Monday, February 24, 2020

Inventor Class for Old School Essentials (B/X) and Lamentations of the Flame Princess

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my ideas for an Inventor class concept that I had created way back in 2004 or so while I was working on a D20 book called the Quintessential Expert, which was going to be a follow-up for a book I'd already written, the Quintessential Aristocrat. The idea was to take the NPC classes from the 3.5 Edition Dungeon Master's Guide and provide options to make them more attractive as player character options.

As I noted before, I spent a lot of time working on this book for quite a few years until I finally shelved it once 4E came out. I've revisited it a few times over the years, but finally decided it was time to put my ideas out there for people to read, share, and ideally, comment on and suggest improvements.

As part of this experiment, I've been working on translating some of the ideas over to OSR-style games, primarily Lamentations of the Flame Princess and B/X games such as Old School Essentials.

The inventor class I posted before for 3.5 was, so far, the trickiest class to translate to older versions of the game, because, due to the class feature of creating inventions, it can get quite fiddly, which is antithetical to the more rules-light approach of older style games. I've spent the past few weeks working on a variety of different ways to approach the rules for creating inventions for B/X style games, and I have two different options below that are both quite different, even though the rules engine behind both LotFP and Old School Essentials isn't really all that different between the two games. The reason for the differences below is partly due to the aesthetics of the different games; LotFP seems to be, if anything, even more rules-light than OSE, and I'm a bit more familiar with the rules of OSE in practice than I am with LotFP, so I felt a bit more comfortable adding some more detail to the OSE inventor. I also wanted to offer a couple of options to get readers' thoughts on which one works better.

I also discovered a bunch of new blogs while looking for ideas and inspirations for how to translate the creation of inventions to an old-school game. I had the 1st Edition AD&D Dragonlance Adventures hard-cover, with its rules for gnome Tinker class, and the 2E Complete Sha'ir's Handbook, with its rules for Clockwork Mages (Mechanicians),but both of those were far too detailed and fiddly for what I was going for. I was fond of a Tinker class for B/X I found at the Against the Wicked City Blog (definitely check that blog out if you're interested in B/X Steampunk style games), and I also reviewed a Mechanician class from a series of new custom classes posted on Thoul's Paradise blog. In the end, I mainly took the idea of the "scrap pile" as resources for building inventions from Against the Wicked City's Tinker class, and decided to have the Inventor focus mainly on replicating arcane spells with his inventions. This makes it less different and unique, but also much more rules-light, rather than creating a whole new sub-system for inventions, which I was trying to avoid.

As always, I'm interested to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and even critiques of the class and how it could be improved.

I have an Invention Creation System I made for the 3.5 version of the game, complete with feats and examples of inventions that I'll post later.

For other posts in this series, see:

Lamentations of the Flame Princess Inventor
Use the Specialist class as a base. As with the Alchemist Apprentice presented in Part 1, you’ll need to add a new Craft skill to the game; I suggested using one from the blog Blood, Death, Satan & Metal, as it was created specifically for LotFP. Using this system, your Inventor specialist would add “Craft” to his available skill options and would then select Craft (inventions) for making his various inventions. As with the rules for Crafting per the post linked to above, characters do not automatically have a 1 in 6 to make a successful craft skill check; they would need to allocate specialist skill points to the skill to be able to make a check.

Other skills that make sense for the LotFP inventor include Architecture, Search, and Tinker.

Ideas for inventions include clockwork versions of animals; items to increase a character’s vision, hearing, or other senses; vehicles or other transport devices; and items objects that replicate spell effects, just to name a few. The referee makes the final determination of whether an invention is allowed, and how long it lasts before breaking down. Unless the referee determines otherwise, inventions are complicated enough that only the inventor can operate them safely.

When making an invention, the Craft (inventions) check is modified as follows:

Ø  Simple, small items impose no penalty to the check
Ø  Medium-sized, slightly complicated items impose a -1 in 6 chance
Ø  Larger-sized, complicated items impose a -2 in 6 chance
Ø  Huge-sized, complex items impose a -3 in 6 chance
o   Even with a 6 in 6 chance to craft an item, inventing a Huge, complex item would still fail on a roll of 4+ 

The referee may impose other penalties or bonuses to the checks depending on the level of technology in the campaign. The time to make an invention is 1 day per size (1 day for a small/simple item, 2 days for a medium-sized/slightly complicated item, 3 days for a larger-sized/complicated item, and 4 days for a huge-sized/complex item). As always, the referee may indicate that increased or decreased time is required. The inventor is assumed to be using various pieces of scrap metal and other found materials to make his inventions, which impacts the stability of the items and their ability to be sold. Inventions are crafted quickly for a specific purpose rather than for long-term use.

Inventions only work for the inventor that created them; the intricacies are unique to each individual inventor and are too complicated for non-inventors to operate effectively.

Replicating Spell Effects
Inventions that replicate spell effects last for one use only before breaking down, using up their power source, or in another way being unable to function.

Adding a spell effect to an invention follows similar rules to Creating a Potion and Creating a Staff or Wand, on page 81 of the LotFP Player Core Book: Rules & Magic, except the inventor does not need to be able to cast the spell, and does not need to cast Permanency spell on the invention afterward. Only one spell effect may be replicated per invention. The referee may also wish to apply the Cost portion of the table on Page 82 of the Rules & Magic book as a guide rather than letting the inventor use scrap materials to create his inventions.

An inventor may not include a spell effect in his invention that is based on a spell level that is higher than one the inventor could replicate. Use the Cleric “Spells Per Level” table on the Cleric level progression table as a guide for what level spells the inventor may replicate in his inventions; for example, a 4th level inventor could replicate a spell effect of 2nd level or lower. The referee determines whether the spell effect could reasonably be added to the invention, and whether multiple checks with different types of Craft skills are necessary; for example, the referee may determine that replicating the spell Stinking Cloud in an invention requires a separate Craft (alchemy) check in addition to the Craft (invention) check.

Given that inventions may replicate some spell effects (with referee approval), the XP requirements for the Specialist class should increase by at least +33% (closer to the Fighter XP progression).

B/X – Old School Essentials Inventor
Inventors are adventurers who use their skills to create mechanical devices. They are able to create a variety of different inventions that may be handy during an adventure, but their devices are loud and bulky, and prone to falling apart.

Inventors create devices that sometimes have the effects of arcane magic. See Magic in Core Rules for full details on arcane magic.

Inventions: The inventor has the ability to design and build mechanical inventions, such as clockwork devices, sensory gadgets, transports, and other automated wonders. A successful check allows the inventor to create one invention using the guidelines below. Using the inventions skill requires an ability check against the inventor’s INT score (roll a d20 and compare to INT; if the result is equal to or less than the inventor’s INT score, the inventions check succeeds). Each different use of inventions requires a separate check, and the referee may require multiple checks for complex items. A result of 20 on an inventions check means something horrible has gone wrong, and the invention bursts apart, doing 1d6 points of damage per every two equivalent spell levels within a range of 10’ per every two equivalent spell levels. For example, a failure while making an invention that replicates a 4th level spell does 2d6 points of damage in a 20’ radius. A successful save versus Spells will halve the amount of damage.

The level progression table shows the equivalent spell level the inventor may replicate in his inventions. For example, a 7th level inventor may replicate spells of up to 4th level in his inventions. Each invention may only replicate a single spell.

 Inventions are bulky items that weigh 10 times the equivalent spell level in coins, and the inventor creates them using pieces of scrap metal, cloth, and other materials he can scrounge. Scrounging for scrap materials takes one turn (10 minutes) per invention, and the Referee makes the final determination whether the inventor could reasonably find the necessary scrap materials in his current environment.

Inventions last for one day per level of the spell they are replicating before falling apart, or after three uses if they replicate a spell that causes damage (e.g., Fire Ball, Lightning Bolt). Inventions require one hour per equivalent spell level to make. By increasing this time, the inventor may make the invention last longer; for example, by taking twice as long to make an invention, the invention will last twice as long.

The inventor’s creations are crude, clumsy, and not built to last. In addition to falling apart at the end of their indicated time as noted above, an invention will fall apart if it does maximum damage. For example, an invention created by a 5th level inventor that replicates the effects of a Lightning Bolt spell does 5d6 points of damage (1d6 per level of the inventor). If the invention causes the maximum of 30 points of damage, it breaks and cannot be used again.

Inventions only work for the inventor that created them; the intricacies are unique to each individual inventor and are too complicated for non-inventors to operate effectively.

Improvised Devices: The inventor can build items that replicate existing equipment or weapons but is limited to items that can be used more than once. For example, the inventor could create improvised thieves’ tools or a grappling hook but couldn’t improvise explosives because explosives are a one-use item. Improvised items last for one hour per level or until the end of the encounter in which they are used. It takes one turn to make an improvised device, which includes the time for finding the necessary scrap materials.  Improvised weapons due -1 damage.

Improvised Armor: The inventor may scrounge up scrap materials to patch together a suit of improvised armor. It takes a minimum of one turn to make improvised armor, which includes the time for finding the necessary scrap materials and provides +1 to Armor Class. It takes double the amount of time for each additional point of AC; +2 takes two turns, +3 takes four turns, +4 takes eight turns, and +5 takes 16 turns. The inventor cannot improvise armor with an Armor Class higher than +5. Improvised armor falls apart after one hour per level of the inventor. Improvised armor is bulky and always counts as heavy armor for purposes of encumbrance, regardless of the Armor Class it provides.

Mechanically Inclined
An inventor may open locks and find and remove treasure traps at the rate of success as a thief of the same level.

Inventors may use bows, daggers, and impact weapons, and are also skilled in the use of catapults. They may wear leather armor but cannot use shields.

The inventor’s constructions are bulky and loud. When traveling with his inventions, the inventor’s party may not surprise the other side during an encounter.

After Reaching 9th Level
The inventor may build either a laboratory or a warehouse to design or store new inventions. 1d3 apprentices of levels 1-3 will then arrive to study under the inventor, and 1d6 0-level men-at-arms will arrive to acts as guards.  

Invention Ideas
The referee makes the final determination on what types of inventions may be created. A few ideas might include:

Ø  Gadgets such as clocks, compasses, grappling guns, sun goggles, telescopes
Ø  Sensory devices that improve the sense of smell, hearing, or sight
Ø  Vehicles such as gliders, ornithopters, or mechanical carts
Ø  Ranged weapons that replicate the effects of Magic Missile, Fire Ball, or Lightning Bolt or Web spells
Ø  Defensive devices that provide Protection from Normal Missiles

Hanging: Home office and at one of my local pubs a few times while my daughter was at her ballet lesson (both times on my laptop)
Drinking: While at the pub I drank a Claremont Craft Ales "City of Trees" Double IPA, and a Beachwood Brewing Company "Simcoast to Coast" American IPA. 
Listening: "Ghetto Walkin'" by Miles Davis, Robert Glasper, and Bilal, from the album "Everything's Beautiful"

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