28 July 2009

‘Swords & Sorcery’ House Rules Index

Here is a summary of my house rules for Swords & Wizardry (with appropriate links). They are intended, when used together, to simulate more closely the ‘swords and sorcery’ genre, as exemplified in the fiction of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber. Nonetheless, most of these house rules can be used on their own in a ‘standard’ or ‘classic’ ‘Old School’ D&D game (including Original D&D, Basic D&D, RC D&D, Labyrinth Lord, 1e AD&D, OSRIC, etc.).

1. Miscellaneous House Rules. Some minor rules for ability scores and combat (critical hits, fumbles, etc.)

2. Hit Points and Constitution. A system for treating hit points as ‘superficial’ damage (i.e., exhaustion, minor bruises, etc.), and constitution as ‘serious’ damage. The former is easy to heal, whereas the latter is not.

3. Wisdom as Sanity. A system for treating a character’s ‘wisdom’ score as a measurement of his/her sanity.

4. Background Professions. A list of ‘background professions’ (e.g., alchemist, minstrel, sailor) for characters, designed to give them some more flavour, and a few minor special abilities.

5. General Task Resolution Mechanic. A system for using the generic ‘saving throws’ in S&W as a ‘general task resolution mechanic,’ i.e., a system for determining whether characters succeed at various things.

6. Class-Based Weapon Damage. This system uses a character’s class in order to determine how much damage that character can do with a particular weapon.

7. The Thief. My version of the ‘thief’ class, inspired primarily by the ‘Gray Mouser’ character.

8. Everyone can Backstab. Pretty self-explanatory, I think.

9. Fighting Styles for Fighters. A list of six different ‘fighting styles’ (e.g., berserker, shield-master, etc.) available to fighter characters.

10. Magicians and the Colours of Magic. The magician is a new class meant to replace the cleric and magic-user classes. I designed it to have a stronger ‘pulp sorcerer’ flavour than the standard spell-casting classes. The ‘colours of magic’ refers to my categorization of all spells as either ‘white magic,’ ‘grey magic,’ or ‘black magic.’ All spells cause ‘exhaustion’ for magicians, and black magic spells might cause ‘corruption’ (i.e., loss of wisdom/sanity).

11. Experience Points. Quite simply, an alternative system for assigning experience points to characters.

Enjoy, gentle readers!


EDIT (added 16 November 2009): A PDF of these rules, courtesy of Benoist, can be found here.

31 comments:

  1. Helpful index and nice stuff, as usual.

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  2. Any chance of sticking it all together in a pdf?

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  3. Thanks for the kind words, Matt.

    FFB, I plan to produce a pdf at some point. I'm debating whether to incorporate these house rules directly into the core S&W rules document -- essentially creating a new, S&W-based game (like 'Ruins & Ronins', which modifies S&W in order to create an 'oriental' FRP) -- or simply as a list of rules options (i.e., essentially what is available now on the blog).

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  4. Since you first started posting these house rules they've been seeping into my games and now I can't imagine running S&W without them.

    Thank you :)

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  5. I'm glad that you've found the house rules helpful, Sean. Thanks for your kind words!

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  6. Just started using these for a game on Google Wave - the Thief player is very pleased with the class.

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  7. I have to figure out how to use Google Wave in order to get the 'old gang' together again!

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  8. Very useful and very nice. Thanks for sharing your ideas and thoughts. It helps me to improve my own house rules =).

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  9. I hope you don't mind a necromantic thank you, Akrasia (and to Benoist)!

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  10. Glad people are still finding these helpful!

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  11. Akrasia- I have a question about your spells- I was hoping that Crypts and Things would answer this, but alas it seems he went to the cast and forget method rather than your house rules.. How do you handle caster level in terms of HP consumption? Fireball doing X damage per caster level? Does a mage casting Magic Missile at level 5 pay the same amount of HP as a mage casting at level 1 (given the variance in damage)?

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  12. Wrathofzombie, I've treated the HP cost as based on the level of spell. So yes, a 10th level mage would suffer the same HP cost as a 1st level mage. On reflection, though, variable costs might make more sense. (This never really came up during playtesting, since only villainous NPCs cast such spells.)

    Keep in mind that most 'damaging' spells (fireball, magic missile, etc.) are categorized as 'black magic', and so can cause corruption (loss of WIS) as well as HP loss.

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  13. @ Akrasia- That is basically what I figured would be the case. Yes the first level and tenth level are paying the same costs, but that risk of madness is always present. It does make sense that a 10th level Wizards spell would be more powerful.

    I have to say I'm a real fan of your spell casting rules. I'm using those, your HP/Con, and Wisdom as Sanity rules.

    Very awesome! Thanks

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  14. Thanks for the kind words, wrathofzombie! :)

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  15. Np. Thank you for the hard work and awesome house rules :)

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  16. Hey guys, not sure if I might have already posted this on a different topic but wanted to make sure you knew about a new Swords & Wizardry SRD (online rules reference) site built using the Complete rules. It's at http://www.d20swsrd.com and I'd love to hear any comments or suggestions anyone has on it. Feel free to email anything you have to jreyst@gmail.com :)

    --John

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    1. Nice site, John! I've added it to my 'Classic D&D links'.
      (Sorry for not noting the site earlier.)

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  17. Hello Akrasia,

    I have long searched for S&S rules for OGL games that fit my vision and you sir have done an outstanding job here so many, many thanks. With that being said, I have had problems in trying to justify the cost of casting black magic with something besides " some will do anything for power."
    What I was thinking was along the lines of the Dark Side, " faster, easier, more seductive".

    Mechanically, the HP cost for casting black magic spells is lesser than white or gray, ( the opposite of the standard rules) but the price is that you have a greater chance for insanity because you may cast them more often due the lesser HP cost.

    Additionally, I am considering that whenever one takes a black magic spell they get a point of physical corruption.

    Corruption Points Description ( From Conan D20)
    0 Uncorrupted
    1–3 Mildly Corrupted
    4–6 Corrupted
    7–9 Totally Corrupted
    10+ Diabolical

    And then using the Taint effects table here:
    http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/campaigns/taint.htm

    So, the physical taint/corruption is like the channel that is carved “into” the caster to allow the spell to pass through and every time the spell is cast there is a chance to increase insanity.

    Black magic costs the spell level +1 to cast with the accompanying corruption and insanity rules.

    Gray magic would cost spell level x2. After each spell casting the sorcerer makes a save. If the roll is 1 they receive a point of corruption. If they roll a 20 they can remove one point of corruption. This represents the balancing act of gray magic between black and white. A character can only gain corruption once per spell. If the character would normally gain a corruption point they instead gain temporary insanity points as per the rules. However, if corruption has been healed by rolling a 20 for a particular spell then caster can become corrupted in that spell again.


    White magic would cost the spell level x2+1 in HP with no corruption or insanity.

    Finally, I am going to change the sorcerer stat from Int to Wis. The reason being is that magic in not an academic pursuit. It is won by blood, swear, and tears. One's sanity is often put to the test and it through drive and will that one commands alien forces.

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    1. Well, I ain't Akrasia, but I like it and agree with most of the reasoning. The only counter-argument I can see is that the Black Magic spells are inherently more attractive to adventurers because they form the usual Magic-User's old stand-bys. So, they cost more because they are the ones most often used. This is, I think, an out-of-game rationale.

      Thus, I think the choice is whether to to go with RAW which encourages use of non-Black Magic through lower HP cost OR go with yours, which simultaneously encourages and discourages Black Magic. Depends upon how you like your game.

      Also, just another thought: I've begun to make the prime stat CHA under the ideas that A)CHA is the force of one's personality put out into the world and B)Black Magic is about making deals with extra-dimensional guys.

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    2. Lots of interesting ideas here, Hoplite Nomad!

      It's not entirely clear to me how the d20 'Taint' rules would work with S&W, but maybe I need to read them over more carefully (I remember finding them intriguing when I picked up the 3e Unearthed Arcana a decade ago).

      One worry I have is that using both Insanity and Corruption could be a bit more paperwork than I would like.

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    3. @ Matthew and Hoplite Nomad: Regarding the prime stat for magicians, I prefer Intelligence over either Wisdom or Charisma. I guess I'm just wedded to the idea of power-hungry scholars researching esoteric tomes written in eldritch languages. Such individuals strike me as rather lacking in Wisdom (and sanity), and generally not very appealing to others (though with some exceptions, e.g., Elric).

      Having said that, I can appreciate the arguments in favour of Wisdom or Charisma for the reasons given. Even if I did choose one of those options, though, I would insist on a minimum Intelligence (say, 13), as I just can't envision a 'stupid' (as opposed to foolish or foolhardy) sorcerer!

      Delete
  18. Hope this didn't post twice...

    Hello Akrasia,

    I have long searched for S&S rules for OGL games that fit my vision and you sir have done an outstanding job here so many, many thanks. With that being said, I have had problems in trying to justify the cost of casting black magic with something besides " some will do anything for power."
    What I was thinking was along the lines of the Dark Side, " faster, easier, more seductive".

    Mechanically, the HP cost for casting black magic spells is lesser than white or gray, ( the opposite of the standard rules) but the price is that you have a greater chance for insanity because you may cast them more often due the lesser HP cost.

    Additionally, I am considering that whenever one takes a black magic spell they get a point of physical corruption.

    Corruption Points Description ( From Conan D20)
    0 Uncorrupted
    1–3 Mildly Corrupted
    4–6 Corrupted
    7–9 Totally Corrupted
    10+ Diabolical

    And then using the Taint effects table here:
    http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/campaigns/taint.htm

    So, the physical taint/corruption is like the channel that is carved “into” the caster to allow the spell to pass through and every time the spell is cast there is a chance to increase insanity.

    Black magic costs the spell level +1 to cast with the accompanying corruption and insanity rules.

    Gray magic would cost spell level x2. After each spell casting the sorcerer makes a save. If the roll is 1 they receive a point of corruption. If they roll a 20 they can remove one point of corruption. This represents the balancing act of gray magic between black and white. A character can only gain corruption once per spell. If the character would normally gain a corruption point they instead gain temporary insanity points as per the rules. However, if corruption has been healed by rolling a 20 for a particular spell then caster can become corrupted in that spell again.


    White magic would cost the spell level x2+1 in HP with no corruption or insanity.

    Finally, I am going to change the sorcerer stat from Int to Wis. The reason being is that magic in not an academic pursuit. It is won by blood, swear, and tears. One's sanity is often put to the test and it through drive and will that one commands alien forces.


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  19. Any comments on the above are welcomed.

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    1. I hope to look over your ideas over this weekend, Hoplite Nomad (been bogged down lately).

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  20. I think any and probably all the mental stats are appropriate, but you have to pick one (I guess). I don't read CHA as likeable or anything like that anymore: I read it as force of personality and it can be creepy and scary just as easily as charming.

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  21. I just got started with Basic D&D and have been searching for house rules. I found quite a few from links in this article that I will be using in my game. I just wanted to thank you for posting these and helping a newcomer out. Thank You!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your kind words, and good luck with your game! :)

      Delete

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