Monday, June 11, 2012

House Rules for the Black City Campaign

The Black City marks our return to using the LOTFP rules for the table top game, and the first time breaking out the grindhouse edition with its adjusted XP totals and spell lists.  New campaign, new rules set = chance to re-evaluate our common house rules.

Bind Wounds
Immediately after a combat, characters can perform first aid activities to recover 0-3 hit points (d4-1).

Rationale:  hit points are vague and represent multiple factors - injuries, morale, fatigue.  Giving characters the chance to swig some liquid courage, bandage injuries, catch their breath, etc, lets low level parties stay in the dungeon longer and frees up the cleric from always carrying Cure Light Wounds, especially in LOTFP where Turn Undead takes up a spell slot.  Bind wounds does tend to act a bit like a 'healing surge'.  If a 25% chance of failure is too low, it'd be easy to adjust this rule to 0-2 hit points (d4-2).

New Armor - Ring Mail
Ring mail, AC 15, cost 50sp, encumbers like chain mail.

In a dark ages campaign with little or no access to plate armor, I wanted more variety than just leather and chain, so I slotted ring mail in there as an intermediate (this category would also cover studded leather or scale mail as an alternative).

The Skald - New Specialist Skills
New skills:  ­ Performance (1 in 6), ­ Lore (1 in 6)

If the bard is able to perform for an audience for at least a half hour, he can add his performance skill as a charisma modifier to any reaction or morale roll for the audience members, as long as the roll isn't made more than a day after the performance.

Whenever the bard encounters an item with legendary significance, this skill may be used to try and identify the item and recall a piece of lore or history about it that would exist in song or poem.

These two skills for specialists allow someone to tweak their specialist to cover the role of Skald, the Norse equivalent of the Celtic bard.  Since many of the opponents in the upper ruins of the city are fellow Vikings, the extra reaction roll adjustment from performances would be valuable, along with the boon to retainer morale.  And I've always liked legend and lore as an alternative to the magic user spell Identify for magic items.

Two-Weapon Fighting
A fighting style with an off-hand weapon provides a +1 AC bonus versus one melee opponent only.

This rule is one I'm still considering; in the game, one of the players asked what benefit could they get from dual-wielding.  LOTFP doesn't have an explicit two-weapon fighting rule, which is odd because you figure the fencing styles of Early Modern involved the off-hand quite a bit - dagger or gauche, for instance.

I'm thinking the off-hand weapon provides a +1 to AC like a shield, but only against a single opponent in melee; the shield is still better when fighting multiple opponents, and an off-hand weapon provides no bonus against missile fire. In LOTFP, the shield provides a +2 AC vs missile.  So there's no reason why someone should take two-weapon fighting over a shield, unless it's for encumbrance purposes.  But if style and theme are important, there's at least a small benefit to being a dual-wielder.  You do not get multiple attacks.

Strength Bonus and Damage
The strength damage applies to both to-hit rolls and damage.

Yes - default LOTFP removes the strength bonus for damage and applies it on the to-hit roll only.  You'd think I had peed in the player's drinks when I announced that one.  "Who is this Raggi guy, he needs a smack in the back of the head", grumbled one of the guys.  How many folks out there like a rule where strength doesn't improve weapon damage dealt?  Check out the new poll on the right.

I don't know if Jim has come out and defended the removal of the strength bonus; from the DM's perspective, the world is usually full of monsters that are stronger than people, and they don't frequently get a strength bonus added when they're using weapons.  You can avoid the 'how strong is the monster' debate by having all weapons deal base damage.

I find it nigh impossible to run any rules set straight up without wanting to make a small tweak here or there to better fit my vision for a home game.  This is the smallest package of house rules I've used so far.  Common ones I'm keeping out for now include a fighter cleave rule, a critical hit house rule, clerical 'convert any spell to cure light wounds', and damage by character class.


  1. Funny, I've been thinking STR should give a bonus to hit OR dam but not both, and lean toward to-hit. My thinking is that to-hit bonuses mean your attacks are more effective and likely to inflict life-threatening damage already. Add to damage gives the (to me) silly effect that a strong PC with a dagger does more damage than a weaker PC with an axe. When HD and weapon damage are d6s-d10s, as in most older D&Ds, a bonus of up to 3 seems out of proportion. My other thought would be to cap damage bonuses at +1.

  2. If I were to run an old school game, I would let dual wield decide whether to add +1 to hit or add +1 to AC vs limited number of opponents. The shield is still better at defense, but dual wield gives more options.

  3. I like that strength adds to damage (and voted that way), but LOTFP is a special case. I think fighters need to extra damage to be special, but in LOTFP only fighters get + to BAB, and clerics are further gimped with the no free turn ability, so + damage may not be needed in LOTFP.

    The + damage I would use in an old school game would be limited to +2 or +3, and I would use a system where the + changes the die rolled, it does not add to damage. I make the chart such that smaller weapons get less bonus damage than larger weapons. I would use something like 3,3,4,5,6,8,10,12, 15, 18. So a dagger does d3, based on the chart above moving up one from 3 is still 3, so plus 1 strength keeps it at d3, +2 makes it d4. A short sword does d4 +1 makes it d5 +2 makes it d6, a long sword does d6, +1 str makes it d8, +2 ,makes it d10 etc. This means more bonus damage for strength when using larger weapons. I would also use the rule two-handed weapon roll twice take best. I would use the ODD HD for classes. At some points funky dice or a stand in has to be used (2d8-1 for 15). Don’t have it completely worked out yet.

  4. No STR Bonus isn't that innovative: Men & Magic did originally not grant any machanical benefit from high STR except faster advancement for the fighting-man.
    I personally use STR bonus for to hit adjustement, because I think you need to be strong to handle accurately a medieval longsword (those things are pretty damn heavy!), and to damage, because I like the idea than a mighty blow from a trong foe does actually inflict deeper wounds.
    But I would probably une D6 for all weapons, with a limit to the bonus: no bonus for small weapons or improvised weapons, +1 for one handed weapons (mace, club, hand axe), +2 and +3 only for two-handed weapons. This way, a character with a low/average strength wouldn't have any incentive to forfeit the protection of a shield

    1. Yeah, I would have mentioned the OD&D version too if you had not beat me to it.

      Another interesting option would be for strength to provide a floor to the potential damage rather than a bonus. So, if using a d6 weapon, a strength bonus of +1 would have you do 2-6 rather than 2-7 damage (operationalize by re-rolling 1s).

    2. I like this a lot that STR bonus grants minimum damage. I have to give this more thinking myself.

  5. Shield wall rules might be good for viking flavor.

  6. Howwould you do theshield wall rules?