Monday 30 June 2014

The Ten Foot Polemic Unified House Rule Document - 2014

Ok I think I’ve finally got my house rules to a point where I’m only changing minor things.
This document is both a record of house rules and a player handout, so some of the stuff mentioned is unchanged from the base LotFP ruleset.
What follows is justifications, explanations and expansions on the house rules enclosed.

Click here to get it!

First up
It is always a little bit irritating when I'm reading some rules and there's no foreword to tell me what's different about this particular iteration. OSR rulesets are horrible for this - 90% of the game is going to be the exact same as any other competitor, so I have to read the entire thing and compare and contrast it to others to see the difference.

So - I'm trying to make my rules do these things:
- Make it newbie friendly. Lots of newbies come to my games, and even people who've played before have only ever usually played late edition systems. I don't want them to have to learn rules and other crap when they could be having fun, so char gen is super simplified and anything complicated faces towards the DM.
- Make non-humans much more weird. The whole benefit of race-as-class is that you don't have to make the races boring humans-with-funny-ears so as not to skew class balance. I replaced them with weirder varieties with weirder powers.
Differentiate clerical magic. As explained in this post, I'm trying to make Lawful magic dependable and Chaotic magic unpredictable to accentuate this whole Law/Chaos thing.
- Differentiate magic users. By default, Elves and Magic-Users have the same spells which they use in the same way. Not any more! Similarly, when I add a new magic using class I try to make sure they have a different cost/benefit tradeoff to spellcasting.
- Make healing a little easier. Healing is hard to come by, especially at lower levels. With food healing and a dedicated non-magical healing skill for Specialists, it's possible to get by without a Cleric.
- Amp up the classes. While not exactly intentional, a side effect of adding all the extra little powers to classes has meant that everyone's jumped up a little in terms of PC power. They still die pretty easily, but between this and the extra healing options they've got a bit more survivability than normal.
- Make combat more chaotic. Weapons break. Shields shatter. Armour notches. Crits and fumbles make everything unpredictable. Gambits can turn the tables. Death and Dismemberment leads to flying limbs. Together it means I definitely don't know who's going to win in any given battle, which leads to higher highs and lower lows.

With that out of the way, read on for more detail!

Char Gen
I always say this, but I run for a lot of newbies. Complex char gen is dead boring as per this post so I’ve cut this down to random rolls in as many places as possible.

Leading with stats and failed career means that they’ve already got an idea of who their character is in their mind before they go into choosing a class.
Quick class breakdowns are dead good to have around for that part.

Charisma-based starting cash is something I picked up from somewhere and thought was neat, especially since Charisma doesn’t really come into its own until you can afford retainers.

Equipment buying has long been known to be the bit in old school games where people suddenly undergo option paralysis, so I made some little packs for people to buy. If they’re new to my game I also let them buy gear retroactively in their first session, everyone has different assumptions about resource tracking in their D&D so I don't want to screw someone over because they didn't know I'd be tracking torches.
Notice also that I actually give them fuck all starting cash. They can afford an equipment pack maybe, but other than that they're relying on the current party to fund them or hoping to scrounge some cash on their next expedition. It lends the sort of penniless desperation I look for in a new level 1 guy, and means any new character is already indebted to the party which is a pretty good reason to stick together as things go. 
Luckily the Failed Career table gives them a weapon.

This post punctuated by photos of places I've been.

Ammo Tracking
This cascading dice thing is way cool and I got it from here.
I extended it to the comparatively larger ammunition containers from the firearm rules fairly simply. Filling the container to full keeps this simple, the flat cost is half what it would be to fill it from empty so it should even out over time.

Wear and Tear
I’ve tried this and it works well and it’s pretty fun. Probably tied with Death & Dismemberment as “most complex house rule” though.
Based on Logan’s work here with additions from here and my own blog post on the subject is here although this very post supersedes a few things on there.

Your weapon gets more damaged over time until it breaks, I put the break roll on the damage die because I like combining multiple meanings into the one roll if possible.
A little bit silly because your weapon only breaks if you hit your target and so plate mail is less likely than leather to break your weapon, but I like that weapons at least get a last hurrah by doing some damage before they shatter.
An unstated aside – slings never break. I said this accidentally one time and it made everyone buy a sling as a backup weapon they can tie around their arm that never breaks and can fire rocks. I thought that was rad so I let it stay.

Guns is guns, I rolled misfire chance into Notches because it seemed neater. Explodes like a scattershot charge when it breaks. Rolled matchlock misfire in the damp into there too.

There’s an Armour Shall Be Splintered thing going on here, seems to have worked nicely in play. Not as good as Shields which negate all damage, so if you’re damaged at 0HP you’re still rolling for Death & Dismemberment, but better than nothing.
Downsides to using it because your friends can’t nick your armour when you die though. Sometimes leads to amusing Ghosts ‘n Goblins gameplay, but also leads to sundry looting of mundane enemy armour which was always the goal.

Upkeep is way simplified from before, just a one-time Notch cancel per day. Considering my players rarely get in fights having it as an extra resource to track was too much and everyone forgot about it.

Backpacks and Pouches
I assume they start with these and only make them buy a new one if it breaks or something. Pouches are for stuff they might want in a pinch like flaming oil or rope or a potion or whatever. Three maximum to keep it under control.

Sleight of Hand makes you adept at grabbing stuff out of your inventory, Specialists can be the dude who always has the right thing at the right time.

 You end up with three levels of accessibility - in your hands at start of combat, in your pouches and a few rounds away, or in your backpack and you might as well just book it out of there.

Skill Checks
Apparently this is from another game which I picked up from a blog then lost the link.
Regular checks can crit if you roll your stat.
Opposed checks are roll high but stay under your stat. Dead easy, dead good.

Defined standard and iron rations because they’re not explained in LotFP, presumably so you can explain it yourself? Anyway, turns out nobody's ever explained it properly.
For me, standard rations go off and need to be cooked. Iron rations last forever and don't. I usually handwave the cooking unless they’re somewhere where it’ll have an impact.

The only change from the LotFP foraging rules is that it shrinks your ammo die by one size. This does mean that you use a full 30 sling stones if you hunt with a full pouch but oh well. You can use rocks in your sling and hunt for free but I’ll leave that for them to work out, it’s true by base LotFP rules anyway.
You can also use your Failed Career for a bonus if you were a mushroom farmer in a forest or a fisherman by a river and things.

Non-Magical Healing
I thought taking a break was Patrick’s doing but he reckons it was Arnold K. Still can't find a direct link though. It's a good rule because it means people eat food proactively like “sweet I can eat to heal!” rather than reactively like “oh whoops yea forgot to mark off a ration today”.

By base LotFP it takes ages (well, at least a few days) to heal up from 0, which is strange because Better Than Any Man gives you seven days to get in, get rich, get out. Anyway, more about that if and when I do a review thing about it.
The healing in comfort is to make players feel that civilised towns and villages are safe and have them actually stay at inns rather than your standard casual vagrancy.
If you’re in town you heal quickly, if you’re in the wilderness you heal slowly and are vulnerable to wandering encounters. Towns good. Wilderness bad. Goodo.

First Aid is the absolute tits and I have praised myself enough for it already.

Basic Combat
Simple initiative because I hold round-by-round initiative in the same esteem as complex char gen. Unspoken variation – If it’s a spider or something and its super fast the ties break in its favour instead.

Crit and Fumble tables found here and have gone way better than expected.

Fancy Combat Options
Trimmed down from LotFP because the rest I’ll just flip out if they come up, this is the more proactive stuff that a player might not know they can do.
Gambits are from Logan except that I made it a bit more forgiving. Generally someone’s giving up their chance to damage by doing something funky, so making them lose their next go on a double miss meant nobody ever tried it.
I should clarify that gambits are for things that are too off-the-wall to just go "ok +2 to hit" or whatever.  
"I throw my stuffed cat into his arms so he catches it like 'wuh' like he's in a Jackie Chan movie then I punch him over the top of it" was a +2 to hit.
"I'm gonna chuck my net over the spider!" was a gambit.

In the net example, if someone got a double hit the net would have ensnared the spider. If they'd got a double miss they would have just missed. 

They got 1 hit and 1 miss so I gave them a choice between "ensnare its legs a bit so it'll be a bit slower and can't jump away this round" and "it covers the spider alright but you stumble right up close to its mouth so it can attack you on its go".

Big Purple d30 Rule
This one’s from er, Jeff Rients I guess? Yea here it is.
Fun in play, gets me extra booze, not bad at all. Sometimes makes short work of beefcake monsters (Like the Grandma from DLD) but the doom of imminent revenge hangs over them like a cloud for the rest of the session until the storm breaks and it hits them like a thunderbolt when someone’s ankle gets blown apart by a rat.

Weapon Types
Another one of Logan’s and it’s top notch.
Different weapons have different strengths with swords as the best all-rounder.
Hammers smash armour, axes chop flesh, flails do flail things.
The players are now scared of knife wielding maniacs which is good because daggers are a fairly lame 1d4 damage proposition in some of the games I’ve played in.
An axe with a hammer on the other side can be pretty badass as loot which I like.

Melee Options
Logan again for the Reach thing, I think the dual-wielding was from Scrap in a thread some time, Shields are, of course, from Trollsmyth, and Large Weapons are from... me! Yes I actually used something I made up myself in the weapon type rules, incredible.

I like these trade-offs a lot. I like long weapons keeping people at a distance, dual wielding works best when you pair two smaller weapons, shields are extra good as a defence, and great weapons are for beefy strongmen who can cut off a horse’s head in one blow.

Ranged Options
Unchanged from LotFP, just explaining for the players. No flintlocks in my timeline yet but they’ll get there eventually.
Oh shit yea, guns do exploding damage now for headshot purposes. Considering all guns do d8 and most times you’ll get one shot per combat this seems fair.

This is all the little ways I give people bonus exp. Murder and theft are as per LotFP.

The What The Fuck Did I Do Last Night table is based on some shithead's original. Everyone loves carousing and waking up with new and unusual problems.

Exploration exp is to encourage going far afield and travelling around my fantasy land. Miscellany means my exp emails double as a recap, and surviving adversity means people are rewarded for getting into scrapes.
My current bonus exp doc is here. I add more stuff as it comes up.

As per LotFP.

Death and Dismemberment
The most complex house rule. Works fine in play but I seem to have confused the shit out of people with my explanation.
Basically people roll more dice on the table the more hurt they get, and higher results are deadlier and more hurty. More can be found here.

What to do when somebody dies
Pretty standard save that my guys have the flawed option of resurrection as per my most popular post of all time. Or they would, if they’d got to the capital yet.

Retiring Characters
The end goal. I’m down with people having multiple characters but I like the idea that they have to travel back to their other character to pick them up.
Sort of a thing where the party might have to adventure to far flung and half-forgotten lands to do the whole “The world needs a hero! The world needs a level 7 Fighter! The world needs YOU, Burgermann McDoland!” bit.

Class Tweaks

Haha! Stuck on the end where you wouldn’t read that far down!
These are new and improved rules for my rune magic stuff.
Armour now mitigates rune beam damage in a manner wholly inconsistent with the HP/AC idiom because they are wacky. If anybody is interested in a rune supplement maybe I will make one?
Nobody has found the rune dungeon since I changed the rules so this are untested but hopefully better than previous.

And that is that!


  1. Eating lunch to heal was Arnold K, though I did use something a little similar with my starvation rules.

  2. Thanks for posting this stuff, it'll really help me fill out my own house rules. I especially like the simplicity of your weapon and armor notching.

    1. As with most of the rules, the real credit lies elsewhere in Logan's rules. I'm glad you found it useful!

  3. I'm going to be using much of this when players are creating new characters this week. Food/drink for healing, new ways to get XP, ammo, notches, weapon types...all excellent!

    I like your idea of using charisma for money, but to simplify it I'm going to use: 3d6 sp +/- d6 per Cha Modifier, X10 (so a 13 Cha rolls 4d6x10, a 5 charisma would roll 1d6x10).

    Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Hey no problem! And thanks for the kind words!
      I actually only just realised due to your comments that I removed the x10 modifier from starting cash, whoops. I had idly wondered why everyone was so desperately underequipped at the start of my new home game.

      It seems to have done a lot of good for quickly making characters though. At least they have starting equipment from their Failed Career, so they're not without a weapon, and they usually have enough dosh to afford one of the equipment packs each.

  4. I found a lot of useful stuff there in your house rules. Added the weapon/armor wear and tear, the ammo tracking, and a bunch of other stuff I'm still working out how I'd want to run it. Thanks for putting all this together!

  5. Sorry to raise a thread from the dead, but: in guns (pg. 6), what do you mean by "deal exploding damage"? Exploding dice? Or is this a type of damage referenced somewhere else?

    1. No problem, man!
      Yea, exploding damage as in exploding dice. If you roll max damage, roll again and add to total. If you roll max damage on that, roll again etc.

    2. Excellent -- thank you for the quick reply! And for the unified doc -- it's definitely huge in helping me focus on what I do and do not want to do in my LotFP game.