Somebody says that you can’t wear white after Labor Day. Whatever. Nobody says you can’t play White Box after Labor Day. So yes. It’s been a long weekend and for some strange reason my mind has wandered into White Box territory. Sure I touched on it a bit on my Swords & Wizardry Retrospective post but I want to rant a little more about it.
I think there’s a couple of things driving my mental wanderlust. First of all the retro-clones out there this (IMHO) has the easiest and most flexible rules which means fast play and fast character generation. A lot of times I look at games as a blank canvas that let’s me tweak to whatever happens to strike my fancy at the time. When the rules are efficient, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Part of the ease of the game is that it doesn’t use a lot of dice. Only d20’s and d6’s. How simple is that? Of course, there’s nothing that says the DM can’t use others if the situation applies.
Another thing that makes it a fun alternative, the light rules means that it’s a breeze to run and if you’re experienced with old-school games then it’s even easier. And if you’re breaking in a new player. Well, they don’t have to fumble around with a pile of strange dice and the rules for their character are pretty straight forward. A long time ago, I had this crazy idea for a campaign. Just start with a city or village for an adventuring base and just make up the rest as we went along like we did in the days of yore.
I may be preaching to the choir here but hopefully this post might snag a few new fans or at least draw a little bit of interest in the White Box style games.
You can find more over on Seattle Hills Game’s site, pick a hard copy of Swords & Wizardry White Box on Lulu, or if you just want to dip your toes a bit into it then grab up Swords & Wizardry Light which is available for free on DrivethruRPG and Frog God Games.
Well, I picked this up during Christmas in July and am finally getting around to rant about. OH boy! Wow! Cool. Yeah, I like it. Now let me talk about a few reasons why. Eldritch Tales: Lovecraftian White Box Role-Playing is as advertised. It takes the well known White Box mechanics and puts them into the setting of Lovecraftian horror. If you’re used to all the core mechanics of D&D then you pretty much get how the game works. Since it is White Box for most game mechanics, you are either using a d20 or a d6. That’s it. Skill checks are resolved on an x in d6 chance. But unlike most other White Box where you want to roll low, Eldritch Tales is set up to roll high. Actual skills and “occupations” modify the character’s chances of success.
Another way that it deviates from the standard is an awesome magic system. It is skill based (x in d6) and modified by the difficulty of the spell. There isn’t a spell casting class. Any one can learn a spell. There isn’t a specific limit on the number of spells. It all depends on how much you want to risk. There’s usually a cost and most spells take some time to cast. But the real catch is that something bad always happens if you fail the casting roll. Of course, there’s a list of spells. And I shouldn’t have to say this but just in case, there is good bestiary as well as plenty tome of forbidden knowledge and weird artifacts.
I’ve said this before. I’m not really that fond of the current edition of Call of Cthulhu. The most annoying thing is that flow chart for wounds. I do like the old editions and even think that current Delta Green is much more fun to play. I have this philosophy that character life expectancy should be inversely proportional to character generation time. So if there’s a high body count, character generation should quick. Eldritch Tales has much quicker character generation time than either Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green. Overall, you don’t lose that much of the feel of the other games but you’ve got faster and easier character generation mixed with a set game mechanics that most players already are familiar with.
As a default “setting”, the game is set in the 1920’s but since the White Box mechanics are so simple it’s no problem to use it for other time periods without that much conversion and you can easily reference other material for White Box games for inspiration. Hmm.
Speaking of inspiration… Throwing these two together seems like a great and natural idea. White Box Fantasy Cthulhu? Why the hell not? It is mentioned in the back of Eldritch Tales. Now, I’ve got some crazy ideas in my head. Excuse me while insanely type away. The voices in my head are really loud right now.
Dirk Stanley is pushing out the fulfillment to Kickstarter backers and I got mine. And boy is it pretty sweet. So in case you missed it, there was a Kickstarter for an OSR version of Far Away Land. Far Away Land has been out for quite a while and uses it’s own system which is pretty cool. I ranted about it in a much earlier post. So you can read that and get quick overview on that. Let me do a little recap on the setting. To put it simply, Faraway Land is a strange gonzo setting. That may put some off but you can go as gonzo as you want. And for me personally I like coloring outside the lines of Tolkien and weird stuff. Sure it’s weird but doesn’t rely on shock to be weird. It’s weird just because it is. And it’s that fun kind of weird.
But this rant is about the OSR version and like I said. It’s pretty sweet. Setting-wise it’s still the same but many of the creatures, races, and spells have been converted over to an OSR system. And yes I know there are many OSR systems. In this case, Dirk used White Box or more specifically Swords & Wizardry Continual Light as a base for the rules. So most of the rules should be pretty much familiar to many.
The biggest change for FALOSR is the magic system. It’s pretty simple in a useful sort of way. First, there technically aren’t clerics in the game. There are Light Mages which are sort of like clerics and Chaos Mages which are more like your standard blow-stuff-up Magic-User. Spells are broken down into three categories White, Gray, and Black. Gray spells either of the classes can cast. However, a Light Mage casting a Black Magic spell takes a penalty to casting. And vice versa for the Chaos Mage casting White Magic. They can do it but there’s a penalty. Also, the number of spells a mage may cast is simplified. It’s Level+3. And no preparation of spells. If you know it then you can cast it. Basically. Once again there is a little exception and difference. Spells are broken down by level which corresponds to character level. This makes what level a spell is totally different than other OSR games that mimic the original sources. So a 2nd level character can safely cast second level spells. They can try to cast higher level spells but it’s pretty dangerous. Like I said, the actual spell levels have changed because of this and FALOSR’s own internal logic. A prime example is that Sleep is an 8th Level spell. You read that right. But there’s plenty of new and interesting spells to play around with.
So in case you were wondering, the other two classes are Fighter and Thief. That’s it. Just the classic four classes. For races, you have the standards less Halfling and then the Far Away Land specific races: Agnun, Blonin, Clockwork,Exions, Glacerian, Numan, Orka, Poomkin, and Simian. Plus there’s a few of the monsters you can easily convert. FALOSR has a whole host of little rules tweaks and mini games as well. Want to do 0-Level funnel. No problem. Collaborative wording building? It’s there too. Plus there’s vehicles and naval combat. Special weird powers and training montages. There’s a ton of little useful bits in there.
So if you were already a fan of Far Away Land, chances are you backed the Kickstarter. If you’re a collector of OSR rules sets. Grab it up for your collection. Heck, the art is even fun in the one. If you are an aficionado of White Box games then definitely grab this one up. There’s virtually no conversion to do. So you’re just adding to what you are already using. That’s what I plan on doing a crazy mash up of my own tweaks on the White Box rules and FALOSR.
As of this writing, the Far Away Land-OSR Version hasn’t hit the virtual shelves. You can keep track of that over on DrivethruRPG. And you can learn a whole lot more about the world and the whole product line, a wiki, and some adventures over at FarUniverse.
I just can’t leave things alone. A couple of weeks ago, I did some tweaks to the White Box Fighter and those tweaks could be used in other Old School Type games. This time I’m going after the Thief. White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game did a great job with the Thieves and their skills. They made it one skill Thievery. But in my own little mind, I want to expand it a little more and add just a whee bit of customization.
For my variant, I decided on two skills rather than one. Thievery and Skullduggery. So what does what?
Skullduggery: Disguise, Picking Pockets, Deception, Forgery, Sleight of Hand, Streetwise. When in doubt use Skullduggery when it some to knowledge and interacting with people.
Thievery: Disable and Find Traps, Climb, Pick Locks, Stealth. Thievery is for interacting with devices and the environment.
The skills still work off the x in d6 mechanic and here’s the break down.
Level 1: 1 in 6
Levels 2 to 4: 2 in 6
Levels 5 to 7: 3 in 6
Levels 8 to 10: 4 in 6
At first level, the character chooses which one they are better at and gets a +1 to the skill. And there you go. The rest of the Thief is the same.
It’s been a long time since I posted anything on White Box. But there was a request and I’ve got a few things in my back pocket while I was prepping for the possibility of running it. So why not do a few posts about it?
Let me start with messing with the good old fighter. Why? Because they are kind of boring. They get the best armor, weapons, HP, and to-hit bonuses and that’s it. There’s very little of what I would cool factor. You run up and you hit stuff. So how about adding a little bling to the fighter.
First, drop the Combat Fury. That’s the extra attacks against opponents of 1 HD or less. I’ve found it not very useful. Instead go for the “Chop Til You Drop” Rule. Legend has it that it was Dave Arneson’s house rules in the very early days so I say it stands up to the OSR purity test. It runs like this basically. Kill an opponent. Get an extra attack. The character can only get a number of extra attacks equal to their level. It’s much more useful over the level range of the character without being overpowered. But that’s just opinion.
Next. Why should thieves have all the fun with skills? So give Fighters a skill. I call it Prowess. I could throw in a little chart but just turn the Thief page in your rule book and look at their Thievery progression. A Fighter’s Prowess follows the same progression.
So what do you do with it? Want to do some neat trick in combat. Roll Prowess. That’s the catch all. However, I expanded it a bit more for more mechanic based effects. First, the player declares what they want to do. Most of thing time this would break down to three things. It it harder, not get hit, and make sure you hit. Mechanically speaking this breaks down to bonus to Damage, Armor Class, or To-Hit. So roll that Prowess. Fail. Too bad no bonus. Success! In that case the number rolled is the bonus. So low level Fighters won’t be getting huge bonuses and they won’t get them that often. Higher level fighters have a better chance of getting a bonus but then there’s still a chance that it might only +1 which at higher levels might not help that much.
So what do you think? Should I do more of these? Let me know folks.