Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Swords and Wizardry Appreciation Day

I am running a Swords & Wizardry game this very day at my local FLGS, Whose Turn is It? Austin, TX. 






One of the attractions of Swords and Wizardry for me is its shallow power curve. Which means less math, a much broader range of levels that can adventure together and increased serendipity (with a little luck and planning a gang can defeat an opponent well beyond their level). The following house rules attempt to carry on that tradition.

Combat Effects

[Really need a better name.] 

After rolling damage an attacker may offer the defender an option to take a "Combat Effect" in place of damage.  Combat Effects are whatever the player can come up with (and referee agrees to). Some ideas; disarm, entangle, keep away, push back, knock down, block, bypass, stun, cut suspenders/belt.

I visualize this as the defender can stand their ground, fight back and suffer the consequences (damage).  Or, they can give ground, let go of weapon when pressed, etc. It nicely and naturally incorporates attack success. Score a weak 1 point of damage, defender will take that 1pt of damage rather than be knocked down. Scoring 5, a very good hit, you are more likely to impose your will on opponent.

Some targets may get save or be immune to some effects.  E.g. everything probably gets save vs "stun" and you're not gonna be "knocking down" the 30' dragon.

Example time: Borg the Barbarian hits a cultist for 4 points and wanting to get past this fodder so he can stop the EHP from sacrificing the damsel, Borg offers "Knock Down or 4 points of damage".  Referee considers morale of cultist; just a bored farm kid? a blood boiling fanatic? will 4pts kill him? Cultist decides to "fall down" and play dead.  Next round Borg charges the EHP!

This goes two ways, of course.  Referee can use for capturing, pushing around, and causing complications for players with more "color" than binary "You die or We die" that most confrontations devolve into.  Possibly neutrals who just want to force their way past party. Local crime lord's minions sent to "beat up" characters (and not earn a murder rap). Town guards trying to capture rambunctious adventurers.  Most "lawful" types should be offering disarm/knock down rather than murdering outright.

A whole range of tactics that a more structured (and restrictive) rule set would spend gobs of pages on, we've codified with a few sentences and no additional dice rolls.  It This to me is essence of "good" S&W house rule. Concise and quick (no/few dice rolls, no/few modifiers, no/few exceptions). Provides choices / trade-offs, and does not escalate power.

Critical Hits

Any damage roll that is the maximum possible for that die (e.g. '6' with a d6) is a critical. In addition a natural '20' attack roll is a critical and automatically does maximum damage.

A critical hit enables an attacker to force defender to take a "combat effect" in place of the damage.  The defender no longer has the choice.  Giving up a maximum damage is big sacrifice but sometimes is game changer (pun, ugh).

Borg the Barbarian has been swinging and occasionally hitting the EHP offering to sunder the "McGuffin of Summing Thing the Players Would Rather not have Summoned" that the EHP is holding.  But the EHP is rather determined to use said McGuffin and has plenty of hit points.  The round before summoning is complete Borg scores a critical hit, Booyah! Summing foiled, TPK avoided, EHP flees, and victory seized.

Weapon Damage

I use the above two rules in my weekly game with a slight variation on "all weapons do d6 damage".  I'm unsure how well critical hit on max damage roll would work with variable damage.  It could be easily dropped. I simply wanted "forced" Combat Effects more common.


Normal weapons roll d6 for damage.  Two-handed weapons roll 2d6 taking the highest single die for damage.  This means those big axes, long spears, and huge claymores are more likely to get a "critical" and thus be able to force a Combat Effect on defender.  Besides feeling right it gives small advantage to two-handed weapons to compensate for loosing use of shield.

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