Friday, April 2, 2010

On Boons and Character Customization

As I mentioned in previous entries, my most recent game began using the 3rd edition rules for D-n-D. Gradually, we switched over to Castles & Crusades, as I wanted a more simple system of rules that would allow me to spend less time calculating Difficulty Classes and more time coming up with interesting things for the players to discover. I watched with interest when Basic Fantasy Role-Playing, Labyrinth Lord and OSRIC appeared on the scene, and then really fell in love with Swords & Wizardry. The rules my group used took bits and pieces from all of these games (spell research rules from Basic Fantasy Role-Playing, saving throws from Swords & Wizardry with a nod to the prime attribute concept in Castles & Crusades, the classes from Castles & Crusades, many of the spells in OSRIC, etc). In the end, the players were using a house-ruled version of Castles & Crusades, and I was using a house-ruled version of Swords & Wizardry.

There was one thing in 3rd edition D-n-D that I did like, at least in theory, and that was feats. I thought that feats could be a very clever way for players to construct the archetype they wanted to play without the need for creating dozens of new classes. Unfortunately, feats ultimately became a revenue source for WOTC; there were too many feats, too many sub-rules concerning those feats, and too many feat chains. I think that the feat chains were especially troublesome. After all, if a player goes to the trouble of making his character the greatest acrobat he can possibly be, the Referee kinda feels guilty if he doesn't design adventures that allow the player to show off his acrobatic skills.

Just the same, I eventually decided that I liked giving the players some tools to tweak their characters. To this end, I adapted some of the d20 feats into what I called boons. The following content is declared open game content.

As characters advance in level, they pick up specialized skills and abilities called boons. Boons are small bonuses that help to make characters unique. Players may choose a boon for their character at 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th level. Unless otherwise noted, a boon cannot be chosen more than once. The boons a character may possess are as follows:

AGILE: You have a 2 in 6 chance to avoid falling into pits and a 2 in 6 chance to escape from simple bonds (i.e. ropes).

ATTRIBUTE BONUS: You may increase one of your attributes (i.e. Strength, Intelligence, etc) by +1. You can choose this boon and apply it to the same attribute more than once. You cannot increase an attribute beyond 18.

CLEAVE: When you drop an opponent to 0 or fewer hit points in melee combat, you may make a second attack with the same weapon at the end of the combat round against another creature within range of your weapon.

CLIMB WALLS: You can climb walls on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6.

DELAY POISON: You can delay (but not neutralize) poison on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6.

DODGE: You improve your Armor Class by 1. You lose this bonus when surprised or otherwise unable to move.

EMPOWER SPELL: You can cast one spell per day with all of its variables increased by 150%.

ENLARGE SPELL: You can double the range of one spell per day.

EXPERTISE: You can accept a -2 penalty to your attack rolls and gain a +2 bonus to your Armor Class.

EXTEND SPELL: You can cast one spell per day with a double duration.

FAST MOVEMENT: You improve your unencumbered movement rate by 3.

GREAT FORTITUDE: You gain a +1 bonus to saving throws against poison and disease.

HEAR NOISE: You can hear noises on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6 (or 1 to 3 on 1d6 if a nonhuman).

IMPROVED BANISHMENT: You gain a +1 bonus on rolls made to banish the undead.

IMPROVED DISARM: You gain a +1 bonus to make disarm attacks.

IMPROVED GRAPPLE: You gain a +1 bonus to make grapple attacks.

IMPROVED OVERBEARING: You gain a +1 bonus to make overbearing attacks.

IMPROVED PUMMELING: Your pummeling attacks deal 1d3 damage instead of 1d2 damage.

IMPROVED SUNDER: You gain a +1 bonus to make sundering attacks.

IRON WILL: You gain a +1 bonus to saving throws vs. magic.

LEADERSHIP: The morale of your henchmen improved by 2.

LEGENDS AND LORE: You can recall ancient legends and obscure lore on the roll of 1 on 1d6.

LIGHTNING REFLEXES: You gain a +1 bonus to saving throws against breath weapons and death rays.

MAGICAL APTITUDE: You learn to cast one first level magic-user or illusionist spell per day. Magic-users and illusionists may not choose this boon. You may choose this boon more than once, applying it to a different spell each time. To use these spells, you must keep a spellbook and memorize your spell or spells each day. Your referee may restrict which spells you can learn with this boon, and the armor class restrictions faced by magic-users and illusionists apply.

MOUNTED COMBAT: You can make attacks atop a mount without the usual penalty. When fighting atop a warhorse, you can direct the mount’s attacks and still make your own.

MOVE SILENTLY: You can move without making a sound on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6.

NEW SPELL: If you are a magic-user or illusionist, you can add an additional spell (of a level you can cast) to your spellbook.

PICK LOCK: You can pick locks on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6. You must have burglary tools to use this ability.

PICK POCKETS: You can pick pockets on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6.

POINT BLANK SHOT: You gain a +1 bonus to hit with missile weapons when your target is no more than 30 feet away.

POWER ATTACK: You can accept a -2 penalty to your melee attack rolls and gain a +1 bonus to melee damage.

SILENT SPELL: You can cast one spell per day without needing to vocalize it.

SKILL FOCUS: You gain a +1 bonus to saving throws when using a chosen skill associated with your class (such as thievery or woodcraft).

STILL SPELL: You can cast one spell per day without needing to move your hands.

SURVIVAL: You can hunt well enough to feed 6 people on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6.

TWO-WEAPON DEFENSE: When wielding two weapons you can forgo making an additional attack and instead improve your Armor Class by 1 as though you were using a shield.

TWO-WEAPON FIGHTING: Your penalties to attack with two weapons are reduced to -1 (primary) and -2 (off-hand). Normal penalties are -2 (primary) and -4 (off-hand).

TOUGHNESS: You gain 3 hit points.

WEAPON FINESSE: When wielding a dagger, hand axe, light hammer, light mace, short sword, sickle or whip you can use your dexterity bonus in place of your strength bonus when making attack rolls.

WEAPON FOCUS: You gain a +1 bonus to hit with a weapon usable by your class. Fighting-men cannot mix this boon with their weapon specialization ability.

WEAPON PROFICIENCY: You learn to use a weapon normally not usable by members of your class.

WIDEN SPELL: Once per day, you can double the coverage of a spell you cast.


  1. I am with YOU, Zak and Joe . . .

    I play a house ruled version of DnD that is a mix of old DnD with ascending armor class, with six character classes and a simplified skill system. I have streamlined the game by eliminating psionics, prestige classes, opportunity attacks, some skills, weapon proficiencies, experience points and spell bonuses.

    My critical hits system was published in Fight On #7
    although there were some editorial changes that I didn’t like
    (cest le vive)

    Today's post on my blog is about ERB's Green Martians.

  2. Although I prefer the older rules, I'm no purist. That's why I'm such a fan of the Open Gaming stuff - tons of material that one can pick through to find exactly what suits them. The beauty of the older rules systems is that you can create your own material with a minimum of headaches.

  3. I guess that the +1 bonuses on a d20 roll just aren't enough to make such a difference. If you say this is intended to enable players to create an archetype, you may want to make sure that an archetype is not just somebody who has +5% to perform some task. I would suggest a +3 bonus instead and allow taking such boons multiple times, adding +1 every consecutive time.

  4. I suppose I shouldn't have used the term archetype, but rather concept. I like the idea of fighting-man, cleric and magic-user being the archetypes, and then using something like boons to modify them very slightly to distinguish one person's fighting-man from another. Naturally, you could modify these rules to make the bonuses more substantial, and thus more like archetype-builders. I wanted to avoid the character optimization that feats (and multi-classing and prestige classes) encouraged in 3rd edition play, so I kept the bonuses fairly small and did not let them stack.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...