Friday, April 17, 2020

GLOGhacks are my Comfort Food

It's tumultuous times. I have lots of ongoing, half-finished, scope-creeping projects, and no structure in my day to get any of them finished to my satisfaction. It's why I haven't posted in almost a month, despite this blog being one of my darlings. So instead of going higher and farther and innovating in RPG theory and pushing the bounds what an OSR game can be, I'm going to write another GLOGhack. There's some new(ish) bloggers doing the envelope-pushing who are absolutely incredible, and have inspired me by proximity to put in the work on a new as-of-yet untitled game that's going to try to incorporate a bunch of the ideas that I was too new and too chickenshit to crowbar into Mimics & Miscreants.

As for all of my "projects", I guarantee no completion. However, the stuff in this post should be broadly compatible and slottable into GLOGgy games - even M&M.
So here are my lofty aspirational goals:
  • A new combat system that doesn't ask a lot of fiddly stuff from players or the GM - whether it's weapon ability tracking, damage die balancing, or a million different wounds. That's what's in this post. It hasn't been playtested at all, but I like the core of it and I've played with lots of the ideas within.
  • Separate Meat and Grit health pools. I sing the praises of Cavegirl's Esoteric Enterprises, which introduced me to lots of the little mechanical tools I'm trying to fit in here, and this is one of the best ones. I'm taking more of an inspiration for them from video games with separate Shield and Health pools - and this is a great conceptual way to adapt them from a sci-fi setting into a fantasy one.
  • Crunchy bits, like the best part of slightly overcooked bacon. I've realized there's a bit of me that loves the crunch of fitting weird options together - not to the degree where I'll pore over obscure 3.5e splats for weeks, but enough to enjoy accidentally overpowered bullshit player option combinations. I'm including hooks and bits and bobs to appease that part of my brain, along the lines of the Fighter techniques in this post.
  • 10 level GLOG. So here's my problem: I love the speed and concision of 4 template classes, and spreading 4 templates over 10 levels hurts my soul the same way that 5e does. But I like awarding levels as session milestones, and I don't want players to end up capping out their book-granted power that quickly. I've played with this idea before, with the idea of classless upgrades in between template levels, and I'm not quite sure where I want to go with this. But I have ideas!
    • Some classes have 6 templates. Some have 4. Some have 2. Some only have 1. Mandatory multiclassing if you want to get to 10 levels. This isn't a new idea, some authors have proposed 5-template GLOG with 4-template classes for the same reason. I'm just extending it ad absurdum.
    • Optionally spreading out abilities across multiple levels, when you'd gain multiple things at one level. I hate the idea of dead levels, where you don't get anything but more hit points and your saves tick down, but a lot of the classes I write end up squeezing eight or more features into 4 templates. This is pretty easy to stretch out.
    • Abilities no longer tied to specific templates. This is a weird one and doesn't work for some classes, but I think it makes a lot of sense and I've played around with it in any class that has a table of options that you gain over time (like my Thieves, either the original one from Type1Ninja or my new Thieves' Guilds). We'll see if I can make it work.
  • I have a complicated relationship with race/folk/ancestry/background options in tabletop games. On one hand, I love the ability to mix and match folk/calling (race/class, for those of you who can read those words and not get distracted by what they signify in meatspace). On the other... race really doesn't end up having a mechanical effect on the game, certainly not to the same degree that class does. Fortunately, the OSR has an obvious answer to this problem: race-as-class! Unfortunately, that takes away the mixing and matching that I love. There's a few ways to solve this that I'm poking at - one is including race-as-class as a multiclassing option, and yes you can take levels in it after level 1 or mix and match race-as-class options, and another is includng it as a background skill, like previous failed career, putting it on similar mechanical footing to skills. Want to carve a tunnel? You could roll engineering... or you could roll Dwarf! Available to dwarves, those raised around or by dwarves, etc.
  • Failed career path table instead of Skills. I already pretty much had this, just not obviously. I love these in other games, and skills always feel like a bit of a cop-out. Overall, you'll get two rolls from your choice of the following 3 tables: a big table of generic ones, a table of folk paths, and calling-specific failed careers. It's kinda like a life path, except you can't die in the middle of it.
    • Yet.
  • Hireling rules. I've had these in the wings for like six months now, they aren't anything special, but with the number of hirelings I expect Fighters, Clerics, Jacks, etc. to end up with it's honestly a massive oversight that I haven't already.
  • Spell experimentation, like in Esoteric Enterprises. It's really good. Works like a charm. Don't have much more to say here besides the fact that it'll give me an excuse to dig up my Ways Wizards Explode chart.
  • Ability scores that are 3d6 down the line, with the option to invert them if you roll poorly, or the option to just do Esoteric Enterprises' point-buy thing where you get 3 of each value from 1 through 6 and can build your own array out of those dice, summing 3 values of your choice for each score. It just works.
  • Deed levelling! Loved it when I wrote it, and while I tend to just use milestones (or run one-shots), it's a system that fits together so much better with my playstyle than gold-for-xp.
  • d100 Alignments, yet another post I wrote and love and want to put in a proper doc so it can get the exposure it needs.
  • A solid diverse spread of weird classes and "normal" ones. Fighter, Butcher, and Fleshcrafter all have places in this system.
  • Abilities that expand diegetically, hooking into the material world of the game instead of the mechanics. See the fighter's Talismans, Scarred, and Legend-Smith for examples. You progress by doing things and getting rewarded for it in the fiction, rather than solely through abstract processes of XP accumulation and poring over item lists.
  • From Mimics & Miscreants, stuff that worked and I love
    • My GLOG levelless spell list. It's a travesty that it hasn't caught on. I'm gonna keep using it forever.
    • Modifierless. Fuck modifier tables. We use sum-to-20 in this house and never add more than 2 numbers together.
    • Scores-as-saves.
    • How You Know The Character To Your Left
Without further ado, here's my new combat rules. They aren't exactly a centerpiece - or, I'd rather they not become the centerpiece - but undeniably combat is something that I fall back on to fill time in sessions, and therefore it needs a solid procedure. Plus, it's fun.


Initiative is determined at the start of each round by everyone making a Dexterity test, or another appropriate roll for the situation. Succeed and you go before the monsters. Fail and you go after them. Players get to figure out what their characters do during these phases; actions are treated as simultaneous or whatever order the players wish.

Each turn, you get to move up to 60', and attack. You can split these, do one in the middle of the other, forego movement to take other actions like reloading or pulling levers or whatever, it's not a big deal.

You only get one attack per turn unless something says otherwise.

Don't roll to hit. All weapons deal d6 damage and are solely differentiated by what else you can use them for.

Spears and polearms are long and let you make an attack against characters who try to close to melee with you.
Daggers are concealable, lightweight, and balanced for throwing.
Hammers reduce enemy armor on a hit.
Swords mark their wielders as members of the nobility (or as someone who killed a member of the nobility and took it off their corpse) and are hard to come by.
Axes are great tools for stuff other than war, and also will fuck up a shield something fierce.
Bows can hit targets at range.
Staves and the like are, at the very least, better than fighting unarmed.

Two-handed weapons, like a battleaxe, warhammer, or greatsword roll a d8 for damage.

Dual-wielding two one-handed weapons lets you reroll 1s for damage (unless it's a 1 from missing an attack against an armored enemy), if you're in any way trained martially to do so or the weapons are small enough that you won't trip over yourself.

Unarmed attacks deal roll damage with disadvantage, and don't get the reroll benefit from dual-wielding. Grab a length of pipe at least, come on.

There's other stuff you can have in your off-hand that'll be more useful than a weapon. Torches or lanterns. Shields. Your spellbook or holy icon. A rope. Your friend's hand. Swapping items on your turn gives you disadvantage on using them (or otherwise mitigates their utility).

Player characters have two health pools, Grit and Meat. When you take damage, it first is dealt to your Grit pool. When Grit is depleted, further damage goes to your Meat pool. Grit gates Meat; if you have even one point of Grit the damage won't spill over into Meat. Grit can be restored during short and daily rests, or by magical healing, but Meat can't - it can only be healed in town.

When you drop to 0 Grit, take a Wound. A Wound is a temporary penalty to an action that lasts until you return to maximum Grit.

When you drop to 0 Meat, you may either gain a Scar and an associated permanent mechanical penalty, or make a death save. Roll your Meat dice and try to match or beat the amount of damage you've taken since you last dropped to 0 Meat. If you fail, you die.

If you're wearing armor, when monsters attack you, you may make an Armor save. Roll under your Armor value. Leather is 6, chain is 10, plate is 14. Shields give +1 armor (or, if unarmored, base AC 4). If you succeed, you take 1 damage as the attack glances off you. If you fail, they get to roll for damage. Similarly, to attack an enemy who's wearing Armor, make a d20 roll vs. the enemy's Armor Class. A failed test glances off their armor, dealing 1 damage. If you succeed, roll damage as normal.

Players who have Grit, and no Armor, can roll to Dodge. Make a Dexterity test. If you succeed, the attacker rolls damage with disadvantage. If you fail, they roll with advantage.

After damage is rolled, a defender can voluntarily sunder their shield or helm (if they've got one handy) to reduce an attack's damage by 1d12, but the shield or helm breaks and falls to the ground.

If you want to make a called shot or trip an enemy or some other maneuver, make a skill test as part of your attack. If you succeed on the test, the maneuver works as well as the attack dealing damage. If you fail, the maneuver fails, and the attack only deals 1 damage.

Roll over your current Encumbrance to successfully retreat from battle. You may drop items to decrease the target number. Success means you scape into the previous area/corridor/etc, wherever's safe and nearby. Enemies get a chance to pursue you into that area; they must make a d20 roll over your retreating roll.

When you start the game, begin with max Grit and max Meat.

Once per day, you can eat lunch. Spend an exploration turn and a ration. Roll your Grit dice and restore that much Grit.
During a daily rest, with eight uninterrupted hours of sleep and a full meal of rations, return to maximum Grit.
Back in town, a week of proper downtime (i.e. no sudden movements, bar brawls, a roof over your head, 3 square meals a day) will restore you to maximum Meat.

by Matt Dunbar
"You call combat a fail-state, and yet you keep hiring folks like me."

Hit Dice: d8 Grit, d8 Meat
Failed Career: 1. City Guard, 2. Criminal, 3. Gladiator, 4. Hunter, 5. Knight, 6. Soldier
Starting Equipment: 4 random weapons or 2 weapons of choice and 1 random weapon, chainmail armor, helm or shield, scar with history.

Level 1: Tools of the Trade, Trophies, 1 Technique
Level 2: Threat Assessment, Scarred, +1 Technique, +1 Grit die
Level 3: Commander, +1 Technique, +1 Meat die
Level 4: Legend-Smith, +1 Technique, +1 Grit die, +1 Meat die

Techniques: You've trained, and warred, and learned from the mistakes of your allies, self, and enemies. These techniques of battle have ingrained themselves into your muscle memory. See below for a d20 list (not all-inclusive). Feel free to reflavor them into whatever fits your concept - special moves, a fighting style, a property of your weapons and armor...

Tools of the Trade: You have an additional 4*level inventory slots, exclusively for weapons, shields, and armor. You may switch weapons and held items during combat on your turn for free.

Trophies: Whenever you personally kill an enemy, you can take a trophy from their corpse or gear. So long as you have the trophy prominently displayed to your enemies, or constantly reminding you of its presence, you have a small benefit related to their abilities. Can't be more significant than a technique, niche skill, +1 armor, or advantage on initiative rolls. Each trophy takes up an inventory slot, all must be visibly unique, and no two can have the same ability.

1d20 trophies, retrieved from the corpses of lesser fighters you bested in battle
1. A baleful-star warlock's cracked telescope
2. A berzerker's nose ring
3. A noble's glass eye
4. A skull pulled from the sludgy remnants of a gelatinous cube
5. A splinter of mimic meatwood, twisted mid-ambush
6. A vampire's cracked silver chalice, still filled with dried blood
7. An owlbearskin cape that lets you glide
8. Bag of saffron off a nobleman's chef
9. Bloodspattered page of a mage's spellbook
10. Hairball hocked up by a dying goblin
11. Hip flask full of jellied dwarven liquor
12. Locket with a picture of a mercenary's sweetheart
13. Scrap of a cultist's unholy standard
14. Scrap of a necromancer's dried, tattooed skin
15. Scrimshawed shark tooth
16. Silver piece paid to an assassin to kill you
17. The hilt of a rival's sundered rapier
18. The luminous eye of a machine from beyond the stars
19. The visor of a duke's helm
20. Vial of acid-preserved troll brain
Threat Assessment: You can ask the GM one question about the capabilities of an enemy force for every 10 uninterrupted minutes you have to observe them, or ask a question about a specific enemy when you hit them in combat.

Scarred: Whenever you take a Scar, in addition to taking a permanent penalty, take a permanent bonus of similar weight based on the lesson you learned from the scar. When you gain this ability, you may retroactively apply it to any scars you've gained in the past.

Commander: You have the reputation to hire a band of mercenaries on the promise of equal shares of the loot. They count as hirelings, and bring their own equipment, supplies, and weapons. One, your lieutenant, has a level in a non-casting class. You can hire up to level*d6 mercenaries at any town; their equipment and quality will depend on the town itself. If you lose their respect, or the shares can't cover their expenses... well, they're mercenaries. They go where the coin flows.

Legend-Smith: Whenever you personally kill a powerful, renowned enemy, you can write the weapon you used to strike the killing blow into legend. When you do, it becomes a magic weapon, empowered by your mighty deed. Name it, give it an appropriately legendary epithet, and it gains a supernatural ability based on the enemy you killed and how you killed them. A bow shot halfway across a battlefield may no longer have a maximum range. An axe that decapitates an archmage may shatter curses and banish summons. A sword that kills a king may bestow the right of kingship on its wielder. A weapon does not grow in magical power the more great deeds it performs (this only works once per weapon), but its reputation may grow - and reputation is its own sort of magic, in a way.

d20 Techniques
1. Ablate: You may sunder your shields and helms twice, and may sunder your own weapons as if they were shields (but only once per weapon).
2. Bastion: Unarmored people behind you can benefit from half your Armor Class.
3. Beastmaster: You have a pet! It has a d3 of Grit and a d3 of Meat, deals d6 damage, one special ability (like flying, poison spit, or being large enough to ride), and you control it on your turn. If it dies, you can train another beast when you're back in town.
4. Brawler: While you're unarmed, you count as dual-wielding, and make an extra attack on turns where you're fighting unarmed.
5. Cleave: When you kill an enemy, you may immediately make another attack against another enemy within range.
6. Combat Reflexes: At the start of each round, instead of rolling initiative, you can choose whether to go before or after the monsters. Doesn't work in surprise rounds.
7. Esoteric Armory: Step up the damage die size of any weapon you wield against an intelligent enemy unfamiliar with the weapon.
8. Fireblood: Whenever you deal damage, you may deal additional damage by spending Grit or Meat. 1 spent point = +1 damage.
9. Giantslayer: You can wield weapons made for creatures larger than you. When you do so, you can never go before enemies in initiative, but you roll a d10 for damage.
10. Gourmand: Once per day, when you eat a full meal, restore all your Grit.
11. Opportunist: Once per round, you can make a free attack against an enemy that enters the range of your weapon.
12. Parry & Riposte: When you successfully Dodge, you may attack back.
13. Precise: Reroll 1s for damage. If you already would reroll 1s on that damage roll, reroll 1s and 2s; if you would already reroll 1s and 2s, reroll 1s, 2s, and 3s, etc.
14. Push Through: Once per day, when you would take a Wound or choose to take a Scar, you may ignore it and restore 1 Grit.
15. Reaver: Whenever you deal maximum damage with an attack, you may inflict a Wound.
16. Shieldbreaker: Whenever you deal damage, 1 point of dealt damage goes directly to Meat regardless of the enemy's Grit or Armor.
17. Sneak Attack: When you attack an opponent who doesn't know you're there, ignore Grit and Armor. Once you've hit them with this technique, they know you're there.
18. Splatterjack: When you roll maximum damage on one of your damage dice, you can roll it again and add that to the result.
19. Tactician: You may forego an action on your turn in order to provide an ally with an action of the same type. Forego your attack to let an ally make an additional attack; move for move, etc.
20. Tough as Nails: Increase your Armor Class by 2. If you're unarmored, you have an Armor Class of 4. You can still Dodge when unarmored, despite having an Armor Class.


  1. This is really exciting, look forward to seeing more!
    I'm also interested in including as many tables like the techniques here, and in Typ1Ninja's Rogue into Classes, and trying to do it, as I think it might be a nice way to increase class customization but still keeping compatibility with 4-template GLOG.
    What are your opinions on the ability upgrading mechanic you used for your Thieve's Guilds? I wonder if that's a way to reduce dead levels and stretch things out without compromising the GLOG's 'get everything cool as quick as possible', thanks to the 4-level template.

    1. I'm a little ambivalent on the upgrading mechanic, not in a vacuum, but as it applies to the GLOG. It requires a lot more ideas-per-class, and as a progression system it really wants to replace templates instead of supplementing them. It also feels extraneous, having both a d20 table and a set of upgrading abilities for the same class, and given the choice between the two I think the GLOG plays nicer with the table.

      That said, the upgrading abilities would make for a fantastic game in their own right, taking more cues from PBTA games and trying to create a less procedure-based experience.

    2. I think you're right, I had similar thoughts and ended up abandoning the idea - particularly with a focus on more mix-and-match abilities like the d20 tables.

  2. Also, I'd be curious to know more about your playstyle, and how it meshes better with milestone instead of gold for xp?

    1. Oh! It's not super deep - I just really, really don't like doing math. Summing treasure hoards and checking XP tables (or, worse, trying to balance or adjust hoards) is something I try to avoid at all costs, and deed levelling has the added benefit of not tying all advancement to wealth; fame and good deeds (or evil ones) can do the same.

    2. That makes sense :) I share your dislike of maths!

  3. I remember somewhere somebody suggesting "unlocking" classes as the campaign goes on (maybe it's a fever dream I had and put in somebody else's mouth to justify my finding it great :D), that's however something that would mesh really well in my opinion with your 10 level/4 templates problem.

    You could have "racial" (cultural?) classes, that grant a certain number of templates and are obligatory at character creation. Other 4-templates classes are unlocked and thrown into the sheet during actual play.
    That seems also to be a potential "fix" to the milestone issue of not necessarily motivating players: while level up is disconnected from hoarded treasure and to a degree to their action (I'm not suggesting you don't take them into account, I'm just stating there is no obvious mechanical correlation), the possibility to branch out is directly connected to scrolls detailing samurai techniques, grumpy goblins teaching filth magic, gnomish inventors explaining how their machines work and so on.

    You could also codify the different "template length" to this - racial classes are shorter, maybe 2 templates, while standard ones have 4. A fully-leveled character in that way has access to 2 classes and their races' worth of templates, with no dead levels and a great incentive to go adventuring around the world in order to get new options!


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