Showing posts with label House Rules. Show all posts
Showing posts with label House Rules. Show all posts

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Gotta love a sale! Rules Cyclopedia on DriveThru

Rules Cyclopedia is on sale at DriveThruRPG. This game was published back in 1991, long after I had abandoned my Basic D&D campaign. This set of rules brought me back to Basic.

Being a player from way back, perhaps 1977 or so, the concept of "edition" was not real clear. I had started with D&D and moved on to AD&D as it seemed like the expected direction. Transitioning from D&D to AD&D seemed expected, but felt unnatural. When second Edition appeared, I had little concept of what it was. It didn't feel like AD&D that I knew, so I did my best to ignore it.

I had difficulties ignoring 2.0 as Unearthed Arcana seemed to be the first indication that a new edition was coming. Back in the 1990s, it was possible to see all of the various sets, in pieces, on a store shelf and it was very unclear as to what was happening.

My campaign had evolved from D&D to AD&D without regard to the change in setting. Our band of adventurers absorbed new materials and tossed others aside. While I said I was playing in Greyhawk, our shared world was a mishmash of Blackmoor, Greyhawk, Mystara and Hollow World, with Mystara taking the lead place.

When I found Cyclopedia on the shelves of my local Waldenbooks, I was entranced. It expanded on classes and levels while adding a few new spells and most importantly, weapon mastery and character skills. It was exactly what I was looking for. Gone was the one paragraph explanation of skills.

I immediately incorporated it into my hodgepodge campaign with only a few tweaks to make it fit the AD&D rule set. All abilities were generated as per the AD&D methods while character classes of race could either be played as described in AD&D or per Cyclopedia's rules.

Technically, that combo of classes and races vs classes should have been very broken, but as players, we made it work. The RC Druid was a subclass of Druid from AD&D, Mystics became a subclass of Monk. The Racial Classes became the "default class" of those races, as if someone didn't pick a specific class to play.

And we loved it.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Handy Post - Handling Hands

Ah, we all have that player that wants grab an advantage. The easiest advantage to seize upon is being ambidextrous. Two hands, two attacks. Right?

Well... by the rules, sometimes yes, and sometimes no.

Ok, let's look at a scenario where someone actually needs both hands. A boxer. This is the default ruling that opens up the whole "left hand AND right hand as an advantage" line of thought. It is pretty natural to swing one hand then the other. It's like walking or breathing. My house rule is that left and right punches or kicks have no bearing on the game. There is no penalty if someone kicks left and punches right, even in the same round. The motion lends itself to the practice.

What about a sword fighter? Well, to be honest, fighting men probably bust their wrists a lot, so it would not be implausible for them to train as if ambidextrous. Archers train heavily and off hand shooting would be something they would explore as a gimmick or challenge. Wizards and clerics casting spells probably causes them to do the same.

So, most of your characters should be ambidextrous... to an extent. It might be plausible for a wizard to write with either hand because all of their magic is focused on hand movements, but a fighter isn't going be especially noted for writing, period. Fighting, the focus of most games, should not incur a penalty for using the off hand. Hockey players, baseball players and other athletes typically have the ability to use their off hand, sometimes even with the wrong type of tool because they are professionals. And all RPG characters are professionals, so the logic neatly follows.

However, using your off hand for other, uncommon tasks should incur a -2 penalty. Say, painting a picture with the off hand, especially when your character isn't a professional artist.

What the players are really asking for is a second attack because the character has two hands. The rules are punishing, a significant penalty because this is a gimmicky move. And unfortunately, these rules get abused by both players and DMs. When should it apply?

When the player is demanding a cheap and easy advantage for goofy reasons the negatives should apply.

History is full of cases where people walk into combat with two weapons. The player abuses this fact. A soldier with a sword and dagger will likely use one item to parry and one item to attack, which one depends on the circumstances. And it's fluid, they switch back and forth. For example, a swordsman may make an obvious "attack" with the sword only to swing the dagger in because the sword was blocked. That is one attack, the sword wasn't really swung with the intent to hit, merely to tie up the opponent's attention and weapon. The DM should be aware that this was relatively common, so she or he shouldn't want to invoke this penalty at this time.

How do you simulate this?

Option one: Average weapon damage. If a character has two daggers, then they do (1d4+1d4)/2. If they have a long sword and dagger, they do (1d4+1d8)/2. At first glance this looks odd. How can a dagger do 5 points of damage? We have two weapons and there is a small chance that both land hits, but one of them was far less effective than the other because it wasn't swung with intent. To this end, if a 20 is rolled, both weapons have hit but instead of double damage, the player merely rolls damage once for each weapon and adds them together. It could be great or could be poor.

Option two: Have the player declare which is the parry weapon, forcing them to roll for damage with the other weapon. In this case, the player has the option of either weapon and is technically declaring which hand they are using without saying so much. Damage rolls for a 20 are back to the normal double. Technically, they are handling two weapons, but don't have a chance with one of them. 

If they player insists they can swing both weapons at the same time, this is when you start piling on the off hand penalties. They aren't entitled to two attacks because they aren't skilled enough. So add those penalties up.

Now, what happens if the character IS entitled to two or more attacks? Nothing in the rules says that the player can't swing one mace 3 times in a round, nor does it say they can't kick someone as an attack in lieu of swinging the mace. Let them do it. Options one and two can be combined with this, if the character is so armed.

How do you handle two weapon attacks in your campaign? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

House Rules - Combat Tempo - Swinging Two Weapons

Many PLAYERS attempt to gain an advantage by swing two weapons at once. The various sets of rules accommodate this in one of two ways:

1) the character is simply swinging two weapons very fast, like a skill-less boxer.
2) the character is high level and receives extra attacks.

The first has a significant penalty, while the second does not.

My house rules handle these events slightly differently. Unarmed characters, who are not monks, can punch or kick twice per round. They receive no penalty unless they are making a last attack after losing a morale check. Failing a morale check removes any strength bonuses as the character is panicked. They are kicking and punching to get away, not to do damage.

By the way, punches do 1d2 points of damage per hand and kicks do 1d3.

Having established that it is natural to attack with both feet or hands and that panicking is bad, we move to the next scenario: Weapons. If a player has a weapon and a free hand, they can attack with the weapon and punch or kick at the same time. There is no penalty, as being unshielded is a penalty enough.

Characters may use a shield as a weapon, but they operate paradoxically. Bucklers do 1d3 points of damage plus strength bonus, while larger shields are relatively ineffective as weapons and do not do damage. A large shield, although it does no damage, it can disrupt a spell casters ability to cast and can foil a missile attack against another character. To hit someone in this fashion with a shield, one must normally be able to use a shield. Fighters, clerics, assassins, etc.

Now let's add in that second weapon. A character with a long sword and a dagger, 1d8 damage and 1d4 respectively, can use the tempo of combat to strike or threaten with both weapons each round. Only one attack roll is made. The effect is that the damage is shifted to a point between the two weapons: 1d6. Maybe they hit lightly with both weapons or perhaps they used one to force an opponent into dropping their guard for a single attack with the opposite weapon. Which one happened is not important, we are merely empowering players to act out realistic scenarios as they see their characters behaving. If a character is using two equal weapons, say two short swords or a mace and short sword which do 1d6 each, there is no change to the damage. It is simply a 1d6 roll.

In the AD&D rule set, there are significant penalties to swing both weapons at once. These rules should remain in effect when a character is unskilled, panicked or otherwise unwilling to be subtle in their attacks. Given the choice of using combat tempo or taking a big penalty, when would a character desire the penalty? Attacking massive creatures that can't strike back, attacking from behind, attacking creatures where a little damage is worse than no damage.

The last scenario, when a fighter gains multiple attacks can be handled either by the combat tempo rule which reduces damage, OR they pick one weapon to swing OR they can do the crazy "two at once" swing with a penalty. The player should choose based on the needs of the situation.

Did you know I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG? It contains all kinds of rules you can use in your campaign. Give it a try, it's pay what you want.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

House Rules: Oh, no you don't!

I've always like the idea of counter magic. On several occasions I have thought of implementing it into my campaigns.

For a dirty hack applicable to most game systems, I would use the following system:

1) Magic user knows the spell being cast at them,
2) Is not prepping a spell themselves,
3) Makes a save vs. magic,
4) Enemy spell is disrupted and fails to function.
5) Enemy spell caster does not lose the spell.

1) Magic user knows the spell being cast at them,
2) Magic user has the exact spell memorized,
3) Is not prepping a spell themselves,
4) Makes a save vs. magic,
5) Enemy spell is reflected on to them.
6) Both spell casters lose that spell.

1) Magic user knows the spell being cast at them,
2) Magic user has the exact spell memorized,
3) Magic user chooses to prep that spell themselves.
4) Target magic user makes a saving throw vs. magic, Spell is reflected back at enemy,
5) Enemy makes a saving throw vs. magic. If passed, the spell is reflected back at the original target.
6) Cycle repeats until the spell strikes either caster.
7) Every cycle adds 1 to the damage roll, if applicable.
8) Whoever is hit by the spell loses that spell, the other caster does not lose the spell.
9) Magic users hit by spells in this fashion will experience subduing damage, meaning that they can't be killed outright in this fashion.

A couple of other thoughts. The subduing damage is there to encourage players to use this ability. First, being a magic user effectively allows you to shield the rest of the party. The magic users, friendly and enemy casters attract spells meant for other targets while countering magic. A magic user struck by a spell with an area of effect is a barrier to that magic. The effect of the spell will not pass a plane defined as a wall 90 degrees to the angle of the spell's path. People standing between dueling magic users can be hit by an area of effect spell, but those standing behind either caster are unaffected as the magic user absorbed that power.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

3.5 House Rules - Arrows

I don't like tracking arrows. Treasure Hunters HQ has posted on this very issue. Treasure Hunters HQ has a whole collection of posts to make your game more interesting and flow better than ever before. Everything from shields to magical unguents. Go ahead and follow them, the HQ is full of good ideas.

Ah... back to the point. Arrows. Tracking arrows on character sheets simply burns holes in the sheet. It is annoying and subject to abuse. Many years ago, I realized that player's will cheat on ammo more than any other thing. Why? Because, it is annoying. To avoid it, I tended to have the players encounter lots of arrows, either because the enemy had them, they were working from a fortification, or they had a natural pause to collect up their used arrows. Some players will want to roll a number to see if the arrow broke, but that is as exciting as my other pet peeve, save vs. drowning.

After a while, I decided to impose a rule that if a player rolled a 1 with ranged weapons, they fumbled the quiver and dropped all of their arrows on the ground. Picking one up, pulling one from a target or returning an arrow shot at the player takes time, a single action. If the character doesn't take any other action, they can refill a quiver in a single round. It seemed reasonable, since the standard has been changed from a quantity to have something or don't have something.

My primary issue with running out of arrows as a DM is, the rules don't take "out of ammo" into account. It is assumed the characters have a functional method of attack, and a certain quality of weapons. But if the requisite ammo is missing, they have neither. Suddenly striping the characters of missile weapons isn't really accounted for in the rules. While a good DM will give players and characters time to reprovision, the DM really can't account for 4 character's missile counts on the fly.

Monday, December 28, 2015

3.5 House Rules – A Crock of Equipment

Sometimes, deception is required for characters to make headway. If a caravan is ambushed every time there are no obvious defenders, it may be beneficial to hand the wizard a lance. Weapons, no matter how old or unserviceable maybe pressed into service for deceptive purposes. I have a house rule for this effect.
When a character is untrained with a type of weapon, but that weapon itself is unserviceable, the attacker only suffers half the normal penalty but only does half the damage. For instance, a wizard with a lance will suffer a -2 instead of a minus 4. The attacker only does 1d3 or 1d4 damage, which can be doubled for being mounted. The weapon is also dropped on impact. This modification occurs because the wielder is using a  known weapon in an extraordinary way. It is not normal to fling a two-handed sword at someone’s feet or let go of a lance on impact.
Players may opt to retain the weapon, but automatically switch back to the normal -4 penalty for being untrained.
Armor can also be used in the same way, with the Armor check penalty being halved. Old, unserviceable armor is ripped away when the wearer is hit or the wearer fails a Armor check roll. Since this is really poor armor, it is easily damaged. Damaged armor still inflicts half the penalties, so characters should remove it immediately. This requires either a Dex or Str roll, at the DM’s discretion.
Another trick is Doodad Armor.
Doodad Armor is a fake armor. Typically, this deceptive armor is constructed of leather, wood and blocked felt, with metal connectors. It is very warm to wear, but far less cumbersome than real armor. It imposes one half the normal Armor check roll for the type simulated and is not destroyed when struck. However, it may show signs of distress atypical of normal armor. For example, Plate Doodad armor will show a large tear when struck by a weapon.
It functions as padded armor, no matter the type of armor simulated. This can cause an Arcane Spell Failure. Speed is unmodified by this special purpose armor, so enemies may be surprised by quick movements.
Doodad armor can also be ripped off, as it is designed to be removed quickly. This requires a Dex check.
Depending on your campaign, deceptive armor types can give a bonus one or two to grappling, as both Doodad armor and damaged armor has all kinds of extra friendly grab points to enable an attacker. The attacker would have to be aware that the armor is fake to receive a bonus. This requires either a prior strike or a Wisdom check.
One comical result is a grappler grabbing the arms of the armor and pulling, which is a Strength check. The defender can also make a strength check to rip the armor off. What happens next is usually comedy gold.