Thursday, September 30, 2021

A Catalog of Classes: Playable Roles in my OD&D Campaigns

Note: This is a repost of an earlier entry that was mysteriously swallowed by Blogger when I tried to update some information on the table below. Unfortunately, the post was unrecoverable, and along with it, some entertaining conversation about bards was forever lost from the comments section. C'est la vie.

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Purely for my own edification, I've decided to post a list of the character types that I'm currently allowing in my OD&D campaigns. It may look a mess, but there's actually a method to the madness, as I'll explain shortly.

Human Characters

Class

Requirements

Prime Requisite

Level Limit

Fighter

Strength

36th

Mage

Intelligence

36th

Cleric

Wisdom

36th

Thief

Dexterity

36th

Monk

Str 11+, Dex 11+, Wis 11+

Constitution

36th

Druid

Cleric Lv2–5

Charisma

36th

Knight (Paladin)

Fighter   Lv4–8, Wis 13+

Strength

36th

Knight (Avenger)

Fighter   Lv4–8, Wis 13+

Strength

36th

Knight (Bard)

Fighter   Lv4–8, Cha 13+

Strength

36th

Dual-Class

Fighter, Mage, Cleric, or Thief Lv2–8; natural 17+ in old & new primes (but no Mage/Cleric or Cleric/Mage allowed)

Though a B/X purist may deem it heretical, I've decided to allow dual-class humans in my D&D games. Following the model mentioned in Men & Magic, a human character may be permitted to change classes, but not cleric to mage or mage to cleric (and I also don't allow druids, monks, paladins, avengers, or bards to dual-class — unlike AD&D, where the sub-classes are explicitly permitted to do so if the PC has the stats for it). I've placed two limits on the practice, though: first, a character cannot dual-class if they surpass 8th level in their first class (becoming name level in more than one class is the special province of demihumans — only elves get to be Lord/Wizards, and only orcs get to be Lord/Master Thieves). Second, where AD&D requires that a character have 15s or better in their first class's prime requisites and 17s or better in all subsequent classes' primes (yes, in AD&D, you can in fact dual class as many times as your stats allow, and thereby potentially have a warrior / rogue / priest / wizard / psionicist), the OD&D rules require only that the character have 16+ in the prime of the class they switch to. That would make dual-classing too accessible to my way of thinking — I'll allow it in my OD&D games, but I want it to be rare, more rare than in AD&D — so I'm requiring 17s or better in both the character's first and second classes. Dual-class humans are powerful, rare, and special.

As for the other human classes, the changes are minimal. I've tweaked the requirements for monks a bit, from 13s in two stats to 11s in three stats. (This way, the monk's requirements in my OD&D games line up quite well with their AD&D requirements: AD&D monks require 15+ in Str, Dex, and Wis and 11+ in Con, while my OD&D monks require 11+ in Str, Dex, and Wis and treat Con as the prime requisite.) This means that only about 10% of a given set of rolled stats will qualify for a monk, which feels just about right to me.

Druids and all the knight-types, meanwhile, have their level requirements lowered from 9th (as in the Companion Set and Rules Cyclopedia) to 2nd for druids and 4th (i.e. hero) for knights. In the case of druids, this is just practical: if 1st level druids were allowed, you'd have a 1st level character who can't cast spells (druids use the clerical spell progression), can't turn undead, can't use edged weapons, and can't wear heavy armor. They couldn't do much of anything, in fact. But by allowing clerics to switch to druidry after reaching 2nd level if they choose, I can incorporate the choice to follow nature (and Neutrality) into the choice between Law (clerics) and Chaos (anticlerics) that all OD&D clerics have to make before reaching the upper-middle experience levels. The knight-types, meanwhile, are just fighters who devote themselves to the same religions as clerics (paladins), anticlerics (avengers), or druids (bards—which in my OD&D games are mechanically represented not by any version of the bard class, but by the Mystara druidic knight from Dragon Magazine #177—which I consider to be akin to the original AD&D 1e PHB bard, which is a fighter first and foremost, and the fighter sub-class bard from Castles & Crusades).

So in the end, the human character types boil down to the classic four: fighters, mages, clerics, and thieves; plus two special classes, druids and monks, which are the "Charisma" and "Constitution" classes respectively, are a bit harder to qualify for, and play very much like a mage/cleric and a fighter/thief; and the three specially aligned paladin-types that a fighter can "promote" into. As for demihumans:

Demihuman Characters

Class

Requirements

Prime Requisites

Level Limit

Elf

Intelligence 9+

Str and Int

10th (M/20th)

Dwarf

Constitution 9+

Strength

12th (O)

Hobbit

Dex 9+ and Con 9+

Str and Dex

8th (K)

Orc

Strength 9+

Str and Dex

10th (M/20th)

Dwarf Knight (Goði)

Dwarf Lv4–8, Con 13+ and Wis 13+

Strength

12th (O)

Demihuman Thief

Elf, Dwarf, or Hobbit Lv1; Dex 15+

+ Dexterity

4th, 6th, or 8th

As usual, these character types are more restricted than the human roles. I'm sticking with the BECMI/RC implementations, including attack ranks and the choice for elves to raise their effective magic-user level (as per GAZ5) if desired. Dwarves can achieve a higher attack rank than elves (roughly equivalent to a 24th level human fighter), and they can also acquire their own version of the paladin upgrade, the goði (which I've modeled loosely on the dwarf-cleric from GAZ6). Hobbits remain limited to level 8 and attack rank K, but up in the attack ranks they get the magic-reflecting Denial ability from GAZ8, so playing a hobbit remains worthwhile. Orcs are my own custom class, a fighter–thief combination that works pretty much just like the elf class. (Orcs and only orcs enjoy the unique ability to employ thief skills while also heavily armored.)

Further, I'm also allowing non-orcs with a natural Dex score of 15+ to be split-class thieves if desired; but elves are very limited in this respect, as they'll be the only possible "triple-class" in the game, and so an elf/thief can only raise their thief level to 4th before it caps. A dwarf can likewise only go to thief level 6th before hitting a hard ceiling. (Note that in both cases, 4th and 6th were the elf and dwarf's original fighting man level limits in Men & Magic!!!) Hobbit/thieves fare better, being allowed to raise their thief level all the way up to 8th along with their inherent racial fighter level (again tossing a bone to the class that otherwise fares the worst in terms of level limits).

Now, looking at all of this, you may notice that the more advanced options are gated off by increasingly onerous ability score requirements which in fact follow a pattern. Observe:

Fighter, Mage, Cleric, or Thief … no requirements
Druid … no ability score requirements (just need to reach 2nd level as a cleric)
Elf, Dwarf, Orc … 9+ in one ability score
Hobbit … 9+ in two ability scores
Monk … 11+ in three ability scores
Paladin, Avenger, Bard … reach 4th level as a fighter, have 13+ in one ability score
Goði … reach 4th level as a dwarf, have 13+ in two ability scores
Elf/Thief, Dwarf/Thief, or Hobbit/Thief … 15+ in one ability score
Dual-class human … 17+ in two ability scores

The end result is a hierarchy of rarity that quite naturally makes the basic human types the commonest sort of playable adventurer in the game, followed by the basic demihuman types, then monks and paladins, multiclass demihumans, and finally (the rarest of the rare) dual-class humans. Just as it should be in my humble opinion! ∎

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