Aging: Ugly, Brutish, and Short

These are a set of revised age categories. They require more dice rolling when aging happens, and are not noticeably more realistic, but they do make getting old suck a lot more.

  • Youth. Age 13–15. STR/INT/WIS –2. One proficiency.
  • Young Adulthood. Age 16–18. INT/WIS –1. Two proficiencies.
  • Adulthood. Age 19–24. No adjustments. Three proficiencies.
  • Maturity. Age 25–34. No adjustments. Four proficiencies.
  • Middle Age. Age 35–44. Degradation [1]. Five proficiencies.
  • Old Age. Age 45–54. Degradation [2]. Six proficiencies.
  • Venerated. Age 55–64. Degradation [3]. Seven proficiencies.
  • Ancient. Age 65–74. Degradation [4]. Eight proficiencies.
  • For each decade thereafter, Degradation [+1] and an additional proficiency.

Degradation. Reduce Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma each by 1d3. Add 1d2–1 to either Intelligence or Wisdom. The normal maximum for Intelligence and Wisdom is 18, but a total of +2 to an existing 18 will push it to 19 (supragenius or enlightened, respectively), which grants a +4 modifier.

Each year, roll 1d10 . If the roll is equal to or below the degradation number, roll 1d12 for the month. Starting in that month, the character becomes extremely sickly. Roll 1d6 each month to determine the effects:

  1. Save vs. Death. On a failure, the character dies. On a success, the illness passes and you can stop rolling! Roll on the Permanent After Effects table!
  2. Bed-ridden. Treat as paralysis, but the character can speak or write with effort, eat, and drink. Natural daily healing rate is reduced to 0 hp per day.
  3. Enfeebled. Suffer –4 on all throws, unable to carry more than one stone, and movement reduced to 30'. Natural daily healing rate is reduced to 1d2–1 hp per day.
  4. Weak. Suffer –2 on all throws, halve ability to carry weight, and halve movement rate. Natural daily healing rate is reduced to 1d2 hp per day.
  5. Hurting. Suffer –1 on all throws.
  6. Feeling good. No penalties this month.

Permanent After Effects, 1d20 + Constitution modifier – Degradation:

  1. Paralyzed.
  2. Both legs paralyzed (on crutches, –3 AC, move halved, cannot forced march).
  3. Both arms paralyzed.
  4. Lamed hip (–1 AC, move ×2/3).
  5. One arm paralyzed.
  6. Lamed knee (halved carrying capacity, cannot forced march).
  7. Paralyzed hand.
  8. Roll 1d6 and reduce the appropriate ability score by 4. Each can only be affected once: 1 Strength, 2 Intelligence, 3 Wisdom, 4 Dexterity, 5 Constitution, 6 Charisma.
  9. Blind.
  10. Deaf.
  11. One bad eye (–2 to missile attack throws).
  12. Hard of hearing (–1 to hear noise and surprise rolls).
  13. Lose ability to speak.
  14. Brain addled (–2 on research and proficiency throws, –10% XP).
  15. Lost stamina (rest one turn per three; wilderness move ×2/3; cannot forced march; –1 hp per HD).
  16. Reduced stamina (cannot forced march).
  17. Stiffness (–1 to initiative rolls).
  18. Aches (–1 to initiative rolls on cold or rainy days).
  19. Ghostly visions of long-departed friends and enemies occasionally visit you.
  20. No permanent after effects.

If you roll the same problem twice, reduce the roll by –1 and use that result instead.

For example, Thorwood lost the ability to speak a decade ago, and just rolled the same result again. This time, he loses some of his hearing.

Elven Bloodline. Ignore Degradation. Each year that a normal person rolls 1d10 against their Degradation, roll 1d20: on a 1, save vs. Death during Winter or die peacefully and fade away; on a success, you’re fine.

Stupid elves.

Longevity (Ritual 9). Transfers 10 years between two subjects. The aging subject does not mature faster (a nine-year-old aged by 60 years is a nine-year-old with bad eyesight, wrinkles, and failing health). The youthening subject cannot be reduced below Adulthood. This ritual can be broken into two objects, one which ages and one which youthens. The aging object must be used first; if the youthening object is used first, both break.

Very cool stuff here. I’d argue against the Charisma degradation… it’s not all looks and what about all of those old charismatic leaders? :slight_smile:

The core rules degrade Charisma with age. If you are inclined to ignore it in the core rules, you can ignore it here under the same rationale.

Some variations for simplicity:

The average reduction in an ability score due to degradation is –2.

The time between medical problems is 1d12 at D[1], 1d6 at D[2], 1d3 years at D[3], 1d2 years at D[4] and above (it still drops off after that, but not enough to represent in a single die roll).

The number of months a character remains sick works out to 3.816 on average. That’s near-enough to 1d6 months as makes no difference, so instead of rolling each month, you can roll 1d6 to determine how many months are required, and 1d4+1 to determine how bad the medical problem is during those months.

It looks like you’re giving out free proficiencies for characters as they get older.

How do you handle this? What lists are these proficiencies chosen from?

At each age category, a zero-level human gains one General proficiency (starting at Maturity and above, this represents one proficiency per decade).

For PCs, the rules up through Maturity (the first four proficiencies) are replaced by the rules for PC classes (Adventuring + one General + one Class).

Also for PCs, I would not grant an age-related proficiency for any decade in which the PC gained proficiencies by leveling . . . but for 14th level characters, it would be one way to continue to improve in small ways as they grow older, and I might allow them to take half of them from their Class.

This is rather detailed/complex.

I had a rule in d20 where characters roll a FOR-save each x years after reaching old age category where x is dependent on race. If failed, a randomly determined ability is reduced by 1d4 Points. If an ability drops to zero or below the character dies. Max. Age is ignored. Thus fighters and their like are more healthy and more likely to grow old, as are the long-lived races. Once you start going down the road of reduced CON, however, you are likely to die soon. No benefits for aging or have anyone of you seen someone growing more intelligent with Age (in contrast many grow senile). Magic can prolong your life by raising ability scores…

A more complex Version was with three saving throws: Failing the FOR-save either reduced CON or STR, failing the REF-save reduced DEX or INT and failing the WIS-save reduced CHA or WIS.

Beastman wrote: No benefits for aging or have anyone of you seen someone growing more intelligent with Age (in contrast many grow senile).
Senility is covered on the Permanent After Effects table, and can easily wipe out all gains. INT and WIS both represent abilities which can quite reasonably improve slightly with age, although they often don't.

Your rules are definitely simpler.

As someone who has made a few of these rolls (I’m 54)I want to chime in here.
If someone more familiar with the ACKs system than myself wants to make the system more realistic you can try applying some of this.
Intelligence does not go up. Chess champions are always younger men. Of the last 26 undisputed champions only 5 were over 45. The oldest was 58. Puzzles take me a little longer than they once did. However, the accumulation of knowledge is impossible to ignore. I have many, many more “proficiencies” and skills than I did 30 years ago. I know how to do tons of things I never even tried to learn simply because at some point life made me.
Wisdom: I think in general you grow more prudent and cautious with time. More importantly you have known so many people that everyone seems familiar. People in their teens and early 20s seem very simple and transparent. I am much better than I ever was at predicting people’s future; who will get rich, locked up, divorced, and so on. The old saying “I’v seen this movie before, I know how it ends.” applies.
Things like dex and con: there is a slow gradual decline. It’s not like you are at peak on day and broken the next. it’s very incremental which would make it a bother to keep track of. Reflex speed and stamina are affected the most.

Strength surprisingly (to me) peaks around 40. look at the record holding weightlifters; they are all around 40. Of course those guys have no stamina.

I won’t even try to address Charisma. Old people are not pretty but can be much more intimidating, forceful or convincing. It’s the most complicated.

Intelligence in ACKS has a different set of effects than what one would call intelligence in the real world - chess and puzzles would likely be handled by proficiency throws and roleplaying.

The sorts of things intelligence affects are:

  • Education: the higher your INT, the more proficiencies you get, and the better you are at basic research.
  • Deviousness: in D@W, it affects your strategy score.

With that said, I think if you want the kind of realism you are describing above, you might be better off with GURPS. Record-holding weight lifters—to use your example—aren’t even possible in ACKS.

Well sure, I am not trying to make ACKs a “rules heavy” RPG where players and judge spend all night arguing about interpretation but fine-tuning, tweaking it to allow the most realism with the least paperwork, isn’t that what an open forum is for?

You did post (and thank you for it) in an open forum.

I apologize for being cranky-pants :slight_smile:

Thomas Weigel wrote: They require more dice rolling when aging happens, and are not noticeably more realistic, but they do make getting old suck a lot more.
I was not aiming for realism. Or simplicity. I can appreciate that others might use them for other purposes, and that you might see a seed of additional realism in them.

With that said, a more thorough and less cranky response:

  1. My comments on Intelligence were informational. Most gamers see the word intelligence, and they do not think in ACKS terms—they think in real-world terms. Based on your comments, you appeared to be doing that, so I provided my perspective on how INT works in ACKS, based on what the system provides. And based on that, Intelligence does improve with age, because it represents expanded knowledge and increasing guile and treachery.

  2. For Charisma, as I stated earlier in the thread: it’s perfectly possible to drop that, just like you can drop it from the core rules. I kept it, because I wasn’t trying for realism.

  3. I ignored the point about Strength, because that’s getting into gritty realism which ACKS simply doesn’t support, in my opinion. Those 40-something weight lifters are stronger than a character with gauntlets of ogre strength . . . but the character with the gauntlets can (depending on the Judge) conceivably do anything strength-feat-wise, if they roll well on 1d20. There’s really very, very little to suggest that any ACKS character has greater or lesser muscular power than any other—STR seems to measure aptitude for violence more than anything else.

  4. Wisdom, I think we agree. Not much for me to say, yes?

  5. Gradual decline: the rules, as written, are a gradual decline. The Permanent After Effects rules are not for the decline, but the emergencies. They represent falling on a hip, getting sick, losing a foot to gangrene, developing a cataract, and so on.

  6. “…fine-tuning, tweaking it to allow the most realism with the least paperwork, isn’t that what an open forum is for?”

Well, in my opinion, an open forum is for discussion. My post, certainly, was not about achieving any realism at all, or reducing paperwork. Because it is an open forum, you are certainly welcome to discuss ways to change what I posted to achieve those things . . . and I hope you agree that I am free to disagree, or to discuss why I wouldn’t do things that way.

It’s an open thread, like any other :-). If you would like to suggest changes for your campaign, I’d love to see them. But I reserve the right, in this open thread, to discuss why I didn’t do things that way; and if you invoke realism, I reserve the right to tell you why I disagree that it’s more realistic.

I will try to sound less cranky about it.

Crankyness is not a concern. I have never met a group of consistently polite role gamers.

As you can probably, tell I am new to the system. Thanks for your posts.

Thomas: I just wanted to say that this may be the best example of fractal game mechanics that I've ever seen.

(Thomas and I recently were discussing how game design is fractal. You can take any particular area of the rules, zoom in on it, and make it more detailed.)



Ah, sweet success :-).

Fractal? Does that mean the demographic results are similar if you use this more detailed method?

I’d work it out myself, but the “roll 1d10 each year, effects on 2 or less” probability math is a bit beyond me.

You can make them similar:

  1. Use the core ACKS age categories instead of the revised categories.

  2. Degradation is [1] at Old, [1] at Ancient, and [10] at Maximum Age.

  3. Elves roll every three years instead of every year.

Aging statistics, per million average people:

Unmodified House Rule: 1 million make it to 35, 483K make it to 45, 107K make it to 55, 10K make it to 65, 380 make it to 75, 3 make it to 85, and the last one dies at 88.

Core ACKS: 1 million make it to 55, 300K make it to 75, 90K make it to 95, the last one dies at age 105.

Modified House Rule: 1 million make it to 55, 234K make it to 75, 55K make it to 95, and the last one dies at age 103.

Player Characters will have better survival rates across the board, because they won’t have zero-level saves, of course.