Thursday, June 20, 2019

Level Titles

I love level titles. They're one of those weird little aspects of D&D that make me go, "yeah, this is D&D!" whenever I see them.

I find it very, very odd that they've been absent from every version of the Advanced game since 2nd edition. I find it even stranger that they're absent from the Rules Cyclopedia (in spite of the fact that they do appear in the 90s boxed sets, the 1070 black box and the 1106 tan box, at least up to 5th level). Well, maybe it's not strange exactly, since it was obvious that by the time GAZ1 came out, the writers working on the basic D&D game did not like level titles and wanted to remove them (and as far as the Mystara setting was, the text of the gazetteers largely invalidated them).

But I like them and use them (though often in abbreviated form, say, changing a character's level title once at 4th and then again at 8th or 9th), and I thought that I might as well get around to putting them back in both my ongoing campaign and my personal rules.

I've written up a version of the monk and psychic classes that I'm using in my local Barrowmaze campaign that has level titles—yes, I've gone and added a psionic class to my basic D&D game, purely out of nostalgia for the way I played 2nd edition back in high school.

As I work through revising Engines & Empires, I've also decided to put level titles back there too. For each of the classes that are going to appear, here's what I'm thinking so far (NB, I'm re-naming the expert class to "ace" in the new edition to make the class sound more roguish and adventurous):

Fighter: Veteran, Swordsman, Duelist, Hero, Swashbuckler, Knight, Champion, Superhero, Paladin.
Ace: Apprentice, Journeyman, Tradesman, Expert, Specialist, Agent, Operative, Professional, Maverick.
Scholar: Collegiate, Baccalaureate, Master, Doctor, Fellow, Professor, Emeritus, Philosopher, Sage.
Mage: Medium, Seer, Conjurer, Magician, Enchanter, Warlock, Sorcerer, Archmage, Wizard.
Tech: Tinker, Wright, Craftsman, Machinist, Mechanic, Technician, Technologist, Engineer, Chief Engineer.

As I go through the rules, I find myself cleaning up a lot of stuff that didn't work quite right, and just plain putting a lot of stuff "back to the way it was" in the B/E editions. It's subtle in a lot of cases, but… ah, well, you'll see soon enough. Like, nixing critical hits, or putting prime requisite XP bonuses back in the game. It's just these little things that make D&D feel like D&D again.

Warm fuzzy feeling inside. You know what I mean.

Crap… this, uh, this blog post just sort of fizzled out like Strong Bad E-Mail #15.


  1. This pretty much sums up exactly how I feel about level titles. Even AD&D 2e had a few scattered ones left - usually just at name level, but the druid had so many in comparison to the other classes that it could almost serve as the basis for a solo campaign.

    And I had forgotten about sbemail #15. :D

  2. Interesting. Will you be compiling a list of changes compared to the current edition?

  3. I love level titles, always have.
    I love Grand Master of Flowers more than any other level title in all of titledom.

    1. As a moderately dedicated player of Chinese Mah-Jongg, I never know whether to be elated or irritated by the monk's level titles. But GMoF is pretty great regardless.

    2. Level 21: Fist of the North Star

  4. Level Titles are lovely. They're a simple addition that even some OSR games skimp out on (*coughbasicfantasycough*), but it's an old-school feature I adore.