Category Archives: Home Brew Hacks

Just some house rules that I made up.

YARC: Magic Users

Time for another class for my own little old-school heart breaker. And as before these are just the design notes and a final draft will be forth coming.

One of my goals is to make YARC quick and easy. So I dug into how spells are allocated and cast. So here we go.

Starting Number of Spells: Int Mod+2.

There’s no “memorization”. If a magic-user knows a spell then they can cast it. But they still use spell books. They are constantly scribbling down notes and observations about magic. So they still spend an equivalent amount of time on their spell books. I used 10 minutes/highest level spell known.

Spell Quirks! I’m bring this one back when I used it before the player’s loved it. So refer to this old post.

Highest Level Spell Known/Castable: 1/2 Level rounded up. This keeps to the basic, normal spell progression.

Spells per Day: OK. This is where it gets a little weird. Int Mod+ Level. That’s how many spells the Magic-User can cast each day. The specific level of each spell doesn’t matter.

I basically used this system in my last Swords & Wizardry game and the players enjoyed. It was fun with the Spell Quirks and kept down a lot of time bookkeeping.

Now, I’m going to credit where credit is due. The Spell Quirks were inspired by the Mercurial Magic from Dungeon Crawl Classics. The spells per day was inspired by the Far Away Land OSR rules.


I spend a lot of time brewing up house rules. I try to make whatever game that we happen to be playing fit both my own and the player’s sensibilities about what will be fun and interesting. But then I got thinking about something that I’ve been doing without really considering it too much. The rules need to match up to the setting as well. Whenever I start a campaign, I like to look at the big picture first and then drill down to the details.

With that in mind, I generally start with Gods & Magic. These are the two big things that I think really define any fantasy setting. What gods are predominant? How the different sects, orders, cults, and temples interact? What’s the relation if any to arcane magic? Are wizards hunted down and burned at the stake? Tolerated or what? What about arcane magic? What’s the source of power? Is it by bloodline? Maybe a demonic pact has to be made? Made it’s just studying book. Or combination of all of them. All good questions to ask. This sets the tone not only for the world but also what roleplaying challenges certain classes may face and what exactly the DM may want to change about a specific class.

Then I look at races. It’s perfectly OK for a DM to say, “No, there any magic hamsters in my world.” First, does the race even exist? If it does, is it for player characters? And how do those races interact with each other? It’s OK to have some rivalry or tension. Just don’t set up things so party members want to kill each other on sight. Whatever races a DM uses and their relations and origins can be linked back to Gods & Magic. Sure you may allow Tieflings but the Church hunts them down as abominations or maybe they’ve banded together and created their own kingdom? More food for thought. Can Elves be clerics? Or heck will you only do Race as Class?

Then I look at Classes. It’s more than what’s allowed and what isn’t. It time to really start doing some house ruling. When I was running The Blight with Swords & Wizardry, I completely redid Paladins. They weren’t the wholesome knight in shining armor. They were grim Witch Hunters and Slayers of Undead and Demons. Does a class even fit into the world? There’s a lot of DM’s who kick out Monks because they just don’t fit the setting.

Start of with this trinity; Gods & Magic, Races, and Classes. Look at the synergies and the points of friction. What’s crazy over powered? What just plain doesn’t make sense. What rules need to be altered in order for it to work? Heck, maybe even you’re using the wrong rules. Maybe a different game that you were intending doesn’t work as well as another game.

And here’s the most important part. Be upfront with the players. Let them know well ahead of time about what’s allowed and what isn’t. Let them read those preliminary notes and there’s a good chance they may notice something that you missed. So take their feedback. Remember, the players are stakeholders in the campaign too. If they aren’t having fun then DM isn’t going to have fun either. And it’s all about the fun.

YARC Resurrected

Everybody has that fantasy heart breaker and I’m no different. I played around with YARC years ago and I think it’s to bring this back. In case you’re wondering, YARC stands for Yet Another Retroclone. Because we got enough right?

So why even do this? Well, there’s lots of retrocones that I like bits and pieces and there are bits and pieces that I don’t like. Plus since I started this whole thing, a lot more ideas have popped into my head. Most of this will be all player material. I want it to be pretty much compatible with what ever adventure or supplement that I happen to pick up.

This is going to be a slow process and there’s going to be a bunch of changes along the way I know that. Plus I’ve got so many other gaming projects that I’m working on. I really should get some of those done.

So I want to talk about Stats a little bit for this inaugural post. I think stats should be important and that dump stats can kill you. Of course, it’s pretty easy to think about Constitution and its effect on HP. And Wisdom and Dexterity help with a characters defenses (Saving Throws and AC). But why would a Fighter need Intelligence or Charisma? Those might not be their highest stats but they still should be important. I’ve done some games where I used Charisma as a measurement of Luck as well as personality. It worked well and with modifiers going to a random thing it made the characters fun and even more unique.

For Intelligence, well, I am thinking about a very simple skill system. I know. No SKILLS in old school games. Sigh. I just thinks it’s possible but don’t over do it. Don’t worry. I’ll rant about skills later.

So for overall here’s how I’m thinking about applying those ability score modifiers:

Strength: Damage with Weapons (not just melee)

Dexterity: AC, Initiative (more on this later), and To-Hit with weapons (not just ranged). That’s right Strength is just for damage but Dexterity is to hit and not get hit.

Constitution: Hit Points of course.

Intelligence: Something with skills but there’s some class specific tricks I have up my sleeve.

Wisdom: Resist Magic (Saving Throw)

Charisma: Randomly applied to something.

Ah yes. I know this is vague but this is the first post of many. So stay tuned and join my crazy ride as put this together. And wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

Barbaric! for Lemuria

Any time there’s a discussion about what’s the best Sword & Sorcery RPG, Barbarians of Lemuria (BoL) comes up. With good reason, it’s a great and simple game.

There three versions/editions of Barbarians of Lemuria; the original free version, Legendary Edition, and Mythic Edition. All three versions are very much the same at the basic level. Careers instead of hard skills, mysterious magic, and a 2d6 task resolution system. Hey wait? Isn’t there another sword & sorcery game with a 2d6 task resolution. Yep, Barbaric! for Cepheus Quantum.

While both games have different design philosophies, the underlying game mechanics are quite similar and thus making them perfect for kit bashing and home brewing. Now there a few big differences. First, come to damage. An average character in Barbaric! could take about 21 points of damage (END 7+Lifeblood 14). While in BoL, an average character could take 10 points. In Barbaric!, a sword does 3d6. In BoL, 1d6+Strength. Second, Skills (in Barbaric!) versus Careers (in BoL). The Skills in Barbaric are broad but the Careers in BoL are even broader and a bit more narrative about when you can gain a benefit. And lastly, magic is different but still uses a 2D6 resolution system.

Taking those differences into account, it makes very easy to add a few bits of one game and add or replace it with the bits of the other. Maybe add a little more detail to player characters using a character generation system more like BoL but monsters and NPC’s simple like in Barbaric! Maybe just switch out the magic systems with a little tweak here or there.

Now, this idea just popped into my head and I haven’t come up exactly what I would do but hopefully, this little post might inspire someone out there to take two great games and with a little home brewing make them something special and cool for your gaming group.

How’d The Weekend Gaming Go?

Well, it went pretty good. Our little group kicked off the 5E Sword & Sorcery game. As I said before I took a lot of the rules from Xoth.

The party consists of a barbarian, monk, druid, and courtier. The courtier player couldn’t make it so an NPC (Fighter/Rogue) stepped in to keep them from totally getting their butts kicked.

This was combo of Session 0 and intro adventure. Actually, we did a lot of the Session 0 stuff before hand via a Facebook Group. It was pretty simple at the beginning. Guard a merchant caravan through the desert. What could go wrong? At first, not much. Some bandits tried to sneak into the caravan at night and steal some stuff. No problem for our group of adventurers.

Then I did a little railroading. OK, a lot of railroading. I wanted to create an event that would give the characters a reason to bond even if it was against a common enemy. So the player characters (+another guard) got drugged and wake up in chains. They had been handed over to a bunch of slavers. Since I pulled this little nasty narrative trick on them, I did give them each an Inspiration Point.

Of course, the barbarian rages and breaks his chains and the fight begins (without a real plan by the party). It was bloody and tough fight for the PC’s who didn’t have any armor or weapons. The NPC who really saved their bacon was the no-name, no-class, lowly NPC guard. With just damned lucky rolls, he was able to wrestle the Slaver Boss to ground and keep him occupied for half the fight. Ah, when the dice decide that they want the story to in an odd direction, that’s a cool thing about gaming.

The party frees the other slaves and quickly realize that the slavers weren’t nice folks and that they only had about half the water they needed to make it out of the desert. It was a tough trip and a couple of the NPC’s died along the way but they made it to the big city and new they are looking for that bastard merchant who double crossed them.

And on a final, I’ve already had a couple of folks inquire about starting a second game. But more on that later.