Saturday, December 8, 2012

I love making up AD&D characters.

I know I shouldn't, but the reasons I shouldn't are the reasons I do.

I love having to look in the DMG for how many spells a MU gets in his spell book to start with.

I love having to look under ability scores to find out if a Thief gets a bonus to xp and for what.

I love having to look at three different tables in two different books just to find out what my final thief ability scores will be.

I love how saving throws for PC's are in the DMG.

I love not knowing how many weapons a character starts with until I read a small buried chart near the equipment section.

I love that you can't find out what weapons your class can use by reading your class description.

It's so damned quirky and organizationally fucked up that to put together a character takes some skill, a skill which can only be learned after years of browsing the books as a kid, because who the heck has the time to do that now.  Creating a character in AD&D is like a good romp down memory lane.

Critique This XP Award System

Critique me!!  An email sent to my players in the Pathfinder TOEE game.

I am making the dungeon more than just a place where you kick down a door, kill, loot, lather-rinse-repeat.  What you do has consequences, especially in the Temple itself, as the thing is so small and the various factions are so close to each other.  As such, it might not be the best thing to kill all that you see.  Which leads to a discussion of XP, how you get it, etc.

In Pathfinder the only way to get xp is by killing shit.  Gold, gems, magic items--none of those give you xp, like they did in the old days.  I'm all for a good fight, but if you think you have to get xp for killing and only for killing, that tends to bog down every encounter into endless fighting.  I'm giving xp for different things, and I'm using the PF slow progression chart for xp, because you're going to get way more opportunities to get xp than just treasure.

Group XP:

I'm giving xp for monsters on a 100 xp per level/HD of the bad guy. Any special abilities it has might jack up the xp award.

Likewise, if you manage to deal with the monster in some other way that takes him out of the game on a permanent basis, like having someone else kill him, scaring him off, tricking him into a deadly duel or into a trap, making an ally of him, bypassing and trapping him in the dungeon in such a way that his threat factor to you and others is significantly reduced, he fails his morale check and runs away, making him think he has to leave for some reason like forged orders, etc.  That all counts as the same as a kill for purposes of xp.  Simply skipping a level of the dungeon, finding a way to get to level 3 from level 1, doesn't get you all the xp on level 2.  Level 2 is still a threat to others, as well as yourself.  They aren't a piece taken off of or trapped on the chessboard.  If I were to give xp for that, and they find a way to get to level three and fight, you'd be getting double xp if you killed it.  Plus, with the whole xp system below, you're incented to at least explore the place, for valuable stuff, if not fighting

XP for gold = every 5 gp = 1 xp.  (You'll remember that in the old days it was 1 xp per gp.  This doesn't make the focus so much on the gold)

XP for magic items:  10% of the sale price listed in the PF book. There will be no "what if i sell it, do i then get the gp value for xp purposes?" as in AD&D, because magic is so rare in this game, that no one in their right mind sells it.  Likewise, the "selling of scrolls to goodly mages" by Burne and Rufus.  Advertising you have a magic item for sale basically means you have a target on your back for every thief and scumbag in Mos Eisley to take you out.

Individual XP awards:

XP for figuring something big out as a player, or coming up with such a cool idea or plan that you impress the shit outta the DM. The amount of the award for the idea is up to the coolness of said idea.

XP for excellent roleplaying:  This is going to require you all to come up with like one page of writing about your character.  Seen by me only.  (You can share it in game later if you want).  Half the page must detail your character background, explain a bit about how and where he grew up, and what happened to him or affected him.  The second half must describe your character's personality and motivations in light of the background paragraph above.

In addition, I will give group xp from time to time based on overall bigger mission objectives met.  Like clearing the moathouse, clearing the nodes, finding out the spies (if any) in Hommlet, etc.

All this is subject to change if it turns out the math is all fucked and you guys aren't leveling fast enough, or are leveling too fast for the modules we're doing.

I'm doing this to encourage all types of gaming.  For example, Pete, if you say three words in character in three years, I'll fall over.  But you always have good ideas.  So you will get xp for the ideas, but maybe less overall for roleplaying.  Also, it makes the not 100% combat oriented, because no one wants to constantly fight everything you see just to get the xp, because that's the only way to get xp.

Lastly, as to gold, gems, loot, etc, the only way you get the xp for that stuff is if you get it out to a safe place, like back to Hommlet.  It's one thing to get 6 suits of leather, one suit of chain, 5 spears, 4 longswords, 3 shields, etc. in that first fight. They are all worth a lot.  Getting it back to Hommlet to get the xp for it is the other half of the issue.

In response to a player who says gold for xp sucks ass because it affects how a character is played I responded:

Take my xp system away, and a character whose background has to do with the socialist redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, who doesn't necessarily like fighting every damn thing in sight, like a robin hood rogue, would have no way to get xp if it weren't for killing everything he sees.  I am trying to incorporate all elements of the game into the xp equation equally, so that people can do what they do best in character and still get xp for it, like roleplay, figuring shit out/mysteries, good ideas/tactics, acquisition of wealth/magic, and fighting.  Otherwise the xp system only favors your character who likes to fight. With my system other characters can do shit that fits their role/background/character motivations and and not have to feel like they are gypping the others in the group, because they still get xp for themselves and the group.

In response to "I'm not saying that people should get exp for treasure, if that is what they seek, but it shouldn't be quantified.  Just arbitrarily award them for accomplishing their goals, whatever they are."  I responded:

True.  But how do you calculate the reward for the accomplishment against other accomplishments of similar nature  if not thru some quantification method?  Achieving bigger goals should give bigger rewards.  If the goal is money to give from the rich to the poor, then the more you get and give, the more xp you ought to get.  And xp for gp does give some logical way to quantify it.  Note how i knocked it down to 20% of what it used to be though, to keep it on par with the other methods of attaining xp.

If it still seems that the most productive/efficient way to get xp is gold and magic, to the extent that people do things for that reason rather than doing what their character would do, or what would be most fun for the player, then I will scale that way back a bit more, so that it doesn't incent one method of play over any other.  That way there is no detriment to a player's fun who wants to do some other type of play more often but won't because they don't think it will be worth the group's time in terms of xp per session played.  The goal of this xp system is so that no matter what sort of fun you like to have in D&D, no matter what your characters motivations for doing things are, and their objectives they want to accomplish, both they and the rest of the group will get xp off of it in a fair and balanced way.

The fair and balancing comes from fine tuning as we go.  For now though, at my best guess, this is a fair way to do it.  I'll change it as needed to encourage fun and fairness and play styles and character goals.  To award xp arbitrarily no matter what the characters do if no fun at all.  You may as well not have an xp system, I'll just give you a level whenever i feel like it and base it on some bullshit magic formula that I tell you I have, but which doesn't exist.  At least here you know part of the formula, and can extrapolate other parts from it.  Players should have some idea of what certain actions will yield in terms of xp, when there is a logical method of quantification available.

Make sense?  Am I missing anything?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Adventures Based on Song Lyrics

Here's an idea---write up a weirdass adventure based on the lyrics of a song.  Include as many elements of the song into the adventure as you can, no matter what sort of acid trip type adventure it turns out to be.  Hang it all together however you want.  Have it make as much sense as you want it to.  Easy example:  Hotel California by the Eagles is just begging to be detailed.  Any ideas on songs that could make an interesting adventure?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Blood Island: Expedition One.

Viking Guild of Blood Island's Mysteries

Report: November 10, 2012

Mission: Investigate the ancient lighthouse.

Details: The lighthouse has been there forever, a glowing beacon 30 miles to the south of our fair island of Valchasm. Sharp rocks and shifting treacherous tides have made it impossible to approach by ship. Likewise, walking from the shore for 300 feet was deadly, due to the waves, tides and rocks. Any flying attempts have ended in failure, usually due to Razorbeak attacks. No mages of sufficient power are willing to take such a suicide trip in recent memory.

Due to some odd weather anomalies, low tides this winter have been lower than ever, and have exposed the top portions of the treacherous rocks leading from shore to the lighthouse. The closest beach point is approximately one mile from the 300 foot peninsula of sharp rocks.

This posed a golden opportunity for an investigation. Landing close to low tide on the island, four brave adventurers took on the mission of crossing a mile of forest, braving the rocks, and trying to find a way into the lighthouse. Three made it back.

Brave Adventurers:

Finrir/Specialist/1st (Blood Island/LOTFP (Craig Brasco)

Dwarf Fighter/Cleric 1/1, LL AEC (Erik Tenkar)

Halfling Knave, 2nd , A&A (David Przybyla)

Viking, 1st, Blood Island/LOTFP, (Greg Christopher) R.I.P

After-action Report:

The approach to the beach went well. On the shore they encountered a giant sea turtle, apparently burying its eggs. Naturally, knowing the value of said eggs, combat ensued and the turtle was soon slain. The four returned to the ship to rest from their ordeal, as the brave Viking warrior nearly died from a vicious bite. Much stew, casseroles, and sandwiches were made on board the ship from the flesh of the turtle.

The next day they once again landed on shore, and were set upon by a group of sea zombies. As we know, they try to strangle you underwater with their seaweed tentacle arms, so as to turn you into a bloated corpse like themselves. Apparently the cleric of the foreign lands was able to use some ability to turn back the attack. This must be investigated further, as none of our Shamans have such an ability.

Travel through the forest was uneventful, and the approach over the rocks, while providing some injury to the four, resulted in no deaths. They managed to fight off an assault of jumping crabs, as well as giant sea rats, quite easily. They were quite disappointed that sea rats, unlike their land based cousins, did not hoard copper, nor any implements of feminine grooming.

It was apparent to the dwarf that the stone was ancient, due to the wear of weather and storm over some of the hardest rock he'd ever seen. Incredulous as it seems, he estimated the age of the tower to be well over 100,000 years old. Apparently Dwarves of his land possess much knowledge as to rock. As he is only the third dwarf we've seen, we can't confirm or deny that claim. However, all three Dwarves we've encountered won every drinking contest they've entered, much to the shame of some of our Berzerkers. With such a propensity for drunkenness, we view his claim that the lighthouse is well over 100,000 yrs old with much skepticism.

Upon entering the doorless lighthouse, they were struck by an odd sight. Apparently any wooden walls had long since deteriorated, leaving one large room with a spiral staircase in the center. Also, there was a table, tub, and some sort of sink inside, none of which could possibly have fit outside the building, as if the building itself were made around these items. They were made of no known material---not stone, metal, gem, wood, nor anything else in the knowledge and experience of the party.

Also in the room, running from wall to ceiling, as well as across the ceiling, was a clear tube of hard substance, within which was a copper tube, within which was a crystal wire. The clear tube was unbreakable by the party, and the only reason they were able to ascertain the interior was because at one point the tube was broken off, just above the floor, above a square discoloration on the floor. Apparently the tube used to enter something, a box presumably, which formerly sat on the floor.

Investigating the staircase, the party found that the bottom knob was missing, and there was debris stuffed into the hole where it must have been. Also, there was a floor plate of some sort, unopenable by any mundane means.

Heading upstairs they discovered a bedroom, only known as such because of the bedframe made from the same substance as the stair. Upon further investigation, the dwarf noticed that the knob at the top of one of the posts of the bedframe came off, and fit the hole at the base of the stairs. Avoiding the roof for now, the party went downstairs and inserted the stump of the bedknob into the hole, and the floorplate opened up. Descending bravely, they entered an airtight chamber, which was at one point a storage area for food. The foodstuffs were in the same weird material as the stairs, but alas they had spoiled. They had strange markings and inscriptions on the outside, but since the party did not write them down, and left the containers behind, we have no way of knowing what they were.

There was also a large keg on the floor, completely sealed, which contained liquid of some sort.

Near the keg was an obvious floorplate in the stone, made of the same substance as the stairs. After much prying they were able to lift it up, and saw a room below. In that room they discovered a large box, as well as some tools and supplies, clothing, and some very odd and powerful artifacts.

Apparently one artifact, using gold bars as a source, transmuted the gold bar into whatever was in the mind of the person using the device, but made from the same substance as the stairs.

One device, powered by some unknown source, acted as a saw powerful enough to cut the strange substances in the lighthouse.

The third device, powered by some combination of gems and crystals, performed some unknown function. (Note, after deciphering the book, below, we discovered it acted as a device that joined materials together, like bits of tubing for example.)

(If the ancients used gold and gems to make stairs and cut weird substances, it is even more imperative that we enter the pyramid, as it must contain a massive hoard of the stuff. They treated gold and gems as we treat wood and saws.)

Also in the box was a book, which was not able to be deciphered at the time, but which since has been by our scholars. Apparently it explains how to do mundane work around the lighthouse, and the uses of the tools. Unfortunately, it does not describe how to charge the tools, and they no longer have any charge left except for the joiner, which has a very low charge. Such knowledge was so mundane that it apparently wasn't written down. Alas....

The book explained that the machinery of the lighthouse was powered by a crystal dome, still intact, which provided energy for the light crystal which has guided our ships for centuries, as well as for lighting the lighthouse itself, and providing a source of clean water from salt water, and heating said water to provide the bath and sink with hot running water as well as cold. It also heated the lighthouse.

The party left the sub basement and entered the top of the lighthouse at this point. They were attacked by a Razorbeak, and our Viking warrior died. The rest retreated quickly, and after throwing burning oil at the Razorbeak, it flew away. They took its eggs, worth a fair amount, and cut open the case holding the strange crystal that has provided light since time immemorial, and took the crystal.

The lighthouse is now dark.

Oh yes, they also cut open the keg and sipped the wine within. They said it was the most exquisite wine they had ever tasted. We'll never know, because they left it behind, sealing both basements, taking only the eggs, the materials in the box, and the now dark crystal with them.

There is a ferocious ongoing debate over what we should do with this knowledge. Some amongst our guild want to return to the lighthouse and return the crystal to its proper place, and the lighthouse itself to its former glory. We certainly have the tools and knowledge now to do so. Others like it dim, as a show of power to the other races of what we can do, and also to hopefully have some of their ships get lost or wrecked on the rocks. The debate will continue for some time most likely.

XP:
Mission completion 1000 xp
Kills: 1000 xp
Eggs: 1800 gp
Gold Bars: 400 gp
Bag of Gems and Crystals: 1500 gp
Turtle Shell: 300 gp

Total 6000 xp, 2000 xp each character.
Total gold: 1334 each surviving character.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Second Edition Core Rulebooks to be Re-Released in May

Mine fell apart.  Worst binding on any D&D book ever, worse that UA.  I'll probably buy these.  I'm assuming they are the original 2.0 books, and not the 2.5 or the Players Options and Skills or whatever the hell the book was called. If anyone knows for sure though, please let me know.  It doesn't appear to be the binder debacle for the MM either.  Check it out...



Premium 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook (D&D Core Rulebook): Wizards RPG Team: 9780786964451: Amazon.com: Books Premium 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook (D&D Core Rulebook): Wizards RPG Team: 9780786964451: Amazon.com: Books



Premium 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide (D&D Core Rulebook): Wizards RPG Team: 9780786964475: Amazon.com: Books Premium 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide (D&D Core Rulebook): Wizards RPG Team: 9780786964475: Amazon.com: Books



Premium 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monstrous Manual (D&D Core Rulebook): Wizards RPG Team: 9780786964468: Amazon.com: Books Premium 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monstrous Manual (D&D Core Rulebook): Wizards RPG Team: 9780786964468: Amazon.com: Books

Unearthed Arcana Reprints to Include Errata

Apparently the Unearthed Arcana reprints (I know, I know, everyone hates UA for what it did to the game) will include the errata published in Dragon Magazine.  There was a a shit-ton or errata, too.  Somehow over the years I ended up with 4 copies of the book.  Looking back at my original one, I taped the two pages of errata into the book between the last page and the back cover.  Looking at another one of my copies, the previous owner did the same thing. 

Something I never noticed before, and something I would not have paid attention to in November 1985 (age 15) anyhow, not knowing its significance, is that there is a little box wherein it says "Permission is granted to photocopy these pages for personal use only."

That's funny, considering the OD&D books gained such popularity due to early photocopying machines on college campuses.  Also perhaps a bit of a preview, considering how draconian they later became with their idea of copyright and the internet under the tyrannical rule of Rob Repp, their online thug in the early to mid 90's.

http://wizards.com/DnD/Product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndacc/1Eunearthedarcana

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blood Island and Hexcrawling—A different approach.



Blood Island is huge, like a couple hundred miles by a couple hundred miles. It's a hexcrawl, in that the parties go from hex to hex and discover what they can. Each hex has either:

1 Nothing. Describe the terrain well.

2 Random monster encounter.

3 Something special (old mine, cave system, ruin, monster plus den to explore, former settlement of their people, former settlement of the enemy, place of mystery or wonder, place with a strange magical effect, special monster, intelligent monster, camp or settlement of an intelligent species/race never before seen to make an ally or enemy of, distinctive natural landmark, magical natural landmark, portal that takes you to somewhere else on the island, portal that takes you to another plane, natural hazard like quicksand or mudpit, a non-natural trap of some sort, entrance to the underdark, etc.)

4 Something special, like above, but which gives clues to unlocking the greater mystery of the island.

I've yet to figure out the odds of each thing on the d100 roll, but they order above is roughly from common to rare.

As a DM, if I want to put a special thing which gives clues somewhere on the island, like say on hex 276, and that clue is somehow important to unlocking the greater mystery, but the party never goes there, and therefore never discovers it, what a waste of time that would be to create the whole complex/dungeon/whatever. It would also annoy the players to have to figure out what hex they haven’t gone to, in order to find the thing that unlocks the riddle so they can conquer the whatever.

At the same time, you don't want to make wherever they go be the next thing you want them to find, based on what you've just created. That's a railroad, in that no matter what the players decide to do, they will end up with the encounter you prepared for that session. That defeats the purpose of the whole sandbox approach to hexmap exploration.

Here's what I've decided to try out: we already randomize monsters, so why not randomize all the other encounters? If I create a half dozen or so of each type of encounter, and number each one, if I roll for what is in the next hex the players encounter and it comes up “abandoned mine,” I go to my collection of half a dozen abandoned mines which I've already mapped out and stocked with monsters and treasure and clues and giant rats and copper pieces and all that cool stuff, and randomly choose one to be the one the players encounter.  After that, I never use that encounter again.

If I take this approach, there is no railroad, and no DM time and resources are wasted. Wilderness encounters become a series of random one page encounter areas, basically.

Obviously I reserve the right to re-roll if the encounter doesn’t make sense for either the geographical area, or if it doesn't fit with what the players have already discovered nearby. But I think this approach can work.

It will require a lot of upfront design time on my part, but after each session all I need to do is redesign a few new encounters of whatever encounter types the players explored that session. That way I don't re-use things, the players aren't bored, and it keeps it fresh.

It seems like a good way to make a wilderness hexcrawl interesting for the players, as opposed to a lot of random monster encounter areas, avoids a railroad, and it maximizes DM efficiency and creativity by making sure that whatever I make up is eventually used.  The other benefit is that if the party randomly teleports or otherwise finds a way to go to a some random part of the island (never underestimate how good players can fuck up all preconceived notions of what that adventuring session was going to be about), you as DM don't have to have filled in all 6000 hexes in advance to be ready for what they do and where they end up.  Also note that this method doesn't prevent a DM from making certain hexes have definite fixed encounters. If I want hex 541 to have the remains of the tower of the arch-mage Felix Unger, it can be there as a permanent static encounter, without interfering with the random hex system above.
 
 

What do you think?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Blood Island Player Info---Classes, Races, House Rules, Special NPC Classes, etc.






Picture an enormous frost-limned isle sitting in a frigid sea. A great frozen pyramid looms at its heart, rumored path to godhood for those that unravel its secrets. Its unfathomable magical power radiates over dark forests, predator-stalked plains, and red sand beaches that give proof of the island's name.

Blood Island's harsh and magical environment has warped its native flora and fauna in nightmarish ways. Each step inland dramatically reduces the chances of leaving the island alive. Its bays, rivers, and lakes teem with life and peril. Even the birds shun the skies to avoid the horrors that lurk in the clouds. It is little wonder that not much beyond the coastline has actually been explored or mapped.

Yet, Blood Island tempts the avaricious & practical with a host of natural resources; lumber, minerals, gems, ore, etc. It lures the adventurous & power-hungry to its shores with stories of lost magics, powerful artifacts, and dark mysteries. There is ample evidence of the inevitable end that befalls those foolhardy enough to attempt extended plunder of Blood Island; abandoned settlements, untended desecrated graves, and undead of every sentient species.

Despite The Island's seemingly unquenchable thirst for mortal blood, new settlements are attempted every few years. A loose alliance of the six-legged insect-like Delig, the burrowing mole-like Hoor, and mutated monstrosities known as the Vali are currently competing for The Island's riches against Vikings from a nearby island.

The Vikings are seafaring traders and pirates. They venerate various animal deities from which their Shaman have gained powerful magics.

About 7 miles from Blood Island is the main Viking island, Tor, where players can buy and sell, get drunk, and otherwise life a lifestyle befitting Conan after a rich haul.

Scattered throughout the island's many abandoned temples, ruined wizard towers, dark dungeons, and horrific forests and caves are the clues that unravel the mysteries of the Pyramid. The island has been inhabited and explored many times in many ages in the past few hundred thousand years. The marks of these explorations dot the island as ruins and places of horror and mystery. All were here for the same reason---to gain the power of the Pyramid. None did. In the ruins are clues to the puzzle. Can you find and decipher them to gain entry to the most fantastic dungeon of all time?



Ruleset and Gamestyle Info:

The game will be run on Google+ Hangouts. I will not have a set time and day, because I've noticed that most games that start out as Flailsnails games, eventually evolve into games which are run at the same time, played by the same people, and once you get a set of regulars and a couple of substitutes, no one else really get the chance to play in that world. I want to play it on different days and times of the week so as to ensure that as many people who want to play it, can play it. Also, it's really fun when one group does something that another group has to deal with in a later session. That to me is a true living breathing setting.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LOTFP) is the base ruleset. You can download the Grindhouse Edition for free.

Style of game: Gritty, not Gonzo.

Flailsnails compatible, all levels welcome.

Note that you can bring any character you want to Blood Island as long as it has a basis in some D&D compatible rule set that I can identify, figure out, and make compatible. Characters that take bits and pieces from various rulesets to make them cool will be nerfed to something resembling D&D. You can roll up a character as per the rules below if you wish to have some sense of belonging to the place, some small history, level of contacts or knowledge related to Blood Island, or just because you like what I did with the classes and want to take it to some other Flailsnails campaigns. If a Flailsnails character dies here mid-game, and you want to roll up a new one on the spot, you can create it from any system/setting you want to. Doesn't have to be based in Blood Island just because you created it while on Blood Island. 


Setting Style:

Picture history in the time of the Roman Republic and earlier. Sumeria, Greece, Carthage, Tyre, Scythia, Babylonians, etc. Their religions were not ones of good v evil. It was basically protection from "them" or "it", whoever "them" or "it" was. It was about survival. Pray to the gods of agriculture for crops, fertility for propagation of the species, storms for protection from bad weather, god of the sea for protection on long voyages, war for victory in battles, etc. There were no gods of good v. evil, no gods of the little guy v. the big guy. The entire culture of the whole world, pre-judeo-christian days, was the world as I described it. The gods/religion define a culture's moral norms. There may have been individual acts of kindness, but no common morality saying that it is good to live a life being good to others and helping them.

Pre-christianity, it was all about greed, conquest, power, might, wealth, and glory. There was no moral veneer over it. The Romans and every other empire or tribe would conquer those who had something they wanted, sell the rest into slavery, and take all their stuff.

And then there were the 99.9999 % of the people who were the peasants with no hope. They lived short ugly lives. They were born, they reproduced (and most of their kids died young), and then they died, ignorant of most everything around them. They lived or were killed at the whim of anyone around them with even a little bit more power, which was basically everyone except for other peasants. Most of them never traveled more than 10 miles from the hut they were born in. It took a special sort of person to rise through that culture and achieve those things without being born into the higher classes. Those would be the player characters. This was the world the peasants lived in, and they knew it. It was a harsh life and the peasants lived it bitterly.

Post-christ, the world stayed exactly the same, the same stuff happened and continues to happen, except the peasants thought otherwise, because they believed the leaders and religions that all of the pursuit of greed, conquest, power, might, wealth, and glory was actually done for "good" and against "them", the "evil-ones". They believed the world was a good place, and that being an ignorant peasant was a good thing, because they would share the kingdom of heaven--"blessed are those that eat shit every day, for they shall eat shit with me in heaven...etc..." It made them feel the equal to everyone else in the world on some level, a level which was meaningless in actual living day to day. They still lived and died at the whim of those more powerful, they still couldn't rise from nothing to the heights of power (except for very rare exceptions, which were touted as the norm, to encourage the peasants to keep working harder), and they were still ignorant of the world around them.

My harsh and gritty world is simply the world of pre-christian days, and also the world as it is today without the glossy veneer of "good" religion, and government and corporate propaganda.


Good v. Evil:

My brother and I had a discussion about the concepts of good and evil in this campaign. I explained to him that the concepts of good and evil as motivating forces don’t exist in any meaningful way. Imagine a world whose entire history has been war in the pursuit of power. Don’t picture life as you know it in sunny ol’ California. Picture life having grown up in one of those African countries where millions are hacked to death with machetes, where women are raped and their bodies mutilated on a daily basis, where babies are torn from their mother’s wombs just because one tribe doesn’t want the other tribe to continue. That’s more like the world everyone lives in here. The fairy tales tell stories like this. Their history is made up of this. There has never been a God of Goodness, Peace and Love. It is and has always been kill or be killed, survival of the fittest. Even Halflings are more jaded, cynical, and untrusting than in most settings. If the average level of “goodness and fellowship among men” on earth as we know it is 6 on a scale of 1-10, in this setting it is 3 at best. People are in survival mode, fearful, not trusting of strangers, prejudiced, and suspicious. It’s like a dog that has been trained to fight in pit fights. Go try to pet one and see what happens. At best, you have groups banding together for mutual protection and safety. Trust is hard earned, and comes after a long period of demonstrated behavior. There is no sense of alignment balance.

Dovetailing with this was a question about my a recent post, wherein it was asked “If there is no active role of the gods or divine intervention; what is the purpose of the cleric? Who is to counterbalance dark magic and demonic forces?”

That question assumes clerics play a role of good guy against bad guy. The active role of clerics in my setting is to gain power through might, gold, and magic in this world, in order to attract followers for their gods, in order for their god to gain in power, which results in the cleric going up in levels. That’s it. There are no gods of good, nor gods of evil. No gods of death nor gods of light, dawn, and new beginnings. People are like batteries for the gods, the stronger and more powerful they become, the stronger the a god becomes, if that person is a follower of that god. The cleric's role is to be a bigger battery, growing in power to attract more batteries/followers so the god becomes more powerful.

The clerics act more like the mafia, in that they act as a force of protection or aid for their followers, while trying to take other faiths’ territory (followers) and erode their power bases. As long as the end result is greater glory for their god, the means don’t really matter except on an individual basis, as to what each cleric is willing to do in pursuit of power. The religion itself doesn’t dictate means to an end, it just sets the overall goal. Clerics try to attack, sabotage, and ultimately conquer other faiths, even at times other faiths of what were formerly their original pantheon. In exchange, they give their followers aid and protection against threats, whether the threats be enemy faiths, evil demons, or the loanshark looking to collect money on an old debt. Like the mafia.

Devils, Demons, and the forces of darkness are no different, and very often less of a real threat, than the clan of elves over the hill, the tribe of orcs on the march through your pasture, or the cleric down the street who kidnapped your kid, blamed it on someone else, and “miraculously” rescued him in order to get you to convert to his faith.

Holy water doesn't exist. Any spell with an alignment in its name, like detect good or protection from evil does not exist. There is no balancing of dark magic and demonic forces, because clerics themselves are sources of dark magic and demonic forces. Whatever it takes to get followers.

For example, take the goddess of agriculture. Normally considered in most versions of D&D to be an airy-fairy type goddess, usually peace and goodness, with pseudo-hippies as followers. It’s different in this setting. Imagine you’re cleric of the goddess of agriculture in a small farming village. You’re the main cleric in the village, the serving the god with most everyone in the village as his followers. The cleric wants to protect his god’s power base by way of protecting the followers interests so they don’t leave him in favor of worshiping another god. If the settlement up the river damned the river which provides irrigation water to your followers’ farms, you need to do something about it. If the cleric of the god of agriculture has an amulet to raise the dead, he may sneak into the graveyard of the village up the river, raise the recently deceased members of the village, and let them loose on the village. While dead grandpa is killing his baby grandson in the crib and then feasting upon him, the fighters who work with this cleric will lead a hit squad to assassinate the village elders and village clerical leaders, while the rest of the followers smash the damn, and loot possessions of all those who don’t convert to the faith of the goddess of agriculture. Since her might is obviously superior to the patron god of the village that damned the river, as demonstrated by the death and destruction they just witnessed, it is likely there will be some converts. And the cleric grows in power.

People tend to view others from their own perspective and life's experiences, and expect people to be similar, which is why this approach seems foreign to many. After talking with my friend who survived Haiti under the Duvalier family, and my friend from Serbia/Yugoslavia who survived the perpetual wars there, I know that this way of thinking about and viewing the world would not be foreign to them at all. It is their intuitive way of looking at the world.

Maybe if I didn't call them human, elves, halflings, and dwarves people wouldn't be shocked at the grim outlook, and it wouldn't be a shock to the sensibilities at how these folks in my setting act and view the world. The definition of human is a broad vague concept, depending on your point of view. Chimps share 99% of the same DNA as human beings, but they clearly are not human, right? How much empathy for your fellow human beings do you need to have to be considered human? People would be shocked at how many sociopaths are running around. Most of them are made, not born, but a shocking percentage of people are born 100% sociopathic---meaning they are born lacking any capacity whatsoever for human compassion. They would feel absolutely nothing if they stuck a knife through a their own child's eye. Many of these people end up in jail, but what about the smart ones who know they are different, and realize that because human beings never expect monstrous behavior as the norm from other human beings, they can take advantage of that lack of understanding and work their way to the top? These people end up at the top of the political, military and corporate establishments, where such behavior is rewarded because of the success it gives these establishments.

Definitions and social norms change depending on the time and place people live, as well. Consider the Romans—it was common practice to conquer a land, kill off any person able to fight, and sell the rest into slavery. Slavers followed the army around. They would literally commit near genocide almost everywhere they went. It was common practice, normal, and the slave thing was just another way to make money, not only for the slavers but for the soldiers who joined in hopes of plunder---just just gold, but rape and slaves. Plus, later the soldiers got pieces of the now empty land to settle on as a reward for serving in the legions.

Anyhow, if you want to put into story game terms, I am exploring the theme of greed, ambition and power through an rpg. Which I think is closer to the roots of where rpg's came from than many realize, what with the purge of all of that in second edition with the code of ethics and all that bullshit. Many people have never been exposed to such a game, and for many it is a taboo subject, violating political correctness.

I know the theme is not for everyone, but for me its far more interesting than the cliché and simplistic battle of good v evil.


XP is given for:
Monsters---roughly 100 xp per level of the beast. Additional added for special abilities, etc.
Treasure--- GP value of treasure actually retrieved to a safe location.
XP value of the magic items (of which there won't be AD&D quantities of, sorry.)
Badass shit you actually pull off and surprise the DM with.
Awesome roleplaying
Finding the mysterious whatchamacallit and actually figuring out something about it in the greater puzzle of the Island.


Character Generation:

Character generation = 3d6, arrange the scores how you want. If the sum of your attribute bonuses is a negative number, you get to re-roll.

Max HP at first level

Languages as a skill per the LOTFP book and Char sheet doesn't exist. Number of languages known is 2 plus your Int. bonus. You can read any language you know as long as your intelligence score is 6 or higher.

All classes gain one skill point at 4th level, one at 7th, one at 10th, and one at 12th which they can assign wherever they want. This is in addition to those points gained by virtue of class and/or race. They can go into class specific skills if the player so chooses, like the viking skill or the elven skill.

Classes and Races:

Humans and elves are the only allowable races for players generating characters in this system/setting, except as described below.

Halflings and Dwarves:
Do not exist in this setting or under the modified LOTFP ruleset I am using. They can, however, be brought in from other systems.

Elf:
Use the Elf class as written in LOTFP, however the spells usable by elves are actually the Druid spell list in ADnD, including Unearthed Arcana. They advance in spell use and xp as do Elves in LOTFP. The skill associated with Elves in LOTFP, searching, actually is the roll for a whole slew of Elven Skills, including the chance that elves have to search without having to designate what it is they are searching for and still find something. All other races are 1 in 6. It also represents the Elven ability to move stealthily through natural environments without being seen or heard. Lastly, the numerator represents the damage multiplier with bows elves do to enemies while in the woods, if they are hidden and moving stealthily, and have surprise on their opponents. Elves take the same penalties to moving in stealth while wearing plate as Adventurers. Elves start with +2 attack bonus to melee weapons, +3 to bows, and gain one more +1 more at level 5 and +1 more at level 10 to each. Elves cannot use Press, Defensive Fighting or Parry.

In this setting, they are actually clannish, and some clans are allied with the Vikings, and some are allied against the Vikings. The ones allied with the Vikings fight against their cousins. There is no sense of Elven superiority, as in most settings. They ones who ally with the Vikings see themselves as a lesser race than humans. There are also rumors of a more primitive elven race on the Island itself who hates their more evolved descendents. However, the elves that associate with the vikings are only able to cast up to the third level in druid spells. The wild ones on the island have no such restrictions.



Magic-user:
As per the book, except that they do not have to be chaotic. Do not progress in fighting ability. The Summon spell as per LOTFP does not exist as I don't want one miscast spell to end the time space continuum as we know it, wiping out all sentient beings from the multiverse. They get to memorize one bonus spell of each level equal to their intelligence bonus. In other words, if a magic-user of fifth level has a 13 intelligence, he gets to memorize one more spell of first, second, and third level than are listed in the character description chart. They can cast spells in Leather Armor and still have a full set of adventuring gear on them, of Chain Armor and carrying nothing else but a spellbook in a backpack and a staff/dagger and spell components. Starting magic-users roll 4 spells and choose four spells for their spellbook at first level. Read magic is not a required spell for a spellbook, as any first level magic-user knows it innately. Every magic-user whose player is lucky enough to own the old AD&D Unearthed Arcana book has access to all cantrips in that book intuitively, and can cast up to four per day.



Spellbooks, Scrolls, Costs and Maintenance:

Spellbook costs 100 GP.

Spells are hard to purchase from other mages, but when available, the prices are approximately as follows:


  • Costs to buy scrolls: 100 gp per level of the spell squared. 1-100 2-400 3-900 4-1600 5-2500
  • Costs to scribe spells found in enemy spellbooks or scrolls: 100 gp per level.
  • Time to scribe spells from one thing to your book: 1 day per spell level


SPELL SPECIAL EFFECTS

In my OD&D game, spell-casters enjoy the capability to produce minor magical effects related to the spells they have currently memorized. For example, a magic user who has fireball memorized might be able to light his pipe with a small flame from his thumb, or make smoke come from his ears when annoyed. A sorceress with gust of wind memorized might have her hair constantly blowing in an otherwise non-existent breeze. Using a special effect does not cast or use up the spell it is related to; they're not so much "spells" as they are tangible evidence that the magic user has a spell memorized. I do not codify these effects, but rather rely on the players to suggest or request an effect, which I then approve or deny. While I do not have a hard-and-fast rule against special effects that have a mechanical game effect, special effects are always minor, cantrip-like effects. I like this house-rule for several reasons. First, it adds to the weird otherworldliness of magic users, and I love weird and fantastic elements in my D&D game. Second, it gives low-level magic users something arcane and archetype-supporting to do without using up their memorized spells or abandoning the concept of Vancian magic. Third, it's just cool to play a wizard that can make his eyes glow, or make his smoke rings come out different colors, or whatever. I know that players enjoy the special effects, and also enjoy trying to figure out what spells an NPC caster has based upon what his special effects reveal. The only real danger is allowing effects which are too potent, which could erode the feel of the Vancian magic system. It's up to the referee to make that call on a case-by-case basis.

Fighter:
As per the book. They can do Parry, Press, and Defensive fighting.




Specialist:
As per the book, except they get the bonus skill points as described in the introduction above.  They must be lightly encumbered, as defined below under encumbrance, to take full advantage of climbing, stealth, or sneak attack. If they are heavily encumbered, they perform all of those abilities at a -2 penalty, and if severely encumbered take a -4 penalty. If the penalty reduces the chance to less than zero, it automatically fails. They may have to drop heavy items or large bags or sacks, etc, to perform certain actions, at the DM's discretion.Specialists progress in fighting ability at 1 point every 3 levels after first up to tenth level. So at levels 4, 7, and 10 they get one more point to their attack roll. Cannot do Press, Defensive Fighting or Parry.

The following abilities are only available to Specialists, not Adventurers:

Specialists add their level to their saving throws vs. traps.

Specialists who successfully make a save where the result would be half damage if they succeed, take no damage. This applies to traps, spells, magic items, poison, or anything else where there is a save to take half damage.

Specialists who are fifth level or higher take half damage if they fail a saving throw where the result would be half damage if they succeeded. This applies to traps, spells, magic items, poison, or anything else where there is a save to take half damage.

Specialists love to tinker with magic, and as such have a 10% chance per level, up to a max of 90% at 9th level, to use any magic item or cast a spell from a scroll. The results, if there is a failure, could be dangerous, beneficial, humorous, or anything in between at the DM's discretion, determined by a dice roll.

A tenth level Specialist has a 20% chance to make a saving throw against anything that normally does not have a saving throw, such as power word kill, magic missile, etc.



Regarding thieves and thieves guilds---Guilds don't exist in every city. Thieves guilds are very rare things. As far as thieves go, you have a few basic types.

1. Opportunist---he sees something laying around, no one is looking, he takes it. Not his chosen profession. Usually has a job, and the job is the place he may steal from. Dockworker stealing an extra bottle of rum when no one is looking, for example, or something he can sell to buy necessities, or a bit of bling to make himself feel better about his shitty lot in life. He may even feel guilty later. But he usually has a need for cash. Desperate types of poor people fit this mold.

2. Crack-head type: Has to steal to fill a need---whether food, drugs, gambling, bookie is chasing him down, etc. Usually a loner.

3. Small-time crook---loser, lives on the edge of society, does a job here and there to get by. May have a few friends who do it. Been caught before, in jail before. Probably will never rehabilitate, as they are lazy and stupid and good for nothing. Usually blows his money on cheap women and cheaper booze. Has a big mouth.

4. Struggling professional crook---takes pride in his job, tries to be better at stealing. Largely self-taught, lives in fear of getting caught by both the law and other criminals, as he tries to poach targets others may be interested in. He has enough talent to encroach on someone's territory to be noticed.

5. Group of thieves---those who consider that they have a territory, otherwise same as #4 above. By territory, I mean usual targets or types of targets. They may know people from #1,2, or 3 above who help them out. Usually friends from way back, like they grew up together and know each others strengths and weaknesses well, and have a form of loyalty and trust.

6. Good group of thieves--same as #5, but pull off better heists, and have a lot better contacts in both the underworld, and maybe even among the populace and legitimate society.

7. Organized good group of thieves with some pull---Same as #6 but they know a lot more people, and have a lot more pull. May know judges, police, etc who can get them off. Still a very small group though. Damn near impossible to break into groups 5 6 and 7 unless you hang with them a long time, and prove yourself.

8. Pick pockets---self explanatory, run the gamut from bad to good. Usually those without hands are bad, having been caught.

9. Con men--self explanatory.

Low life society consists of fences, pawn shops, seedy bars, drug dealers, crack head-type informants, beggars, urchins, seedy bartenders, men who can be hired for a job---whether to rough someone up or to kill them.

What all these people have in common with each other is they have a culture, a shared language, a shared background (knew each other for a while), loyalty of a sort in that they have been tested and either talk to the cops, or they don’t, or do talk only when certain situations occur. They also know each other, if not by name then by reputation. They know who is "them" and who is "us." There is no professional brotherhood of thieves or of the underworld. There is just them and us, on all levels of society. And if you aren't one of them, then you're a target, a mark, or a threat. None of which is good for you.

To the extent that you're not one of them, but you look like you can handle yourself, have lots of battle scars, look like a badass, or have either a reputation somehow that they've heard of that intimidates them, or that you remain a mystery enough that they can't quantify of classify you, if you walk into the dock area with any of the characteristics listed above, then you might, just might, walk out alive and not get killed just on the off chance that you might have something on you worth more than 1 copper.

It's not like in AD&D when a thief walks into town, asks the guard at the gate where the thieves guild is, checks in and registers as a wandering thief, and promises to kick in a share of theft to the guild while in town. In your case, a newb and a rube, right off the farm, with no contacts and no connections, they'll think your a cop, or a target/threat/mark.

Which brings me to Specialists in the Grindhouse ruleset. The way Raggie describes them, and the way I also like to look at them, is people with skills useful in various things. There are Indiana Jones types for dungeon crawling, hunter/trappers, tinkerers, thieves, fences, assassins, and many more. All are specialists. How you specialize is determined by the skills you select and what you do with them. Now, for example, having grown up on a farm, your stealth comes from hunting and trapping, your tinkering comes from messing with farm gadgets and game traps, your slight of hand comes from card/coin tricks practiced all night because you're bored shitless and have nothing else to do, etc. That's not to say that you can't easily transfer those skills to some other profession, but their base is on the farm, in this example. In other words, you're not a thief---YET. But you definitely have larcenous tendencies and some skills that might be adaptable.

If you want to pursue that route and develop along those lines, no problem, have at it. If you want to go the Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider route, feel free. You could also be the best hunter and trapper in the land. All are specialist roles. Where you take it is up to you. But I just didn't want you to go into town thinking specialist means thief, and expect them to welcome you with open arms. You'd most likely be killed the first night, dressed like you don't belong, looking right off the farm, with no backup, local contacts, or reputation.

The dagger you wear might be worth more than any two guys have to their name, and those two guys will likely be waiting outside the inn with a couple wooden planks to beat the shit out of you, take your dagger and all your possessions, and roll your body in the river. Picture a white boy right out of some spoiled rich city going to the worst neighborhood in the biggest shithole city in Mexico, all alone, dough-faced and innocent looking, and asking around about wanting to put something on the black market. That's about how it would turn out...

Special Playable Classes/Races:

Viking
The Viking is both a class and a race. Uses the Dwarf description in the LOTFP book. The only changes are that instead of architecture, the chances represent the ability to do Viking-like things. Craft ships, swing on or climb ropes, run faster and jump farther than average humans, withstand colder than normal temperatures, sail a ship, use stunts or tricks or other cool shit in ship to ship warfare, drink like a fish, etc. If you want to do something you've heard of or seen a Viking do in literature or the movies, roll a Viking check. If you want to do something that resembles a thing a Viking would do, but is not clearly a Viking thing, argue its similarity to a viking thing, and I'll likely let you do it, with a potential penalty depending on similarity or lack thereof. If it's completely nuts, there may be a penalty.

Vikings cannot do any actions that require a Viking check while more than lightly encumbered, as described below under encumbrance, or else they are penalized. If they are heavily encumbered, they perform all of those abilities at a -2 penalty, and if severely encumbered take a -4 penalty. If the penalty reduces the chance to less than zero, it automatically fails. They may have to drop heavy items or large bags or sacks, etc, to perform certain actions, at the DM's discretion.

Vikings also prefer weapons that let them get up in the face of their foes, like big axes, over missile weapons. Vikings using missile weapons in combat are mocked as pussies. They do use missile weapons while hunting for food, however.

For character generation for a Viking, roll 3d6, assign the top 3 to Con, Str, and Dex, in any order, and assign the bottom 3 to the other scores. After assigning scores, add one more point to Con, one to Dex, and one to Str.

They progress in fighting ability by gaining a plus 1 to hit per every other level. +1 at 1st level, +2 at 3rd level, +3 at 5thlevel, etc.

It has been rumored that if a Viking makes two critical hits in a row, they automatically gain the benefits of “Rage” described below (they have no choice, they must rage), which only lasts until the end of the battle, rather than a random number of rounds. They also pass out for one hour plus 1-100 minutes after combat is over.

Vikings can Press, but not Defensive Fight or Parry.



Special: Berserker Viking.
Some players may want to run a Berserker Viking. Character generation is the same way, except that you add 2 to each of the physical stats, and deduct 3 from each of the mental stats. They are a throwback to the primitive days. Max 18, Min 3. They also get the Viking Skills, as per regular Vikings. And God help the group that has to deal with their special ability:

Battle Rage: Once per day per level they can choose to take two rounds to get themselves into such a fury that they “Rage” during the fight. During these two rounds they are in combat, fighting normally as a regular Viking does. After two rounds they get the bonuses due to the Rage: it adds +2 to AC, to Hit rolls, to Saves, and 10 to temporary HP. Thing is, they don't come out of it for a number of rounds equal to their Con score, regardless of how long the fight lasts (the countdown starting from the first round of combat). At that point, they pass out for one hour plus 1-100 minutes. Up until that point, they attack stuff, even friends, once there are no more enemies to fight or until they die. Think The Hulk on a mad rampage. Berserker Vikings generally wear the heaviest armor available and don't bother with too many Viking stunts.

Adventurer:
This is a combination of most of the abilities of the Specialist and the Fighter class in LOTFP.   It's like a fighter/thief multiclass. Distinctions and exceptions are given under each specific class, as well as under this class description below.  One exception is that Adventurers gain a +1 to attack at 1st and 2ndlevel, and not 3rd, than at 4th and 5th, but not 6th, etc.   Adventurers are on one hand looked down upon by the Vikings for lack of physical manliness, and on the other hand respected for their skills and bravery. Adventurers get d8 for hp, get to pick the better saving throw of the two classes for each category for each level, and progress as a fighter for purposes of attacks. They use the same XP chart as the Magic-User. They must be lightly encumbered, as defined below under encumbrance, to take full advantage of climbing, stealth, or sneak attack. If they are heavily encumbered, they perform all of those abilities at a -2 penalty, and if severely encumbered take a -4 penalty. If the penalty reduces the chance to less than zero, it automatically fails. They may have to drop heavy items or large bags or sacks, etc, to perform certain actions, at the DM's discretion. Cannot do Press, Defensive Fighting or Parry.



Cleric: Called Shaman in this setting.
They have the clerical spell casting abilities, and they also possess the abilities listed below, with more to be developed by the DM at higher levels. Note that a Shaman cannot turn undead, and holy water is unavailable in this setting, unless brought in by other outsiders.

Spells can be cast on anyone, whether they follow the faith of the Shaman or not, as opposed to the special Abilities and Rituals, described below. Shaman have to memorize spells as per the rules in LOTFP, but they can convert any spell to a Cure spell of the same level on the spot without prior memorization. In other words, the Shaman does not have have to ever memorize a cure light wounds, for example. He loses the spell he converted from by using it as a cure light wounds. They get to memorize one bonus spell of each level equal to their Wisdom bonus. In other words, if a Shaman of fifth level has a 13 Wisdom, he gets to memorize one more spell of first, second, and third level than are listed in the character description chart.

Shamans using the reverse of Cure spells (Cause Light Wounds, etc.) to harm an enemy can channel that spell through their weapon. If they hit at AC of 12, the spell goes off, no saving throw. In order to do damage with the weapon, however, they still need to land a normal melee attack. Harm spells do not have to be memorized ahead of time, as per the Cure spells above.

There are three classes of Shaman, those of the Winter Wolf, the Polar Bear, of the Ice Cat. Their abilities are the same, regardless which animal spirit they worship.

Same progression, tables, etc. as cleric in LOTFP. However, they progress in fighting ability at 1 point every 3 levels after first up to tenth level. So at levels 4, 7, and 10 they get one more point to their attack roll. They can wear any armor or use any weapon, but preferred weapons are claws fashioned to look like the claws of their animal. These claws do 1-4 damage, and the Shaman gets 2 attacks per round with these weapons only. They must be fashioned by the user, and must use real bone/teeth/claws from the animal they worship. These can be taken from a dead creature of its type.



Abilitiescan only be used on members of the clan who devoutly worship the spirit of the Shaman, or who have performed a great service already in furtherance of the animal spirit the clan worships. Ask the DM in advance how many times an ability can be used on him, depending on the service rendered.

Level one ability: Growl once a day with the voice of their spirit creature, which adds 1 point to hp, ac, morale, and saves to all allies who worship the same creature within 200 feet for ten minutes. Also has the same effect to the detriment of all enemies. Can do this once per day per level.

Level two ability: Summon Spirit: Can instantly summon the spirit of their animal into their soul and be able to fight at negative hp until death at -8. Regardless, after 15 minutes, if the caster is at less than 0 hp, they pass out and/or die, as per the the LOTFP rules. Best to heal thyself before it wears out. Any attacks when infused with the spirit of the animal count as divine/magical.

Level three ability: Heal Chant: Can heal 1-6 hp dmg by infusing the spirit of their animal to any clansmen once per day per clansmen, for a total number of times per day per shaman equal to their level as shaman. Requires a touch and 5 minutes of prayer and song.

More abilities to come as you level up.

Ritualsare only able to be used on members of the clan who devoutly worship the spirit of the Shaman, or who have already performed very great services in furtherance of the interests of the clan who worships that animal spirit. They must take place in a holy sweat lodge. These first three riutuals are able to be performed by a first level Shaman.

Ritual of Purification: Takes place in a sweat lodge. All in the lodge who chant/sing/meditate for at least 4 hours are healed of half the damage they are down, as well as gain a clarity of mind that affords them 1 additional hp and ac point which lasts until their next night's sleep, but in any case typically no more than 24 hours.

Ritual of Blood: Requires the rare blood of your tribal animal, at least a pint, and for the ritual of purification to first take place. All who drink a sip of the blood are able to extend the benefits of the Ritual of Purification to 3 days, and gain full hp back. Requires 4 additional hours of time for it to take place. It is also rumored to extend other rituals, but you are not sure of that.

Ritual of Visions: A shaman can go into a trance, anywhere, taking up to fifteen minutes to go into said trance, and ask the animal spirit a question. Sometimes he will get an answer, sometimes he will receive a vision, sometimes his personal vision will range out over the land as if he inhabited the body of his animal and he will see/hear/smell the thing he has a question about. Result is determined by a factor of how well he does on a wisdom check, modified by his level. Can be performed once per day per level of the shaman.

Rituals that a third level Shaman can perform:

Ritual of Blood-Brotherhood: Shaman can shed his own blood on the wound of a clan companion, to heal the companion of his wounds at the rate of 1 hp worth of the shaman's blood for 1-4 hp of healing to that companion. Shaman is able to determine how many hp worth of blood he will shed before he sheds it. He can do this as often as he wants, with the obvious limit being death if taken too far.

Ritual of Infusion: After one hour of chanting and meditation, the spirit of your god infuses you, doubling your hp, adding 4 to your ac, and adding 4 to your strength, con, and dex for one day. This can be performed once per week, and only on yourself. Note that if enemies of your clan are not killed by your own hands after being infused with the animalistic powers of your god, you cannot perform this ritual for 6 months. If you kill a number of enemies equal to your level while under the effect of the Ritual, then your nearest companions of your clan (equal in number to your level) are instantly given your ability, and spring shadow claws which do damage equal to your own. They must fight with these claws, dropping their weapon on the ground, they instantly go into a Battle Rage (which ends when the Shaman wants it to end, no rest penalties), and their Morale is BLOOD.


Non-Player Character Classes and Special Hirelings:

Standard HenchmanProficient with chain or lesser armor, and all weapons. Basically adventurers in training. 6 HP. Take a half share of xp, and whatever gold their patrons are willing to share with them. Need 2000 xp to progress to first level Adventurers, 1000 xp to progress to first level fighters or specialists.

Special Craftspeople:

The next several classes, the Apothecary, Witch/Warlock, Herbalist, Alchemist, Monstrositeer, all use the Halfling table for progression. They are generally not combatants, are proficient in basic stuff like dagger, staff, sling, club, etc., have +0 as an attack bonus, and try like hell to stay out of combat, so their good saving throws help in that regard. They have several things in common.

First, the skill labeled Bushcraft actually represents their skill at their craft. Each of these classes uses that roll/check for the following things:

1 Try to identify ingredients useful for their craft.
2 Try to harvest said ingredients so as to collect the vital essences.
3 Use those ingredients containing the vital essences into some sort of recipe.

Each of these actions requires a roll against what is called the Bushcraft skill in the LOTFP book, which I will call Craftskill from here on out.

Vital Essences:not just any leaf from of a birch tree is usable by an herbalist in creating their concoctions. Only certain leaves contain the vital essences necessary for proper use in concocting a formula or recipe. This same rule applies to the other classes. Only those who are of the proper class have a chance of identifying which part of the leaf, root, rock, mineral, monster part, etc. contains the required vital essence. It's an intuitive thing, one that cannot be taught. Which part of the tree holds the vital essence for one herbalist is different for the next herbalist. It's all about how it is attuned to each particular craftsperson. A vibrational harmonic resonance sort of thing. Therefore, one herbalist can't swap shit with another herbalist.

It is not my intent to have players and characters have to keep track of what ingredient has which effect, nor to make adventurers into gatherers of boring shit, nor to make an economic opportunity for pc's for these things. Where's the fun in that? Did the Grey Mouser or Conan ever have to do such boring crap? Therefore, only craftspeople can identify and gather these materials properly, and they must be gathered in the wild, in their natural state, untouched by other hands.

These classes like to tag along with adventurers due to the potential for gathering untouched raw materials these crafting classes need to do their jobs.

Each crafting class gives the party benefits, as described below, if they are “along for the ride.” They also hinder the class in some ways, due to identification and harvesting taking time. However, helping a craftsman progress in his trade certainly has its rewards, in terms of the craftsman being able to make certain items, potions, charms, droughts, unguents, oils, etc for the individuals in the party.

Recipes aren't written down by these classes, as what works for one person may not work the same way for another. Each thing created by a craftsperson uses a bit of the craftsperson's own essence, will, vibrational level, and soul/spirit, which is mixed with the items of their craft, as well as a bit of the recipient's own essence, will, vibrational level, and soul/spirit, usually by way of blood or skin or hair, to create a unique item crafted to that person. In other words, you don't go to an herbalist shop and pick up a flask of herbal healing. It doesn't work that way. The herbalist would have to make one specifically for you. Same for all the other professions.

Each of the classes has a travel kit to help them in their identification, gathering, storing of what was gathered, and for on the spot fixes. They can wear no more than leather armor, as it interferes with their precise movements required for gathering and dissection, and they are very unfamiliar with armor, as they are not trained combatants.

Most importantly: Craftspeople only join up with proven experienced adventuring parties who keep their henchmen, hirelings, torchbearers, wardogs, mules, trap testing chickens, etc. alive. If yours is a callous group that uses hirelings as cannon fodder, forget about it, they will do extensive research on you and find that out, and will refuse to go. They are in high demand by adventurers, so any weird behavior, like a charmed craftsperson going with a party they normally would never join, will be investigated by other craftspeople, their guilds, and other adventurers who want to get on the craftspeoples good side. Most established craftspeople have patrons or adventuring groups they work with already, and a long history of working with that patron or adventuring group, and don't swap out one patron for another on a whim. Adventuring groups usually find it works best to establish a relationship with a craftsperson early on in their careers, donate money to set them up in their shop (as it takes expensive shops to carry out all of their experiments), and keep them alive and loyal by whatever means possible.

At the same time, deaths are expected, a part of the adventuring life. Craftspeople know this. If a pattern of heavy npc deaths vs. pc deaths develops, and/or the payers get a reputation for callousness, then it will be noted. If the players go to heroic lengths to keep their people alive, regardless of the outcome, this will also be noted. The DM will keep a rough “reputation” score as to npc treatment and rewards. Rewards, what you give and pay the npc's in your employ, can go a long way towards erasing bad reputations, in a “yeah, it may be dangerous, but if you survive they reward you well,” sort of way.

Herbalist:
Herbalists make potions, powders, oils and ointments out of the vital essences gained by combining various vegetative parts together in certain ways.

Once per mile traveled in nature, meaning at least 5 miles away from any form of settlement, herbalists make a check to see if they can identify a tree or plant with some bit of the vital essence needed for their craft. Each successful roll at identification gives them 50 xp.

It will take 30 minutes to gather that part of the vegetation to store it properly for travel. Great opportunity for random monster checks, huh?

For each bit of essence gathered, the herbalist gets 100 xp.

Herbalists benefit parties because they can spend 20 minutes mixing up and cooking an herbal tea infusion that must be consumed on the spot. This wipes out fatigue, heals 1 hp for every 2 levels of the Herbalist, and gives a general overall good feeling. A character can only benefit from this tea once per day. Also, it's good for bowel movements.

Additionally, herbalists can identify poisonous or sentient vegetation at a glance, and at higher levels it is rumored they can even speak with plants. Herbalists can also identify drinkable water by holding their hand over it and meditating for one minute.

Alchemist:
Alchemists mix mineral or crystal ingredients with extreme temperatures to form compounds which may have benefits.

Once per mile traveled in nature, Alchemists make a check to see if they can identify a rock or crystal with some bit of the vital essence needed for their craft. Each successful roll at identification gives them 50 xp. Their chances of finding said rocks or minerals increase while underground in natural caves by 1 in 6.

It will take 30 minutes to gather that part of the rock or crystal to store it properly for travel. Great opportunity for random monster checks, huh?

For each bit of essence gathered, the Alchemist gets 100 xp.

Alchemists benefit parties because they have:
Glow sticks that last 8 hours, shed light like a torch. 100 x 4
Matches that light underwater.
Smoke grenades.
Rocks that when thrown onto the ground explode in light and sound and may stun all within 5 feet.

Note that they jealously guard these things, and won't sell them or give them up, for fear they won't be taken on adventures anymore. Thus they always carry a couple of compounds on them used to activate these items at the last minute, and are very secretive as to what those compounds are, or how activation works.

Monstrositeer:
Monstrositeers scavenge body parts off of monstrosities in order to enhance the formulaes of Alchemists, Witches, Herbalists, and Apothecaries. They work closely with one particular craftsperson, in order to maximize their effect. They are a combination research assistant and specialist in their own right. Those that generalize to help multiple types of craftspeople are less effective than those who specialize.

They have lots of knowledge of the habitat and ecology of weird creatures. For them, the craft skill roll is also a chance to impart such useful info to the party about the foe they are up against. For example, they may know that certain creatures are herbivores, nocturnal, etc. If the Monstrositeer has dissected such a creature before, the chance is as per listed for his level. If he has never actually dissected that creature, then it is made at a -2 penalty.

A Monstrositeer gains 150 xp for each creature dissected. Dissection and harvesting the vital components is one action, requires one skill roll, and takes 3 hours, whether it is successful or not. It must be performed within 1 hour of the monster's death. A Monstrositeer generally cannot carry the compounds to preserve and store and carry the vital essences from more than five creatures at a time.

It's important to keep track of the monsters your Monstrositeer has dissected and taken bits and pieces from, because they can use that knowledge gained to identify weaknesses in creatures of the same exact species. In other words, once a Monstrositeer has dissected a Ghoul, if he sees another Ghoul, he can shout out to other fighting members of the party the weak points of another ghoul, after observing it in combat for 1 round. This in effect gives the pc's of the party +2 to hit that particular creature. Every creature will have a different weakness, so what was a weakness in one ghoul may not be a weakness in another. The Monstrositeer would have to observe each in a fight to see what their individual weaknesses are. Of course, that means he must be within sight of combat, yelling out suggestions like “Hit him in the thigh!” and close enough to see details, which may make him a potential target.

Witch or Warlock:
Uses the body parts of regular non-monstrous animals as well as components scavenged from the vegetable world, mixed with the essence of an other-worldly creature (who demands favors in return) through some ritual to create substances, tokens, charms, hexes, curses, etc. that affect the world and people in it in some way.

The favors demanded of the witch vary depending on the nature of the creature the witch draws power from. The nature of the creature determines what the witch will be able to do. Aggressive or demonic creatures will work with a witch in some way to create items different in style than a witch who works with a more benevolent creature. Also, due to the infusion of otherworldly energy, the items created tend to be more powerful than what an herbalist can make, for example. But there is always a cost. Sometimes it is taken from the witch, sometimes from the beneficiary, sometimes from the victim, or some combination of the three.

They gain xp the same way herbalists do.

A witch benefits a party because she can take body parts off of freshly killed opponents (no more than 8 hours dead) of a type that the party is currently facing, and hex curse those creatures within sight and hearing distance, with the effect of causing -2 to the monster's attacks, saves and ac.

Apothecary:
Apothecaries combine vegetative and alchemical ingredients for healing purposes. They gain xp the same as alchemists and herbalists do. All of their efforts are focused on healing. They mix their own life essence with that of the compounds, at the cost of draining their own life force in hp, or some ability score penalty. As such, their healing power is considerably more effective than herbalists, but more limited due to draining themselves of their vital life essence.

They benefit the party because they can “lay on hands” once per party member per day and heal 3 hp of damage after 10 minutes of concentration per party member. They lose 1 hp for each 10 hp healed, and cannot lay hands on themselves. This is a form of “Reiki”, drawing upon the forces associated with Universal Life Energy, rather than the divine forces that Shamans use, or the nature based purifying and healing mixtures the Herbalist uses.


The things the experienced craftspeople can actually make for you are for you to discover in gameplay. They will be awesome though. Big time long lasting buffs, hexes, curses, charms, potions, salves, etc. You just have to get the craftspeople to a high enough level to be able to create such items, and help them in the financing of their laboratories for their experimentation. It's a patronage system, and sort of like an investment, that will pay dividends over time. The real benefit of these classes comes outside combat, where they can make you special objects that will last a certain period of time and give neat and unique benefits to you and your group.


Gear/Encumbrance:

Encumbrance: I don't care that much what you carry, as long as it makes sense. No one can carry 40 quivers of arrows, 500 feet of rope, and wear a suit of plate while carrying 2 backups, that sort of thing. You don't need to keep track of rations and arrows. You do need to keep track of special stuff like magic arrows, bullets, shells, vials of holy water, acid, oil, etc.

It is assumed that you are geared up like a regular adventurer for the following encumbrance/movement calculations:

Unencumbered= Leather armor or less plus regular gear.
Lightly Encumbered = Chain armor plus regular gear, or Leather plus regular gear plus a big haul of shit.
Heavily Encumbered = Plate armor plus regular gear, or Chain plus regular gear plus a big haul of shit.
Severely encumbered = Plate plus regular gear plus a big haul of shit.

Money: Convert all things listed in the LOTFP book from silver to gold.
1 gp = 20 sp = 100 cp. Common in the setting.
Electrum = 1/2 gp. Platinum = 5 gp. Rare in the setting.

Starting Gear:  You get to pick whatever you want for weapons and armor, except for plate, and whatever normal adventuring gear you can carry, including a few flasks of oil and acid.  Holy Water not available.  This assumes you share all info with the Viking Guild of Blood Island's Mysteries, who are the ones equipping you.  They also ask for first dibs on buying anything unusual or weird that you discover.  Otherwise, starting gear is as per LOTFP.

Combat:

Beware, shooting missile weapons into melee combat will give a 50% flat chance to hit your own party members.

Group initiative on a d6. No modifiers. Players decide within a reasonable time who does what, and when.

Players who are casting spells must declare the spell they are casting before initiative is rolled. If you are hit before your turn in combat and take any damage, you lose the spell.

Players who wield two weapons simply gain +1 to attack. No fancy dex calculations go into it, no ambidexterity rules, penalties, or any of that crap. Shamans who wield two claws do not get +1 to attack. See below for rules on guns.

Players who wield 2 handed weapons add +1 to damage.

Natural 20 = character has a choice, to be made before he rolls the damage die:
1 Double the damage die roll
2 Roll 2 of the damage die
3 Max the damage die

Natural 1 = character has a choice:
1 Lose next melee round
2 Choose to have the attack against yourself, roll another d20 to see if you hit yourself, and if so roll damage, but you can still attack the next melee round.


Guns:
You cannot buy guns in this setting. For those that bring them into the setting, the will be converted to one of the following categories of gun below. Don't look for any rhyme or reason based in the reality of guns for any of these rules. They are purely so that people with guns don't outshine people armed with traditional medieval weapons in a medieval based setting.
(I'm adopting a variation of the Wampus Country gun rules, and liberally copying his language where needed, since I don't know shit about guns in real life---thanks Erik Jensen!)

1) If you're a gun aficionado, that's great, feel free to describe things about your character's weapons as we play. I don't want to hear a bunch of "tut-tut" about weapon realism, though, any more than I'd want you to question why there are goddamn owlbears. The firearm inspirations are a mishmash of 18th-19th century just like everything else, so if we have a Kentucky Rifle in the same party as a Colt Dragoon, nobody cares, go kill something together. I don't want repeating rifles, machine guns, automatic weapons, etc. Plus, I don't want to have gun users outweigh sword and bow users in a medieval based setting. Next thing you know, everyone hits Dust before hitting Blood Island to stock up like Neo from the Matrix before he goes to rescue Morpheus.

2) Since we're using LOTFP and implementing no weapon specialization hoo-ha, I'm going to go ahead and say that every class can use firearms. The great equalizer - til you run out of rounds, I suppose.

3) Precise range increments are for bean-counters. Have faith that I will let you know what's in range and what's not, what's just at the edge of your range, etc. Rifles have roughly double the range of shotguns.

Pistol dmg 1d4, 2 shots per round. 1 round per 2 bullets to reload. Two gun wielders are penalized at -2 to each attack.
Rifle dmg 1d8, 1 shot per round. 1 round per 2 bullets to reload.
Shotgun dmg 1d6, 1 shot per round, 1 round per shell to reload.
Double barreled shotgun, 1d4+1 each barrel, 2 rounds to reload both barrels.
Guns, similar to heavy crossbows in LOTFP, ignore 5 points of AC that is not magical in nature---i.e. natural tough skin or armor.
Due to weird energies on Blood Island, if the wielder of a gun rolls a natural 1 for his attack, the gun is jammed for 3 plus 1d4 rounds.
More powerful weapons, like laser guns, howitzers, pulse grenades, and other such things will be heavily nerfed. Please let me know in advance what you have. They likely will magically transformed into something like a bow or a shotgun though, at your choice, during your stay on Blood Island.
The gun rules seem kind of harsh, I know, but to me D&D is a medieval based game. Flailsnails is great, but I've found the presence of guns skews the game into something I don't like as much as traditional medieval weaponry. I could always do the old “guns don't work here” rule, but that wouldn't let people play the characters they enjoy and have developed over these many months of Flailsnails campaigns. At the same time, I want a way to allow for guns, that doesn't make a guy with a sword and bow feel useless. I'm just trying to get it in balance, where gun users don't overpower sword and bow users, no matter how unrealistic the rules sound. If I wanted to play C&D, Cowboys & Dragons, I'd play that game specifically.
Spells:

The Summon spell from LOTFP doesn't exist. Teleport type spells act weirdly.

Note that flying over Blood Island is wildly dangerous for various reasons. Whether its demonic air elementals, razor beaked predator birds, or something else, it usually ends badly for the flier. Even shapeshifting-based flying has dire consequences, it seems. Also, Teleporting seems to be a bit riskier too. You have been forewarned. :)

Other:

Magic items are very rare. There is no market for them, due to their scarcity. No magic stores, or friendly wizard guilds willing to take them off your hands.

Thieves guilds don't exist.

Magic item creation is longer and harder than in the rules. Multiply by two to ten the number of days and the cost, depending on the item, and expect a quest for at least one rare component. Finding grimoirs detailing how to make a certain item makes it much cheaper/less time. Doing it a second time is much cheaper/less time than the first.

Monsters vary within a certain range as to their toughness and abilities. There are no cookie-cutter zombies, for example. Some have more hp than others, some have odd abilities. However, you won't find a 30thlevel zombie, nor a 1st level red dragon. They only fluctuate within a limited bandwidth.

Searching is assumed at the standard movement rates. DM rolls a d6. You find something on a 1. Special searching above and beyond that takes more time, must be described, and may trigger a random monster encounter due to extra time and noise involved.

Protection from/detect good/evil does not exist, as alignments do not exist. These spells become protection/detect others actively hostile to me or mine.

Enemy overview for those coming through Myst Mountain:

Delig:
Huge, ranging from 8-16 feet long. They have one long body section like a worm, with four legs under it, and a long (2'-4') neck with a three eyed head on top. The eyes allow it to see in all directions. Just below the neck is a set of pincers which double as legs for rapid movement. A whiplike tail holds a poisonous stinger, save v poison or die, which quickly loses its efficacy once outside of the body of the thing. Up to three 6-foot-long vinelike tongues extend from its mouth at will, which it uses for feeding, as well as for fine manipulation. Rumor has it that these beasts have some sort of social order, a class/role structure of sorts. No one has ever returned from one of their mountain-top hives to relay the details, however. Their mouth structure leaves them incapable of speaking in any language the human can understand. Apparently their entire body goes into communicating, from their tail movements to their mutable-at-will coloration to their strange humming. The only way they can communicate with any other race is through magic, at which some of their members are proficient.

Hoor:
These brown slugs have the consistency of jelly in their true nature, which they revert to when slain. Nonetheless they are intelligent creatures, and have formed a civilization of sorts deep under the island, extending outwards into the earth under the sea. They ingest earth and rock over a period of time, during which they become harder, more able to withstand blows. Also they can use the rock they've ingested to allow themselves to take the shape of anything they wish. Rumor has it that certain Rock/Gem/Crystal/Metal combinations allow them to take on more exotic shapes with even more abilities. Some say they can join together and make themselves exponentially more than what they were, but at a potential loss of self.

Vali:
A great silver cylinder shaped comet heralded the arrival of the Vali. Within 20 years of its crash into the island, an event seen for hundreds of miles around, the Vali first made themselves known. These sometimes human-like, sometimes-not, monstrosities rule the eastern shore of the island, their lands centered around the “Sacred Lake” from which all Vali are commanded by their Gods, the ones who they say descended from the stars in the silver cylinder comet 1000 years ago, to drink from at least once per month. The Vali consider the water sacred, and the source of their race's strength. It is said that the lake fills the crater where the comet crashed. Most Vali have mutations of a sort that makes them strong in some way. Any born with a weakening mutation are drowned in the lake. Some are born with both physical and mental mutations. The mental mutations allow those so affected to perform miraculous acts, akin to those of the magic-users and Shaman, but which those practitioners insist is neither arcane nor divine in nature. These creatures are very clever, their sometimes hidden mutations make them unpredictable, and therefore they are extremely dangerous.

Hobgoblins:
The hobgoblins, the greatest seafaring race in the northern seas, are the most bitter enemies of the Vikings. They claim that Vikings are the mutated offshoots of the Hobgoblin race, changed by their proximity to the crashing of the comet 1000 years ago. The Vikings do not have written records going back that far, so it is hard to contest that claim with any firm evidence. The Hobgoblin nation covers a large portion of a continent approximately 500 miles from Blood Island. Nonetheless, due to the vast resources, not to mention the hidden artifacts of power, magical or otherwise, to be found on Blood Island, they have a great interest in it. They do not want what they consider to be their inferior mutated bastard progeny, the Vikings, to have any of it. The hobgoblin lands are surrounded on most sides by foes. Only the superior technology and engineering skills, has allowed them to repeatedly beat back their foes. The main walls of their capital city, Gredal, are said to be impregnable. Their noble families live in tall ornately carved towers, overlooking beautiful parks and gardens. Books, learning and ancient lore of any type is highly valued by hobgoblins.

Wild Elves:
Perhaps wild elves as a race are best understood by contrasting them with their cousins, the elves who associate with the vikings. These beings look with scorn upon their “tamed” cousins, those who freely ally themselves with the vikings. Wild elves were captured and made slaves of hundreds of years ago by the vikings. Though they were given their freedom, mostly, they still voluntarily fill the roles their slave ancestors filled for the viking noble families. Now they just do it for a pat on the head, according to the wild elves. It is said this is the reason their god, mother earth herself, denies the highest level of spells to the tamed elves. Indeed, the tamed elves can only cast spells of up to third level. The wild elves value their freedom and independence above all things, and their oral history states that this island was theirs in the ancient past, which they ruled with much magic and might which has been lost to their race.