The Ten Foot Polemic Unified House Rule Document


This page contains the latest version of my house rules for LotFP.
Last updated 21/05/18
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. More on that later.

LotFP skills are way good, but nobody but Specialists get skills by default. 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 early modern England 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.

The Basic Basics

Largely just lifted straight from the LotFP rules for ease of use, there are a few differences.
HP is something I treat as Plot Armour, not actual wounds. You only got hurt when you run out. Calling it out here because everyone knows HP from video games where you just straight up die at 0HP. More on that when we get to the death section.
Hit Dice is straight up.
Attack Bonus is straight up.
Armour Class pulls together rules from around the rulebook. I refer to armour as Light/Medium/Heavy instead of Leather/Chain/Plate, one of many good ideas taken from Last Gasp.
Stabby weapons boost AC, more on that later.

Stats

Mostly a straight pull from LotFP again.
A few differences (interrupted casting, Int boosts Arcana) but mostly played straight.


Saving Throws

Renamed to be clearer and better.

Paralyze -> STUN - Used for any movement-based effect.
Poison -> DOOM - Mostly for dangerous stuff that bypasses HP.
Breath -> BLAST - AoE
Device -> LAW - God magic
Magic -> CHAOS - Arcane magic


Save vs Device is something I never used, so it's Law now. Always was a bit weird to have Cleric spell saves be Save vs Magic when I was trying to draw a line between those two things.

Hazards

Some ruling that came up enough that they needed to be converted to rules.
Falling is as per the apparent original version which makes falling proper deadly. If they ever go into the Veins I'll use the multiplicative fall damage though.
Fire is slightly different to LotFP, but not much.
Drowning has come up enough that my players fear suspicious water. GOOD. Best is things like giant octopuses who can grab you and squeeze the air out of your lungs. Constitution applies, which is useful and has the odd effect of making Dwarves better than average divers.




Failed Profession

A nice little way to start PCs off with something interesting about them and get the ball rolling on the whole old school "discover your character through play" thing.
You get a weapon, something else, and a couple of skill points to assign to make your character a little more unique.


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.

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.


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.
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.
Exploration exp is to encourage going far afield and travelling around my fantasy land, and for delving deeply into dungeons.
Party Roles are a way to help me out as the DM. Some are more sought after than others, but it's funny how people settle into a usual role now.

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






Living Standard

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.
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.
This has made looking for shelter and carrying food feel more important, and someone with good Bushcraft being able to bodge together a shelter fits with the whole Master of the Wilderness vibe.

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.



Magical Healing


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.

Poison is largely here to present the way the poison-related Cleric spells work in light of the Poison mechanics.







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!


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. Nobody's ever bothered yet, but maybe if they save the world this'll be a cool thing where they rebuild?
Investments are naturally a way to convert your money into way more money at the risk of converting it into way less money. Really popular, players really get into their business ventures.
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

Standard stuff mostly.
Simple initiative because it's the best and stops combat slowing the game to a crawl. Rerolled every round to keep things uncertain. 

Actions I held off on describing in the rules because it feels too 3.PF mechanically gamey, but it needs to be here.
Attacking is aggressively ordinary.
Crit and Fumble tables found here and still good after half a decade.
Magic I'm calling out because the round-long casting time is one of magic's big limitations.

Fancy Combat Actions

This is the good stuff. I keep having to fight the drive to complicate this for no fucking reason. Combat just doesn't need to be that complicated, especially when everything is covered by Gambits anyway.

So Gambits are from Logan and cover all the cool combat manoeuvre stuff, from tripping and disarms to dismembering and decapitating.
The key here, the essential balancing mechanic, is that if you double-fail then whatever you wanted to do to them happens to you. Try something simple like a trip, and you'll be tripped on a double-fail. Try something brutal like slicing off an arm, and you'll lose an arm on a double-fail.
The partial success bit is a sort of proto-PBTA choice between two options. If you try to disarm a foe and get a partial success, you might get a choice between making them unable to use that weapon next round (partial success) or you're both disarmed (success at cost).

Aim is straight from LotFP, with an extra thing where you count as Surprised while aiming because tunnel vision.
Backstab is the new version of Sneak Attack. Upgrade hit to crit with successful skill check. Much more useful.
Evade is Combat Stealth. Makes it useful even if you don't have good Backstab. Evade attacks, set up your next attack. Neato.
Opportunity Attacks are pulled from 5e. It's a good mechanic!
Parry is an AC boost that also acts as 5e's Disengage action.
Shooting into Combat is straight up.
Wrestling cleaned up from LotFP but mostly played straight. Wrestling is an armour-bypass move which works for me. Shank that knight in the armpit if you can't pierce his armour.






Melee Weapon Types

Spiritual successor to Logan’s top notch originals, fiddlier mechanics stripped away.
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.
Whips enable Indiana Jones style shenanigans. You can see more on whips here.

Melee Weapon Options

Logan again inspired 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 Weapon Options

Largely unchanged from LotFP, just explaining for the players.
I've made some minor changes to guns. 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. 

Rifled barrels give a bonus to Aim rather than mitigating range penalties, rarely does anyone shoot at a long enough range for the penalties to kick in.
Fighter reload bonus quietly removed because it's too small a bonus to matter, but see Sleight of Hand in the Skills section for its new Rapid Reload usage.





Death and Dismemberment

Complicated but I love it, so much so that I've made a death pamphlet for those who are about to die.
I've come to terms with the fact I'm likely the only person who'll use this in full though.
Works well at any rate! Despite sounding like it makes things deadlier, it actually effectively gives characters an extra 10 HP or so, so people don't die quite so often.
When you reach 0HP you start getting Death Tokens. 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 Poison Tokens that can only be removed by magic or time. Three types of poison based on the three types of Death Tokens, so that's effectively knockout poison, damage-over-time poison, and deadly poison.
Less hardcore than straight up save-or-die, but sometimes it's worse.

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.

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.


Running Away

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.


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 - mostly removing the Quality thing because it's forgettable.

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 town to get repaired.
Mending becomes a good spell for once, funnily enough.

Similarly, your armour gets more damaged until it breaks.

England Upturn'd has a great firearm mishap table, so I'm using it.



Skills

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


Investments and Business Ventures

My players love creating businesses, and I love it when they do because owning a business throws up a lot of easy adventure hooks.

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.





Rune Magic

Still my baby.
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, mostly due to one player whose bond to an Apocalypse Dragon has given him super rune mastery abilities.




Class Tweaks

These class tweaks are largely to make each class feel different from each other, and also to ensure that two people in the same class can be different.
I like in-class differentiation. The Fighter gets a pass because I like them being straightforward though.
There's a fair amount of crossover between these vague categories. Muscle Wizard is a frontline caster, Elf is a mostly a Weirdo, but here's the main things about the classes


Warriors
The Fighter is in a weapons expert and leader niche, with the addition of bonus powers by weapon, cleave, and a passive reaction roll booster.
The Barbarian is taken more often than the Fighter. Less straightforward, random advancement, less armour, Barbarian rage.

Skills
The Specialist benefits from the adjustments to the skill system. Easily the most customisable class so they get lots of in-class differentiation.

Casters
Clerics are the only class who can use Lawful magic. Their magic is dependable and useful, and they can swap spells at will with no repercussions. Six different religions, each with a special bonus spell.
Magic Users have Familiars and Cantrips as their chief gimmicks. Cantrips are the tradeoff mechanic - do you cast the spell, or use the cantrips?
The Elf has spooky Elf powers as their main gimmick. The more spells in your head, the more spooky powers you get. Do you cast the spells or keep the powers?
The Muscle Wizard is the frontline caster. Instant-casting at the cost of range. Get more HP for each level of spell in your head. Do you cast the spells or keep the HP?
The Necromancer gets a unique spell list focused around (surprise!) raising and controlling the Dead. They don't have a tradeoff for spellcasting, but they do need to find and keep ritual components. Last Breath is their most important limitation.

Minion Controllers:
The Halfling gets a single mind-controlled minion. This is your Ranger-type class where you aim to have a bear or a wolf or a dinosaur minion companion.
The Goblin gets a gaggle of 1HD goblin buddies. You get a few disposable goons to do your will.
The Ratman instantly became a group meme. Shit stats, powerful abilities, swarms of rats to overwhelm your foes.

Weirdo Classes
The Dwarf gets more underground abilities and some unlockable feat-style Lorebonds for extra powers.
The Extras are the game's most meta class. A gaggle of mundane mooks. Fun when they've been around, but the way they split into multiple characters at 0HP instead of going into Death & Dismemberment makes them oddly fragile.
The Inheritor is a lot of fun. Eat monsters to steal their powers.






And that is that!

5 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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    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".

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  2. Great info and advice, thanks! :)

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  3. And to further necro this thread...let me say that your house rules are absolute genius. I am just getting into the OSR world, and these rules are fresh, exciting, and make me want to play so badly I can taste the blood and steel.

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    1. Hey thanks man!! If you use any or all of them, let me know how it goes!

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