Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Boons: Modular Options for OSR Games

 

Art by Bill Willingham 
 Art by David S. LaForce

I’ve been circling around the question of ‘character options’ for OSR style games for a little while now. My players seem to appreciate small custom perks, beyond what the B/X bare bones class progression provides. Up to now, we’ve been using a very loose system of ‘character knacks’-- every few levels, the players come up with a niche skill that grants a small bonus to an ability check within its purview. It’s gone fairly well. Knacks make leveling up a little more dynamic, but I’ve found their use within the scope of play is somewhat limited (it's maybe once every three or four sessions that a knack seems to be useful). Now that I'm planning a new game, I wanted to design a system of modular character options that were a little more structured, a little more powerful. Something closer to what we might normally think of as ‘feats’ from later editions, but working within the scope of B/X mechanics. After a few days of tinkering, I’ve come up with the beginning of a feat-like system for B/X and OSR retroclones. I call them Boons. It’s a skeleton of a system and will definitely see some expansion and tailoring, but here’s the start of something.

BOON SYSTEM

Progression: Characters begin with 1 Boon at 1st level. This Boon can be selected from the appropriate class category, or the 'Adventurer Boons' list, which is available to all characters. Every 3rd level (3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th, etc.) a character can take a new Boon.

Mastering Boons: Many Boons can be taken twice and therefore ‘mastered’. Mastered boons often grant a further increase of benefit through additional advantage dice, or an increased numeric bonus. 

Advantage Die: A Boon will often call for an ‘advantage die’ to be rolled, within the scope of its effect. In this case, add an additional die of whatever die type is being called for by the general rule. Roll the total dice, discard the lowest showing die in the group, and keep the remaining highest dice. If two ‘advantage dice’ are being called for, discard the two lowest facing dice and keep the remaining highest dice. [Note: in the case of tests where “lower is better”, this logic is reversed.]

Types of Boons

  • Adventurer Boons (available to any class)
  • Arcane Boons (Magic Users & Elves)
  • Divine Boons (Clerics)
  • Fighting Boons (Fighters, Dwarves, Elves & Halflings)
  • Roguish Boons (Thief)

Adventuring Boons

  • Reactive- Add an advantage die to Initiative & Surprise tests.
  • Observant- Add an advantage die to all Detect, Search & Listen checks.
  • Ability Score Increase- Add 1 point to an ability score of your choice.
  • Fleet Footed- Add +10’ to encounter movement rate. Move up to your full distance with a Fighting Withdrawl.
  • Tumbling Fall- Ignore the first 20’ of falling damage. Reduce subsequent falling damage by 50%.
  • Rapid Healing- Double amount of natural healing through rest.
  • Inspiring Leader- Gain an advantage die to Retainer Reaction rolls & Loyalty checks.

Arcane Boons

  • Arcane Memory- Memorize 1 extra spell of highest known spell level or lower.
  • Arcane Spell Recall- A spell you just cast isn’t lost from memory; 1/ day. [Mastery-use ability  2/ day]
  • Enlarge Spell- Extend area of spell’s effect by 50%
  • Prolong Spell- Extend duration of a spell by 50%
  • Extend Spell- Extend range of spell by 50%
  • Empower Spell- Damaging spells gain an advantage die. [Mastery-gain 2 advantage dice]
  • Cantrip- You can cast one 1st level non-combat spell once per encounter. This spell must be in your spellbook, but it doesn’t need to be memorized and is cast automatically without components.
  • Reverse Caster- When you memorize a reversible spell, you automatically memorize its reverse as an additional spell. This spell doesn't count against your spell memorization limit.

Divine Boons

  • Divine Favor- Memorize 1 extra spell of highest known spell level or lower.
  • Powerful Turning- 1 advantage die to turning attempts [Mastery- 2 advantage dice]
  • Extra Turning- Turn twice per encounter
  • Versatile Healer- Convert any memorized spells to healing spell of same level or lower.
  • Powerful Healer- Roll one advantage die for any healing spell. [Mastery- 2 advantage dice]
  • Divine Spell Recall- A spell you just cast isn’t lost from memory; 1/ day. [Mastery- 2/ day]
  • Enlarge Spell- Extend area of spell’s effect by 50%
  • Prolong Spell- Extend duration of a spell by 50%
  • Extend Spell- Extend range of spell by 50%
  • Empower Spell- Damaging spells gain an advantage die. [Mastery-2 advantage dice]

Fighting Boons

  • Weapon Proficiency- Choose a single weapon type. Gain +1 attack/ +1 damage when wielding it. [Mastery- Gain +2 attack/ +2 damage with same weapon]
  • Rapid Attack- Increase attack rate of a single weapon you have mastered. Must have achieved mastery in the ‘Weapon Proficiency’ boon to take this. Rate of attack increases to 3:2 rounds. [Mastery- Rate of attack increases to 2:1 round]
  • Great Weapon Warrior- No initiative penalty applies when wielding two handed weapons.
  • Long Shot- Range of missile weapons increase by 50%
  • Charger- Gain a +2 attack bonus and a +2 damage bonus when charging 20’ or more into melee.
  • Two Weapon Fighter- Fight with a small weapon in off hand & make a single extra attack. No damage modifier applies to secondary attack. [Mastery- Fight with a medium sized weapon in each hand]
  • Brawler- Fists and feet deal d4 damage. [Mastery- Deal d6 damage]
  • Minion Slayer- If you kill a creature of 1 HD or less, make another immediate attack against another 1 HD creature within melee range. [Mastery- 2nd level creatures or less]
  • Guardian- Forgo a combat action and take a defensive stance. You or an adjacent ally gains a +3 to AC until your next combat turn.

Roguish Boons

  • Improved Backstab- Gain a x 3 damage multiplier to backstab. [Mastery- x 4 damage multiplier]
  • Stealthy Move- Move at half movement rate as part of a ‘Hide in Shadows’ action. [Mastery- Move stealthily at full movement rate]
  • Spider Climber- Use ‘Climb Surfaces’ ability as part of a movement action. Climb at normal movement rate.
  • Thief Skill Expertise- Choose one of the standard Thief Skills (climb surfaces, find/ remove traps, hear noise, hide in shadows, move silently, open locks, pick pockets). When a percentile test is rolled, the result can be ‘flipped’ for a better result. (83 becomes 38 and so on). Must be taken for each individual skill.


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