For a while now I've been pondering, thought-experimenting, writing, deleting, and rewriting some ideas for house rules and tweaks to B/X D&D. It's becoming apparent that the project has mutated into something more than just a collection of house rules, and has taken on full-blown fantasy heartbreaker status.
Does the OSR really need yet another clone-ish rule set? Probably
not, but it's in my head, and it needs to get out. The worst that could
happen is that the RPG community collectively shrugs and goes on about
its business, right? And of course some of the new mechanics should
work perfectly well as house rules dropped into B/X or Labyrinth Lord or
some other D&D-like game, so there is that potential value to it.
So, I've given the project a name: Goblins and Greatswords. Alliterative names are sort of traditional for this kind of thing, aren't they? Plus, I can use the term GM, simultaneously the generic "Game Master" and the specific "Goblin Master," so as not to confuse anyone with a new abbreviation.
What's G&G all about, then? Well, it's a lot like B/X D&D in spirit. It's a lot like B/X D&D in many ways, actually, but with some refinements, tweaks, and substitutions. I won't call them "improvements" because B/X is already an outstanding game. Let's say they're changes that may facilitate certain experiences and styles of play. Ease of understanding, ease of use in play, and ease of character creation - hallmarks of B/X - are major design goals with G&G too. The rules should make intuitive sense, be easy to pick up, and readily stick in your brain once you've used them in play a few times. It should be possible to have all the relevant information easily accessible on character sheets and a GM screen or other brief reference sheet.
So...G&G has a class and level system, but with a little more flexibility to make the character you want to play. It shouldn't overwhelm you with options, though, or require ridiculous long-term planning, and the more it avoids the necessity or the opportunity for obsessive min-maxing, the better.
Want to play a stealthy fighter, or a cleric with a background as a street thief, or a thief who dabbles in magic, or a pious wizard? No problem. Every character gets a secondary talent, in addition to standard class abilities. The list is pretty short, including some watered-down skills of other classes and a few others that aren't tied to any class. It's a single choice, made at character creation, and after that all you have to do is update it when you level up, like you would thief abilities, spells per day, or attack rolls.
It will use a race-as-class paradigm, but each race will have two or three racial classes, each of which is an interpretation of a human class through lens of the race's unique physical and mental perspective. A dwarf whose primary job is to fight doesn't necessarily approach it in the same way that human warriors do, for instance.
Combat is still D&D-ish, but with the d20 attack roll determining damage too. It turns out that this little tweak of combining the attack roll and damage roll also allows some pretty cool things with weapon properties and special combat maneuvers, without getting too fussy or fiddly or overpowered.
Any class can use any weapon, though only skilled fighters will get the most out of big heavy damage-dealing weapons. Armor is also usable by everyone, but imposes limitations on things like stealth and spell-casting that not-so-subtly direct thieves and mages toward more archetypal armor (or lack thereof) without expressly forbidding anything.
I have the beginnings of grappling rules that do what you need grappling rules to do without a lot of complicated math and modifiers or tedious bookkeeping in the middle of battle.
Spell casting rules are still a little hazy, but I have the rudiments of some spell acquisition rules that gently encourage an informal sort of specialization - it's cheaper and easier to learn new spells that are related to spells you already know. Spell lists will be overhauled to emphasize mystery, mysticism, and subtle power rather than big flashy explosions and lots of damage.
Default economy is silver standard, and characters start poor. No plate and shield at level 1 here! XP progression will be in smaller numbers, on the order of a tenth of traditional D&D-alikes, but treasure hoards are also much smaller. XP will also be granted for discovery - finding new places, facing new creatures, and so on, and for defeating (not necessarily killing, or even in combat) enemies and monsters.
Magic item lists will need an overhaul to fit the subtle-magic theme, and the way magic weapons and armor work will need to be tweaked so as not to overwhelm the combat system with bonus inflation while still being important and useful.
Expect a series of posts, interspersed around various other ramblings (more Dark Fey, anyone?) in the coming months.