Old School Renaissance – Eclipse World Template

I put up the first three articles in this series – defining why simulationist world-view is a vital part of old-school gaming, why such rules sets aren’t actually at all “simple”, and how the consequences of those choices leads to “old school” results – quite some time ago – but referring back I discovered that I had forgotten to post the last article in the series. So here it is, however belatedly.

So how do you need to tweak the rules to use Eclipse to play an old-school game?

That’s actually pretty simple for the players and relatively simple for the game master – who can simply disregard a lot of complicated rules about advanced class abilities. In general, the rules adjustments required are…

  • Players may only select basic +0 ECL Races for their characters.

This is old school. We don’t want complicated characters who need a lot of explanation or complicated backstories to justify their existence.

  • Characters gain only 12 CP per level past level zero.

With this restriction a character just won’t have the points to buy complicated chains of special abilities – and will be considerably weaker (as well as far more human) at any given level. Scouting out the opposition, fighting only when absolutely necessary, and arranging for every advantage that you can possibly get will become necessities for survival.

  • Characters highest and lowest base saves may not be more than six points apart.

Not a major element, but it’s important to retain the sense of gradually-increasing all-around competence, rather then swiftly-developing super-powers.

  • Characters can attempt special maneuvers without any special ability. Options like “Forget defense, I’m going for a mighty roundhouse blow” or “I’ll settle for half damage if I can spread out the fireball to a 30 foot radius” will have advantages and disadvantages dependant on how much sense they make in the situation and how plausible they are. The mechanical “cost” will usually be larger than the mechanical benefit – except for the fact that you’ll be trading something you don’t care much about at the moment for that benefit. Good descriptions and narrative may be worth a small bonus on their own at the game masters discretion.

This is a pretty standard thing in a lot of games – including mine – but a lot of game masters no longer seem to understand that if a character wants to do something that’s clearly plausible in the setting, but that the rules don’t cover, then it’s the game masters job to expand on the rules. A lot of players no longer seem to understand that their character can attempt everything that he or she could reasonably do, whether or not there’s an ability on his or her character sheet that provides specific modifiers for it.

  • Characters may not simply roll for any important action; they need to provide a description of what they’re doing. A really good description may provide bonuses on the roll or even obviate the need for rolling at all, providing an automatic success.

This is also pretty standard in many games. Some even extend it to combat rolls, although even most of those will limit it to special occasions when it comes to combat. Wading through those sixteen goblins (who have no real chance of stopping you) just doesn’t call for a blow-by-blow description. A good tactical description will still be worth a bonus though.
Characters of level 8+ who opt to build and maintain a fortification, castle, mage-tower, guild hall, or similar structure, get followers to fill it as per the “Leasership” ability. Single higher-level figures may represent groups of lower-level types as per the mass combat rules.

  • Experience Points are awarded for (1) Achieving Goals, (2) Obtaining Treasure, 3) Role-playing, and 4) defeating, bypassing, diverting, or otherwise getting around traps, monsters, and other obstacles. Killing things is not required.
  • Item Creation is limited to Brew Potion, Scribe Scroll, and Create Artifact. In general, items other than potions and scrolls are in very limited supply and may not be available.

The following limited versions of abilities are highly encouraged.

  • Warcraft (BAB): Specialized/No iterative attacks, no exotic weapons (martial weapons may be given exotic names and descriptions though – even if your “Katana” is simply using the statistics for a basic longsword it still looks cool), what proficiencies are available is limited by how often the character will be gaining BAB increases, and the user must take individual weapon proficiencies – although the user will automatically gain proficiency in one additional weapon per +2 BAB purchased.
  • Hit Dice: Specialized/maximum bonus/die of (Die Size/2), maximum of 12 hit dice, after which it’s plus (one third your average die size up until L12, rounded down) per level.
  • Spellcasting: Specialized/all spells other than specifically-designed “emergency response spells” (feather fall, block attack, etc) require casting times – allowing one enemy turn per level before completion (although “final boss battle” turns may count as two). Spells are automatically lost with no effect, if interrupted in any fashion; there is no such thing as a “concentration check” or “casting defensively”. Arcanists who prepare spells may only know a limited (Int -3) number of spells of each level, while Divine Casters are subject to divine interference with their selection. Characters who do not prepare spells get only one-half (rounded up) their “usual” selection of spells. Spontaneous casters cannot scribe scrolls or teach their spells to others in any fashion.

The introduction of Concentration, and everyone getting their own turn instead of counting segments, provided spellcasters with a tremendous boost in power. Making spell formula easy to obtain gave them even more power. This still allows them to have powerful spells – but they’ll need a good deal of time to cast them, they will be very open to being interrupted along the way, and they’re unlikely to have nearly as wide a selection. This works even better with simultaneous actions, but that requires a modest overhall of the combat system. We’ve published that too, but it’s a larger change than a world template normally includes.

This will actually pretty well cover everything but standardizing the party roles and making most abilities into features of your archetype rather than things that you buy at each level. Ergo…

Characters are highly encouraged – and may be required – to take one of the following “class packages” at each level. They are well advised to stick with their choice once it’s made. All such packages include the Old School Package Deal (with a selection of Innate Enchantments).

Old School Package Deal: Innate Enchantment: Corrupted/user may not buy additional innate enchantments without special permission from the game master or modify his or her initial package (7000 GP Net Value, 6 CP): Empowerment (Class Innate Enchantment Package, 6 CP).

Characters who “switch classes” may(MAY, not WILL) be permitted to buy their new classes package deal in addition to their first classes package deal with a bonus feat. No, they won’t get any credit for overlapping abilities.

Since this is Eclipse, characters may use their Bonus Feats to purchase custom abilities to make their character’s unique.

Cleric Package:

  • Innate Enchantments: Cure Light Wounds (Once per level per day, 2000 GP), Warding Rune (+1 +L/3 Resistance bonus to Saves, max +4, 1400 GP), Protection from Evil/Good/Chaos/Law (as appropriate) (1400 GP), Shield of Faith (1400 GP), and a Choice of one Cantrip other than Cure Minor Wounds (1000 GP).
  • Level Zero Abilities: Proficient with Light and Medium Armor and Shields (12 CP), Channeling 3/Day (9 CP), acquainted with Knowledge/Religion (1 CP), Proficient with 2 Weapons (2 CP) = 24 CP
  • Available Weapons Choices: Club, Flail, Hammer, Mace, and Staff.
  • Per Level Abilities; BAB 2*, d8HD 2*, Saves 4, Spells 4* (Clerical, no package deal) = 12 CP.

Druid Package:

  • Innate Enchantments: Corrupted/only works as long as the user refrains from using metal armor or prohibited weapons; Warding Rune ( +1 +L/3 Resistance bonus to Saves, max +4, 1400 GP), Produce Flame (2000 GP), Detect Poison (1000 GP), Instant Naturalist (Identify plants, animals, and environmental factors, 2000 GP), Pass without Trace (2000 GP), and Speak with Animals (2000 GP).
  • Level Zero Abilities: Proficient with Light and Medium Armor and Shields (12 CP), Shapechange (6 CP), Proficient with two weapons (2 CP), Spell/Power Resistance, Specialized and Corrupted/versus Enchantment/Charm effects by fey and woodland creatures only (2 CP), Acquainted with Knowledge/Nature and Knowledge/Religion (2 CP) = 24 CP
  • Available Weapons Choices: Club, Dagger, Dart, Hammer, Scimitar, Sling, Spear, Staff.
  • Per Level Abilities: BAB 2*, d8HD 2*, Saves 4, Spells 4* (Druidical) = 12 CP

Fighter Package:

  • Innate Enchantments: Warding Rune ( +1 +L/3 Resistance bonus to Saves, max +4, 1400 GP), Serpent’s Strike (Gets a second attack at any time during his or her turn at full BAB, x.7 only when BAB 7+, 980 GP ), Weapon Mastery (Select a weapon when creating a Fighter: gain a +4 Competence Bonus to BAB while using it, 1400 GP), Divine Favor (2000 GP), and Hammerstrike (+1d6 damage/5 levels or part thereof to a maximum of +4d6 with weapons, 1400 GP).
  • Level Zero Abilities: Proficient with Light, Medium, and Heavy Armor and Shields (18 CP), Proficient with four weapons (4 CP), Acquainted with Armorsmith and Weaponsmith (sufficient to care for their gear, 2 CP) = 24 CP.
  • Available Weapons Choices: Any.
  • Per Level Abilities: BAB 3*, d10 HD 3*, Saves 6 = 12 CP.

Paladin Package:

  • Innate Enchantments: Specialized for double effect (14,000 GP); it only works as long as the user is and has been entirely lawful good / noble. If it stops working a quest of atonement is in order to reactivate it. Carrying more than seven major (not potions and scrolls) items disables one innate enchantment effect per extra item): Warding Rune ( +1 +L/3 Resistance bonus to Saves, max +4, 1400 GP), Detect Evil (2000 GP), Serpent’s Strike (Gets a second attack at any time during his or her turn at full BAB, 1400 GP), Relieve Illness (2000 GP), Aura of Light (1400 GP, sacred bonus of (square root of caster level, rounded down), +6 maximum to saves), Protection from Evil (1400 GP), Cure Light Wounds (once per level per day, 2000 GP), and an Aura of Good (advertises good and noble nature to everyone, 2000 GP).
  • Level Zero Abilities: Proficient with Light, Medium, and Heavy Armor and Shields (18 CP), Proficient with three weapons (3 CP), Acquainted with Armorsmith and Weaponsmith (sufficient to care for their gear) and Knowledge/Religion (3 CP) = 24 CP.
  • Available Weapons Choices: Any.
  • Per Level Abilities: BAB 3*, d8 HD 2*, Clerical Magic 1*, Saves 6 = 12

Ranger Package:

  • Innate Enchantments: Corrupted/rangers may only own treasures they can carry with them, cannot operate in groups of more than three, must remain good, and cannot hire companions before level eight; Warding Rune ( +1 +L/3 Resistance bonus to Saves, max +4, 1400 GP), Immortal Vigor I (+12 + (2x Con Mod, 6 maximum) HP, 1400 GP), Personal Haste (2000 GP), Mending (1000 GP), Pass Without Trace (2000), Master of Woodcraft (may use L0 woodcraft effects – lightning fires, following trails, mending camping equipment, determining north, moving very quietly, etc – as needed, 2000 GP), and Lesser Bane (pick a group of enemies, such as “orcs and goblins”; do +1d6 damage against them, 700 GP).
  • Level Zero Abilities: Proficient with Light, Medium, and Heavy Armor and Shields (18 CP), Proficient with three weapons (3 CP), Acquainted with Armorsmith and Weaponsmith (sufficient to care for their gear) and Knowledge/Nature (3 CP) = 24 CP.
  • Available Weapons Choices: Any.
  • Per Level Abilities: BAB 3*, d8 HD 2*, Clerical Magic 1*, Saves 6 = 12

Magic-User Package:

  • Innate Enchantments: Warding Rune ( +1 +L/3 Resistance bonus to Saves, max +4, 1400 GP), Read Magic (1000 GP), Detect Magic (1000 GP), Prestidigitation (1000 GP), Message (1000 GP), and a choice of Endure Elements, Grease, Mount, Comprehend Languages, Charm Person, Hypnotism, Floating Disc, Disguise Self, Silent Image, Ventriloquism, or Animate Rope (2000 GP).
  • Level Zero Abilities: Fast Learner (Specialized in Spells for +2/level, 6 CP), +4 additional Spell Formula (4 CP), Proficient with one weapon (1 CP), Acquainted with Knowledge/Arcana (1 CP), Brew Potion (6 CP) and Create Artifact (6 CP) = 24 CP.
  • Available Weapons Choices: Dagger, Dart, Staff.
  • Per Level Abilities: BAB 1*, d4 HD 0, Magic 7*, Saves 4 = 12.

Illusionist Package:

  • Innate Enchantments: Warding Rune ( +1 +L/3 Resistance bonus to Saves, max +4, 1400 GP), Silent Image (2000 GP), Disguise Self (2000 GP), Prestidigitation (1000 GP), and Message (1000 GP).
  • Level Zero Abilities: Fast Learner (Specialized and Corrupted in Illusion Spells for +3/level, 6 CP), +4 additional Spell Formula (4 CP), Proficient with one weapon (1 CP), Acquainted with Knowledge/Arcana (1 CP), Scribe Scroll (6 CP) and Create Artifact (6 CP) = 24 CP.
  • Available Weapons Choices: Dagger, Dart, Staff.
  • Per Level Abilities: BAB 1*, d4 HD 0, Magic 7*, Saves 4 = 12.

Thief Package:

  • Innate Enchantments: Warding Rune ( +1 +L/3 Resistance bonus to Saves, max +4, 1400 GP), Universal Skill Mastery (+2 Competence to all skills and checks, 1400 GP), Fortune’s Favor (+2 Luck bonus to Skills and checks, 1400 GP), Divine Favor (2000 GP), Treacherous Blow (+4 competence bonus to hit with sneak attacks, 700 GP)
  • Level Zero Abilities: Double damage when striking from surprise, Specialized for double effect (x4 damage)/only when striking from behind from behind (6 CP), Favors (Thieves Guild) (3 CP), Cloaking (Innocent Bystander, 6 CP), Augment Attack: +1d Sneak Attack (3 CP), Thieves Can (1 CP), Proficient with Two Weapons (2 CP), three Contacts of Choice (3 CP) = 24 CP.
  • Available Weapons Choices: Club, Dagger, Dart, Short Bow, Sling, Sword (Short, Broad, or Long).
  • Per Level Abilities: BAB 1*, D6 HD 1*, Saves 3, Sneak Attack 1, Skills 6 = 12 CP

As the first old-school class to actually have skills built in to its levels, this brings up skills; in general, you’ll want to use a condensed list and simply note (6 + Int Mod) skills, with automatic bonuses of (Level + 3). Skills a character is “acquainted” with generally don’t involve rolls; they’re mostly knowledges and you know whatever basics the GM chooses to give you.

Monk Package:

  • Innate Enchantments: Specialized/only works while the user fights unarmored, remains highly disciplined, and carries no more than five magic items: Warding Rune ( +1 +L/3 Resistance bonus to Saves, max +4, 1400 GP), Personal Haste, 2000 GP), Ki Strike (unarmed attacks count as +2 hand axes, 1400 GP), Divine Favor (2000 GP), Hammerstrike (+1d6 damage/5 levels or part thereof to a maximum of +4d6 with unarmed combat, 1400 GP). Feather Fall (1400 GP), Cure Light Wounds (once per level per day, personal only, 1400 GP), Speak with Animals (2000 GP), and Deathly Trance (1400 GP).
  • Level Zero Abilities: Defender (6 CP), Immunity/Illness (Uncommon, Major, Trivial (+2 on saves, reduce attribute damage from failed saves by two, 2 CP) Immunity/Poison (Common, Major, Minor, +4 on saves, reduce attribute damage from failed saves by 4, 6 CP), Block/Missile (6 CP), Spell/Power Resistance (Specialized in Mental Effects, 3 CP), Proficient with one weapon (1 CP) = 24 CP.
  • Available Weapons Choices: Bo Sticks, Club, Crossbow, Dagger, Hand Axe, Javelin, Jo Stick, Pole Arm, Spear, Staff.
  • Per Level Abilities: BAB 2*, D8 HD 2*, Saves 3, Sneak Attack 1, Skills 4 = 12 CP

And that will pretty much do it; while the mechanics are more elaborate than those of the first edition, most of the special abilities are fixed, the character sheets will fit on an index card for quite some time – and will be easy to give to new players:

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2 Responses

  1. Hmm, a setting with these rules could definitely make a high level fighter type worth playing without having to play second fiddle to all the spellcasters. Particularly if some sort of extended profession and crafting skills are made available. Then the characters would have an interest in finding forgotten mines of rare metals, forests with unusual plants, and work on tending gardens of interesting alchemical plants and then parking a fortification or trading outpost on top of it as opposed to simply using magic to loot the entire mountain.

    Ah well, maybe some future campaign.

    • Well, that’s a large part of going “old school”; a mage was something that only mid-level parties could afford (thanks to the exponential experience point tables new characters caught up fast) – and usually required the efforts of several other characters to be useful. Fighters were less versatile and a bit less powerful at the highest levels – but they were absolutely vital to make a party functional.

      To reprint an answer from some time ago, when it came to fighters versus magic users… first edition AD&D – played as written – handled it very very well. Actions were simultaneous, casting a worthwhile spell took quite some time, and there was no such thing as “concentration”.

      You wanted to cast a Fireball? That took three segments – almost a third of a one-minute round all by itself – and you couldn’t even start casting it until your initiative came up. Any interruption, before or during that time – including being hit by ANYTHING, grappled, or being doused with water – would ruin your spell, which might be the only one you got. Fighters, on the other hand, got multiple, immediate, attacks with knives and bows right from level one.

      So looking at a round…

      Segments Nine and Ten: No one goes.

      Segment Eight: High-dexterity thief steps out of the shadows and backstabs the Orc chieftan for triple damage – killing him instantly. The Chief’s bodyguard didn’t get to use his readied action from last round (when he didn’t act at all) to react to that, since the thief was hidden – but gets to grab him now. He’ll probably regret that later.

      Segment Seven; Mages turn, starts casting Fireball, Orc A misses mage with a spear thrust past the fighter. Fighter – instead of holding to protect the mage – hacks down Orc A.

      Segment Six; Orcs B and C go, tossing two daggers each at the mage, fortunately they all miss.

      Segment Five; Orc D is currently grappling with the party cleric, but takes a moment out to boot the mage in the shins (and likely pays for it with allowing the cleric to get back to weapon-based combat), which would automatically ruin the spell if he connected – but also misses.

      Segment Four; Ork E, F, and G – having higher dexterities – go before our mage completes his spell, and simply do a football pileup on the fighter in front of the mage, pushing him over onto the mage; the fireball spell is automatically ruined (and it’s his only one for the day too). Orks H, I, and J, with lower dexterities now start stabbing at the fighter while he’s at a disadvantage, since the mage – without his friends shielding him – isn’t much of a threat.

      Now, if it was Goblins, with less than one hit die, the fighter would get one attack per level, and could probably have massacred the entire segment four assault by himself – particularly if he’d been holding his action to protect the mage.

      I’ve seen lots of all-fighter parties do quite well in 1’st and 2’nd edition. All-mage parties, however, tended to be total party kills in very short order. If you wanted to cast a powerful spell in combat in earlier editions, you had to have the support of several other characters to run interference for you. Otherwise you were pretty much stuck with Magic Missile – until you (rather quickly) ran out of those.

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