Category Archives: Home Brew Hacks

Just some house rules that I made up.

YARC Behind the Screen: Monsters & NPC’s

Everything I’ve posted about YARC has been player facing stuff. This is where the whole tone of any game really happens in my opinion. It’s the options that are available for the player character that make things move. And that part is basically done. The players have a draft of the rules and it will be time to start rolling some dice in the near future. But now I want to start looking behind the screen and stuff to make the life of the DM easier.

One of the most useful axioms is that monsters and NPC’s don’t have to follow the same rules as player characters. Sure a DM can use that to cheat and just outright kill or outshine the PC’s but the true intent is to make the DM’s job easier. The less time that the DM has flip through rule books or try to puzzle out a page long monster stat block is time away from actually keeping the excitement up. This where so many of the old school games shine. Easy and to the point monster stat blocks.

If you remember from the early posts, another goal of YARC to make it so that the DM could grab just any old school adventure and quickly and easily convert it while running it.

If we boil monsters down to their most basic, there’s three things that become the core mechanics of monster: HD, AC, and Damage. Hit Dice are basically a monster’s level. It’s how many Hit Points they have plus how powerful they are overall. Sure you could roll for HP but I’m running a standard of 5 HP/HD. As far as Attack and Save Bonuses. That’s the HD. Armor Class can be just from what’s listed or compare it to what the AC might be for a player character and if you’re using a source that only has Descending AC the just take 19-AC to get the Ascending AC. Damage same thing. Just use it or think of it in terms of the what’s available to the player characters. Then adjust or run any special abilities as needed. No this isn’t a scientific approach. It’s a lot of instinct and what feels right. So let’s make a freaky swamp monster

It’s pretty tough for single low characters but it’s going to go against a whole party. Let’s give it HD : 3. So it’s got 15 HP and +3 to Attack and make any checks and Saves.

It’s got a tough rubbery hide. Let’s say that’s about leather armor so AC: 12.

Its got long nasty claws. Those are sort of like daggers but it’s really strong so let’s make damage: 1d6.

It’s a Freaky Swamp Monster so it needs a couple of freaky powers. It lives in a swamp so it should be aquatic. I know let’s make it a stealthy predator so give it Advantage on Stealth type checks in a swamp. And last let’s give it a Swamp Gas power. It’s a fog that blinds and disorients everybody but it.

Now, I know that for higher HD monsters the HD as bonus thing breaks. So I’m running with a max bonus of +10. So a HD 18 Demon Lord would have only a +10 and 90 HP. It’s a good max while it does make the monster powerful without being overpowered plus anything with that many HD is going to have really nasty special abilities that really won’t depend on hitting high level characters in combat.

And those special abilities are where a lot of monsters shine. Don’t even thing putting those into a paragraph or a sentence for use at the game table.

  • Just
  • Use
  • Bullets

IMHO, too many monster books are just too damn wordy.

I call them Death & Taxes

Let’s talk about NPC’s a bit. Unnamed, and unimportant NPC’s basically use a monster stat block. That city guard, random pickpocket, tavern keep, or merchant. They are all going to be 1 to 2 HD and might not ever be seen again or you might need even any combat stats for them. And that’s an important note right there. If an NPC isn’t going to get into combat then you don’t need stats for them.

Here’s a confession. Vasha of the Night Market is an NPC that I’ve used in two campaigns. At the very least, the player character know up front that she’s a powerful magic-user. With even the smallest bit of research, they learn that the city elders let her do pretty much whatever she wants. She’s the only person that the head of local Thieves Guild actually fears. It’s clear to the players that if they do something stupid then eight kinds of hell is going to come raining down on them. I’ve never made any kind of stat block for her.

But if that NPC is the big bad. Oh hell yes. Go crazy and make that cool stat block. And make one’s for NPC that are reoccurring that you just need to have them go into combat either with or against the player characters.

Then there’s that special time that you want make an NPC with a whole sheet just like a player character. Always keep one of those in reserve.In case a player doesn’t show up or even if there happens to an extra player show up.

I know this has been a rambling post. So it’s time for me to shut up. I’ve got a game to prep for this weekend.

And here’s the Freaky Swamp Monster

HD: 3 (15 HP)

AC: 12

  • Aquatic
  • Advantage on Stealth
  • Swamp Gas: Blocks vision further than 10 feet. Save Vs Magic or Confused.

YARC: Death

Things are moving ahead on YARC. My players have the first draft of the rules hacks and I’m awaiting their comments. Now for this blog post. What about Death?

A few things have changed since I first mentioned Death Saves so let me start there. I decided to make Death Saves their own saving throw. For this category, I also included instant death or death-like effects like Petrification and some powers of really nasty undead.

So when I was thinking about how I was going to handle death, I looked at the original way (0 HP), a negative HP threshold, and the current 5E Death Save mechanic. Since half of my players only have experience with 5E, I decided to lean in that direction. But let’s face it. The 5E method is just too easy.

First, I made it a more normal Saving Throw with a bonus. To keep in line with the other Saving Throws, I needed to use an Attribute. But I decided since this is such an important one, I’d make a variable one. The character uses the highest of CON (You’re healthy), WIS (You’ve got a strong will to live), or CHA (You’re just a lucky bastard). Additional bonuses for Death Saves are far and few between but a character can gain some at the expense of not increasing other Saving Throws. So what’s the DC? Well, I dug back and thought, “Hey, this just might work!” Here’s where the player keeps track of Negative HP. That’s right. Your Negative HP is your Death Save DC, and not the arbitrary 10 from 5E. Sure that makes it really easy of a character is at -1 HP and damned frightening if not impossible at -20 HP. But wait there’s more.

I was inspired by Warlock from Fire Ruby Designs. If a character goes to zero or fewer HP then they may opt to tough it out. What happens? Well. they keep on going but when they do get hit again, they still accumulate Negative HP and thus making that Death Save DC higher. They also have to roll on a Grievous Injury Table (still working on a final version) but this everything from the character drops any way, to broken or severed limbs, organ damage, or the character gets killed outright. Yes. this is very much the DM saying, “Sure. Go right ahead.” Evil grin.

What’s his story?

And finally. I wanted to make things a little quicker and interesting. 5E boils down to the best 3 out of 5. I’m reducing that to the best 2 out of 3. And there’s another option. A character may sacrifice their armor for an automatic success. Yes, even if it’s magical. Is that +1 Leather really worth your life?

Keep those dice rolling, folks!

YARC Tweaks and Such

Ah yes. Last week was busier than expected so not much got done on the old blog but I did have the chance to scribble down some notes and then sort of put them together to make more sense. Plus, I’ve been working on a version of YARC for my players and I did promise that they’d see the rough draft in December so been working on that.

As I was organizing and making handy little tables something occurred to me about Proficiency Bonuses from 5E. Sure, it’s easy but in the back of my mind it didn’t make sense. Let me explain. A 1st level Fighter and 1st level Wizard each have a +2 Proficiency Bonus with a dagger. Yes, the Fighter does have better fighting related stats but, in my mind, this works out that they each have the same amount of training. And that makes no sense. Same goes if look at Thief and another character with Stealth. Skills are supposed to the Thief’s thing, so why does everybody else get the same bonus. OK, before you go all crazy on me, I know there all sorts of boosts in 5E based on the character’s class. But this ain’t 5E. It’s my own crazy hack that’s inspired by some 5E mechanics.

So what did I do about this? Well, let’s split up that Bonus. Characters have an Attack Bonus, a Skill Bonus, and Spell Casters have a Spell Bonus. Let’s start of with Attack Bonus. Fighters get a +2. Thieves and Clerics get a +1, and Magic-Users get a +0. For a Skill Bonus, Thieves get a +2 and everybody else gets a +1. And if you’re seeing the pattern, Clerics and Magic-Users have a +2 Spell Bonus. Now, how does progress as a character gains levels? Same way as in 5E, the first +1 is at 5th Level. And there are some opportunities to increase that along the way depending on you class.

There’s another little tweak I added. Originally, there were only four Saving Throws. I had combined the Death Save ala 5E into the Save versus Poison and Disease. After some thought, I came to the conclusion that Death don’t care and it should be it’s own Save that no class get’s a bonus to but an individual character might.

And that’s it for this week. I’ve got lots more crazy notes to type up.

A Couple Rules You Can Use

I’m always looking for ways to make the game more fun and make it easier for me to run. There’s a couple that have it my radar that are getting added to my already list of house rules.

Let’s hit the easy one first. Cinematic Advantage. Tired of boring old combats? Want the players to do something besides just run up and beat the monster until it stops moving. Then look at the Cinematic Advantage rule by Sly Flourish. So just go read that post and you’ve got what you need.

The second is Fate Magic. I’m grabbing this from Art of the Genre‘s Black Label No 5: Dagger, Venom, Throne. It’s a simple mechanic for NPC spell casters and it doesn’t need me as the DM to keep track of spells. I used it in this last weekend’s game and it worked pretty well. Now, the first thing you have to realize that as a DM, you have to be fair about using it and not just kill of the player characters.

Here’s how it works. The foe has a number of d6’s equal to their HD/level that they can use each round for magic effects. So they can do any magic/spell effect that’s thematically appropriate and that basically fits with overall game mechanics and spell design. Here’s what I did with some 2 HD Cultists. Heal 2d6 HP. Create an area of tentacles that did 2d6 damage (Save for half), Save at -2 or be blind for a round. They could have a 2HD demon. Did a 2d6 blast. Whatever. Like I said the DM really has to be fair. I could have easily blasted away at one PC until they dropped but I wanted the encounter to be interesting and challenging. So throwing in whatever happen to pop into my head at the time that was basically fair but still obstacle. I didn’t have to look up spells for exact areas, ranges, effects and so on. It was roll some dice and move onto the action.

For a big bad or major villain, I probably wouldn’t use this. But for something challenging and off the cuff or just a bunch of cultists, then it can work fine at the table and make my job easier as DM with less bookkeeping and more attention on making an exciting encounter.

What the heck is YARC?

I’ve been posting about YARC a lot so I figured I should make this Sticky Post to explain what the heck it is.

First, it’s a neat little acronym: Yet Another Retroclone. And it’s a little call back to “Bree Yark!” Google it. It started years ago as a little side project to put together different parts of various retroclones that I thought were cool but it’s evolved over the years.

YARC is now my own fantasy heart breaker, garbage punk rock, basement dweller Franken-game. I figured why not? Grab whatever mechanics that I liked from whatever game or whatever edition. Go ahead slay a couple of those sacred cows and mold it into what I and, hopefully, my players will enjoy. Astute readers will see the DNA of various ideas and concepts pop in there.

It’s very much an attempt to make play fast, efficient, and fun! And it’s very much a living project. I don’t think that it will ever be “done”. New rules and ideas pop up all the time. Things that might have worked get replaced with other things. And sometimes. Things just don’t work.

So hang on and have some fun. Roll the dice. Kill the monsters. And laugh.