Tuesday, March 28, 2017

5e vs Lotfp: Ability Scores

I first experienced Dungeons and Dragons when I was 18 and that was way back in 2009. I played 3.5 with a group of strangers, most of which were double my age, and the experience was awkward. Eventually I stopped playing as college loomed around the corner.

Skip ahead a few years to 2014. 5th edition was just released and everyone at my local game shop was riding the hype train. I eventually joined a group, got sucked into the referee role and have been riding that wave ever since.

Skip ahead further. I meet a grognard that wondered into the comic shop I was running games at and I'm introduced into the OSR. We become friends, he introduces me to Lamentations of the Flame Princess and I'm convinced it's the best thing ever.

5th edition gets shelved and LotFP becomes the game I've run the most in the past years.

However lately I've been thinking that there's not that big of a difference between 5th edition and a OSR clone like LotFP. This post's goal is to compare and contrast 5e with LotFP and hopefully prove that the two aren't that different mechanically.

So let's get started!

Ability Scores
Probably one of the biggest differences between the two games.

Of course each game has the traditional six scores: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. I'm going to ignore the methods for generating these scores since that's the first thing to get houseruled most of the time.

LotFP makes an effort to note that the player determines a character's judgement, wits, and personality. Not the score itself. This is interesting because it goes against the "play with your character sheet" style.
Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution effect combat directly, providing more damage, health, and better initiative.
Intelligence and Wisdom effect magic and non-magic saving throws respectively. They also effect magic busywork for Magic-Users and Clerics respectively.
Meanwhile Charisma effects hiring retainers.
The ceiling is 18 in lotfp, which results in a max modifier of +3.

5e's ability scores take a more significant approach.
First of all the ceiling is 20 (30 if magically aided) which results in a max modifier of +5 (+10).
Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution still do what they do best—increase damage, health, and initiative.
Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom (the so called mental ability scores) are much more significant to magic-user classes, providing extra spells, higher DCs, and higher attack bonuses.
5th edition claims score does effect character. "Your Character's Abilities (pg. 14 phb) provides a list comparing characteristics of low scores with high scores.

Overall there's not a huge difference between functionality here. The physical ability scores are almost identical between the two games. The mental scores have the same goal of aiding magic-using classes, but accomplish it in different ways. LotFP cuts down on time and cost for magic busywork while 5e makes casters more powerful.

The biggest difference between the two is how actual ability scores' modifiers are determined. Lotfp keeps it minimal (if not nonexistent) while 5e doesn't really care if a character is walking around with a +5. I certainly don't think 5e reaches "bloated" levels with its modifiers.

Ability Scores seem like an afterthought in LotFP while they seem to be the crux of 5e's system. Most importantly it effects skills, which encourages a "roll the die to solve all your problems" style of play, which isn't necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. Some players just want to sit down and roll funky polyhedrons. They don't want to have to strategize and roleplay all the time. (I've certainly had my off days.) So why not just let the dice decide?

Ultimately, ability scores in LotFP and 5e aren't that different in gameplay. But the method with which modifiers are determined say a lot of each game. LotFP seems to care less about ability scores, while 5e relies on them significantly in gameplay.

Two Worlds

Just a quick post to note two settings that are my current pet projects. The first is geared towards my OSR games while the second is more of a thought experiment asking the question "What would home look like 100 years after the Apocalypse?" It'll also be the setting of my Apocalypse World games, if I can get that going.

Remember that episode of Star Trek were Kirk and crew beam down to a world filled with mobsters waging a never ending gang war? Inisfal is like that except "The Book" is Peter Berresford Ellis's "Celtic Myths and Legends."

In this case the Iotians don't model their own culture after the book. Instead they seed some rockball with life and sprinkle it with all that Celtic awesomery. The result is a little off though. After all we are dealing with a civilization so advanced that our culture is as alien to them as their culture is alien to us.

Robots roam freely with fairies. Kings' guards shoot lasers while their soldiers clash swords. Space stations orbit dragon-filled skies, etc, etc. The world is peppered with sci-fi experiment and fantasy wonders.

Weird Texas
Everyone thinks about creating a post apocalyptic wasteland of their home state, right? Well Weird Texas is just that.

In the year 2XXX what's left of civilization clings to life in shitty hovels carved out of ancient super stores, hospitals, and other big buildings.

Humankind as we know it is extinct. What remains are weird mutants warped by the radioactive/magical energy that destroyed the world. Not many survive that remember how everything went to shit. Those who do are old and disillusioned like a kid after his first dental surgery.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Card People of Casin

Casinites live in tribes of exactly 52 members called Decks. Decks are further divided into 4 suits, which are lead by a king, queen, and jack, called royals. The rest of the members are refereed to as pips 2, 3, etc. The only exception is pip 1, which is refereed to as the ace.

Casinites of different suits show a general animosity towards one another but tolerate each other as equals for the survival of the deck as a whole. They absolutely can't stand Casinites of another deck and will actively try to kill them, especially if they are of the same suit or rank.

Royals lead the individual suits with kings having the most authority followed by queens and jacks. Royals gather in a council of twelve to lead the deck. All pips are equal and serve the royals, except for the aces. Aces are considered Übermensch figures that are above the control of the royals. They are celebrated as heroes and are allowed to do as they wish. However they tend to support the deck whole-heartedly and defend it with their lives.

Occasionally a Casinite known as a Joker is born. Jokers masquerade as other suits and ranks with the goal of sowing chaos among the deck. A Joker, if discovered, will be kept alive and tortured endlessly until a new Casinite is born to take his place.

When a previous Casinite dies another is born. The newborn inherits the deceased's rank and suit, which is painfully tattooed in the fashion of Jem and the Holograms, Ziggy Stardust, or Kiss.

The number of members never exceeds or precedes 52. This constant appears to be entirely coincidental to scholars as Casinite show pregnancy patterns and life spans identical to humans.

Personality wise Casinites show little emotion. Their concerns are mostly of an empirical nature. Exact measurements, weight, and distance are important to a Casinite but other matters are paltry. They know the exact amount of flour needed to bake a cake but care nothing for its taste. As a result Casinites are quite droll in conversation.

Ability Score Increase: +1 to rank random abilities. If Intelligence or Charisma are rolled, -1 to those instead.

You know the right number for anything. You know how long/wide that hallway is regardless of your pace. You know the exact number of arrows in that archer's quiver. You know how many hell mushrooms are needed to make the fabled satan elixir of Mo'gadesh. You don't know from which this knowledge springs but you know it regardless.

You're wont to assign rank and suit to everyone you meet. If they're of the same suit, you treat them normally. If not, or they share your rank, you don't like them but tolerate them. If they're the same rank and suit as you, you want to kill them as soon as possible. If they're a royal or ace you will serve them with no questions. God help them if they're a joker.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Late Introduction

Like the title says, this blog will be a "Journey into The Weird." What exactly does that mean? I'm not exactly sure. All I know is when I see great art like that of Yuri Shwedoff's White Castle (Featured in the title) or Dragons  I must give it context. Sure it could be Post-Apocalyptic. The figures in these works of art could be no more that apocalypse babies ignorant of the times before the world sucked. That's cool in it's own right but the voice inside my head tells me the world these figures live in is more than apocalyptic. It tells me their world is magical. Not lethargical. It's thriving. Not surviving. It's cool. Not droll.

I think Weird as a genre has a lot of definitions and non-definitions. But at the heart of the mater Weird invokes the feeling of its namesake. That almost-terror-but-not feeling of cognitive dissonance. Weird worlds don't make sense. They just are and it's us who have to suffer through their illogic and tomfoolery, not to fix them but to thrive in them. With that said, this DM thinks nothing invokes that feeling better than crossing the streams and throwing in a little horror to top it off. Lasers and broadswords? Check. Horrors unfit for mankind? Double check!

Admittedly, I'm mostly new to the weird genre. Most of my inspiration to date has come from History and Mythology. If the ages themselves aren't indicative of how those two modes of story have withstood the test of time, just look at movies that have come out the last 25 years. Hell that movie were George Clooney runs from the cops with two goons is based of the Illiad! Anyway, because I rely on history and mythology so much my games have that "been there done that" feeling. But hey, if everyone is having fun who cares, right? Regardless I want to follow the footsteps of cool dudes like Arnold K or Zak S to expand my horizons into something new that hasn't been tried and tested by the flow of time. I want to get in there, get my hands dirty, and shock the world (or just my players, at least.)

I definitely follow the philosophy of DIY RPG design and have learned to not favor a particular game system in favor for running a system that I enjoy and that I think others will enjoy. The current craft of my games are a hack of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and Labyrinth Lord with OSRIC and to some extent 5th edition D&D. What exactly does all that look like crammed together? I'm not sure I can explain it in detail but it keeps my Sundays exciting. In other words take this blog to be system neutral or at the very least heavily influenced by the OSR.

Bottom line is I wanted a blog like the cool internet people, if not to motivate me then to reach out to the community. Will my journey out of the stable and boring prove successful? (If i haven't said it enough yet) I don't know but I think it's worth a shot!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The God Template

Recently I purged this blog of all posts. I did this because I felt like the majority of the posts were nothing more than half-ideas that weren't of use to anybody but myself. So I've decided to go through all of my previous posts and refine them for presentation.

With that said, here's the first of those posts—a template for god's and deities.

In my home campaign I got tired of my cleric character's players ignoring their deity. Half the time they couldn't even remember their god's name, let alone what his role was in the universe.

Clerics are paragons of divinity after all. Not just healing machines! So I created a template that I made my players fill out to incentivize fleshing out their god with small mechanical boons.

Here it is in its entirety:

Name: Simple enough. The god's name has no mechanical effects but it forces the player to write it down and (hopefully) remember it.

Alignment: Gods can be lawful, chaotic, or neutral. Lawful gods usually serve a role in the universe's continuation while chaotic gods want to return it to the void from where it sprung. Neutral gods can serve either roll but they are usually concerned with domestic affairs such as growing crops, raising cattle, and creating rain.

Realm: Each god has realm that he is responsible for. This realm could be as general as "fire" or as specific as "the hearth". A god's realm provides a theme that serves as a foundation for a cleric's powers.

Weapons: A god claims d3+1 weapons to be blessed by his decree. These weapons have to be specific. (I.e "longswords" or "shortswords. Not "swords".) A cleric receives a +1 bonus to his attack and damage rolls when using his god's chosen weapon(s).

Spells: A god will bestow one of his clerics with 10 spells over that clerics lifetime. A cleric learns two first level spells at level two, two second level spells at level four, two third level spells at level six, and etc. These spells are always considered to be prepared by the cleric but don't count towards the clerics prepared spells for the day. These spells should match the god's theme and be explainable though lore.


Morga'a, The All Seeing Eye
Alignment: Neutral
Realm: Knowledge
Weapons: Spear, dagger, and darts
Spells: Lvl2) Bookspeak, Identify. Lvl4) Augury, Locate Object. Lvl6) Clairvoyance, Speak With Dead. Lvl8) Divination, Wizard Eye. Lvl10) Contact Outer Sphere, Feeblemind.

Morga'a is the all seeing eye that floats eternally inside the infinite tower, recording all knowledge throughout the universe inside an infinite number of tomes with its infinite tentacles.

Saturday, March 11, 2017


In 5e D&D fighter's have a subtype that get these cool sounding things called maneuver dice. They're actually d8s that let fighters do stunts. Unfortunately they are little more than vehicles for bonus damage in that system. So in OSR fashion I thought I would see what other places I could take maneuver dice and make them a little more interesting.

First of all, they're called stunt die. Maneuver is a laborious word and it sounds boring after the umpteenth uttering. Stunt is way simpler and rolls of the tongue like a machine gun. (stunt! stunt! stunt! stunt!).

Next every class has a single stunt die. This should probably be a d8 for fighty classes (i.e fighters), a d6 for not-so-fighty-but-still-fighty classes (i.e. specialists, clerics), and a d4 for not-remotely-fighty classes (i.e wizards).

The maneuver die can be used when attempting stunts. You roll the die alongside your attack and if you hit and the stunt die meets or beats a TN, determined by your referee, your stunt happens! Don't worry if you miss because if you do your stunt die goes up a level (i.e d8>d10>d12> ...). It also goes up a level if you land a crit or someone fumbles against you. but beware! Your stunt die levels down if you fumble, are hit by a crit or a stunt.

The increasing-decreasing levels encourages sides to compete for the upper hand. Eventually PCs and monsters alike will be flying around kicking like they're in an Ang Lee film just so the other side doesn't style on them.

Here's an example of the mechanic in action. Fangrot the Fighter really hates the look in that orc's eyes, so he decides he wants to pluck one out with his trusty dagger. He tells the ref. The ref thinks gouging someone's eye out should be fairly difficult so he assigns a TN of 6. Luckily Fangrot has been pretty showboaty this combat and has leveled his stunt die up to a d10. He rolls his attack...and hits! He rolls his maneuver die...and it's a 7! Fangrot holds the orcs eye in between his thumb and forefinger as he mocks the creature's painful screams.

For those refs concerned about which TN is suitable for which stunt, most of the time 4 is acceptable for simple actions. These are usually the "I want to disarm X" or "I attempt to shatter his shield" type actions. Add 1 or 2 to the TN for each factor you think makes it harder (i.e. X is wearing a weapon chain or the shield is adamantium). If you want to be cheeky make it harder every time your players say "and" because usually stunts with "and" thrown into the mix are more complex and therefore more difficult.

You could also tack on bonuses to the stunts die's result, be it bonus damage or dismemberment.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Kyp yt sympl

Lately I've been working evening at work and that means long periods of downtime. To fill the void of my boredom I've been reading.

Right now I am a fourth of the way through L.E. Modesitt Jr's Lady-Protector. It's definitely worth the read. I'm impressed that Mr. Modesitt can make such simple character interactions as conversation dramatic and tense. In fact so far most of the book has been conversations as the main character scrambles to reestablish order.

My only complaint would have to be the names of most of the characters. Just to give you an idea, here's a spoiler free list from the book:


That's a lot of Ys. In fact out of that list alone 80% of the names have Ys! Not to mention this is just half of the actual list. There's 12 more characters with names just like these. Mr. Modesitt is definitely taking liberties with the "sometimes Y" rule.

This pops up a lot in fiction. Xs, Ys, Ws, and Zs are less frequent in English and therefore appear foreign, cool and edgy. I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with this practice but I do think it would add a lot more substance and depth to the fantasy world if this naming convention wasn't so inconsistent.

Because I wasn't able to find a pronunciation guide in the book. (If anyone knows of one, please send it my way!) I've just done whatever I've wanted to these darn Ys. For example, I've gotten used to pronouncing the character Areyst's name as "arrest". I use an oo sound in the last syllable of Joramyl's name and the Y is and ee for me in Garyk's name! This is what I was talking about when I meant inconsistency.

It would be so much cooler (for me anyway) if the Y actually represented an interesting sound other than whatever I deem it to be. That way would be so much easier for me to get engrossed in the world and by association the characters.

Regardless Lady-Protector is a good read and you should definitely pick it up. How do you handle naming conventions? Do you borrow from real world languages or make things up as you go? Or do something else completely different?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

[Weird Wayfarers] The Puppetress

You find yourself in a bright busy bazaar. The crowds quickly pass you by as you scan the stalls and shops for that which you seek. You see a myriad of wondrous wares but none of them are what you truly desire. With hesitation, you go deeper into the bazaar—into its winding alleyways and tight squares.

As you penetrate further the wares become even more foreign and odd. But still none are what you seek. As you delve deeper, the brightness of the bazaar gives way to seedy shadows and the cackling of the crowd slowly fades away. Soon you are engulfed in silence and twilight.

After what felt like an eternity of searching, something familiar catches your eye. You stride over to a small wooden house bathed in a small beam of sunlight. It's half demolished like every other structure in this alleyway maze, but that's not what caught your eye. It was the blue and gold noren hanging from the doorway—the ones with the dancing demons on them.

From the other side of the noren you can hear the sound of wood being carved. It causes your heart to skip a beat. You've traveled all this way but you haven't prepared yourself for what you've been told lies beyond the noren. It's too late to turn back now. You charge through the doorway and that is when you see her.

The Puppetress is a reuniter of lost souls. She uses her skill to craft human puppets and her magic to imbue them with the soul of a deceased. This makes her popular with widows, next of kin, and all of us left behind.

The process of crafting a puppet takes d4+2 weeks for the puppetress. (The visage must be exact for the magic to work!). She charges 4d6x100sp for this process and to cast Imbue Soul.

The Puppetress is a 9th level magic-user. She knows 1d8, 1d6, 1d6, and 1d4 spells of first, second, third, and fourth levels respectively. Her only fifth level spell is Imbue Soul.

Imbue Soul
Magic-User Level 5
Duration: Instantaneous
Range: 0
This spell snatches a fragment of the soul from beyond and places it in a mortal vessel, be a puppet, statue, or bowl of soup. However, the spell rends the soul, leaving the vessel...not quite right.

The vessel will talk, feel, and act as its soul did when it was inside its living vessel. But it will be marred by bouts of seizures, demonic intrusions, etc. As a result the vessel will have one half of the HD, abilities, and skills that it had in life.

The caster of this spell must possess an article that belonged to the soul in life. This spell must be cast daily on that article for no less than d4 weeks. This allows the caster to meditate and locate the soul in the afterlife. Afterwards the soul may be retrieved and placed in its new vessel.

An Alchemist Class for Lamentations and Other B/X Clones

I have to admit that the inspiration for this class is largely not my own and came from an entry in Dragon Magazine #2. I simply fine-tuned the mechanics from OD&D to lotfp/basic.

Bubbling brews, explosive extracts, and catastrophic concoctions. These are the creations of the alchemists.

Alchemists are steeped in the mysticism of their age while utilizing a form of rudimentary science. They're goals aren't to understand the world but to bend it to their will. They desire a means to convert base metals into gold, to cure any disease, and to defeat death itself. All of which seem like impossible tasks. But for Alchemists it's not a matter of if they will accomplish such feats, its a matter of when.

Despite all logic alchemists are capable of throwing together an assortment of mundane materials (represented by coin) to produce otherworldly concoctions, mostly in the form of potions. However they are capable of crafting much more than liquids. Bombs, fire, pills, and more is at the alchemists' finger tips.

Alchemists have the hit dice, experience track, and saving throws of a Specialist/Thief/Rogue. After all alchemists are simply ordinary people with a deep specialization in the craft of alchemy.

Poisons: Alchemists can brew poisons of a strength level equal to their HD or lower. Crafting a poison costs 50sp per strength level and takes a whole day.

Sedatives: Sedatives function as poisons but if the poisoned creature fails their saving throw they fall unconscious for d4 hours instead of dieing horribly. Another key difference is that they cost 100sp per strength level to craft but still only take a day to make.

Bombs/Fire/Acid: These defensive implements deal d6 damage per strength level. They have a range of 10'/20'/30' and a blast/splash radius of 5 feet. Alchemists add their intelligence modifier to attack and damage rolls with their bombs. (This represents their fine-tuning.) Creatures caught in the radius take minimum damage and can save for half damage. Lastly, bombs cost 100sp per strength level and take a whole day to craft.

Potions: Potions cost 200sp per strength level to make and have a duration of d4+strength level. The number of potions alchemists can make in a day depends on the potions per day chart. (See Potions per day below.) 

First Level Stuff: From the onset of their journey, alchemists know three random potions from the level one potions list. When alchemists gain a level they learn a new random potion that they are capable of crafting.

Potions per day: Alchemists' potion per day chart is equivalent to a clerics spells per level chart minus seventh level entries.

Potion List

Level One
1. Heroism: As the Heroism spell
2. Giant Strength: The imbiber becomes as strong as a giant, dealing double weapon damage, and gains the ability to throw boulder-like objects (3d6 damage).
3. Animal Control: The imbiber gains the ability to relate to, understand, and manipulate the emotions of animals of one type. Animal types include Avian, Fish, Mammal, Amphibian, and Reptile.
4. Water Breathing: as the Water Breathing spell.
5. Healing: The imbiber regains 1d6+1 hit points. It also cures paralysis.
6. Purification Powder (10): When sprinkled on spoiled rations or water makes them fit to consume. Will not neutralize poison. Serves 10.
7. Flash Pellets (5): A small pellet which explodes on hard contact. Anyone in eyeshot must save vs Paralyzation or be blinded.
8. Dust of Sneezing (10): If thrown at the face, this dust causes a violent fit of sneezing, inflicting a -4 penalty, if the victim fails a save vs Poison.
9. Oil of Slipperiness: Any creature or object coated in this oil can't be restrained or grabbed. If a floor is coated any individual standing, walking, or running on the floor will fall unless they save vs Paralyzation.
10. Tanglefoot Pills (2): A small synthetic fungoid which rapidly expands to fill a 10'x10' area with rubbery tentacles. It has 9+strength level hit points and an AC of 15.

Level Two
1. Speed: As the Haste spell.
2. Levitation: As the Levitate spell.
3. Growth: The imbiber doubles in size and deals double damage.
4. Diminution: The imbiber shrinks to 6 inches tall.
5. Human Control: The imbiber gains a one-time use of the Charm Person spell for the duration.
6. Plant Control: The imbiber is able to control plants and plant-like creatures within an area of 20 feet squared, to a distance of 90 feet. Plants and plant-like creatures can obey commands to the best of their capacity. For instance, vines can be controlled to wrap around targets, and intelligent plants can be given orders. However, intelligent plant beings receive a saving throw versus magic.
7. Dust of Appearance (10): This fine powder appears to be a very fine, very light metallic dust. A single handful of this substance flung into the air coats all objects within a 10' radius, making them visible even if they are invisible. Makes 10.
8. Dust of Paralyzation (10): Similar to the Dust of Appearance, but creatures coated in the dust must make a save or be paralyzed.

Level Three
1. Superheroism: As the Heroism spell but the duration is doubled.
2. Polymporh: As the Polymorph Self spell. The type of creature turned into is specified when the potion is crafted.
3. Fire Resistance: The imbiber is impervious to all forms of ordinary flame. Damage caused by magical flame is reduced by -2 per damage die and if a saving throw is required the imbiber makes his save at +2.
4. Extra-Healing: The imbiber regains 3d6+3 hit points. Unlike a Healing potion, this potion can be imbibed on three separate but equal occasions to regain 1d6+1 hit points.
5. Fly: As the Fly spell.
6. Clairvoyance: As the Clairvoyance spell but the imbiber cannot hear.
7. Clairaudience: As the Clairvoyance spell but the imbiber cannot see.
8. Dust of Sneezing and Choking (15): As the Dust of Sneezing but if the victim fails their save they will die when the duration is over.

Level Four
1. Invulnerability: The imbiber gains +2 to his armor class and all saves for the duration.
2. Undead Control: As the Mass Charm Person spell but it only effects undead creatures.
3. Giant Control: As the Charm Person spell but it only effects Giants.
4. Immunization from Lycanthropes: Protects the imbiber from contracting lycanthropy for one month. There is a 1-in-100 chance he will contract the disease from this potion.
5. Invisibility: As the Invisibility spell.
6. Homunculi Creation: As the Find Familiar spell.

Level Five
1. Dragon Control: As the Charm Person spell but it only effects dragons.
2. Gaseous Form: As the Gaseous Form spell.
3. Treasure Finding: The imbiber can sense any treasure within 240 feet containing valuable metals or gems.
4. Dust of Disappearance (20): As the Dust of Appearance except those covered by this dust turn invisible.
5. Oil of Etherealness: As the Oil of Slipperiness but anyone coated in this oil turns invisible and can pass through non-ethereal objects.
6. Cloning Culture: As the Clone spell.

Level Six
1. Longevity: The imbiber is made 1d12 years younger.
2. Cure Disease: As the Cure Disease Spell.
3. Regeneration: The imbiber of this potion regenerates 1 hp per round for an entire day regardless of the potion's strength level. Also this potion functions as a Resurrection spell if applied to a corpse. Additionally it can regenerate lost limbs if applied to an inactive character over a two week period.
4. Mind Dump: The imbiber is immune to psionic location or attack.

Research and Poison
I've left mechanics for poison and research absent on purpose because in my experience the system for either depends on the referee in question.

I personally use the poison rules from Dragon Magazine #2 in my games.

As for research I use a modified version of Last Gasp's research rules.