GLAIVE: A Knave Hack & Collection of House Rules
The holidays have really been messing with my gaming. I thought I would take the time to organize my various house rules and combine them with Ben Milton’s (Questing Beast) incredible OSR game, Knave. These are rules for my home game only and where I have used or adapted rules from other games or creators I have linked to their work. To the best of my knowledge, the Non-Knave work is not covered by the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
EDIT: I continue to update the source file here.
The text colors and table borders did not like translating to Blogger. Apologies for some of the wonky formatting.
EDIT: I continue to update the source file here.
The text colors and table borders did not like translating to Blogger. Apologies for some of the wonky formatting.
KNAVE is a rules toolkit created by Ben Milton for running old school fantasy RPGs without classes. The GLAIVE hack brings in concepts from other compatible OSR RPGs and optional Talents.
Adding, subtracting, and modifying rules is both expected and encouraged. Knave’s features include:
Abilities are king. All d20 rolls use the six standard abilities. The way that ability scores and bonuses work has also been cleaned up, rationalized, and made consistent with how other systems like armor work.
Optional player-facing rolls. Knave easily accommodates referees who want the players to do all the rolling. Switching between the traditional shared-rolling model and players-only rolling can be done effortlessly on the fly.
Optional Talents. Talents are a hybrid of class descriptors and the feats or perks found in many other games. The game is still classless, but Talents allow Players to define their Characters with more specificity than the contents of their pack.
Silver Standard. Glaive assumes that the common unit of currency is the silver penny. Replacing the word “gold” or “copper” with “silver” when using other OSR materials usually works just fine. Use the equipment list from your favorite OSR game.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License: You are free to share and adapt this material for any purpose, including commercially, as long as you give attribution.
Designer commentary. The rules include designer comments explaining why each rule was written the way it was, to aid in hacking the game.
1 PCs have six abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Each ability has two related values: a defense and a bonus. When creating a PC, roll 3d6 for each of their abilities, in order. The lowest of the three dice on each roll is that ability’s bonus. Add 10 to find its defense.
After you’ve finished rolling, you may optionally swap the scores of two abilities.
Example: You roll a 2, 2, and 6 for Strength. The lowest die is a 2, so your PC’s Strength has a bonus of +2 and a defense of 12. Repeat this process for the rest of the abilities.
Designer’s Note: “Ability defense” is Milton’s term for what is normally called ability scores. Knave/Glaive refers to them this way to make it clearer how they work during opposed saves, explained later.
The rolling mechanic will make most abilities start at 11/+1. The bonus and defense of three abilities will rise by 1 point each time the PC gains a level, up to a maximum of 20/+10 by level 10. This puts everything on an intuitive ten point scale, and is intended to mirror the way that attack bonuses, hit dice, and saving throws in most OSR games increase by about one point per level.
2 PCs start with 2 days of rations and one weapon of their player’s choice. Roll on the Starting Gear tables on the following page to determine starting armor and equipment.
Designer’s Note: Rolling for starting equipment dramatically speeds up the character creation process, which is important if you’re playing a high-lethality game like Knave. If you want to permit shopping for equipment, however, have players roll 3d6x20 to find their starting copper pieces. Note that spell books are not normally available to new PCs, but you could always add “random spellbook” to the Dungeoneering Gear table, or simply allow new PCs to roll a random spell in exchange for not starting with any armor.
PCs have a number of item slots equal to their Constitution defense, and items they carry must fit into the available slots. Most items take up one slot, but some take up more. Some small items can be bundled together into a single slot. Ask the referee if you are unsure. Carrying more items than you have slots for results in all Ability rolls being made with disadvantage.
Designer’s Note: Item slots make tracking encumbrance very fast and easy, which is important since resource management is an important aspect of the game. They also represent character customization slots, since what a Knave is carrying goes a long way towards determining their playstyle and role in the party.
Armor comes with an armor defense value. Note that value on your character sheet with its corresponding Armor bonus (always 10 less than the defense). If the PC is not wearing any armor, their armor defense is 11 and their armor bonus is +1.
Designer’s Note: “Armor defense” is essentially the same concept as armor class in most OSR games. It’s been renamed to emphasize the connection between the way it and ability defenses work. The armor bonus exists in order to allow combat to be run entirely player-facing, as explained in the combat section.
3 Roll 1d8+ Constitution bonus to determine your PC’s starting hit points. A PC’s healing rate is 1d8+ Constitution bonus.
Designer’s Note: All hit dice are assumed to be d8s in Knave, for PCs, NPCs, and monsters. This simplifies the game and keeps things compatible with the stats in most OSR books. Referees who don’t want starting PCs to be too frail might want to allow starting HP to be rerolled if it is below 5 or consider starting with 8+ Charisma bonus.
4 Invent or roll the rest of your PC’s traits, such as their physique, face, skin, hair, clothing, virtue, vice, speech, background, and alignment, using the random tables on the following page. Choose a gender and a name for your PC, but don’t get too attached. It’s a dangerous world out there.
Designer’s Note: Randomizing most of a PC’s traits speeds up character creation, but it also has the effect of creating surprising, unique characters that most players wouldn’t think to invent or play. (Unfortunately I can’t import that table into Google Docs.)
5 Select an Ancestry from the table at the end of this document.
6 New Knaves begin play with two free Talents chosen from the lists below.
PLAYING THE GAME
Each of the six abilities are used in different circumstances.
Strength: Used for melee attacks and saves requiring physical power, like lifting gates, bending bars, etc.
Dexterity: Used for saves requiring poise, speed, and reflexes, like dodging, climbing, sneaking, balancing, etc.
Constitution: Used for saves to resist poison, sickness, cold, etc. The Constitution bonus is added to healing rolls. A PC’s number of item slots is always equal to their Constitution defense.
Intelligence: Used for saves requiring concentration and precision, such as wielding magic, resisting magical effects, recalling lore, crafting objects, tinkering with machinery, picking pockets, etc.
Wisdom: Used for ranged attacks and saves requiring perception and intuition, such as tracking, navigating, searching for secret doors, detecting illusions, etc.
Charisma: Used for saves to persuade, deceive, interrogate, intimidate, charm, provoke, etc. PCs may employ a number of henchmen equal to their Charisma bonus.
Designer’s Note: In a system that relies so heavily on the six abilities, it’s important for each of them to play an important role, to discourage dump stats. Non-magical characters tend to dump the mental abilities, for example, so I increased their usefulness.
PCs have a number of item slots equal to their Constitution defense. Most items, including spellbooks, potions, a day’s rations, light weapons, tools and so on take up 1 slot, but particularly heavy or bulky items like armor or medium to heavy weapons may take up more slots. Groups of small, identical items may be bundled into the same slot, at the referee’s discretion. 200 coins can fit in a slot. As a general guideline, a slot holds around 5 pounds of weight.
Designer’s Note: Using item slots makes encumbrance simple enough that players will be willing to track it. Slots are also the key to character customization, as a PC’s gear helps determine who they are. Raising Constitution, therefore, will probably be a priority for most characters.
If a character attempts something where the outcome is uncertain and failure has consequences, they make a saving throw, or “save”. To make a save, add the bonus of the relevant ability to a d20 roll. If the total is greater than 15, the character succeeds. If not, they fail.
Designer’s Note: Requiring saves to exceed 15 means that new PCs have around a 25% chance of success, while level 10 characters have around a 75% chance of success, since ability bonuses can get up to +10 by level 10. This reflects the general pattern found in the save mechanics of early D&D.
If the save is opposed by another character, then instead of aiming to exceed 15, the side doing the rolling must get a total greater than the opposing character’s relevant defense score in order to succeed. If they fail, the opposing side succeeds. This type of save is called an opposed save. Note that it doesn’t matter which side does the rolling, since the odds of success remain the same.
Example: A wizard casts a fireball spell at a goblin, who gets a saving throw to avoid. This is resolved as an opposed save using the wizard’s Intelligence versus the goblin’s Dexterity. The goblin may roll plus their Dexterity bonus, hoping to exceed the wizard’s Intelligence defense or the wizard may roll plus their Intelligence bonus, hoping to exceed the goblin’s Dexterity defense.
Designer’s Note: An ability’s defense score is essentially its average roll. Requiring the rolling side to beat the opposing defense allows contests to be settled more quickly, eliminates the possibility of ties, and allows the game to be run with players doing all of the rolling if they so choose, since the odds of success are the same no matter which side rolls.
If there are situational factors that make a save significantly easier or harder, the referee may grant the roll advantage or disadvantage. If a roll has advantage, roll 2d20 and use the better of the two dice. If it has disadvantage, roll 2d20 and use the worse of the two dice.
Designer’s Note: The referee is of course free to impose positive or negative modifiers rather than use the advantage system, but most players seem to enjoy it and it simplifies the math.
TURN STRUCTURE (10 Minutes)
OVERLOADING THE ENCOUNTER DIE (Nexcropraxis)
When the party moves into a new area or spends time on an exploration activity, roll the encounter die and interpret the results as follows.
1D6 ENCOUNTER DIE
When the PCs encounter an NPC whose reaction to the party is not obvious, roll 2d6 and consult the following table.
CHALLENGE DIE (Index Card RPG)
Use a single target number for a given room, encounter, or combat. This target represents the average difficulty of everything in that encounter and boils it down to a single number. Use a d20 to note the TN. If something in an encounter is significantly easier or more challenging to deal with, adjust the TN of that creature by +3/-3.
Designer’s Note: Having a single number that the entire table can see makes the game run faster and more smoothly. Hit the orc? Roll a 14. Pick the lock on the treasure chest? Target 14. Was the chest magically trapped? Adjust the Target by +1 to +3. In a linear dungeon this number would start low and rise with every new challenge, culminating in a “Boss fight”. A good dungeon is never linear.
ESCALATION DIE (Index Card RPG)
At the start of an encounter roll 1d4 and place it on the table with the Encounter Die. In the number of rounds rolled something exciting happens, (more goblins, flood waters rise, the lantern goes out, etc.). Reroll the die and do so until the encounter ends.
Designer’s Note: The escalation die is great for staggering waves of monsters, introducing a twist, and keeping a ticking clock on the Players and their actions.
INITIATIVE (The Black Hack)
At the start of every Round each Player rolls a Dexterity save for their Character. Those that succeed, take their Turn before their NPC opponents. They must then discuss as a group to decide their own order for individual Character actions.
Designer’s Note: Those that fail their Dexterity save, act after their opponents. Rerolling initiative every round makes combat more dangerous, since it’s possible for one side to go twice in a row.
A PC can move from one range to an adjacent range and perform a single action on their turn. This action may be casting a spell, making a second move, making an attack, using a Talent, attempting a stunt, or any other action deemed reasonable by the referee.
Melee weapons can strike Close foes, but ranged weapons cannot be used if the shooting character is engaged in melee combat. To make an attack, roll a d20 and add the character’s Strength or Wisdom bonus, depending on whether they are using a melee or ranged weapon, respectively. If the attack total is greater than the defender’s armor defense, the attack hits. If not, the attack misses.
Alternatively, an attack roll can also be resolved by the defender rolling a d20 and adding their armor bonus, hoping to roll a total greater than the defense of the ability the attacker is using. If they succeed, the attack misses. If they fail, the attack hits.
Designer’s Note: In other words, attacks are resolved the same way as opposed saves, just using Armor in place of an ability.
On a hit, the attacker rolls their weapon’s damage die to determine how many Hit Points (HP) the defender loses.
MOVEMENT & DISTANCE
GLAIVE uses four range bands for measuring relative positions of Characters, other Creatures, and things in the world. From nearest to farthest: Close, Nearby, Faraway, & Distant.
A PC can move from one range to an adjacent range and perform a single action on their Turn or they can choose to move twice and do nothing else.
SHIELDS WILL BE BROKEN!
A Player may choose to soak a hit no matter how much damage it does by sacrificing their shield. Obviously, they must be wielding a shield at the time.
Stunts are combat maneuvers such as stunning, shoving, disarming, tripping, sundering armor, and so on. They are resolved with a versus save. They may not cause damage directly, but may do so indirectly (for example, pushing an enemy off of a ledge). The referee is the final arbiter as to what stunts can be attempted in a given situation.
ADVANTAGE IN COMBAT
Characters can gain advantage in combat by attacking a target that is unaware, on lower ground, off balance, disarmed, distracted, or tactically disadvantaged in any significant way. The referee, as usual, has the final say.
When a character has advantage against an opponent on their combat turn, they may either A.) Apply advantage to their attack roll or stunt against that opponent or B.) Make an attack and a stunt attempt in the same round against that opponent, without advantage.
During an attack roll, if the attacker rolls a natural 20 or the defender rolls a natural 1, they take an additional d12 of damage (regardless of the weapon’s type).
OUT OF ACTION TABLE (The Black Hack)
When a character reaches 0 HP, they are Out of Action. When the danger passes or the Player recieved aid roll on the Out of Action (OofA) Table.
Monsters and NPCs all have a morale rating, usually between 5 and 9. When they face more danger than they were expecting, the referee will make a morale roll by rolling 2d6 and comparing the result to the NPC’s morale rating. If the roll is higher than the rating, the NPC will attempt to flee, retreat, or parley.
Morale rolls can be triggered by defeating half of an enemy group, defeating a group’s leader, or reducing a lone enemy to half HP. Other effects may trigger a morale roll at the referee’s discretion.
Hirelings also make morale rolls when they aren’t paid, their employer dies, or they face extraordinary danger. Morale may also be improved by paying hirelings more and treating them well.
After a meal and a full night’s rest, PCs regain lost hit points equal to a d8 plus their Constitution bonus. Resting at a safe haven restores all lost HP.
You can consume a ration to heal 1d6 HP (or more for Meals). This takes ten minutes and involves generally chilling out, adjusting your bags, and pumping yourself up.
Taking the time to prepare a Meal heals even more, (d8+ Constitution bonus). Preparing a meal takes 1 hour minimum.
Designer’s Note: Constitution bonus is a big help when it comes to healing.
Did the party not pack enough food? Consider hunting and eating monsters. Monster Menu All.
LIGHT SOURCES, AMMUNITION, & THE USAGE DIE (The Black Hack)
Light Sources and Ammunition depletes according to die rolls. Each Turn, or when the appropriate Encounter Die result comes up, roll. If the result is less than four, use a lower die. If anything less than a four is rolled on a D4, the light source is depleted.
Use these steps: D20 >D12 >D10 >D8 >D6 >D4 >gone.
A single quiver of arrows or case of bolts uses a d12 Usage Die.
Flint and tinder requires 1D4 rounds to ignite a light source.
Light crossbows. Ignore 2 points of AC and take a round to reload.
Heavy crossbows. Ignore 4 points of AC and take two rounds to reload.
CAROUSING & OTHER WAYS TO KEEP MY PLAYERS POOR
James Young’s excellent Unified House Rules Document.
When a PC acquires 1000 XP they gain an Experience Level. PCs receive 1 XP per silver piece recovered from a dungeon, earned from a job, or stolen from some git who deserved it. They do not get XP for silver found or earned through honest means.
Additionally they receive 50 XP for low-risk accomplishments, 100 XP for moderate-risk accomplishments, and 200 XP for high-risk accomplishments. The referee should freely notify the PCs of how much XP different objectives are worth when asked.
PCs can double-dip the XP they receive for silver by carousing, becoming philanthropists, etc. Details in the Unified House Rules Document linked above.
When a PC gains a level, they roll a number of d8s equal to their new level + Constitution bonus to find their new HP maximum. If the result is less than their previous maximum, their maximum HP increases by 2. They also raise the defense and bonus scores of 3 different Abilities of their choice by 1 point, or increase the defense and bonus scores of 2 Abilities and select a new Talent. Abilities may never be raised higher than 20/+10.
Example: A Player rolled 1 d8, resulting in 4 for their starting Hit Points, and added their +3 Constitution bonus, for a total of 7 starting HP. Upon reaching Level 2 the player rolls 2d8+3 (2 eight-sided dice plus their Constitution bonus). If the result is more than 7 this is their new Maximum HP. If the result is less than 7 their new Maximum HP is 8 (6+2).
TALENTS FOR KNAVE
A classless game in its original inception, these optional rules are intended to bring some character customization to Knave. At the cost of one ability score increase, a Player may choose a single talent from any of the categories below every time their Knave levels up.
Designer’s Note:Though grouped by theme, players are encouraged to mix and match ideas to create their own unique characters.
Some of these ideas are my own. Others are inspired by or adapted from other such lists in the OSR blog-o-sphere or adapted from D&D Feats. (The Man WIth The Hammer, Marshal Brengle, Buildings Are People)
This list is in no way comprehensive. Players and Referees are encouraged to create their own Talents.