Monday, October 14, 2013

Sometimes All You Need is a Little Luck - Using "Luck" in Swords & Wizardry

I like to tinker.

Very few RPG rulesets survive intact before the first session of a new campaign when placed in my hands, and Swords & Wizardry Complete is no different.

I think the Luck house rule, inspired by the DCC RPG, worked better in game then I could have ever hoped. Actually, it went so well, one of my players is considering using the same house rule, adjusted for his upcoming LotFP Weird Fantasy game. There is no greater flattery in gaming than having a creation of yours, no matter how big or small, used by another.

Anyhow, here's the latest revision to the Luck Rules, as used in my S&W Complete / Wilderlands Campaign that kicked of this past Saturday:

- Luck - 
     All characters start with 5 points of luck, adjusted as follows -
           Thieves + 2
           Clerics + 1
           Monks + 1
           Halflings + 2 (race and class bonuses are cumulative)

     Once per encounter, a player  can decide to burn luck after rolling a die or after a die roll that would effect him / her (NPC or monster attack / damage / surprise / etc)

         1 point spent equals + 2 to the roll

         2 points spent equals a reroll

         Halflings can spend their "once an encounter" luck ability on another PC at twice the                    stated cost - 2 points or 4 points

     At the end of each session players get back some luck, but in no case more than they started the campaign with:

           Thieves get back 1d4
           Clerics / Monks get back 1d3
           All other classes get back 1d2
           Halflings add + 2 to the roll
           (multi-class characters use the best class to determine the size of the die)

Note: I'm considering allowing the "burning" of luck - a permanent loss of luck (probably 1d3 points) to avoid death - the PC would instead be a "zero" HP

Certain adventures - large quests at the behest of a god or the like, may result in the permanent increase of a character's Luck total by 1d2 points. These quests would obviously be rare and dangerous.


  1. There has always been this tendency to bolt on new rules to D&D - it is very like the Model T of RPGs. Luck systems have been popular, but how about using Hit Points as Luck? They're a pre-existing mechanic, but since experienced characters get to a point where whittling down accumulated HP gets tedious, why not let them spend HP as you outlined Luck above? A point of HP gets a reroll, 2 a success, etc. Also allow NPC nemeses to do the same. I'll be using it in D&D Me at any rate.

    1. The problem with using HP is it makes the rangers (and other fighting classes with the larger HP dice) "luckier" then the thief - which I see as a class more dependent on luck.

      Besides, at higher levels, the HP buckets would get unwieldy in my opinion.

  2. Hmm... Even if thieves *are* more dependent on luck (in the sense that their special abilities entail higher rates of failure), I'm not sure why they should they be compensated with "better" luck, unless your analysis is that thieves are strictly weaker than other classes and that their faster rate of advancement is not enough of an alleviating factor. But if that's the case, why give halflings even *better* luck, when they are already much more effective thieves than humans?

    1. Not everything is strictly about game balance - sometimes you try to encourage a certain style of play.

      I find that thieves tend to be under used, and their abilities at lower levels nearly worthless - luck gives that second shot at opening a lock or avoiding a trap.

      Halflings get a bonus based in large part to The Hobbit and Bilbo being the party's lucky number.

      Clerics are touched by their gods and so are monks to some extent, therefor their slightly better then base luck.

      It's also another resource that players have to ration to some extent...

    2. also - Halflings can spend their "once an encounter" luck ability on another PC at twice the stated cost - 2 points or 4 points - basically they can use their luck to help others

      much of this is my conversion of the ability from the DCC RPG to something that feels right for me in S&W - oh, and feels right for my players too, so if nothing else, it works for us - YMMV of course

    3. Ah, fair enough. I still can't warm up to the idea that a thief should be luckier than anyone else when it comes to things like "to hit" rolls, saving throws, etc., but I appreciate what you are saying about their special abilities being next to useless at lower levels and I get the thematic element with regards to halflings as well. I'm unfamiliar with DCC, but what this does call to mind is the introduction of "fate points" in the 4th edition of the Talisman boardgame.

  3. Like it. I've been tinkering with some Luck (or Karma as I like to call it), but this is simple and straightforward.


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