Friday, April 17, 2015

White Box House Rules

Two years ago I'd posted a set of house rules for Swords & Wizardry in a very rough form. It proved a fairly popular post and I've had a chance to give it some more thought - along with possibly having a White Box game in my future.

What I've been learning about the White Box rules is I don't quite like them as they are.  I think there's a place for a thief class. I think magic-users have gotten the shaft at low levels. But I've also discovered they are super-easy to customize. It's very different from my experience with D&D 3rd Edition. I had a lot of fun playing with D&D 3.0 and 3.5. But one thing I found was it is a tough game to customize. For example, trying to remove miniatures or counters from D&D 3.5 is a massive undertaking, with many basic assumptions suddenly changing.

What I'm going to do in this article is list a series of house rules. For the most part they are mix and match. I'll illustrate the rule and then explain my thinking behind it.

Revised Attack Tables


Revised Fighter Attack Table
Fighter Level
Armor Class [Ascending Armor Class]
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
-1
-2
[10]
[11]
[12]
[13]
[14]
[15]
[16]
[17]
[18]
[19]
[20]
[21]
Attack Roll (d20) Required To Hit Opponent
0
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
1
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
2-3
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
4-5
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
6
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
7-8
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
9-10
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15


Revised Cleric Attack Table
Cleric Level
Armor Class [Ascending Armor Class]
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
-1
-2
[10]
[11]
[12]
[13]
[14]
[15]
[16]
[17]
[18]
[19]
[20]
[21]
Attack Roll (d20) Required To Hit Opponent
1-2
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
3-4
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
5-6
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
7-8
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
9
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
10
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16


Revised Magic-User Attack Table
MU Level
Armor Class [Ascending Armor Class]
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
-1
-2
[10]
[11]
[12]
[13]
[14]
[15]
[16]
[17]
[18]
[19]
[20]
[21]
Attack Roll (d20) Required To Hit Opponent
1-4
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
5-6
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
7-8
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
9-10
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18


Revised Ascending AC Attack Table

Level

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Class
Base “to-hit” Bonus
Fighter
1
2
2
3
3
4
5
5
6
6
Cleric
0
0
1
1
2
2
3
3
4
5
Magic-User
0
0
0
0
1
1
2
2
3
3


Design Notes
  • The engineer in me wanted a smoother curve
  • I wanted to give 1st level fighters an edge over other characters
  • I wanted to make certain a cleric with the same experience point total as a fighter would have an inferior chance of attacking (recall that there will be times a cleric will be a level higher than a fighter with the same experience point total)
I left the Magic-User untouched, meaning no improvements at all at 1st through 4th level then increasing every other level. Both the fighter and cleric increase usually increase their chances to hit every other level with a few exceptions that I tried to even out. Finally, if using my optional thief class they would use the Cleric table.


Magic-User Staves

A first level magic-user is assumed to start with a magic staff of his own manufacture. It has no additional abilities in combat, but the magic user who crafted it can store spells in it, casting them from the staff as if he had memorized them. The magic-user loads the staff with the spells he or she wants by casting the spell into the staff. Once in the staff the spell persists until cast or the magic-user dismisses it. 

A 1st level magic-user's staff can store one spell level. At 3rd level the magic-user can store two spell levels in it (either two 1st level spells or one 2nd level one). At every odd character level the magic-user can store an additional spell level within it.

Magic-User Level
Spell Levels Stored
1-2
1
3-4
2
5-6
3
7-8
4
9-10
5

If lost, the magic-user can craft a new staff in about a week's time. Only the crafting magic-user can load it with spells or cast spells from it.


Design Notes
The intent of the magic-user staff is to give the magic-user a little bit more to do at low levels, giving him at least a 2nd spell each day. It fits to my mind the idea of the wizard carrying his staff everywhere he goes.

If using the optional elf "race as class" or a multi-classed elf, I would suggest not giving them this ability.


Cleric Holy Symbols

A first level cleric is assumed to start with a holy symbol that he or she has specially blessed which can serve as an aid in spell-casting.  The cleric who crafted it can store healing spells in it, casting them from the holy symbol as if he had memorized them. The cleric loads the holy symbol with the spells he or she wants by casting the spell into the holy symbol. Once in the holy symbol the spell persists until cast or the cleric dismisses it.

A 1st level the holy symbol can store one spell level. At 3rd level the cleric can store two spell levels in it (either two 1st level spells or one 2nd level one). At every odd character level the clericr can store an additional spell level within it.

Cleric Level
Spell Levels Stored
1-2
1
3-4
2
5-6
3
7-8
4
9-10
5

If lost, the cleric can bless a new holy symbol in about a week's time. Only the cleric who blessed it can load it with spells or cast spells from it.

The following spells are considered healing spells:
  • Cure Light Wounds (1st level)
  • Cure Disease (3rd level)
  • Cure Serious Wounds (4th level)
  • Neutralize Poison (4th level)


Design Notes
This is clearly a variation of the magic-user's staff. As a cleric is a bit more rounded, I decided to limit it to healing magic. (It's also worth noting here that I'd consider Cure Disease also usable for treating conditions like blindness.)



Turning Undead

Any intelligent undead can make a saving throw against a successful turning attempt.On a "D" result the undead takes a number of d6 damage equal to the cleric's level, with a saving throw reducing the damage to half. Survivors are automatically turned.

A cleric can attempt to turn each type of undead only once per encounter, beginning with the lowest strength undead and working upwards. After any failed attempt the cleric may not try to turn undead again in the current encounter.

Design Notes
While I've felt some abilities need a little boost (like 1st level magic-users having a single spell), I've found at high levels a cleric's ability to turn undead can be game-breaking. I'm attempting to limit the game-breaking aspect of it while still allowing the cleric to shine against the undead.


Weapon Damage

Light Weapons: Weapons listed as doing 1d6-1 damage are modified to do damage by rolling 2d6 and keeping the lower die.

Heavy Weapons: Weapons listed as doing 1d6+1 damage are modified to do damage by rolling 2d6 and keeping the higher die. Wielders of these weapons always lose initiative to combatants using lighter weapons.

Weapons that can optionally be used two-handed should be considered to be listed as 1d6+1 when wielded with two hands.

If using a thief class, ignore this option for backstab damage and treat the weapon's base damage as 1d6. (For example, if a thief who does triple damage on a backstab is using a dagger listed as doing 1d6-1 damage, roll 3d6 for damage, keeping all dice).

Design Notes
This option is intended to keep with original D&D's concept of having all weapon's doing 1d6 damage while still giving some variety. I realized this could cause chaos with backstab damage. Backstabbing with a two-handed sword seems awfully odd  (my optional thief class cannot use such a weapon) but rolling 2d6 in such a case will never yield a poorer result than 1d6+1. And a modest improvement with a weapon like a dagger seems reasonable in the event of a backstab.

Doesn't everyone do spreadsheets when doing this sort of thing? Well I did. I wanted to see what the chances were of doing a certain amount of damage using this system as well as rolling at least a certain amount of damage...








Given the high probability of doing a lot of damage with a heavy weapon, I added the rule making wielders of such weapons always lose initiative to wielders of lighter weapons. It's not entirely realistic - someone with a polearm could reasonably stab someone charging with a dagger before they are threatened. However, it is in keeping with the spirit of the old B/X rules. It would be pretty straightforward to make a reach ruling on the fly in such cases. (i.e. use common sense). It might be reasonable to give users of light weapons automatic initiative over wielders of heavy weapons, again, taking reach into consideration if desired. I'd probably not worry too much about reach, given combat is more of an abstraction vs. a blow by blow account. But if a character with a polearm readied it to prevent people from closing in, I'd give them normal initiative - but from then on I'd apply the penalty, as once a melee begins you could picture the polearm wielder constantly shifting his position and weapon as he tries to stop a knife-wielder from slipping in.

Other Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Posts

Both this year and back in 2013 I made some posts for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day: