2d6 OSR games: Make monsters special

Brian Harbron wrote a very good and inspiring blog post yesterday. His goal is to make Into the Odd monsters, even the average, familiar and boring ones as memorable as possible. His solution is elegant, and it helps all you referees out there even when you’re tired: Use critical damage to make your critters memorable.

In other words: Whenever your monster rolls a crit, have it do something to the player character that’s gruesome, feral, disgusting, and (fill in your word here). One word of caution, though: A critical hit in Into the Odd means that a character has lost all of his hp, and damage has eaten directly into his STR, and now he’s failed a roll-on-or-under save against his STR and loses consciousness.

In games like Blood of Pangea, Barons of Braunstein and Pits&Perils, there is no such critical hit. But in my Tatzelwurm game (a variant of Blood of Pangea), I included it. Take a look.

So, in a nutshell:
When you, the referee, roll a 12, roll 2d6 again. When you score exactly 9, your monster has landed a critical hit and DOES SOMETHING TO THE PLAYER CHARACTER THAT’S MEMORABLE. When you roll any other number, the monster does 5 points of damage.

Your landshark rolled a crit? It might swallow the player character.
Your giant octopus rolled a crit? It might pull the player character to the deepest depths of the ocean.
Your air elemental rolled a crit? It might turn into a tornado, stripping the player character off of everything he’s wearing and carrying.
Your ghoul rolled a crit? He rips off the player character’s arm and feasts on it.

From OD&D to Pre-D&D: Short play report

(liberated from my G+ feed)

The adventure:

So my players and their characters (3rd level) continued their misadventures in Yoon-Suin. After helping a village fight orc hordes (beautiful battle, using our simplified Chainmail-ish system), they found out that they had been caught in a full-sensory illusion the entire time. After the sorcerer had tried a sleep spell against the mayor of the village and failed, and after the “thief” had experienced curious perception shifts after a couple of strong schnappses (the beautiful little homlet looking rotten, devastated and foul), they managed to break the spell and kill the being that was responsible for it. Oh yes, and they found good loot in a small dungeon hidden behind a subterranean temple room.

The rules:  

We started out with OD&D, the first three books. A couple of house rules, nothing major. After the battle, the first thing I tried was dropping the to-hit numbers. I replaced them with impromptu numbers, going with what felt right (“Your opponent is pretty close to you, not very experienced in melee, you have a dagger, but are no fighter, so give me a 12 or more”).

I kept d6 damage for the first fight, but dropped that also later. I replaced all saves and tests with 2d6, roll 7+ for simple stuff, roll 9+ for demanding or difficult tasks, or even higher, adding +1 or +2 when a character had some sort of expertise or advantage. 

Even later in the game, I replaced the d20 for to-hit rolls with 2d6, using the target numbers above. Combat went lightning fast, and we had a lot of fun 🙂  The numbers I used are familiar to all those of you who play Barons of Braunstein, Blood of Pangea or Pits&Perils.

What’s next:

I might keep OD&D hp, but maybe I’ll replace them with something simpler (lower hp overall, roll average and do 1 pt of damage, roll really high and do 2+ pts of damage). For now, I’ll keep the spells and Vancian magic, but I can see them leaving, as well.