Category Archives: Races

The Elves of Zoong

Yes, it’s been way too long between posts. It’s a culmination of a lot things but mostly lack of inspiration. But some finally popped into my head. I’ve talked about the races of my main campaign world, Zoong, before. Dwarves are basically red necks. Halflings run the Mod. But elves were just sort of there and I didn’t have that much in mind but things did come together in a way that I really liked. Look no further than some old memories.

That’s right Elric. There was old post (maybe on Dragon’s Foot but I’m not sure where) that originally the elves of D&D were more inspired by the Elric saga (Fighter/Magic-User) rather than Lord of the Rings. So why not run with it?
The Elves of Zoong are an ancient, long-lived race who once ruled most of the world and were the originators of serious arcane study. Decadence and shear boredom have caused not only their empire but also their cities and culture to crumble. Once shining cities are deteriorating into ruins. Immaculate gardens are over grown and untended. Any form of art is ignored or macabre and debased. Some elves just sit in their cities and play vicious political games with rivals or whatever group happens to capture their attention at the time. Just something to pass the time and get over the boredom of such along existence. Many go forth adventure but once again, it’s out of boredom.
Elves tend to have extremes of personality and/or morality. What most would normal or rational behavior, the Elves view as boring and uninteresting. Been there done that. Not it’s time for something new and interesting.
So there you a kernel of thought on some elves.

Skills Revisited

The Swords & Wizardry game is going well and as you may remember I did a whole home brewed skill system. But when the dice met the table, I wasn’t that happy with it. The characters just felt too incompetent at low level. The math seemed to work but like I said I wasn’t totally happy with it. So I brainstormed a little more and came up with a little tweak to it. And you know I love tweaking rules.
The system remains basically unchanged. See the Attack Save Cheat Sheet. The only differences are how the skills bonuses are figured and reduce the Skill “Save” by two.
NOTE: What I’ve been doing for monsters and NPC’s is that if it was “good” at something then there’s advantage on the roll, if they were “bad” at then disadvantage. You know like 5E. Remember, one of the axioms of old-school gaming. Monsters and NPC’s don’t have to follow the same rules as player characters. So for the player characters:

Skills
Appeal (CON & CHA): Seduction, Dancing, Performance.
Athletics (STR & DEX): Climbing, Jumping, Acrobatics, Swimming, Grappling.
Banter (INT & CHA): Fast talking, Haggling, Diplomacy.
Healing (WIS & DEX): Treating Wounds, Diagnosis.
Instinct (WIS & CHA): Detecting Secret Doors, Avoiding Surprise, Searching, Detecting Lies.
Tinker (INT & DEX): Building Things, Locks & Traps, Anything Mechanical
Skullduggery (DEX & CHA): Picking pockets, Disguise, Deception, Sleight of Hand
Stealth (DEX): Moving Quietly, Hiding, Blending Into The Crowd.
Survival (CON & WIS): Tracking. Foraging
Wits (INT & WIS): General knowledge, Education, Lore

A character gains +1 to the starting score if either of the linked Attributes below are above 13. The starting score is further modified by Race and class as below (This part has remained basically unchanged):

Class Bonuses:
Assassin: +2 to three of the following Appeal, Athletics, Banter, Instinct, Skullduggery, Stealth, Tinker. +2 to any skill check involving poison.*
Cleric: +1 Wits or Healing
Druid: +1 to any skill check involving Nature if WIS above 13.*
Fighter: +1 to two of the following: Athletics, Survival, or Instinct.
Magic-User: +2 to any skill roll related to magic and arcane lore.*
Monk: +1 to Athletics, Instinct, and Stealth.
Paladin: +2 Bonus to any skill check pertaining to Demons and Undead.*
Ranger: +2 Instinct or Survival, gain +1 in the other. Also, +1 to Athletics and Stealth.
Thief: +3 to three of the following: Athletics, Banter, Instinct, Skullduggery, Stealth, or Tinker. +1 to the others.

Racial Bonuses (Yes, I’m using more races in home game but this gets you started):
All player characters gain +1 to skills of choice.
Humans: +1 to three skills of choice.
Elf: +1 Wits or Instinct.
Dwarf: +2 to any skill roll involving Stonework.*
Half-Elf: +1 Allure or Banter.
Half-Orc: +1 Athletics or Survival.

*These are not bonuses to a specific skill, only a bonus to a skill under the right conditions.

Skill Checks:
Roll a d20 add the skill modifier.

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More Races for YARC

Another iteration of races for YARC. Like the Races Part I this relies heavily on the house brewed Skill Rules. It’s just my take on Races that they shouldn’t have lots of moving parts but they should have some natural aptitudes. This keeps things very simple and doesn’t create too strong incentive to match certain races with certain classes to get an even more powerful character. It’s the same reason I’m overly fond of racial stat bonuses.
Any distinction between your standard human and the other races should come from role playing and any specifics from the world. Not the game rules.

Half Orc
Darkvision
+1 Damage with melee attacks
+1 Athletics or Survival

Gnome
+1 Tinker or Banter
+1 Save Vs Illusions

Kenku
+1 Appeal, Skullduggery, and Stealth

Tabaxi
Claws: 1d4 Damage
+1 Athletics and Stealth

So what’s happening next? Well, I plan on a few more races that aren’t quite “standard” and a couple more classes. I just might do the Bard and Barbarian (or at least my take on them). And maybe more.

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Wererats for Swords & Wizardry and 5E

Well, I’m still prepping to run The Blight and we were having a little table talk before the Labyrinth Lord game started last week. One player mentioned that he does miss 5E abit. So next time, we’ll have to nail things down. I’m expecting to start this after the holidays so with the speed I write stuff, Ill need the time. Another was excited that the setting isn’t so normal and asked if he could play something weird. So I asked, “Like what?” He replied, “I don’t maybe like some sort of were creature.” Hey, wererats are pretty key to the setting so I thought, “Why the hell not?” So here you go.

Swords & Wizardry Version
See in the Dark
+1 Save Vs Disease
Half damage from non-magical or non-silvered weapons. But double damage from silver weapons.
Bite (1d3) (Save Vs Disease to avoid Lycanthropy)
Cast Animal Summoning I (Rats only) Once per day
+1 Stealth (That’s with YARC Skill System).
Shapechange (Human/humanoid rat)
Suggested Classes: Fighter, Thief, or Fighter/Thief

Fifth Edition Version
Ability Score Increases: +2 DEX, +1 CON
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 Feet
Darkvision: 60 Ft
Damage Resistance: Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing From Nonmagical Attacks Not Made With Silvered Weapons.
Vulnerabilities: Damage from Silver Weapons
Shapechanger. The wererat can use its action to polymorph into a rat-humanoid hybrid or into a giant rat, or back into its true form, which is humanoid. Its statistics, other than its size, are the same in each form. Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn’t transformed. It reverts to its true form if it dies. Bite in Rat or Hybrid form does 1d4 damage. (f the target is a humanoid, it must succeed on a DC 11 Constitution saving throw or be cursed with wererat lycanthropy)
Keen Smell. The wererat has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.

I based these, of course, on the monster stat blocks with some tweaking to make them a little more balanced. Of course, I may change this up later on, but this if the first version of this idea. And I’ll keep you all update on what the players decided. Swords & Wizardry or 5E. We shall see.

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YARC: Races Part1

Real life got everything bogged down last week. So let’s get back on the horse and talk more about races in YARC. Like I mentioned when I posted about Clerics, races too should be tied to the setting. There’s no reason that the demi-humans should all be the same no matter what world they are on. And the same goes for humans. Speaking of humans. They’ve always been kind of boring. In old editions, they just didn’t have a level cap and they had some special classes they could take. Later on. Everybody could be any class. There weren’t any level caps and the human got extra “stuff”. Based on my own experiences, level caps just never quite worked. Either the campaign would end before it really became an issue. Or if it went on long enough. The extra survivability at lower levels doesn’t that much help at really high levels when those characters were behind the power curve.
So what’s my philosophy for YARC? Two things. First, options and aptitudes. Humans get more options. Demihumans have natural aptitudes in certain areas. Level caps are out. What race can be what class is decision that’s best made based on the setting rather than any core rule. Also, looking at the Swords & Wizardry Complete rules, IMHO, some the races Saving Throw bonuses are just too high. And with that. Let’s get to the crunchy bits. And for this to make sense, you may have to refer back to the YARC: Skills post.

Humans
+1 to any three skills of choice
+1 to Armor Class, Saving Throws, Damage, To-Hit, or Hit Points/level.

Dwarves
+1 Stonecraft (bonus to any skill related to stonework)
+2 Save Vs Poison
See in the dark: 60 Feet*

Elves
+2 to Instinct
Cannot be paralyzed by ghouls
See in the dark: 60 Feet*

Halflings
+1 to Stealth
+2 Save Vs Magic
+1 To-Hit with ranged attacks

Half-Elf
+1 to Instinct
+1 to Appeal, Banter, or Stealth
See in the dark: 60 Feet*

*I don’t care what you call it but our house rules were always, “OK, you can see in the dark.”

So that’s the basic races. Next there’s more to come.

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YARC: Classes and Races

Now that I’ve gotten a few bits done, it’s time to talk about races and classes because with old school games you can’t talk about one without talking about the other. Since the first go around for YARC is going to be The Blight. characters may seem a bit under powered compared to your standard character. The Blight is grim and gritty so that’s why I’m going in that direction. And this is the point where inspirations from other editions and variants of Swords & Wizardry kick in.
I did an episode last year on Playing It Wrong about job versus class. To put it simply, just because it’s a character’s job that doesn’t mean that it’s their class. The big one is usually the assassin. I supposed technically any class can be an assassin but it takes somebody special to be an Assassin. The whole idea is if it’s a class is just a fighter who can track. Well, that’s not a Ranger. So the classes need have some distinct abilities that make them special.
Here’s the tentative list of classes:
Fighter: The most standard and yet IMHO boring class.
Cleric: Yes there will specialty priests.
Thief: Cat burglar or smiling con artist. I suppose later editions got it a little better by calling them Rogues.
Magic-User: Magic is supposed to be mysterious and interesting. Once IHMO even the original edition make them sort of video gamey. Cast the spell and boom. But things still need to be simple at the game table.
Assassin: Good at killing a single target. But still different than a Fighter or Rogue.
Druid: Hmmm. I don’t have any inspiration yet to tweak them.
Paladin: This isn’t you daddy’s prince charming noble knight. These guys are religious zealots hunting down the unclean and heretical.
Sorcerer/Warlock: Oh just check out Dice Roll Zine No. 2. That’s my primary inspiration.
I know. I always do a Bard and Barbarian. I think most of those class abilities can be easily wrapped into other classes. What about Monks? Once again I just don’t think they fit this setting. And lastly because I know someone out there is thinking it, what about Race as Class. I would say that I like both. It all depends on the campaign. If I’m emphasizing old-school play then I’ll do race as class. If there are only a few races then sure. But in this case there’s lots of possibilities for The Blight. So no race as class but races will be limited on their choices. I haven’t even gotten close finalizing that list but it will include the usual suspects as well as a few familiar faces plus a take on the one’s presented in the Swords & Wizardry version and just maybe a race or two that just captures my imagination. But more on that later when I get to races.

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Vampires & Werewolves. Oh My!

If you’ve been following along I’m converting/resurrecting the old New Bay City campaign for Dark Streets & Darker Secrets. The first time I ran this setting it was with World of Darkness then I ran with the Dresden Files RPG. Each time I’ve made some tweaks to the universe based on the game mechanics. This time it ain’t any different.
Vampires and Werewolves are pretty much stock creatures and sometimes even player characters. One of the things that they usually have in common is that they were once regular mortal humans and then something happened. Some fight against their respective supernatural natures and others may relish or even be consumed by it. Plus each of these types has a buckets of folklore attached to them. So how I am going to throw this into Dark Streets & Darker Secrets? Corruption.
OK, I already did a rant on expanding the Gifted Class and in a way this is an expansion on that. Lets’ take a very common example and run with it. Vampires and sunlight. In most games/factions, young vampires poof if they even smell sunlight and older/ancient vampires can tolerate it. In this iteration of New Bay City, the opposite is true. That young (low level/HD) vampire has some of the strengths but those weaknesses are the result of Corruption. A Vampire has lots of hang ups that probably means that they are a bad ass and be thankful for those weaknesses. However, that extra that plays into why there is so much different lore out there. Each is sort of unique in their set of disadvantages.
This is only something that would apply to the “Blooded” types as I rambled about in The Gifted Expanded post not anything that’s purely supernatural. I may do some specific charts but I also grabbing something that seems most appropriate to the specific situation when things go horribly wrong. So here’s the lists of that I’ll be using for inspiration by type. And is no way complete and other changes/tweaks will be based on specific characters.
Vampires: Animal Antipathy, Aversion Holy, Addicted Blood, Allergic Sunlight, Allergic Garlic, Need to be Invited, Aversion Mirrors, Smell of the Grave/Cadverous.
Werewolf/Lycanthrope: Animal Antipathy, Allergic Silver, Addiction Raw Meat, Full Moon/The Beast Within, Feral Appearance
Changeling: Allergic Cold Iron, Need to Tell the Truth, Aversion Holy, “Alien” Appearance.
Cambion: Animal Antipathy, Aversion Holy, Addicted to Sin, Smell of Brimstone, Demonic Features.
Nephilim: Overzealous Virtue, Aversion Unholy, Angelic Features.
And that’s this week’s rant on New Bay City. Enjoy! Oh and here’s my scribbled map of New Bay City.