I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Flexible Fighter - easy combat stunts for BD&D

It has often been said that the BD&D fighter is a simple class (at least until level 9, where you have some domain management to take care of). Even though one can mention magic swords, setting spears versus charges, armor choice and so on, it is hard to deny that the fighter is pretty straightforward when compared to wizards, for example.

Some see this as a feature, others think that the classic Fighter is boring. In my opinion, the Fighter can get too simple in BD&D (and the wizard, too complicated, but this is a whole different post).

So here is a more flexible and tactical, but still pretty simple, BD&D Fighter.

First of all, she gets an extra attack from time to time. I prefer doing this in levels 6, 12, and 18, but you can keep whatever progression you're using.

Here is the twist: in lieu of making an extra attack, you can use each one for a number of different things. You can call them "combat moves" if you want.

Choose an option on level 8 and every three levels after that (or just allow everyone to do anything, maybe wit a -4 penalty if they don't have the appropriate "feat". Fighters just do it better - as long as this doesn't overwhelm your players). Say you have three attacks, total. You can make three attacks, one regular attack and one attack with extra damage, or just one attack with extra damage to the head.

Here are some examples:

Precise strike: add 1d6 to your attack roll. Add 1d8 if using some kind of finesse weapon.

Mighty blow: add 1d6 to damage. Add 1d8 if using a two-handed or heavy weapon. This makes more sense if you're using some kind of cleave rules or DR.

First strike: add 1d6 to your initiative, if you're using a d20 (or +1 if you're using a d6, etc).

Parry: add 1d6 to AC against one attack. If using a shield or weapon, you may choose to add 1d8 but it might break. Missiles can only be parried by shields, a fireball cannot be parried by a common sword, etc.

Dodge: add 1d6 to AC against one attack. Add 1d8 if unarmored or using light armor.

Toughness. Add 1d6 to a saving throw. Because when you're in combat, you're unstoppable. No saving throw? 1d6 penalty to whoever is attacking you instead. No attack roll? 1d6 less damage then.

Opportunistic strike. Use your extra attack at any moment. You can interrupt another character if she is using a spell or slower weapon (maybe compare DEX or make a saving throw to see who stops who). Yes, if your initiative system doesn't allow for wizards to be stopped when casting a spell, now the fighter can stop them all the same. Now you have your own "opportunity attacks" as well.

Disarm, trip, ensnare, etc. Just make an attack roll, no penalty, and produce the desired effect, within reason. Having adequate equipment is a plus. Your opponent might get a saving throw.

Hit location: choose which body part you want to hit. Effects are up to the GM, who will take the amount of damage you dealt in consideration. Knocking a dragon out because you dealt 2 points of damage to his head? Not likely. Cutting a Minotaur's horn? Sounds like a good idea. Not wearing a helmet? That's just dumb...

Dash: move 10 extra feet.

And so on, ad infinitum. Add options to taste.

Do you miss the warlord? Make a fighter that can rally the troops and grant bonuses to allies. Want a paladin? Your character can use his attack to turn undead or lay on hands, and adds a d10 instead of a d6 to damage when smiting evil. Ranger? Use one of your attacks to command your pet, or something. Defender? Take a hit for an ally. Assassin? Extra attacks when backstabbing (stab! stab! stab!). Wolverine? Why not? Use an attack to regenerate 1 point of HP, to a maximum of whatever you had when you started the battle or Constitution score plus level, whichever is lower.

Also, you get one extra attack when you're a paladin fighting demons. Or an enraged barbarian. Or a knight fighting for you lord, or whatever system you use for this kinds of things.

I would advise against stacking bonuses, but adding different bonuses is ok. Throwing your mace in the wizard's mouth just when he is preparing to cast a fireball? Sounds awesome. Nothing against wizards, really. I kinda like them, in fact.

Of course, you could make a wizard or thief with the same reasoning. Although I do have some other ideas for them, if you're wiling to wait. On the other hand, this system works very well for monsters.

Now you can have a tactical fighter without using penalties for special actions, complicated feats, "encounter" and "daily" actions, and, most important, you can still have your simple Fighter at earlier levels so new players can get the hang of it.

And combat can still be simpler to the players that chose classes with different schitcks, since they have less options to think about.

Next: the simple wizard.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

The Gray Enforcer, lawful angel of death - A creature for 5e, B/X and LotFP

The Gray Enforcer is the ultimate agent of the letter of the Law, its sole purpose to take revenge against sinners and lawbreakers. The Enforcer is literal and unrelenting; it sees the idea of “the spirit of the law” as heresy, repentance as dissimulation, and forgiveness as the ultimate sin of wretched souls who would substitute sacred scripture for their own misguided opinions. Although it despises chaotic and unnatural creatures, those who defy written rules within their own societies are the ones it hates the most.

The Enforcer follows no particular creed or religion. It’s not up to him to judge the whims of the gods, real or imaginary. If the it is in the doctrine, it must be fulfilled. Oral tradition is ignored by the Enforcer, that only executes written rules.

The Enforcer looks like a humanoid creature with bulging muscles, stony gray skin, and a cuboid head with no facial features. It fights with a great maul and carries a huge book strapped to its back. It’s thick skin, stony skin halves the damage caused by fire, electricity, cold, poison, and slashing or piercing weapons. 

Art by Robert Chew - source.
The Enforcer dwells on a gray, sterile plane of empty buildings and perfect Euclidean geometry, where no words are spoken in order to avoid lies. This plane is also the home to an underground library that holds the enormous Books of Iniquity, each with a interminable list of names of those who have broken a particular written law.

Unable to punish all sinners at once, the Enforcer randomly picks a Book and goes out on a hunt in the less Lawful planes (such as our own) until 1d100 names are crossed from it. After that, it goes back to its bleak dwelling to recompose and choose a new book. The Enforcer is able to teleport though any rectangular doors or similar passages, arriving at any known destination of its choice.

While carrying a Book, the Enforcer is granted specific edicts and powers, as well as the ability to detect those who partake in one particular sin. Here are some examples:

  1. Hypocrisy. Those who willingly associate with chaotic creatures must have their faces violently rearranged (losing 1d4 points of Charisma). While fighting parties that include chaotic and non-chaotic characters cooperating, any damage dealt to the Enforcer with weapons is also inflicted upon the attacker.
  2. Witchcraft. Anyone who has spells memorized must have his tongue pulled out. The Enforcer is immune to arcane magic.
  3. Leniency. Anyone who has forgiven others of a crime or sin must carry the weight upon themselves, and thus will have slabs of stone attached to their torsos, affecting Encumbrance (10 lb).
  4. Doubt. Those wearing heavy armor must be stripped naked and cast into a pit. The Enforcer’s attacks ignore armor.
  5. Idolatry. Anyone who carries a holy symbol must have their bones broken (losing 1d4 points of Dexterity) and be displayed for others to mock. The Enforcer is immune to clerical magic.
  6. Avarice. Anyone currently searching for gold or treasure will be victim to a curse that causes all valuables being carried to turn to stone. Bladed weapons are useless against the Enforcer, and non-magical weapons break on a natural 1.
Other sacred laws involve trespassing, eating forbidden things, wearing inadequate clothing, saying wrongful words, and others. The Enforcer believes every transgression, no matter how small, must be punished in due time.

In order to inflict the punishment such as the ones listed above, the Enforcer must roll a natural 20 unless the target is helpless – this special effect is caused in addition to the normal damage. The punishment is usually dealt with a strike of the maul, that can break bones and faces, push opponents away or leave pieces of stone in them, depending on the circumstances. The target will have a glimpse of understanding of its supposed crimes, and must succeed in a saving throw (Charisma or Magical Device) or will ardently believe the punishment received to be justified. The maul itself isn’t special, but the Books are.

Carrying a Book of Inequity gives the wielder powers and defenses similar to those granted to the Enforcer, but also and insatiable urge to inflict punishment to the listed. Merely reading it allows one to find a particular name included in the Book (1-in-6 chance of finding it per hour), but carries a cumulative 1% chance of obsession per hour (the reader will hunt sinners relentlessly and must punish 1d6 of them before recovering). A save is allowed in order to avoid obsession.

Each Book has a number of hit points equal to one fourth of those of the Enforcer (and -4 or disadvantage to hit). Without it, the Enforcer loses its purpose, and must immediately return to its plane for a new one.

LotFP / B/X: 
Armor: as plate (18 or 3), Move 60′, 8 Hit Dice, 1 maul attack doing 1d10 damage plus special effect, Morale 12, Save as Fighter 8, Alignment: Lawful.

5e (summary):
Medium celestial, lawful neutral
Armor Class 18, Hit Points 280, Speed 60′ (and teleportation - see above).
STR 22 (+6) DEX 16 (+3) CON 26 (+8) INT 18 (+4) WIS 20 (+5) CHA 22 (+6)
Saving Throws: Wis +10, Cha +10.
Damage Resistances: acid, fire, necrotic, poison; slashing and piercing from nonmagical weapons.
Condition Immunities: charmed, frightened, poisoned.
Senses: darkvision 60′, passive Perception 20.
Languages: all, telephaty 60′.
Challenge 14 (11,500 XP)
Attacks: Maul (+11 to hit, 6d10+6 damage). Either multiattack (x2) or 1 attack plus special (see above).

Special thanks to James Raggi (monster originally created for a contest in the LotFP blog).