Wednesday 10 June 2015

20 things for fighters to look at grimly as they contemplate the slaughter ahead

Full-face Mongol helmet. It looks grim so you don't have to!

Given that one of my favourite things about OSR D&D is the speed of character generation, I've never been thrilled by the 'now go shopping' stage of chargen, when everything grinds to a halt as each player tries to work out what to spend their starting money on. ('Three flasks of wine? Or a ladder and a mirror? Hmm...') So for ATWC I'm just going to be using equipment packages, assigned via class. These ones are for fighters: so if you've just generated a new fighter, you get the basic equipment package, and then either roll 1d6 or pick from the table below to see what additional equipment you get as well:

Fighter Additional Starting Possessions Table (Roll 1d6)

Heavy footman's gear: Helm and breastplate (AC +5), heavy shield (AC +2), sword (1d8 damage), pistol (1d8 damage, 3 rounds to reload), 1d6x10 sp
Skirmisher's gear: Chainmail shirt (AC +4), light shield (AC +1), sword (1d8 damage), two pistols (1d8 damage, 3 rounds to reload), 2d6x10 sp.
Musketeer's gear: Helm and breastplate (AC +5), musket (1d10 damage, 3 rounds to reload), pistol (1d8 damage, 3 rounds to reload), 2d6x10 sp.
Cavalryman's gear: Helm and breastplate (AC +5), sword (1d8 damage), pistol (1d8 damage, 3 rounds to reload), battle-trained horse plus saddle and bridle, 1d6x10sp.
Scout's gear: Heavy leathers (AC +3), sword (1d8 damage), hatchet (1d6 damage), longbow (1d8 damage), bag containing survival gear (rope, compass, etc), 2d6x10 sp.
Shock trooper's gear: Helm and breastplate (AC +5), two-handed sword (1d10 damage), blunderbuss (1d12 damage, point-blank range only, 3 rounds to reload), 1d6x10 sp.

(Like Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I'm using the silver penny rather than the gold piece as my default unit of currency.) 

Much more important than this, though, is one extra bit of kit which all fighters start play with: something that they Look At Grimly As They Contemplate The Slaughter Ahead. (No fighter should leave home without one!) To find out what it is, roll 1d20 on the following table:

Things For Fighters to Look At Grimly As They Contemplate The Slaughter Ahead (roll 1d20)

1.    The sword your old duelling-master gave you on the day you completed your training. It was the happiest, proudest day of your life. One day, you will avenge him.

2.    A battered locket containing a lock of hair, given to you by your lost love many years ago. It’s been so long, now… you can hardly even remember their face. But sometimes, when the west wind is blowing, you hear their voice in your dreams and you wake to find that your face is wet with tears.

3.    Your mother’s holy symbol. She had it blessed by the local priest, and gave it to you just before you set out on your first campaign. You wear it over your heart in every battle. May the gods watch over you, mother, wherever you are…

4.    A medal for outstanding gallantry on the field of battle. The nation which awarded it to you no longer exists. Turns out it takes more than gallantry to win a war.

5.    A very ordinary-looking pistol bullet. You yanked it out of the body of your best friend with an improvised pair of pliers, but it was too late; the wound was already infected, and he died the following day. How can something so small tear such a big hole in the world?

6.    A crude map scratched on a piece of tree-bark, handed to you by the finest officer it’s ever been your honour to serve under, as part of your instructions for a secret night-time raid. It turned out to be based on bad information: you were the only one who made it out alive. He went down fighting. You will remember him.

7.    The scars on your wrists from years spent manacled to a wall in those filthy dungeons. Somehow, someday, those bastards are going to pay for what they did to you.

8.    A burnt and tattered scrap of fabric, once part of a regimental standard. We didn’t let them capture the flag, captain. You would have been proud of us.

9.    Your father’s sword. He was a good man and a wise man and a strong man, and you worry every day that you’re failing to live up to his example.

10.  Your father’s pistol. He was a drunk and a brute and a bully, and you worry that you’re becoming more like him with each passing year.

11.  A love-letter, so worn that it’s almost illegible – not that it matters, as you know the words by heart. The person who sent it to you married someone else years ago. You still dream about their smile.

12.  A crude dagger, stained with dried blood. It took a long time, but I found him, mother. I found him, and I made him bleed.

13.  A prayer-wheel. A holy man once gave it to you: he said that anyone who had shed as much blood as you had obviously needed it more than he did. You sit and turn it whenever you can’t sleep at night, and the faces of the men you’ve killed seem to hover before you in the cool night air.

14.  An iron crossbow bolt. In the street fighting at Nine Corners, you watched Red Kate get shot with it; then you watched her yank it out, dash across the street, and stab the crossbowman in the face with it while he was still struggling to reload. Damn, but she was crazy in those days. You wonder if she’s still out there somewhere…

15.  Half of a gold ring, hung on a silver chain. You will keep your promise.

16.  The key which unlocked your old slave-collar from around your neck. ‘Go’, she said. ‘You’re free’, she said. But it’s never that easy, is it?

17.  A lucky charm. Your brother gave it to you, just before he set off for the north country. The snows were heavy that year, and the roads were hard and the bandits were ruthless, but you still cherish the hope that he and his family might somehow have made it through alive…

18.  A fragment of stone from a castle wall. No fortress is truly invulnerable. You learned that the hard way.

19.  A silver flute. You saved up all summer to buy it for your sister, thinking of how happy she’d be when you gave it to her on the day that you came home; but then the war came, and by the time it was over you had no home to go to. Now, every time you hear someone playing the flute, the same damn fool hope rises up in you that this time it’s going to turn out to be her…

20.  The preserved foot of your dead pet rabbit, Fluffy. Never forgive. Never forget.

(I love random background elements like this. You start with a blank piece of paper, generate some random stats, roll on a couple of tables, and then try to fit all the resulting bits of information together into a single character who makes some kind of sense. The results are usually far more interesting than players would have come up with by themselves!)


  1. Hey, Joseph, i love this work. It creates far more interesing stories than a handfull of background details, and i love how so many of them have a tragic drop. ¿Mind if i translate them to spanish and/or reorder some? Im thinking of replacing the 5E trinkets with Background (Or Class) trinket tables

    1. Sure - go ahead! Just include a link to the original!