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Evil characters?

Angelo has been sick, and has been spending a lot of time going through the rules for me. He’s found a lot of stuff. Angelo, I’m sorry you’re not feeling well, and I hope you get better… eventually.

Angelo found two things I want to talk about:

  1. I say that it’s possible to play Good or Evil Clerics or Paladins, but the mechanic by which the actions of Good characters is constrained, namely Holy Orders, are fundamentally all for good-guy characters. Are there any bad Holy Orders?
  2. Playing a character-who-wields-two-weapons is pretty hard in this game; there are significant penalties to it, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to blunt those penalties, apart from taking a proficiency in two-weapon fighting, and that doesn’t do a huge amount of good. Is that what I want?

The simple and easy way to address this would be to come up with some bad Holy Orders, and to say that two-weapon fighting is indeed hard (there’s not much in the way of rules for it in B/X or Labyrinth Lord). However, I’d like to float another approach.

I’ve always seen this ruleset as modular. I’m creating a core set of rules. It’s going to be online, and the version without art will be free. Then I’m going to expand on that with products that are sold to benefit the Food Bank. I want there to be expansions because that’s an easy set of products I can sell – although I’m not 100% sure that I ever want rules to be sold, but that’s a future consideration.

The point is: it would be easy to generate an expansion that’s essentially a Book of Vile Darkness: how to play evil characters. Provide character options for evils, including new evil subclasses and Holy Orders, new evil spells, evil magic items, new poisons, etc. All that is future work, but I could set the groundwork for it today.

If I did this, I would take the following steps:

  1. Say that evil clerics and paladins are a future possibility, but in these rules, only options for good clerics and paladins are provided.
  2. Under Thief, remove the Assassin subclass. That would be issued in the Evil supplement.
  3. Instead of Assassin, go with Swashbuckler. This is a Thief subclass that still uses light armor but gets significantly better at two weapons as long as they are both Light.

Does that sound like a reasonable approach?

Monster stats – arbitrary or rules-driven?

I’m into Chapter 8 now, and I’m working on figuring out how a monster goes together in this game. One of the big questions is: should their stats be arbitrarily chosen, or should they follow rigorous rules?

This is a post-OSR game; it uses an OSR game ruleset as a starting point, but I feel free to make design choices that deviate strongly from the OSR if there are good reasons to do so. One of the things about original D&D, and the games that derive from it, is that monster statistics were built fairly arbitrarily. The creators said: oh, I want to create a Lizard Man. I want it to be tougher than a normal man, maybe even tougher than a starting player character, so I’ll give it two hit dice. Then, oh let’s see, I want it to have a scaly hide that will protect it from many weapons, so I’ll assign it an AC of 5. And I’ll give it the following other abilities, and then I’ll say it’s worth so many XP.

3rd edition D&D, and the branch that headed towards Pathfinder, decided that stats should be more scientifically generated than that. That game divided monsters into types, and each type had a set of things they were better or worse at. Using those rules, if you wanted to create a Lizard Man, you would start by knowing it’s a Humanoid, and then you would work within the rules laid out to build a creature’s stats.

Both the arbitrary method and the rules-driven method have their advantages. Arbitrary means less work up front. I set the stats for each monster to whatever I want it to be, and then I’m done. It does mean that I risk inconsistency – “Why is Monster A so much more powerful than Monster B, yet is worth less experience?” It also means that there are no rules for creating new monsters, which is something I want to enable.

Creating rules (in my case using multiple descriptors, not a single type) would be more work up front. It would, however, eliminate 90% of the inconsistency cases (although I still could wind up with over or under-valued monsters) and would allow me to create a lovely chapter on How to Build Your Own Monster, which I think is valuable, because this is a game that will have multiple modular expansions.

I’ve already decided that I’m going to do a test batch of about 20 monsters using the rules-driven construction approach and see how it goes. However, a question for the group: do you see value in it? Would you be inclined to use a set of rules to generate your own monsters, or would you chuck any such set and just make your own stats regardless of any official methodology?

Welcome to the Iron League

This site is ironleague.org, and it is the central coordinating hub for a role-playing game called Tales of the Iron League, or TOTIL for short.

I run role-playing games at conventions. Over the last several years I have been running a sort of continuous campaign at three different conventions. The campaign uses Labyrinth Lord as a rules system – a retroclone of ’81 B/X Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve added my own house-rules to the system, as most DMs I know are prone to do.

Over the years, however, the house-rules have started to become bulky, and some of the changes I have wanted to make were basically impossible under the Labyrinth Lord framework. I therefore resolved to create my own game, largely from scratch but taking advantage of the Open Gaming LIcense’s provisions. One of the things I do when I run games at conventions is play to benefit charity, specifically the Houston Food Bank. The goal of TOTIL is not to sell a product, but to create an engine that will enhance my ability to procure donations for the Houston Food Bank, and hopefully get other people donating as well.

This game is currently under development; a first draft of primordial and incomplete rules has been generated (those rules can be downloaded from this site), and playtesting will begin soon. At the present time, this blog will largely be about game development issues. Once a final and usable game rolls out, this blog will probably be used for world development notes.

Thank you for reading.