Friday, January 29, 2016

Mythic West Races

I like non-human races. I understand that isn't a common opinion in the OSR; I read lots of blogs and campaign settings that are human-only or at the least human-centric. One could argue that OD&D was human-centric since it placed harsh limits on demihuman characters. (Halflings could advance only to 4th level and only as fighters, essentially) I present a few optional races for the Mythic West.

CACTOID (Inspired by RIFTS, and I'm not even sorry)
Cactoids appeared shortly after the the flood of magic from the West. Some cacti in the Southwest animated, having gained sentience. Cactoids have since spread out across the country.

A Cactoid is humanoid, but with a hard, plant-like skin covered in thorns. They have pitch black eyes and speak in warbling, distorted voices through a mouth cavity. Cactoids stand 6-7 feet tall. They are genderless, producing by flowering and depositing seeds. They tend to live in small, village-like communities, though some have attempted to integrate into human society.

Cactoids may advance as Trailblazers or Magicians. They are limited to 6th and 4th level, respectively.


Hardy: Cactoids have +2 to saves against disease or poison. This is cumulative with any bonuses granted by character class.

Plant: Cactoids have no need for human food. Daily exposure to sunlight (even overcast) is enough to nourish them. Cactoids who spend too much time underground are subject to starvation. Magical light, such as that from a spell, will nourish them. Artificial light will nourish them, but they are at -1 to attack and save until they get some natural or magical light.

Thick Skin: Cactoids receive a permanent +1 bonus to Defense due to their thick hides. 

Thorns: A Cactoid's unarmed attacks inflict +1 damage. In addition, anyone making an unarmed attack against a Cactoid automatically takes a point of damage.

DEVIL-KIN (Inspired by some monster from Dark*Matter that I only half-remember)

Devil-Kin are a race of mortal humanoids who come from a hellish dimension parallel to ours. (Or perhaps they're actually from Hell) They stand between 6 and 6 1/2 feet tall, with narrow limbs and slight frames. They have thin, bony features, usually a prominent chin and nose. They have pointed ears and tiny horns growing out of their foreheads and pointed, vestigial tails. Their skin coloration may be shades of red, violet, or blue. The hair of a Devil-Kin will be jet black, firetruck red, or a blue-black. Males favor goatees.

Devil-Kin are often mistrusted or outright shunned by polite society, so many end up on the wrong side of the law.

Devil-Kin may advance as Shootists (to a maximum of 4th level), Gamblers, or Magicians. (They may progress to the 6th level in the latter two classes) They may also choose to advance in a dual-class nature as a Shootist/Magician or a Gambler/Magician. If this is the case, the Devil-Kin chooses which class to play at the beginning of each adventure. Dual-classed Devil-Kin keep experience totaled separately, and only earn half-experience points from adventures.


Evil Heritage: Devil-Kin can be banished by Preachers. They are compelled to flee as undead. The HD of the Devil-Kin is equal to his experience level. If dual-classed, use the level of the class that the Devil-Kin is currently operating as. In addition, holy water inflicts 1d4 damage if splashed on a Devil-Kin.

Magic Resistance: Magical energy directed at Devil-Kin seems to bend and twist around them. They receive +2 to all saving throws vs. magic. This is accumulative with any bonus from character class or other sources.

Silver-Tongue: Although mistrusted, Devil-Kin have a semi-magical ability to win people over. Once per day, they can cast a charm person spell, disguised as a suggestion, flurry of flattery, or some similar exchange.


These are small, dwarf-like beings, ranging from knee-high to waist-high on a human. Different Native tribes have different names for them, but all refer to the same species of being. (White Americans probably think of these creatures as dwarfs, fairies, pixies, etc.) Different families/clans of these creatures often have a particular feature unique to that region: one eye, flat faces, impressive beards, etc. Even the name is something of a misnomer; many families live in forests, but some dwell in hills or caves or near rivers.

Forest Folk are permitted to advance as Gamblers, Magicians, or Trailblazers. They may advance as high as 4th level in those classes. A Forest Folk may switch classes at 4th level, starting over at 1st level. They retain their hit point totals and abilities, but only gain half experience.  A character must have a Constitution of at least 9 to be a Forest Folk.


Nearly Invisible: Forest Folk can hide in the woods on a 1-5 on a d6, and a 1-3 in other natural surroundings. They have the same chance to move with near-absolute silence. These abilities can only be used if they are alone, unobserved, or only in the company of other Forest Folk.

Small Stature: Humans and human-sized creatures suffer a -2 penalty to hit Forest Folk due to their tiny size and tricky nature.

Throwers: Forest Folk have an uncanny knack for attacking with thrown weapons, receiving +2 to their attack rolls made with such. In addition, even a small rock will inflict 1d4 damage when thrown by a Forest Folk.

Variant: If you like, and have access to a S&W version of the Druid class, Magician Forest Folk use the Druid spell list instead of the Magic-User spell list.

(This class was built off the White Box Halfling, flavored by entries from various Native American myth websites.)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Campaign Idea 3: Mythic Old West (B/X or S&W)

Inspired by Deadlands, Stuart Robinson's Weird West, and the old Bruce Campbell TV show "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr."

Unlike my previous two campaign ideas, which assume you've purchased an OSR-authored book (JB's Complete B/X Adventurer). this campaign idea uses resources that you can get online for free. (Though a few have paid options if you feel like helping out the authors)

Disclaimer: I didn't write any of these resources, I have nothing vested in any of these resources, and I've never even had more than blog comment contact with any of the authors.

The backstory: Magic has returned to the world. In the American Old West, the San Andreas fault turns out to be a ley line of incredible power. A massive earthquake unleashes a wave of magical chaos. The Frontier begins reclaiming the land, monsters and strangeness pushing mankind back toward the East. Will the heroes take part in standing against the Frontier as it advances, or are they simply thieves and ne'er-do-wells taking advantage of the lawlessness that grips the edge of civilization?

Visual Reference: See the top of this post. The setting is meant to be more fantasy than horror, but y'all can flavor to taste. (I just figure that Deadlands already has that angle cornered)

Available Classes:   Doctor, Gambler, Inventor, Magician, Preacher, Pugilist, Shootist, Trailblazer


*The Blood & Bullets rules by Simon Washbourne. You can get them for free here, or you can get a Kindle version or a hard copy if you want to kick a few dollars at the author.

*The Medic class from Amityville Mike's 'Resistance' White Box post-apocalypse treatment. You can grab those classes here.
 Medic class gets the following adjustments:
-Renamed Doctor
-Add Defense Bonus (use the same progression as the Gambler class from B&B)
-Doctors can use any weapons, though most Doctors are loathe to take lives.
-Doctors receive a +2 to any Saving Throw vs. poison, disease, or death.

*The Scientist class by P. Armstrong from the (seemingly defunct?) Ode to Black Dougal Blog.
Scientist receives the following adjustments:
-Renamed Inventor
-Hit Die progression is changed to that of the Gambler.
-To Hit and Defense bonuses equal to the Shootist.
-Inventors can use any weapons
-Inventors get +2 to saving throws versus explosions and electricity, and their normal ST number is 15.
-Inventors get a Gadget slot at 1st level. Their slots do not improve until 3rd level.

*Add the Magic-User class from Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, which you can download free from Lulu or DriveThru. (Or, y'know, you can add it from White Box B/X D&D)
Magic-User gets the following adjustments:
-Renamed Magician
-Add Defense bonus of the Trailblazer.
-The Magician can use any weapon, though most Magicians prefer one-handed weapons to make spellcasting easier. Magicians often carry daggers.
-The Magician gets +2 to Saving Throws vs. deceit and vs. any magic spell or attack.
-Magician spells are drawn from Swords & Wizardry White Box.

*Two classes I am throwing into the mix: Pugilist and Preacher.


Level ... XP....... HD.....To-Hit....Def....ST
1            0          1+2        +0      +0     15
2         1750          2          +1     +1     14
3        3500         3+1        +2     +2     13
4        7000          4          +2     +2      12
5      14000           5         +3     +3      11
6       28000         6+1      +3    +4       10
7       56000         7          +4    +4        9
8        112000      8          +4    +5        8
9        224000      9+1      +5    +6        7
10      448000      10         +5    +6       6

Prime Requisite: Strength. A Pugilist receives an experience bonus for having a high Strength score.
Saving Throws: A Pugilist receives +2 to saves vs. alcohol or being stunned.
Weapons: Pugilists can use any weapon, but they typically prefer to fight unarmed.

Dodge: Once per round, the Pugilist can dodge a missile attack that hits him by making a ST (Dex)

Fists of Fury: Against opponents of 1 HD or fewer, the Pugilist can make a number of unarmed attacks per round equal to his level. For instance, a 5th level Pugilist surrounded by 1 HD townies can deliver five attacks per round.

Fisticuffs: A Pugilist inflicts 1d6 damage with unarmed attacks, rather than 1d3. In addition, he can choose to make damage from his unarmed attacks normal damage rather than temporary.

Haymaker: If a Pugilist rolls maximum damage on an unarmed attack, he can choose to forego the damage in order to stun the opponent for 1d12 rounds. The opponent may make a ST (Con) to only be knocked out for 1d6 rounds instead.

Second Wind: Once per day, a Pugilist can spend a round catching his breath to restore a number of Hit Points to himself equal to 1d6+ experience level. If the Pugilist makes a Saving Throw (Con), he can restore the Hit Points immediately without taking a round to do so. (In other words, the Pugilist could still attack or take any other action)

Thanks to JB's Holmes-style Monk and the Swords & Wizardry Companion White Box Monk for the inspiration.


Level ... XP....... HD.....To-Hit....Def....ST
1            0           1        +0          +0     14
2         1500         2         +0         +1     13
3        3000         2+1      +1         +1     12
4        6000          3         +1         +2     11
5      12000           4        +2         +2     10
6       24000         4+1      +2        +3      9
7       48000         5         +3         +3      8
8        96000        6          +3        +4      7
9       192000       6+1      +4        +4      6
10      384000      7          +4         +5     5

Prime Requisite: Charisma. A Preacher receives an experience bonus for having a high Charisma score.
Saving Throws: A Preacher receives +2 to saving throws vs. deceit and fear
Weapons: Preachers can use any weapon, though most of them prefer not to harm innocents or living humans.
Alignment: If you use the alignment system in Blood & Bullets, Preachers may not be Evil. A Preacher who starts down the path of Evil will lose the Banish Evil ability and cannot advance any further in this class.

Banish Evil: Preachers can present their holy symbol to drive away undead, demons, and devils. They use the rules and procedures from Swords & Wizardry White Box. Demons and Devils aren't destroyed, but rather send back to Hell.

Flock: Starting at 3rd level, again at 6th and 9th level, a Preacher attracts a follower. The followers needn't be paid, but they gain 1/2 experience and they are not replaced if killed. Followers are the same alignment and religious tradition as the Preacher they have chosen to follow.

Preacher Level.....Follower Level....
3                             1st
6                             2nd
9                             3rd

Roll randomly to determine the class of each follower.

Roll (d20) ......Class
1-5                  Preacher
6-10                Shootist
11-14              Trailblazer
15-17              Pugilist
18-19              Gambler  (reformed)
 20                  Inventor

Inspire: A Preacher can use his presence to rouse his allies to action, giving them +1 to hit and damage and all Saving Throws for 1d4+1 rounds. A Preacher may do this once per day for every experience level. The Preacher's confers a +2 bonus on NPCs who are part of his Flock. (See above)

Minister (Cha): A Preacher who spends 1 round tending to someone who isn't involved in combat may do one of the following: stabilize a dying comrade, allow a comrade a second Saving Throw vs. disease, poison, or curses. A single person may only be ministered to once per day, and the Preacher can only minister to a total number of individuals equal to his experience level.

Sway Crowd (Cha): A Preacher may appease (or agitate) a mob by giving a rousing speech or other encouragement. A Preacher may affect a crowd of up to 5 x level. (A 4th level Preacher can affect a crowd of up to 20.) This only works on ordinary folks, and cannot be used in combat.

Variation: For a non-Mythic/Weird game, you can remove the Banish Evil ability and add:

Upstanding: Most communities welcome Preachers. A Preacher who wears the vestments of his trade can expect reasonable hospitality from most towns and cities for free. Whether this extends to his companions or not depends entirely on their conduct.

You may also reflavor Minster as simply the psychosomatic power of prayer.

Thanks to the Swords & Wizardry Companion White Box Bard for inspiration.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Another Take on the Same Campaign

Take the previous campaign and drop the PCs in a few years later...

The backstory: On long boats, the Order of Iron came to the Isles. They killed the Fell Queen, Eil, and pulled her tower to the ground. They slew the monsters and sealed the Underworld. The people embraced the Order of Iron and forgot the Old Ways. 

Five years have passed. On the rubble of Eil's tower, the Iron Citadel now stands. People pray to the Ironite's god. Magic is outlawed, as it caused the Bleak Times. 

Rumors abound that the monsters weren't all slain... and the ones that remain hide in the wilderness or behind the faces of your neighbors. Are the players agents of Order, rooting out monsters and witches? Are they heretics, seeking to bring back the Old Ways? Are they simply feckless sellswords who seek to claim whatever treasures haven't ended up in the Order's vaults? 

Rules : B/X D&D + JB's "Complete B/X Adventurer" 

Classes Permitted:   B/X Rules: Cleric, Fighter, Thief
                                     Complete B/X Adventurer: Witch-Hunter  (Also Barbarian, Bard, Gnome, Mystic, and Ogre-Kin if running a game outside the Order) 

Flavor/Visual Reference: Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (90's video game), Dark Souls (video game), The Crucible  (either the original play or the film), Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition

"But Wait, I Don't Own CB/XA" 

Apply the class fixes in my previous post. You can fold Witch-Hunters into clerics, or just let clerics use any weapon, or just have a class that fights and saves as a fighter and can use all the Detect/Protect type spells, but requires % more xp to level. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Campaign Idea: Just Add Water

...well... and maybe a map, if you're into that kind of thing. 

The backstory: Eil, the Mad Queen, has cast the Green Isles into ruin. She killed her husband with black magic, seized control of the castle, and opened the gates to the Underworld. The Isles are now crawling with monsters, both those who roam free and those who enforce the Queen's fell will. 

There are some who fight back against the Queen's forces, hoping to find a way to destroy her and seal the Underworld once more, but there are also those who want to exploit this lawless age to serve their own interests. 

Rules : B/X D&D + JB's "Complete B/X Adventurer" 

Classes Permitted:   B/X rulebooks: Fighter, Thief
                             Complete B/X Adventurer: Barbarian, Bard, Gnome,  Mystic, Ogre-Kin, Witch

Flavor/Visual Reference: Fable (video game- the first one only), Roar (90's TV show with a young Heath Ledger) Willow (80's classic fantasy film) 

"But wait! I don't have the Complete B/X Adventurer!" 

Slap these class fixes together: 

Barbarian- As fighter, but can only wear light armor, can Hear Noise as a thief, can read tracks on 1-3 on a d6 (improve one pip every three levels) +1 to hit in melee combat. 

Bard- As thief, but can use Charm or Sleep once per day for every three full levels. 

Gnome- As Elf. Make them small like halflings and give them the Druid spell list instead. If you don't have any old school Druid class to reference, just give them all the nature-y spells. 

Mystic- As cleric. Can't use armor. Let them use mystic-y magic spells as well. 

Ogre-Kin- Fighters. They use two handed weapons in one hand and get an additional +1 hit/damage. Encumbrance is treated as one category lighter. 

Witch- As magic-user, re-flavor spell list as needed. 


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Skyscrapers & Sorcery

Reading through and enjoying Skyscrapers & Sorcery.

Impressions thus far:

-I particularly like the ambiguous time period. I love ambiguous time periods. I understand that's an extremely specific thing to like, but there it is.

-I am sure that there's mashup potential with Kevin Crawford's Silent Legions and/or my B/XWoD write up that languishes in torpor.

-I really dig the task resolution mechanic, which has shades of Traveller but still feels White Box enough. I personally dig 1d6 based, a la Lamentations, but I'd give this a try.

-I'm really tired of the magic-user/cleric duality in magic. That's not a fault of S&S, just a recent quibble of mine. This feels like a good game to experiment with the magic system. I do like some of the new spells, though. (New as in 'not reskinned White Box spells.')

-The game has a beautiful simplicity to it, just like those who share its pedigree.

-This could be retooled into an OSR version of Shadow Chasers, one of the cooler ideas from the d20 Modern era.

-I'd like to see a companion to this.

-I'd like to see a print copy of this offered eventually, preferably one that's the same size as the S&W White Box book and the print copy of White Star.

-Bonus points for not feeling obligated to use the word White in the title.

- ...although I think someone should write an Old West/Weird West version of the game called White Hats.

That's all for now. This small but mighty game has a lot to consider and percolate on.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Purge, Part...4?

This weekend, I bid farewell to the remains of my White Wolf collection, even the old books. I came to the stark realization that my gaming tastes simply do not sync with the mechanics or aesthetics, and that many of the 'happy' memories I have of the old World of Darkness are rose-tinted shadows of things that weren't nearly as good as I wish they had been.

In the last six months, I've cut my gaming collection nearly in half. What I have left are things that I intend to run. No more looking for lost or obscure systems. I want things that add to the games I already run.

In all of my excising, I picked up a 3rd party module called Clockwork Mage that looks pretty sweet. I haven't had much of a chance to dig through it. If it sucks, it was only three dollars.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2016: New Campaign, a New Game

Having cleared out the Caves of Chaos, I advanced my Keep5e game ahead six months. The forces of Law have pushed out further east into the ruins of the Old Kingdom. An enterprising dwarf merchant named Thalk Moraven founded the Gold Sun merchant company and has formed a trading post town, Venture, where the enigmatic tribesmen of the eastern wastes can do commerce with the men of the Realms. The party has taken up residence in Venture with the intention of plundering the lost treasures of the Old Kingdom. I guess I can't really call this campaign Keep5e anymore, given that they have left the Keep behind.

For a chunk of the group (me included), the best part of the session was the party meeting Yozol an (admittedly) recycled NPC who is the proprietor of the local apothecary. Yozol deals in spell components, healing tonics, and "curiosities." It's also a fairly poorly kept secret that he deals in exotic substances of dubious legality, though he pays a fee to Thalk Moraven (who is the de facto authority in town) to have his shadier business overlooked. The party has already made several purchases from Yozol: the assassin restocked her poison kit, the druid refilled her herbalism kit, and the ranger purchased some Dreaming Dust for.... recreational purposes. (He also bought an herbal coagulant for battlefield first aid, but that was nearly an afterthought)

I will also admit that I stole the town's inn/tavern, The Rock, straight out of the AD&D 2nd edition module "Wizard's Challenge 2." While I think 80% of 2nd edition era modules are absolute trash, I really did (and do) dig on that particular location.

This session did fan the embers of my newly sparked hatred of experience points, but that's going to be a separate post. 

Meanwhile, I have started another game with some of the Saturday group, along with a few of their pals. This game is also D&D5e. I went with a pretty basic premise: Calax, the self-proclaimed King of Dragons, has awakened from his centuries-long slumber. Drawing the brute races and some of the dragon-worshipping northern human lands under his banner, his Dragon Army sweeps southward, razing and conquering everything in its path. The PCs begin at the Temple of Iron, a dwarven religious stronghold on the front lines of the war. All the PCs are either refugees or acolytes of the Temple. While the armies of dwarf and human dig in for the coming siege, the Temple sends refugees and low-ranked acolytes (ie the PCs) southward to escape the imminent carnage. The first session ended with the PCs crossing a monster-infested mountain trail to escape south to the Free City of Cormwin.

I really dig the party so far, although we have one player who is playing a neutral evil character in a party that is almost entirely good aligned (not to mention contains a cleric and a paladin) She's a relatively inexperienced player, and I predict that she will lose her character in short order. (She has a tendency to go off on her own, and she'll be in trouble the first time the paladin or cleric decide to use some kind of evil-detecting ability) The passive-aggressive PVP vibe kind of annoys me, but I'm kind of a big believer in letting players learn the hard way.

A thoughtful player of mine got me a print copy of Dragon Warriors for Christmas. I haven't had a chance to go over it in more than a cursory fashion so far, but I dig on the art and I kind of dig on the campaign world of Legend. I find it interesting that, out of seven character classes, four of them are some type of magic-user.