Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Flavor to Taste

Lots of good things have been coming in through my blog roll lately.

Over at I waste the Buddha With My Crossbow, Dr. Rotwang has come up with dungeon concepts expressed via flowchart. I often waste precious game preparation time drawing and redrawing the dungeon corridors and rooms rather than filling them. I like this approach of contents first, then build the dungeon around it. My prep usually doesn't roll that way, but I'm going to give this flowchart business a try.

Grappling with different types of weapons for B/X D&D, JB at B/X Blackrazor creates little differences in a world where all weapons do d6 damage. On max damage rolls, weapons do something neat-o like tear open a bleeding wound or stun an opponent. This gave me an idea for "mini-crits" (special effects that happen on a max damage roll) or variable effects on a natural 20 based on weapon type. A little mechanic like this can spice up Red Book D&D's combat without getting into the level of crunch present in 3.X.
(Speaking of which, I am warming up to the idea of d6 weapon damage. I mean, if we're talking man-to-man combat, a dagger through the ribcage is pretty likely to kill you just as if someone goes upside your head with a mace.)

This past Sunday's little impromptu game at Mindy's house, plus the tinkering I've seen going on this last week, have given me a fresh reminder of just how damned simple this all can be an still be fun, yet we can tack on all kinds of crazy house rules so we can flavor to taste.

Here's a little house rule I was thinking of some time ago... I never did tag it and probably should have...

Old School Feats: Feats of...

Once per experience level, a character can perform a feat. You declare what type of feat you want to perform. A character who somehow loses a level does not get to perform any extra feats for regaining a previous level. Feats are use 'em or lose em... if you don't use your Feat at a given level, you do not carry it over to the next level.
Note- classes assume pre-AD&D iterations of the game. For games that split up class and race, feel free to ignore the racial component if you feel it is inappropriate.

Feat of Strength: Can be performed by fighters, dwarves, and mystics. The character can automatically open a stuck door, lift a portcullis, reverse a grapple/overbearing situation even against a larger foe, push over a statue, or perform some other mighty feat of strength. It should be dramatic but short lived; a burst of adrenaline or sheer bad-assness.

Feat of Endurance: The character can immediately regain all hit points and shrug off all effects of injury, even if he just took a fatal blow. This Feat should be reserved for fighters/fighting classes, dwarves, and other "tough" character types. Depending on how the DM views halflings, they might qualify. Another use for this feat would be to shrug off lethal poison or disease, or to go days without food or water. (Perhaps the character needs to trek for a week across an arctic waste) I'd probably allow clerics or similar zealous characters to perform such a feat.

Feat of Willpower: Break free from the effect of any mind-effecting spell: sleep, hold person, etc. Additionally, the DM should consider allowing the character to shake off a monster's hypnotic special attack, such as those possessed by harpies or vampires. This feat is appropriate for any character.

Feat of Magic: The character can cast a spell one level higher than he can normally handle, as if he had it prepared. For instance, a magic-user capable of using 2nd level spells could bust loose with a fireball. Alternately, the character could automatically learn every spell on a scroll or in a book he is trying to decipher (within reason and ability) or cast a spell in a particularly devastating or effective fashion. (A fireball that wipes out a platoon, for instance, or invisibility that lasts for a day) The DM should be careful not to let this get out of hand, but let the player do something really awesome...he only gets this once in awhile! This is obviously restricted to the spell casting classes.

Feat of Skill: The character succeeds at something he can do, and succeeds epically. A thief might scale a tower wall in half the time, or perhaps make a nearly-impossible pick pocket attempt. A backstab might do quadruple damage or kill instantly. A bard's performance might move a king to tears. Let the players rock out in this one use of a skill. Let the thief open the party's cell door with nothing but a rat bone. Go nuts. This is most appropriate for classes that have skills, such as thieves or bards, but if your game uses skills for everyone or uses proficiencies, it could be appropriate for any character.

Feat of Agility- Negate one attack, even something devastating like dragon's breath. This can be used even after damage is rolled.

Feat of Marksmanship- The character can automatically hit, or make an impossible shot, ignore the dangers of firing into a melee, do quadruple damage, instant kill, whatever. I see this as appropriate for an "archer" type fighter, rangers, thieves, elves using bows, halflings using slings, etc.

Feat of Strungth- Like a Feat of Strength, but the character must be heavily drunk. (Inside joke with my old gaming group) The character believes himself to be capable of Feats much greater than "typical" Feats of Strength, although whether or not this belief is accurate is up to the DM...

I'm sure you get the idea, and can think of a ton more. You can flavor this rule to taste: no class restrictions (anyone can use any type of feat), or perhaps only a character who reaches the rank of "hero" (4th level) can use feats. Maybe only characters with a high ability score. (13+ or 15+ strength to use a Feat of Strength, for example) Maybe a character can only use a Feat once ever. Perhaps there are custom Feats for each character class (a cleric can do the equivalent of a critical Turn Undead, or the ranger can do an impossible track, or the mystic can shatter a castle wall with his fist, etc.) You can scale the Feats and what they can do by experience level... a 1st level fighter's Feat of Strength might be to smash in a reinforced door, while a 9th level Fighter might be able to raise a portcullis or wrestle a hill giant. I'm sure you get the idea.

Pathfinder will run this Friday night. I am determined to do so even if I'm only rolling with half the group.

Five weeks 'til convention time.

Game on.


  1. I like the feats! Hope the gaming luck improves for you!

  2. On the "all weapons do d6 damage" front, I have something similar in my (still need playtesters) Swords&Wizardry-based Space Adventures project:

    * damage dice is class-based; d8 for fighters, d6 for most classes, d4 for combat-weak classes (e.g. medic)
    * high Strength increases melee damage by one die type, low STR decreases
    * the number of dice you roll is based on the weapon used (e.g. 1 die for pistols and revolvers, 2 dice for rifles)
    * weapons are rated by size (small/medium/large), the advantage of a small weapon is you can use it in close quarters, the advantage of a medium wepaon is you can use it with a shield or small secondary weapon, the advantage of a large weapon is reach (e.g. second rank attack)
    * weapons are also rated by damage type, cut/stab/blunt/special, which is more for describing what the wound looks like

    I'll turn a blind eye if you 'borrow' this for your Arduin-style D&D Rifts cmapaign :)