One class, four OSR games: the Yogi for Whitehack, The Black Hack, Macciato Monsters and Into the Odd

Today, let’s talk about the Yogi as character class. Because, you know, I practice yoga, and I love the OSR. I’m using bullete’s version for this experiment.

First, a write-up of the yogi’s abilities that I find interesting in close to reality:

  • ahimsa (nonviolence) practice is key
  • focus on own willpower rather than on supernatural beings
  • must be lawful
  • may never possess more than what they can carry on their person
  • avoid contact with precious metals or jewelry
  • no use of magic items
  • no use of weapons
  • no armor
  • yogi spells are called “siddhis” (“powers”). Choose only nonviolent spells: The following siddhis may be chosen: All cleric spells except spells against Law and the following: Hold Person, Sticks to Snakes, Insect Plague, Quest, and Raise Dead. Magic user spells: Read Languages, Detect Invisibility, Knock, ESP, Levitate, Darkvision, Fly, Protection from Normal Missiles, Water Breathing, Wizard Eye, Contact Other Plane, Passwall, Telekinesis, Teleport, and Anti-Magic Shell.
  • 3rd level:  Simulate Death, lowering his heart beat and body temperature, and appearing not to breathe. This state can be maintained for d6 turns per level, once per day.
  • Saving Throw: Yogis receive a +3 bonus on saving throws vs. poison and paralysis.
  • Obtain devotees: At ninth level, the Yogi will attract a large number of loyal followers who will swear fealty to the character and wish to do good deeds in his or her name.




Let’s play with Whitehack first:

Is the yogi deft, strong or wise?

I’d argue a yogi is, first and foremost, a Wise Yogi. This also gives him the ability to “use siddhis” (cast spells). So, a Wise Yogi it is.

On level 1, Wise characters have: 1d6+1 HD, Attack Value (roll on or under) 10, Saving Throw 6, 2 Slots (special abilities, one active, the other one inactive), and belong to two Groups.

Let’s do this:

Mahadev, level 1 Wise Yogi
Str 7 (Truly Lawful), Dex 10, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 12 (Yogi), Cha 7; Saving Throw 6 (9 vs. poison/paralysis), HP 6, AC 0, Attack Value 10, Siddhis: “Eternal Peace” (active)/”Joyous Freedom” (inactive); Common tongue; loincloth, skull cup, small bag of bhang

If you’re wondering what the remarks behind Strength and Wisdom (in parantheses) mean: Those are the yogi’s “groups” (affiliation and vocation). Whenever a Str or Wis save is in order and the group is appropriate for the task, the save is rolled with advantage.

Supernatural powers in WH are freeform and powered by hit points; each time one is used, the player specifies how exactly he wants to interpret it at this moment. Then, DM and player negotiate the price in hp.

If the WH yogi had to defend himself physically, he would try to roll on or under his Attack Value, but over the opponent’s Armor Class. Successful roll means: inflict unarmed damage (1 point). If the opponent attacked him, the DM would try to roll the d20 on or under the opponent’s Attack Value (HD+10)




Now, The Black Hack (1e):

A long time ago, I converted the Yogi class to TBH:

Starting HP: d4 + 4
HP Per Level/Resting: 1d4
Weapons & Armor: no weapons and shields at all, yogis practice ahimsa (non-violence) 

Attack Damage: 1d4 / 1 point Unarmed or Improvising
Ahimsa Die: Levels 1-2: 1d4; levels 3-8: 1d6; levels 9-10: 1d8

The Ahimsa Die is a Usage Die that tracks the non-violent behavior of the Yogi. Patience is a virtue, but it‘s also hard work. When the Yogi runs out of patience, he loses his special powers for that day. More on that in the following paragraph.
Siddhi Points: Level+2; cast spells of any level. Casting a successful spell requires a WIS check as per TBH rules. Spells don’t work automatically, you have to pass the check. On a failed roll, it costs Siddhi Points to cast the spell (cost  = spell level). On a successful roll, you cast the spell for free. 



SPECIAL FEATURES
Non-violence: (ahimsa): Yogis must begin as lawful in alignment and remain so or else lose the special powers given to them. Also, if they use violence „in word, thought or action“, they roll their Ahimsa Die. If the die comes up a 1 or 2, reduce it by one step, as usual. If the Ahimsa Die is a d4 and is reduced further, the Yogi loses all their siddhis (spells) for that day. After sunrise and a meditation that lasts (Exyperience Level) hours, the Ahimsa Die is „re-charged“ again. Yes, that‘s right, the higher up you get in Yoga, the longer it takes to recover from lapses.
Possessions: Yogis are severely limited in the amount of possessions they may have – they may never possess more than what they can carry on their person, they avoid contact with gold or jewelry, and may not carry more than the equivalent of 1 coin worth of other types of treasure. They may not use magic items.

Spell casting: A Yogi gains siddhis, or supernatural, mental powers which correspond to some cleric and magic user spells. In order to obtain these, the yogi must spend one hour in meditation per spell, per day.

In addition, at 3rd level the Yogi may Simulate Death, lowering his heart beat and body temperature, and appearing not to breathe. This state can be maintained for d6 minutes per level, once per day.
Saving Throw: Yogis receive a +3 bonus on saving throws vs. poison and paralysis.
Charisma Bonus: At 2nd level and every level thereafter, Yogis automatically add 1 point to their

charisma score, up to a maximum score of 20.
Obtain devotees: At ninth level, the Yogi will attract a large number of loyal followers who will swear fealty to the character and wish to do good deeds in his or her name.
SIDDHIS
The following siddhis may be chosen:

All cleric spells except spells against Law and the following: Hold Person, Quest, and Raise Dead. • Magic user spells: Read Languages, Knock, Levitate, Darkvision, Telekinesis, Teleport 

The TBH Yogi looks like this:

Mahadev, level 1 Yogi
Str 7, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 7; HP 10, damage: d4/1, Ahimsa Die: 1d4; Siddhi Points: 3, loincloth, skull cup, small bag of bhang

If the TBH yogi had to defend himself physically, he would try to roll on or under his Strength. Successful roll means: inflict unarmed damage (1 point). If the opponent attacked him, the player would try to make a STR save, or (house rule) the DM would try to roll on or over the yogi’s Str, or simply roll higher than the yogi.





Macchiato Monsters

Macchiato Monsters takes inspiration from The Black Hack and Whitehack, as the name implies.

  • In MM, you first roll the stats: we have already done that.
  • Then, you invent a Trait (origins, factions, occupations, race): Yogi. Whenever the trait is relevant, roll with advantage.
  • Now, record your hit die; this always starts with a d6.
  • Now, pick two: add a d6 to a low stat, write down another trait, add another hit die, martial training (step up your hit dice), specialist training (a daily special ability), or magic training (come up with two freeform spells, essentially like Whitehack) –
  • First pick: specialist training (“Simulate Death”, as described in the ability list in the beginning of this blog post: The yogi is lowering his heart beat and body temperature, and appears not to breathe. This state can be maintained for d6 turns per level, once per day)
  • Second pick: magic training – the siddhis are: “Eternal Peace” and “Joyous Freedom”

The MM Yogi looks like this:

Mahadev, level 1 Yogi
Trait: Yogi, Str 7, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 7; HP 6, no armor, no weapons, Siddhis: “Eternal Peace” and Joyous Freedom”, loincloth, skull cup, small bag of bhang

If the yogi had to defend himself physically, he would try to roll on or under his Str. Successful roll means: roll damage (2d4, take lower). If the yogi rolled higher, that would mean the opponent hit him.



Into the Odd

Into the Odd is the enfant terrible in the OSR scene. No because it’s not behaving well (author Chris McDowall is one of the nicest guys I know online), but because it’s breaking traditions deliberately. As a result, ItO is not only very slim, but it plays lightning fast.

So let’s try to fit the original class into ItO.

First of all, stats: only three of them: Str, Dex und Cha.
HP: 1d6, further damage is subtracted from Str; If Str=0 then dead
There are no classes in ItO, but at the moment, more and more people are creating them, anyway (even Chris himself)
Spells are either spell items or skills. For the yogi, it has to be skills.

So, the ItO Yogi:

Reach Eternal Peaceful Liberation by unmasking not-reality as illusion. Do this by practicing non-violent (ahimsa) and introspective methods. If you reach Level 5 without harming anyone on purpose, you reach Moksha (liberation) and can rest, finally.

Choose something that disturbs your peacefulness.
  1. Cruelty against insects.

  2. Cruelty against animals.
  3. Cruelty against human beings.
  4. Injustice.
  5. Loud children.
  6. Busy marketplaces.


UPGRADES
Start with 1.
Take 1 when you:
  • lived an entire month in the world (“in the marketplace”), in ahimsa

  • stayed peaceful in the middle of raging violence

  1. Move Immovable Objects: You can persuade small doors and walls to move.
  2. Create gems: You can create gemstones out of thin air.
  3. No pain: You feel no pain. Critical injuries don’t exist for you. You keep moving and standing till you die with Str 0. 
  4. Come closer, Beloved One: You can move the sun closer to you or farther away from you.

The ItO Yogi looks like this:

Mahadev, level 1 Yogi
Yogi, Str 7, Dex 10, Cha 7; HP 6, no armor, no weapons, Siddhis: “Eternal Peace” and Joyous Freedom”, loincloth, skull cup, small bag of bhang

If the yogi had to defend himself physically, he would simply roll 1d4 for damage (no to-hit roll). The opponent would do the same.










The Black Hack: alternative combat rules

THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, 1974

Player-facing rolls are not my thing. The Black Hack 1e very much is my thing because it’s so immensely customizable. I could, of course, go the Landshut route and simply handle combat with opposing rolls.

Or I walk this way: Taking a piece of rules from my very own Fabulous Heart of Mekron:

This method keeps the strict roll-under approach of TBH, but lets players and referee roll against each other (which I like).

The Black Hack: turning it into a roll-high system

Okay, so this one is really simple. As the headline says, let’s turn TBH into a roll-high system. If this is what’s floating your boat.

Situation: You haven’t rolled TBH characters yet.

Suggestion 1: Do it like the “Stay Frosty” hack does it:

1) Roll 3d6 for attributes, just as usual. Lower is better.
2) Add a “+” to every attribute you rolled. So for instance a 10 becomes a “10+”, meaning you have to roll 10 or higher to be successful.

Suggestion 2: Do it like “knave” does it:

1) Roll 3d6 for attributes. Pick the lowest die and add it to 10. This is your attribute. The number on the die is your attribute bonus.
2) To do something, roll your trusted d20+bonus and try to beat a target number of 15. If you feel inclined, include Advantage or Disadvantage.

Situation: You already have a TBH character.

Suggestion:

1) Every attribute becomes (21-its value).
2) Add a “+” to every attribute you rolled. So for instance a 10 becomes a “10+”, meaning you have to roll 10 or higher to be successful.

And a bonus rule just because I like it:

Regular TBH:
To give the GM the opportunity to roll attacks for his minions, he rolls 1d20 and must roll higher than the player character’s STR (melee) or DEX (ranged combat). Powerful Opponents rule still applies.

Roll-high TBH:
To give the GM the opportunity to roll attacks for his minions, he rolls 1d20 and must roll under the player character’s STR (melee) or DEX (ranged combat). Powerful Opponents rule still applies.

Into the Odd: Why I don’t miss to-hit rolls.

I have some time on my hands (4 hours till my next appointment with clients, and the kids are playing outside), so I’m playing around with different combat resolution methods.

1) The Black Hack: you still have the chance to miss a blow, to whiff it. Hm. Some people have said they like that mechanism because it can build tension in a dramatic fight. Yeah, well. The magic word here is “can”. It’s possible you roll a LOT of misses, and that isn’t fun at all. Not necessarily because you don’t hit, but because nothing is moving forward.

2) powered by the Apocalpyse: you have the chance to miss or to land a partial hit. In any case, your character’s “moves” do trigger events in the game world (or at least, suggest them), and that’s a good thing.

3) Into the Odd: now we’re cooking with gas. Not only does every hit (okay, almost every hit because armor might negate 1 or 2 damage points) move the fight forward, but there’s also massive dramatic tension and narrative baked into that rule: a 1-point hit might be a glance, or a slight tactical impairment, or fear crawling up the fighter’s spine.

As much as I like playing around with traditional combat resolution methods, Into the Odd wins, hands down.

Let me try an example here.

I’m using my work-in-progress, Seattle Slicks. I roll a Cop with Body 10, Intelligence 7, Dexterity 8. Condition Monitor (hp) 3. This is what the table says:

“Flamethrower (d8),
EMP grenade (shorts all local
tech), TACTICAL AUGMENT or
CYBERDECK (d8, including
cybermodem jacks) or
4 SPELLS (d8) or 4 SPIRITS
(d8) or 4 PHYSAD POWERS”

I can decide between a piece of Tactical cyberware or a cyberdeck. Since I’m playing a cop with mediocre stats, I’ll pick the ‘ware. The random table tells me I have an Echolocation System.

I roll for money: a 6. Oh. My salary is 1,200 bucks a month. My starting money is 1d3 times that salary: 2×1,200 bucks = 2,400.

My cop:
Bod 10 Int 7 Dex 8 CondMon 3. Flamethrower (d8), EMP grenade (shorts all local tech)

Let’s say he gets into a fight with a member of a go-gang (all stats 10, 3 hp, knife d6). 

I allow the cop to make a Dex save so he can fire the flamethrower once before the gangster closes in. A 17, that’s not going to help much. So the Cop tries to pull the trigger, fiddling with the safety latch first, but too late, the gangster is already too close.

The Cop wins initiative, and because he’s not very intelligent, he’s closing the distance and tries to engage his opponent in close quarters combat. He rolls d4 for his wild right haymaker: 3! This takes the gangster to zero hp, but he’s still standing. A quick flick of the knife (d6) inflicts 5 points damage to the Cop. He’s down to 0 hp and Bod 8. He makes the Bod save, bloodied, but still conscious.

Obviously, the Cop now understands that punching against a knife is not too bright, so he applies his CCQ combat training (which, I assume, took place many years ago): he tries to immobilize the attacker’s knife arm and take him to the ground.

NOW Into the Odd’s beauty starts to shine: You roll saving throws to avoid danger from risky actions or situations. Trying to immobilize a knife fighter’s weapon arm definitely justifies a save against Dex. The Cop rolls a 4 — success!

The gangster tries to break the Cop’s arm bar, rolling a 7 — success!

The Cop’s only chance to survive this fight is to trap the knife fighter’s arm again. Rolling a 15, his hands slip and can’t get a grip. The gangster hacks his knife into the Cop’s shoulder, repeatedly: 3 points. Now, the Cop is down to 0 hp and Bod 5. His Bod save is not successful: Critical Damage. Heavy bleeding. Blackout. The fight is over.

Did anyone feel bored? Did anyone miss the tension of missed to-hit rolls? Certainly, not me.

The Black Red Gold Hack (Das Schwarze Auge 1st edition for The Black Hack)

Alright then. I have finally finished the The Black Hack conversion of the first edition of Germany’s most popular rpg, Das Schwarze Auge.

I’ve just shot the publisher an email asking them if I am allowed to use their copyrighted names in my text. Fingers crossed. BTW, since it’s an archetypical German old school rpg, I decided to call it “The Black Red Gold Hack”.

A few thoughts about vehicle combat in The Black Hack

Found on Superflycircus.com

Or, to be more exact, thoughts on fast-and-loose vehicle combat in The Black Hack. Neither do I want another Car Wars rules set, nor anything near that complexity. We boiled down Chainmail to two pages, and this is the absolute maximum of rules we can bear at the table.

What I’d like to have are rulings that can be changed on the fly, according to the situation the player characters find themselves in.
What do I want to see at the table? I’m building on the vehicle descriptions found in The Rad Hack.
  1. Everyone can drive a vehicle.
  2. Vehicles have hp and armor. They do Ramming Damage, and on-board weapons can be installed, as well. 
  3. Only major maneuvers, stunts or noteworthy activities with a vehicle require a DEX test.
  4. Hard maneuvers require a DEX test with Disadvantage.
  5. Vehicles may be too big, too small or too uncommon for a driver (their background tells us more), so every major maneuver with such a vehicle is rolled for with Disadvantage.
  6. T-Boning lighter vehicles does Ramming Damage.
  7. Head-on collisions add the Ramming Damage of both vehicles — and both vehicles lose that many hit points. You could even double this number to make crashes more serious.
  8. Vehicles on the game board move 1 pen length per round. Take any pen. You could also use a length of cable or rope. Faster vehicles move, let’s say, 1.5 pen lengths. Slower ones only go half a pen length. 
  9. Everything else will be handwaved rigorously.
Found on Deathracers.org
Found on the Twitter account of Trollworkshop