Collecting pages dealing with Microlite 20. I also wrote a variant, M20 Hard Core. There is also a German translation of mine, see M20 Regeln.

2008-10-16 Converting Monsters for M20 Hard Core

I’m running my group through River Into Darkness by Greg A. Vaughan. That requires me to change some stats. I thought I’d give you a quick rundown of what I used until now:

Monster HD AC hp damage notes
Enraged Dragonnel 8 15 41 1d6/1d6/1d6 Forget about snatching and all that.
Kapoacinth Rogues 6 14 35 1d6/1d6/2d6 I think at the beginning I made some mistakes with the hitpoints.
Hippo 3 12 n/a 1d6 Party scared it away, no need to roll for hp.
Elven Ranger 3 14 8 1d6
Girallion 7 13 35 1d6/1d6/1d6/1d6/1d6 Roll claw attacks in pairs. If both hit: Extra 2d6 damage.
Crocodile 2 13 n/a 1d6 Our paladin (aka. cleric) killed it with a crit before I could roll for hitpoints.
Pygmy Keche 5 16 n/a 1d6/1d6/1d6 Roll both claw attacks together. If both hit: Extra 1d6 damage. I rolled hp on the fly.
Mamba 1 10 1 1 +8 attack vs STR defense for 1d6/1d6 STR damage
Faruq as a zombie 4 13 15 1d6 Improvised some attacks for the yellow musk creeper.
Lizardmen 2 19 3 1d6/1d6 +5 to hit because of bless and superior position; AC is high because of the shield.
Lizardman Shaman 3 17 10 1d6/1d6 Casts bless, burning hands, and sleep.
Shambling Mount 8 20 32 2d6/2d6 Immune to fire & electricity.
Elven Warriors 2 11 7 1d6 The party killed about 15 of them before they fled.
Esteban 6 10 32 1d6+2 +8 to hit because of fighter levels.

I really liked “converting” the monsters:

  1. Pick HD
  2. Use flat-footed AC if reasonable (in the range of 10-20 at the moment)
  3. Determine number of attacks
  4. Determine if any of them should do more than 1d6 damage
  5. Pick one or two special abilities
  6. Roll hitpoints

Done. :)


Add Comment

2008-10-14 Cannot Please Them All

Player Monday Sunday Notes
Alex (me) M20 M20 Dislikes lots of rules
Marcel D&D Likes tactical combat
Moni D&D D&D Likes character creation but dislikes the looking up of rules at the table
Marco D&D D&D Likes character differentiation on a mechanical level
Dani either Likes how M20 allows you to play more because there are no rules to look up
Zeno ? Dislikes lots of rules
Claudia M20 Dislikes character creation and dislikes lots of rules
Adrian D&D Likes rules
James D&D Sceptical about M20
Florian ? Appears to like rules
Thiago ? Doesn’t show up often enough to make a difference

(Yeah, I think that those players that didn’t speak out yet like M20 because haven’t complained yet. But I want to make sure. :))

It reminds me of Robin’s The evolution of D&D – where he says:

3e D&D: Designed to be fun for the player (but a planning and preparation headache for the GM)


Comments on 2008-10-14 Cannot Please Them All


My problem is that my players adore Mutants & Masterminds, and can’t understand why I’ve even been willing to consider 4e D&D - which they like too, but more as a Minis game rather than a full rpg. I don’t want to go back to 3e because 4e is SO much better for the GM. They like M20 too, but favour it for one-shot sessions rather than campaigns; overall they prefer a meatier rule set.

Based on what you’ve written about your player’s preferences, perhaps 4e would be the way to go as that’s got a good balance between tactical combat, simple in-play rules and great character generation. If you don’t mind using battlemats, of course.......... Alternatively, crack open that D&D Rules Cyclopedia :)

I’m thinking of starting an all fantasy M&M campaign soon (perhaps online) in the meantime, and continuing our 4e sessions as a straightforward D&D Fight Club. We’ll see.

greywulf 2008-10-14 13:30 UTC

Hehe, D&D Rules Cyclopedia for the win!

I wonder what I’ll do now. I guess I was in some sort of denial phase. To me, the end of the last campaign around level 15 seemed to be a clear indication that we needed to move away from D&D. Too many dice were being rolled, too many buffs were being cast, too many magic items were being used, too many bonus types and spell effects had to be tracked. But apparently I was the only one to draw that conclusion. Maybe I just need a DM break. Good thing I’m going to spend three weeks in Costa Rica, soon! :)

The coolest thing to happen would be somebody else volunteering as a DM. Then I could just play.

AlexSchroeder 2008-10-14 15:09 UTC

I think this was just a problem of the high level, and that we were not used to that. If I think about the Grenzmarken session I played (level 2 character), then we don’t have many dices to roll, not too many buffes to worry about, etc. Don’t you think this (beeing level 1 again) will make your life easy again, for at least one year?

– Marcel 2008-10-14 15:39 UTC

Hehe, I like rules. I think that does sum up my gaming nature nicely :)

– Adrian 2008-10-15 12:49 UTC

Hehe. What would be the shortest possible sentence to characters my gaming nature? Hm... This morning I read the following on Zachary Houghton’s blog:

I don’t want hours spent on hair-splitting character builds. I don’t want reams of special powers for each player. I don’t want skills and rigid, mutiple modifiers to get in the way of player initiative and creativity. I want me as a GM (CK) and my players to remember when we made rulings, not remained bogged down in rules. This ties into time constraints, but I want a fast-play, unified mechanic. I want the standard tropes and hallmarks of our shared hobby heritage there, unwarped. I want strong character archetypes. I want player backgrounds to matter in the course of play. I want so much of what has made the Old School Renaissance of gaming so inspiring to me and others. Of course, many of these lie at the feet of each Game Master/Castle Keeper, and can happen in any game. But its still good to have an RPG that’s on your side about it. [1]

Unfortunately it’s a bit silly to define your gaming nature in terms of the things you don’t want. Hm... “Likes quick and simple rules.” It just doesn’t have a good ring to it.

AlexSchroeder 2008-10-15 16:17 UTC

Add Comment

2008-10-13 M20 Spellcasters Loose Hitpoints

In our last M20 Hard Core session – the second session of River Into Darkness by Greg A. Vaughan – I got the feedback from the level 4 wizard player Marco that he wasn’t enjoying the rule that spellcasting costs hitpoints.

Emotionally, there is not much we can do. He’s unhappy, and the rules are there to allow us all to have some fun. I guess one possible reaction would be to tell Marco that maybe the M20 wizards are not for him.

In terms of balance, I felt that the wizard was just right. He didn’t overshadow anybody using spells and yet the wizard didn’t suck because there was always things to do. Consider that Moni’s fighter spent four rounds below the ship destroying the trap – doing nothing at all, if you want.

In terms of comparison with a D&D 3.5 wizard I also felt that we weren’t doing too badly. Let’s assume a level 4 wizard in D&D 3.5 has 12 hitpoints and knows three 2nd level spells and five 1st level spells (add one each due to an ability bonus).

An M20 HC wizard would have around 24 hitpoints, and if he were to cast his favorite spells, he’d spend 12+10 hitpoints to cast three 2nd level spells and five 1st level spells.

Yes, in this situation the M20 HC wizard is living very dangerously with only two hitpoints left and no way to heal.

Then again, after 30 minutes the M20 HC wizard will be back with his full array of spells. There’s no rationale to demand a 15 minute adventuring day! This, I feel, is a great benefit.

At the same time, a wizard can decide to cast three 2nd level spells and leave it at that. He’ll have 12 hitpoints left just like his D&D 3.5 friend, and he’ll still be able join the next fight.

Plus a M20 HC wizard has the same attack progression as everybody else. Using a crossbow or a sling will continue to make sense later in the game.

When I compare it to my current level 3 dwarven wizard Gar I find that I need to play my D&D 3.5 wizard even more economically. I won’t be using my spells for most encounters, and I’ll use maybe ten charges from a wand per day – most of it being mage armor and burning hands. Personally I didn’t feel like the M20 HC wizard was significantly weaker than the D&D 3.5 wizard.

All of these arguments won’t really solve the problem for Marco. So here are some options.

  1. Use a house rule I’m using in my Sunday D&D 3.5 game: Level 0 spells can be cast at-will.
  2. Reduce costs of all spells by 1. That would mean that level 0 spells can be cast at-will as they cost no hitpoints, and other spells would also be easier to cast.
  3. Return to a Vancian magic system with spells per day, and less hitpoints for spellcasters.

I need to think about this some more. Right now I don’t feel like changing the rules because the result feels about right. But unfortunately the result just feels right to me.

Tags: – and

Comments on 2008-10-13 M20 Spellcasters Loose Hitpoints

I’d suggest going with 0 level spells being at-will.

Alternatively, give him a Magic Point stat which is equal to 3/4 of his current max HP total, and set his new max HP equal to 1/4.

For example: if his current max HP is 24, that becomes 18 MP and 6 HP.

If he runs out of Magic Points, he can burn Hit Points instead.

Essentially it’s still the same (actually a little worse - one good hit and your poor 6 HP Wizard is dead meat) but with a little more old-school (ie, weak Wizard) style.

He’ll soon be demanding the original way back :)

greywulf 2008-10-14 00:01 UTC

Your writeup provokes several thoughts; some emotional, some logical.

Emotionally, I find it perhaps a little unfair to be told “wizards are not for me”. I think that blaming it on the player is little bit too easy to say. On the contrary, wizards are my class of choice above all other classes. Surprised? It’s true. To say “there’s not much we can do for him” is also untrue. This is play-testing, right? Feedback is the point, and evolving the game is a positive result of play-testing. Of course, you may be unwilling to alter the rules, in which case you have my feedback.

Logically, I find the “spellcasting costs HP” incorrect. Fighters don’t take damage when they deal it - at least, not directly. A fighter with a high AC, or an archer (even better example) doesn’t take 5HP damage for each bow he shoots. Wizards do.
For me, hitpoints represent your will and strength to live. Physical resilience and indestructability. Is spellcasting that harsh that you pour your life essence into each spell you cast? Perhaps, but it’s not what I imagine spellcasting to be.

What I propose is the Mana system we discussed last time. You have Mana equal to your hitpoints - in my case 20. The argument against it as I recall was twofold: Wizards have too many hitpoints anyway (1d6 per level), and the spell DCs are far too high, which compensates for only casting two to three spells per round. I would say reduce the hitpoints (make it 1d4 hit die for wizards, or something), and make the monsters harder to hit. Reintroduce the save perhaps? (magic attack = d20 + caster level + spell level + MIND modifier, magic defense = d20 + hit dice + appropriate modifier). In my case I would have 16HP instead of 20, and my magic attack bonus would depend on the monster’s skill and luck.

Important for me is that I can participate as a wizard for the entire combat (not a crossbowman or oil hurler or whatever).

With regard to Greywulf’s comment, I think you’ve hit on to the same idea I have except that, as you point out, it’s not an improvement. 6HP is not much - I suggest 1d4 per level like regular wizards.

Regardless, I’ve laid a few ideas. Take them, drop them, discuss them. I hope it helps develop the game.

– Marco 2008-10-14 11:25 UTC

Food for thought indeed. I’ll have to figure out what Mana means in terms of numbers of spells a wizard will be able to cast during a fight. It would seem to me that while melee fighters do not take damage while they’re dealing damage, they do need to put themselves into harm’s way in order to do it. Ranged fighters do not take damage while they’re dealing damage, and that’s why the hard core rules variant doesn’t grant a STR bonus to ranged weapon damage.

I thought that saves are equivalent to magic defenses, except that the attacker rolls the dice:

D&D: Attacker determines DC, eg. 10 + spell level + ability bonus. Let’s assume sleep spell by an Int 16 wizard and the DC is 14. Defender rolls d20 + save + ability bonus. Let’s assume a first level guy with a “good” save and no ability bonus, ie. save = level = +1. Mathematically that means roll 13 or higher on a d20 to “save” (40% to save).

M20: Defender determines DC, 10 + character level + ability bonus. In this case that would 11. Attacker rolls magic attack which is d20 + character level + ability bonus, ie. d20 + 4. Mathematically that means roll 7 or higher on a d20 to “succeed”, ie. 6 or less to fail (30% to save).

There will be larger differences as time passes because in a high level D&D game lower level spells have less chances of succeeding due to DC scaling with spell level, ie. caster level halved and good saves progressing at two thirds of your character level.

Changing this to a magic attack roll and a magic defense roll would be like changing AC to d20 + armor bonus + dex bonus (this option is in fact discussed in the DMG), ie. it would add more randomness to the result. I’m sure that’s not the intended effect.

Sorry about the wording regarding wizards and you. All I wanted to say was that maybe “M20 wizards as written” are not to your liking – I didn’t want to imply anything about D&D wizards or wizards in general. After all, I knew about your wizard character in Bev’s game!

AlexSchroeder 2008-10-14 12:09 UTC

Maybe I could suggest another way. I’ve recently started playing microlite74, and I’ve added a Vancian houserule to the mix. http://retroroleplaying.smfforfree4.com/index.php/topic,62.0.html

The twist is that a Vancian style Wizard can try and reuse the spell, but there are real dangers and very little chance that might happen. (I might, as my players get higher level, allow a bonus to increase the possibility, but I don’t know yet)

Not sure if this’ll help, the math you outline makes sense and it sounds like you’re working on a different approach.

Chgowiz 2008-12-01 20:08 UTC

Add Comment

2008-10-11 Less Thieves

I’ve been talking about thieves in D&D before. Recently James Maliszewski wrote about the same thing saying I Still Don't Like Thieves. The best nugget was to be found in the comments:

“What if I want to be a thief?” he asked. “Steal something” I said.

I also commented and said that thieving is a mini-game that involves only the DM and the thief player. It makes the game less interesting for others. I’m not talking about the mechanics of hiding, sniping, and sneak attack. I’m mostly referring to trap detecting and disarming, scouting, and successful skill rolls turning into automatic bottlenecks for adventures. What happens if you botch these all-or-nothing rolls? Was failure inconsequential?

That’s why I keep warning my players whenever we talk about character creation: I don’t like thieves.

James also says “I’d love to see someone come up with a new take on the Thief that addresses these concerns.”

Here’s how I’m trying to address it in M20 Hard Core:

  1. There are no skills and there is no rogue or thief class.
  2. “Better armor is heavy, noisy, and it slows you down.”

In a recent game the party was fighting on a ship (River of Darkness by Greg A. Vaughan) in the middle of the night. Anybody could swing up to the upper deck and jump down on foes. This should work only if they are wearing light armor or no armor at all.

It’s up to the DM to grant benefits to characters wearing light armor.


Comments on 2008-10-11 Less Thieves

Tangentially related, my friend GM’d a few sessions of LotFP. He removed the Specialist class, instead giving everyone access to skill points based on intelligence. Felt pretty good to me.

starmonkey 2019-09-29 03:29 UTC

Sounds good to me, too!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-09-29 06:49 UTC

Add Comment

2008-10-06 Spells For Clowns

A list of clown themed spells created by Marco for his new character Pepe. Pepe is a wizard in our playtest for the M20 Hard Core rules.

1Pepe’s Scary ClownScary clown frightens a creature.A big, scary image of a clown appears. It is the stuff of children’s nightmares; it has sharp claws, long yellow teeth, and blood-red smeary make-up.

If affected, the target creature is frightened for 1d4 rounds. If not affected they are shaken for 1 round.

Creatures with at least 6HD are not scared of clowns, and are unaffected.

Has more or less the same affect as 1st level Cause Fear
2Pepe’s PianoFalling grand piano deals 1d6/level damage (max 10d6) to 5 ft radius.A grand piano falls falls from a height of 10ft/caster level (max 100ft) and lands on the target area, dealing 1d6/level damage (max 10d6) to all creatures in a 5-ft radius.If a ceiling is present the piano will materialise at highest possible point, dealing 1d6 points damage per 10 feet it falls.

Does same damage as 3rd level Fireball, except it has smaller range and cannot be effectively used indoors.

2Pepe’s Imolation1 creature/4 levels above 3rd take 1d6 fire damage/round for 4 rounds.Target creature bursts into flame, taking 1d6 points of damage per round for 4 rounds. Target may spend one full round putting themselves out to extinguish the flames. One additional creature for every four levels beyond 3rd (to a maximum of three creatures at 11th level) are affected.Does the same damage as 2nd level Scorching Ray. Creature can extinguish themselves, but deals continual damage (so good against mages).
2Pepe’s Squeaky HammerColourful squeaky hammer attacks opponents.A large, colourful squeaky-hammer appears and attacks opponents at a distance, as you direct it, dealing 1d4 bludgeoning damage per hit +1 point per three caster levels (maximum +5 at 15th level), plus an additional 1d4 sonic damage from the loud ’sqeak’.

It always attacks the target you want it to attack, switching at will.

Does same damage as 2nd level Spiritual Weapon.

Average damage is slightly higher and deals multiple types of damage, but less effective as force damage (which also affects incorporeal creatures etc).

Switching opponents is a free action because there are no move actions in M20.

3Pepe’s Human CannonballConjures a human-cannon.A large, brightly painted cannon is conjured into existance.

The cannon is large enough for 1 medium creature to fit inside.

A string at the back of the cannon fires the cannon, ejecting whatever/whoever is inside the cannon at high velocity to any 5-ft square within 100ft + 10ft/level, or to a height of half the distance. This string can be pulled either by the person in the cannon, or by a ’helper’ who is aiming the cannon. A colourful safety helmet comes with the cannon, which protects the ’human cannonball’ from physical harm during landing, although they are shaken for 1 round afterwards. (The helmet does not protect from additional damage, such as being fired from a cliff, or being shot into a haymaker).

If an helper is operating the cannon, the cannon may be aimed and fired at any creature within range, dealing 1d6 damage per caster level (max 10d6).

The cannon remains for 1 round/level, or until it is fired.

Similar to 4th level Dimension Door, except only one person can be transported, range is limited, and line of sight is required. Extra damage-causing effect possible (requires someone to operate, aim and fire the cannon).
4Pepe’s Tar & FeathersCreature takes 2d8 fire damage +1/caster level (max 10), and receives -4 to attacks, skills, checks, and saves.From one hand a jet of hot tar bursts from the caster’s pointed finger, covering one creature with hot, sticky, tar. The hot tar deals 2d8 heat damage + 1/caster level (max 10).

Using the other hand, the caster throws a handful of feathers toward the creature. A huge gust of fluffy white feathers materialise and strike the target, covering him from head to toe. The target creature looks so rediculous he takes a -4 morale penalty to attacks, skills, checks, and saves.

Pepe’s Tar and Feathers are extremely sticky, requiring a hot bath and lots of scrubbing to clean all of the tar off. The demoralization affect lasts until it has been scrubbed off.

Functions similar to 4th level Bestow Curse, however only one curse may be chosen and it is not permenant. This spell deals a small amount of additional damage.


Comments on 2008-10-06 Spells For Clowns

I ❤ them.

AlexSchroeder 2008-10-06 10:58 UTC

HA!...I love clowns...

Reverend Mike 2008-10-06 18:57 UTC

hahahahaaaaa... I love our first hand made battle map! I treasure this one! Had a good laugh again on the tooth-eyed monsters...

– Moni 2008-10-09 10:19 UTC

Elsewhere, talking about clowns falling from clouds, somebody commented:

When I was a kid my uncle took me to the circus and when I asked about the clowns he explained that, ’those aren’t real clowns... just men dressed as clowns. Real clowns are too dangerous, they live on islands in the Pacific and file their teeth into points... they can leap high into the air, bite your face off and use your blood to paint their faces. They’re waaaaay too dangerous even for a circus.’ – knobgobbler


AlexSchroeder 2012-12-03 11:22 UTC

Add Comment

2008-09-22 Some Paizo GameMastery using M20 HC coming up

We had a talk about the impeding end of our Kurobano And The Dragons campaign. We started with the Kitsunemori setting and M20 rules, switched to D&D 3.5, played through the Tomb of the Forgotten King, Red Hand of Doom, Guardians of Dragonfall, and lots of little homebrew encounters. And we’re ready for a change. I’m ready for a change.

So I talked about M20 Hard Core, on how I hoped to change our game style because individually we all agreed on mistakes we made: Too much shouting, rules, magic items, spell lists, and buffs at the table, lots of arguing – just to name a few. I’m hoping that the new rules are familiar enough for us to just keep on playing but different enough to kick us out of our rut. That’s what I’m hoping for!

And today we decided on the adventures I want to run for our M20 HC playtest:

Yay!! :)

I also heard that they weren’t too keen on dungeons, so maybe I’ll have to postpone Castle Whiterock. We could play Rise of the Runelords instead!

But first, the M20 Hard Core playtest using the two GameMastery modules.

I’m looking forward to it.

I think I need to prepare a little list of in-game replacements for prestige classes and feats – background choices that will have in-game effects.

We also talked about character creation. I thought about the following:

  1. Roll 3d6 in order.
  2. Roll 3d6 and decide what to assign it to after each roll.
  3. Roll 3d6 and assign at will.
  4. Roll 4d6, drop lowest, and assign at will.
  5. Roll 4dF (Fudge dice) and use as your bonus (ignore the actual score).
  6. Point buy.
  7. Everybody picks their own stats.

I liked #2. One player liked #1. The others seemed to favor point buy. Oh well. I’ll have to think of a good point buy method.

I gave the monster list I have to one of the players who was interested in the numbers. I already talked about some of the rules with another player interested in them. I’m happy to see that things finally get going.


Comments on 2008-09-22 Some Paizo GameMastery using M20 HC coming up

Zum Thema auf dem - Total Party Kill Blog gab es gerade eben einen Artikel zum Thema: Point Buy - oder Würfeln?

AlexSchroeder 2008-09-23 14:04 UTC

Add Comment


Please make sure you contribute only your own work, or work licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Note: in order to facilitate peer review and fight vandalism, we will store your IP number for a number of days. See Privacy Policy for more information. See Info for text formatting rules. You can edit the comment page if you need to fix typos. You can subscribe to new comments by email without leaving a comment.

To save this page you must answer this question:

Just say HELLO