So far in this article series I have spent a lot of time examining how classes function and work in LOTFP and OSR games in general. I have:
- Started with four elements of class design;
- Elaborated on the 6 different encounter types and matches them with 6 different classes;
- Talked a bit talked about base abilities and matched them with the classes;
- Examined the gameplay subsystems that make up LOTFP;
- Elaborated on class design ideals;
- redesigned the cleric class.
Core Parts of a Class
As outlined in the first article, in terms of the crunchy rules orientated parts of a class, I think there are two major elements of a class:
Mechanical Bonuses: these tend to be things that any character can do but which the class gets a bonus at doing. These are generally numerical modifiers that rise as the character rises in level, things that are added to dice rolls to make a class thematically better at certain activities. It is stuff like the Fighters increased bonus to successfully hit in combat over other players in LOTFP. All players can fight, but generally the fighter is the best at it, etc.
Class abilities: these are parts of the game that are designed specifically for the class. They tend to be little subsets of the rules and tend to be things that only that class can do or only the class gets significantly better at in time. The Magic-Users ability to cast spells or the Specialists skills are examples of this. Additionally these subsystems tend to have unique mechanics when compared to each other. For example specialist skills function totally different than magic-user spells mechanically. You could resolve both with roll under X on a d6 but overall I feel like classes feel more unique and organically designed if their subsystems have unique mechanics.
As I detail the classes each one will largely be comprised of two sections that mirror the above distinctions. Before I start getting into details, lets continue building our chart so we have a bit of a birds eye view:
Mechanical Bonus (scales with level)
(unique subsystem of rules)
Base attack bonus scales with level
Unique Fighting Styles
Skill points for specialist skills per level
Now I have filled in the above chart as it pertains to the current LOTFP classes. As you can see there are some gaps and two new classes entirely, the Ranger and the Bard. This kind of begs the question of does LOTFP need these classes?
Overall I think yes.
In terms of the 'Bard' there is a fair amount of social interaction in the game, due to the players being investigators at times where they're investigating what is going on and having to talk to NPC characters and piece together information. Additionally there are several gameplay subsystems, such as hiring and dealing with retainers, which I think would make for excellent class material and get the players to use those systems more.
In terms of the 'Ranger' after playing LOTFP for about a year I have found that people tend to double up on the Specialist class where very often the players will coordinate a bit so that two basic Specialist builds emerge; one leaning more towards being a typical thief, and one leaning more towards bushcraft--basically a ranger.
The Ranger and Bard aren't new classes in the RPG world by any means. They have both been around for several decades. Instead of calling them Ranger and Bard, which would be a bit out of place in LOTFP’s setting I have imagined their concepts as such:
The ‘Ranger’ class is called the Explorer. They are an outdoor specialist, a loner who is good at hunting and skilled with firearms. They come from a more lower class background, usually having grown up in a rural setting. Explorers around the globe are discovering and opening up new lands. The Explorer class is not a big name explorer of history, at least not yet. They are a commoner who has decided to risk everything in an expedition or two either as part of a newly formed adventuring company, or having returned from an expedition and narrowly survived.
The ‘Bard’ class is called the Courtier they have excellent leadership qualities and excel at leading others. They come from a more middle or upper class background, usually educated and trained in etiquette and the pastimes of the upper class such as hunting and riding. While they may seem well off, and are compared to your average commoner, their position in life is far from secure. They're family is well connected enough to be seen a member of the upper class, but not well off enough to be above or immune from the petty squabbles, backstabbing, ass-kissing, poisoning, blackmail, feuding, and other intrigue.
The character may or may not have a title and their family usually has an estate but there are many people in line for the inheritance of it. Through their family connections and wealth the Courtier has been able to find themselves a position leading others in some major institution, perhaps belonging to the state like an officer in an army, trading company, hospital, etc. or perhaps a privately owned venture like mining or textiles. Overall they have a family name but have yet to amass any great personal power or wealth, at least not yet. They are essentially a front line manager, the person that all those high up in the institution send to attend to whatever situation or crisis that is currently going on in which they need someone at ground zero to handle something fucked up.
Ability Score: Strength
“Slaughter defines man’s history. Every new era is defined by the cruelty man inflicts upon man, or the victory fighting against it. To those in power, soldiers are but tools to shape the populace to their whims. The price that is paid to enact their desires is irrelevant to those giving the orders. In battle, there is no law. Man maims man. Horribly wounded men scream for mercy as their life’s blood pours out from cruelly hacked wounds. Their cries are ignored and their lives extinguished by those too cruel or frightened to listen. Poets and politicians speak of the honor of battle for a just cause, but in battle there is no justice. There is just death from metal implements that crush, slash, and stab. To be willing to slaughter at another’s command in the name of peace and nobility, to be hardened to the deaths of loved companions, to be immersed in this worthlessness of life, that is the life of a soldier. Fighters are these soldiers that have seen the cruelty of battle, have committed atrocities that in any just universe will damn them to Hell, and have survived.” -- LOTFP core rules.
Improved Melee Attack Bonus: the Fighters melee attack bonus (and only melee attack, not ranged) improves as they level like it currently does in the core rules. Except the bonus is calculated simply by adding their level to their strength modifier. For all other players their melee attack bonus it is their strength modifier.
Combat Options: the existing combat options have been modified to depend on the weapon setup that the person is using . The Fighter is essentially an expert in weapons and how to fight effectively with them. They are the tools of the trade for them. Anyone can can use a mace to flail at someone, but it takes someone really skilled and trained to know how to strike effectively with it. In this manner while all classes receive a bonus for certain weapon setup’s, the Fighter receives an additional bonus.
All Classes (including fighter)
Weapon and Shield
+1 to AC
Defend: +2 AC against ranged attacks.
Weapon in one hand. Other hand empty.
Rush: +1 to group initiative.
Weapon in each hand (must be small or minor weapons).
+1 to attack
Press: roll both damage dice and use whichever is higher.
Max weapon damage on natural 20.
Batter: each successful attack reduces enemy's AC by 1.
The reason I have combat options depend on weapon setup is because I find most players tend to forget to use the special moves available to them in combat, partially because LOTFP combat tends to be fairly short and abstracted. In my opinion it should remain short and abstracted. I don’t like to have a laundry list of moves a character can do in combat as I find it goes unused or it slows the game down.
As a conscious game design decision I think combat itself shouldn't be tactical because the game’s focus isn't on combat. Players should often seek to try and avoid combat. However, preparing for combat should be tactical. Thus before combat the players can decide what weapons they are going to use and how they are going to approach a fight if they want a specific bonus.
Combat itself is basically a frantic, terrifying, and bloody slugfest to me. Both sides quickly wail on each other until it’s become pretty clear after a few rounds that either you’re going to kill the other side or need to run away.
Ability Score: Dexterity
“Whether inspired by greed, boredom, or idle curiosity, Specialists are professional explorers risking life and limb simply because a less active life is distasteful to them. In some ways this makes them the only sane and normal adventuring characters, but in other ways it makes them the most unusual.” -- LOTFP core rules.
Improved Saving Throws: the Specialist, being a resilient and hard to kill professional who is cunning and cautious in equal parts, is the only character to have their saving throws improve over time. All characters start with saving the following scores that they can assign to whatever saving throws they wish (18, 16, 14, 12, 10). At each level, including first, the Specialist receives 2 points to add to whatever saving throw they desire.
Specialist skills: the Specialist uses the same type of skill sub-system they do currently but with more sneaky type skills:
- Tinkering: as it currently exists in the core rules. Deals with mechanical devices such as traps.
- Stealth: as it currently exists in the core rules. Deals with going about undetected.
- Backstab: as it currently exists in the core rules. Deals with attacking with surprise and doing bonus damage because of it. Each pip serves as a damage multiplier.
- Misdirection: replaces sleight-of-hand and meant to broaden the skill from just pick-pocketing to encompass other hustler/swindler type activities where the character seeks to distract someone while they do something.
All other classes receive 1 pip in them at the beginning of the game and they remain at 1 pip. The Specialist receives a number of pips equal to their dexterity modifier at the beginning of the game and at each level, including first, they receive one pip to add to whatever specialist skill they desire.
Ability Score: Constitution
“A new world lies before you. Lands opening up with riches to plunder. Ancient dynasties and kingdoms being toppled. New lands filled with new people and cultures, some abhorrent, and strange. Opportunities abound for even the most lowly to make their name and fortune. The world is full of dark wonder and only the hardy survive it’s travails. Sailors dying of scurvy in foreign seas, cartographers dying of thirst in some far off desert, porters and pathfinders dying of malaria in the blackest jungle. Explorers are these lowly individuals who have decided to seek their fortune in the wilds of a new world.”
Improved Ranged Attack bonus: Explorers are the only class whose ranged attack bonus improves over time. It is equal to their level plus their dexterity modifier. For all other classes it is equal only to their dexterity modifier. In this manner the Explorer is a bit like a ranged version of a Fighter. They can become firearms experts where they are good at shooting from ambush or getting a volley off before closing in and attacking. They have the same HD as a Fighter but no scaling melee attack bonus so while the can take some damage in close quarters they are not great at prolonged fights.
Explorer skills: the Explorer uses the same type of skill system as the Specialist but has more wilderness type skills and a firearms skill:
- Trapping: craft or set up traps, tracking, knowledge of habits and handling of animals and local flora and fauna.
- Bushcraft: functions the same in the core rules. Used to survive in wilderness, find food and water, and construct a shelter, knowledge of local terrain, etc.
- Traverse: able to traverse rough terrain including swim across fast moving water, climb rough rock walls, clear rockfalls, walk along narrow ledges, navigate through rapids on a boat, and set up specialized equipment in order to help others traverse terrain. Such as constructing a rough rope bridge or setting up rope for descending or ascending.
- Firearms: knowledge of firearms, their use and maintenance, and experience and skill in them. I have changed how reloading firearms work in combat. On a character's turn they can make a Firearms skill check to see if they are able to reload. If they fail they can try again next turn if they wish. They can also make a Firearms check in combat to try and hit a specific target in melee. If they fail who they hit is randomly determined.
All other classes receive 1 pip in them at the beginning of the game and they remain as 1 pip. The Explorer receives pips equal to their constitution modifier at the beginning of the game and at each level, including first, they receive one pip to add to whatever Explorer skill they desire.
Ability Score: Intelligence
“Most of the world lies sheltered from the existence of magic, encountering it only as it victimizes them. They huddle in their churches for comfort and trade their freedom and dignity to a ruler as they beg for protection, all for the fear of the supernatural which they do not, and cannot, understand. Magic-Users choose a different path. Instead of cowering away from the darkness, they revel in it. They see the forces of magic as a new frontier to explore, a new tool for the attainment of power and knowledge. If it blackens the soul to equal that of any devil, it is but a small price to pay.” LOTFP core rules.
Improved Cast Spell: for magic I’m using the leveless spell system described Vagina's are Magic with an added 'Cast Spell' score and the change that all characters are able to cast spells from scrolls if they have a high enough Cast Spell score.
All characters have a Cast Spell score. However Magic-Users are the only class who’s Cast Spell score improves over time. When a character casts a spell (either from scroll or spellbook) the level they cast it is equal to it's Cast Spell score. For Magic-Users their cast spell score is equal to their intelligence ability modifier plus their level to their Cast Spell score. For all other characters their Cast Spell score is equal to their intelligence modifier.
Spellbook: the Magic-User starts off with a spellbook with 1 + intelligence modifier randomly determined spells. They also gain one randomly determined spell per level. They are the only character who is able to transfer spells from scrolls to spellbooks and thus can permanently learn more spells. All other characters can only cast spells from scrolls.
Ability Score: Wisdom
“Some religions teach the people how to receive the grace of their loving deity. Some religions teach the people how to survive the wrath of a cruel and vicious deity. Some religions simply strive to teach the truth about creation. All religions serving true powers have one thing in common: orders of those selected few who are not mere priests, but spiritual warriors endowed by their deity with mystic powers. These few are known as Clerics.” -- LOTFP core rules.
Improved Lore: Lore is a new score that I have added to determine a character's knowledge of the otherworldly, supernatural, strange, weird, or anomalous. A successful Lore roll gives a character information about what might be going on or an inkling of a danger they may face. For a full explanation of how Lore is used see the Lore section at the end of this article.
I view the Cleric, who is a scholar of the church and has read the chronicles of missionaries to strange foreign places, and has faith in the supernatural, an expert in Lore. Unlike the men of reason of the enlightenment, the cleric has faith in the unseen and knows that evil can take many strange forms. Their Lore score is equal to their level plus their wisdom modifier. For all other classes it is equal only to their wisdom modifier.
Relics and Piety: I don’t use a leveless system of magic for the cleric like I do for the Magic-User, instead I have reworked the clerical system of magic with the inclusion of Piety and Relics. Piety functions kind of like hit points. The cleric has a current level of Piety and a max piety. A cleric's max piety is equal to their wisdom ability modifier plus their level.
Piety can be gained and lost by the cleric committing immoral/moral actions according to the their religion. For a cleric to cast a spell it costs 1 point of piety. They get one point of piety a day by taking the time to meditate and pray to their deity.
Clerics don’t have holy symbols. Instead they have relics. In order to cast a spell they need to be cast through a relics, where the cleric is invoking the miraculous nature of the relic. For the reasoning behind this see the Piety and Relics section at the end of this article. The cleric starts off the game with a tier one relic and each tier of relic grants access to an increased level of cleric spells. As long as they have their relic they can invoke it’s miraculous nature and cast any cleric spell from it’s level or below on the cleric spell lists in the core book.
Ability Score: Charisma
“You are the middle child of society. Not high born enough to have your position ensured, not low born enough to live the simple common life, what privileges your noble birth has afforded you have granted you with many more difficulties and complications in turn. Complications and difficulties that are often deadly as those of more noble birth around you fight for power and command you to take care of all the details of their plans and involve you in their endless power plays.”
Leadership: to help facilitate social interaction in the game I have implemented a leadership score. Leadership is used by a character when they try to rally their comrades to make a monster run away in combat, to determine NPC reaction, and in hiring Hirelings. For full details of how it all works see the Leadership section at the end of this article. A characters leadership score is is equal to their level plus their charisma modifier. For all other classes it is equal only to their charisma modifier. Additionally Courtiers receive one free hireling at level 1 that has no monthly cost.
Insight: the Courtier has had many years of practice of dealing with people, sensing their motivations, and sussing out information through gossip, spies, and bribes. They have become very insightful and whenever they encounter another NPC for the first time (be it a monster they can bargain with in a dungeon, a King in a throne room, or common peasant on the street) they can ask the GM to answer a number of the following questions equal to their level. The Referee must answer truthfully as the NPC would know it to be true (although they can be curt in their answer) and must answer regardless of how the NPC feels about the Courtier or the party:
- What does this NPC fear the most?
- Who is this NPC greatest ally?
- Who is this NPC greatest enemy?
- Who does this NPC love?
- What does the NPC treasure above all else?
- What is the most valuable thing the NPC possess?
- What event in their life will the NPC never forget?
- What would the NPC like to achieve?
- Who does the NPC want revenge on?
- What does the NPC delight in?
Relics and Piety
Piety: As previously described in the description of the Cleric class Piety functions kind of like hit points. You have a current level of Piety and a max piety. A cleric's max piety is equal to their wisdom ability modifier plus their level.
Piety can be gained and lost by committing immoral/moral actions according to the cleric's religion. The cleric gets one point of piety per day when they take time to pray. Piety can be spent to cast divine spells from relics where each spell costs a point of piety. When a cleric is out of piety they can no longer cast spells.
Relics: the reason I have clerics cast spells through relics in my game is because the source of the clerics magic has always felt a bit at odds with LOTFP real world 17th century setting to me. I have clerics invoke their magic through relics because clerics are not special people with some kind of innate or holy connection to the divine. They are instead your average village priest. However, there are people who do have an innate or holy connection to the divine, saints. When they die they leave behind relics, and these relics can be invoked by a member of the clergy to perform miracles. I did not come up with this idea. I got it from Burgs & Bailiffs: Trinity - The Poor Pilgrim's Almanack.
Types of Relics: in my game there are 7 tiers of relics. They are loosely based off of the actual Catholic church's organization of relics.
Any object that is touched a relic of greater importance. Most of these relics are small pieces of cloth, though in the first millennium oil was popular and some reliquaries have holes for oil to be poured in and out again. Many people call the cloth touched to the bones of saints "ex brandea".
|Items that the saint owned or frequently used by a saint, for example, a crucifix, rosary, book, etc. Sometimes part of an item that the saint wore (a shirt, a glove, etc.)|
|The physical remains of a minor saint who lived an exemplary Christian life.|
|The physical remains of a saint who lived an exemplary Christian life and died for their faith as an important martyr.|
|The physical remains of an important saint, generally an: influential theologian, a royal who was a defender of Christianity or who converted his kingdom to Christianity, or the first missionary to successfully spread Christianity to a new region. These reclis tend to take the form of the saints status in life. For instance, King St. Stephen of Hungary's right forearm is especially important because of his status as a ruler. A famous theologian's head may be his most important relic.|
|The physical remains of one of the twelve apostles or an important biblical figure, generally alive during the time of Jesus.|
|Items directly associated with the events of Christ's own life (hay manger, bits of cross, shroud, sandals, foreskin).|
Gaining new Relics: a level one cleric would start the game off with a level one relic that would grant them access to their first level spells. As they grow in level if they want access to their higher level spells they are going to have to find a new relic, either through theft, reward, or seeking out a lost or stolen relic. It is also important to remember, that during this time relics were often an important source of income and prestige for a church. Their theft would be considered sacrilegious and the relic would be considered a ‘hot’ item. The church would likely pay people to track it down and retrieve it.
To me, with the style of the adventures, and advice given in the Grindhouse Referee’s Book, LOTFP is a slightly different different game from your typical OSR D&D game. Due to the influence of horror and weird literature and film, I find LOTFP to be a bit more of an investigative game. At the heart of each adventure there is generally something horrible and weird that has happened or is happening. This often forms the situation which the players are exploring as part of the adventure.
I see the characters as investigators, in the same way that if you read the classic Dracula, all the characters in it are trying to piece together their various accounts, old myths and legends, and other information, in order to destroy Dracula. To help facilitate this I have introduced the Lore score.
I view the Cleric, who is a scholar of the church and who has read the chronicles of the church about strange foreign places, devils and demons, etc. and has faith in the supernatural, an expert in Lore. Unlike the godless men of science who look down upon the supernatural with disdain, or refuse to believe it outright. The cleric has their faith in the unseen and knows better than to assume that rationality alone can prevail against the evil things which reside in the darkness. A Cleric's lore score is equal to their level plus their wisdom modifier. For all other classes it is equal only to their wisdom modifier.
Using Lore: whenever a player encounters something that is otherworldly, supernatural, strange, weird, or anomalous; be it a creature, place, object, person, etc. They can make a lore check by asking a question and rolling 1d20 and adding their lore score. The question can be really general, such as; “does my character know what cult this symbol belongs to?” to something really specific; “Do I know what is a weakness is for those strange insect creatures from another planet?”
The Referee then comes up with a target number based upon their question and the following chart:
Basic or general information that the populace of the area would know but the characters do not.
Information that a few old wise people would know, or could be found within a few musty tomes.
Very specific information, either largely lost to time, existing in one source such as a single book looked away, or something that only a few living people would know.
The Referee does not tell the player the target number they have to roll above. If the player successfully rolls above the target number the Referee answers their question. If the player fails their lore check then the Referee still answers their question but is free to falsify as much or as little of the information as they wish. Knowledge of the world during this area is not perfect and very often there is a lot of false information found in the myths, legends, and lore that may surround something.
Furthermore, in either case, success or failure, the Referee is encouraged to make things up and improvise upon whatever material they are using to run the adventure. For example if a player asked what the insect creatures secret weakness was and they rolled a 20, but the insects don’t have a weakness the Referee is encouraged to make one up such as the insect creatures have a weakness to cold because they come from a really hot desert like dimension as described in the writings of a mad desert hermit who saw them in his dreams. Let the game take a new turn in this manner.
The lore check doesn't determine how much information a player gets from a Referee. It only determines how much of that information is true and how much is false. Regardless of the roll a a Referee must give out a few facts in response to the players question.
Astute players will probably realize that in general if they roll high in their Lore check, and ask basic questions, the information they receive will probably be factual. The Referee shouldn't hide this from them and should explain the Lore rules to them when they make a check. Overall a Lore check isn't meant to be an opportunity for the Referee to screw over the players (although it can and should happen at times). Overall, players should want to use their Lore ability. The Lore mechanic is meant to be a collaborative mechanic that helps facilitate the referee sharing information with the players. It serves as a way for them to give information to players in bits and pieces, rather than all at once such as having an NPC tell them everything about something. By making it more player facing, and player driven, it allows players to get information at their own pace as they investigate things. It also tries to keep things lively and interesting through having the lore of the game made through play and it being somewhat unpredictable and reflecting real world circumstances.
Instead of having three separate subsystems to handle most social interaction type stuff (monster morale, hireling loyalty, and NPC reactions) as outlined in the core rules, I have rolled all of them into the following chart and leadership mechanic.
Each character has a leadership score. For the Courtier it is equal to their charisma modifier plus their level. For all other classes it is equal to their charisma modifier.
Each column on the above chart is rolled on under different circumstances to determine how something reacts and the characters Leadership score is added to the roll.
Morale: a player may attempt to frighten away an enemy or enemies in combat when it looks like the enemy or enemies are beginning to lose. To do so the Referee rolls 3d6 and adds the players leadership score and subtracts the enemies Hit Dice. If a morale score is given for the enemy in published material (generally a number from 1 to 12, with higher being better) divide that score by 2 and subtract it from the roll.
Loyalty and Hirelings: when hirelings are hired they Referee rolls 3d6 and adds the characters leadership score. If the roll is above the middle line the hireling accepts the job, if it is below, they don’t accept the job. Paying additional money can give a character a bonus to the roll. The result of the roll, beyond being above the line, determines the hirelings starting loyalty.
Testing Loyalty: Whenever a hireling is put in danger or their loyalty is tested a roll is made. If it is in any category above their current loyalty, their loyalty moves from their current loyalty to the one directly above it. If it is any category below, they move from their current loyalty to the one directly below. As indicated, if it moves to the bottom most category the hireling flees.
NPC Reaction: every time the players engage socially with NPCs, be they beggers or be they kings, the chart is rolled on when the player first encounters them to determine their beginning disposition. Yes this can drastically affect entire adventure hooks where a King that was supposed to be friendly towards a player to give them a quest, turns out to hate them. Or a character who you wanted to be a treacherous bad guy actually falls in love with a player. This is meant to keep NPCs unpredictable and stop them from being simple walking billboards of information or quests. By making the reaction random and not having a neutral reaction, it forces the Referee to come up with motivations for why an NPC is reacting that way towards the players when first meeting them. This makes the NPCs more lively and interesting. Maybe the King hates the players because they’re common filth, maybe he hates them because he’s heard about how they epicly fucked up their last adventure etc. It also forces the players to actively engage with the NPC if they seek to improve the NPCs starting disposition or want to avoid it changing.