Fun fact: I made more posts in August than I did in the whole of 2009. Now that I'm actually running Labyrinth Lord, I seem to have more to post about than when it was all theoretical. I'm going to try to keep the momentum going and post weekly (or better) on average.
Anyway, this time I'm going to be lazy and repost a house-rule system I wrote and posted to the LL forums last year. The idea behind them is similar in concept to the lightsaber forms from Star Wars lore, but the execution is very different from the d20 Star Wars games. I've left it open whether to these should be high-level only abilities (to give fighters in particular something to look forward to past name level), or potentially available at low levels with special training (so that characters can gain unique signature styles early on).
Weapon Form Specialisations
Note that elements of these forms are in common use by all competent weapon-users; these game mechanical effects represent specialisation in a form, and active use of this. Regardless of having one or more specialisations, a character may always choose to fight unspecialised. In fact, this is the default assumption unless the player agrees with the GM that he uses a form as a matter of course.
Characters may switch between any known form specialisations during combat, but only at the beginning of his turn (not between multiple attacks in the same round). Unless stated otherwise, all forms are usable only with melee weapons.
Description: This form relies on the user forcing his opponent off balance for a moment to take the opportunity to draw his weapon arm(s) all the way back to wind up for a heavy, powerful attack. This is an aggressive form, very dangerous to use.
Favoured By: Executioners, assassins, berserkers.
Benefit: If the attack hits, damage is doubled (roll damage once and multiply by 2).
Drawback:If the target of the attack is not killed (i.e. survives the damage or the attack misses), he gets an immediate free counterattack. If the attacker has multiple attacks in a single round, a counterattack, if applicable, applies to each one at a time.
Waterdhavian Classical Form
Description: This is an elegant, balanced form, developed for duelling, teaching its wielders to anticipate their opponents' attacks.
Favoured By: Knights, nobles, duellists.
Benefit: The attacker may give up his attack (if he has multiple attacks, he may give up one or more) to parry an enemy attack later in the round, i.e. any time before his next turn. He must declare the intent to parry before the attack against him is rolled (he cannot wait to see which attacks would miss anyway). Success is determined by the attacker and defender both rolling attacks; if the parrying character “hits” a lower AC, he parries the attack harmlessly. Even if the parry fails, the attacker must still hit the defender's AC to successfully hit.
Drawback: The only drawback is that the form requires forfeiture of attacks for a limited advantage.
Description: This form makes use of rapid attacks, often alternating high and low thrusts or left and right slashes, the attacker sometimes spinning round to attack from another angle. This often enables the attacker to overpower the target's defences, but only the most skilled can execute this successfully.
Favoured By: Avengers, expert swordsmen, elves.
Benefit: The attacker makes twice as many attacks.
Drawback: The attacker must compare each attack roll he makes to his base THAC0 (the number needed to hit AC 0, not counting any bonuses for this purpose, per the table in LL p.60 – a player with this form should keep this number ready and up-to-date). If he rolls less than this, his opponent breaks the sequence of his attack combination or he goes off-balance, and he loses all subsequent attacks this round. It is still possible for this low attack roll to hit, if hit hits the AC anyway.
Description: This form focuses on solid stances and the use of upper-body movement, in order to apply as much force as possible to weapon strikes. It looks simple but can be deceptively skillful, though its fixed nature limits mobility.
Favoured By: Soldiers, dwarves, orc warlords.
Benefit: The attacker can re-roll any damage roll coming up minimum (i.e. a natural 1 in most cases). If it re-rolls as minimum again, re-roll again (repeat as necessary to get a non-minimum result).
Drawback: The user may not move in the same round as making an attack.
Description: This form is based on taking opportunities to use a knowledge of anatomy to hit an enemy to hurt them most.
Favoured By: Clerics, necromancers, dirty tricksters.
Benefit: On an attack roll of natural 20, the enemy must make a saving throw versus Poison/Death or be stunned. If the attacker isn't using a blunt weapon, the target gets a +4 to the saving throw; if the target isn't humanoid, he gains a +4 bonus (cumulative with the other +4 if applicable). Undead, golems, and similar enemies are immune. If the target is stunned, he loses his actions for the next round; he isn't unconscious or helpless, however.
Drawback: The natural 20 roll isn't a critical hit, and so doesn't automatically do maximum damage.
Description: Many warriors prefer to hit-and-run rather than stand and trade blows; they may be lightly armoured, outnumbered, or simply favour mobility. Those who specialise in this form can become fearsome in battle, controlling the battlefield and denying safety to their enemies.
Favoured By: Halflings, werewolves, outlaws.
Benefit: The attacker may make his normal encounter movement in a round and attack with either a melee or missile weapon, then make a second encounter move immediately after his attack (normally encounter movement is allowed only once in a round in addition to an attack, LL p.52-53).
Drawback: Attacking on the run is very difficult. When attacking, the user of this form must roll two dice for the attack roll, and take whichever is lower.