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Showing posts from August, 2015

Grappling Rules, Compared

I've been noodling with an Ancient Greek seacrawl. And you can't have Ancient Greeks without Pankration, and you can't have Pankration without grappling rules.

There isn't a standard OSR approach to grappling. Holmes and  B/X don't address it, and AD&D presents what I assume is a Gygaxian prank.

So, here, I've collected and broken down into constituent parts all the grappling rules I found close to hand, with the thought of cherry-picking the best ideas. It includes two sets of houserules by Douglas Cole, who has written quite a lot about grappling. Not included here are the grappling rules he and Peter V. Dell'Orto wrote up for Tim Short's The Manor. Hurry up, postman.

Nature of the Contest: How Grappling is Initiated
5e Basic: STR check vs. Target STR or DEX. This doesn't apply terribly well to OSR, since NPCs don't have attributes.
AD&D: Oh, man. Oh geez. Ohohoho. Forget it.
AD&D Dragon #61: Melee attack vs. AC 5 (+DEX mod, any magica…

Alternate Character Class Round-Up

Apropos nothing, here, from the great swirling surfeit of alternate classes available on the Internet, are a few I'm especially fond of.

Delving Deeper: The Illusionist(free pdf)
No shortage of contenders out there for the spell-casting variant, the Illusionist. This one is unique, and wonderful. Rather than a magician who specializes in a particular type of spells, this Illusionist is a straight-up fraud. But an effective fraud. Instead of spells, he prepares tricks—chemicals, gadgets, sleights of hand—to mimic the appearance of magic.

F'rinstance, this first level "spell":
FOG (affects: 4" diam, duration: 6 turns + 1 turn/level, range: 6") The illusionist mixes two ethers that immediately produce a thick bank of fog 4" in diameter (or any equivalent dimensions) and up to 20ft deep. It is impenetrable to sight. Some of the contrivances for the fake spells are more convincing than others, but it's not important that each spell hold up to practical s…

Let's Ride!

Just had a fun evening with the kid, using +Benjamin Baugh's B/X supplement: At 5th Level, Everybody Rides.

The idea is that, just as you get a fancy house when you enter upper-level domain-style play, you get an epic mount when you reach the point where B/X introduces wilderness exploration. And who doesn't want an epic mount?

The kid had been asking if his lizardman fighter could catch a hippocampus. I pulled out Benjamin's rules, and the kid forgot entirely about any fish-tailed horses, and instead rolled:

GHOSTLY, the undead coal-fired cyborg horse-fox-spider chimera!

Ghostly is a walking nightmare, ridden by a lizardman with a flaming sword. My seven-year-old is metal as fuck.

And so, of course, we didn't stop there:

Lisa, the rabbit cleric, rides high atop a tiger-striped wooly mammoth that can sound the heavenly trumpets with his trunk.

Bochen, the griffon wizard, doesn't need a mount, because he's a griffon. But he gained a companion: a spectral crab that…

Thinking about Attributes


That's about as simple as you can get with abstracted quantitative measures of pretend humans. Some might say that you don't need Heart, but they're probably not much fun to play with.


These six attributes are like a beautiful nerd haiku. They not only carry tremendous nostalgic weight, but they're pretty brilliantly flexible. This is the porridge Goldilocks ate.


Yech. Anytime an attribute list gets too long, I start backing away. This is a more accurate depiction of the sort of competencies I test for in my games, though.

Á la Carte Expendable Additions

Depending on the campaign, one or more of these might be helpful. These can be used as roll-under attributes, but points from them may also be expended. F'rintsance, You may roll Resources to generally…