[House Rules]Monster Templates-OSR Style

One of the things I loved about later editions of the game is the ideas of templates.  It allowed you to come up with all sorts of strange and interesting ways to alter a monster without needing to create something from whole cloth.  I’ve mulled the idea over and come up with a quick way to modify existing monsters to make them a bit more special and potentially dangerous without having to create new ones each time.

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[House Rules]New Spells

I wrote these spells and the accompanying spells and items as a extrapolation from Ogre’s Strength.  Their effects, if built into other spells via the spell builder would cost the same as ‘The Strength of an Ogre’ as their base.

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[House Rules]Divine Elves Part 5: Elven Enchanter

A recent thread on RPG.Net had an awesome premise.  What if you removed Clerics from OD&D and gave their magic to elves?

I thought the idea had merit.  The more I rolled it around in my head, the more I liked it.  Even if you left Clerics in, the spell creation and class creation rules in ACKS gave a perfect opportunity to build a ‘better elf’… or at least a different one.

So I did…see the previous post about the race build.  See the previous altered Spellblade Class.  And here is the post about Nightblades. And another about Courtiers.

In this post I’m going to rebuild the Elven Enchanter class as a divine caster.  Their spell list focuses on illusion, enchantment, and transformative magic.

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[House Rules]Divine Elves Part 4: Elven Courtier

A recent thread on RPG.Net had an awesome premise.  What if you removed Clerics from OD&D and gave their magic to elves?

I thought the idea had merit.  The more I rolled it around in my head, the more I liked it.  Even if you left Clerics in, the spell creation and class creation rules in ACKS gave a perfect opportunity to build a ‘better elf’… or at least a different one.

So I did…see the previous post about the race build.  See the previous altered Spellblade Class.  And here is the post about Nightblades.

In this post I’m going to rebuild the Elven Courtier class as a divine noble.  Their spell list focuses on control and spells that would help political types.

Elven Courtier

Divine by birth, noble by upbringing.

Divine by birth, noble by upbringing.

Prime Requisite:          WIS and CHA

Requirements:             WIS 9

Hit Dice:                     1d6

Maximum Level:         13

Among the elves of Northern Argollë, there yet remain some noble families that can trace their lineage to the Imperial era. These highborn elves spend their days at the courts of Aodhan, engaging in intricate duels of etiquette, swordplay and magic against rival families. Few care to look beyond their borders, likening man’s dominance over the Ammas Aurë region to the darkening sunset at the end of a glorious day.

From time to time, one of these elven courtiers is possessed with more than the usual allocation of ambition and vigor, and sets out from sylvan Aodhan to seek glory and gold in the world of men. Few return to their woodland demesne, yet enough succeed to fill the history books with new annals of elven glory. The elven courtier class represents one of these bold scions.

Though not specialized in fighting, elven courtiers are comfortable with weapons. At first level, elven courtiers hit an unarmored foe (AC 0) with an attack throw of 10+. Elven courtiers thereafter advance in attack throws and saving throws by two points every four levels of experience (i.e. as thieves). Elven courtiers are trained to fight with swords, shortswords, daggers, composite bows, spears, and lances, and to wear chain mail or lighter armor. They may wield a weapon and shield or a weapon in each hand, but may not wield a weapon two-handed. All courtiers receive classical weapons training giving them a bonus of +1 to attack throws with their choice of melee or missile attacks. The courtier must choose which type of attack will receive the bonus at 1st level, and may not change the choice as he advances.

As patricians of their race, elven courtiers are of course taught the dive arts, but it is not their focus. Elven courtiers cast divine spells as cleris of one-half their level, use the same rules for learning and casting spells. They can use any magical items available to clerics. In addition, they can turn undead as a cleric of half their level.

Elven Courtier Level Progression

Eleven Courtier Spell Progression



Experience Title Level Hit Dice   1 2 3 4 5
0 Attendant 1 1d6
1600 Courtier 2 2d6
3200 Aristocrat 3 3d6 1
6400 Noble 4 4d6 1
12800 Exemplar 5 5d6 2
25600 Patrician 6 6d6 2
50000 Dignitary 7 7d6 2 1
100000 Consul 8 8d6 2 1
240000 Lord 9 9d6 2 2
380000 Lord, 10th level 10 9d6+1* 2 2
520000 Lord, 11th level 11 9d6+2* 2 2 1 1
660000 Lord, 12th level 12 9d6+3* 2 2 1 1
800000 Lord, 13th level 13 9d6+4* 2 2 2 1 1
*Hit point modifiers from constitution are ignored

As befits their noble upbringing, elven courtiers are well-schooled in diplomacy and protocol. They receive a +2 bonus on all reaction rolls when they attempt to parley with intelligent creatures (as per the Diplomacy proficiency). This same upbringing gives them the leadership skills and self-confidence to inspire courage in their allies, in the same manner as bards. Inspiring courage requires  a few moments of oration before a battle (one round), and grants the courtier’s allies within a 50′ radius a +1 bonus to attack throws, damage rolls, morale rolls (for monsters or NPCs allied with the caster), and saving throws against magical fear. The bonus lasts for 10 minutes (1 turn). A courtier can inspire courage in any given character once per day per class level.  (Even the most inspiring epic gets old if you hear it twice in the same day.) A courtier cannot inspire courage on characters who are already engaged in combat.

From childhood, courtiers are taught to either sing, recite poetry, or play a group of instruments in a skilled manner. The courtier chooses the type of performance that his character knows. He may take the Perform proficiency to learn other types of performances.

Such training lays the ground work for courtiers to work magic with their song and poetry. At will, the character can conduct a performance that can serenade creatures with a potential prurient interest (as a charm person spell) or quiet savage beasts (as a sleep spell, but it only functions on ordinary and giant animals of 4 HD or less). These abilities require one minute (6 rounds) of performance and may not be used if combat has already begun.

Like other elves, courtiers gain a +1 bonus to surprise rolls when in the wilderness due to their attunement to nature. Elves have keen eyes that allow them to detect hidden and secret doors with a proficiency throw of 8+ on 1d20 when actively searching, or 14+ on casual inspection. Because of their connection to nature, elves are completely unaffected by the paralysis ghouls can inflict, and the target values for all their saving throws versus Petrification/Paralysis and Spells are reduced by 1. Elves can speak the Common, Elven, Gnoll, Hobgoblin, and Orc languages.

When an elven courtier reaches 9th level (Lord), he is expected to establish a fastness in a natural setting, such as a forest or glen, to further his family’s lineage. A total of 3d6x10 1st level elven NPCs will move in to help with it and defend the fastness at no cost to the character. A courtier’s elven fastness follows all the rules for elven fastnesses detailed in the Elven Fastnesses section of Chapter 7 of ACKS.

When an elven courtier reaches 10th level, he may begin to research spells, scribe magical scrolls, and brew potions.

Elven Courtier Proficiency List: Apostasy, Beast Friendship, Combat Trickery (Disarm, Sunder), Command, Divine Blessing, Divine Health, Eavesdropping, Fighting Style, Healing, Laying on Hands, Leadership, Loremastery, Magical Engineering, Military Strategy, Mystic Aura, Naturalism, Passing Without Trace, Performance, Precise Shooting, Prestidigitation, Quiet Magic, Riding, Righteous Turning, Sensing Power, Skirmishing, Swashbuckling, Unflappable Casting, Wakefulness, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus


First Level Divine Spells

1 Command Word enc
2 Cure Light Wounds
3 Detect Magic
4 Fellowship enc
5 Sanctuary


Second Level Divine Spells

1 Augury
2 Bless
3 Delay Poison
4 Hold Person enc
5 Shimmer


Third Level Divine Spells

1 Cure Disease
2 Prayer
3 Protection from Nor.  Missiles
4 Remove Curse*
5 Striking


Fourth Level Divine Spells

1 Cure Serious Wounds
2 Dispel Magic
3 Hold Monster
4 Neutralize Poison
5 Tongues

Fifth Level Divine Spells

1 Commune
2 Quest* enc
3 Restore Life and Limb
4 Strength of Mind*
5 True Seeing

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Why’s it so quiet in here?

You may have noticed that my writing has been less prolific over the last several months.  It’s not laziness, I swear!

No, I have actually been working on something awesome, but wasn’t too comfortable mentioning it.  At least, not then.  But now…

I have finished writing the first module for Autarch’s Adventurer Conqueror King roleplaying system!

Thanks to this blog, I made contact with Alex and eventually I was able to seize the opportunity.

The module is call The Sinister Stone of Sakkara.  Without revealing too much, it is a beginner module showcasing the ACKS system, set firmly in their Auran Empire setting.  It’s an homage to the classic Old School modules while, hopefully, incorporating new modern sensibilities and techniques.

It’s going to be awesome when you guys see it for yourselves. 😀

And I’ll be a professional writer…even more awesome.


Linear Fighters, Quadratic Wizards…ACKS Style

Great minds think alike, apparently.  I’ve been rolling around a post relative to the LFQW problem for awhile now, and what do I find in my blog roll today but an excellent summation of the problem in The Mule Abides.  There, it is rightly pointed out that LFQW is less of a problem for older editions of D&D because the rules on casters were far more restrictive.  Specifically, casting a spell forbade all movement and any damage at all negated the caster’s spell.  As spells were the most critical form of resource management in a game devoted to resource management, this made sense.

However, earlier editions and OSR games still suffer from this problem.  Caster’s out of combat utility, and the tremendous disparity in the amount of damage they can inflict versus what the martial characters are capable of, make them a far superior class overall.  Yes, they need their meatshields, but still it’s not a big deal as everyone has henchmen.  A flying, invisible spell caster is still a giant ‘win’ button, no matter what edition you are playing.

I was thinking about the level based damage of spells like lightning bolt and fireball and I had an epiphany about the disparity of those effects and what a fighter/rogue can do.  It all goes back to OD&D and Chainmail, interestingly.  In OD&D, you were supposed to use the combat chart from Chainmail to resolve combat and the whole d20 chart was an afterthought.  In that system, a fighter rolled as many d6 for attacks as their level.  So, an 8th level fighter could inflict as many ‘hits’ as an 8 die fireball could.

I’m not really sure how you could bring that back into D&D, or if it’s even desirable to do so (the image of an 8th level fighter rolling 8d20 for attack is kind of amusing to me though).

Optional Thought: Instead of ‘Cleave’ which depends on a character actually killing a target to activate, how about this.  All fighters get 1 attack per level/cleave (so Thieves and Clerics have ½ the attacks of a fighter).  It costs as many attacks as the target has HD to launch an attack against them, with a minimum of 1 attack.  Fighters are considered to be able to move up to their combat move during these attacks so can hit any target.  Attacks are typically made versus lower HD targets first.

So a 4th level Hero with 3 1st level henchmen, runs into a band of 10 kobolds and an Ogre.   The Hero can make 4 attacks versus the kobolds, or one attack versus the Ogre.  The henchmen could make 2 attacks versus the kobolds or one against the ogre.  The Ogre can attack the hero once, or attack all three of the henchmen.

This would be an interesting experiment I think.  I’d love to see how it played out.  Combats versus ‘mooks’ would certainly go faster.  It would make positioning and formation difficult to run I think, which could suit some styles and be a problem for others.

It’s funny.  I’ve been ranting about the Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard problem for so long now, that I never stopped to think about how it affected ACKS.  For those unfamiliar, the LFQW problem is the idea that fighter

See, one of the reasons I got so enamored with ACKS was that it tried to fix the Old School Fighter, which is a poorly designed class (though not as bad as 3.X/Pathfinder by ANY means).  The static damage modifier and cleave are a huge hand up to the fighter, and the proficiencies are great.  Not having spells increase the difficulty of saving throws also goes a long way to helping fighters, at least, versus casters.  Unfortunately, they still fall into the Feat Trap.

The Feat Trap is what I call the idea that customization of the fighter through specific moves and abilities of limited scope, while fun and good on paper, never matches up to the breadth and utility of caster abilities.  It’s further exacerbated by the fact that the ‘Fighter’ type proficiencies are not equal in power to the ones available to casters (well, some of them).  One of my players, upon realizing that Precise Shot needed to be taken three times to negate the penalty pointed out how bad that was compared to other ‘one is all you need’ proficiencies.   His complaint made me think about how much of your resources you need to spend to be ‘a really good archer’.  A RAW archer can’t do it until level 6.  That seems an awfully steep cost in resources at a time when the mage is dishing out 6d6 damage with Fire or Lightning.

For example, Weapon Style is a great proficiency for differentiating fighting styles and their advantages, granting a +1 to intuitive, to hit, or damage when fighting with a specific style.  That doesn’t measure up when you compare it to something like Divine Blessing which grants a +2 to all saves, all the time.  What about Apostasy, which grants a caster 4 additional spells to their repertoire, further expanding their options dramatically (see any Cleric with ‘Call Dragon’ on their spell list…).  Black Lore of Zahar grants characters a unique class-based ability (Control Undead).  Ambush is another such proficiency (backstab) which is very potent but denied to core fighters.  I suppose the worst culprit is Combat Tricks, which improves your chance with a single maneuver.  That is so far away from the benefits of magic I can’t even compare it.

Now, I realize that a lot of people might be ok with this disparity and that’s cool.  Certainly the game itself from the LBB days actually states that Mages are supposed to be dramatically more powerful than other characters at high level.  Having recently started a campaign at first level, I can certainly say that it’s difficult surviving as a low level caster, so maybe having the higher levels be your oyster is a fair trade?

However, if you’d like to see the martial proficiencies increase their potency and make your characters, maybe you can try some of these:

Ambush: As written, Ambush only applies to surprise.  Instead, treat it as full Backstab.

Blindfighting: The character suffers no penalty when fighting an opponent they cannot see in melee.

Combat Trickery: This proficiency is not subdivided.  It applies to all maneuvers equally.  Alternatively, a character can focus exclusively on one trick and perform it at no penalty.

Fighting Style: In addition to the benefits as described in the base style, pick either a +1 to attack, initiative, damage, or AC (this cannot be the same as the benefit the style already provides).  When fighting with that style, you gain both benefits.  You must name the style and place it into a cultural context.

(X) Slaying: This proficiency also grants a +1 to damage versus the targeted type of creature.

Precise Shooting: The character can fire into melee at no penalty.

Weapon Finesse: You also gain your Dex modifier to damage rolls with applicable weapons.

Weapon Focus: You score double damage on a 19+.  Alternatively, it can apply to all weapons but still only trigger on a 20.

[House Rules-Races]God Sparked: Jotun

I’m working on some ideas for some races for another setting (or world) that I might use in the future.  The basic idea is that most (or all) of the gods are dead, but their essences remain scattered amongst the mortal races.  Occasionally a child is born with their divine potency.  These people are called ‘God Sparks’ because they have the spark of the divine within them.

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[House Rules-Monster]Shadow Savant

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Dark Savants in Talislanta.    In the first edition book, there were almost no details about them making them even more mysterious.  There was very little about them except these cool pics:

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