Monday, February 23, 2015

Missile weapons for Fighting Fantasy

Curiously, the original Fighting Fantasy before Advanced Fighting Fantasy had no rules for bows, spears, or thrown weapons. This makes sense in the close-quarters of a dungeon, but even Firetop Mountain features a bow with a silver arrow (the bringer of sleep) for slaying the undead.

This raises another issue: how much damage should an arrow or spear do? If we begin at the standard 2 Stamina points for a hit, an archer would have to pepper their target with shots before the target fell. The 2 points damage makes more sense in combat, if we treat these hits as the scrapes and knocks that wear down the opponent rather than debilitating wounds, but this makes less sense when it comes to the impact of an arrow, which simply strikes a body part or doesn't. 

As a house rules, the Tinkerage suggests that aiming a missile weapon be treated as a test of Skill. Apply penalties for range, size of the target, light and wind conditions, and so on.

Damage should be somewhat higher than normal battle damage, with 3 points for a lighter weapon (hunting bow, thrown object) and 4 points for a heavier weapon (spear, crossbow, longbow).

The higher damage reflects the fact that, if one is hit with a missile weapon there is no way to parry or deflect the hurt, unless by armour, or if one is rather lucky and the impact is a mere graze (test for Luck). Feel free to ignore this if you go ahead and use the simple damage roll option.

There is a precedent for this in Out of the Pit, where the arrows of the various elves do 3 points of damage on a hit (with a 5 in 6 chance of hitting!).

This makes a missile weapon a considerable threat in play, but remember that bows, and especially crossbows, take time to aim and reload, are hard to use in close quarters, and leave the wielder vulnerable to a charge or surprise attack.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

BRP for Middle-earth

Over the last few years, I've had great success running a Middle-earth campaign in Basic Roleplaying (BRP) using the compiled rules from the BRP "Big Gold Book" (BGB).

Why BRP? Because it's a very flexible rules-medium system which runs smoothly at the table and makes sense even to beginners, and once the rules are understood in principle there's little need to frequently reference the rule book. The relatively realistic rules fit with the tone of Middle-earth, the details and the sense of hardship, but there are still opportunities for heroism. Combat is swift and decisive. And most of what a player and the GM need to know is located on the character sheet.

But because BRP is such a broad collection of options, here are the particular options I use for adventures in Middle-earth.

I'm also sharing my BRP-ME character record sheets, as character sheets in BRP contain a lot of rules information, as well as my thinking on this adaptation.

Character creation

  • For skill point allocation, use the BRP heroic option (325 points), so that character can be highly capable in at least a few areas. However, no skill should begin at higher than 75%, as 80% is the point were success begins to feel almost automatic. 
  • Use the personal point pool (INTx10) for custom and cultural skills. 
  • The extra skill points from personality type option (Step 6) are not used.
  • I also use skill category modifiers to add a connection from ability to skill for characters, but prefer the simpler bonuses (based on INT or DEX, see p. 31). In future, I plan on basing Communication on APP/2, Physical on CON/2, and Combat on STR/2).
  • For typical Middle-earth races, such as elves, dwarves, or hobbits, I use the stats in the creatures section of the BGB or the old Runequest 3 Creature Book, making adjustments on the fly as necessary. As a rule, the tall Edain get a bonus for SIZ.


  • Obviously, many of the BGB skills, from Psychotherapy to Science to Demolitions, are not suitable for Middle-earth, so strip these out.
  • Not caring for the clunky skill name Fine Manipulation, I use Devise to represent tampering with locks, traps, and other small mechanism (in any case, mechanical locks will be very rare in Middle-earth).
  • All characters have a knowledge of their own culture equal to their Own Language skill.
  • I use the skill Bearing rather than Etiquette. Bearing represents how well characters carries themselves in social situations, whether the rules of etiquette are known to them or not: think of the first meeting with the Riders of Rohan, or Frodo greeting the elves in the woods, or even Bilbo welcoming unexpected dwarves into his parlour.
  • I allow martial characters to train in the Martial Arts skill, representing their combat discipline, be it the Dunadan longsword or elvish blade. This is a very powerful skill, which should advance at no more than 1% a step, to a maximum of DEX+STR. It reflects the fearsomeness we see in characters like Boromir or Aragorn, who can slay many foes with a single strike.
In general, characters make the most use of their weapons skills, as well as Spot and Stealth and Track. First Aid is often in use. Insight is a popular skill with my players, for getting a read on NPCs.

Combat options

  • To speed combat, use Hit Points with Major Wounds (not location hit points).
  • My players, however, are particularly fond of aimed shots with missile weapons. I assign these a difficult rating, but adjudicate a Major Wound like effect if the shot hits a particular target (such as the knee joint of a troll).


The RuneQuest 3 fatigue points option being too cumbersome to track, I use a simple fatigue check, to represent the weariness that often afflicts characters in Middle-earth. Fatigue is based on a Stamina roll. The first failure inflicts a -10% weariness penalty. The second failure makes all rolls difficult due to fatigue. The final failed roll brings exhaustion. This Stamina roll is adjusted by whatever amount current encumbrance exceeds STR (if Enc is not more than STR, there is no penalty).


Magic can accomplish grand and marvellous things in Middle-earth, but it is also rare and often subtle. And it is not clear that the mortal races, such as common men and hobbits, can inherently use magic of any sort. Hence, the magic options in the BGB are not well-suited to Middle-earth. The simplest option is to restrict magic to figures other than adventuring PCs. However, if you think it necessary to introduce limited magic:
  • Elves use spells similar to RuneQuest spirit magic, with effects that could be taken for extraordinary skill or grace (such as bladesharp or sure-shot or silence). A simple Luck roll is used to activate a spell. The spells add bonuses (5% /+1 per magic point) to actions.
  • Wizardry, if used at all, should be skill-based and centred on certain skills or areas of study, such as Smoke and Fire, Silence and Disguise, Beasts and Birds, and so on.
  • All spells that dominate the will of others are sorceries, and inherently corrupting.
Finally, the BRP Central site downloads page has a wealth of options and rules for BRP styled Middle-earth, based loosely on the Decipher Lord of the Rings RPG and many other sources.