Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

Two of my favorite OSR games right now are Heroes and Other Worlds by C.R. Brandon, a The Fantasy Trip clone, and Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures by Flatland Games, a B/X clone designed for Coming of Age stories from the likes of Ursula LeGuin or Lloyd Alexander.

Beyond the Wall has a unique chargen method where players pick an archtype, and then roll on lifepath charts to see their upbringing and events that formed their character. The results of the lifepath rolls give the character attribute increases as well as skills and spells. This is best done all together at the first session. Connections between the players are generated at this time, since they all grew up together in the same village. Opportunities are built into the process for the players to specify locations and NPCs in the village. All hooks for the GM to use for weaving the game.

I came up with the idea to use the Beyond the Wall lifepaths for creating HOW characters after reading E.P. Donahue's Zero to Hero article in Cauldron #1. His article detailed a process for using Dungeon Crawl Classic's Level-0 Funnel idea with HOW, which started with 25 points in attributes.

Going through the archtype playbooks, I noticed that each table can give attribute bonuses, skills, spells, and items. BtW uses the standard D&D attributes, while HOW uses Strength (ST), Dexterity (DX), Intelligence (IQ), and Endurance (EN). By ignoring attribute bonuses given in BtW playbooks that don't have a HOW equivalent (WIS and CHA) and by translating any skills or spells to HOW equivalents, the books work as-is for creating connected backgrounds. Just start all attributes at 8, except for the ones mentioned in each playbook as starting higher. Also, if the resulting character has less than five skills or spells, the player can select new skills or spells for the difference. If the character has fewer than 10 extra attribute points (Hero points), the player can spend the remainder on attributes.

Here's the results of the first test run:

Millie deFleur

(Witch's Prentice playbook - starts at ST: 8, DX: 8, IQ: 10, and EX: 8.)

  • Daughter of the local smith, he taught her the bellows and forge.
  • She solves everyone's problems, never mentioning her own.
  • She is about the marry into the Miller's family.
  • The witch was impressed by her old stories and lore that filled your head.
  • The witch was good at color and hue, teaching her illusion magics.
  • One night a stranger came to rob while the witch was in deep trance. Millie caught him unawares and frightened him away. Millie's friend (person to the right) was there and helped rout the robber.
  • A dark spirit came to claim Millie. The witch died banishing it and protecting her.

ST: 12
DX: 9
IQ: 13
EN: 11

Skills: Craftsman [Smith] (from Smithing in BtW), Naturalist (Herbalist in BtW), Lore [Folklore] (from Folklore in BtW).


(I haven't translated the spells yet, so these are the Beyond the Wall spells.)

Cantrips: Hexing, Glamor Weaving
Spells: Greater Illusion, Terrifying Presence
Rituals: Gather Mist

Equipment: witch's charred staff, dagger, simple clothing, a flamboyant hat, a small musical flute, 13 coins

She has eight skill points, and 13 Hero points, substantially more than a beginning HOW character (5 skill and 10 Hero points). I think I'd probably give her Craftsman for free, since it builds character and is marginally useful, except for earning a wage. Needing to cut two more skills, I'd drop Gather Mist and either Hexing or Glamor Weaving, or whichever spells don't have a good equivalent in HOW. I'd most likely let her keep the extra Hero points, since she got lucky.

I would allow a player to move up to 2 points between attributes. 

Here's another character.

Henny Youngman

(Young Woodsman playbook, starts at ST: 8, DX: 10, IQ: 8, EN 8.)

  • He's an orphan. Things were hard.
  • He never met someone who didn't like him.
  • The grizzled mercenary who settled in town taught him a thing or two.
  • He is a great trapper, never coming home empty-handed.
  • He has a musical gift. He plays a lute.
  • There are many forgotten paths in the woods. He guards them, but not always alone. (person to right also helps.)
  • He saw something glittering in a lightning-cleft rowan tree; he found an abandoned, but alluring blade.

ST: 13
DX: 11
IQ: 9
EN: 11

Skills: Survival, Hunting/Trapping, Alertness, Lute


Magic sword, knife, lute, clothing, leather armor (+2 AC), heavy cloak, flint and tinder, waterskin, 16 coins

Here we have 12 Hero points and 4 skills. Since he has a magic sword, I'd pick Sword as his extra skill. Here again I'd keep the higher Hero points. I'd also give him a free Lute skill. Instrument skills are not included in HOW, but because of their limited combat and adventuring usefulness, I see no reason to eliminate a nice character detail.

I might think about moving a ST point to IQ or DX.

So if you hear the strains of Stairway to Heaven in the woods, it might be him.

So here is the procedure:

  • Use the Beyond the Wall playbooks as-is.
  • Start with ST, DX, IQ, and EN at the levels given in the playbook for STR, DEX, INT, and CON. Usually this is 8 in everything except one attribute.
  • Ignore bonuses to WIS and CHA.
  • Translate skills and spells to HOW.
  • Add extra skills if character ends up with less than 5. Remove skills if more than 5.
  • Add extra Hero points if character ends up with less than 42 points in attributes.
  • Season to taste.

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