My initial inspiration hearkened back to the earliest days of roleplaying games, when Marc Miller’s Traveller offered a science fiction alternative to the horde of medieval fantasy roleplaying games capitalizing on D&D’s popularity. Traveller’s infamous character creation mechanics used a basic form of a lifepath. A player, after determining the basic stats for a character, sent her through four-year tours of duty in a chosen (or assigned) military service branch, gaining skills and equipment along the way, and occasionally suffering injuries or, sometimes, even a terribly disappointing death. My own experiences making Traveller characters resulted in a band of decently experienced yet upper middle-aged military veterans mustering out of their service and adventuring around the subsector. Cyberpunk 2020 also used a fully developed lifepath in character creation, enabling players to randomly roll a significant event for each year in their lives, resulting in a host of game modifiers, distinctive physical modifications, equipment options, and non-player character contacts enhancing both game mechanics and roleplaying. More recently I’ve found – among other enjoyable bits – the “Big Table of Life-Altering Moments” in S. John Ross’ opus Uresia: Grave of Heaven (pp. 98-101). Roll 1D1000 for admittedly vague results players can use to help add depth to a character’s background. Pose a few defining questions about a character and roll on the table a few times: “The ‘answer’ the table provides will be no answer at all, really, just a breadcrumb that may lead to one,” Ross writes. “A creative exercise in drawing lines between here and there.”
Bane Table: roll 1d6 and add character’s new level to result
1-6 Valuable weapon, armor, or magic item destroyed by special attack.
7-8 Make a sole enemy who attacks you on sight.*
9 Suffer -1 penalty to randomly determined saving throw, attack roll, or damage rolls.**
10-11 Anger an entire type of monster that attacks the character on sight.*
12 Lose 1 point from a randomly determined ability score.**
13 Lose 1 level as described by wight attack (page B44).
14 Polymorphed; roll on the appropriate Wandering Monster table for current level.**
15 Lose 2 levels as described by spectre attack (page X39).
16 Infected with lycanthropy (page B38).
* Roll on Subtable: Humanoid, “Woods” (page X57) to determine type of specific enemy.
** May be removed using an appropriate spell.
Boon Table: roll 1d6 and add character’s new level to result
1-6 Roll once on a randomly determined magic items table (pages X44-X45).
7-8 Roll once on a magic items table of your choice (pages X44-X45).
9-10 Befriend a single person who can prove an extremely useful contact.*
11-12 Gain a +1 bonus to randomly determined saving throw, attack roll, or damage rolls.
13 Roll twice on randomly determined magic items tables (pages X44-X45).
14 Roll twice on magic items tables of your choice (pages X44-X45).
15 Become allies with an influential group.*
16 Increase one randomly determined ability score 1 point.
* Roll on randomly determined Subtable: Men (page X57) to determine specific ally.
Notes: Although these offer general game effects players should devise their own explanations for how they came about in the course of their adventures. I’ve intended these for characters advancing to the maximum of level 10, though one might expand them (or broaden the range of results in each table) to accommodate higher level advancements. Page numbers reference the Moldvay edition Basic/Expert D&D rulebooks.
As I perused B/X D&D to compile lists of ideas how characters might suffer somewhat permanent setbacks I realized the rules don’t offer too many options. Many conditions aren’t permanent; many often have means of removing or healing them. Some conditions inevitably result in death if untreated. Boons in the game primarily come from rolls on the magic item tables. The rules rarely mention roleplaying banes and boons, such as making contacts or enemies within the game setting.
My experience with the game and inspiration gleaned from paging through the B/X D&D rulebooks remains limited. Every gamer brings something different to the table, so I encourage gamers to modify these basic concepts, devise their own extensive tables for banes and boons, and investigate their own methods for enhancing the basic level-up process when creating experienced characters for D&D and other OSR fare.
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