Six Magicians for Pits & Perils

This is the final installment of my series of creating basic characters for Pits & Perils.

Creating Magicians is a little different because what shapes them is not just their favored stat or background, but also the initial choice of magic spells. You could be a battle mage, a discoverer of secrets, a maker of illusions, or a necromancer. So the following six magicians are not to suggest that there are only six kinds, but rather six among many. As your magician advances, he will discover new spells, artifacts, and secrets that shape his development.

The initial spell choice may reflect either an interest or a practical consideration of the magician. The subsequent spell choices may also reflect either consideration. As such, magicians may well be the most varied characters as far as mechanical effects are considered.

That being said, mechanical effects are sometimes less important than how the character is played. Magicians only wield daggers and staves, but that does not mean they are wimpy. Perhaps they cannot take a lot of punishment, but that does not mean they cannot dish it out. A Strong Magician, for example, may be a beefy knife fighter  (previous link to off-site fictional podcast about a knife fight) preferring his weapon to offensive magic. A dexterous Magician may also be a skilled knife fighter, but preferring quick slashes and pokes to heavy strikes. A Wise Magician may well observe his foes’ patterns, and striking in the weak point of the enemy routine. Same mechanics, different flavor. Hopefully a good referee and good player takes this into account when narrating combat scenes. Perhaps this interpretation is more suited to Blood Of Pangea, but I would not rule out a thematic knife fighter who uses his magic to befuddle, debuff, and confuse his adversaries.

All spells taken from the Complete Pits & Perils.

I use 40 gp for money like the other characters I made.

Strong Magician

Background: Farmer

Spells: Mend, Obey, Cure

Gear: pack, bedroll, rations(7), staff, dagger, cloak, lamp, oil, sack, rope, 23gp

Adelaide served as wizard to a village of farmers. Her surprisingly great strength helped in restraining difficult animals, but also she could cure their diseases and fix the farmers broken equipment.

Dexterous Magician

Background: Bowyer

Spells: Ruse, Keen, Bolt

Gear: pack, bedroll, rations(7), Short Bow, arrows(20), dagger, dagger, cloak, torch(6), sack, 26gp

A bowyer by trade, Biff offsets his lack of facility with weapons with his magical powers. Even if he misses, his spellcraft gives the illusion of accuracy.

Note: I cannot imagine a bowyer not being able to fire the weapon of his creation. So this magician is allowed to fire a bow. Otherwise the same as an ordinary magician.

Intelligent Magician

Background: Fisherman

Spells: Fear, Form, Ally

Gear: pack, bedroll, rations(7), staff, cloak, dagger, lantern, oil(2), sack, sextant, rope, 7gp

Charlie uses his magic for practical purposes, often driving fish into the waiting nets of his fellow fishermen.

Wise Magician

Background: Carpenter

Spells: Lift, Find, Hole

Gear: pack, bedroll, rations(7), dagger, mallet, cloak, lantern, oil(2), sack, mirror, stakes(6), rope 6gp

Dana built cranes and assisted researchers in digging up ancient sites.

Sturdy Magician

Background: Gambler

Spells: Link, Ring, Obey

Gear: pack, bedroll, rations(7), dagger, dagger, cloak, latern, oil, sack, mirror, mule, feed(7), playing cards, 5gp

Gina cheated at cards and was good at it. When she wasn’t, her sorcery was sufficient to drive off any displeased persons.

Charismatic Magician

Background: Performer

Spells: Urge, Vine, Wink

Gear: pack, bedroll, rations(7), staff, dagger, cloak, lantern, oil, sack, shackles, rope, 18 gp

Harry earned his daily bread with parlor tricks and escape acts.


A Witch Class for Pits & Perils

After browsing several Witch related supplements for Swords & Wizardry and D&D, I thought it might be fun to make a Witch class for Pits & Perils.

There are many interpretations on the Witch, but I think something that fits in with the medieval perception that Witches made pacts with devils or other spirits would be one that fits nicely into the P&P game, given the Clerical orders devoted to the Triune God.  I figured they’d at least be suspicious of witches, if not hostile.  Adjust the flavor as needed to suit your game.

Before I begin, I want to explore the possibility of using the tools we already have in the Collected Pits & Perils.   It may be possible to just create a magician and pick the right spells to make it a Witch.  For example:

CALL – to summon the familiar

JINX – to curse a target

OBEY – to mind control a target

URGE – for witchy cantrips

MASK – for hags appearing beautiful, and vise versa

STUN – with proper narrative flavor, a terrifying hallucination that leaves the target feeling helpless: covered with biting spiders, seized and abused by demonic succubi, etc.

RISE – for riding that broom, albeit you might have to increase the movement speed to make it better

Throw in allowing the magician to make potions, I think you can do a fairly decent witch with the rules as they exist.  However, I’m going to try a custom witch now.

I want to make the description of the Witch short and sweet.  P&P is minimalist in terms of rules and class powers, so the implementation should also be minimalist.  So my goal here is this:

Something between the Magician and Alchemist

Invoking the powers of spirits not specifically aligned with Triune

And for now, I’ll stick to the mechanics of the Witch and flavor text will come later, as I’m tired.   A witch can be a man or a woman, but the mythology of witches often portrays them as female, so the female pronoun will be used here for simplicity.

The Witch begins with 1 Spell point, and gains 1 spell point every other level.   The witch knows PACT (see below) and any one spell of her choice.

The Witch can create a potion for any spell she knows that stays fresh for one day per level of the witch.

The witch can learn any magician spell, but the power does not increase with level.  Her main power lies in her ability to commune with otherworldly spirits:

The Witch begins the game having a pact with a spirit.  Describe the domain of authority of this spirit: it could be an element like fire or air, but also more abstract things like secrets, vice, luck, gain, (any of the 7 deadly sins might work well), seasons, growth, death, a type of animal, a type of plant, etc.   It might be easier to pick some spells from the spell list to help describe the nature of the spirit.  I haven’t worked this bit out yet.

The Witch can then cast the spell PACT (without spending spell points), cut herself (taking one hit) and with the blood offering cast any spell in that spirit’s domain.

At 5th and 10th level, the witch can make a pact with another spirit, provided it is not in conflict with the spirit she already has a pact.

The witch has the same HP, weapons and armor restrictions of a magician.

New Spell:

PACT – Allows the caster to access the power of a spirit with whom she has made a spiritual contract.  The caster must offer her own blood, taking one hit, to use the power.  Each spell effect requires taking another hit.  PACT spell effects can be brewed into potions, provided the witch’s blood is used in the potion.

More coming soon after I’ve had time to think about it.

How Advanced Fighting Fantasy Led Me to Pits & Perils (and BOP)

How Advanced Fighting Fantasy led me to Pits & Perils
My autistic obsession with mathematical reduction
How my desire to play games with my non-gamer wife led me to love simple rules

Part 1

When I was a kid, my autistic obsession for detail drove me to ever more complicated RPG games. D&D to MERP to Rolemaster. Then burning out, excising chunks of Rolemaster and appending it to MERP, and then condensing MERP skills to the broad categories in Lord Of the Rings Adventure Game (all three published by Iron Crown Enterprises). I was on my way to simplicity in RPG gaming, and then sex and the drama of teenage life and later adult life led me away from the hobby.

Part 2

I returned to RPGs to a) do something fun with my wife and b) get my friends to do something fun aside from stand around and chat. I’m an autist: I need my conversations to be structured and go somewhere entertaining to me.

When it came to games, my wife was certainly not a grognard . The most complicated board game I could play with her were Carcassonne or “Zombies!!!” I had to pick my games carefully. Enter Fighting Fantasy.  It was a hit.  We tried Dungeon World, but we found it way to wordy and complicated. While we had fun that one time, it was a mechanical failure.

I played FF a couple more times with my wife, and it was a success. I wanted a little more meat and potatoes to my FF, and bought Advanced Fighting Fantasy. Whoa, too many choices for her taste. It was like picking salad dressing in a supermarket.  She said something to the effect of: “I just want to be an archer who can talk to animals.” I obliged by house ruling the basic Fighting Fantasy.

Part 3

Base rule for Fighting Fantasy is this: when your character attempts an unopposed task, roll 2d6, and if it is less than or equal to your SKILL plus any modifiers, then the attempt succeeds.  For opposed actions, roll 2d6 + SKILL + modifiers, and if it’s greater than your opponants 2d6+SKILL+Modifiers, you succeed.

If you convert the unopposed check to to a roll greater than or equal to system, then the target number is 14.  2d6+7 >= 14 is identical in odds to 2d6 <= 7. I’m a big fan of uniform mechanics and roll-high, because it is easy to imagine higher numbers are a better outcome.

Your typical AFF character has a starting SKILL of 7. He could have less than 7, that is, if one puts points into MAGIC or LUCK instead.  Generally, however, one favors SKILL or MAGIC, and then putting a point or two into LUCK or STAMINA. The reason being that the SKILL score is the baseline for all Special Skills, so even if you have a Sword Skill of 4, and your base SKILL is 4, then your total combat skill is 8. Whereas if you had a base skill of 7, and 4 points in Sword, your combat skill adds up to 11.  That is a lot more impressive.

High base SKILL makes your character all around better (in a pinch) than someone with low SKILL and several points in a Special Skill. There are house rules to work around this, and give specialists some kind of extra advantage, such as automatic success when a Master at a special skill (with 4 ranks) has the time and tools to succeed (similar to Take 10 or Take 20 in Pathfinder). I got to feeling, however, that there must be a simpler way of doing character skills.

Given that your typical character will start with a SKILL of 7, why not just reduce SKILL to zero, and then reduce the target number for success to 7. Same odds, simpler math. And thus you can eliminate the SKILL stat, and just list Special Skills as bonuses to your 2d6 roll. Likewise one could do this with MAGIC also, just listing the magic special bonus for your character (Sorcery, Wizardry, Priest, or Minor) and adding that to a dice roll: target number 7. This number works out well for my taste because it represents a marginal chance of success (roughly 58% without modifiers), and nobody wants an adventure about a bunch of failures (though they can be entertaining if narrated well)

Combine this with my desire to nix the damage table for each weapon (flat damage and +1 damage for two-handed), convert the armor to a per-encounter ablative function, all magic fueled by Stamina, and ad-hoc rulings that fit the narrative, I had what I thought was my ideal abridged Advanced Fighting Fantasy.  Maybe it would be Basic Fighting Fantasy Plus or AFF Minus. There are Skills for things you try, Luck for things you can’t control, Spells if you have them, and Stamina to measure how much pain and misery you can endure.

Part 4

This obsession was frosting my ass for a couple of years. Having had no live play since my divorce (my ex-wife being my primary gaming partner), I was eager to try my revised Advanced Fighting Fantasy.  Unfortunately, I had no outlet.

In comes Pits & Perils with everything I want. Target number 7 (or 9 for combat), check. Bonus for being good at something, check. Simple damage. check. Ablative armor, check. Room for rulings, check. I discovered this gem while watching reruns of Crossbow, a medieval fantasy show from the late 1980’s. So the wave of nostalgia swept over me just as I perused the the gameplay example of the three characters exploring a tower, and I knew I just wanted to get this game.

Now I have an ad on a Meetup forum, trying to entice a group to play.

*House Rule: If you have a crossbow ready to fire, you can fire first, even if you lose initiative.

Part 5

Why Advanced Fighting Fantasy led me to Blood of Pangea
My Autistic Obession with Customization and Minimalism

What I liked so much about AFF was how you can customize your character at creation, and pursue all kinds of wacky builds (if you’re so inclined). High Skill, High Luck, Magic, lots of Stamina, good at jumping, good at climbing, good at lock picking, or stealth, or throwing spears, or several languages. There’s even a distinction between Bargaining, Conning and Etiquette: commerce, deception and polite interaction. The character sheets had an entry for “Class” but that was just for flavor. Your class is what you wanted it to be. You could do a hybrid fighter-mage-thief, but at an early state of adventuring he probably wouldn’t be especially good at any of them.

I liked the versatility of AFF, but my obsession with mathematical reduction irritated me, and I also developed a taste for simplicity due to my desire to include my wife in my gaming.

In comes Blood of Pangea, a reduced form of Pits & Perils meant for a Swords & Sorcery game world. What I like about it is how you can customize your character with but a basic narrative, and everything else flows from there. It doesn’t get much more reductionist than one numbered stat and a character description. Rules are akin to P&P, though the target number typically is 9 for all tasks (but adjusted as appropriate). I like how the Might is a universal resource for avoiding harm or achieving glorious feats. Armor is just Armor (soaks 3 points), and if you want more nuance to your armor (Leather, Chain, Plate), you can do so. My (ex)wife’s simple desire for an Archer who can talk to animals is realized in this gaming system. And my desire for customization and simplicity is satisfied by this game.

Part 6

I will conclude with a quote from “Adventurers! Exploring the Unknown”, a modified version of “Searchers Of the Unknown”, which is itself a reductionist take on D20 D&D. They managed to capture my general philosophy of Role Playing Gaming with this brief passage: “Every PC is an Adventurer with only a little customization done during the creation of the PC. The player will bring complexity and flavor to the PC through their play.” (emphasis by the Author)

[edit 2/25/18:  I got the feeling that I wasn’t entirely clear when I finished this post.  I enjoy the complexity that emerges from creative play, and not from mechanical complexity of the rule set. ]

download link for Searchers of the Unknown 2012 compilation

Skullduggery in The Hundred Acre Wood

I just finished a complete collection of all the Winnie The Pooh stories written by A A Milne.  If you can find a copy (there are several compilations about), I highly encourage you to read it.  There’s some fantastic stories about the friendships and hardships of Christopher Robin’s animal friends.

One story in particular struck me as slightly disturbing (in a good way).  In this story, Kanga and her son Roo arrive in the Hundred Acre Wood.  Rabbit doesn’t think too highly of their intrusion, so hatches a plan with his friends to kidnap Roo and hold him hostage in a hidden place until Kanga agrees to move out of the forest!

Well there’s a humorous twist to their plan, and nobody gets hurt.  In the end, Kanga and Roo stay and everyone becomes friends.  I was so surprised to see such a plot among the animals in this mythical forest.  It was interesting to see how even good-natured, lovable, almost-innocent characters can have a dark side.  It may make for some good creative fodder for later RPG adventures.

There is another story where a prolonged and heavy rain falls for days, and the forest becomes flooded.  Eventually, Christopher Robin and Pooh are on a mission to rescue Piglet before his home gets flooded out.  This is an excellent story revealing Pooh’s creativity.  Not so bad for a bear with little brain.  I’ll spare you the details so you can read it yourself.

The whole series of stories brought forth a mix of emotions: laughter, childish giggling, tears (I wept at the sweet, loving conclusions to some stories), tears again (sadness after the end of the last story), big ear to ear grins of joy.  I suggest this collection for anyone with a love of fairy tales.