Friday, September 16, 2016

OSR card battling

I've noted before that I'm a huge fan of card games and put some thought into a little dungeon-crawling game based on The Black Hack (which I plan to some point...when life slows down a little...sometime...).  The precursor in my brain for that effort was the idea of making a card game built upon the rules of OSR RPGs.  I fiddled with it a little when I worked on my contribution to the Tenkar's Landing crowdsourced sandbox setting spearheaded by Erik Tenkar of the well-known Tenkar's Tavern.  In that, I focused on an OSR class that was a monster summoner and spellcaster using a deck of cards to perform her magic.  Again, that's something which I plan to some point...and so on...

Lately, I've been running a more general OSR card game idea through my head, and since I like to brainstorm these things here in blog form, I'm...well, going to do just that...

The goal(s)

I want to make a card game based upon old school fantasy RPG rules.  You can take a card and use it as an NPC.  You can take an NPC and make a card out of them (probably tougher than the first thing, but maybe I'll get there).  I don't want it to be too complex...just something that can satisfy a card game craving while giving the OSR itch a little bit of a scratch (which actually sounds kind of dirty).

The basics

I'm just gonna shotgun some ideas for the structure of the game.  It'll be based on Swords & Wizardry rules.  Specifically the Core rules.  Why?  Well, everybody like Swords & Wizardry, right?  Playing the game will involve enlisting henchmen and hirelings to battle against those of one's opponent(s).  The "cost" of a character can simply be its level...perhaps each turn, players will roll 1d6 and be able to summon that many HD in hirelings.  And maybe dice can be saved from one turn to another, to build up to more powerful characters.

The hiring, though...that will come after battling for the turn.  Some tried and true CCG combat concepts should serve us well here.  Attack your opponent's henchmen, or hold your guys back so they can block when you get attacked.  Depleting the deck is a solid win condition, right?  So, can attack your opponent's "base," and if they don't block the attack, the damage dealt causes them to discard from the top of their deck.  Run out of cards, and you lose.

Okay, this is a solid base to build on!

The classes

I think tracking damage is going to get a little messy for all of those characters.  So to simplify that, let's deal only in HD and damage dice rather than variable die sizes.  (This is part of what I've tried to do with the GRIND).  Eliminating any of the rules involving little pluses and minuses to hit points and damage should be easy enough.  And d6-only hit dice and damage (or multiples thereof)...that's pretty old school, right?

Of course, if I'm basing this on S&W Core, I should probably work out some new classes that fit the style of both the RPG and the card game I'm building.  Here are the first notes I have for this (the increased attack bonuses are a personal preference...):

1d6 HD per level, base 2000 XP
STR bonuses to hit (melee only) as Fighter
+1 BAB per level
1d6 damage even if unarmed, 2d6 damage if armed
If armed, +1d6 damage at levels 5 and 10
+1 attack at levels 3 and 7

1d6 HD per level, base 2000 XP
+3/4 (round down) BAB per level
+3 bonus to Rogue checks

Backstab: If Rogue hasn’t acted this combat and first attack is on character that has already taken an action this round, gets +3 to attack roll and deals double damage (triple at level 5, quadruple at level 10)

I'll work on magic later.  This is enough to get me playtesting.

The cards

Throwing together extremely basic playing card layouts is a method of relaxation for me.  I have little in the way of skill or training...but I love playing around on PowerPoint.  I made a couple that might work for this little game.  The first one (Sheldon the Shifty) is the one I posted above to break up the monotony of all these words I'm putting down.  Here's the other one:

And then there's the cardback.  I like Henchmen & Hirelings as a working title, so here's something I can work with there...

If you've actually read through all this (or...some of it)...thank you!  I'd love to get some outside thoughts on it.  There will hopefully be more to come...maybe sooner, maybe not sooner...


  1. Something was unclear to me. What is the point of getting rid of hit points and using hit dice (probably a good idea for something like this) if the charactets get 1d6 hit dice per level? Then you still need to track hit points, you just call them hit dice.

    Level = hit dice would make for a simpler combat mechanic, I'd think.

    1. Ah! I didn't convey that well at all. The idea is to standardize all hit dice and damage dice to be d6's. In the context of the card game, the d6 doesn't's just treated as a single hit and takes one damage counter for tracking. To "translate" for S&W, though, it would require rolling up HP (or assigning X hit points per HD). The goal is, when dealing with, say, a 5HD character, to only have to count up to five rather than 18 or whatever they'd actually have in hit points.

      I think that might make more sense...honestly not sure. I will also note that your second thought, the simplification of combat to keep level and hit dice equal, has me looking into how I might need to streamline those numbers a bit. At the very least, I should maybe tie hit dice to both attacks and the ability to take damage, somewhat like an old school monster...

      Big thanks for stopping by and taking the time to give me your ideas!

  2. Maybe 'special moves' could be separate equipment or action cards, rather than part of the character card?

    Having 'move silently--action--useable only by a thief, elf or halfling' and 'two-handed sword--place on a fighter' seems similar to what I remember of Vampire: the Eternal Struggle.

    1. That's a really good call. It would simplify the "default" rules/keywords that would have to be remembered just to play with basic character classes. And, the variety of these special actions is often what makes a card game interesting anyway (rather than just hacking back and forth). Thanks for the note! (Also, I've never actually played V:tES, but I remember Warlord working a lot like that...I need to have a look at those rules again.)

    2. Thanks!

      Another suggestion is from Deadlands (which I've never played).

      Instead of dice, the cards could have numbers, which you discard to be your 'roll'.

      If high numbers are the good ones, the less useful cards could have higher numbers.