Into the Unknown

Happy Fourth of July folks! Remember, it’s not enough to value your own liberty, you have to love other peoples’ liberty just as much as your own.

And also remember – two or three hotdogs is probably sufficient unless you want to put on a fireworks display in your gut to rival the one outside tonight.

Now then … I’m busy working, as I’ve mentioned before, on an Old West supplement for Grit & Vigor. I love working on things like this because they give me a chance to learn about things about which I only have a passing knowledge. A couple days ago, I started working on something like random encounter tables for PCs wandering around in the wilderness. I wanted to keep them relatively simple – just suggestions a VM could use to spice up an overland journey. I started out with some general categories of “encounter”, and then realized that I had no idea how frequent these things should be. What to do?

Then it occurred to me … Lewis and Clark kept a diary!

So now I’ve spent a few hours going through the diary and making notes on what they encountered each day, both while traveling in the summer and fall, and camping in the winter. Pretty interesting stuff – I highly suggest giving it a look – and here are the results, according to my encounter definitions (with the definitions following):

Encounter Travel Camp
No Encounter 01-46 01-31
Danger 47-57 32
Ruins 58-67
Herd 68-76 33-34
Predator 77-84
Warriors 85-91 35-40
Settlement 92-96
Travelers 97-99 41-00
Omen 00

Danger: This is a danger of some kind that strikes a person unawares, such as a snake bite, illness, a fall that results in injury, pests, etc.

Herd: This is an encounter with numerous large her-bivores, such as bighorn sheep, elk or bison.

Omen: This is an event that has spiritual significance to one or several of the adventurers.

Predator: This is an encounter with a large predator capable of killing an adventurer, especially if it achieves surprise. In the American West, this is probably a bear, cougar or pack of wolves.

Ruins: The remains of a settlement, such as mounds left by the Mississippian Culture, or an abandoned settlement (see below).

Settlement: A settlement appropriate to the region and time period. This includes trading posts and forts.

Travelers: An encounter with a small or large group of travelers. These people may or may not be capable of defending themselves, but their purpose is not one of violence and the group probably includes women and children. This could be a wagon train, a migration of American Indians or a prospector and his mule. There is a 1% chance that they are accompanied by a famous person appropriate to the time and place.

Warriors: An encounter with a relatively small band of armed men. It could be a hunting or war party of American Indians, a troop of U.S. Cavalry, a gang of outlaws or European fur trappers. There is a 1% chance that they are accompanied by a famous person appropriate to the time and place.

That’s enough for today – I have to prep the dog for the horrors of fireworks tonight. Be good to one another folks – love each other – it’s the only way forward!

Bar Fights Updated

Bar fight from The Spoilers (1942) – click for source

A few weeks ago I began writing a supplment I had long planned for my GRIT & VIGOR rules concerning the “Old West”. I’d been working on the High Frontier supplement, which covers the retro-future imagined for the late 20th century (now in editing – hopefully ready soon) and was cleaning up the G&V file folders. That led me to opening a few files to see what was in them, which led to doing some organization in an “Old West” word document, which led to .. well, let’s say I’m about 50% finished with writing the supplement now, when I should have been completing other projects (i.e. NOD 36 and Gods & Legends).

One element I needed for the Old West supplement was rules for saloon fights, which I’d written up for generic Old School fantasy games a few years back (2012, to be precise). I hadn’t looked up the old post yet when I got an email mentioning that I’d left something off a table in that article, and would I please update it. Strange coincidence!

So, here are the rules as modified (just slightly) for the Old West supplement. The updated table (the first one) is suitable for the old post and use in fantasy games (or sci-fi games if you want to host a slugfest in the Mos Eisley Cantina).

Saloon Fights

A staple of western movies and television shows, especially those of a less serious nature, is the saloon fight. Sometimes it starts with an insult, or sometimes with an accidental bump, but in no time at all an epic free-for-all slugfest erupts.

Running something like this in a game is difficult because there are so many moving parts. These rules are designed to make it easier.

The first thing to determine is the size of the brawl. If you do not know how many brawlers are present, you can roll dice and consult the table below:

D6 Fight Size Combatants Hit Points
1 Kerfuffle 6 to 10 3d6
2-3 Dust-up 11 to 20 6d6
4-5 Donnybrook 21 to 30 9d6
6 Slugfest 31+ 12d6

Hit Points in the table above refers to the total hit points of the crowd of combatants. When the crowd’s hit points are reduced to zero, the saloon fight is over because all the non-PC combatants have either fled, are unconscious or are otherwise unable to fight.

While the fight is still happening, characters can choose one of the following actions each round:

Fight: Character jumps into the fight with feet and fists flying – he’ll take all comers

Flee: Character tries to scramble out of the fight

Hide: Character hides under a table or behind the bar

Loot: Character wades through the fight picking pockets or stealing drinks

Seek: Character wades through the fight looking for a specific target; the target could be a person or an item

The VM rolls 1d10 and checks the matrix below, cross-referencing the roll with each character’s stated action. Any time a character suffers damage, they must pass a Fortitude saving throw with a penalty equal to the damage suffered to avoid being either stunned for 1d3 rounds or knocked unconscious for 1d10 minutes. There is a 50% chance of either. A stunned character is considered to have chosen “Hide” as his action each round he is stunned.

D10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Fight N F F B A A A A A A
Flee N N N F F F M M M M
Hide N N N N N N F F B A
Loot N N N F F B A L L L
Seek N N F F B A A A R R

The letter codes are as follows:

A is for “Attacked”: The character is attacked by other combatants, and can attack them back. Roll 1d6:

1 AC 10, ATK +0, DMG 1d2
2 AC 11, ATK +1, DMG 1d2+1
3 AC 12, ATK +2, DMG 1d2+1
4 AC 13, ATK +3, DMG 1d2+2
5 AC 14, ATK +4, DMG 1d2+2
6 Attacked by two combatants, roll 1d4 to determine each attacker’s stats. If both attackers attack successfully, the PC must make a Reflex saving throw or be lifted and thrown. Roll 1d6 for the effect:

Lifted and Thrown Sub-Table

1-2 Slid down the bar for additional 1d6 points of damage and knocked prone
3-4 Thrown out door and into street for 1d6 points of damage and knocked prone
5 Thrown out window and into street for 2d4 points of damage and knocked prone
6 Thrown off balcony or stairs onto a table, suffering 2d6 points of damage and knocked prone; if this doesn’t make sense, re-roll

B is for “Bystander”: The character catches sight of an innocent (or not) bystander

1-2 Child hiding from the fight; good characters must attempt to save them by fleeing
3-4 Saloon girl motions you to a door; you must “Seek” to get there, and once inside consult the Saloon Girl sub-table below
5-6 A damsel faints, roll under Dexterity to catch her for 100 XP; you now fight with a -2 penalty to hit

Saloon Girl Sub-Table

1-2 Quit the fight and do some wooing and cooing (50% chance of being slipped a Mickey or simply being pick pocketed, 10% chance you are hunted down by a jealous lover afterwards) – either way, you earn XP per a 3 HD monster you dog!
3-4 Suckered into an ambush, roll as per “A” above, but roll 1d3+3, and you don’t get to hit back
5-6 Punched by the girl/guy (AC 10, attack at +1, 1d2 points of damage) – this is a surprise attack, so you don’t get to hit back

F is or “Flying Debris”: The character is struck by flying debris; boxers can attempt a Reflex saving throw to avoid it, but all others roll 1d6:

1-3 Hit by bottle for 1d3 points of damage; Fortitude save or knocked unconscious
4-5 Hit by chair for 1d6 points of damage; Fortitude save or knocked unconscious
6 Hit by a flying body for 2d4 points of damage; Fortitude save or knocked unconscious; if a compatriot was thrown this round, you were hit by them

L is for “Looting”: The character acquires some loot – roll 1d6:

1 Acquire a single mug of beer or a shot of whiskey
2-3 Pick pocket check to acquire 50¢ or its equivalent
4 Pick pocket check to acquire $1 or its equivalent
5 Pick pocket check to acquire $10 or its equivalent
6 Pick pocket check to acquire a treasure map or some other plot device; only use this once!

On a failed pick pockets roll, you are instead attacked – see “A” above.

M is for “Move”: The character moves 1d10 feet to-wards his chosen exit.

N is for “Nothing”: Nothing happens to you this round, nor do you get to do anything

R is for “Reach Target”: Character reaches the target they were looking for!

Break It Up!

Each round of the saloon fight there is a 5% chance that the town sheriff and his deputies (or deputized citizens) shows up to break things up. The number of deputies depends on the size of the town – use your best judgment – but they are armed with pistols and are willing to use them to restore order.

Combatants, including the player characters, are arrested unless they find a way to sneak out. If the sheriff is on his way, there is a 50% chance that some old coot yells “Sheriff’s coming!” the round before to give the combatants a chance to flee.

Bringing a Gun to a Fist Fight

Pulling a knife or gun during a fist fight is a cowardly and low-down act, and results in you being avoided by other combatants for the duration and suffering a -4 penalty to reactions in this town in the future.

Death and Dismemberment

Saloon fights should not result in PC death, because death just is not the point of these things. At 0 hit points, a character is knocked out and awakens in jail.