Wednesday 7 March 2018

House Rules Update! 2018 edition

Another year, another metamorphosis!

PDF here

The main impetus this time around is basically to trim off as much fat and fiddly bits as possible, especially in the combat rules. If there's something in the rules that never gets used or I always forget about, it's gone.
It's become increasingly obvious that the Gambit is the only combat option anyone really needs. It's simple, has an obvious risk-reward angle, and has the exciting partial success possibility.
I've trimmed off anything that's not covered by a Gambit and simplified the rest.

The other thing is that Sneak Attack has always been a sticking point in the game. It's a weird outlier in terms of how skills work and is useless without a high Stealth to back it up.
Probably the biggest change in this update is reworking Sneak Attack and Stealth so they're not so tightly linked. Sneak Attack has been reworked into Backstab which is primarily for ganging up on the same enemy, but also still effective for traditional shanks from the shadows.
I'll go into it more when I get to that section below.

On the less rules-tweak side of things, I've added a few more bits to make the rules a bit more standalone, like putting basics about HP and AC and stats in the doc. It's not exactly a Ten Foot Polemic standalone game (yet?), but it's in here so you don't have to cross-reference with the LotFP rulebook so much. This is important if you are, for instance, one of my own players trying to use my rules to run your own session.

I've pulled out the relevant sections of the rules for ease of use, but do feel free to follow along in the house rules document.
So here we go, a change log with explanations and stuff as we go.

Char Gen

- Removed Ammo Dice
Ammunition isn't tracked unless something happens to make ammo tracking important.

I'll talk about this here - the death of the Ammo Die.
Oh wow the site I originally got it from seems to be dead! My house rules are old!
Archive copy of the ammo die post here.
Anyway, the idea behind the cascading Ammo Die made its way into the Black Hack as the Usage Die. Seemed like a great way to track arrows etc in the abstract, but man I can't remember the last time someone fired enough arrows for it to matter. When the bulk of the game is dungeons and firing into melee is dangerous, you just don't fire that many arrows.
I've left the door open for resource management if people are in the middle of a desert or something, but in the main we're not going to be tracking ammo any more.

The Basic Basics

- Added this whole section

 Just making things a bit more clear because there are some minor changes from LotFP.
Most notably, making it clear that HP is your luck-shield not your life points per se.
Also, Surprised AC in the LotFP rulebook is surprisingly hard to find, so that's here now.
Armour rules also gathered into one place, which means there's a teaser for the new sword rules in here too.


- Added this whole section

Explanation of stats because it's subtly different from LotFP, mostly by accident over time.
Clearly the lore/reasoning is more or less transposed directly from the LotFP rulebook.
Most importantly - something I never realised was that Int/Wis were supposed to influence the Saves of people targeted by Magic-User/Cleric spells! I've never done that, so it's gone. In its place is being a better caster via recovered from Interrupted Casting and Spell Swaps. Works for me.
Oh and did you know that Charisma doesn't affect Reaction Rolls by the LotFP rules? I sure didn't! So that's called out as affecting Reaction Rolls now.


- Moved Falling here
- Added Fire rules for ease of reference
- Added Drowning

Original falling rules make falls very dangerous, and means anything that makes your fall count as 10' less could potentially save you from massive amounts of damage.
Fire rules in LotFP are nice. I like them, but added a few extra bits from rulings we've had in the past.
Drowning has claimed the life of several adventurers in my game, would you believe. The ruling at the time turned out to be surprisingly functional - 5 rounds of activity (+/- Con) before you start taking damage.



- Added temporary shelter ruling

All the same as before, except that it's possible to set up a makeshift shelter in the wilderness if you spend a day and roll Bushcraft.
Requiring a tent and rations to heal quickly in the wilderness works well, but what do you do if you forgot to buy a tent and/or your tent got destroyed by an angry bear?
You can build a semi-permanent shelter in the wilderness with a day and a successful Bushcraft roll.
Tents are a shortcut that you can pack up and move easily every day, so they're much better for travel than spending a day scratch-building a shelter every time someone needs to heal quickly.

Magical Healing

- Tweaks to Cleric spells that deal with poison

This has been in the poison rules post for a couple years now, but this is the first time I've stuck it in the house rules doc.
Delay Poison means you'll likely have processed the poison before it kills you.
Neutralise Poison... neutralises poison.


Basic Combat

- Added Magic to this section

This is in the Classes section too, but it really should have been here all along.
Declare casting at the start of the round, you need to be protected until it goes off at the end of the round. Standard in my game since forever.

Fancy Combat Options

- Removed Bumrush
- Removed gimmicky Parry rules, rolled Disengage into Parry
- Replaced Sneak Attack with Backstab
- Added Evade
- Clarified Wrestling
- Moved setting spears to Reach weapon section

Here we go! Some big changes.

Bumrush/Charge is easily a gambit. I'm surprised it lasted so long really.
Parry and Disengage were two similarly defensive but separate actions before. Now Parry is just the overall defensive "please don't hurt me" action, boosting AC and avoiding Opportunity Attacks.

The new Backstab will come up lots more. It's primarily a bonus for flanking enemies now, with a secondary use for killing surprised enemies. Flanking is a 5e-style thing, multiple people attacking one target in melee. Optimally you'll have a tank distracting the enemy while you come in with the Backstab. Conveniently this can be used to make pack-hunting enemies more dangerous by giving them good Backstab scores.

Evade appeared in this skills post as "Combat Stealth" but it's in the house rules now. Takes an action and a successful skill roll, so only useful if you have reliable Stealth.
Great for setting up a Backstab since it gives you +4 to hit and they can't target you on their next turn, guaranteeing Flanking.

Together, Aim, Evade and Parry form a sort of combat boost trifecta.
Aim is use an action, boost ranged attack.
Evade is use an action, boost melee attack.
Parry is use an action, boost AC.
Maybe the almighty Gambit will eat them all next time round, but I like the balance for now.

Wrestling is great. Adding some clarity for multiple wrestlers, and how wrestling rolls happen on both sides of the round.
+/- 1000 for natural 1s and 20s is for the silliness of it, but also neatly describes "a natural 20 automatically wins a wrestle, unless both people roll a natural 20 in which case it's still down to modifiers".

Spears in a bit.

Melee Weapon Types

- Choppy weapons changed: deal improved damage die against light armour or less
- Stabby weapons changed: +1 to melee AC and +1 to melee attack bonus

I still enjoy differentiating the weapons like this, even if it bumps up the complexity a little. With a general lack of magical weapons in a low magic game, weapon choice takes up some of the slack.
They used to trigger effects depending on whether you rolled evens or won initiative or whatever, but that's really too fiddly and complicated. It might maybe be fine if you're a player, but for poor old me rolling for a bunch of enemies at once that's too much overhead.

So now this should all be much easier for someone rolling a bunch of dice at once, and hopefully easier for the players.

Choppy axes deal improved die of damage against low armour targets. This means a greataxe vs a generic peasant rolls 1d12!
Smashy hammers are the same as before, piercing high armour targets.
Stabby swords are a straightforward upgrade against any target. +1 to hit, +1 to melee AC. Pair with a shield and you've got +2 AC against both melee and ranged attacks. Heavy armour, sword, and shield gives you a tip top 20 AC which is the effective maximum.
I might rename "Stabby" to "Versatile" to make it clear that they're good for offense and defence, but I'm keeping it for now.
Shanky is unchanged, deal bonus damage in a Wrestle if your roll beats their AC. Knife fights get messy.
Whippy is also unchanged. Ranged wrestle.

Noted here too: the Fighter gets extra bonuses on top of these. They're better than anyone else with any weapon, which is as it should be I think.

Melee Weapon Options

- Reach Weapons allow you to make an Opportunity Attack against enemies moving into melee.

Not actually a change, just not highlighted like this before. Was previously under the overcomplicated Parry action.
Opportunity Attack against approaching enemies makes the spear a superior defensive weapon, and good for defending your friends.

Also interacts with the new disengaging Parry. You can close in on a spear wielder by using Parry to avoid the Opportunity Attack, at the expense of not being able to attack them when you get in close enough.
Dropping Charge/Bumrush means that I can just drop setting spears against a charge. Spears are set against anything moving into range automatically, but no bonus to damage.

Ranged Weapon Options

- Firearms are all counted as flintlocks now.
- Rifled barrel improves Aim, instead of making up for range penalties
- Firearms ignore all armour at close range (all ranges for musket)

In a game where all of the various weapons have been cut down to several damage categories, it's a wonder I stuck with the Matchlock/Wheellock/Flintlock thing for so long. Who cares?
Everything is now counted as a flintlock, and if you want to have a rad wheellock on your pistol I'm not going to penalise you for it.

Range penalties literally never come up. I'm not going to measure ranges, and most if not all combat in this game is at short enough range that you don't need to worry about it.
Getting a rifled barrel means you double the Aim bonus to a big +8, at the expense of doubled reload time on a firearm you'd never manage to use more than once a fight anyway.
Finally, a reason to buy an Arquebus over a Pistol.
This should be an improvement even if you do measure ranges, since the Aim bonus makes up for the range penalties. Get your snipe on.
I was also doing the by-the-book firearms thing where guns pierce 5 points of AC, but piercing all armour is easier to adjudicate even if it's not entirely realistic.

Death and Dismemberment

- Updated for the modern era

This is all in pamphlet form now. Go see that post for an explanation of my game's most fiddly subsystem.
The main thing is to call them "Death Tokens" instead of "Death Dice", and add a bit more clarity. I think it's fine now.
This is a big wodge of complexity in the middle of an otherwise fairly rules light game, but it leads to a lot of fun gameplay for me. I swear.


Wear and Tear

- Removed weapon/armour Quality
- Removed sacrificing armour to reduce damage
- Added England Upturn'd misfire table for Notched firearms
- Dwarfs can completely fix a single item per day, up from one Notch per day.

Having different weapon Qualities which gave different chances of taking Notches was a good idea in theory but definitely very easy to forget about in the heat of battle.
You know what's not easy to forget in the heat of battle? Crits and fumbles! Any time a natural 1 or 20 comes up, people notice. So now weapon/armour damage is triggered by those exclusively.

Part of the impetus was having high quality weapons and armour to replace magic weapons and armour, but that was a nice idea that never worked out great. Just make it extra fancy or something. Hell, make it unbreakable. That's as good as magic.

There was a rule here last time where you could sacrifice armour to reduce an attack's damage to 1, but that's gone now. I kept forgetting and so did the players.

England Upturn'd has cool a firearm-exclusive misfire table that it wold be a shame not to use, so I'm using it.

Dwarf repairs are better now, just because it makes it easier. Give a Dwarf a day and he can fix an item. Solid. A Mending spell always fixed an item completely, but I'm calling it out here to make it clear.


- Called out skill-boosting equipment and skills that get boosted by Intelligence
- Backstab is a reworked Sneak Attack
- First Aid reworked - forces patient to Tempt Fate on a 6 instead of dealing damage, no longer heals HP
- Added Rapid Reload to Sleight of Hand
- Added Evade to Stealth
- Added Invention to Tinkering

A few changes around here.
Intelligence modifies Arcana and Languages. Nothing new there.
Specialist's Tools give a +1 to Tinkering and First Aid, that's not been in these rules before.
Same with Crampons granting a +1 to Climbing, which needs calling out really.

Backstab is a big change. See Fancy Combat Options above. Upgrade hits against surprised or flanked enemies to crits.

First Aid is now focused directly on field medicine, healing up a person who's reached 0HP and is dying from Death Tokens. The combat medic skill to bring the dying back from the brink!
Failing on a 6 used to deal 1 damage to the patient, but now it makes the patient Tempt Fate which fits the Death Token angle better.
Healing HP with First Aid has been scrapped, eating to heal works better and more reliably.

Rapid Reload skill was sort of in the rules before, but it's here now.
Roll Sleight of Hand to get a free Reload action. This means you can Reload twice in one round, or even Reload while fighting. Potentially fire a gun every 3 rounds if you've got good Sleight of Hand and focus on reloading, which almost makes it worth it.

Evade, again, see Fancy Combat Options above. Dodge and weave to gain an advantage against an enemy.

Invention has been in the game for a while, because players looove coming up with bullshit mechanical things like breathing apparatus or complicated traps.
Only change is that if a device works successfully it gets a +1 to Invention rolls in future, so you slowly build it up until it works consistently. Previously this had it working after three successful uses, but I think this is mechanically neater.


Rune Magic

- Minor tweaks

Due to mystery campaign reasons (and mild balance woes) the Repel rune doesn't generate stuff any more, only pushes it away. Breath weapons are too easy I guess!
There are a few other bits, but that's the main one.


- Added everything for each class, not just the things that are tweaked from baseline LotFP. You can run a class out of this document now.

Just makes it easier for people who aren't running LotFP to figure out everything a class has.

Onto actual changes that matter.

The Fighter

- Added Weapon Mastery

Fighters are simple. This is mostly on purpose, it's a straightforward class with a straightforward focus on straightforward murder.
People who want to be a fighter type tend to roll Barbarian nowadays. But I have a condition where any time we haven't had a Fighter in a while, I want to make Fighters better.

So here we are. Weapon Mastery. As seen in the Melee Weapon Types section, different kinds of weapons get different kinds of bonuses.
Fighters get those and more, with the bonuses intended to synergise with the base perks.
Having a Fighter that carries one of each weapon around sounds great.

The Choppy upgrade is suspiciously similar to 5e's great weapon thing, from which I took it.
The Smashy upgrade replaces the old "shiver armour on evens" thing. Hammer attack to make the enemy easier for your allies to hit. Combo with the new Backstab to good effect.
The Stabby upgrade means swords are very much the defensive weapon - use an action to Parry and hopefully you'll trigger one or more counterattacks. Amazing for a fully armoured and shielded Fighter.
The Shanky upgrade makes Fighters even more brutal wrestlers, seeing as their attack bonus means they'll win wrestles a lot.
The Whippy upgrade is to do some Indiana Jones shit and trip people up.

The Magic-User

- Altered Spell Interruption to make Chaos Mages more possible
- Made Spell Swap more lenient

Spell Interruption used to mean you could prevent a Spell Collapse with a Save vs Chaos.
Now a Save vs Chaos means you get to see what the Spell Collapse will do first, then choose whether you negate it. A small but significant change.
Shout out again to Aura Twilight's chaos magic table which I can't link enough.

Spell Swap now only has a penalty if you're swapping a higher level spell to a lower one, due to the potential magical leakage. You're forcing a larger amount of energy into a less complex spell and the magic might start leaking in around the sides.
Previously you had a penalty equal to the sum of the spell levels, so this is more lenient.
I want it to be slightly risky to swap a spell, but not so risky that I hear people going "nonono!" to a spell swap like the wizard's about to cast a Summon spell.

These Spell Swap rules carry over to other casters.


The Extras

- Added this class

My Extras class is so similar to Manola's original Extras class that it's not worth a class blog post.
The only minor difference is that the "Magic for the Masses" rule applies to all items.
If you've got less than 10 of an item, it can be used once per scene and each takes up a separate Encumbrance slot.
If you've got 10 of an item, it can be used every round and all 10 items take up a single Encumbrance slot.

Two bows means you can fire arrows twice per scene.
Ten bows means you can fire arrows every round.

Two suits of chain armour means you can get Chain AC twice a scene.
Ten suits of chain armour means you have Chain AC at all times.

It's very strange and meta, but that's the Extras in a nutshell!

The Inheritor

- Added this class

Recently detailed in the Inheritor class post.
Eat monsters to steal their abilities and use them against your foes.
Enough of a niche that it doesn't step on other class's toes, and the game's first Inheritor so far has ended up being really interesting!

So that's that. A whole lot of incremental changes that I hopefully won't have a need to fiddle with for a while. Enjoy!