Today for the character creation challenge I depart from the clear and obvious retro-clones I examined before (e.g. Old School Essentials, Blueholme) and make a character in Low Fantasy Gaming (LFG). This will be just as much of a character creation process as a review of the game itself, so keep that in mind as you read ahead.
Paging through LFG you sometimes feel echoes of other RPGs like D&D 5E (short and long rests) and Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) (‘Luck’ plays an important role, and sometimes casting spells requires consulting a table to see the result), and yet it has many other virtues that make it stand out on its own. With the motto “Less Magic. More Grit.” it is a dangerous game. Let’s create a character to see what this all means.
The first thing you notice is that there are seven attributes instead of the normal six (Wisdom is effectively split up into Willpower and Perception). For these attributes you get one 15 and you can then can roll 4d6, drop the lowest, and do this six times and allocate as you see fit. I have to admit that I am so used to rolling 3d6 six times and distributing, that even though I read the above rule, I still just rolled 3d6 (seven times in this case) and distributed them, thus depriving me of a guaranteed 15 (which would’ve given me a +2 modifier). Still, I rolled well so I am not bothered. It is interesting to see Willpower and Perception as separate attributes, and it does make some sense (Perception helps avoid ambushes and Willpower allows you to avoid fear, charm, and madness effects).
I then moved on to choosing my race. I went with dwarf. Dwarves have a simple set of abilities: advantage vs. poisons and magic, magical healing is half the normal effect, they have a 50% chance of sniffing out gold within 60 feet, and they have night vision. I am used to dwarves being resistant to magic, and I like that rule, but it has usually been to arcane magic, here we see healing magic included. The ability to sniff out gold reminds me of DCC dwarves and I like that ability, you can have a lot of fun with that in social encounters with people claiming they don’t have gold with them (and they do and the dwarf can sense it), or if you are passing a concealed area in a dungeon and no one notices it until you tell the player using the dwarf that he senses gold nearby leading them to discover this new room. I also like that they have better night vision than humans but they are still blind in the absence of light, I’ve seen too many games and gamers get lazy with dwarven darkvision, with both players and GM’s just assuming they see everything (My game of choice, Castles & Crusades (C&C), has a large variety of vision types – deepvision, darkvision, duskvision, twilightvision – and it adds a lot more to the game).
LFG only has one saving throw, called Luck. Each time you encounter a new situation you make a luck roll and add the modifier from the relevant attribute (so if you are trying to avoid falling into a pit trap, you’d add your Dexterity modifier, and if it is versus a charm effect, you’d add your Willpower modifier). Your Luck score goes down as you succeed on tasks and is regained slowly during long rests. It does remind me of DCC’s Luck score, although unlike DCC with its over-the-top spellcasting system and potential to burn through your luck to enhance your actions, this is more restrained. I like this approach. I do love DCC, though, in fact, it is by far the RPG I play the most at conventions, but that is typically because in a four hour game with a pregen I’m not really invested in, I am more than happy to burn through my luck to try and achieve whatever staggering feats of power I can summon forth in this short period of time. However, DCC is probably not a game I would play in a regular campaign – there is just too much chaos, uncertainty, and insanity involved. Whereas LFG has hints and echoes of things you find in DCC, but they are better set up (for me, obviously, remember that this is all a matter of my personal preference) for a longer term campaign.
For the class, I chose Cultist. I chose a deity called Graxus, which represents war, courage, and glory. His symbol is the iron fist, and he wants his adherents to “live boldly, or not at all,” which I think fits a dwarf. A cultist gets an ability called a blessing. Gorath, my dwarf, received one. I chose ‘Blessed Weapon’ which allows his hammer to count as magical for several minutes. At 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th level he will get Unique Features (similar to feats), so that form of advancement resembles modern versions of D&D. There will also be a variety of other Cultist class abilities that kick in as Gorath advances.
LFG makes use of a Long Rest and Short Rest mechanic. Any D&D 5E players will probably perk up at that, but in LFG it operates slightly differently, which makes me happy. I have to admit that the Long/Short Rest mechanic was one of the reasons why I quit 5E. In my four years of playing 5E I mostly saw people resting and taking naps all the time and replenishing their health and class abilities. In the 5E campaigns I ran during that time I tried to implement the “gritty realism” rules from the DMG to increase the length of the Long/Short Rest, but I wasn’t happy with it, and when I quit 5E and switched to C&C I was overjoyed to get back to healing 1 hit point every 24 hours (finally, there were no more superhero characters). LFG takes the Long/Short rest and adds some randomness to it. A Short Rest can occur up to three times per 24 hours, and each time you can choose to get half your hit points, or recover one use of an expended class ability, or recover a Re-roll die. Then, when it comes to a Long Rest, that “requires 1d6 days of predominantly low key activity” (p.81), or if you are recovering “at an inn or other safe and comfortable location reduces the time to to 1d4 days” (ibid). I love that randomness! Why should healing always take the same amount of time no matter where you are and what you’ve encountered? If I would’ve known about this when I was still running 5E I would’ve used this rule for resting instead.
LFG has a lot to offer both old and modern gamers. I mentioned several examples above, one of the things I left out are the useful charts. When it comes to the “dark and dangerous” nature of magic, there are charts you can roll on if a spell doesn’t go off as planned. There are charts for hirelings, dungeon generation, numerous environmental encounters, madness, etc. If you can think of something, there is probably a chart you can roll on and get some wonderful insight or description to enhance the situation. So even if you don’t play LFG, the charts provide great campaign flavor for whatever game system you use (I make use of these charts in my C&C games).