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Sunday 10 December 2017

Medieval Life was on "Hard" Mode, & Lion & Dragon is OSR on 'Hard' Too

My Medieval-Authentic OSR game, Lion & Dragon, is finally coming out sometime in the next week.

And on that subject, I wanted to ask you all something.  One of the criticisms some people make of OSR play (and by 'some people' I mean mainly later-edition D&D players) is that OSR play is 'too gritty', it's too easy to die, it's just too lethal.

Well, I was thinking about this, and of course, I designed L&D to be MORE gritty, and more dangerous than standard OSR games.  Now, I'm not talking about something idiotic like the 'fantasy fucking vietnam' style of D&D where the GM is out to kill you or what-have-you, but I mean the standard elements of making Medieval-Authentic play.  Here's some of the ways L&D is more challenging than standard D&D:

1. In a game about resources, you may have way less resources.  If your PC is of low social class, he may never have touched money. His armor will be of lower quality than what a noble can get, and probably always will be, because the nature of the actual society is that it isn't just our world in 2017, so even if a noble is really really nice to you, he shouldn't be giving you plate mail. Getting a rich friend or patron can help, but the better arms and armors he'll give you will still be shittier than his own.
Of course if you luck out and get to play the noble in question, you've got it a lot better. That's just luck of the draw! But don't think that plate mail will save you because...

2. It's not just combat that can kill you. Oh, sure, there's always been poisons and traps and whatnot. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about how in L&D, if you survive a fight, in fact if you slaughter the crap out of your opponent, but he gets a nick in, there's always a chance that nick will lead to a little infection, which will lead to a big infection, which will lead to you going out like Khal Drogo, except your arranged-marriage wife probably won't even end up with any dragons in the bargain.
But that's not all!  Want to go into a city? Great. There's a chance you could die of dysentery.  Of course, the game still has Clerics with the power to heal, but...

3. Religion is actually serious, and potentially deadly. Want to be healed? Great. But you better be able to demonstrate that you are a faithful worshipper, or you won't be getting the answer to your liquid diarrhea from the Church.
Yes, one Church. Protestantism hasn't been invented yet. Your options are the Church or insane Chaos cults.  The Clerics have a strict militant-order set of rules inspired by the knights templar, and if they think you're not worthy of divine grace then you damn well better promise to go on a crusade or do some other holy work to earn your miracle.  And if they think you're a cultist, witch, or heretic, they'll help your dysentery problem by having a nice bonfire.
Of course, wizards can heal too in this game, just that it's complicated for them, because...

4. The system is grittier too.  
Magic-users don't do Vancian casting, and most of their magic requires preparation in advance. It often requires materials, like an alchemical lab. It requires having ingredients and money, requiring either social class or patrons.
Characters start at 0 level.
At level 1 they're usually a stronger than the average OSR lv.1 character, but after that they don't gain as much per level.  Characters of higher levels will usually have less hit points than their other-game equivalents, and worse saves.
There's an optional critical system that's also just brutal.

So... what do you think about all that? Music to your ears? Or are you not a fan of playing in Medieval-Authentic "Hard" mode?


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  1. Think L&D is bad you should try reality. You get killed in reality you can't roll up a new character. Hell, you have no choice at all as to the value of your characteristics, and the mechanics are obscure to say the least.

    And forget game balance. In fact you have no guarantee you'll be able to handle any encounter. And even if you do prevail common RPG behavior is frowned upon in reality and very often bears consequences.

  2. Sounds fine to me. Did you riff off of Chivalry & Sorcery at all, either to immitate or to consciously try to avoid?

    1. Neither one. I never played C&S, I never read it cover to cover, and I doubt this will be very similar at all.

  3. I imagine surviving an adventure only to die of dysentery or infection in the city afterwards would cause a lot of players to look for a different game. Although real, it comes off as arbitrary , and I'd avoid leave it to NPC.

    1. It's unfortunate you're required to play it and use all the rules as written.

    2. The rules are malleable, actually. Infection, disease and crits are all optional rules.

    3. I think Matt Celis was being a bit tongue in cheek :) I'm looking forward to it, though I agree I'm inclined to be rather lenient with random or ignoble deaths, depending on the situation.

  4. 1. I like that. I do it myself. If players start out low with fewer resources, I reason that they have a wider social support network. More people in the village looking out for them. Literally. Players can be anything they want. So, if they create princelings and children of master thieves, I balance it out with disadvantages - they have blood of a royal family that wants them dead, for instance.

    2. I Use Gygax DMG rules for disease. It covers both, an annual chance of catching something and chance of disease from exposure.

    3. Great Idea about the church. I strive for something similar with all the guilds and institutions that offer players power. Few things are given freely and without strings attached.

    4. I like the principle that the more lethal the game, the more it should be player's decisions and consequences and less the random roll of the dice. The problem I see with rules lite OSR games is that rules are too simple that they can either be min maxed and power played, or player choices amount to little in the face of the power of the dice. To avoid this, I use the infamous weapons vs armor table in Gygax DMG, also, I researched all of the weapons and how they were meant to be used, and players get tactical advantage if they match their weapons with their historic tactics, I also added another mechanic where weapon speed and reach play a role, for a system where a thinking player can defeat a die rolling one.

    1. RE: you have this written down/published anywhere? I have struggled for years to make a weapon vs. AC table that I liked and it remains one of my quixotic quests in life to find one...

    2. Did you try the one in Arrows of Indra? It's less complex than the one in AD&D.

    3. No. That came out when my RPG budget was *free* and since then, there have always been other things in that price range which garnered more interest. Is it something I should take more seriously?

    4. Well, it's a great OSR game for gaming in indian-mythology. But I brought it up because it has weapon-vs-AC rules.

  5. I use the one in Gary GYgax's Player's Handbook page 38. Another hidden gem to consider is the Weapons Table in Tunnels and Trolls. For whatever reasons it is compiled largely of exotic weapons like Assegai (African leaf blade spear), Bhuj (Indian axe dagger) etc. That's how I started looking into weapons, to see what all those weird and exotic names meant. It really added flavor to my campaign. Assegai became an Elven dueling spear with an ornate Mithril slashing blade shaped like a leaf. Razor sharp Bhujes were used first, by Halfling pirates and later by Dwarven raiding parties to slash the tackle (weight holding ropework) on ships and in mines.