Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Toolbox: Using OSR Level Caps to Help Write a Campaign

When I was talking with a friend on Facebook about Monaghan, the lovable loser from my previous post, I was thinking about some of the other aspects of OSR character creation.  In particular, I was thinking about level caps.  Assuming Monaghan doesn't suffer a horrible fate, he has unlimited potential as a thief.  If is Wisdom was one point higher, he would have been a fighter with a maximum level of 6.

I know a lot of people think level caps suck.  As I understand it, they were put in place to balance out the exceptional abilities non-human characters get at first level.  Makes sense, but how many campaigns really get that far, anyway?  From my experience, most OSR campaigns died out between levels 5 and 10.  Epic campaigns are generally the exceptions, not the rule.

Why not embrace the level cap and the general short life a campaign and plan for both to end around the same time?  Upon generating the characters, look at the limits of your non-humans.  Write a campaign that will naturally end a bit after that level cap is reached and before the other players outstrip the capped one.

Putting my money where my mouth is, here is what I will present to you.  I will, using OSRIC, create five brutal characters.  Brutal being how the die rolls treat them, not what they will be able to do to the monsters.  With these five characters, I will take the roles and the limits and plop them down in my all time favorite Old School world--Greyhawk.

With that, I will write the beginnings of a campaign.  Stay tuned.