One of the many things on my overcrowded plate is preparing for Texicon near the end of July. I’ve committed to running two different events, “Metro Gnomes” using Dyson Logos’s inspired Geodesic Gnomes and “Castronegro” using a mashup of Beyond Belief Games‘s Go Fer Yer Gun! and Chaosium‘s Call of Cthulhu (CoC). While reviewing the rules for the latter game, I was re-introduced to the concept of the Luck roll.
In CoC, players make Luck rolls frequently, usually to determine which character is the least lucky and, therefore, suffers some sort of horrible fate. For example, when walking by a mirror that sometimes shows glimpes of Things Best Left Unseen, the investigators must be lucky enough to not briefly see reality for what it really is. Investigators whose Luck rolls don’t pass the test end up having their psyches scarred (and Sanity scores lowered). Other times, investigators whose Luck rolls succeed end up stumbling upon something beneficial, such as luckily noticing that the ceiling of the ghoul-dug tunnel beneath the graveyard is about to collapse, enabling the investigator just enough time to avoid being crushed by tons of earth, rock, coffins, and corpses.
What might Luck look like in Pathfinder? Well, how about making Luck an ability score? Let’s look at a brand new, 20-point buy wizard:
STR 10 for 0 points
DEX 13 for 3 points
CON 14 for 5 points
INT 14 for 5 points
WIS 12 for 2 points
CHA 10 for 0 points
LUC 14 for 5 points
Since he’s human, he adds his +2 racial bonus to Intelligence, ending up with these ability scores:
STR 10 (+0), DEX 13 (+1), CON 14 (+2), INT 16 (+3), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 10 (+0), LUC 14 (+2)
Which is all fine and dandy, but now we have to figure out what LUC does for our wizard.
What LUC Does
LUC represents the degree to which cosmic forces, karma, the gods, Lady Fortune, et cetera, smile upon a character. During the course of a game session, a character’s LUC can affect any dice roll the character’s player makes. The player decides to apply the LUC bonus after rolling but before the GM reveals the results of the roll.
At the start of the game session, give each player tokens of some sort, one token per +1 of LUC bonus. (For now, ignore LUC penalties; I’ll get to those below.) Whenever a player wants to apply his character’s LUC bonus to the dice, he must surrender one token. The bonus to the dice equals the total number of tokens the player has prior to surrendering one token. For example, our wizard has a +2 LUC bonus. The player gets two LUC tokens at the start of the game session. The wizard is forced to roll a Fortitude save, and the player isn’t quite sure about his total of 15. He adds +2 from LUC, and surrenders one LUC token. When a player is out of tokens, his character is out of LUC for that game session.
By the way, the bonus from LUC is a luck bonus. It doesn’t stack with other luck bonuses. Of course, since LUC is an ability score, it can be improved via the ability score bump characters get every four levels. You could even design magic items and spells to provide temporary LUC boosts (clover of good luck +2 and rabbit’s luck, anyone?).
A character with a negative LUC modifier is unlucky. For every point of negative LUC modifier, the GM gets one unLUC token at the start of the game session. The GM’s collection of unLUC tokens form his pool of misfortune. The GM gets to use his unLUC tokens for a variety of effects during the game session:
* Have a Monster/NPC Act Out of Turn: For one unLUC token, a single monster or NPC can take its turn immediately. This is treated as a readied action, changing the affected creature’s initiative as appropriate. The monster/NPC can take only a move or standard action using this option.
* Bonus to Dice Roll: The unLUC token grants a luck bonus to a single roll of the dice. If declared before the dice are rolled, it adds +2 per PC the monster/NPC faces. If declared after the dice roll, it grants one-half this bonus.
* Extra Action: A monster/NPC can gain an additional standard or move action for one unLUC token.
* Recall: For one unLUC token, a monster/NPC can regain one use of an expended ability, such as a cast spell. This affects only abilities that are recharged on a daily basis.
* Second Wind: One monster/NPC immediately regains 1 hit point per Hit Die per PC being faced. For example, a 4th-level half-orc antipaladin fighting four PCs could regain 16 hit points for one unLUC token (4 HD times 4 PCs = 16 hit points). Hit points above the creature’s normal maximum hit points are ignored.
The GM can spend any number of unLUC tokens in one round for any combination of effects, but no single effect can be applied to any one monster/NPC more than once. For example, a GM could spend three unLUC tokens to give that antipaladin the benefits of Bonus to Dice Roll, Extra Action, and Second Wind.
Pushing Your LUC
Any character, even one with a negative LUC modifier, can decide to push his LUC. Pushing his LUC grants an additional +2 luck bonus to the affected dice roll without any extra cost in LUC tokens. A character with no or a negative LUC modifier gets a total +2 luck bonus. The downside is that the GM immediately gets to add one unLUC token to his pool of misfortune.