Thursday, July 3, 2014

Retro-clone Read-through: Character Creation Part IIa

And, it's time for another exciting episode of the Great 2014 Retro-Clone Read-Through, where we calculate HP, note alignment and saving throws, and go on equipment-buying sprees! Actually, in terms of equipment my plan is to outfit each character with approximately the same items, arms and armor of course excepted. These will be:

. . . What? It's traditional.

Anyway, once completed the full character sheets can be seen on my new index page for the Readthrough, which also has links to all the posts in the series, and maybe a hint or two at what's ahead . . .

AdventurerConqueror, King: After generating ability scores and choosing class, the next item on the list is alignment. ACKS uses the three-point Law-Neutrality-Chaos scale, and while the classes do not officially restrict the choice, by my reading the Dwarven Vaultguard concept really works best when Lawful. Here also is where we generate starting HP - the Vaultguard rolls a d8 for that and so -


Well, that's a bit disappointing. Helpfully, in ACKS the CON score I rolled last time is high enough to give a +1 bonus to HP, but that's still only two. Oh well, nothing to do but solider on. The next step is saving throws, which, I've noticed, is an area that offers quite a bit of latitude in in adjustment without breaking the rules too much. ACKS has five - Petrification & Paralysis, Poison & Death, Blast & Breath, Staffs & Wands, and Spells.

Next is equipment. Starting cash is delineated in gold, 3d6(10) pieces of it. I rolled up a 12 here, and I'll use that same number whenever applicable for the rest of the rules. The other major selling point of ACKS, the robust economics system, starts to make its appearance with an "Equipment Availability by Market Class" chart, but for the sake of a beginning character I'll assume everything is available.

So what does GP120 (12K Coppers, 60 Platinum Pieces, etc.) buy the adventuring dwarf? Armor and weapons, naturally - axes are traditional, but to swap things up I'm going to go with a War Hammer (GP5) instead. A shield and banded armor (AC 5+1) at GP10 per point of AC bring the total to GP65, plus we'll toss in a couple GP4 hand axes for ranged work. All the items of gear I outlined in the introduction are available, for a total of GP27 (and SP1), and this leaves just under GP20 for living expenses, which the rules suggest is about mid-range for 1st-level adventurers.

Encumbrance is handled in a manner that is abstracted yet matters in play - measured in stone, one for each point of AC, large/heavy item, or six regular items. This works out to about 10 for the items above, about half the maximum. Storage items, such as that backpack, it seems are strictly for noting how much treasure can be carried away - in this case, 4,000 coins worth. Encumbrance also affects movement times, in this case to 60' per turn of exploration.

Anyway, another option would be to buy animals or hire henchmen to carry stuff, and the rules go into a great deal of detail about the cost and availability of the latter.

The next chapter deals with Proficiencies, essentially a skill system. Starting characters get a general Adventuring for free, then pick two, one from a general list and one tailored to their class. A bonus to INT gives an extra general pick, So, I'll end up with two general and one Vaultguard-specific - Caving, Mapping, and Weapon Focus: Flails and Hammers all seem to be solid choices.

Finally, this Vaultguard needs a name - I'll fire up my favorite name generator and pick out a couple for a given name and patronymic. Ranar Mignarson has a decent ring to it.

Ambition & Avarice: Separating race and class as it does, in A&A hit dice and saving throws are determined by race. As it happens, for Lizardfolk the hit dice is also a d8, which would be another one if not for the rule that starting HP is always the maximum. Saving throws are similar to but simpler than ACKS, being Blast, Death, Paralysis, Reflex, and Spells. They also get -3 to two Dungeon throws, Climb and Sneak.

Dungeon Throws, as alluded previously, are a way of utilizing the saving-throw mechanic to represent certain skills, namely Climb, Locks, Lore, Notice, Sneak, and Traps. You'll note that many of these are usually the domain of the Thief, a class which doesn't appear as such in Ambition and Avarice - rather, all the mundane classes have an element of the thief about them.

Anyway, those -3's are particularly welcomed, as Rangers aren't great at dungeon throws, starting out needing between 15 and 17+ for each one. For the record, Climb and Sneak are now 12 and 13+.

Another interesting class feature of the Ranger is that their hit die becomes one step larger, making a Lizardfolk a d10 instead of d8. Non-magical classes also get three "Character Points" per level, and can use them for things like increasing HP, reducing throws, or gaining weapons proficiencies or to-hit bonuses. For now, I think the most important area is reducing some of those Dungeon Throws, particularly Locks, Lore, and Traps.

Unlike ACKS, the economy in A&A seems to be primarily silver-based (although the exchange rates seem about the same), with character starting cash at 5d6(100) SP. An unfortunate number of ones in my 5d6 lead to a total of SP1000.

There's a couple interesting rules surrounding armor here. For example, many of the armor choices  have a minimum STR required to use, either 13 or 15. Also, whatever bonus is provided to AC also applies to (i.e., takes away from) the Sneak roll. Combined, this means that the most useful armor now is Leather/Hide (+1, SP300). A bow and 20 arrows (SP68) will make for a decent primary weapon, and I'll add a SP40 dagger for backup (both of which happen to be on the Ranger's proficient-weapons list).

As for non-martial gear, everything is available here as well (except for the hat, as such, though the armor section has a helmet that gives a +2 not to AC, but the Blast throw) for a total of SP373 - a bit more expensive than before. All this weighs 41 lbs (light encumbrance) and leaves SP219 in the budget, (actually quite close to the leftovers from A&A) which the rules recommend changing into gemstones instead of higher coinage for storage. Add to this a name stolen from popular fiction and we have a complete Ambition & Avarice character.

Astonishing SwordsmenSorcerers of Hyperboria: With these rules we return to the use of an alignment system, and a fairly interesting one at that - it's a variant on the full-blown ninefold system, with all "neutral" results expressed as variants of True Neutral - so you have Lawful Good, but instead of Lawful Neutral you have Neutral (Law). There are some class-based restrictions, Scouts as an example being barred from Lawful Goodness, but I think Chaotic Good fits better anyway.

Secondary stats in AS&SH include Fighting Ability, which interacts with AC in a highly confusing chart to determine chances of hitting a target - hmm, To Hit Armor Class . . . I see why this is somewhat controversial. For Scouts this starts at one, which I suppose is better than the 0 some other classes start with. The Hit Dice for a Scout is a d6 (result: 6!), and saving throws are streamlined somewhat - although there are the usual five (named far later in the book - Death, Transformation, Device, Avoidance, and Sorcery), all characters begin with a 16 in all five, with only a couple modified by class - for example, +2 to Avoidance and Device, as Scouts get.

Next is a couple of fun little background charts - one for Secondary Skills, which describes a character's pre-adventuring career (I rolled "Potter"), and another for languages. Here, too, we get GP3D6(10) for equipment purchasing. Armor, I note, is specifically mentioned as including appropriate headgear, and there are some rules spelled out for how long it takes to put on.

Now, Scouts in AS&SH can only use "Light" armor and have a +1 AC bonus when unarmored, which limits the options severely. They can use small shields, which helps some - combined with the Leather armor gives AC7 with a bonus against missile & melee defense, all for GP20. A short sword and a sling cost an additional GP 13, including the sling shot and the leather scabbard (does selling this separate from the sword strike anyone else as needlessly XXX) and the typical gear collection costs a total of almost GP25. (24.6) Interesting points include two separate styles of lantern (Bull's-Eye and Hooded), as well as the availability of hats and helmets despite the same coming with armor. All in all, this leaves the scout with GP62 SP4 in change for travel expenses (extensively noted), and weighs about 28 lbs., quite within the "unencumbered movement" range.

Finally the name. Although not part of the book itself, the publishers of AS&SH have a neat chart for generating names fitting with the various Hyperborean races - using this resource I find my Kimmeri-Kelt Scout is named Uallas Macc Meallan, which certainly sounds Kimmeri-Kelt to me.

Basic Fantasy RPG: As alluded to last time, thieves in BFRPG only have a d4 as their hit dice. I rolled a two for this, so with the CON bonus we end up with a total of three. Better than ACKS, anyway.  Saving throws are also assigned by class, albeit modified by race - the names this time are Death Ray or Poison, Magic Wands, Paralysis or Petrify, Dragon Breath, and Spells, many of which seem oddly specific (In an odd design decision, incidentally, the tables in the version I'm reading are not found in the class descriptions, but much later in the book). Dwarves in these rules get some fantastic adjustments to the saving throws too - +4 to everything except Dragon Breath, which is "only"

As for equipment, BFRPG uses the same 3d6(10) GP starting funds, so its GP120 for our Dwarven Thief. Now, thieves can't use metal armor, so we're limited to the GP20 AC 13 Leather. To compensate we'll let our Dwarf have a 7GP battle axe in addition to his hand axes (total: GP15). A Thief should also have some thieves' tools (GP25), leaving GP 60 for the backpack, ten-foot pole, rations, lantern, oil, and tinderbox. Overall the prices seem slightly higher than in other rules, although the lack of a hat means that the final bill is almost the same as in ACKS.

Interestingly, there's no mention of alignment whatsoever in the rules, leaving only the name and bonus language left to pick - for the latter I'll choose Goblin, and for the name, since these rules turned out so close to the ACKS ones I'll chose a similar name as well. Ganar Midgarson, at your service!

Dark Dungeons: To begin, the Magic-User generates their HP from a D4. Unhappily, for this I roll another one, but fortunately there's a rule in effect that adds the CON bonus to the roll, so I'll at least come out with a total of two. The saving throw list is quite similar to the one from BFRPG, although the Magic-User has much higher thresholds. Magic-users not being allowed to use any kind of armor,

Before continuing with the character creation, at this point Dark Dungeons takes a moment to explain the ability check rules (roll under the relevant score) and the skill system. With the INT bonus I have five skill points to assign, each one of which adds a +1 to the ability check for that particular skill. While the rules allow for the possibility of custom, on-the-fly skills, I'm going to select five from the official list: Arcane Lore, Escape Artist, First Aid, Intimidation, and Magical Engineering. This seems to me to strike the balance between useful skills and character-building ones.

Next is Weapon Feats. Basically this is the number of weapons the character is able to use effectively, which for the magic-user is limited to two. Not that they can use very many anyway, although there are a few interesting options - for this character, I'm going to be looking at staves and pistols, although the expense of the latter means that there won't be one among my starting equipment.

Yes, pistols - Dark Dungeons includes, a bit later on in the book, rules about primitive firearms, both short and long. Basically they run on a "naturally occurring magical substance" called Red Powder, which makes for a neat visual distinction from real-life black powder. Other differences include being mined instead of chemically created, and being inert in large quantities (presumably to keep savvy adventurers from blowing up obstacles with primitive grenades and larger-scale bombs).

Since this character is a Magic-User, his starting equipment includes a spell book with two entries, Read Magic and one player's choice - I'll be taking a closer look at magic in general next time, but for now we'll pencil in Sleep.

With the by-now-obviously standard roll for starting cash, our magic-user spends GP3 for his staff and GP48.2 for the rest of his equipment. It is not quite clear from the rules whether or not the price of the spell book (GP25) should be deducted from this, but I'm going to assume it doesn't and the listed price is for replacement costs. Despite the high costs of a pistol (GP250!), I'm also going to throw in a GP 5 flask of Red Powder - you know, in case there's one just lying around someplace - as well as a GP1 waterskin, a nod towards realism I don't think I've seen addressed before. Much like ACKS, there is also information on transportation and building costs, which is intersting but irrelevant to a beginning character.

Encumbrance is handled quite interestingly by putting everything in terms of how much coinage the weight is equivalent to - in this case, 383 coins' worth, which along with the 63 coins left over puts the character at a movement rate of 30'/round (unless the 400 coin-weight capacity attributed to the backpack allows that much extra carrying capability?).

Finally, hitting up Seventh Sanctum for a name generator gives us the appropriately grandiose name of Erahiraus the Highcaster, an appellation I suspect of being self-applied.


Well, this is getting a bit longer (and taking a bit longer!) than I first imagined. I'll get the next five characters up soon, but in the meanwhile here's the B/X Blackrazor Headgear Chart rolls for these five. Note that if the rules allow buying a hat or helmet I'm skipping straight to the appropriate subtable, while if headgear is left unmentioned I'll role through the whole thing. Ready?
  • Ranar Mignarson purchases a hat, rolls a 12 - "Skull Cap/Beanie".
  • H'ssssk purchases a helmet, rolls a 1 - "Chain Coif".
  • Uallas Macc Meallan gets a helmet free with his armor, rolls a 5 -  "Classic, Roman"; also purchases a cloth hat, rolls a 10 - "Ridged".
  • Ganar Mignarson rolls a 2 - "Bare-Headed", rolls an 11 - "Grungy, in eyes".
  • Erahiraus the Highcaster purchases a hat, rolls an 11 - "Sea Captain's Hat".
Not too bad, although I kinda wish I had a chance to roll on more of the sub-sub tables. Maybe next time, and in the meanwhile don't forget to check out the B/X Blackrazor Random Headgear Chart for yourself!

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