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)
  • relationships with other PCs

Stolen from NGR

Starting Gear

All characters begin with 3d6x10 sp 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. 

All of these items should be mundane and common items, with the exception of 1 special item such as military-grade equipment, luxury items, specialist tools, or highly illegal items.

Any unused 'equipment' sp here 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

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. For those wanting a more human-centric setting, these three options can be made into Rare Species-as-Class options (see below).

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.

Halfling Species-as-Class


Dwarf Species-as-Class


Elf Species-as-Class


Classic Hirelings, Mercs, and Retainers

In the baseline game, hirelings and retainers are HD 1 and come from Affiliation groups. The Referee decides how many, required compensation, and loyalty. Only Fortunate characters can have retainers that benefit from XP and can increase in power (p. 82).

Aside from these HD 1 normal-types as hirelings and mercs, unusual help including monsters and classed-types can be sought. These retainers are charmed, hired, or otherwise enlisted into service and the number allowed is limited to a character's CHA divided by 3. 

Classed retainers 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. This loyalty should also factor into any morale checks or decisions when notable circumstances arise.

Monstrous retainers may or may not be able to increase in power, but many have other abilities. 

  • HIRELINGS & MERCS: no class, usually HD 1, usually come from Affiliations
  • RETAINERS: classed-types or monsters

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's Bard class


Weapons are defined by their size, workmanship, and whether they are melee or ranged. All weapons deal 1d6 damage. They 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. weapon reach, armor-piercing, concealable, etc.).

  • Melee, small. Cost 2, weight 0.5.
  • Melee. medium. Cost 8, weight 1.
  • Melee, large. Cost 25, weight 2.
  • Ranged, small. Cost 3, weight 0.5
  • Ranged, medium. Cost 15, weight 1.
  • Ranged, large. Cost 50, weight 2.
Small weapons re-roll their damage and take the worse result. Large weapons re-roll their damage and take the better result. Anything else is Medium.

E.g. Rocks, fists, daggers, and slings are considered small. Polearms, longbows, and greatswords are considered large.

Cheap weapons are unable to score critical hits. Quality weapons do not suffer fumbles. Natural weapons can neither crit nor fumble. Anything else is Standard. Cheap weapons are priced in copper, Standard in silver, and Quality in gold.

E.g. Clubs, staves, slings, and thrown rocks are cheap. Magical weapons, fine swords, and composite bows are considered quality. Bows, axes, spears, and maces are standard. Natural weapons are teeth, claws, horns, fists, or any other part of a being.

Missile weapons have Range 50 for Small, 100, for Medium, and 150 for Large. They require ammunition specific to the weapon. Thrown weapons have Range 15.

Stolen from Zzarchov's Obligatory Sample Rules

Shields & Other Protection

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

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

Great Helmets (+1 AC, -3 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.


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 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.

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 put 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.


Monsters may be subject to bonus damage if they notable large, strong, deadly, or some combination of the three.

  1. Most monsters deal 1-6 damage or damage as weapon.
  2. Notably strong monsters deal 2-7 damage or damage as weapon +1.
  3. Inhumanly strong or large monsters, such as ogres, deal 3-8 damage or damage as weapon +2.
  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.
Not all attacks from the same monster need to do the same amount of damage. For example, the leviathan's tentacle might try and smash someone for 2d6 damage, but any unfortunate that faces its serrated maw could risk 3d6 or more damage! Go with your gut.

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 is a keyword and the dragon must pay a few HP to use. The most common effect is dealing damage equal to their current HP in an area 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 then you 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.


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

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