Archive for the ‘Rule Variants’ Category

PFBB House Rule – Aid Another

April 6, 2016


Those of you familiar with Pathfinder core recall that there is a rule for aiding another character during a skill check.  Pathfinder Beginner Box has no such rule.  This provides an opportunity to add a simple house rule that borrows from 5th Edition without affecting any other part of your BB experience.

Simply, when one character aids another during a skill check, the player making the skill check rolls two d20s and uses the higher result (in 5E this is called Advantage).  In order to aid another, the character must be trained in the skill in question.  Of course, there may be particular circumstances in which aiding another during a skill check is either impossible or highly impractical (at the GM’s discretion).


Pathfinder Beginner Box: Simple Inventory System

April 1, 2014

Valeros - FighterAs you probably know, Pathfinder Beginner Box has no rules concerning encumbrance or weight.  You may be comfortable just hand waving encumbrance issues, but if you want something a little more concrete I suggest the following:

First, if you check the BB character sheet, you will note that the equipment section has 30 entries (or “slots,” if you will).  Simply treat these 30 slots as a hard limit on how much stuff characters can carry, including armor, shield, weapons, equipment and treasure (to include gems, jewelry, artwork, potions, scrolls, wands and other magic items).  This also includes items that occupy one of the 13 item slots specified on pg. 48 of the Game Masters Guide.  So, characters have a maximum of 30 inventory ‘slots.’

For the simplest application of this, simply treat everything as a separate item, even really small things like pitons or darts.  For example, if a character buys 5 darts, those darts occupy 5 different inventory slots.  This may seem a bit ridiculous at first glance, but consider that while one slot holds a dart, another may hold a suit of plate mail.  We assume that weight carried averages out across all 30 slots.

In addition,  cross out the GP/SP/CP boxes at the top of the equipment section and have all coins recorded within the equipment slots, 100 coins per slot. This enforces an encumbrance limit on treasure and will force players to make hard choices about what to take home with them (perhaps even ditching vital equipment to make more room for treasure).

If you want to be a bit more forgiving, allow small items to be combined in sacks or pouches to make a single item: 10 pitons or darts, 5 torches, 100 coins, etc.  For the sake of simplicity, all items combined in a sack should be the same (so, no mixing pitons and coins, for example).  Likewise, keep treasure items such as gems and jewelry as separate inventory items (it’s a fantasy game, so assume really big, gaudy gems and jewels 🙂 ).

GM’s are free to declare that some items, based on common sense, simply can’t be carried by a single character no matter how many inventory slots they have open.  For example, even though a horse is an individual item in the equipment charts, it doesn’t make sense that a character could carry a horse around with them (record the horse on the character sheet under Notes instead of Equipment); likewise a large chest filled with treasure, or a throne made of gold.

A horse used as a pack animal also has 30 inventory slots.  A riding horse can carry a character and, say, another 10 slots worth of equipment.

Finally, if you feel that it’s not realistic to have every character carry the same amount of gear, regardless of their Strength scores, then try something like this:  Each character has 10 + Strength inventory slots, hard capped at 30 (i.e. a character with 18 Strength has 28 inventory slots).


PFBB WAR! (for Pathfinder Beginner Box)

March 5, 2014

Well, I finally found time to finish up the mass combat portion of the rules for PFBB Kingdoms.  I’m glad I took the extra time to give it another pass, as the first version had too many moving parts for my tastes.

paizoultimatecampaignPathfinder Ultimate Campaign sort of combines tactical and strategic elements into its mass combat system.  It works well enough for small kingdoms fighting border skirmishes.  But it seems to me it’ll tend to bog down for larger kingdoms (or even medium-sized realms) that may need to fight on many fronts or defend far-flung outposts.

I think (hope?) PFBB WAR! will be a little better at modeling strategic conflicts between mighty empires.  As always, please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.  Cheers.


HeroQuest House Rules

July 23, 2013

I’ve still been ruminating about an ongoing HeroQuest/RPG-ish campaign.  In particular, some house rules that would help facilitate such a game.  With no further ado:

Character Advancement – Naturally, the most important aspect of converting HeroQuest into a campaign is a system for character advancement.  In the standard game, characters advance by accumulating stuff: better weapons and armor, magic items, potions, scrolls, etc.  While loot whoring is retained, most players, I think, would desire a system to improve their character’s abilities as well.

Every quest a character completes (i.e. complete the objectives of the quest) grants 1 experience point.  In addition, as an old school nod, players may spend 1,000 gold to buy 1 experience point for their character.  Completing special objectives may grant additional XP, at the GM’s discretion.

Experience is spent to improve Body and Mind (and possibly add other abilities…we’ll see how it goes).  The cost to improve an ability depends on whether the ability is primary or secondary for that class.  Primary abilities cost Scorex1 XP to increase by 1; secondary abilities cost Scorex2 XP to increase by 1 (excluding ability bonuses from magic items).  Barbarians, dwarves and elves use Body as their primary ability; wizards use Mind as their primary ability.

For example, barbarian base stats are Body 8, Mind 2.  For a barbarian to increase Body from 8 to 9 would cost 8 XP; however, Mind is their secondary ability, so it would cost 4 XP to increase it to 3.  A wizard’s starting abilities are Body 4, Mind 6, so increasing Body by 1 would cost 8 xP and increasing Mind by 1 would cost 6 XP.

Inventory Limit – Characters are limited to carrying a maximum number of items equal to their Body score.  This benefits warrior types somewhat with their higher Body scores, but then they are more gear dependent, as well.

Spell Selection – Wizards select a number of spell cards equal to their Mind score.  Spells may be selected from any of the elemental sets.  At the GM’s discretion, wizards may also be allowed to select elf spells.

This system has the effect of reducing a wizards available spells from 9 to 6.  However, this limitation is somewhat countered by allowing wizards to pick the ‘best’ spells from each elemental set.  Also, wizards get to select their spells before elves, and the advancement system allows them to acquire more spells over time.

Elves select Mind/2 spells, after wizards select their spells.  At the GM’s discretion, elf spells (from the Elf Quest Pack expansion) may or may not be exclusively available to elves.

Monster Toughness – Allowing both character advancement and gear accumulation means the monsters will become increasingly weak by comparison.  The inventory and spell limits compensate for this somewhat at first, but will become increasingly irrelevant as characters progress.

A partial solution is to allow all monsters to negate hits with a roll of a white shield (1/3 chance), instead of a black shield (only 1/6 chance).  It doubles the monster’s chance to negate a hit and standardizes defense rules between heroes and monsters.

Threat Tokens – So, what to do with those black shields then?  To help bolster monsters further, any time a black shield is rolled, the GM collects a Threat token.  Threat tokens are accumulated by the GM and may be saved from quest to quest.  The GM spends Threat tokens on one of the following things:

  • Bolster Monsters – As needed, spend Threat tokens to increase a monster’s attack dice or defense dice.  Each additional dice costs 1 Threat token each, but a monster’s inherent Attack or Defense dice cannot be more than doubled.  Bolstering is a one-time bonus to attack or defense dice; it is not a permanent or lingering bonus to the monster.
  • Reinforcements – On the GM’s turn, spend one (or more) Threat tokens to buy reinforcements, based on the designated random monster for the quest.  Reinforcements start next to an appropriate entry point, as if they’ve just suddenly walked in on the heroes (i.e. from around a corner, through an open door, jumping out of a pit, etc.).  They may move and attack on the turn they come into play.
  • Spellcasting – On the GM’s turn, spend one (or more) Threat tokens to buy back Chaos spells the GM has already cast during the quest.

The costs for buying reinforcements and spells is something that will have to be worked out, and is beyond the scope of this post.

New Classes – Turning HeroQuest into an RPG-ish game implies that, eventually, new classes will be added.  The four existing classes divide 10 points between Body and Mind, with a minimum score of 2.  For these house rules, the primary ability cannot be the lower of the two (if both scores are 5, then the primary ability may be either).  Each class should also have 1 special ability to distinguish it from the other classes, and help define its role in the group.

Characters with spellcasting as a special ability select 1 spell card per point of Mind if Mind is their primary ability; they select Mind/2 spells if Mind is their secondary ability.

Thief Class – So, the first new class to come to mind is a thief or rogue based class:

  • Body 6 (primary)
  • Mind 4
  • Starts with short sword; may not equip 2-handed melee weapons; may not wear plate armor
  • Can move through enemy occupied squares without penalty, but must still end movement in an empty square

Barbarian Rage – The barbarian doesn’t really have a special ability, so I propose the following:

  • On the barbarian’s turn, player may choose to spend any number of Mind points to use as attack dice.  Rage continues until the barbarian no longer “sees” any monsters.  Mind points spent in this manner are not recovered until the end of the quest.  While in rage, the barbarian cannot be knocked unconscious, though if the barbarian’s Mind is 0 when the rage ends, the barbarian immediately falls unconscious.

One nice thing about HeroQuest is that the rules are simple enough to allow for a great deal of tinkering, allowing for just as much complexity as you can stomach.  With that in mind, I’m sure I’ll have more ideas for house rules to share.  Cheers.

A Simple Inventory System for D&D-ish Games

February 14, 2013

Just an idea I’ve been tossing around in my head for a very simple inventory system for an OSR style game, somewhat based on Microlite 74’s inventory system.  Characters have one inventory ‘slot’ for each point of Strength (i.e. a character with 13 Str has 13 inventory slots).  Each slot is roughly equivalent to 10 lbs, but weight isn’t really tracked in this system, just slots.  Every piece of equipment, including weapons and armor, must be accounted for within the available inventory slots.

Many similar smaller items may be combined to take a single slot.  For example, 100 coins or 10 gems count as one slot, as would 4 potions or scrolls.  Note that backpacks, pouches, sacks and other containers are assumed and don’t even need to be recorded.

The first three slots are reserved for ‘readied’ items, such as weapons, wands, potions, etc.  This represents having a weapon or wand tucked into one’s belt for quick access.  ‘Readied’ items may be used without using an action to retrieve them from inventory first; items in any other inventory slot require an action to retrieve before they can be used.

For the sake of simplicity, the number of inventory slots should be considered a hard cap.  Resist the temptation to let the PCs carry just ‘a little bit more’ in exchange for a reduced movement rate or any other penalty.  In this system, a character’s move rate would be determined solely by the type of armor they wear, not their total encumbrance weight.  Two or more characters can still co-operate to carry heavy burdens, such as a large treasure chest, for example.

Skills or No Skills

May 10, 2012

Early in my gaming life I was a big fan of skills.  The more extensive and detailed the skill list, the better the game system, I thought.  But over the past few years I’ve found I like skill systems less and less.  I’ve written extensively about Pathfinder’s Beginner Box, which clocks in at 17 skills (down from Pathfinder core’s 30-ish skills).  But honestly, that’s still far more skills than I like.  Microlite20 has only 4 or 5 very broad-based skills, which is more to my taste.  But I’ve been thinking about the impact of doing away with skills altogether.

Why no skills?  In my experience they usually become crutches for players or barriers to creative play.  Players and GM come to rely on skill checks as an easy replacement for role-playing or clever solutions to problems.  Or they develop mental blocks:  I don’t have the skill, therefore I can’t attempt that action (or, I don’t enough points in the skill, and will probably fail, so I shouldn’t even attempt the action).  This is particularly acute, imo, with trap finding and diplomacy.

I do see where skills, or something like a skill checks, can be useful in certain circumstances.  For example, players probably don’t want to ‘pixel bitch’ every stone block in a dungeon.  A simple d6 roll to search for secret doors can save a lot of time at the table.  But you can do what OD&D does, make it an ability that every character has, rather than a narrow, specialized skill.

What are your thoughts on the matter?  Would be possible to, say, just remove the PFBB’s skill system?

More Thoughts on the One Page Campaign

April 30, 2012

Well, I’m on this One Page Campaign kick right now, so I’m just going to roll with it a bit.  Actually, thinking on it more, it’s probably more accurate to call it a One Page Hex Crawl, because that’s what it would turn out to be.  As the party explores they have roughly a 1-in-6 chance of encountering as they forge through a hex.  Not every encounter has to be a one page dungeon.  Some might just be weird monuments, abandoned ruins, random monsters or some such.

While you’d have to pre-place any dungeons you seed as treasure maps or important points-of-interest, you wouldn’t have to prep every single hex beforehand.  If an encounter happens, you could just make a quick roll on some charts to determine what the encounter is (for example:  1 = dungeon or monster lair, 2 = ruins or monument, 3-5 = wandering monster, 6 = special encounter).  If a dungeon, lair or other structure is rolled, it’s set in that hex for the rest of the campaign (though monsters could reoccupy a previously cleared dungeon).  One of the great things about using one page dungeons is that you could just print out a bunch you like beforehand and then randomly draw one when needed.  Determine its level, either randomly (roll 1d10 for dungeon level) if you want to be hardcore, or use something like every hex out from a large settlement increases a dungeon/lair’s difficulty by 1 level, if you want to give the PCs a chance ;).  Then make a note on the sheet of it’s level and hex number.

If I have time I might work up an old-schoolish one-page supplement for hex crawling and wilderness encounters.  Cheers.

Random Thoughts on Armor in RPGs

April 21, 2012

Lazy post today.

I’ve been ruminating about the approaches to armor use in RPGs.  It seems to me it breaks down into two main approaches:

1) The first, and most intuitive, approach to armor is to have it reduce damage taken if the character is hit.  Taken to its logical conclusion, if you wear armor that is heavy enough, it may slow you down and actually make you easier to hit, though any hits would do less damage thanks to the heavy armor.  This approach is used by probably 90+% of the non-d20/D&D clone systems out there.

2) The second, less intuitive, approach is to have armor make you harder to hit in the first place.  The reasoning behind this is that the armor deflected the blow and therefore an actual hit on flesh never landed.  This approach is used by the d20 system and the D&D clones and simulacra (which, ironically, makes it the more common system due to the sheer popularity of The Game).

While approach #1 is more intuitive and, I would argue, logical, it does have one inherent flaw in my estimation:  it adds one (or more) additional steps to the process of combat resolution.  I know many players don’t mind a little extra crunch in their systems (or even a lot of extra crunch), but I prefer relatively quick combat resolution.  And that is where approach #2 shines, in my opinion.  Combat is resolved in basically two steps:  make a roll to hit and, if you did hit, make a roll for damage.  No need to determine how much damage made it through, or make a damage resistance test, or anything like that.  Just BAM, roll dice, move on to the next player’s turn.

On Traps

March 17, 2012

Most RPGs (or most variants of D&D, at least) allow PCs to make some kind of roll or skill check to find a trap, and another roll or skill check to disarm the trap.  The benefit of this approach is that it’s fast, which keeps things moving along.

The down side is that you can wind up missing an opportunity for some creative problem solving on the part of the players, which to me is a large part of the fun of old school D&D.  A creative GM might narrate how a character disarms a trap (as we do in our Pathfinder campaign), but it’s still the dice roll that ultimately determines the outcome, not creative play.

So why not combine the two approaches, get the best of both worlds.  Allow a roll or skill check to find the trap.  This speeds up play and avoids ‘pixel bitching,’ which can be frustrating to players.  However, once a trap is found, it’s left to player ingenuity to circumvent, disarm or render harmless a trap.  It could be as simple as marking the trap and going around it, or setting it off from a safe distance, or it could be a crazy scheme involving the expenditure of vast sums and hiring an army of engineers and laborers.  Who cares, so long as the players are having fun.

Thoughts on Magic Items

February 20, 2012

I finished watching The Lost Room yesterday.  It was a SyFy mini-series from 2006, or thereabouts, about a motel room stuck in another dimension, and a bunch of seemingly mundane items, called Objects, taken from that room.  The Objects, however, could do some crazy stuff, sort of like a serious version of Warehouse 13, and they were named after what they were.  For example, The Key, The Pen, The Watch, The Clock, The Bus Ticket, etc.  Naturally, this got me thinking about magic items in D&D.

I’ve previously talked about my hypothetical campaign, where all magic items would be unique in the world.  So, for example, there’s only one bag of holding in the entire world.  Now, linking this idea back to The Lost Room, it wouldn’t be called a bag of holding, or even the bag of holding.  It would simply be known as The Bag.  Anyone familiar with magic items would see it and say “Oh, I see you have The Bag.  You know what that does, right?”  And since these items are unique, everyone and their pet monkey will be looking for them, so they develop a reputation for bringing nothing but trouble to their possessors.  Probably entire organizations, kind of like the Object cabals from the series, are dedicated to tracking down and acquiring these magic items.

Borrowing further from The Lost Room, maybe the magic items can be used to track down one another, if you know how.  Maybe if you get enough of them together, in the right combination, they do somethign really cool, like open a portal to Hell or Carcosa (little difference, really), or raise the dead or bring about the apocalypse.

Could be a lot of fun…for the GM anyways. 🙂

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