Tag Archives: class

JRPG Basic Classes

Black Mage

Black Mage (personal sketch)

The set of starting classes is relatively limited, despite the many classes sometimes available in console RPGs. I think Moldvay had it about right with 7 major options for PCs at the beginning of a campaign. In console games, other classes are often made available by the recruiting of new party members as the game progresses, so the complexity is introduced slowly. To allow for something similar, I’m also planning on including “unlockable” classes that must be discovered through play (I do this in my OD&D game too, so it’s not really novel, but seems extra-appropriate here).

Right now, the core classes are black mage, red mage, white mage, thief, warrior, and wushi (a martial artist). Summoner, dragoon/lancer, and mana engineer are all also prime contenders, though some of those may work better as “upgrade” classes, which will be provided to support progressions like black mage → black wizard or warrior → paladin, drive adventures after third level, and make new, specialized powers available (without adding more hit dice or numerical inflation, hopefully). I don’t see upgrade classes having levels, but rather just adding one or two abilities to characters.

Thanks to Brock C. for mentioning spell medallions that must be affixed to hats, which was partially responsible for my spell crystals idea here. I’m still on the fence about whether to refer to “one mana spells” or “first level spells.” Intercept wording is a cut and paste and requires improvement. Red mage mana capacity may need to be tweaked for balance. When considering the various class abilities, remember that max level is 3.

Every class has two primary stats: HD (hit die) and AC (armor class). HD is a measure of combat skill and resilience. HP is determined at the beginning of each session by rolling 1 HD per level and adding CON (+CON to the total rolled, not to each die separately). The lower of hit die and weapon die is used for weapon damage. That is, hit die is a limiting factor on weapon damage. AC is fixed by class and does not depend on the armor worn.

Some examples. A third level warrior rolls 3d10 +CON for HP at the beginning of each adventure, and rolls up to 1d10 +STR for damage (depending on the weapon die). A black mage can wield a sword, but it’s damage die will still only be 1d6 (though other weapon properties may still apply).

Summary of Classes
Class HD AC Features
Mage, Black d6 10 black magic, 3 mana/level +INT
Mage, Red d8 14 black & white magic, 2 mana/level
Mage, White d6 12 white magic, 3 mana/level +WIS
Thief d6 12 surprise attack, improved basic skills, thief skills
Warrior d10 16 attack bonus, cleave, intercept
Wushi d8 14 counterattack, deadly fists, pummel

Locked Classes

Some classes must be unlocked through play before they become available. Future versions of this game will include several locked classes.

Upgrade Classes

Characters may not gain any levels above 3, but once level 3 is reached in a base class, that class may be upgraded. Upgrade classes do not provide more HD, but do make new abilities available. For example, a warrior might become a paladin, and gain a limited ability to use white magic. Rules for upgrade classes will be provided in future versions of this game.


Mages use the energy of mana to cast spells. Each mage belongs to an order as well, which teaches a certain style of spell casting.


Magic uses special alchemically prepared, mana-infused crystals that contain spells. Mages can use a spell crystal directly to cast the contained spell, which destroys the crystal, or set the crystal in a focus, such as a wand or staff, which allows the spell to be cast multiple times. Focused spells require the mage to supply the necessary mana, whereas crystals may be consumed to cast a spell for free.

Mages begin with two spell crystals (each containing a one mana spell) and a wand with two slots. More spell crystals may be bought from mages in town or found during adventures, as can foci with more slots.

Mages acquire titles in their order as they increase in level. These titles are:

  1. Apprentice
  2. Journeyer
  3. Master

Black mage

Black mages study the powers of destruction and death. This does not necessarily make them evil, but they are widely feared. The symbol of the black mages is a pointed hat.

Black mages only know how to cast black magic and have 3 mana per level +INT. For example, a third level black mage with INT +2 has (3 x 3) +2 = 11 mana.

Red mage

The order of red mages prizes broad learning, and thus red mages are able to use both black and white magic. They also train for battle, and thus have greater combat resilience and skill with weapons. However, this versatility comes with drawbacks. Red mages have less mana than black or white mages and have poorer fighting skills compared to classes that are more dedicated to combat.The symbol of the red mages is a red, wide-brimmed hat.

Red mages know how to cast both black and white magic and have 2 mana per level with no modifier by ability scores. For example, a second level red mage with 2 + 2 = 4 mana.

White mage

White mages eschew the dark arts in favor of spells that are mostly defensive and restorative. They can only cast white magic. The symbol of the white mages is a white, cowled cloak.

White mages only know how to cast white magic and have 3 mana per level +WIS. For example, a first level white mage with WIS +3 has (3 x 1) +3 = 6 mana.


Thieves specialize in stealth, cleverness, and surprise.

Surprise Attack

Thieves roll one extra damage die per level for attacks from surprise.

Improved Basic Skills

Thieves have better chances with most of the basic skills (climb, listen, search, and stealth). These skills begin at 3 in 6 (rather than the default 1 in 6) and improve by 1 every level (so a third level thief has a 5 in 6 chance). The only basic skill that they do not have an improved chance with is force (which has a chance of 1+STR in 6, just like any other character).

Thief Skills

Thieves also have access to several skills which no other class has by default. These thief skills are devices, locks, and steal. Thief skill chances also start at 3 in 6 and improve by 1 every level.


The warrior class focuses primarily on weapons and combat. With the largest hit die of all the classes, the warrior generally has the most hit points and also deals the most damage with weapons. Warriors also add their level to attack rolls, and have the highest AC.


After dropping an enemy in melee combat, warriors may make a free melee attack against another target in melee.


To throw yourself in the path of an attack directed toward another character, make an attack roll. If this intercept roll is equal to or higher the attack roll being intercepted, the interceptor becomes the new target of the attack and moves between the attacker and the original target. The decision to intercept must be made prior to the attack roll.


Wushis are martial artists that specialize in unarmed combat and mobility. They train either in monasteries or in a master/pupil relationship. The legend is that the wushu tradition began as a method of combat when weapons were forbidden to the common people by a tyrant.

Wushi titles by level are:

  1. Eagle
  2. Tiger
  3. Dragon


If an enemy attacks a wushi in melee, misses, and rolls a 5 or less on the attack roll, the wushi automatically counterattacks, assuming the attacker is not immune to attacks from the wushi. No attack roll is necessary, just roll damage as per standard attack.

Deadly Fists

Wushis deal lethal damage and add their level to melee attacks when unarmed.


If fighting unarmed, wushis gain one extra strike per level (against the same target in melee). For example, a second level wushi takes three strikes.

Shamans of Pahvelorn

In addition to the ancient mystery religion of the lost True Empire (to which traditional clerics belong), numerous spirits and powers are worshipped by the folk in the lands around Pahvelorn. Here is one example of a shaman class, which calls on Legatus Rattus, servant to the Mother of Thousands, rat goddess often worshipped by the poor and oppressed.

Shaman: HD, combat, armor, advancement as cleric. Prime requisite: charisma.

Proper obeisance is required each morning. Doing this lets a spirt (such as the mother or one of her high ranking servants) into you and makes the spirit’s spells available. While you have the spirit in you, you detect as chaotic. You turn as an undead of your own HD, but a successful turn drives the spirit out rather than causing fear or anything else (you must find a sanctuary and perform the proper rites, as in the morning).

Chant in High Murine (which sounds high pitched but echoey, like thousands of rats chanting in a draughty hall) and roll 1d20 and add level to activate a power. Beat the target by 5 and get some extra effects. Miss by 10 or more and there will be consequences. 1 is always a failure, 20 is always a success. Spells must be maintained after cast (meaning you can’t have more than one spell active at once, but you can take other actions after the initial casting).

Target numbers proceed spell descriptions.

Spirit: Legatus Rattus

  • 11 Speak with Rats: self explanatory.
  • 12 Sticky Feet: climb rough vertical surfaces at half movement, no chance of falling (save might be required if you take an arrow or something).
  • 13 Psychic Swarm: target is afflicted by a swarm of shadowy psychic rats swarming over them. -2 penalties to AC, saves, and attack. Further, save versus magic or must use actions to either attempt to flee or claw madly at the illusionary rats.
  • 13 Fever Bite: grow long ratlike incisors for one encounter/exploration turn. Hits require a save or the target becomes afflicted by a wasting disease that automatically does 1 HP damage per round. Ineffective against huge creatures or those with more than 6 HD.
  • 14 Hole Spotter: spend a turn and perform a smoke ritual that may reveal hidden hidey-holes. Only hidden things with gaps that smoke could find are discoverable, so some sophisticated secret doors might not be located, even on success. The smoke seems to take the form of thousands of tine, questing rats.
  • 15 Summon Dire Rats: 1d6 semi-corporeal rats materialize. 1/2 HD, 1d3 damage, +1 damage for each hit beyond the first if they gang up on an enemy. Semi-intelligent. Rats disperse following combat or one exploration turn. If slain, they may not be summoned again until the proper rites have been performed (that is, the next day).
  • 20 Summon Legatus Rattus: Miss by 10 here, and the Legatus will likely be hostile.
    HD 10, AC 3, attacks 3, Sv 5, Mv 24/12 (climbing)

Regarding more spells: other spirits can be discovered in play. Then before a session you can pick which you want to invoke. Basically, it is preparing a set of spells as a group rather than one by one.

Barbarians of the ruined colonies

Hercules (source)

Image by John Singer Sargent (source)

Castle Pahvelorn was once the mightiest stronghold on the edge of the western colonial frontier. Before the giants were driven back and Pahvelorn was built, the old kingdoms settled colonies on the coast of the Mirnilask Gulf, which lies to the east of Zorfath and Shem Nabar. Several generations ago, those colonies were overrun by savage warriors that swept down from the southeastern hills. The warriors fought fearlessly, and drove of interlopers from their colonies back to the sea, plundering the wealth of the colonies before retreating to the hills from which they came.

Some of their warriors still venture forth from their clans in the hills. Here is a class for their raiders. Hit dice, saving throws, attack, XP progression, and weapons as fighter. See below regarding armor.

When making a death saving throw in response to being reduced to 0 HP from combat, barbarians roll two dice and take the highest result.

A barbarian gains a rage point when the character:

  • Scores a hit on an enemy in combat
  • Takes damage during combat
  • Rolls a natural 20 on an attack roll
  • Slays an enemy in combat

These conditions are cumulative, so slaying an enemy with a natural attack roll of 20 gains 3 rage points.

Rage points may be spent to:

  • Add +1 to an attack roll
  • Add +1 to a damage roll
  • Add +1 to a saving throw
  • Improve AC by 1 (no better than 2 [17])
  • Improve a nearby companion’s AC by 1 (no better than 2 [17])
  • Save to shrug off damage from a mundane missile
  • Decrease damage taken by 1

Points must be spent for bonuses before dice are rolled. At the end of combat, all rage points are lost. AC improvements last until the end of combat. Companion AC improvements are only active when the barbarian is nearby. No more than six rage points can be spent at once on any given type of bonus.

Barbarians must make a successful saving throw (use most favorable number) to disengage from combat (this save is penalized by the current number of rage points).

Barbarians are deeply suspicious of the dark arts, and gain no rage points if in possession of enchanted objects that are not fetishes from their own homeland. This suspicion is connected to ideas of personal, spiritual purity and does not extend to travelling companions (though barbarians may be contemptuous of the unclean and strange habits of the civilized).

Additionally, no rage points are gained if the barbarian is wearing any armor (though shields are allowed). If not wearing armor, barbarians gain a bonus to AC equal to their HD (for these purposes, treat 1+1 as 2). For example, an unarmored barbarian with 3 HD has an AC of 6 [13].

Barbarians also often have misunderstandings with civilized people, and thus take a -2 reaction penalty. This includes loyalty and morale checks for civilized retainers (though close associates will come to understand and trust the barbarian over the course of successful adventures). Thanks to those that participated on Google Plus in the discussion about this aspect of the barbarian class.

Spellblade class

Cropped image from Dark Classics

I was recently browsing the Pathfinder Ultimate Magic book. Inspired by the magus class, I decided to create a magic-user that primarily delivered spells through a weapon. The result is this class, which should be useable with OD&D, B/X, and various simulacra.

Spellblades use magic to enhance their attacks. In fact, they may only cast spells through their weapon during combat, which they use as a magical focus. Spells must be prepared beforehand, just as for a magic-user. This preparation involves complicated weapon forms that partake of arcane geometries.

Class details:

  • Attack as cleric
  • Hit dice as cleric
  • Armor competency: medium/chain
  • Weapons as fighter
  • Level advancement as fighter
  • Saving throws as fighter
  • Spell progression as elf or magic-user spells (to 5th spell level)
  • Missile attacks as zero level human
All “strike” spells may only be cast as part of an attack. Standard melee attack and casting are all part of one action for a spellblade. Single target strikes are not expended on a miss, but area-effect strikes are. If no save is specified, then effects occur on a hit. All “stance” spells last for the duration of one combat, and may be cast as part of any attack. Any area effects from stance spells are centered on the caster and move with her. No more than one stance may be active at a given time. In general, all spell durations last no longer than one exploration turn (for example, servitors raised by reanimating strike crumble to dust after combat). Spellblades must deliver their spells via melee weapons. There are legends of other traditions, such as spellarrows, but these are unsubstantiated. If true, spellarrows would certainly have a different set of spells.
First level spellblades begin with three spells, and gain one new spell per level. All such spells are determined randomly (re-roll duplicates). Spellblades cannot use scrolls or create magic items. As magics, rather than heroics, are the primary virtues of the spellblade, their weapons are not good candidates for enchantment. Additional spells may be learned only from other spellblades or found in ancient manuals during the course of adventure. Learning a new spell takes one week per spell level, and if taught rarely comes without cost (1000 GP per level of technique is a reasonable guideline).
The major limitation of the spellblade compared to the standard magic-user, other than the lack of utility spells, is the requirement to be in the thick of the battle, as spells are cast using melee attacks. Even ranged spells, such as lightning strike, require a proximate melee target. If such is not available, the spell energy will rebound to the spellblade, causing a backfire. Stances may be used outside of combat, but require the spellblade to go through an arcane weapon form to manifest the effect, which lasts no longer than 10 minutes.

Spells are as follows:

First level
  1. Burning fan strike (all within 15′ cone save or take 1d6 fire damage)
  2. Corrosive strike (+1d6 acid damage)
  3. Nod strike (target must save versus magic or fall into enchanted slumber)
  4. Arcane strike (+1d6 on attack roll, strike considered as a magic weapon)
  5. Abjuration stance (as protection from evil)
  6. Shielding stance (+4 AC, may terminate to absorb 1 offensive damage spell)
  7. Defensive stance (next 1d6+1 damage during current combat is cancelled)
  8. Obfuscating stance (raise an obscuring fog, 10′ radius per level)
Second level
  1. Paralytic strike (humanoid target paralyzed)
  2. Blinding strike (target is blinded for 10 minutes per level of spellblade)
  3. Vampiric strike (+1d6 damage vs. living, recover same HP, target weakened)
  4. Searing strike (+1d6 damage, set alight if flammable, save ends fire damage) 
  5. Ward stance (2d6 damage resistance versus specified element, roll per attack)
  6. Strengthening stance (+1 to melee damage from great strength)
  7. True seeing stance (see the true form of creatures, including those invisible)
  8. Mirror image stance (1d3 decoys, determine target of hits against caster randomly)
Third level
  1. Flaming strike (1d6 fire damage/level, max 10d6, 20′ radius, caster is epicenter)
  2. Lightning strike (1d6 lightning damage/level, max 10d6, 120′ straight line)
  3. Disenchanting strike (as dispel magic)
  4. Freezing strike (+1d6 cold damage per round, immobile encased in ice, save ends)
  5. Cloud stance (flight)
  6. Neptune stance (water breathing and free movement underwater)
  7. Whirlwind stance (normal missiles are flung away by swirling winds)
  8. Counter stance (save versus magic to counter any spell; this ends the stance)
Fourth level
  1. Terror strike (all within 15′ cone save or flee)
  2. Blizzard strike (1d6 cold damage/level, max 10d6, 30′ cone)
  3. Ethereal strike (+1d6 damage, avoids armor, hits insubstantial creatures)
  4. Wasting strike (1d6 damage first round, 2d6 second, 3d6 third, etc)
  5. Fire shield stance (attackers must save or take 1d6 fire damage)
  6. Greater abjuration stance (as protection from evil, 10′ radius)
  7. Repulsion stance (attacking caster in melee: save or be flung 1d6 * 10′ back)
  8. Morning stance (daylight 60′ radius, undead take 1d6 damage per round)
Fifth level
  1. Reanimating strike (if target dies, it will animate to serve caster, same HD zombie)
  2. Death strike (against the living, save or die)
  3. Dispelling strike (save versus magic or banish/destroy demon/undead)
  4. Mind-kill strike (save versus magic or consciousness destroyed)
  5. Anti-magic stance (magic does not function within 10′ of caster)
  6. Power of the heavens stance (as control weather)
  7. Reciprocal stance (attackers take similar damage when damaging the caster)
  8. Aspect of beyond stance (all within 30′ save or go insane)
Many spells were inspired by the d20 SRD spells by level reference. Some spell effects may need to be adjusted after play testing. Some effects should probably only work against humanoid enemies (use common sense; I wanted the spell descriptions to be concise).

Ratlings in Pahvelorn

Rackham (source)

Rackham (source)

Or, how I discoverned what halflings were like in my setting.

The sequence of events was as follows.

  1. Gustie’s first PC, a fighter named Lune, was incinerated by a fire-breathing statue trap.
  2. For his next character, he decided to create a thief, Beni Profane, a rat-catcher.
  3. After an adventure, Beni went carousing and failed his saving throw. He rolled a 19, which is: When in a drunken stupor you asked your god(s) to get you out of some stupid mess. Turns out they heard you! Now as repayment for saving your sorry ass, you’re under the effects of a quest spell.
  4. I asked Gustie what god or spirit Beni worshipped, to which he responded none. So I asked him what god he feared, and he came back with The Mother of Thousands, a six-armed rat spirit.
  5. And so was Beni was given a quest in his dreams by The Mother of Thousands.
  6. The problem, as it turned out, was that a group of ratlings was being persecuted by the Priest-King Agamos, lord of the stronghold of Ilum Zugot to the northwest (map).
  7. The ratlings had recently taken over some abandoned grave barrows as shelter, and were stealing grain from the Priest-King’s farmers and grain stores.
  8. The PCs successfully negotiated a deal between the rat-folk and the Priest-King where Agamos would give them grain in exchange for direction to more sealed barrows and spying on those around the Priest-King’s domain (especially Efulziton the Unseen, a necromancer to the south).

Ratling Class

  • 2d6 for strength and constitution
  • Level progression as thief
  • Hit dice as magic-user
  • Attack progression as cleric
  • No skill with armor, but see below
  • Only small weapons may be used without penalty
  • Weapon damage is “two dice, take least” or one die if wielded with two paws
  • May use their bite to attack (1-3 damage) or chew through things like ropes
  • Climb Walls, Hear Noise, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Pickpocket
  • Smell-based search rolls (including detecting poison) as Hear Noise
  • Natural AC as light armor (leather)
  • Round to round, attack ranks may be used to improve AC
  • +4 save versus wands, dragon breath, and disease
  • May speak to rats and related rodents (only general concepts)
  • Can squeeze through extremely small openings
  • For starting retainer roll d6: 1-3 giant rat, 4-6 young ratling

Ratlings detest most domesticated animals, but sometimes have giant rats (HD 1-1, AC 7, damage 1-3) as companions. Humans also will generally not follow them as retainers. Thus rather than a standard retainer, ratlings may begin with a giant rat or ratling youth. It is common for young ratlings to be taken on short tours of the world at large, to teach them how to hide from civilized folk and familiarize them with all the dangers that threaten rat-folk. Most return to their burrows terrified of everything, but a few rare ratlings acquire a taste for adventuring.

Ratling youth

HD 1-1, AC 7, bite, smell, and climb walls as above; convert to full ratling at 100 XP.

3 LBB Thief

Hokusai Ninja

The thief class was not included in the original Dungeons & Dragons boxed set. The only classes at the beginning were the cleric, fighter, and magic-user. The thief was introduced in the first add-on product, Supplement I: Greyhawk (which, despite its name, is a collection of new game options rather than a setting). (Note regarding the image to the right: the oriental style is not really appropriate for Pahvelorn, but it’s really hard to find a good public domain image that evokes the thief archetype. Submissions welcome!)

Greyhawk also introduced a whole host of rules which will be familiar to players of later D&D (different hit dice for different classes, difference dice for different weapons, more influential ability scores) but which differ rather drastically from the game as presented in the three little brown books. If you play with all the rules changes in Greyhawk, the game begins to resemble proto-AD&D.

I really like the thief though, and want to include it in my otherwise “3 LBB only” setting. It only requires a few minor tweaks to fit in. Most of the following details come from Greyhawk unchanged. The divergences are noted.

  • Combat ranks: as cleric (steps based on 4 levels; 1-4, 5-8, etc)
  • Saving throws: as magic-user
  • Prime requisite: dexterity (bonus or penalty to XP like other classes)
  • Hit dice: as magic-user
  • Strike silently from behind: +4 attack, +1d6 damage per combat rank
  • 3rd level: 80% chance to decipher obscured treasure maps
  • May cast spells from scrolls with a successful save versus magic
  • 10th level: may use scrolls of all but the most powerful spells reliably
  • Name level is “Master Thief” at 11th level
Skills by level: climb sheer surfaces, open locks, remove traps, pickpocket or move silently, hide in shadows, hear noise. As per Greyhawk; just look the values up in the booklet or ask me. The progressions could probably be rationalized (I’ve seen several such approaches on blogs and forums), but my goal here is not streamlining so much as interpretation in the light of the original booklets (though I did make a few minor changes).
With the exception of picking locks and removing traps (see below), thief skills are not unique to thieves. Anyone may attempt to move stealthily or listen at a dungeon door. Thieves, however, are the only class that gets better at these things. Also, in most cases, the abilities function as a saving throw. That is, where a character of another class would fall, a thief gets a climb sheer surfaces chance. Where a character of another class would be noticed, a thief gets a hide in shadows chance.
WEAPONS (Greyhawk page 4):

Thieves can employ magic daggers and magic swords but none of the other magical weaponry.

Thieves may use any mundane weapon in my game. They may use magic daggers and swords to their full potential. Magic weapons other than daggers and swords count as magical for determining if certain creatures (like golems) can be hit at all, but do not grant any mechanical bonus to the thief. For example, an axe +1 would not get a +1 to attack or damage when wielded by a thief, but it would be able to hit monsters that can only be damaged by magic weapons.

ARMOR (Greyhawk page 4):

They can wear only leather armor and cannot employ shields. 

Wearing armor heavier than leather will result in penalties to thief skill rolls. Some skills may not be attempted or are penalized while employing shields (preternatural climbing and striking silently from behind for sure, and others by context).

TRAPS (Greyhawk page 4):

remove small trap devices (such as poisoned needles)

The thief ability to “remove traps” is not an arbitrary trap deactivation skill, but rather a limited skill to disarm small mechanisms.
SCROLLS (Greyhawk page 4):

Thieves of the 10th level and above are able to understand magical writings, so any scroll that falls into their hands can be used by them — excluding spells which are clerical in nature. However, with spells of the 7th level and above there is a 10% chance that the effect will be the reverse of that intended (due to the fact that even Master Thieves do not fully comprehend such great magic). This reverse effect can be known only after the spell is read.

Well, first thing, in the 3 LBBs there are no spells of the 7th level and above (there may be magic more powerful than sixth level spells, but it is not the kind of magic that can be prepared in a spell slot). So, by those rules, the 10% chance of failure would never come into effect. So I have decided to extend the use of spells from scrolls backwards to lower levels, given a successful save versus spells (failure miscasts the spell and consumes the scroll).

The ability to use scrolls (unreliably) at lower levels is the only substantial change I have made to the class. I think it is reasonable because it encourages fun play (“roll to see what fun way the thief is going to screw this spell up!”) and means that players of thieves will be more likely to get some use out of scrolls (since few characters reach name level). I don’t think this “save to cast from scrolls” steps on the magic-user’s toes because it will always be more reliable to give scrolls to magic-users (since they never fail when casting a spell from a scroll). At tenth level, thief scroll use also becomes reliable, though the thief never learns how to scribe scrolls and thus still must still find them or procure them from magic-users. Also, the same societal pressures regarding diabolism and black magic apply to thieves, especially since thieves don’t usually advertise any sorcerous power they may possess. Also, many magic-users will not look kindly on their secrets being stolen.

Though I have tried to stay within the parameters of the class as written in Greyhawk, my interpretations are heavily influenced by the following sources.

You can also check out my previous attempt at a thief class rewrite.

2012 10 30 edit: see also my clarification on thief skill use.

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?

Fighting Magic-User

The fighting magic-user is my human variant of the B/X elf class. A fighting magic-user divides attention between martial and arcane pursuits, hence the slower (elf) level progression.

Level remains limited to 10. If you want to be able to prepare the most powerful spells (sixth level), you must play a dedicated magic-user. “No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Fighting magic-users may still cast sixth level spells from scrolls.

Fighting magic-users lack the following elf abilities:

  • Infravision
  • Increased chance to discover secret doors
  • Immunity to ghoul paralysis
The fighting magic-user is, however, able to wear any mundane metal armor, unlike faerie creatures (such as elves), which are pained by iron and steel.
Unlike the standard magic-user, the fighting magic-user has no chance of spell failure when wearing armor.

Carcosa-Inspired Psion Class

Here is a super-simple class inspired by the Carcosa psionics system.

  • Hit die: d6
  • Level advancement: as cleric
  • Base attack bonus: as thief
  • Power uses per day: level / 2 (round up)
  • May also pay 1d6 HP to use a power
  • Only surprised by sentient beings on a 1 in 6
  • Weapons: any
  • May not use psionic powers if wearing a helmet

Each level, roll for (or select, you cheater) a new psionic talent (re-roll dups):

  1. Clairaudience
  2. Clairvoyance
  3. ESP
  4. Mental Blast
  5. Mind Control
  6. Precognition
  7. Telekinesis
  8. Telepathy
Consult the Carcosa book for power descriptions (or use appropriate magic-user spells).

More thoughts on the entirety of the new Carcosa book coming soon.

Thief Draft

I think it may be an OSR rite of passage to redesign the thief class. Here is my entry.

First, the literature review. I have been heavily influenced by Robert Fisher’s On thief skills in classic D&D, Philotomy’s musings on Thieves & Thief Skills, Matthew James Stanham’s article Thieving Ability (also discussed here). The Jovial Priest has an interesting article, though I decided to go in a different direction (his 2d6 resolution table is too complicated for me, and his “favored skill” system introduces complexity during character creation). Also see Talysman’s recent thief. I’m also becoming quite fond of Talysman’s situation roll, as you can probably tell from my section on skills below. Grognardia’s thiefly thoughts post is also worth a read for a quick summary of why some people think the classic thief is problematic. The LotFP specialist (Grindhouse Edition free Rules & Magic page 10) must also be noted as an important replacement thief. I like how the d6 skills emphasize that all classes can attempt certain tasks (climb, hide, search, etc) even if the specialist is better at them, but I don’t like how those skills take up extra space on the character sheet and use a point-buy system, necessitating choice during character generation.

The Cook/Marsh Expert rules (page X8) suggest some ideas for extending thief skills for higher level play: climb overhangs, climb upside down, ventriloquism, powers of distraction, mimic voices. Some of my thief skills are based on these ideas, and I may work the ones I am not using into a later draft in some fashion (particularly the improved climbing abilities).


  • Thieves are masters of stealth. They are commandos, spies, assassins, infiltrators, and skulks. They solve problems by guile, cleverness, and trickery. They will never fight fairly if they can help it.

Most thief skills consume the resource of time (suggested by the B/X Blackrazor “automatic” thief). Absent distraction or complication, thieves will succeed if they are not rushed (time required is included with the skill description). Wearing any non-light armor (i.e., anything other than leather following the B/X rules) will result in penalties for the physical skills (likely a penalty of one or two on the situation roll, but specifics are by circumstance and referee ruling). I will probably formalize this through the encumbrance system. I use LotFP encumbrance rules, so it should be easy to base the penalty on the encumbrance level (see the free Rules & Magic book, pages 38 – 40).

Thieves use d6 for hit dice. They may use any weapon or armor. Since mobility, speed, and agility are important to thieves for many reasons, they rarely wear non-light armor. I use hit die based weapon damage (with 2DTH for dual wielding or two-handed weapons). So, thieves do d6 damage with weapons. They use the “medium” base attack bonus by level (shared with clerics). Though I’m not a fan of the “combat advantage” DPS super-strikers of 3E & 4E, I do like my thieves to be a bit more capable in combat than they are in the various early rule sets.

Regardless of level, all thieves have the following abilities:

  • Alertness: bonus to hearing noise (2 in 6 chance rather than the normal 1 in 6); this also makes the thief harder to surprise
  • Surprise attack: +4 to attack roll, double damage upon hit (in some ways this is the inverse of the alertness ability)

Skills are the essence of the thief class, and I have not neglected them. I am following my idea of giving the thief one awesome ability per level rather than many poor abilities all at once that develop slowly. This also fits my principle of introducing complexity slowly. I do think it is important to allow the thief to develop as levels are accumulated (this is why I am not following the B/X Blackrazor all-at-once automatic thief). The level advancement incentive is a big part of classic D&D play, and all the other core classes develop (cleric: turning & spells, fighter: attack bonus, magic-user: spells).

Thief skills by level (or roll d10 each level, re-rolling duplicates):

  1. Open locks (requires tools): Mundane locks take 1 turn to open. Complicated locks may require dice (5 in 6 succeeds, on failure dexterity save to avoid breaking the tools). Magical locks may not be opened.
  2. Move silently, 10’ per turn (20′ per turn is also possible but will likely require a dexterity save, or a 5 in 6 success probability, depending on circumstances)
  3. Hide in shadows, may not move
  4. Interpret languages, codes, and maps (5 in 6 success, on failure may only retry upon gaining a level)
  5. Climb walls, 10’ per turn, if distracted or attacked save or fall
  6. Voices: ventriloquism & mimicry
  7. Legerdemain: pilfer, distract, or amuse; can also be used to disable small mechanical traps (5 in 6 success, on failure dexterity save to avoid being caught)
  8. Brew poison: given 1 day and 100 gp, a thief can brew one dose of save-or-die poison sufficient to threaten the life of a human-sized opponent. How larger or smaller creatures react to poison is by referee ruling. 5 in 6 chance to identify and know effects of examined poisons. Other recipes (such as for a paralytic poison) can be found, or can be synthesized based on reverse-engineering an identified poison.
  9. Assassinate: successful surprise attack does damage in hit dice rather than hit points
  10. Use magic scrolls (5 in 6 success, on failure save vs. spells or backfire)

That’s right, if you roll for your skill, you could start with the assassinate or brew poison ability. I like that.

Am I missing any traits or abilities that are associated with the archetypal thief?

27 December 2011 edit: more good suggestions from Jeffro here.
11 February 2012 edit: added poison identification to the brew poison ability.
13 February 2012 edit: added reverse engineering to the poison ability.