Thursday, April 18, 2013

Swords And Colonialism: A Colonial Horror Hack for SnW

I'm pretty impressed with how the OSR blogosphere as been blowing up with Swords & Wizardry-related posts for this, the first ever Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day. Reading everyone's posts has inspired me to add more to the discussion. At first, I thought that I'd add some monsters or something small like that, but then Reverend Dak's post about Firearms mixed inside my brain with my thoughts about the S&W White Box, my own d11 system and all of my crazy ruminations on the hexcrawl to create Swords & Colonialism, a story-based simple RPG based loosely on American colonial history.

Swords & Colonialism: Basics

  • This is a White Box hack. The White Box is used to keep stat inflation and influence of ability scores down to a minimum. Further, due to the d11 system being in use for non-combat task resolution, classes like the thief are relatively pointless since pretty much anyone can do thief-like stuff. Using White Box rules actually beefs up those who would otherwise be thieves in other rules sets by giving them either extra combat ability (if they're really a Fighter) or some other schtick (if they're really a Cleric or Magic User). 
  • This game uses the d11 system and, as such, all non-combat tasks are resolved through it. This rule set implies that the game narrative will be influenced by some random advantages and disadvantages as Things Get Better or Things Get Worse, as decided by the players and DM. 
  • While it's designed to be a sort of hexcrawl, it will fit well in settlement-based and site-based adventures as well. Site-based adventures (read: dungeons) don't tend to fit into the genre of Colonial Gothic-type stories, but can be worked with a little bit of flair. Lost Spanish missions, secret caverns of pre-Columbian horror (replete with local Indian legends) and the haunted mines of doomed prospectors would be par for the course. 
  • Experience points would come from the usual sources, but also from exploration, particularly for discovering strange things and valuable resources. Particularly valuable finds might net the PCs awards over time as those resources are exploited. 

Swords & Colonialism: Classes

  • Fighting Man: As per normal, but adds one point of damage to every die of damage for every four levels of experience. The Combat Machine class feature, when used with firearms, may only be used with firearms that hold multiple rounds (usually multiple-barreled weapons). 
    • Examples: John Smith, George Washington
  • Man of Faith: The Man of Faith is an evangelist and missionary who seeks to tame the wilds beyond civilization and drive back the forces of Chaos that seeks to erode the dominion of men from within. Despite their zealotry, Men of Faith often find allies outside of both their own religion and civilization, acting as often on behalf of natives of the wilds as they do on behalf of "civilized" men. If anything, Men of Faith maintain the poorest opinion of civilized men, whom they often see as vacillating  weak and open to corruption. The Turn Undead class feature is replaced with Repel Blasphemy, which functions similarly to Turn Undead, but also effects monsters such as demons (Chaotic Men of Faith may Repel different Blasphemies). 
    • Examples: Cotton Mather (sort of), Brigham Young
  • Man of Letters: The Man of Letters is one of the leading intellectuals of colonial society. He adventures beyond the bounds of civilization for knowledge's sake and count naturalists, artists, poets, chemists, spiritualists, transcendentalists and speculative theologists among their number. Functionally, they are identical to Magic-Users, flavoring their spells as reflections of their particular intellectual idiom (thus, a poet may manifest Sleep as a terribly long and boring poem whereas a chemist might release sleep-inducing gas). 
    • Examples: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson

Swords & Colonialism: Firearms

  • The firearms in use will be at absolute best flintlocks. Wheellocks and doglocks still exist, but aren't widely available; matchlocks may even still be found on occasion, but rarely for sale as anything but an oddity. Most of that won't matter, but there it is. What with this being White Box, all damage done is d6. 
  • The three major types of firearms available are pistols, muskets and rifles. 
    • Pistols are up to 16" long and usually only have one shot unless they have multiple barrels. Multiple barrels can make accurate aiming difficult, and such weapons take an additional -1 penalty at medium range and -2 at long range. For this reason (and the fact that multi-barrel pistols are often very expensive), most serious shootists prefer a brace of several pistols (and sometimes henchmen to reload them). The range increment for a pistol is 30 feet. 
    • Muskets are smooth-bored long weapons and thus quick to reload. They may be loaded with a single slug (if firing a single slug, the damage is at +1) or buckshot (which hits all targets in a specified cone unless a saving throw is made). The range increment for a musket is 50 feet. 
    • Rifles are so-named because of the fact that their barrels are rifled, a process which etches  spiraling grooves on the inside of the barrel which makes the slug spin (and thus become more accurate at longer ranges) and muzzle-loading take longer than usual. The range increment for a rifle is 200 feet. 
  • All sorts of modifications and customizations can be done to firearms, but this is neither the time nor place for that. 
  • It takes an attack action to load a pistol or a musket. Rifles require two rounds' worth of attack actions to reload, a task perhaps best left to henchmen. 

Other Stuff

  • To make the game slightly more narrativist tack, non-combat task resolution will be handled with the d11 system, with modifiers based on relevant ability scores (never more than +1 nor less than -1 per White Box rules). This makes skill adjudication a straight up and down, success or failure result, but with the added narrative flavor of the Things Get Better and Things Get Worse results. Please note that Things Getting Better or Worse based on the initial, unmodified result of a d11 die roll; modifiers are added after it is determined whether Things Get Better or Worse. 
  •  A careful line should be drawn between being historically accurate and playing heroic characters. When in doubt, or when a course of action strays too close to "historically accurate racism," err on the side of fun. Things like slavery and the treatment of American Indians by colonist are best left off-camera or the sorts of icky aspects of civilization that the characters explore the wilds to avoid. 
  • A non-armor AC-improvement mechanism may need to be considered, but I'd leave it out initially. Instead, I'd focus on the importance of entering cover. Like Dak suggests, entering cover should be a move action. 
So, there you have it. My totally crappy White Box hack designed for adventuring in the wilds of colonial America. Thanks to +Dak Ultimak for the firearms rules. Well done, sir. Another huge thanks goes out to +Erik Tenkar & +Christopher Helton for putting the S&W Appreciation Day together and to +Matt Finch for making Swords & Wizardry a thing in the first place. The sheer ton of blog posts (most far more interesting than my own) that went out today were impressive and made my day. Thanks guys!