Saturday, May 25, 2019

OSR Weapon Damage

The topic of weapon damage comes up from time-to-time in OSR discussions. I think this is because we want that beefy fighter to be so very deadly with big-ass swords and we want that wee dagger to be more lethal that it is.

A lot of folks are in favor of straight 1d6 damage per weapon, as it was in OD&D. I hate that idea, but I get it. It means that the dagger is a better choice than it normally is and it allows players to be creative with their weapon choices since there's no mechanical penalty for those choices. But it also means - since all things really are even - weapon choice is virtually meaningless in terms of mechanics. Your skull-tipped mace and my super sharp scimitar both act identically in combat. I dislike this immensely.

Caveat: (Important caveat, no less) A good DM and player rapport will cause the nature of a PC's weapon to enhance play. My choice of a scimitar vs. your skull mace may mean that the Arabic-inspired setting has more respect/acceptance of my PC vs. yours. Perhaps your wicked weapon invites trouble everywhere you go while I can pass through markets and tea houses without excess trouble. Or let's say you choose a straight arming sword while I choose a staff tipped with 3 chains securing large iron hooks. A good DM would allow me to hook-and-pull targets on a good hit roll, but may also hit me with penalties when fighting in tight spaces. Meanwhile, your simple sword presents no particular advantages or penalties.

So yeah. Straight 1d6 can work as long as the group really embraces the narrative elements of weapon choice. I still don't love it, but I'm open to it.

Another idea is damage by class. My ideas below are in this vein, but I'm not a huge fan of the versions of this idea I have seen before because they never seem to leave the existing variable damage as-is for the "middle classes" such as Thief and Cleric. Versions I can remember seeing will apply something like a small-medium-large weapon category scheme and a die step for each based on class. I think this is perfectly logical but also kind of bland. To me, it robs weapons of their character.

Some people even go as far as limiting the Strength modifier in combat to only fighter types. I get that too, but I hate it.

I'm a B/X guy through-and-through because of the versatility of basic rules such as variable weapon damage (an optional rule but let's be honest... almost everyone uses it) and the universal ability modifiers. It means I can play a B/X Magic-User who has an 18 Strength and I can be potentially a better fighter than the party's actual Fighter - at least at very low levels. This bugs a lot of people because of class niches and what-not. I get that too. But I don't care. It lends greater diversity to characters in a game with precious few built-in bells-and-whistles.

Think of that B/X Thief who got lucky with a high Str, Dex, and Con. Give that guy a two-handed sword and you got yourself a bona fide sword-and-sorcery hero.

So yeah. Ideas. There are others too.

Here's a couple of ideas I had that I might drop into my next B/X game (maybe not both). These might have already been dreamed up by some other game nerd so please post a link if you have seen either of them before. That would be awesome. I certainly have not read all the reams of blog posts out there in the OSR-o-sphere.


Your character's class determines the die step used for weapon damage.

Cleric Normal
Dwarf 1 die step higher
Elf Normal
Fighter 1 die step higher
Halfling Normal
Magic-User 1 die step lower (min. 1d4)
Thief Normal

For general use, not necessarily specific to B/X, it would be like this:

Wizard types = 1 die step lower
Rogue/Cleric types = no adjustment
Fighter types = 1 die step higher

Race would probably be irrelevant since race in 1e or Advanced style games confers somewhat less advantage/disadvantage (or should) than in B/X where the class and race are the same.


Some classes get damage bonuses as they level up.

Cleric +1 per 2 levels
Dwarf +1 per level
Elf +1 per 2 levels
Fighter +1 per level
Halfling +1 per 2 levels
Magic-User +1 per 5 levels
Thief +1 per 2 levels

So Idea #1 I really dig because it doesn't mess with the existing damage values for weapons nor does it require new categories to be graphed on. You just have to go a die step up or down depending on class. It makes the dagger more serious for warriors and the sword less effective for wizards.

(I do allow wizards to use any weapon because it's fantasy. The downside is their to hit rolls suck and maybe I make them spend a round drawing or sheathing because of lack of expertise.)

Idea #2 seems like it would also go a long way toward addressing a big problem. Why is it that my level 1 fighter deals exactly the same damage as my level 9 fighter with the same weapon? It just doesn't FEEL right. It's heroic fantasy... I want to FEEL like I'm just god damn better at this shit than I used to be. So a fat +9 to damage with that dagger I picked up on the battlefield would do the trick. I dunno... I'm sure there are downsides but not sure the downsides outweigh the asskickery.

The Questing Beast RPG Revisited

Ron Edwards of Adept Press recently played my old game The Questing Beast at IndieCON and made this video talking about it.

The main thrust of the video is that Ron was concerned about the mechanical difference between the games. Primarily, that The Pool gives players a choice whether to take narrative control where TQB doesn't offer that choice. I designed TQB to be a little more "controlled" than The Pool in the sense that I wanted it to feel complete as a system. I wanted everything to be very clear and well structured. The Pool has clarity as well, but is far more open-ended as to how things can emerge from play. At least in a sense, that is.

Anyway, it's been a very long time since I thought about these games but I'm happy that they still get some traction here-and-there.

You can get The Pool and The Questing Beast for free.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

In Defense of Old School Armor Class

Here's a non-controversial topic about which I'm sure everyone completely agrees.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Random List 'o Stuff

Here's a list of random items I keep on hand when I'm running games. The header is my design but I did not write the list. In fact, I want to know who did write the list so I can cite them. I do not remember.

Still, here's a list. Feel free to use it.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Black Pudding Video and Matt Hildebrand

Oh how much I loved this video that Matt Hildebrand put together for me when I released Black Pudding #1! Gotta dust it off every once in a while and give it a spin.

Matt is awesome. Not only is he one of the more prolific layout folks working in indie RPGs, he's a terrific artist and a genuinely great guy.

BTW, the music is by Witness the Reckoning, a band my brother-in-law was in for a number of years. They disbanded years ago. Hard! He's the one in the blue shirt with a beard.

Zkoth Campaign: Bald Mountain Baddies

Follow up on posts I made about running a public campaign at a local brewery...

We are at least 4 sessions in and the rotating cast of PCs has managed to explore the bald mountain base of a weird alien race and has had multiple encounters with their owl bear soldiers. Next session will see them locked in combat with a host of owl bear guards on their final push to overtake the entire location and secure its treasures in the name of the Jade Prince.

Next session is this Wed.

Thoughts so far on public games:

They are necessarily lite. Without a dedicated core of players and a lot of time to play, it's very hard to develop depth. But this is D&D... and for my money I'd prefer to keep it lite. We can and do develop characterization over time. Some players come almost every game and play the same PCs, so that naturally leads to character development.

It is really cool to get to play with different people. I love the folks that always show up, of course. They are the core. But when I get a random new person I don't even know it's just a cool thing. Doing this is going to challenge my DMing skills to the fullest, I believe. At least in terms of organizing and orchestrating games in general.

So far so good.


I like cool animation. I will start sharing stuff like this on the blog here-and-there, as the mood hits me.

I ran across Steve Cutts' Happiness short and it was super cool. If you were thinking about buying that new car or going on a shopping spree maybe it's happiness you seek...

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Tee Shirts and Coffee Cups Are Necessary Things

I cobbled together a little Teespring store with some goodie goodie grumdrop merch! This merch is totally going to make you look sexy as hell and all your coffee will be sweet as pie, bitter as bad butter, and loaded with gasoline.

I think I saw some sticker options on there... gonna add those later. I like sticking things on my face.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Wenching and Carousing

I was talking to my friend Jayne about a potential slutty character class they were thinking of doing. That lead us to Googling for wenches, trollops, hood rats, etc. - all within a D&D context. And of course there are results you can find on a spectrum of quality.

But during that search I found a post on A Wizard's Kiss about wenching. Color me interested.

The post offers a little bolt-on for the carousing rules from Jeff's Gameblog, which itself is a way for PCs to burn gold, earn XP, and get into trouble between adventures.

So the wenching rules add the possibility of love. Or lust, or whatever. Because in pulp stories, the hero very often ends up with a hot dish. And many of those stories are, of course, quite sexist. Or most? Anyway, the author addresses this concern pretty easily:

"Well, let's just get one thing out of the way first: much as I love it, old-school pulp fiction is kind of sexist. The protagonists are almost always men and the women are usually quite passive characters who sit around waiting to be rescued or carried off like treasure. So let's just sweep that aside and take note that from hereon in these rules the term 'wench' shall refer to NPCs of any gender and sexual orientation, so long as they are enthralled by the PCs' wealth and tales of derring-do."

So the way it works is you do the d6 carousing roll from Jeff's blog as normal, then you make a Charisma check, adding the carousing result to your Charisma. If successful, you roll on a medieval booty table to see how you scored. Madness ensues and you get more XP. Results include accidentally paying for it, getting a smokin' hot elf, or possibly twins.

Not exactly the right rules to use for a game with kids, naturally. But assuming your table is populated by adults (at least in age), this could be tons of fun.

Friday, March 29, 2019

If I Want Cheesecake I'll Buy Cheesecake

Often wondered how they got there. And why.
Ah, the scantily clad femme fatale of fantasy. Long have I viewed and dreamed of her. I fondly remember being an adolescent boy and picking up the Savage Sword of Conan each month from a local mini mart shelf. I grabbed issue #104 and spent far too long looking at the delicious Joe Jusko cover, complete with redhead chick dangling from Conan's sword belt showing all kinds of underboob.

Sexist? Oh yeah, no doubt about it. Conan stories in general are sexist as fuck. If you don't believe me, try reading Howard. Check out The Jewels of Gwahlur and note how many times the damsel breaks down in tears or faints. It's classic 1930s hard man storytelling.

Anyhow... I appreciate a good chainmail bikini. There's a rich aesthetic to it... a kind of metal-and-flesh eroticism that stirs the imagination (and loins, natch). You can do it right. You can do it without being toxic. I have preached about this before. A chainmail bikini image does not a misogynist make. Having your female characters constantly faint and cry... well, that's a different story.

So for me it's really a matter of honesty. Own what you are doing. Don't give me 60 pages of tits and ass and market it as a serious adventure story. It isn't. It's a tits and ass story. Own it.

Erotic, chainmail chick, pinup, R-rated... whatever you want to call it. Just eat the god damned cheesecake and stop calling it caviar. And if you want to do a story that is taken seriously, you need to cut way the fuck back on the cheesecake.

She can get cut and scratched, but she's gonna kick your ass.