level. Save: As fighter -2. To Hit: As fighter -2. Damage: Level/3 (ranged, short range projectiles), Level/3 (melee). AC: 15 + 1/3 Level. Move: 9"/3 spaces. Special: Provide Cover, Shield Wall.

    Provide Cover (Sacrifice): Sacrifice the Rook. Another piece may reroll a failed saving throw or negate 1d6 damage/three levels.
    Shield Wall: One ally adjacent to the Rook gains +2 AC.

  • Queen (Heavy Infantry): Queens represent heavy troops, armed and armored with the best available gear.

    HP: 3/level. Save: As fighter -2. To Hit: As fighter -2. Damage: Level/3 (ranged, short range projectiles), Level/3 + 1d6 (melee). AC: 17 + 1/3 Level. Move: 6"/2 spaces. Special (Choose one): Pikes, Swords, Maces, Two-Hander, Fodder.

    Swords: +1 to hit.
    Pikes: -1 AC. The Queen uses a polearm, gaining reach (first strike) as well as any other benefits accorded to spears, such as double damage vs. charging foes.
    Maces: +2 to hit vs. heavily armored foes.
    Two Hander: -1 AC. +1d6 melee damage. Represents massive two handed weapons.

  • King (Specialist): Kings are something of a wildcard. They may represent specialists who don't always have a combat role. While physically frail they can have interesting benefits. They represent inspiring prophets to be protected, archaeologists exploring ruins, and other unique and interesting individuals who may provide benefits if they can be kept alive. The DM and player are encouraged to be creative when a King is put into play. The king still costs funds to recruit and maintain; this represents money spent keeping the finicky specialist happy.

    HP: 1/level. Save: As fighter -4. To Hit: As fighter -4. Damage: Level/3 (ranged, short range projectiles), Level/3 (melee). AC: 12 + 1/3 Level. Move: 9"/3 spaces. Special: Inspiring, Reward.

    Fodder (Special): Cost 1/2 normal wages to recruit.
    Inspiring: Adjacent allies gain +2 damage, +2 saves.
    Reward: For each milestone reached while the king is deployed and actively adventuring with the party, place 1 token on the king. During any rest, remove a token for a benefit. Some example benefits:

    The King represents a merchant couriering valuable goods. He rewards the party with Level ^ 2 in SP.
    The King represents an archaeologist interested in exploring ruins. He rewards the party by answering one question or providing a clue, similar to a Commune/Legend Lore spell.
    The King represents an alchemist. He gladly hands over a useful portion or item.
    The King represents a sacred prophet. The party gains extra XP for escorting him.

Deploying Pieces: A Fighting Man may also deploy pawns to gain a static benefit which is usually a "buff." These pawns cannot be directly attacked or otherwise affected. The player may voluntarily sacrifice any deployed piece at any time. In this case, the player immediately gains a significant benefit but the piece goes to the graveyard. There is no limit to the number of pieces deployed at any given time, but benefits do not stack.

  • Pawn: Gain a bonus when dealing with any non-combat skill check.

    En Passant (Sacrifice): Make an Opportunity Attack (yes, you can make a second). If your game doesn't use OA's, then the DM will allow this to be used whenever an adjacent foe opens themselves to an attack (fumbles, moves uncautiously, uses a ranged attack in melee, etc).
    Promote (Special): Each time a Milestone occurs, there is a one in six chance that a Pawn may be promoted to another piece.

  • Knight: Gain +2 AC vs. Opportunity Attacks.

    Dash (Sacrifice): Make a full move, immediately, at any time. The +2 bonus vs. AC increases to +4.

  • Bishop: Gain +2 damage on all ranged attacks.

    Sharpshooter (Sacrifice): During your turn, make an extra ranged attack. The attack ignores all penalties from cover and concealment. If it hits, it deals +1d6 damage. You may not move during this turn unless it is a charge.

  • Rook: Gain +2 to saves and +2 to AC.

    Shields Shall be Splintered (Sacrifice): An enemy that just hit you must reroll their successful attack.
    Second Chance (Sacrifice): If you just failed a save, roll again.

  • Queen: Roll initiative twice each round and take the result you prefer. If your DM does not reroll initiative each round, then you are considered to have "first strike" and may go first each combat.

    Gambit (Sacrifice): During your turn, make an extra melee attack with +2 to hit. If it hits, the attack deals +1d6 damage. You may not move during this turn unless it is a charge.

  • King: All adjacent allies gain +2 to saves.

    King's Castle (Sacrifice): Also requires a Rook to be Sacrificed. Swap places with an ally or piece no more than 1/2 your speed away. You and the ally both regain 1 HP per level and gain +2 AC until the end of your next turn.
    Rally the Troops (Sacrifice): Roll 1d6 for every three levels. Heal allies you can see by this amount. Apportion D6s of healing however you see fit. Any troops which have failed morale are entitled to a new check to rally.

DM Notes

Milestone Placement: Placing milestones is the most important aspect of this variant fighter and requires careful thought. In general, six milestones per quest is the breakeven point for different Technique levels. If there are more than six milestones, then lower Technique scores have somewhat of an advantage as they will pull ahead due to their superior ability to recuit. If there are few milestones, then high Technique scores which start with many chessmen in the hand will be superior.

Examples of Milestones include defeating any opponent with a name (i.e. hated foes, sub-bosses, etc), achieving a secondary objective, particularly good play, as rewards similar to treasure, etc. The DM should consider placing at least 2d6 milestones throughout their dungeon key, expecting the players to actually find approximately 1/3 of them, and be willing to occasionally throw in 1-2 milestones per session "ad hoc." Milestones should not be automatic rewards for surviving combats. Indeed, they should not be awarded for most wandering monster encounters. Milestones should be viewed as a reward that motivates players to achieve secondary objectives which further the plot and adventure.

It is not inappropriate to hint (appropriately, in game) that certain achievements may result in a milestone award in order to steer players that way. For example, the elves may speak of a pool in the forest which has restorative properties if drunk from by a weary traveler. Finding this pool is a milestone, regardless of whether the players fight three random encounters on the way there or none at all.

If you are stingy with awarding milestones for in-game objectives, consider granting milestones for rest. Very stingy DMs or those running free-form campaigns with few obvious objectives might award a milestone for every full night or day of rest. DMs that prefer an action-packed campaign with defined plot might only award rest for a full day of rest (taking Sunday off), a longer period like a week, or even a restorative stay at an inn in town (also a good way to siphon money from adventurers!).

The Power of the Dark Side (Optional Rule): This system may be tied to alignment.
  • Chaotic characters may only use the black pieces. Retainers will tend to be chaotic ne'er dowells (rogues, brigands, humanoids, mongrels, etc) with all the social consequences that entails. All chaotic hired retainers gain +2 damage. If a Fighting Man has any black piece deployed, he exudes an aura of dread equal to his charisma score in inches that gives -2 to saving throws. This aura includes allies.
  • Lawful characters may only use the white pieces. Retainers will tend to be law and order types such as militia, men-at-arms, good demihumans, etc. All lawful hired retainers gain +2 morale and +2 to saves. If a Fighting Man has any white piece deployed, he exudes an aura of charity equal to his charisma score in inches. He may allow any ally within this aura to gain the benefit of his deployed piece instead of himself. The benefit may be changed from round to round by taking time equal to a normal move.
  • Neutral characters may use either set of chess pieces, but they must select one army at the start of the adventure and use it until the conclusion of the adventure. Their aura radius is halved and the bonus to damage/morale/saves is halved (+1 instead of +2), however. Excessive use of one army or the other may change the character's alignment.
Specialization (Option): The player may choose to specialize in any type of piece (except for pawns). Whenever a milestone occurs, the player may declare that they are promoting normally (1/6 chance to convert a pawn into any piece) or they may declare a specialist promote, in which case there is a 2/6 chance to promote the pawn into the designated specialist piece. For example, an archer could specialize in Bishops. This makes it easy for them to rapidly promote pawns into Bishops which aid their ranged attacks.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fighters and Unique Mechanics

I'm really happy with the unique mechanics I've developed for "elemental" (clerical?) magic as well as roguish gamblers. They aren't perfect, but I think they do a great job of using unique mechanics to support a special "feeling" for each character class or role.

I came up with another for "fighting men:" chess pieces! Chess pieces are great because they are very common gaming equipment as well as inexpensive: a set of basic plastic chessmen can be had for <$5. Basically, the fighting man starts with a 1/2 set worth of chessmen (i.e. all the blacks or all the whites). The fighting man may deploy a piece in order to gain a static, lasting benefit. He may sacrifice the piece in order to gain a burst benefit. And finally, he can deploy a piece to "summon" a hireling, man-at-arms, or other helpful ally.

The number of pieces that can be present at any given time should be limited, probably to an attribute -3.

However, once a piece is deployed, it cannot be "recalled;" if the player wants to get rid of it, it must be sacrificed. I'm not exactly sure how pieces should be restored; I am inclined to think that it should only be between adventures. After all, there are 20 pieces so they should last awhile.

Here's an example:

PAWN: Representative of foot soldiers. Some medieval scholars likened each pawn to a medieval profession, usually those of a commoner or artisan.
  • Deployed: +1D to any mechanical art. At the end of each encounter, there is a 1/3 chance that a deployed pawn can be promoted to any other piece.
  • Sacrifice: En-Passant. Lash out at a foe that disregards your zone of control and gain +1D on an opportunity attack.
  • Summon: Minion, basic man-at-arms
One could also do something with the white vs. black pieces, similar to the red vs. black cards.