Scout Draft

The scout is a warrior with wilderness skills. Most commonly, they are outriders and skirmishers for armies, but may also be trappers, hunters, hermits, or barbarians.

  • Hit die: d6
  • XP advancement as fighter
  • Attack bonus as cleric
  • +1 individual initiative
  • +1 missile attack
  • Hide: wilderness 5 in 6, underground or in civilization 2 in 6
  • Bonus to “getting lost” throws (see below)
  • Tracking 5 in 6 (one check required per 6 mile hex)
  • May use any weapons and any armor (though armor penalizes stealth)

Adventurers have a chance to get lost when adventuring in the wilderness. Standard probabilities by terrain type can be found here. A party that contains at least one scout improves those chances by 1 pip in each category, and thus will never get lost in average terrain, will get lost on 1 in 6 in moderate terrain, and on 2 in 6 in difficult terrain.

Edit: changed attack bonus progression from fighter to cleric based on comments.

This is the third of my human replacements for the demi-human classes. The scout is a substitute for the halfling. My first attempt at a halfling replacement was actually a monk, but monks don’t fit all settings (though I am still fond of that saving throw dodge mechanic); I think the scout is more general. The scout is intended to represent the ranger archetype, though without the magical accretions that have built up around that class over the years (animal companions, druid spells). Incidentally, I would probably allow any character class to have an animal companion using standard retainer and morale rules if they role-played it out.

As Charlatan notes on the ACKS forum, this is very similar to the ACKS explorer class. I have been considering this replacement for the halfling class from before I knew about ACKS (credit should probably go to this post over at B/X Blackrazor and this comment by BlUsKrEEm). My scout does not rely on a general skill system (like the explorer relies on ACKS proficiencies), so I still think there is some independent value to an explicitly B/X ranger option.

My other demi-human replacements are the fighting magic-user (for the elf) and the scientor (for the dwarf). I’m very happy with the fighting magic-user and the scout. I like the scientor, but it is only appropriate for a certain kind of science fantasy or gonzo campaign.

Originally, my ideas for dwarf replacements included a morlock racial class (not really appropriate now, as I’m going for all human PC classes) and a dungeoneer class. Perhaps it’s still worth writing up the dungeoneer for use with a more vanilla B/X setting. Or maybe I should just ditch the dwarf archetype (underground mechanically-oriented class) entirely or replace it with something entirely different like a necromancer (but then that deviates even more from the core B/X seven classes).

The problem with the dwarf class is that, absent the culture elements, the dwarf is not a very distinctive class mechanically. And, in a traditional D&D game, pretty much everyone is a de facto dungeoneer. This is an argument that I have seen made about the thief too, but I think it is even more true for a potential dungeoneer class. Any other ideas for a new human class that can take on the dwarf abilities?

16 thoughts on “Scout Draft

  1. Cedric P

    On the LotFP forum there is a thread about turning the dwarf into a barbarian class. They also opted to turn the halfling into a ranger type character.

    1. Brendan

      This one, right?

      Thanks for drawing my attention to that thread. I think I have read it before, which means it probably subliminally influenced my design.

      Incidentally, don’t you love it when you are searching for info on the web and the search engine points you at a thread which you had participated in but forgot about?


  2. Jack

    Hmm, this looks like too good of choice over the fighter. This gets the figher’s increasing combat ability *and* a whole bunch of other stuff while using the same XP chart. Why would you ever play a fighter if this is an option?

    The only thing it doesn’t get is about 1 HP less per level, which isn’t much of a trade off.

    1. Brendan

      All that is true, but hit dice have more impact in my house rules than in normal B/X (weapon damage is by hit die rather than standard variable weapon damage). So the scout is doing less damage with every attack in addition to having less HP. Given that, do you still think the scout is clearly better than the fighter? Also note that several of the abilities are only useful in wilderness contexts.

      One thing I haven’t decided about is the level limit. I could copy the halfling exactly and set the limit at 8 (which would sort of make sense if you assume that scouts don’t build strongholds; this is something I haven’t decided yet) or 10 (limited compared to the fighter) or 14 (which would be equivalent to fighters). Which limit would you pick? I am leaning toward 10.

      Another possible modification would be to use a cleric attack bonus progression.

      I am not concerned with minute balance issues, but I do want to make sure that no class obsoletes any other class.

    2. Brendan

      I’ve been convinced. Cleric attack bonus progression it is. I’ve also been thinking about some sort of passive detection of wilderness snares and traps, similar to the secret door ability of the elf, but I think the class is probably complicated enough as is.

    3. Brendan

      Regarding fighters, the ACKS version of cleave (free attack against an adjacent enemy every time the fighter takes an opponent down) is attractive and simple.

      Or, perhaps a return to some of the fighter’s OD&D roots, such as a special affinity for magic swords (though this ends up being more about limiting other classes than augmenting the fighter). One house rule version of this that I’ve been considering is making fighters the only class that gains a mechanical bonus for using magic weapons (i.e., the plusses). Weapons would remain magical in terms of ability to hit monsters with immunities for all classes. That seems to follow the spirit of OD&D, but things like +1 swords are perhaps too embedded in the culture of the game for this rule to be accepted easily by modern players.

      The standard method that I have seen to make fighters more “interesting” is via either feats or some sort of bolt-on fighting maneuver system. I find this approach too complex, and don’t like fighters having a list of “things that they can do” (such a list is limiting, in my experience).

  3. Brendan

    I like the idea but I agree with Jack, the attack bonus as the fighter makes it a little too good. I’m not sure what attack bonuses you use for Clerics, but if you use the standard B/X or 1e charts then giving them the same attack bonus as the Cleric would probably be more balanced.

  4. ClawCarver

    I was recently working on new/substitute classes for my next B/X campaign and one of them is the Scout. We seem to have thought along very similar lines (I’m also thinking of switching to class-based damage) although I was planning to give the Scout a 2 in 6 Tracking ability at 1st level, rising as per the Thief’s Hear Noise skill (3 in 6 at 3rd level, etc.) and do something similar with the stealthy stuff.

    1. Brendan

      I hope you post your version when it is ready. I would certainly like to see what you come up with.

      The stealth is 5 in 6 because it is based on the halfling’s 90% hide ability.

      The tracking is 5 in 6 because a success is required per hex, meaning that the expected number of hexes before the scout loses a trail is 6 (or 36 miles). That sounds about right to me.

      I also tend to prefer class features that work most of the time, even at low levels. I think that encourages players to use them. And I haven’t seen very many campaigns last long enough to reach high levels. On the other hand, players do usually like the feeling of improvement as levels increase.

      See also JB’s “automatic” thief:

    2. ClawCarver

      The stealth is 5 in 6 because it is based on the halfling’s 90% hide ability.

      True, but halflings are stealthy because they’re only three feet tall and weigh next to nothing!

      Thinking out loud here, one could make it 2 in 6 at 1st level but modified by Dexterity, so a 1st-level Scout with 18 Dex would have a 5 in 6 chance.

      I’ll try to post some of my ideas on my blog soon. Meanwhile, as far as the dwarf replacement is concerned, it’s surely the architect. As George Costanza once said, “You know I’ve always wanted to pretend to be an architect!”

  5. Anathemata

    For whatever reason, I have recently felt more and more that the Scout/Explorer/Ranger is preferable to the Thief class in OD&D. I haven’t heard this viewpoint expressed by anybody else, and the Ranger has been downright denigrated in some quarters. I like your version a lot, partially because it does kind of toe the line between the ACKS Explorer and an OD&D class (which I prefer). One detail: are you sure you want him to have full armor/weapon proficiencies? I think that a Scout should definitely have a limitation in armor, and I would think that heavier weapons would be out. But the Cleric attack progression is a nice balance.

    1. Brendan

      I don’t dislike thieves, but I do like rangers.

      Currently as written, my house rules allow all classes to use any armor and any weapon. Weapons are naturally scaled to the class because they do hit die damage (e.g., the scout is going to be doing d6 damage with a long sword while a fighter will do d8 with the same long sword).

      Armor causes penalties to class-related abilities (for example, a magic-user wearing plate is going to be failing their spells half the time). Scouts and thieves will take penalties to stealth related skills, and of course encumbrance affects all classes. See the links above for more details.

      If I did not use those rules, I would probably limit the scout to light armor and light to medium weapons. (It is interesting to note that the B/X thief can use all weapons, though only leather armor.)


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