Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Writing an OSR(?) game from memory, Part 4: Encumbrance, exploration, encounters, combat, morale

This is a lot harder than I thought it would be and, as usual, I'm losing interest. Perhaps I shall make one last valiant effort to complete the Men & Magic portion of the rules.


Encumbrance represents the effect of weight carried. In general, the starting tools, sundries, and worn armor carried into the dungeon or wilderness are not weighed and tallied but weapons, additional armor, and any items acquired during expeditions ARE tallied.

Weights cause characters to move more slowly: For characters wearing armor, use the worst of the two movement values below (for example, a character wearing plate but carrying less than 50 lbs has a combat speed of 30')
Weight Carried | Combat Speed | Exploration Speed
less than 50 lbs | 40' | 120'
50-100 lbs | 30' | 90'
101-150 lbs | 20' | 60'
151-200 lbs | 10' | 30'
more than 200 lb* | 5' | 15'
*The referee may rule that certain weights or unwieldy masses allow no movement whatsoever.

Encounters & Exploration

Time is the essential factor of the game. The referee should obtain a calendar of some sort to track days, weeks, and months accurately. Smaller, but no less important, units of time include the round (1 minute) and the turn (10 minutes). Rounds are mostly used to track time in combat while turns are used to track exploration. It is assumed that a party will move as fast as its slowest member in order to maintain formation and defense; if a full retreat is being enacted then no such compulsion exists.

Encounters (Wandering Monsters)
For every two turns spent exploring, there is a 1-in-6 chance that a random encounter will occur. These encounters may be native monsters, invaders, or other adventurers. The monster will be up to 2d6x10 feet away in dungeons or yards in the wilderness; randomly determine its point of entry, ignoring illogical routes such as the empty room the party just left. Note that more encounters can occur during combats due to either third parties or reinforcements.

If the party does not have lights in the dungeon or is in the wilderness during active hours, both sides have a 2-in-6 chance of being surprised.
If the party does have lights  in the dungeon or is in the wilderness during resting hours, the encounter only has a 1-in-6 chance to be surprised while the party has the normal 2-in-6 chance of being surprised.
The referee may rule that particularly large, reckless, or conspicuous groups have no chance of surprising opponents. Surprised opponents are essentially helpless for one round. Note that some enemies will have reduced or increased chances of being surprised based on other factors: If the Knights of The Fang know the party is the west wing of Castle Carmine, they only have a 1-in-6 chance of being surprised upon finding the party; if the know the party is trapped in the Anti-Temple, the Knights will not be surprised; and if the party some manages to out with the Knights and encounters the neophytes performing cursory duties in the East Wing they have a 3-in-6 chance of being surprised.

Not all encounters, even those between Lawfuls and Chaotics, need be combat. In some cases, a reaction will be obvious; Retainers of the Baronet who sponsors the party should have no reason to attack unless they or the party are traitors; Hobgoblins have no reason to be friendly and every reason to attack a party who has penetrated their warrens. When the referee has no strong idea of how an encountered character will react, he should roll below, applying the reaction modifier of the party member with the highest Charisma (unless the party wishes to nominate someone else as their "face").

2d6 | Reaction | Possible Actions
2-3| Hostile | Attack, offer horrible deal
4-5| Unfriendly | Insult, draw weapons, offer bad deal
6-7| Indifferent | Ignore, offer normal deal
8-9 | Unsure | Observe, retreat, hide
10-11| Friendly | Non-combat aid, offer good deal
12| Helpful | Combat aid, offer great deal

The referee may wish to make adjustments to the reaction roll based on biases: An anti-cleric may not immediately attack a cleric but it will sour his demeanor, while a judicator may put a whole party to the sword due the presence of an anti-cleric.


Combat Structure
Combat is joined when the party attacks or is attacked. The order of combat is as follows:
S1. Determine surprise
S2. Unsurprised sides declare actions
S2a. Roll initiative (1d6) for each unsurprised side if there are multiple; the highest scoring side acts first
S3. Unsurprised movement occurs
S4. Unsurprised ranged attacks occur
S5. Unsurprised spells occur
S6. Unsurprised melee attacks occur
S7. Once all unsurprised sides have acted, normal combat begins
1. All sides declare actions
2. Roll initiative (1d6) for each side; the highest scoring side acts first
3. Movement occurs
4. Ranged attacks occur
5. Spells occur
6. Melee attacks occur
7. Repeat until slaughter, surrender, ceasefire, or retreat

Morale & Loyalty
Even among monsters, few will fight to the death. Monsters have morale while henchmen have loyalty: Both are fundamentally the same.
Monsters check morale when 30% or more of their group are dead or if they only have 30% or less hp remaining; they will flee if possible or surrender if unable.
Henchmen check loyalty when 30% or more of their party are dead, if they only have 30% or less hp remaining, or if their leader is reduced to 25% or less hp; they will flee if possible or surrender if unable. Henchmen automatically fall loyalty checks if their leader dies.
To check morale or loyalty, roll 2d10: If the result is equal or lower then the character acts normally.
As always, the referee may modify morale scores to reflect circumstances: A group who knows there is no escape and that they will be killed even if they surrender is likely to fight to the last.

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