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.

1 comment:

  1. Seems solid. The only thing I would change would be, name your character and THEN roll attributes. Just so I don't wind up with a character called Whisp that has enormous strength.