When I run a Labyrinth Lord game, which is available for free download right here, I will be making use of the following house rules and notes.
Much of this is gleeful borrowed from JRients.
Notes and Stuff To Be Aware Of:
Destiny Is For Suckers
The GM is not going to hit you with some world-spanning epic plotline that he expects you to follow. Adventures will be proposed, but if you choose to not take the bait that’s entirely okay. The GM is entirely prepared to just make stuff up on the fly if you opt to go off-script, though he may call for a brief recess to whip something into shape. Either way, you are free to seek out the adventures you want.
The Games Rules Are Not a Physics Engine
Labyrinth Lord is a great refinement of the awesome Basic/Expert D&D of yore. The GM is in love with many of his house rules. But neither the rules as written nor the house rules are as important as having a fun, exciting, imaginative adventure. Sometimes things will happen that aren’t described in the rules. For example, let’s say your PC falls into a 20’ pit. The rules say you take a couple d6 of damage and get on with the game. But the GM might say “You don’t lose any HP, but you landed awkwardly and you’re pretty sure from the pain that you broke something in your left arm.” On the plus side, if you want to attempt something not handled in the rulebook the GM will generally give a lot of latitude. In fact, the more you do stuff that isn’t strictly in the rulebook, the better your chances are of making it to second level.
Cleverness and Spirit of the Rules
The Labyrinth Lord's job is to be a neutral party and run a fun adventure, making rulings, running the bad guys, and basically keeping life interesting for the players. Players are totally encouraged to be clever with their use of spells and anything that they can get their hands on. With that said, the LL will be keep an eye on the Spirit of the Rules, meaning that stuff that seems to break the game or give a weird loophole will be adjudicated and we will move on.
Dungeons Aren’t Just Big Lairs
When you go down into a dungeon you are leaving the normal world behind you. Different laws of nature can apply, almost as if the entire dungeon is located inside a nightmare. Staying too long in a dungeon drives men insane or transforms them into horrible monsters. Only the brave or foolhardy would dare venture into these hell-holes. Still, that’s where all the best treasure is to be found.
God is a Dragon and Satan is a Frog
The Lawful faith is basically a faux catholic medieval affair called the Church of the Great Gold Dragon. Chaotic types tend to worship various loathsome toadlike demons.
All Politics Are Local
At the present there are no world-spanning empires and few decent-sized kingdoms in this world. Certain city-states are able to rule over nearby towns and villages. But for the most part urban areas have a great deal of independence for outside authority and the feudal ties between the various rural Lords are often quite tenuous.
Life, Jim, But Not As We Know It
Dwarves, elves, halflings, goblins, orcs, trolls, and all those other standard D&D monsters can be found on here in this world. But they don’t always look or act exactly like their baseline D&D counterparts. For example, elves always wear hats and many goblins know strange magics. It is up to the players to find out more about the difference between the monsters here and run-of-the-mill monsters.
Its a Cruel, Cruel World
Its important to note that death is a very real and likely result of walking into monster infested dungeons. Characters will die. While more modern systems make the game all about your character, this game is really more about the party against the dungeon. So when a character dies, we mourn and move on. There are some house rules below that try to make death slightly less frequent, and govern bringing in new characters.
Turn, turn, turn that gang of vampires. That gang of vampires.
When a cleric succeeds at turning undead roll 2d6 for number of creatures affected, regardless of hit dice. (This really gives turning some oomph at higher levels. And it gives me an excuse to use oodles of badass undead.)
The gods loathe fence-sitters
Low level clerics can be of any of the three alignments, just like any other class. However, upon achieving seventh level a neutral cleric must choose to align themselves with Law or Chaos. Staying with neutrality means you’re stuck at sixth level forever. If you’re a neutral cleric of the Lawful-oriented Church of the Great Gold Dragon the presumption is that you’ll go with Law. Similarly, neutral clerics of the Frog Gods of Chaos generally join the chaotics. You may opt to go the other way, but you are considered to have secretly converted. Only clerics of chaos can cast the reversed versions of standard cleric spells and they cannot cast the normal non-reversed spells.
It’s not just an adventure, it’s a job.
Every cleric is a member of a hierarchy of their faith, and must answer to that hierarchy. When a cleric reaches third level they can expect an appointment to a post as a village priest, whereby they will be responsible for maintenance of the local shrine, oversight of the lay members of the faith and officiating at the proper festivals. Reaching sixth level generally leads to further promotion to a bishopric, resulting in either appointment to the leadership of a large urban temple or as a supervisor over a group of village priests.
No double dipping
Miracles are not dime-a-dozen repeatable events and therefore the same spell cannot be memorized twice. That is to say a second level cleric can memorize one cure light wounds and one resist cold, but not two cure lights or two resist colds.
Ordinary People in Extraordinary Circumstances
Character statistics are rolled 3d6 in order. The human classes do not require any stat minimum to qualify, so you can play a stupid Wizard, foolish Cleric, klutzy Thief, or puny Fighter in the dice rolls go that way. If you are unhappy with your character to the point of considering kamikaze attacks, at least get killed as smartly as possible by absorbing some hits that might land on better qualified adventurers. Finally, you can march your character off to the ogre's stew pot if you desire, but wouldn't you rather be playing D&D than holding up the game doing another character?
Random Bonus Languages
The additional languages granted by a high Intelligence score indicate starting languages only. See the [not yet] attached random bonus language charts to determine additional starting languages. Anyone, regardless of Intelligence, may attempt to learn more languages in play.
[I plan on using some pre-made adventuring packs for people who don’t want to take the time to buy equipment.]
Shields Shall Be Splintered!
Critical Hits & Fumbles
A natural 20 on the ‘to-hit’ roll indicates a potential critical strike. Another 20 on a confirmation roll calls for a percentile roll on the Labyrinth Lord’s Super Secret Critical Hit Chart of Doom. Similarly, a natural 1 indicates a potential fumble, with another roll of 1 confirming, sending the poor character to the Double Secret Probationary Fumble Chart of Wailing, Moaning and Gnashing of Teeth.
It’s All in the Wrist
Two handed weapons only automatically lose initiative when the optional Individual Initiative rules are being used. Which won’t be often.
One Last Breath
Any time a PC runs out of hit points, that character is allowed to make a single d6 roll on the table below. This is at the Labyrinth Lord's discretion, and and the LL is well within his or her right to declare the character dead outright. If the character dies, see rules for replacement PCs below. This table can only be rolled on once per session by a player. If a PC rolls a 6, hops up, and ends up getting whacked again, she's just dead.
1 "He's dead, Jim."
2 "He may never walk again." Character has suffered a brutal and grievous injury and is unconscious. 2d6+12 weeks to heal. Permanent disability, possible limb amputation (up to DM, expect something nasty)
3 "It looks bad.." Character is terribly injured and unconscious. 2d4+9 weeks to heal. Permanent disability. (Up to DM, perhaps loss of 1d4 points from one or more ability score)
4 "I think she'll pull through." At 1 hit point, unconscious. 1d4 weeks to recover. All ability scores at -2 for 1d4 weeks after recovery.
5 "That was a nasty hit.." At 1 hit point, unconscious for 3d4 rounds. -1 to all ability score for 1 week.
6 "And she's up!" Regain 1d4 hit points (count up from 0), no adverse effects*!
Hi! I’m the new party member!
Replacement PCs will be made just like starting PCs (3d6 in order, 0xp). A new PC can join the party immediately if the player desires. Alternatively, the replacement PC can be designated the heir of the dead PC, and as such is entitled to the old PC’s non-magical treasure (minus a 10% inheritance tax) and one magic item of the player’s choosing. However, the heir can only join the party when it returns to civilization or at the start of the next session, whichever comes first. Heirs must be of the same race as the deceased. As an additional alternative, a replacement may be created in the usual fashion, but begins with half of the XP that the deceased possessed. This is a safety mechanism in case you die and do not have a handy henchman around to promote, and don't want to start over completely.
Every hero needs a sidekick
To avoid the hassles of starting over with 0xp and rolling up a new character in the middle of a game, the players are encouraged to recruit henchmen. Henchmen earn experience at half rate and normally expect a half share of treasure. They are generally loyal and normally the player runs them as secondary characters, though the Labyrinth Lord reserves the right to step in when needed to protect the interests of the NPC proletariat. If a character with a henchman is incapacitated, the player may immediately promote the henchman to full PC status. The new PC may be bumped back down to the ranks of the sidekicks should the original PC be raised from the dead or unpetrified or whatever.
Friends, we are gathered here today to mourn the passing of Bob’s cleric. What was his name again?
When an adventurer dies and the party is unable (or unwilling!) to have them raised from the dead, a promoted sidekick (see above) may opt to give the corpse a Heroic Sendoff. This requires at least 24 hours and something cool like a bigass funeral pyre, the raising of a burial mound, or a funeral ship floated down the river. The corpse must be armed and armored for combat, as appropriate to the class of the character. Each party member may donate up to 100gp times the level of the stiff as additional grave goods, the amount being spent is converted to bonus XP for the donor. Each party member may also donate one magic item to the grave. Scrolls, potions, and other one-shot items net a bonus of 250xp, while more permanent items get you 1,000xp. Magic items that would have been unusable by the deceased do not count.
You Shall Be Avenged!
Horus, the God of Vengeance, was slain some time after the fall of the long-gone Venuzian Empire. Yet somehow a trace of his power lives on. When a party member dies and the party causing the death is not immediately slain, a fellow party member may try to invoke the Vengeance Oath. Swearing “by the Dead God” that their friend’s death shall not go unpunished, the party member(s) roll d20. On a 1 they are filled with the Horus-Power. They are immediately under the effect of a quest spell (no save), but d6 statistics of their choice are temporarily boosted to 18 until they achieve their vengeance! Promoted sidekicks and heirs can take a Vengeance Oath, but non-heir replacement PCs cannot.
How do you afford your Rock-N-Roll lifestyle?
At the beginning of each session all PCs will be assessed living expenses for themselves and their henchmen, at 1% of their XP in gold pieces, minimum 1gp.
Ale & Wenches
Optionally when paying expenses as per above a PC may opt to ‘live it up’ by spending 1d6x100gp on general debauchery. The amount spent is converted into bonus experience points. However, rolling above your character’s level of experience indicates a roll on the Secret Carousing Mishap Chart. The 1d6 x100gp figure only applies in backwater burgs like the town near the starting dungeon. Should you travel to bigger towns or cities you can roll a larger die when raising hell.
Alternate Monster XP Rules
Each gold piece worth of treasure brought back to civilization still earns you 1 experience point. For defeating monsters will yield 100xp per hit die. That makes low level monsters worth a lot more but high level monsters score fewer points. Also no bonus XP are gained for special abilities, so a four hit die ogre is worth as many XP as a four hit die wraith that drains levels and is impervious to normal weapons. Pick your foes carefully!
Pick a Faith
Cleric’s must belong to one of three religions in the setting. Lawful clerics must choose between the Church of the Great Gold Dragon (a faux medieval Catholic sort of thingy) or the Twelve (a ‘pagan’ type pantheon with a dozen or so gods and goddesses). Chaotic clerics must choose between the Twelve or the Frog Gods (slimy, grinning amphibian demons). Neutral clerics can opt to be priests of the Gold Dragon, the Twelve, or the Frog Gods. There aren’t a bunch of mechanical differences between the three faiths, but it can make a difference when dealing with NPCs. Other PCs are encouraged to pick a religion, even if they aren’t particularly pious.
Dungeons is Dangerous
Ending a session inside a dungeon requires a roll on the Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Chart of Very Probable Doom. Make sure you get out before the session ends!
Home Is Where the Spellbook Is
Magic-users, elves and other arcane spellcasters are not required to carry spellbooks on their adventures. After six or more hours sleep and a brief period of meditation a wizard is able to realign their neural pathways into the patterns needed to focus spell energy. This allows the caster to recharge the previous day’s load of spells. Studying a spellbook is only required for initial memorization and to change the wizard’s spell selection.
No Double Dipping, Mages either
Memorizing the same spell twice sets up destructive interference in the brain of a wizard. Thus a second level magic-user (who can cast 2 spells per day) may safely memorize sleep and charm person, but not two sleeps or two charms.
Membership Has Its Privileges
Newly minted level 1 magic-users and elves are assumed to have apprenticed in the traditions of the Sorcerer’s Guild of H’Kaag, an ancient city ruled by a council of magic-users. As a benefit of belonging to this long line of wizardly inheritance, new PCs begin play with a spellbook, written in the language of their choice, containing the mystic formulae for all the first, second, and third level spells taught by the Guild (see attached list). However most of these spells are not yet fully understood by fledgling mages of 0xp. The player rolls d6 plus their Intelligence modifier (minimum result 1) to determine how many spells they actually understand well enough to memorize and cast. The rest of the spells in the spellbook are not fully understood and may not be memorized.
Each time a new level is achieved the player may attempt to understand more spells by making an Intelligence roll on a d20. If the roll is under the Intelligence of the character, the spell is completely understood. If the number is higher than the Int score, the spell remains incomprehensible and cannot be used. If the roll exactly equals the Int score the spell is partially understood and may be memorized and used if the character is brave enough. Dice are then thrown only for spells that the character could possibly cast. The player may then pick one additional unknown spell or two partially-understood spells that are now automatically understood by the wizard.
The Alchemist Option
The automatic spell(s) learned upon leveling up assume that the magic-user has been studying spell formulae during the course of gaining the level. Alternately, a wizard may opt to putter around with potions instead. This option costs 2d6 x 500gp in laboratory expenses, paid at the time a new level is gained. The decision to take this option must be made before the dice for cost are thrown and if the magic-user cannot afford the cost what money they have is forfeit and nothing gained by their efforts. If the cash is available, the player must roll lower than their character’s Intelligence on a d20 to gain knowledge of a random potion formula. Potions are created at a rate of money and time set by the Labyrinth Lord, but typically around 500gp and 2 weeks. Roughly 1 in 6 spellbooks include a potion recipe. (And 1 in 12 spellbooks contain miscellaneous useful arcane knowledge.) Elves may not select the alchemist option.
Scrolls for All
Magic-users of any level may make scrolls of any spell they can understand. The cost is 250gp and one week of time per spell level. Up to three spells may be inscribed upon a single scroll. Starting at 9th level the magic-user can roll to understand spells of levels higher than they can cast, which allows them to make scrolls of spells they could not otherwise use. Elves follow the standard scroll creation rules.
Books or Beer?
Magic-users and elves must choose between being studious scholars of the magical arts or carousing with their adventuring buddies. Taking advantage of the Ale & Wenches rule makes the Alchemist Option impossible and cancels the die rolls for comprehending new spells. You still get your automatic spell pick, though.
The Right Weapon for the Job
Player character weapons that are one handed do 1d6 (plus modifier) damage. Two handed weapons do 2d4. Longbows and heavy crossbows do 2d4, other ranged stuff does 1d6.
Ready Team? Go!
Flickering torchlight gleams off of a blade as it spins through the darkness. A sickening crunch from behind you where the Magic User is supposed to be. A terrible cry of agony from off in the darkness ahead. The chaos of battle swirls around you. Let's face it, fighting monsters in a dark dungeon corridor is not a football game. There is no time for a huddle or a time out. Players are strongly encouraged to play their characters, and to strategize with the other characters [instead of with the players]. Combat will be run with brutal efficiency. Don't discuss the fight during the fight, unless your character is taking a moment to yell something over the din of battle.
Draft: We will primarily use party initiative rules. During the party's turn, players will go in order of Dexterity, with the player who has the highest DEX having the option of going first, or holding his action. If he or she holds their action, they may jump in at any point after another players turn. Important note from the rules cyclopedia: "In a round where things are happening simultaneously, every character and monster who chose to attack gets to roll all his attacks. Even if one character's attacks killed an opponent, the opponent gets to roll his attacks because they're taking place simultaneously."
There is a character generator here. Feel free to use it. Bear in mind though that ability score rolls must be done at the table.
Other tables and awesome stuff that I'm borrowing:
1) Make a fool of yourself in public. Gain no XP. Roll Charisma check or gain reputation in this town as a drunken lout.
2) Involved in random brawl. Roll Strength check or start adventure d3 hit points short.
3) Minor misunderstanding with local authorities. Roll Charisma check. Success indicates a fine of 2d6 x 25gp. Failure or (inability to pay fine) indicates d6 days in the pokey.
4) Romantic entanglement. Roll Wisdom check to avoid nuptials. Otherwise 1-3 scorned lover, 4-6 angered parents.
5) Gambling losses. Roll the dice as if you caroused again to see how much you lose. (No additional XP for the second carousing roll.)
6) Gain local reputation as the life of a party. Unless a Charisma check is failed, all future carousing in this burg costs double due to barflies and other parasites.
7) Insult local person of rank. A successful Charisma check indicates the personage is amenable to some sort of apology and reparations.
8) You couldn’t really see the rash in the candlelight. Roll Constitution check to avoid venereal disease.
9) New tattoo. 1-3 it’s actually pretty cool 4 it’s lame 5 it could have been badass, but something is goofed up or misspelled 6 it says something insulting, crude or stupid in an unknown language.
10) Beaten and robbed. Lose all your personal effects and reduced to half hit points.
11) Gambling binge. Lose all your gold, gems, jewelry. Roll Wisdom check for each magic item in your possession. Failure indicates it’s gone.
12) Hangover from hell. First day of adventuring is at -2 to-hit and saves. Casters must roll Int check with each spell to avoid mishap.
13) Target of lewd advances turns out to be a witch. Save versus polymorph or you’re literally a swine.
14) One of us! One of us! You’re not sure how it happened, but you’ve been initiated into some sort of secret society or weird cult. Did you really make out with an emu of was that just the drugs? Roll Int check to remember the signs and passes.
15) Invest all your spare cash (50% chance all gems and jewelry, too) in some smooth-tongued merchant’s scheme. 1-4 it’s bogus 5 it’s bogus and Johnny Law thinks you’re in on it 6 actual money making opportunity returns d% profits in 3d4 months.
16) Wake up stark naked in a random local temple. 1-3 the clerics are majorly pissed off 4-6 they smile and thank you for stopping by.
17) Major misunderstanding with local authorities. Imprisoned until fines and bribes totaling d6 x 1,000gp paid. All weapons, armor, and magic items confiscated.
18) Despite your best efforts, you fall head over heels for your latest dalliance. 75% chance your beloved is already married.
19) When in a drunken stupor you asked your god(s) to get you out of some stupid mess. Turns out they heard you! Now as repayment for saving your sorry ass, you’re under the effects of a quest spell.
20) The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire! Accidentally start a conflagration. Roll d6 twice. 1-2 burn down your favorite inn 3-4 some other den of ill repute is reduced to ash 5-6 a big chunk of town goes up in smoke. 1-2 no one knows it was you 3-4 your fellow carousers know you did it 5 someone else knows, perhaps a blackmailer 6 everybody knows.
Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Chart of Very Probable Doom (d20)
1. You lucky dog! You manage to somehow escape the dark forces of the dungeon. You return to civilization, naked and half-delirious.
2. Waitaminute, Lefty’s not right handed! Situation appears to be #1, but you’ve been replaced by a shapeshifting badguy.
3. Maimed. You escape but suffer the effects of a random critical hit. Also, 50% of your stuff is gone, randomly determined.
4. Alas, you are no more. If any comrades escape they are able to bring your remains and your stuff back to civilization.
5. Pining for the fjords. If any comrades escape they are able to bring your remains back to civilization, but your stuff is lost.
6. Dead as a doornail. The general location of your body is known to any surviving comrades.
7. Your stuff has become part of a dragon’s hoard and your body part of a dragon’s supper.
8. That is an ex-character. The location of your body is unknown to all.
9. Bought the farm. Your body and possessions irretrievable due to dragon fire, ooze acid, disintegrator beam, etc.
10. Also dead. Your body is irretrievable due to dragon fire, ooze acid, disintegrator beam, etc. but your stuff is still around for some other jerk to nab at a later date.
11. Held for ransom by seedy humans. A member of the Thieves Guild can arrange release for 1,000gp per character level. 1 in 6 chance the money disappears.
12. Captured by monsters. Escaping comrades know the level you were captured on and the type of monster holding you captive.
13. Captured by monsters. Escaping comrades know the level you were captured on, but not the type of monster involved.
14. Captured by monsters. Escaping comrades know the type of monster involved, but not what level to search.
15. Captured by monsters. Unseen monsters spirit you away to an unknown location.
16. A fate worse than death. Drafted into the ranks of the monsters. Roll d6: 1-2 undead, 3 lycanthrope, 4 charmed, 5 polymorphed, 6 other.
17. You and your stuff are sacrificed to the loathsome Frog Gods in order to gate in d6 Croaking Demons that are added to the dungeon key.
18. A gorgon or somesuch has petrified you. Escaping characters know what level to search for your statue.
19. Lost in the dungeon. GM sets your location each session. Re-enter play if the party finds you.
20. Opportunity for betrayal. Pick one other character who got away safe. Roll 1d6, 1-4 he takes your place and has to roll on this chart while you escape, 5-6 you both suffer the fate rolled by your victim.
Results 4 through 7 on the chart allow the surviving members of the expedition to swear vengeance against the killer(s), as per the You Shall Be Avenged! rule in the house rules info. Result 3 offers the same option if you make it out of the dungeon only to succumb to some lethal critical hit effect.
Anyone who is captured gets one chance to escape on their own power. The base chance is 1 in 6, increased to 2 in 6 if their character level is higher than the dungeon level of their prison. Treat successful escapes as result ‘1’ on the chart above. If more than one PC is trying to escape, all escape rolls are at 2 in 6 (3 in 6 for higher level characters). If you don’t escape you must be rescued or maybe ransomed. For each session of play that you languish in captivity or wander lost there’s a 1 in 6 chance of some worse fate befalling you.