Thursday, October 14, 2021

Fantastic Medieval Wargame Campaign: OD&D Musings II

Lang, F. (1924). Die Nibelungen.

As I mentioned in my last post, my working approach for when close-up violence breaks out in my OD&D is probably best explained with examples. It varies a bit from what you usually see (at least what I've seen*) so let's talk about mêlée and other related concepts.

*Delving Deeper is pretty much the only clone I've seen that really dives into this level of "what if" when playing OD&D using a ton of bits from CHAINMAIL.

Dore, G. (1879). Orlando Furioso.

Hell yeah! Fighting Capability!

The pulpy nature of OD&D sets it apart from its later descendants. This is very obvious if you make use of CHAINMAIL and/or that sneaky bit in M&T about monsters gaining multiple attacks vs normal people. So, what's do the LBBs have to say about this stat?
Fighting Capability: This is a key to use in conjunction with the CHAINMAIL fantasy
rule, as modified in various places herein. An alternative system will be given
later for those who prefer a different method (Men & Magic p.18).

Key indeed! A figure's FC denotes the number of people that figure fights as in normal combat, followed by the fantastic-type the figure fights as in fantastic combat (if applicable). So-called "normal men" have no fantastic fighting ability.

In normal combat, multiple blows are struck. In fantastic combat, there is usually only one exchange of blows:

  • Capabilities versus "normal men" are simply a matter of allowing one attack throw on the Attack Matrix I.: Men Attacking table for every "man" equivalent, e.g., a character with an FC of 3 Men would attack three times. Figures lacking an FC stat simply have one throw for every hit die unless noted otherwise, with any bonuses being given to only one of their attacks. So a Troll (6+3  HD) would attack "normal men" six times with one of the attacks having a +3 bonus.

  • Capabilities versus "fantastic foes" are simply a matter of using the plain old "alternate combat" system that we always use for OD&D. Make your one attack throw unless noted otherwise and deal damage as normal. 
When it comes to determining what can be treated as "normal" here, I'd suggest avoiding trying to make any hard and fast guidelines. Arneson mentions in The First Fantasy Campaign that:

"The following facts should be borne in mind for most creatures encountered in small groups. That is these represent "Hero" type monsters."

This type of "I know it when I see it" judgment works fine for me! The authors didn't use CHAINMAIL like this at all. Consider what Gygax had to say on this: 

Any PCs are exempt from this even at first level: a "normal man" is ALWAYS 1 HD and cannot advance or gain levels. PCs are all "supernormal" since they can go up levels. Any monster of 1 HD or lower is treated as a "normal man" for purposes of this rule.   
—Gary Gygax, 1973.

This approach basically carried over to the SR FAQ, Swords & Spells, and AD&D until it got transformed into cleave or something. Personally, I find the disconnect between 1 to 2 HD or classed figures here way too drastic. A 9th level fighter can contend with several 1 HD foes such as mercenaries or orcs in each round but a single 1 HD Magic-User demands all their attention? No thanks, bro.

Also, character-types gain more special abilities as they improve in level based on their Fighting Capability:

  • Hero-1. Denotes that the figure can now participate in fantastic combat, albeit with a -1 attack throw adjustment.
  • Hero (Anti-Hero): Denotes that the figure need never check morale and that the morale of any normal-types lead in combat by +1. Further, they are unaffected by fewer than four "normal" hits in a combat encounter.
  • Superhero (Anti-Superhero): Denotes that opponents must check morale when approached or to approaching within 15". They can also detect invisible foes within 3".

  • Wizard: Denotes that opponents must check morale when approached or approaching within 12".

So for example, if a Hero was leading a couple of mercenaries and was throwing down with an Orge there are some tactical choices now at play. The Hero could protect their fellows by engaging in fantastic combat. The Ogre would then have to focus on the Hero or conduct normal combat with the mercenaries, but couldn't do both.

Striking a Foe

N.B.: Rounds are one minute long. An "attack roll" is not one swing, but is used to gauge your effectiveness over the course of the action. A "hit" may not necessarily mean a literal wound is inflicted or blood is even drawn. Melee distance is 10ft and is not static.

In the initial round of melee, the higher weapon class attempts the first blow.

A spearman (WC 8) fighting a swordsman (WC 4) would attack first.

In subsequent rounds, the lower weapon class attempts the first blow.

If the swordsman survived, they would now get the first attempt going forward.

Attacking from the rear, flank, or from above may override this and grant the first blow.

The swordsman fighting from a rampart would strike first, regardless.

Every blow has a counter-blow until figures exhaust their attacks.

A Hero (Lvl. 4 Fighter w/ Fighting Capability of 4 Men) is attacking a Warrior (Lvl. 2 Fighter w/ Fighting Capability of 2 Men). The order of striking would be Warrior, Hero, Warrior, Hero, Hero, Hero.

N.B.: I find that the alternative may be a bit much, i.e., Warrior, Warrior, Hero, Hero, Hero, Hero. Feels too one-sided and against the Chainmail blow/counter-blow spirit found in the M2M rules but ymmv.

Before an opponent strikes, a full parry can be attempted. This subtracts 4 from the attacker's throw, but the character parrying loses their next blow. If the attacker still makes their roll and gets exactly the number needed, the parrying weapon will be broken by a heavier weapon (or merely dashed away if the weapon is magical) and no damage inflicted. If, on the other hand, their opponent misses the defender is allowed a counter-blow if equipped with a lighter weapon.

The Hero deftly parries with the dagger and attacks the Warrior with a riposte!

Before damage is rolled, a shield may be sacrificed to negate a single strike. This only works for conventional attacks--other, specific types of shields might stop magical attacks.

Having been hit with a terrible blow by an Ogre, the Hero's shield is splintered but they are unharmed this round.

So basically some rather minor additions that can spice things up and get folks thinking. But what else?

Dore, G (1886). The Legend of Croquemitaine.

Length, Weight, and Weapon Uses

So we are accounting for weight with parrying and length when it comes to gaining the first strike. That already makes choice rather important in a game where HP is low. What I do next is toss in some weapon uses (100% stolen from Luke Gearing's OD&D and Wolves Upon The Coast btw). I find these rather more intuitive for folks than giving them an array of weapon piercing capabilities or an entry from the M2M table in Chainmail. It gets them thinking about actionable tactics before they even mark off the gold to buy a weapon.

1d6 with dis/advantage b/c it's cool and easy and gives choice without as many "correct" answers

weapons powers ditto

— Luke Gearing on the bird site

A player's reaction once someone tears their shield away with an axe or ruins their plate suit with a mace is usually wanting to try it out themselves. Working as intended.

As pointed out by Luke, these "weapon uses" are just a place to start. Everyone at the table should look beyond them. The goal is to get you thinking about combat as a puzzle and not just taking a spear for reach and a mace for armor busting and calling it a day. I just want to constantly remind players to try solutions and attempt things in combat the same way they deal with less violent problems or puzzles.

So the classic CHAINMAIL weapons through this lens are:

  • Dagger (1). Throw-able. Usable in a grapple situation.
  • Hand-Axe (2). Throw-able. If 4+ damage is dealt, the hand-axe bounces, ‘attacking’ again.
  • Mace (3). Increases AC of those struck by 1 to a maximum of 7. This effect is permanent.
  • Sword (4). Riposte** once.
  • Battle-Axe (5). May sacrifice 3 damage from an attack to attempt a weapon/shield strip. Roll a second attack - if successful, a weapon or shield can be ripped from the grip of the opponent.
  • Morn. Star (6).* Those struck are thrown backward if unable to make a Paralysis Save. Use the damage rolled to determine distance, minus the HD of the creature struck.
  • Flail* (7). Ignores shields.
  • Spear (8). Throw-able. Can be "set" to receive a charge, dealing double or even treble if the force is sufficient.
  • Polearm (9).* There are a broad variety of polearms. Some excel in formation-fighting, others are great hacking weapons. Pick either:
    • Grant a nominated adjacent ally a -2 to incoming attacks.
    • If a 6 is rolled for damage, roll another d6 and add the result. This effect can be triggered multiple times. Those targeting the wielder are at a +1 to-hit.
  • Poleaxe (9).* AC of the target is treated as 7 when attacked.
  • 2-hnd. Sword (10).* Upon a killing blow, the wielder can roll another attack. This effect can be triggered multiple times.
  • Mnt. Lance (11). Inflicts double damage on the charge.
  • Pike (12).* Can fight in multiple ranks.
*denotes weapons requiring two hands.

**Riposte: Attacks against the wielder which score below 7 result in the wielder being able to attempt a counter-attack, resolved normally.

I think this avoids the issues with weapon capabilities that I outlined before and largely accomplishes my goals. It's a setup that rewards choice and experimentation as well as tables working together to actually think about how they use their weapons. Good deal!

That said, I have been tempted by the novelty of table lookups lately...

Dore, G. (1886). The Legend of Croquemitaine.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Fantastic Medieval Wargame Campaign: OD&D Musings I

Back in Chainmail, AC 3 was plate not just "plate mail."

A Medieval Arms Race

Chainmail takes into account aspects like weight and length with weapon class. Much like how armor classes correspond to specific types of armor, weapon classes denote specific kinds of weapons. I use the following:

1. Dagger
2. Hand Axe
3. Mace (including War Pick, War Hammer, etc.)
4. Arming Sword
5. Battle Axe
6. Morn. Star (including Goedendag)
7. Flail (the peasant flail, not the "ball-and-chain" type)
8. Spear
9. Polearm (including Glaive, Fauchard, Partisan, etc.)
9. Halberd (including Bardiche, Voulge, Guisarme-Voulge, Lochaber-Axe, etc.)
10. Long Sword (including Claymore, Zwei., etc.)
11. Mtd. Lance
12. Pike

The lower the WC, the shorter and/or lighter the weapon. The higher the WC, the longer and/or heftier the weapon. In Chainmail, the WC helps determine things such as who can parry who or who gets the advantage of the first attack at various points in a melee. The relative WC also granted the opportunity to strike multiple blows against "slower" weapons (Gygax & Perren, 1975, p.26). Neat!

While the length aspect is easy enough to use in normal OD&D play, the capability of weapons vs armor has a more troubled history... yeah. But it is desirable! 

Chainmail's Man-to-Man table showing the target to kill on a 2d6

Chainmail's table does capture some intuitive things such as long weapons being good against horsemen, a mace being really good against plate, etc. There is some weirdness, however. The two-handed sword is a nuke for some reason. Flails are also extremely effective across the board. Some of the arbitrary decisions show if you squint hard enough and think. According to Gygax (1975) at this time, "the spear was a weapon primarily of barbaric peoples or poor ones" (p.3); and this table reflects this with some notable penalties.

So rather than trying to salvage a conversion of Chainmail's table or the flawed Greyhawk/AD&D approach, I think this presents an opportunity to streamline and build up. Just like how Chainmail's tables represented Gygax's ideas on the reality of medieval combat, I want something to reflect my own opinions.

There's a lot of good reads on my mind and several sources that show their age but are very much in the spirit of OD&D. So, where to begin?

Padded armor w/ helm (AC 7). Goedendag (WC 6) and dagger (WC 1).

Some Considerations for Mêlée Combat

Just to keep the basic premise on the board, armors in OD&D/Chainmail have a "class". Shocking, I know. It abstracts the general ability of that armor to protect its wearer. Having a good AC doesn't mean you're literally harder to hit (it's unfortunate that "hit" and "miss" see such common usage imo), it means your opponent is less likely to be able to land a telling blow, i.e., one that bypasses armor and could kill. In LBB OD&D, this is largely a matter of level. The higher level you are, the easier it is to land a telling blow on a target, regardless of armor, and deal damage. Magical weapons help too. 

And remember, there is no AC bonus due to dexterity or magic yet! AC is entirely decided by armor (for people at least). Modifiers go to the attack roll, such as those from magical armor. So the ability to defeat armor should entirely modify attack rolls if we want to keep d6 only damage.

How Armor Should (Probably) Work

N.B.: I'm assuming average HP for 1 HD and d6 damage rolls here so 1 hit = 1 kill.

AC 9: No Armor. All weapons should be equally scary here. Cutting blows will be nasty as will solid blows with a bludgeon or powerful thrusts. 

AC 7: Padded Armor or Gambeson (i.e. "Leather"). Cutting weapons should be less effective but still able to land a solid cutting blow. Thrusting attacks should be able to more easily bypass this type of protection as should bludgeoning. 

AC 5: Mail (Ringmail or Chainmail). Cutting weapons should be even less effective. Thrusting can deal with this type of protection, but it isn't a guarantee. Bludgeoning is effective. Trying to cut or hack at someone and you'll bludgeon them to death before you cut through.

AC 3: Plate. Blows actually penetrating should be rare. At close range, a heavy crossbow might be able to do and arrow or bolt wounds to the face through a visor could happen. Countered by striking at gaps of mail, blunt force trauma through the armor, or taking them down and getting a precise thrust in. You remembered your war hammer right? Your dagger for the armored wrestling?

+1 AC: Shields. Shields are very important. I'm largely fine with the utility they can offer in melee (an AC bonus or an impromptu bludgeon) but ranged is another matter. Arrows are hard to armor against, but shields can offer quite a bit of protection here. Perhaps they could be treated as softcover à la Chainmail?

"Cover: Soft cover such as brush, woods, waist-high fences, and walls will reduce missile cassualties by one-half (drop all fractions)" (Gygax & Perren, 1975, p.12).

Only causing half hits (i.e., 1-3 damage) could be an interesting way to model this. Especially compared to the later attempt in the 1e DMG via small/medium/large shields and limiting the number of hits they were effective against.

Glaives by Wenedlin Boeheim

Now, what about the weapons?

The big pitfall here is of course painting weapons with broad strokes (much like AD&D 2e did). Not all slashing/bludgeoning/piercing weapons are equal. Surely a wooden club cannot deal with armor like a flanged mace could. A military pick could deal with hard armor better than a spear. 

On the other end of this spectrum, even the "every weapon has a unique vs Armor profile" that CM and Greyhawk/1e used glosses over the fact that weapons generally have multiple uses. With a sword, you could half-sword to treat it like a short thrusting spear, wield it like a hammer with a murder strike, or thrust and slash as normal.

My current working approach is probably best illustrated by showing how I handle things in OD&D. Which is probably deserving of its own post.

So a few open questions for the adventure game folks! 

  1. Do you use any considerations of weapon capability vs armor in your games?
    1. If not, why?
    2. If so, do you find this extra element worth the effort?
  2. Do you factor weapon length at all in your games? Would a spearman have any notable advantage over someone with a shorter weapon?

Viollet-le-Duc (1874).

Wait! Don't forget the Arquebus! 

Arquebus. Cost: expensive, range: 18", enc: 100.

A notable absence in the transition of weapons from Chainmail to OD&D. The arquebus ignores mundane* armor, effectively treating such armored targets as unarmored. They have a range of 18" and fire every other turn in combat. Gunners can move up to one-half of their normal movement and still reload or fire, but if they move more than one-half they may only fire if they have initiative**.

The arquebus is incapable of indirect fire and cover (e.g., trees, walls, rocks, etc.) is quite important. In addition to the usual benefits of cover, half cover or less causes a -4 penalty and over half cover causes a -8 penalty (!).

Firing while rested on strong support (e.g. a wall or fork rest) grants a +4 adjustment.

The discharge of an arquebus (and especially a volley of several such gunners) could be a cause for a morale check.

*The applicability of this to monsters is, of course, left to the Referee's discretion.

**In Chainmail, they may only fire if they "beat their opponent's die roll". Rather than literally rolling off, I take this to mean that moving and firing at once is tough and isn't always an option. If this is too fiddly, just dump this option.

Friday, July 2, 2021

A Fistful of Mechs

Armored Core V by yutori-custom

Wanzers (derived from German wanderpanzer; wander for "walking", and panzer for "armor") are weapons from an older age, discovered buried in the ground. They are refurbished and crudely rebuilt to be used as military weapons. While nowhere near as powerful as their past iterations due to their poor reconstruction, they retain strong offensive and defensive capabilities, making them powerful war machines and highly sought after.

Most stand 5-7 meters tall and are designed for urban combat situations. They are primarily focused on ground-based operations and have limited aerial capabilities, being unable to fly for or maintain height for an extended period of time. They do have heightened mobility on the ground, boosting and gliding along the ground at high speeds.

n.b. The rules already have some opinions on how vehicles work. Per the rules on p.88:

  • "... allow each vehicle to have hit points, movement, AC, ST, and weaponry just like a character, and maybe also special attack or repair options."
  • "The characters engaged in the battle are allowed control over one or several of these things each."
  • "For some things, the characters' stats can be used."

See my post on modern violence for how to handle movement, equipment burden, and weapons. Mechanically speaking, these are piloted dragon stat blocks using modern weapons and the normal combat rules with some added bits and a coat of sci-fi paint.

Adjudicating Wanzers

In addition to the general vehicle rules, keep the following in mind:

Mods. These act like the implants on p. 89. Minor mods can grant the listed bonuses, mod keywords act like very limited groups (i.e. can grant double rolls), and major mods replace an attribute altogether.

Mods complicate the piloting process. Only the most experienced pilots can wield such machines to their full potential. Pilots can only utilize one mod but can accommodate one more at levels 3, 6, and 9. 

Weapons. Equipped on each arm, with two more stored on bay units on the shoulders. Swapping a current weapon with one stored in a shoulder hanger counts as a small action. Some mechs may have heavier or experimental weapons equipped on their back as well. These have their own restrictions.

Keeping in mind that I treat these like dragons, HD 5+ mechs can attack twice, HD 10+ three times, and HD 15+ get four. The last attack must be AV 10 and they have to forsake their move. 

Weight. As mentioned above, wanzer's use the rules for equipment burden and act as if they have a backpack (i.e. 14 slots). They count AC, weapon size, and spare ammo towards their total. 

While they can use two-handed weapons with one arm, they still count as two slots!

Damage Types. All weapons and armor come in three damage type categories: Kinetic (KE), Chemical (CE), and Thermal (TE)

Bullet-based projectiles deal KE damage, Chemical/Explosive type projectiles deal CE damage, and energy weapons deal TE damage. 

If the damage type is an armor weakness (W), it's treated as AC -1. If the damage type is an armor strength (S), it's treated as AC +1.

These can cancel out! If you have TE weakness, but get TE strength from some source, you'd treat it as normal. Neither a strength nor a weakness. 

Critical Damage*. When a Wanzer is reduced to 25% HP, they must make a critical damage roll (d6):

  1. Loss of Footing: pilot must save or the wanzer staggers, giving foes Combat Advantage.
  2. Knocked Unconcious: pilot must save or skip 1d3 rounds.
  3. Weapons Down: the wanzer's weapons are down for 1d3 rounds.
  4. Comms Down: audio/video feed down for 1d3 rounds.
  5. Cockpit Fires: 1d3 rounds of 1d6-1 damage to the pilot.
  6. Malfunction Explosions: 1d6 damage to mech and pilot.

    *Stolen from Ternwillow

    Making Wanzers

    I generally handwave the process but these random tables could help streamline things.

    The main parts of a wanzer are as follows:

    • Head: visual sensors, scanners, CPU equipment, etc.
    • Core: pilot controls, grants HP and ST.
    • Arms: weapons are fixed here.
    • Legs: govern movement type.
    • Generator: powers all other components of the wanzer.
    • Boosters: the thrust system that lets a wanzer boost along the ground or jump in the air.
    • Arm Hangars: store weapons and allow swaps mid-engagement. 
    • Shoulder Unit: an optional utility hard-point.

    Being refurbished and scavenged war machines from a bygones era, you don't exactly get to go shopping for the perfect configuration. You make do with what you have. 

    Roll 1d6 to determine the wanzer type:

        1-2: Light. HD 4-10. AC 4-6. Strengths: KE. Weaknesses: CE & TE.

        3-4: Medium. HD 6-12. AC 5-6. Strengths: KE. Weaknesses: CE & TE. 

        5: Sniper. HD 4-10. AC 4-5. Strengths: CE. Weaknesses: KE & TE.

        6: Heavy. 8-14 HD. AC 7-9. Strengths: TE. Weaknesses: CE.

    Randomly determine Hit Dice and use that to get Hit Points

    The Saving Throw is equal to HD+5. Randomly determine AC as well.

    Determine its leg-type (d6):

        1-3: Biped. Standard. Legs are good for walking when you aren't gliding along.

        4: Reverse Joint. Great jumping ability. Grants CE Strength and TE & KE weakness to Heavy types.

        5: Tetrapod. Can take a turn deploy, gaining Combat Advantage on ranged attacks but can't move.

        6: Tank. +4 HP and +1 AC but twice as slow (i.e. two move actions to travel a short distance).

    Weapons follow the linked rules above for simple weapons. They could be handguns, shotguns, gatling guns, machine guns, howitzers, battle rifles, sniper rifles, laser rifles, laser blades, physical blades, cannons, etc.

    Take four weapons, give them fittingly military tech-sounding names, and work out what they are.

    You may take RLDs (spare ammo) for any weapon, counting each RLD as a minor item.

    Give it a cool call-sign (or steal one from your favorite mecha anime or vidya).

    Roll (d6) for what kind of mod you start with and work with your Ref and fellow players to figure out what it is.

    1-3: Minor Mod; 4-5: Keyword Mod; 6: Major Mod.

    Sample Wanzer - THE HANGED MAN

    From Armored Core V


    HP: 35 (HD: 10)AC: 8 (Strength: TE, Weakness: CE) | ST: 15

    WT: 16 used / 16 total


    • R ARM: UBR-05/R (medium CE rifle, long-range). 1x RLD.
    • L ARM: Tansy RF12 (medium KE rifle, long-range). 1x RLD.
    • R BAY: ULB-13/H (medium TE laser blade, melee).
    • L BAY: USG-11/H (large KE shotgun, short-range).
    • SHLDR: UMM-20/H Surat (medium CE missile, long-range).
    • KT-2R3/Dafeng. Minor. High-powered booster. +2 inventory spaces.
    • Verseau RG-04zz. Minor. Advanced CPU fire-control system. +1 Initiative.
    • Analytical AR enhancements. Keyword for sensory task rolls and other relevant tasks.

    If you can't tell, I've been on a bit of an Armored Core and Front Mission kick over the past few months. I suppose this is just how they finally bleed over into my hobby time.

    Tuesday, June 29, 2021

    Modern Day Violence in Whitehack

    Hard Boiled (1992) dir. John Woo

    I've been running a table through a Whitehack spycraft game set in an unclear time in the late 20th century. This is a far cry from the typical faux-medieval milieu, but only a couple of adjustments have been needed to transition from swords and spears to the semi-automatics and machine guns. Remember, keep it fast and nasty.

    n.b Whitehack 3e has an optional rule section for "modern and futuristic weapons" already. I used this as a base and combined it with some additional considerations, but it works well enough on its own!

    Hard Boiled (1992) dir. John Woo


    During a frantic firefight, the last thing I want is to count the exact distance when the guns come out.

    MV is removed. There are now five broad distance categories: close, short, medium, long, and distant.

    • Close is everything within a couple steps.
    • Short is how far a person can walk in ~10 seconds.
    • Medium is how far a person can run in that ~10 seconds.
    • Long is how far a person can run in a minute.
    • Distant is the distance a person could run in 10 minutes.

    These are relative to people. Just replace "person" with "car" or "speedboat" if you need to scale up.

    In combat, characters can move up to a short distance with a movement action. Two movement actions let characters move up to a medium distance. Moving within a close distance only needs a small action.

    Stolen from Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells

    Hard Boiled (1992) dir. John Woo


    In the vanilla game, equipment burden affects your Movement (MV). We don't have MV so the MV penalties for carrying a ton of junk need adapting. Now, equipment burden affects your ability to act effectively. Strength can still be used to overcome this, however.

    Each character has 10 slots for equipment, but the tenth slot may be occupied by a 5-slot backpack or another suitable container, for a total of 14 usable slots. Having high Strength affects your ability to handle equipment beyond your number of slots. 

    At the end of each time unit* when you are over-encumbered, you need to pass a Strength task roll or rest for one time unit before doing anything else. If you exceed your maximum load by more than one, you need to pass a Strength task roll to start moving at all, and then again every time unit

    The amount you are allowed to exceed your limit by is increased by +1 at Strength 13 and another +1 at Strength 16.

    Stolen from Suldokar's Wake.

    *Here "time unit" simply refers to whether we're dealing with rounds, turns, days, etc.

    Hard Boiled (1992) dir. John Woo


    These John Woo gifs are no coincidence. Be sure to stretch the phrasing of the Strong's cleave ability to include ranged weapons and enemies adjacent to one another!

    Weapons are grouped in large categories for ease of play.

    • Unarmed. 1d3 damage. Punching, kicking, etc.
    • Small. 1d6-1. Brass knuckles, knives, etc.
    • Medium. 1d6. Axes, bats, swords, etc.
    • Large. 1d6+1. Claymores, spears, halberds, etc.
    Ranged weapons are grouped similarly.
    • Small. 1d6-1. Medium range. Revolvers, pistols, etc.
    • Medium. 1d6. Long range. Heavy pistols, semi-auto weapons, crossbows, etc.
    • Large. 1d6+1. Distant range. Rifles, shotguns, machine guns, longbows, etc.
    For ranged weapons, the given range is its standard range. Weapons can be fired one distance category further away at a -4 AV penalty. Longer shots are nigh impossible.

    Small weapons are easy to hide. Large weapons need two hands to wield and are extremely conspicuous. Medium ranged weapons can be used with one hand in a pinch (-2 AV), but often work much better with two.

    n. b. Remember that weapons will have other benefits and drawbacks in different circumstances as well. The Referee should consider these and apply Combat Advantage, penalties, and other adjustments as appropriate (e.g. usable in a grapple, reach, armor-piercing, concealable, loud, etc.). Use common sense and discussion.

    These make most weapons quite easy, but may not properly portray everything!

    E.g. a shotgun could do 1d6+1, but would have a short range. A flamethrower could hit everyone in a cone up to short range for 1d6 if they fail a save. Crossbows can fire every other round. Black powder muskets may fire once every three rounds. Modify to fit whatever you're thinking of.

    Stolen from Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells

    Hard Boiled (1992) dir. John Woo


    Don't stand out in the open in a firefight. Take cover.

    • Cover stops bullets. Characters hiding behind cover cannot be hit by direct fire.

    • Partial Cover is when characters attack from behind cover. -4 AV to hit a target behind partial cover.

    • Concealment hides you from attackers. -2 AV to hit a target behind concealment.

    Armor grants AC as normal, but we're not dealing with chainmail or plate suits.

    • Light. AC 2. Civilian-grade protective armor such as that provided by leathers or layers of heavy cloth.
    • Medium. AC 4. The more obvious type of body armor, like a security-grade tactical outfit or bulletproof vest.
    • Heavy. AC 6. Heavy-duty military-grade tactical body armor; impossible to hide and extremely protective.

    Armor and cover may not always apply during all types of attacks. Use common sense and discussion.

    Some other quick additions that have come up:

    • Explosives deal full damage to everyone in close range and half as much within short range. Those who can dive for cover can save to avoid damage.
    • Incendiaries catch a target on fire unless a save is made; 1d6 damage per round until put out.
    • Let the Strong's cleave ability include ranged weapons and enemies adjacent to one another.
    • Use the 3e rules for Burst and Full Auto for automatic weapons (pp.84-85).
    • Ammo isn't tracked exactly. Use the 3e rules for abstract ammo (pp.84-85).
    • Add the Suppressive Fire special combat option from 3e (pp.84-85).
    • Add the Spray Ability for the Strong to choose from in 3e (pp.84-85).

    Monday, May 10, 2021


    Katsuya Terada

    Running Whitehack like OD&D

    OD&D has been one of my inspirations with how I've been running Whitehack as of late. Being written in the "original tradition", playing 3e like this has been quite fun and easy. Since the game is so open as well, I just use a couple of the tweaks and Referee guidelines below to help get across the feel I'm going for.

    This is a living home for all my tweaks, guidelines, and rules. It will change over time.

    Determination of Abilities

    Generate two stat arrays, rolling 3d6 six times for each.

    Choose one array for the character to use and assign in order. Give the other to Referee to use as they see fit.

    Schrodinger's Character

    The first session for a character is character creation; this session starts with everyone naming their character, assigning a species, and rolling their attributes. Play then proceeds with players filling out aspects of their character when required and after any rolls are made. 

    As they need them, players can select:

    • a basic class and a slot ability
    • an inventory of items equal to 3d6x10sp (see below)
    • 2 groups (+bonus groups for low stats)

    Stolen from NGR

    Starting Gear

    All characters begin with 3d6x10sp worth of "Schrodinger's inventory". This "inventory" can be decided during the first game session as needed. Should a character need a rope to cross a chasm, as long as they have the "inventory" sp left to cover it, then they have luckily happened to have brought along. 

    These items should be mundane and common items, except one special item such as military-grade equipment, luxury items, specialist tools, or highly illegal items.

    Any unused 'equipment' sp just counts as extra coin the character has back home. If a character with 120sp of "inventory" only used 90sp of "Schrodinger's inventory" during the first game session and picked up 20sp of loot, they would have an additional 50sp.

    Stolen from NGR. I'm also assuming a silver standard here with XP-for-silver.

    Affiliation Groups as Alignment

    Alignment is a bigger deal. In Whitehack, Affiliation groups like "Lawful" or "Chaotic" represent allegiance to the warring cosmic powers. Characters without such groups (i.e. most people; these groups are for zealots and champions) simply have no stake in this grand contest.

    Law is order and (at least the pretense of) civility. Chaos is disorder and (at least the pretense of) brutality. They have nothing to do with morality, as "good" and "evil" can be found on all sides of this struggle.

    Just like normal Affiliations, these provide friends, knowledge, language, and enemies. The limited languages from these groups are Lawful and Chaotic. Feel free to come up with more exciting names.


    The classic HALFLING, DWARF, and ELF are present as Species groups.

    There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to the top, i.e., a player wishing to be a Dragon would have to begin as, let us say, a “young” one and progress upwards in the usual manner, steps being predetermined by the campaign referee. 

    - Gygax & Arneson, OD&D Book I: Men & Magic, 1974

    In keeping with the original tradition, the table is encouraged to work together when Rare Classes become available to determine what fantastical Species-as-Class options are available. Almost nothing should be off-limits with the caveat that this type of character is uncommon in the game world.

    Avoid making these mono-cultures. These classes only imply that a certain type of individual is a character in the game world, not that all the members of a species are the same.

    Initiative & the Order of Battle

    In the baseline game, initiative is rolled and combatants take action in descending order. Here we drop it completely.

    Surprise. Allows one round of unanswered actions. If these include attacks they are made with Combat Advantage.

    Intent. Each player describes their intent for the upcoming turn stating whether their character will attack, utter a magick spell, overturn a boiling cauldron, or whatever.

    Initiative. The Referee resolves all actions for the turn in the order they judge to be fair. 

    Initiative may be granted to those firing missiles into advancing foes, those with the advantage of reach (in the first turn), or lighter weapons (in subsequent turns). Magick can be cast successfully in the turn that melee is joined if the caster has initiative; otherwise, the miracle is likely to be interrupted!

    Otherwise, initiative is determined by throwing a d6 per group each round, adjusting for Dexterity.


    Weapons deal d6 damage. They will have other benefits and drawbacks in different circumstances as well (e.g. weapon reach, range, rate of fire, armor-piercing, concealable, loud, etc.). The Referee should consider these and apply Combat Advantage, penalties, and other adjustments as appropriate.

    If you desire more mechanical diversification, allow small and large weapons to re-roll their damage, taking the worst or best result respectively.

    Shields & Other Protection

    Heavy Shields (+2 AC, cost 15) are available to represent tower shields and other similarly bulky shields. 

    Great Helmets (+1 AC, -4 on task rolls to spot things, cost 25) are over-the-top pieces of protection compared to normal helmets. They still allow a re-roll on the crit table.

    Vancian Magic (Optional)

    The optional rules for Traditional Magick and True Miracles* are used (p. 83). A true Vancian air is intended with petty wizards, coveted spells, and an increased focus on scrolls (or an appropriate analog).

    *A small tweak to True Miracles is in play, however. Miracles are rare and coveted ancient spells; the last remnants that haven't been lost to time. There is no limit on how many Wise can know such a miracle at any one time, but they are more akin to "items" looted, stolen, or passed down. The creation of new miracles is a rarity in these times.

    Most Wise characters will start with one of the more commonly known wordings (still a comparative rarity) and acquire more as they adventure.

    These spells are appropriate fodder for Miracle wordings and set scroll effects. When making your own, grandiose and fantastic names are a requirement!

    For those with the appropriate group, a limited ritual language is granted: The Arcane Cypher. A small spell-infused language that allows one the understanding of magical inscriptions, spell formulae, etc.

    Is an evil sorcerer a cleric of a dark god or a magic-user? Such things make little difference here. Whether their miraculous incantations are whispered into their ear by otherworldly beings or gleaned from decades of study, all wrestle with the laws of the universe with their miracles.

    Classic Hirelings, Mercs, and Retainers

    Hirelings and retainers can be brought along to hold torches, carry gear, or fight. You usually get this kind of help through Affiliation Groups. The Referee decides--based on a CHA roll--how many will come, if they require some kind of compensation, and how loyal they are in the face of danger. All such hirelings and retainers are HD 1 Referee characters. 

    Aside from these "normal" types, unusual help can be sought in the form of PLAYER TYPES or MONSTER TYPES. These retainers are charmed, hired, dueled, or otherwise enlisted into service and the number allowed at any one time is limited by Charisma (CHA/3).

    Player Types are retainers who are Strong, Deft, or Wise. They can advance in level and receive XP gained from acquired gold only. Their loyalty isn't a guarantee and should be determined by the Referee based on pay, treatment, and inclination. Only the lowest level player types will seek to become a retainer.

    Monster Types often require some type of incentive. Hostile monsters may need to be pressed into service by coercion with magic or physical subdual.

    n.b. The slotted retainers of the Fortunate aren't subject to the above limitations. The only limit to their number is the number of open slots the Fortunate possesses. They loyally serve and are controlled by the same player, not the Referee. The Fortunate can choose to make one of their retainers suffer a grisly death on behalf of her or anyone else (perhaps shoving the Fortunate out of the way of an attack).*

    *Stolen from NGR

    Katsuya Terada

    Other Miscellaney

    Magic Swords

    All magical blades are intelligent and have an alignment group. Many can communicate, some possess powers they can share with a worthy wielder. They have goals and motivations. They are dangerous and fickling items that can overwhelm a lesser wielder and harm those who are enemies in the great cosmic struggle.

    Magical blades have two stats: Ego and Intelligence with their alignment affiliation as a group next to one of them. In certain situations, the Ego of the blade can be used in a contest to overwhelm and possess a wielder.


    At the Referee's discretion, monsters may be subject to bonus damage if they are notably large, strong, deadly, or some combination of the three.

    1. Most monsters deal 1-6 damage.
    2. Notably strong monsters deal 2-7 damage.
    3. Inhumanly strong or large monsters, such as ogres, deal 3-8 damage.
    4. Supernaturally strong or giant monsters, such as balrogs or giants, deal 2-12 damage.
    5. Impossibly strong or massive monsters, such as titans or leviathans, deal 3-18 damage.
    n.b. High HD monsters get additional attacks. If a monster is using multiple attacks, it should do 1d6 damage for each. The danger is represented by the additional attacks. If it uses a single attack, use the above scale. So for example, a HD 10 cyclops could smash someone for 2d6 or swipe and make its three attacks for 1d6.

    Some entities can have Supernatural HP. They are only affected by attacks that deal 6 or more damage. A successful attack that beats this threshold removes a single HD for every 6 damage dealt. A simple implementation for such foes is that Supernatural HP = HD.

    Dragons' breath attack can be used 3/day for most dragons. The most common effect is dealing damage equal to their current HP in an area attack with a Save allowed for half damage.


    Poison has a potency rating the same as the HD of the creature that it came from. If the poison is rated higher than your level, then you save vs. poison or die. If it is equal to or lower than your level, save or take damage for a number of rounds equal to its rating (unless an antidote or cureall gets to you first).

    If the poison has some effect other than or instead of damage (like makes you hallucinate, or vomit, or fall unconscious) then that last for a number of rounds/turns equal to the HD if it’s greater than your level, or half HD if it’s under your level.

    Suitable groups could allow for resistance for these saving throws (i.e. assassin vocation).

    Stolen from Sean McCoy. Check it out for more ideas on poison.


    Big influences from Luke Gearing, Simon Bull's Delving DeeperPhilotomy's Musings, and Zzarchov Kowolski's NGR.

    Monday, April 5, 2021

    The State of the Game - April 2021

    1978 Ken Barr cover to H. Rider Haggard’s The Wanderer’s Necklace

    It has been a busy month and full of games. I figured I'd babble a bit about how they are going.

    Sunday, February 28, 2021

    Giant Robots for the Vampires of the Gothic Frontier

    Escaflowne: The Movie (2000) dir. Kazuki Akane

    Whitehack 3e just dropped and it has all kinds of goodies to take advantage of for my futuristic gothic western campaign. One of the main things I want to get sorted is the titular Dragoon. These are terrible creations of the vampiric Nobles. Giant, bio-organic suits of armor powered by a mixture of occult magicks and inhuman sciences. They were lost long ago but around the time my campaign is taking place, they are slowly being unearthed and brought out of the murky depths of legend and myth.

    Being made by the occult science of the Nobles, it would only make sense that these things are gnarly. Their armor is scales of bone and thick scabbed skin, their sensors are organic clusters of eyes or tongues that flick and taste the air, and their minds are full of sin and rage. To pilot one is to be pierced by organic tubes and feeders that latch onto your veins, bones, and mind. Rather than think of them as mere vehicles you pilot, they are better thought of as beasts fused with tier pilot and 'ridden' into battle.