Landshut gets played :)

My small Arnesonian-spirited ruleset, The Landshut Rules, is being played – and a few people even write about it. That’s so cool!

Alex Schroeder reports about his new campaign, inspired by Landshut.
Joel Priddy creates 5e characters, but for Landshut.
And the honorable OD&D Discussion forum is talking about them 🙂


Car Wars Classic – played with The Landshut Rules

MY 200th POST!

This is slightly modified repost of an article I wrote last year – before I had written down the rules we;ve been using for many, many years in our games – the Landshut Rules.

Before you continue, please do yourself a favor and download the digital edition of Car Wars Classic from the official publisher here:

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 to work with the Landshut Rules?

  1. Three hits, and you’re out. That’s exactly how Landshut works, as well. So, no change there.
  2. Pick 3 skills from the list. Numbers are not important. You either have the skill or you don’t.
  3. That’s it. THAT’S IT!

So, let’s create a Car Wars character.

  1. A name: Greasemonkey Jones
  2. I pick 3 skills: Driver, Mechanic, Luck
  3. I choose 2d6 regular items: 4 – Light Pistol, Battle Vest, Backpack, Mini-Mechanic.
  4. Now, I lose 1d6 of them: 3 – I roll 1d4 to see what I’m losing: Mini-Mechanic, Backpack, Light Pistol are gone. All Greasemonkey Jones starts with is a Battle Vest.
  5. Now, I pick two powers: Look into the Maelstrom of the World for Answers, and the second one: Roll with the punches.
And I’m finished.
Greasemonkey Jones
Skills: Driver, Mechanic, Luck
Gear: Battle Vest
Powers: Look into the Maelstrom of the World for Answers; Roll with the punches.

That’s the Car Wars Classic rpg. Enjoy.

Recommended reading:

Buy it on Drivethru Fiction

Pimp my Landshut!

Advanced Heroquest art. By the great John Blanche. 1989.

So let’s say you created a character with the Landshut Rules. You want to play old style, white box fantasy with Landshut, so you created a character using the Landshut adaption.

Your character looks like this:

Splint Brackwater
Level 1 Fighting-man
XP: 0
HD: 1
HP: 6 +10
Attacks: 2d6+1
Can see in the dark like a cat. Someone high up in the hierarchy owes him a favor.

Sword, Plate Mail (counts as +10 HP), Iron Rations for 1 week, Backpack (leather), Water skin

Looking good, isn’t he?
But now your gaming buddy brings along that cool pbtA game called “Freebooters on the Frontier”, but you don’t want to learn new rules and you LOVE rolling against the referee.

Not a problem. Just steal the parts you like. It’s so easy with The Landshut Rules.
Here’s how:

Let’s say you like how the cleric in that game can be a “Defender of the Truth”: the move says, ‘when you face a threat that would do harm to someone or something of value to your deity, you may spend favor to gain temporary armor for as long as the threat persists, at a cost of 1 favor per 1 point of armor.”

Cool! Steal it! Introduce something called “Favor”. Guesstimate the number of Favor points the cleric character has, the player writes it down, done.


The fighter has a move called “Revel in Battle”. This move grants him the power to increase damage, to ignore the enemy’s armor, or to inflict a negative condition (stunned, hindered, etc) on your foe. The exact mechanisms are not important. The player writes this down. You make a ruling when it comes up in play. Done. The Landshut Rules (and similar ones) won’t break. They’re sturdy and take whatever you glue onto them. That’s the beauty of ancient-school gaming.

Taking that last move into consideration, your character now looks like this:

Splint Brackwater
Level 1 Fighting-man
XP: 0
HD: 1
HP: 6 +10
Attacks: 2d6+1
Can see in the dark like a cat. Someone high up in the hierarchy owes him a favor.
Revel in Battle: increase damage, ignore enemy’s armor, inflict a negative condition on foe.

Sword, Plate Mail (counts as +10 HP), Iron Rations for 1 week, Backpack (leather), Water skin

Ancient-school roleplaying: an exclusive Interview with grognard Bob Meyer

Bob Meyer is one of the original Twin Cities gamers. For many years, he („Robert the Bald“) played with Dave Arneson personally. And he keeps Dave‘s Blackmoor and his style of gaming alive.
AND: he’s one of the nicest people I know.

N: Bob, let‘s get right to it! Are you using hit points in your games?

B: No, at least not in the sense of D&D-like hit points. I simply determine a number of times a character can get hit before they‘re dead or dying. This depends on the setting. D&D captured the rules that Arneson invented, but it did not capture the style of play. The main thing was to make the game fun and challenging. David, not burdening the players with rules and tables, freed our imaginations to just do whatever we wanted to do.

N: D&D as it was published, contained quite a number of tables.

B: Yes, but it being published did not change our style of play, because David had already shown us how to play, and how to run games ourselves.

N: Do you use tables in your games? Just to get an idea: If yes, what kind of tables? Hit locations? Or experience points? Or movement? The reason I’m asking this is I still have the feeling that my system, as it is at the moment, is… too simple? And I’m wondering if introducing some tables, random or not, might help complicate (in a positive sense) matters.

B: Do not worry about any tables. My games (and rules) are much more free form. I find that adding rules and tables gives the players more distractions, and takes away from their immersion in the game. I tend to give players the benefit of the doubt. I tend towards a more favorable result to the players for anything that happens.

N: So you‘re playing „softer“?

B: No one has died yet, although there were a couple of times that a player really could have died. I just made them unconscious (with the help of a handy medical character or spell) for most of the rest of the adventure.

N: Are you using Dave‘s rules in your games?

B: I invented my own rules to give the same feeling to my games that we had with the original rules. The style of play is the same as in the pre-D&D days, but I changed some of the rules so that the players would not be “burdened” with the rules, just like in the old days.

N: I understand you have been using 2d6 in your games ever since you guys started playing and inventing roleplaying games. How do you use them? For instance, a character wants to jump across a chasm – do you use opposed rolls, or do you determine a number (secretly) the player has to roll on or over?

B: I use opposed die rolls for any actions that have serious consequences; whether it is an attack, or jumping over a chasm. This is just one way of adding randomness to actions, which more closely mirrors real life. There should always be doubt, and a chance of failure, for any action. The exact mechanisms, and way I determine results, I prefer to keep obscure by keeping them to myself. I often roll my dice at random times so that players do not know if they mean nothing, or will mean something, to the game.

N: Just yesterday, I refereed a session of a modern rpg. It has a crazy amount of special abilities and magic items and that kind of stuff – so many moving parts in fact that playing it was a mediocre experience, at best. What killed immersion in yesterday’s game was that my players looked at their character sheets whenever some sort of challenge appeared– because that game hands out „loot“ like candy. So my players looked at their sheets for answers, instead of looking into their character… interesting experience, but one I don’t want to make any time soon.

B: I understand your frustration. Many people like the structure of rules and assigned abilities. This takes away uncertainty and decision making that will be required in a game. I do not think this is bad; if they are having fun, then more power to them. But as you pointed out, this slows down and restricts the game.

N: How many special abilities, for instance, do characters in your games have?

B: Giving them a special ability, and a skill, and a profession (blacksmith, tanner, etc.) gives them plenty to work with. I take into account any experience they gain on adventures for actions they do. This gives benefits on die rolls and actions (more likely to succeed in combat, surprise, noticing important things, etc.). Players are free to keep track of everything themselves (found items, armor made from dragon skins, etc.). I expect them to remind me about anything I should know, which players tend to do anyway.

N: Do you offer the players lists of available skills and powers? How do they pick their characters‘ abilities?

B: I allow players to pick their own abilities, so that they will be involved in the process; and be more likely to remember and know what they can do without referring to a piece of paper.

N: What about magic?

B: I have never been a fan of magic, so this was a way to satisfy peoples desire for magic without having people depending on magic spells. I did relent later and allowed magic, and I had people pick the spells themselves for the same reasons as I gave for abilities. I did restrict magic in certain ways, so that it would not become predominate in the game. This seems to be working.

N: I also have mixed feelings about magic – I’m worried it unbalances the game, or at least makes it boring because it overpowers characters, so I tend to allow it, but it comes with inherent dangers. If a magic-user wants too much, it can seriously backfire on him. Do you have spell lists, or do you allow your players to come up with their own spells?

B: When I allow a person to use magic, I have them generate a list of spells themselves. I have not had to turn down any spells that a person wants. The players tend to self regulate when they are given responsibility. I restrict the number of spells they have, and require them to use some water from a well in Blackmoor castle as they use a spell. This limits the number of spells they cast.

N: Do you use character sheets?

B: I have not given the players character sheets or any indications of levels. Again, this gives them more of a sense of reality.

N: Bob, thank you so much for this interview!

B: Thank you, Norbert!

Let’s play Shadowrun 1e – with Landshut Rules

Shadowrun first edition – my love.

That game, like no other game before or after, changed my roleplaying world. When I first read it, back in 1989, I loved everything about it. Everything. Okay, the novelty of the dice pool system quickly wore off and we used our homebrew rules, but the world, the WORLD! I still love it. I really do. And while few of my players have lost their faith in SR1e, I’m not one of them. Shadowrun, to this day, remains my all-time, absolute, undisputed favorite setting.

So, let’s play Shadowrun with my Landshut Rules.

Using the rules for playing a published rpg setting with Landshut means following these steps:

  1. Roll attributes
    I roll 2d6; values of 4 or lower are bad; 10 and above are good.
    SR has six stats. I roll 2d6 for each of them:
    Body (4): fragile; Quickness (7); Strength (8); Charisma (8); Intelligence (5); Willpower (8). The only attribute I write on my index card is Body, or better: “Body: fragile”. All other stats are average and not worth mentioning.
  2. I pick the Archetype now
    hey, Street Shaman sounds about right. Or better, a sickly Street Shaman.
  3. Now, off to the skills
    I pick 5 of them, going through the SR1e skill list.
    Knife Fighting; Conjuring; Sorcery; Street Etiquette; Magical Theory.
  4. Then, I pick 2d6 pieces of regular equipment I roll a 5, so: Knife, Music Playback Unit, Simsense Player, Wrist Phone, Yamaha Rapier (motorbike)
  5. Now, I lose 1d6 of them 
    a 5. So, I start out with no equipment at all. Wow, that’s tough.
  6. Oh yeah, life style
    squatter. No money, no nothing.
  7. I get to pick 2 “Powers”: special equipment, spells, special abilities, connections, special backgrounds etc.
    Of course, I pick two spells:
    Hellblast (yeah, baby) and Heal Moderate Wounds
  8. Since I don’t have any cyberware installed, I still have Essence 6.
  9. Done.
So, ladies and gentlemen:
Steven ‘Glowfinger’ Hatman, Street Shaman
fragile body
Essence: 6
Knife Fighting; Conjuring; Sorcery; Street Etiquette; Magical Theory
Spells: Hellblast, Heal Moderate Wounds

Variable damage: an optional rule for Landshut gaming

My Landshut rules are our go-to rules for everything, really. For every setting. For every idea.

One thing that pops up every now and then is the question: Are there rules for variable damage? Or do you guys handwave it?

Truth be told, yes, we handwave this. But there’s also a simple add-on to solve this:

If you hit, determine the damage you inflict:
unarmed – roll  2d4 and pick the lower result.
lightly armed – roll 2d4 and pick the higher result.
heavily armed- roll 2d6 and pick the higher result.
extremely heavily armed – roll 2d8 and pick the higher result.

Fragile characters start out with 4 hits. Resilient characters start with 6 or even more.
Armor absorbs between 1 and 3 damage.

If damage leaves you with below zero hits, roll above average to avoid critical damage. 
If you end up with less than minus 3 hits, you’re dead-dead. 

So I’ve fallen in love again

…and this here is what my heart is beating for, right now.
Veil 2020 is Fraser Simons’s simplified variant of his own pbtA game, The Veil. It blends the simplicity of Whitehack classes with an innovative mood mechanic that helps players to roleplay their characters. Plus, variable damage – in a pbtA game! Very cool, I like all of it.

And you know what? That’s not the first pbtA game I really like – not by a long shot. Even though I call myself an old/ancient school roleplayer, it probably is more correct if I said a just like roleplaying a lot. I like reading rpgs, I like writing rpgs, I like refereeing rpgs, I like playing rpgs.

BUT. Almost every pbtA game I’ve ever read or played is packed with good ideas. Almost every game is a goldmine of inspirations and hints and possibilities. Of course, we also have true gems in the OSR, no doubt about that. I just think it’s worth taking a look at those games, as well.

That said, last December I wrote my adaption of Apocalypse World for our Landshut rules. That’s the beauty of pbtA games: You can hack them extremely easily to make them fit more traditional play styles. I know some hardcore purists don’t like that, but I couldn’t care less.

Really all you have to do is to simplify the “moves” of pbtA classes playbooks, slap your preferred dice mechanic on top, and you’re good to go.

Let’s create a Veil 2020 character, then.

Every V2020 character has six linked emotional states:
mad – peaceful
sad – joyful
scared – powerful.

Distribute -1, 0,0,+1,+1,+2 between these states. The higher a number, the more likely is success when the character acts.

I’d like to play a Zen-minded netrunner, so I go for this spread:

0 mad  +1 peaceful
-1 sad  0 joyful
0 scared +2 powerful

So, I have a peaceful, slightly sad, but enormously skilled netrunner. Every mood has a direct impact on my actions, so, when using the original rules, I roll 2d6+mood and hope to score at least 10 (for a clear, clean success; 7 to 9 is a mixed success, 6 is a fail).

Now, the class:
I’m playing a Pusher (netrunner). I have neural interface plugs all over my body, a cyberdeck, and I use my mind to navigate the endless sea of data. I can take 4 harm (that means, a good hit with a medium autopistol or sword will kill or at least K.O. me). I get to choose a specialty, and that is, I can manipulate people’s cybereyes to make them see illusions.

I buy a light autopistol and keep the remaining 200 eurobucks in my pocket.

So this is my V2020 character:

Acid Shogun, a pusher
0 mad  +1 peaceful
-1 sad  0 joyful
0 scared +2 powerful
netrunner (specialty: cybereye manipulation/”illusions”)
4 Harm
light autopistol (damage 2d4, take lower)

and translated into Landshut rules:

Acid Shogun, a pusher
peaceful, slightly sad, but enormously skilled netrunner (specialty: cybereye manipulation/”illusions”)
4 Hits
light autopistol

It really doesn’t get any easier than that!

Back to really simple roleplaying (repost from August 2019)

Professor MAR Barker started it. He started creating his world Tekumel in the 1940s and kept adding things and adventures to it till he died in 2012. That’s A LOT. Probably there’s no other work of imagination as developed as Mr. Barker’s world.

When original D&D was published, Mr. Barker tried to adapt the game to Tekumel, so other peoplecould go on adventures in this fantastic world. It was a mediocre success. So he developed his own set of rules, which is still in use today, played by people like Chirine ba Kal and Bob Meyer, to name just two. Chirine has told us again and again that Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson used these rules (or very similar ones) as well.

What you’re about to see is NOT the cover of the rulebook. It IS the rulebook. These rules have been in use for at least 30 years.

Yep. That’s it. 

The interest in the rpg community in super-simple, super-lite rules seems at an all-time high at the moment, and personally, I think that’s good, very good indeed.

As you might have guessed, my favorite taste of rules-lite is Perfected, or to be more exact: opposed rolls. Using opposed rolls cut out two things that I don’t like in rpgs: math. Checking stats to see if I rolled high or low enough.

Another rpg system using this method is the brilliant Sword&Backpack, written by Gabe Soria. Check it out here. The rules? Player character tries something, referee tells him what to roll with a d20, or rolls against them. Done.

Cecil Howe, he of Hex Kit fame, made a booklet version of Sword&Backpack, and it’s a beauty to behold. The booklet version adds a rule: Whenever a character is trying something that is appropriate for their background or profession, add 5 to the d20 roll.

Cecil also published a zine for Sword&Backpack (unfortunately only one), called Peril, and yes, it’s good! In Peril, Cecil also introduced a new concept he calls “Difficulty”. To quote: “This is the number of combat rounds a monster can lose before it is defeated, think of the D as standing for difficulty. The number can be any number, not just one. Really tough monsters will have a high number, and really flimsy monsters will have a low number. “

Bob Alberti is the treasurer of the Tekumel Foundation. He played in Prof. Barker’s game for over 20 years. His ruleset is, as you might have suspected, similarly simple. To quote: “You have dice to resolve any questions (01-10 good, 90-00 bad, use common sense). (…) All the other crap – character stats, encumbrances, combat rules, etc., are the tools of the rules-lawyer, and not worth the attention of dignified persons.”

Today, Claytonian published his one-page rpg “The Party“. And lo and behold, it uses opposed rolls to solve everything. Check it out here.

Static vs. dynamic: how old is your game?

One thing I notice again and again is the huge difference between old school and “ancient school” rpgs. As readers of this blog you probably know that I use the later categorization for roleplaying games that were played before Gary’s version was published. Gary’s game itself would be “old school”.

Even if you
 take extremely simplified and boiled-down versions of Gary’s game, probably all of them (at least all I know of) keep one rule mechanic: You have to roll under or over a certain number to hit an opponent in battle. This is what I call “dynamic vs. static”, in the sense of one person having to roll against a non-random number. Even the earliest known variant of Gary’s game, Craig vanGrasstek’s Rules to the Game of Dungeon, use this mechanic. So, bottom line, in most games (Classic Traveller being one of the exceptions), we get this flow of actions:

  • determine initiative
  • winner of initiative rolls against target number and does damage or not
  • loser of initiative rolls against target number and does damage or not
  • repeat

And then there is the ancient school of roleplaying. All the games that came before Gary’s version. All the games that the Twin City gamers played. In contrast to Gary’s game (or at least, what he played in public; there are a few credible people saying he played ancient rpg style when he played with his friends), ancient school games don’t work like that. All games I’ve witnessed are using opposed rolls. You attack me? Roll dice, but I roll mine – and if I roll higher than you, I counter-attack successfully. This is what I call “dynamic vs. dynamic”. The bottom-line of ancient school rpg melee, then, is:

  • roll dice against each other (maybe you get to add a bonus because of some advantage), higher roll hits, a tie means both side hit simultaneously
  • repeat
In play, it’s a remarkable difference. In dynamic-vs-static games, you have the occasional whiff factor, characters might miss their attacks. In dynamic-vs-dynamic, there’ll always be at least one hit. Both variants deserve attention. I usually go for dynamic-vs-dynamic, but sometimes, misses in combat really do increase the tension of combat.