Stone Halls & Serpent Men

A small role-playing game for running Old-School adventures.

I’d really like some feedback about this, if it’s working for you, what you found useful or were missing. My tendency to minimalism and assumptions of too many years behind the ref screen may have missed something.

I’ll share some thoughts about the design in upcoming posts.

3 thoughts on “Stone Halls & Serpent Men”

  1. Stripping down stats to just the modifier is a good idea. Three stats does feel reductive, but it looks like it will work smoothly.

    I wish there was more clarity about what count as advantages and disadvantages for half-breeds, e.g. should half-elves be poor? A clarifying example would be helpful, such as a paradigmatic half-elf or half-orc. I really like the inclusion of full orcs and I appreciate the TES influence on that.

    Professions fit together very well, and I like the way the build over time. The coarser granularity of them is a much better fit for old-school games than fine-grained proficiency/skill/feat/perk systems, and they seem easily hackable to suit particular settings and sub-genres.

    I like the alignment write-up in flavor and he recommendations for party make-up. I do think this needs some teeth in the Henchmen & Hirelings section, either forbidding cross-alignment H&H or differing alignment giving a malus to hiring and loyalty.

    The language-learning rule is very nice in its simplicity.

    Did you have a particular reason to exclude XP for treasure?

    Similarly, is encumbrance a deliberate exclusion?

    The initiative rule is reasonably simple; I think there is a case to be made for the even simpler rule of group-based, “card table” initiative. Was this rejected as entirely too simple?

    I like the stances and hit-location notes (helmets are a hobby-horse of mine). Combat spell casting rules are clear an concise. I think a short note about comparable sizes might be due in the grapple block.

    There are no rules explicitly covering evasion/flight; is this intended to be implicit in the rules for combat movement? A simple note about applying morale (or the distractions of treasure/food) in pursuit situations might suffice.

    The simple array of weak/normal/strong hazards is great; it gets a lot out of a small amount of text.

    Good, concise spell write-ups. I like the subtle changes to lightning bolt and confusion.

    I like the encounter table a lot; if anything, I would like to see a few more “pet” relationships expressed in the notes. The modifiers for the reaction table are a very nice touch.

    I really like the particular touches of variety you put on the monsters. While I agree with the lich/soul jar point, I do think an incorporeal counterpoint to the vampire that focused on possession would be a nice inclusion. I’d love to see more randomization like the vampire has, for instance for witches/magic ogres, dragons, and slimes.

    “Shaman” is used confusingly; in the encounter section it means White Mage, but in the monster section it usually means Black Mage (e.g. ogre shaman).

    You mention several types of magic items elsewhere in the text (wands, rods, destruction and restoration staves, crystal balls, and amulets) that are not anywhere described. Implicitly, they could use the magic item bonus paragraph, but I think at least an additional paragraph is needed, if not at least a half-page table of examples to go with the potions.

  2. Thanks, some really good edits there!

    A henchmen/alignment conflict hasn’t typically come up, Chaos trawls rough bars, Law hires from temples and forums, but that’s a good thing to address.

    I don’t do treasure XP. In my S&W house rules I use the old Dragon Magazine “orgy” system where you can waste money role-appropriately to get XP, up to a limit, haven’t decided how/if to cut that down to fit SH&SM.

    Encumbrance is such a ball of rot grubs. I often just look at a player’s list and say “way too much”, but both slot-based and weight-based rules are annoying in play.

    Group initiative doesn’t reward high-DX chars or light weapons. One of the few ways Assassins have to stay alive is to hit first.

    I might have to go back and think about Ghosts as the high-end incorporeal undead. D&D Ghosts are so broken, they can demolish a party unless you have the right spell and then they’re nothing. A Frighteners-like Ghost should be more interesting.

    All the magic items are described, if incredibly briefly, in the table. I didn’t clarify destruction/restoration staves as black/white magic, but I’ll do that.

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