So, a quick analysis of spell costs in TFT vs, HOW. They’re mostly the same, except that all the TFT spells that have a continuing cost have had that cost folded into the casting cost and the duration replaced with IQ + Spell Skill Level in turns, which is a pretty huge power-up. E.g. something like Blur which in TFT costs 1 to cast, and then another 1 for each turn thereafter costs 2 in HOW and lasts for at least 9 turns, assuming you have the minimum IQ needed to cast it and 1 skill. The summoning spells become particularly deadly, since it takes only 3 to summon a wolf to fight for you for at least 10 rounds. Even the optional “lasts until you roll a 6 on a d6″ variant is much more powerful than the TFT version.
This seems a little weird to me… for one thing, it’s likely to be more complicated in play. In TFT you’re pretty careful about having too many spells going at once, since it drains you quickly. In HOW you can easily have a bunch, and have to track how long its been since each was cast, or roll a d6 for each if you’re using that variant. It does make it a bit more like D&D, where spell durations are fixed, or at most adjusted for your level, but other than giving a big boost to spell-casters I’m not sure I see the advantage. The tactics involved in deciding how long to spend your ST (or EN in HOW) on maintaining a spell are pretty interesting, in my opinion.
|Name||Cost||Duration (turns)||Notes||HOW costs|
|Drop Weapon||1||I||cost 2 if str > 20||1|
|Magic Fist||1||*||I||1-2 damage per||1||*|
|Clumsiness||1||*||3||-2 DX per||1||*|
|Confusion||1||*||3||-2 IQ per||1||*|
|Dark Vision||3||1 hour||1||*|
|Darkness||1||*||M||cost +1 ST/mh, +1 ST/turn|
|Detect Enemies||3||I||cost +2/mh||1||*|
|Far Vision||1||5 minutes|
|Trip||2||I||cost 4 if > 30 STR||1||*|
|Sleep||3||Special||several hours, or til hit, or shaken awake (2 turns)||1|
|Staff to Snake||3||6||renewable||1|
|Drain ST||*||I||1 ST to wizard/5 drained|
|Fire, 3 Hex||2||12||2|
|Freeze||4||2d6||only on str <=30||4|
|Shadow, 3 Hex||2||12||2|
|Control Elemental||3||1||M||per minute|
|Curse||2||*||P||until remove thrown||3|
|Image, 4 Hex||2||12|
|Wall, 3 Hex||4||12||4|
|Fresh Air||2||1||M||per minute|
|Illusion, 4 Hex||3||12||3|
|Remove Thrown Spell||2||I|
|Summon Lesser Demon||20||12|
|Astral Projection||10||1 hour|
|Create Gate||100||P||50 per side|
|Image, 7 Hex||4||12||3|
|Shadow, 7 Hex||3||12||3|
|Summon Small Dragon||5||1||M|
|Create/Destroy Elemental||5||*||P||cost +1 str per str of elemental||8|
|Create/Destroy Elemental||10||I||destroy any str elemental|
|Death Spell||1||*||I||cost as much as lesser ST||1|
|Fire, 7 Hex||4||12||3|
|Illusion, 7 Hex||5||12||4|
|Long-distance Telepathy||12||I||5 words to any, or 30 seconds between wizards who know each other|
|MegaHex Sleep||8||Special||several hours, or til hit, or shaken awake (2 turns)||6|
|Staff of Power||10||*||P||four weeks @ 10 STR/day|
|Wall, 7 Hex||6||12||6|
|Blast Trap||Special||I||6 for 1+1, 12 for 2+2, 24 for 3|
|Cleansing||20||*||I||per hex, up to 7|
|Dissolve Enchantment||Special||I||100 if greater, 50 if lesser|
|Expunge||Special||P||125 ST/day for 3 weeks|
|Geas||10||P||wish/dissolve enchantment to remove|
|Little Death||1||*||Special||cost +1 per day, until runs out = dead|
|Little Death (part 2)||4||Special||if willing|
|Little Death (part 3)||10||Special||if unwilling|
|Remove Cursed Object||20||I|
|Control Gate||10||P||50 to destroy|
|Lesser Magic Item Creation||Special|
|Shapeshifting||20||P||cost 10 if cast on self||8|
|Wizard’s Wrath||1||*||I||1+1 per ST||1||*|
|Zombie||5||*||cost +1 per ST you give zombie (must be at least 2)|
|Greater Magic Item Creation||Special||P|
|Posession||Special||I||10 to prep, 20 when it goes off if it succeeds, 5 if save is made|
|Word of Command||3||I|
This is just a quick recap of translating D&D attributes into their Heroes & Other Worlds equivalents, if what you care about is how much the attribute adds to the chances of success on a roll. See my previous post on Bell Curve vs. Linear for a deeper explanation of the probabilities involved. It seems to me that chance of success is probably the best way to look at it, since that’s most often what you’re going to be directly testing, at least in HOW. There are other things the attributes are good for (e.g. carrying capacity for STR in D&D), but they seem to me to be relatively minor compared to adjustments to your chance to hit, say. In D&D, particularly old D&D, attributes are much less important than in HOW: the difference between a 12 and a 9 in Basic D&D is almost purely cosmetic, and even the difference between a 3 and an 18 is no more than the difference between a 10 and a 13 in HOW when it comes to applying the bonuses to a d20 roll.
|old D&D||New D&D||HOW|
If the HOW column shows a range, use the lower number if you’re at the lower end of the D&D range, or the higher number if at the higher end. Flip a coin if the number is exactly in the middle.
Update: Since Tim Knight asked, I’m including a little more of the reasoning behind having the D&D stats represent such a tight range of HOW stats… is a stat over 12 in HOW really superhuman?
D&D stats add comparatively little to your abilities. Even in the more generous editions, an 18 is only a +4 bonus… which is +20% on a d20 roll. Starting from a base to-hit of 50% vs. unarmored foes, that gives you a 70% chance of landing a blow. In HOW a score of 12 gives you a 75% chance of landing that same blow.
There are other ways you could look at it. For instance, as a straight roll under stat to see if you succeed, an 18 is 90%, which is equivalent to a HOW score of 14. But by-the-book D&D never employs rolls like that. Instead, where stats matter at all, it’s almost always as the tiny (+/- 20%) bonus.
The systems have pretty different underlying assumptions of competence, but it seems to me that matching bonuses as I did tends to minimize “system shock” where translating a character from one to the other makes it vastly more or less likely to succeed at tasks than in its home system. A beginning HOW character is much more likely to succeed than a beginning D&D character; they’re much closer in competency to a mid-level D&D character, even though HOW being a much more deadly system overall tends to make them feel comparatively fragile. E.g. a beginning thief in D&D has only 15% chance of picking locks or 20% of picking pockets compared to the 50% a 10 DX thief has in HOW. The one thing that D&D characters get a lot better at over time is taking multiple blows, though I haven’t yet tried to factor in the difference between armor as DR and armor as deflection
Here’s a handy little chart showing the difference between a linear distribution like rolling a d20 and a bell curve distribution like 3d6 when it comes to rolling versus a target. The first column is the d20 roll, the second is the approximate percent chance of rolling that or less on d20. That’s pretty obvious, but the next column is what the target number would be on 3d6 to have that chance to succeed (i.e. roll target or under). So a 50% chance is right in the middle of the curve at 10… but by the time the target is 12 you’ve got a 75% chance of succeeding. Next we have columns for a d20 skill roll/Basic Attack Bonus (as in 3e or 5e). The final four columns show THAC0 (to hit AC 0) and what level you would have to be to have that chance of hitting an unarmored person, using the D&D Rules Cyclopedia as a reference point. Hitting an unarmored person is the standard we’re using because that directly translates to scoring a hit in Heroes & Other Worlds/TFT (and similar games like Runequest) where armor reduces damage from a successful hit but does nothing to make success less likely.
From this you can see that, for instance, having a 13 DX in HOW is like being a 10th level Fighter, at least in terms of being able to land a blow. (On the other hand, a 10th level Fighter in D&D can sustain multiple times the damage a HOW fighter could, so you can’t just translate back and forth quite that easily.) Another thing to pay attention to is the s20 skill column, where you can see that in terms of stat bonus, a D&D score of 18 is equivalent to DX 11 (if 18 is +3 as in original D&D), or maybe DX 12 (if 18 is +4 as in later editions). Using the stat bonus in D&D is much more common than a straight roll-under against the stat.
Still, I find thinking of things this way as instructive.
|Roll Under||Rules Cyclopedia|
|d20||Approximate %||3d6||d20 skill/BaB||THAC0||Fighter||Cl/Th/D||MU/Normal|
The following are some hopefully useful templates (mostly based on Delta’s discussion of the rates in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1e Dungeon Master’s Guide). They show the cost to enter1 a hex on the overland travel map, with a key to how many hexes a party can move in a day based on the degree of encumbrance (for travelling on foot) or type of mount. The assumption (following the DMG) is that roads and trails do not speed your travel enough to track, but they do allow you to pass over worse terrain as if you were on clear terrain. That doesn’t completely match up with the way, say, the Cook Basic D&D works, but it’s easy enough to increase the rates on roads if you’re really inclined.
If the cost of entering a hex is more than a single day’s allotment (e.g. on heavy horse in a swamp with no road), you can either say it’s impassible, switch to a smaller scale map and have the party slog through taking multiple days, or make the minimum rate of travel 1 hex per day or 1 hex every other day.
While these have been derived from D&D, they are non-system specific, and are released under a CC-BY license (that is you can use them any way you want, but you should credit me somewhere)/ Enjoy.
- This is by far my preferred approach, since it means no tracking of partial hexes. It also matches the way Outdoor Survival worked, which was the original source of the all the D&D movement rules…and by extension almost everything that came after. ↩
This is a hexmap version J.D. Neal’s Chaotic Caves map from his The Chaotic Caves supplement for Basic Fantasy, released under the OGL, which is basically a nice, simple, hexcrawl retroclone of The Keep on the Borderlands. C.R. Brandon released a version reskinned for Heroes & Other Worlds. Since I was kind of irritated by the square grid in the map, I ripped it out and replaced it with a hex grid to approximately the same scale (1 hex = 1 mile, instead of 1 square = 1 mile). If I have energy I might even go as far a coloring it, though even doing this much took way more time than I had hoped. (If there’s a truly easy way to just lay down a hex grid in GIMP, I couldn’t find it. The otherwise nice hexGIMP plugin I found assumed that you wanted to hand-place all the hexes… and Hexographer has pretty much the same assumption: you can import an image to trace over it, but just imposing a simple hex grid of a particular size? Forget about it. I ended up just creating custom graph paper at the right scale and combining the images in Paint.NET, having had my fill of GIMP for the evening.)
You can get the free PDF version of the Basic Fantasy edition of The Chaotic Caves here. The HOW pdf version is available from C.R. Brandon’s Lulu store (and is somewhat inexplicably more expensive than the print version of the BF edition on Amazon, but it does save you any headaches converting from D&D to HOW).
Anyway, enjoy! Naturally, this version of the map is also released as OGL-licensed, but if you think I’m going to add the complete text of the OGL itself to the image, fuggedaboutit.
C.R. Brandon, In a recent post on his blog, entitled Sacrifice, talked about some of the changes he’s contemplating for the revised edition of Heroes & Other Worlds. I left some thoughts on them on his blog, but I think blogspot ate the comment. Or maybe it’s just stuck in moderation. So herewith:
Not really thrilled with the idea of a shield-splintering rule, and particularly not with reducing all the types of shield into one. The availability of choices in arms and armor is, in my mind, the good type of complexity: extra choices in the down-time when you’re equipping your character but not a lot of extra decisions weighing down each combat round. If I were to create a rule about damaging shields, it would be something like if you block a critical hit, then if the hit does 8 more damage than the shield’s AR (enough to knock you down if it had gotten through), the shield stops the blow but is broken. This actually keeps the choice about whether to risk the high probability of breaking your shield, since in HOW you get to see the attack roll before committing to a shield block as a reaction…and a crit from anything heavier than a dagger is very likely to do the required damage.
Or maybe the even simpler, if you roll to block with your shield and roll a fumble, it breaks. No real decision there, but it does produce broken shields that occur naturally as part of fighting with them.
As for the other changes mentioned:
Eliminating All-Out Defense
I’m against it. I see it as important in offering a somewhat practical way to do a “fighting retreat.” In fact I just realized that by-the-book HOW gives you no real option except stand there and take it, and then hope to win initiative next turn and succeed in your 4/DX check to disengage. So, I’d be in favor of liberalizing it back to the TFT rules that as long as you forgo attacking, you can choose Defend and make attempts to hit you use 4/DX (i.e. it would no longer count as a reaction, but instead be an alternative to attack). That way you at least stand a better chance of surviving until you can win the init and attempt to disengage. (If you don’t win the init then even if you disengage the enemy can just follow you and you’ll have already forgone your attack.)
Eliminating Berserk Attack
Wouldn’t actually miss this, though there probably ought to be some way of throwing everything you’ve got into attacking and damn defense. Still giving up armor protection never really made that much sense. Maybe it would work better as your attack is 2/DX, but attacks on you that turn are also 2/DX?
Two more (last for now?) tweaks to Heroes & Other Worlds before I’m ready to start running it.
Languages don’t count against the IQ limit on skills/spells known.
If you want languages to be a big factor in your setting, it’s counter-productive to place a tight limit on how many languages a character can know. It’s even worse if knowing a language comes at the expense of a more practical skill. If Conan can learn to speak the local tongue wherever he goes, then that’s something I want player characters to be able to do.
This also means that if you’re using my skills raise attributes rule then a good way for a Wizard to increase IQ is to study lots of esoteric languages. I like that a lot.
On the Job Training
Borrowing from Rob Conley’s house rules for experience in GURPS by way of Runequest, I’m going to allow some extra XP for “on the job training.”
You get 100 XP for every 30 days of “On the Job Training.”
This is particularly applicable to learning new languages, since that means 30 days of immersion in the culture grants you enough XP to take the Language as a skill… and it doesn’t even count against your limit. You could also use it to pick up other skills you’ve been practicing, such as sailing or riding camels, which is again a staple of pulp fiction…though those do count against your IQ limit.
Why not 1 XP every three days? I really think it should be a block of training that you can explain by the adventures you are having and the culture you find yourself in. A slow trickle of XP would, IMO, tend to get lost among the XP you’re getting for your skill checks. Getting it in a chunk, and only if you’ve spend at least a month in a situation that counts as practicing the skill, gives a much more concrete sense of “I learned the ways of the Tiger-men tribe during our journey across the mountains.” Update: after publishing this I decided to change it to 30 days (from 45), since month-by-month is way more convenient to track.
This seems particularly important in HOW, since in TFT if you want room for a new skill, you can always just bump up your IQ. The IQ limits on skills in TFT were never one of my favorite parts of the system, since they seemed pretty arbitrary, but they did serve as a form of niche protection. In a class-based system, if you’re the party Rogue, say, then non-rogue characters aren’t likely to outshine you in your area of expertise, if they could even attempt the same tasks. In a pure skill-based system, particularly one where it’s stat+skill, you can be faced with the situation where somebody steals your thunder even though it’s entirely incidental to their character concept. E.g. as Rogue you’re the party “Face”, using your Act/Disguise and Detect/Tell Lies skills… until the Wizard spends some points on taking the first level of each and is instantly better than you because of his high IQ. The IQ limits on skills & spells make that a much less attractive proposition for the Wizard, who will have to forgo two of his precious spell slots for those extraneous skills. So I’m probably going to let those stand, at least for now. If it starts to seem too constraining down the road, I might liberalize it a little, for instance by allowing purchase of skills beyond the IQ limit for a higher price, or separating spells out from skill when it comes to the IQ barrier.