Microlite20 : the smallest thing in gaming

greywulf

Visitor
A request on this thread for information about the quickest and easiest RPGs that you can buy and understand in a day got me thinking. Y'know, it happens.

Sometimes you want to run a role-playing game, but don’t want to be surrounded by hundreds of books. You don’t want do be bogged down by a thousand and one rules either, but run something that’s fast, compact and easy to set up.

There are plenty of light-weight games out there, and probably just as many gamers who’d recommend each one. A particular favourite is RISUS, a game of almost zen-like simplicity.

It’s good, but what I want is something slightly different. I’ve been looking for something that’s small and simple, but also compatible enough with D&D that it’s possible to use the monsters, adventures and entire campaign settings with little work. Ideally, it should use the same terminology. There are some pretty good options out there, including True20 and Castles & Crusades. Both of these offer a more streamlined version of the d20 system, but add in a few more twists of their own that I’d like. While it is possible to use either of these system to run published d20 adventures, there’s more conversion involved than would be possible at the gaming table.

So, I’ve created my own. d20 Microlite is a 2 page pdf containing character generation, combat and rules for magic, monsters and level advancement. I’ve ripped the guts out of d20 leaving just the essence of the game. Skills are much simplified, there are no feats and combat is as simple as it gets.

A few changes have been made to better suit my own playing preference, but you should be able to recognise it’s D&D roots. Most importantly, any D&D adventure, game or supplement should be usable on the table with little or no advance preparation.

So, here's the question. Is this something usable or worthwile for other groups out there? The plan wasn't to shrink all of d20 into 2 pages (impossible, I hear you cry!), but to make something near-enough to keep the spirit of the game alive. If you can print a copy up and fold it inside a copy of Dungeon for an evening's gaming, all the better.

Oh, and blame scourger. He suggested I start a new thread about this :)
 
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scourger

Explorer
greywulf said:
Oh, and blame scourger. He suggested I start a new thread about this :)
Yes, I did! I think this is a great idea. I don't know if my players will embrace it, but I'm going to give it a try.
 

RFisher

Visitor
greywulf said:
So, here's the question. Is this something usable or worthwile for other groups out there? The plan wasn't to shrink all of d20 into 2 pages (impossible, I hear you cry!), but to make something near-enough to keep the spirit of the game alive. If you can print a copy up and fold it inside a copy of Dungeon for an evening's gaming, all the better.
Seems worthwhile to me. Since the other people in my group are d20 fans, I've sworn off DMing d20, & I'm often called on to DM; it might be something my group would use.
 
1) What counts as a light weapon? Is this different for halflings? Can halflings use rapiers as light weapons? Are there weapons halflings cannot use? Do halflings use fewer weapons or special "halfing sized versions" of weapons?

2) Can one "charge attack" as the one thing one does per round? If not, I don't see the advantage of moving towards the enemy when you could wait for them to move towards you (and be unable to attack) and then you hit them when it is time for your action.

3) High level player hit points seem freakishly low compared to, say, that dragon you statted up, or the damage of spells (if they are just ripped from the d20 spell list). That may be intentional?

4) Do Magic Items exist in your game?
 

greywulf

Visitor
Good questions :)

Particle_Man said:
1) What counts as a light weapon? Is this different for halflings? Can halflings use rapiers as light weapons? Are there weapons halflings cannot use? Do halflings use fewer weapons or special "halfing sized versions" of weapons?
It's light if the d20 SRD says it's a light weapon. It uses the d20 equipment lists after all. In the weapons I list in the sidebar on the page the dagger and shortsword count as light. So does the rapier, but that's a special case.

Halflings use the same weapons as anyone else. I decided to ditch the whole "weapon size" thing. Yes, weapon sizes are more realistic, but it also adds in a whole lot of unnecessary rulesery into the proceedings. It always made treasure allocation a pain. On the one hand, weapon damage is more realistic, but then it's completely wrecked when the players "just happen" to find right-sized magic items for their party. Sheesh. Other games get by without it, so it's gone.

I left things as "anyone can use anything" when it comes to weapons, though the GM is of course free to rule otherwise. I'd suggest that halflings prefer light weapons anyway thanks to their higher DEX. Remember that Fighters and Rogues can use their DEX bonus instead for those. In d20 terms, they get Weapon Finesse for free.

Particle_Man said:
2) Can one "charge attack" as the one thing one does per round? If not, I don't see the advantage of moving towards the enemy when you could wait for them to move towards you (and be unable to attack) and then you hit them when it is time for your action.
There's no distances given, so it's all "in your head" fantasy. I'd run that like this:

Round 1
Player: I charge the Orcs!
GM: Cool. The Orcs bare their teeth and ready their axes. There's the glint of victory in their eyes. You'll be at +2 to hit on your next attack

Round 2
Player: I slash the first Orc
GM: ....

And combat continues.

Alernatively, the Orcs could have charged too and met the charge on round one. You'd both be at +2 to hit the next round, which kinda negates each other.

Or they could fire missile weapons. What they couldn't do is attack the first round, as (in effect) you're still some distance away. You're moving to meet them at the start of your next round, not run=>stop=>be hit by orcs=>hit back. That would be silly :)

Particle_Man said:
3) High level player hit points seem freakishly low compared to, say, that dragon you statted up, or the damage of spells (if they are just ripped from the d20 spell list). That may be intentional?
Yep, totally. Makes for higher low-level survivability (and magic costs Hit Points), but things get Very Deadly, Very Quickly. It's also why I reduced the damage from criticals. But it makes magic and Big Critters epic things to be defeated with care and respect, not treated as Just One More Kill. It's a much grittier game in that respect.

As to magic, any spell that does more than 3d6 damage will probably be save-or-die for a single character. You'll either need good saves, or (better yet) plan ahead and use tactics to avoid the danger.

If that doesn't suit your idea of good gaming then change Hit Points so the characters get STR Stat + d6 each level, or something. That's cool too.

Particle_Man said:
4) Do Magic Items exist in your game?
Magic weapons work as per SRD. Your +1 Longsword still gives, +1 to hit, +1 damage, etc.

I'd be tempted to drop Masterwork items though, and apply penalties for poor-quality workmanship instead. That's up to you though.

Hope that helps :)
 
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Turanil

Visitor
After reading it, it looks like mages and clerics are totally overpowered compared to fighters and rogues. Has this been playtested?
 

Nadaka

Visitor
That is kinda interesting. I especially like your XP rules. It makes it very simple.

One thing I note however is the raw utility granted to your cleric/wizard with having all spells known. Basically what you are saying is that a spellcaster can solve any and every challenge that there exists a spell to over come. If the goal is to be simple, this breaks your mold as it gives them dozens or even hundred of options.

I also note that everyone gets the same (or nearly so) HP and attack. This seems to short change your fighter and rogue in the combat department compared to the spellcasters. Especially considering that the spellcasters recieve level scaling benifits while the fighter and rogue do not.

One of the things that I like is balance and choice. I think that you can retain both of these qualities even with something as simple as suggested. With your current setup, the cleric comes out the clear winner, followed by the wizard, fighter and the rogue (who only has light armor and "finesse" as class features).

I would propose a slight restructuring.
Qualities: A quality is a feature of a class that is gained at first level. (Im not shure if you want to include the option to multiclass or not).

Talents: A talent is feature that is gained every odd level. Talents should be relatively balanced vs each other. Every class has a (very) short list of talents to choose from.

Analasis of your current classes:
Fighter
qualities:
-all armor + shields
-combat bonus (+1 to hit/damage)
-finesse
talents:
-none

Rogue
qualities:
-light armor
-finesse
Talents:
-none

Mage
Qualities:
-no armor
-all spells known
-signature spell? (-1 drain to 1 or 2 spells)? DM dependant
Talents:
-increased spell level castable (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10?)

Cleric
Qualities:
-Light & medium armor
-all spells known
-signature spell? (-1 drain to 1 or 2 spells)? DM dependant
Talents:
-increased spell level castable (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10?)

Using this basic assessment, fighters are just better than rogues. Clerics are just better than wizards. And spellcasters have vast options that increase in number and power as the level, and no one else does.

Suggestions.
Class qualities:
Fighter: +3 physical, any armor and shield, finesse
Total: 4 (3 for armor, 1 for finesse)

Rogue: +3 subterfuge, light armor,finesse, bonus talent
Total: 4(1 for armor, 1 for finesse, 2 for a bonus talent)

Mage: +3 knowledge, No armor, arcane spellcasting(3spells/level known), signature spell
Total: 4(0 for armor, 3 for good spellcasting, 1 for signature spell

Cleric: +3 Communication, light or medium armor, divine spellcasting (2spells/level known)
Total: 4(2 for armor, 2 for decent spellcasting)

Note on spellcasting:
It grants the ability to use all 0 level spells on your spell list +(2|3) first level spells from your spell list. As you gain levels you add more spells known, limited by the maximum level of spells you can cast. To increase that maximum level, you have to take Spellcasting talents.

Class Talents (pick 1 at each odd level including first)
Fighter:
-Combat Proficiency: +1 to hit, +1 to damage
-Accuracy: +2 attack (this is mostly to compensate for everyone having the same BAB)
-Might: +2 damage
-Toughness: +3 HP
-?

Rogue:
-Skilled: pick a skill, gain +3 to it.
-deadly(may not be selected more than once at first level): +1d6 "sneak attack" damage to anyone that has not yet acted in the round.
-?

Mage:
-Increased Arcane Spells(level 3 or higher): increased castable spell level (1->2->3->4->5 etc).
-signature spell: -1 drain for a specific spell casting.
-?

Cleric:
- Increased Divine Spells(level 3 or higher): increased castable spell level (1->2->3->4->5 etc).
-signature spell: -1 drain for a specific spell casting.
-turn undead: 1/day: make a communication(mind) check, with a DC = 10 + hit dice of undead, if successful it flees. If you beat it by 10 or more it is instead destroyed.
-?

Its not really that much more complicated, but IMO it has better balance. The rogue returns to his place as a master of skills with the option of being backstabbity. The fighter is the unquestioned master of combat. The spellcasters have limited spell choices to keep them simple as well.

Does this change interest you? I tried to keep it about as simple as possible.
 
That's a really neat little system you've got there. Since it is free, you should be ok, but you might want to take the "d20" out and replace "Core d20" with Core Rulebooks, and add a copy of the Open GAme Licence. Since you have included rules for advancing characters, you can't technically call it a d20 product. (Caveat: I am not a lawyer.)
 

greywulf

Visitor
Eeep! This thread is now longer than the entire rules :)

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. I'll try to address each in turn.

Turanil: yes, we playtested it last night and it works well, at least for a one-shot adventure. It plays a lot faster than core D&D. Oddly enough, when the rules are reduced, the role-playing increases. I'm sure others have found the same thing using other systems.

Mages and Clerics aren't that overpowered, because they're limited by how many Hit Points they are willing to spend casting spells. We found that the Mage in the party (Cholmer, the sample mage in the pdf) didn't want to go below half his Hit Points, so that's only 6x0 level spells, or just 3x1st level spells, or a combination thereof. So, he had a lot of freedom of choice, but had to think tactically about the when. In discussion afterwards, the Mage and Cleric players both said they liked it - it was more akin to magic from fantasy fiction, where a spellcaster could visualise what he wanted (Will and the Word, etc) and it would work, and the only limitation was how much power their Mortal Shells could hold. Something like that, anyway. We thought magic items that stored "Hit Points" that could be used to cast spells would be Very Cool. A Hit Point storing Staff would be an essential item of equipment for all Magi above 4th level.

Nadaka: I kinda liked the XP rules too, thanks. I'm proud of those. See above for my thoughts about magic.

Regards balance, Rogues do look to be short-changed, but in play, they're not. That +3 Subterfuge is just too darned useful, as it covers a huge gamut of "core" adventuring skills including Hide (Sub + DEX), Move Silently (Sub + DEX), Search/Spot (Sub + MIND), Disable Device & Open Locks (Sub + DEX), even knocking out a guard (Sub + STR) and others. In one version of the rules I put that Rogues also get +1 to Initiative too, to reflect their quick-thinking, work on your feet nature. I'm still tempted to include it. What you think?

I did think long and hard about giving Rogues some kind of Sneak attack, but figured if this isn't miniatures gaming, but Imagination Gaming then flank rules don't apply. I figure if anyone can sneak up on an Orc and stab him, they'll get a bonus in my game. It's just that Rogues (with that all-important +3 Subterfuge) are move likely to do it, and succeed. No rule or "class feature" needed. The idea was to zenify D&D, not duplicate it.

In a similar vein, I skipped feats entirely because too many of them right now are just meta-game functions anyhow, or stuff that's better suited to in-play ad-hoc bonuses. Get rid of AoO, movement and miniatures and the Useful Feat Count drops by a third. Knock out the sorcerer/wizard dichtonomy and wave bye bye to some more. If a Mage wants to brew a potion or scribe a scoll after the adventure, they can. It's What Mages Do. Same for other construction feats. If they're high enough level (GM call), they can. What's the point having feats that only work in between adventures anyhow? That's like having a "Set up shop and sell stuff" feat :)

(This isn't a criticism of d20 itself, btw. I love the game, but purposefully wanted to create something lighter by cutting the chaff)

All that said, I love your suggestions, and I'm thankful to you for taking time to respond. Certainly, if it works for you, do it that way. I suggest you try playing the system as is first, though.

Timmundo: you're right, my bad. Anyone know if it's possible to display the OGL license in 2pt type in a footer? I /do/ want to keep within 2 pages :) Maybe I'll have to rename it to something else. Maybe "1d20 Microlite" or something!

Thank again, all.
 

Nadaka

Visitor
another point in favor of the original system you suggest is the way saves work. with your saves based on skill that scales with level and the spell dc based on spell level that advances at half that rate, it will be impossible for anyone to fail a savings throw against a spell at higher level.

by 14th level a human can't fail a save even against a save he is weak on, even on a 1 against an equal level caster assuming thier ability modifiers are the same. Its level 9 if its a save the target is strong with. By 17th level even a nonhuman against thier weakest save cant fail against a 9th level spell assuming that the caster and target have similar attributes.

Add to that items granting save bonuses and expect spells that allow a save to be completely useless (except save for half damage types, with your reduced hp the half damage still looks really good).
 

grimwell

Visitor
This streamlining of the system would make for a good way to introduce new players to the game. Run a brief campaign driven by these concepts, and then expand later into a fuller campaign with the entire rule set once the fundamentals are comfortable in the persons mind.

I can also see how this would be good to introduce children to gaming. Something I intend to do this winter.

Any chance you would put it in non-pdf format under the OGL when you are done tweaking? That would make it easier for people to hack in their house rules without printing separate pages. :)
 

greywulf

Visitor
Nadaka: Cool. I hadn't thought of that, so I'd take that to be an unexpected advantage. That's more of a side-effect of the way d20 spell saves work, I guess.

To my mind, anything that make the players (or GM, in the guise of evil NPC baddies) think tactically (by which I mean: overcoming obstacles like magic being hard to affect higher level characters) is a Good Thing.

So, if the ninth-level spell Power Word: Invert Internal Organs is a great spell, but it'll only affect lower-level characters (because of their relatively poor saves), then the high-level mage has to think harder against more powerful opponents rather than expecting their magic to solve all problems. Maybe it's also why evil Magi tend to capture the Weak Girlfriend and threaten to incinerate her rather than the High-Level Hero.

That said, it won't be impossible for them to save - situation modifiers are all important here. Anything that puts a penalty on MIND is the key to getting magic through. This could be anything from annoying buzzing noises to Confusion spells and Insantiy. Also consider spells that affect the environment too. Rock to mud on the floor will affect DEX-based saves. Then toss in a fireball. Tactics. It's all about tactics :)
 

greywulf

Visitor
grimwell said:
Any chance you would put it in non-pdf format under the OGL when you are done tweaking? That would make it easier for people to hack in their house rules without printing separate pages. :)
Will do! I'll post it up as an .rtf for anyone's pleasure when I'm done.
 

jmucchiello

Adventurer
greywulf said:
Timmundo: you're right, my bad. Anyone know if it's possible to display the OGL license in 2pt type in a footer? I /do/ want to keep within 2 pages :) Maybe I'll have to rename it to something else. Maybe "1d20 Microlite" or something!
Maybe you could make the OGL into a border... :)

But seriously, everything Tim said is true. I find it amusing that you called it microlite. That was my working title (OGL Microlite) for a similar rules reduction. (Though my goals did not include monster/spell/etc compatibility.)
 

greywulf

Visitor
jmucchiello said:
Maybe you could make the OGL into a border...
Or as a watermark.....hmmmmmmmmmmm...........

Seriously though, I've updated the PDF so it's got the OGL at the end. It's up to you whether you print it out or not, I guess :)
 

Aeric

Visitor
greywulf said:
There's no distances given, so it's all "in your head" fantasy. I'd run that like this:

Round 1
Player: I charge the Orcs!
GM: Cool. The Orcs bare their teeth and ready their axes. There's the glint of victory in their eyes. You'll be at +2 to hit on your next attack

Round 2
Player: I slash the first Orc
GM: ....

And combat continues.

Alernatively, the Orcs could have charged too and met the charge on round one. You'd both be at +2 to hit the next round, which kinda negates each other.

Or they could fire missile weapons. What they couldn't do is attack the first round, as (in effect) you're still some distance away. You're moving to meet them at the start of your next round, not run=>stop=>be hit by orcs=>hit back. That would be silly :)
Hooray for fudging encounter distances! Burn your [strike]bras[/strike] battlemaps! :)

After suffering through two campaigns that were very heavy on the dungeon crawl, I have decided that my next campaign will have very few dungeons, and of those dungeons that do exist, I will not be drawing out the map (or describing the layout in enough detail for the players to map it, i.e. "a 20' long, 5' wide corridor," etc.) be glossing over every room that doesn't have something interesting in it. There's no worse feeling than entering an empty dungeon room. What a waste of time! Instead, I will say "after about an hour of searching through various empty rooms, uninhabited barracks, and the like, you encounter...." It make take a bit of control out of the players' hands, but in the long run I think the game will benefit from it.
 

scourger

Explorer
greywulf said:
Oddly enough, when the rules are reduced, the role-playing increases. I'm sure others have found the same thing using other systems.
Yes. This is one of the reasons I'm into some other systems right now.
 

Turanil

Visitor
Ah! cool! I had mistaken it for "Simple 20", and when lokking at Simple 20 I thought "Hum, the first version was better, why all those changes? I should better to track down the original thread...". Now I see that Microlite d20 and Simple 20 are two very different things... :heh: :eek:
 

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