Aw, the heck with it: Our rules now have a real name

Download these rules as a handy pdf: The Landshut Rules

Some of you know of my brave forays into the primeval ages of roleplaying. As a result of these beautiful journeys, I finally formulated our homebrew rules.

Still, I feel they deserve at least some kind of reference, a name that tells others where they originated from. So, I decided to stay traditional and name our rules after the place they come from: Landshut, the Lower Bavarian town I was born in. The Twin Cities had and still have their Twin Cities gamers and several variants of Twin City rules, and now Landshut has its Landshut rules, and I think it’s fitting.

So, without further ado, I’d like to present to you

The Landshut Rules.

CHARACTER CREATION

  • Write down a few words about your character.  
  • Note one special power that allows you to do things others can’t. Special powers are defined before play by the ref and the player. By design, this is open to interpretation. 
  • Your character has no stats, but you may write down “strong”, “agile”, “tough”, “charming”, “smart” or “wise”. If this helps you in a situation, add +1 to the roll. 
  • Your character can get hit/injured a certain number of times; the exact number of hits is determined by the referee. In combat, if the winning result is really high (again, the referee has the final say in this), or your actions leading to this situation were stupid enough, it is entirely possible that your character is severely injured or even dies. (Note for referees: a good number is four hits: after the first hit, you’re stunned, after the second, lightly injured, after the third, severely injured, after the fourth, mortally wounded. Armor gives the character a number of “free hits” – think damage sponge – before they start getting hurt).
  • In mass combat, you count as four men.
  • If you’re playing a published rpg setting: 
    • roll attributes. Write down only extremely low and extremely high stats. 
    • pick 5 or 10 skills from the rulebook (if the game uses skills)
    • pick 2d6 pieces of regular equipment/gear from the book, then lose 1d6 of them
    • pick 2 “Powers”: special equipment, spells, special abilities, connections, special backgrounds etc.


BASIC ROLLS 


  • When the ref calls for it, roll 2d6: 
    • High = good (10+)
    • Middling = does not change the situation, or negotiated/mixed results (fleeting success, success with a downside, failure with an upside) 
    • Low = bad (5-)
  • The ref can also roll his 2d6 against the player’s. Higher result wins and gets to say what happens.
  • You can also use a d20 instead of two regular six-sided dice. If a character has an advantage of any kind, the player may either roll 2d20 and pick the higher result, or add +5 to his 1d20 roll. For disadvantage, roll 2d20 and pick the worse result, or subtract 5 from a 1d20 roll.


ONE-ON-ONE COMBAT 

  • You roll 2d6, I roll 2d6. Who rolled higher determines what happens. If we’re close, we negotiate. 
  • Winning with a high number (ref determines what that means) means a really good and/or severe hit.
  • Shields grant a character 1 free hit before they can get injured, light armor also 1 free hit, medium armor 2 free hits, heavy armor 3 hits. So a player character wearing leather armor (=light armor) can get hit once without major consequences, after that, he can usually take 4 hits before he dies.


MASS COMBAT 

  • Melee is simultaneous. Only the first row of combatants can attack, except for polearm/spear attacks from the second row.
  • Each figure may move up to one length of a pen in normal terrain. Difficult terrain halves movement. Very difficult terrain allows movement of up to 1/4 of a pen. Fast or slow combatants move farther or shorter than one pen — come up with your own rulings here.
  • First, Missles are fired, second, spells are started, third, combatants move, fourth, spells started in step 1 now take effect; fifth, archers who didnʻt move and havenʻt been engaged in melee may fire again, sixth, Melee
  • Using light weapons: roll 1d6 for every 3 men 
  • Using medium weapons: roll 1d6 for every 2 men 
  • Using heavy weapons: roll 1d6 for every man 
  • Using superheavy weapons, or mounted: roll 2d6 for every man. 
  • Attacking heavily armored opponents: 6 is a kill 
  • Attacking opponents in medium armor: 5, 6 kills 
  • Attacking opponents in light or no armor: 4,5,6 kills 
  • 1 hit kills a normal being. Monsters and npcs can take a number of hits depending on how many humans they’re equivalent to. E.g. A bear that’s as powerful as 4 humans can take 4 hits. 
  • Hirelings die first; player characters only start taking damage after their hirelings have died.
  • Check morale with 1d6 when a unit has lost 3+ figures, when a unit has lost more than half of its members, when a unit is attacked from behind or in the flank, or when friendly units are routing nearby.
  • If the unit rolls higher than the its morale number, it is routed and immediately turns in the opposite direction and moves as far back as it can. It will continue to do so till it reaches the end of the playing field; at that moment, itʻs considered defeated.
  • Morale numbers: under fire
    • Civilians: 3, Soldiers: 4, Veterans/Elite Soldiers: 5, Heroes: 6
  • Morale numbers: routing/other
    • Civilians: 2, Soldiers: 3, Veterans: 4, Elite Soldiers: 5, Heroes: 
  • A leader might be able to rally fleeing troops; roll 1d6 and stay at or under the leaderʻs Leadership Skill (1=uninspired, 2=typical, 3=talented, 4=superb, 5=tactical genius).
  • Modifiers to Morale: 
    • Attacked in flank -1
    • Attacked from behind -2
    • Leader close by +1
    • Double ranks (formation wider than deeper) +1
    • Triple ranks (formation wider than deeper) +2
    • Lost half or more figures in unit -2
    • Witnessed the loss if their leader in this turn -2
    • Lost a general -3

SUPERCONDENSATOR: Classic Traveller, the way Marc Miller plays it: old school 2d6, done right

Classic Traveller, Book 1 of 3.

Classic Traveller, all books combined, German edition.
No special reason why I’m including it here, other than:
It’s simply perfect. My copy still looks so, so good

An online buddy of mine recently shot me a private message on Discord and asked me about Classic Traveller. I love that game, even though I haven’t played it much, or way less than I want to. Marc Miller, the author of the game, is still playing Classic Traveller – which should tell us a thing or two about what version really deserves our attention.

So how does Marc Miller play Classic Traveller?

In a nutshell:

  • The rules in the books are tools for the referee. If you need them, use them. If not, then there’s absolutely no reason to use them.
  • Stats (strength, dexterity, endurance, intelligence, education, and social standing) are the only numbers on the character sheet.
  • Roll 2d6 to determine each stat – no fixed Dice Modifiers (DM), the referee decides when and if to add or subtract from the player’s throws.
  • Pick or roll a service – write down skills, but no Dice Modifiers. Again, the referee decides on how skills affect the rolls.
  • Saving throws are 2d6 + Dice Modifiers, determined by the referee, against a Target of (usually) 8+ (also subject to change according to the referee’s opinion)
  • Weapon Damage: 1d6 for mostly harmless arms, 2d6 for melee weapons, 3d6 for average firearms or really dangerous melee weapons, 4d6 for extremely dangerous weapons like las rifles or shotguns.
  • Damage for the first hit (“first blood” in the rules): comes right off Strength first, then Dexterity, then Endurance. For every hit after the first one, the player can distribute damage between Str, Dex and End as they see fit.
  • One stat at 0 points means injury, two stats at 0 means the character is mortally wounded (but can be saved), and three stats at 0 means instant death.

That’s the complete game system as used by Marc Miller. Very, very Arnesonian in style.

Can I tweak it just a bit to make it more Arnesonian-like? Of course:

The average damage is: 3.5, 7, 10.5 and 14 points.
The average stat is 7. That means, if an average character is hit with a melee weapon (average damage 7), that stat is reduced to zero points, and the character is injured. A second hit means the character is bleeding to death, and a third hit kills them outright. So, a average character can take 3 hits with a melee weapon before they die. They can take bit more if they’re attacked with small weapons, and they are mortally wounded after a hit with a huge weapon. Las rifles or shotguns have the potential to kill an average character with one hit. Firearms have the potential to severely injure with one hit.

The first thing I’d get rid of are stat numbers. Simply write down if you’re above or below average (7 points) in a stat: “strong” could mean you’re stronger than average, while “weak” could mean you are, well, below, average.

I’d keep the saving throw mechanic, it’s simple and beautiful.

I’d give characters 4 hits, +1 for each stat (Str, Dex, End) that’s above average, and -1 for each stat below average. Armor increases the number of hits.

In combat, characters lose hits according to the situation, the opponent’s roll and the weapon the opponent is using. So, a average knife stab in a crowded bar would probably result in pain and injury, but if I roll a 12 for the knife attack, most characters will go down.

So, in closing, these are my Braunstein Traveller rules:


CHARACTER CREATION

  • Roll 2d6 for Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Education and Social Standing. If a stat is 5 or lower, write it down as “below average”, or similar. If a stat is 9 or higher, write it down as “above average”, or similar. Don’t write a stat down if it’s average.
  • In Traveller Book 1, pick or roll your service and play the mini-game.
  • Write down the skills you earn in service, but not the numbers. 
  • Your character can get hit/injured a certain number of times; the exact number of hits is determined by the referee. In combat, if the winning result is really high (again, the referee has the final say in this), or your actions leading to this situation were stupid enough, it is entirely possible that your character is severely injured or even dies. 
  • Note for referees: a character has 4 hits: after the first hit, characters are stunned, after the second, lightly injured, after the third, severely injured, after the fourth, mortally wounded. Armor and above-average stats give the character a number of “free hits” – think damage sponge – before they start getting hurt.


BASIC ROLLS 


  • When the ref calls for it, roll 2d6: 
    • try to roll 8 or more
    • ref might increase or decrease target numbers as dictated by the situation


ONE-ON-ONE COMBAT 

  • You roll 2d6, I roll 2d6. Who rolled higher determines what happens. If we’re close, we negotiate. 
  • Winning with a high number (ref determines what that means) means a really good and/or severe hit.
  • Shields grant a character 1 free hit before they can get injured, light armor also 1 free hit, medium armor 2 free hits, heavy armor 3 hits. 

Car Wars Classic: ancient school roleplaying, Steve Jackson Games style

Before you continue, please do yourself a favor and download the digital edition of Car Wars Classic from the official publisher here: http://www.sjgames.com/car-wars/games/classic/img/car-wars-classic-rules.pdf

1981, Steve Jackson published their seminal game, Car Wars. I bought the pocket edition about six years later, and we loved playing it. The one thing that slipped through our fingers was the content presented in chapter 4, simply titled “Characters”.

CW was a conflict simulation game, and the chapter on characters had one focus: to answer the question, ‘what happens when a vehicle is destroyed, but the driver survives?’ When the game was written in the late 1970s, it had never been the intention to write an rpg.

But still, players being players – they turned CW chapter 4 into a full roleplaying game. There were many groups in the 1980s who used the rules for roleplaying.

To quote the Car Wars book, page 48:

When a player wants to try something that isn’t covered by any of the skills in use in that campaign, the GM should fall back on “roll 2 dice and pray ” In other words: Require the player to roll 2 dice. The higher the roll, the better the result.

This is exactly the same method Arneson and the other Twin Cities grognards used.

How does the Car Wars Classic rpg work?

  1. A character has 3 “damage points” – “the first hit wounds, the second knocks unconscious, and the third kills. They can wear body armor, which adds DP”. Body armor adds 3 DP, Improved body armor adds 6.
    Again, this is exactly the way most Twin Cities games handled armor.
  2. Starting characters get 30 points to buy skills; one skill at base level costs 10 points. Using a skill at base level means rolling 2d6 and shooting for at least a 7. Every point beyond base level adds +1 to the roll and costs another 10 points. If a character does not possess a skill, the player rolls 2d6-4 for the skill check.
  3. Skill checks: 2d6+skill =7 or more
  4. Pistols inflict 1 to 2 damage, smgs 1d6 damage, rifles 3 damage, shotguns 2 damage – you get the idea.
  5. Skill contests are opposed 2d6+skill rolls; whoever scores 7+ AND is 5 points higher than their opponent, wins the contest.
  6. Hand-to-hand combat is needlessly complicated and thus not relevant for our purposes.

How would I tweak the system?

I wouldn’t change much. Each character has 3 “damage points”. Armor adds damage points. Choose 3 skills. Later in the game, you gain new skills or skill points. Skill checks are 2d6+skill = 7+. opposed skill checks are 2d6+skill, higher result wins.
Combat: opposed 2d6+skill, higher result hits and inflicts 1 to 3 damage – no additional damage rolls, they’re counterintuitive when you roll really high to hit and then roll 1 for damage or so.
Ranged Combat: referee tells you the number you have to roll on or above.

That’s the Car Wars Classic rpg. Enjoy.

How the Grognards really played, 3rd edition

This is the second re-write of my Really Old School Rules, modeled after the way Dave Arneson, David Wesely, Phil Barker, Bob Meyer, Jeff Berry and many other Twin Cities gamers roleplay(ed) before D&D.

I’m looking for a new name because “pre-D&D” is absolutely NOT what it is (thank you, @Matt Jackson, for pointing this out in your podcast). Arneson’s play method has nothing to do with Gygax’s younger game – it deserves another title. If you guys come up with a good one, i’m happy to adopt it.

One thing that kept me thinking was hit points. We know Dave Arneson used hit points after the unfortunate one-hit-kill incident in the infamous “Troll under the Bridge” game, a test game where Bob Meyer played a hero and got killed by one blow. I tend to handwave this aspect in my games, but now I have more historical information.

On Facebook, I posted the following question:

Let’s take a look at Strategos, a military game that had major influence on Arneson and Wesely, as well. Table T says:

Of interest to me is the results section. The higher the difference between the winning dice roll and the losing dice roll, the worse the result becomes for the loser. As we’ve read, Arneson used points, at least in the sense of “this character can get hit X times”, and Bob Meyer seems to walk the same path. I’ll use this for my own interpretation.

I also asked Chirine ba Kal (Jeff Berry), one of the oldest friends of Prof. Barker’s, and the current “official” Tekumel referee, the same question about a Really Old School Star Wars campaign.

NorbertDid you use hit points? Or “three strikes and you’re out” or similar things? 

ChirineYes, modified by the particular game’s setting. It works. Hits were based on the game’s setting. Blasters generally meant that the hit was fatal; same for lightsabers. Tekumel sessions used EPT for the stats and HP – for example – but the players were the ones who kept track of them; they would tell the GM what had happened, which also told everybody in the party, as everybody role-played. I have some dice to indicate where hits occur, and we use these for some games. otherwise, it’s Phil’s rules and roll %D. If one knows how the world works, it gets pretty easy and fun to play.


CHARACTER CREATION

  • Write down a few words about your character.  
  • Note one special power that allows you to do things others can’t. Special powers are defined before play by the ref and the player. By design, this is open to interpretation. 
  • Your character has no stats, but you may write down “strong”, “agile”, “tough”, “charming”, “smart” or “wise”. If this helps you in a situation, add +1 to the roll. 
  • Your character can get hit/injured a certain number of times; the exact number of hits is determined by the referee. In combat, if the winning result is really high (again, the referee has the final say in this), or your actions leading to this situation were stupid enough, it is entirely possible that your character is severely injured or even dies. (Note for referees: a good number is four hits: after the first hit, you’re stunned, after the second, lightly injured, after the third, severely injured, after the fourth, mortally wounded. Armor gives the character a number of “free hits” – think damage sponge – before they start getting hurt).
  • In mass combat, you count as four men.
  • If you’re playing a published rpg setting: 
    • roll attributes. Write down only extremely low and extremely high stats. 
    • pick 10 skills from the rulebook (if the game uses skills)
    • pick 2d6 pieces of regular equipment/gear from the book, then lose 1d6 of them
    • pick 2 “Powers”: special equipment, spells, special abilities, connections, special backgrounds etc.


BASIC ROLLS 


  • When the ref calls for it, roll 2d6: 
    • High = good 
    • Middling = does not change the situation, or negotiated/mixed results (fleeting success, success with a downside, failure with an upside) 
    • Low = bad 
  • The ref can also roll his 2d6 against the player’s. Higher result wins and gets to say what happens.
  • You can also use a d20 instead of two regular six-sided dice. If a character has an advantage of any kind, the player may either roll 2d20 and pick the higher result, or add +5 to his 1d20 roll. For disadvantage, roll 2d20 and pick the worse result, or subtract 5 from a 1d20 roll.


ONE-ON-ONE COMBAT 

  • You roll 2d6, I roll 2d6. Who rolled higher determines what happens. If we’re close, we negotiate. 
  • Winning with a high number (ref determines what that means) means a really good and/or severe hit.
  • Shields grant a character 1 free hit before they can get injured, light armor also 1 free hit, medium armor 2 free hits, heavy armor 3 hits. So a player character wearing leather armor (=light armor) can get hit once without major consequences, after that, he can usually take 4 hits before he dies.


MASS COMBAT 

  • Melee is simultaneous. Only the first row of combatants can attack, except for polearm/spear attacks from the second row.
  • Each figure may move up to one length of a pen in normal terrain. Difficult terrain halves movement. Very difficult terrain allows movement of up to 1/4 of a pen. Fast or slow combatants move farther or shorter than one pen — come up with your own rulings here.
  • First, Missles are fired, second, spells are started, third, combatants move, fourth, spells started in step 1 now take effect; fifth, archers who didnʻt move and havenʻt been engaged in melee may fire again, sixth, Melee
  • Using light weapons: roll 1d6 for every 3 men 
  • Using medium weapons: roll 1d6 for every 2 men 
  • Using heavy weapons: roll 1d6 for every man 
  • Using superheavy weapons, or mounted: roll 2d6 for every man. 
  • Attacking heavily armored opponents: 6 is a kill 
  • Attacking opponents in medium armor: 5, 6 kills 
  • Attacking opponents in light or no armor: 4,5,6 kills 
  • 1 hit kills a normal being. Monsters and npcs can take a number of hits depending on how many humans they’re equivalent to. E.g. A bear that’s as powerful as 4 humans can take 4 hits. 
  • Hirelings die first; player characters only start taking damage after their hirelings have died.
  • Check morale with 1d6 when a unit has lost 3+ figures, when a unit has lost more than half of its members, when a unit is attacked from behind or in the flank, or when friendly units are routing nearby.
  • If the unit rolls higher than the its morale number, it is routed and immediately turns in the opposite direction and moves as far back as it can. It will continue to do so till it reaches the end of the playing field; at that moment, itʻs considered defeated.
  • Morale numbers: under fire
    • Civilians: 3, Soldiers: 4, Veterans/Elite Soldiers: 5, Heroes: 6
  • Morale numbers: routing/other
    • Civilians: 2, Soldiers: 3, Veterans: 4, Elite Soldiers: 5, Heroes: 
  • A leader might be able to rally fleeing troops; roll 1d6 and stay at or under the leaderʻs Leadership Skill (1=uninspired, 2=typical, 3=talented, 4=superb, 5=tactical genius).
  • Modifiers to Morale: 
    • Attacked in flank -1
    • Attacked from behind -2
    • Leader close by +1
    • Double ranks (formation wider than deeper) +1
    • Triple ranks (formation wider than deeper) +2
    • Lost half or more figures in unit -2
    • Witnessed the loss if their leader in this turn -2
    • Lost a general -3

This way, 10 soldiers in leather armor and with swords fighting against 3 knights with war axes on horses roll 5d6, and 6s kill. The knights roll 6d6, and 5 and 6 kill.