Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Brainstorming House Rules Sword and Sorcery Gaming

I've been brainstorming a few ideas for a sword and sorcery game based on characteristics. It turns out that 100 is just too many for my brain to up with, but it came up with some interesting ideas none the less.

Many of these ideas are stolen from various sources around the blog-o-sphere and I have lost track whose is what. So if I took something of yours and would like credit, shoot me an email.


Characters can either hail from the barbaric wilderness or the heart of civilization. Whether a character is barbaric or civilized will play an important roll in the game.


All characters begin play with a trait, replacing class and ability scores. Roll a d10 on the table below that corresponds to your character’s background.

Barbaric Traits
1. Extraordinary Size: Can wield two handed weapons in a single hand and can wield oversized weapons in one hand, but armor must resized to fit.
2. Berserk: After taking damage, make a saving throw vs. spell or go into a furious rage. While berserk, you gain a +2 bonus to hit and to damage rolls, but are compelled to engage foes in melee combat unless a save vs. spell is made (can be attempted once each round).
3. Brawler: Unarmed attacks deal 1d6 damage and can always kill rather than knock out opponents reduced to 0 or fewer hit points; can fight normally with improvised weapons.
4. Hunter: +1 to find and follow tracks; no chance of misfire when shooting into melee.
5. Sturdy: Can withstand extreme heat and cold; +1 to armor class when unarmored and saving throws vs. death and poison.
6. Cat Eyed: Can see twice as far as most men in conditions of dim light and can see normally in complete darkness.
7. Scout: Can only be surprised on a roll of a 1; +1 to surprise others when alone.
8. Fast Healer: Heal 1d2 points of damage per day of rest; heal 1d6 points of damage after each combat.
9. Animal Friend: Animals are calmed by your voice and will not attack you unless threatened.
10. Innately Magical: Roll once on the magical ability table.

Civilized Traits
1. Silver Tongued: +1 to reaction rolls and henchman loyalty
2. Shield Expert: 1 in 6 chance of to blocks attacks in melee.
3. Assassin: +1 to surprise others; +1d6 damage when backstabbing
4. Wealthy: starting coin is in gold rather than silver. Receives an allowance of 1d6 gold coins each month.
5. Thief: +1 to open locks and pick pockets.
6. Scholar: You know 1-4 additional languages and gain a +2 bonus to saving throws vs. spells.
7. Merchant: You have a 4 in 6 chance to accurately appraise the market value of any item.
8. Soldier: Gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls with swords and crossbows.
9. Tradesman: You are skilled in a trade, such as blacksmithing, glass blowing, or farming.
10. Innately Magical: Roll once on the magical ability table.

Magical Ability
1. Visions: 1d6 chance per night to have a vision of the past, present, or future.
2. Snake Tongue: You speak the language of snakes and can command them with your voice.
3. Magic Sense: You are able to detect the presence of magic within 100’.
4. Control Undead: Undead creatures must save vs. spells or obey a single command.
5. Telekinesis: You are able to move light objects that you can see with your mind.
6. Beast Shape: Save vs. spell to transform into a beast. Failure indicates the lose of 1d6 hit points.
7. Domination: You can focus your mind to control human creatures that fail a save vs. spells. If the save succeeds, the intended victim knows who you are and what you tried to do.
8. Telepathy: Direct mind-to-mind communication with intelligent beings that transcends language.
9. Touch of Corruption: Anyone you touch must save vs. spell or roll on the corruption table. Both you and the touched creature are corrupted.
10. Kiss of Death: Any human you kiss on the lips dies.

Sorcerous Corruption

When a spell fails to cast (which I will explain later if I end up continuing the project), a sorcerer must succeed a saving throw vs. spell or roll on the table below and suffer the indicated effect. The referee should make both rolls in secret and only inform the sorcerer if the effect is immediately noticeable.

1. Eyes glow red
2. Loses all of his hair
3. Loses sense of smell
4. Touch spoils wine
5. Limb becomes limp and useless
6. Develops an allergy to all food not treated with nightshade; immune to the poison of nightshade
7. Emits a terrible odor of decaying flesh
8. Touch turns food to dust; no need to eat
9. Become susceptible to sever sunburns whenever skin is briefly explored to sunlight
10. Teeth and finger nails fall out
11. Looses sight in one eye
12. Skin becomes unnaturally cold and clammy, covered with a thin film
13. Eyes become large and bulbous, always seeping and bloodshot
14. Voice becomes raspy and weak, barely above a wheezy, hoarse whisper
15. Ages 10d6 years
16. Finer nails and hair grow incredibly fast and must be trimmer at least twice a day
17. Skin on one arm develops necrosis and dies in 1d6 days; Arm is still useable, even after becoming skeletal
18. Eye develops in the palm of one hand
19. Legs fuse together and become worm-like
20. Flexible snake jaws; mouth can open wide enough to engulf a human head.
21. Skin becomes transparent
22. Hair on head becomes a mass of waving cilia
23. Tongue becomes points and snake like
24. Can only digest human flesh
25. Develop a venous bite
26. Becomes amphibious and can only survive out of water for 1-6 hours at a time; roll a saving throw vs. death ever hour thereafter.
27. Teeth become sharp like a carnivore’s
28. Wounds take twice as long to heal
29. Water is treated as a deadly poison
30. Skin becomes scared—as if severely burnt


  1. Great stuff, very inspiring. Thank you.

  2. i like the idea and have a suggestion.

    instead of a list of abilities to chose from (or select randomly), why don't you simply create broad groups of characteristics, allowing the players to chose any they can come up with within the boundaries of each group? the exact benefits of each characteristic would need to be defined, if not obvious.

    for example, there could be groups like "social", "physical" or "mental", as many and as specific as you like.

    the background of a character determines how many characteristcs out of every group he can chose, the wilderness character would get more physical ones than social ones, for example, a civilised one the other way around.

    this would keep your basic idea and give players limitless flexibility.

    leveling up would mean you earn new characteristics, these being limited to stuff you either did while adventuring or that you specifically trained for.

    a starting level character might look like this:

    hans, the lumberjack




  3. Thanks David, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Shlominus, I almost did something like your suggesting but realized that I just didn't have enough traits. I'm planning on expanding each list out of 20 or even thirty, but even then I don't want two character at the same table walking around with each other's traits.

    Another option I've considered is adding more backgrounds. Or rather breaking up the background categories. to make them more specific.

    I'm not so sure about splitting things up into physical, mental, and social traits. I'd like nearly all (if not all) of the traits to be physical in nature and to include a tangible benefit.

    Once leveling beings to add new characteristics, then we get into the realm of builds. Builds are the reason I switched back over to old school gaming in the first place. No. I'm definitely keeping traits as something character start with at the beginning of play or gain organically as play continues.


  4. true, "builds" might become a problem with this method of leveling.

  5. We've actually been using this in B/X D&D, sans the corruption effects... sometimes a few small tweaks... but we like it!

  6. I'm glad to here you like it. I've done more with these ideas and plan to post them at a later date.