Monthly Archives: April 2017

Donjons & Dragoons: Characters Part 3…

NOTE: I think I’ve got the Spambots under control, so, as a test, I’m opening comments for the first time in donkey’s ages. We’ll see how it goes…

6c352529c0987bcb64076f33acf71e4eAt this point, our character has largely been subject to the whims and vagaries of the dice, their attributes and place in life largely out of their control. A single decision (their initial Trade) is made, but even that is heavily influenced by the circumstances of their birth.

At first, I questioned this decision, wondering if my basic premise (that of a literature professor replacing Gygax as the ‘father’ of RPGs) would result in a game with a more narrative, choice driven, character generation scheme and rules. After all, considering his profession, his approach would logically be more inclined towards a literature first, gaming second approach, whereas Gygax (and as a result, OD&D) was arguably more gaming first, literature second.

The fact remains, however, that the games of the time were largely simulationist in nature, so some semblance of that should show in the initial design. Considering the wargaming roots of the hobby, and our professor’s initial intent to create a game that gives life to the models in those very wargames, where success and failure, life and death, are so driven by the roll of the dice, it seems natural that his more narrative inclinations would be tempered by his simulationist background. Some sort of hybrid would emerge, where tools for dramatic situations outside of combat would be more thought out, but the role of random chance and tabular information would remain strong, and this is my best approximation of that result.

That said, we are now getting to the point of the process where the players will be making some direct decision for their characters…


c08eec09152cb58c6bd19cf7850a6efaA Trade in the game allows the player to reroll Attribute dice when an action is taken to allow a character trained in a specific area to succeed more often (and suffer less Misfortune) while attempting certain tasks. In certain cases the Judge may decide that a specific Trade is required to even attempt the roll in the first place (as would often be the case with many tasks that require advanced education, like Engineering or Doctoring).

The term Trade is just a tiny bit incongruous here, because no one in the upper classes and aristocracy would ever demean themselves by referring to what they do as a ‘trade.’ After all, trades are what the hoi polloi engage in, not people of breeding and rank! But at the same time, the definition for trade is ‘a skilled job, typically one requiring manual skills and special training,’ which holds true for even a Duke, who must learn to read, write, manage large land holdings, and whip servants with force enough to dissuade impertinence (How dare you call Statesmanship a trade!) but still leave them capable of doing their work.

So, unless I think of something better, Trades it is.

Our birth class will have given us a single Trade, and In this portion of character generation we will determine if our character has any additional Trade ranks due to being clever. This is determined by our Savvy Attribute:


These ranks can be added to our existing Trade, or used to learn a new one, from the list below. Each Trade has a brief description of the sort of things you might do with it, any starting bonuses you receive for taking that Trade at character generation, and basic starting possessions (if any).

NOTE: I removed Bureaucrat, Farmer and Servant from the list, as the last two (being just another form of laborer) are redundant  and the first is fairly useless (from both an objective and subjective point of view). I’ve corrected the previous post in this series to reflect that.

88f146693383a192917c400ad51eac4cAcademic: A Trade that covers a wide variety of subjects of a book-learning nature, from sciences like Astronomy or Engineering, to liberal arts like History and Poetry, and everything in between. Can be used to recall  knowledge, do research or impress others who find such things impressive (i.e. other academics).

At character generation, Academics gain 1 Expertise in this Trade without having to reduce their Rank. They start with D6 Books on various subjects.

Example Expertise: History, Engineering, Poetry

Aristocrat: This ‘Trade’ covers all the knowledge necessary to maneuver through high society, including knowledge of societal ranks, manners, and activities (like hunting, dancing, riding, etc.).

At character generation, an Aristocrat may reduce a single Attribute by 1 to raise their Charisma by 1. They start off with Very Fine Clothing, a Fancy Sword, a Thoroughbred Horse and a Servant.

Example Expertise: Dandy, Rake, Intrigue

Banker: Bankers understand everything about money and running financial institutions. This makes them naturally good at math, bookkeeping, financial negotiation and generally increasing wealth.

At character generation, a Banker may reduce may reduce a single Attribute by 1 to raise their Wealth by 1. They start off with Fine Clothing, a Money Belt, and a Riding Horse.

Example Expertise: High Finance, Accounting, Bureaucracy

Parson_woodfordeClergy: Members of the Church (the player should signify their denomination). They can use their sermons to inspire, intimidate. They know a great deal about religion (theirs and others) and many have basic knowledge in medicine.

At character generation, Clergy may reduce may reduce a single Attribute by 1 to raise their Luck by 1, representing the will of the Almighty to use them (for good or ill). They start off with a Holy Book and the ability to read, write and speak in 1 language for every Rank they have (one of which must be their native tongue).

Example Expertise: Vicar, Monk, Inquisitor

Craftsman: An artisan who makes a specific product, like shoes, barrels, etc. or provides a more general service like blacksmithing or silversmithing (the Judge will determine if your class level fits the work you do).

At character generation, Craftsmen gain 1 Expertise in this Trade (which represents their actual skill) without having to reduce their Rank. Whenever they work outside of this expertise, however, they suffer Disadvantage. They start off with Workman’s Tools specific to their Expertise. If they have Wealth of 3 or more, they also have a place of business and all the necessaries to run it.

Example Expertise: Blacksmith, Wainright, Mason

pic_416156bDoctor: This Trade represents a university trained physician, trained (if not necessarily competent) in all the most modern medical techniques of the day.

At character generation, the Doctor may reduce may reduce a single Attribute by 1 to raise their Saavy by 1. They start with a Doctor’s Bag, and Riding Horse.

Example Expertise: Battlefield Surgery, Psychiatry, Coroner

Entertainer: This Trade encompasses any all the entertainment arts, from drama, to music to demonstrations of mental or physical acumen. May be used for performing, creating new content and capturing an audience’s attention.

At character generation, Entertainers gain 1 Expertise in this Trade without having to reduce their Rank. They start with an Entertainer’s Kit that fits their Expertise.

Example Expertise: Acrobat, Actor, Violinistsarah_mapp-the-bone-setter

Healer: This is the lower class version of the Doctor trade, uneducated in modern medicine but wise in the way of folk remedies (“Aye, paraffin and brown paper’ll fix that up right as rain…”) , herb lore, midwifery and the like. They often worked on animals as well, and were well versed in local folklore and gossip.

At character generation, the Healer may reduce may reduce a single Attribute by 1 to raise their Luck by 1. They start with a Healer’s Bag and a Knife.

Example Expertise: Plant Lore, Midwifery, Animal Care

Hunter: This is the Trade of game-keepers and poachers alike, and covers the tracking, stalking, shooting/trapping and cleaning of game, as well as living rough.

At character generation, the Hunter may reduce may reduce a single Attribute by 1 to raise their Dexterity or Vigor by 1. They start with a Musket, Ammo Pouch, Knife and D6 Small Animal Traps.

Example Expertise: Sharpshooter, Trapper, Tracker

V0020299 A rat-catcher (accompanied by two dogs) carrying a cage of lLaborer: This Trade covers any sort of manual labor, from shovelling dung to serving the aristocracy (which impertinent types might imply is essentially the same thing). Farm laborers, drovers, sweeps, servants, etc., all fall into this category, which covers the ability to get the most done with the least effort as well as the ability to skive off and still get paid. Laborers with Expertise might be actual tradesman with some particular skill for making barrels, laying brick, etc.

At character generation, the Laborer may raise their Strength, Vigor or Mettle by 1. They start off with some sort of basic tool for their work, like a Hammer, Shovel, Servant’s Uniform, etc. If they have an Expertise and at least Rank 3 in Laborer, they are a Tradesman and may have Workman’s Tools for that particular trade.

Example Expertise: Bricklayer, Butler/Maid, Rat-catcher

Landlord: The management of properties, ensuring their maintenance and milking the most profit out of them, is the purview of the Landlord. They might be over a single building, large estate or even an entire Dukedom, but whatever the level, they must manage workers, pursue rents and occasionally act as the local magistrate for internal legal affairs.

A Landlord starts out with a holding to manage based on their Rank and/or class. A Rank of 1 indicates a single building or tenement, while a 5 or more indicates an estate of considerable size. Whether or not they own or simply manage it for another depends on their class and the Judge may increase the size of the holding if the character’s Title entitles them to more.

Example Expertise: Innkeeper, Mill Operator, Work House Owner

06b5953ea954dfa1b6be18266443c4bcLawyer: The Law, and everything to do with it, from trials to contract negotiation, is the domain of this Trade. They are empowered by the government to operate in a court of law.

At character generation, the Lawyer may reduce may reduce a single Attribute by 1 to raise their Savvy by 1. They start with a number of Lawbooks equal to D6 x their Lawyer Rank, Lawyer’s Robes and a Powdered Wig.

Example Expertise: Criminal, Contract, Military

Merchant: Buying, selling and arranging the transfer of goods, across the country or across the globe, is handled by the humble merchant, who must be highly organized, mathematically minded, able to quickly evaluate the value of any object, and an expert haggler.

At character generation, the Lower Class Merchant starts with 1 Wealth rating in Trade Goods, a Wagon to carry them in, and a Draught Horse to pull the wagon. Merchants in the Middle Class start with a Warehouse, their Merchant rating in Trade Goods and a full wagon train to carry them. Upper Class Merchant’s have Warehouses (complete with land transport and D6 Wealth in Trade Goods each) and Ships equal to their Merchant Rating.

Example Expertise: Clothier, Spices, Sutler90cb567161f97547930377a99d2e673d

Rogue: Pickpockets, burglars, cutthroats, swindlers and all the other villainous scum that populate the lower class slums of every major city in Great Britain, as well as the horse thieves, vagabonds, gypsies and charlatans that haunt the countryside, as well.

At character generation, the Rogue gains 1 Expertise in this Trade without having to reduce their Rank, to represent their main criminal vocation. They start off with Rogue’s Tools for that Expertise.

Example Expertise: Fence, Forger, Highwayman

Sailor: Covers a knowledge of river, lake and sea, how to traverse them, whether in small boats or as a member of the crew of a larger trading vessel or ship of the line, and live off of them.

At character generation, the Sailor may reduce may reduce a single Attribute by 1 to raise their Thews or Vigor by 1. They start with a Club and a Bottle of Spirits. There is a 4 in 6 chance that they know how to swim.

Example Expertise: Gunner, Navigator, Shipwright

napoleonicwarsSoldier: Marching, fighting, shooting, living rough and working regulations to best advantage are all part of a soldier’s life. The enlisted ranks will also be well versed in digging trenches, building emplacements and other sorts of menial military labor.

At character generation, the Soldier may raise their Thews, Vigor or Mettle by 1. Enlisted start with a Musket, Ammo Pouch, BackpackUniform and Hat – Shako. Officers start with a Fine Uniform and Hat – Bicorne.

Example Expertise: Artillery, Cavalry, Light Infantry

Spy: This Trade is not one gained through normal channels. It represents a character who specifically works for His Royal Majesty’s government to root out information on some particular form of enemy, foreign or domestic. From street level informants in the London underworld, to master spies in Spain, seeking advantage for their armies and countering the agents of the enemy, they are masters of stealthy infiltration, the acquisition of secrets and the knife in the back.

At character generation, the Spy may take another Trade at Rank 1 as a cover. This cover may be of any class equal to less than the Spy’s birth class. They start with whatever equipment their cover starts with, as well as a Poignard, Spyglass, and Falsified Documents.

Example Expertise:  Disguise, Infiltration, Seduction

William Pitt from Posthumous memoirs of his own time by Nathaniel Wraxall V2 1836Statesman: Politicians, diplomats and attaches to the royal court, those with this Trade are master negotiators with some real world authority and/or power, which they wield as effortlessly in the halls of Parliament as they do the drawing rooms of high society, and everywhere in between.

Statesmen who have a Peerage may sit in the House of Lords. Statesmen who can afford to sit in the House of Commons (Wealth 4 or better), or can find someone who will financially support their candidacy, may run for election to do so.

At character generation, the Statesman may reduce a single Attribute by 1 to raise their Charisma by 1.

Example Expertise: Diplomacy, Intimidation, Truth Detection


You may pick an Expertise for your Trade by reducing it one Rank (to a minimum of 1). You gain Advantage on any roll for which your Expertise applies. Each Trade will have a few examples of Expertise that might be chosen, but the Judge may allow others if they consider them narrow enough to be useful in a few specific circumstances.


Characters in the Upper and Middle Classes are assumed to have had at least some schooling and know how to read, write and do basic math.

Those in the Lower Class will be largely illiterate, however, unless they have a Trade that the Judge determines gives them the ability (like Merchant or Entertainer – Actor).

The chance of literacy for everyone else in the Lower Class is 1 in 6.


A character may roll 2D6 and add their Savvy Rank: they know a number of additional languages equal to the result – 12. They must justify each language they take to the Judge’s satisfaction and he may decide to limit them to a lesser number of languages or simply declare that they only speak their own.


So now we know who your character is and what they do. From this point we can take the information we have and use it to derive some purely mechanical info for use in the game, which we will do in the next post…

Donjons & Dragoons: Characters Part 2…

Welsh-OfficerAfter some noodling on the cultural aspects of the character from the last post, I’ve settled on the following characteristics,,,

Émigré: Hanoverian Germans, American Loyalists and other exiles from countries allied against the UK, who are serving in the British army. Gain Advantage when fighting against their kinsmen who side against the British, and when scouting, spying, or navigating within their homeland. Allied forces will also gain Advantage in marching and counter-marching within the Émigré’s home territory, so long as they are with them and actively advising.

Welsh: The Welsh gain Advantage on any rolls involving singing, statesmanship and seduction.

Irish: The ‘Luck of the Irish’ gives the starting Irish character +1 Luck. They suffer Disadvantage, however, whenever dealing socially with the English and Welsh, or when rolling to maintain order and discipline on the battlefield.

Scottish: Scotsmen gain Advantage on any roll to maintain battlefield discipline and order. Conversely, the fearsome reputation of the Highland warriors imposes a Disadvantage to the same on any battlefield enemy against which they march or charge. They are very thrifty, however, and suffer Disadvantage when making Wealth rolls, as their frugal temperament will often work against them when spending money, especially with those who refuse to haggle.

As you can see, not all of the cultures are equally disadvantaged. There is, for example, no disadvantage to being an Émigré or Welsh, and the Scottish are at less of a disadvantage than the Irish. One commentator mentioned to me that the Welsh are essentially the ‘elves’ of this game (which I find appropriate considering Tolkien’s love of the Welsh language and culture), but without level caps, like OD&D.

This is intentional and represents the under-representation of those ‘races’ on our chart (the chance of being welsh is only 4%, for example). This was not an uncommon method for ‘balancing’ results back in the day, and much preferable (IMO) to allowing direct choice of race and then ‘hobbling’ the character in some other way.


The next part of our character design process concerns three things very important to Georgian society: class, titles and wealth.

KCS067This is also very important for our RPG, for it is what sets it apart from the standard wargame and makes it something special. We might know that our miniature officer in a table-top wargame of Napoleonics is almost certainly a wealthy noble due to the expense of purchasing a commission in the British Army, but the rules don’t really encourage us, mechanically, to explore his background in any way. He is just one more piece on the battlefield.

One might go as far as to name him, come up with an imaginary personality for him and even record his exploits, if he is particularly lucky or involved in memorable engagements during a campaign (as the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson was wont to do), but it is all a simple personal fiction, made up as the player wishes, with no real interactive/game structure or balance. Our miniature officer could be royalty, have come up from the ranks for some imagined past act of bravery or have the assistance of a lucky faerie companion, if the player so chooses to describe it that way. But whatever the description, it is all made up after the fact and doesn’t change the actual rules of the game one whit.

In an RPG, however, such things are of great import to playing the character and the rules reflect it. The child of a Peer will be a very different character from that of the street urchin who joined the ranks to escape crushing poverty, for example. He will have a mechanical advantage in situations of society and wealth, but is unlikely to possess the toughness and roguish skills of his streetwise counterpart.

The following rules present a bit more complexity than that used to create characters in OD&D, but531001_400433280025300_1590190270_n I think that this is one of those areas of design in which Luther, a literature professor, would differ from Gygax, whose game was essentially, at it’s heart, still very much a wargame in the traditional sense. OD&D characters were given attributes, a career class (which often served as their name as well) and some equipment, but rarely a backstory in those early days. They were characters in the sense that they were named individuals, but they still remained largely playing pieces (albeit, ones with much more agency) and the player was more like the Greek gods of old, guiding their mortal pawn and watching them live or dice by the throw of the cosmic dice, than actors playing a role.

In stark contrast, I think Luther would have created a more narrative style of gaming right out of the gate, something that would have drawn from the SCA tradition of playing the character in a more dramatic, immersive sense, with primitive systems to support such play. And that would start with Step 3 in the character creation process…


There are three Standings in Donjons & Dragoons: Class, in the social hierarchy sense; Titles, which are specific, awarded ranks within that hierarchy; and Wealth, an abstract measure of your purchasing power.


Determining your birth class is a two step process, determining your overall societal rank followed by your position in that rank. This is important because it not only gives you a starting Wealth rating, and a starting Trade, but also because it give you a greater sense of the what kind of life your character lived before taking up their current adventures (something that will be elaborated on in the rulebook).

Table_Class_UKAristocracy: Your character’s father is, or was, a Peer or the child of a Peer, possibly of royal blood. They may inherit a title upon his death, assuming they are the eldest surviving son (see TITLES, below).

Take ONE of the following Trades at a rank equal to the character’s starting Charisma: Aristocrat, Sailor, or Soldier.

Thomas_Gainsborough_-_Mr_and_Mrs_AndrewsLanded Gentry: The character’s father is, or was, a member of the lesser nobility (a Baronet or Knight) or a wealthy landowner of means. They will receive no hereditary title from him, but may inherit his lands and wealth.

Take ONE of the following Trades at a rank equal to the character’s starting Savvy: Landlord, Sailor, Soldier.

Upper Middle: The character comes from well to do parents who have provided them with a top notch education that can lead into a variety of professions.

Take ONE of the following Trades at a rank equal to the character’s starting Savvy: Academic (Professor), Banker, Clergy, Doctor, Lawyer, Merchant, Sailor, Soldier or Statesman.

Lower Middle:  The character’s parents owned a thriving business of respectable size that required long hours to support, but also provided a comfortable living and, possibly. a decent education for their offspring.

Take ONE of the following Trades at a rank equal to the character’s starting Savvy: Academic (Teacher), Clergy, Entertainer, Landlord, Lawyer, Merchant, Sailor, Soldier or Statesman.

Lesser Freeholder: The character’s parents owned an inn, shop, public house, farmstead or other small, common business, which everyone in the family labored at constantly to support. There weren’t much in creature comforts, but it made a stable living.

Take ONE of the following Trades at a rank equal to the character’s starting Vigor: Clergy, Craftsman, Entertainer, Healer, Laborer, Merchant, Sailor or Soldier.

V0020299 A rat-catcher (accompanied by two dogs) carrying a cage of lLaborer: The character is a common laborer or craftsman, working for an established business owner, working as a servant, or travelling from odd job to odd job.

Take ONE of the following Trades at a rank equal to the character’s starting Vigor: Craftsman, Entertainer, Healer, Hunter, Laborer, Rogue, Sailor or Soldier.

Poor/Orphan: The character was born extremely poor, living a meager existence on the streets helping to support their family, orphaned and forced to grow up in a work-house, or as part of a criminal gang. Some young children are scooped up by the military at an early age to serve as drummer boys, ship’s boys and powder monkeys.

Take ONE of the following Trades at a rank equal to the character’s starting Vigor: Entertainer, Hunter, Laborer, Rogue, Soldier, or Sailor.


If your character is male and has a father with the title of Baron or greater, he may inherit his father’s title and the lands. It all depends on his Birth Order and his Father’s (and possibly Grandfather’s) Status.

Birth Order: Roll a D6 to determine how many male children are in the family. Then roll a second D6 and subtract it from the first. If the total is 1 or less, the character is the eldest son. Otherwise, the result will determine their actual place.

Father’s Status: Roll on Table UK3A: Peerage, to determine your father’s rank.

Table_Peerage_UKNext, roll a D6. If the result is 1 or 2, the character’s father has passed and the eldest son inherits his title and full Wealth rating.

Grandfather’s Status: If the character’s father is the son of a Peer, then his grandfather holds the title and his father is in line for it. If this is the case, determine the grandfather’s title (as above) and then the father’s birth order (as above) to determine his place in the line of succession.

Female Titles: If your character is a female member of a noble family, her title is dependent on the title of her husband, if she is married.

Roll 2D6 and add the ladies Charisma rating. On a result of 12 or more, she is already married and should roll on the Marriage Class table below to determine her husband’s Title (and hers, if any), as well as her starting Wealth (which replaces that of her Birth)

A Note on Female Characters

Now, one of the things that had occurred to me when trying to imagine the impact of this game replacing OD&D in the history of RPGs is the place of women in the growth of the hobby. The fantasy milieu of that game was certainly more friendly to women characters than the historical Georgian era. Would Lee sharpes-goldGold, for example, have become such an avid role-player if her character was so restricted as indicated by the rules above? More importantly, would Luther have considered the place of women in gaming as he wrote the rules?

I’m going to have to do more research on the subject to definitively answer this, but my experience and gut instinct tell me that there would be some allowance made for female adventurers in such a setting. After all, outside of the obvious female partisans and assorted spies and provocateurs, there were also ‘wild women’ of the aristocracy who did precisely what they wanted, when they wanted to.

But aside from that, I think that there is wide scope for stories told outside of the war, in the style of Jane Austen and Tolstoy, where the war is a backdrop to courtly maneuvers and high society shenanigans. This would be addressed in a later supplement, Airs & Aristocracy, and include rules for running a game where the action switches from the war, to the halls and drawing rooms of power, and back again, with players running different characters in both areas whose actions can affect each other, as in War & Peace. Considering his love for Tolstoy, I think this form of troupe play would be very much on Luther’s mind as designed the game.


bc47b906403f7f92dbd400652ec3c972Luther being a professor of literature, not accounting, would have absolutely 0 interest in keeping track of money down to the farthing. In most literature, wealth is depicted less in terms of actual coinage and more in terms of description. You know, for example, that a character is rich by the many frills on their uniform, the quality of their horse, the silver filigree on their fancy, rifled pistols and the fact that they have servants waiting on them hand and foot. Likewise, a character with a shabby, patched uniform, dung on his boots and an outdated blunderbuss is clearly a peasant with nowt to his name.

Wealth in Donjons & Dragoons, then, will be based on a rating, just like an attribute, and represents raw purchasing power. A 0 represents no source of income, with only a few farthings to one’s name, while 6 represents massive land holdings and investments that are rarely found outside the coffers of a King.

Our class (or marriage class, in the case of noble women) provided us with a base Wealth Rating. This is now modified by a roll of 2D6 on the chart below:

Table_WealthMod_UKA negative modifier might represent family debts, poor management, or reckless spending that has reduced the character’s income below the normal level. A positive modifier might represent hard earned savings, or a sudden influx of wealth from battlefield plunder, political appointment, etc., so even a common Private in the army might have a tidy sum socked away in the hem of his clothes if he gets lucky (like many of those at Vitoria, where soldiers ‘liberated’ the modern equivalent of $128m from the French baggage train). Whether he can keep it is another thing, entirely…


So at this point, one should have a fairly good idea of where their character comes from and under what circumstances they live their life. From these seeds, the rulebook will encourage them to flesh out the history of their character. As we will see later in character generation and combat, characters have a much greater life expectancy in this game than OD&D (through a form of narrative immunity/plot armor), so such detail, which would seem extravagant for a character who might fall into a pit and die a few minutes after entering their first dungeon, is well worth the effort in Donjons & Dragoons.

Next up, we will discuss Trades, Qualities and assigning characters a Rank and Unit…


Donjons & Dragoons: Characters Part 1…

This is the first part of what will be a number of articles on creating a character in Donjons & Dragoons. In this post, we’ll look at the physical and mental aspects of the character.


324f1b56b00ba82198b44011c1a4cf79In real life, we do not get to choose the circumstances of our birth, only what we do when opportunity presents itself. And while being incredibly choosy about the how’s, where’s and why’s of our characters is pretty much the rule in these ‘enlightened’ times, it was much more of an exception to the rule in the early days of game design. Characters, in those days, rarely took more than a few scant minutes to whip up, as most of the design decisions were left to random chance.

This would make perfect sense to Maxwell Luther. For one thing, Georgian society was highly stratified, and one’s choices in life were largely determined by their birth. And even more importantly for a professor of literature, many literary protagonists are considered heroic precisely because they overcome low birth and personal flaws, and aspire towards greatness. As such, he would likely trust most of the character generation decisions to dice and reference tables in order to quickly create the widest variety of potential protagonists for his adventures.

Some decisions will be made by the player, but these will be largely narrative in nature, taking the raw mechanical information and using it to develop a fully fledged character. Other design decisions, like assigning them to a unit, will be made by the Judge, to better allow him to fit the character into his campaign. Both parties can, of course, agree to choose results that make sense for the stories they want to play or tell, but those sorts of options will be covered in the Captain & Campaigns booklet, and the roll of the dice will be considered the default method of character generation.

Character generation is a six step process, and today we will look at steps 1 and 2, which cover your physical, mental, spiritual and cultural makeup.


The characters physical, mental and ‘spiritual’ traits are the first order of business in character generation.

There are seven Attributes, each rated from 0 to 6, with 0 representing complete inability in that area, and 6 representing the peak of human ability. The Attributes are:

dbefdd9efa6ebaa09366d1cd85838f67Thews: Physical strength and muscular endurance. I use ‘Thews’ instead of the more pedestrian ‘Strength’ because it has a more literary flair that I think would appeal to Luther. Many heroic protagonists from classical literature are often imbued with ‘mighty thews,’ so it has a nice ring to it.

Vigor: Physical energy or power; vitality. The classic Endurance stat, again, using a more colorful word.

Dexterity: Skill or adroitness in using the hands or body; agility.

Savvy: Intelligence. Not as a result of education (although that might enhance critical thinking skills to a degree), but natural cleverness, raw cunning and mental dexterity

Charisma: That certain special something, positive or negative, that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people.

Mettle: This represents the character’s courage, spirit, mental toughness and discipline under pressure.

Luck: Napoleon is often quoted as saying something along the lines of “I would rather have lucky generals than smart ones,” and from a soldiers point of view, the great battles of history have been decided as much by luck as strategic genius (Wellington admitted as much after the battle of Waterloo). It is certainly true that literary heroes depend on the (strangely focused) attentions of Lady Luck to survive and prosper, as our characters will.

Attributes are generated, in order, by rolling 3D6 on the chart below:


As you can see, I’ve weighted the table towards 3, which is the heroic average, meant for characters, the protagonists of our game. A rating of 2 would be average for non-player characters. You’ll also notice the table only goes up to 5, not 6. This is because your birth may influence your attributes in either direction (as might your Trades).


The focus of Men & Muskets will be on creating character from the United Kingdom (Book 2: Captains & Campaigns will introduce rules for Spanish and Portuguese characters, and later supplements will cover the rest of the world). As such, characters may be of English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish descent. This is determined by the roll of a 3D6:


If the percentages seem odd to you, I assure you they’re fairly accurate based upon the population and army composition levels of the era. The Irish, for example, had a large presence within the ranks of the British army, and the Scottish regiments were often bolstered with non-Scots due to recruitment shortages from the comparatively tiny Scottish population. The Émigré category covers Hanoverian Germans, American Loyalists, and all of the other oddball national and cultural exiles that fill out the corners of the British army.

9695a40bc5f27fb49c485e5be3102cd1Some of the totals have been jiggered in one direction or the other for various reasons, both historical and practical. The Welsh, for example are over-represented, and the English slightly underrepresented due to the vagaries of the 3D6 probability curve, as well as the need to generate military and non-military characters based on general population, not just military population.

Each culture has it’s benefits and drawbacks, based more on literary tradition than actual, historical fact (an area I think Luther and the general wargaming community would have disagreed vociferously on), with the English treated as the ‘default race,’ i.e. ‘humans’ in OD&D, with no boons or flaws, mechanically speaking.

The specific ‘race’ rules are still a work in process and subject to change, as I’m torn between sticking with general modifiers (+1 Mettle, -1 Luck, etc.), coming up with unique rules exceptions (like the OD&D Dwarven abilities to detect sloping passages and fight giants with +1 to-hit and -1 AC) or some mix of the two. So more on those later.

Next up, we look at the social circumstances of one’s birth…




Donjons & Dragoons: The Core Rules…

05a497a869a001c176ff3cfe2a8e7f65Shortly after writing a post on design decisions for the basic rules engine of the game, it occurred to me that I was putting the cart before the horse. Instead of imagining what a game based of a wargame would look like, I really needed to design a wargame and then let the core rules for the RPG evolve from that naturally. So I spent some time doing that and ended up with a simple set of rules that will most likely serve as the mass combat system in book 2 of the set: Captains & Campaigns.

Using the conflict resolution from that game as a base, I added a simple ‘drama generator,’ in the form of Misfortunes, and now have a set of core rules that I believe could have realistically come from the mind of a literature professor whose hobby is miniature wargaming. The results are below.


Basic Task Resolution in Donjons & Dragoons is accomplished by the player rolling a number of Dice equal to whatever Attribute the Judge thinks is appropriate to the action being taken. Firing a musket, for example, is clearly based on Dexterity, but repairing it would likely require Saavy, and using it in melee might rely on either Dexterity (if using a bayonet) or Thews (if bashing an enemy’s skull in with the buttstock). The final decision is the Judge’s to make.

Before the roll, the Judge will set a Challenge Level, based upon the difficulty of the task at hand. The player then rolls the appropriate number of dice: each ‘5’ or ‘6’ is a Success; each ‘2’, ‘3’ or ‘4’ is discarded, and each ‘1’ is a Misfortune. The number of Successes is then cross-referenced with the Challenge Level on the Task Resolution Table to get a result.


BB=Bolloxed   B=Blunder   F=Failure   PS=Partial Suc.   S=Success   SS=Smashing Suc.   CS=Cracking Suc.

Advantage & Disadvantage

The Judge may decide to give the roll Advantage due to some situational benefit in the character’s favor. A Rifle, for example gives Advantage during shooting tasks, good roads give Advantage to characters marching along them, and having an NPC owe the character a favor will give Advantage when trying to get them to do you a favor in return.

Second-Charge-Bunker-Hill_vintage-americanThe Judge might, instead, decide to give the roll Disadvantage in circumstances where external factors work against the action. Travelling in bad weather would give a character Disadvantage when marching, getting a favor out of a character that despises you gives Disadvantage, and Charging an enemy on a hill gives your attacks Disadvantage (and could also, reflexively, give the enemy Advantage).

Where an advantage is in play, dice succeed on a roll of ‘4,’ ‘5,’ or ‘6.’ Where a Disadvantage is in play, they succeed on a ‘6,’ only.


Certain character abilities, like Trades, will allow rerolls. Each reroll may be used to reroll a single die, once. No die may be re-rolled more than once, and the player must accept the result of the second roll, even if it is worse than the original.


When another character passively resists, or actively opposes, an action, they may (at the discretion of the Judge) roll dice to counter the successes of the character taking the action.

cuirassier ROUGE copyPassive Resistance represents some form of protection or opposition, gained from external factors, that does not require direct action on the part of a character. For example, a wall will give Passive Resistance to a person taking cover behind it when they are shot at, armor would give Passive Resistance to a sword strike, and contacts in the royal court might give Passive Resistance to attempts to ruin one’s reputation. The exact number of dice rolled will be determined by the Judge, and several factors might be combined to make a larger pool.

Active Resistance uses personal Attributes to oppose the action. For example, a target who is aware that they are being shot at may use Active Resistance to dodge the shot, a character being court-martialed might use Active Resistance to defend themselves against Prosecution, and the subject of torture will use Active Resistance to avoid giving information. In all such cases, the Judge will determine what Attribute is used for the roll, and this will determine the number of dice rolled.

In some cases (such as ducking behind a wall to avoid being shot) the Judge might apply both Passive and Active Resistance, but no Resistance Dice Pool may ever go higher than 6.

For every Success on a Resistance Roll, the acting character’s successes are reduced by 1. An Action cannot be reduced to less than an F result by Passive Resistance. Blunders can only be forced by Active Resistance.


When a ‘1’ is rolled on a die, regardless of retreat-the-retreat-from-russiawhether the test is a failure or success, some misfortune falls upon the head of the acting character. The Judge will choose from one of the following unfortunate events (or may make up an original one on the spot, if they desire), for each Misfortune rolled. In some cases, multiple Misfortunes may be used to make a specific event even worse.

Reduce Success: -1 Success on the roll.

Counter Action: An opponent gains an immediate action (one roll). An individual opponent may only gain one Counter Action per unit of time.

Delay: The completion of the action is delayed one unit of time for each Misfortune spent. A musket takes longer to load, a lock takes longer to pick, the character slips on rubble while trying to ascend a breach, their bayonet gets lodged in their enemy, requiring an extra unit of time to retrieve it, etc.

Broken Item: A piece of applicable equipment is broken if Misfortunes equal to its Durability are used on this event.

Endanger Others: Some other character is placed in eminent danger due to the character’s actions. Useful as a means for the Judge to put the PC in the horns of a dilemma.

Looming Peril: Save a Misfortune to use later. Such saved Misfortune may be used at any time, not just during a character action. By saving up, more dramatic misfortunes can be engineered and dramatic turnarounds can be saved for more appropriate moments.


So that is the entirety of the core rules, except for specific advice on how to apply them in certain situations, like combat, negotiation, making things, traveling, etc.

49593_napol_emp_lgIt is definitely (at this point) lighter and less mechanical in it’s design, something I think Maxwell Luther would shoot for, being a lit professor and wanting to hew as closely to Braunstein as possible (but with a bit more mechanical structure and advice for the referee).

I’m currently hammering out the character generation, and that should be the subject of my next post. So far, it’s simple, and random, with lots of luverly tables. In other words, very 1970’s…

Donjons & Dragoons: The (Fictional) Foreword…

To take a break from designing mechanics, and flex my layout muscles a bit, I decided I’d try and put together something that might reflect the intended aesthetics of the project. So I did a little bit of research into the typefaces and layouts of OD&D’s Little Brown Books and wrote a foreword for the first volume ‘Men & Muskets.’ In doing so I named my theoretical author and came up with a background for him, as well as a voice.

My initial take on the eventual layout was to recreate the format of the LBB as closely as possible. But several things occurred to me as I was fiddling around with it:

1. I just can’t see a literature professor going with a sans-serif font like Futura. So I went with a Serif font instead. This isn’t totally out of line with the LBBs, by the way, as the supplements that followed also ditched the sans-serif. I also chose to go with more spacing between paragraphs. Much easier on the eyes, even if it fudges the page count a bit.

2. I’m going to use more classic paintings and woodcut illustration than original art (if I do any drawings at all). In 1973, the availability of cheap public domain art to use for a Georgian era wargame would stand in stark contrast to the limited range of good fantasy artwork available to Gary and company at the time.

3. When considering the limitations of the published materials, I also think that Luther, in his position of university professor, would have had access to greater resources than Gary would have, due to his more financially stable position and access to university resources and contacts, and he would have taken advantage of that. He might have even created it as a research project exploring methods of open-ended, interactive literature.

Keeping all that in mind, here is the foreword to Donjons & Dragoons…

NOTE: Just to be clear, for those who are just tuning in, this is a fictitious account of a history that might have been if someone other than Gary Gygax had been the father of RPGs. There is no actual Professor Luther, he never played with Dave Wesely or Dave Arneson, and the game itself is a modern creation, albeit, one that simulates the fashion and technology of the 70’s. In other words, It’s all Alt-History folks…