Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Arandish Campaign House Rules

As the start date for my Arandish campaign – January 2010 – draws near, it is time for me to publicize my campaign house rules.  As with so many other things, this list should be considered provisional, as I am sure things will change a bit once game play actually gets underway.  But these are my planned Arandish Campaign House Rules for now:

Generating Attributes
Attribute scores are generated by rolling 4d6 and discarding the lowest die roll. The player then orders them any way s/he chooses. 

The following list of the six available Arandish alignments is originally borrowed from here, and is also posted here.  (Please also note this succinct breakdown of the meaning of alignment terminology and a follow-up post for first-edition gamers by James Raggi.) 

Chaotic: Inimical to civilization and possibly reality itself – the alignment of demons, Faerie, and the insane.

Neutral: Apathetic and/or unconcerned with the battle between cosmic forces.

Neutral (Balance): The philosophical stance that a balance between Chaos and Law is necessary for the well-being of the cosmos.

Lawful (Good): The philosophical stance that civilization exists to foster the common good.

Lawful: The philosophical stance that civilization, regardless of how it is organized, is preferable to other alternatives.

Lawful (Evil): The philosophical stance that civilization exists to allow the strong to lord it over the weak.

The "Five Things the Character Knows" Rule
Horked from Ken Harrison at the Rusty Battle Axe, this great rule (or some modification thereof) will likely be deployed during character generation / our first session.

Critical Hits and Fumbles
Any time a player rolls a natural ‘20’ on a to hit roll, it is a critical hit. Damage is doubled.
Likewise, if a player rolls a natural ‘1’ on a to hit roll, it is considered a critical failure or fumble. Typically, this means the combatant hurts himself, drops his weapon, breaks his weapon, or just plain falls down – GM discretion.

The optional encumbrance system in the Labyrinth Lord rulebook (p. 44) will be ignored; if how much a character is carrying becomes an issue, it will be dealt with intuitively.

Except in special circumstances, NO individual initiative is rolled (see LL p. 52), just initiative for each group, rolled on 1d20 (not 1d6) once per combat encounter, NOT once per round as per LL p. 50 – that is too much die rolling for me!

Item Saving Throws
YES, see LL p. 55.

Ability Checks
YES, see LL p. 55.

I prefer high-powered monsters with little fear, so I am leery of morale checks for any but the weakest or most disorganized Arandish monsters.  But since so many old-school RPGers I respect seem to favor morale checks in D&D combat, I may use this rule some in the early phases of my campaign to see how it goes (see LL p. 56). 

Multiple Chances to Detect Secret Doors
As James Raggi IV has recently written:

Apparently the Moldvay Basic and Labyrinth Lord state that a character gets only one try to find a secret door, and if that fails, pffft, tough shit! I have never played like that, and as I said was never aware that such a rule existed.

Doublechecking yesterday morning to make sure I haven't been playing wrong for a quarter of a century, I did confirm that OD&D, Holmes Basic, Mentzer Basic, AD&D, OSRIC, and Swords & Wizardry do not have this "one try only" language in the rules for secret doors.

I'm truly flabbergasted that a game that so features exploration as a primary activity would have such a limitation. To me, secret doors are time sinks, and if a party wants to take the time to make an extra check (or five) at the cost of a turn each, running down their light sources and risking wandering monsters, that's great!

I agree with Mr. Raggi and hereby waive the "one try only" rule as printed in LL.

Shields Shall Be Splintered! 
This brilliant set of concepts originates with Trollsmyth, but I like this nice encapsulation by David at The RPG Corner, from whom I horked many of the best of my own house rules.  Here's the rule:

Shields provide the usual +1 bonus to AC. However, they may also be used to "soak" damage from a single attack, thereby reducing damage to zero. Soaking damage destroys the shield.

Shields may also be used against any attack that allows a save for half damage, such as a fireball or dragon's breath. In that case, the shield is destroyed, as above, and the save is considered automatically successful, thereby guaranteeing half damage.

For magical shields, each +1 enchantment bonus gives a 10% chance of surviving a damage soak.

The D30 Rule
Once per session each player may opt to roll the referee’s d30 in lieu of whatever die or dice the situation normally calls for. The choice to roll the d30 must be made before any actual rolling has occurred. The d30 cannot be rolled for generating character statistics or hit points.

Experience Points
Experience points are earned by defeating monsters and completing objectives, but NOT for finding treasure.  See this insightful post about awarding experience points, which explains what I mean by "objectives" and seconds my motion not to award xp for treasure.  The post's writer, Ripper X, outlines more detailed xp distribution categories than I will use -- for example, I do NOT give out xp based on "Class Actions" -- but I like his overall approach to the concept of xp distribution a great deal.

Experience Bonuses from Ability Scores
I horked this great idea from John Laviolette at Nine and Thirty Kingdoms:

Any time a player solves a problem using methods that clearly rely on one of the six abilities, that player gets an experience bonus equal to ten times the character's ability score. Talk your way past a guard, get a 10xCha bonus. Bust down a door, get a 10xStr bonus. Pick the lock instead, get a 10xDex bonus. If the GM decides that's too high, don't multiply by 10. It's simple, provides rewards for non-combat actions, distinguishes characters, and encourages role-playing. 


  1. I really, really like the shields shall be splintered houserule. That makes shields something truly special, not just another point off the ole armor class, and it does it without a ton of rules to keep track of.

    So can I make up a character already, or do you want everyone to wait on that?

  2. You should feel free to start generating a character. That start date is coming up fast! In fact, I plan to send out a general "invite" email to potential participants later this week.

  3. The shields rule is inspired - I think I'll be "borrowing" that one as well!

  4. I hope that you find using morale checks useful. Don't feel like you have to check morale every round, or for every creature (or side) - just make judgement calls when a roll might be required (for henchmen when leader PC dies, for humanoids when they suffer heavy losses, etc)