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

Friday, August 26, 2022

Can "Old School" work with feats?

As you know, my new OSR book, Old School Feats, is out. Most people that read the book had positive feedback so far. For the ones who haven't read it, some liked the idea, while some objected that "old school" and "feats" cannot work together

And, to be honest, I see their point. I have taken many measures to avoid any of the perils and hassles that a feat-based system can cause to your game. With this post, I hope to address some of the most common objections to the concept of using feats in old school games.

Notice that some points I address here can be observed by looking at the previews (as half the book is in the preview), but if you want a brief overview, this post will be quicker.

Let's go!

Analysis paralysis: it takes longer to create new characters. I agree with this sentiment, which is why the book suggests a feat progression that starts on level 2. Here it is:

I also suggest a method for random feats and feat packages to make the choice even faster and simpler. And feats are divided in five categories (general, fighter, cleric, thief, magic-user), so you know where to look. Clerics and magic-users have fewer feats to choose from - since they already got lots of spells to analyze (come to think of it, maybe I should have used the same progression  both - well, I think clerics are OP and I didn't want to enforce this opinion on readers that, I assume, like B/X as written).

This is somewhat similar to Shadow of the Demon Lord (review) and something it is worth exploring further in the OSR, which I plan to do.

Notice that having four classes that only get distinctions on level 2 makes character creation faster than having a dozen classes (rangers, paladins, illusionists, etc.) and having to go through each one of them (and analyze what they get at higher levels, since you cannot change class later, etc.) before starting the game.

Old School Feats + B/X (or BFRPG, OSE, etc.) is, in short, faster and simpler than AD&D or the Rules Cyclopedia, or even than OSE advanced.

Complexity. On a similar topic, having feats could add complexity to the game - more resources to keep track of, new mechanics, etc. Again, I agree with the sentiment, so I was careful to avoid new mechanics, preferring to play with existing pieces. 

There are feats that give you more languages, more hirelings, raise your ability scores or lowers saving throws, give you more HP, lower your chances of getting lost, or even allow you to start the game with a random potion - using the random potions table that is already included in B/X. No new skills, no "X times per day" powers, no "if you have this feat you have permission to disarm your foes".

To mention the Rules Cyclopedia again, since it is my favorite "all in one" D&D book, it has complex weapon proficiency rules that enhance martial prowess greatly. I think these are useful, but you could replace many powers with simple feats.

The whole book is about 20 pages. Even by B/X standards, it is not a huge amount of complexity.

Power creep. Could feats make PCs too powerful? Certainly. But this is not a trait of feats in general; only specific feats (most would agree that adding weapon focus from 3e to OSR would not change balance). I tried to makes feats balanced - and also to keep or increase balance between classes (as you can see, fighters get more feats, etc.). There could certainly be some overpowered feats that I have missed, although I have been careful... If you noticed one, let me know!

But, overall, fighters with OS Feats are still less powerful than AD&D or RC fighters, and I think even a 14th-level fighter with 5 feats is not as powerful as a 14th-level wizard with NO feats.

Other objections. If there are other objections, I'd like to hear them too!

In short, I do not think having feats is incompatible with old school games - it is the implementation that matters. Bad feats may be a hassle to your games... good feats will improve it significantly. I hope I did a good job with this one, but let me know in the comments if there is something else to fix!

UPDATE (2024): I addressed another common objection here - do feats stop OTHER PCs from trying certain actions?

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Minimalist OSR: 1d20 B/X minor psionic powers

I don't quite remember Dark Sun's psionic powers, only that we got one at first level. And the book is a couple of steps away, so... ;) .

Anyway, the AD&D psionic rules were too complicated for me. 

If I were to write "weak" psionic powers that everyone can get for B/X, I'd use existing spells (something in the vein of  Alternate Magic's cantrips), maybe with spell points (same book). There is no need for a full new system IMO. Let's be elegant about this. This is the "minimalist OSR" I've been talking about in practice.

These might be interesting for Monks, psionicists, and even S&S sorcerers. The following caveats apply:

* Can only affect a single target at a time.
* Save versus wands to avoid if the target is unwilling (or save versus spells, add Intelligence modifier). If successful, target knows there is something wrong, gets suspicious of you, and is immune for a day.
* Lasts for a single round (this round or next round, your choice).
* Can be maintained for multiple rounds but requires full concentration, target can make a new saving throw every round.

These can potentially be upgraded to last longer, or greater effect, for a full psionic class. Just use magic-user stats, upgrade these to their actual spell versions as you level up, do not need a spell book (or words/gestures) - but can only number a number of spells equal to what they can cast, can cast these weak versions for free (as you learn actual spells), and cannot create magic items or read scrolls, etc. 

Alternatively, use the Psionicist package from Old School Feats.

Here are 1d20 examples.

1. Mind trick. Like Charm person. 
2. Mental shutdown. Like Sleep (allows the target to be attacked with double damage, but not slain outright).
3. Psionic blast. 1d6 damage, 30' range.
4. Mind Barrier. Like Shield.
5. Whisper. Like Ventriloquism but with a 10' range.
6. Mind Read. Like ESP but 30' range, requires willing target.
7. Mind Link. Like Clairvoyance but the the target must be someone willing, who spent at least one day training with the caster for this purpose. There can only be one target for the caster at a time.
8. Mirage. Like Phantasmal Force.
9. Paralyze. Like Hold Person, no penalty to save.
10. Brainstorm. Like Confusion.
11. Mind Push. Like Telekinesis, maximum weight 50 coins.
12. Mind Wall. Like an invisible Wall of Ice the size of a door.
13. See intentions. Similar to Detect evil, only works on people who wish to harm you specifically and violently in a short period (not sly merchants, thieves, schemers, etc.).
14. Soothe. Similar to Remove fear, "caster level" is zero.
15. Weaken mind. Like Feeblemind.
16. Inspire. Like Bless.
17. Quiet. Like Silence.
18. Mind blade. Like Striking; can be used against a creature you just hit.
19. Mental healing. Like Cure Light Wounds, but heals 1 HP, once a day per target. Effects are permanent.
20. Pyrokinesis. Like Resist Fire.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Old School Feats is out!

My new OSR book, Old School Feats, is out!

Old School Feats is a collection of feats for old-school games. If you like "Basic" games and its clones (Old School Essentials, Basic Fantasy RPG, Labyrinth Lord, etc.), or even other OSR games, and want to expand character options, you'll certainly enjoy this one!

I love the simplicity of these games, and these feats add customization without unnecessary complexity.

Notice that this is not perfectly compatible with Dark Fantasy Basic. Instead, it adapts some ideas from DFB to use with other, more traditional, games.

In these pages, you'll find:
74 feats, with a special focus on fighters and thieves (20 feats each).
- Suggested feat progressions for each class, starting on level 2.
- Notes on creating and picking feats (randomly, deliberately, or with feats packages).
Over 20 feat packages (War Priest, Ironclad Dwarf, Knight, Warlock, Mountebank) to help you choose your feats according to one of these archetypes).
Optional rules, including separating race from class, unified XP tables, and flaws.
- ... and many other tools.

NOTE: If you have any of my books, please check your e-mail!

Thursday, August 18, 2022

So we might have D&D 6e in 2024 after all! (Also, Planescape!)

Here is the main link. UA: Character Origins (link here:):.

Excerpts (from Reddit, I emphasized a few parts):

Is One D&D introducing a new edition of D&D?

It’s bigger than that. One D&D will usher in the next generation of D&D with new and more comprehensive versions of the core rulebooks that millions of players have enjoyed for the past decade. The rules will be backward compatible with fifth edition adventures and supplements and offer players and Dungeon Masters new options and opportunities for adventure. The evolution of fifth edition has shown us it’s less important to create new editions of the game and more important to grow and expand the game you love with each new product.

What is changing with the One D&D rules?

There will be many fundamental updates to D&D that we will collect your feedback on. In the upcoming Unearthed Arcana playtest content, you’ll see proposed updates to character backgrounds, races, classes, feats, information presentation, and more. Ultimately, the answer to what will change depends on what we hear from you throughout One D&D playtests.

When will the One D&D rules be released?

The new core rulebooks are expected to be released in 2024.

How do I access One D&D playtest materials?

Log in with your D&D Beyond account and head over to the One D&D claim page to unlock the Unearthed Arcana playtest materials. You will then see the One D&D compendium (found under the “Sources” menu) where you can download the latest playtest and respond to the latest survey.

So you need D&D beyond to access the material and respond surveys.

And here is a video explaining some changes. As summarized by u/KyfeHeartsword on Reddit:

- PHB races are being completely revised. Orc is being added, new race of animalistic upper plane humanoids called Ardlings, half-elf and half-orc are being replaced by mix and match half-races, dwarves get limited use tremorsense when in contact with stone and optional traits, tiefling subraces are being consolidated into the main tiefling race with ancestral choices (Infernal, Abyssal, etc). 
- Backgrounds now determine ASIs instead of race. All backgrounds give multiple options on where you can put your ASIs as they relate to your background choice. Backgrounds presented are built upon the same methodology as the customize and create your own background. 
- All backgrounds give you a starting feat, these feats are specifically 1st level feats and all feats will now be grouped by power level.

Sounds like a new edition to me! 

Probably not a radical change like 3e->4e, maybe something closer to 1e->2e.

Will I play it? 

Meh. Probably not. 

Might check it our if there is a good SRD. If they want someone to fix weapons, give me a call. ;)

But I'm not buying a whole new set of books (curiously, there is ALREADY a new set out in 2022, that will be made mostly obsolete in a couple of years). I like some of these ideas, but it's making the game more complex. Not my cup of tea. I'm on the OSR train now! 

Anyway, let's see how it goes.

EDIT: also, apparently Planescape in 2023!

EDIT 2: Here are the first rules changes. This IS a new edition. Some changes are good, some are bad, but overall I don't really care. Oh well.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Old School Feats coming soon!

Old School Feats is coming! Within a week or less... As always, if you bought any of my books from DTRPG, I'll send you an e-mail with a discount coupon! Make sure you're allowing DTRPG to send you my emails.

Old School Feats is a collection of feats for old-school games. If you like "Basic" games and its clones (Old School Essentials, Basic Fantasy RPG, Labyrinth Lord, etc.), or even other OSR games, and want to expand character options, you'll certainly enjoy this one!

I love the simplicity of these games, and these feats add customization without unnecessary complexity.

Notice that this is not perfectly compatible with Dark Fantasy Basic. Instead, it adapts some ideas from DFB to use with other, more traditional, games.

In these pages, you'll find:
- 74 feats, with a special focus on fighters and thieves (20 feats each).
- Suggested feat progressions for each class, starting on level 2.
- Notes on creating and picking feats (randomly, deliberately, or with feats packages).
- Over 20 feat packages (War Priest, Ironclad Dwarf, Knight, Warlock, Mountebank) to help you choose your feats according to one of these archetypes).
- Optional rules, including separating race from class, unified XP tables, and flaws.
- ... and many other tools.

Stay tuned!

Friday, August 12, 2022

Minimalist B/X IV - Streamlining saves with the Rules Cyclopedia

Here is an optional rule from the Rules Cyclopedia:

These are pretty clear and straightforward. 

But existing saving throws are unnecessarily fiddly.

Wands, for example, are simply not common enough to get a separate category, but even if they were, the save is usually very close to a +2 bonus when compared to spells. They could just say that in the magic item section. It would be more than enough, maybe even superfluous.

And there seems to be no underlying logic behind numbers. I thought that dwarves were comparatively bad at breath weapons because of their short legs... but by level 14 (in B/X), they are better against breath than spells!

Similarly, thieves (who supposedly would have good Dex), do not have particularly good saves against breath weapons, being better against spells, for example.

Anyway, it is not hard to replace old school saving throws for a single saving throw (see Swords and Wizardry) with various ability bonuses. Assuming slightly positive ability scores bonuses*, you might as well use Target 20 and the numbers wouldn't be that far off.

[* Far from certain in B/X or the RC, but expected in AD&D and all modern games]

Anyway, we could use:

Strength: paralysis, petrification, things stopping you from moving.
Intelligence: spells that affect your mind.
Wisdom*: all spells.
Dexterity: dragon breath and anything that allows you to get out of the way.
Constitution: poison (including cloudkill) and things that affect your body without causing HP damage (including polymorph,).
Charisma*: nothing.

There are some problems here. 

Charisma is the least of them - it affects reaction rolls and hirelings, so it is okay if it doesn't affect saves. 

Wisdom, on the other hand, does nothing but give a a bonus to save against spells. Notice that saves against spells are usually a bit harder then most saves, and this rule puts them closer to existing saves... thus negating, once again, the need for separate saves. 

Conversely, the death save is usually easier than most... but the lack of an ability bonus makes it closer to other saves.

Let's consider another option: a single mental defense. Strength and Constitution apply as written. Dexterity also applies against spells that can be dodged. But you have a single bonus against spells that cannot be dodged, which is Wisdom. Intelligence is still useful for languages, Charisma for reactions, etc.

Of course, with ability checks, all abilities have purpose regardless of saves. Ability checks work very well, with one caveat - not everybody likes a "roll under" mechanic in a "roll over" game. But that is the subject for another post.

I don't know. I'm think Fort/Reflex/Will makes sense after all. But a single saving throw might be even better.

(BTW, I might actually write a "minimalist B/X" one day. There is a draft in my public folder. I still love Dark Fantasy Basic but I want to have a single volume that contains everything you need to play the game AND is even more compatible with existing OSR material. Let's see.).

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Alternate Cleric

The B/X cleric is weird. So here is my version!

This is an excerpt from Alternate Magic., with some small updates.

An alternate cleric has all the powers and restrictions of a cleric, with the following changes.

Faith Points (FP). You have one Faith Point (FP) per level. All FP are recovered after a full night of sleep. You cannot spend more than one FP at once, except for Faith Healing. Performing a meaningful task or sacrifice for your deity might give you one FP at the referee’s discretion.

Faith Healing. When you touch a creature, you can spend one FP or more to heal 1d6 damage per FP.

Faith Hammer. Upon hitting a creature, you can spend one FP to add 1d6 to damage. If the target is an undead or demon, the additional damage is 1d8 instead.

Turn undead. 
Use the table below, adding cleric level and subtracting undead HD. You can spend one FP to get a +1 bonus. Rolling the same number on both dice costs you one FP.

2-. The turning fails and you cannot try again for one turn.
3-5. The turning fails. 
6-8 The turning succeeds, turning 1d6 HD of undead (minimum one creature).
9-11. The turning succeeds, turning 2d6 HD of undead (minimum one creature).
12+. The turning succeeds, destroying 2d6 HD of undead (minimum one creature).

Faith Casting. 
The alternate cleric does not choose spells. Instead, he prays for miracles when needed.

Roll 2d6 and ask for an effect from your deity. If the effect is related to the deity’s domain (e.g., light), or the cleric is on a mission from a deity, add +1 to the roll (+2 if both). If a spell is contrary to the deity’s nature or goals, impose a -1 penalty instead (-2 if both).

You can spend one FP to get a +1 bonus. Rolling the same number on both dice costs you one FP. If you have no FP left, you cannot perform Faith Casting.

You cannot use faith casting to heal HP or cause HP damage.

2-. No. The deity is unable or unwilling to help with this request. The exact same request cannot be repeated today. Lose one FP.
3-5. Mysterious ways. The request is not fully successful but some boon is conceded at the referee’s discretion. It might not be immediately obvious. 
6-8. Success. The request is conceded. The effect’s potency are analogous to the power of any existing cleric spell (maximum spell level equal to half the cleric’s level, round up, minus one).
9-11. Small miracle. The success is greater than expected, at the referee’s discretion. 
12+. Divine intervention. The success is stupendous, leaving even unbelievers in awe. Divine intervention only happens in the direst of circumstances and no more than once a week. Otherwise, treat this as a small miracle.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Quick d20 skills thought: trying again, critical failures and climbing

 After a quick d6 detour, let's go back to 1d20 skills.

As we've seem, climbing is a bit odd, because of the big chances of success from level 1. The motive is probably a practical one: the consequences of failure are dire. From the OSE SRD:
A roll is required for each 100’ to be climbed. If the roll fails, the thief falls at the halfway point, suffering falling damage.
So, to climb one kilometer, you have ten attempts, and you'll probably die. Those "good" probabilities are not looking so good right now.

And if you make it 1d20+level... things get even worse.


Consider one alternative. Say, 1d20+level, try to get 20. This means 10% chance of success on level 1. BUT. Failure means you're STUCK. A natural 1 means you fall.

And you can try again. Multiple times. But if you roll a 1...

(This works well for dangerous skills, but I usually DO NOT like critical failures when fighting. Except, maybe, for a particularly dangerous maneuver).

Have you ever tried rock climbing? If there is no way to continue, you can usually just climb back. Falling doesn't happen so often (but, when it does, it can be deadly).

Another thing to consider: if you're climbing a mountain, you're not looking for the most vertical wall to climb (unless you're doing it for sport)... probably the opposite. If you fall, you are unlikely to fall ALL THE WAY down. Maybe there is some chance you'll fall to a lower point. Say, a 100' fall (or, even better, 1d20x10'). Which will kill most characters, but not all.

This works well for climbing. But is also a great system for thief skills in general: try multiple times, but a natural 1 means disaster. Looking or disarming traps? Guess what, the trap got to you first. Lockpicking? You broke your set of picks. Hearing noise? You're pretty sure you didn't hear anything, and if there IS someone there, he heard you instead! Reading magic scrolls? The system works perfectly!

This "solves" thieves' skills in two ways: it makes them more effective (multiple attempts) while making disastrous failure less likely (only 5%... at first).

If you want to add tension (and agency), you can always offer your players a hard choice after they fail two or three times. It works with climbing, but also traps, lockpicking, and so on.

"Okay, there is nowhere to hold your hands... except if you jump a few feet to the die. You need 10 or more to succeed, but if you fail, you fall... What do you do?"

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Quick x-in-6 skills thought [d6 versus d6]

I usually prefer using 1d20 for skills when playing old school games, as you've seem on a recent post. And "roll under ability score" is both easy and makes "every point matter". But I've been going back and forth on this issue for a while.

X-in-6 skills (e.g., you have 2-in-6 chances to do something) have one big advantage, however: the fact that the die has only 6 possibilities and ability scores have 7 modifiers (from -3 to +3). So, if you give 50% chance to an average person (3-in-6), the strongest person (Str 18[+3]) will succeed 100% of the time, while the weakest (Str 3[-3]) has no chance at all. 

And that is pretty good. It diminishes the chances of having the weakling magic-user succeed in a feat of strength while the barbarian fails (which, admittedly, will only happen about 3% of the time using a d20 roll under if the ability scores are 3 and 18, but maybe about 10% of the time when rolling 5 against 16).

I like the idea that, as Moldvay suggests, "there is always a chance". But sometimes, no chance at all feels better. The strong fighter can kick down most doors, while the wizard can recall most lore - but has NO chance of performing a formidable feat of Strength.

So, here is a method I haven't tried: the GM rolls 1d6 for most challenges (plus or minus three if too easy or too hard), and the PCs must beat this number to succeed. It still allows the weakest members of the party to try anything, but when they succeed, it is very likely that the strongest ones will succeed automatically.

Here is one example: the PCs attempt. to force open a stuck door. The GM rolls a d6, getting 3. The PCs must beat this number to succeed. Anyone with +3 Strength succeeds automatically (even if a 1 is rolled, 1+3 beats 3). Average strength (+0) will succeed if the player rolls 5 or 6. Even a weakling with -2 Strength might succeed by rolling a 6, but the task is impossible if you have a -3 penalty.

Now, some doors are stronger than others - if the GM rolls a 6, only those with positive modifiers could even try!

Of course, if you want to give anyone a chance, you might decide that someone who would need 7 to succeed rolls 2d6 and, if both dice are 6s, it counts as seven - giving the -3 Str PC about 3% chance of success in the first example.

This looks extremely promising. Still, not sure ditching the "unified d20 mechanic" is a good idea.

Saturday, August 06, 2022

The unsolved conundrum of D&D ability checks

D&D PCs are defined by two things: ability scores and level/class/skills. The unsolved conundrum of D&D is how to balance these two sides in a simple manner.

In OD&D, abilities played a relatively small part. This is fine, but not extremely popular. In AD&D, the influence of ability scores on spells, features, combat, etc., was remarkably increased. Still, level was more important. A level 10 fighter with low Strength and low Dexterity will beat a level 1 fighter with high stars 100% of the time. Eventually, skills were added to the mix.

B/X (and clones such as OSE) has a simple alternative rule for ability checks: roll 1d20 under your ability score. Extremely easy, but also limiting. It puts an upper limit to ability scores. It forces you to roll low - unlike most other rolls in the game. Eventually, it would force modern games to add ability scores to monsters, adding unnecessary complexity to the game.

The worst part, however, is how this roll remains unchanged from level 1 to level 14. A 14th level fighter has the hit points of 10 starting fighter, but is not stronger, smarter or wiser when it comes to ability checks (despite being able to survive a 100-foot fall and great at saving throws). Worse, even the abilities he has used for 10 or more levels repeatedly (hearing noises, forcing doors, finding traps) do not improve at all.

AD&D 2e and the Rules Cyclopedia, IIRC, try to add a set of skills (LOTS of skills), in which PCs can improve... that work differently than thieves' skills, making the game more confusing and complex. While I love both games, I'd never play them as written again, for this reason.

I wouldn't dare.

Well, you might go the opposite route with something like The Black Hack or Knave: ability scores are king, and, while level doesn't affect your ability checks directly, it raises your abilities, thus helping you indirectly. You can even use "roll high" like everything else in the game (or roll low for everything). However, this makes class a lot less important (Knave gets rid of classes entirely) - and classes are one of the most popular aspects of D&D. Classes are also very convenient shortcuts, especially for worldbuilding.

The "Solomonic" solution seems to be similar to what 5e (and modern D&D in general) does: half your bonus come from ability score, half from class. This necessarily makes the game more complex than ignoring either abilities or levels, but seems to be the most popular solution.

It is my preferred method as well. Dark Fantasy Basic does something similar, giving preeminence to classes/skills but allowing ability modifiers up to +5 to influence on almost everything. My upcoming Old School Feats, to be used in conjunction with B/X, OSE, etc., makes heavy use of ability scores and allows PCs to increase their ability scores as they level up.

But there is no ultimate answer to this question. B/X, as written, is one of my favorite games: it is simple, quick, fun. Likewise, games that simplify the rules to make heavy use of ability scores (The Black Hack or Knave) and little else are also extremely fun - I recommend both.

And, for my own games, I'll probably be always in the look for a happy medium: adding classes and skills to Knave, adding ability score improvements (and maybe even general skills) to B/X, OSE, and so on, or creating my own hacks with both methods. Keep trying until a find a porridge that is "just right".

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Monday, August 01, 2022

AMAZING Scared Lands Sale - 90% OFF!

Yes, that is right!

"As part of Onyx Path Publishing's 10th Anniversary celebration select Scarred Lands 5E and Pathfinder PDFs are 90% Off for a limited time!"

Here is the blurb for the Scarred Lands Player's Guide:

Drawing enthusiastically on Greek mythology, the revised and re-imagined Scarred Lands nonetheless retains its place as a modern fantasy RPG setting. This is a world shaped by gods and monsters, and only the greatest of heroes can expect to be counted among them. The most populous continent of Scarn, Ghelspad, plays host to vast unexplored regions, hides unsolved riddles from ancient cultures, and taunts adventures with the promise of undiscovered riches hidden among the ruins of older civilizations. 

Yet the myths of the Scarred Lands are relatively recent events. The effects of the Titanswar still ripple through the world, and the heroines and villains of many of these stories are part of living memory, if not still living. 

I don't know much about the setting, but I bought lots of stuff... including all titles described below.

My favorite is the Creature Collection; it looks FANTASTIC. 

Not only the art is great, but the organization is way better than the MM. 

From a quick read, the entries look interesting and dark... and the book ends with eight "one page scenarios" designed to provide encounters with some of these creatures. Neat!

3rd party publishers, take note!

The art of the entire line seems amazing.

If you play 5e, the Scarred Lands Player's Guide and Yugman's Guide to Ghelspad have a TROVE of new races, classes, magic items, and so on.

And if you want to know more about the setting, try Vigil Watch Collected Volume or Blood Sea: the Crimson Abyss.

There are also Pathfinder versions of the same books.

Will report back once I read it!

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Minimalist B/X III - Dissecting the thief again

Let's talk about the thief a bit more (continued from here).

So, most skills can easily be reduced to a d20 roll. Rolling 1d20+level works well but a small bonus to the starting thief would be even better. Starting with 30% + 5% per level would allow you 99% at level 14.

[Notice: rolling 1d20+4+level gives the thief a exactly 30% chance at level 1. Also notice that I use these numbers just because I want competent thieves on level 1, but you might as well just use 1d20+level]

Now, in the last post, we skipped through a couple of things: read languages and scroll use. And there is also back-stab. And we will finish be consolidating ALL the thief abilities with the same roll.

The OSE SRD says:
Read Languages
A thief of 4th level or higher can read non-magical text in any language (including dead languages and basic codes) with 80% probability. If the roll does not succeed, the thief may not try to read that particular text again until they reach a higher level of experience.

Scroll Use
A thief of 10th level or higher can cast arcane spells from scrolls. There is a 10% chance of error: the spell does not function as expected and creates an unusual or deleterious effect.
These are very similar: the thief can read stuff he was not supposed to, even magic scrolls. And they happen too suddenly: by level 3 the thief knows maybe two or three languages, by level 4 he can read 80% of everything.

What if we use the same system here too? Let's try:

- At level 1 thief has 35% chance of reading languages.
- By level 4,  50% chance.
- By level 10, the chance is 80%.
- By level 14, 99%.

Now, apply the same exact numbers to scroll use. The thief can use scrolls from level 1, but the chance of error is significant.
Now let's look at back-stab, the hardest one.
When attacking an unaware opponent from behind, a thief receives a +4 bonus to hit and doubles any damage dealt.
Now, what if back-stab is a skill? Attack using d20+thief level+4. If functions exactly like other skills. You could even use percentages, but that would require subtracting 5% per point of AC the target has - if you're using descending AC, this is a bit of a hassle.

A level 14 thief has +18 bonus to back-stab, but only a fraction of level is usual combat (in Dark Fantasy Basic, I use 2/3, which means the thief would attack with 10, a significant difference).

Anyway, now let's divide the thief's abilities in categories:

- Read languages, including scrolls.
- Perception/detection (find trap, hear noises, and so on).
- Stealth (move silently and hide in shadows).
- Delicate tasks (pick locks, pick pockets, disable small traps).
- Back-stab.

Every one of these skills can use the exact same system. You have to adjust picking pockets and back-stab to the victim, but other than that it works perfectly.

Notice that separating traps in two different skills is neat because:

- Finding and disabling are separate rolls.
- The thief can only disable small, delicate traps.

And then there is climbing, which breaks all rules and we will leave aside for now (although, again, it is easy to turn it into a 85%+level skill).

In short... as you can see, the thief can easily become one kind of specialist or expert. He has half a dozen skills - swap delicate tasks for tracking and read languages for herbalism (or some other form of understanding nature) and you got yourself a ranger - who can climb, hide, etc.. Swap climbing for lore, change other skills and you have a smart scholar who is competent even at level 1 - and can read unknown languages, do delicate tasks and perceive hidden things. Maybe swap climbing for poisoning and you've got yourself an assassin. Maybe you can trade delicate tasks for 1d6 HD and get yourself a thug.

I think I found my favorite thief so far.