My gruesome hack of OSR abilities

Discussion in 'Design and Development' started by Edgewise, Oct 6, 2017.

  1. Edgewise

    Edgewise New Member

    Sep 27, 2017
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    I have some ideas for a new mix of abilities for my private OSR heartbreaker that I'd like to get your feedback on. In some ways, it's pretty different, but the basic D&D framework is intact, as is (I believe) game balance.

    Anyway, here's my list of abilities, and a discussion of what they affect.
    • Strength: This covers traditional muscularity, but also bulk and general toughness.
    • Agility: This is general athleticism in the form of reflexes, speed and even stamina.
    • Dexterity: This represents aim, precision and hand-eye coordination.
    • Intelligence: Modifies arcane magic talent and perception.
    • Spirit: This affects magic resistance and non-arcane magic talent.
    • Charisma: Applies to reaction rolls from NPCs.
    Behold SADISC!

    So far, not very different. However, the modifiers are another story.
    • Strength does not modify hit points - Agility does. For PCs, all but the last few HP represent defensive ability and stamina.
    • Strength modifies Armor Class, not Agility. Tougher characters have a chance of shrugging off blows.
    • Agility and attack bonuses are added to initiative. Each side rolls at the start of each round, but each combatant adds their modifier to find out their own segment.
    • Attacks against combatants with a higher initiative score are at -2. This counts for ranged attacks, too; it's about tempo.
    • Dexterity modifies all attack rolls. Strength also modifies melee attack rolls, and the two modifiers stack. Nothing modifies the amount of damage inflicted by an attack.
    • Attacks that roll natural 20 or 10 more than AC are critical hits, and they do extra damage. Thus, Strength does have an indirect effect on melee damage.
    • I use 3e style saving throws - Reflexes, Fortitude and Willpower. Those are modified by Agility, Strength and Spirit, respectively.
    That sums up my changes. There are other effects that are specific to other aspects of my system. For instance, I use a hacked Lamentations skill system, and the amount of skill points received is modified by INT. But for the most part, I've taken traditional ability-based modifiers and merely shuffled them between different abilities.

    One might ask, then: why? That could be a very long discussion of its own, so I'll keep it simple; there are two reasons. First, I like this better as a model for the mythic reality of these kinds of games. Second, I think that this breakdown of abilities and modifiers gives each ability a nice distinct and balanced appeal. But if I'm honest with myself, it's mostly the aesthetics.

    Comments? Suggestions?
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  2. The Butcher

    The Butcher Legendary Member

    Apr 29, 2017
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    This is the one thing that sticks out like a sore thumb to me.

    Also I find it intriguing that you've folded Constitution into Strength, but decoupled Agility from Dexterity.
  3. Edgewise

    Edgewise New Member

    Sep 27, 2017
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    I don't know it's that's good or bad, but it's fair. Obviously, I'm reversing the traditional defensive roles of Dexterity and Constitution, which understandably seems weird.

    Agility still plays an important role in not being hit, since you get +2 AC if your attacker has a lower initiative that round. But its contribution to hit points is meant to simulate the way an agile defender loses a step as he becomes winded, until an attack finally strikes true.

    It's a little more complicated than that, but that's mostly it. I haven't folded all of Constitution into Strength; the part of Constitution that represents stamina was combined into Agility. I'm not trying to simulate reality so much as a different cinematic sensibility.

    Strength represents general toughness. Think about the bald Nazi at the airfield in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Think of Oddjob and Jaws.

    Agility is probably more like general athleticism. Track and field, gymnastics, parkour, etc. There's a little bit of a strength component, but it's more like explosive power and strength in proportion to body weight.

    Dexterity is about aim and precision. Lockpicking, surgery, card tricks and general aim. An obese e-sports champion could have a crappy Agility and a great Dexterity. A gifted fencer would have to be exceptional at both.
  4. Baulderstone

    Baulderstone Legendary Member

    May 13, 2017
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    I have no problem with blending Strength and Constitution together. Strength 18, Constitution 3 is always a weird combo.
    I like this, but having Stamina here instead of Strength seems odd to me.
    I'm fine with splitting up Agility and Dexterity. I might be inclined to see aim as part of agility though. Wielding a weapon is athleticism, and it requires thinking very fast. I'd save Dexterity for smaller, quieter more nimble movements than weapon use.

    Maybe I could see aiming a pistol as Dexterity, but using a bow feels like what you describe as Agility.
    By moving perception from Wisdom (now Spirit) and putting it Intelligence, you have fixed one issue I have had in D&D and created another. Every time someone wants to tack sanity rules onto D&D, there is the issue of what ability to use to determine Sanity. The conventional choice is to use Wisdom, as its use in spell resistance means it is mental fortitude. That makes total sense, but the issue I have is that Wisdom is also used for perception.

    In horror fiction, it is the "sensitives" that are usually most vulnerable to madness. They see things other do not, and it drive them crazy. In D&D, being sensitive also means you have iron mental will. That makes this archetype hard to represent. By splitting off perception and sticking it Intelligence, you have fixed this issue.

    But don't pat yourself on the back yet! You've created another problem for me. Now, characters with high Intelligence are innately perceptive. I can't have my absent-minded professor types anymore!

    On the other hand, having magical aptitude linked to perceptiveness is pretty cool, so I am fine with this.
    That sounds good. I would rather have a more positive description than "non-arcane". Never describe what something is not when you can describe what it is.
    What about maximum hirelings? You aren't taking away my hirelings are you?

    I really want to find a synonym for Charisma that starts with 'T', but I am coming up dry.

    So far, not very different. However, the modifiers are another story.
    • Strength does not modify hit points - Agility does. For PCs, all but the last few HP represent defensive ability and stamina.
    • Strength modifies Armor Class, not Agility. Tougher characters have a chance of shrugging off blows.[/quote]
    This is interesting. I like that it makes HP better reflect that Errol Flynn swordfight analogy that Gygax would use. How does this effect HP recovery?

    It there is one weird quirk, it is is that the To Hit roll becomes a soak to see if you can absorb damage, than after that, you spend HP to represent avoiding the hit. It feels a bit weird to roll a damage soak, then deal with the Agility part, but it really doesn't effect the result, so I can roll with it.
    Making Initiative something that goes up with levels is an interesting idea.
    I'm not crazy about this, as it eliminates the idea of being slow and deliberate in your attack. The guy that shoots last, but true.
    I already mentioned that attacks feel more like an Agility thing to me. I'd be careful of stacking too many modifiers on a roll as well. Even for that rare character with two 18s, having a +6 to hit is kind of crazy at 1st level, especially combined with your rule of any roll that beats AC by 10 being a crit.

    Also, does your variant have abilty stats for monsters? If not, high Agility and Strength PCs just got a big leg up on them in attack bonus and damage.
    • [/quote]Attacks that roll natural 20 or 10 more than AC are critical hits, and they do extra damage. Thus, Strength does have an indirect effect on melee damage.[/quote]
    Not bad. It is another calculation on every attack roll, but the math is pretty simple.
    I never have an issue with that.

    Those are my thoughts. It feels weird to me in places, but so does unmodified D&D, and I play that. The only thing I see that is potentially gamebreaking is the double bonus on to-hit rolls. Other than that, it looks good.
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  5. Edgewise

    Edgewise New Member

    Sep 27, 2017
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    Thanks for really getting into it! Lots of good point, here.

    I know it seems weird, but I did it for a few reasons. First, I imagine characters with high Agility have low weight-to-strength ratio, so I'm thinking such people generally burn less energy to move. Like I said, I really think of Agility as general athleticism. Second, I am differentiating the fact that damage resistance and ability to sustain activity are two very different things. Third, I wanted to put all my hit point contributors into one basket.

    I agree with some of this. Athleticism would generally contribute to attack ability, but it actually does. Think about it this way: if you're the loser of an initiative contest, you get -2 to hit. So it's all relative.

    Bow is an interesting counter-example because it's much more of a whole body thing. I'd probably allow a PC to use either one for bow bonuses if they wanted. Let's say I agree with this one, but in the interest of simplicity I'd probably treat it the mechanically the same as other missile weapons.

    Whether Dexterity should provide such a bonus to all attack rolls may be debateable. But I didn't want to split Agility and Dexterity to create an almost-useless stat. So there is a little balancing going on here.

    I freaking hate "Wisdom." It's obviously named so to give clerics a relevant-sounding prime requisite. And not just any clerics, but the weird D&D pseudo-Christian type. Is a priest of Set truly "wise"? How about a berserking shaman for Thor? And with such a stupid name, it's always hard figuring out what it applies to. Conflating spiritual insight, perception and willpower seems ludicrous.

    You got me, it's true. Well, in my homebrew rules, Perception is actually a skill, and you get skill points based on your Intelligence. But you don't have to spend them on Perception - you could buy up your science, leaving the character pretty average at noticing stuff. One value of strapping perception to Intelligence is that otherwise Intelligence can be a bit of a dump stat for non-mages. I was looking for ways to avoid that.

    Honestly, it's hard to break human capabilities down to six stats in a way that's realistic and gameable. By gameability, I'm trying to keep the stats approximately equally broad and useful. Some conflations are unavoidable.

    That's one of those things that pertains to my magic rules. I have two kinds of magic - sorcery and mysticism. Mysticism is really a catch-all for all forms of "non-academic" magic, including innate psychic abilities, pacts with demons, results of alchemical experiments, divine magic, etc.

    Never! In my game, I usually role-play these (and my players rarely acquire hirelings, foolishly), but in a game that has mechanics for these, that would be in line. too...

    Good question! In my rules, hit points recover pretty fast - your level per hour rested. But if you get down to zero or less, they recover at the rate of one per day since you were actually wounded. If they dropped below -4 (death is at -8), you were critically injured, and they recover at the rate of one every month.

    Of course, magic helps here.

    I stole this idea from Lamenations of the Flame Princess.

    Originally, my rules were more like that, but I simplified. For what it's worth, you still get this bonus if you delay your action - you don't actually have to go first.

    Basically, I wanted initiative to mean something more than who goes first on the first round, and I also wanted a way that Agility could affect AC.

    It's true. This might be better for a point-buy system, where you can get a crazy melee bonus if you want to sacrifice everything else for it.

    Not if I can avoid it. I usually design my own monster stats on the fly, anyway, so I try to make them balanced.

    Yeah, in practice it's not much of a burden. It provides an indirect damage advantage for being really skilled or accurate, which seems right to me.

    Thanks a bunch for your feedback! I think you're right that the double melee bonus is the most questionable thing here. I figured that it was reasonable if I dropped the Strength-based damage bonus, but maybe not. I might have to just try it out and see what happens.
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  6. Jesterly

    Jesterly New Member

    Nov 7, 2017
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    Charisma -> Temperament?

    Or swap Spirit and Strength. SADIStC.
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  7. Edgewise

    Edgewise New Member

    Sep 27, 2017
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    I've been working these ideas into the latest edition of my heartbreaker. Unfortunately, I'm drifting further from usable acronyms. The current set of names:
    • Toughness
    • Vigor
    • Dexterity
    • Mind
    • Spirit
    • Charm
    • Luck
    The lack of vowels sadly makes acronyms extremely unlikely for the current set.

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