Category Archives: Opinion piece

Improvised Dice Tower | Slinky + bulldog clips

Nothing too exciting here.  

Have been working from home for about 2 weeks now and decided to improvise a dice tower from a slinky and some bulldog clips:

Version 1

Slinky dice tower v1

The bulldog clip at the exit to the tunnel has been added by removing the arm from the bulldog clip, looping it through the slinky and reattaching the arm. This adds weight.

Version 2

Slinky dice tower v2

Same as version 1, but the bulldog clip at the end of the tunnel is looped over another bulldog clip on another cup. This stretches out the tunnel a little more.

Version 3 

I’ve not made this yet, but in theory, the slinky could be stretched so that to form a U-shape and the dice falls through a gap/hole at the bottom of the U.


S.M.A.R.T. RPG | a (draft) rules light 1D6 RPG system

>> Edit: Abbreviations expanded out to hopefully help readability

>> Edit2: K Yani kindly prepared a (readable) PDF version of the below system; downloadable from here: image_preview  SMART System v01

A little while ago I posted about retrofitting the 1e Surprise Mechanic as a combat system, and teased (blog link) about making a RPG system from this. So here goes:

smart rpg log

^^ Despite the name, I don’t appear to have the wherewithal to remove the boarder around the above image ^^

The PC has 5 stats:

SSkill, basically fighting skill (or other physical prowess)

MMagic, ability to cast magic etc.

AArmour (used to reduce physical damage)

RResilience (basically health; 0 is unconscious, -1 is dead)

TTrickery / Thievery (specialist type skills)

1st level & advancement
At first level the PC gets 3 points, where 1 point must be used in S(kill) & R(esilience). So 1 free point to spend on the any stat.

On levelling up the PC gains +1 to spend on any stat

There is no limit on the stats except, A(mour) may not exceed 3

Players decided if they have done enough to level up.

Player rolls a D6 and if it is equal or lower than their PC’s S(kill), they hit, and do D(amage) equal to the die roll. A roll above S(kill) is a fail.

D(amage) is reduced by opponent’s A(mour); but never lower than 1.

D(amage) reduces the opponent’s R(esilience) by the same amount.

Example 1: a PC with 4S(kill) rolls 3 on a D6, which means they hit for 3D(amage). The opponent has 2A(mour), so overall the opponent receives 1D(amage).

Example 2: a PC with 4S(kill) rolls 5 on a 6D, which means they fail to hit.

PC can cast a number of successful spells per day equal to M(agic).

Player describes spell effect PC is trying to achieve.

Spell is successful if the D6 roll is equal or lower than M(agic). A roll above M(agic) is a fail.

Damage done; and/or duration of spell; and/or number of opponents affected by the spell is equal to the (successful) die rolled.

Example 3: a PC with 4M(agic) rolls 3 on a D6, which means the spell works, and works for 3 “thingos”, where the thingo is:

(i) 3D(amage) done by the spell (e.g. for a fire blast spell); and/or
(ii) works for 3 rounds (e.g. for a bar door spell); and/or
(iii) the spell effects 3 opponents etc. (e.g. for a sleep spell)

Example 4: a PC with 4M(agic) rolls 5 on a D6, which means the spell fails.

Class & stat interactions
There are no classes per se; but as the PC becomes more specialize, this comes at a cost to the advancement of their other abilities.

Levelling costs:

For every 3S(kill) points spent, -1T(rickery)
For every 2S(kill) points spent, -1M(agic)
For every 3M(agic) points spent, -1S(kill) and -1T(rickery)
For every 3T(rickery) points spent, -1S(kill) and -1M(agic)
For every 1A(mour) point spent, -3M(agic) and -2T(rickery)

So multi-classing is costly compared to a single specialization, and so is probably only worthwhile when the primary stat exceeds 6, and so further advancement in the primary stat is not effectively useful. Then again, improved R(esilience) is always at no cost.

Comments on monsters /opponents
A monster with 6S(kill) is a BEAST, like a dragon. So, each increment in a stat should be thought of like an exponential increase.

So, to put a marker down, here are some examples:

Orc – S M A R T: 1 0 1 1 0

Ogre – S M A R T: 3 0 2 2 0

Dragon – S M A R T: 6 3 3 9 1

Comments on magic items
Plus weapons will distort the D6 game mechanic quickly, so in this system a +1 is a big modifier! So, probably best to imbue magic items with useful properties rather than simple pluses.

Well that’s it.

Final words
I’ve never really been interested in writing an RPG system (perhaps it shows), but I was prompted to bring this together after receiving a message to my podcast. Clearly, it’s rules light and would not suit power-gamers. What interested me, was how a simple mechanic (i.e. the Surprise Rule in 1e) could be used as the basis for a game. That is, one simple D6 roll determines the ‘hit’ and the ‘damage’ outcomes.

What do you think? It’s certainly not been play tested! If you try this system, I’d be interested to hear any feedback.

– – –

Me on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea, and my procedural Wilderness Hex Crawl – In the Heart of the Unknown.

Simple-ish Mass Combat/Battle Rules

Hopefully these rules are simple enough once the base concept is understood. They are also intended to be fairly deadly, and so hopefully these rules will resolve battles relatively quickly.

Mass combat

Units are treated as single combatants, they have Unit Health (UH), Unit Attacks (UA) and Unit Damage (UD) per hit done. The units are largely a macro-version of the monster/troop within the unit.  The following is explained with reference to the following three reference units:

Reference units:

Unit 1    105 Human spearmen (HD1, AC7, NOA 1, DA1-6)
i.e. unit stats –> 105 UH; 11 UA; 10 UD

Unit 2    20 centaurs (HD4, AC5, NOA 2, DA1-6;1-6)
i.e. unit stats –> 80 UH; 16 UA; 10 UD

Unit 3    1 T-Rex (HD18, AC7, NOA 3, DA1-6;1-6;5-40)
i.e. unit stats –> 18 UH; 6 UA; 20 UD

Quick summary of unit stats

UH = Total HD of unit
UA = UH/10 (rounded to nearest whole number) x NOA
UD = usually 10 UH damage is done per hit (but powerful monsters could do 20 or 30 UH per hit)

So, UH equates to the ‘hit points’ of the unit, UA equates to the number of attacks of the unit and UD equates to the damage per hit made by the unit. UD is the only thing worth pre-determining, as everything else is done on the fly.

Unit stats

:: Unit Health (UH) of the unit is equal to the total HD of the unit, i.e.:

Unit 1 – 105 UH (i.e. 105 x 1HD)
Unit 2 – 80 UH (i.e. 20 x 4HD)
Unit 3 – 18 UH (i.e. 1 x 18HD)

:: Unit Attacks (UA) of the unit is equal to UH divided by 10, and rounded to the nearest whole number and then multiplied by the troop type’s Number of Attacks (NOA):

Unit 1 – 11 UA (i.e. 105 UH ÷ 10 x 1NOA and rounded up)
Unit 2 – 16 UA (i.e. 80 UH ÷ 10 x 2NOA) i.e. centaurs get two attacks per round.
Unit 3 – 6 UA (i.e. 18 UH ÷ 10, rounded up to 2, and x 3NOA)

:: Unit Damage (UD) per successful attack made is determined on a power scale, i.e.:

10 UD    (where the maximum damage possible divided by NOA is in the range 1-10) – i.e. normally the case

20 UD    (where the maximum damage possible divided by NOA is in the range 11-20) – i.e. for powerful monsters that can do damage in the range 11 to 20 hps

30 UD    (where the maximum damage possible divided by NOA is in the range 21-30) – i.e. for very powerful monsters


Unit 1 – 10 UH (max damage i.e. 6 ÷ 1NOA = 6) –> ‘normal’ damage category
Unit 2 – 10 UH (max damage i.e. 12 ÷ 2NOA = 6) –> ‘normal’ damage category
Unit 3 – 20 UH (max damage i.e. 6+6+40 ÷ 3 gives 17) –> second damage category

Combat Method

:: Treat combat as one unit fighting another, e.g. treat a unit of 105 humans fighting a unit of 20 centaurs as Unit 1 fighting Unit 2.

:: Wipeout rule – if a unit loses initiative and is whiped out in the first round, the wiped out unit still does half damage on their adversary

:: Defeat Morale – check unit morale if the unit suffers more UH damage than the other side

:: Decimation Morale – check unit morale if the unit lost more than 50% of their UH in one round

:: Defeat and Decimation Morale tests are independent of each other


 Examples using AD&D combat tables to resolve combat (to hit rolls not shown)

 Example 1:
Unit 1 attacks Unit 2 (in this scenario Unit 1 is lucky and wins initiative each round):

Round 1:
Unit 1 has 11 Unit Attacks
only 3 attacks hit; and so do 30 Unit Health damage
–> Unit 2 is reduced to 50 UH (i.e. 80-30=50 UH)

Round 1 cont…
50 UH of the remaining centaurs in Unit 2 fight back; they have 10 Unit Attacks (i.e. 5 x 2NOA)
6 hits are made; and so do 60 Unit Health damage
–> Unit 1 is reduced to 45 UH (i.e. 105-60=45 UH)

The humans lost the combat round taking the most UH damage, and lost more than 50% of their UH in a single round, and so need to take a Defeat Morale check and a Decimation Moral check. They pass, but is luck truly with them?

Round 2:
Unit 1 with 45 UHs gets 5 Unit Attacks
2 hit; doing 20 Unit Health damage
–> Unit 2 is reduced to 30 UH (i.e. 50-20=30 UH)

Round 2 cont…
Unit 2 with 30 UH fights back, they have 6 unit attacks (i.e. 3 x 2NOA)
3 hit; doing 30 Unit Health damage
–> Unit 1 is reduced to 15 UH (i.e. 45-30=15 UH)

This time Unit 1 does not make both morale checks, and they flee for their lives.

Example 2:
Unit 1 attacks Unit 3 (in this scenario Unit 1 wins initiative):

Round 1:
105 humans have 11 Unit Attacks
only 3 hit; doing 30 Unit Health damage
–> Unit 3 is reduced to -12 UH (i.e. 18-30= -12 UH)

Round 1 cont…
Because the T-Rex lost initiative and is destroyed in one round, it still does half damage:
18 UH of T-Rex gets 6 Unit Attacks (i.e. 2 x 3NOA)
6 hits are made; doing 120 Unit Health damage (i.e. 6 x 20 UD)
but this is halved to 60 UH damage due to the initiative rule mentioned above
–> Unit 1 is reduced to 45 UH (i.e. 105-60=45 UH)

While the human spearmen bravely seized initiative and destroyed the T-Rex, it was at a high cost. Indeed, despite winning the clash, they failed their Decimation Morale check (i.e. they lost more than 50% of the unit in one round) and so left the field believing they had done more than their fair share of the slaying in this battle.

Example 3:
Unit 1 attacks Unit 3 (but in this scenario Unit 3 wins initiative):

Round 1
18 UH of T-Rex gets 6 Unit Attacks (i.e. 2 x 3NOA)
6 hits are made; doing 120 Unit Health damage
–> Unit 1 is smashed by the T-Rex in a terrifying display of power

Round 1 cont…
Because the Humans lost initiative and were destroyed in one round, they get to do half damage in return:
105 humans have 11 Unit Attacks
only 3 hit; doing 30 Unit Health damage; but this is halved to 15 UH
–> Unit 3 is reduced to 3 UH (i.e. 18-15=3 UH)

In destroying the swarm of pesky humans, the T-Rex is very badly speared in hundreds of places. Even if it made its morale check, 3 UH does not qualify for a UA point (i.e. 3 divided by 10 (and rounded to the nearest whole number) x 3NOA is 0 UA). The hefty beast limps off the battle field, but not before chomping down on a few of the chewy humans.

I suspect that there are already some pretty good mass-combat rules out there. But, … I thought I’d have a go at my own (before getting cross-polinated by other people’s ideas) … you know, for the fun of it.

– – –

InHotS the cover imageMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea, and my procedural Wilderness Hex Crawl – In the Heart of the Unknown.

Do QR codes make interesting mazes, dungeons or cavern complexes?

Do QR codes make interesting mazes, dungeons or cavern complexes?

Next time you’re stuck for a maze or cavern complex, look no further than the back of your Cheetos packet …

Two examples below made using an online generator:

1. Here’s the QR code for Expedition to the Barrier Peaks:

Expedition to the barrier peaks

2. Here’s another maze-like complex (but where does it go????):

QR maze 2 - CLDT

That’s it.

– – –

InHotS the cover imageMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea, and my procedural Wilderness Hex Crawl – In the Heart of the Unknown.

AD&D Surprise Rules & Repurposing them as a combat system

I listened to ChgWiz’s (Michael Shorten’s) The Dungeon Master’s Handbook podcast about 1e ‘Surprise Rules’ and wondered if it could be converted into a simple combat system (or used for anything else); and why the Surprise Rule makes the DEX stat useful to non-thieves.

Recap of the 1e Surprise Rule (as understood)

This is how I understand the Surprise Rule in AD&D to work:

1. Roll for surprise if one or both parties might be surprised.

2. Surprise is like an attack roll, it’s your ability to surprise your foe (it’s not like a saving throw, i.e. a chance to avoid being surprised). So the chance of being surprised is based on your foe’s ability. Personally, I think players should roll to surprise their foe and the DM should roll for the monsters to surprise the PCs (often it’s done the other way around).

3. By default the base chance to surprise anyone is a roll of 1 or 2 rolled on a D6.

4. But, some creatures are better at surprising; for example, Bugbears surprise on a roll of 1, 2 or 3 on a D6; and Giant Owls surprise on a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 on a D6. Wow, Giant Owls have 4HD, so they are in effect a bit like flying ogre ninjas.

5. This is the neat bit mechanically (at least I think so). The above roll not only determines if you are surprised (great), but also gives the duration of the surprise. So, it’s doing two things with one roll (i.e. (i) determining if you are surprised and (ii) how long you are surprised for; and all in one roll).

The below table gives the duration of the surprise indexed to the die roll on a D6 for three creatures:

sup 1

So, it’s a bit like the game “chicken”, the aim is to get as close to the maximum number of rounds without going over. So a roll of 3 for an orc is no use but for a Bugbear it’s the best roll.

6. Now for the wrinkles. Some classes can reduce the number of rounds they are surprise for. So, for example a ranger reduces the number of rounds they are surprised for by 1 round. This applies to them and to the group they are in. Therefore, the above table now looks like this when a ranger is present:

sup 2

That is, the number of rounds has been reduced by 1 round in each case. So, a roll of 1 is in effect the same as not being surprised. Not surprised is shown in the blue region whereas the green region is where the time being surprised is reduce to 0 rounds or fewer (i.e. the PC’s reactions counteract the surprise).

7. More wrinkles. If a PC has a high DEX score they can get a RAA bonus, which again is used to subtract from the rounds they are surprised for.

sup 4.png

So, if a thief with 17 Dex (RAA of +2) is in the above party (i.e. with a ranger in it) the table for the thief now looks like this:

sup 3

So, this thief is in effect never surprised by Orcs or Bugbears, but for Giant Owls on a roll of 4 or 5 can be surprised, but for no more than two rounds. This gal has the reactions of a cat. However, a DEX bonus only applies to this PC and not to the group as a whole.

... but, but, why a roll of 4 or 5 on a D6 instead of a roll of 1, 2 on a D6 – same odds right? True, but under that system:

Thief surprised on a roll of 1 or 2

Party surprised on a roll of 1, 2, 3 or 4.

So, on a roll of 1 on a D6 means everyone including the thief is surprised for 1 round, but on a roll of 4 on the D6 the party is surprised for 4 rounds and the thief for none. So sometimes the thief and party are equally surprised or the party super surprised and the thief not at all. Seems illogical. Under the system explained above, the thief is always 2 rounds better off than the party no matter what the roll is (hence more consistent).

Sometime I feel like I’m torturing myself.

Scenario 1

Imagine the party describe above is swooped down on by silent Giant Owls in the dark. The DM rolls to see if the party is surprised (the owls are ambushing so they do not need to roll for surprise). The D6 is rolled a 4 comes up. Therefore:

The party is surprised for 3 rounds (4 rounds minus 1 for the ranger bonus = 3 rounds).

The thief on the other hand is only surprised for 1 round (4 rounds minus 1 for the ranger bonus and minus 2 for her RAA = 1 round).

Scenario 2

For argument sake, let’s say the party slips off a cliff and lands in a giant owl nest. This time both the owl and the party might be surprised.

A D6 is rolled for the party who get a 3 this time. The party is surprised for 2 rounds, except the thief who is in effect not surprised.

A D6 is rolled for the Owls who get a 2; so, the owls are also surprised for 2 rounds.

Net effect – everyone is surprised for two rounds, except the thief who gets two rounds of action. She of course decides to use her 2 rounds to make good her escape.


:: Mindset: Roll surprise like an attack. Players roll to surprise their foe and the DM rolls to surprise the party (i.e. on the monster’s behalf).

:: Surprise is a fun rule.

:: It also makes DEX a useful stat for non-thieves. Think of the acrobatic fleetfooted fighter that can slash a foe to death before their opponent can even draw their weapon. This can be much more useful than a +1 or 2 HP per level when buffing the CON stat. Likewise, a nimble unflappable magic-user who can get off a spell (or run for it) before the open-jawed orcs can say “whod dat?”. Finally, high DEX thieves become more effective (even deadly) in combat, perhaps even getting in the fabled back-stab while their opponent struggles open-mouthed to comprehend the threat. Worse still, a negative RAA can add time to rounds the PC is surprised for. In the reverse, a PC with 3 DEX could be surprised for a total of 8 rounds by Giant Owls on a roll of 5. I can’t see anyone surviving that kind of onslaught.

Wow… that ^ was longer than intended!

Learning lessons / Repurposing AD&D surprise rules as a combat system

I think I’ll save this post in full for another day.

But basically: you roll to hit by rolling equal or below your skill (like in Surprise). If you hit, you do that number of HP damage (like the rounds of surprise). If you have armour (or defensive magics), you can subtract units off the damage (like the RAA bonus).

E.g. a monster has a skill of 3, and they roll a 2 on a D6. They therefore do 2 damage. The PC is wearing heavy armour and so can subtract 1 off the damage. The PC therefore takes 1 damage. So, hit and damage is determined in a single roll.

Of course, a combat system like this needs proper scaling (e.g. PCs gain 1 damage per level, or can spend this on fighting skill, magic etc.). I have some crude ideas, and maybe I’ll pull my finger out and expand on this later.

– – –

InHotS the cover imageMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea, and my procedural Wilderness Hex Crawl – In the Heart of the Unknown.

Taming the bell | … making probability bell curves more ‘swing-ish’

I only realized something about multi-dice probability bell curves recently … (if you’re a maths-wiz, click away now as the following will probably only offend your sensibilities!).

Bad intuition
Instinctively, I believed that for example 2D6 has the same probability profile as D8+D4. That is, they both give numbers from 2 to 12 and each number on each die is just as likely to turn up.

But, I was quite wrong.

It turns out the bigger the separation in the die size, the “flatter” the probability bell curve becomes. That is, the more unpredictable the probability spread becomes. In retrospect, this makes sense.

What am I talking about and why could this be useful?
Below is an example where the number range 2 to 12 is generated using two dice, i.e. 2D6, D5+D7, D4+D8, D2+D10 and D1+D11:

2 to 12 ranges

In the Range 2 to 12 using two dice (made via; the penultimate graph should have been labelled D2+D10 of course!

2 to 12 graph

As above, but presented graphically

So, it can be seen from the above that as the difference in the die size increases, the flatter the probability bell curve becomes (this means the probability curves is becoming more “swingish”).

This is another way to represent the ‘flattening’ of the bell curve; a D4+D8 has a much bigger flat top section (range 5-9) section than 2D6 (just for 7).

Range 2 to 12

Broader plateau seen in top D4+D8 vs bottom 2D6 covering the range 2-12 with two dice

Of course 2D6 systems are widespread in RPGs, for example see a recent post by Larry Hamilton concerning this:

Here’s another example but for the range 3-18 using three dice (e.g. as used for PC stats, or the damage of a two-handed sword in AD&D).

3 to 18 range

In the Range 3 to 18 using three dice (made via

3 to 18 graph

As above, but presented graphically

So the message here is, when summing two (or more) dice, you can make the outcome more “random” (less constrained by the bell-shaped curve) by using a big spread in dice size. Edit: it has been pointed out to me that the term “random” as used here is better described mathematically as “variance”.

I think you mentioned useful?
In the main, this observation is not going to change your game. But, this phenomena is worth remembering for the old DM tool kit.  Below are some theoretical examples where this could come into play:

• Perhaps the fighter is drunk (and she is fighting with a two-handed sword; normally doing 3D6 damage), being drunk she is less in control of the weapon, and so is more unpredictable with it. Or, perhaps she is on her last hit-point and wants to try a ‘do-or-die’ attack. In either of the above cases, maybe the damage she does could be more unpredictable, more likely to be a flop or a whopper. So, to simulate either of the above, perhaps replace the normal (more predicable) 3D6 (3-18) with the more ‘swing-ish’ D10+2D4 (3-18) …

• 3D6 is also synonymous with rolling up PC stats e.g. STR, DEX, CON etc. But, if in your game you wanted more ‘swingy’ stats, then perhaps again consider using D10+2D4. Again, maybe let the player decide if they want to roll one or more ‘swingy stats’?

• 3D6 or 4D6 attribute tests – some gamers make ability checks using nD6 instead of a D20 (incidentally I compare the two systems here); if you wanted to make the nD6 test less predicable, use pairs of D4+D8 to replace pairs of 2D6s etc.

• Falling damage. Maybe falling down a large tree should be more unpredictable that falling off a cliff. Perhaps the branches might cushion the PC’s fall, or give the PC an extra thrashing on the way down?

• Perhaps you think fireball magic should be more unpredictable than is governed by standard bell curve generated by nD6. Again, mix it up.

• Recently, I’ve found a D6+D8 gives a better probability spread (for a Hex Flower I’m working on) than 2D7 would (which is lucky as I don’t own any D7s).

etc …

Take-home message
This observation is unlikely to change your game much, but ….

… if you get into the situation where a bunch of dice are being rolled and added, and you decide that you want that outcome to be less constrained by the bell, i.e. more “random”, then see if you can substitute the homogeneous dice with dice with bigger gaps between the dice size.

– – –

InHotS the cover imageMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea.

PC Death is Power Creep … failing forwards in D&D

Edit: I’ve move this sentence to the top: –> If you bust the PC down to 1st level with only basic equipment (and I’m not against that), then there is no need to read on …

I’ve often wondered if PC death leads to party advancement …

Dead PC is Loot

Borrgat’s eulogy was brief  …

dead pc is looted

:: Often when a PC dies this happens

  1. PC dies

  2. Party (maybe) sheds a tear

  3. Party loot the body of gold, armour and magic items, and leave the body for carrion crawlers

  4. Dead PC’s player gets new PC; usually at around-ish party level and equipped with new magic items

  5. Net result, the party’s position has improved

:: Suggested ritual disposal mechanic

  1. (as above)

  2. (as above)

  3. Party need to ritually dispose of the body

  4. All gold and/or XP spent ritually disposing of the dead PC goes into the new PCs XP/GP pot spend. For example, a lavish burial inclusive of burying the PC with all their in life possessions and laid to rest on a bed of  gold and +1 swords

  5. The total GP/XP pot for the new PC should probably not surpass the dead PC’s XP total at death (‘power gamers’ would be on this loophole like a whippet)

  6. Net result party position is not improved by the PC’s death


  • Dead PCs are treated more than as a meat-popsicle loaded with loot
  • Reduces power creep based on PC death
  • Good way to consume excess gold (PCs could even save for a lavish send off)
  • Good way to remove all those excess but redundant magic items the players hoard, e.g. the proverbial +1 sword of just-in-case


  • Players might think you (the DM) are being an arse
  • Dead PC’s player might be resentful if the other players don’t give up the loot to bring the PC up to spec …
  • Not so easy to generate a ‘decent’ replacement PC in the middle of the dungeon (but then again, maybe the PCs should be thinking of properly disposing of their dead comrade, not pressing on for more dungeon loot … )

Example 1:

7th Level Fighter JUBELO (taken from AD&D’s Tomb of the Lizard King)
dies and is is buried will all his possessions:

  • shield +2 (500 XP;  5,000 GP)
  • long sword +1, Nine Lives Stealer (1,600 XP; 8,000 GP)
  • potion of super heroism (450 XP; 750 GP)
  • horn of Valhalla (bronze) (2,000 XP; 30,000 GP)

Totals = 4550 XP + 43750 GP = 48300 XP/GP

So from the above, a DM has three choices to give GP/XP to the player to spend  on the new PC (depending on how ‘hard’ the DM feels about PC death):

i.e.: 4.5K, 44K or 48K XP/GP pot.

For reference, the 1e PHB XP table is reproduced below for fighters:

Fighter XP table 1e PHB

Example 2:

7th Level Cleric AZURE (also taken from AD&D’s Tomb of the Lizard King)
dies and is buried will all her possessions:

  • staff of curing (6,000 XP, 25,000 GP)
  • plate mail +2 (1,750 XP; 10,500 GP)
  • scroll with:
    • divination (800 XP, 2,400 GP)
    • remove curse (800 XP, 2,400 GP)
    • find traps (800 XP, 2,400 GP)

Totals = 10150 XP + 42700 GP = 52850 XP/GP

Again, from the above, a DM has three choices to give XP to the player to spend on the new PC (depending on how ‘hard’ the DM feels about PC death):

i.e.: 10K, 43K or 53K XP/GP pot.

For reference, the 1e PHB XP table is reproduced below for clerics:

Cleric XP table 1e PHB

Examples – conclusions

First up there is no need to be quite so formal. A DM might simply take account of the ‘ritual burial’ and think “yes the rights have been well observed, I’ll give a new 5th level PC + some modest magic items etc.

But, let’s work through some of the ‘crunch’ mentioned above:

So, in the two above examples (taking the middle XP/GP pot option; i.e . the bolded option), the new PC would have about 50K to spend between (i) XP for levelling and (ii) gold for magic items (assuming the party buried the dead PC with all their possessions).

But, the party might decide to keep back some choice magic items (lowering the total spend to below 50K).

Or, if the DM is only using the XP value of the magic items (i.e. and not also it’s GP value of the item), the party might spend big on the funeral (e.g. 40K GP, assuming they have it), erecting a statue in the PC’s home town (adding to the total pot spend).

Overall –> the way I’d probably do it would be to tell the player they have about 2/3 of the XP/GP pot to use as XP on the new class. Once the class is settled, I as the DM would probably pick out some appropriate class-related magic items (i.e. using the remainder of the XP/GP pot). Of course, there’s no fun as a player in picking your own magic items.

Like less ‘crunch’ –> give the player a new PC which is about 3/4 the level of the rest of the party (or one or two levels lower). Give the PC no magic items, or 1 item per 2 (or 3) levels of new PC experience.  My guess is that many DM’s instinctively use this method, but without requiring a ritual burial and/or the loss of any ‘party owned magic items’.

However, by contrast, if the DM had simply gifted the party a replacement PC at 7th level with equivalent magic items, the party would have gained probably about  5-10,000 XP and 20-40,000 GP worth of magic items alone. This, just for dying. In some cases, arguably, this would be a better haul of loot than the loot in many a dungeon …

Nonetheless, no matter what I say above, may be the ‘economy of PC death’ in your game works fine, and death is not a shortcut to net party improvement … or perhaps a natural check to a too hard scenario … in which case, of course, ignore all of the above.

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Me on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea.