The Ten Foot Polemic Unified House Rule Document


This page contains the latest version of my house rules for LotFP.
Last updated 12/01/16
This document is both a record of house rules and a player handout, so a few of the things in here are straight from the base Lamentations of the Flame Princess 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 OSR system, 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 junk when they could be having fun, so char gen is even more 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-and-a-stat-adjustment. I've 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 magical healing less essential. Healing is hard to come by, especially at lower levels. With healing from food and a dedicated non-magical healing skill for Specialists, it's fine to have no Cleric in the party.
- 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, the extra healing options, and the Death and Dismemberment table they've got a bit more survivability than normal.
- Make combat more chaotic. Weapons break. Shields shatter. Armour gets bashed in. 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 so I’ve cut this down to random rolls in as many places as possible.

Players have a single big choice - Class.
Whether they do this before or after rolling stats and failed career is up to them.
Quick class breakdowns work well because they can just look things over in their own time.
While I am partial to straight 3d6 down-the-line, I am not a cruel man. Giving players one swap means that the guy who really wants to be a Fighter can play a Fighter if he wants, whilst also preserving the purity of random stats.

The failed career allows me to give them a weapon at the character creation stage, meaning they don't even have to look at the equipment lists if they don't want to.
But speaking of equipment, buying it has long been known to be the bit in old school games where people suddenly undergo option paralysis. I've made some little packs for people to buy. They've gone down well, although oddly the soap is the thing that people go "oh whaaat? Soap? Screw that!" every time.

LotFP skills are way good, but nobody but Specialists get skills. I give people two skill points based on their Failed Profession so that non-Specialists can at least have a little differentiation and "oh! oooh! I can climb a little!" in their lives.

Charisma-based starting cash is something I picked up from somewhere and thought was neat. People tend to treat it as a dump stat to their peril, but it doesn’t really come into its own until you can afford retainers. Having it affect money is meant to say "hey it's totally useful from first level you guys!".
Notice that they actually get fuck all starting cash regardless. 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 level 1 character, and means any new character is already indebted to the party which is a pretty good reason to stick together as things go.

Religion is intended to make your choice of religion mechanically interesting. My campaign's set in an alt-history 1500s which was a time when religion was a big fucking deal, so this makes it a bigger part of the game than your average D&D.
Original pre-timeskip 1500s Religion pamphlet here.
Post-timeskip 1600s Religion pamphlet here.


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

Renamed because my new names are WAY BETTER.

Paralyze -> STUN
Poison -> DOOM
Breath -> BLAST
Device -> LAW
Magic -> CHAOS


I'm right, right? And I never called for saves vs Device, so now I'm using that for any saves vs lawful magical effects.


Experience Points

This is all the little ways I give people exp. There are more than usual. 

Murder and theft are as per LotFP
Adversity is inspired by one of the Green Devil Face things and gives people exp for nearly dying or seeing their friends die or whatever.
Exploration exp is to encourage going far afield and travelling around my fantasy land, and for delving deeply into dungeons.
Downtime Activities are ways to use money between adventures, carousing and philanthropy are your cash-to-exp conversion options.
Events and Miscellaneous Bonuses mean my exp emails double as a recap, and mean I can give people exp even if they didn't do much traditional adventuring during the game.
A Good Death is because I feel like people should be encouraged to make their death memorable, even if it is inevitable.

My current bonus exp doc is here. I add more stuff as it comes up.



Alignment

Basically as per LotFP, except mundane people are all Neutral and can't choose a side. Detect spells are for detecting if somebody is Chaos Magic or Law Magic. That's all.


Living Standards

I always forget to make people buy rations, so I just made sleeping in a bin and feeding on dirt and rats an option for people. They barely heal and it sucks but hey. you don't have to pay!
Staying at an inn, by contrast, is pretty rad.
You can get some sweet sweet extra HP by staying at Comfortable or Splendid conditions at full health. This is supposed to be an alternative to various "travel takes a toll on HP" ideas I've seen occasionally. Sleeping well gives a bonus, rather than living rough giving a penalty. Feels better this way!
You can see more about Standards of Living here.




Rations

"If you can just live for free, why buy rations?!" I hear you exclaim.
Never fear!
Inspired by Arnold over at Goblin Punch, Rations are good for healing mid-session. Standard rations take a half hour to cook before you can eat them and probably smell great, so you'll want to bring Iron Rations with you into a dungeon. Totally nailed the "Iron Rations (for dungeon expeditions)" thing.
They're also good for camping in the wilderness. You could just live in Vagrant conditions by eating a handful of suspicious berries and half a dead pigeon you found on the way to the camp site, but that sucks. Instead you can bring (or hunt for!) rations, cook them, and sleep in a tent to count as living in Comfortable conditions.
Hopefully this makes thinking about camping and supplies useful without being a chore.

Hunting is a little changed from standard LotFP. Instead of a percentage land speed reduction, it's just halved on a successful Bushcraft check and reduced to nothing on a failure.
Any attempt shrinks your Ammo Die (see lower down) by one size.


Healing

First Aid works really well. The only change I've made from the original iteration is to add a 1HP damage consequence for failing with a 6. This makes it a bit more of a gamble, especially for untrained First Aid users.
As usual, a Specialist with a 6-in-6 First Aid skill only fails if they roll a 6 then a 6 again, so a guy with maximum First Aid is very rarely going to harm their patient.

Magic is your regular Clerics and potions and shit. I keep magical healing rare. The chief advantage is that it can be cast way faster, such as in the middle of combat. But you knew that already.





Retroactive Backstory

A way to make characters have a backstory in a world where they will probably die before they reach level 2.
Every level, roll for backstory. Get a vague writing prompt with two possible results. The rest of the people at the table pick which result fits your character (they know better than you).
Make up the story of what actually happened. Now we know more about your character!
Also, you get a mechanical bonus or reward based on the result.

My table loves this subsystem, maybe even more than I do and I like it a lot.
They've got plans to run games based on their backstories, probably if I can't run a game one week, which sounds like a great ime.


Downtime Activities

A perennial favourite, downtime activities are a way to divest the PCs of all that pesky cash.

Carousing is your classic Rients-with-a-dash-of-Zak cash converter with potential downsides like getting robbed or setting the pub on fire. Great fun. It's worth 10% more on weekends because of course it is.
Philanthropy is like carousing except more sedate. A lower exp-per-dollar ratio, but you choose how much you spend. The table you roll on could make you friends and allies, especially if you're charismatic.
Banking is just a place to put money you don't want to carry around, and means you can give it all to a successor if you die. Low interest rate but it's less risky than investing. JUST LIKE REAL LIFE YOU GUYS.
Property lets people buy or rent a place to keep their junk and/or as a place for them to live if they retire.
Investments are naturally a way to convert your money into way more money at the risk of converting it into way less money.
Magical Research is slightly more interesting than the LotFP default, because it's got random tables and stuff. Nobody's ever actually brewed potions or written scrolls in my game yet, but one can hope!
People really love inventing their own spells though, and they tend to be remarkably moderate on their effects which is something i didn't expect.

More on Downtime Activities here.




Basic Combat

Simple initiative because it's the best. Rerolled every round to keep things uncertain. 
Crit and Fumble tables found here and still good after nearly half a decade.


Fancy Combat Actions

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 and essentially unchanged. A double miss is an ironic reversal which means higher risks naturally create higher rewards. If you try to trip someone, they trip you! Oh no! If you try to slice off their head then they slice off your head!
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 jump on the spider's back and pull the net over its face so it can't bite!" 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 been tangled up in the net themselves.

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 "you get it on the spider alright but it bites you as you do so".

I've made wrestling a bit more clear, you can see more detail on wrestling here.

Sneak Attack involves actually rolling for it (crazy I know) and high Awareness enemies can avoid the damage multiplier.


Fancy Combat Reactions

This it its own section now.
Parry covers all defensive melee stuff and now allows you to counterattack or disarm depending on the size of your weapon. Any excuse to make choice of weapon more than "what's the most damage I can roll?".
It covers setting spears against a charge too, just to collapse the options down better.

Take Cover is an action, not an automatic thing, so you've got a tradeoff between hunkering down in cover or firing back. Keep your head down to get the AC bonus sort of thing. Also you can dive behind cover if someone starts shooting!

Opportunity Attacks and Disengage taken from 5th ed because it works GREAT. I used to have worries about how people could get through the front line and kill my evil wizards mid-casting.


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. I originally had an "everyone can use it once per session, even me!" thing going on, but this ended up being much more fun. If someone uses it they know they're stacking fate against them, and when I use it they get it back.
...or such was the original vision.
Nowadays the party just buys me beers so they can stack "free" d30 rolls. Can't complain! 

It did start getting a bit unfair though, so now the d30 simply boosts a die by one size. Use it on a d20 to roll the d30 itself!





Death and Dismemberment

Works well! Best to explain when they're rolling for starting health. Explaining while they're in the first stages of dead character grief is liable to confuse.

A potential downside is that characters essentially get an extra 10 HP or so, so first level characters don't die quite so often.
When you reach 0HP you start getting Death Dice. The higher the roll the worse the result, so things quickly begin to spiral out of control.
More can be found on Death and Dismemberment here.

Poison is tied into this system, adding Death Dice that can only be removed by magic or time. Three types of poison based on the three types of Death Dice, so that's effectively knockout poison, damage-over-time poison, and deadly poison.
Less hardcore than straight up save-or-die, but still deadly and horrible.


What to do when somebody dies

Pretty standard save that my guys have the flawed option of resurrection as per what was once my most popular post of all time.


What to do when somebody dies

Did you know that I'm the first person to ever make chase scenes fun in D&D?
You might not believe me but it's true.



Funerals

I like the idea that dragging your buddy out of the dungeon should be rewarded. This is essentially a consequence-free Carousing where you pour money into your buddy's funeral to buy their exp.
This means that higher level people (who've been with the party longer) tend to have much more lavish funerals, while 1st level characters who just joined the party get left to rot.
It's thematic, man.


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 beseech their old character to help them raid the demon lord's hell-carnival.
Nobody's gone far enough away to actually have this be an issue yet, but maybe one day!






Ammo Tracking

This cascading dice thing is way cool and I got it from here.
It's easy to grasp and means people can go “oh I have heaps of arrows” or “oh no I’m running out” without having to obsessively track every single shot.

A flat cost to replenish all arrows keeps things 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

Notches are based on Logan’s work here with additions from here and my original blog post on the subject is here although I've changed a few things since then.

Your weapon gets more damaged over time until it breaks. Each notch reduces the damage of your weapon by one die size until it's pretty much useless.
You can declare you're shattering your weapon in order to roll its full un-notched damage die one last time, good if you roll a crit with a banged-up sword. Also means you've got to decide whether it's worth shattering your weapon or just bringing it to the surface to get repaired.
Mending becomes a good spell for once, funnily enough.

Similarly, your armour gets more damaged until it breaks. Again, it's your choice to break it, and it's better to break it when it's badly damaged.
There’s an Armour Shall Be Splintered thing going on here, reduce damage taken to 1, which 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.

There are 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.

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.
Unique firearm mishap table from England Upturn'd because it's cool and thematic.


Inventory

I used to use the "no rummaging in bags in combat!" thing from default LotFP, but one of the joys of DnD is people just having random shit in their backpacks that they suddenly whip out half a year later like "OH MAN I FORGOT I HAD THIS" and saving the day.
So it's just an action to grab stuff from your inventory, and Sleight of Hand makes it instant. Specialists can be the dude who always has the right thing at the right time.




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, if you let a dude with a knife get close you're pretty fucked.
An axe with a hammer on the other side can be pretty badass as loot which I like.
Whips enable Indiana Jones style shenanigans. You can see more on whips here.


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 made up something myself in these weapon rules, incredible.

I like these trade-offs a lot. Long weapons give you a first strike when people close in, 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 Clegane a horse's head clean off in one blow.


Ranged Options
Largely unchanged from LotFP, just explaining for the players. No flintlocks in my timeline yet but they'll get invented in fifty years or so.
I've made some minor changes to guns. Reliability has been rolled into Notches, as seen above. Guns now do exploding damage for headshot purposes. Considering all guns do d8 and most times you’ll get one shot per combat this seems fair.
Fighter reload bonus quietly removed because it's too small a bonus to matter.
Lastly, you can halve reload time with Sleight of Hand because you've got magic fingers or whatever.



Falling

A change back to the alleged original original rules. 1d6/10ft/10ft. Brutal. Also means I can give people fall damage reduction (a la Monk) and have it be way good.




Investments and Business Ventures

Weirdly several of my players have independently wanted to open businesses. It's often related to their failed career though.

While the investment rules in LotFP are fine, they don't let the players have any direct impact on the business and they mature yearly (!) which is way too slow.
Instead they mature monthly, and I've got a Risk Table that the players can influence through their actions.

The idea is that a Safe investment has a much lower spread of gains and loss, and much less impact from player actions. Wild investments have a way higher spread and influenced a lot by player actions.

I use player's businesses as an easy way to give them rumours and maps and stuff, too. Everyone gets a monthly missive from the business, often with info about what's been going on in their local area.

More info in the Investments and Business Ventures post.


Property

Classic domain stuff, except you can rent stuff because it's the early modern era and all.
You can build if you want, though! Castles and churches and all the rest. Prices and build times lifted from 5th ed because it looks legit, along with the thing where it takes way longer if you're not around to supervise.

Everything else is as per the normal rules.




New Skills

Four new skills!
Architecture never got used, and I already made Dwarfs succeed automatically at most things it was useful for. Instead, Arcana! Identify potions! Cast spells off scrolls!
Also, First Aid! One of the most-used rules because it's often useful. Takes an action in combat while Cleric spells take a whole round for a Cure spell to go off and can be interrupted, so sometimes actually more useful.
Sailing! Barely used because nobody's been sailing. The one time it was used (fleeing from a ghost ship!) it worked out pretty great as the party's longboat plowed through a sandbank to safety.
Music! For Bards. By default a bit shit, but there are magic instruments around the place (most notably the Kazoo of Esti'Efyu) that you need a successful Music check to operate properly.

Further, I've changed a couple of things with the regular skill list.
Search is renamed Awareness! And used in a very different way. Last minute danger sense for avoiding unexpected trouble.
Sneak Attack adjusted! Now you roll it when attacking from surprise (and get a bonus equal to the roll on success) and only apply the damage modifier if the enemy fails an Awareness check. Most enemies only have the basic 1-in-6 Awareness so you'll usually get it, and it gives PCs some defence against sneak attackers.

All this holistically combined in the How I Use Skills post.


Runes

These are new and improved rules for my rune magic stuff.
They're pretty wacky and work well. At one point this guy who was big into rune magic never returned so become an almost mythical figure in the group.
"Yea there was this guy who drew runes all over himself and could control the elements. Me? No I never learnt how! I really should have!"
Nowadays rune magic has resurfaced! They're useful, but the Dwarf who's most into them has been delving into the rune magic lorebonds and has got fairly major Fullmetal Alchemist powers going on. It's rad. Post-timeskip these runes are eeeeverywhere too, so shit's gone full runeaissance.



Class Tweaks




And that is that!

3 comments:

  1. Apologies for the Extreme Thread Necromancy™, but have you had any issues with balancing/limiting the "Take A Break" form of healing hp from rations? Just knowing my party, people might immediately seize on the idea of loading up wagons and carts with rations and eating after every fight. (This can always be narratively addressed, but mechanics would do more!) Curious to know your thoughts!

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    Replies
    1. Hey man, no worries! I encourage it! It's nice to know people read this stuff.

      The main limitation of ration healing is time. It takes a turn per ration, and that's a risk in a dungeon where you're rolling for encounters and/or light sources every turn.

      The other limitation is encumbrance. I run it so you can stack 5 rations per encumbrance slot, but it's still something to think about. If you're dragging a cartful of rations around behind you that's it's own interesting logistical issue (what to do about stairs? Pits? What if you have to flee from enemies and leave it behind?)

      Finally, it's not suuuch a bad thing if people can heal up after encounters. It's only HP, and that's easily lost!

      My own players have done the ration-wagon thing and it's fine. They tend to hide it outside dungeons and grab as many rations as they want to carry from an effectively limitless supply that they refresh whenever they go through town.

      The potential issue I've considered is that people might go "oh why bother with the standards of living thing when I could just scoff rations all night?" which I haven't really got a rules-based solution for, other than the tacit rule that eating rations is only useful in turn-by-turn "dungeon time".

      Delete
  2. Great info and advice, thanks! :)

    ReplyDelete