Tag Archives: Swords & Wizardry

The Specialized Barbarian

Those of us who pre-ordered Crypts & Things are getting our hard copies and it’s available for public consumption over at Lulu and Drivethrurpg. And like I said before I gots some ideas for some tweaks and the first thing I’m going to hit are classes. The fighter specializations originally from Akratic Wizardry‘s Sword & Sorcery rules are pretty neat but why should fighters have all the fun. As my first shot, here’s the Barbarian:
Barbarians gain one specialization at 1st, 4th, 8th and 12th levels. Some specializations may be taken more than once and is noted in that specialization.
Weapon Master: As the Fighter specialization but Barbarians may take this only once.
Berserker: As the Fighter specialization.
New Specializations
“Barbarian” Armor: Be it a loin cloth and bracers or a chain mail bikini, somehow the Barbarian avoids damage. When wearing no or the equivalent of leather armor, the Barbarian gains gains a bonus to his AC based on the sum of his CHA and WIS scores:
Less than 20: No adjustment
21 to 27: AC improves by 1
28 to 35: AC improves by 2
36: AC improves by 3
The Barbarian may take this specialization multiple times. After the first time, his AC is improved by 1 when wearing “Barbarian Armor”.
Beastmaster: The Barbarian can communicate with normal animals. Instead of normal henchmen, the Barbarian attracts a number of animal companions.
Die Hard: The Barbarian gains +1 bonus to his Saving Throw to stay conscious when he starts taking Constitution damage in combat. The Barbarian may take this specialization more than once.
Horse Lord: The Barbarian was born in the saddle. He gains +3 bonus to riding rolls. Additionally, he starts the game with a quality mount (Maximum HP and unusually intelligent).
Tough: The Barbarian gains 3 HP. This specialization may be taken more than once.
And there you go. The Barbarian. Don’t worry, I got plans for the Thief and the Magician too.

Sexy Alien Elves

I’ve grown weary of the standardized Tolkien style elves so I decided to do a little tweaking for own little home brew. I know that racial classes are a bit contentious. For my own purposes, they are an option for demi-human characters. And, of course, as with any home brew type thingie. Your mileage may vary. And, yes, I do have a soft spot for spontaneous casters from later editions.

Elves are the newest race to the world. Centuries ago, they appeared from nowhere. Scholars are unsure if they are refugees, exiles, colonists or the prelude to an invasion from another world. The elves either aren’t talking or don’t know the truth themselves. Despite their alien beauty, their relations with the other races is dubious at best.
Wood elves are generally not well regarded by elvish society. They are deviants who have gone native. They neither confirm nor deny the existence of any so called Dark Elves.

Classes: Fighting-man, Magic-user, Thief, Elf Racial Class

Racial Abilities:
Darkvision: Elves can see in the dark up to 60 feet.

Arcane Channeling: Elves may channel part of their arcane essence into their spells and attacks. When an elf attempts this he takes 1d4 damage. If the elf channels through a weapon, that weapon is considered magical and does additional damage equal to the damage he took. If the elf uses to empower a spell against a creature with Magical Resistance then the creature’s Magic Resistance is reduced by the amount of damage taken by the elf X 5%.

Arcane Resistance: Elves are beings of magic. Elves gain a +2 to save against Magic-User (arcane) spells.

Not Of This World: The elves have no connect to the gods of this world. As such they cannot become clerics. Additionally, they have a -2 penalty to save against clerical (divine) magic.

Alien Physiology: Because of their alien nature, elves have lessened resistance to worldly poisons and disease (-2 to Saving Throws).

Magical Affinity: On a successful Saving Throw, elves may detect magic as the spell.

Elf Racial Class:

Hit Die: d6/level
Saving Throw: As Magic-User
Attack Progression: As Thief
Spell Casting: Elves do not use spell books like a Magic-User. Their magic is an inherent ability so they do not to prepare spells nor can they research new spells. Elves may cast spells in leather or magical armor.
Spells/Day: As a Magic-User of ½ the elf’s level (always rounded down).
Spells Known: An elf knows a number of spells equal to the Spells/Day for the appropriate level. These spells are determined randomly from the Magic-User Spell list.
For Example: A 6th level elf would know two 1st level spells and one 2nd level spell. He can cast two 1st level spells and one 2nd level spell per day.

Clerics Have Always Bugged Me

Yeah, it’s time I make this confession. Every since I’ve started playing the mechanics behind clerics have struck me as wrong. I can fully get behind the concept of the armored warrior-priest that’s no problem. It’s the spell casting that gets me.
Here’s how it works out in my crazy little mind. Cleric prays, “Oh mighty Crom, Today I want to heal my friends three times. I want bless them in combat and I want your divine protection.”
“OK, you got it.”
How I think it should go.
“Oh mighty Crom. Today I want to heal my friends three..”
“What? You dare call my name and ask for my aid to heal those weaklings! Be gone, worm!”
Basically, it comes down to this. The cleric wakes up and asks his god for a shopping list of spells and the god delivers no matter what. When domains were added that gave clerics a few more defined powers on their faith but they still have pretty much the same shopping list of spells. I’ve seen players make spell choices based on their character which is good and fine but still doesn’t quite fit into my little world view. So here you go. Clerical spell casting re-imagined for Swords & Wizardry.

Gods & Spells: The cleric spell list is broken done by god. Spells are designated as Canonical (Spells that reinforce or are aligned with the god’s philosophy/domain/portfolio.), Neutral (Spells that neither oppose or support the god’s goals), Heretical (Spells that go against the god’s goals). If a game master doesn’t want to spend the time breaking down the spells. He should clearly define what each god’s agenda. Also, the Turn Undead ability should be converted to a first level spell.

Spells per day: Unchanged.

Spell Casting & Preparation: Clerics do not prepare spells. As the need for divine aid arises, the cleric calls upon the divine favor of his deity. The cleric rolls a Saving Throw modified by the spell type (Canonical: +3, Neutral: Unmodified, Heretical: -3). If the Saving Throw is successful then the spell is cast. On a failure, the spell is not cast but it still counts against the cleric’s daily allocation of spells. In the event, the cleric attempts to cast a spell that is contrary to his god and rolls a Natural 1 then there may be additional consequences for calling forth such heretical power.

Simplified Combat Maneuvers

One of the things that makes combat more interesting is when characters do something besides stand there toe to toe until somebody runs out of Hit Points. I’ve bee playing Pathfinder a lot in the past years. Heck, our group has playing is since the open beta test. I still remember how everyone loved the new Combat Maneuver mechanics but they were still tied to Feats and still way too crunchy.

James over at Dreams of Mythic Fantasy came up with a really cool idea to use Saving Throws as the mechanic for Combat Maneuvers. This would work great in a Swords & Wizardry game. And I may just have to play around with his idea a bit more.

By mere coincidence, I’ve been thinking about the same thing for retro-games. I wanted something quick, easy, flexible and embraced the “rulings not rules” philosophy. Once again, I looked to Lamentations of the Flame Princess for some inspiration and it’s simple X in d6 skill system. Here’s the neat part, the DM can just count on his fingers.

Declaration: The player describes what the character is attempting to do.

The Base Chance: 2 in 6 (for fighters), 1 in 6 (for other classes)

Who is better at fighting? If the character attempting the maneuver is then +1. If the defender is then -1. If they are equally skilled then 0.

Who has the better score? Select which Abilities (for both the active and defending characters) best suit the combat maneuver described. This will usually be Strength or Dexterity but creative players will find a way to use other Abilities. If the character attempting the maneuver has a higher score then +1. If the defender then -1. If they are equal then 0.

Situational Modifiers: Each would be a +/-1 depending. This could be anything else that affects the chances of the character successfully performing the Combat Maneuver. Difficulty, lighting, terrain, size difference, weapons and so forth. Just let common sense be your guide.

Now, you’ve got an X in d6 chance for the character to perform the maneuver. Handle it just like you would a skill check in Lamentations.

The Outcome: Since this system is meant it inspire the players to be imaginative in combat, there’s pretty much no way to effectively spell out if a character does X then Y happens. Just let common sense and the Rule of Cool be your guide.