You lucky, lucky bastard… On luck mechanics in Old School Games

You lucky, lucky baaaastard…

The first RPG I played that included luck was Cyberpunk 2013. At the time I liked it a lot, but I never thought to port it over to other games.

Lately, I’ve come across some kind of luck mechanic in Mongoose RuneQuest (now Legend), OpenQuest 2, RuneQuest 6, Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play 2E and Dungeon Crawl Classics.

I think it’s kinda cool that the player can use his luck to influence his fate, at least to a degree. Call it Fate, Luck or like me…Karma.

Why, you might ask, would I ever want this for my games?

If you, like me, loathe “Sticks of Healing”, “Shoes of Wishes” and other magic ass-saving items, this is a way to give the PCs some control over their fates, while not having to hand out all those magic items all the time.

And the would-be-dead PC will still be badly hurt, but miraculously not dead. And the hopelessly insane Dwarf will still be insane, but curable given the right circumstances. For me, it fits the less magic, and much darker tone I strive after these days.

Here’s a simple system you can bolt on to your OSR Game of choice:

At character generation, all PCs get 2 Karma Points. No more.

These can be used to:

  • Re-roll a botched roll (be it a Save, To Hit or Skill Check).
  • Downgrade the effect of such a roll (for example downgrade a Fumble to just a miss, or a Death Result on that Crit Table to a Serious Damage instead).
  • Make another player, or the GM to re-roll a dice roll (for example a Critical Hit on your character).

Downside is, though, that ONCE GONE, KARMA POINTS STAYS GONE.

So use them wisely, Adventurer!


If you like, of course you could use Karma as a serious reward from the Gods after they have managed a Brütal campaign, foiled that über-boss Demon or whatever you deem fit. However, I’d recommend that the amount re-gained in these circumstances would be  1 (one) Karma Point and not more.



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