Halberds and Helmets

I think we end up with retro-clones not because we want to inaugurate the next kick-ass RPG but because we’ve spent—or wasted—six months of our life tinkering with rules, adding house rules, doing layout for a target audience of four to five people and by now we might as well publish it...

Halberds & Helmets is the name of my Players Handbook for old school D&D. It takes it’s inspiration from B/X D&D (1981) via Labyrinth Lord and incorporates many of the various rules and ideas I tag Old School.

If clicking the link gives you a gray or black screen and no PDF, try using a right click and “Save Link As…” instead. Perhaps your browser can’t display the PDF.

Also note the German variant, Hellebarden & Helme.

2019-03-31 Treasure into the Book

I’ve done it! I’ve started to add magic items to my Halberds & Helmets Referee Guide, and when that is done, I should finally have a “complete” system that no longer requires B/X or Labyrinth Lord to play. It has all the rules, all the classes, many of the spells (the Spellcasters project remains unfinished), all of the monsters, all of the big setting stuff (mostly just the two pages on the Norse gods and realms and my favorite additions, plus Hex Describe with the Alpine maps and descriptions), the treasure types, and now — at last – thé magic items.

It has been ... eight years in the making? The first thing I wrote about it was 2011-03-11 GM Style Manual.


Comments on 2019-03-31 Treasure into the Book

What’s your approach to magic items then?

For me it is proving to be the last hurdle for me to finish my b/x hack of 5e. On one hand, I find magic items in b/x to be one of its weakest points from an osr perspective as the items are mostly rather dull and functional. Been working on a procedural generator for it instead to help spur creativity.

OTOH, not including stock magic items might be too inhibitive for actual game play.

Anders H 2019-04-01 06:55 UTC

For now, it’s mostly small stuff: my favorite scrolls, my favorite potions, summoning things, +1 and +2 weapons and armor, small extra effects, but also dedications to the gods and demons of the setting, names of the people that made it or to whom it belonged, references to dragon names, dwarven forges, all of that. I actually started with a generator, then I stopped working on it, and now I’m trying to translate it all back.

To give it a try, visit Hex Describe with no map, and paste a dozen lines of this:

[magic item]
[magic item]
[magic item]
[magic item]
[magic item]
[magic item]

Or look at the 100 examples here: 2019-02-22 Magic Items.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-04-01 17:58 UTC

I uploaded the current state of affairs: Treasure.pdf.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-04-01 20:19 UTC

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2019-03-28 Mass Combat

Did some revisions to my mass combat section in Halberds and Helmets. This is what I have: One Page Mass Combat.


  1. uses D&D stats
  2. units can be any size (none of that 1:10 stuff)


  1. big numbers when it comes to hit points (hopefully the table alleviates the “… takes 42 damage, so they’re down to 92, which means 92/4.5/2=10-and-something so 11 gnolls remaining”
  2. high variability: one roll to hit, one hit for damage. I guess we could always deal average damage, or just keep everything in hit dice instead of hit points? And use a big table that says how many percent of that you deal on an attack based on the attacker’s HD and the defender’s AC. I suspect that would result in a more boring game, though?

Definitely needs more play testing. 😀


Comments on 2019-03-28 Mass Combat

Let’s try this: 20 knights (HD 1 AC 2 1d6 ML 8 with 90 hp) against 200 peasants (HD 1 AC 9 1d6 ML 6 with 900 hp).

  1. knights win initiative and attack but miss; peasant’s miss as well
  2. peasants win initiative and attack but miss; knights hit: and deal 1×5 damage → peasants are down to 895 hp but make their morale check

At this point the knights must realise that this is harder than imagined. The next morale check is due when the knights have dealt another 395 points of damage. Since they hit on a 10 they have a 55% chance of dealing 3.5×5=17½ points of damage every round, so if the knights are never hit, this takes 395/0.55/17.5=41 rounds.

At the same time, the peasants hit on a 17 so they have 20% chance of dealing 3.5×9=31½ points of damage. The first hit is going to wipe out a third of the knights. This is bad news for the knights. They had one chance and blew it.

What happens if the knights split up? Let’s say they attach in four groups of 5 knights each.

  1. knights win initiative and three groups hit; they deal a total of 8×3=24 damage → peasants are down to 876 hp and make their morale check, which they fail
  2. the peasants are now broken so they try to rally themselves with another morale check which they fail
  3. knights win initiative again and two groups hit; they deal a total of 9×3=27 damage but more importantly, they are now routed

What would have happened if the peasants had won initiative (50% chance) and landed at solid hit (20% chance, so a cumulative chance of just 10%), but they would have gotten an attack against each of the smaller knight units. As five knights only have 22 hp, that’s a 10% chance for each of the smaller knight units to be annihilated in one go.

It’s hard for me to say what a good strategy would have been. I have the feeling that in this situation the variance is too high and that the knights are better off waiting for a situation where the peasants try to split up.

Thus, the forces meet but no engagement is fought. The knights start trailing the peasant army.

I think I like this result.

– Alex

Let’s try an example from an actual campaign, including player characters. I’m going to use Orcs vs Everybody Else, a scenario where we had a three way fight:

  • 40 bandits, 13 mounted elves
  • 19 dwarves, 1 eye terror
  • 20 orcs, the party

Let’s figure out how we’re going to run this. In the game the dwarves were trying to see whether they could get a good deal, or pull a quick one, or subjugate the survivors, so they’re going to delay.

Bandits are easy, we use our stats for humans. These bandits are poor. They have no armour, but they carry a throwing spear, a fighting spear, and a shield.

  • 40 bandits (HD 1 AC 6 1d6 ML 7 → hp 180)

Elves are tricky because they use 1d6 instead of 1d8, and they each have a spell. Let’s say that a third has sleep, a third has magic missile, and the rest has charm person. As for arms and armour, they are lightly equipped with chain, bow & arrow, and a long sword. In melee, their horses also attack!

  • 13 elves (HD 1 AC 5 1d6 ML 10 → hp 46)
  • 13 horses (HD 2 AC 7 1d4/1d4 ML 7 → hp 59)

Dwarves are easy but the eye of terror is hard. I’m going to use the stats from the Advanced Edition Companion for Labyrinth Lord.

  • 19 dwarves (HD 1 AC 4 1d6 ML 8 → hp 86)
  • eye of terror (HD 10 AC 0 1d6/1d6/2d4 ML 9 → hp 45; tons of powers from the eyes: petrification, slow, hold monster, sleep, hold person, power word stun, telekinesis, feeblemind)

Orcs are also easy.

  • 20 orcs (HD 1 AC 6 1d6 ML 8 → hp 90)

The party is hard. I’m just picking some of the player characters and retainers from the Status page...

  • a dwarf 6
  • a magic user 6
  • a dwarf 5
  • a thief 5
  • an elf 5
  • two fighters 4
  • a magic user 4
  • a halfling 4
  • a thief 3

Perhaps I’m going to simplify this as follows:

  • three magic users 5 with a fireball or lightning bolt each, and some sort of hold person, and some sort of magic missile
  • five fighters 5 with good armour, and an average strength or magic bonus of +3

As they are “hiding” inside the orc unit, I’m not going to worry about the details, for now. What’s important is that we have at least one player character charismatic enough to push the orcs’ morale up to 9, just in case.

OK, I think now we’re ready.

Roll for initiative! Orcs & party win, then dwarves, then bandits & elves. The orcs & party decide to go against the elves, first.

  • orcs attack elves but miss
  • the first magic user casts fireball for 20 damage, elves make their save, take 10 damage, and make their morale check; I think it’s only fair that horses are targets as well since they occupy the same space, but horses fail their save and thus take 20 damage, and make their morale check

New numbers:

  • 11 elves (HD 1 AC 5 1d6 ML 10 → hp 36)
  • 5 horses (HD 2 AC 7 1d4/1d4 ML 7 → hp 39)

On with the attacks:

  • five fighters attack with a +3 bonus, three hit for 19 damage, thus reducing the elves to half their number, but they still make their morale check

I guess they massacred the elves that fell off their horses...

  • 5 elves (HD 1 AC 5 1d6 ML 10 → hp 17)
  • 5 horses (HD 2 AC 7 1d4/1d4 ML 7 → hp 39)

We still have two magic users to go, so they try to demoralise the bandits, too.

  • the second magic users cast fireball for 22 damage, bandits fail their save, take 10 damage, and fail their morale check → broken
  • the third magic user only needs to deal a tiny bit of damage so uses a magic missile to deal 5 damage → routed

We don’t care about the bandits any more, they run for their lives before engaging in melee so nobody gets a parting shot. Their total losses is 27/4.5=6 bandits.

The orcs have suffered no losses. The part has suffered no losses. The elves lost more than half their number, and they’re still willing to fight, but since the dwarves see how things have gone, they stay put and the elves promise to leave and not to return, and the players let them go.

Initiative and morale is very important, obviously!

I guess the elves are still dangerous. A sleep spell takes out 9 orcs on average. A magic missile and two charm person spells take out another 2. But that still leaves a magic user with a fireball spell which is going to annihilate them... So better to stop now.

– Alex

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2019-03-19 Metal Armour

A discussion with @lskh and @Provinto has me come back to the question of movement rate, encumbrance, and armour.

Basically, the question is: what effect does armour have besides armour class?

Or perhaps the more important question you need to answer first is this: how is movement rate going to affect the game? Can a character that is not faster than an opponent never flee? Can an opponent that’s faster never be caught? Notice that in B/X and Labyrinth Lord, movement speed does not factor into the chase rules. Even if you’re slower, you can hide behind bushes, dive for cover, over throw carts, and so on. In those rules, the trade-off is different: splitting up into smaller groups results in better chances of finding or avoiding opponents, but if a follow-up fight ensues, there’s fewer people on your side. As for my own chase rule: I ended up scrapping it since I never used it at the table. These days I tend to think that I don’t care about movement rate.

In my game, metal armour comes up in a small number of situations:

  1. you cannot sneak
  2. you cannot climb
  3. you cannot swim

Being unable to swim means you’re drowning. This is particularly harsh in my game because it means you must save vs. death or die, every single round.

That still leaves the question of chain mail. I just explain that chain mail is what stingy bosses buy for their troops (mercenaries, guards, soldiers), or poor characters on the first session. Characters should wear leather if pirates or thieves – or they should wear plate.

I also use the old price of 60gp for plate armour instead of hundreds of gold pieces. My argument is that this will buy you the worst armour that still satisfies the requirements. It’s the post-apocalyptic version of plate armour: chain mail with some plates attached, rusty, dented, ugly as hell. And if you want a fancy full plate armour like the ones worn by kings that you can still see in a museum, well then we’re talking about magical armour, or impressive armour that has an effect on the troups you lead, and at that point you might as well be paying thousands of gold pieces for it. It’s famous armour.

60gp gets you murder clown plate armour.


Comments on 2019-03-19 Metal Armour

I am definitely going to use the phrase “murder clown plate armour” the next time I play D&D 🙂

– Adrian 2019-03-19 14:43 UTC


– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-19 20:57 UTC

I have been toying for a while with the idea of armour as damage reduction. Basically, damage is rolled on a table (a bit like in rolemaster) based on location and type of damage. Armour substracts differently against different damage and the result is the hp loss, and if over certain threshold, means a wound.

Now, my idea is that one rolls to hit over (say) 10, then rolls for damage if one hits. The table has all the info, and if the location was not specified, it is determined by where the die landed.

Ideally, this means characters risk death from combat at higher levels, and hp are just a measure of fatigue. One dies from wounds, but 0 hp means the character is helpless.

– Enzo 2019-03-20 12:55 UTC

Interesting. I’ve played Das Schwarze Auge as a teenager (The Dark Eye), and there you had a defense roll (a d20 roll based on skill instead of a static target number), a damage roll, and damage reduction based on armor. My impression was that everything just took a lot longer. But your example has a static defense that’s easy to hit, right? Perhaps that simplifies things.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-20 14:43 UTC

Yeah, I haven’t tested it but I had in mind that you roll over 10 unless the opponent is actively doing something to avoid the blow.

– Enzo 2019-03-20 15:41 UTC

If you’re interested, take a look at the combat chapter of The All-Seeing Eye, a retro clone.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-20 16:58 UTC

It looks way more complicated than I was aiming for. Reminds me of my early rpg years (I cut my teeth with MERP).

– Enzo 2019-03-21 08:06 UTC

MERP! Good times. I bought MERP, and then Rolemaster with the companions up to IV, but when I finally got my players to check it out, they fought some orcs and got butchered and that was that. Back to AD&D! 😅

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-21 08:50 UTC

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2019-02-25 Movement Rate

Do we need movement rates in the player facing rules at all? I got a question via email about movement rates being 120ft while fighting where as B/X and LL just use a third of that. And I started wondering.


I guess at one point I decided that it wasn’t important anyway. Perhaps I should just remove “or fighting” from the text and write something about movement in general since the actual movement rates never quite come up in my game?

  • On rare occasions I care about who’s faster but usually that comes up in situations where one side wants to flee and fleeing is handled by the parting shot, not by comparing movement speeds (or group size, like in B/X and LL).
  • Overland travel is 1 hex/day.
  • Underground, the only thing that’s important regarding the passage of time in my game is the frequency of random encounters, and those happen when players are stalling at the table or when they move into an empty room or in similar situations, without checking the actual distance covered.
  • In combat, all participants can be reached unless they’re being covered by an ally, so movement rate never affects your ability to attack somebody.

Does it ever come up in your game? Do you use a battle-map?


Comments on 2019-02-25 Movement Rate

We use movement rate when we are using minis/mat for combat (sometimes not every combat). It never comes up when exploring though. There’s always something that stops the movement before the party would even get 120’. They find a door, an option to move a different direction, or a trap or similar object, so then the turn is up as they make a decision or take a non-moving action.

Derik Badman 2019-02-25 13:40 UTC

i use move die usually. armor subtracts from the move die and high agility adds. small races (like hobbits) have lower move die and elves have greater one. we use move die for almost all move-related feats in game. like: can i reach that ogre? throw d6. close: 2+; not really close:4+; really far: 6+; someone is blocking your path? add +1 to the DC; and so on and on...

– catseye yellow 2019-02-25 14:04 UTC

I like the movement die, catseye!

I usually maintain movement as ref-facing, i.e. the players don’t engage with it directly. Wilderness travel is abstract enough that it’s basically 1 hex or 2 hexes per turn (day). In the dungeon, I judge when I need to make a random encounter check (or a turn-based hazard die check) based on a lot of factors: how far have they come, how quickly are they moving, what actions have they taken. None of this is spelled out for the players, the only real measure of time that they have is the inexorable steady rhythm of the random encounter die being thrown when I judge “a turn” to have passed.

And in combat (I usually play OD&Dish) I don’t use minis or mat, so it’s abstract: are you in melee, or not, long/medium/short range for missiles, are the enemy near/far/very far (for closing to melee), etc.

acodispo 2019-02-25 15:53 UTC

Yeah, even though I have played with sketches on paper for combat, using dice is probably faster and doesn’t invite all the discussions about where you were “really” standing and all of that!

Battle Sketch

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-25 16:17 UTC

I read the following (written for Pits & Perils) some time ago:

“If there is a pursuit, divide speed of all participants by 10, and add it to 2d6. If your movement is 40′, 2d6+4. The higher roll wins the pursuit. If one side has an overall slower speed, I may give an initiative advantage to the faster side.”

Simple and elegant.

Michael Julius 2019-02-26 00:49 UTC

Hm, so effectively, a step up in armor, which reduces your speed by 30, or by 10 in a fight, is the equivalent of a -1 on a 2d6 roll. Hm, interesting. Then again, I did get rid of my chase rule because we never used it. The rule you quoted is simple and elegant: but have you used it a few times at the table?

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-26 06:25 UTC

Sadly, no. In the current season of my life (ruled by babies), my game is largely hypothetical. The rule is copied into a small file of houserules on my list of must try.

Michael Julius 2019-02-26 16:17 UTC

I loved the way @frotz put it: “I love my complicated and intricate rules but for the most part no one else does.”

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-26 18:10 UTC

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2019-01-25 Podcasting is Review

I’ve been going through my house rules, more or less one page per podcast episode. Talking about the rules, and wonder about the actual use these rules have seen at the table, has led to quite a few changes for the better, I’d say.

Today I got rid of the reputation section and ended up saving an entire page.

Too bad I can only get a three column index that spills onto a second page, or a four column index that cannot by hyperlinked, though.

LaTeX! So close... Something about the tufte class loading the hyperref package before imakeidx or something. It makes my eyes glaze over.

This is what I tried in 4col-index:

diff --git a/Halberds-and-Helmets.ltx b/Halberds-and-Helmets.ltx
index af1c9ee..751aa21 100644
--- a/Halberds-and-Helmets.ltx
+++ b/Halberds-and-Helmets.ltx
@@ -1,4 +1,4 @@
 % \usepackage{showkeys}% debugging \keys
@@ -11,8 +11,8 @@
 % Set up index
 % Set up the images/graphics package
@@ -1619,7 +1619,7 @@ years. This is her spell book.
 % prevent an empty page
 % http://tex.stackexchange.com/questions/109625/avoiding-empty-page-between-a-very-full-page-and-the-index
@@ -1631,7 +1631,6 @@ years. This is her spell book.
 \section*{Open Game License Version 1.0a}

I’ll also note that the index no longer appears in the bookmarks of the PDF.

Option 1: three column index, hyperlinks, and TOC entry, using makeidx:

Three Columns

Option 1: four column index, no hyperlinks, and no TOC entry, using imakeidx:

Four Columns

Source on GitHub.


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2019-01-23 Magic Words

I just read @linkskywalker’s blog post, Magic Words suck. Here’s Magic in the Moment.

I was immediately reminded of “Four-by-Five” Magic System for the Fudge RPG by Steffan O’Sullivan. In the four-by-five system you have four actions (enhance, diminish, communicate/sense, and control) and five realms (body, mind, spirit, energy, matter) and every spell is a combination of these two.

I was also reminded of Das Schwarze Ague Professional: Schwertmeister Set 1. There, you had 18 rune stones (18 words), each with a different value, and three places to put them: one for the medium that carries the magic (multiplier 1), one for the way of the magic (multiplier 4), and one for the target of the magic (multiplier 2). The example they gave was a spell that gave you a free critical attack using the runes Sight (2) as the medium (×2), Fight (5) as the way (×4), and Body (4) as the target (×1) for a total cost of 4+20+4 = 28 “astral” points (manna cost).

As you can see, here’s the first problem I find in these more free form magic rules: they result in free form results which you then need to interpret again and again. Or you can start writing them down, meaning that you will end up with a suggested list of spells of various power levels. You will simply give magic users more flexibility. Do they need more flexibility? I don’t think so. Also note that Link Skywalker started the discussion by comparing fighters and magic users, saying that “from this perspective Magic Users are the first example of unnecessary complexity creeping into the game’s rules.” I don’t know. I’d ask: how short can you make the rules? Short rules are a proxy for easy rules in my mind.

The second problem I had was when I tried a simpler variant of the above where I wanted to use some sort of rune-based or kanji-based magic. This time I had an actual player interested in using it and he picked the Air rune. And he flew around in some long jumps, gliding through the air. And that was it. I felt that he hadn’t taken advantage of the flexibilities given, couldn’t think of creative uses in a pinch, and I concluded that perhaps the system was too free form. Creativity needs some constraints.

Link Skywalker has a solution for all of this. He also provides a list of words (like the runes I mentioned above). He has some suggestions for things that might increase the difficulty. And most importantly:

After successfully casting a spell, Magic Users may record the spell for later use. Each recorded spell may be used once per day without a casting roll. These still count as successful spells for the purposes of determining the base target number. Magic Users may know a maximum of one recorded spell per level. At any time they may forget a recorded spell if they wish to replace it with a new one.

It might work. But then again, a referee might also simply sit down and start writing ten or twenty spells, and then players and referees simply add to the list. You know I like D&D-as-oral-history and this kind of writing and forgetting and remembering has potential. Perhaps that’s simply what Gary Gygax and his players did way back when.

It’s something we all should do for our campaigns. As for myself, I’m trying to do something similar by simply writing up two dozen magic users and elves for my campaign setting, including their spells, for all to use: Spellcasters. It’s based on what I can remember of the spells I like, and it’s new stuff that fits the Vancian magic system as used in classic D&D. I’m excited!


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2019-01-04 Treasure on the Map

I’ve added the new treasure types to Hex Describe. This is basically my test for the real world. When I read the generated mini-campaign setting, do I like what I see? Boring magic items? Stupid lairs? Details I should add? And then I just keep working on the thing that bothers me.

More monster stats and treasure types from my Referee Guide, magic items, treasure maps... and I still want to add so much!

Wouldn’t it be cool to add maps from my Megadungeon Generator? Maybe add styles? Eleven towers, dwarves forges, abandoned mines... and stock them! Hah, it would never end. But perhaps ideas which the referee then expands upon. Just enough to kick myself out of the same old head space. Otherwise all my towers look the same, all my characters behave the same...

Things I’d like to improve:

  • magic users should get appropriate magic weapons and armour; right now they don’t and I don’t know whether I like it (they gift it to a retainer for services promised, obviously) or not (there should be two different selections for magic users and others)
  • I’d love to see the spell books for the magic users and elves, but before doing that, perhaps I should simply finish the Book of Spellcasters I’ve been working on

Tags: Hex Describe

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2018-12-28 Treasure Type

I’ve been adding more treasure to Hex Describe and once again I’m thinking about adding treasure types. Remember those cryptic treasure types in the D&D monster manuals? A lot has been written about them and what they might mean. Perhaps it’s time to start my own categorisation of treasure. I’ve been thinking about adding the following chapter to Halberds and Helmets. It lists the various treasure types, provides a very short summary of what it stands for and what it might likely contain, and most importantly, it lists which entries in my monster chapter are part of it.

What I’m still lacking:

  1. the exact compositions of these hoards (stuff like “Older chimeras often have amassed quite some wealth, for they they do not only prey on those who wish to enter but also on those who wish to leave the netherworld. 50% for 1d8×1000 sp, 50% for 1d8×1000 gp, 20% for 1d6×100 pp, 30% for 3d6 gems, 20% for 1d6 jewelry, 20% for a magic item.)
  2. example hoards (but these should be easy to add, now)
  3. average values of these hoards

What I’m noticing is that I’m assigning treasure types without considering the danger these creatures post. I’m hoping that the special abilities they have, or their numbers, make all of this “reasonable” and that none of these turn out to be “easy picking.”


Remember, “Treasure is Experience.” When a big chunk of XP is provided via treasure, fighting turns into a strategic decision: when is it worth to risk a fight? And it makes alternative approaches more rewarding: tricking a dragon makes more sense than fighting it.

Providing enough treasure is important for the party to gain levels. How quickly should the party gain levels? It’s hard to provide good numbers. If your players are frustrated, you might need to add more treasure. I like to run a campaign for fifty sessions or more. Assuming the campaign ends with characters on level ten, that means it took them about five sessions per level. Instead of handing out more treasure than provided for in these tables, consider providing more treasure in a different form:

  1. stealing a ship that is worth 50,000gp would provide as much XP when it is lost (given away, sunk, stolen)
  2. conquering a well maintained keep worth 75,000gp would provide as much XP when it is lost (given away, lost in a siege)

This sort of treasure isn’t listed in the treasure tables below!

If treasure isn’t parceled out in small chunks and isn’t gained in regular intervals, but found rarely and in big chunks, then it works a bit like a slot machine: the reward is rare and hard to predict and thus players might feel a strong urge to be there for every session, and such large hoards become part of the oral tradition of the campaign as players keep talking about it.

(When such design patterns are abused, they are addictive. Signs of addiction are the inability to stop even though you want to, abandoning friends and family, the inability to maintain normal social ties. All of this isn’t true when you’re simply playing in a regular role-playing group so I wouldn’t worry about it.)

This is why treasure is defined in terms of probabilities: you roll for it. Players might get a lot of treasure, but they might also get nothing at all. Beating a dragon is not a guarantee of a rich reward. Players need to determine whether the particular dragon they are targeting does in fact have a big hoard. If it doesn’t, I hope the players are at least doing it for the right reasons and not for material gain and personal advancement. This encourages players to look gather information and to scout, both of which make the game more interesting and the decision to risk a fight a strategic one.

The following monsters have unique treasures:

Dragons: They actively seek out treasure, destroying settlements of others and looting them. And their servants bring them gifts. They have everything.

Dwarves: They actively seek out treasure, digging deep and plundering as they go. They also have everything.

Golem: Within their bodies, gems can be found.

Pixies: They have but a tiny pot of gold.

Unicorn: It’s horn and it’s hair is valuable.

All the other monsters are assigned a treasure type.

Treasure Types

None: Some creatures don’t have a fixed lair and don’t collect shiny baubles (bear, giant bee, giant beetle, boar, giant cat, giant centipede, giant crab, crocodile, elephant, giant fish, giant goat, hell hound, horse, ifrit, jinni, invisible stalker, jinni, giant lizard, marid, pegasus, giant scorpion, sea serpent, shark, skeleton, giant snake, giant squid, giant toad, giant weasel, wolf, giant worm, zombie). They have no treasure.

Poor: Intelligent creatures that live in ruins, finding the things others have left behind (giant apes, doppelgänger, frogling, gargoyle, goblin, gnoll, kappa, lycanthrope, myconid, nixie, giant spider, treant). These have very little treasure.

Baubles: Creatures that collect only gems (gnome, swamp crane).

Humanoids: Creatures that live in settlements (halfling, human, lizard people). These have a lot of silver and gold coins and a lot of magic items, but few platinum coins, gems and jewelry.

Rich: Creatures that get presents from others (centaurs, giants, rakshasa, vampire). They have a lot of coin but also gems, jewelry and magic items.

Ancients: Creatures that live underground, plundering the riches of ancient empires, or remnants of ancient empires (elf, spectre). These have magic items and platinum coins.

Robbers: Creatures that rob merchants and travellers (ettin, hobgoblin, manticore, minotaur, ogre, orc, troll). They tend to have a lot of silver and gold coins, and some gems, but few magic items and no platinum coins.

Scouts: Creatures travelling in small groups, perhaps in the service of others (bugbear, tengu). These may have some magic items and some platinum coins, but very little else.

Terrors: Creatures with magical powers cursing the land (basilisk, chimera, gorgon, harpy, hydra, medusa, naga, salamander, shadow). These treasures have a lot of magic items because of all the failed heroes that tried to kill them.

The Dead: The graves yield what people bury with their dead, mostly coins and jewelry (creeper, ghouls, mummy, wight, wraith).

Continued: 2019-01-01 Treasure Type Again.


Comments on 2018-12-28 Treasure Type

I tried to add this chapter to the book, and move the treasure specification from the dragon treasure there. But as a user of the book, that seems to lead to more leafing around. Better to keep things as they are. I can still use treasure types in the background, and I can still use this text. But I don’t want to tell the referee who just read up on elves that they can roll up their treasure by turning to “Treasure of the Ancients” table.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-12-29 21:39 UTC

And I half remembered seeing an analysis of the AD&D treasure types before and now I found it again: Rob Conley had it on his blog in 2012. Part 1 and Part 2.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-12-30 10:00 UTC

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2018-06-09 New URLs

I have a new laptop. Time to see what I need to install in order to generate those PDFs.

  • texlive – we need LaTeX
  • texlive-pictures – for tufte-book.cls
  • texlive-latex-extra – for xifthen.sty
  • texlive-lang-german – for the ngerman option
  • texlive-science – for siunitx.sty

I’ve split the Halberds & Helmets repository into three different repositories. All of them are self-hosted, now:

The old GitHub repository will remain, but I guess I won’t be updating it any more.


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2018-01-14 Counterspells

Declaring the intent to counterspell or delaying actions makes me uneasy: another round lost, more time lost at the table. I think for spell duels what we need is a kind of bullet time where all the spells go off at the same time, all of them cancelling each other as far as possible.

Thus, the basic rule is this: if you haven’t acted this round and a spell it being cast at you, you can use your action to react with any spell in your repertoire, aiming to counterspell. The side with initiative declares first.

Consequently, if you have already cast a spell this round and none of your opponents decided to counterspell, then they cannot cast a spell at you this round because your spells would have cancelled as far as possible. If you didn’t cast a spell, or if they are attacking you with other means, no problem.

Effectively, all the spell casting happens in the same moment.


When somebody casts magic missile at you and you haven’t acted yet, cast shield to defend yourself. This is a perfect counterspell.

When somebody casts fireball at you and you haven’t acted yet, cast lightning bolt to defend yourself. Both sides roll damage and only the difference gets applied to the loser. This works even when there are multiple people attacking each other. The winner gets to decide how effects are distributed amongst multiple losers.

In this case we’re assuming that all damage dealing spells are somewhat alike. Over time you’ll build a collection of rulings as to which effects can cancel each other like that.

Whenever spell effects cannot be compared directly, the simplest solution would be to have both sides roll their saving throws, if any. When both make their saves, nothing happens. When only one side fails their save, they are affected by the other’s spell. If both sides fail their saving throws, the spell of the higher circle wins: hold person (2nd circle) beats charm person (1st circle) if both sides fail their saving throws.

Similarly, if one side casts hold person and the other side casts fireball, both need to roll a save — one to avoid being held, the other for half damage. If both casters fail their saves, fireball (3rd circle) beats hold person (2nd circle).

And finally, if one side casts sleep and their victim can be affected, the other side is simply considered to have already failed their save.

This also means that it can be disadvantageous to attack with weaker spells because the counterspell might simply cancel whatever you threw at your opponent and thus you effectively gave away the initiative.


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Halberds and Helmets replaced the old Pathfinder House Rules.

– AlexSchroeder 2017-03-12 10:40 UTC

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