Electrum Pieces and Swords & Wizardry

More Thoughts On House Rules

The 30 Day Challenge was a lot of fun. It also acheived the main goal which was to get most of the creative ideas out of my head and into type. It's true that the posts did not require anything new, but looking through the old notes, I realized that there were still lots of things I wanted to create.

A good example comes from the post about shemping. I wanted to create a Dragon Disciple class that basically makes a cleric/priest type of class evolve into the power equivalent of an ancient dragon at higher levels. I also enjoyed shemping other creatures as humans - it makes for truly interesting NPCs.

The big project, though, that I want to create is my book of house rules for S&W. If the execution matches the concept, it will look like a cool combination of Blackmarsh and Stonehell set in Pars Fortuna. In reality, well, it may look like yet another retro-clone fantasy heartbreaker. After that, I'll need to work up the gumption to run a G+ game with it.

To get a good idea of the outline, I turned to Stars Without Number. Kevin Crawford to doing something awesome with taking what is essentially Basic D&D and creating worlds around that system. The outline he is using is easy to understand for players and GMs. So here is my SWN inspired outline:

Creating a Character

Roll Attributes

Choose Homeland

Choose Class

Choose Race

Buy Equipment


Movement and Encumbrance

Character Advancement

Spending Wealth


Saving Throw Mechanic and Its Uses

Turn Undead Table and Its Uses

Combat (Mundane and Supernatural)


Eldritch Wizardry

Wyrd Sorcery

Studious Alchemy

Divine Miracles

Powers of the Hermetic Mind

Magical Research and Specializations

The Four Regions

Life in the Four Regions

The Eternal Struggle

The Role of Supernatural Beings

Deities and Other Beings with Godlike Power

The Universe

The Starting Planet

The Other Planets

Spheres and Other Universes

The Multiverse

The Astral Sea

Other Dimensions

The Outer Planes

All Creatures Great and Small

GM Resources

Starting Adventurers in A Different Region

The rules begin with the individual and work their way into larger and larger scope until you reach the GM, the one about it all. The idea is for the rules to expand from personal perspective to how the world works (systems) to how magic works, to the continents, planets and spheres of the universe before expanding out to the multiverse.

Creating a Character is pretty much by the book. Choosing a homeland asks the character to be from somewhere within the psuedo-European region of the world. It provides some grounding for everyone starting out. Class choices actually differ by region, but more on that is covered at the end of the book for GMs where all the player and nonplayer classes are listed.

Adventuring provides some information that characters face in their exploration of the world. I give XP for exploration, so a section of how that works in adventuring seems necessary. Outside of that, mechanics for encumbrance and other mundane aspects of adventuring are covered.

The Magic section deals with the five types of magic. Within each type are multiple ways of using that magic. Mages can be traditional vancian mages, five-color mages, talisman makers. Wyrd Sorcerers fill in a miscellaneous spot. This would include shamans, theurgists and other types that are difficult to classify. Priests operate like Priests of Different Mythoi from 2e, so some examples are provided. Alchemy is the traditional name for my Hewcaster. This class steals the essence of things and make wondrous items. Hermetic Magic is my term for psionics, this owes more the western tradition of the Hermetica that speaks of enlightenment, the mind, the cosmos and nature.

Common to all magic, is specialization, a focus for a spellcaster that determines his/her success in understanding magic.

Beyond that, everything is GM stuff that may or may not be used. Wish me luck.

Electrum Pieces

My Favorite Playable Race/Class

I've always thought that whatever you want to play should pretty much be fair game. You want to be a dragon PC? Sure. You start at 1st level with one hit point per die. You advance as an elf (4000 xp for level 2). You follow the M/U spell progression table, but you gain a hit point per die every fourth level. I tend to think of dragon PCs as being Silver Dragons because in D&D they are the most fond of humans, but if you want to be red, we can invent reasons why you are playing a good red dragon that enjoys the company of humans, dwarves and elves without eating them or their horses.

I'm not totally flexible. If you want to be a 1st level lich or beholder, I may ask you to think of something else. Then again, if we're playing with characters starting somewhere around 15th level or so, a lich or beholder is not impossible.

In short, play what you want. We, meaning the playing and the DM, can figure something out that will work for everyone in the group.

When someone asks what is your favorite race and favorite class in two separate questions, there is an embedded in the questions. Specifically, that you play with race and class as separate things when playing D&D. That is not how I started playing D&D, so I really can't answer it as two separate questions. Then again, my favorite was presented in AD&D as a separate race with a choice of classes.


When I started, my D&D was a mix of many different systems. I've mentioned Spell- um. er. Flying Grognards in Space before, but another book I treasured was the Dragonlance Hardback. It really belonged to my friend Bill, but he wasn't as taken with it. My group wasn't too fond of the setting because of what we felt like were needless restrictions. Today, I would enjoy Dragonlance, pretty much as written as a setting. Playing it though, would require the rules to be converted to S&W, and the non-weapon proficiencies thing would need to modified, and that whole thing with wizards would need to be worked out as well...

Point is, at the time, we couldn't be bothered with a setting that would tell us that we were doing it wrong because we wanted to learn any spell we wanted and didn't want magic research to go through some committee. I've changed since then, but Dragonlance is the source of my favorite playable race/class.

On page 69, you'll find the Krynn Minotaurs. I loved them. In the setting proper, they could be Fighters, one type of Mage, one type of Priest and a Rogue of little consequence (limit of 8th level).  Up to the point of finding the book, I had always played Magic-Users (I changed the word on purpose) or Clerics. I saw that a Cleric-type character was written in the book for Minotaurs, so that is what I wanted to be.

I do not remember his name, but I do remember that I modeled him after Beta Ray Bill. Instead of a twin-bladed axe, he wielded a huge warhammer. He wore chain mail for reasons I never really explained. Per the setting, he was considered a heretic by other minotaurs because he worshiped Kiri-Jolith. For this reason, he left Krynnspace and found a home in a different sphere.

Clerics in my setting were d6 in hit dice. I guess the convention was the same for everyone else because as much as I loved starting with 2d8 Hit Dice (per the Clerics of Good rules in Dragonlance), I started with 1d8 instead, reflecting the minotaur's size and strength. He had no spells at first level, but otherwise progressed as a Cleric.

I believe I only played him once. I enjoyed the concept of him quite a bit, but unfortunately, I remember nothing of his adventures. Oh well. I will check my sources, but this guy may turn out to be someone I created, but never played at all. That happened a lot for me because I was usually the DM.

If you like, I post the Minotaur Cleric class formatted for S&W. Otherwise, thank you for another trip down memory lane in my favorite race/class character.

Electrum Pieces and Swords & Wizardry

Swords & Wizardry Classes

I love to dream up classes for S&W. The main reason is to create interesting NPCs. Although I've never been challenged on it, I like to have the rules setup ahead of time when a party encounters an "alternate" spellcaster or a fighting-man that seems to do a whole lot of damage.

The guidelines I follow are as follows:

  • Start with Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User classes. Also include a tweaked Thief class.
  • All skills of a class are handled per Thieves' Skills (roll on d6 or roll d%)
  • Limited Special Abilities are handled per Turn Undead table using various dice,'X' number of times a day or Spellcasting tables.
  • Other Special Qualities are "always-on" abilities (like Fighter's Parry), Stronghold/Keep/Guild at name level.
  • One other mechanic I use is a custom mechanic for handling psionic combat. I hope to adapt it to handle things like wizards' duels, clerics' tests of faith and sanity checks.
  • There are no abilities unlocked at certain levels with the exception of name level. This is why the Thief is tweaked to always be able to Read Languages, though he or she will have a limited chance at 1st and 2nd levels.
  • Hit Dice are d3,d4,d6,d8 and d10.
  • Name Level occurs at Up to level 13 for d3, Up to level 11 for d4, Up to level 9 for d6 and d8, Up to level 7 for d10.
  • Extra hit points after name level are +1 for d3,d4,d6 and +2 for d8,d10
  • One and only one ability score is used to provide a bonus to XP.
  • One +2 bonus to a type of Saving Throw bonus.
  • I have a custom system for weapons allowed. I allow anyone to throw flaming oil and use slings.

Looking at the core classes, they breakdown as follows.


d6 tops off at 9th level
Wisdom provides bonus to XP
Weapons Restriction: Blunt Weapons + oil and sling.
Limited Special Abilities: Turn Undead, Cast Spells per table,
Special Quality: Stronghold at name level.


d8 tops off at 9th level
Strength provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: NONE
Limited Special Abilities: NONE
Special Qualities: Multiple Attacks, Parry, Stronghold at name level.


d4 tops of at 11th Level
Intelligence provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: Small list of weapons + oil and sling. No armor.
Skill: Knowing Spells, Making Magic Items
Limited Special Abilities: Casting spells per spell table
Special Quality: Tower at name level.


d4 tops out at 10th level
Dexterity provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: One-handed weapons Leather Armor only.
Skills: Climb Walls, Delicate Tasks and Traps, Hear Sounds, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Open Locks, Read Languages
Limited Special Abilities: NONE
Special Qualities: Backstab (always-on), Read Magic (gains at name level)

The biggest changes from S&W Complete is that the Thief gains the ability to Read languages any time, but cannot read magic until 10th level.

It's not so much a change, but since there is no explicit rule, I have the Magic-User able to make magic items any time. One part of my rationale is due a house rule I have about XP gained on money spent. Making magic items gives M-U's a reason to spend money.

And Now for Something Kinda Different

So how does this work with custom classes? It is not as limiting as it may appear. Notice that no one has an "X" number of times ability. There's all kinds of ways to modify spell tables (half the spells of an M-U, change the spell levels possible, custom spell lists, etc.) In other words, there are many possibilities, but a limited number of ways to express them.

For an example of how these fit together, let's look at the Hewcaster:


d4 tops of at 11th Level
Intelligence provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: Small list of weapons + oil and sling. No armor.
Skill: Knowing Spells
Limited Special Abilities: Casting spells per spell table, Extracting Essence per Turn Undead table, Making Elixirs per spell table.
Special Quality: Alchemists' Lab at name level.

If I wanted a Barbarian, I'd do this:


d10 tops off at 7th level
Constitution provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: Two-handed weapons only
Limited Special Abilities: Rage up to level times a day
Special Qualities: Multiple Attacks (Crom count the dead!), Stronghold at name level.

+2 to Saving Throws from spells and spell-like effects

If I wanted a Psionicist, I'd do this:


d6 tops off at 9th level
Charisma provides bonus to XP
Weapons Restriction: Small list of weapons + oil and sling. No armor.
Skills: Learning Psionic Techniques, Grapple Incorporeal Foes
Limited Special Abilities: Uses Psionic Abilities per table, Psionic Attacks per table
Special Quality: Psionic defense (always-on), Academy at name level.

+2 to Saving Throws from Charm and other mind-effecting spells.

For an Assassin:

d4 tops out at 11th level or d3 tops out at 13th level
Intelligence provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: One-handed weapons Leather Armor only. Can use shields.
Skills: Climb Walls, Delicate Tasks Disguise Self, and Traps, Hear Sounds, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Open Locks, Read Languages
Limited Special Abilities: NONE
Special Qualities: Backstab (always-on), Make Poison, Read Magic (gains at name level)

+2 to Saving Throws from poison and paralysis

For a Ranger:

d8 tops off at 8th level
Strength provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: NONE
Skill: Tracking
Limited Special Abilities: NONE
Special Qualities: Bonus damage to Giant and Goblin types (always on), Alertness (always on), Casting spells per spell table at Name Level, Use of Healing, Scrying and Travel based magic items at Name level, Fortress at name level.

+2 to Saving Throws from spells that alter the senses or sense of balance.

For a Bard:

d4 tops out at 9th level
Charisma provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: Any weaponsa and shields, but Leather Armor only.
Skills: Hear Sounds, Hide in Shadows, Lore (Identify Magic Items, know the location of dungeon, etc), Move Silently, Read Languages, Read Magic
Limited Special Abilities: Casting spells per spell table
Special Qualities: Psionic Defense (always on), Guild at Name Level

+2 to Saving Throws from charm and mind-affecting spells.

Okay, so that's a bunch of stuff that everyone already has in various forms or another, except the Hewcaster. Could I do a Monk class? Honestly, I would feel the need to add a martial arts sub-system to do classes like the Monk. I'll give it a shot on the next post.