Tuesday 17 November 2020

One Man's Trash...The Grommel for Blood & Treasure

 Grommel (Lotorine Beastkin)

The clever, deft Grommel are increasingly common across the New Kingdoms, due to their considerable fecundity and versatility. Initially, these raccoon-like hybrids favoured lowland forests and wetlands, but they have spread - “like some particularly irritating light-fingered plague”, in the words of one Seyeren noble - to all corners of the world, particularly favouring humanity's most dire and distressed cities, where they eke out an oddly happy living from the various types of garbage and waste that dominate such places. Most Grommel favour the Neutral alignments, but they prefer Good to Evil, preferring an easy-going life where everyone just gets along. 

Grommel average 32” in height and have a movement rate of 20’. They are covered in short fur, and have the trademark black-and-white striped tail. Their eyes are a friendly but searching brown, and their faces are very much like that of their animal forbears, complete with snout-like noses and exceptional whiskers. They live short lives, with few making it past 60 years, although every Grommel knows the tale of Grandfather Moon-Eye, who lived to the ripe old age of 99. Grommel start play knowing their own language - scavenged from several others and adapted to the physiology of the Grommel’s snouts - Drazqanda, and one human lingua franca (usually Hyarene, Kanastasi, Urdrinn or Avronakiyan). Raccoon-folk sound rather awkward using other tongues and can sometimes be very hard to understand. 

The Grommel are quick of hand and wit, and seem inured to ill-health, but are not strong and lack a certain amount of common sense, gaining +1 to Constitution, Dexterity and Intelligence, but suffer a -1 penalty to Strength and Wisdom. They have the following minimum/maximum ability scores: STR 3/17, INT 5/18, WIS 3/17, DEX 5/18, CON 9/19, and CHA 3/18. They roll 1d8 +3 for their Heritage score.

Despite the fact that they are most associated with scavenging, Grommel are actually fine cooks, adding +2 to checks for cooking, and having a 7-in-12 chance of detecting poisons and spoiled food (their definition of this last is a tad elastic). 

Grommel also gain a +3 to saving throws vs. poison and disease, whilst their nimble fingers provide them a +2 bonus to Climb Walls, Pick Pockets and checks to Find and Remove Traps.

Finally, their talents as scavengers allow them to Forage (as per the Landsknecht skill), and Tinker (per the Gnome skill), regardless of their character class, adding half their level to all such checks.

Grommel may choose from the following classes:  Acrobat, Beastmaster, Charlatan, Cleric, Defender, Diablo, Druid, Duellist, Elementalist, Fey-Mage, Fighter, Jack-of-all-Trades, Jester, Knight of Flowers, Lucky Bastard, Magic-User (Conjurer, Illusionist), Priest (Guardian, Travel, Trickster), Ranger, Ronin, Scout, Shaman, Sorceror, Thief, Warlock, Zodiac. 

They may also pursue the following multiclassing options: Acrobat-Fighter, Acrobat-Sorceror, Cleric- Fighter, Cleric-Scout, Cleric-Sorceror, Cleric-Thief, Elementalist-Thief, Fighter-Scout, Fighter-Shaman, Fighter-Sorceror, Fighter-Thief, Scout-Shaman, Scout-Sorceror, Sorceror-Thief.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Labyrinth Lord House-Rules: Skills

 I'm a glutton for systems - there are so many fascinating ones out there. My players, however...not so much. As I've mentioned, we mostly play - or played - Rolemaster, from 2nd edition through to the RMU playtest. They love it, and haven't really wanted to change. I managed to convince them to try Pathfinder, but it didn't take, sadly. We meet up about twice every five weeks on Skype - these days, none of us live in the same city - so PF just seemed too unwieldy for irregular 3-4 hour sessions (as was RM, but there was a great deal of system mastery in the group, so that helped). In addition, we don't always get a full turnout - and running PCs and NPCs just gets a bit much for yours truly.

So we settled on Advanced Labyrinth Lord - quick, clean combat and character generation, and easy for me to run PCs when the player is absent. it has been, for the most part, a bit of a blast. The ease of combat, in particular, makes a huge difference when sessions are short and infrequent. I recently did something of a survey of the players to see whether we wanted to continue in this vein: the feedback was mostly positive, but it was mentioned that PF and RM had more nuance in terms of creating characters, and that players liked a skill system.

So, at the risk of being very un-OSR, I set to work (it's not as if I need much persuasion for that sort of thing). I didn't want a whole bunch of skills, but I wanted reasonable coverage, which meant replacing the various quirky mechanics peculiar to the various classes (we use a wide range of classes drawn from third-party sources) with a more unified system that still promoted differences between the classes.

Fortunately, some of that work, at least, had been done for me: I borrowed the basic framework from Brave Halfling's Delving Deeper: Skill Systems. But I didn't want a 'skill rank' system, although I did want my players to be able to decide - at least in part - where they were more competent. So I settled on skill points, and a table containing 5 levels of proficiency that improve as one advances in levels. The table works exactly like the Saving Throw tables in Labyrinth Lord, but the column used is a function of how many skill points a character has in a particular skill. The categories - and the number of points required to qualify - are as follows: 

Unschooled 0 skill points

Familiar 1-5 skill points

Practiced 6-12  skill points

Experienced 13-19 skill points

Mastered 20 or more skill points












































Characters accumulate skill points - and allocate them - as they level up, but they also get boosts from various sources during character generation: Backgrounds, Culture/Lineage and Class. All up, characters get a total of 70 skill points plus 4 per level. Given that there is a reasonably large number of skills, it's pretty hard to master more than a couple - especially being as how I've added in some Combat Maneuvers and Weapon Competencies (of which more later). 

One last thing about this system: no matter how many points your Magic-User spends on the Stealth skill, they are extremely unlikely to outperform a Thief, especially at higher levels. Thieves add half their level (rounded up) to Stealth checks to Move Silently and Hide in Shadows. but the Magic-User can, at least, have a chance of successful skulking.

The skills - most of which are self-explanatory (which will not, of course, stop me from elaborating on them in the next post) - are listed below: they're the bastard child of Fantastic Heroes & Witchery, Pathfinder and the Delving Deeper book referred to above.

Arcana, Athletics, Brawn, Concentration, Deception, Detection, Endurance, Expression, Etiquette, Healing, Legerdemain, Lore, Manipulation, Mechanics, Movement, Nature, Religion, Riding, Stealth  Streetwise.

Actually, this information is already out of date - stuff being constantly refined, trimmed, elaborated. I've realised, essentially, that I'm creating a new game (Heartbreaker, anyone?), albeit one with a B/X engine, mediated by the rules in Labyrinth Lord.

A Tavern by the Docks: The Hag on the Hill

Kambyra Town is famed for its many taverns, although many are little more than smoke-clogged hovels, where throngs of flies die in the beer vats and blood and bruises tend to be more common than bread and broth.

The Hag on the Hill is different: carved out of the rock of the Claw, it faces north-west across the busy harbour of Noriklo, and its brightly-painted facade is often the first thing new arrivals note as their ship enters the bay. The Hag is also noteworthy for its degree of safety – at least compared to most of its competitors – and the excellence of its beer and its rum. The food is serviceable, the card tables busy and the private booths suitably private. 

But what makes the Hag most unique is its reputation as a neutral ground, where all are welcome – as long as they keep the peace – to drink, dine, scheme and trade. Here, one can find colonial functionaries meeting with smugglers, traders in stolen goods dickering with heavily disguised nobles and mercenary captains hammering out deals with guildmasters. It is also a great, although expensive, place for newcomers to find work, be it guarding a caravan to the Interior, laying a troubled spirit to rest in a docklands doss-house, hunting brigands in the Dustlands or searching out a secret shrine, home to a cache of stolen scrolls, in the forlorn shores to the south-east.

The Hag owes its singular status to the foresight of its owner, Menzoviros Baine, a grizzled old Kanastasi rogue with Giantish heritage. Having achieved considerable success in foreign parts as an adventurer, he and two of his colleagues found themselves in Kambyra three decades ago and decided to settle there. The three set up their first tavern in the shadow of the Claw and, after managing to hold their own against all comers, thanks to judicious use of bribery, threats, blackmail, magic and occasional violence, they established the Hag as Kambyra’s premier den of intrigue. It is now guaranteed immunity from harassment – legal or extralegal – by virtue of the fact that a highly-factionalised and rather lawless city like Kambyra Town needs such a venue. An unwritten, unofficial compact protects both tavern and patrons (at least until they leave the premises!), backed up by the well-documented skill and capability of Menzoviros and his partner, the somewhat flinty monk-sorceress Thalaea Vathekk (the third member of the trio that first came to Kambyra, Royben Zash, left Kambyra Town long ago, with rumours of feuding – and of demonic pacts – in his wake. He has not been seen since).

Menzoviros Baine Juggernaut Scout 8; N; AC 11; hp 32; SV 14; MV 30’; Atk: +5 melee/+5 ranged; Attacks:  +2 disrupting Bastard Sword  (Atk +8, dmg 1d8+2/+3 2-handed), Thrown Dagger (dmg 1d4); STR 15, INT 11, WIS 9, DEX 14, CON 9, CHA 14;  Skills: Climb Walls +9, Find/Remove Traps +9, Hear Noise +8, Hide in Shadows +9, Move Silently +9, Open Locks +9, Riding +9, Survival +8; Special: backstab +2d6, organise caper; Feats: expertise, weapon focus (bastard sword), weapon proficiency (bastard sword).


Thalaea Vathekk Human Monk 6/Sorceress 4; LE; AC 15; hp 28; SV 12; MV 45’; Atk: +6 melee/+6 ranged; Attacks: unarmed strike (dmg 2d4+2), Thrown Dagger (dmg 1d4); STR 16, INT 10, WIS 13, DEX 16, CON 13, CHA 12;  Skills: Acrobatics + 8, Alchemy +4, Climb Walls +8, Hear Noise +7, Hide in Shadows +8, Move Silently +8, Open Locks +8, Read Languages +6, Survival +8; Spells Known: 1st level (5/day) - daze, detect magic, enlarge person, precognition, ray of enfeeblement; 2nd level (1/day) - ESP, ghoul touch, hideous laughter; Special: surprised 1 on 1d6, immunity to disease and slow spells, stunning attack, deflect projectiles, breach immunity (silver, +1), reduced fall (20’), feign death, sense magic (60’), hag bloodline (+1 save vs. enchantment/illusion spells); Feats: dodge, expertise, precision, trip.

The two owners of the Hag are aware (a secret known to very few) that Mirkasia, an Annis Hag cursed with a form of Undeath and unable to leave her subterranean prison in daylight, dwells in the depths of the Claw. She is in some way related to Thalaea and has agreed to share the Claw - it was she who first delved the caves where the Hag now sits - in return for their help in lifting the curse.

Mirkasia Phantom Hag; LE; Type: Undead (incorporeal); AC 20 [silver]; hp 20; SV 14; MV 40’ (Fly 60’); Atk: +6 melee/+6 ranged; Attacks: 2 claws (2d6+ rend, 1 level energy drain), 1 bite (1d10 + 1 level energy drain); Special: powerless in natural sunlight, immunity to illusions, fog cloud (3/day); XP/CL: 1800/8.

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Portrait of a Guardian: Gedner Hallop

 Every so often, it comes - the feeling that here is not the right place, that moldering in this backwater is no fate fit for such a talented son of the Church, that such skill and power is better deployed somewhere else,where the need is more urgent, more real...not some imagined residue of ill, but real problems. But of course, the ill is not imagined but fabricated, probably by enemies within the Church hierarchy, those jealous of such ability, who have used this stupid notion to effectively sideline a potential rival...

Gedner Hallop shakes his head, cursing gently under his breath: they come more often lately, these errant thoughts, self-serving meanderings. His duty here is truly important - the odd thoughts and impulses he has been fighting lately are proof enough, for he knows whence they come: the Chaos Well. He knows that the Well - or the force that powers it - is in some sense alive, active and straining to break free of its bindings. No longer content with the slow leakage of the last century, the Chaos walled away at the bottom of the Well is pushing, stretching the bonds that hold it. Dark thoughts rise like bubbles to the surface of the Well and then drift, miasma-like towards the village, seeking to take hold of minds willing and unwilling. In the case of the guardians and observers, it would be useful to convince one or more - or all - of them to find something better to do with their mortal lives, so frail and short in the face of Chaos Eternal... 

Gedner Hallop is the local Priest of Vlynn, God of Good Fortune and Lost Things Found. A hale and cheerful fellow in his early fifties, he is outwardly no more than an ordinary priest of his faith, in a quiet village with just enough of a congregation to justify the expenditure of building and maintaining a Temple. However, he is in truth an experienced and gifted priest - his powers mostly kept secret from the villagers and the few visitors who bother with Chelmsey. Mostly, aside from his regular priestly duties, Gedner provides a willing ear and wise counsel to those who need it or spends time using his considerable skills as a carpenter to repair anything that needs fixed or to help build a new barn (or other such things). 

Gedner came to Chelmsey at the behest of his superior, the Bishop of Brejlgard - as one of the more experienced and capable priests in Rakhanay, seasoned by long service dealing with the Demon-cultists that continually attempt to subvert the provinces of the north-west and a stint as a mediator in the conflicts between Khoul and Reymedo, to serve for six years, watching over village and Chaos Well. This Gedner has done willingly - he is not particularly ambitious, and, like many priests of Vlynn, detests intrigue. Although he is often bored with his bucolic living, he enjoys the opportunity to serve the villagers - most of whom are decent folk - and the Kingdom. Keeping an eye on the Well appeals to his veiled sense of romanticism.

Gedner Hallop
Human Cleric 7
Neutral Good
STR 10 INT 16 WIS 17
DEX 8 CON 13 CHA 16
AC 14 HP 31
Saving Throw: 13
+1 dismissive Footman's Hammer ATK+4 DMG 1d6; Bolas ATK +4 DMG 1d4 (+entangle)
Height 5'9" MV 30'
Feats: Extend Spell, Iron Will, Skill Focus (Lore)
Skills: Conversion +9
        Healing         +9
        Lore         +5
Languages: Common, Celestial, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Infernal, Sylvan
Turn Undead
Spells Prepared: (1st level) bless, cure light wounds (2), detect evil, divine favor, mending; (2nd level) augury, cure moderate wounds, gentle repose, shield other; (3rd level ) cure disease, locate object*; (4th level) change fate   
Background/Secondary Skill:
Leather Armor +1
Shield +2
Footman's Mace +1, dismissive
ring of free action
wand of canny effort (4 charges)
potions (darkvision, gaseous form, healing [2], stoneskin)
scroll of protection from outsiders
candle of invocation
seer's diadem
temple bell

Here is Gedner Hallop for Fantastic Heroes & Witchery

Gedner Hallop
Friar 5
STR 10 DEX 8 CON 13 INT 16 WIS 17 CHA 16
AC 15
HP 4w/19v
BtH: +3 melee/+2 ranged
Movement: 12”/30 ft.
Attacks: +1 Dismissive Hammer; Bolas
Damage: 1d6/1d4
Skills: Persuasion +4, Healing +4
Special Abilities: +2 CHA & WIS saves, Prayers (d12), Community Ear (+5), Churchman (+5)
Social Class: Middle-class/Decent
Background: Ecclesiastic
Personality: Altruistic
Allegiance: Vlynn
Equipment: see above

& here he is for my heavily house-ruled Advanced Labyrinth Lord campaign:

Gedner Hallop
NG Priest (Cleric) 7
STR 10 DEX 9 CON 14 INT 15 WIS 18 CHA 15 PER^ 18 LUCK^ 13
AC 4
HP 30
SAVING THROWS B 14 PD 9 PP 12 W 10 S 12 
Attack Matrix ^C
Movement: 120'(40')
Attacks: +1 Dismissive Hammer; Bolas
Damage: 1d6+1/1d4
Combat Maneuvers ^: Block +3, Defend Other +4
Skills ^: Arcana, Concentration, Religion 13; Detection, Endurance, Etiquette, Lore, Manipulation, Movement 15; Others 18
Special Abilities: Turn Undead
Lineage/Culture^: Villager (Human)
Backgrounds: Carpenter, Novice, Envoy
Social Status^: 10
Spells Prepared: 1st level:  create water, cure light wounds (2), detect magic, purify food and drink, remove fear; 2nd level: bless, know alignment, hold person, reveal charm, spiritual weapon; 3rd level: cure disease, dispel magic, locate object*; 4th level: cure serious wounds, divination.
Eldritch Resonance ^: bless, ceremony, combine, detect lie, holy chant, know alignment. 
Equipment: see above
* as a Cleric of Vlynn, Gedner Hallop can cast this spell with double the normal range and duration.
^ "Eldritch Resonance", "Backgrounds", "Combat Maneuvers", "Attack Matrix", "Skills", "Perception", "Luck", "Lineage/Culture", "Social Status" are all importations or elaborations of rules taken from elsewhere. 

Sunday 16 August 2020

The Kethenzala: an Elf-kindred for Blood & Treasure

 Bone Elves (Kethenzala)

Rare in the extreme, the Bone Elves represent one of the more disturbing - to other Elves, at least - Elven lineages to have emerged from Shroudfall. Where Dawn Elves are treated with scorn (masking a deep-seated fear of Elven ‘devolution’), the Bone Elves, with their thorough focus on all aspects of death, are deemed an unhealthy abomination. Bone Elves tend to congregate in the slums and ghettos of human cities - for reasons most do not examine too closely. It should be said that most Bone Elves are Neutral in alignment (with a slight lean towards the Chaotic alignments). However, any alignment is possible.

Kethenzala average 70” inches in height and have a movement rate of 30’. Their skin is a leathery grey, whilst their hair is usually a white-raddled cobalt blue. Eyes of piercing gold flecked with red lend them a daunting and unhealthy aspect. Bone Elves live for 1200 years, and begin with the following languages: Ketelcqa, Urugraz, Vaerylle and one human lingua franca (usually Hyarene, Kanastasi or Urdrinn).

Somewhat at odds with their slightly sickly appearance, Kethenzala are tough as old boots, in addition to being cunning and curious. They gain +1 to Constitution and Intelligence, but their scholarly lifestyle and obsession with mortality leaves them with a weak musculature and rather daunting personality. They lose 1 point from Strength and Charisma. Bone Elves possess the following minimum/maximum ability scores: STR 3/18, INT 9/19, WIS 3/18, DEX 7/18, CON 7/18, and CHA 3/17. They roll 2d4 + 6 for Heritage. 

Kethenzala possess the usual Elven traits, save that they are not immune to Ghoul Paralysis (although they may add +2 to Saving Throws made to avoid its effect) and exchange the longsword for the scythe (but of course) as a weapon with which they gain a +1 attack bonus. 

Kethenzala also add +3 to Lore task checks pertaining to Undead and +2 to Reaction rolls from intelligent Undead. Bone Elf Clerics (and Anticlerics) add their Charisma bonus (if they have one) to rolls to repel, destroy or command Undead. 

All Bone Elves can cast deathwatch at will.

Bone Elves may pursue the following classes: Acrobat, Alchemist, Anticleric, Antipaladin, Assassin, Bounty Hunter, Cleric, Diviner, Fighter, Leech, Necromancer, Paladin, Priest (Death, Fighting, Scholar, Trickster, Weird), Sentinel, Scout, Shadowdancer, Sorceror, Thief, Tomb Raider, Warlock, and Wizard Hunter. 

They may also pursue the following multi-class options: Assassin-Necromancer, Diviner-Thief,  Fighter-Necromancer, Thief-Priest (Death, Weird), Thief-Necromancer, Thief-Sorceror.

Wolves of War: The Ulfarga for Blood & Treasure (& RMFRP)

  Ulfarga (Lupine Beastkin) Wild-hearted but honourable wolf-like humanoids, Ulfarga represent one of the largest populations of any Beastki...