Sunday, April 22, 2018

Writing a Labyrinth Lord Supplement (Part 2): More rules and an update after first play-test

I actually aimed to go directly to the next topics (damage and armor), but we got to test the stuff from Part 1 yesterday to see if it holds up. It did, but it needed a little clarification and a couple of additions. I thought I might add a little preview of how damage works while I'm at it. And Pain, let's talk about PAIN while we are at it (pain rules are fun).

Collection of (house) rules used

First of all, the initiative works as advertised. It gets the group talking about the fight and who should do what. We used it in our D&D RC game, so no gun fights yet. It changed the vibe a bit from Grindhouse to something more akin to Anime, which is what I'm going for anyway ... Anime does D&D better than anything else and it's true the other way around (check out the Japanese D&D RC and you'll see).
Love me some French Anime as well ... [Source]
Anyway, we had a test fight and it'd been as gory as I'd hoped. Very satisfying for the players as well (going by their feedback), but they really stressed the system to see if it holds or breaks. Helpful, in a sadistic way (I suppose). Here's a couple of other rules we brought to good use (it's all intertwined and it all will be part of be67):
  • Charisma is Luck (and you can burn Luck): We have a Luck stat (substitute for Charisma) and players roll at the beginning of each session how their Luck bonus influences their rolls (1d4: 1 - Attacks // 2 - Damage // 3 - Initiative // 4 - Saves). Players can use points from Luck to add them to rolls or reduce damage they receive (applies for all in-game rolls). It allows for extremely lucky punches that'd missed otherwise and it saves lives. The catch is (obviously) that a low Luck stat will let you have a negative modifier and that will affect the game (as the character gets, well, unlucky). Luck regenerates with each level advancement.
  • Echo: If a die comes up with its highest possible number, you get to roll the next lower die and add it to the result. If the echo die comes up that high again, you get to add the next lower die and so on (going d20, d12, d10, d8, d6, d4 ... it stops after d4). Goes for all rolls (I'd even allow it for hp at level advancement, but that's just me).
  • *NEW* Damage dice (remember 10-15-20-30): Considering that hitting a target is not necessarily bound to how high you roll on the d20 (especially on higher levels, but clever players will manage early on to tweak the system in their favor), I utilized that roll further by determining that the numbers themselves potentially generate additional damage dice. With a result of 1 to 9 a player will have the first damage die, 10 to 14 gives a second damage die, 15 to 19 gives the third, 20 to 29 the fourth and so on in steps of ten (echo applies). So this is where it gets bloody (and where random hit locations come in handy ... as does Luck!).
  • *NEW* Pain: If the number of damage dice a combatant is exposed to during a combat round exceeds his level/HD, the combatant needs to make a Save vs Paralyzation to avoid getting the number of dice as a negative modifier for attacks in the next round (the pain will paralyze the combatant to some degree). This is cumulative, so if a couple of combatants successfully hit a tough opponent (say, 10+HD), the cumulative number of dice will eventually get to him. Start each round from zero for each combatant. Dice are not carried into the next round. Undead (and everything that doesn't feel pain, arguably) are obviously not affected.
Again, the system stays mostly intact. It's just a couple of twists and additions. You could even keep Charisma and just use the mechanism described above (burning Charisma instead of Luck). If anything, it'll show you that the terms themselves are connected (just a matter of perspective, in my opinion).

People might get hit a bit more often and lose a limb or two, but Luck and Protect will cover most of that and mortality will be lower instead of higher (although, when a character dies, it'll most likely be as gory as it gets). It's all shifting th scales a bit, adding flavor (like pain and Luck) and tactical decisions (the initiative with its Tokens and tools for cooperation). You will roll a couple more dice, but only when a situation escalates and that is always fun, right?

Now about those adjustments ...

There's really just 4 of them and they change nothing of what was already established, just explore some of the implications for the game as they came up while we were at it. Here we go.

1. Reach

If combatants have reach due to size or the weapons they use, opponent need to spend 1 Token for Move to get "into reach" for smaller close combat weapons. Spears and giants for the win!

2. Dead Men's Ten

I couldn't find a solid source to see this verified*, but it is straight forward enough: even after a deadly blow is delivered, a combatant might still fight back to a degree, at least carrying out the last attack he intended to do. So, going by the rules established yesterday that actions are declared lowest to fastest Initiative, while resolution will be fastest to slowest, you can see easily how that might not happen when someone who's faster strikes you dead before your turn. One player addressed that and pointed out the "Dead Man's Ten" (bless him) and I offered as a compromise that in such a situation a combatant is allowed a Save vs Deathrays to get this last attack before he collapses dead.

3. Protect others

You can spend Tokens on Protect and give the AC adjustment to other combatants instead of giving it to yourself. Nothing else changes, it's just that another combatant benefits from it.

4. Free Actions

We had to clarify actions that don't cost Tokens. The first is attack routines, as written in the original post, but doing stuff should also be free to some degree, so drawing or changing or picking up a weapon or doing an action similar to that is free (and possible) once per round. You can do 2 things if you chose not to attack (which wouldn't qualify you to get a +1 to the next Initiative, since you did something instead). Casting a spell should also be free and a substitute for an attack routine. So you will either attack and do something or cast and do something or do two things, but never attack and cast in the same round.

What's left?

That about covers it for now. I obviously have to put some thought into how different weapons work, since weapons with reach got a huge boost, but I'll figure that out in a future post. For now, using what was established in Part 1 with the above will give you a new and different combat experience with the D&D rules.

All those had been fun to play around with and while we also used some house ruled classes (a fearless barbarian, for one), it still all mapped quite well. I'll experiment a little with different tactics and critters from the D&D RC to see what I'll need for handling huge groups of NPCs with tokens, but since some of the principals at work here have worked with a higher complexity in Lost Songs, I'm confident enough to say that we can make it work. 

As far as combat goes, we'll talk about my latest take on the good old Weapon Mastery, about weapons and about armor. Maybe guns, too, while we are at it. After that it'll be classes, the skill system and a completely randomized character generation. And that'd be the supplement, then. Well, I'd have to write it up somewhat nice for a pdf, but it'll be out there and ready to be used.

Again, if you like this stuff and get to use any of it, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on it. Especially people that (as slim as the chances are) used the whole thing in their game! Observations and thoughts are, as always, very welcome. You can also read on in Part 3.

Samurai Champloo GIF! [source]
* If you google it, you'll find some entries. However, if you need an inspiration what that could be, check out the legend of Klaus Störtebeker's beheading to get a glimpse of the idea (here).

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