Fantasy Game House Rules

These are Paul Gorman’s house rules, and contain most of the information needed to play. For spell descriptions and full equipment lists, see Labyrinth Lord AEC. See also the introductory TLDR and condensed Quick Reference.

These rules started with the original 1974 three little brown books. The addition of house rules, such as ascending armor class, led to something that resembles the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules, but tuned more to the setting implied by OD&D than the semi-historical 17th century of LotFP.

Characters:
AbilitiesClericsFightersMagic-UsersElvesDwarvesAlignmentCharacter Advancement and Hit PointsAttack BonusEquipmentArmor, Encumbrance, Wandering MonstersHireling, Experts, and Henchmen

Magic:
Number of Daily Spells per Spell LevelSpell Books & Spell AcquisitionCleric Spell ListMagic-User Spell ListScribing Scrolls & Brewing PotionsSpell ResearchSpell Descriptions

Play:
ExplorationEncountersAttacksDamage, Death, and HealingMonster (Re)actionsEvasion and PursuitSaving ThrowsMoraleGrappling and SubdualExperience

Referee:
AdventuresMonstersTreasure

Characters

Abilities

Characters start as a set of six basic attributes scored 3–18: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma.

For each ability, roll 3d6 and record the total. After rolling all six ability scores, the player may swap two if desired.

High or low ability scores sometimes grant bonuses or penalties. For example, a 16 Constitution score gives a +2 bonus on a roll to recover after resurrection from death.

Score Modifier
3 -3
4–5 -2
6–8 -1
9–12 0
13–15 +1
16–17 +2
18 +3

Ability score bonuses apply only outside combat (though the referee may apply situational advantage/disadvantage rolls in combat).

Clerics

Clerics are militant crusaders, jovial friars, or cunning hunters of the undead.

Each morning, they pray for their daily spells.

Clerics use the same spell-per-day table as magic-users, so they get a spell at first level. However, treat Turn Undead as a first-level spell, rather than an at-will class ability. A cleric may swap out any prepared spell for a Turn Undead or Cure Light Wounds spell at any point during play.

Clerics use any armor, but only blunt weapons.

At ninth level, clerics establish a temple or shrine of their own, attract devotees, and collect tithes.

Fighters

Whether seasoned soldier, retired gladiator, or haughty duelist, a fighter lives by martial prowess.

Fighters use any weapons or armor.

When rolling hit points, fighters roll two hit dice, and choose the higher roll.

Fighters deal more damage than other characters. See Damage, Death, and Healing.

At ninth level, fighters become lords of their own domain, clearing wilderness to build a castle, raising an army, and levying taxes.

Magic-Users

Necromancers, mad scientists, and devil wranglers harness arcane energies for their own occult purposes.

These magic-users wear no armor, and lack expertise in any weapon demanding more skill or strength than a simple dagger.

Magic-users begin their day by wrestling incantations from the pages of spell books into their brains. Once cast, a spell escapes the magic-user’s mind completely, unusable a second time without further sleep and study.

Elves

Elves are outsiders. Psychologically and physiologically alien, they walk the human world as tourists.

Their nature lets them cast spells while wearing armor and bearing arms, but distances them from the immediacy and urgency of experience that drives mortal men. After third level, elves keep only ¼ the experience points they earn.

Elves roll hit points, attack, and deal damage like magic-users rather than fighters.

Elves ignore aging and fear effects, Sleep, Charm, Hold, and ghoul paralysis.

Dwarves

Dwarves are flesh and blood, but also ore and stone. They love full beards, rich brew, and masterful craftwork.

Dwarves act as fighters. They make saving throws with a +4 bonus due to their innate fortitude and magic resistance. Dwarves know about stonework, gems, engineering, and metalwork; the referee would tell the player of a dwarf when a dungeon passage slopes subtly up or down, for example. On 1–2 in 6, dwarves notice secret doors simply by passing near them.

After attaining level 6, dwarves suffer a 50% reduction in subsequent earned experience.

Alignment

Choose an Alignment: Law, Chaos, or Neutrality. Law promotes the order of civilization, while Chaos favors a world beyond mortal reason. Law and Chaos do not necessarily correspond neatly to Good and Evil.

Character Advancement and Hit Points

Characters amass experience points (XP) by finding treasure. After accumulating enough experience points, a character advances to a higher level, gaining additional hit points, more daily spells, better saving throws, etc.

Level Experience Points Hit Dice
1 0 1 HD + Constitution modifier
2 1,000 2 HD + Constitution modifier
3 4,000 3 HD + Constitution modifier
4 8,000 4 HD + Constitution modifier
5 16,000 5 HD + Constitution modifier
6 32,000 6 HD + Constitution modifier
7 64,000 7 HD + Constitution modifier
8 128,000 8 HD + Constitution modifier
9 256,000 9 HD + Constitution modifier
10 400,000 +2 hp
11 500,000 +2 hp
12 600,000 +2 hp
13 700,000 +2 hp
14 800,000 +2 hp
15 900,000 +2 hp
16 1,000,000 +2 hp

Hit Points (hp) represent a combination of health, stamina, and luck. Characters temporarily lose hit points through the damage and fatigue of combat, but regain them with rest and healing. A character’s maximum hit points increase only when the character gains a level.

When advancing from first through ninth level, characters roll an additional hit die, plus any constitution modifier, to add to their total hit points. At level ten and above, characters gain only two additional hit points per level. All hit dice are d6. However, fighters roll two hit dice, and choose the higher roll.

Characters advance one level per session at most. Reduce the experience award of a character who would gain more levels so that their XP totals halfway to the next level.

Attack Bonus

Add the attack bonus to d20 attack rolls. The attack bonus depends upon the character’s class and level.

Level Fighters Monsters Clerics, Magic-Users, Elves
1 +2 +1 +1
2 +3 +2 +1
3 +4 +3 +1
4 +5 +4 +2
5 +6 +5 +2
6 +7 +6 +2
7 +8 +7 +3
8 +9 +8 +3
9+ +10 +9 +3

Equipment

Each new character starts the game with 3d6 × 10 gold pieces to buy equipment. One gold piece (gp) is worth 10 silver pieces (sp) or 100 copper pieces (cp).

Consult Men & Magic or Labyrinth Lord to purchase individual items, or choose one of these gear packages:

Choose one or two weapons:

Choose armor:

Armor, Encumbrance, Wandering Monsters

Of all standard gear, armor is the heaviest and most important. This makes armor the primary factor for encumbrance and movement.

However, when a character hauls something bulky or heavy, movement drops to the next lower movement tier. A fighter in plate dragging a statue, for example, falls to 30′.

Furthermore, every 400 coins of treasure carried drops the character’s movement by one tier.

The referee checks for wandering monsters every real hour of play time. The odds depend on the movement rate of the party. The referee adds another wandering monster check at 1 or 2 in 6 when the characters do something that might attract monsters, like bash a door or roast a kobold.

Armor AC Movement Rate Wandering Monster Odds
Naked 10 180′ 1 in 6
Shield only 11 180′ 1 in 6
Leather armor 12 120′ 2 in 6
Leather & shield 13 120′ 2 in 6
Chain mail 15 90′ 3 in 6
Chain & shield 16 90′ 3 in 6
Plate mail 18 60′ 4 in 6
Plate & shield 19 60′ 4 in 6
+Encumbered 30′ 5 in 6

In the ascending armor class system (shown above), a higher AC number indicates better protection. The traditional descending AC system has lower numbers for better armor. Use the table below for reference, or calculate the difference from 20.

Ascending AC 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Descending AC 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Hireling, Experts, and Henchmen

Henchmen and hirelings work for the player characters, although they are non-player characters (NPC’s) controlled by the referee.

Hirelings are normal humans with a single hit die and no attack bonus — regular folks looking to pick up a gold piece or two as a porter or link-boy. They work for a fixed rate, do not share in treasure, and gain no experience. Commensurate with their wages, hirelings tolerate only limited risk. Employers bear the cost of any gear, weapons, and armor.

Like hirelings, experts do a particular short-term job for an agreed fee. Unlike unskilled or semi-skilled hirelings, experts earn their pay by domain knowledge or craft mastery. Typical expert wages include: alchemist 250 gp/week, armorer 25 gp/week, animal trainer 125 gp/week, engineer 200 gp/week, mercenary (+1 attack bonus) 7 gp/week, sage 500 gp/week, ship captain 50 gp/week, ship navigaor 35 gp/week, ship crewman 3 gp/week, spy 500 gp/mission.

Henchmen have personal loyalty to a player character. They work for a half-share of found treasure. Accordingly, they have a character class, and earn experience.

Player Character Charisma Max. Henchmen Loyalty Score Modifier
3 1 -3
4–5 2 -2
6–8 3 -1
9–12 4 0
13–15 5 +1
16–17 6 +2
18 12 +3

Henchmen tolerate greater risks than hirelings (but not abuse). Each henchman has a loyalty score. Initially, the loyalty score equals d6+7, plus the player character’s charisma modifier.

A henchman’s loyalty score modifies morale checks.

The referee might bump up or down a loyalty score from time to time, depending on the player character’s long-term treatment of the henchman.

Henchman Loyalty Score Morale Check Modifier
3 or less Malcontent. Desertion or betrayal inevitable.
4–5 -2
6–8 -1
9–12 0
13–15 +1
16–17 +2
18+ Always stalwart. Morale never waivers.

A failed morale check due to an extreme situation or demand triggers an immediate loyalty score adjustment. A malcontent henchman might not return for the next delve, might run away immediately, or might even scheme against the player character — biding time until the best/worst opportunity for betrayal.

Magic

Magic spells are grouped by “spell level,” ascending from less dangerous first-level spells to fantastically potent fifth and sixth-level spells. Clerics and magic-users cast a limited number of spells per day. The number of spells they cast of a given spell level depends on their character level.

Magic-users replenish expended spells by studying their spell books after a night’s rest. Clerics pray each morning for their spells.

Number of Daily Spells per Spell Level

Character Level 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1 1 - - - - - - - -
2 2 - - - - - - - -
3 2 1 - - - - - - -
4 2 2 - - - - - - -
5 2 2 1 - - - - - -
6 2 2 2 - - - - - -
7 3 2 2 1 - - - - -
8 3 3 2 2 - - - - -
9 3 3 3 2 1 - - - -
10 3 3 3 3 2 - - - -
11 4 3 3 3 2 1 - - -
12 4 4 3 3 3 2 - - -
13 4 4 4 3 3 2 1 - -
14 4 4 4 4 3 3 2 - -
15 5 4 4 4 4 3 2 1 -
16 5 5 4 4 4 4 3 2 -
17 5 5 5 4 4 4 4 3 1
18 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 4 2
19 6 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 3
20 6 6 5 5 5 5 4 4 4

Spell Books & Spell Acquisition

New magic-users start the game with a spell book containing Read Magic, one spell rolled at random, and one spell chosen by the player. Upon gaining the ability to cast a higher tier of spells, assume the character, by hook or by crook, acquires a new spell book containing one chosen and one random spell of that level. Choose new spells from the magic-user spell list in Advanced Labyrinth Lord. Additional spells must be researched by the character, found in dusty dungeon vaults, or looted from the corpses of enemy casters.

Woe for the magic-user who loses his spell books! The cost of recreating a spell book matches that of researching its spells, although the time is less and success assured.

Clerics don’t use spell books. Each morning, they pray for their spells, and their god fills their spells slots with randomly rolled spells from the cleric spell list in Advanced Labyrinth Lord.

Scribing Scrolls & Brewing Potions

The few days between delves into the dungeon allow enough leisure to scribe one scroll or brew one potion of a spell the character can cast.

Magic-users produce either scrolls or potions. Clerics only make potions.

The cost depends on the spell’s level. A scroll or potion for a first-level spell costs 100 gp. The cost doubles for each spell level due to increasingly rare ichors and exotic powders. Scribing a sixth-level spell scroll, for example, costs 3,200 gp.

Any spell can be written as a scroll, but only spells that affect the imbiber may be formulated as a potion. Cure Light Wounds works as a potion, for example, but Light does not.

Characters of any type consume potions, but only magic-users read scrolls.

Spell Research

Magic-Users conduct research to create original spells.

  1. The player writes a spell description.
  2. The referee sets the level of the spell.
  3. Together, the referee and player negotiate minor changes or clarifications.
  4. The player commits the character’s time and money.

The minimum uninterrupted research time to create the spell equals the spell’s level in weeks. During this period, the magic-user forgoes adventuring to sequester herself in her laboratory. For an equal number of game sessions, the player assumes the role of an alternate character or NPC henchman.

The magic-user’s chance of success depends upon how well she funds the research. Costs in lab glass, exotic substances, and consultations with sages reach staggering totals, especially for high-level spells. For each 10% cumulative chance of success, the cost for first-level spells is 1,000 gp, second-level 2,000 gp, third 4,000 gp, fourth 8,000 gp, fifth 16,000 gp, and sixth-level spells cost 32,000 gp.

After the minimum number of weeks, the player rolls percentile dice to check the success or failure of the research. Success means the magic-user adds the spell to her spell books, and can share it (or not!) with other mages. Failure means the research drags on for at least one more week, at the end of which the player makes another roll. After a failure, the magic-user may increase funding to improve chances of success on the next check.

Play

Exploration

“Exploration turns” last ten times longer than combat turns. Each character takes a single complex action (attack, or cast a spell) or two simple actions (light a torch and move, or two moves) during a turn.

During exploration, the referee considers how far the characters see in the gloom, how long light sources burn before exhausting their fuel, and what sounds echo to or from nearby monsters.

Light Source Distance Duration
Candle 10′ radius 6 turns
Torch 40′ radius 6 turns
Lantern 30′ radius 24 turns
Bullseye Lantern 80′ cone 24 turns

Encounters

  1. Surprise? Base chance of 1–2 in 6. Roll for both sides.
  2. Encounter distance (if not dictated by environment) is the sum of surprise rolls × 10′.
  3. Anyone surprised stands frozen for a turn. Anyone not surprised declares an action:
  4. Check monster (re)action with any situational modifiers
  5. Roll initiative (d6 per side)
  6. Repeat each turn as appropriate:
    1. Check morale of non-player characters, hirelings, monsters
    2. Missile fire
    3. Melee

Monster (Re)actions

Monster reactions may be modified by the situation, rumors about the player characters, bribes, player character charisma, allegiances or antipathies with other dungeon factions, etc.

2d6 Monster (Re)action
2–6 Hostile — immediate attack!
7–9 Uncertain, wait and see (possibly receptive to bribes), or ignore PC’s
10–12 Positive, possibly even helpful

Attacks

To score a hit during missile fire or melee, the sum of the attacker’s d20 to-hit roll, base attack bonus, and any situational bonuses must equal or exceed the target’s armor class.

A natural roll of “20” (without any attack bonus) is a critical hit that deals triple damage. A natural roll of “1” is a critical miss. A critical miss means the attacker’s weapon breaks, unless it’s a magic weapon. A magic weapon only breaks after a second d20 roll also comes up “1”.

A broken weapon does half damage (round down). A broken magical weapons loses its magic.

Damage, Death, and Healing

Most weapons do 1d6 damage on a successful hit. A fighter wielding a martial weapon, such as a longsword, does 1d8 damage. Fighters who forgo a shield in order to wield a two-handed weapon, such as a polearm, deal 1d10 damage. A fighter wielding two weapons also makes one attack roll for d10 damage.

With proper rest and nutrition, characters naturally heal 1 hp per day.

For any character reduced to zero or fewer hit points, the player rolls on the Death and Dismemberment table. Deduct the character’s current hit point deficit from the roll.

For example, a mold monster bashes Slim Charles, the Thaumaturgist, reducing him to -4 hp. The Death and Dismemberment d12 roll comes up seven. Subtract four because of Slim Charles’ negative hit points, giving a final result of three. Slim Charles looses an arm, and stabilizes at 1 hp.

d12 Death or Dismemberment Result
<=1 Save or die. Success leaves the character unconscious at 0 hp.
2 Leg lopped away. Character stabilizes at 1 hp.
3 Arm chopped off. Character stabilizes at 1 hp.
4 Hand severed. Character stabilizes at 1 hp.
5 Nose snipped off. Character stabilizes at 1 hp.
6–7 Eye plucked out. Character stabilizes at 1 hp.
8–9 Ear cut off. Character stabilizes at 1 hp.
10–12 Finger lost. Character stabilizes at 1 hp.

Re-roll if the character can not be further dismembered in the way described (e.g. — both legs already lost).

Evasion and Pursuit

A group of player characters or monsters, having stumbled into a disadvantageous situation, may try to evade the encounter, so long as the other side hasn’t surprised them.

Pursuit differs for monsters and player characters.

Player characters chasing monsters:

Monsters chasing player characters:

Saving Throws

Some effects, like the petrification caused by a medusa, call for a saving throw. A successful save avoids or reduces harm (e.g., “save for half damage”). To make a save, the target must equal or exceed its saving throw score with a d20 roll.

The saving throw score depends on the character’s level. For saving throws by monsters, treat the monster as if it has levels equal to its hit dice.

Level/HD Saving Throw
1–3 14
4–7 12
8–11 9
12+ 6

Morale

Player characters only run when the players decide they run. However, the sensitive nerves of henchman and hirelings, as well as monsters and non-player characters, sometimes fail in the face of adversity.

The referee decides when to check morale — perhaps after the first death, or sudden reversal in fortune.

The referee rolls 2d6 to test morale. A result of 6+ means they stay in the fight. The referee might apply a 1–2 point bonus or penalty to the morale roll, depending on circumstances. Remember to add the loyalty modifier when checking morale for henchmen.

Grappling and Subdual

A group can grapple and subdue a lone opponent, rendering the opponent incapacitated but otherwise unharmed.

  1. The attackers each roll to hit.
  2. For each hit the attackers score, roll d6.
  3. For each of the defender’s hit dice, roll a d6.

If the sum of they attackers’ d6 rolls exceeds that of the defender’s rolls, they’ve subdued the defender.

If the sum of defender’s d6 rolls exceeds that of the attackers’, the defender throws off the attackers, stunning them for a number of turns equal to the difference between the roll totals.

For example, six 1 HD dwarves try to grapple a 5 HD cave ape. The dwarves each make an attack roll, and four of them hit. The dwarves roll 4d6 for a total of 11. The cave ape rolls 5d6 for a total of 13.

So, the dwarves pile onto the simian, but it sends them flying. The dwarves sit stunned for two turns (13 - 11 = 2).

Experience

Characters receive one experience point (XP) for each gold piece worth of treasure they carry back from their adventure.

Furthermore, each previously unvisited dungeon room or wilderness hex explored during the game session grants a bonus to any experience earned. Returning to town from the dungeon, or otherwise retreating to a safe area, resets the bonus progression to zero.

New Rooms/Hexes XP Bonus
0–4 0%
5–6 5%
7–8 10%
9–10 15%
11+ 20%

Killing monsters earns no experience.