House Rules

Early last week I posted a poll here at The Iron Tavern about reader’s usage of house rules. There were four options in the poll:

  • No house rules at all, rules are rules
  • Minimal house rules, more like table clarifications
  • Some house rules, change things that need changing
  • Lots of house rules, my house rule doc is more than 2 pages

Based on this poll, everyone house rules at least a little. No one chose the no house rules option. 31% chose the minimal house rules or the more like table clarifications. Table clarifications could be tweaks to starting gold, hit points gained during leveling and items like that. 54% went with some house rules stating that if something needs changing, then they would change it to work for their game. And the final 15% confessed to house rules breaking into multiple pages.

The poll question was sparked by my reading of the Castles and Crusades Castle Keepers Guide the weekend before. Right up front there is section that plainly states that if the rules are impeding your fun, amend it or change it, but do not let it impede your fun. This got me thinking about the amount of house rules I use and whether I bend to the rules or if I bend them to my game.

I have frequently run Pathfinder games in the recent years. Some of the games I have run are for my local group where I have lots of flexibility and other times I run Pathfinder Society games under the organized play umbrella. There really isn’t room for house rules under organized play, as one needs to provide the same experience from one GM to another. But my home game has no such restriction.

Even for my home game I fall into the minimal house rules category. The things I rule on are much more like table clarifications. Things like rolling hit points being if you don’t break half on the die roll, take half. Or possibly just a clarification of a frequently debated rule with how we interpret it for my campaigns. I really don’t dig inand house rule things very much. I could fit it on a half a page I bet.

I was the same way with D&D 3.x as well. I did not make a lot of changes to the rules. I pretty much played by the rules as written save for the minor table modifications.

After reading the Castles and Crusades rules I am feeling more of an urge to tinker, to really play with the rules and mold them for my group. That isn’t a slight towards the game, it is more like a feeling of liberation, like I’ve been given the blessing of modifying the rules.

Why is it I feel more able to modify with Castles and Crusades versus something like D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder?  Even the Pathfinder Core rulebook mentions some flexibility with the rules, though more in the vein of making quick rulings when the interpretation of the rule is unclear. Castles and Crusades comes straight out and says change the rule if you don’t like it.

I think it is more than that as to why I feel more willing to modify or house rule something like Castles and Crusades. I think systems with more rules, while trying to help the GM judge decisions actually end up restricting the player’s freedoms. Everything they want to do is regulated by a feat, skill or some other mechanic instead of common sense. In the end while it can make things more black and white, I think it can be restricting.

With a more rules-light system there is a lot more room to tinker while still staying within the system. This tinkering can include adding in some house rules to keep things consistent between game sessions.

I think as I spend more time with Castles and Crusades and other rules light systems I will move from the ‘table clarifications’ response to my poll to the ‘change things that need changing’ portion of the poll.

So what do you think? Does the system you play have an affect on how much you house rule?

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High Level Characters, Low Level Adventure

My local group recently finished up Council of Thieves. I did not run the campaign, the other GM in my group has been running it. This past week we started in on Serpent’s Skull. That sounds typical of a lot of Pathfinder groups I am sure. Finish one Adventure Path and then move to the next. The difference in this case is that our GM let us bring our characters from Council of Thieves to the Serpent’s Skull campaign. 10th level characters tackling a 1st level adventure.

My local GM has a habit of trying unusual things with his games. Our first game with him many years ago had the 1st level PCs finding a 150,000gp treasure hoard. Back in the 3.5 days he used to give us a feat every level. This time it is letting us carry over high level characters to a lower level adventure.

He has been planning this transition for several months, he mentioned it even towards the beginning of Council of Thieves. As the previous Adventure Path wrapped up he mentioned again that he was going to give us the option of carrying our characters over. Of the four of us, three chose to continue with their character. The three that chose to continue with their characters include a bard, rogue and inquisitor. The fourth had an urban ranger and did not feel he would fit in, so re-rolled an oracle. The fourth is entering the campaign at 1st level.

I have a lot of faith in our GM to pull things off like this. We have a good group, we trust each other and so far our GM’s experiments have typically been successful. The other advantage he had going for him was the premise of the initial module of the AP involving a PC losing nearly all of their gear. He had a built-in way to separate us from all of our magical gear. Prior to the session he advised all of us to redo our character sheets without any of our gear except for one item of our choosing.

The GM had a hook to blend the APs together by taking an object we found amidst the Council of Thieves and needing to take it to the Mwangi Expanse to destroy it.

With the adventure underway the group found ourselves on an island minus a lot of our gear. Immediately we faced our first combat encounter with some crab-like scorpion things. The creatures obviously had their hit points boosted as it was taking several hits to kill them. They were still easy to hit, so the AC was the same. They were able to cause poison damage and that DC was left alone, though a combination of poor rolls still left 10th level characters feeling the effects of the poison.

Afterwards the GM confirmed with me my suspicions. All he had done to the creatures to ratchet them up a little was increase their hit points. The lack of gear really reduced the power of the characters and a few bad rolls still made the creatures somewhat of a threat.

Survival on this island is another component of the initial Serpent’s Skull adventure. Even this has its moments of challenge. The survival rolls are pretty easy, but there are only two characters, one of which is an NPC, that have decent ranks in survival. There are still several logistics of survival on the island to figure out that require us to think as players regardless of level. So even with high level characters this element of the AP still retains its fun. Granted our party’s make-up has some influence on this as we lack a wizard or cleric.

We are only one session in, but so far the experiment seems a success. By stripping us of our gear and boosting the hit points of the creatures we face, the element of fun is still there. It has been an interesting blend of Adventure Paths and I look forward to seeing how the rest of it plays out.

OSR as a State of Mind

The post below is written by Shortymonster, a guest blogger for The Iron Tavern.

Every RPG could be an OSR game, it’s all a state of mind.

I want to start by saying that I do not consider myself to be a part of the Old School Renaissance (OSR)  movement; when I came into gaming it was with such systems as Vampire: the Masquerade, Cyberpunk 2020, and a mate’s home-brew system heavily inspired by Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. All these were quite crunchy systems, and as a new gamer, I liked that. It was comforting to know that if I wanted to try something out that there was a rule to cover it, or at least a guideline to give the GM a position to adjudicate from. As time moved on and I grew as a player, there was always a room in my heart for games like this. I’m still using CP2020 as a system for my next campaign, and although the World of darkness has fallen out of my favour, I still like Gothic horror games with a bit of crunch, such as Unhallowed Metropolis.

What has changed however is that I’m spending more and more of my time as a GM to the point that I spend more time running games than playing in them. Quite often these days I feel the need to ignore rules in favour of maintaining the flow of the story. Some may think this might not be in the spirit of fair play to my players, but I promise one thing, if I drop a rule for them, that same rule drop applies to all the NPCs too, and vice versa. Often I’m not dropping a rule because it doesn’t work, or because leaving it in gets in the way of me telling the story I want to tell, but because it gets in the way of the free flow of play. This is something that should be just as much of a concern to me as it is to my players, but they should never have to deal with, in fact it should happen so seamlessly that they shouldn’t even notice it.

This to me is the essence of the OSR; finding a set of rules that allows – nay, encourages – the GM to make on the spot decisions about character and NPC actions without having to check through countless chapters and tables to get the answer from the rules. This doesn’t mean the rules should be ignored unilaterally, just that they can be put aside when they become an inconvenience. Quite often, they wouldn’t exist in the first place to slow things down, as the game designer could trust the GM to make the right calling. So, why don’t fans of OSR just run any game they choose like that?

If I didn’t like the combat resolution system in CP2020 I would ditch the needlessly complicated rules and come up with something that allowed faster resolution of a fight but didn’t get in the way of my players performing the actions they think they should be able to. And you know what, I don’t like it, so I did change it. My way is way quicker, easier to explain, and opens up combat for the players to take a bit more of the initiative with what they would like their characters to do. This seems to be in line with a lock of hacks I’ve read about, people taking a setting they like, and retro-cloning the rules the fir an easier or more comfortable play style.

To be fair, a lot of the adventures I run don’t have much in common with what most people think of when you mention OSR. As an example, I don’t do dungeon crawls. I find them a bit boring and they only exist for me as a way of having a laugh at the expense of the preconceptions of the genre. I will be running Something Went Wrong for instance, but not because I like dungeon crawls; because I love the multi GM aspect and the fact that it makes fun of the genre in a pleasingly light-hearted way. For the very same reason, I’m a big fan of the Munchkin card game.

So, to fans of OSR games, and I know there’s a load of you out there, I would like to say that I love what you do, and the effort you go to just to keep your ideal play style and rule sets going – when I see free RPGs out there in an OSR style, I grab them up quick and love reading them and thinking about what I could do with them – I think I’ll just keep playing whatever game I choose, and keep the OSR feel going by how I run the game, and how my group plays it. And a big thank you to folks of a like mind out there, who keep on hacking things to fit the way want to play; you’re saving me a ton of work.

Bio

Shortymonster is new to this blogging lark, but if you have enjoyed what you’ve just read, head on over to his own site and take a look at his thoughts on a variety of subjects across the spectrum of role playing games.

15 Minute Work Day

A frequent complaint one hears about D&D (and Pathfinder to a degree) is the 15 minute work day. The 15 minute work day is the potential for a party to want to rest after they use all of their big resources. This is often at the behest of the Wizard or Cleric of the party after they have used their more powerful spells.

This problem generally lines people up on two sides, both of which can be rather vocal about the issue. One side says this is a problem in nearly every D&D game they have played in and the other says they have never seen it in their games. These arguments usually fall between “it is a systemic problem it isn’t our fault” to “you are playing the game wrong, there is not a problem with the system”. This debate has been going on for a long time, occasionally resurfacing on various forums or twitter feeds.

Why bring it up today at The Iron Tavern? Conan. Conan and The People of the Black Circle actually.

Let me back up just a step though before I get into Conan and the 15 minute work day. I obviously have an opinion on the 15 minute work day, I think everyone does. I fall into the group of people that really has not seen the issue that often.

As a player our groups nearly always push onwards and our wizards tend to be conservative with their spells and manage their resources. That does not mean we adventure on until our resources are completely depleted, but we typically carry on for a good number of encounters before seeking out a place of rest. This has been the case for my local group, for the many organized play games I have participated in, a multitude of play-by-posts, and games I have played online in. Do the casters sometimes announce that they are running low on prepared spells? Yes. But the group as a whole typically pushed onwards.

From the GM perspective I have similar experiences. Players I GM for also tend to push onwards in adventures I run. Sometimes to the point where I actually think it might be best for them to rest up a bit before continuing. This experience is from many varied mediums as my play experience has been.

Given the number of different groups and situations I have a really hard time thinking this is a systemic problem as many like to state. To me a systemic problem would be widespread enough that I would have run into the problem in my playing of the game. I can see room for abuse by a 15 minute work day, but I don’t see it as being a systemic problem in the rules.

There has been one campaign where I found myself facing 15 minute work day scenarios. Kingmaker. The way the exploration portion of Kingmaker works the group will very often find themselves facing every fight at full resources. Now this is an example a systemic problem. As the Kingmaker Adventure Path is written, the PCs are only ever going to face one, two, maybe three encounters in a day during the exploration phases of the campaign.

Back to Conan. I recently started reading People of the Black Circle by Robert E. Howard. As I read that book a distinct thought tumbling around in the back of my mind was if GMs ran their games like that story, the 15 minute work day would never be an issue. The heroes (and even the enemy for that matter) have several moments during the story where they have no choice but to continue on regardless of the status of their resources or how depleted their forces were.

Conan and his companions cannot stop to wait or rest, even as they watch a good number of their forces perish. The girl must be rescued! To wait and recoup health, forces, or arrows is sure to meet with the untimely death or worse for the girl.

The defenders are heavy users of sorcery and at one point in the book are shown using various spells to defend themselves. As the battle unfolds Conan even remarks that they must have lost their capacity for magic as they further retreat. But those sorcerers cannot simply stop and rest! They have a fierce barbarian and his dwindling horde knocking at their doorstep!

Pacing as shown by example in People of the Black Circle is what GMs should strive to obtain. This puts the PCs in an exciting adventure with stakes that mean something to the characters. It paints that sense of urgency that will keep things moving forward and not a series of fight, sleep, fight, sleep and so on. The type of magic system simply will not matter, because it is irrelevant. The PCs must go on to be the heroes, to do otherwise simply ends in devastating failure.

DCC RPG: The Wizard

This article is another in the weekly series in which I have been looking at each of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG character classes. I have looked at the Warrior, the Thief, the Dwarf, the Cleric, and the Halfling in previous weeks.

As we came down to the end of the series I posted a poll to see which classes people wanted to see next. The Halfing just managed to win that poll with the Wizard coming in a close second. This week I will be taking a look at the DCC RPG Wizard.

The Class

Being a Wizard in Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG is dangerous. Wizards draw their power from demons or gods, ancient black magics from long forgotten tomes or through deals with the devils or other unearthly beings. While great power and magic can come from these exchanges, it is not without risk.

The wizard in DCC RPG starts with a d4 hit die at first level. They are able to use a handful of weapons, including long or short swords. While they are able to wear armor it does cause a penalty to spellcasting.

Wizards can choose their alignment with black magic tending to be practiced by chaotic wizards and neutral and lawful wizards practicing more with the elements of the world. Enchantments can be used by any of the three alignments.

Magic is an interesting area in DCC RPG as it includes a large amount of randomness. The randomness factor helps reinforce the idea that magic is not always controllable or predictable. The use of magic is not to be taken lightly. A beginning wizard beings with four spells, these spells are chosen randomly at first level.

When a wizard casts a spell, they must make a spellcheck – a d20 roll plus some modifiers that includes the wizard’s caster level. The result of this roll is looked up on a table for the specific spell being cast. The roll will determine whether the casting was successful, whether the spell is retained for use later, and how great (or little) the effect of the spell is.

As noted above, a wizard can draw their sources of magic from many different places, including supernatural patrons. A wizard can bind themselves to a patron and from that point use a spell called invoke patron to seek special aide in times of critical need. A patron may or may not respond to this request and may or may not barter an exchange to grant the aide requested. While this is quite powerful, it is not without its risks. Most of these risks are left to the liberty of the judge to determine.

A wizard can summon a familiar if they so choose by using a spell to do so.  A wizard’s luck modifier applies to rolls of corruption and mercurial magic.

Mercurial magic. This just one way that spells are different and unique depending on the wizard that is casting it. When a new spell is learned by a wizard, they roll on the mercurial effect table to determine how that spell will behave when cast by this specific wizard. There is a table with 100 different effects on the table. These effects can be positive or negative in nature and affect how that spell works each time it is cast.

Image by Steve A Roberts, http://fantasyartdesign.com/

There are some other mechanics in DCC RPG that affect wizards and the way they cast magic. As mentioned earlier, a wizard makes a spell check roll when they cast a spell to determine if the spell is successful or not. If a wizard rolls poorly they might suffer a misfire, corruption, or patron taint. The table with each spell will help determine the result of the roll and whether a misfire, corruption, patron taint, or possibly all three apply.

Misfires are specific to the spell and tend to include unexpected effects of the spell, frequently detrimental to himself or his allies.

Corruption has a rather significant effect on the wizard. There are three tables for corruption that cover minor, major, and greater. Corruption tends to be things that damage the wizard, leads to an altering of their appearance or other such effects. A wonderful graphic in the book illustrates the progression of a wizard over time. The first frame showing a young, handsome man and by the final image a grotesque hunched over monstrosity.

Finally there is the spellburn mechanic. Spellburn allows a wizard to call upon outside sources such as demons, devils, the darkness between the stars and so on to burn ability score points in a one for one exchange in bonus to a spellcheck roll. A wizard can burn points from their Strength, Agility or Stamina ability scores.

My Impression

The wizard class can seem pretty complex at initial look. With pages and pages of spells with tables and charts, mercurial magic, spellburn, corruption, and misfires. As you start to read more about the class and actually play though you learn that you only need to be concerned with the spells your wizard actually knows and a handful of tables which can easily be brought to the table.

Once over the initial hurdle of familiarizing yourself with the basics of a wizard, I think the mechanics do a very good job of reproducing that “Appendix N” feel for the wizard. Magic is random. Magic is not something to be taken lightly. Magic has its price.

One of my favorite lines from the DCC RPG in the Magic section is “Use a torch, fool; it is much safer!” This line helps set the readers expectation as to how magic works in this world. It isn’t used to light your way in dungeons or to light street lamps or for any trivial task. Magic is not to be trifled with.

In d20 games there is always the debate of Vancian magic systems versus some other magic system and how wizards can over power the rest of the party at higher levels. I think the magic system and wizards in DCC RPG have found an interesting way to balance the wizards power, the frequency they can cast spells with the random nature of making magic dangerous as an elegant solution to the wizard’s power. Sure the wizards can obliterate some foe – but at what possible risk to them or to their party?

I am quite satisfied with how a wizard functions in Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. It gives me the old-school feel of the wizard from the strength perspective, the power that we all think of when it comes to a wizard with the randomness of something bad happening when casting to temper that power a bit.

Next Week

Next week I will be bringing the character class series to a close with a look at the Elf. The Elf is the last character class on the list! Be sure to check back next Friday for the final article in this series.

D&D Next: Playtest 2

I have not talked much about D&D Next at The Iron Tavern, but I have been keeping an eye on it along the way. I liked the direction the first playtest was headed, save for a couple of small things that could easily be fixed – either through modifying the core rule or a “module”. I was eager to download the second playtest packet earlier this week when it was released.

Before I get into this post too far, let me advise that my comments here are based solely on a read through and not an actual playtest.  I am also aware that the playtest docs are trying to get the tester to play the game with these rules. In the future these rules could easily be a module and possibly not even a core assumption of the game.  While I may not like some of the rules in this second playtest packet, that could be remedied by the final product by seeing the core rules simplified and other portions being moved to modules.

This post is looking at certain rules from the playtest that grabbed my attention and is not intended to be a thorough review of each rule or the playtest.

Character Creation

We have character creation rules this time! It is broken down into a fairly simple process. Ability scores are generated by random dice rolls. The totals are assigned later in the character creation process. For those that do not like such randomness a standard array of numbers to assign is also included. Point buy is obviously lacking, but I suspect this will make its way into a final release of the rules and the provided mechanisms of ability score generation are more to keep things constrained for playtesting.

Character race and class are chosen next with nothing too outside of standard choices for the playtest. Two optional rules at this point allow a player to choose a background and a specialty for their character. Background helps give you a default set of skills and a specialty provides feats and helps provide some focus for the character class you chose.

The rest of the process is calculating your various modifiers for attack, initiative, saves, etc. This portion is clear as well. The player moves on to choosing equipment, describing your character and choosing alignment. The traditional 9 alignments players of the D&D genre are included as well as an unaligned category for creatures that it simply does not make sense to have an alignment, think something like a plant.

Character creation is laid out cleanly in the playtest. It is easy to follow and walks you through the whole process in an orderly manner. As noted the playtest rules do lack a point-buy option that many players and groups like. I strongly suspect it will have an appearance in the final rules though, so I am not too worried about the lack of that option being spelled out.

I am not a big fan of Backgrounds or Specialties, but I will go over that in a section dedicated to those options. It is worth noting even in the playtest both of those selections are noted as optional.

Backgrounds and Specialties

Backgrounds and specialties appear to act as packages for skills, traits and feats. Backgrounds are where your character came from prior to their adventuring life and Specialties are further refining the character’s class. Backgrounds bring a bundle of skills to the table, Specialties bring a bundle of feats to the table.

While there are several of these packages to choose from, I grow hesitant with a defined template of skills or feats to choose from. Admittedly it might make a new person’s entry to the game a little easier, it strikes me as stifling creativity by needing to fit into one of these templates. New backgrounds and specialties could be created, either as officially released material or by DMs in their home campaigns, but there is still something about them that I do not like.

Backgrounds are essentially introducing a full skill list again instead of relying as much on lesser defined ability checks. Specialties are similar appearing to be adding feats again as well. By having these introduced one could likely choose skills and feats a la carte to better emulate a character truly customizing their character background or class specialty.

Classes

The major classes are represented in this playtest.

The cleric has rather weak magic and weapon attack progression and does have access to several domains that come with suggested equipment lists, grants additional weapon and armor proficiencies in some cases and other domain features.

I fear the cleric is being delegated back to a healing only type class. Perhaps some the classes spells can make up for it, but at this moment I am not seeing anything that makes me really want to play a cleric.

The fighter comes with the combat superiority feature. I like how this one starts. You get a die, a d6 at first level. This die can be used for combat maneuvers which can be gained by spending the die, i.e. trading it for a maneuver, or rolled as part of maneuver to add damage or some other effect.

I liked the premise when I first read about this from the Wizard’s site. Unfortunately I think they will make this mechanic overly complex and I can see the beginnings of this already in this playtest packet. The framework being attached to this mechanic of only being able to use combat maneuvers you have unlocked and trading dice versus just rolling the dice. I think the overhead is too great and is going to hurt what could potentially be a really fun mechanic.

In comparison I present Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Mighty Deed of Arms mechanic. Here too we get an extra die to roll during the attack. This die grows in size as our character levels. The results of this die get added to attack and damage and if you exceed a 3 on the damage die you can be creative as a player and perform a special move or call it a combat maneuver. The big difference is that the player can be creative! We aren’t restricted to a set of combat maneuvers that are well-defined or that the character might not have access to yet.

The rogue’s sneak attack escalates pretty quickly in the playtest packet. Some think too quickly. I have not looked at it long enough to make a call one way or the other. There is also some attempts to make the rogue truly skillful through Skill Mastery. I am one that thinks rogues should be very good at skills, it is their bread and butter. I think the rogue is one I would need to get some play time in to make better comments on.

The Wizard class is fairly typical. Certainly more Vancian magic oriented which I like to see. A nice low hit die which I am sure will make some upset. In my initial glance I do not see too much that I dislike about the wizard, though I withhold comments about spell power at this point in time.

Opportunity Attacks

I am glad to see these back in. I found the game played funny when there were not opportunity attacks. Even just bringing them in for moving out of a threatened square is a move in the right direction for me.

Long Rests

They have added a couple of variants to the amount of healing one gets for a long rest, but I am still not entirely happy with that offering either. First, the core assumption being all hit dice and hit points back after a long rest seems to be at the high end of the scale. I would rather it become an option, but maintain an assumption for more a middle ground.

The variants still seem to miss what I would consider the sweet spot for me. I would like to see a long rest for the core assumption to mean you get to roll all your hit dice and regain those as hit points and get all of your hit dice back. For example, if I have 5d8 hit dice, after a long rest I roll 5d8 and add that back to my hit point total and start the day with 5 hit dice to roll during the course of the day if I wish.

Wrap Up

I have only looked at some of the highlights from this most recent playtest packet. Frankly I need to take a closer look at the spells and bestiary before commenting on any of those. At the moment I prefer the first playtest packet to this second as some of these additions are not for the better. I will provide more in-depth commentary on the packet as a whole once I have reviewed the spells and bestiary and spent some more time looking at, and hopefully playing, with the rules as they are in this set.

DCC RPG: The Halfling

We are in the home stretch now for my weekly series of looking at each of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG character classes a little closer. The Iron Tavern is down to just the Halfing, the Wizard and the Elf left for further review. In previous weeks we have looked at the Warrior, the Thief, the Dwarf and the Cleric.

This week I put up a poll and let the readers decide which character class to look at this week. It was a close race between the Halfling and the Wizard for most of the polling period. In fact, I had planned to close the poll at 5pm on Wednesday but the two classes were tied! I ended up extending the poll another four hours for last minute voting. The Halfling pulled it off, bringing in 48.15% of the vote!

The Class

The Halfling is a creature of comfort in Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. Typically found in country environments and preferring peace and quiet. Halflings generally seek to avoid interacting with the “tall folk” unless some need drives the need for interaction. They prefer a life of simple crafts – gardening, farming, trinket making and such.

The adventuring Halfling is frequently one that is a trader, necessitating the need for contact with the “tall folk” or a Halfling that has fallen out of graces with his Halfling community. Even then the intrinsic desire for community and family tend to keep their alignments in the Lawful side of things, with the rare case a Neutral alignment. Chaotic Halflings are quite rare, though not necessarily unheard of.

Halflings are of small size ranging in size between two feet and four feet with a smallish hit die of a d6. This small size do get Halflings a bonus on stealth checks allowing them to add a bonus that progresses as their character level increases. Halflings do get infravision, though not to the range a dwarf character has. The movement for a Halfling is at a 20′ rate as well.

One of the class features a Halfling receives in DCC RPG is the ability to wield two weapons effectively regardless of the character’s Agility score. A Halfling is always able to wield two weapons and only suffers a -1 die penalty (i.e. they roll d16 on both attacks instead of a d20). A Halfling is able to fight with two equal-sized weapons, so you can play a dual short sword wielding Halfling if you wish. Another fun perk is that the Halfling only fumbles if both rolls come up 1.

Courtesy deathbstrd at DeviantArt

The Halfling also has an ability known as the ‘Good luck charm’.  Halflings are able to make use of luck in several more ways than a typical DCC RPG character. First, a Halfling receives a bonus of 2 for every point of luck spent as opposed to a one-to-one ratio. Halfling’s also have the ability to recover luck, similar to a Thief. Each night a Halfling can recover luck equal to the Halfling’s level.

And finally, because Halflings are so lucky they can spend luck to aid other party members. The only requirement is that the person the Halfling wishes to aid must be visible and nearby. Only one Halfling per party can act as the luck charm of the party.

My Impression

The interesting portions of the Halfling to me rest mainly in the ability to use two-weapon fighting easily and their ‘good luck charm’ mechanic.

Two-weapon fighting granted as a class ability is quite fun. Granted you have to roll d16’s when attacking with two weapons, but that is not a horrible penalty. For some reason a Halfling fighting with a pair of daggers or short swords just feels right to me. It also gives a small statured Halfling some form of being capable in combat.

The luck mechanic for the Halfling is also a great boon for the class or even any adventuring party that includes a Halfling. One thing to remember is that the decision to expend luck can be made after the initial roll has been made. With a Halfling that can recover luck on a nightly basis, that is fairly significant and greatly improves the Halfling’s odds of survival given their slight stature.

Couple this with their ability to not only spend luck at a 2 for 1 ratio, they can also aid other party members as needed. A Halfling in the party could really affect the survivability of certain encounters if the Halfling party member can spend luck to help boost some of their rolls.

The Halfling in DCC RPG might be underestimated as a character class. I think DCC RPG has done a good job of making the Halfling a viable character race. Between two-weapon fighting and the incredible luck mechanics the Halfling can really help turn the outcome of an encounter in this game.

I think the one thing that could make the Halfling a little better in DCC RPG is to allow them to pick up some basic Thief skills. I do not know why, but when I think Halfling I always tend to think of a small, agile thief type character.

So… How does the Halfling work in actual play? I judged a game with a Halfling and the player seemed to have a great time with the character. The most memorable moment of a game with a Halfling in it was the “rolling ball of Halfling death”. With two-weapons the Halfling chose to roll out past a shield wall and amidst the middle of some attacking rats. While luck did not really come to play that round, it certainly could have and exemplified the possibilities for this character class.

Once again, despite sounding like a broken record, I think Dungeon Crawl Classics has hit the essence of a character class quite well with the Halfling character class. While I do think some thieving type skills might put it a little more on the mark, the class is still fun to play and is certainly in the ballpark as to how I think playing a Halfling should feel.

Addendum

Next week is Gen Con week. While The Iron Tavern’s Gen Con plans are up in the air, I will likely skip next week in my look at DCC RPG character classes since I suspect a lot of my readers will be at Gen Con. I will continue my look at character classes on Friday, August 24th with a look at the Wizard!