Tag Archives: Crypts & Things

Xoth, Not Forgotten

It’s been way too long since I wrote anything about Xoth and it’s coming back to my mind with a vengeance. In case you’ve been keeping up, I’m trying to get the old gaming group back together.

I’ll admit that I have nothing against the Standard D&D type game and I can even tolerate the Cantina Scene type parties. But then there’s times when I want to go all Swords & Sorcery. For me, that means Conan and Robert E Howard. So it’s back to Xoth as one of my pitches.

I had picked some of the stuff way back when during the days of Pathfinder 1St Edition. Sure I played Pathfinder but I never would want to run it. But I liked the writing and changes so much that it always stayed in the back of mind.

This gets me to where we are today. I was searching the Internets and lo, there’s a 5E Player’s Guide for Xoth. Now this could be interesting and it is. This takes the 5E rules and makes them perfectly friendly to a grimmer more down to earth type of campaign.

Let me break the basics down for you. First, Races & Classes. It’s all human but there’s still various “cultures” that replace the mechanics of Race. There’s the Savage, Civilized, Enlightened, Decadent, and Degenerate. Each gets a stat boost and some neat skill-boosts/tricks. But each as a disadvantage. And their pretty big disadvantages. Like the Savage. +2 Strength, +1 AC, Advantage on Perception Checks. Cool right? Oh wait. You also take disadvantage on attack rolls against aberrations, undead, and fiends. It’s a cool tweak.

Then there’s classes. Of course, all of the classes aren’t allowed because they just don’t fit the setting. So, there’s no Bards, Clerics, Paladins, Wizards, and Sorcerers. The remaining have some tweaks. No archetypes that have any magical or “super” abilities. No Eldritch Knights or Arcane Tricksters. Rangers don’t have spells but they get some other tricks. And the Druid and Warlock have some additional tweaks to them. And there’s three new classes: Conqueror (sort of the Paladin replacement), Cultist (as close as you’re going to get to a cleric), and Courtesan (Bard/Social class).

And of course there some rules tweaks on spells, magic items, healing and combat. All of it giving the campaign that Howard type feel. Oh and the best part the Players Guide to Xoth is free. Available on Xoth.net and DrivethruRPG. Note: On DrivethruRPG, you’ll have to login since it’s behind the adult filter because there be boobies.

If you want a more detailed review you can check this one out.

So back to what I might do with this. Of course, I could just use it with 5E. It’s the RPG that most of the players are familiar with. But then I’m a crazy OSR guy. So I can pull up Swords & Wizardry, Crypts & Things, or even my own Forgotten Tales of Sword & Sorcery and run with that. Sure I’ll do some tweaking and house rules and all of those rules are kissing cousins. But since I’ve got a bunch of Pathfinder and now 5E stuff, it’s really easy to convert that material into an old school game. But then Barbaric! is another of my newly found favorites. Sure it’s easy on the rules crunch and character generation but conversion will take some doing.

What’s actually going to happen? I dunno. But I’ll keep posting about it here and we’ll see what happens.

Crypts & Things Remastered

Yes, I backed the original Kickstarter and backed the Remastered Edition. So I got my grubby little hands on a hard copy already. Last week I stumbled across a discussion of Crypts & Things in the G+ OSR Community, so I figured I’d do a little rant about it.
At it’s core, Crypts & Things is a Swords & Wizardry variant. It uses extensively the house rules from Akratic’s blog (with permission). So there’s a modified wound/HP system. Skills as Saves and so on. Pretty straight forward. The Remastered edition makes some further changes. First Saving Throws are gone. That’s right no saves. Player characters have a Luck score (which starts out at 6+1d6). Roll two 2d6 under to get lucky. The catch is if you are Lucky, your score goes down. Yes, it come back with rest and leveling. But that’s pretty much it. Monsters don’t have saves. This may sound like the players are going to be overpowered but a lot of the tougher monsters are just immune to magic and casting spells has its own risks. The Saving Throw may be gone but its legacy lives on as a Skill Throw which is modified by class or ability scores.
Character classes are what you would expect but there some variations/additions. Fighters have specialized fighting styles. Thieves are much more martial. And there are no clerics. And there’s nifty little life path system, that give characters some bonuses and a little bit of a history. The Remastered Edition adds some extra exotic classes beyond the normal( Fighter, Barbarian, Thief, Sorcerer). There’s the Beast Hybrid, a result of obscene arcane experiments, sort of like a Shifter from Ebberon. The Disciple. OK. They’re monks. Elementalist is like a shaman that worships/gains power for the Elemental Lords. Lizard People (pretty much what you would think but more intelligent) and Serpent Nobles (think Kull of Atlantis.)
As I said earlier, magic is dangerous. It’s broken down into Black, Gray, and White. Black magic is the really bad stuff (Note: Magic Missile is considered Black Magic). It required a blood sacrifice to even memorize a spell plus Sanity loss(Yes, there’s a sanity system based of Wisdom) and even corruption. But you think you’d be safe staying to White Magic. Nope. Each time a White Magic spell is cast, there’s a chance that you’ll draw every evil baddie in the neighborhood to you.
That’s the basics of the system. Now let me talk about monsters. There’s a good chapter on unique monsters. Sure there’s some of the standards like ghouls, dragons, and harpies. But there’s Chreker (a weird pixie like creature with a paralyzying shriek), the Head Hand, and of course the Zunder Cat. (zunder, Zunder, Zunder CAT!) And there’s a good take on Vampires. They aren’t undead. They aren’t hurt by sunlight. They’re aliens.
Then there’s the setting. Zarth. It’s a dying corrupted world. This is one of my favorite sections of the book. Heck, this section you could use no matter what rules you use. Not only for the content but for the way it is presented. It’s not overly detailed. There are adventure hooks, and random encounters for each major area. The gem is the “What the Elder Told Me” chapter. It’s basically a set of questions as answered by the more experienced of a culture. It’s simple and conveys a lot of information about the world. And for the curious, here’s the questions. Who are you? Who are we? What makes us great? Where do we live? What is important in my life? What makes one great? Who are our enemies and what is evil? Who are my gods? What is magic? Can you tell me the truth about the other people of the world?
My opinion overall is that it offers some good variations on a stock elves-and-dwarves style game. Don’t expect it to be a Conan RPG either. It hits a a sweet spot of a weird fantasy, alien dying world. It’s not totally in your face like Carcosa. It’s uses a well tested and supported rules system in Swords & Wizardry which also makes it easily hackable with other OSR games. For me, it goes on the “I really want to run this some time” list.
And you can grab it up on RPGNow, of course.

Here’s some more OSR Sword & Sorcery Resources

It’s no secret that I’m a fan and backer (of the Kickstarter) of Crypts & Things Remastered and I’m a fan of Sword & Sorcery. Yes, I’m all in for a crazy gonzo game but I also like the gritty weird fantasy of the lower magic settings. If you’ve got Crypts & Things then cool and really back if you want to. But this post about other resources out there for Sword & Sorcery games.
How about some free stuff first?
Head on over to grey-elf.com then just scroll down to the Age of Conan and Secrets of Acheron. This one is an homage to the Little Brown Books and pretty darned cool.
This one is mix of free and for pay stuff. I’ve really good things about Xoth.net and their setting but I haven’t gotten around to picking it up yet and yes some of the material is Pathfinder/3.x but it’s easy to convert. Here’s the main page for the Hyborian Age but the real meat is here with the adventures. And here’s their shop. Order the PDF’s through them or dead tree versions thru Lulu.
Now, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is pretty damned cool but their adventures are also darn good fare. But let’s not forget their free resources on their website.
Lastly here’s another couple of adventures that comes with some neat house rules too. I’m talking about Liberation of the Demon Slayer and Revelry in Torth. Yes, there’s some little things that I’d tweak and they’re a bit racy. So you’ve been warned.
No I know there’s lots of other stuff out there and there’s plenty of retor-clones and hacks out there. It’s a big internet and I’m just one little guy with a hyper puppy bouncing around the office. Other resources and stuff go ahead and share.
Did I also mention that there’s only a few days left on the Kickstarter for Crypts & Things Remastered, and I really want that last stretch goal. By Crom, Kill monsters and take their stuff!

Crypts & Things Remastered More Thoughts

So there’s the Kickstarter going on and it’s reached its goal. But then there’s always some cool Stretch Goals. And yes I’m a big fan of this game.
Here’s the basics:

It’s Old School
It’s Sword & Sorcery

But there’s a couple of new things in the Beta Version of the Remastered Rules (available to backers) that are just way cool.
The first is Luck. This a pretty cool take. SAVING THROWS are GONE. Yes, I did all caps to make it clear. Characters don’t have Saving Throws. Instead, you make a Luck Check. Fail, well, too bad. Succeed good for you but your Luck goes down so next time success will be more difficult. Of course, you also use Luck for anything random “Who does the rock land on?” type rolls. Also, each class has a special trick they can do with a successful Luck check. It’s a pretty cool little mechanic. But on the other side of this, monsters and NPC don’t have Luck nor do they have Saving Throws. I’ll admit I’m still a little on the fence about this part but I need to play with the new rules more I make a final judgement on that.
The second thing is the change in spell casting side effects. I won’t bore with the old version just elaborate on the new one. There’s the three colors of magic (Black, Gray, and White). You get the idea. Problems cone not only casting Black Magic but also White Magic. In the case of Black Magic, the character gains corruption. Roll each to see it bad things happen. It’s simple, cool, and very tweakable for whatever setting you happen to be using.
What’s really interesting is the danger of casting White Magic. But hey isn’t that supposed to be good magic? Yep, it is. It’s all white shining good. It’s so shiny and pure that it attracts the attention of undead and demons who just might be in the area. So maybe you the fighter doesn’t need that little bit of healing.
So there’s more thoughts. I really can’t wait until the final version of this hits the virtual streets. And may all the Stretch Goals be reached!

Sword & Sorcery: It’s more than “No Elves”

Let’s face it. The “World’s Most Popular Fantasy Roleplaying Game” was more influenced by Tolkien than Robert E. Howard. So, the first step many folks take when trying to do a Sword & Sorcery game is just “D&D with just humans.” For me, Sword & Sorcery is about attitude and atmosphere.

It needs to be sex, drugs and rock & rock. It’s heavy metal and punk rock all rolled up into one big crazy world. It’s twisted magic and monsters. It’s lost temples, forgotten gods and scoring that one big pile of loot before you die. Sword & Sorcery stories are about mean streets, wastelands and corruption. In a way, S&S has a lot in common with cyberpunk. I’ll let that one inspire you for a moment.

But here’s some elements that are bouncing around in my little head for some house rules for Crypts & Things. Yep, there’s going to be follow up posts as soon some more of these ideas start come together.
Humans Only. Sticking with that but doesn’t mean that it has to be bland. Humans from different cultures and lands will have slightly different skills. So just because everyone is human doesn’t mean that they are all the same.
Classes. The heroes of S&S stories have checkered pasts and a wide variety of skills. Classes can have their niche but characters need to flexible to survive. The two little keys here are no weapon and armor proficiencies and let the characters try anything. Plus throw on a level cap. I’m considering doing something along the lines of E6 for Crypts and Things. Just make an additional chart similar to the background chart. When a character “levels up” past sixth level, they roll and gain a new bonus.

Magic is dangerous and corrupting. The first thing, Vanceian magic is right out the window. Magic isn’t flash and bang. It’s creepy. It’s about how big a price someone is willing to pay for power. This is a major tweak and well worth it’s own post.
Monsters should be unique, twisted and frightening. It’s not a horror game (although there elements there) but players shouldn’t be yawning and saying, “It’s another shambling mound.”

Combat is freaking dangerous. Hit points are cool and easy but with Hit Dice, the numbers can just end up too big to keep things gritty and dangerous. So here’s my little idea. Hit Points equal Constitution+ (1/2 Strength). That’s it. It doesn’t matter how many levels a character has. Getting a sword in the gut in a back alley brawl could it end it just as quickly as facing an other worldly horror. Now is the time I bore you with some math. Let’s say we’ve got a character with average stats of 11. That means 16 HP. At low levels, that’s a good chunk of HP but once you get around 4-6 not so much.  Also, there really shouldn’t be “heavy armor”.   I don’t see S&S characters running around in clunky plate mail.  Probably, chainmail at the best. And I know somebody is going to make a chainmail bikini comment.  Correct, it really isn’t armor. Neither is a fur lion cloth.

I usually don’t load a post with so much artwork but like I said at the beginning it’s about atmosphere and attitude. And a picture is worth a thousand sword cuts.