Monday, 23 May 2022

House Rule: How to Get Rid of Clerics (& Druids & Paladins)

Here's how I'm getting rid of Clerics and Druids and Paladins in my OSE based game:

The classes are unavailable for both PCs and Players. Their spells - with the exception of Cure Light Wounds, Cure Serious Wounds, Commune, and Raise Dead - are available to Magic-Users. 

Randomly generated Magic-User spells on level-up are still generated from the Magic-User Spell list, so the spells have to be obtained through play.

Where a Druid or Cleric spell also appears on the Magic-User list but at a different level, use the spell level from the Magic-User list.

That's it.

The Cleric class illustration from the Mentzer Basic Set
(Larry Elmore)

You may ask "why?" Or you may not, but I will answer nonetheless.

The reason why I don't want divine casters in my game is threefold: I don't like easily available healing magic; I like to keep the spiritual/ divine element of the game less knowable and game optimizable; and in I find the whole blunt weapons + armour + siloed spells thing for Clerics pretty naff (this is obviously a subjective thing).

In general, I tend to prefer somewhere between this writeup on polytheism from A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry and Black Streams: Cult of Ruin for my religion in my Old School Fantasy Gaming.

As for how it'll impact the game, I've added a Bonus Hit Point mechanic which I think will more or less balance out the lack of Cure Wounds spells.

On the DM side - where a pre-published module features a Cleric I will either convert them to a Magic-User, to some sort of Cultist, or a Fighter with religious inclinations (which ultimately is just another flavour of Cultist) as appropriate.

The Cleric class illustration from the Mentzer Expert set.
(Larry Elmore)

Saturday, 21 May 2022

d20 x d6 Traits of Local Noble Houses Table

Like I said in the first post on this blog - I'm looking to add content to help hex crawl through settled areas as well as the more traditional wilderness content. While Nobles do their thing in wilderness and borderlands no doubt, there are more of them in settled lands I think.So this is a step towards that goal.

In my head, this table is for families who are pre-eminent in a 6-mile hex, but really there's nothing that stops anyone from applying it to more powerful families (or, indeed, to non-ruling families). It's probably skewed a bit towards a Warrior-Aristocrat baseline, but not so much that it can't be used for Imperial Bureaucracy Officials or Mage-Aristocrats or whatever other arrangements fit your setting.

Here's the table. Roll a d20 to find the trait, then a d6 to get the specific variation. If you want to go wild, you could even roll two or three times for the same family.

A sweet image from the BECMI companion set (of domain management fame), probably of a noble of some sort leading his troops into battle.
(Pretty sure this is an Elmore piece)

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

House Rule: Keep Going & How Bad Is It

Here are my house rules for adding a bit of tension and survivability to reaching 0 hp, as well as increase the opportunities for heroic/ desperate self-sacrifice.

If a natural 20 attack roll takes you to 0 HP, you are dead. If a single source of damage does more damage than your Constitution score and takes you to 0 HP, you are dead.

If you are at 0 HP but not dead, you can try to Keep Going. Otherwise you are Down. 

If you are Down you can't do anything. Once combat is over, you roll on the How Bad Is It table.

If you try to Keep Going, you make a Save vs Death. If you succeed you can act normally until next round. If you fail, you are Down.

If you Keep Going, every new round and every time you take damage, you must make a new Save vs Death or go Down. You get a -1 to the Saving Throw for each save you have already made. This negative modifier also applies to your roll on the How Bad Is It table.

This means it gets harder and harder to Keep Going, and the longer you do it the more likely it is that you will die. It's up to you how hard you want to push your luck. You can always chose to go Down rather than try to Keep Going.

How Bad Is It

RollHow Bad Is It
3 or lessDead
9+Just a Scratch

You are dead.

If you are left to your own devices, roll a d6. On 1-3 you are dead (or otherwise disappear from player control). On 4-6 you show up in a safe place in d6 seasons, with only d6 of your current items still in your possession. Lose two randomly determined stat points and gain one randomly determined point as a result of the ordeal.

If someone brings you to safety and puts you in care you are useless for d4 seasons, at which point you are back to normal. Lose two randomly determined stat point and gain one as a result of the ordeal.

You suffer -2 to attack, damage, and saving throws and your move is reduced by 30' (10') until you spend a full week resting and recuperating. Recover 1 HP.

You suffer the same penalties as if you're wounded, but a good nights rest and a square meal will remove the penalties. Recover d4 + Con modifier hit points (can't be more than your max HP, can't be less than 1).

Just a Scratch
Maybe you were knocked out, maybe you had the wind knocked out of you. Whatever it is, you pick yourself up and can continue. Recover d6 + Con modifier hit points (can't be more than your max HP, can't be less than 1).

Some of these folks are most likely hurt or worse.
(Bayeux Tapestry)

Some Thoughts

I wasn't sure whether to add the automatic death rules (and I had several different ideas), but in the end I went with some. It makes Shields even more of a big deal (due to Shields Shall Be Splintered), but maybe you want to save them for the critical moment.

How Bad Is It can be used without Keep Going if you'd like.

There are a probably a bunch of edge cases where it makes sense that 0 HP just = dead (you're in a vacuum, you drown, etc). I'm not going to write all that out, just rule on it when it comes up.

It does add a bit of extra survivability, it's true. However, in the game this is intended for Clerical healing is not really available (and no Raise Dead), so I expect that it'll be fine. I do have to test it out in actual play though. I do kind of encourage players to have a back-up character ready at all times - whether it's an additional level 1 rolled up or some sort of henchperson or hireling.

Also, I'm totally applying these rules to NPCs and Monsters as well (where it feels appropriate), even though the rules are phrased to be player facing.

Last but not least, the long recovery times fit in with other house rules I'm planning on using, with the intended effect to give a longer more natural sense of the passage of time. We'll see if it works. If that doesn't suit you, feel free to change those time periods (or let Clerical magic fix everything).

Tuesday, 10 May 2022


OSE uses +1 to hit, or THAC0 for monsters. BECMI uses look-up-in-a-table, based on HD. For my own convenience I've laid out the conversion here.

HDUp to 11+ to 22+ to 33+ to 44+ to 55+ to 66+ to 77+ to 8
To Hit0+1+2+3+4+5+6+7
HD8+ to 99+10+11+12+13+14+15+
To Hit+8+9+10+11+12+13+14+16

... it actually keeps going after that, but it's sufficient for my purposes.

Here's a classic BECMI illustration of demi-humans from the Mentzer Basic set.
(Larry Elmore)

Monday, 9 May 2022

Monster Catalogue: Deadly Plants

I came up with BECMI in the 80s. One of my favourite books from that is Creature Catalogue, a compendium of monsters from various modules. I'm going to write some of them up for OSE for my own campaign and I figured I might as well share them here - starting with a handful of deadly plants.

Please note that treasure types, saves, and xp values are all straight from BECMI. I'm not sure how they align with OSE as I haven't compared. I've also interpreted the descriptions a bit, to make what I think is sense.

This particular plant is probably safe to touch... and maybe even eat?
(Albrecht Dürer)


Golden water lilies, the size of sunflowers.

AC 9 [10], HD 1/2 (2 hp), Att Special, Move 0', Sv D14 M15 P16 B17 R17, ML 12, AL Neutral, NA 0 (3d6), TT n/a, XP 6

  • When creature approaches within 10', sprays 40' x 40' cloud of pollen. Save vs Spells or fall asleep for 4d4 turns.
  • Can spray fresh burst every 3d4 rounds.
  • Often found with Vampire Roses, Killer Trees, and other carnivorous plants.  


Sickly-looking, stunted, thorny bush. Carnivorous.

AC 7 [12], HD 2 (9 hp),  THAC0 18, Att [+1] 1 x Thorn Spray (20', d4), Move 3' (1'), Sv D12 M13 P14 B15 R16, ML 12, AL Chaotic, NA 0 (d20), TT V, XP 20  

  • Thorn spray range 20', up to 3 times a day.
  • Uproots itself to move to slain enemies and eat them.

Looks like a regular large tree of some kind, it's mouth apparently just a regular tree bole.

AC 5 [14], HD 6 (27 hp),  THAC0 14, Att [+5] 4 x limbs (special, 20'), 1 x mouth (3d6), Move 0', Sv D12 M13  P14 B15 R16, ML 12, AL Neutral, NA 0 (2d6), TT n/a, XP 275
  • Tentacle limbs can reach 20', on hit grabs target. On next round drags victim to mouth for automatic 3d6 damage.
  • Hitting tentacle for 5+ damage severs it (does not affect main HP).

Large carnivorous plant luring victims to its centre with scents and glinting light (implying barely hidden gold).

AC 9 [10], HD 5 (22 HP), Att Special, Move 0', Sv D10 M11 P12 B13 S14, ML 12, AL Neutral, NA d2 (d6), TT V, XP 175
  • If creature reaches centre of plant, web of branching arms entraps victim and does d4 crushing damage per round, and d10 enzyme damage per turn (not round).
  • Trapped creature attacks at -4 to hit.
  • Only way to escape is cut all branches (reduce to 0 HP).
  • Damage to 0 HP does not kill the Sirenflower. It will regrow (as regular plant). Only way to fully kill is to dig up and burn the root.

Creeping vine dangling from overhanging tree branches. Up to 20' long.

AC 9 [10], HD 1 (8 hp) per 1' square, Att Special, Move 0', Sv D14 M15 P16 B17 R17, ML 12, AL Neutral, NA 0 (d10), TT U, XP 10 per 1' square
  • Touch sensitive, entangling those who touch it doing d4 strangulation damage per round.
  • Characters STR 6 and higher have 1 in 20 chance of untangling themselves. Each point STR lower than 6 increases odds by one (i.e. STR 5 has 2 in 20, STR 4 3 in 20, and STR 3 4 in 20 chance).
  • Cutting sufficient area, doing 8 hp damage with edged weapon, can free a victim.
  • Characters caught in vine attack at -4.

Looks like a normal white rosebush. They uproot themselves and search for creatures to drain their blood, at which point the blossoms turn red for a while.

AC 7 [12], HD 4* (18 hp), THAC0 15, Att [+4] 1 x Thorn (d8) + blood drain, Move 30' (10'), Sv D12 M13 P14 B15 S16, ML 12, AL Chaotic, NA d8 (d8), TT n/a, XP 125
  • One bush per 4 hp.
  • Thorny stalks whip around victim and start draining blood through hollow thorns. Target mush make Save vs Spells or be hypnotically anaesthetized, allowing themselves to be drained (d8 damage per round) until they die.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

House Rule: The Good Life (& Bonus HP)

One of the things that make the Hobbit and LotR feel real to me is how important food and accommodation is. Camping in the rain kind of sucks. Catching and eating a rabbit - even at the risk of giving away your location - is an important morale boost. I want a bit of that vibe in my game, and hey I already have a table for determining whether the weather is poor.

Also, as you may recall if you've been reading along, I've done away with Clerics and attendant common healing spells. This puts PCs a bit behind the baseline curve in terms of survival.

One of the ways I'm going to address it is to involve more healing springs and weird shrines where you roll a d6 (or whatever) and maybe you get healed. But that's for later.

This post is about Bonus Hit Points, and how I intend (hope) for them to help things a bit. This is also a way to add a bit of structure to the passage of days, and add some of that "maybe let's not camp in the rain and eat iron rations" flavour if possible.

A convivial time at the Prancing Pony is sure to raise your spirits
(Jian Guo aka breath-art)

Bonus HP

First off, my the general implementation of Bonus HP. 

  1. Bonus HP from different sources do not stack. That means if you have 3 Bonus HP and you get d6 Bonus HP from a night's rest, you will have 4, 5, or 6 Bonus HP if you roll that number on the die, and you will have 3 Bonus HP if you roll a 1, 2, or 3.
  2. Bonus HP are depleted before regular HP, but cannot be used to heal lost HP.
Many things give bonus HP - primarily comestibles and generally living the good life, but also spiritual blessings and whatnot.

Before the Adventure

If you spend some time before the adventure doing something more normal than scouring the countryside for treasures while fighting who-knows-what, you start with Bonus HP. How much depends on your standard of living and for how long you've been taking it easy.

*Requires gear to counter any weather effects

Rough = Sleeping out of doors and eating thin fare. If it's raining, you better have a tent, and if it's cold you better have some blankets and a fire.

Common = How most people live. As long as you have a decent roof over you head, square meals, and a comfortable place to sleep, this applies.

Fine = You're living the good life, with people attending to your needs, high quality food and drink. Equivalent to the standard of living of successful city merchants, average nobility, and the like.

Opulent = you live like a King, Empress, or someone otherwise in the top 1%.

And yes, this does mean that your standard level 1 PCs just starting out their careers get either d6 or d8 bonus HP in the beginning (because they've probably spent more than a season doing non-adventuring things). It might take the sting out of rolling a one on their hit dice.

Other Sources

Like I said have a some ideas for other sources of Bonus HP. They include things like: boons from religious practices, fancy elf-wine, tasty local specialties of certain villages, and so on. That's something I'll detail later, though.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Elementalist Spell: Command Elementals

I always felt Elementalists needed a little more help in D&D, so here's a basic spell for those folks to deal with, well, elementals.

Clever folk will notice that this is exactly the same spell as Command Undead, only for elementals. I have some notes on what I think about the spell below the picture in this post.

Command Elementals

Level: 1 to 6
Duration: One or more days
Range: 120'

This spell can be prepared in any level of spell slot, from 1 to 6. The higher the spell slot, the more powerful the effect.

The caster can attempt to control one or more elementals. Roll 2d6 on the Command Elemental table and compare to the HD of the targeted creature(s). If successful, roll 2d6 to determine the total HD of undead affected.

Affected elementals must obey the Elementalists every command if mindless. Intelligent elementals act as if as if under the command of a Charm Person spell. Intelligent elementals are aware of what is happening and may react accordingly once the spell wears off.

Subsequent castings of this spell override earlier ones, allowing Elementalists to wrest control of undead minions from one another.

Command Elementals (by HD)
* 2 HD monsters with special abilities
- cannot succeed
+ automatic success

Looks like some cute little fire elementals to me
(Jakub Rebelka)
(Who also did the sweet image at the top of the blog)

Like I said, it's an exact copy of my Command Undead spell from earlier this month.

With the Command Undead it's just giving Magic-Users the ability to turn undead at the cost of a spell slot. Probably not too crazy, especially in a game where I'm taking out Clerics (and Paladins).

Now, however, I'm expanding that same ability to elementals who've never been subjected to this sort of "turning" ability which is probably risky. On one hand, it explains the "elementalist Magic-User with elemental minions" dungeon very well, which is good. On the other hand, it potentially trivializes elementals as enemies - especially if the PCs know what to expect and go all in on these spells.

I can see some ways to take the edge off a bit - through roleplaying (the elementals aren't clever in their obedience), through additional saves (every time a command is given, perhaps), or simply by saying each new casting cancels the effect of previous castings. Alternately, perhaps, once an effected elemental makes a save it will be immune to the spell for some period.

Ultimately, whether it's a terrible spell or not probably depends on the campaign and the players. I think I'll give it a go and see how it turns out.